01 January 2014

My Top Ten Most Anticipated Films of 2014

It's a bit premature for me to start yammering on about all the exciting films scheduled for release over the next 52 Fridays when I have only gotten to three of my top ten most anticipated films from last year. Still, since I've at least temporarily given up on the whole end-of-the-year list making racket, I feel like I should preserve some semblance of my past preoccupations, and by that I mean my future preoccupations. Bring on the coming distractions!

A few matters of housekeeping to note: any film from a previous year's list is exempt, hence the lack of Only Lovers Left Alive which so far has only played festivals; and films that have already had a theatrical release somewhere, anywhere, like Snowpiercer which has played practically everywhere but America, are also ineligible. This is about finding the newest new things. Onward.

10. The Monuments Men

Am I under any illusion that George Clooney's tale about a ragtag group of art specialists traipsing across Europe in an effort to save precious masterpieces from Nazi destruction will be a favorite by the end of the year? No, not really. But I sure like me some John Goodman, Bob Balaban, Cate Blanchett, and Bill Murray. I'd sure as hell try and save them from the Nazis.

9. Casting the Runes

Okay, so I'm not nearly as familiar with director Joe Dante as I should be (another filmography to brush up on this year) but homeboy made Gremlins and that makes him bulletproof. Having him team up with Simon Pegg for a story about a journalist who uncovers the secrets of a cult definitely doesn't hurt his prospects.

8. Magic in the Moonlight

Obligatory Woody Allen slot. As usual, it's anybody's guess at this point where on the quality spectrum his latest will fall. All we know is that it is a period piece (hooray!) and that Colin Firth and Emma Stone are leading a cast that includes Marcia Gay Harden, Jacki Weaver, and Hamish Linklater. That's no Cate Blanchett/Louis C.K./Andrew Dice Clay triumvirate (I still haven't seen Blue Jasmine, by the way) but it's a decent enough tease.

7. They Came Together

Wet Hot American Summer screenwriters and The State alumni David Wain and Michael Showalter have collaborated on a new script about a woman played by Cobie Smulders whose business is threatened by a corporate takeover. The supporting cast is where this thing really tickles my fancy. Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Michael Shannon, and Ed Helms all have a piece of this thing. According to that picture, part of that piece includes Rudd beating the snot out of Shannon.

6. Veronica Mars

Season one of Veronica Mars is about as perfect as a contained televised story can be. Unfortunately, after that it was a case of ever-diminishing returns. But still, I've got faith for this cinematic reunion. Two words: Dick Casablancas.

5. Gone Girl

I abandoned author Gillian Flynn's debut novel Sharp Objects after the first chapter because the writing style annoyed me and the subject matter was unpleasant in an unpleasant sort of way. So why am I throwing my weight behind the film adaptation of her follow-up bestseller? Because David Fincher. If I remember correctly he was involved in another adaptation of a lackluster literary phenomenon. For my money, that turned out rather well. Here's hoping Ben Affleck's search for his missing wife is cold, obsessive, and scored by Trent Reznor.

4. Inherent Vice

Speaking of literary works I couldn't get behind, I wasn't a huge fan of Thomas Pynchon's shaggy dog detective novel Inherent Vice (I did finish that one though) but it's Paul Thomas Anderson doing the adapting and Joaquin Fucking Phoenix (I have hearby legally changed Phoenix's middle name, remember that) starring as the stoned protagonist Doc Sportello. If nothing else the film will probably boast impeccable '70s period detail and at least one amazing tracking shot. Oh, and a great soundtrack. Who am I kidding? It's going to be amazing.

3. The Prophet

There is no new Pixar film coming out this year. (This is a good thing.) Meanwhile, the new Disney film is a Marvel adaptation, which leaves me with a severe case of the sighs. However, there is a new animated feature that sounds exciting, fresh, and inspired. The Prophet is an adaptation of Lebanese poet and philosopher Khalil Gibran's book from 1923. Nine different directors will animate a portion of the film in their own style, including artists who have done work on films such as The Lion KingFantasia 2000, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. But there are two more idiosyncratic names attached to the film that really get me excited: Sita Sings the Blues creator Nina Paley and maverick cartoonist Bill Plympton.

2. Voyage of Time/Knight of Cups/Untitled Terrence Malick Film

So IMDb lists three potential Terrence Malick films for 2014. One is the long-discussed companion piece to The Tree of Life, the IMAX exploration about the origins of the universe, Voyage of TimeKnight of Cups meanwhile sees Christian Bale being tempted by Cate Blanchett and/or Natalie Portman among other things. Lastly, there's the as-yet-untitled star-studded film about love in the Austin music scene. I'll take any and all of those whenever you're ready, Terry.

1. Boyhood

After finally getting around to watching the entire Before trilogy last year, I decided to go whole hog and make my way through the entirety of Richard Linklater's ouevre. As of now I'm about halfway there. His latest film, Boyhood, sounds like an incredible once-in-a-lifetime production that will be a nice cap to my ongoing project. Linklater and his cast have been sporadically filming the movie for the last twelve years, charting the real growth of a boy from adolescence to adulthood. If we thought it was great catching up with Celine and Jesse every nine years, seeing over a decade unfurl over the course of two hours should be riveting.

Which three of these will I have actually seen by January 1st, 2015?? It's anybody's guess!

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