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2014 Summer Movie Preview: Part 1

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You can’t go anywhere—on the internet, your television, or in person—without being inundated with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ads, which tells this guy one thing: the movie is coming soon…though you could have said the same thing a year ago considering the over-saturation of this baby.

I jest because I care—or at least I used to. I don’t have the time, energy, or desire to keep up with the blockbuster calendar any longer, so my very recent dive into what’s coming to theaters this summer was eye-opening. It could be an interesting summer what with very few potential mega-blockbusters and a handful of sequels or “original” properties that seem genuinely interesting. I’m certainly more bullish about this year’s major studio fare than I was 2013’s lineup. And from the point of view of an independent movie fan, I’m jazzed about what the next few months have to offer.

But that’s for a later date. I’m sticking with the big stuff for Part 1 of my 2014 summer movie preview—a reverse-order top 10 of the films I’m most excited about. It’s a list that features dragons, apes, and a raccoon. Plus, Channing Tatum times two!

10.) Jupiter Ascending

Nothing about this original sci-fi film’s trailer grabbed me, and its cast (Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Sean Bean) doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence. After Cloud Atlas, however, the Wachowskis have earned a pass from yours truly. I’ll give Andy and Lana the benefit of the doubt for now. Their last was too damn good.

9.) Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

This film’s inclusion on any most-anticipated list ought to be indicative of the dearth of promising big studio summer movies. Kicked around for years, it’s almost hard to believe a sequel to 2005’s fantastic Sin City has made it to the big screen, but I wonder (and have since rumors of its arrival began years ago) if that film needs a sequel—especially when so many of Sin City‘s amazingly well-drawn characters won’t be returning. Still, this won’t look like other summer movies, and for that, I’m intrigued. Here’s hoping it brings something new to this world.

8.) The Giver

Maybe if I had read the beloved book upon which Phillip Noyce’s film is based, I’d have The Giver higher on my list. But I haven’t, and it isn’t. It sounds like it could be good—a futuristic prestige film if one ever existed. Jeff Bridges is great. Meryl Streep usually is, too. The real lead, however, is an unknown, and the premise doesn’t do much for me—probably why I haven’t read the book.

7.) Guardians of the Galaxy

I’m about done with the Marvel universe, but ever since I learned about the ragtag group of B-superheroes that star in this film, I’ve been intrigued. Chris Pratt, too, as the film’s lead is an inspired casting choice. The trailer was a lot of fun. I’m really hoping it strays from the exhausted formula.

6.) X-Men: Days of Future Past

I’m not interested in superhero world-building anymore, so what I hope we get here is a fun, twisty X-Men story with great action, fun sci-fi, and more brilliant work from Michael Fassbender as young Magneto.

5.) How to Train Your Dragon 2

The sequel to Dreamworks’s best movie nearly fills the big hole in the summer movie schedule left by Pixar’s absence.

4.) 22 Jump Street

One of the funniest movies of the last few years returns everyone, including two of the most exciting directors working today—Phil Lord and Chris Miller. I have no idea why this film exists, but I know I laughed my ass off during many viewings of 21 Jump Street. Why wouldn’t the same happen here?

3.) Neighbors

This one wasn’t much on my radar, but the reviews are uniformly excellent, and the trailer is uproarious. Last year was pitiful for summer comedies. 2014 ought to be a step up, and that starts—both chronologically and qualitatively—with Neighbors.

2.) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Talk about a film I never would have expected to see made. Rise of the Planet of the Apes sounded like an awful idea back in 2011, but it turned out to be a truly exceptional film. Dawn might have been my number one most-anticipated film of the summer if its predecessor’s director (Rupert Wyatt) was returning. In the hands of Cloverfield‘s and Let Me In‘s Matt Reeves, I’m a little less confident, but everything we’ve seen looks promising. Plus, Gary Oldman!

1.) Godzilla

Color me surprised. I’m not a huge Monsters fan, and one has to assume that’s the film that earned director Gareth Evans this gig. I’m not particularly attached to the Godzilla story, either. But some slick marketing materials and a great cast can do wonders for a film’s cache, and there’s something to be said about a non-superhero action movie standing out in today’s summer movie marketplace. My top two films—two films with more uniformly positive buzz than arguably any other potential action blockbusters—prove the power in (relative) originality of execution, even if they aren’t “original” properties themselves.

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