In 2014, the movies offer a bit of everything and a lot of one thing: escapism in big, familiar packages. That also means another Spider-Man and Captain America, more X-Men and Transformers, an additional Planet of the Apes, as well as remakes of RoboCop and Godzilla.
Sandwiched in-between are family, comedy and horror movies along with those increasingly endangered species: the human-scale drama,where the filmmaker's name is more important than the title. What follows is a list of what looks promising in 2014. Release dates are subject to change.
Thrills and fantasies
Interstellar (Nov. 7)
Based on a story idea by theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, Interstellar was originally linked to Steven Spielberg. The plot concerns a group of explorers who make use of a wormhole as a shortcut through time and space on an interstellar voyage. The cast includes Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine.
RoboCop (Feb. 12)
The 1987 movie about a cop who is reborn as a law-enforcing cybercop, may have been ahead of its time. This remake, directed by Brazil’s Jose Padilha (Elite Squad), catches up to the era of drone strikes and a private military, with Swedish-American actor, Joel Kinnaman (TV’s The Killing) as the cyborg law-enforcer.
Transcendence (April 18)
This directorial debut of cinematographer, Wally Pfister (The Dark Knight, Inception) stars Johnny Depp as a scientist who uploads his consciousness into a computer, creating a superbrain.
Edge of Tomorrow (June 6)
Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) directs Tom Cruise as a solider fighting aliens who keeps repeating the last day of his life. You might think of it as Independence Groundhog Day.
Jupiter Ascending (July 18)
Andy and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix) wrote and directed this interplanetary Snow White update: The Queen of the Universe is determined to get rid of a young Russian janitor (Mila Kunis) with Channing Tatum as the intergalactic assassin.
Also opening: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Jan. 17); Winter’s Tale (Feb. 14); Need for Speed (March 14); Captain America: The Winter Soldier (April 4); The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (May 2); Godzilla (May 16); X-Men: Days of Future Past (May 23); Transformers: Age of Extinction (June 27); Guardians of the Galaxy (Aug. 1); Lucy (Aug. 8); The Expendables 3 (Aug. 15); The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (Nov. 21); The Hobbit: There and Back Again (Dec. 17).
The Lego Movie (Feb. 7)
Who can’t connect to a story about Danish precision-engineered plastic construction toys? In this animated 3-D (of course) movie, a humble Lego mini-figure named Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) must stop the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell) from gluing the Lego universe together.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman (March 7)
Mr. Peabody, the genius dog with a time machine, and his adopted boy, Sherman, were part of the popular sixties cartoon show, The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Here they time travel to meet Leonardo da Vinci (Stanley Tucci), Mona Lisa and King Tut. The voice cast includes Mel Brooks, Stephen Colbert and Lake Bell.
Maleficent (May 30)
Angelina Jolie stars as one of Disney’s best-known villainesses, the wicked fairy godmother in Sleeping Beauty (1959) who offers her perspective on Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) and her big sleep.
Annie (Dec. 19)
This “reimagining” of the 1977 musical set in contemporary New York stars Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) as the plucky orphan girl, with new songs by Jay Z.
Into the Woods (Dec. 25)
Rob Marshall (Chicago) directs this adaptation of the James Lapine/Stephen Sondheim eighties musical, set in a world of Grimm’s fairy tales, about a childless couple who try to end a curse put on them by a vengeful witch. With Meryl Streep as the witch, Johnny Depp as the Big Bad Wolf, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella.
Also opening: The Nut Job (Jan. 17); The Wind Rises (Feb. 21); Muppets Most Wanted (March 21); Rio 2 (April 11), Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return (May 9); Chef (May 9); Blended (May 23); How to Train Your Dragon 2 (June 13); Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Aug. 8); The Boxtrolls (Sept. 26); Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Oct. 10); The Book of Life (Oct. 17), Big Hero 6 (Nov. 7); Home (Nov. 26); Night at the Museum 3 (Dec. 25)
Swords and sandals
Noah (March 28)
Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) directs this retelling of the ark-building Old Testament patriarch with Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly reuniting as Noah and his wife, Naameh. Also included are Anthony Hopkins as Methuselah, a vast collection of CGI-tweaked animals, and, reportedly, in a non-Biblical deviation, some giant six-armed wingless angels.
The Legend of Hercules (Jan. 10)/Hercules (July 25)
Renny Harlin directs the first one, starring model Kellan Lutz (Twilight), which purports to be an “origin” story. The second, directed by Brett Ratner (Rush Hour), starring Dwayne Johnson as an army trainer for the King of Thrace, is based on the Radical Comics series.
Pompeii (Feb. 21)
It’s love vs. lava in this disaster flick, starring Kit Harington (Game of Thrones) as a gladiator who must save his beloved (Emily Browning) when Mount Vesuvius blows its top.
300: Rise of an Empire (March 7)
The beefcake battle movie, 300: Rise of an Empire, is a prequel/sequel to the 2007 hit, 300, where most of the cast died heroically at the Battle of Thermopylae.
Exodus (Dec. 12)
The year ends with Ridley Scott’s Exodus, featuring Christian Bale as Moses leading the Jews out of Egypt with Joel Edgerton as the Pharoah and Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul as Moses’s apprentice, Joshua.
Veronica Mars (March 14)
When no studio was interested in producing a movie based on the television series (2004 to 2007) about a high-school sleuth, star Kristen Bell and creator Rob Thomas, went to Kickstarter, where fervent fans of the series raised $5.7-million (U.S.) in a month-long campaign. In the film, Veronica (Bell) returns to her hometown from New York when her old boyfriend is charged with murder.
Welcome to Yesterday (Feb. 28)
This “found-footage” style thriller follows a group of teens who build a time machine from blueprints and discover that changing the past rewrites the present.
Divergent (March 21)
Based on the first of a trilogy of young adult novels by Veronica Roth, Divergent stars Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) as a teen who faces extermination in a world where she doesn’t conform to one of the prescribed personality types.
The Fault in Our Stars (June 6)
Woodley (again) stars as a 17-year-old who falls in love with an amputee basketball player she meets in her cancer support group.
The Giver (Aug. 15)
Phillip Noyce (Clear and Present Danger) directs this adaptation of the curriculum-friendly young adult novel, in which an adolescent boy (Brenton Thwaites) learns from an elderly man (Jeff Bridges) that the society they live in may not be as perfect as it looks. With Taylor Swift and Meryl Streep.
Also opening: A Birder’s Guide to Everything (April 21). The Maze Runner (Sept. 19).
Only Lovers Left Alive (April 25)
Jim Jarmusch’s idiosyncratic dip into the vampire genre stars Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as a couple who aren’t just undead, they’re exceedingly cool. The pair collect books and vintage musical instruments and live, generally, like the last civilized creatures in a world human beings have ruined everything.
I, Frankenstein (Jan. 24)
Based on the graphic novel by Underworld creator, Kevin Grevioux. Aaron Eckhart plays the monster who has survived for the two centuries only to find himself in the middle of a war between gargoyles and demons.
Vampire Academy (Feb. 14)
The first of Richelle Mead’s six novels about a high school with fangs, featuring Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch), a half-human/vampire and guardian in training to save peaceful vampires from nasty ones. Mark Waters (Mean Girls) directs.
Kevin Smith (Clerks) wrote and directed this horror movie, set in northern Manitoba, loosely inspired by a news story. It’s apparently about a landlord who forces his unwilling tenant to dress up like a walrus.
Cooties (Oct. 10)
Leigh Whannell (Saw, Insidious) co-wrote this script about a virus which hits an elementary school and turns the students into a savage horde. The movie will have its premiere at Sundance.
Also opening: Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (Jan. 3); Devil’s Due (Jan 17); The Purge 2 (June 20); Dracula Untold (Oct. 17); Paranormal Activity 5 (Oct. 24).
Dumb and Dumber To (Nov. 14)
Twenty years after the Bobby and Peter Farrelly’s breakthrough comedy, friends Harry (Jim Carrey) and Lloyd (Jeff Daniels) are on a search for one of their long-lost children in the hopes of getting a kidney. Jennifer Lawrence, a fan of the original movie, makes a guest appearance.
Neighbors (May 9)
Rowdy fraternity brothers, led by Zac Efron, set up house next to a mild-mannered couple (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) with a new baby daughter. War ensues.
22 Jump Street (June 13)
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are undercover cops who go back to college and fall into their old roles as the geek and the jock.
Sex Tape (July 25)
Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel play a couple who make a sex tape, and then discover it is missing.
A Million Days to Die in the West (May 30)
Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy) wrote, directs and stars in this comedy/western about a cowardly sheep farmer who befriends a gunslinger’s wife (Charlize Theron) to help win back his love (Amanda Seyfried).
Also opening: That Awkward Moment (Jan. 31); Bad Words (March 14); A Haunted House 2 (March 28); Dom Hemingway (April 4); Draft Day (April 11); Walk of Shame (April 25); Tammy (July 2); The Interview (Oct. 10); Business Trip (Oct. 24); Horrible Bosses 2 (Nov. 26).
The director's club
Nymphomaniac: Parts 1 and 2 (March-April)
Danish provocateur Lars von Trier’s latest provocation follows the life of Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a self-described nymphomaniac, who is found beaten in an alley by aging bachelor Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard), to whom she recounts her eventful erotic life. The four-hour film (cut down from the 5<AF>1/2<XA>-hour uncensored version, and released in two parts, has a cast including Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater, Uma Thurman, Jamie Bell and Willem Dafoe. Part 1 of the film is expected to be released in late March, with Part 2 in April.
The Grand Budapest Hotel (March 7)
Wes Anderson’s comedy stars Ralph Fiennes as the concierge at a famous hotel between the wars, with Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori) as the lobby boy who becomes his protégé, in a story about a purloined painting and a family fortune, featuring 16 major characters and a cast including such Anderson favourites as Owen Wilson and Bill Murray.
Gone Girl (Oct. 3)
David Fincher directs Gillian Flynn’s adaptation of her perspective-jumping novel about a woman (Rosamund Pike) who goes missing on her fifth wedding anniversary, leaving her husband (Ben Affleck) implicated.
Maps to the Stars (TBA)
David Cronenberg directs from a screenplay by Bruce Wagner (Wild Palms) about a dynastic and dysfunctional Los Angeles family (John Cusack, Olivia Willliams), friends and troubled children. With Mia Wasikowska, Robert Pattinson and Julianne Moore.
Inherent Vice (TBA)
Paul Thomas Anderson has adapted Thomas Pynchon’s 2009 novel, set around 1970, featuring a pothead detective (Joaquin Phoenix), against the background of the Manson trial. With Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, Martin Short and Josh Brolin.
Also opening: Jason Reitman’s Labor Day (Jan. 31). Asghar Farhadi’s The Past (Jan. 17); Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty (Jan. 31) Hirokazu Koreeda’s Like Father, Like Son (March 14), Arnaud Depleschin’s Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian (March 28); Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys (June 20) and Atom Egoyan’s Devil’s Knot (Jan. 24).
Release dates yet to be announced: Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight, Susanne Bier’s Serena; Tim Burton’s Big Eyes; Atom Egoyan’s The Captive; Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups.
Best of the rest
The Monuments Men (Feb. 7)
George Clooney wrote and directed this reality-based comedy-drama (pushed back from 2013 Oscar contention) about an American platoon sent to recover Nazi stolen art. The cast includes Matt Damon, Clooney, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin and Cate Blanchett.
Lone Survivor (Jan. 10)
Put in limited release for 2013 Oscar contention, Peter Berg’s Afghanistan war drama about a Navy Seals operation that went wrong has strong buzz both for its visceral filmmaking and performances by Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster and Emile Hirsch.
Bennett Miller (Capote) directs this reality-based drama about Olympic wrestling brothers, Mark and Dave Schultz, and the murder of Dave by one of his sponsors, a member of the Du Pont family. With Channing Tatum, Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo.
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel) directs this drama starring Michael Keaton as a washed-up actor who once played a superhero and who tries to mount a Broadway play to redeem himself. With Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts.
John Michael McDonagh follows up his terrific debut, The Guard, with this Irish black comedy starring Brendan Gleeson about a priest who gets a death threat in confession. Calvary will have its premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.