North Texas Daily

Looking ahead: 2014’s best early movies

Looking ahead: 2014’s best early movies

Looking ahead: 2014’s best early movies
January 14
12:28 2014

Preston Barta / Film Critic

Next year is already being touted as one of the biggest years ever in the world of cinema. “Star Wars: Episode VII,” “James Bond No. 24,” “The Avengers 2” and “Batman vs. Superman” are all set to release in those auspicious 365 days. Until then, 2014 has plenty in the pipeline for movie-lovers to sink their teeth into— so long as audiences can handle a full slate of remakes, reboots and sequels.

Two weeks into the new year this claim might seem doubtful, especially with critical bombs such as “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” and “The Legend of Hercules” having already flopped into theaters. Luckily, there are far more flicks on the horizon that seem to promise more than the dismal stuff that rolls around each January.

First out of the gate is “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” (Jan. 17), loosely based on the late Tom Clancy’s most famous fictional character. Starring Chris Pine, Keira Knightley and the very busy Kevin Costner—who is due to star in five films this year— this prequel to the “Jack Ryan” saga will showcase Ryan’s younger days as played by Pine (“Star Trek,” 2009).

Departing wildly from the best-selling novels, the story focuses on the young CIA analyst as he uncovers and attempts to thwart a Russian terrorist’s plot against the United States. While it may seem like a subject that’s been done to death, it may offer enough thrills to steer 2014 in the right direction.

The upcoming film to watch, however, is “The Monuments Men” (Feb. 7), a George Clooney-directed true story about an unlikely group of soldiers tasked with saving priceless works of art from destruction by the Nazis. A star-studded cast featuring Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, John Goodman and Bill Murray, promises to deliver cinematic gold.

Also opening on Feb. 7, is “RoboCop,” a reboot of the 1987 original starring UNT alumnus Peter Weller. This time around Joel Kinnaman (“The Killing”) dons the robotic armor when OmniCorp CEO (Michael Keaton) attempts to mass-produce mechanized law enforcement. The film also stars Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Abbie Cornish and Jackie Earle Haley.

Mercifully, on the other hand, there are a few movies coming up that don’t feel the urge to use pre-existing entities as a crutch. One of them, besides Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated “Interstellar” (Nov. 7), is Hayao Miyazaki’s final animated film, “The Wind Rises” (Feb. 21). An all-star roster of voice talents has been assembled, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Elijah Wood and Emily Blunt. The film is a fictionalized biography of Jiro Horikoshi (Gordon-Levitt), the man who designed Japanese fighter planes during World War II.

If it has the unhappy distinction of being the last feature by Miyazaki (“Howl’s Moving Castle,” 2004), and if the movie is as good as the trailer shows it to be, “The Wind Rises” should allow the director to make a glorious, albeit premature, exit at the height of his powers.

Texas-native Wes Anderson (“Moonrise Kingdom,” 2012) aims to strike gold again on March 7 with “The Grand Budapest Motel,” a comedy-drama that recounts the adventures of a concierge played by the ever-charismatic Ralph Fiennes (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2”). Supported by the likes of Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Owen Wilson and Tilda Swinton, Anderson seems set to deliver another fantastic movie with his unusual and eccentric style.

2014 also seems to be the year of The Bible, given the presence of two movie adaptations including Ridley Scott’s Moses story, “Exodus” (Dec. 12). Leading the charge is director Darren Aronofsky (“Black Swan,” 2011) with “Noah.” Opening on March 28 and starring Russell Crowe as the world’s most famous Boatwright, the film features performances from Emma Watson, Jennifer Connelly and Anthony Hopkins. This Biblical tale should be a visual treat for Aronofsky fans.

For those who cannot wait for “The Avengers 2”—or “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” to be precise—Marvel Studios has a few appetizers this year to hold you over until the superheroes assemble again, with another outing for “The Amazing Spider-Man” (May 2), more mutant mayhem with “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (May 23) and a debut appearance for the “Guardians of the Galaxy” (Aug. 1). But first up is “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (Apr. 4).

Based on the most popular Captain America comic book story, “Winter Soldier” promises the return of Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), who you may or may not remember from 2011’s “Captain America: The First Avenger,” in a supposed throwback to ‘70s spy thrillers. Color us excited.

Another movie to look forward to, just based off the entire film festival buzz from last year, is Scarlett Johansson’s “Under the Skin” (Apr. 4). In this surrealist sci-fi, Johansson (“Lost in Translation,” 2003) plays an alien sent to Earth to gather information on our species as she feeds on the men she seduces

While it sounds eerie and maybe even similar to “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1978) and “Species” (1995), the word is it’s a psychosexual horror piece that gets as close to being a Stanley Kubrick film without being a Kubrick film. If you’re a RTVF student, you’re  probably sold already.

On April 18, Christopher Nolan’s longtime cinematographer, Wally Pfister (“The Dark Knight” trilogy), makes his directorial debut in a film about a terminally ill scientist who transfers his consciousness to a computer, raising existential questions in the process. Johnny Depp stars in “Transcendence” as said scientist alongside Morgan Freeman, Kate Mara and Paul Bettany.

And lastly, after we can’t think anymore because of semester-end finals, why not see Seth Rogen and Zac Efron go head-to-head in an epic battle of wits, stamina and absurdity in “Neighbors” on May 9?

Shaping up to be one of the year’s comedy highlights, the film tells of a couple (Rogen and Rose Byrne) with a newborn baby, who face unexpected difficulties when they are forced to live next to a fraternity.

It’s frat boy versus family man, and we’re happy to see “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” (2008) director Nicholas Stoller tackling R-rated comedy again. Aside from star studded leads, Dave Franco (“21 Jump Street,” 2012) and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (“Superbad,” 2007) make this even more of a laugh riot.

If 2014 is anything like 2013, it will prove a great year for filmgoers. Of course, all the year’s finest features will come after the summer’s blockbuster season, however, you might find a few gems in the early half of the year— maybe even a few listed above.

Look for our movie reviews throughout the semester by going to

Feature photo: Frat boy Zac Efron battles Seth Rogen in “Neighbors.” Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

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