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A look ahead to movies of 2014

Gazette's movie critic previews upcoming releases

By: Scott Hayes

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jan 01, 2014 06:00 am

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  • CLOONEY AND COMPANY – The Monuments Men is a period comedy with a star-studded cast.
    CLOONEY AND COMPANY – The Monuments Men is a period comedy with a star-studded cast.
    Supplied photo
  • MORE 300 –  The sequel to 300 promises to be full of gritty action.
    MORE 300 – The sequel to 300 promises to be full of gritty action.
  • A DOG AND HIS BOY – Mr. Peabody and Sherman traces the adventures of the most accomplished dog in the world and his mischievous boy.
    A DOG AND HIS BOY – Mr. Peabody and Sherman traces the adventures of the most accomplished dog in the world and his mischievous boy.
  • KERMIT VS. GERVAIS – The Muppets return for an adventure set in Europe.
    KERMIT VS. GERVAIS – The Muppets return for an adventure set in Europe.

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The start of January is probably the best time for moviegoers. It’s the one time of the year when all we have are trailers, anticipations and expectations. In short, we haven’t been let down by the silver screen yet.

With that in mind, I have put forth here my thoughts on some of the many films that will be released to the public in the next 12 months, some of which even I’m looking forward to. There are already more than 100 that have booked their release dates but you can bet that there are a lot more that will come out between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2014.

The year starts off with The Railway Man (Jan. 1) starring Colin Firth as a former POW who deals with his post trauma in later life by tracking down his tormentor. It looks heavy but uplifting. If it came out a week earlier, it would probably be considered Oscar material, especially since it’s based on a true story. At first glance, it seems to have a powerful message of forgiveness and another captivating performance by Firth.

I’m also intrigued by The Monuments Men (Feb. 7), a comedy of sorts, also based on recent war history. George Clooney (along with Matt Damon, Bill Murray and others) works to save art and artifacts before Hitler destroys them. The team of director/star Clooney and screenwriter Grant Heslov rarely fails to impress.

The weekend of March 7 will likely be a busy one, seeing the releases of both The Grand Budapest Hotel and 300: Rise of an Empire. The first is Wes Anderson’s newest muted tone melodrama focusing on the eccentric characters of a grand hotel located somewhere in Europe … Budapest, I believe. I’m a huge fan of this director, whose style is marked by deadpan expressions, offbeat humour, centre framing, glorious sets and star-studded casts, always including Bill Murray.

The second is the gritty sequel to the adaptation of the gritty graphic novel by Frank Miller, this time without Gerard Butler as King Leonidas or Zack Snyder in the director’s chair. Certainly, there will still be lots of gritty action, sometimes in slo-mo, sometimes in fast-mo.

This is a big year for Miller who also gets co-director credits for the Sin City sequel, A Dame to Kill For (Aug. 22). Many of the original cast members return to the interconnected hard-boiled crime stories except Clive Owen – replaced by Josh Brolin, sadly – and the late Michael Clarke Duncan. Say what you will about the sensational and sensationalized violence, the first movie was the most faithful graphic novel adaptation that I’ve ever seen, retaining much of the same visual feel.

Swords and sandals

The epic 300 was important in a lot of ways, especially because it proved to be so influential on action sequences in other movies. It also re-established the “sword and sandal” epic back to regular rotation. Without it, we wouldn’t have had the revisited Clash of the Titans and its sequel, nor we would now have not one but two upcoming movies based on a classic mythological character.

The Legend of Hercules (Jan. 10) sees Kellan Lutz as the strongman who must choose between love and glory. Director Renny Harlin has a strong background in mostly bad action movies without much CGI. Here, however, his game might change, what with this movie’s required over-the-top action sequences and epic sets.

Its doppelganger is Hercules: The Thracian Wars (July 25), starring Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson. No one can yet tell how comparable or contrastable this latter will be to the former but director Brett Ratner has the same affinity for action movies that Harlin does and the same spotty track record to boot. An early Oscar non-contender, presumably.

If spectacles set largely in the ancient past are your thing, then you might enjoy Pompeii (Feb. 21) by director Paul W.S. Anderson. No one has tackled the historic tragedy before and Anderson loves his special effects. It will likely still have all of the pomp of gladiator-like fighting combined with the bluster of a volcanic catastrophe. It will likely come across as much the same natural disaster epic as Noah (March 28), director Darren Aronofsky’s peek into the biblical flood story. It stars Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly and will almost certainly garner more accolades for its treatment than Pompeii will, if only because of Aronofsky’s ever-sombre directorial style. A feel-good fluff movie he will never make.

Anderson also brings another unnecessary instalment in a mutant zombie franchise based on a video game. Resident Evil 6 (Sept. 12) still stars the unstoppable Milla Jovovich as Alice. A seventh is expected in 2015 too but I defy anyone to remember the plots of any of them, save the first.

There will be new chapters in other franchises including several comic book superheroes like X-Men: Days of Future Past (May 23), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (May 2), and Guardians of the Galaxy (Aug. 1). This last one has long been awaited by fans of the Marvel comic book series. A week after this, we get to see the reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Yes, technically they’re superheroes too. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (April 4) brings back another Marvel character. This film’s cinematographer was St. Albert-raised Trent Opaloch.

Reboots

The new year will also have several reboots of past popular movies including RoboCop (Feb. 12) and Godzilla (May 16). Originality is mostly a foreign concept in Tinseltown. See my comments on Hercules above. There’s also Transformers: Age of Extinction (June 27), Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (Nov. 21), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (July 11) and The Hobbit: There and Back Again (Dec. 17) to confirm this suspicion.

But originality is not totally gone. There are two Reitmans with two original movies about two days coming out in 2014. Jason Reitman, the younger of the two, has Labor Day (Jan. 31) about a single mother, her teenaged son and an escaped convict. His father, Ivan Reitman, returns to the director’s chair to helm Draft Day (April 11), a sports comedy about a football team trying to obtain the number one draft pick.

There’s also Jupiter Ascending (July 18), a sci-fi fantasy about an otherworldly janitor with a great destiny to fulfil. It comes from the Wachowskis, the team behind The Matrix and Cloud Atlas. Expect grand visions. Christopher Nolan steps away from the Batman series to bring us Interstellar (Nov. 7) about space travel through a wormhole. It was also filmed in Alberta, just as Inception was.

Also filmed in Alberta – Edmonton mostly – were Cut Bank (not scheduled) starring Liam Hemsworth and John Malkovich, and Forbidden Playground (not scheduled), co-starring St. Albert native Jesse Lipscombe.

There are a few family movies that I’m looking forward to throughout the year, including The LEGO Movie (Feb. 7), Mr. Peabody and Sherman (March 7), Muppets Most Wanted (March 21), How to Train Your Dragon 2 (June 13) and Annie (Dec. 19).

If horror movies are more your thing then you will have several choices coming your way. These include Devil’s Due (Jan. 17), Paranormal Activity 5 (Oct. 24), the Poltergeist reboot (as yet unscheduled), 7500 (also unscheduled), and The Purge 2 (June 20).


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