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2014 Preview: From ‘Nymphomaniac’ to ‘Gone Girl,’ What Films Look Good, Great, and Troublesome This Year

2014 Preview: From 'Nymphomaniac' to 'Gone Girl,' What Films Look Good, Great, and Troublesome This Year

With awards season still very much in full swing, it’s still too soon to shake off 2013 completely. But a slate of great-looking films lies ahead on the horizon, as well as the theatrical releases of some of 2013’s festivals hits that we’ve already seen.

THE FILMS WE’VE ALREADY SEEN (AND RECOMMEND):

1. January 31, 2014: Jason Reitman’s “Labor Day” debuted at Telluride and failed to achieve awards-season lift-off. Paramount wisely waited for a new-year launch and we recommend it as a throbbily melodramatic and entertaining romantic psychological thriller that Hitchcock would appreciate. 

2. February 7, 2014: Like Ken Russell’s “The Devils,” Ben Wheatley “A Field in England” uses a 17th-century British historical framework to radically redefine the rules of postmodern cinema. Shot entirely in B&W, this English Civil War arthouse epic is brilliant, but difficult to parse, especially after one of the rogue soldiers ingests a heady dose of hallucinogens. Not for the faint of heart, or epileptic.

3. February 28, 2014: Miyazaki’s gorgeous Oscar contender “The Wind Rises” gets its official stateside release, complete with recently announced English-dubbed voice cast (including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt and Werner Herzog).

4. April 11, 2014: Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive” stars Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as exquisitely cool ancient vampires still in love after centuries–perhaps because they live on different continents. Jarmusch takes full advantage of the equally exotic locales Tangier and Detroit. In this must-see romance, the filmmaker combines many of the things he adores (actors, music, books, visuals) in one deliciously entertaining film. 

5. March 21 and April 18, 2014: Lars von Trier’s hotly anticipated sex addiction epic Nymphomaniac rolls out in two installments this spring. While the promotion has been gimmicky (sex sells, clearly), judging from the first volume which we reviewed at Sundance, it’s a terrific and visually haunting opus. (Review of Volume 1 here; trailer here.)

6. Spring, 2014: “Palo Alto” is Gia Coppola’s debut feature, which impressed out of the 2013 fall fest circuit. Starring Emma Roberts and James Franco, and based on Franco’s own short story, the dreamy, malaise-y coming-of-age film proves that director Coppola (one of the LA Times’ Faces to Watch for 2014) has talent and subject matter in common with her aunt, Sofia Coppola.

7. Summer 2014: From “Waltz with Bashir” director Ari Folman, “The Congress” starring Robin Wright as herself, an actress who literally sells her soul to the studio system, was one of the best under-appreciated gems off the 2013 festival circuit. Blending live-action, animation and boundless imagination — and with Wright’s career-best performance at the heart of it — “The Congress” is both a devastating love letter to cinema and a poison-laced piece of hate mail to Hollywood.

THE FILMS WE’RE ANTICIPATING:

1. February 12, 2014: “RoboCop.” Yes, it’s a remake, but judging from early footage, it has ideas in its head as well as the fabulous “Killing” star Joel Kinnaman. 

2. March 7, 2014:  Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” looks like another gently humorous romp through period Europe with a stellar cast led by Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton and Edward Norton, all with tongues planted firmly in cheek.

3. March 21, 2014: “Bad Words” is a feature version of that documentary “Spellbound” a few years ago, except that Jason Bateman is a 40ish guy who uses a loophole to compete with the kids. 

4.  March 21, 2014: “Muppets” sequel. We’re there. The team reunites from the last felt-covered entry, but sans Jason Segel and Amy Adams. But there seems to be a charming celeb-heavy cast in this one, too. (Trailer.)

5. March 28, 2014: Based on first trailersDarren Aronofsky’s “Noah” looks to be a visually striking, poetic shake-up of the biblical origin story (as we’d expect from the director of “Black Swan” and “The Fountain”). Yes, he’s tussling with Paramount over final cut. That’s his job. 

6. April 4, 2014: Jonathan Glazer’s “Under the Skin” starring Scarlett Johannsson landed mixed reviews at Telluride/Toronto, but we want to see it anyway based on Glazer’s films “Birth” and “Sexy Beast” alone. (Trailer.

7. April 18, 2014. Christopher Nolan’s go-to cinematographer Wally Pfister is making his directing debut with the heady tech sci-fi “Transcendence,” starring Johnny Depp, Kate Mara and Morgan Freeman.

8. May 9, 2014: “Chef” marks director Jon Favreau’s return to the land of low-bidget comedy, again starring Robert Downey Jr. but this time no bells and whistles. It oomes in at $15 million, and Favreau gets to play a chef too. It opens SXSW. 

9. May 30, 2014: Disney’s “Maleficent” arrives. Though the film is undergoing re-shoots, suggesting some production trouble for art-director-turned-director Robert Stromberg (“Alice in Wonderland,” “Avatar”), we hear that there’s nothing wrong with Angelina Jolie as the wicked Sleeping Beauty villain. That’s more than enough to entice us.

10. June  20, 2014: Clint Eastwood tackles a Broadway musical starring the music of the great Frankie Valle in “Jersey Boys.” 

11. July 11, 2014: “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” This new installment stars Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell and great mo-cap artist Andy Serkis as sentient ape Caesar. (Trailer; our TOH! interview.)

12. August 22, 2014: Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez return with “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.” Long-awaited and long overdue. 

13. August 29, 2014: “Jane Got a Gun.” Can this tortured production pull out a win? Let’s hope so. Gifted actors’ director Gavin O’Connor (“Warror”) came in to save the day after Lynne Ramsay ankled the day before the film started shooting. Natalie Portman is producing and “Warrior” star Joel Edgerton, Ewan McGregor and Rodrigo Santoro agreed to star after Michael Fassbender, Bradley Cooper and Jude Law left the show. 

14. October 3, 2014: David Fincher follows up 2011’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” with another buzzy bestseller adaptation, Gillian Flynn’s mystery thriller “Gone Girl.” The film stars Ben Affleck as an all-American husband whose wife (Rosamund Pike) goes missing on their fifth wedding anniversary, putting hubby in the hot seat. Fincher’s sleek craftsmanship and taut style is always a welcome addition to any year’s film lineup. Count us excited.

15. November 7, 2014: Christopher Nolan follows up his completed Batman trilogy with this secretive space project, “Interstellar,” starring Matthew McConaughey, who’s been on a roll. The elegant teaser doesn’t give away much, but we’re excited none the less.

16. November 21, 2014: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I.” So far, so good.

17. December 12, 2014. Ridley Scott is helming one of the many Biblical epics in the works this year, with “Exodus.” Christian Bale leads the way as Moses, with Joel Edgerton as Ramses, and Sigourney Weaver, Aaron Paul and John Turturro also starring. 

18. December 25, 2014: Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep in Rob Marshall’s Stephen Sondheim fairy tale musical “Into the Woods”? Yup, we’re there.

19. December 25, 2014: The new year will prove a big one for Jolie, who aside from headlining as Maleficent also has her second directorial effort hitting theaters, “Unbroken.” Shot in New Zealand by go-to cinematographer Roger Deakins and based on the true story of a World War II soldier stranded at sea, it stars new face Jack O’Connell (“Skins”), who could be a breakout of the year.

THE FILMS WE’RE WORRIED ABOUT: 

1. February 7, 2014: Well, this one we’ve already seen. And our worries were correct. (TOH! review here.) World War II art heist thriller “Monuments Men” from director-producer-star George Clooney didn’t make the awards-season cut (too many VFX to complete, they said) and as it turns out, it is dead on arrival. It’s a great story, but the pace drags and the period settings never come to believable life. It’s a big old creaky airplane that never achieves liftoff.

2. February 7, 2014: “Lego Movie,” from what we saw at CinemaCon, also looks DOA. Another toy brand in search of story. 

3. March 7, 2014: DreamWorks Animation’s “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” may be a ‘tweener that skips both its obvious target–little kids– and their parents, the ones who will actually remember the ’60s Hanna-Barbera cartoons. 

4. March 14, 2014. Let’s say off the bat that Cannes opening night film “Grace of Monaco” has a better chance of turning out well than the Naomi Watts-starrer “Diana.” Nicole Kidman is always worth taking seriously. But Weinstein Co. pushing it back again and again is not a good sign. It will open Cannes, however, so we’ll see.

5. March 21, 2014: “Divergent” unveiled promising footage at CinemaCon, but yielded to disappointing further footage at Comic-Con. It’s a young adult dystopian would-be franchise with a strong heroine—but this one could teeter too far toward romance to lure a male demo. 

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Comments

newton

Films We're Worried About was a total cop out: One film that's already crashed and burned and four obvious stinkers. I guess your writers have an unflappable sense of optimism, at least when it concerns big name projects (I wonder if the doubts for Monuments Men weren't "high hopes" to begin with?).

finger hut

The Grand Budapest Hotel is another "gently humorous" offering from Anderson? I'll take that as a polite way of saying unfunny.

Jeff

Err, I think that "Unbroken" was shot in Australia – not New Zealand? Correction might be in order, or a clarification if I'm wrong…

Meg

I'm anticipating Gone Girl as well (see my book review here along with some comments about the movies: http://bit.ly/1ae3pBo ), but I'm a bit worried about the ending changes Flynn made! What do you think they will be and how will that impact the film?

Lucille

I will never understand why they chose Nicole Kidman to play Grace Kelly in her twenties while Carey Mulligan is alive and well

Steve Barr

What about the James Gray film The Immigrint .

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