Last week we brought you numbers 100-51 of our 100 Most Anticipated Films of 2014. And while we still have several other look-ahead-to-2014 pieces in the works for the coming days, like a Sundance preview along with a rundown of potential lowlights, today we get on to the section that really matters—the top 50 2014 films we’re looking forward to most. It’s a mouthwatering selection that convinces us once again that we collectively have the greatest job in the world, and has us antsy for the January doldrums to get gone, so let’s dive straight in, shall we?
Previously on 100-51: So we survived the Year of Survival Movies, overfed ourselves on a glut of films about American excess, somehow struggled on while previous colossi of our movie world (Tom Cruise, Will Smith, Johnny Depp) came a cropper with underperforming tentpoles—folks, we made it through the cinematic year of 2013 and out the other side (all our Best of 2013 coverage so far). And here, at the brave new birth of the squalling, pink-faced 2014, we put aside thoughts of the year just passed and turn our faces toward what’s to come.
And yes, there’s an embarrassment of riches, quite aside from the cinematic returns of Christopher Nolan, Andersons Wes and Paul Thomas, David Fincher, Terrence Malick and Lars von Trier among many others. You may notice last year, we made two lists, including one with a more “escapist/popcorn” bent. This year we’re streamlining our format a bit by compiling one master list of the 100 films we’re most looking forward to, regardless of their budget or provenance, so teensy independents rub shoulders with mega-budgeted blockbusters, only ranked by how much collective Playlist drool has been spilled in anticipation. Here’s the first part of that countdown, from 100-51; stay tuned for part 2 on Monday of next week.
100. “Welcome to Me”
Synopsis: A woman with Borderline Personality Disorder wins the lottery, goes off her meds and uses her winnings to fund a cable access talk show, which she hosts and uses to talk about her own life.
What You Need To Know: Starring Kristen Wiig, produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s Gary Sanchez Productions and directed by McKay’s wife Shira Piven (“Fully Loaded”), “Welcome to Me” also stars James Marsden, Linda Cardellini, Alan Tudyk, Wes Bentley, Tim Robbins, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Ferrell himself. The film, written by Eliot Laurence, is above its breezy logline reportedly designed as an examination of society’s obsession with fame.
Why Is It Anticipated: Following on from her game-changing success with “Bridesmaids” Kristen Wiig actually took it a bit easier than, say, fellow alum Melissa McCarthy, in making her next major move, and aside from last year’s disappointing “Girl Most Likely” has mostly shown up recently in supporting roles from “Despicable Me 2” to “Anchorman: The Legend Continues” to “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” But this film, coming from the Ferrell/McKay stable, seems perfectly tailored for her talents, and is apparently, despite the stacked cast, very closely focused on her character, which will be an interesting challenge for an actress who has generally been more of an ensemble player. The only red flags are that it’s described as a dramedy rather than an out-and-out comedy, a tone that can be hard to nail, and that Piven is relatively untested as a director. So it’s a somewhat risky proposition, but our fingers are crossed.
Release Date: None assigned yet, but the film shot late summer 2013 and has already picked up a Canadian distributor so we expect a date soon.
99. “War Book”
Synopsis: The aftermath of a major nuclear attack, told through the political backrooms of London.
What You Need To Know: 2009’s “Scouting Book For Boys” was seen by almost no-one (the film never got a U.S. release), but we’ve been making noise about it for a long time; it was one of the best British films of the last few years, and suggested the arrival of serious new talents in director Tom Harper and writer Jack Thorne (who also has “A Long Way Down” coming this year). Very quietly, last year saw the pair reteam for this political thriller, which promises to be a “Fail Safe“-style look at a nuclear disaster, and features an excellent ensemble cast including Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (“Misfits“), Sophie Okonedo (“Hotel Rwanda“), Ben Chaplin (“The Truth About Cats And Dogs“), Kerry Fox (“Shallow Grave“), Adeel Akhtar (“Four Lions“), Anthony Sher (“The Wolfman“) and Phoebe Fox (the upcoming “The Woman In Black: The Angel Of Death,” also directed by Harper).
Why It’s Anticipated: This kind of what-if political docu-drama is right up our street, so we’d be excited about it anyway, but that it reteams Harper and Thorne makes it even more enticing. That the cast pairs both veterans like Okonedo, Kerry Fox and Sher with exciting newcomers like Stewart-Jarrett, Akhtar and Phoebe Fox means this should be full of strong performances too. This might be under-the-radar at the moment, but we definitely think it’s worth keeping an eye on.
Release Date: SXSW or even Tribeca could be a possibility, but a bow at the London Film Festival in October is probably more likely.
98. “This Is Where I Leave You”
Synopsis: An argumentative Jewish family reunite to honor their late father’s wish that they sit shiva for a week to mourn his passing.
What You Need To Know: The family reunion movie is more or less played out, and one directed by Shawn Levy (“Night At the Museum,” “Date Night,” “The Internship“) isn’t exactly a way to get our attention. But this is based on an acclaimed best-seller by writer Jonathan Tropper and has an absolutely killer cast for this sort of thing: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver and Corey Stoll play the squabbling siblings, with Jane Fonda as their mother, while Connie Britton, Rose Byrne, Kathryn Hahn, Timothy Olyphant, Abigail Spencer, Ben Schwartz and Dax Shepard make up their various partners and loved ones.
Why It’s Anticipated: Again, Levy’s career to date has not been especially rewarding, but there have been more positive signs of change: “Real Steel” was certainly his best work so far, and he was a producer on the acclaimed “The Spectacular Now.” More importantly, there’s a specificity to the set-up here that will hopefully make it less bland than, say, “The Family Stone.” More importantly, there’s that cast, which gives overdue showcases to the likes of Driver, Stoll, Hahn and Britton, who’ve been wowing in indies or on the small screen but should get some mainstream attention here. With this many talented people on screen, we’d watch the end result even if Uwe Boll was directing.
Release Date: September 12, 2014
97. “Jersey Boys”
Synopsis: Musical based on the lives and careers of legendary music group The Four Seasons.
What You Need To Know: Sooner or later, every filmmaker seems to get the itch to work on a musical. Clint Eastwood got to it late—by the time his is released, he’ll have just turned 84—but he’s finally done it, with this adaptation of the long-running Broadway smash built around the music, and careers, of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons. Picked up by Eastwood and Warners when Universal put Jon Favreau‘s version into turnaround, Eastwood has cast it mostly with unknowns, with the Tony-award winning John Lloyd Young (who won his award for the stage version in 2006) reprising his role as Valli. The biggest name otherwise is Christopher Walken, playing a mobster. Fingers crossed he gets to sing at some point…
Why It’s Anticipated: You might not have stars, but when you have solid gold hits like the ones knocked out by the Four Seasons, who needs them? The stage show is definitely one of the more effective of this kind of jukebox musical, and while Eastwood doesn’t seem like the most obvious choice for something like this (remember “Paint Your Wagon“…), he’s been wanting to scratch this itch for a while (he’s spent a few years planning a remake of “A Star Is Born” that didn’t come to pass), and last time he did anything close, it was “Bird,” one of the best films of his career.
Release Date: June 20, 2014
96. “The Search”
Synopsis: In war-torn Chechnya, a woman working for a charity tries to help a young boy reunite with his family.
What You Need To Know: Having blown up with the surprise silent hit “The Artist,” winning a Best Director Oscar (and another for the film itself), French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius had the world at his feet, but didn’t immediately launch into a new project. Then, a few months back, it turned out that he’d secretly already started filming on his semi-remake of Fred Zinnemann‘s 1948 weepie “The Search.” A move away from the mostly comedic work he’s known for, this version updates the setting to the war in Chechnya, with Hazanavicius’ wife Berenice Bejo taking the lead role and Annette Bening in support.
Why It’s Anticipated: The domination of “The Artist” during the awards season two years back meant it attracted its fair share of backlash, but when you step away from all that, it’s still a gorgeous and moving piece of work, and more than enough reason to get excited about whatever Hazanavicius does next. There were certainly chunks of melodrama in “The Artist,” so this isn’t a departure in the way that it seems initially, either. And after Bejo’s brilliant performance in “The Past,” we’re excited to see her get another meaty role to stick her teeth into. Certainly not one to be underestimated.
Release Date: None yet, but it’s a fair bet that Hazanavicius could return to Cannes if the film is done in time.
95. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”
Synopsis: As Spider-Man negotiates the struggle between the ordinary obligations of Peter Parker and the extraordinary responsibilities of being a superhero, greater conflicts lie ahead in the form of super villains threatening to ruin New York.
What You Need To Know: The official synopsis for the film is either purposefully vague and mysterious or what many already fear: this sequel could suffer from “Spider-Man 3”-itis, an overkill of villains in a jumbled plot. This time around Spider-Man faces a bevy of new baddies including Electro (Jamie Foxx), Rhino (Paul Giamatti), Green Goblin/Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) and Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper), who was also the Green Goblin in the comics (and played by Willem Dafoe in the Sam Raimi series). The fear on top of bad guy overflow is middle chapter-itis: the serialization of movies that makes for episodes instead of self-contained stories is also worrisome considering this franchise seems to be building towards a Sinister Six movie/showdown.
Why Is It Anticipated: This is a very good question and one we’ve asked ourselves. “The Amazing Spider-Man” wasn’t particularly good, but Marc Webb is a talented director and the aforementioned cast of enemies plus Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone—if this were some drama, we’d be salivating at the mouth, frankly. And so while villain superfluity and “episode 2” issues are a strong possibility, the cast (which also includes Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Colm Feore and Sally Field) makes us feel tentatively optimistic. After “Star Trek Into Darkness” however, the writers (Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Jeff Pinkner) do make our concerns feel justified.
Release Date: May 2, 2014
94. “The Giver”
Synopsis: A child learns that he’s the product of a dystopian future world and must learn the truth before he becomes a part of a restricted, colorless adult life.
What You Need To Know: Lois Lowry’s “The Giver,” for those of you who had more adventurous high school English curricula, is one of the touchstones of classic young adult literature. The likelihood is that the book is a product of the post-“Twilight” YA movement, but this is less “Divergent” and more like “Ender’s Game,” a long-in-the-works adaptation of fairly brainy, low-key subject matter designed to give kids a chance to think twice and ask questions of society, not dodge fireballs and sell Happy Meals. Unlike “Ender’s Game,” there’s really not many ways to gussy this material up with distracting special effects and crowd-pleasing action sequences. However, Taylor Swift is in it.
Why Is It Anticipated: There seems to be a trial-and-error process in selecting the proper filmmaker for these properties, but Philip Noyce is probably one of the better selections. Noyce is a restless filmmaker with endless intellectual energy, and though his last film was the dopey “Salt,” he gave that action script a socio-political insight that would have been absent from another director’s version. We expect the same attention to detail here, particularly with a cast that includes Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Katie Holmes and Alexander Skarsgård. But again, Taylor Swift is in it too.
Release Date: August 15, 2014
93. “Dark Places”
Synopsis: A woman who survived the brutal killing of her family as a child is forced to confront the events of that day by a secret society obsessed with solving notorious crimes.
What You Need To Know: 2014’s other Gillian Flynn adaptation (aside from David Fincher’s “Gone Girl”) may have a less well-known director at the helm (“Sarah’s Key” director Gilles Paquet-Brenner) but the cast definitely matches that of its higher-profile rival. Led by Charlize Theron (in a role originally rumored for Amy Adams, to give you an idea of the caliber of talent that’s always circled this project), the ensemble also includes our “House of Cards” favorite breakout, Corey Stoll, as the brother serving a life sentence, alongside Tye Sheridan, Chloe Grace Moretz, Nicolas Hoult, Christina Hendricks and Sterling Jerins.
Why Is It Anticipated: “Dark Places” has a stacked cast, a promising director and a salacious-sounding premise which has potential to be a twisty, grimy psychological thriller provided its more sensationalist aspects (Satanic cults; amateur crime solvers; recovered memories) are treated with a degree of restraint. Whatever you may think of Flynn’s writing, there’s no doubt she knows her way around a sticky, twisty plotline, and if that translates as well as it can to the screen, there’s quite the potential here for something taut, gripping and dark.
Release Date: September 5, 2014. If it sticks, then it will get out of the gate a month before “Gone Girl”—traditionally a wise strategy for the lower profile of two similar, easily bracketed properties.
Synopsis: When millions of dollars go missing from a drug bust, members of an elite DEA strike team start being picked off, one by one.
What You Need To Know: People haven’t necessarily been going to see his movies, but Arnie’s comeback is going pretty well: “The Last Stand” was his best movie since “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” and he gives one of his best performances in “Escape Plan.” In “Sabotage,” the Austrian oak teams up with director David Ayer, who’s coming hot off his acclaimed “End of Watch” for a hard-boiled actioner whodunnit. His team involves a veritable who’s who of cinematic ass-kickers, including Sam Worthington and his ridiculous beard, Joe Mangianello, Josh Holloway, Terrence Howard, Max Martini and Mireille Enos, who seems to be relishing the chance to play something other than the stricken wife she was stuck with in “Gangster Squad” and “World War Z,” while Olivia Williams also gets a welcome chance to play the action star (with a badass accent).
Why It’s Anticipated: Ayer specializes in tough cops doing tough things, and while it hasn’t always worked, he’s always had an ear for the camaraderie of dangerous men, and “End of Watch” was a big step up for him as a director. He’s got the more promising “Fury” in the can (more on that tomorrow), but this actually looks like a decent bit of fun.
Release Date: April 11, 2014
91. “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For”
Synopsis: A prequel to 2005’s “Sin City,” the story follows Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin) and his dangerous relationship with the seductive Ava Lord (Eva Green).
What You Need to Know: Since the success of “Sin City,” fans have clamored for a sequel, and director Robert Rodriguez has certainly taken his sweet time bringing it. The movie completed principle photography back in October 2012 and was set for release in August 2013. Rodriguez had plans to release it alongside “Machete Kills,” but had issues with post-production, moving ‘A Dame to Kill For‘ to October 2013 instead. At the eleventh hour, Rodriguez still couldn’t wrap up the massive CGI post-production on the film and pushed it back an entire year to August 2014.
Why Is It Anticipated: Regardless of the various setbacks, there’s a reason to hold tight to this movie being awesome. ‘A Dame to Kill For’ is grittier, bloodier, and a far better story than the various ones utilized in “Sin City,” although the original is still great. The villainous Ava Lord is one of the most disturbing female villains and played by Eva Green, expect fireworks. The cast is also rounded out by returning cast Jessica Alba, Jaime King, and Bruce Willis, on top of newcomers like the aforementioned Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Juno Temple.
Release Date: August 22, 2014
Synopsis: A social drama set in a fictional “new country” spanning multiple characters.
What You Need To Know: Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev has spent the last decade establishing himself as one of the most exciting filmmakers on the international scene: 2003 saw his debut film “The Return” win the Golden Lion in Venice, while 2007’s “The Banishment” pick up Best Actor at Cannes, and his third film “Elena,” a Playlist favorite, picked up the Special Jury Prize in Un Certain Regard at the same festival. “Leviafan” is his mysterious new project.
Why It’s Anticipated: Zvyagintsev might not be a household name, but he’s three for three as far as we’re concerned, so a new film from him is always going to have our interest. As is often the case with world cinema, details are fairly thin, but the logline suggests something broader and more ambitious than “Elena,” with the film promised to unwind “to a mythological scale concerning the human condition on earth entirely.” The director has provided some of the most incisive commentary on Russia around, and given the country’s issues at the moment, that makes him a hugely important voice.
Release Date: Cannes is highly probable.
89. “Muppets Most Wanted”
Synopsis: While on tour with the Muppets in Europe, Kermit is kidnapped and replaced by his evil doppelganger Constantine, who is working with a nefarious accomplice to pull off some dastardly robberies.
What You Need To Know: After the success of 2011’s “The Muppets,” the felt creatures were proven to be draws again, and Disney made a speedy follow-up something of a priority. Jason Segel, who co-wrote and starred in the original, isn’t back this time, but co-writer Nicholas Stoller and director James Bobin (squeezing this in before graduating to “Alice In Wonderland 2“) are both back, with Oscar-winner Bret McKenzie also returning to write some new songs. Meanwhile, Ricky Gervais plays the villain’s sidekick, Ty Burrell is a Clouseau-ish copper, and Tina Fey is a Russian prison guard, with Chloe Grace Moretz, Tom Hiddleston and Christoph Waltz among the cameos revealed so far.
Why It’s Anticipated: The last Muppets movie had its problems, but was for the most part a loving and hugely enjoyable return for Jim Henson‘s creations, with sparky direction from Bobin, a post-modern script just this side of clever, and songs that are as good as anything Paul Williams ever wrote for the fuzzy friends. All being well, we should get more of the same here. In fact, the addition of Gervais, Burrell and Fey gives an added comedic shot in the arm, and Muppet caper movies have always been among the most enjoyable of the series.
Release Date: March 21, 2014
88. “Big Hero 6”
Synopsis: In the city of San Fransokyo, a boy genius and his robot bodyguard are enlisted to join an inexperienced superhero team that also includes a sword-fighting chef, the furious GoGo Tomago, the beautiful Honey Lemon, and the Godzilla-like Fred.
What You Need To Know: When Disney purchased Marvel a few years back, many speculated that it would only be a matter of time before the studio put out an animated movie based on a Marvel property, and that time has come. However it’s not with big name characters, but with “Big Hero 6,” based on a fairly obscure miniseries featuring a Japanese super team. Dropping the X-Men characters who were included in the comic (Fox hold the rights to them), this looks to be tinkering with the source material a little. Don Hall (“Winnie the Pooh“) and Chris Williams (“Bolt“) direct, and the cast is yet to be revealed.
Why It’s Anticipated: Disney have been on a bit of a roll recently, with “Wreck-It Ralph” and “Frozen” coming back to back: for the first time in recent memory, their work has been outshining that of subsidiary Pixar (who are sitting out 2014, after “The Good Dinosaur” was delayed). “Big Hero 6” mostly remains under wraps so far, but early footage has been distinctive and beautiful, and the idea of a Disney Marvel movie is bound to attract the geek crowd. “The Incredibles” is a high bar to clear when it comes to animated superheroics, but we’re certainly willing to give this a try.
Release Date: November 7, 2014
87. “Big Eyes”
Synopsis: A drama centered on the awakening of the painter Margaret Keane, her phenomenal success in the 1950s, and the subsequent legal difficulties she had with her husband, who claimed credit for her works in the 1960s.
What You Need To Know: Tim Burton has been playing exclusively in the big-budget sandbox for quite a while, but seems to be a palate-cleanser: “Big Eyes” is a fantasy-free drama with a modest budget (only just above $10 million, apparently). A long-gestating drama from “Ed Wood” writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, based on an extraordinary real-world story, this stars awards favorites Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams as the Keanes, with Krysten Ritter, Danny Huston, Jason Schwartzman and Terence Stamp backing them up.
Why It’s Anticipated: We’re not alone in finding most of Tim Burton’s latter-day work almost unbearable, but we’re hopeful that this could be something of a change for him, not least because it reunites him with the writers of his best film, “Ed Wood.” The material seems to scratch at Burton’s interests while hopefully being much more grounded, and Waltz and Adams are actors who should fit in nicely with the director. Fingers crossed that this could be closer to Burton at his best than to “Alice In Wonderland” or “Dark Shadows“
Release Date: None yet, but The Weinstein Company are likely to make this one of their main awards season hopes.
86. “Jupiter Ascending”
Synopsis: A young woman discovers that she shares the same DNA as the Queen Of The Universe, and goes on the run with a genetically engineered former soldier who’s part wolf.
What You Need To Know: Fifteen years on from “The Matrix,” the Wachowskis return to the original sci-fi blockbuster with a bonkers-looking mash-up of “Star Wars,” Greek mythology, comic book “Saga” and a million other different things. Looking like a cousin to the future-set sections of “Cloud Atlas,” it sees Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis in the lead roles, with Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth and Tuppence Middleton in support, along with a cameo from Terry Gilliam, whose work is said to be an influence on the movie.
Why It’s Anticipated: Love them or loathe them (and there are plenty on both sides), “Speed Racer” and “Cloud Atlas” made it clear that the Wachowskis do not remotely give a fuck what anyone else thinks: they’re walking to the beat of their own drums, and that’s always an exciting thing to see. “Jupiter Ascending” looks big, bold and potentially terrible (we’ve been calling it “The Chronicles Of Riddickulous” in the office), but even when their ideas don’t entirely work, the Wachowskis always make things that are hugely watchable, and despite Channing Tatum’s odd goat-like make-up, we have our fingers crossed that this could be the most individual and idiosyncratic blockbuster of 2014.
Release Date: July 18, 2014
85. “Edge of Tomorrow”
Synopsis: A soldier fighting in a world war against invading aliens finds himself caught in a time loop of his last day in the battle, though he becomes better skilled along the way.
What You Need To Know: Yep, it’s yet another high-concept sci-fi movie starring Tom Cruise, and its antecedent “Oblivion” just wasn’t very exceptional in the end. In fact, this one sounds like the concept of “Groundhog Day” grafted onto a sci-fi/time travel alien invasion movie. Or a hodge podge of Hollywood sci-fi movies (maybe “Starship Troopers” meets “Source Code”). It was given a March 2014 date originally, but was likely pushed when Warner Bros. felt it would perform stronger in the summer (and those pesky visual effects needed more completion time anyhow).
Why Is It Anticipated: It’s directed by Doug Liman (“The Bourne Identity,” “Mr. & Mrs. Smith“) who hopefully feels like he has to redeem himself in the time travel genre after 2008’s most unfortunate “Jumper.” Why it’s maybe not so anticipated? See “Jumper” again and the fact that at least three screenwriters took a pass at this and all are credited (Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth), so it seems like there were several major rewrites (Wikipedia lists eight writers, and if that’s correct, yikes). The supporting cast includes Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton and mostly relatively unknown international character actors, but perhaps this Liman/Cruise combo can make for a decent escapist summer movie.
Release Date: June 6, 2014
84. “The Two Faces of January”
Synopsis: A con artist, his wife, and a stranger try to flee a foreign country after one of them is caught up in the murder of a police officer.
What You Need To Know: This thriller is intriguing for several reasons. One it’s based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith (films based on her books include “Strangers On a Train,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and Wim Wenders‘ “The American Friend“) and it’s the directorial debut of Hossein Amini, the screenwriter behind “Drive” (and studio punch-up, pay-the-bills work like (“47 Ronin” “Snow White and the Huntsman”).
Why Is It Anticipated: For the aforementioned reasons, plus the cast: Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst and Oscar Isaac as the main trio (Daisy Bevan co-stars). Screenwriters-turned-directors can be a mixed bag of success, but fingers crossed. Though admittedly, there is some worry as this one shot back in 2012 and should be way done by now.
Release Date: TBD, but maybe a festival bow is in the works and our guess would be TIFF.
Synopsis: A group of frat guys move in next door to a friendly suburban couple, setting off an epic turf war that crosses generational divides.
What You Need To Know: While not a Judd Apatow production (the boys have left the nest), “Neighbors” continues director Nicolas Stoller’s association with this similar brand of comedy following “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “Get Him To The Greek” and “The Five-Year Engagement.” Having previously collaborated with Jason Segel and Jonah Hill, this time he teams with Seth Rogen, who, with Rose Byrne, play the exasperated suburbanites. This is also one of those movies absolutely loaded with comedic ringers, with Zac Efron leading a frat that includes Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and others. And in case you were wondering, no, this has nothing to do with the oddball ’80s flick that starred Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi.
Why Is It Anticipated: There’s always been something creepy about Mr. Efron, as if his beauty was somehow cruel and unfair. Kudos to him for the career move in utilizing this appeal to play the villain. He doesn’t have to go as far as alienate his fanbase, given that it’s a comedy, but it also allows him to display an antagonistic side that kept manifesting during his brief run as a leading man. That nastiness will add plenty of acid to this R-rated culture-clash comedy, which promises several ludicrous gags as well as, the trailer promises, a brief Robert De Niro impersonation party. Which is the kind of thing you slap yourself for not coming up with yourself.
Release Date: May 9, 2014
82. “Into the Woods”
Synopsis: A baker and his wife (James Corden and Emily Blunt) journey through the world of fairy tales in the hopes of lifting a witch’s curse preventing them from having children.
What You Need to Know: Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim is immortal to fans of the Great White Way, and “Into the Woods” is one of his more accessible works, dealing with fairy tales and nursery rhymes. So no surprise Disney has run with it, despite the questionable sequences they may or may not be including.
Why Is It Anticipated: The all-star cast is worth applauding: Anna Kendrick, Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp and Chris Pine are just a few names on the massive cast list, all of whom will be flexing their musical muscles for Disney’s big-budget spectacle. And it certainly is prepped for razzle dazzle with Disney seeking to turn this into an epic Christmas day musical on par with “Chicago,” even going so far as to hire director Rob Marshall, who has a relationship with Disney through their “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise. “Chicago” gave Marshall his start, but the disastrous “Nine” is enough to have us questioning whether lightning can strike twice. Regardless, the coveted Christmas Day spot shows Disney has faith in this and it will definitely extend Sondheim’s work into the stratosphere.
Release Date: December 25, 2014
81. “Kill The Messenger”
Synopsis: This is the true story of journalist Gary Webb, who documented the CIA’s involvement in the global drug trade, and ended up having his career destroyed as a result.
What You Need To Know: Jeremy Renner is using his clout from “The Bourne Legacy” and “The Avengers” to get this story out there, serving as producer and star for this true story. The script from Peter Landesman draws inspiration from two books, Webb’s own “Dark Alliance: The CIA, The Contras And The Crack Cocaine Explosion” and “Kill The Messenger: How The CIA’s Crack Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Gary Webb” by Nick Schou. Renner was smart enough to reach into his past to hire his “Twelve And Holding” director Michael Cuesta, who has also logged hours in television with “Homeland” and “Dexter.” Rosemarie DeWitt, Tim Blake Nelson, Michael K. Williams, Robert Patrick, Barry Pepper, Oliver Platt, Paz Vega, Michael Sheen, Ray Liotta and Mary Elizabeth Winstead co-star.
Why Is It Anticipated: Simply put, this is a significant story that needs to be told about the CIA sullying the name of an innocent man in plain sight in order to protect their clearly illegal actions. There’s been a strand of aggression and antagonism towards honest reportage in the recent political climate, and the government (and the media, somehow!) have been allowed to control the narrative and distract the public from nakedly obvious wrongdoing. A movie isn’t going to do much in the long run, but as far as informing the public, it’s a start.
Release Date: Possibly fourth quarter 2014.
80. “The Boxtrolls”
Synopsis: A young orphan boy raised by cave-dwelling, box-wearing troll creatures must help save them from an evil exterminator.
What You Need To Know: In an animation scene dominated by Pixar, DreamWorks, Ghibli and a few other legendary long-running studios, Laika has made a real splash in the last few years: the Portland-based stop-motion specialists have brought their distinctly beautiful aesthetic to “Coraline” and “ParaNorman,” both of which numbered among the best animated films of their respective years. Their new project, which lands this fall, is based on the book “Here Be Monsters!” and directed by underground comics figure Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi, and features a vocal cast led by “Game of Thrones” star Isaac Hempstead-Wright as the lead, Ben Kingsley as the villainous exterminator, Elle Fanning as the love interest, and Simon Pegg, Toni Colette, Jared Harris, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade and Tracy Morgan as the various trolls.
Why It’s Anticipated: In a world dominated by CGI animation, the hand-crafted stop-motion of Laika’s earlier work has been a refreshing antidote, with “Coraline” in particular being a gorgeous and rich piece of work. From the teasers, this seems to have the same ickily gothic look as the studio’s other works, along with a similarly quirky cast and, hopefully, the big heart as well.
Release Date: September 26, 2014
79. “Theory of Everything”
Synopsis: The story of the early life of scientist and neurone disease sufferer Stephen Hawking, a major figure in the study of black holes, cosmology and the general theory of relativity.
What You Need To Know: It’s only a few years since Benedict Cumberbatch played famous scientist Stephen Hawking in a TV biopic, but that hasn’t stopped Working Title Films from going back to the well, with a new version, starring “Les Miserables” breakout Eddie Redmayne as Hawking, and Felicity Jones as his wife Jane. David Thewlis, Emily Watson, Harry Lloyd, Maxine Peake and Lesley Manville head up the supporting cast, while the script comes from acclaimed novelist and playwright Anthony McCarten, and directed by “Man On Wire” and “Shadow Dancer” helmer James Marsh.
Why It’s Anticipated: Generally speaking, the idea of a biopic makes us roll our eyes a little bit, but we’ve got higher hopes for “Theory of Everything.” In part, it’s that Redmayne and Jones are both superb actors, and should be good fits for the roles (Redmayne in particular is one to watch in awards season next year). Also, this has James Marsh in charge: the filmmaker’s documentaries like the Oscar-winning “Man On Wire” have been terrific, and his fiction movies almost as good. He doesn’t seem like the type to knock out something conventional, so we’re expecting something a little different here.
Release Date: None yet, but look for this around fall festival/awards season.
78. “How To Train Your Dragon 2”
Synopsis: Five years on from the events of “How To Train Your Dragon,” all is harmonious in the world of vikings and dragons, but the heroes soon make a discovery of a secret cave, the home to the mysterious Dragon Rider, who may be a figure from one of their pasts.
What You Need To Know: “How To Train Your Dragon” is the high bar of DreamWorks Animation‘s output so far, and was a pretty giant hit, so a sequel was always going to be along quickly (indeed, a third film is already in development). This promises to expand the world from the original film, with co-director of the first film Dean DeBlois returning (Chris Sanders was busy on 2013’s “The Croods“), along with the original cast of Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig et al. This time, there are some new additions too: Kit Harington, Djimon Hounsou and, in the key role of the Dragon Rider, Cate Blanchett.
Why It’s Anticipated: DreamWorks Animation have had a few winners over the years, but “How To Train Your Dragon” is by heads and shoulders the best—perhaps the one time that their movies have stood hand-in-hand with the very finest from Pixar. Sequels are always tricky, but from the trailers, this looks to keep the same mix of spectacular action, gorgeous visuals and giant heart that made the first one so memorable. In particular, the addition of Blanchett promises to class up the joint a bit as well. If it’s inferior, it wouldn’t be the first time an animated sequel disappointed, but from what we’ve seen, there’s no reason to expect much of a dip.
Release Date: June 13, 2014
77. “Suite Française”
Synopsis: In 1940s France, a woman waits for her prisoner-of-war husband’s return, only to be drawn to a German officer posted in the village.
What You Need To Know: It took over sixty years for “Suite Française” to be published: writer Irene Nemirovsky was only able to finish two of a planned five-novel sequence before she was arrested and taken to Auschwitz, where she died. But it’s now on the way to the big screen, and it’s likely to be a big awards player. The film is written and directed by Saul Dibb, who was behind the undervalued “The Duchess,” and Michelle Williams and Matthias Schoenaerts take the lead roles, with Kristin Scott Thomas, Sam Riley, Ruth Wilson, Margot Robbie, Alexandra Maria Lara, Tom Schilling, Lambert Wilson and Eileen Atkins making up a strong supporting cast.
Why It’s Anticipated: Simply, it’s based on a truly beautiful and powerful piece of source material with its it own tragic storyline behind it. Moreover, Dibb couldn’t have assembled a more promising cast, and in particular, we’re amped to see Williams and Schoenaerts create sparks.
Release Date: The Weinsteins will almost certainly drop this between September and December, with the Venice/Telluride/TIFF trio all likely.
76. “X-Men: Days of Future Past”
Synopsis: In a dystopian future decimated by war, Wolverine is sent back into the past to alter history, coming face-to-face with the early days of the Professor Xavier/Magneto conflict.
What You Need To Know: Bryan Singer directed the two best ‘X-Men‘ films thus far, and he’s back to helm this one. Based on one of the most beloved stories in the X-canon, the picture will unite the cast members from the earlier films (primarily Patrick Stewart’s Professor X and Ian McKellan’s Magneto) with the group introduced in the Singer-produced “X-Men: First Class.” The fact that this picture leads into 2016’s ominously-titled “X-Men: Apocalypse” suggests that, perhaps, things don’t go too well for the merry mutants.
Why Is It Anticipated: With world building the name of the game these days, Fox is going ahead and employing time travel in an attempt to create continuity for this schizophrenic franchise. This installment seems to be streamlining the group from ‘First Class,’ which is good considering the flotsam that bogged down that film’s second half, taking the emphasis away from James McAvoy’s Xavier and Michael Fassbender’s Magneto. But that said, they seem to have invited everyone who ever appeared in an X-Men movie to return as well, so this could still be overstuffed and moreover, confusing. Either way, this is looking like a very different film than the previous six (!) movies, and certainly the ambition is intriguing.
Release Date: May 23, 2014
75. “The Gunman”
Synopsis: A secret agent attempts to retire peacefully, but his agency opts to eliminate him instead, forcing him to flee.
What You Need To Know: This is another one of those all-terrain European actioners that Luc Besson has turned into a genre, and “Taken” director Pierre Morel is at the helm of this one. Based on the novel “The Prone Gunman,” the film is being seen as the first in a potential series, with Sean Penn having noticeably put on some heavy duty muscle to play the lead. This is not the first time the book was adapted: it provided the source material for “Le Choc,” a French film starring the sexy duo of Alain Delon and Catherine Denueve. Pete Travis, of “Vantage Point” and “Dredd” fame, has penned this adaptation.
Why Is It Anticipated: Normally that sort of plot is an eye-roller, but Sean Penn doing this sort of thing is an interesting prospect. Not only that, he’s got pretty solid support from a killer cast with Idris Elba as a mysterious possible double-agent, Ray Winstone as Penn’s mentor, and Javier Bardem oozing evil as the bad guy. So yeah, we want to sit back and watch these guys toss tough-guy dialogue around.
Release Date: TBD
74. “The Interview”
Synopsis: An attractive talk show host and his producer unwittingly get caught up in an international assassination plot.
What You Need To Know: It’s like “The Pineapple Express” crew minus Judd Apatow and the creative team behind “This Is The End” minus all the famous guest stars. “The Interview” reunites Seth Rogen and James Franco with Rogen and Evan Goldberg directing (they helmed the aforementioned apocalypse comedy) this high concept political spoof. Franco plays the Manhattan talk show host, Rogen his producer and they somehow get entangled in a plot to kill the prime minister of North Korea thanks to a rogue femme fatale CIA agent (played by Lizzy Caplan).
Why Is It Anticipated: For all the reasons above. It sounds amusing and diverting. While some of us were divided on “This Is The End,” the non-summer release date for a studio comedy suggests something hopefully more (and actually) subversive and entertaining.
Release Date: October 10, 2014
73. “The Hobbit: There and Back Again”
Synopsis: Taking cues from “The Lord of the Rings” appendices to expand “The Hobbit” adaptation, director Peter Jackson completes the epic tale of Bilbo Baggins with this final third film in a showdown with the dragon Smaug and the Battle of the Five Armies.
What You Need To Know: New Line Cinema’s “The Hobbit” used to be two films. And in fact, two films with two screenplays were shot. And it wasn’t until post-production on the first film ended that Jackson and his writers decided they had enough material for a third film, so they rejiggered their screenplays to extend the series into a trilogy, going back to shoot more material, shifting all the release dates in the process. This certainly hurt ‘The Desolation of Smaug‘ which felt more like a “waiting for more important things to happen later” episode than a movie. But with a final chapter on the way, perhaps this one will feel like a self-contained trilogy closer. It’ll pick up with the 13 dwarves and Bilbo having reached Smaug’s Lair, trying to reclaim Erebor and the treasure while the dragon may lay waste to Lake Town.
Why Is It Anticipated: Well, “The Lord of the Rings” triad is one of the best modern day blockbuster trilogies and while “The Hobbit” has had a bumpy road so far critically (the first one largely disliked, the second one getting better reviews), Jackson has proven his tentpole merits in the past and hopefully will come back and prove he can seal the deal.
Release Date: December 17, 2014
72. “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”
Synopsis: A reboot of the cult 1960s TV show spy, which teams CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB man Illya Kuryakin on a mission to infiltrate a mysterious criminal organization during the height of the cold war.
What You Need To Know: People have been trying to do a new version of “The Man From U.N.C.L.E” for decades: Quentin Tarantino expressed interest at one point, and it was nearly made a few years back with Steven Soderbergh before budgetary and casting issues caused the director to walk. In the end, it’s Guy Ritchie who got it before cameras, and while Tom Cruise exiting the project late nearly caused a problem, Superman himself, Henry Cavill, stepped in as Solo, with Armie Hammer as Kuryakin. Hugh Grant, in a rare non-rom-com part, plays the head of U.N.C.L.E, with Alicia Vikander and Elizabeth Debicki in the female leads and Italian actor Luca Calvani as the villain.
Why It’s Anticipated: We’re disappointed that the Soderbergh version never happened, and sad that the script by Scott Z. Burns appears to be dumped (Ritchie and his “Sherlock Holmes” writer Lionel Wigram are credited at present), but we’re big enough fans of the genre that the idea of a 1960s-set big-budget spy actioner is enough to get us in. If Ritchie can bring the fun and style of his first “Sherlock Holmes” film, rather than the tedium of the second, than we’re certainly interested, and while Cavill and Hammer will have a certain amount to prove in the lead roles, there’s a lot to like in the rest of the casting, particularly when it comes to Vikander and Debicki.
Release Date: None yet, but look for it to land around the “Skyfall“/”Ghost Protocol” slot in November or December, unless Warners decide to hold it for 2015 (which, given how stacked that year is, would probably be a mistake).
71. “The Cut”
Synopsis: Details are scarce, but from what we can glean it’s a Sergio Leone-like western with a Charlie Chaplin-esque lead who doesn’t speak
What You Need To Know: German-Turkish director Fatih Akin has been an international favorite of ours for some times but he’s been somewhat AWOL over the last few years. “Head-On” made our Best Films Of The Decade list, “The Edge of Heaven” was one of 2008’s best movies, foreign or otherwise, but things began to unravel after that. The 2010 comedy “Soul Kitchen” didn’t land its mark quite right and the 2012 doc “Garbage in the Garden of Eden,” didn’t even score a U.S. release.
Why Is It Anticipated: It puts back Akin on familiar ground as the final installment of his loose “Love, Death and the Devil” trilogy (which included the aforementioned successful films) which he purposefully delayed to get out of “serious” moviemaking headspace and try something else (“Soul Kitchen”). It also stars the great French/Algerian actor Tahar Rahim (the breakout star of “A Prophet,” who recently showed his mettle once again in Asghar Farhadi‘s “The Past“) and perhaps more interestingly, he doesn’t speak a word throughout the entire film according to a recent interview.
Release Date: TBD, but editing is underway and Cannes could be a possibility.
70. “The Duke of Burgundy”
Synopsis: An amateur butterfly expert experiences “wayward desires,” causing relationship troubles.
What You Need To Know: While his excellent debut “Katalin Varga” went mostly unnoticed, British director Peter Strickland made more of his splash with his excellent arthouse giallo homage “Berberian Sound Studio.” For his follow-up, he’s teamed with fellow Brit Ben Wheatley, who’s producing the new film, which is described as a “dark melodrama.” “Berberian Sound Studio” actress Chiara D’Anna has the lead role, while Danish actress Sidse Babette Knudsen, best known as the lead of cult TV drama “Borgen,” also features.
Why It’s Anticipated: With his first two films, Strickland established himself as one of the most original new voices in independent film. This looks less genre-inflected than ‘Berberian,’ but there’s no reason to expect anything that isn’t very special here, especially with Wheatley also on board to lend a helping hand. It’s exciting to see “Borgen” star Knudsen getting a big-screen breakthrough, and if nothing else, you can expect some exemplary sound design.
Release Date: Could surface as early as Cannes, though TIFF may be the better bet. IFC Films have the U.S. rights.
69. “True Story”
Synopsis: Michael Finkel (Jonah Hill) is a journalist for the New York Times whose world is rocked when he discovers a murderer named Christian Longo (James Franco) has been living in Mexico under his identity. When Longo is brought back to the U.S., the only person he’ll tell his story to is Finkel.
What You Need to Know: Despite names like Jonah Hill and James Franco starring and Brad Pitt producing, there’s been zero build-up for “True Story.” The movie was announced back in 2012, and a year later casting has slowly firmed up with the recent addition of Felicity Jones (“Like Crazy”) joining as Hill’s character’s girlfriend. With Hill proving his “Moneyball” turn wasn’t a fluke with another range-expanding performance in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” now might be the time to start getting some buzz around this despite the relatively inexperienced background of theater director Rupert Goold (his only screen credit is the Ben Whishaw-starring adaptation of “Richard II” for television).
Why Is It Anticipated: The story is utterly insane and it’s recommended you read Finkel’s novel of the same name, despite its authenticity coming under fire after publication. The real Longo murdered his family, allegedly under the belief he couldn’t provide the life they deserved, and after fleeing to Mexico he lived under the name Michael Finkel. Franco as Longo sounds fantastic, especially considering how deep the actor gets into his evil roles (“Spring Breakers” and “Homefront” are recent examples). Hill continues to grow as a solid actor and this could cement him as a lead in dramatic fare. If the script gives even an ounce of the real story this is based on, it could be a serious awards contender especially if it comes up against a similar true-crime story with “Foxcatcher.”
Release Date: The film is in post-production, so look for it on the festival circuit.
68. “The Gambler”
Synopsis: A literature professor with a gambling problem runs afoul of gangsters.
What You Need To Know: It’s a remake of the deeply overlooked 1974 film of the same name starring James Caan and Lauren Hutton and based off the autobiographical (and yet fictionalized) life of screenwriter James Toback. It’s a terrific underseen movie that’s ripe for a remake.
Why Is It Anticipated: For one the story is great, a dark morality drama that’s not unlike “Michael Clayton” or “The Insider,” and the talent is exceptional. Rupert Wyatt (the unexpectedly good “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”) will be at the helm, “The Departed” screenwriter William Monahan wrote the screenplay and the picture is slated to star Mark Wahlberg, Brie Larson and Jessica Lange. After the smash box-office success/surprise of ‘Rise,’ Wyatt could have gotten any gig he wanted. And while he toyed with the idea of the sequel, he got out and chose this instead.
Release Date: TBD and considering it hasn’t shot yet, there’s some debate whether the picture will be ready this year. Fingers crossed.
67. “God Help the Girl”
Synopsis: Eve is a catastrophe—low on self-esteem but high on fantasy, especially when it comes to music. Over the course of one Glasgow summer, she meets two similarly rootless souls: posh Cass and fastidious James, and together they form a group.
What You Need To Know: Not many indie musicians have turned to filmmaking, but there’s something about the storytelling in the music of Scottish tweecore favorites Belle And Sebastian that’s always made Stuart Murdoch seem like he could do the job well. In the works for a few years now, “God Help The Girl,” based on Murdoch’s concept album from a few years back, is a full-blown musical, set in Murdoch’s home of Glasgow, produced by Barry Mendel (“Rushmore“), funded in part through Kickstarter, and starring Emily Browning (“Sucker Punch“), Hannah Murray (“Game of Thrones“) and Olly Alexander (“Enter the Void“).
Why It’s Anticipated: We love a good musical here at The Playlist, and we love it even more when someone ambitiously tackles the genre as their feature debut with a musical. As such, there’s a lot of curiosity value to seeing how “God Help the Girl” turns out, but we’re confident that this might work out, especially as we know that the songs are already out there, and already good. It could still be a mess, but Murdoch’s had some top-flight technical support, and has a strong central trio in the leads, so we’re optimistic about this.
Release Date: Premieres at Sundance, and hopefully a full release will follow not long after that.
66. “Ex Machina”
Synopsis: A young coder of the world’s largest Internet company wins an exclusive competition, only to arrive at the private mountain retreat to discover that he’ll interact with an artificial intelligence housed in the body of a beautiful robot girl.
What You Need To Know: Alex Garland has been the screenwriter behind some of the smartest and most notable genre films of the last decade or so, including “28 Days Later,” “Sunshine,” “Never Let Me Go” and “Dredd,” and it seems like he’s sticking to similar territory for his directorial debut, which brushes against the same kind of zeitgeist-y AI/singularity-related territory seen in “Her” and “Transcendence.” This seems to be more of a chamber character piece, and Garland’s assembled some damn fine actors for the film: Domhnall Gleeson is the young programmer, Oscar Isaac is the reclusive CEO, and Alicia Vikander, assisted by some CGI, is the robot.
Why It’s Anticipated: We don’t love any of Garland’s work unreservedly (he has a problem with endings in particular), but there’s always been something fascinating about the way he plays with genre, and the chance to get something unfiltered from him about such a fascinating subject, is a very promising one. He’s got some heavyweight backers too, with Danny Boyle regular Andrew Macdonald and the legendary Scott Rudin both producing, while the excellent Rob Hardy (“The Forgiveness Of Blood,” “The Invisible Woman“) shot the film. More importantly than anything however, is the cast: Gleeson, Isaac and Vikander have been among the standout breakout stars of the last few years, and something that teams them in such close proximity is something to be welcomed.
Release Date: Unknown, but TIFF is probably a good bet.
65. “Slow West”
Synopsis: At the end of the 19th century, a 17-year-old boy travels across the American Frontier with a mysterious traveler in search of the woman he loves.
What You Need To Know: Every star reaches a point where their name means enough that they can serve as a producer and get passion projects set up, and that time has come for Michael Fassbender. He’s been developing this ambitious western with director and former Beta Band member John Maclean for a few years now, with the pair previously collaborating on the BAFTA-winning short “Pitch Black Heist.” Their latest was shot in New Zealand late last year, with Kodi Smit-McPhee in the lead role and Ben Mendelsohn in support.
Why It’s Anticipated: Fassbender has shown pretty good taste in selecting his projects, so the idea of something that he’s self-generated is one that hopefully bodes well. “Pitch Black Heist” showed that Maclean has some real directorial chops, too, and we like that he’s moving into features with a western, which is hardly the hippest of genres for a first-time filmmaker. Plus the cast is great: Smit-McPhee’s been hugely impressive in the likes of “The Road” and “Let Me In,” and Mendelsohn’s always a welcome presence, especially if he gets to square off against Fassbender.
Release Date: Started filming in October, so should be ready in time for the fall festivals.
64. “The Trip to Italy”
Synopsis: Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon reprise the meta version of their anti-friendship from the original, Britain-bound “The Trip” and this time journey to six different restaurants dotted around Italy.
What You Need To Know: Michael Winterbottom’s original “The Trip” aired as an episodic TV show in Britain while in the U.S. it was abridged into feature film format. No doubt the sparring duo will be exchanging similar thoughts on life, celebrity and aging along the way in this followup, and hopefully competing some more in their impersonations of Roger Moore, Michael Caine et al.
Why Is It Anticipated: There’s something so deliciously moreish about “The Trip” that it has become standard hangover fare in Playlist Towers, a hilarious, off-kilter, weird hybrid of road movie, gastronomic tour and entertainingly bitter skewering of the clashing egos of the two men at its heart. And so we’re delighted that more is on the way, and assume the further-from-home Italian setting will only work to throw Brydon and Coogan more uncomfortably close together, this time in spectacular, sun-dappled locations.
Release Date: A Sundance bow is planned for the 115-minute film version, and the television version will air in the U.K. next year, though no date firmed up yet.
Synopsis: A young man begins work as a freelance crime journalist in L.A.
What You Need To Know: As far as directorial debuts, “Michael Clayton” was one of the best of the last decade, marking director Tony Gilroy as a definite filmmaker to watch. As such, we’ve got our eyes locked on “Nightcrawler,” the first movie by Tony’s younger brother Dan, a screenwriter in his own right (credits include “The Fall” and “The Bourne Legacy“). Jake Gyllenhaal, who’s been going from strength to strength recently thanks to things like “Prisoners” and “Enemy,” takes the lead here with Bill Paxton, Riz Ahmed and Rene Russo in support, while “Michael Clayton” and “There Will Be Blood” cinematographer Robert Elswit is the DoP.
Why It’s Anticipated: Dan Gilroy’s credits aren’t as dazzling as his brother’s, but there’s enough there to get excited about this, especially with a premise, that while is mostly under wraps, sounds like it could be dark, pulpy fun, shining a light on a world that’s not often been seen on screen. But the main reason we’re pumped for this is Gyllenhaal, who’s been consistently excellent of late, and should have a role to really get his teeth into here (he even put himself in hospital while shooting the film, so he sounds pretty committed). It’s good to see the hugely talented Riz Ahmed from “Four Lions” get a big American role too.
Release Date: TIFF seems likely.
62. “The New Girlfriend”
Synopsis: A young woman becomes depressed after her best friend dies, but finds new strength after discovering a secret about the dead woman’s husband.
What You Need To Know: Francois Ozon is among France’s best filmmakers and has been on a prolific and successful run of late with “In The House” being followed swiftly by “Jeune Et Jolie.” Ozon’s not slacking either: he’s already moved on to this thriller/melodrama, based on a short story by Ruth Rendell (whose books also inspired Claude Chabrol‘s “La Ceremonie” and Almodovar’s “Live Flesh“). Anais Demoustier takes the lead role, with the great Romain Duris (“The Beat That My Heart Skipped,” “Populaire“) also starring.
Why It’s Anticipated: We don’t love everything of Ozon’s, but he’s a consistently fascinating director, whose can tackle a variety of genres and interests while remaining instantly recognizable. “In The House” in particular was one of his best films in some time, and he seems like a good fit for Rendell’s work. We’re also excited to see him team up with Duris, who for a decade now has proven himself to be one of France’s most exciting actors.
Release Date: Filming didn’t start until late last year, so Cannes might be a stretch. Venice or TIFF are probably better bets.
61. “The Imitation Game”
Synopsis: The true story of English mathematician and logician, Alan Turing, who helped crack the Enigma code during World War II.
What You Need To Know: The life of Alan Turing is a fascinating, desperately sad one that, while it’s well-known (his cyanide-laced apple suicide inspired the logo for Apple), has surprisingly never been brought to the screen. But Graham Moore‘s script for “The Imitation Game” topped the Black List in 2011 and has had a huge amount of talent circling it since, with Leonardo DiCaprio and David Yates among those linked to it. In the end, it was “Headhunters” director Morten Tyldum who was the man in charge, with Benedict Cumberbatch seemingly perfectly cast as Turing. He’s joined by Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Allen Leech, Mark Strong and Charles Dance for a project that looks to focus both on Turing’s codebreaking years and his homosexuality.
Why It’s Anticipated: Again, Turing’s story is positively bursting with drama, and if its Black List placement is anything to go by, Graham Moore‘s script tells it very nicely indeed. Tyldum made a very impressive breakthrough with “Headhunters,” and will hopefully bring the same mix of style and substance here, while this’ll hopefully provide Cumberbatch with the showcase that “The Fifth Estate” spectacularly failed to be. There’s a strong supporting cast in place too, and some top behind-the-scenes talent as well: Clint Mansell is scoring the film, and “Argo” editor William Goldenberg is cutting the flick.
Release Date: Another one that’s likely heading to TIFF, ahead of an awards season bow.
Synopsis: After being threatened during a confession, a good-natured Irish priest must battle the dark forces closing in around him.
What You Need To Know: Director John Michael McDonagh, brother of the similarly crazy talented Martin McDonagh (“In Bruges”), wrote and directed one of the most underseen gems of the last few years with “The Guard.” “Calvary” sees him retain the rural Irish setting, and his star, the great Brendan Gleeson, in a cast that also includes Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aiden Gillen, Isaach De Bankolé, Dylan Moran and Brendan’s son, Domhnall Gleeson.
Why Is It Anticipated: We absolutely loved “The Guard,” with its foulmouthed, un-PC mix of caustic, iconoclastic Irishness and dizzying verbal wit, and would turn up with bells on to anything McDonagh had a hand in. But while “Calvary” retains many familiar elements, most importantly Gleeson in the central role, it also changes things up, taking the unfashionable-to-the-point-of-“controversial” step of portraying an Irish Catholic priest in a good light, and though retaining elements of dark comedy, it’s in service of a much more dramatic and serious narrative. We can’t wait.
Release Date: “Calvary” will premiere at Sundance and then hit Berlin not long after, prior to an Irish/U.K. release that’s already been slated for April. When it hits wider in the U.S. will depend on its festival reception.
Synopsis: The life of a child told from age six to age 18, following his relationship with his parents before and after they divorce.
What You Need To Know: Like a cousin to his ‘Before’ trilogy that’s both oddly compressed and yet slowed down, “Boyhood” might be the most ambitious thing that Richard Linklater has ever made. Following in the footsteps of Michael Apted‘s “Up” series and Michael Winterbottom‘s “Everyday,” Linklater has spent a few weeks every year since 2002 shooting portions of this film, which stars Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as the parents, and newcomer Ellar Salmon as the child. As a result, it’s a literal coming-of-age film, which will see Salmon, and the other actors, age before the cameras: as Hawke described it, it’s like “timelapse photography of a human being.”
Why It’s Anticipated: Linklater might not be the first person to try this, but he’s probably the most ambitious: with twelve years passing between the start of filming and release, it’s likely the longest film shoot in history. That alone should be worth the price of admission, but if all’s well, this’ll work as more than just a novelty: it’s this kind of personal experiment at which the director excels, and if it’s half as good as last year’s “Before Midnight,” it’ll be worth checking out.
Release Date: Premieres at Sundance. A proper release date will surely follow.
58. “22 Jump Street”
Synopsis: After their success in high school, Schmidt and Jenko go undercover in college to crack another drug ring. But as they start to grow apart, the pair need to see if their friendship can survive.
What You Need To Know: There was no way that “21 Jump Street” should have worked, but it really did, proving to be a surprise critical favorite and legitimate sleeper hit. It’s no surprise that Sony fast-tracked a sequel, with original writer Michael Bacall joined by Oren Uziel, and original filmmakers Phil Lord and Chris Miller returning to direct (their “The Lego Movie” lands only a few months earlier). Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Nick Offerman, Rob Riggle and Dave Franco are all back, while Amber Stevens and Wyatt Russell are among the new additions.
Why It’s Anticipated: Again, “21 Jump Street” seemed like it should have been symptomatic of the worst of Hollywood, but instead, Bacall’s script and Lord and Miller’s direction, plus the great chemistry of Tatum and Hill, made it an absolute pleasure, and one of the better studio comedies in recent years. “22 Jump Street” looks a little bit like more of the same, from the trailers at least, but Lord and Miller haven’t phoned it in yet, and so we’re confident that the film will have plenty more surprises up its sleeve. Plus it features Jonah Hill dressed in full goth gear, and that’s pretty funny on its own.
Release Date: June 13, 2014
57. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”
Synopsis: The time-displaced Avenger struggles to cope with a new government where S.H.I.E.L.D. operates with complete impunity, landing him in the middle of a vast conspiracy.
What You Need To Know: Being that August’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” is expected to have very few ties to the rest of the major Marvel characters, ‘The Winter Soldier’ is the very last film of Marvel’s Phase II leading up to “The Avengers: Age of Ultron.” It’s directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, blockbuster neophytes who previously helmed “You, Me And Dupree” and have worked extensively on television. There are also not many ways to spoil this film, as Marvel is doing it anyway: early ad material has already unveiled the face behind the mask of the Winter Soldier, a Soviet spy with ties to Cap’s past, and Robert Redford, who probably couldn’t care less, has already divulged to the press significant plot details regarding his character, a S.H.I.E.L.D. headman who challenges Cap’s idealism. Anthony Mackie and Frank Grillo are also on board as the Falcon and Crossbones, a real casting coup for two massive fan favorites.
Why Is It Anticipated: These Marvel movies are fun, but they haven’t been able to address head-on the real-world politics that come from an American superpower suddenly fielding a team of heroes that can dismantle any army in the world. ‘The Winter Soldier’ looks to do that, as the trailer features Chris Evans’ earnest Captain America taking the shadowy Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to task for the “preemptive” measures S.H.I.E.L.D. takes towards “neutralizing” potential threats. This is also the most likely of any of the Phase II films to harken back to “The Avengers” (easily the best Marvel film thus far) with Fury and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) flanking Cap. “The Avengers” avoided giving the hero many fish-out-of-water moments, but a chance to see Evans’ endearingly corny WWII hero bristle against the murky morality of modern warfare promises that, in between explosive action sequences, this movie might actually have a chance to say something interesting about our world.
Release Date: April 4, 2014
56. “The Homesman”
Synopsis: A pioneer woman joins forces with an outlaw to escort three mentally unstable women from Nebraska to Iowa, facing adversity and hardship every step of the way.
What You Need To Know: Based on the novel of the same name by Glendon Swarthout, this is Tommy Lee Jones’ sophomore directorial outing, and he’s again cast himself in the central role. However the exceptional cast he’s collected to round out the story would sell us on this even if he weren’t involved: Hilary Swank, Meryl Streep, Grace Gummer (Streep’s real-life daughter), Miranda Otto, Hailee Steinfeld, William Fichtner, James Spader, Tim Blake Nelson, John Lithgow and Danish actor David Dencik.
Why Is It Anticipated: Jones’ first directorial film, the criminally underrated “Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada” was a really terrific piece of direction that showcased one of Jones’ most restrained and intelligent performances, showing that he’s no slouch at pulling double duty. And the “True Grit”-style trappings of this story, along with the focus on the many female characters (many being played by Oscar winners, or at least, in Steinfeld’s case, nominees) mean that while Jones is probably in a comfortable enough milieu, he is expanding his horizons too, after ‘Estrada’ which was largely a two-hander.
Release Date: None yet, but this shot already last spring, so could be ready for the 2014 festival rounds.
55. “Far From the Madding Crowd”
Synopsis: A willful, flirtatious young woman unexpectedly inherits a large farm and becomes romantically involved with three widely divergent men.
What You Need To Know: Yes, John Schlesinger turned Thomas Hardy’s classic 19th century piece of literature into a film in 1967, and while that was memorable, it’s time for a modern update.
Why Is It Anticipated: There’s several tantalizing reasons why this one could be one of 2014’s best dramas. First off, the cast: Carey Mulligan in the role of Bathsheba Everdene with the trio of suitors played by Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge and “Rust & Bone” star Matthias Schoenaerts (Juno Temple co-stars). Moreover, it’s from director Thomas Vinterberg who is a) coming off his best film of his career to date (and one of 2013’s best), “The Hunt,” b) making his first period film. Basically, this sounds like the confluence of all good things and we can’t wait.
Release Date: Shot this past fall, you can bet Cannes want it if it’s done in time. If not, fall festival circuit for sure.
Synopsis: A chronicle of the life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who was taken prisoner by Japanese forces during World War II.
What You Need To Know: Though it was mostly ignored by audiences, Angelina Jolie‘s “In The Land of Blood and Honey” was one of the more impressive directorial debuts by A-lister that we can remember, suggesting that Jolie was more than just a movie star. Her follow-up should be much more high profile. Based on an astonishing true story and stamped with an awards-friendly Christmas release date, the alone-at-sea territory’s been mined often recently with “Life of Pi” and “All Is Lost,” but there should be enough here to set it apart, especially as Jolie has some killer talent helping out. The script was written by William Nicholson (“Gladiator“), Richard LaGravanese (“Behind The Candelabra“), and, in a rare writer-for-hire gig, the Coen Brothers, while Roger Deakins is lensing the film. Fast-rising star Jack O’Connell has the lead role, with Domhnall Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund, Jai Courtney and Luke Treadaway in support.
Why It’s Anticipated: Like we said, Jolie showed real directorial chops with her first film, and we’re expecting this to be a step up, given the involvement of people like Deakins and the Coens behind the scenes. But we’re particularly excited about seeing Jack O’Connell: he’s been stunning in roles like “Starred Up” and “Skins,” and should become a megastar off the back of this if it all turns out right.
Release Date: December 25, 2014
53. “Animal Rescue”
Synopsis: A quiet barkeep rescues an abused dog from the ghetto, only to earn the wrath of his abusive owner, a local gangster with a desire for revenge.
What You Need To Know: An adaptation of a Dennis Lehane short story from his “Boston Noir” collection, the author’s work has already provided material for “Mystic River,” “Gone Baby Gone” and “Shutter Island,” so there’s a pedigree attached. It’s also the English-language debut from director Michael Roskam, who brings aboard his “Bullhead” collaborator Matthias Schoenaerts in a villain role, pitted against lead Tom Hardy. The cast also includes Noomi Rapace, John Ortiz and, in his last on-screen role, James Gandolfini. A colorful collection of directors have been linked to this project in the past, including David Cronenberg, Alexander Payne and Neil Burger speaking to the promise of the material.
Why Is It Anticipated: Look, you had us (and the rest of the Internet, apparently) at “Tom Hardy saves puppies,” so we’re not gonna front: this sounds like a pretty gritty true crime story, with a lot of dark edges and volatile relationships, and the strong cast should be riveting. Rapace especially has become one of the more compelling actresses in Hollywood, and her teaming with Hardy was apparently so strong that the two reunite again in his year’s “Child 44.”
Release Date: TBD
Synopsis: In North Carolina during the great depression, a young couple attempt to set up a timber empire at any cost.
What You Need To Know: After “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle” became critical and commercial hits, another film that reteams Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper is clearly going to get some attention. They’re paired again for “Serena,” an adaptation of Ron Rash‘s acclaimed 2009 novel (once intended to pair Darren Aronofsky and Angelina Jolie), directed by Susanne Bier. The film actually shot after “Silver Linings Playbook” and before “American Hustle,” and after a lengthy post-production process, is finally being shopped around distributors, with Fox Searchlight and The Weinstein Company reportedly circling. Toby Jones, Rhys Ifans, David Dencik and Sam Reid co-star in a tale that seems to have echoes of classic melodrama and “There Will Be Blood.”
Why It’s Anticipated: We’ve heard nothing but good things about the book (as the amount of talent that have been attached should suggest), and the chance to see Lawrence tackle material as dark as this is certainly attractive. We’d heard some worrying buzz about the film as it remained unfinished, but recent reports have said that there were no troubles, just a tricky edit to pull off, and that the finished film is looking very strong. Bier can tend towards the middlebrow, but hopefully this time she’s turned out something that exceeds her usual work.
Release Date: Cannes and Venice have apparently both approached the producers, so expect a bow at one or the other before an awards season release date.
51. “Untitled Noah Baumbach/Greta Gerwig Public School Project”
Synopsis: Follows the relationship between a “dauntless New York striver” and a Barnard undergraduate who idolizes her new friend. Presumably set, at least partly, in a public school?
What You Need To Know: “Frances Ha” was the great surprise of the festival circuit in 2012, a collaboration between director Noah Baumbach and actress/co-writer Greta Gerwig that no-one knew existed until it was revealed in the TIFF line-up. What’s more, it turned out to be an absolute treat. But even before “Frances Ha” hit theaters, Baumbach and Gerwig pulled the same trick, wrapping production on another under-the-radar effort, described as “Untitled Public School Project,” and co-starring Gerwig and Lola Kirke, the sister of “Girls” star Jemima Kirke. The film’s described as “looser and wonkier” than “Frances Ha,” and Baumbach has named “The Great Gatsby” and “Something Wild” as comparison points.
Why It’s Anticipated: Though it has its detractors, few films united The Playlist in love more than “Frances Ha” in 2013, and the reunion of the creative team on another secretive indie project is certainly one to keep an eye on. From the few details that the pair have dropped, it sounds like it’ll be cut from similar cloth, but also be something distinct (it’s in color, rather than black-and-white, for one). The “looser and wonkier” description is intriguing too.
Release Date: Very unclear at this point. The film wrapped last spring, but didn’t turn up in the Sundance line-up. SXSW could be a good bet, unless it’s being held for the fall festivals.
50. “Black Sea”
Synopsis: An unemployed submarine captain is hired to find a sunken submarine full of Nazi gold.
What You Need To Know: From “Das Boot” to “Crimson Tide” by way of “The Hunt For Red October,” submarines have often been the settings for some crackling drama, but it feels like a while since we’ve had a really good movie set under the sea. But we’ve got a good feeling about this one, which is the latest from Kevin Macdonald, whose “How I Live Now” was terminally underseen in 2013. Described as a sub-bound version of “Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” and written by playwright Dennis Kelly, it stars Jude Law as the rogue sub captain, with Scoot McNairy, Jodie Whitaker and Konstantin Khabenskiy as others on the crew.
Why It’s Anticipated: Macdonald hasn’t entirely knocked it out of the park yet, at least with his fiction work, but this is the most promising prospect he’s had in a while: the premise sounds fun, he described the film as “one of those hard, intelligent B-movies they used to make—dark little vicious B-movies,” which sounds right up our street, and the script comes from Dennis Kelly, who’s done great work on everything from Broadway’s “Matilda” to cult TV series “Utopia.” Law’s been on a good run of late too, we’re always pleased to see McNairy and Whitaker and early pics look solid.
Release Date: None yet: as ever, TIFF might be possible.
49. “They Came Together”
Synopsis: Joel, an executive for a candy store chain comes to New York to shut down a tiny sweet shop, only to fall for the owner, Molly. But that’s not the only obstacle in their path…
What You Need To Know: Thirteen years after making fun of the teen summer camp genre with “Wet Hot American Summer,” director David Wain and co-writer Michael Showalter are back (after a big studio hit with “Role Models,” and a big flop with “Wanderlust“) for another genre-riffing comedy. This time, they’re turning their attentions to the romantic comedy (“You’ve Got Mail” in particular, but the genre in general, it seems), with Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler as the star-crossed central couple, and a comedy all-stars cast including Cobie Smulders, Ed Helms, Melanie Lynskey, Max Greenfield, Michaela Watkins, Jason Mantzoukas, Michael Ian Black and, uh, Michael Shannon.
Why It’s Anticipated: What part of ‘from the makers of “Wet Hot American Summer” isn’t clear?’ David Wain’s subsequent directorial efforts have been patchy to various degrees (as, we’d wager, was ‘Wet Hot..’), but they’ve also all been pretty funny. The rom-com genre’s been ripe for a proper spoofing for a while, and Wain and Showalter seem like the people to do it right, rather than some kind of Friedberg and Seltzer monstrosity. You couldn’t ask for a better central couple for something like this than Rudd and Poehler, who could viably headline a real rom-com, but are capable of subverting it too, and there’s a whole host of ringers backing them up (with more cameos still under wraps). If this isn’t the funniest film at Sundance, we’ll eat our shoes.
Release Date: Premieres January 24th at Sundance, and a distributor probably won’t be far away.
Synopsis: A young woman stuck in arrested development flees a proposal from her boyfriend and hides out at the home of her new 16-year-old friend.
What You Need To Know: Lynn Shelton is hitting a seriously prolific period, and only a year after “Touchy Feely” premiered at Sundance (which was barely a year after “Your Sister’s Sister” cropped up at TIFF ’11), she’s back again with another organic comedy-drama, albeit one that, she told us, is a little more tightly scripted than her previously partly-improvised pictures (for the first time, she’s working from someone else’s screenplay: “Laggies” is written by novelist and “This American Life” contributor Andrea Siegel). She’s also assembled her starriest cast to date: Keira Knightley takes the lead role, with Chloe Grace Moretz as her teenaged friend, and Sam Rockwell, Mark Webber, Ellie Kemper, Jeff Garlin and Kaitlyn Dever among the rest of the cast. Ben Gibbard, of “Death Cab For Cutie” and “The Postal Service” contributes the score.
Why It’s Anticipated: Across her three major features to date, Shelton’s proven herself to be a really vital voice in American independent filmmaking, with warm, gently funny and deeply humane stories. Audiences and critics didn’t quite take to “Touchy Feely” in the way we did, but this seems more like home territory for Shelton, dealing with concerns that should win her her widest audiences to date. The cast is also superb, with some genuine A-list talent in Knightley and Moretz. Plus Sam Rockwell’s in it, so you know you’re going to see it, right?
Release Date: Premieres at Sundance on January 17th, should make its way into theaters later in the year.
Synopsis: Loosely inspired by the cult character Frank Sidebottom (but newly created fictional character), the cardboard-headed alter ego of musician Chris Sievey, the film follows Jon, a new recruit to a band fronted by the mysterious titular Frank, as he struggles to fit in with their odd sensibility as the band wrestles with mounting creative tension.
What You Need To Know: This comic concoction comes from director Lenny Abrahamson, who previously helmed the hard-hitting but deftly handled drama “What Richard Did” earlier this year. He’s got a strong cast, including Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Scoot McNairy, and the music is expected to be a highlight. Peter Straughan (“Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”) and Jon Ronson (“Men Who Stare At Goats”) have penned the screenplay.
Why Is It Anticipated: Sidebottom became something of a cult sensation in the U.K., holding court on radio, television and in concert until Sievey’s death in 2010 but he is only a start point for this tale which is set in the present and is less a biography than an irreverent tribute to Sievey’s story, and the creative process in general. The question of course is… are we gonna get to see Fassbender’s face at all? The real x-factor seems to be Abrahamson, who helmed a sensitive, piercing dramatic film in “What Richard Did” and is now making a hard right turn into offbeat loosely biographical farce.
Release Date: A Sundance premiere will likely beget a U.S. distributor and a release later this year.
46. “99 Homes”
Synopsis: A young father goes to work for the sleazy real estate broker he lost his home to.
What You Need To Know: After critical adulation for early films like “Man Push Cart” and “Goodbye Solo,” Ramin Bahrani‘s first play for mainstream attention, “At Any Price,” was less warmly received, but in our opinion, it was misunderstood: an old-fashioned Arthur Miller-ish drama with a damn fine performance from Dennis Quaid, and one of the more searing responses to the financial crisis that cinema’s produced so far. You can’t keep Bahrani down though, as he’s already underway on his follow-up, which looks to mine similar territory, in this case the corrupt American housing market. And the cast is much more impressive this time around: Andrew Garfield, in his first dramatic role since playing Spider-Man, Laura Dern, fresh off the brilliance of “Enlightened,” and Michael Shannon, fresh off being brilliant in almost everything.
Why It’s Anticipated: There’s no filmmaker quite like Bahrani out there at present, no one dealing with the same concerns in quite the same way, and we’re excited to see him working on his biggest canvas to date. Like we said, “At Any Price” was far from perfect, but didn’t really get a fair shake from critics, but from the logline, this sounds like it’ll be a little tighter and more coherent, presumably focusing principally on the relationship between Garfield’s young dad and Shannon’s malevolent broker. And if the prospect of those two squaring off isn’t a little bit exciting, you might not have a pulse.
Release Date: Started filming late last year. Bahrani’s films have almost always premiered at Venice, so that’s a likely home for this one too.
45. “The Raid 2: Berandal”
Synopsis: Picking up immediately after the events of the first film, this sees supercop Rama going undercover in prison to befriend the convict son of a fearsome mob boss, in the hope of uncovering corruption in Jakarta’s police force.
What You Need To Know: A couple of years back, “The Raid” arrived like a knee to the throat of the action scene: a relentless Indonesian actioner, directed by ex-pat Welshman Gareth Evans, that saw instant star Iko Uwais fight his way through a tower block full of gangsters by any brutal means necessary. Evans ignored the advances of Hollywood to make this follow-up, subtitled “Berandal” (which translates loosely as ‘scamp,’ we believe). Uwais, who’s presumably spent the last couple of years recovering, is reprising his role for a sequel that’s bigger and bolder in scope, and will presumably contain even more ass-kicking.
Why It’s Anticipated: “The Raid” wasn’t perfect, at least to anyone who cares about plot and character and things like that, but it was a blast of pure cinema to the solar plexus, featuring some of the best fight scenes in living memory, a star-making performance from Uwais, and some genuinely deft camerawork from Evans. This looks to bring back all of the same, but bigger and better: the action looks to be bigger and crazier than anything in the original, with prison riots, car chases and subway brawls all glimpsed in trailers. Best of all, there seems to be something more of a storyline this time, the film shifting gears from “Assault On Precinct 13” to something closer to “Donnie Brasco” by way of “A Prophet.” Though with a two-and-a-half hour running time, there’d better be a little substance in there somewhere…
Release Date: Hits Sundance on January 21st, then opens in the U.S. on March 28, 2014.
44. “A Walk Among The Tombstones”
Synopsis: Recovering-alcoholic ex-cop turned P.I. Matt Scudder is hired by a drug trafficker to find the men who kidnapped his wife.
What You Need To Know: The great screenwriter Scott Frank (“Out Of Sight,” “Minority Report“) made a stellar directorial debut back in 2007 with “The Lookout,” a lean, characterful noir picture that, unfortunately, no one saw. As such, he’s had some trouble getting a sophomore feature made (he was attached to the film that became “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes,” though parted ways with Fox early on), but he returns with this long-gestating adaptation of Lawrence Block‘s novel, one of many featuring his P.I. character Matt Scudder. Once intended for Harrison Ford, this version sees Liam Neeson take on the role, while soon-to-be-ubiquitous “Downton Abbey” breakout Dan Stevens, Ruth Wilson, David Harbour, Sebastian Roche, Whitney Able and Olafur Darri Olafsson complete the cast.
Why It’s Anticipated: Modern neo-noir is Frank’s strong suit, certainly as a screenwriter (and “The Lookout” was a fine directorial debut), and this couldn’t be a better fit for his skills. And we know that for a fact, because we’ve read the script (which has been doing the rounds for a decade), and it’s absolutely terrific, a pitch-black, brutal thriller that’s entirely gripping. Neeson suits the role of Scudder down to the ground, and the rest of the cast is intriguing (Stevens might be counter-intuitive casting as a drug trafficker, but Frank is the guy who made Matthew Goode into a terrifying tattooed villain in “The Lookout,” so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for sure). Unless it’s been watered down, expect some F Cinemascores if this gets sold as the next “Taken,” but we’re positively amped.
Release Date: Nothing firm yet, but Universal is said to be targeting a September or October date.
43. “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1”
Synopsis: She’s survived the Quarter Quell, but Katniss Everdeen’s troubles might just be beginning: Peeta is in the hands of President Snow, and she’s now the reluctant poster child for a rebellion that’s about to launch into full-on war.
What You Need To Know: “The Hunger Games” was a pretty decent way to kick off a franchise, but this year’s sequel ‘Catching Fire‘ was bigger and better in most every way, and made a good argument for being the best blockbuster of 2013 (our post-match analysis is here). Director Francis Lawrence returns for the first of the two-part finale (the second follows in 2015), with a script from “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” and “Recount” writer Danny Strong, with all your favorites back on board, not least Jennifer Lawrence, while Julianne Moore is the big new addition, as rebellion leader President Coin (Natalie Dormer, Lily Rabe and Mahershala Ali are also on board).
Why It’s Anticipated: We mostly liked the original “Hunger Games,” but ‘Catching Fire’ was a huge step up, all told. In fact, for the first time in a long while with franchises, we were left with a cliffhanger that had us genuinely champing at the bit for the next installment. Director Francis Lawrence was a big part of why the film worked so well, so that he’s involved through to the end of the series can only be a good thing. And those who found that the second film mimicked the structure of the first film too closely will be glad to know that while the first two films were games, this is all-out war, and should go to some new places. It’s a bit depressing that the trend for splitting final installments into two continues here, but we’re nevertheless looking forward to this a great deal.
Release Date: November 21, 2014
42. “Love & Mercy”
Synopsis: The story of Beach Boys genius Brian Wilson, and his struggles with mental illness.
What You Need To Know: Music biopics tend to have us rolling our eyes if they have even a chance of fitting into the boring “Ray“/”Walk The Line” template, but with the right subject matter and approach, we’re open to the idea in theory. And that’s the case with “Love & Mercy,” which tells the story of legendary Beach Boys member Brian Wilson, and his decades-long struggle with mental illness, along with his relationship with controversial psychotherapist Eugene Landy. “The Tree Of Life” and “12 Years a Slave” producer Bill Pohlad returns to directing for the project, while the script comes from the awesome Oren Moverman, who knows a thing or two about offbeat musical projects as the co-writer of Todd Haynes‘ “I’m Not There,” as well as his writing his own excellent projects “The Messenger” and “Rampart.”
Why It’s Anticipated: We’ve been burnt too many times by this kind of independently-made musical biopic to be entirely confident, but this one seems to be doing everything right so far. Moverman was a smart hire for the script, and has promised something with “an unconventional storytelling approach” that seeks to “understand how do you get into that kind of genius mind that has all this music, but also all this tragedy, so much pain, so many scars.” Pohlad’s mostly an unknown quantity as a director, but has great taste as producer, and he’s certainly found some powerful subject matter, and has a great crew on board: Wes Anderson‘s DoP Robert Yeoman is shooting the project, and “The Social Network” co-composer Atticus Ross is doing the score. And the cast is very promising too: Paul Dano and John Cusack (who looks to be having a comeback year) split the role of Wilson, with Elizabeth Banks as his wife and Paul Giamatti as Dr. Landy. Could definitely be an awards dark horse.
Release Date: None yet, but expect it to be a hot ticket at festivals (TIFF is the likely venue for the premiere).
41. “The Cobbler”
Synopsis: A shoe repairman discovers the ability to metaphysically step into the lives of his clients.
What You Need To Know: “Win Win” might not have been our favorite of his films by any means, but writer/director Tom McCarthy remains someone we’re deeply interested in. His delightful little directorial debut, “The Station Agent,” was one of the best American indies of the 2000s, and follow-up “The Visitor” was a treat as well (and won Richard Jenkins a much-deserved Oscar nomination). Having spent a few years trying to get a movie about sexual-abuse cover-ups in the Catholic Church set up (the plan is currently to shoot the film, “Spotlight,” later in 2014), McCarthy hurriedly assembled a new project late last year, one that seems to have more of a magical realist vibe than his previous gigs. And the star is an unlikely one: lowest common denominator specialist Adam Sandler, in a rare dramatic role. The rest of the cast are just as eclectic: screen legend Dustin Hoffman, character actor fave Steve Buscemi, “Downton Abbey” rising star Dan Stevens, rapper/actor Method Man and “Fruitvale Station” breakout Melonie Diaz.
Why It’s Anticipated: We found “Win Win” to be a bit lightweight, but we adored “The Station Agent” and “The Visitor” which were warm, humane, funny and beautifully acted, so we’re always keen to see anything that McCarthy’s up to (we’d still be fascinated to see the unaired pilot for “Game Of Thrones” that he directed). And while the bulk of Adam Sandler’s output is skippable at best, he generally comes up with the goods when he does something more substantial. Hopefully this’ll be more “Punch-Drunk Love” or “Funny People” than “Reign Over Me” or “Spanglish.”
Release Date: The film shot in November, so TIFF is more than likely.
40. “Squirrel To The Nuts”
Synopsis: A hooker-turned-Broadway actress begins relationships with the director and the playwright of the show she’s appearing in.
What You Need To Know: Though he’s kept busy (as he reminded us in a recent interview), Peter Bogdanovich hasn’t directed a theatrical feature in 13 years, and he’s only made two in the last 21. But that changes in 2014, as the return of the director of “The Last Picture Show” and “Paper Moon” will be unveiled. Co-written with ex-wife Louise Stratten, and produced by Bogdanovich’s fans-in-high-places Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach, it’s a farce that Kathryn Hahn (who has a supporting role in the film) described to us as “like ‘What’s Up Doc‘—old school farce, with the same kind of timing.” Aside from Hahn, rising star Imogen Poots takes the lead role, with Owen Wilson and Will Forte as the men in her life, and Jennifer Aniston, Lucy Punch, Rhys Ifans, Joanna Lumley, Ahna O’Reilly, Michael Shannon and Richard Lewis in the intriguing supporting cast. And there are even some reunions: Bogdanovich is bringing back both Cybill Shepherd and “Paper Moon” star Tatum O’Neal for supporting roles.
Why It’s Anticipated: To say that Bogdanovich hasn’t been on form for a while would be to suggest that he ever had consistent form: after his great first four films, he’s always had a rather spotty track record. But he’s still a great filmmaker (and great cinephile), and his return will undoubtedly be a major event even without his younger patrons’ involvement. But with a cast this promising, our fingers are crossed that this could be Bogdanovich’s best for something close to forty years.
Release Date: The director told us in November that he was still cutting the film, but that should still give him plenty of time to get it ready for any of Cannes, Venice or TIFF.
Synopsis: The story of Moses, the prophet who went from being raised as a part of the Egyptian royal family, to leading the Israelites out of slavery.
What You Need To Know: 2014 is seeing a major revival of the Biblical epic, and though Steven Spielberg was flirting with a Moses-related project at one point, it’s Ridley Scott who’s the first person to bring a serious live-action version of the tale to the big screen since “The Ten Commandments” in 1956. Written by “Tower Heist” duo Adam Cooper and Bill Collage (subsequently rewritten by “Schindler’s List” scribe Steve Zaillian), the big-budget 20th Century Fox take promises to be a special-effects-fueled epic, and features a serious A-list cast: Christian Bale (scratching his Biblical itch, having turned down Darren Aronofsky‘s “Noah“) is Moses, with Joel Edgerton as Pharaoh Rameses, Aaron Paul as Joshua, Sigourney Weaver (reunited with Scott for the first time since “1492“), John Turturro, Ben Kingsley, Indira Varma, Emun Elliott, Golshifteh Farahani and Hiam Abbass in support.
Why It’s Anticipated: We’ve anticipated plenty of Ridley Scott movies in recent years, and more often than not, we’ve been left disappointed (“Body Of Lies,” “Robin Hood,” “Prometheus“), and that’s not to mention that, “Passion Of The Christ” aside, it’s been decades since the Biblical epic has been popular. But the same thing could have been said about Scott in the late 1990s (“White Squall,” “G.I. Jane“…), and about the swords-and-sandals movie, and then came “Gladiator.” Scott certainly has the chops to give the genre a new lease of life, and with nearly fifty years since the last non-animated version of this story, there’s room to do something new with it. And the cast, while not wildly ethnically accurate, is stacked with heavyweights. Without the pressing expectations of being an “Alien” prequel or a Cormac McCarthy script, maybe Scott could pull off something special here.
Release Date: December 12, 2014
Synopsis: An aged, eccentric man has to come to terms with a past life of crime that cost him his one true love.
What You Need To Know: Written by filmmaker David Gordon Green—who has shown that though a former indie darling he can tackle mainstream comedy, and more or less anything he chooses really—and his friend Paul Logan, the director appears to be landing back down near his more serious roots. And he’s hunting big game of late as well. His last picture “Joe” (not released yet, but we saw it in Venice) starred Nicolas Cage. This drama stars Al Pacino as the oddball ex-con in question, obsessing over his past mistakes who then faces a come-to-Jesus moment when his dark past is potentially unmasked. And knowing Green it’ll have some of its own eccentric flourishes that may leave it uncategorizable.
Why Is It Anticipated: The strange, but inspired team-up of Green and Pacino should be enough, but the film also co-stars Holly Hunter, Chris Messina and even filmmaker Harmony Korine to boot.
Release Date: Given that “Joe” will likely arrive in spring 2014 theatrically, it’s likely “Manglehorn” will hit the festival circuit in the fall and whether it goes wider this year or next will depend on the critical reaction.
37. “How To Catch A Monster”
Synopsis: A single mother struggles to find her missing son, who may have disappeared into an underground city.
What You Need To Know: This is the writing and directorial debut of Ryan Gosling, and while he won’t be starring in it, his approach was enough to get Warner Bros. interested in distributing despite what sounds like a not-very-commercial premise. Gosling’s also got a loaded cast that includes Christina Hendricks, Matt Smith, Saoirse Ronan, Eva Mendes and Ben Mendelsohn, and the plot involves both high fantasy and R-rated sexual themes (it’s been billed as a “fantasy noir fairy tale”), as well as, according to Ronan, pet rats and neon flamingoes—none of which deterred the WB from plunking down $3 million for the rights.
Why Is It Anticipated: Gosling is one of the few actors currently working today who seems to have very close relationships with his directors, and we’ll bet that working twice each with Derek Cianfrance and Nicolas Winding Refn will greatly inform what type of picture this is bound to be. Which is an interesting thought, given Refn’s perverse, borderline prankish interest in fetishistic sex and violence, and Cianfrance’s deadly-serious approach to kitchen-sink melodrama. This is bound to be a very loaded cocktail, particularly with the sounds of composer Johnny Jewel, the original composer for “Drive” who nonetheless greatly informed that film’s sound as a member of the Chromatics and Desire, both of whom had popular songs on that film’s soundtrack.
Release Date: Likely fourth quarter.
36. “Men Women & Children”
Synopsis: The story of interlocking families, as both parents and children explore sexuality in the Internet age.
What You Need To Know: After an opening run of almost unqualified success, going from “Thank You For Smoking,” to “Juno” to “Up In The Air,” to “Young Adult,“ Jason Reitman had his first major misfire last year with “Labor Day.” But he’s not sitting back to lick his wounds, rolling on this adaptation of Chad Kultgen‘s novel before his last movie was even in theaters. The project looks to be more of an ensemble piece than Reitman’s done before, and there’s a pretty good ensemble in place: Adam Sandler (who’s clearly on the search for better roles between this and “The Cobbler“), Jennifer Garner, Rosemarie DeWitt, Judy Greer, Emma Thompson, Dennis Haysbert, J.K. Simmons, Dean Norris, Kaitlyn Dever and Ansel Elgort all take roles.
Why It’s Anticipated: This isn’t true of everyone, but we like most of what Reitman’s made to date, to varying degrees. Even “Labor Day” isn’t bad so much as baffling and a little dull, but “Men, Women & Children” sounds much more suited to Reitman’s usual skillset, with a darkly comic look at sexuality in the internet age. And there’s an intriguing mix of old favorites (Garner, Simmons), big names (Sandler, Thompson) and young breakouts (“Short Term 12” stand-out Kaitlyn Dever) in the cast. So long as this lands as something closer to “Little Children” than “Disconnect,” we’re on board.
Release Date: None yet, but with filming kick off just before Christmas, Paramount will likely give this an awards-season berth.
35. “Magic In The Moonlight”
Synopsis: A period romantic comedy, set in the south of France, which takes place in the 1920s and 30s.
What You Need To Know: Plot details, as is entirely standard for Woody Allen’s yearly offerings at this stage, are thin on the ground—hell, we’re impressed we even have a real title and not just “Woody Allen Untitled 2014 Project”—but early stills confirm the frothy period feel with lots of drop waists, cloche hats and open-top cars in evidence, and most importantly a pretty irresistible cast including Emma Stone, Colin Firth, Marcia Gay Harden, Eileen Atkins, Simon McBurney and Jacki Weaver.
Why It’s Anticipated: With “Blue Jasmine” still in theaters and buzz for Cate Blanchett’s performance being potentially Oscar-worthy only increasing, Woody’s got a little momentum behind him going into 2014, not that that will affect the you-can-set-your-clock-by-him rhythm of his working routine. But we can also see this cast nailing either the breezier tone of Allen’s previous comedic period forays like “Bullets over Broadway” and the meta- “Midnight in Paris” or the slightly more melancholic tone of “Sweet and Lowdown” and “The Purple Rose of Cairo” (the title suggests this might be the former). So whichever register it’s in, whether fizzy and fun or a little more bittersweet, as long as it steers wide of “The Curse of the Jade Scorpion” territory, this could be the film that secures the long-hoped-for, constantly mooted “return to form” that “Blue Jasmine” seems to suggest might actually be happening for Allen.
Release Date: None yet, but the recent model for Allen films has been a midsummer month premiere followed by a slow rollout, which ain’t broke, so we don’t know why they’d fix it.
Synopsis: Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) is driven to murder after hearing a prophecy and led-on by the scheming machinations of his wife (Marion Cotillard).
What You Need to Know: “Macbeth” is one of the more popular Shakespeare plays for adaptation, with countless versions ranging from modern-day retellings to classic by-the-book translations, and it’s easy to see why—themes of power, corruption, betrayal and revenge are writ so large that they can be adapted to almost any milieu, any period, and still feel relevant. Natalie Portman was originally signed on to play Lady Macbeth, but dropped out due to prior commitments, to be replaced by Cotillard, and we can’t help but think that it might work to the film’s benefit ultimately—as good as Portman can be, we’re really curious to see what Cotillard will bring to one of the most famously conniving female roles in literary history.
Why Is It Anticipated: Director Justin Kurzel (“The Snowtown Murders”) is seeking to create a movie with massive battle sequences yet retain the original dialogue and time period. Fassbender has proven he can move seamlessly from period to contemporary settings, but amazingly hasn’t tackled Shakespeare yet, and Macbeth is the perfect character for him to sink his teeth into. And Cotillard has already played crazy to perfection, as the duplicitous Mal in “Inception,” but Lady Macbeth is considered one of the preeminent villains of literary history. All of which suggests the elements are in play for a definitive take on an evergreen classic.
Release Date: Filming is set to begin in January and depending on how quick filming wraps it could be released in time for a late 2014 release, just in time for an Oscar campaign (and truthfully, if this was 100% certain to be a 2014 film, it’d likely be in our top 10).
33. “Jane Got A Gun“
Synopsis: In the old west, a woman must protect her crooked husband from the gang he betrayed with the help of an old flame.
What You Need To Know: As good as this movie might be, it probably won’t match the drama of what was going on behind the scenes. Original director Lynne Ramsay (“Ratcatcher”) apparently bailed on the project without advance notice, causing a mad dash that resulted in half the cast dropping out. A lawsuit claims that Ramsay was difficult and dangerous, with allegations of on-set drinking and a lack of professionalism in regards to the handling of prop firearms. Yikes. (Ramsay denies the accusations). Leaving the production as a result were the likes of Bradley Cooper, Jude Law and Michael Fassbender, stranding star and producer Natalie Portman. Ultimately, the Black List script fell into the hands of director Gavin O’Connor (“Pride And Glory”).
Why Is It Anticipated: This has been a passion project for Portman for a long time, and why not? A shoot-‘em-up western with a strong woman at the center sounds like a pretty cool, straightforward concept. The downgrade of cast and director is disconcerting: O’Connor regular Noah Emmerich isn’t the most scintillating casting choice for Portman’s sinister beau, and we don’t like Ewan McGregor as the villain as much as we liked either Law or Cooper in that part. At least Portman and Joel Edgerton, as the spurned lover, remained. It’s interesting when forceful auteurs leave a project in the lurch to be replaced by journeymen, as was the case with Mark Romanek gifting “The Wolfman” to Joe Johnston and Darren Aronofsky passing “The Wolverine” onto James Mangold. This seems like a similar case; Ramsay makes haunting, unforgettably dreamlike films, and her “We Need To Talk About Kevin” is one of the most chilling films of the last few years. O’Connor’s no slouch, however; his propulsive “Warrior” was a red-meat family drama about fighters, fathers and sons. As a result, this is likely to be a satisfying popcorn muncher for adults, something none of us can dismiss as an appealing proposition.
Release Date: August 29, 2014
32. “Winter Sleep“
Synopsis: Aydin is an emotionally distant retired actor who runs a small hotel in Anatolia with his wife and his recently divorced sister. When the winter and the snow comes, boredom leads to resentment bubbling to the surface, until Aydin makes the decision to leave.
What You Need To Know: Starring Haluk Bilginer (“The Reluctant Fundamentalist”), Melisa Sozen and Demet Akbag this is the latest from Turkish auteur and awards magnet Nuri Bilge Ceylan (“Once Upon a Time in Anatolia,” “Three Monkeys,” “Climates”).
Why It’s Anticipated: Ceylan’s award-winning work (he’s a Best Director and two-time Grand Prix winner in Cannes) up to 2011 had already established him as a master of the kind of thoughtful, dark, slow-burn cinema so beloved in certain cinephile circles. However as much as we admired his earlier films it was his last movie, “Once Upon A Time in Anatolia” that really converted us to all-out fans—its subtle blending of tiny elements of genre, and more dialogue than heretofore, into Ceylan’s trademark tapestry of immaculate photography and characterisation turned it into an unforgettably beautiful, if bleak murder investigation movie, that engaged the emotions as much as the mind. So we’re really excited for his follow up, which boasts the same Anatolian locale, and doubtless the same intelligent, deliberate style.
Release Date: If ever anything was a shoo-in for Cannes, this is it, especially as Ceylan started shooting all the way back in January of last year.
31. “Mr. Turner”
Synopsis: A period biopic about the controversial (at the time) life of British Romantic landscape painter, water-colorist and printmaker J.M.W. Turner
What You Need To Know: Plot details are thin on the ground, but writer/director Mike Leigh casts frequent collaborator Timothy Spall in the lead role, in the latest instalment of what has been a consistently excellent and yet undersung director/actor pairing. We theorized early on that Leigh would probably be focusing on the dramatic events later in Turner’s life after the death of his father plunged him into a depression and that seems to be the case with Leigh saying “I also see rich tragic-comic potential in his often turbulent relationship with the English Art Establishment, especially in his later years, when his increasingly radical work was misunderstood and derided.”
Why It’s Anticipated: While a costume drama about a 19th Century British artist might not on paper sound like the sexiest offering 2014 has up its sleeve, the reteaming of the ever-inventive Leigh, whose famously part-improvised process has given us such a rich, eccentric body of work, with the great Spall, one of the many actors who has returned to work with the director time and again in what’s almost a kind of repertory troupe, would already have us interested. But the period setting and the “tragicomic” bent that Leigh himself has teased also makes us think of his Gilbert and Sullivan film, 2002’s “Topsy Turvy” which is an absolute delight, so if he can emulate that form at all (and he is bringing back many of the same talents behind and in front of the camera), we could be in for a very idiosyncratic but enjoyable treat.
Release Date: The recent release of early promotional materials suggests they may be angling for a slot in Cannes, where the previous Palme d’Or and Best Director-winner Leigh has been represented four times already.
Synopsis: Dr. Caster, a leading pioneer in the field of A.I., uploads himself into a computer upon an assassination attempt, soon gaining a thirst for omnipotence.
What You Need To Know: A Black List favorite from screenwriter Jack Paglen, this sci-fi suspense thriller is the directorial debut of longtime Christopher Nolan DP Wally Pfister. Plot details are scarce, though this is said to be a sci-fi action picture with a loaded cast that includes Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy and Clifton Collins Jr.
Why Is It Anticipated: Pfister’s an outspoken type who contributed heavily to the look and feel of Nolan’s last few puzzle-box films, so there’s reason to believe this is going to be one of the year’s most commanding debuts. The plot apparently deals with a fast-approaching technological singularity that could blur the lines between humanity and artificial intelligence, an idea pursued in last year’s “Her” and, likely, touched upon in 2015’s “Terminator” reboot, so clearly Hollywood is trying to tell us something. At the very least, it seems as if the industry is taking a step back and realizing that they’re turning actors into technological automatons in a series of forgettable tentpoles, and movies like this and Nolan’s “Interstellar” are acting as a natural, anti-franchise corrective. It’s good to see Depp trying something new as well, as this is one of many upcoming projects he’s selected instead of another romp in the pile of cash that is the “Pirates Of The Caribbean” franchise. So yes, he’s playing a scientist mad enough to upload himself into a computer but fingers crossed, we’re getting the old, strange, experimental Johnny, not the endlessly quirky, tic-laden amusement park version. We weren’t overly enamored of the first trailer, but it’s early days yet so we’ll stay positive.
Release Date: April 18th
Synopsis: A five-man tank crew of Americans must do battle with German soldiers in the waning days of World War II.
What You Need To Know: This is the second of two films written and directed by David Ayer this year following the Arnold Schwarzenegger-starring “Sabotage.” This one seems a bit more prestigious, with an A-List star in Brad Pitt, a late-year release date, and a score from up-and-coming “Gravity” composer Steven Price.
Why Is It Anticipated: Tanks! Tanks are awesome, and no one seems to believe in how cinematic they can be. They run over everything, fire heavy artillery, and they house badass soldiers. And the idea of Brad Pitt piloting one in World War II is as glamorously movie-star-ish as they come. He’s got pretty solid support in this one as well. On one side, you’ve got Percy Jackson himself, Logan Lerman, as the team’s young blood. Always reliable in ensemble films, there’s also jack-of-all-trades Michael Pena. Having featured in two films over this holiday break, the dubious “Grudge Match” and the more exciting “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Jon Bernthal provides the muscle. And, sue us, but we’re certainly entertained by the current era of Shia LaBeouf: Obnoxious Method Actor, and here he’ll get a chance to bounce off Pitt’s taciturn mentorship. Also showing up is the forever-underrated Jason Isaacs, pushing this film’s testosterone level to a considerable height. It’s a good crew, and an exciting plot. Hopefully Ayer doesn’t ignore that his strengths come from his skill in handling and properly managing pleasurably poker-faced b-movie plots, and not turning them into misguided prestige pictures.
Release Date: November 14th
28. “The Lego Movie“
Synopsis: When the evil President Business threatens the Lego world, one very ordinary man is mistaken for The Special, the one guy who can save the universe.
What You Need To Know: In theory, a Lego Movie—not least one that showcases characters like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman—should be the worst kind of toy-shilling corporate synergy. But Warner Bros. was smart enough to put it in the (yellow, C-shaped?) hands of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, whose “Cloudy With Chance Of Meatballs” is one of the best animated comedies of the last few years. The film has an appealing faux stop-motion aesthetic, and a terrific cast: imminent megastar Chris Pratt takes the lead role, with Morgan Freeman, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Charlie Day and Liam Neeson also lending their vocal cords. Oh, and Will Arnett plays Batman, Channing Tatum Superman, Jonah Hill Green Lantern and Cobie Smulders Wonder Woman, which is really the only version of the Justice League we’re interested in seeing.
Why It’s Anticipated: Again, this should be a symbol of everything that’s wrong with Hollywood, but nothing we’ve seen from the movie looks anything less than completely delightful. The visuals are nicely lo-fi, capturing what kids saw when they played with their Legos as a kid, and the sly, self-ribbing sense of humor that Lord and Miller brought to both ‘Cloudy’ and “21 Jump Street” seems to be very much in evidence again, with a whole bunch of trailer gags that land beautifully. It remains to be seen if it has the heart of the best of Pixar (though ‘Cloudy’ did a good job at that too), but if nothing else, it’ll be the movie in which Batman says the line “I’m here to see your butt.”
Release Date: February 7, 2014.
27. “Guardians Of The Galaxy“
Synopsis: Many galaxies away, a cocky pilot from Earth falls in with an unlikely group of rogues, including alien assassin Gamora, warrior Drax The Destroyer, tree-creature Groot, and badass rodent Rocket Raccoon, going on the run with a powerful object with half the universe on their tail.
What You Need To Know: Marvel has been nothing if not ambitious with its movies so far, but “Guardians Of The Galaxy” is something else entirely: an entirely space-set adventure based on a property that’s basically unknown among the general public, with an actor best known as a lovable doofus from a little-watched NBC sitcom in the lead role, a walking tree and a wisecracking raccoon in key parts, and James Gunn, the madman behind gore-filled B-movies “Slither” and “Super” directing. It does at least help that Marvel has assembled a strong cast: Chris Pratt takes the lead role, with Zoe Saldana, wrestler Dave Bautista, and the voices of Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper making up the rest of the Guardians, while Michael Rooker, Lee Pace, Karen Gillan and Djimon Hounsou are the villains, with classy figures like Benicio Del Toro, Glenn Close and John C Reilly landing somewhere in the middle.
Why It’s Anticipated: The Marvel movies have been reliable, but mostly middling, with “The Avengers” marking the high watermark so far, and the most recent, “Thor: The Dark World” marking a bit of a low. If anything can really hit the next level and turn up something truly memorable, it’s the batshit craziness of “Guardians Of The Galaxy.” We’re not going to lie, the “Space Truckers“-level production value of the teaser tag at the end of “Thor: The Dark World” was a bit worrying, but the Comic-Con footage (assembled only a couple of weeks into production) was infinitely more impressive, and signs are positive that Gunn’s been given the leeway to come up with something truly bonkers here. If it’s not the best blockbuster of the year, it’s certainly going to be the weirdest, and that’s something worth cherishing.
Release Date: August 1, 2014
Synopsis: The film charts the rise of European dance music through the life of Paul, a young French kid who goes from underground raves in the early 1990s to running his own label in the 2000s.
What You Need To Know: The last few years have marked out Mia Hansen-Love as one of the most promising young filmmakers around, thanks to the excellent “The Father Of My Children” and “Goodbye First Love.” But “Eden” marks her most ambitious, and enticing, prospect to date, a project (co-written with brother Sven, who was a successful DJ in the 1990s) following the Gallic dance music scene that spawned the likes of Daft Punk. Spanning two decades and several continents, the film stars newcomer Felix De Givry in the lead role, with Pauline Etienne, Laura Smet and Vincent Lacoste among the French-language cast, and U.S. indie faves Brady Corbet and Greta Gerwig cropping up in New York-set scenes.
Why It’s Anticipated: Like we said, Hansen-Love’s already made a name for herself with her excellent earlier features, and this looks like it could be a sort of culmination of everything that came before it. The list of great, or even half-decent movies, about the electronic music world is pretty short, but there’s plenty of material to be mined there, so this could turn out to be something definitive. And while we’re keen to see what new talent she digs up from France (“Goodbye First Love” gave Lola Creton her start), we’re equally keen to see her collaborate with more established names like Corbet and Gerwig. And if nothing else, the soundtrack should be killer.
Release Date: Filming didn’t get underway properly until November, so expect this for Venice or TIFF rather than Cannes.
25. “The Assassin”
Synopsis: In 8th century China, a female assassin looks to leave her profession behind, incurring the wrath of her mentor.
What You Need To Know: What would a Playlist Most Anticipated piece be without an appearance from Hou Hsiao-Hsien‘s “The Assassin“? The Taiwanese arthouse master has been talking about this project, his first foray into the wuxia martial arts genre, for 25 years, but got serious about it after his “Flight Of The Red Balloon” in 2007, gearing up a cast that featured Shu Qi and Chang Chen, for a project that the filmmaker says will be closer to live-action Miyazaki than traditional kung-fu flicks. This marks the fifth year in a row that we’ve mentioned the film in our start-of-year preview pieces, which beats “The Grandmaster“‘s record, but in theory, there should be a light at the end of the tunnel: filming got underway in October 2012.
Why It’s Anticipated: Hou’s a borderline genius, albeit one who’s fallen somewhat out of mind due to his absence over the past few years, and the idea of him working on a huge canvas like this one is a hugely tantalizing one, if it’s ever finished. The if, unfortunately, is worth emphasizing: production reportedly shut down in April 2013, allegedly due to lack of funds, and it’s unclear if it ever started up again. If it did, we should see the film at Cannes or Venice this year. If not, well, who knows?
Release Date: Again, unclear, but let’s keep our fingers crossed that it’s all done, and ready to pop up on the festival circuit some time this year. If not, check back in in a year’s time where it will feature on our Most Anticipated 2015 projects.
24. “Child 44”
Synopsis: In Stalin-era USSR, a disgraced MGB agent, Leo Demidov, tries to track down a serial killer of children, while working to keep his wife safe from the authorities.
What You Need To Know: Although we’re closing in on thirty years since perestroika and glasnost led to the end of Soviet Russia, Hollywood’s mostly avoided setting movies in what would seem like fruitful territory. But that changes in 2014, with “Child 44,” an adaptation of an acclaimed best-selling thriller by Tom Rob Smith. A one-time Ridley Scott project (he remains involved as a producer), the adaptation (written by the great crime writer Richard Price) eventually ended up in the hands of “Snabba Cash” and “Safe House” director Daniel Espinosa. And the cast is about as good as you could ask for: Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace have the lead roles (Rapace spoke to us about the film recently), with Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Vincent Cassel, Paddy Considine, Jason Clarke, Fares Fares and Sam Spruell joining them.
Why It’s Anticipated: The stars seem to be aligning here for something that could be a Soviet blend of “Chinatown” and “Zodiac“—the source material is densely plotted, immaculately researched and genuinely gripping, and you couldn’t ask for a better writer for the script than Price. Meanwhile, Espinosa’s breakthrough on “Snabba Cash” is one of the more auspicious in recent years, and while “Safe House” had its flaws, it demonstrated that the director certainly had chops. Here, with a cast with this many outstanding performers in it, we’re confident that this could turn out to be something much more notable.
Release Date: None yet, but look for Summit to put this out in the early fall, most likely (unless it’s an awards player, in which case November or December might be more likely).
23. “The Monuments Men”
Synopsis: As World War II comes to a close, a team of unlikely experts are assembled to try and rescue valuable artworks from destruction at the hands of the Nazis.
What You Need To Know: The fifth directorial effort from George Clooney (again co-written and produced by regular collaborator Grant Heslov), this is a based-in-fact caper with serious overtones, one that looked to have been a major Oscar player in 2013 until it was moved back into the spring, reportedly because Clooney needed more time to finish the effects. No wonder that the film had awards buzz: aside from Clooney, it also features Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman and Jean Dujardin, among other heavyweights.
Why It’s Anticipated: Clooney’s work as director has varied in success (“Good Night And Good Luck” remaining the undoubted highlight, “Leatherheads” certainly being the low), but they’ve generally been highly watchable at the least. This sees him on his biggest canvas, with his biggest cast, and with a fairly irresistible premise that falls somewhere between “The Train” and “Ocean’s Eleven.” Regardless of its awards potential (the early-year bow essentially wipes that possibility away), if Clooney can walk a potentially tricky tonal line right, this could be some much-needed grown-up fun in the early months of the year, and the trailers and pictures we’ve seen so far suggest that’s more than possible.
Release Date: February 7th, with a premiere at the Berlin Film Festival around the same time.
Synopsis: A giant radioactive monster causes havoc.
What You Need To Know: Sixteen years after Roland Emmerich‘s disastrous Matthew Broderick-starring reboot, another attempt to revive the famous Japanese monster is stomping towards theaters, courtesy of Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures. The script comes from relative newcomer Max Borenstein (with rewrites from big dogs like Frank Darabont and “Iron Man 3“‘s Drew Pearce), and the director’s chair belongs to Gareth Edwards, who knows this sort of territory thanks to his indie breakthrough “Monsters,” and who makes what is likely the biggest-ever budgetary leap from a first film (his debut cost under $500,000) to a second (this is north of $150 million at least). Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen take the lead roles (ahead of their team-up on “The Avengers: Age Of Ultron” in 2015), while Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe, David Strathairn, Victor Rasuk, Sally Hawkins and, uh, Juliette Fucking Binoche make up the rest of the cast, while rumors have it that the film will feature more than one monster.
Why It’s Anticipated: “Monsters” was a striking debut film, making Edwards a great choice on paper at least, for something like this. The actors certainly seem to agree: the cast are a cut above the sort of thing you’d expect for a tentpole like this, and the chance to see Cranston, Binoche and Hawkins run away from reptile feet is enough to sell us on opening weekend. And the teaser trailer is one of the more intriguing ones of the last few years, suggesting that Edwards has a solid approach to the material. This could, of course, still disappoint like Emmerich’s 1998 film, but right now, it looks infinitely more promising.
Release Date: May 16, 2014
21. “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes”
Synopsis: Ten years after the events of “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes” unleashed a virus that decimated humanity, the survivors square off for a final battle against the apes, as their leader, Caesar, faces a power struggle of his own.
What You Need To Know: “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes” was one of the most pleasant surprises of the last few years: an unpromising-on-paper blockbuster that, through the solid chops of director Rupert Wyatt, and the great performance of mo-cap whiz Andy Serkis, turned out to be an engaging and involving blockbuster that successfully reinvented the franchise for the 21st century. The sequel might have lost Wyatt and original human star James Franco, but it’s gained Matt Reeves as a director, and Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman and Keri Russell as the humans, with Judy Greer and Toby Kebbell donning the performance-capture gear as apes alongside Serkis for a sequel that looks bigger and more apocalyptic than the last film.
Why It’s Anticipated: Again, ‘Rise…’ was an unexpected pleasure, and the follow-up looks to have retained much of what made it work: namely, a smart and emotional take on a very silly premise. In particular, if Wyatt had to go (and his departure, allegedly because he felt Fox were trying to fit it to an unrealistic release date, is admittedly worrying), you couldn’t ask for a better replacement that Reeves, who was behind the superb “Let Me In.” Scott Z. Burns worked on the script, which is even more encouraging, and the likes of Clarke and Oldman are obviously welcome additions to. When you add the above-par teaser trailer, this is probably our most anticipated popcorn tentpole of the summer.
Release Date: July 11, 2014
20. “Untitled Cameron Crowe Project”
Synopsis: A celebrated military contractor returns to Hawaii—the site of his greatest career triumphs and re-connects with a long-lost love while unexpectedly falling for the hard-charging Air Force watchdog assigned to him.
What You Need To Know: Once titled “Deep Tiki,” this “Jerry Maguire”-esque film was a script we read (and reviewed) ages ago and was supposed to be Cameron Crowe’s long-awaited follow-up to 2005’s “Elizabethtown.” It even had Ben Stiller and Reese Witherspoon as the two leads. Instead, that iteration fell apart and Crowe made a trio of films instead (two music docs and “We Bought A Zoo”). If “Jerry Maguire” was about a sports agent who finds unlikely love after a fall from grace, this Crowe project, at least the version we read four or five years ago, definitely felt like a spiritual cousin, only set against a backdrop that feels very unlikely for Crowe Hawaiian mysticism and the world of military contractors and satellite defense.
Why Is It Anticipated: So yes, while it sounds familiar, it definitely has its own peculiar and distinct milieu which should set it apart, plus a great cast that features Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone and Rachel McAdams. Our best guess is that it aims for a similar humanistic, comedy romance vibe that Crowe often shoots for with an adventure tinge, and that’s enough to keep us onside from a filmmaker we’re always interested in (you can check out our Crowe Retrospective here).
Release Date: TBD, our guess is a bow at the celebrity-friendly Toronto International Film Festival and then maybe a December release like “We Bought A Zoo.”
Synopsis: Set in 1950s New York, a department-store clerk who dreams of a better life falls for an older, married woman.
What You Need To Know: Rooney Mara replaced the initially cast Mia Wasikowska in the film, where she’ll team with Cate Blanchett in director Todd Haynes‘ adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel. And frankly, that should be all you need to know about this one.
Why Is It Anticipated: See above: Haynes + Mara + Blanchett = no brainer excitement. It will also mark Haynes first feature film (aside from the excellent HBO mini-series “Mildred Pierce”) since 2007’s “I’m Not There” and it will find him working again Blanchett. Considering how unpredictably engaging their last pairing was, we expect no different here, and Blanchett’s post-“Blue Jasmine” buzz can’t hurt the film’s chances of making a bigger splash either.
Release Date: Production will begin in March in Cincinnati on the film making a 2014 release tight, but not impossible. If David O. Russell can manage a sprawling, period tale in less than 12 months, we figure Haynes can do a smaller character piece in that amount of time too. Then again, The Weinstein Company (that already has a trunkload of 2013 festival films they held for a year) might have other plans, so it could be more like 2015, but we’re so eager for it we’re trying to work the power of positive thinking by including it here.
18. “A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence”
Synopsis: Two men, one of whom has a minor mental disability, confront the absurdity of human existence
What You Need To Know: Despite, or perhaps because, of his defiantly unprolific work rate (this is only his fifth feature since debut “A Swedish Love Story” in 1970), Scandinavian helmer Roy Andersson is one of the most acclaimed filmmakers on the world circuit, especially since “Songs From The Second Floor” debuted in 2000. His long-gestating latest (which we had tipped as an outside possibility already for last year’s Cannes) completes the trilogy begun with that film and continued with 2007’s “You, The Living,” shot, for the first time in the director’s career, digitally.
Why It’s Anticipated: If you’ve never seen a Roy Andersson film, now is the time to start, before this hits later in the year; there’s no filmmaker in the world quite like him, with a wry, understated humor, melancholic tone, and entirely distinctive style. Early word suggests that this might be something closer to traditional narrative—or at least, the film has central characters who span the whole movie—than the unrelated vignettes of the first two films in the trilogy, but we’re not expecting him to be reinventing the wheel here or anything.
Release Date: Cannes is a near-certainty, and hopefully it’ll get a proper U.S. release before the year is out.
17. “Sils Maria”
Synopsis: An actress becomes obsessed by a younger rival who takes over the role that made her famous.
What You Need To Know: Bits and pieces of Olivier Assayas‘ earlier work have been in English, but it seems that “Sils Maria,” the latest movie from the director of “Demonlover,” “Summer Hours,” “Carlos” and “Something In The Air,” is his true English-language debut. And what a cast he’s assembled for it: the film’s led by Juliette Binoche, who plays a version of herself (and took the idea to the director herself: as Assayas told us, “it’s a Juliette Binoche movie about Juliette Binoche with Juliette Binoche”), with Chloe Moretz, Kristen Stewart, Bruno Ganz, Daniel Bruhl, Brady Corbet and Johnny Flynn also involved.
Why It’s Anticipated: Though your mileage may vary depending on the film, we find Assayas to be one of the more consistent filmmakers out there, and anything new from him is reason to get excited. Beyond that, it’s been built from the ground up to showcase Juliette Binoche, one of our very finest actors, and the idea of her facing off against a new generation of talent, in Moretz and Stewart, is enough to sell us a ticket. Is this the arthouse “All About Eve” it sounds like, or something very different? With Assayas, it’s never easy to predict, but we’ll be there either way.
Release Date: Assayas screened “Boarding Gate” and “Carlos” at Cannes, but “Something In The Air” was at Venice, and “Summer Hours” bypassed a festival premiere, so it’s hard to lock down. But Cannes and/or Venice are the best guesses.
Synopsis: After rogue computer hackers attack the world’s stock markets, an imprisoned hacker is released on the condition that he helps a joint U.S./Chinese task force to track down the culprits.
What You Need To Know: It’s five years since Michael Mann had a movie in theaters—2009’s “Public Enemies“—so the news that he’s been shooting a new film is enormously welcome, particularly after a number of projects failed to land over the years (including the now-potential Tom Cruise/Brad Pitt vehicle “Go Like Hell“) The project in question, backed by Legendary Pictures, is one of the more obvious examples of the importance of the Chinese audience to Hollywood these days, with “Thor” star Chris Hemsworth and Oscar-nominee Viola Davis joined by “Lust Caution” actors Tang Wei and Leehom Wang. An extensive shoot kicked off last summer, spanning the U.S., China, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Why It’s Anticipated: It’s the return of Michael Mann. “Miami Vice” and “Public Enemies” might have been more divisive than some of his work, but Mann’s still a first-class filmmaker (look out for a Retrospective of his work from us very soon), and any time he’s putting out new work, it’s worth paying attention. It’s true that if this premise was being directed by some B-level action guy, we’d be much more dismissive, but we’re pretty sure that Mann will be able to find some meat to it, and particularly, the idea of him digging into U.S./Chinese relations is an intriguing one. Plus, Hemsworth’s been a consistently engaging performer who proved with “Rush” that he’s more than just good with a hammer, and it’s great to see Davis in a high profile role like this.
Release Date: Currently, it’s not scheduled until January 16 2015, which is the worry and the reason a Michael Mann film isn’t in our top 10. What does Universal know about this that we don’t? And when was the last time a Michael Mann movie was dumped in January?? Still, if it’s any good whatsoever, expect it to get some kind of qualifying run in December and maybe hit a late festival like AFI (as “Lone Survivor” did this year, for instance).
15. “Maps To The Stars”
Synopsis: Details a twisted Hollywood family: successful self-help magnate Dr. Stafford Weiss and his wife Cristina, who manage the career of their burned-out child star kids Agatha and Benjie, and also come into the orbit of an aspiring actor and a movie star haunted by her dead mother.
What You Need To Know: This Hollywood-set tale, penned by novelist Bruce Wagner, has been in the works for close to a decade, and seems to have been something of a passion project for director David Cronenberg: it’s come close to production more than once before, but eventually got before cameras last year. Seemingly closer to last film “Cosmopolis” than his more commercial work on something like “Eastern Promises,” it’s also home to the director’s most promising cast in a long-time, with the returning Robert Pattinson and Sarah Gadon joined by John Cusack, Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Olivia Williams and perhaps most interestingly, Carrie Fisher, as ‘Herself.’
Why Is It Anticipated: We can’t say we were huge fans of Cronenberg’s last couple of movies, but the idea of the Canadian legend turning his attention to biting the hand that feeds him is an immediately intriguing one, and doubly so when you start adding drug-addicted thirteen-year-old child actors, pyromania and ghosts of dead 1960s stars into the mix. There are a lot of strong actors here who seem particularly suited to working with Cronenberg (Moore, Williams, Wasikowska), and perhaps more than anything, we’re delighted to see John Cusack in a movie that isn’t a straight-to-VOD actioner that hadn’t already been turned down by Nicolas Cage (with this film along with “Love and Mercy,” we’re hoping 2014 is Cusack’s comeback year). Early pics here for what could be another “Cosmopolis,” oblique and chilly, but we’ve got our fingers crossed for something more satisfying.
Release Date: Said to be aiming for Cannes, though Venice or TIFF might be options too.
14. “Two Days, One Night”
Synopsis: For two days and a night, with the help of her husband, 30-year-old Sandra searches the town for colleagues prepared to sacrifice their bonuses so she can keep her job.
What You Need To Know: While usually tending to favor lesser-known actors for their naturalistic films, the Dardennes Brothers have gone Hollywood (or their closest approximation of that) signing up Marion Cotillard for the lead role in their next film, that right now seems to be a two-hander with only longtime collaborator Fabrizio Rongione (“Rosetta,” “Lorna’s Silence,” “The Kid With The Bike”) listed as the co-star. And the subject matter suggests that the Dardennes are changing the game thematically as well, tackling a timely topic that seems to find the lead character a victim of the worldwide economic crisis.
Why Is It Anticipated: While any new film from the Dardennes is cause for celebration, the casting and plot add an extra spice to this mix, which explains why it has landed near the top ten.
Release Date: Sony Pictures Classics has the U.S. rights and while no date has been set, you can probably expect a Cannes Film Festival premiere in the spring.
13. “A Most Wanted Man”
Synopsis: A Chechen Muslim illegally emigrates to Hamburg, where he gets caught up in the international war on terror.
What You Need To Know: After “The Constant Gardener” and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” rekindled Hollywood’s love for the spy and international intrigue genre via John le Carré, the author’s work has become all the rage once more in Tinseltown (the adaptations in development are myriad). And the next to arrive will be “A Most Wanted Man,” which, while a much more modern vision of Le Carre’s espionage milieu, still sounds like a morally complex crackler, and it sure looks great, according to the trailer (which has been pulled by Lionsgate right now, but will hopefully be re-upped soon).
Why Is It Anticipated: …mainly because it’s directed by rock-photographer-turned-filmmaker Anton Corbijn, who has made two essentials works so far, “Control” and “The American,” the latter of which was one of the most introspective and haunted assassin movies in forever. And then there’s his cast which is terrific, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Willem Dafoe, “Rush” star Daniel Brühl and terrific German star Nina Hoss. Sundance can’t come quickly enough.
Release Date: A Sundance premiere in January means it’ll roll out later in the year depending on how it performs and where Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions sees fit to slot it.
12. “Midnight Special“
Synopsis: A father and son attempt to evade government officials when they learn the boy has supernatural powers.
What You Need To Know: This is a bid for mainstream success for director Jeff Nichols, who previously helmed “Mud,” “Take Shelter” and “Shotgun Stories.” Frequent collaborator Michael Shannon returns, part of an ensemble that includes Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst and Adam Driver. The plot is mostly being kept under wraps, but Nichols has compared it to a John Carpenter film, which likely means a heavy genre influence, particularly given that Nichols has also point-blank stated that this would be a “chase movie.”
Why Is It Anticipated: A wave of interesting, original sci-fi from a number of intriguing directors highlights 2014 for us, though the last person you’d expect to join those ranks is Nichols, who has been making a series of down-to-the-bone dramas in the indie world until now. In interviews, there’s been a bit of misdirection too, as he’s been both comparing this to a Carpenter film and suggesting it shares DNA with Carpenter’s “Starman,” a film that doesn’t have much in common with the rest of Carpenter’s filmography. Either way, it would be highly intriguing to see Nichols tackle something like “Starman,” with a father-son bonding story thrown in there, and it will also be a pleasure to see Shannon re-team with Nichols, as the director tends to get the best out of the volcanically bizarre actor. Shannon only had a bit part in Nichols’ “Mud,” but within the margins of that film it was weird, funny and unpredictable, a comic highlight in a film that was constantly flashing the audience a sly smile.
Release Date: Fourth quarter, likely fall.
11. “The Rover“
Synopsis: In a war-torn future beset by financial collapse, a man trudges across the Australian desert to locate his stolen car and secure the mysterious cargo found inside.
What You Need To Know: This is the first film for director David Michod since his riveting debut “Animal Kingdom.” It’s been described as an existential western, and it’s being fronted by “Twilight” heartthrob Robert Pattinson. Michod is also re-teaming with “Animal Kingdom” co-star Guy Pearce, with the fairly ubiquitous Scoot McNairy onboard as well.
Why Is It Anticipated: “Animal Kingdom” was one of the most exciting debuts of the last few years. That picture captured the sweeping scope of early Michael Mann mixed with Werner Herzog’s anthropological analysis of human behavior, crafting a debut that was both terrifying and utterly unforgettable. While he’s taking things in a vaguely sci-fi direction here, Michod has promised that this will be a relatively grounded affair, a crime picture in the outback that could be indicative of a contemporary mashup of “Wake In Fright” (with the idea of an outsider stranded in the outback) and “Mad Max” (with its emphasis on vehicular action). We’re particularly interested in how this takes place in the foreground of a financial collapse, and how close to modern day Michod wants to make it.
Release Date: A24 has it currently slated for TBD fall 2014.
Synopsis: An actor best known for playing a superhero in movies tries to mount a Broadway play.
What You Need To Know: Comedy and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu are not two things that have traditionally gone together before now: the Mexican director’s work, on “Amores Perros,” “21 Grams,” “Babel” and “Biutiful,” has been gorgeous, but pretty bleak. So it’s exciting to see him take a left-turn with this original comedy, which sees Michael Keaton (completing a comeback year that also sees him crop up in “RoboCop” and “Need For Speed“) riffing on his own Bat-persona in a lo-fi comedy backed by Fox Searchlight.
Why Is It Anticipated: Well, it’s a great premise, and set photos and the like have made this look pretty hilarious. Keaton’s been long overdue for a comeback, and should get a doozy of a role here, and he’s joined by a killer cast that also includes Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Amy Ryan, Merritt Weaver and Andrea Riseborough. Perhaps more than anything, though, we’re excited to see what Inarritu can do when he lets his funny bone lead the way. Keep your “Captain America” and “Spider-Man” and all, this is the most anticipated superhero-related movie of the year, and in case you need convincing: these photos.
Release Date: None given yet, but given that both “Babel” and “Biutiful” premiered on the Croisette, Cannes would seem to be a good bet.
Synopsis: An ordinary man is warned that God is planning a great flood to wipe out sinful mankind, and builds an enormous ark to save his family, and two of every animal.
What You Need To Know: When your little $15 million art/exploitation movie goes on to win a Best Picture nomination, a Best Actress Oscar, and $300 million worldwide, you pretty much get to do whatever you want for your next move. And for Darren Aronofsky, after “Black Swan,” that next move was passion project “Noah,” a mega-budget retelling of the Biblical epic of floods and animals (latest pics here). Russell Crowe takes the lead role, with Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Douglas Booth also on board, and ILM handling the effects (including one shot that’s allegedly the most complex in the company’s history)
Why It’s Anticipated: Look, we know there’s a lot of skepticism around the trailer in some circles, which doesn’t do the film a lot of favors, certainly. But this is still Darren Aronofsky with near-unlimited resources, and that’s surely something to be excited about. Plus the word is that the script is more out-there than the promo makes it look, delving into serious Old Testament mythology, with giant angels and the like, which is much more interesting than the straight story we’re being sold. Aronofsky and the studio are apparently feuding over the final cut, which some might take as a bad sign, but something we actually take as rather encouraging. If he gets his way anyhow…
Release Date: March 28, 2014
8. “While We’re Young”
Synopsis: A fortysomething couple befriend a younger, hipper pair of twentysomethings.
What You Need To Know: Noah Baumbach‘s clearly going through a fruitful period: he doesn’t just have that second collaboration with Greta Gerwig, a currently untitled film which featured in Part 1 of this list) but also a bigger, more high-profile Scott Rudin-produced picture called “While We’re Young.” It’s been in the works for a while (Cate Blanchett, James Franco and Gerwig were all attached to an earlier iteration), but finally got before cameras late last year, with “Greenberg” star Ben Stiller returning, Naomi Watts as his wife, and Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried playing the younger couple. The cast also includes Brady Corbet, Charles Grodin, “Starlet” breakout Dree Hemingway, and Beastie Boys‘ Adam Horowitz.
Why It’s Anticipated: While “Frances Ha” might have loosened Baumbach up, we’re intrigued to see how this project, written after “Greenberg” and sounding closer to that film or “The Squid And The Whale,” turns out, given that he made two more run-and-gun features in the meantime. The subject matter sounds prime Baumbach territory, and the cast have either been provably great under his direction (Stiller, Driver), or seem like they’d be right at home (Watts, Seyfried, Corbet). There’s the risk that it turns out as prickly and navel-gazing as “Greenberg” ultimately did, but Baumbach’s success rate is high enough that we’re willing to take the chance
Release Date: Shot late in 2013, so the fall festivals—TIFF most likely—are probable.
7. “Gone Girl”
Synopsis: Nick and Amy Dunne are seemingly the perfect couple, but when she disappears suddenly, Nick becomes the prime suspect. Could he have killed her? Or is the truth far more twisted?
What You Need To Know: After a frustrating few years which saw David Fincher try to mount his version of “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea” only for Disney to get budget shy, the director makes his return with a film that, like his last effort, “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” adapts an acclaimed water-cooler paperback thriller hit. Gillian Flynn‘s novel “Gone Girl” was a genuine literary phenomenon, and it’s quite the coup that the adaptation (written by Flynn herself) landed Fincher as a director. His usual A-grade creative team are in place, with a somewhat eccentric cast involved: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike take the leads, with Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit, Casey Wilson, Missi Pyle and the girl from the “Blurred Lines” video joining them. And Fincher’s famously exacting shooting style is reportedly back in play and then some.
Why It’s Anticipated: Two words: David Fincher. Don’t get us wrong, we’d rather he was doing something more self-generated, rather than another director-for-hire gig, but if anyone can make the page-turner book’s tricksy structure and unsympathetic characters work as a feature, it’s probably him. And while the casting is undeniably, uh, eclectic (Doogie Howser! Madea!), we’re certainly willing to give him the benefit of the doubt here, especially with such strong material to work from. We’re especially jazzed about the chance to see Rosamund Pike, an oft-undervalued actress, get such a huge opportunity as this one.
Release Date: October 3, 2014. Could pop up at TIFF or NYFF before then, depending on its awards prospects.
Synopsis: After being found beaten in an alleyway, a woman relates her sexual life, from birth to her 50s.
What You Need To Know: After the fuss that greeted his comments at the Cannes Film Festival while promoting “Melancholia,” Lars von Trier double-downed in the truest possible sense, with the film that could be his magnum opus: a two-part epic of explicit sexuality and provocation, released in two-parts (with a more explicit, uncut five hour+ take to follow later in the year). Charlotte Gainsbourg takes the lead role, with newcomer Stacy Martin as the younger version of the character, and an all-star cast including Stellan Skarsgard, Shia LaBoeuf, Uma Thurman, Jamie Bell, Udo Kier, Willem Dafoe, Christian Slater, Connie Nielsen and many more are also along for the… fun?
Why It’s Anticipated: Von Trier isn’t to everyone’s taste, but no one fills that button-pushing trickster void better than he does, and there’s no doubt that this is likely to be one of the talking points of moviegoing in 2014. While the things he puts his characters through can sometimes be questioned, there’s no doubt that Von Trier is one of the best directors of women working, and we feel like we can trust him to tell a story like this without becoming too leery or male-gaze-y. Early footage and reviews indicate that this is more or less what you’re expecting, with Von Trier’s signature style blown up even larger, and your reaction to that will probably dictate how you feel about the finished product. But we’re excited, ourselves.
Release Date: The shorter version of the Part One has already started rolling out around Europe, but it arrives on VOD in the U.S. on March 6, 2014, before hitting theaters on March 21st, while Part Two is in homes April 3rd, and in theaters April 18th. The uncut version Volume One premieres at Berlin in February, with Volume Two widely expected to land at Cannes.
Synopsis: The true story of schizophrenic millionaire John du Pont, who backed the U.S. Olympic wrestling team and whose friendship with gold-medal-winning brothers Dave and Mark Schultz ended in tragedy.
What You Need To Know: Having had a huge success with another dark true story of murder and obsession with 2005’s “Capote,” director Bennett Miller (and co-writer Dan Futterman) returns to similar territory with this remarkable true story. Channing Tatum (in probably his biggest test as a dramatic actor yet) and Mark Ruffalo play the wrestling brothers, while Steve Carell, almost unrecognizable under prosthetics, has a potentially career-changing role as du Pont, with Sienna Miller and Vanessa Redgrave making up the rest of the cast. We nearly saw this already: it was meant to screen at the AFI Festival before going on release last month, and it had always been high on our list of anticipated Fall 2013 movies but was pulled late in the day, with Miller apparently needing more time to finish the film (though we suspect a crowded Oscar slate might have had something to do with it too).
Why Is It Anticipated: He might have two Best Picture nominations for two films, but Bennett Miller remains somewhat underrated: he doesn’t have the same fanbase as some of his contemporaries, perhaps because so much time passed between “Capote” and “Moneyball,” despite both being remarkable pieces of work. Still, Megan Ellison knows what’s up: her Annapurna Pictures backed “Foxcatcher,” and there’s every reason to think that this can sit alongside the company’s prior slate of “Zero Dark Thirty,” “The Master,” “Spring Breakers,” “Her” and co. The trailer that leaked a few months back looked very special indeed, and the team that Miller assembled (including great DoP Greig Fraser) is impeccable. Whenever this lands, we’ll be there.
Release Date: This is presumably close to completion, so Cannes could be viable, but Sony Pictures Classics may want to wait until closer to Oscar season.
4. “Knight Of Cups”/”Untitled Austin Music Scene Movie”/”Voyage Of Time”
Synopsis: “Knight Of Cups”: A story of a man, temptations, celebrity, and excess.
“Untitled Austin Music Scene Movie”: The film follows two intersecting love triangles. It is a story of sexual obsession and betrayal set against the music scene in Austin, Texas.
“Voyage Of Time”: An examination of the birth and death of the known universe.
What You Need To Know: For “Knight Of Cups” and the Austin movie, there’s the stacked cast (Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Isabelle Lucas plus a zillion more, not to mention the music cameos in the Austin movie), the mystery of who will survive to the final films (even Christian Bale has said he’s likely not in the music movie) and the eternal question of when Malick will actually be finished with them. The recent hire of composer Hanan Townshend to score ‘Knights’ suggests perhaps that one will get out of the gate first. As for “Voyage Of Time,” the documentary has been literally years in the making, but a recent lawsuit looks like it might be arriving close to a settlement, so that’s encouraging news.
Why Is It Anticipated: Because it’s Terrence Malick, who is in the midst of one of his most prolific periods in his career.
Release Date: Whenever Malick feels like it, but surely one of these is going to arrive sooner rather than later?
3. “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Synopsis: In a legendary hotel in a fictional European country between the wars, a young lobby boy falls under the spell of a famous concierge, amid plots of murder, art theft and squabbling families.
What You Need To Know: The early months of the year are so often lacking in quality fare, but this year, we’re getting some Wes Anderson in the first quarter to brighten things up: his latest opens the Berlin Film Festival in February before opening in theaters at the start of March. The Anderson all-stars have been assembled, with Ralph Fiennes (replacing Johnny Depp, who bailed for “Transcendence”) leading a cast that includes veterans like Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton and Owen Wilson, and newcomers Saoirse Ronan, Jude Law, Lea Seydoux, Mathieu Amalric and F. Murray Abraham, among many others.
Why Is It Anticipated: The director’s last film, “Moonrise Kingdom” stands with “Rushmore” as one of Anderson’s finest achievements, and there’s no sign of a drop-off here: the film, which nods to Lubitsch and Fritz Lang, looks like an absolute treat, perhaps Anderson’s purest comedy in a while, but with signs of substance there as well. We suppose that the potential’s there for this to be a bit of a mess, but the film has started screening to a select few and early word is that Anderson’s recent run of success continues, and then some. Check out the latest clip here and the full trailer here, in all their glorious Anderson-ness.. .
Release Date: March 7, 2014, after opening Berlin on February 6th.
Synopsis: Scientists attempt to observe a wormhole into another dimension.
What You Need To Know: No less than Steven Spielberg had been toying with this project for years in various stages of development. The shift from Spielberg to Christopher Nolan certainly suggests that a proper focus and big-budget scope is necessary to bring it to the screen, though details are being kept heavily under wraps, and many have conceded that the project now bears very little resemblance to Spielberg’s original ideas (despite Jonathan Nolan being retained as screenwriter). The film is so massive that Warner Bros. needed an assist from Paramount for funding, an exchange that saw the WB grant them the rights to go in on future “Friday The 13th” and “South Park” movies.
Why Is It Anticipated: Batman gave Nolan the license to go HAM on the blockbuster scene, and even his detractors have to note that he’s placed a recognizable stamp on his tentpole efforts, one of the few populist directors working today that can unleash a massive moneymaker in the summer and collect award nominations in the winter. Here he’s working with a decorated cast, including Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, David Oyelowo, Ellen Burstyn, Topher Grace, Wes Bentley, Elyes Gabel, Bill Irwin, John Lithgow and Matt Damon joining Nolan regulars Michael Caine and Anne Hathaway. Wormholes are also one of those hard-science ideas that remain exciting and unusual to the layman, so this definitely ain’t gonna be boring, while the tone of the first, brief teaser suggests a certain philosophical/metaphysical aspect too.
Release Date: November 7, 2014
1. “Inherent Vice”
Synopsis: In 1970s Southern California, an inept, pot-addled detective Larry “Doc” Sportello investigates the disappearance of girl who also happens to be a former girlfriend.
What You Need To Know: An adaptation of celebrated novelist Thomas Pynchon’s hilarious freakbeat detective tale, “Inherent Vice” is part noir, part psychedelic romp that unfolds a crime labyrinth for the confused, stoner lead character; a shiftless and goofy dick who gets by on luck and accidents as much as his hazy wits.It’s very much “The Big Sleep” meets Robert Altman‘s “The Long Goodbye” (another Chandler adaptation) with lots of traces of the doped-up surfer psychedelic milieu of late 1960s Malibu.
Why Is It Anticipated: Well, it’s directed and written by Paul Thomas Anderson and it’s the reteaming of PTA and his “The Master” star Joaquin Phoenix. But perhaps most importantly, it could be a massive gear shift for the filmmaker if he sticks to the script (knowing his adaptations, it’s possible he may not). The closest Anderson came to making a comedy was his oddball “romantic comedy” “Punch Drunk Love” and that picture unleashed a looser vibe in his work and shed some of his easier-to-spot influences. “Inherent Vice” could be a Altman-esque riff on the gumshoe drama, but something tells us it’s going to be a little bit odder considering the direction of his work of late,and considering the shoot was, according to Josh Brolin, “absolute fucking chaos” (in a good way). The film has a sprawling cast that includes Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston, Martin Short, Reese Witherspoon, Jena Malone, Benicio del Toro and musician Joanna Newsom to name a few, but like “The Master” is littered with relatively unknown actors as well.
Release Date: December 12, which may rule out an early festival bow.
If it seems unwieldy to be anticipating 100 films over the next 365 days, spare a thought for those that didn’t make the cut, and marvel at just how many there are: in any given year, there are hundreds of films that are either in the can, being edited, or currently being shot (there are probably 350+ films not even mentioned on this list that are still scheduled to arrive this year). Every new year of cinema promises a bevy of new releases and 2014 is no different, so even beyond our mammoth 2-part list, there’s still so much that we’re curious and intrigued about, even if our expectations are slightly tempered for one reason or another. Here’s a quick namecheck of some of those films:
Fingers Crossed For These Mainstream Releases
“Mortdecai” starring Johnny Depp, Ewan McGregor and Gwyneth Paltrow is due sometime in 2014 and probably will feel like a glaring omission to some for not being on the proper 100 list, but director David Koepp’s last Depp-starring effort “Secret Window” was a disaster and “Premium Rush” did him few favors in our estimation. Still, it’s a solid cast, so we’ll keep it on the radar. Just missing the top 100 (because if we wrote up everything, we’d be here forever) is Jon Favreau‘s indie-flavored “Chef” which promises appearances by Favreau himself, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sofía Vergara, Dustin Hoffman, and John Leguizamo. Also up for consideration and something we’re quite keen on is Melissa McCarthy‘s “Tammy,” The Weinstein Company’s “St. Vincent” with an eclectic cast of Naomi Watts, Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd, Bill Murray and Terrence Howard sure sounds interesting. Other films with locked in 2014 dates we’re curious about include Seth MacFarlane‘s Western comedy “A Million Ways to Die in the West” starring Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried and many others, Miguel Arteta‘s “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” with Steve Carrell, “Paddington” with Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth, “Million Dollar Arm” with Jon Hamm and Lake Bell, “A Long Way Down” with Aaron Paul, Pierce Brosnan, Imogen Poots, the “Poltergeist” remake (though that may land in 2015), “The Judge” with Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall, Elizabeth Banks‘ raunchy comedy, “Walk Of Shame,” Jon Stewart’s “Rosewater,” “Wild” starring Reese Witherspoon and by the director of “Dallas Buyers Club,” Stephen Daldry‘s “Trash” starring Rooney Mara (which again, could be 2015) and several others.
Further anticipated auteur-driven work includes films by Ken Loach (“Jimmy’s Hall” said to be his final film), Christian Petzold (“Phoenix” starring his underrated German muse Nina Hoss), Michael Winterbottom (“The Face Of An Angel” starring 2013 breakout actor Daniel Bruhl), Liv Ullman (“Miss Julie” starring Jessica Chastain) Dylan Kidd (“Get a Job,” the long-awaited follow-up to “P.S.” starring Miles Teller, Anna Kendrick and Bryan Cranston), Wim Wenders (“Everything Will Be Fine” with James Franco, Rachel McAdams), Alain Resnais (“Life Of Riley“), “Madame Bovary” starring Mia Wasikowska as directed by “Cold Souls” helmer Sophie Barthes (a potential festival circuit film for sure) and many more.
The Sundance Film Festival
Sundance has no shortage of riches, many of which you’ll be hearing about soon, and apart from the half-dozen Utah-bound films we’ve already mentioned in this list, we’re also looking forward to things like “Low Down” starring Elle Fanning, the musical “Song One” with Anne Hathaway as scored by Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice, Marjane Satrapi’s “The Voices” starring Ryan Reynolds and Anna Kendrick, Mike Cahill‘s “I Origins,” Jim Mickle‘s “Cold In July,” Ira Sachs‘ “Love Is Strange,” Alex Ross Perry‘s “Listen Up Phillip” starring Jason Schwartzman and Elisabeth Moss, the Roger Ebert doc “Life Itself,” the Fela Kuti doc by Alex Gibney, new films by Gregg Araki, Jake Paltrow, Joe Swanberg, John Slattery, Adam Wingard, David Cross, Aaron Katz, Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, and many, many more.
Under The Radar:
There’s a fair few films that aren’t from especially established names as yet, and aren’t yet slated for a festival like Sundance, but are still potentially something to look forward to, all being well. On the more mainstream side of things, “Crazy Stupid Love” writer Dan Fogelman makes his directorial debut with “Imagine,” starring Al Pacino as an aging rocker and Bobby Cannavale as his son. Gareth Edwards’ breakout hit gets a sequel with “Monsters: Dark Continent,” while Anna Kendrick toplines indie musical “The Last 5 Years.” Lo-fi genre fare will be in full compliment too: the makers of “Bellflower” return with “Chuck Hank And The San Diego Twins,” while Riley Stearns’ “Faults,” which placed highly on the Black List in 2013, sounds intriguing too. Hit stage play “Posh” comes to the screen courtesy of Lone Scherfig, while Shakespeare gets a re-rub from the “Hamlet” duo of Michael Almereyda and Ethan Hawke in “Cymbeline.” Berlin brings both Claudia Llhosa’s “Aloft,” and Northern Irish thriller “71,” starring rising star Jack O’Connell. And on the international circuit, we’re also intrigued by the return of “Lourdes” director Jessica Hausner with “Amour Fou,” and “Vie Sauvage,” a new film from “Roberto Succo” director Cedric Kahn. And finally, ertwhile Playlister Christopher Jason Bell makes his feature directorial debut with “The Winds That Scatter”—some of us have seen an rough cut, and it’s ace. Look for most of the above on the festival circuit in the coming year.
Mainstream Question Marks
Unlike the rest of the world, we’re not entirely convinced of the merits of/ kind of skeptical about things like the “Veronica Mars” movie, “Divergent” (or most YA adaptations these days), Angelina Jolie’s “Maleficent,” Kevin Smith’s “Tusk,” “Dumb And Dumber To” and “The Expendables 3,” but you might be reading about them soon in another feature. Other studio/mainstream films we don’t have anything against (in some cases we’d rather take a wait and see approach) but don’t fall quite into “anticipated” territory include “Sex Tape” with Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz, the “Robocop” remake,”Winter’s Tale,” “300: Rise of An Empire” and lots of others.
Wait, What About…?
Finally: where are the films the Playlist has already raved about during the 2013 fall film festival season, like Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive,” Denis Villeneuve’s “Enemy” with Jake Gyllenhaal, Jonathan Glazer “Under The Skin,” Bong Joon-ho‘s “Snowpiercer,” Richard Ayoade‘s “The Double” and new films from David Gordon Green, Terry Gilliam, Xavier Dolan, Tsai Ming-liang, and Kelly Reichardt to name a few? You can find them all in our Best Films Of 2014 We’ve Already Seen feature. As always dig in, sound off and share if you like what you see. While you’re here, check out our Best of 2013 content, features and lists, won’t you? — Oliver Lyttelton, Rodrigo Perez, Jessica Kiang, Gabe Toro, Kevin Jagernauth