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14 Films for 2014

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A yearly tradition continues. I don’t much enjoy these early-year looking-ahead lists; I’ll still be in 2013 mode until I catch up with everything that eluded me before the turn of the calendar. Nevertheless, on a day like today one can’t help survey the calendar and mark his or her most-anticipated movie days. And 2014 has a lot—more than 2013 did at this time.

A quick caveat: release dates can be a little tricky to pin down this time of year. Anything without 2014 confirmation wasn’t considered for this list (Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner, any number of Terrence Malick films). I did consider movies without rock-solid dates if they premiered at a major festival last year. Holding them until 2015 seems extremely unlikely. I also considered films that were moved out of 2013 even if they don’t have a definitive release date at this time.

14.) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes wasn’t just one of 2011’s biggest surprises; it was one of that year’s best movies. Director Rupert Wyatt is gone for its sequel, but his replacement is a good one—Matt Reeves, of Cloverfield and Let Me In fame.

13.) X-Men: Days of Future Past

The X-Men movie to end all X-Men movies. The casts of the original trilogy and First Class join forces in a time-traveling, Avengers-esque experiment that has me awfully curious. Under the guidance of director Bryan Singer (who gave us X-Men and X2 before bolting for Superman Returns), I feel confident this will be the superhero movie of the summer.

12.) The Monuments Men

Your former 2014 Best Picture frontrunner (sight unseen, of course) had to be moved out of its December release date because director George Clooney didn’t have enough time to wrap up some special effects work. It’s now the film world’s most-anticipated major February release in…forever? Yes, the February release date doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence, but the film looks and sounds like a lot of fun, and if Sony thought it could squeeze some more money out of this project with multiplexes clear of competition, I won’t begrudge them that.

11.) The Immigrant

I’m not the James Gray devotee so many cinephiles seem to be, but his latest is one of the few 2013 Cannes Competition titles left to see the light of day. While it went home empty-handed at the festival, it received mostly stellar reviews. I’m especially curious to see Marion Cotillard give what sounds like a great performance. It’s been a while for one of my favorite actresses.

10.) Night Moves

This one is all about its director. Kelly Reichardt is an American treasure. The same can be said about Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy (sorry, Meek’s Cutoff fans). Her latest premiered on the fall festival circuit to mostly positive reviews. It stars Dakota Fanning and Jesse Eisenberg as eco-terrorists.

9.) Under the Skin

Another film from the fall festivals. This one comes from Sexy Beast and Birth director Jonathan Glazer. His penchant for finding beautiful images is matched only by the uncompromising darkness in the stories he chooses to tell. Here, Scarlett Johansson stars as an alien who devours drifters and hitchhikers in Scotland.

8.) Noah

I generally avoid watching trailers, but I couldn’t help it for Darren Aronofsky’s latest. One of my favorite filmmakers tackling a biblical epic? Give me the footage now. So I caught the first trailer for Noah, and guess what? It was pretty underwhelming. But hey, it’s Aronofsky, and Paramount put a ton of money into this one. If they want to sell it as a straight-forward epic, by all means, but I’m not buying…yet. It’s Aronofsky. IT’S ARONOFSKY.

7.) The Double

Another fall festival title. This one comes from director Richard Ayoade and stars Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska. I’m not familiar with the director’s Submarine, but The Double intrigues me nonetheless. It’s based on a Dostoevsky story about a timid man’s doppleganger showing up and ruining his life. Sounds wild.

6.) Interstellar

Though the recent teaser told us nothing, I have no reason to doubt Christopher Nolan. That he’s teaming up with one of Hollywood’s hottest actors in Matthew McConaughey and one of its best actresses in Jessica Chastain makes Interstellar even more enticing. Space? Wormholes? Whatever, don’t care. Nolan’s in the director’s chair. I’m there.

5.) Enemy

Denis Villeneuve directed one of my favorite films of 2013 in Prisoners, and most TIFF attendees who saw that thriller at the festival thought it was the second-best of two Villeneuve films playing TIFF. Enemy was the other, and like Prisoners, Jake Gyllenhaal stars. It’s the second film on my countdown (after The Double) to deal with dopplegangers, but it sounds like Enemy is much darker and more surprising than the Ayoade comedy.

4.) Gone Girl

Here’s what I know about Gillian Flynn’s best-seller Gone Girl: its film adaptation stars Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, and it will be directed by David Fincher. Yes, David Fincher. That’s all I need to know.

3.) Foxcatcher

Like The Monuments Men, Foxcatcher was moved out of a prime awards season release date into 2014. Unlike The Monuments Men, Foxcatcher isn’t getting released in February. I’m still expecting Bennett Miller’s latest to be a major awards contender—especially when it comes to Steve Carell’s performance. But awards movie or not, I can’t wait to see Foxcatcher. That trailer was killer, and Miller (Capote, Moneyball) hasn’t let us down yet.

2.) The Grand Budapest Hotel

The latest Wes Anderson movie looks and sounds exactly like you think it would. Since Moonrise Kingdom and Matt Zoller Seitz’s The Wes Anderson Collection, Anderson has experienced a revival of sorts among the (I mean this in a good way) elitist cinephile types. Those who vowed to be finished with the writer-director after the “too Wes Anderson-y” The Life Aquatic and The Darjeeling Limited were back in his corner. But whether you’ve just hopped back on the Anderson train or you’ve been riding all along, The Grand Budapest Hotel promises a lot of laughs.

1.) Snowpiercer

My most-anticipated movie of 2014 is the one I was least confident about placing on this list. I’m not certain Bong Joon-ho’s English-language debut—a post-apocalyptic action-thriller about a train that carries the last survivors of a global ice age—will receive a theatrical release. It’s a Weinstein property, and there’s been much written about Harvey’s insistence that the film gets cut down. So if we see it, who’s version will it be? And seriously, will we see it? There’s still no release date. It’s cleared theaters in some countries already. I’m concerned for its fate, but I’m so excited by the idea of Snowpiercer that I couldn’t help but put it atop this list.

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