It’s nearing that time where the second half of the film calendar begins. Currently the sun is out in the British summer but by the time you’ve read this sentence, it will probably be over. There’s no better place to shelter form the weather than the cinema. When it’s too damn hot and you realise that Britain isn’t equipped at all with little amounts of air-con installed elsewhere, the cinema is the best place to cool off. When the weather turns to the more frightful, you can sit inside the dark room all cosy, only hearing the rumble of the stereo rather than the storm. That’s why it’s time to look forward to many cinema trips during the second half of 2014.
Currently, the year has been a bit of a mixed-bag. As usual, we get the delayed Oscar fair here in the UK which brought us Steve McQueen’s powerful, Oscar winning 12 Years a Slave; it gave us another classic piece by Martin Scorsese with the white-collared Goodfellas, The Wolf of Wall Street; and it gave us Spike Jonze’s wonderful romance Her which spoilt our eyes thanks to the beautiful cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema. Then we’ve had the bittersweet swansong of the legendary Hayao Miyazaki, the surprising and refreshing blockbuster of Edge of Tomorrow and the most brutal actioner since, well, The Raid with The Raid 2. That along with two impressive films from Lord and Miller with The Lego Movie and 22 Jump Street. Even X-Men: Days of Future Past – their most ambitious product yet – had a lot of hype, a lot of potential but Bryan Singer’s capable hands crafted an intelligent ensemble blockbuster.
That’s not to say that the year has been brilliant. Aaron Paul’s feature follow ups to Breaking Bad have been poorly received – not his performances which have still been sterling. Gareth Edwards’s Godzilla gave new life to the creature but unfortunately not the characters surrounding it, leading to many impressive moments but wholly disappointing by the sheer mediocrity surrounding it. Disney’s possible foray into villainy was eventually a cutesy reimagining of one of their scariest villains with Maleficent, which instead sowed way too much sympathy into a protagonist that revelled in villainy for a single scene – Angelina Jolie really does impress in it, but sadly not much else does. With Jupiter Ascending from the Wasachowski siblings sadly pushed back to February 2015 in the UK, it can feel a little empty currently. 3 Days to Kill recently came out but that has not improved this year. Don’t let that dampen your spirits.
Let’s look at the top 20 films still to come in 2014 – big and small – that are worth looking forward to.
Note: Though there are no foreign releases here, it is because there appears to be no widely released films scheduled for the cinema. Though there are sure to be many great ones, is unlikely that they will get the wide distribution that some others did. Apologies!
Joe – 25th of July
One thing David Gordon Green is, is predictable. Starting off with well-made, original pieces that were mostly heavy on the dramatic, he branched off into comedy with Pineapple Express, Your Highness and The Sitter. When you thought he was only going to be doing studio comedies starring different variations of everyone from This is the End but no. Instead of continuing along that line, he directed Prince Avalanche with Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch, a remake of a film called Either Way. It puts them outside civilisation, painting road lines in the summer of 1988 in an isolated woodland area in a odd but likeable drama-comedy. Now he returns with another indie film but this time starring Nicolas Cage and Tye Sherdian (Mud, The Tree of Life). Nicolas Cage plays an unlikely role model as an ex-con who is given the choice of “redemption or ruin”. Vague, yes, but intriguing nonetheless and with David Gordon Green directing a first feature written by Gary Hawkins, who keeps himself in good company being thanked in George Washington and Mud. Being described by critics as “darkly comic” while being a “defiantly bleak work that contains moments of physical and emotional violence brutal enough to startle even the most hardened of moviegoer.” How can you not be excited by those words? The considerable talent of David Gordon Green is clear and he, along with Jeff Nichols and several other American indie directors, are the talent to look out for because they contain a masterpiece within them.
The Purge: Anarchy – 25th of July
Last year, the marketing made this a surprise success thanks to its concept of “What if crime was legal for 12 hours? What would you do? What would happen?” Unfortunately, the film turned into a typical home invasion horror made a little bit more memorable by its concept and a few well done moments. It was irked by poor characters – especially Lena Headey’s shrieking wife. Although it can’t be said if the characters are better, it does seem like the sequel has thankfully embraced its insane concept, taking it to the streets. The trailer already has shown more originality than its predecessor – a You’re Next copy to beat the good word out of Toronto after their distribution delay. No stars, per se, but there’s talent in Frank Grillo, Michael K. Williams and Kiele Sanchez. If it finally delivers on its concept, this could become an interesting annual franchise instalment.
Guardians of the Galaxy – 31st of July
Superhero fatigue can start to creep in. It can be hard to care for something that is supposed to be an interconnected, expanding universe while having fully conclusive singular films. Thor: The Dark World was one of these. It was not a bad film but the narrative was too conclusive for franchise filmmaking. The sting contained in it though teased for something that expanded the Marvel cinematic universe to an actual universe, taking it far into the confines of space. James Gunn (writer of Dawn of the Dead, Scooby-Doo and writer-director of Super) helms this bizarre addition to their franchise. It was a small comic that got cancelled after barely any issues – compared to normal comics, that is. It’s a relatively unknown property but that’s what’s exciting about this one. It expands the Marvel mythos while (hopefully) connecting it to the current one. It’s new. It’s different. The trailer alone proves that. It has a fantastic cast with Chris Pratt as the lead, Starlord, supported by Vin Diesel, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, John C. Reilly, Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro. Star power or what? This should wake up the audience, getting everyone excited for comic book films again. Our introduction to the characters is a great way to familiarise and excite yourself.
The Rover – 15th of August
Previewed at Cannes earlier this year, David Michôd pictures what would happen 10 years after a global financial crash. Guy Pearce plays Eric, a loner who decides to exact revenge on the people who stole his car, the last thing he owns. After capturing one of the thieves’ wounded brothers, using him as a form of extortion, they unusually bond on Eric’s dangerous revenge plot. Joel Edgerton helped write the story but the screenplay is written by the director David Michôd but it seems to be a type of Mad Max without being Mad Max. Entirely gritty and nihilistic, losing the comic book villainy of both Mad Max films. If dark, brooding dystopian drama-thrillers are your thing then The Rover looks to be a contender for your films of the year. Especially considering it contains a supposedly outstanding performance from Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson who, post-Twilight, seems to have an array of offers from interesting filmmakers.
Lucy – 22nd of August
Despite the fact that the story comes from the myth that we don’t use 100% of our brains, Luc Besson’s Lucy looks fittingly original for writer-director Luc Besson. As a drug mule, Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) accidentally ingests the drug that she’s smuggling which evolves her into practically a super-human who moves beyond human comprehension, seeing things in almost a Matrix style fashion. Allowing the openness of her mind to exact revenge on the people who put her in this horrible situation. It not only boasts Scarlett Johansson being the lead in an action flick like the Black Widow one that should happen soon, it has an international setting, cast and interesting CGI that looks to play around thematically whilst being cinematically outlandish. We could even look at it as a prequel to Spike Jonze’s Her, before Lucy rids herself of an organic body.
Deliver Us From Evil – 22nd of August
Why not double the 22nd of August with Scott Derrickson’s latest horror offering to the genre lovers. This is before he moves onto pastures new as he has recently been chosen to direct Doctor Strange and The Outer Limits, which will see him reunite with Sinister co-writer C. Robert Cargill. Everything is looking fantastic for Scott Derrickson in the future as he has recently finished the script for the Sinister sequel – Ciaran Foy of Citadel has been chosen to helm that. Deliver Us From Evil follows the apparently true story of NYPD police officer Ralph Sarchie (played by Eric Bana) who investigates a series of violent, bizarre crimes. This sees him team up with unconventional priest (Édgar Ramírez) to help solve and exorcise these investigations. Watch the trailer. It promises the same atmosphere Sinister and The Exorcism of Emily Rose achieved and that is a reason to get excited, if you love to be terrified.
Let’s Be Cops – 27th of August
Possibly cashing in on the success of 21 Jump Street, this R-rated comedy featuring Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. as friends who dress up as cops for a costume party and get carried away with the façade; getting swept up in a world of gangsters and crime forcing them to solve the case. R-rated comedy is always something to celebrate. Written by Luke Greenfield and Nicholas Thomas but only directed by the former who is known for The Girl Next Door, Something Borrowed and, ahem, The Animal. While the filmography may not inspire confidence in some, the cast will: Rob Riggle, Nina Dobrev, Andy Garcia as well as Key and Peele popping up. If that doesn’t do it for you then the trailer surely will.
The Guest – 5th of September
Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett are like a dynamic duo of writing and directing. Alongside with their regular producers Keith Calder and Jessica Wu, they get the best results with confident indie genre pictures. Where A Horrible Way to Die was a grim horror film, You’re Next a fun postmodern horror film and now The Guest is a throwback to thrillers of the past containing horror elements. Currently at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes with 9 reviews, with the consensus being that is a cleverly subversive written thriller that infuses black humour with violence to create an entertaining genre flick. If you can’t wait until the 5th of September, then attend Film4’s FrightFest on the 21st of August because The Guest opens the festival – much to the delight of the regulars. We spoke to Simon Barrett last year about You’re Next and tried to get a few details about The Guest.
A Most Wanted Man – 5th of September
Andrew Bovell adapts the John le Carré novel about a Chechen Muslim who illegally immigrates to Hamburg but in doing so gets caught up in an international war of terror. So far, so thrilling. BAFTA nominee Anton Corbijn directs this thriller, the man behind Control and The American, assembling the pieces of what is sure to be a successful slow burner. Aided by his ability to cast sensationally well, the film will contain Daniel Brühl, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, Willem Dafoe and one of the greatest actors who ever lived in one of his very last roles, Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Wish I Was Here – 19th of September
Seemed like only yesterday Zach Braff launched his Kickstarter campaign to make the film he wanted, interference free. Its travels around the festivals has been overwhelmingly glowing, with many getting swept up in its sentimentality and falling head over heels for it, like the romantic that Zach Braff seems to be. While closely examining his life while in a mid-life crisis, a coming-of-middle-age drama-comedy. It’s also interesting to see how a director whose only previous feature was Garden State, can gain from such creative control for a modestly budgeted indie. It looks like it could be The Secret Life of Walter Mitty of the year.
Gone Girl – 3rd of October
David Fincher is back! His last feature feels like an age ago even though it was only late 2011 with the immensely stylish, slow-burn American remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Now all we need is Daniel Craig to agree to a pay cut so we can see the masterful director finish crafting a successful trilogy. If they could get the money together then it would be fantastic to get that finished. Oh well. Instead we will have to do with another literary adaptation of a successful thriller, this time by Gillian Flynn who adapts her own book, giving it a fresh third act. David Fincher has, again, signed on fantastic talent to work on it with him having Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in the lead roles, then with unusual choices in the supporting like Tyler Perry and Emily Ratajkowski. All typical co-collaborators are back with Jeff Cronenweth on cinematography duties again, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross scoring and Kirk Baxter on editing duties but it doesn’t seem like Angus Wall is returning. This is the most anticipated film of the year for me, personally, as David Fincher is a director with immense talent with immaculate pacing and style. Surely a contender for the best of the year.
Fury – 24th of October
David Ayer’s End of Watch was a massive surprise. It was like – to use a cliché – lightning in a bottle where everything just clicked impeccably. Especially the glowing performances of Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña, making their fantastic chemistry realistic, humorous and powerful in equal measures. Sabotage was released this year but was ravaged by critics, pulling in a poor amount of money too. Alas, do not lose faith! David Ayer is the man that wrote the film which could arguably have Denzel Washington’s best performance. The brilliantly gritty Training Day. Fury this time jumps back from the ghettos that Ayer has usually focused on, taking it back to World War II. A sergeant, named simply ‘Wardaddy’ (Brad Pitt), is the commander of a five-man crew tank (Shia LaBeouf, Jon Beranthal, Michael Peña) when they get a rookie (Logan Lerman) thrust into the ranks. Deep behind enemy lines, they face the improbable task of many versus the few, defying odds and fighting hard in 1945. Originally it seemed to be said as entirely filmed in the claustrophobic tank but the trailer proves otherwise. Still, this is something really interesting which could easily fall into the End of Watch territory as long as it avoids the clichés and character problems that Sabotage was plagued with.
Horns – 29th of October
Shaking off the shackles of Harry Potter is a difficult task. Once you lead a global franchise as one of the most iconic characters of this generation, choosing your roles carefully is a must. Daniel Radcliffe could do well with Alexandre Aja’s picture about a man who wakes up with strange horns growing from his temples after the mysterious death of his girlfriend. Alexandre Aja, the director who caught his break in New French Extremism, can either make this like Mirrors, a pretty typical Hollywood horror film with flashes of directorial flair and violence, or it can turn out like his much loved Switchblade Romance/High Tension that saw him linked to directors such as Pascal Laughier. It’s one to definitely look out for as Alexandre Aja and Daniel Radcliffe have excitedly spoken about it for a long time now.
The Interview – 29th of October
Well if World War 3 is going to start because of it then you may as well watch it. James Franco and Seth Rogen team together again as a presenter and producer, respectively, who get the rare privilege to interview Kim Jong-un in North Korea. The CIA gain wind of this and train the duo to assassinate the North Korean dictator. These two work well together because they are good friends in real life; the audience gets involved with that relationship and enjoyment. Evan Goldberg is back on directing duties (This is the End) alongside Seth Rogen. Although it is hard to tell whether or not the high concept comedy will land, their recent comedic outings have been pretty successful. It’s also funny to think that if World War 3 does almost start, it will be because of James Franco and Seth Rogen.
Interstellar – 7th of November
Everyone was interested in what Christopher Nolan would do after concluding his Dark Knight trilogy. Between the iconic trilogy, he managed to fit in two high concept sci-fi films; one a period piece, one a near future dream piece. The Prestige and Inception were both successes – the latter a much bigger one. Nolan seemed keen to announce this instantly but has, as is his nature, remained tight-lipped about what has been dubbed his most ambitious project yet. From what we know, it uses all we currently know about the space-time continuum, using a newly found wormhole to bridge the gap to huge interstellar travel. More will surely bend, puzzle, but click into place as is the Nolan way who wrangles intrigue and tension from every beat and every frame. With Hoyte van Hoytema – one of the current best cinematographers working today – stepping into Wally Pfister’s shoes, it’ll be interesting to see how visually different if it is; it’s almost guaranteed to be gorgeous after his previous work on Let the Right One In, The Fighter and last year’s Her.
The Drop – 14th of November
Currently expected on the 14th of November, Dennis Lehane adapts his own short-story Animal Rescue for director Michaël R. Roskam (Bullhead). The story is about a bartender named Bob Saginowski who helps funnel money for local gangsters. When he finds himself in the middle of a robbery gone wrong, an investigation pokes and prods into the entire neighbourhood’s past where “friends, families and foes all work together to make a living – no matter the cost.” Tom Hardy leads the film and with his current streak, it’s safe to presume that this will be another worthwhile character immersion. It’s also the final film appearance of the late, great James Gandolfini. Any role of his is something to look forward to, coupled together with Tom Hardy and Noomi Repace and the criminally underrated writings of Dennis Lehane means that this is likely to be a worthwhile final piece for Gandolfini.
Dumb and Dumber To – 19th of December
It probably shouldn’t happen but how can you not want it? Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey are perfect together as morons. Reaction has been mixed from critics but audiences everywhere have been waiting years for this to finally happen. When the trailer dropped, it divided the critics; some like its crass absurdity while others have denounced it as immature or as moronic as the characters. It may not be the success the first one was but that wasn’t the critics’ favourite at the time earlier, it was slightly divisive then and this one seems to be going the same way. Anchorman 2 was a success so why can’t this be?
Foxcatcher – 25th of December [Could be Rescheduled]
Bennett Miller’s Cannes selected drama is about an Olympic wrestler, his brother and his sponsor and the unlikely circumstances that follow. It seems not knowing is the best way to go in so this will be short. It stars Channing Tatum in the lead, Mark Ruffalo alongside him as his brother and Steve Carell donning a Gru like prosthetic nose as the sponsor, John du Pont. Bennett Miller is the director that rescued Sony’s Moneyball after it fell through for director Steven Soderbergh, garnering Oscar nominations and establishing Jonah Hill as a dramatic actor. Words are positive and as this is apparently based on a ‘shocking true story’ if the tagline is to be believed, this could be a contender for one of the best of the year, alongside some possible award attention in 2015.
Maps to the Stars -TBC
David Cronenberg’s latest. Robert Pattinson is back. Could Robert Pattinson feature in two of the best films of the year? Between this and The Rover, it seems oddly likely. Who would have predicted that four years ago? This sees David Cronenberg attack Hollywood. According to IMDb it contains ‘strong disturbing violence and sexual content, graphic nudity, language and some drug material’. It wouldn’t be Cronenberg without it. His stature as the nihilistic, cynical auteur means he has been able to gather together a truly impressive ensemble cast (a common theme of films these past few years) with Julianne Moore, Carrie Fisher, Mia Wasikowska, John Cusack, Olivia Williams and Sarah Gadon with numerous others alongside them too. Cronenberg is still one of the most interesting filmmakers working today, using his surrealist, horror style to create truly original pieces of art.
James Ward Byrkit’s feature debut is a microbudget brain-bending sci-fi that sees a dinner party go awry after a meteor shower begins to reveal a bizarre puzzle needing piecing together. We luckily had the chance to speak to James Ward Byrkit about his directorial style. He delved into how he approached the mind-melting drama that is being hailed as one of the most thrilling rides of the year. Its improvisational style, his description of it being a film for ‘smart people’, the refreshing originality of it. It looks to be one of the more interesting films of the year as well as highlighting the promise of an original indie writer-director who loves to make intelligent, twisting narratives that are thrilling, from the very first frame to the fade to black. Sign us up for that.
The year looks to pick up massively now that we have hit the halfway mark. There are plenty of other films to look forward to if they get a wider release: Hellion; I Origins; Boyhood (released on the 11th of July); Dawn of the Planet of the Apes; Blood Ties; As Above, So Below; Sin City: A Dame to Kill For; Million Dollar Arm; Obvious Child; Night Moves; Sex Tape; This is Where I Leave You; Magic in the Moonlight (Woody Allen’s latest); Dracula Untold; Life After Beth; Kill the Messenger; and Exodus: Gods and Kings. Possibly so many great releases for this year.