Well, 2013 is over, and thank goodness for that. Sure, it was one of the best years in recent memory for movies, but the year-end box office returns indicate it was a year where people mostly wanted to sequels and remakes. And there are plenty of those on tap for 2014 — and a few of them even look promising! (A very few.) So in the spirit of looking forward, let’s have a glance at some of the films we’re most looking forward to in the new year.
The Monuments Men (February 7)
The combination of a fascinating true story (a team of art experts and historians try to save stolen artworks during the final days of WWII), the reliable direction of George Clooney, and an amazing cast (Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban) made this one of our most anticipated movies of 2013—and then they went and bumped the damn thing out of the crowded holiday season. The February release date is a far less confident one, but we’re still antsy to see what Clooney and Company have cooked up in this Ocean’s Eleven for the History Channel set.
This true story from director Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball), about the murder of Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz by paranoid millionaire John du Pont, was also slated to open in December of 2013, but was bumped to this year (the exact date has not yet been set). Its brief teaser trailer, released before that bump, is promising indeed—a dramatic turn by Steve Carell, a sense of scary menace from director Miller, and a reunion with his Capote screenwriter Dan Futterman (who co-wrote with Something Wild scribe E. Max Frye).
Gone Girl (October 3)
Confession: your film editor has not yet read Gillian Flynn’s bestseller (I gotta lotta movies to watch, you guys). But I’m at a point where I’d go see a film adaptation of Jersey Shore if David Fincher directed it—that was not a challenge, Mr. Fincher—and he’s assembled a first-rate cast for this mystery thriller, including Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Kim Dickens, Neil Patrick Harris, Scoot McNairy, Patrick Fugit, and Casey Wilson.
Jon Stewart took a long break from his Daily Show gig—during the Summer of Carlos Danger, even—to make this, his debut feature as screenwriter/director. It tells the true story of Maziar Bahari, an Iranian Canadian journalist who was imprisoned by the Iranian government for over 100 days in 2009, accused of espionage activities (including, oddly enough, delivering coded messages during a Daily Show appearance). The leap from satirical television host to director of a very serious true story seems a big one, but if anyone can pull it off, it’s Mr. Stewart.
Nymphomaniac (March 21)
Pretty much every bit of information that’s dribbled out (if you’ll pardon the visual) about the latest from provocateur-in-chief Lars von Trier—Hardcore sex! Running time battles! Two-part structure! Orgasm posters! Shia LaBeouf!—has caught our attention, and for good reason; a talent and troublemaker like von Trier making a sex movie promises either a jaw-dropping wonder or a train wreck of the highest order. Either way, we’ll be there.
The Raid 2: Berandal (March 28)
Yes, fine, I know, complaining about sequels in the intro and then including one (three, actually) in our countdown is a tad hypocritical. But seriously, DID YOU SEE The Raid: Redemption? We’ll follow Gareth Evans down whatever nutty series rabbit hole he wants to take us down—and besides that, Asian action cinema tends to be the one subset of world filmmaking where sequels often equal (or even surpass) their originals.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1 (November 21)
Jennifer Lawrence, her boring boyfriends, and Catching Fire director Francis Lawrence are all back for the latest installment in the Hunger Games saga, with Julianne Moore entering the mix as President Alma Coin. And even our annoyance with the suddenly de rigueur cash-hoarding move of separating the last book of a series into two movies can not stifle our excitement to see where they go from here.
Muppets Most Wanted (March 21)
Jason Segal’s out this time around, but co-writer Nicholas Stoller and director James Bobin are back to try and re-create the magic of 2011’s Muppet reboot. It may be a bit of a tall order, but kudos for having the good sense to hire Tina Fey and Ricky Gervais for the job. (And Ty Burrell, even if he’s clearly doing a Clouseau impression.)
This is Where I Leave You (September 12)
Speaking of Clouseau impressions, director Shawn Levy’s less-than-distinguished filmography includes the likes of that terrible 2006 remake, the Night at the Museum movies, and Cheaper by the Dozen. On the other hand, he also made the modestly entertaining Date Night, and had the good sense to reunite with Tina Fey for Jonathan Tropper’s adaptation of his book, which places her in one of the year’s most promising ensemble casts: Jason Bateman, Connie Britton, Adam Driver, Corey Stoll, Jane Fonda, Rose Byrne, Timothy Olyphant, Abigail Spencer, Dax Shepard, and Ben Schwartz.
Unbroken (December 25)
Angelina Jolie directs the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete and WWII bombardier, stranded at sea after a crash and then taken as a prisoner of war by the Japanese. It’s a survival story, in other words (they’re all the rage these days, don’tcha know), and Jolie earned her stripes as a true-story dramatic filmmaker with 2011’s acclaimed In the Land of Blood and Honey, but here’s where it gets interesting: the script is credited to Joel and Ethan Coen, doing a rare bit of for-hire screenwriting and raising the possibility that this could be something far more interesting and unpredictable than first glance would indicate.
Interstellar (November 7)
Christopher Nolan is one of the few marquee directors who didn’t put out a great new movie in 2013 (keep clicking for a couple more of them); he shepherded Zack Snyder’s problematic Man of Steel to the screen, and started shooting his latest effort, a science fiction story of space travel, wormholes, and alternate dimensions. The cast is impressive: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Ellen Burstyn, Matt Damon, Casey Affleck, John Lithgow, David Oyelowo, and good-luck charm Michael Caine, who has appeared in every Nolan film since Batman Begins.
Transcendence (April 17)
Nolan had to shed his other good-luck charm, longtime cinematographer Wally Pfister, so he could go off and direct a sci-fi film of his own: this artificial intelligence thriller, featuring Johnny Depp (who’s overdue for a good movie), Rebecca Hall (who’s overdue to become a giant star), Kata Mara, Paul Bettany, and Dark Knight alums Morgan Freeman and Cillian Murphy.
Veronica Mars (March 14)
Rob Thomas’s three-season mystery was one of the most unjustly unwatched television shows in recent memory—a witty, energetic, fast-paced thriller with a sharp ensemble cast, led by one of the most fascinating female characters on the tube. But its fans were dedicated and loyal, and when the Kickstarter call went out, they stepped up. Come March, we’ll see if it was worth the trouble and the wait. No pressure, Rob.
Inherent Vice (TBD)
Paul Thomas Anderson has taken so long between movies lately (five years between Punch Drunk Love and There Will Be Blood, another five between Blood and The Master) that it almost seems too good to be true that he’s already got another one in the can—let alone that it’s an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice, set in the ‘70s-era Los Angeles where Anderson’s idol Robert Altman made so many of his best films (including The Long Goodbye, which may turn out to be this picture’s spiritual godfather). The giant cast includes Master star Joaquin Phoenix, Benicio del Toro, Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Josh Brolin, Martin Short, Jena Malone, and Anderson’s longtime partner Maya Rudolph, and we’re gonna go get in line for tickets to this bad boy right now.
The Grand Budapest Hotel (March 7)
And finally, something that is always cause for celebration: a new film from Wes Anderson, mixing up regulars like Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, and Adrien Brody, Moonrise Kingdom alums Tilda Swinton, Harvey Ketiel, and Edward Norton, and new additions Ralph Fiennes, Saoirse Ronan, Jude Law, Tom Wilkinson, and F. Murray Abraham. Good cast, funny trailers, sharp look, fun style—c’mon, it’s a new Wes Anderson. What else do you need to know?