But, not to fear! There are some good-looking titles coming up in the next 12 months, and that’s not including things not on the radar that will come out of the film festivals. Last year, Fruitvale Station came flying out of Sundance, and Blue is the Warmest Color blew up at Cannes. There are going to be more good titles that haven’t shown their faces yet, but, until then, here are a dozen movies that should be worth looking forward to.
The Grand Budapest Hotel. Wes Anderson is back, and he’s bringing his meticulous shot compositions with him. His last two films (The Fantastic Mr. Fox and Moonrise Kingdom) were both really good, and this one looks to be quite a bit of fun, as well. Anderson’s always impressive company of actors is here (Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Jude Law, Adrian Brody, Owen Wilson, Tom Wilkinson), and, this time, they’re joined by Ralph Feinnes, who looks to be having a grand, old time. Anderson shot the film in three different formats in three different aspect ratios, so it will be interesting to see the final result. The Grand Budapest Hotel opens on March 7.
Veronica Mars. There are a couple of movies coming out this year that fascinate me just because of how they came to be. This is one of them. Based on the now defunct, yet beloved, TV series about a teenage detective, the Mars project made news last year when writer/director Rob Thomas started a Kickstarter account to crowdfund the movie, which went on to become the biggest money maker in Kickstarter history, drawing more than double the intended budget. Now, word on the street is the movie turned out really great, and, as a result, Warner Bros. is planning a more aggressive release strategy for it. Veronica returns to Neptune for her ten-year high school reunion and is forced back into the sleuthing business when her ex, Logan Echols, is accused of murdering his girlfriend. Entertainment Weekly recently debuted a 90-second clip from the movie, and if it’s all as good as that clip, we’re in for a real treat. Veronica Mars opens March 14.
The Raid 2: Berandal. If you haven’t seen The Raid: Redemption yet, you’ve got a couple of months to get caught up. But, seriously, why the hell haven’t you seen The Raid: Redemption? It’s one of the best pure action movies of the past 20 years. It’s insane stuff in the best possible way. An elite police team is ambushed in an inner city apartment operated by a local crime lord. Lots of mayhem ensues, along with some of the most amazing fight choreography you’ll ever see. The new trailer for the sequel looks even crazier and opens up the world outside the confines of one building. This is a can’t-miss movie for action fans, and it opens on March 28.
Bad Words. Jason Bateman has comic timing like a Swiss watch, and his directorial debut got rave notices when it was shopped at the fall festivals last year. A black listed comedy, Bad Words stars Bateman as a 40-year-old man who uses a loophole in the rules to enter himself into the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The film is supposed to be incredibly foul-mouthed and hilarious, and I can’t wait to see it. Bad Words opens on March 14.
How to Train Your Dragon 2. The best movie DreamWorks animation has ever made finally gets a sequel. I’m a huge fan of the first film, and I’m looking forward to how they open up this world of Vikings and dragons. Cate Blanchett joins the excellent voice cast this time around. How to Train Your Dragon 2 opens on June 13.
Guardians of the Galaxy. The Avengers played with adding more intergalactic elements into the Marvel screen universe, and it would appear that Guardians is going to really push that envelop further. This is easily the weirdest movie they’ve tried yet, and it could very well wind up being the next Scott Pilgrim, something that appeals to hardcore geeks and nobody outside that circle. I mean, there’s going to be a talking raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper in this. I’m a big fan of director James Gunn’s horror film Slither, and I think he’ll bring a really fun vibe to this, and Chris Pratt (so great on Parks and Recreation) seems poised to really break out this year. Guardians of the Galaxy opens on August 1.
St. Vincent de Van Nuys. Another one from the Black List, this sounds great. Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd, Naomi Watts, and Terrence Howard round out the cast. The script by Ted Melfi tells of a 12-year-old boy striking up a friendship with a retired curmudgeon (Murray) who has a penchant for alcohol, prostitutes, and gambling. It’s got a great cast of comedy pros, and it opens on April 11.
X-Men: Days of Future Past. I was a big fan of First Class, and this new film, which unites the casts of both X-Men timelines, looks great. The first trailer avoided almost any big FX shots and totally sold the movie on its emotional content. I kind of wish Matthew Vaughn were still directing, but Bryan Singer’s return to the franchise isn’t a bad thing. X-Men: Days of Future Past opens May 23.
Foxcatcher. This one is actually a holdover from last year, but it was bumped into 2014 because this most recent slew of awards season movies was so deep. Steve Carrell takes on his first fully dramatic role as John DuPont, the mentally unstable heir to the DuPont chemical company who shot and killed US Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz. Mark Ruffalo stars as Dave Schultz with Channing Tatum as Dave’s brother, Mark. The film is directed by Bennett Miller, who last made Moneyball. This should be terrific. Foxcatcher has no current release date, but expect it to come out in the fourth quarter of 2014.
Rosewater. This is the other film on the list that intrigues me just on the basis of how it came to be. Last summer, Jon Stewart took the summer off to go to Jordan to direct a movie he’d written. This left John Oliver in charge of The Daily Show, resulting in Oliver getting his own show on HBO. Stewart’s film is based on the book Then They Came for Me by the Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari. Bahari was imprisoned and tortured in 2009 after appearing in a segment on The Daily Show. This sounds like grim material, but Stewart has a unique voice as a satirist. His filmography as an actor includes The Faculty and Death to Smoochy. I’m really anxious to see how this turns out. Rosewater is currently without a firm release date.
The Fault in Our Stars. The book is fantastic, as it really transcend the literary ghetto that is “young adult.” I was a big, weepy mess for the entire last third of it, but the book, about teenage cancer patients who fall in love, has a really tricky tone that’s going to be hard to replicate as a film. It might be great, it might tip over into insufferable Nicholas Sparks territory. Casting Shailene Woodley as Hazel Grace Lancaster is a genuine step in the right direction. So was hiring (500) Days of Summer writers Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter to adapt the novel. This one could go either way, but if it works it should be really good. The Fault in Our Stars opens on June 6.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. I don’t know if people will remember this, but when Rise of the Planet of the Apes was released in 2011, no advance screenings were scheduled for the media. Usually when a film comes out with no preceding press screenings, that’s a good indicator that the film is terrible. The studios are trying to rein in bad word of mouth and save on the expense of hosting these screenings in the first place. It was as if the brain trust at Fox had no idea how good their movie was. They clearly had no confidence in it. This was weird, because Rise of the Planet of the Apes was an unexpected hit, featuring amazing mocap work from Andy Serkis and the CG animation team. It’s sequel might be even better. Director Matt Reeves is coming off the unexpectedly sharp American version of Let the Right One In, and the cast includes Gary Oldman and Jason Clark. The script is by frequent Soderberg writer Scott Z. Greenberg. Have you see the teaser trailer featuring Caesar with war paint on his face? Looks great. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes opens on July 11.
And, one more I want to mention:
The Monuments Men. This was on my list of films I was looking forward to last year, but, like Foxcatcher, it got bumped to a release date in 2014. I’m still looking forward to seeing George Clooney and friends save the world’s great art from the Nazis in the waning days of World War II. The Monuments Men opens on February 7.