Movie critics, academies and various guilds spend the first few months of every year taking stock of the one before it — a ritual culminating in this year's Academy Awards on March 2. But while so much attention is being placed on 2013, the real fun lies ahead.
This is a totally subjective, completely biased look at what is coming to movie theaters in 2014, and we included some important Oklahoma films that are debuting this month at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Beyond that, all release dates are subject to change, just like real life.
Oscar-nominated actor William H. Macy makes his directorial debut with the musical drama “Rudderless,” which was filmed last year in Oklahoma City and Guthrie. The film is still searching for a buyer to bring it to a big screen near us, and fingers are crossed that it finds one this month at the Sundance Film Festival, where it is showing three times, including in the prestigious closing night slot. Penned by Edmond screenwriters Casey Twenter and Jeff Robison, with an assist from Macy, “Rudderless” follows a grieving former ad executive (Billy Crudup) who starts an unlikely rock band after finding some of his late son's demo tapes. Anton Yelchin, Selena Gomez, Laurence Fishburne and Felicity Huffman co-star.
“This May Be the Last Time,” a documentary about American Indian music from Oklahoma-based filmmakers Sterlin Harjo and Matt Leach, also is making its world premiere at Sundance. The most personal film to date for director Harjo (“Barking Water,” “Four Sheets to the Wind”), it explores the mystery of his grandfather's death in the context of the influential and endangered ceremonial music of the Creek Nation, which played a key role in his family's grief.
Austin, Texas-based writer and director Richard Linklater started making “Boyhood” in 2002, then shot the film in small sections over the next 12 years to explore the changing relationship between Mason (Ellar Salmon) and his parents (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette) from first grade to high school graduation. Linklater proved he is a director who takes the long view of stories with his “Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight” series, and this will be a fascinating experiment — possibly a historic one.
Phil Lord and Chris Miller are the go-to guys for unlikely adaptations — they turned the gentle 1970s children's book “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” into a fast-paced, computer-generated hit, and made the 1980s cops-in-high-school melodrama “21 Jump Street” into one of the funniest and smartest dumb comedies in years. Now, Lord and Miller raid your kid's toy box for “The LEGO Movie,” which puts “minifig” Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) in league with LEGO superheroes, including Superman (Channing Tatum), Batman (Will Arnett) and Wonder Woman (Cobie Smulders).
With “Monuments Men,” superstar George Clooney is doing it all — starring, directing, producing and co-writing — to foil the Nazis. Based on the true story of the greatest treasure hunt in history, the World War II action-thriller follows a platoon of museum curators and historians dispatched by President Franklin D. Roosevelt behind enemy lines in Germany to steal back and return to the rightful owners artistic masterpieces stolen by the Nazis. Along with Clooney, the stellar cast includes Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin and John Goodman.
Sure, a “RoboCop” remake seems like a direct violation of a taste or decency code. But with a strong cast (Joel Kinnaman of “The Killing,” Michael K. Williams, Gary Oldman, Samuel L. Jackson, Abbie Cornish and Michael Keaton), the Brazilian director of the “Elite Squad” films (Jose Padilha), and a trailer that seems to get both the action and the satire right, well, we'd buy that for a dollar.
The first of two films in 2014 related to graphic novelist Frank Miller (see also “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For”), “300: Rise of an Empire” is a sequel to 2007's “300,” directed by Zack Snyder, taking place before, during and after that film. Snyder returns to write and produce; Noam Murro directs. In something of a first, the comic book on which the film is based won't be completed and released before the debut of the film, as Miller's Hollywood responsibilities have kept him from finishing the art, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Wes Anderson shot in three different screen widths — one for each timeline of his story — for “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” a sprawling comedy-drama featuring several of Anderson's repertory players (Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Bob Balaban) and actors who should have been invited to the party years ago (welcome, Jeff Goldblum).
Back in 2011, writers Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller teamed with director James Bobin to reboot “The Muppets,” and triumphantly brought the late Jim Henson's funny, furry creations back to cinema screens. Now, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and the rest of the lovable critters are back for “Muppets Most Wanted,” in which they get tangled up in a European jewel-heist caper headed by a Kermit the Frog look-alike and his dastardly sidekick. Segel isn't on board for the sequel, but the felt friends have Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey and a slew of celebrity cameos for backup. Even better, songsmith Bret McKenzie, who won an Oscar for his work on the 2011 reboot, is back to give the Muppets their music.
With the small-screen success of “The Bible” miniseries, it's not surprising to find 2014 vying to become the year of the big-screen biblical epic. Visionary writer and director Darren Aronofsky's long-awaited “Noah” is the first of two hotly anticipated cinematic offerings taken from the Old Testament due out this year (see also “Exodus”). With Aronofsky at the helm, it's unlikely that “Noah” will sail the same familiar waters of the Scripture-based films that came before it, but the auteur has an excellent cast — Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins and Emma Watson — helping him steer the boat.
In “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” Chris Evans returns as Captain America following the events of “The Avengers.” Steve Rogers learns to cope with the modern world, but when a conspiracy involving the mysterious Winter Soldier is discovered, Captain America must team up with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and the Falcon (Anthony Mackie) to stop a covert enemy.
While Marc Webb's reboot of the Spider-Man franchise didn't hit the box-office heights of its Sam Raimi-directed predecessors, the franchise is still one of Sony's most potent performers. With “Amazing Spider-Man 2,” Andrew Garfield returns as Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man, in the sequel, where he'll face off against Electro, played by Jamie Foxx.
After Roland Emmerich's gigantic 1998 reptilian misstep, at least Gareth Edwards' new “Godzilla” looks like the real deal instead of a juiced-up tyrannosaurus rex. Edwards is coming off 2010's low-budget, high-yield “Monsters,” and “Godzilla” is his shot at mega-funded tentpole entertainment. The biggest question going into this version, which stars Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, is whether “Godzilla” comes too soon after Guillermo Del Toro's kinda-sorta 2013 version, “Pacific Rim.”
Based on a 1981 storyline in “Uncanny X-Men,” “X-Men: Days of Future Past” will tie together the timeline of the original “X-Men” trilogy with the world of “X-Men: First Class.” Bryan Singer returns to direct as Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) travels back in time to stop a potential catastrophe. Singer told Entertainment Weekly that the film is neither a reboot nor a conventional sequel — “I call it an inbetweequel,” he said.
“Ted's” Seth MacFarlane is going West, directing, co-writing, producing and starring in the comedic Western “A Million Ways to Die in the West.” The funnyman plays a cowardly shepherd who loses his girl (Amanda Seyfried) when he backs out of a gunfight. But a lovely and mysterious newcomer (Charlize Theron) helps him regain his courage. Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Silverman, Liam Neeson and Oklahoma-bred actors Wes Studi and Rex Linn co-star.
Angelina Jolie brings the iconic villainess of the 1959 animated classic “Sleeping Beauty” to live-action life with the origin story “Maleficent,” which traces the poisoned roots of the vengeful witch's rivalry with King Stefan (“District 9's” Sharlto Copley), the father of Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning).
DreamWorks Animation stepped up its game with 2010's “How to Train Your Dragon” and then turned the series about Vikings and flying lizards into a successful TV franchise. What makes “How to Train Your Dragon 2” different from “DreamWorks Dragons” other than animation quality? This new story about Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel), Astrid (America Ferrera) and Toothless takes place five years after the original, when Hiccup and his friends are in their late teens. Kristen Wiig, T.J. Miller, Gerard Butler and Craig Ferguson all return to lend their voice talents to this CG epic.
War is coming between man and ape in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” the sequel to 2011's “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” A band of genetically enhanced apes led by Caesar (Andy Serkis) clashes with a band of human survivors eight years after the release of the virus that struck humanity.
Mila Kunis stars as Jupiter Jones, a Russian immigrant janitor who discovers that she could be the future ruler of the universe, in Andy and Lana Wachowski's “Jupiter Ascending.” Channing Tatum stars as the pointy-eared intergalactic mercenary who discovers Jupiter in the Wachowskis' follow-up to 2012's “Cloud Atlas.”
James Gunn directs the space-faring Marvel Comics adaptation “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) steals a powerful orb from the villainous Ronan the Accuser (Chickasha-born actor Lee Pace). Quill allies himself with others who oppose Ronan, including Gamera (Zoe Saldana), Rocket Raccoon (voice of Bradley Cooper), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) and the treelike alien Groot (voice and motion capture by Vin Diesel), to keep the orb away from Ronan and guard the galaxy from its power.
A popular property from the 1980s and '90s, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” gets rebooted in a new film, produced by Michael Bay. There has been lots of drama online about changes that may be coming for the characters. Megan Fox (“Transformers”) is signed on to play Turtle confidant April O'Neil. William Fichtner (“The Lone Ranger”) is the Turtles' enemy, Shredder.
“Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,” the sequel to 2005's “Sin City,” will mix the storyline from the “A Dame to Kill For” graphic novel by Frank Miller with other “Sin City” tales, some original to the film. Eva Green is the titular dame to kill for; Josh Brolin takes over for Clive Owen as Dwight. Rosario Dawson, Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke and Bruce Willis return; Joseph Gordon-Levitt joins the cast as Johnny, a cocky gambler.
Having wrapped his Batman trilogy, writer and director Christopher Nolan turns his attention to the stars with “Interstellar,” about a group of explorers who venture into a newly found wormhole that makes it possible to go far beyond the limitations on human space travel. The stellar cast for his new epic includes Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, Michael Caine and Ellen Burstyn.
“Catching Fire” narrowly bested “Iron Man 3” to become the top domestic box office draw of 2013, which should only send the already sky-high anticipation for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1” soaring even higher. In the third of four films based on Suzanne Collins' best-selling trilogy, courageous teenager Katniss Everdeen (Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence) reluctantly becomes the symbol of a massive uprising against the corrupt Capitol and its tyrannical President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Four-time Oscar nominee Julianne Moore joins a cast that already includes Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Despite his rather uneven track record, director Ridley Scott (“Blade Runner,” “Alien”) has a well-established penchant for crafting thought-provoking action films. So he just might be the right man to make “Exodus,” bringing to the big screen the story of Moses (Oscar winner Christian Bale) leading the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage and eventually to the Promised Land. Scott's Biblical epic co-stars Aaron Paul, Joel Edgerton, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley and John Turturro.
To be determined
Danish director Thomas Vinterberg, whose superb drama “The Hunt” is Denmark's Oscar contender for best foreign language film, adapts “Far From the Madding Crowd,” Thomas Hardy literary classic about an independent young beauty (Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan) who is pursued by three very different suitors, played by Matthias Schoenaerts, Tom Sturridge and Michael Sheen.
If you get through all of these, you'll be ready for 2015, where rumblings about “Star Wars VII” and the as-yet-untitled Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman film already are enticing, and at times enraging, film fans. But for now, from potential Oscar nominees to popcorn blockbusters, 2014's films are ready for their close-up.