This is one of my favorite pieces to write every year as it allows me not only to look forward to the coming months for myself but also to highlight a few films that some of you may not have heard of. I break it down into two parts, January through June and July through December, partly because it gives me the chance to talk about more movies and partly because chances are a good chunk of the films I'll be excited about in December haven't even been announced yet. Traditionally, Part 1 is the weaker of the two as the first half of the year, particularly January through March, is just a dumping ground for Hollywood. This year, though, when I sat down to make the list, I came up with 22 movies that held at least some genuine interest for me whereas last year it seemed like coming up with 10 was a chore. So maybe this will be a better year than expected. Here, now, are my Top 10 Most Anticipated Movies of 2014 (January through June).
Honorable Mention: Divergent (March 21) Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet
In a post-Twilight world, it is far safer to avoid all teen fiction than to sift through the muck to find the occasional gem. Recently, though, I picked up a copy of Divergent, the Veronica Roth book that this film is based on, and found it to be highly enjoyable. I love Shailene Woodley as well so I'm hoping for good things. I remain wary, however, considering that a major part of the plot revolves around a love story and the trailer has faint Twilight-y edges.
10. Earth to Echo (April 25) Teo Halm, Astro, Reese Hartwig
Um, director Dave Green, are you trying to make a movie specifically for me? Because if you are, you've succeeded. Basically a found footage version of Super 8 which is basically a direct descendant of E.T. Yes please!
9. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (June 13) Jay Baruchel, Kristen Wiig, Gerard Butler
Initially, I had marked Dragon off my list under the assumption that sequels like this rarely pay off. But then I saw the trailer and I've been reminded of how good the first movie and how much I like this world. Here's hoping for good things.
8. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (April 4) Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan, Robert Redford
I quite like the first Captain America and yet I've found that the bandwagon for it has gotten smaller and smaller in the wake of The Avengers. If the Russo Brothers (the directors) can add a little bit of wit to this film along with a darker edge (that part looks likely from the trailer), I think the Captain will be heading in the right direction.
7. Edge of Tomorrow (June 6) Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton
I love high-concept science fiction even if the finished product rarely lives up to the premise. I'm not sure I'm all that stoked about the guys behind the camera (director Doug Liman and writer Christopher McQuarrie have both been uneven in their careers) but as I've said many times before, no one tries harder than Cruise and at the end of the day, that guy knows how to pick exciting, entertaining movies.
6. Noah (March 28) Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson
I think Noah is likely to be the most divisive movie of the first half of this year. People are either going to love or hate it with little in between. I don't always care for Darren Aronofsky's films (Black Swan, The Fountain, Requiem for a Dream) but there is no questioning his vision. I'm legitimately excited to see what a big time director can do with a Biblical epic on a massive scale.
5. Muppets Most Wanted (March 21) Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell
I didn't love the trailer for Muppets Most Wanted the first time around but I've warmed to it in subsequent viewings. There's a decent chance that this turns out to be too star-studded and too big for its own good but when it comes right down to it, any day with Kermit is probably better than any day without.
4. The Monuments Men (February 7) George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray
I've very rarely been more excited about a movie than I was about The Monuments Men when it was announced. Since then, though, the trailers looked slightly less spectacular than I'd imagined and it got bumped out of Awards Season and into the Dead Zone of early February. Occasionally this works out (see: Shutter Island in 2010) but most of the time, this is a very bad sign. But the cast alone is good enough to keep the fire of anticipation burning.
3. X-Men: Days of Future Past (May 23) Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Stewart
There's a very good chance that this movie ends up being a massive failure as director Bryan Singer hasn't had a good movie in a decade and he's trying to bring together a lot of loose parts. Nevertheless, this is an INCREDIBLY ambitious attempt, possibly the most ambitious superhero movie ever and I like that they're swinging for the fences here. Plus, the trailer is outstanding.
2. Godzilla (May 16) Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston
If you would've told me a year ago that Godzilla would wind up on my most anticipated list today, I would have fought you. I had absolutely ZERO interest in this movie or in Godzilla as a whole. Then I saw this trailer. I hesitate to even post it here because it begs to be seen in a state-of-the-art theater with crazy good surround sound, not on your computer screen. If it's possible for you to see this for the first time in a theater, do so. But if not, behold the video below, which is the PERFECT example of how to do Godzilla.
1. Grand Budapest Hotel (March 7) Ralph Fiennes and the Wes Anderson Crew
Wes Anderson, man. He just keeps getting better and better. Moonrise Kingdom was one of my favorite films of 2012 and I like it more with each viewing. Anderson is so good at stretching himself while still staying within the atmosphere that he knows oh so well. If you're not an Anderson fan, I'll save you the trouble and tell you you're not going to like this one. But if you are an Anderson fan......NOW YOU GET TO SEE HIM WORK WITH RALPH FIENNES!!!