There are many reasons to be excited about the year 2014 in movies. Here are the 10 films I am most looking forward to seeing at this stage.
I am limiting myself to films I haven't seen yet, which excludes most of the Oscar-centric stuff coming out here in the next month or so.
Although can I just say that Her (released here on February 27th) is freaking amazing.
In no particular order:
New Zealand release date: November 6
Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight movies are fine and dandy, but I much prefer to see him at play in worlds that really let his populist Kubrickian sensibilities go wild, such as The Prestige or Inception. The script for Interstellar has been floating around for some time, and Steven Spielberg planned to direct it at one point. I am confident Nolan will bring a more edgy spin to the material than the Schmaltzmaster General could've achieved. We know little more about the story than what the title implies, and this awesomely obtuse teaser trailer has me delirious at the possibilities.
New Zealand release date: April 6
Speaking of Nolan, his longtime cinematographer Wally Pfister (going all the way back to Memento) makes his directorial debut with this techno thriller about artificial intelligence. Johnny Depp stars as a scientist who uploads his consciousness into a computer in the way everyone seems to keep saying will eventually happen. It's the kind of heady studio film that Nolan's success has given rise to, and it has the potential to be a pertinent exploration of nascent technological issues. I suppose it also has the potential to be a tawdry Lawnmower Man re-tread, but lets all hope for the best.
New Zealand release date: July 17
It's nothing short of criminal that I didn't get the chance to see the Wachowski's most recent film Cloud Atlas in a theatre. Although far from perfect, it spilled over with the kind of oversized ambition I love to see on the big screen. It seems less likely that their new film will suffer the same fate - it's centred on more commercially friendly concerns like space royalty and Channing Tatum with deer ears. I love everything I see in the dazzling trailer for Jupiter Ascending - it suggests that the Wachowskis are very much still pushing the boundaries.
Welcome To Yesterday
New Zealand release date: February 27
Once I heard the pitch for this movie - 'Chronicle with time travel' - I was completely onboard. I am such a nerd for time travel films I can't even bring myself to watch the trailer. I want to experience all this film's pleasures for the first time in a theatre. I am banking on the notion that the low budget will force the filmmakers to be creative with their central idea, instead of merely using it as an avenue to cheap gags like the prolonged awfulness that was About Time. When it comes to time travel stories, smaller is better. Just look at Primer.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
New Zealand release date: April 3
The first Captain America film is my favourite Marvel movie of the modern era - I felt highly indulged by its focus on World War II-era derring-do. Out of all the Avengers-centric films, I thought it came closest to capturing the specific spirit of the source material. I'm disappointed that Joe Johnston isn't returning to direct the sequel (and I still think they should've got him to helm Episode 7), but my goodwill for the character has me amped for this follow-up. The filmmakers citing rad '70s conspiracy films like Three Days of the Condor as an influence (and casting that film's lead Robert Redford in a supporting role) is only helping. Even though every passing year feels further deluged by superhero blockbusters, I feel like there's still some fun to be had in this arena.
New Zealand release date: May 15
In addition to being a great movie in its own right, Gareth Edwards' 2010 debut Monsters functions as a very effective audition for the job of directing a new Western Godzilla movie. Thankfully the right people were paying attention and he was hired to do just that. Monsters demonstrated a knack on Edwards' part for infusing epic action with human emotion, and showed that he had an ambitiously cinematic appreciation for scale. For me, these movies all come down to scale. I've spent my whole life waiting for a 'proper' Godzilla film, and I'm confident Edwards will deliver where Roland Emmerich faltered in 1998.
New Zealand release date: February 6
I worship at the altar of the peerless 1987 original, and the existence of this new take is challenging my proudly pragmatic view of remakes in general. Yet I remain curious, fervently so. While the lack of an R-rating ensures this will lack the hard edge of Paul Verhoven's masterpiece, the current state of drone technology feels like a great environment for this kind of story. And the cast is amazing: Michael Keaton, Samuel L Jackson, Gary Oldman, Jay Baruchel and the skinny guy from The Killing as Robo himself. If this IMDb cast list is correct and Miguel Ferrer really is in the film, I will be very very happy. Ferrer - who incidentally is George Clooney's cousin - played the awesomely snotty executive Bob Morton in the original film, and he was at the centre of many of its best moments. Go Robo!
The Green Inferno
New Zealand release date: TBC
Writer/director/actor Eli Roth (Hostel) is a polarising figure in genre cinema. I'm still a fan of his unrepentant sense of old school showmanship. Since his last directorial effort, 2007's disappointing Hostel: Part II, Roth has kept busy doing everything but directing movies - such as acting in Inglourious Basterds, producing The Last Exorcism and its sequel, co-writing and producing The Man With The Iron Fists and directing the pilot for TV series Hemlock Grove. He also co-wrote and co-stars in the recent DVD release Aftershock, which I watched the other day and really quite enjoyed in a trashy sort of way. Roth has finally written and directed another movie, a riff on the under-served (these days) jungle cannibal sub-genre. Although the initial festival buzz on The Green Inferno hasn't been amazing, I'm still really excited to see it. I am way too chicken to watch legendary cult nasty Cannibal Holocaust, the stated inspiration behind the new film, but I am very much looking forward to seeing Roth's take on this kind of story. I've never gotten through one of his films without covering my eyes at least once, but there's always something moderately inventive happening.
Guardians of the Galaxy
New Zealand release date: August 7
That superhero deluge I mentioned above is getting a little variety courtesy of this action adventure comedy that finally takes the cinematic Marvel universe into the region where much of its comic book inspiration flourished - space! That fact that Marvel Studios hired James Gunn to direct this illustrates how much they are aim to break up the superhero monotony - he directed the fantastic 2006 horror comedy Slither and the surprisingly dark 2010 super hero satire Super. Both of those films point to a filmmaker unafraid to go weird, I can't wait to see what he does with a decent budget. And the cast for Guardians is insanely cool - Michael Rooker, Lee Pace, John C Reilly, Gregg Henry and Peter Serafinowicz are all in there. Joy.
New Zealand release date: March 27
Not even my bountiful disdain for Russ Le Roq can quell my interest in this upcoming epic from Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan). Instead of a straight biblical adaptation, this appears to take place in a undefined time and place, making it all seem very sci-fi-ish. Aronofsky has been talking about the project for years, and it consequently has the feeling of being his magnum opus of sorts. Aronofsky's last film of this kind of ambition, 2006's The Fountain, famously had its original budget slashed and was reconfigured as a more intimately scaled piece. I'm looking forward to seeing what Aronofsky does unbound by such constraints.
I'm also pretty-darn amped for Inside Llewyn Davis, The Raid 2, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, 22 Jump St and Non-Stop. Also X-Men: Days of Future Past, but only a little bit.
* Are you looking forward to any of these? What else? I like dramas too, honest. Comment below!