Top 30 films to see in 2014
#1 – The Book Thief
Based on the phenomenally good book by Markus Zusak (it really is cracking, read it soon if you haven’t already), The Book Thief has already opened in America to, admittedly, mixed reviews. But whether or not the Nazis are a bit dumbed down, we’re keeping the faith, because there may be a day when we’re not excited about Geoffrey Rush playing the gruff-yet-loving foster father of a damaged and imaginative young girl in wartime Germany but, dammit, IT IS NOT THIS DAY. Listen out for Roger Allam (Peter Mannion from The Thick of It) doing his best Michael Gambon voice as the Angel of Death.
#2 – The Monuments Men
Directed by George Clooney and starring him along with Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman and everyone else you like, the long-awaited story of an Allied team of art historians and museum curators who enter Germany at the close of the war to track down art treasures seized by the Nazis is clearly going to be Inglourious Basterds for people who actually enjoy going to galleries rather than seeing them, as we generally do, as particularly boring foreplay.
#3 – The Lego Movie
Despite no longer being called The Piece of Resistance, which was the best film name to come out of Hollywood – even briefly – for about ten years, The Lego Movie is still set to be a combination famous voice-spotter/childhood nostalgia junkie’s paradise. There’s a better than even chance that Will Arnett will turn out to be a better Batman than Ben Affleck, and it’s also the last chance Jonah Hill will ever, ever get to play Green Lantern.
#4 – Her
We don’t normally call Scarlett Johansson ‘Her'; we normally call her ‘that pop-eyed bitch’, because nobody breaks Ryan Reynolds’ beautiful-and-secretly-gay heart on OUR watch. But if anything can change our minds about ‘her’ (the pop-eyed bitch), it’ll be Spike Jonze’s vaguely sci-fi romantic drama, starring Joaquin Phoenix as an introvert who falls in love with an artificial intelligence system. See? They’re not ALL superhero films (although they mostly are).
#5 – Pompeii
We’re basically down with anything to do with Romans, so Paul W.S. Anderson’s latest flick has got an immediate advantage at Best For Film Towers – just as well, since we’re definitely not over The Three Musketeers yet.. We don’t know much about the plot, because who cares? Jon Snow is going to be running around Italy as it literally catches on fire, dressed like a gladiator and getting his gladius up Emily Browning. Kiefer Sutherland is also in it, which should make up for the almost inevitable appearance of Anderson’s awful bloody wife. SORTED.
#6 – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Yeah, like you’d have the nerve to leave out Wes Anderson’s latest. We’re putting hell of superhero films in this thing to try and attract traffic, we need to recommend a few flicks that’ll be objectively good rather than just expensively loud. Plus it’s got Ralph Fiennes starring alongside Wes regulars Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Ed Norton, Jason Schwartzman and Tilda Swinton (and Owen Wilson, but whatever). What more do you want?
#7 – Veronica Mars
After raising nearly six million dollars on Kickstarter, the Veronica Mars adaptation has a lot of investors to keep happy – about ninety-one thousand of them, in fact. We never saw the original show, but as far as we can tell it’s like if Harriet the Spy was fanciable instead of a tiny autistic busybody who really likes tomato sandwiches.
#8 – Chávez
Diego Luna’s directorial debut is a biopic of Mexican-American civil rights hero César Chávez (and not, as we’ve been casually assuming for some months, dead Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez). Although he doesn’t get much airtime over here, Chávez remains a big deal across the pond (his birthday is a holiday in several states), and we suspect this film, which stars Gangster Squad‘s Michael Peña alongside Rosario Dawson, America Ferrara and John Malkovich, will be one to watch out for. Although, to be honest, we’ll watch anything in which Malko plays a villain just on principle, because Technobohemian.
#9 – Noah
Darren Aronofsky directing the story of God having a colossal hissy fit and destroying the whole world (except for eight people and their pets)? We’re in. Russell Crowe is playing Noah, Anthony Hopkins is playing Methuselah, Emma Watson is playing Noah’s adopted daughter (go with it) and RAY WINSTONE is playing “Noah’s nemesis”, although we sort of feel his real nemesis is the enraged sea which is due to rise and flood the entire world. Aronofsky and Paramount are reportedly at loggerheads over the final cut of the film after a largely God-bothering test audience didn’t like it, but we’re confident that the man who made angelic Natalie Portman bring herself off onscreen can take down some studio execs.
#10 – Berandal / The Raid: Retaliation
Tash lost her mind over the last one. We have high hopes.
#11 – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Look, this just isn’t up for debate – you have to keep seeing the crappy intermediary Marvel films so that when we get back to Joss for The Avengers: Age of Ultron everything will make sense. We saw Thor: The Dark World, you can sit through this. Anthony Mackie’s in it, and he can FLY (although we’re not sure how well he’ll get on with Cap, whose long period in the freezer meant he basically missed the civil rights movement; hopefully he won’t call Falcon ‘boy’ or anything.)
#12 – Transcendence
Featuring a first-time screenwriter, a first-time director and Johnny Depp in a role that practically precludes the use of eyeliner, Transcendence might sound like a bit of a gamble. However, the screenplay comes straight from the 2012 Hollywood Black List and the director is Wally Pfister, Christopher Nolan’s pet cinematographer – we can assume he’ll have picked up a few things. The Johnny Depp bit is still a mystery, but we’re sure he’ll cope – and the film’s plot, dealing with a scientist’s obsessive quest to built a sentient machine (he should talk to Joaquin Phoenix, clearly), sounds pretty appealing. Let’s hope Wally Pfister can rise above his absurd name.
#13 – The Amazing Spider-Man 2
There are a lot of sequels and a lot of superheroes in this list, because Hollywood is awful and so is the viewing public. However, now it’s freed from the tedium of establishing Spidey’s backstory we’re hoping that Marc Webb’s reboot series will pick up the pace, and – despite the risky Three Villains Strategy that backfired so horribly in Spider-Man 3 – we’ll move mountains to see Paul Giamatti dressed as a robot rhino. Jamie Foxx can come too, provided he doesn’t short out the telly or whatever.
#14 – Godzilla
JUST LOOK AT THAT TRAILER. After several awful Godzilla reboots (plus whatever it is they were up to in Japan all the way through the seventies), Pacific Rim has finally sparked a new interest in kaiju just in time for what looks like the biggest and most ambitious attempt of all time to give the radiation-breathing lizard king Gojira his due. If you pull this off, Gareth, we swear we’ll never repost our review of Monsters again. Promise.
#15 – X-Men: Days of Future Past
The only Marvel film we’re actually excited about rather than promoting out of a misplaced sense of loyalty, Days of Future Past – starring *big breath* Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Nicholas Hoult and EVERYONE ELSE FROM EVERY OTHER X-MEN FILM – is going to absolutely crush it. If we were any more excited we’d have to spontaneously time travel to the 1970s and make out with our past selves, or whatever the plot is. (Spoiler: that’s definitely the plot.)
#16 – Maleficent
We’ve taken our time coming round to Maleficent, but the above trailer pretty much convinced us. Angelina Jolie is at her absolute best vamping it up as a shadowy sexpot with unclear motives, and the Wicked-style backstory of Disney’s most memorable witchy bitch is the perfect vehicle for her terrifying eyes and huge, sardonically curled lip. As far as the rest of the cast goes, we couldn’t really give less of a toss about Elle ‘Aurora’ Fanning – but Miranda Richardson, Imelda Staunton and Peter Capaldi are names to conjure with.
#17 – 22 Jump Street
Despite its shaky premise, mismatched cast and stupid made-up drugs, 21 Jump Street was completely brilliant. And, Korean Jesus willing, its inevitable sequel will be just as impressive. Ice Cube will shout, Channing will flex and Dave Franco will quietly be better looking than his big brother from behind bars – nothing about 22 Jump Street will be surprising (they’ve done all the good cameos already), but it will almost certainly be very, very funny in exactly the way that Anchorman 2 wasn’t.
#18 – How to Train Your Dragon 2
If you want Papa Neish to carry on writing for you in 2014, you don’t miss this off. The sequel to DreamWorks’ most critically acclaimed film of all time (yes, even more than Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron), HTTYD2 has got big shoes to fill – but with a dazzling voice cast, all the visual heft of the original and loads of bloody dragons, we can’t see anything going too wrong. Almost inevitably the best animated film of 2014.
#19 – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Eight years after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which ended with super-smart chimp Caesar (Andy Serkis) creating an army of similarly brainy primates and then pissing off into a forest with them, the new ape society is doing well whilst humanity has been largely eradicated. Rupert Wyatt’s bold reboot of a film series mired in canonical confusion, implausibility and Tim Burton was solid and satisfying, and with Cloverfield and Let Me In director Matt Reeves at the helm of the sequel we’re quietly optimistic.
#20 – Jupiter Ascending
We still don’t really understand the plot of Jupiter Ascending, but if anyone can handle epic philosophical sci-fi these days it’s the Wachowskis, so we’re happy to take a punt. As far as we can make out, Mila Kunis plays a Russian cleaner who is contacted by an interstellar warrior (CHANNING TATUM, obv) who tells her that the circumstances of her birth could make her the next Queen of the Universe. Sean Bean is also in it, playing some sort of Han Solo rip-off (and, we hope, ensuring his place in the new Star Wars trilogy). Even if you didn’t really get Cloud Atlas, we defy you not to be excited by that little lot.
#21 – Hercules: The Thracian Wars
As IF we’d leave The Rock out of any list we ever publish. Soaring head and shoulders over this year’s other Hercules film (go and fellate a Hydra, Kellan Lutz), The Thracian Wars is basically going to be a cross between The Scorpion King and The Last Samurai, but with the benefit of a bigger budget than either and twelve years in which Dwayne Johnson has actually sort of learnt to act. If you’re not excited about seeing The Rock as a world-weary demigod hired to train the best army the world’s ever seen, you are dead to Best For Film.
#22 – Step Up All In
When he was much younger and much more ignorant, your humble narrator ripped the absolute piss out of Step Up 3D. He was wrong to do it. Without knowing a single thing about Step Up All In (except that it’s being directed by yet another unknown and Adam G. Sevani is returning to the role of Moose, the tiny dancer with a big hat and bigger hair), we can be confident that it will be nonsensical, contrived and absolutely beautiful to watch. This is ballet for our generation; get used to it.
#23 – Guardians of the Galaxy
Very much this year’s dark horse for Marvel, although it feels faintly risible to call a Marvel film anything but a neon dayglo horse with floodlights and Funktion 1 speakers in its stable, Guardians of the Galaxy will see a host of basically less good superheroes team up to do something or other in, we think, space. The main thing to cling to is that Adam Sandler isn’t actually playing Rocket Raccoon, although Bradley Cooper isn’t really an improvement and the fact remains that we’re still going to see an anthromorphic raccoon with a gun in a film that also stars Benicio del Toro and Glenn Close.
#24 – Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Nine long years after Sin City, Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba and Mickey Rourke are back with a host of new characters for 2014’s most anticipated graphic novel adaptation (we’re not counting Marvel films, they’ve got enough room in this blog as it is). Robert Rodriguez and series author Frank Miller are back in the double-width directors’ chair. We hope the new film justifies the ten-month delay to its release, but with no prospect of a good Die Hard ever again we’ll be happy just to see Bruce kicking off with a pistol.
#25 – Interstellar
Although most of the plot details are under wraps, we know Interstellar has three almost foolproof characteristics – Michael Caine, wormholes and the Nolan brothers. Directed by Christopher from a script he wrote with his brother Jonathan (who co-wrote The Prestige, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises), Interstellar‘s cast also boasts Matthew McConaughey, Matt Damon, Anne Hathaway, Casey Affleck, John Lithgow and Jessica Chastain, which looks like a pretty unbeatable lineup to us.
#26 – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
With Catching Fire still reeling in the punters, it’s a fair bet that the two and a halfth instalment of the Hunger Games series will make a big splash next winter; and once Katniss gets out of the arena and into District 13 (spoilers), we suspect things will get a lot more interesting. Can you say ‘explosive arrows’? We’re also looking forward to Peeta being brainwashed and strapped to his bed, because we hate that guy.
#27 – Exodus
What gave you the impression that one Biblical epic per year would be enough for us? Ridley Scott is now, as The Counsellor sadly demonstrated, basically useless when he’s not directing a huge army of extras and someone with a period beard, so he should be entirely safe with the story of Moses (Christian Bale!) leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Co-starring Ben Kingsley, Sigourney Weaver, Aaron Paul and the lovely Joel Edgerton as Rameses II (that massive stone head in the British Museum is of him), we’re hoping the simple, stirring and mad plot of Exodus will let Ridley get on with doing what he does best – making armoured men run into each other.
#28 – Annie
We’re not sure that we actually want to watch Annie on its own merits, but we definitely want to find out if it’s an absolute disaster or not. Starring Quvenzhanjaneifgnezzflé Wallis as the eponymous orphan, Jamie Foxx as Daddy Warbucks (shut up, we’re not calling him Benjamin Stacks) and Cameron ‘nobody tell the black actors about that sort of racist accent I did in The Counsellor‘ Diaz as Miss Hannigan, Jay-Z and Will Smith’s revamped version of the classic musical (itself an adaptation of a venerable comic strip) will earn a huge amount of money and spark a swathe of blogs complaining about inverted cultural association. Sounds quite fun, doesn’t it?
#29 – Into the Woods
Here are some things we love: Anna Kendrick, the Brothers Grimm, Stephen Sondheim, Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Frances de la Tour, Simon Russell Beale, Emily Blunt and Anna Kendrick. Imagine how chuffed we are about the fact that Into the Woods will shortly exist.
#30 – The Hobbit: There and Back Again
We’re taking a liberty here, because There and Back Again is actually due out before Annie, but you’re not going to check and we do what we want. In any event, we could have missed this off the list because you’ll definitely see it anyway; but the only film on here that nobody was definitely going to see is Chávez, so we’re keeping things obvious for this last little bit. Smaug’s going to kick off, Martin Freeman’s going to suddenly morph into Ian Holm in the last five minutes, and Peter Jackson’s going to collapse in a joyous, beardy heap because he literally never has to go to bloody Middle Earth again. The perfect film to round off what looks to be a busy year. See you in December 2014!