Potentially another great year for sci-fi
13,263Well we’ve recently had a chance to reflect upon some great movies from 2013, but what does 2014 have to offer? Honest answer – too many great movies for one list. Yes, there are just too many promising movies to produce an efficient Top 10 list. So I'll start with a brief summary of what's coming up, just so you don't feel like I've missed anything out.
In 2014 we have not one but two Hercules movies to NOT look forward to. IF you want to differentiate between them then one is directed by Renny Harlin, who used to make good action movies like Cliffhanger, and is about the origins of the character, but stars nobody famous; the second is about the latter life of Hercules and stars The Rock – I mean, actor Dwayne Johnson – but is directed by the guy who nearly single-handedly killed the X-Men franchise, Brett Ratner, and who should be limited to only doing outright comedies for the rest of his career (and kept away from Beverly Hills Cop 4). I have no idea why we’re getting two Hercules movies, but Hercules must be this year’s White House. Ah well, at least they are being released in chronically correct order.
There’s also a whole slew of sequels, many of which look very promising indeed – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Captain America: Winter Soldier both look to be darker than their first chapters, and I’ve got high hopes for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 even if the producers appear to have forgotten what happened when they threw too many villains at Spider-Man 3. Transformers: Age of Extinction is titular wishful thinking, as I really hoped that franchise would go the way of the dinosaur, and Guardians of the Galaxy hasn’t yet drawn me in, instead coming across as just another Agents of Shield-style filler whilst we wait for Avengers 2.
Don’t get me started on Hobbit 3, just please let 2015 come around and I’ll finally get to pick up the extended box set of all three and that’ll be the end to this neverending franchise. On the other hand The Raid 2 looks epic, clocking in at two-and-a-half hours long and promising to boast just as much bone-crunching martial arts action, only with a bigger budget behind it, and Expendables 2 might have been a step down, but I don’t think I’m going to be able to avoid the third instalment now Gibson, Snipes and Harrison Ford are on board. Pray that Resident Evil 6 is the last, and nuke your expectations for 300: Rise of an Empire.
In terms of remakes, Robocop was killed for me the moment its director attempted to explain how Robocop doesn’t need to be more than a PG-13. I forget the name of the director and will continue to do so. Next thing he’ll be telling us that he never saw Verhoeven’s classic. Then there’s The Equalizer, which may actually turn out pretty well – director Antoine Fuqua knows his action-thrillers (Shooter, Olympus Has Fallen, Tears of the Sun, Training Day), and Denzel Washington makes ANYTHING worth watching. The Underworld people have cracked out some CG-infested actioner too – I, Frankenstein – which looks like this year’s Van Helsing, but top of everybody's lists is probably Godzilla, by the guy who gave us the excellent indie sci-fi flick, Monsters, Gareth Edwards. This could either be a respectful throwback to the classic Japanese movies, or just another more-miss-than-hit summer blockbuster in the same vein as Emmerich's effort some 15 years ago. Personally, I hope it'll be as spectacular as Pacific Rim in terms of Big Screen impact, but the big monsters - Kong and Godzilla - have never been particularly handled well by the Hollywood remake regurgitator.
Near misses...Then there’s new movies. Original movies. Crazy idea, right? Well you’ll be pleased to know that many of them make my Top 10, but there were actually a few too many to get in a Top 10 so, to have my cake and eat it I’m going to first list up five titles that really should have been on the list but didn’t quite make the cut. I’m sure most of them will be on everybody else’s list, but they just didn’t make it for me, and a big influence is the fact that they many are imminent entries, already released in the States in time for Oscar consideration, and thus don’t really feel as much like ‘upcoming’ movies.
12 YEARS A SLAVE
Surely one of the biggest awards contenders of the year? The Director – Steve McQueen – hasn’t struck out yet in terms of critical acclaim and awards, and this one looks to be ready to clean up at the Oscars. By all accounts star Chiwetel Ejiofor is excellent too. Indeed you only need to look at the poster above to see just how many people think you should see this movie (they should one day do a spoof poster with 5 stars - out of 10 - across the board, and see if anybody spots the difference). Unfortunately McQueen’s last two films have left me thoroughly impressed but, ultimately, equally cold, and this one will need to be seen to be believed.
Darren Aronofsky? Russell Crowe? This certainly could be an intriguing outing, and it’s already proven to be somewhat controversial in terms of the way in which they’ve tackled the Biblical character. Indeed, it appears that The Bible is another hot choice of subject for the year, what with the TV mini-series and Ridley Scott’s Moses epic, Exodus looming down on us. Unfortunately, as much as I love Black Swan and The Wrestler, which gave us career-best performances from Natalie Portman and Mickey Rourke, and as much as I think Pi is tremendous, given a bigger budget and more access to effects - The Fountain - and Aronofsky's emotional impact gets somewhat obscured. Still, Crowe may be able to rise above the spectacle and bring this potential epic home.
David O. Russell – Three Kings, The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook – teams up with Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Robert De Niro for this crime drama. Sorry, comedy-crime-drama, and that’s where my hesitation lies. Still, undoubtedly it’s going to win a bevy of Awards and it’s been tipped to be one of the best of the year, so there's no doubt that I'll be going to see it, I just don't know whether it'll be this year's Casino or instead too much like a 70s-set Oceans movie.
THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
Like American Hustle, the tone of this piece – at least from the Trailers – is putting me right off. Sure, with Scorsese and DiCaprio on board (The Aviator, Shutter Island, The Departed, Gangs of New York) I’m definitely still going to see it, but I hope they get the tone right, as Scorsese isn’t renowned for his comedies and I don’t want to spend two-and-a-half-hours out of the three hours runtime watching arrogant sociopaths party hard before their inevitable it-can’t-come-too-soon fall.
UNTITLED TERRENCE MALICK PROJECT
Malick is down to release three movies this year, but that seems distinctly unlikely. He shot Knight of Cups and ‘Untitled Terrence Malick Project’ back-to-back, with almost an identical cast, but since ‘Cups is about celebrity and excess, I’m going to side with the ‘untitled’ project instead. Neither of which make my Top 10, of course, because Malick’s last film – To The Wonder – was the wrong side of pretentious, even for this elusive auteur. And although the likes of Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Ryan Gosling, Benecio Del Toro, Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender and Cate Blanchett should only draw me further to the piece, but given Malick’s preclusion for editing his biggest stars right out of the movie, we’ll have to wait to see if any of them remain in the final cut.AND THEN THERE WERE TEN...
I never thought I'd ever put an Arnie film in my Top 10 predications. Well, not unless I could go back in time using Skynet technology. This film, however, may just change everybody's perception of the guy, whose return to film has been a slower, more protracted process than anybody ever expected. With an intriguing script based loosely on Agatha Christie's murder mystery thriller, And Then There Were None, about a group of men complicit in a crime who get picked off one by one in mysterious ways, this will likely be a far darker outing for Schwarzenegger than anybody has ever seen before, and with writer/director David Ayer (End of Watch, Training Day) behind it, expect this to be unflinching anti-hero cop territory of the highest order.
9. JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT
The fourth screen incarnation of the late Tom Clancy's CIA super-analyst, Jack Ryan, comes courtesy of Chris 'Kirk' Pine, who may just be able to pull off a suitable combination of the suave charm of The Hunt for Red October's Alec Baldwin, the everyman earnestness of Patriot Games / Clear and Present Danger's Harrison Ford and the cocky arrogance of The Sum of All Fears' Ben Affleck. Expect the film - helmed by Kenneth Branagh, who will also be playing the lead villain; co-starring Keira Knightley as Ryan's wife and Kevin Costner as his mentor, and based on an original screenplay and, unlike all its predecessors, NOT on a specific Clancy novel - to potentially reboot the franchise once and for all. Just steer clear of the trailers, which give too much away, and find out for yourself in just a few weeks.
8. CHILD 44
Whilst he was busy working on the long-time-gestating Mad Max: Fury Road, which, by all accounts will be spectacular, Tom Hardy hasn't had the kind of output I'd have liked, especially given the fact that his name alone makes most every film he's in a must-see. This intriguing period thriller, set in wartorn communist Russia, is about a detective left out in the cold when he uncovers evidence of a child serial killer, something that the State refuses to acknowledge is even possible. Directed by Safe House's Daniel Espinosa and co-starring the likes of Noomi Rapace, Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, Paddy Considine and Vincent Cassel, expect this to be one of the best thrillers of the year and, potentially - if successful - a trilogy as per the source novels. I'd certainly rather see that than the remaining Dragon Tattoo remake sequels. Expect a late 2014 release.
7. SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR
Pushed back in release date, this was pipped to be one of my favourite movies of 2013, but we have to wait a little longer now. Still, hopefully it'll be worth it. Based on the graphic novel prequel by Frank Miller - arguably his best story in the Sin City universe - the all-star cast returns expanded this time around, with the likes of Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis, Clive Owen and Powers Boothe now supported by Josh Brolin, Joseph-Gordon Levitt, Ray Liotta and Eva Green. The quartet of stories - including two new ones Miller wrote specifically for the film - is headlined by the titular tale, which sees a pre-Clive Owen Dwight (initially played by Brolin) team up with Mickey Rourke's Marv when he gets in over his head with an alluring femme fatale, played by the perfectly-chosen Eva Green. As Sin City marked the start of Rourke's return to Hollywood, which has since died a quiet death, I can't wait to see him back in a role that his older self was simply made for. We'll finally get to see it in the Summer.
It appears that the only bad news surrounding Nolan's latest - Interstellar - is that his long-time cinematographer Wally Pfister was unavailable to work on that movie. He has a great excuse though, because he's been working on his directorial debut, which will also mark a welcome return to serious form for the now-tiresomely lightweight Johnny Depp. With a typically Asmovian cautious-future story about a scientist striving to create a sentient A.I., this could be another great sci-fi outing for 2014, and features a supporting cast that includes Rebecca Hall, Morgan Freeman, Paul Bettany and Cillian Murphy. The A.I. goes live in April.
5. THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 1
After the superior sequel Catching Fire earned a spot in my Best Films of 2013, it's no surprise that Mockingjay gets a shot at doing the same thing for 2014, the only shame being that the novel has been split, Hobbit-style, into an unwanted two-parter, to be released in Winter 2014 and 2015. Still, the revolution is now ready to go full-tilt, and I can't wait to see what Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss & co. have in store for us.
4. JUPITER ASCENDING
With their sci-fi dominated input on the flawed-but-ambitious Cloud Atlas proving that the Wachowskis still have the skills, odds are that Jupiter Ascending will prove to be yet another must-see Sci-fi entry for 2014. The suitably offbeat tale of immigrant-cleaner-turned-saviour-of-the-human-race stars Mila Kunis as the eponymous Jupiter and features a dyed-blonde albino Channing Tatum as the assassin sent to kill her who, undoubtedly, will change his mind somewhere along the way. Expect it to be visually stunning, moderately elusive, and potentially utterly captivating. Either that or it will flop and the Wachowskis will disappear for another decade only to return as sisters.
3. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
Bryan Singer takes back the reins of the franchise that helped kick-start the superhero movie resurgence some 14 years ago, attempting to blend the characters from the equal-parts-excellent-and-generic prequel First Class with those from his contemporary features by using a very popular 1981 comic story arc, Days of Future Past, which involves mental time-travel in an attempt to change a future where Sentinels are hunting mutants and either killing them or imprisoning them in internment camps. With most of the main players back - James McAvoy / Patrick Stewart and Michael Fassbender / Ian McKellen as Professor X / Magneto, respectively, as well as Jackman's Wolverine, Halle Berry's Storm and Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique - as well as Singer also teasing his 2016 endgame sequel, X-Men: Apocalypse, it has the potential to be one of the best superhero blockbusters of the year.
2. EDGE OF TOMORROW
Cruise has been staggeringly reliable as of late with his one-per-year action thriller blockbusters, and, following Mission:Impossible - Ghost Protocol and Jack Reacher, he continues the sci-fi trend he stablished with 2013's visually stunning Oblivion by pairing up with Director Doug 'Bourne Identity' Liman for this project, which was originally known under the considerably less generic title of All You Need Is Kill, as taken from the Japanese sci-fi novel upon which it is based. With a plot reminiscent of Source Code and thus, in turn, Groundhog Day, the story involves a soldier repeating the same day in battle, only growing with the experience of each previous outing. Prep your exo-suit for a Summer deployment.
Arguably the best action-thriller director in the business, Nolan has proven time and again that you can have Big Screen spectacle with brains, and after Inception, even the most mysterious, hard-to-describe production from him is going to be near-as guaranteed to be outstanding. The story - written once again by Nolan and his brother - involves exploring a wormhole in IMAX and features an all-star cast including the likes of Jessica Chastain, Matt Damon, Casey Affleck and John Lithgow as well as previous Nolan collaborators Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine, and headlined by man-of-the-moment Matthew McConaughey. A day one must-see, expect this to be not only one of the best films of the year but potentially the number one choice. The worm-hole opens in November.
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