2014 Movie Preview: 50 Noteworthy Films (and 10 Potential Bombs)

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  • Publish Date: January 14, 2014

50 noteworthy films for 2014

Forecasting the year's best films is no easy task, especially now that more films are released than ever before. Over 1,000 films made it to North American theaters in 2013, and roughly the same number should get released this year. In addition, there are always at least a handful of award-worthy films that do not get announced until a bit later in the year.

Nevertheless, our editors have selected 50 (or more, depending on Terrence Malick) of the most intriguing movies currently scheduled for release during 2014. (Many of these films do not yet have announced release dates, but all are expected to reach theaters this year.) Further down the page, you'll find two additional films in a category of their own, as well as a list of the year's biggest potential flops.

Animal Rescue
Drama | tbd | Directed by Michaël R. Roskam

Michaël Roskam might not be a household name in the U.S., but the Belgian writer-director impressed film critics with his 2011 debut, Bullhead, which was nominated for a foreign-language Oscar. His follow-up, Animal Rescue, marks his English-language debut. Another crime drama, the new film is based on a story by author Dennis Lehane, whose work has provided the source material for such films as Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, and Shutter Island (each the recipient of strong reviews). Rescue tells the story of a bartender who rescues an abused pit bull that was abandoned by a local gangster, triggering a series of events that find him caught in a criminal conspiracy. The cast features Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, and Bullhead star Matthias Schoenaerts, and also features the final on-screen performance from James Gandolfini, who died shortly after filming was complete.

Big Eyes
Drama | tbd (likely fall) | Directed by Tim Burton

Some fans may have soured on Tim Burton after recent middling efforts like Dark Shadows and Alice in Wonderland, but Big Eyes represents a dramatic change of pace for the veteran director. This is no effects-driven fantasy spectacle; rather, it's a small-scale, tiny-budget drama that depicts the true story of artist Walter Keane (played here by Christoph Waltz), who briefly rose to fame in the mid 20th century for his kitschy, mass-produced paintings of saucer-eyed children. After an acrimonious divorce—and an all-time classic trial—it emerged that Keane's wife Margaret (Amy Adams) was the true artist behind the paintings. The script here comes from Ed Wood scribes Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, and the cast also features Jason Schwartzman, Krysten Ritter, and Terence Stamp.

Birdman
Comedy | tbd | Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu

Alejandro González Iñárritu, the director of gloomy interconnected stories like Amores Perros, 21 Grams, and Babel, makes his comedy debut with this (still likely dark) tale of a washed-up comic book movie star (played, appropriately enough, by ex-Batman Michael Keaton), who attempts to revive his career by putting on a Broadway play. Birdman also stars Emma Stone as Keaton’s daughter (who has recently left rehab and becomes his assistant), Naomi Watts as an actress in the play, Zach Galifianakis as the play’s producer, and Ed Norton as the egotistical lead actor threatening the production.

The Boxtrolls Watch teaser #1 Watch teaser #2
Animation | September 26 | Directed by Graham Annable, Anthony Stacchi

Laika, the Portland-based team behind stop-motion favorites Coraline and ParaNorman, returns with another offbeat family offering. An adaptation of Alan Snow’s novel Here Be Monsters!, The Boxtrolls follows Eggs, a young orphan boy raised by a lovable group of underground trash collectors called the Boxtrolls. When an evil exterminator threatens Eggs' makeshift family, he attempts to save them with the help of Winnie, a young girl from a wealthy family. The voice cast includes Elle Fanning, Ben Kingsley, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jared Harris, Richard Ayoade, and Toni Collette.

Boyhood
Drama | tbd | Directed by Richard Linklater

In a surprise announcement this week, the Sundance Film Festival revealed that Richard Linklater’s experimental look at the life of a boy and his family will premiere on January 19th. The ambitious project (which may or may not keep the title Boyhood when it eventually heads to theaters) follows Mason (Ellar Coltrane), his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) and his parents (Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke) over a 12-year period. What's so unusual about that? Beginning in 2002, Linklater shot footage for the nearly three-hour film periodically throughout 12 calendar years, capturing the actors as they aged in real life and their characters changed. Not unlike Michael Winterbottom’s recently released Everyday, but shot over a longer period and without the prison framing device, Linklater’s latest could be his second consecutive Sundance hit, following last year’s Before Midnight.

Carol
Drama | tbd | Directed by Todd Haynes

Todd Haynes (I’m Not There, Far From Heaven) returns to feature filmmaking after a detour into television (directing HBO’s Mildred Pierce miniseries) with this adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel, The Price of Salt. The story follows a department store clerk (Rooney Mara) who falls for a married woman (Cate Blanchett). Shooting on Carol doesn't begin until the spring—so there’s a decent chance the film won't be released until 2015—but The Weinstein Company may not be able to resist a 2014 awards-season push, considering the strength of the material (Highsmith’s writing was also the basis for The Talented Mr. Ripley, Strangers on a Train, and another film on our list below), the recent awards success of the lead actresses, and the consistent talent shown by the director. At the very least, a TIFF debut this fall seems likely.

Child 44
Thriller | tbd | Directed by Daniel Espinosa

This adaptation of Tom Rob Smith’s acclaimed best-selling novel of the same name (the first in a trilogy) boasts a script by novelist and screenwriter Richard Price (Clockers, The Wire), direction by Daniel Espinosa (Easy Money, Safe House) and a stellar cast (Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, Vincent Cassell, and Paddy Considine). Based on a true story, Child 44 is set during the 1950s in the Soviet Union. Hardy stars as a military policeman who comes under intense pressure from Stalin’s government for investigating a series of gruesome child murders in a country where there supposedly is no crime.

The Cobbler
Comedy/Drama/Fantasy | tbd | Directed by Tom McCarthy

Yes, that is Adam Sandler you see above, but don't let that stop you from finishing this paragraph. The Cobbler writer-director Tom McCarthy’s first three films (The Station Agent, The Visitor, Win Win) were tightly focused, realistic dramas with great reviews. His latest mixes in a bit of whimsy as it focuses on a shoe repairman who can “metaphysically step into the lives” of his customers. Sandler stars as the gifted cobbler in a big step away from his recent Razzie-nominated comedies and a return to the more serious roles (Punch-Drunk Love, Reign Over Me) that have earned him his sole positive reviews in the past. The eclectic cast surrounding him includes Dustin Hoffman, Steve Buscemi, Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey), Melonie Diaz (Fruitvale Station) and Method Man.

The Cut
Foreign/Drama | tbd | Directed by Fatih Akin

After taking a break to make the less serious Soul Kitchen, Fatih Akin returns with a drama that will complete his “Love, Death and the Devil” trilogy that began with Head-On and continued with The Edge of Heaven. The Cut looks at the wickedness inherent in mankind and stars Tahar Rahim (A Prophet, The Past) in a role the director describes as “a bit like Charlie Chaplin, but at the same time, he is a typical western character, like Sergio Leone.” Why the Chaplin reference? Because Rahim doesn’t utter a single line in the film. Look for a possible premiere at Cannes, where Akin won the best screenplay award in 2007.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
Drama | tbd | Directed by Ned Benson

Ned Benson’s debut feature tells the story of a couple, played by James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain, who have been together for seven years until Chastain’s Eleanor decides to leave the relationship and asks McAvoy’s Connor not to contact her. Benson expands on this basic breakup premise by looking at the relationship from the perspective of “Him” and “Her" in two separate movies. Each 90-minute film played back to back in Toronto last fall, where the order of the films was switched for a second screening. How the film will be distributed by The Weinstein Company, either as separate films or a single package, is unknown at this time, but either should lead to a unique filmgoing experience, and critics had mostly good things to say about the films after their TIFF screenings.

The Double Watch trailer
Comedy | tbd | Directed by Richard Ayoade

IT Crowd and Darkplace star Richard Ayoade impressed in his debut as film director with 2011's Submarine, a coming-of-age dramedy that earned some comparisons to the work of Wes Anderson. For a follow-up, he has adapted (with help from co-writer Avi Korine, Harmony's brother) a Dostoyevsky story about a rather average man who goes mad when he discovers a far more confident doppelgänger invading his life. Jesse Eisenberg stars as said man (and his other self), joined by Mia Wasikowska and Wallace Shawn. The Double earned mostly good reviews when the surreal dark comedy debuted on the festival circuit last fall.

Far From the Madding Crowd
Drama | tbd | Directed by Thomas Vinterberg

Fourteen years after he won the Jury Prize at Cannes for The Celebration, Thomas Vinterberg made a bit of a comeback with the release of The Hunt, one of last year's most acclaimed foreign-language films. This year, he’s directing Carey Mulligan, Michael Sheen, Matthias Schoenaerts, Tom Sturridge, and Juno Temple in Far From the Madding Crowd, an (English-language) adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s classic 19th century novel about one woman’s relationships with three very different men. David Nicholls, who recently adapted Great Expectations for director Mike Newell, wrote the script. Vinterberg’s first period drama, shot on location in the UK, could premiere at Cannes in May.

Foxcatcher
Drama | tbd | Directed by Bennett Miller

Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball) hasn't made a less-than-great film yet, and his third outing behind the camera has the potential to keep that streak alive. Foxcatcher is based on the rather unusual true story of multi-millionaire John du Pont, a major supporter of amateur and Olympic sports whose descent into insanity led him to murder his friend, gold medal wrestler Dave Schultz. Steve Carell—in what could be an Oscar-nominated role if he pulls it off—takes on the challenge of portraying Du Pont, while Mark Ruffalo stars as Schultz and Channing Tatum plays his brother Mark, another Olympic champion whose memoir serves as the source for the movie. The film was originally expected to open in December but was delayed to allow Miller more time to complete the film; expect it to arrive closer to awards season in late 2014 (though a Cannes debut is not out of the question).

The Giver
Sci-Fi | August 15 | Directed by Phillip Noyce

Yes, we confess that The Giver is yet another big-screen adaptation of a young-adult genre novel (in this case, Lois Lowry's award-winning 1993 science fiction book of the same name), and—Hunger Games aside—such films haven't exactly impressed in recent years. And 2014 will be loaded with dystopian sci-fi for teens, including The Maze Runner, Divergent (below), and the next Hunger Games installment (also below). But the thought-provoking (rather than action-heavy) source material—about a teen boy's gradual discovery of the truth behind his seemingly utopian society—isn't the only element that potentially elevates The Giver to the top of the pack. The presence of co-star Meryl Streep, distributor The Weinstein Company, and director Phillip Noyce (The Quiet American, Salt) suggests that this is YA fiction by way of the art house. The cast also includes Jeff Bridges and Taylor Swift (okay, so not everyone here has indie film cred), while Australian actor Brenton Thwaites (who will also appear this summer in Disney's dark fantasy Maleficent) takes the lead as the protagonist Jonas.

Gone Girl
Thriller | October 3 | Directed by David Fincher

After bringing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to the big screen in 2011, David Fincher is back with another adaptation of a literary best-seller, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. Flynn has another book making the jump to film this year, the Charlize Theron-starring Dark Places, but it will be Fincher’s Gone Girl adaptation that will have the most buzz, thanks his track record and the recent issue of EW (where Flynn used to work) in which the author revealed that she wrote a new final act for the film after that part of the book divided many readers. Without giving too much away, the story follows Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) as he becomes the prime suspect in his wife’s disappearance. Rosamund Pike plays his wife, and the supporting cast includes Neil Patrick Harris, Missi Pyle, Patrick Fugit, Kim Dickens, Tyler Perry, and “Blurred Lines” video star Emily Ratajkowski. Before Gone Girl heats up the awards race this fall, Fincher has season two of his Netflix series House of Cards arriving on February 14.

The Grand Budapest Hotel Watch trailer #1 Watch trailer #2 Watch clip #1 Watch clip #2
Comedy | March 7 | Directed by Wes Anderson

Wes Anderson’s follow-up to Moonrise Kingdom stars Ralph Fiennes as M. Gustave, a concierge at the titular hotel, and newcomer Tony Revolori as Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. Together, they get caught up in a battle for a family fortune and the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting, the perfectly titled Boy with Apple. The cast for The Grand Budapest Hotel is a mix of returning Wes Anderson players (Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jason Schwartzman, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson) and a few rookies (Saoirse Ronan, F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law, and Tom Wilkinson). Early buzz from advance screenings has been excellent, so expect (as always) good early reviews when Anderson's film premieres at the Berlin Film Festival on February 6.

Guardians of the Galaxy
Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi | August 1 | Directed by James Gunn

One of Marvel's least-heralded superhero teams gets a chance to shine in this late-summer release. Promising a blend of action and comedy (heavy on the action), James Gunn (Slither, Super) directs what will hopefully be a change of pace from the average comic book movie, space adventure Guardians of the Galaxy. The film follows Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Parks and Rec's Chris Pratt) as he attempts to form a truce with Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), the tree-like Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), and Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) to help him fend off the evil Ronan (Lee Pace) who covets a mysterious orb. The eclectic cast also includes Glenn Close as Commander Rael, John C. Reilly as Rhomann Dey, Djimon Hounsou as Korath the Pursuer, Michael Rooker as Yondu and, as revealed at the end of Thor: The Dark World, Benicio del Toro as The Collector.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
Action/Adventure | November 21 | Directed by Francis Lawrence

The highest-grossing film released in 2013 was The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, so expectations will be extremely high for the first of two movies that will cover the final book in Suzanne Collins’ post-apocalyptic trilogy. (Hey, at least Lionsgate resisted making three movies out of the same book.) The story resumes with Peeta in the clutches of President Snow, and Katniss reluctantly accepting the role of poster child for the rebellion. Julianne Moore joins the cast as District 13 President Alma Coin, while Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, and Philip Seymour Hoffman all return. This time, Danny Strong (Lee Daniels' The Butler) wrote the script for Catching Fire director Francis Lawrence. The final Mockingjay installment will arrive on November 20, 2015.

The Immigrant
Drama | spring tbd | Directed by James Gray

France has always been kind to James Gray (four of the director’s five films have played in competition at Cannes, including this one last year), but the U.S. has been a tougher sell. His latest delves deeply into his own family’s past—as well as America’s—by investigating the plight of a Polish immigrant (Marion Cotillard) and her relationship with a low-level opportunist (Joaquin Phoenix) and his magician cousin (Jeremy Renner) in the early 1920s. The Immigrant has received mixed early reviews—it was a bit too slow and restrained for some critics—but plenty of praise has been given to the performances (especially Cotillard's) and Darius Khondji’s (Se7en, Amour) cinematography.

Inherent Vice
Drama | tbd | Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

The director is considered one of the best American filmmakers working today, and with each film he challenges himself and his audience. The writer of the novel the film is based on avoids photographers and has written what many consider to be some of the best books of the past 50 years, with this particular book being one of his (slightly) more accessible efforts, a 1960s Los Angeles-set detective story. The cast is out of control (Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Jena Malone, Benicio del Toro, Reese Witherspoon, Maya Rudolf, Katherine Waterston, Martin Short) and the lead (Joaquin Phoenix) is on an incredible roll since he returned to acting. What’s not to like about Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice?

Interstellar Watch teaser
Sci-Fi | November 7 | Directed by Christopher Nolan

Little is known about the plot of Christopher Nolan’s first post-Dark Knight feature Interstellar, and that’s the way he likes it. It is a science fiction adventure, and the plot features a group of space explorers traveling through a wormhole (insert your own Farscape reference). Rumors have been circulating that it also deals with climate change and the death of every crop except corn. Whatever the final film ends up being about, it will star new Golden Globe winner Matthew McConaughey, who provided the narration to the first teaser, as well as Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, Matt Damon, Casey Affleck, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn, John Lithgow, Wes Bentley, Mackenzie Foy, Bill Irwin, Topher Grace, and David Oyelowo. With his regular director of photography Wally Pfister off directing Transcendence (see below), Nolan enlisted Hoyte Van Hoytema, which is encouraging considering his highly acclaimed work on the just-released Her.

Jupiter Ascending Watch trailer
Sci-Fi | July 18 | Directed by Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski

Does Jupiter Ascending belong on this list? We'll know for sure this summer; for now, consider us optimists. The Wachowskis’ follow-up to Cloud Atlas is an original sci-fi story about Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a human who could change the balance of the universe. (Maybe Keanu was not “the one” in The Matrix?) Channing Tatum plays Caine, a genetically engineered soldier with spiky ears and a blonde goatee sent to track her down on Earth. The supporting cast includes Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth, Doona Bae and James D’Arcy. Could it be horrible? Yes; just look at what they did to Channing Tatum’s beautiful face. But even the Wachowskis’ failures are worth seeing (yes, even Speed Racer), and maybe a return to original material will produce better results.

The Lobster
Drama | tbd | Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos

Consider this Lobster to be one of the stranger films on our 2014 list (though there's no guarantee that the film will reach theaters this year). Dogtooth and Alps director Yorgos Lanthimos will make his English-language debut with this unconventional (surprise!) love story set in a dystopian near future where single people are arrested and transferred to the Hotel. There, they are obligated to find a mate in 45 days. If they fail, they are transformed into an animal of their choosing and released into the woods. But what happens when a desperate man escapes from the Hotel, flees to the woods where the Loners live, and then falls in love? The film will be Lanthimos’s third consecutive collaboration with screenwriter Efthymis Filippou and will feature Jason Clarke, Lea Seydoux, Ben Wishaw, Olivia Colman, Angeliki Papoulia (Dogtooth), and Ariane Labed (Alps).

Locke
Drama/Thriller | April 25 | Directed by Steven Knight

With his second directorial effort (following the disappointing Jason Statham vehicle Redemption), writer-director Steven Knight proves that all you need to make a riveting film (according to strong early reviews) is Tom Hardy, a BMW, and a phone connection. Hardy plays Ivan Locke, a construction foreman whose life becomes more complicated with each mile covered between Birmingham and London. He’s the only actor seen on screen for the duration of the real-time drama, with supporting voice turns via the telephone coming from Ruth Wilson as his wife, Tom Holland and Bill Milner as his kids, Ben Daniels as his boss, plus Olivia Colman and Andrew Scott. The soundtrack comes from Dickon Hinchliffe of Tindersticks.

Manglehorn
Drama | tbd | Directed by David Gordon Green

Director David Gordon Green has had an up-and-down career, to say the least. After making his introduction with the acclaimed indie drama George Washington, he eventually moved on to mainstream comedies like Pineapple Express, before hitting a rough patch with duds like Your Highness and The Sitter. Last year, Green returned to quirkier indie fare with the under-the-radar Prince Avalanche, and this year he takes on a pair of slightly more high-profile challenges in Joe (starring Nicolas Cage, but receiving good early reviews nevertheless) and Manglehorn. While the latter film is still low-budget indie fare, the cast is topped by big names Al Pacino and Holly Hunter. The original story finds the former playing an eccentric man who is dealing with the repercussions of his past criminal life that cost him the love of his life. Chris Messina and Harmony Korine also star. Neither Joe nor Manglehorn have release dates yet, but the first should arrive early this year while the second will likely appear on the fall festival circuit.

Maps to the Stars
Comedy/Drama | tbd | Directed by David Cronenberg

After hitting a hot streak of critical acclaim in the mid-2000s, veteran director David Cronenberg has cooled off in recent years, with his most recent film, the Don DeLillo adaptation Cosmopolis, failing to make much of an impression. His next film, Maps to the Stars, looks far more interesting, though it took the director over six years to get the project into production. A dark satire of celebrity culture and the film industry itself, the movie centers on a Hollywood family whose members and acquaintances are involved (variously) in pyromania, ghosts, self-help manuals, drug addiction, and—worse yet—child acting. The screenplay comes from Bruce Wagner (best known, perhaps, for Wild Palms), and the large ensemble cast includes John Cusack, Robert Pattinson (this time, playing the person who drives the limo), Julianne Moore, Carrie Fisher (playing herself), Mia Wasikowska, and Olivia Williams.

Midnight Special
Sci-Fi/Drama | tbd | Directed by Jeff Nichols

Writer/director Jeff Nichols hopes to build on the strength of his first three films (Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter, Mud) with Midnight Special, a story of a father and son who go on the run when it’s discovered that the boy possesses special powers. While Nichols will be making the jump from indie dramas with genre elements to a self-described “genre film put through whatever bizarre filter is me” backed by Warner Bros., he will still have his lucky charm, Michael Shannon, in the cast, along with Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton and Adam Driver. Jaeden Lieberher, who has roles in two other films on our list (St. Vincent De Van Nuys, and Cameron Crowe's next film), will play Shannon’s son, and if Mud is any indication, Nichols will surely get a good performance out of the young actor.

The Monuments Men Watch trailer #1 Watch trailer #2
Drama | February 7 | Directed by George Clooney

“All we've ever said, from the very beginning, is that we wanted to make a commercial, non-cynical piece of entertainment." Those are George Clooney’s words to the L.A. Times back in October, when his fifth feature as director (and the third he's co-written with producing partner Grant Heslov) moved out of its 2013 awards-season release date to early 2014. While providing much-needed time for more effects work, the move also allows us to highlight Clooney’s adaptation of Robert M. Edsel’s book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History for the second consecutive year. Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban and Hugh Bonneville make up the unlikely group of art experts tasked with finding valuable stolen artwork before the Nazis destroy it, and Cate Blanchett lends a hand as well. The tone could be the tricky part here, as trailers for The Monuments Men have combined a little light-hearted Ocean’s Eleven humor with elements of a serious war film.

A Most Wanted Man
Thriller | tbd | Directed by Anton Corbijn

Photographer-turned-director Anton Corbijn (Control, The American) brings his cool, austere style to this adaptation of John le Carré’s 2008 novel about Issa, a young Chechen Muslim who arrives illegally in Germany and becomes the focus of a terrorist investigation. A Most Wanted Man stars Rachel McAdams as the lawyer trying to help him, while Willem Dafoe plays a banker who sponsors her defense, and Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the head of a German spy unit interested in Issa’s past. Daniel Brühl (Rush), Nina Hoss (Barbara), and Grigoriy Dobrygin (How I Ended this Summer) also star. Le Carré novels tend to translate well to the big screen, with the most recent examples Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Constant Gardener earning great reviews and multiple Oscar nominations.

Mr. Turner
Drama | tbd | Directed by Mike Leigh

The Mr. Turner in the title of Mike Leigh’s first feature in four years (following a string of movies scoring above 80) is British Romantic landscape painter J.M.W. Turner. Timothy Spall, in his fifth feature collaboration with Leigh, plays the artist, a man of few friends who suffered from depression after his father, who was also his assistant for 30 years, passed away in 1829. Frequent Leigh collaborator Dick Pope will shoot the film, which should have a beautiful look considering Turner’s skills with a paintbrush. Now in post-production, expect Mr. Turner to premiere at Cannes, where Leigh won best director for Naked in 1993 and the Palme d’Or for Secrets & Lies in 1996.

Nymphomaniac Watch NSFW trailer
Drama | March 21 (Part 1) / April 18 (Part 2) | Directed by Lars von Trier

Lars von Trier’s eight-chapter, two-part (at least for its official U.S. release) chronicle of a self-diagnosed nymphomaniac’s sexual experiences will finally hit theaters (and VOD) this year, after an intriguing marketing campaign that provided increasingly risqué “appetizers” for chapters 1-4 and 5-8, as well as a very unique cast poster. Charlotte Gainsbourg stars as Joe (and Stacy Martin plays young Joe), while Stellan Skarsgard, Shia LeBeouf, Uma Thurman, Jamie Bell, Udo Kier, Willem Dafoe, Christian Slater, and Connie Nielsen have supporting roles. Early reviews are in for Part One and Part Two of the four-hour edit, and the uncut version of Part One will premiere in Berlin in February, with speculation that Cannes will get the full monty of Part Two. (Yes, it seems the director and the festival have patched things up after his comments at the 2011 press conference for Melancholia.) Note that American audiences will get to see each film on VOD two weeks prior to the theatrical release dates.

Only Lovers Left Alive Watch teaser
Horror/Drama | April 11 | Directed by Jim Jarmusch

This tale of vampires who have been in love for centuries stars Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston, and for many critics at last year’s Cannes Film Festival it was a return to form for director Jim Jarmusch after 2009’s disappointing The Limits of Control. When the story begins, Hiddleston’s Adam is a musician living in Detroit, and Swinton’s Eve is passing time in Tangiers with fellow vampire Christopher Marlowe, played by John Hurt. They reunite in Detroit, where Eve’s sister, Ava (Mia Wasikowska), shows up to cause some trouble for the couple. Supporting turns are also provided by Anton Yelchin and Jeffrey Wright.

Rosewater
Drama | tbd | Directed by Jon Stewart

John Oliver getting his own HBO series (which launches this spring) is just one of potentially two positive developments arising out of Jon Stewart's three-month break from hosting The Daily Show last summer. The second is this, the film he directed during his time off the air. Stewart's debut behind the camera (he also wrote the script, with some uncredited feedback from J.J. Abrams), Rosewater is based on the true story of Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari (Gael García Bernal), who was tortured and imprisoned for over 100 days by his government as a result of a mock interview he conducted with Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones, whom Iranian officials assumed was a spy. Though a novice director, Stewart has already made one wise move: teaming with Scott Rudin as producer.

Sils Maria
Drama | tbd | Directed by Olivier Assayas

Even though critics didn’t fall for Olivier Assayas’ Something in the Air quite as hard as they did for Carlos and Summer Hours, it still ended up on a few year-end best-of lists. His latest, Sils Maria, stars Juliette Binoche, and is being labeled as his English-language debut. The title is the name of a village in Switzerland where the movie takes place, and where Nietzsche happened to reside for ten summers. That is apropos, considering the philosophical nature of the film’s narrative about an older actress (Binoche) questioning her life and career and becoming obsessed with a younger actress (Chloe Moretz) who is starring opposite her in the role that originally made her famous. Kristen Stewart plays Binoche’s assistant, and Bruno Ganz, Daniel Brühl, Brady Corbet and Johnny Flynn are also featured.

Snowpiercer Watch trailer
Action/Sci-Fi | tbd | Directed by Bong Joon-ho

Will Bong Joon-ho’s latest film ever come to U.S. theaters? If it does, will it be in a version the director approves? These are the questions that fans of the director’s previous work (Mother, The Host) want to know. As Snowpiercer has been released around the world, reviews have been good, but The Weinstein Company has not set a release date for the U.S. because the distributor is considering trimming 20 minutes and possibly adding an opening and closing voiceover. Hopefully, this adaptation of the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige—in which humanity takes refuge on a train that remains in perpetual motion after a new Ice Age destroys the planet—will be released untouched. Surely, the director and his impressive cast (Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, John Hurt, Jamie Bell, Alison Pill, Ed Harris, Ewen Bremner and Kang-ho Song) would like it that way.

Squirrels to the Nuts
Comedy | tbd | Directed by Peter Bogdanovich

Though you've seen Peter Bogdanovich in front of the camera in recent years (most memorably, in The Sopranos), the Oscar-nominated director hasn't helmed a theatrical motion picture since 2001's The Cat's Meow (which, in turn, was his first big-screen directorial effort in nearly a decade). But the director is set to return to the cineplex this year with a screwball comedy, known alternately as Squirrels to the Nuts (our preference) or She's Funny That Way. The film is produced by Bogdanovich fans Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach, and stars Owen Wilson as a Broadway producer who cheats on his wife (Kathryn Hahn) with a prostitute (Imogen Poots), whom he then casts in his play—only to see her get caught in a love triangle with another actor (Will Forte) who is also dating the prostitute's therapist (Jennifer Aniston). (You get the idea). The great ensemble cast also features Richard Lewis, Eugene Levy, Cybill Shepherd, Michael Shannon, and Rhys Ifans.

St. Vincent De Van Nuys
Comedy | April 11 | Directed by Theodore Melfi

Another comedy with a killer cast, St. Vincent De Van Nuys (which looks likely to be shortened to St. Vincent) is the big-screen directorial debut for Ted Melfi, working from his own Black List-ed script. More of a character-oriented dramedy than straight laugher, the film stars Bill Murray as the titular character, an aging, hard-living grump who has all but given up on life until he becomes an unlikely mentor to a young boy next door after the kid's parents divorce. Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Chris O'Dowd, Nate Corddry, and Scott Adsit also star, and it's that cast (along with the good buzz for the screenplay) that could elevate a story that might otherwise seem rote.

Stranger by the Lake Watch trailer
Foreign/Drama/Thriller | January 24 | Directed by Alain Guiraudie

After collecting a prize for best director in the Un Certain Regard section at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, Alain Guiraudie’s erotic, psychological drama was named the best film of 2013 by Cahiers Du Cinema. Stranger by the Lake (opening in limited release in the U.S. later this month) follows Frank (Pierre Deladonchamps) as he spends his summer at a popular cruising spot on the shores of a lake in rural France. When he meets Michel (Christophe Paou), he falls blindly in love, but his love is tested when a murder occurs at the lake, and he and Michel become the primary suspects. Sex, death and desire combine to make an incredibly suspenseful film.

Transcendence Watch trailer
Sci-Fi/Thriller | April 25 | Directed by Wally Pfister

After serving as cinematographer on all of Christopher Nolan’s films (except Following, which Nolan shot himself), Wally Pfister moves into the director’s chair for the first time with this story of Dr. Will Caster, an artificial intelligence researcher whose mind is uploaded into a computer after an assassination attempt by a group of anti-technology extremists. Johnny Depp stars alongside a strong supporting cast that includes Rebecca Hall, who plays Depp’s wife, Paul Bettany, Morgan Freeman, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy, Clifton Collins Jr., and Cole Hauser. The script for Transcendence is the first from Jack Paglen, who has since been hired to write Prometheus 2.

The Trip to Italy
Comedy | May 16 | Directed by Michael Winterbottom

Though American film audiences never got to see the full version of The Trip (which aired as a six-hour miniseries in Britain), the paired-down theatrical version was still one of the funniest films to come along in recent years (see, e.g., the dueling Michael Caine impressions of stars Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan). Now, that film's stars and director (the always-interesting Michael Winterbottom) have reunited for a follow-up. As in the original, The Trip to Italy finds the two British comedians playing versions of themselves as they travel to scenic locations (this time, obviously, across Italy), sample some of the world's finest food, and—most importantly, engage in hilarious improvised conversation. (Plot is kept to a minimum, though there certainly is a great deal of tension at times between the two actors.) While Americans will once again be deprived of the full unedited series, we do get to see the film first, when it debuts at Sundance in a few weeks and then opens in theaters in May. In another bit of good news, Coogan's recent Alan Partridge movie should finally reach American theaters this spring.

Two Days, One Night
Foreign/Drama | tbd | Directed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne

Since Rosetta won the Palme d’Or in 1999, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have always left the festival with some type of award, even winning the Palme d’Or a second time in 2005 for The Child. Their most recent film, The Kid with a Bike, lost out on the top prize to The Tree of Life but still shared the Grand Jury prize with Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. With that history of success, look for their latest film Two Days, One Night to premiere at Cannes in May. The French-language film follows a woman (Marion Cotillard) who, with the help of her husband (Fabrizio Rongione, in his fifth collaboration with the Dardennes), must convince her co-workers to refuse their bonuses so she can keep her job. Sounds like another strong bit of social realism from the Belgian brothers.

The Two Faces of January
Thriller | spring tbd | Directed by Hossein Amini

Coming off his breakout performance in Inside Llewyn Davis, Oscar Isaac joins Kirsten Dunst and Viggo Mortensen in the directorial debut for Drive screenwriter Hossein Amini. Based on Patricia Highsmith’s 1964 novel of the same name, The Two Faces of January follows an American con artist and his wife (Mortensen and Dunst) on vacation in Greece in 1962 and a Greek-speaking American tour guide (Isaac) who gets involved with the couple and caught up in the murder of a police officer. As they try to flee to Turkey, dark secrets and infatuation simmer under the surface.

Unbroken
Drama | December 25 | Directed by Angelina Jolie

The true story of Louis Zamperini is an amazing one. In high school, he ran a record-setting mile. In 1936, he became the youngest Olympian, at 19, to qualify for the 5,000 meters, and after the race, he met Hitler. In 1938, he set the collegiate mile record before enlisting in the Air Force and becoming a bombardier in 1941. In 1942, he was one of three survivors of a B-24 crash. And that’s only the beginning of the still-living Zamperini’s story, which Angelina Jolie will bring to the big screen in Unbroken, her follow-up to her directorial debut, In the Land of Blood and Honey. Laura Hillenbrand’s book, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, served as the basis for the script by William Nicholson, Richard LaGravenese, and the Coen Brothers (whose D.P. of choice, Roger Deakins, is shooting the movie). Jack O'Connell stars as Zamperini, with supporting turns by Garrett Hedlund, Domhnall Gleeson, Jai Courtney, and Luke Treadaway.

Under the Skin
Sci-Fi | April 4 | Directed by Jonathan Glazer

Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast) returns to feature filmmaking for the first time since 2004’s Birth with this loose adaptation of Michel Faber's 2000 science fiction novel about an alien (Scarlett Johansson) tasked with capturing humans for her home planet. The film is bound to be divisive—Under the Skin received both boos and cheers at the Venice Film Festival last fall—but its unique visual (some scenes were filmed with hidden cameras on the streets of Glasgow), aural, and narrative choices will make it a must-see for many cinephiles.

Untitled Cameron Crowe Hawaii project
Comedy | tbd | Directed by Cameron Crowe

Cameron Crowe is due for a good movie—his last one was 14 years ago—and, ever the optimists, we're hoping this is it. It doesn't hurt that the cast for this still-untitled, Hawaii-set comedy (originally known as Deep Tiki when Crowe first began work on it years ago) is pretty terrific: Bradley Cooper, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, Emma Stone, Jay Baruchel, Alec Baldwin, Danny McBride, and John Krasinski. The storyline involves a military contractor who teams with an Air Force pilot in Hawaii to sabotage the launch of a top-secret weapons satellite. Though that sounds serious, it's actually a light rom-com adventure.

Untitled Noah Baumbach/Greta Gerwig project
Comedy | tbd | Directed by Noah Baumbach

Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig, together again. After impressing critics with their 2013 no-budget project Frances Ha, the writer-director and writer-star are re-teaming this year for another film, again shot quickly without any publicity. Little is known about the new film, though Gerwig will star as "a dauntless New York striver" who is idolized by her new friend, a Barnard student played by Lola Kirke (sister of Girls star Jemima). The director has suggested a blend of The Great Gatsby and Something Wild, while calling it "looser and wonkier" than Frances Ha. (It will also be in color). Baumbach has another film, While We're Young, in the pipeline, but that Ben Stiller comedy looks destined for a 2015 release (though it could surface late this year instead).

Various Terrence Malick projects

Last year’s To the Wonder was Terrence Malick’s most divisive work to date. Will 2014 see the release of any of his three (!) potential projects? As noted in last year’s movie preview, we are at the mercy of Malick’s imagination and time, but we aren’t the only ones. The backers of the documentary Voyage of Time—one of the trio of pending releases—sued Malick for being distracted with other projects. He promptly counter-sued, claiming the film was “held hostage” by the financing company. A resolution to this mess could come as early as next week, but the film, a look at the birth of the universe (rumored to be narrated by Brad Pitt) probably won’t make it into theaters this year. Of the three, Knight of Cups has the best chance. Set in the movie business, the film stars Christian Bale as a man tempted by celebrity, excess and, from the looks of it, most of the actresses in Hollywood, including Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett, Isabel Lucas, Imogen Poots, Freida Pinto, Nicky Whelan, and Teresa Palmer. Who will make it into the final cut is anyone’s guess. Even Christian Bale is unsure about his status when it concerns the third project, set in the Austin music scene and currently being referred to as the Untitled Terrence Malick Project. Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Haley Bennett, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett, Val Kilmer, and Holly Hunter will vie for screen time in a story of two intersecting love triangles. For 2014, one out of three would suffice. Two out of three would be a welcome surprise.

Veronica Mars Watch trailer
Drama | March 14 | Directed by Rob Thomas

A long time ago, we used to be friends. But then Veronica left, seemingly for good, though not without first teasing us about a return in a new home. Now, seven years later, it's no tease: Veronica Mars is back—thanks to a well-publicized Kickstarter campaign that helped fund a new movie. Rob Thomas, the creator of the critically acclaimed UPN/CW series, is the director and co-writer here for a film that reunites the show's entire cast (at least, those characters who weren't previously killed off), including Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Enrico Colantoni, Ryan Hansen, Francis Capra, Percy Daggs III, Ken Marino, Krysten Ritter, and Chris Lowell. The story picks up nine years after the end of season 3, with Veronica leading a new life in New York but returning to Neptune for her 10-year reunion ... and one last case. Will it work? We were skeptical about the original series—really, a noir-ish detective story set in high school?—until it delivered sharp writing and one of the most compelling stories in years. There's no reason the film can't pull off at least some of that same magic.

A Walk in the Woods
Comedy/Adventure | tbd | Directed by Larry Charles

While Larry Charles’s filmography includes Borat, Bruno and The Dictator, he has also directed the Bob Dylan curio Masked and Anonymous and the Bill Maher documentary Religulous. So maybe it makes some strange bit of sense that he’s directing Robert Redford and Nick Nolte in an adaptation of Bill Bryson’s best-selling memoir A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, a humorous recounting of Bryson’s struggles to hike the 2,200-mile trail. Redford has wanted to make the film since 2005, but after going through multiple writers and directors (including, at various points, Richard Linklater, Barry Levinson, and Redford himself), he was unable to make it happen until now. Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3, Little Miss Sunshine) wrote the screenplay, and Redford will star as Bryson while Nolte plays his hiking buddy Stephen Katz, a crude, recovering alcoholic.

X-Men: Days of Future Past Watch trailer
Action-Adventure | May 23 | Directed by Bryan Singer

Of all the big-budget summer tentpole films due this year, this might be the one that has fans most excited. Bryan Singer, who directed the two best X-Men films (X-Men and X2), returns after a decade away from the franchise for Days of Future Past, which blends the cast of the original trilogy with their younger counterparts from 2011's X-Men: First Class. The resulting storyline thus takes place across two different time periods—with Wolverine traveling back in time to the 1970s to change history (and thus the future) for the better—and stars Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Peter Dinklage, Halle Berry, and Ellen Page.

Honorable mention

Receiving strong early reviews, Abuse of Weakness (tbd) is a semi-autobiographical drama from director Catherine Breillat that stars Isabelle Huppert as a stroke-afflicted filmmaker who becomes the victim of a con man.

Coming from the directors of Bolt and Winnie the Pooh, Big Hero 6 (November 7) is the first Disney animated feature film set in the Marvel Universe, and an early teaser of the animation looks terrific.

Irish black comedy Calvary (tbd) re-teams The Guard director John Michael McDonagh with star Brendan Gleeson (plus Chris O'Dowd).

Director Denis Villeneuve re-enlists his Prisoners star Jake Gyllenhaal for Enemy (March 14), an adaptation of Jose Saramago's acclaimed novel The Double.

Every Thing Will Be Fine (tbd) is a 3D drama from director Wim Wenders about a man who spends a decade trying to cope with killing a child in an auto accident; James Franco, Sarah Polley, and Charlotte Gainsbourg star.

The directorial debut for writer and frequent Danny Boyle collaborator Alex Garland (Sunshine, 28 Days Later), sci-fi thriller Ex Machina (tbd) follows a computer programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) who encounters the world's first artificial intelligence at a remote retreat belonging to a tech mogul (Oscar Isaac).

Gleeson also stars in the biopic oddity Frank (tbd), which finds Michael Fassbender in a rare comedic role (working from a script by Jon Ronson) as the masked frontman of eccentric punk band The Freshies; the film debuts at Sundance later this month.

Action-drama Fury (November 12), which almost certainly will get released under a different name, stars Brad Pitt as the commander of a tank crew near the end of WWII.

Ryan Gosling will make his directorial debut with How to Catch a Monster (tbd), an unusual fantasy-thriller partially set in an undersea world (and partially set in a fetish club); Christina Hendricks, Saoirse Ronan, and Doctor Who's Matt Smith star.

This Is the End writer-directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg return with The Interview (October 10), a comedy about a talk show host (James Franco) who somehow gets caught in a plot to assassinate the leader of North Korea (no word yet on whether Dennis Rodman is involved).

The first live-action Broadway musical adaptation in Disney's history, Rob Marshall's Into the Woods (December 25) brings Stephen Sondheim's fantasy musical to the big screen with a cast that includes Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, and Emily Blunt.

Though The LEGO Movie (February 7) may seem like a cheesy cash-in, the promising animated comedy comes from Phil Lord and Chris Miller (21 Jump Street, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs) and features the voices of Chris Pratt, Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks, Channing Tatum, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, and Will Ferrell.

Woody Allen returns to France for Magic in the Moonlight (tbd), a 1920s-set rom-com starring Emma Stone, Colin Firth, Marcia Gay Harden, Hamish Linklater, and Jacki Weaver.

Disney's Maleficent (May 30) offers an atypically dark alternate telling of the Sleeping Beauty tale, with Angelina Jolie playing the mistress of all evil.

Following the cult Indonesian action hit from 2012, The Raid 2: Berandal (March 28) will be the second film in The Raid trilogy, with Gareth Evans returning as director and the action picking up just hours after the first film.

Australian director David Michôd follows his acclaimed debut Animal Kingdom with The Rover (tbd), a desert-set crime drama co-written by Joel Edgerton and starring Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson.

The Search (tbd) is Oscar-winner Michel Hazanavicius's follow-up to The Artist, though don't expect anything like that silent film sensation; this remake of Fred Zinnemann's 1948 war melodrama is set in war-torn Chechnya and stars Annette Bening and Bérénice Bejo.

Based on Ron Rash's novel, depression-era drama Serena (spring) comes from director Susanne Bier and reunites frequent on-screen pair Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence.

We're a bit worried about the choice of Shawn Levy as director, but This is Where I Leave You (September 12) could be his first good film; the dramedy, about bickering siblings reuniting after the death of their father, is based on Jonathan Tropper's best-seller and boasts a terrific ensemble cast that features Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Timothy Olyphant, Connie Britton, Corey Stoll, Kathryn Hahn, Jane Fonda, Rose Byrne, and Ben Schwartz.

Another Sundance premiere, Marjane Satrapi's (Persepolis) next project is The Voices (tbd), which finds Ryan Reynolds playing a disturbed factory worker who accidentally kills his co-worker and thinks his pets are talking to him.

This year's trend: The Big-Budget Bible Blockbuster

Falling somewhere in between intriguing and why-did-they-make-that? folly is 2014's most unexpected trend: biblical blockbusters from major directors. Each of these films could be a major artistic success, and each could just as easily be a colossal waste of money. (And yes, we know that two films doesn't exactly constitute a "trend," but just go with us here). The trend will even extend to television, with a Ten Commandments miniseries coming (probably next year rather than 2014) with directors Gus Van Sant, Lee Daniels, Wes Craven, Michael Cera, Jim Sheridan, and five others giving each commandment a modern spin, vaguely similar in concept to Krzysztof Kieślowski's The Decalogue. One additional big-screen endeavor boasts a much smaller budget: Son of God (February 28) will re-purpose footage from last year's Bible miniseries that was a hit for the History Channel.

Exodus
December 12 | Directed by Ridley Scott

Still in between Prometheus (and, theoretically, Blade Runner) projects, Ridley Scott follows his divisive crime drama The Counselor with something a bit more old school ... or, rather, Old Testament. Led by Christian Bale as Moses, the cast for Exodus includes Aaron Paul, Joel Edgerton, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley, and John Turturro. This is the story of the 15 10 commandments and the Hebrews' escape from slavery in Egypt done as big-budget, effects-laden, Cecil B. DeMille-style epic for the first time since DeMille himself directed The Ten Commandments in 1956. Can Scott pull it off?

Noah Watch trailer
March 28 | Directed by Darren Aronofsky

Always interesting even when he's not fully successful (though usually, he is), Darren Aronofsky hasn't directed a film since 2010's Oscar-nominated hit Black Swan. But his return is a big one. Depicting the biblical story of Noah's ark, Noah is Aronofsky's first big-budget film, with much of the estimated $130 million going to special effects—not just for the flood, but for an entire computer-generated menagerie. (No real animals were used during filming.) Russell Crowe stars as Noah (a role passed on by Christian Bale, who obviously would rather part the seas than set sail on them), joined by Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Winstone, and Emma Watson. This could be amazing ... or a bomb of biblical proportions. Unfortunately, early test screenings suggest the latter (and negative audience reactions have also led to a conflict between the director and Paramount over what the final cut will look like).

10 potential box office bombs

For fun, as we did last year, we have selected a handful of potential box office duds for 2014. Several of the films listed above, especially Jupiter Ascending, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Noah, could certainly fall under this heading. Several more just missed the cut here. It's hard to get excited about the prospect of yet another Godzilla (May 16) movie heading to the big screen, yet early footage from Gareth Edwards' (Monsters) $160 million project has done just that—excited fans—and if Pacific Rim could gross $400 million, maybe this can too. And does anyone really want to see a new big-screen Annie (December 19) musical? Probably not—a 1982 big-screen version wasn't a big hit, and that was at a time when the original Broadway production was still going strong—but with Jay Z's backing (and new songs) and a lack of other family-friendly fare at Christmas time, Will Gluck's modern-day take isn't a complete lock to fail. And while we expect a film like Transformers: Age of Extinction (June 27) to flop with critics, its predecessors certainly didn't have any problems attracting bodies to theaters.

300: Rise of An Empire Watch trailer
Action | March 7 | Directed by Noam Murro

A new director—Noam Murro, who has never directed an action or effects-based film before—and a mostly new cast (not that you can tell, under all those CGI enhancements) take center stage in this delayed sequel to 300, finally arriving this spring after originally set to come out last summer. The original film's director, Zack Snyder, co-wrote the screenplay for the naval-themed Rise of an Empire, basing it on Frank Miller's graphic novel Xerxes. Given that the original film came out seven years ago, and that there's little tying it to Rise of An Empire, any excitement there may have been for a sequel seems long gone.

Divergent Watch trailer
Adventure/Sci-fi | March 21 | Directed by Neil Burger

The parade of YA novel adaptations continues unabated in 2014, with titles like Vampire Academy (February 14), The Fault in Our Stars (June 6), and The Maze Runner (September 19) marching into theaters this year. If recent trends continue, few if any (other than, obviously, the latest Hunger Games sequel) will be box office draws. But, out of all of these films, Divergent (based on Veronica Roth's novel) has the furthest to fall, with a production budget reportedly north of $80 million. Stars Shailene Woodley and Theo James will do their best to convince moviegoers that this latest convoluted, dystopian sci-fi tale isn't a mere Hunger Games knockoff, but the books (it's a trilogy, so, hey, sequels!) don't have the same universal, multi-generational appeal that the Hunger Games books do, and director Neil Burger has yet to direct a major box office hit. As a result, the two franchises' box office fortunes should be divergent, indeed.

Edge of Tomorrow Watch trailer
Action/Sci-fi | June 6 | Directed by Doug Liman

Can the presence of Tom Cruise rescue this big-budget but relatively unknown science-fiction/action project? It doesn't seem likely; Cruise hasn't been much of a box office draw in recent years, and Cruise's most recent film, the sci-fi semi-bomb Oblivion, doesn't exactly inspire confidence here. The source material won't help—few people will be familiar with the Japanese novel All You Need Is Kill—nor does the fact that there are at least eight (!) screenwriters involved (three of whom are credited). The plot also seems to be a rehash of the recent Source Code (Cruise is caught in a time loop, re-living the same day over and over), married to yet another alien invasion storyline. (In the first trailer, it just looks like a live-action Halo.) There's also the fact that Doug Liman's previous sci-fi feature, Jumper, was a disaster. Edge of Tomorrow could turn out to be a solid action film; we just don't anticipate enough people turning out to see it.

Hercules: The Thracian Wars
Action/Adventure | July 25 | Directed by Brett Ratner

Since Hollywood thinks in pairs, 2014 will bring us not one but two Hercules films; the first, Renny Harlin's dismal The Legend of Hercules, already bombed in its debut last weekend. High-profile opening date aside, there's no reason to think that Brett Ratner's take on the Hercules legend will fare much better. For one thing, there's Ratner himself; the last time he directed a good movie was ... well, never. (Of course, "good" doesn't really factor into box office performance, but Ratner films tend to be huge hits only when they have the words "Rush Hour" in the title). And Hercules: The Thracian Wars (based on the graphic novel of the same name, though the film's title may be shortened to just "Hercules") stars Dwayne Johnson, who can be a box office draw (though not consistently). But the film is budgeted at well over $100 million, and we just don't see audiences flocking to this Clash of the Titans knockoff, especially with the more interesting Guardians of the Galaxy reaching theaters just days later.

I, Frankenstein Watch trailer
Action/Fantasy | January 24 | Directed by Stuart Beattie

If the year ahead can bring the umpteenth Godzilla movie, why not revisit Frankenstein, too? I, Frankenstein is actually an unconventional take on Frankenstein's monster, based on Underworld star Kevin Grevioux's graphic novel, and is being released in the January slot where similar dark fantasy-action films like the various Underworld sequels have performed moderately well. But none of those movies grossed more than $62 million, and the budget here is closer to $70 million (though you wouldn't know it from the effects on display in the trailer). Are Aaron Eckhart and Yvonne Strahovski big enough box-office draws to overcome the subject matter, the inexperienced director (Stuart Beattie), and the tough release window? We think you know the answer to that question.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Watch trailer
Action/Thriller | January 17 | Directed by Kenneth Branagh

Here's how not to reboot a film franchise: bump your film from the high-profile holiday season into the dregs of January. (That title doesn't help much, either; it's more video game than movie.) Chris Pine (Star Trek) takes on the role of the Tom Clancy-created CIA agent once played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and, most recently (in 2002's The Sum of All Fears), Ben Affleck, though Shadow Recruit isn't based on a specific Clancy book, and was actually pieced together from the leftovers of various scripts written over the past decade. The final result features Ryan's origin story and a terrorist plot against the U.S. economy. Kevin Costner and Keira Knightley also star for director Kenneth Branagh (Thor), who cast himself as the main villain. Paramount hopes to spin off Costner's character into a sequel, but that depends on the success of this film, and success doesn't seem likely. Longtime fans don't seem happy about the new action-oriented approach, and, with a 12-year break between films, younger moviegoers may not even know or care who Jack Ryan is.

Need for Speed Watch trailer
Action | March 14 | Directed by Scott Waugh

The presence of star Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) immediately raises our interest level, but the odds of a video game adaptation performing well (and being any good) seem slim. (See, for example, every previous video game adaptation.) And the relatively large budget ($60-$70 million) for this one means that Need for Speed will likely need to become the highest-grossing video game adaptation of all time to turn a profit. It does have the power of Disney's marketing department behind it, so there's that. Plus, stuntman-turned-director Scott Waugh's previous film Act of Valor performed unexpectedly well at the box office despite bombing with critics. But we're talking about making a movie "based on" a racing game franchise. Sure, it's a highly successful racing game franchise, but "driving really fast" isn't exactly enough to occupy two hours of your time if you aren't controlling the action. Or is it?

Pompeii Watch trailer
Action/Adventure | February 21 | Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson

It's a disaster, all right. Combine director Paul W. S. Anderson with a B-list cast (headlined by Game of Thrones's Kit Harington), cheesy-looking CGI effects, and subject matter that seems instantly dated in its costume-y, overly dramatic splendor, and you have a future candidate for an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, should that show ever get revived. (Now there's a Kickstarter we'd like to see.) We're not certain who, exactly, will be rushing out to see this $100 million (!) epic—Anderson's largest budget to date by a wide margin—but it's not us ... and it's probably not you, either.

RoboCop Watch trailer
Action/Sci-fi | February 12 | Directed by José Padilha

Eventually, studios will learn that remaking Paul Verhoeven movies is not a good idea. (We're still trying to forget the new Total Recall.) Sadly, that lesson won't come with RoboCop, a remake of Verhoeven's 1987 cult classic about a murdered Detroit cop who is brought back to life by an evil corporation as part man, part machine (then, played by Peter Weller; now, by The Killing's Joel Kinnaman). Not even interesting casting choices (Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson) look likely to save this film at the box office. The budget here is big (at least $120 million), and it is the first Hollywood (and English-language) film for Brazilian director José Padilha (Bus 174). And, as we said, even a flop here won't help Hollywood understand how much it misunderstands Verhoeven; plans are underway for a remake of Starship Troopers (minus the original adaptation's humor) as well.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Action/Adventure/Comedy | August 8 | Directed by Jonathan Liebesman

Though we don't recall anyone asking for a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, one is arriving nevertheless. At least a decade past its prime (though a new Nickelodeon animated series is doing reasonably well), the TMNT franchise previously spawned three live-action features as well as the animated TMNT (which wasn't exactly a huge hit). The newest film is intended as (what else?) a reboot, comes from producer/failed Samsung pitchman Michael Bay, and has been in development for at least three years, undergoing numerous changes throughout the process. At one point, Bay angered longtime fans by changing the titular (turtular?) heroes into extraterrestrials who come to Earth and begin acting like teenagers, and Bay has been on the defensive since (though he did backtrack and say the turtles are really mutants and not aliens after all). If old fans are angry, and newer fans aren't in abundance, how will the film make a profit on its $100-$125 million budget against tough summer competition? Unless it performs unexpectedly well overseas, it won't.

What films are you looking forward to?

What are your most anticipated movies of 2014? Let us know in the comments section below. And be sure to visit our frequently updated Film Release Calendar for a complete list of movies due out this year (and beyond).

 

Comments (7)

  • FleshWorld  

    I'm so jazzed for The Trip to Italy... The link to the Michael Cain impressions above is priceless. I think the potential bombs will make some cash, but like last year's Die Hard bomb, the Jack Ryan flick looks terrible.

  • EduardoLuiz  

    Hobbit?!

  • LizLemon44  

    Add Jeremy Renner's upcoming biopic on controversial journalist, Gary Webb, in "Kill the Messenger," and you've got a perfect list.

  • TheQuietGamer  

    "The Cobbler" just made the list of movies I'm most looking forward to this year. I'm curious to see how well the "Need for Speed" movie does. From what I've heard it's actually got some pretty decent hype for it. I'm also excited for "The LEGO Movie" and can't wait to find out more about "Big Hero 6". I'm hoping that "Guardians of the Galaxy" does better than I'm expecting it to. I'm not a James Gunn fan so I'm not expecting much from it.

  • JasonDietz  

    By the way, we forgot to say this at the top of the article, but documentaries were intentionally excluded from the list (mainly in an attempt to make it easier to narrow down our choices).

  • conditionals  

    'Speed Racer' was only a failure at the box office. One of my favourite films, and I'm not alone.

  • sonician  

    Suprised Godzilla's not on the list. Everyone who's seen the trailer is super excited for Gareth Edward's take on the monster.
    No mention of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes or The Hobbit?

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  6. /feature/best-and-worst-movies-about-the-financial-crisis Image
    Ranked: Films about the Ongoing Financial Crisis
    October 19, 2011 - 5 comments
    1. homandavoodi : It seems you forgot an extraordinary film: Margin Call Read »
  7. /feature/worst-film-directors-since-2000 Image
    Ranked: The Worst Film Directors of the 21st Century (So Far)
    October 13, 2011 - 15 comments
    1. lukechristiansc : obviously Micheal Bay should be on this list but he has made some really great movies in the past like The Rock , Bad... Read »