By now I would expect most of you who frequent my movie related content know what to expect from this series: Each year, I pick 20 films (10 scheduled to debut in the first half of the year, 10 from the second half) that I'm excited about and attempt to highlight them briefly. Or as close to "brief" as I can manage. This is one of my favorite pieces to write each year and I always hold out hope that some of you will end up seeing a movie you might have missed out on because of my recommendation. It should be noted, however, that history tells me I will likely miss WILDLY on at least one of these selections (I may never live down Monuments Men) so keep that in mind. It should also be noted that Part Two of this piece is always significantly more difficult to pare down due to the high number of quality films headed our way and thus, movies like This Is Where I Leave You, Wish I Was Here, and Inherent Vice, among others, fell by the wayside. All that to say, this should be a pretty stinking good six months at the box office. On with the show.
Honorable Mention: Unbroken (December 25) Jack O'Connell, Garrett Hedlund, Domhnall Gleeson
I saw the trailer for this one last night and I went back and forth on what to make of it. There's definitely a heavy dose of feelgoodiness that could easily cross over into the cheesy territory. But many, many people have recommended this book to me and the script was done by the Coen Brothers so I'm hoping for the best.
10. Untitled Cameron Crowe Project (December 25) Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, Emma Stone, Bradley Cooper, John Krasinski
I hesitate to put this on the list because there's a good chance the movie ends up getting bumped to 2015. But how do I say no to a Cameron Crowe film (one of my favorite directors ever, We Bought a Zoo aside) featuring THAT cast?! That's all I know about it and that's all I need to know. I kinda hope they just release it as Untitled Cameron Crowe Project.
9. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (December 17) Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Luke Evans
This is the leader in the clubhouse for "Most Likely to Disappoint" but I can't help myself. "The Hobbit" is my favorite novel ever and while there are plenty of things I don't love about the first two films in this trilogy (chief among them, the fact that it is a trilogy in the first place), I'm still drawn to them. My hope is that when the entire Hobbit puzzle is assembled, it will be (relatively) cohesive whole that will be easier to enjoy. Regardless, this is to be the most action-packed of the three and I think this portion of the source material translates well.
8. Birdman (October 17) Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton
I'm going to admit to you, dear reader, that I have no idea what in the world is happening in this trailer. I just know it's bonkers and that I like both Michael Keaton and Edward Norton the most when they're bonkers. So I'm in.
7. Fury (November 14) Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf
Fury kind of feels like Inglourious Basterds without the humor and strangely that sounds alright to me. Writer/director David Ayer has done some remarkable work over the years (Training Day, End of Watch) and here he gets a big budget movie all to himself. On the downside, I prefer Brad Pitt when he's in an ensemble role and this ensemble isn't overly appealing. Could we just replace Shia LaBeouf with like a crying goat or something?
6. St. Vincent (October 24) Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts
I'm a huge sucker for the "misfit kid gets guidance from an odd mentor" narrative and when American Treasure Bill Murray takes on the role of the odd mentor...well that's just icing on the cake. To be fair, this could easily go wrong fast as the trailer definitely borders on "Wes Anderson Knock-Off" territory. But hey, if nothing else, St. Vincent has gotten me excited about a movie starring Melissa McCarthy for the first time ever. So there's that.
5. Foxcatcher (November 14) Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo
If you're one of the few hold outs who still doesn't understand the virtues of either Steve Carell or Channing Tatum, I hate to tell you this, but your days are numbered. Foxcatcher was supposed to be released last year and was pulled out so it could make the festival circuit and build momentum for award season. It's worked beautifully as Carell is almost guaranteed an Oscar nomination at this point and Tatum has a strong case. The trailer is somewhat ambiguous but Bennett Miller (Moneyball) knows how to put a movie together and I'm confident this will be no different.
4. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part I (November 21) Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
I was very, very impressed with the first Hunger Games film, moreso, I would say, than most critics and pundits. That said, I was blown away by Catching Fire and thought it took huge steps forward from the first entry. That one could end up being one of the best big budget sequels ever, dead serious. So even though we've seen almost nothing concerning this film and the third book in this series is so very bad, I have faith that it's only going to build on the achievements of its predecessor.
3. Boyhood (July 18) Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke
Technically Boyhood came out last weekend and has been shown at festivals for months. But it doesn't expand wide until the 18th and thus, most of you (like me) haven't been able to see it. Boyhood represents a completely unique filmmaking experience: Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, Bernie) spent two weeks a year for 12 years filming Coltrane's character as he aged from 5 to 18. We will literally be watching a human grow into a man on screen. It's basically a scripted Truman Show based in reality. I haven't even seen it yet and already I'm pleading with people to give it a chance. Can't wait.
2. Guardians of the Galaxy (August 1) Christ Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace
I have watched the development of this film closer than almost any other non-Star Wars entity ever and I've been fascinated with what I've seen. Marvel, backed by Disney, continues to do some amazing things in a space (big budget blockbusters) that generally values safe money over chancy filmmaking. While DC Comics can't figure out a way to make Batman, the coolest superhero ever, a viable movie property, Marvel is churning out a movie about a talking raccoon and a walking tree like it's no big deal. I am so stinking pumped for this.
1. Interstellar (November 7) Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway
Christopher Nolan + Matthew McConaughey + Sci-Fi = ? I don't know the exact answer to that equation but I think it's mostly just a series of emojis. Nolan is the best big-budget director in the business right now and McConaughey is the hottest name so why not pair them together to blow our minds? If this turns out well, we could be seeing The Year of McConaughey turn into the Era of McConaughey. Oh and by the way, the first teaser trailer (posted first below) is one of the best I've ever seen. I kind of wish I could go back in time and only see that one and know nothing else about Interstellar before going in to the theater. I am mesmerized by this film.