By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist January 6, 2014 at 1:14PM
Synopsis: A social drama set in a fictional "new country" spanning multiple characters.
What You Need To Know: Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev has spent the last decade establishing himself as one of the most exciting filmmakers on the international scene: 2003 saw his debut film "The Return" win the Golden Lion in Venice, while 2007's "The Banishment" pick up Best Actor at Cannes, and his third film "Elena," a Playlist favorite, picked up the Special Jury Prize in Un Certain Regard at the same festival. "Leviafan" is his mysterious new project.
Why It's Anticipated: Zvyagintsev might not be a household name, but he's three for three as far as we're concerned, so a new film from him is always going to have our interest. As is often the case with world cinema, details are fairly thin, but the logline suggests something broader and more ambitious than "Elena," with the film promised to unwind "to a mythological scale concerning the human condition on earth entirely." The director has provided some of the most incisive commentary on Russia around, and given the country's issues at the moment, that makes him a hugely important voice.
Release Date: Cannes is highly probable.
89. "Muppets Most Wanted"
Synopsis: While on tour with the Muppets in Europe, Kermit is kidnapped and replaced by his evil doppelganger Constantine, who is working with a nefarious accomplice to pull off some dastardly robberies.
What You Need To Know: After the success of 2011's "The Muppets," the felt creatures were proven to be draws again, and Disney made a speedy follow-up something of a priority. Jason Segel, who co-wrote and starred in the original, isn't back this time, but co-writer Nicholas Stoller and director James Bobin (squeezing this in before graduating to "Alice In Wonderland 2") are both back, with Oscar-winner Bret McKenzie also returning to write some new songs. Meanwhile, Ricky Gervais plays the villain's sidekick, Ty Burrell is a Clouseau-ish copper, and Tina Fey is a Russian prison guard, with Chloe Grace Moretz, Tom Hiddleston and Christoph Waltz among the cameos revealed so far.
Why It's Anticipated: The last Muppets movie had its problems, but was for the most part a loving and hugely enjoyable return for Jim Henson's creations, with sparky direction from Bobin, a post-modern script just this side of clever, and songs that are as good as anything Paul Williams ever wrote for the fuzzy friends. All being well, we should get more of the same here. In fact, the addition of Gervais, Burrell and Fey gives an added comedic shot in the arm, and Muppet caper movies have always been among the most enjoyable of the series.
Release Date: March 21, 2014
88. "Big Hero 6"
Synopsis: In the city of San Fransokyo, a boy genius and his robot bodyguard are enlisted to join an inexperienced superhero team that also includes a sword-fighting chef, the furious GoGo Tomago, the beautiful Honey Lemon, and the Godzilla-like Fred.
What You Need To Know: When Disney purchased Marvel a few years back, many speculated that it would only be a matter of time before the studio put out an animated movie based on a Marvel property, and that time has come. However it's not with big name characters, but with "Big Hero 6," based on a fairly obscure miniseries featuring a Japanese super team. Dropping the X-Men characters who were included in the comic (Fox hold the rights to them), this looks to be tinkering with the source material a little. Don Hall ("Winnie the Pooh") and Chris Williams ("Bolt") direct, and the cast is yet to be revealed.
Why It's Anticipated: Disney have been on a bit of a roll recently, with "Wreck-It Ralph" and "Frozen" coming back to back: for the first time in recent memory, their work has been outshining that of subsidiary Pixar (who are sitting out 2014, after "The Good Dinosaur" was delayed). "Big Hero 6" mostly remains under wraps so far, but early footage has been distinctive and beautiful, and the idea of a Disney Marvel movie is bound to attract the geek crowd. "The Incredibles" is a high bar to clear when it comes to animated superheroics, but we're certainly willing to give this a try.
Release Date: November 7, 2014
87. "Big Eyes"
Synopsis: A drama centered on the awakening of the painter Margaret Keane, her phenomenal success in the 1950s, and the subsequent legal difficulties she had with her husband, who claimed credit for her works in the 1960s.
What You Need To Know: Tim Burton has been playing exclusively in the big-budget sandbox for quite a while, but seems to be a palate-cleanser: "Big Eyes" is a fantasy-free drama with a modest budget (only just above $10 million, apparently). A long-gestating drama from "Ed Wood" writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, based on an extraordinary real-world story, this stars awards favorites Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams as the Keanes, with Krysten Ritter, Danny Huston, Jason Schwartzman and Terence Stamp backing them up.
Why It's Anticipated: We're not alone in finding most of Tim Burton's latter-day work almost unbearable, but we're hopeful that this could be something of a change for him, not least because it reunites him with the writers of his best film, "Ed Wood." The material seems to scratch at Burton's interests while hopefully being much more grounded, and Waltz and Adams are actors who should fit in nicely with the director. Fingers crossed that this could be closer to Burton at his best than to "Alice In Wonderland" or "Dark Shadows"
Release Date: None yet, but The Weinstein Company are likely to make this one of their main awards season hopes.
86. "Jupiter Ascending"
Synopsis: A young woman discovers that she shares the same DNA as the Queen Of The Universe, and goes on the run with a genetically engineered former soldier who's part wolf.
What You Need To Know: Fifteen years on from "The Matrix," the Wachowskis return to the original sci-fi blockbuster with a bonkers-looking mash-up of "Star Wars," Greek mythology, comic book "Saga" and a million other different things. Looking like a cousin to the future-set sections of "Cloud Atlas," it sees Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis in the lead roles, with Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth and Tuppence Middleton in support, along with a cameo from Terry Gilliam, whose work is said to be an influence on the movie.
Why It's Anticipated: Love them or loathe them (and there are plenty on both sides), "Speed Racer" and "Cloud Atlas" made it clear that the Wachowskis do not remotely give a fuck what anyone else thinks: they're walking to the beat of their own drums, and that's always an exciting thing to see. "Jupiter Ascending" looks big, bold and potentially terrible (we've been calling it "The Chronicles Of Riddickulous" in the office), but even when their ideas don't entirely work, the Wachowskis always make things that are hugely watchable, and despite Channing Tatum's odd goat-like make-up, we have our fingers crossed that this could be the most individual and idiosyncratic blockbuster of 2014.
Release Date: July 18, 2014
85. “Edge of Tomorrow”
Synopsis: A soldier fighting in a world war against invading aliens finds himself caught in a time loop of his last day in the battle, though he becomes better skilled along the way.
What You Need To Know: Yep, it’s yet another high-concept sci-fi movie starring Tom Cruise, and its antecedent “Oblivion” just wasn’t very exceptional in the end. In fact, this one sounds like the concept of “Groundhog Day” grafted onto a sci-fi/time travel alien invasion movie. Or a hodge podge of Hollywood sci-fi movies (maybe “Starship Troopers” meets “Source Code”). It was given a March 2014 date originally, but was likely pushed when Warner Bros. felt it would perform stronger in the summer (and those pesky visual effects needed more completion time anyhow).
Why Is It Anticipated: It's directed by Doug Liman ("The Bourne Identity," "Mr. & Mrs. Smith") who hopefully feels like he has to redeem himself in the time travel genre after 2008's most unfortunate "Jumper.” Why it’s maybe not so anticipated? See “Jumper” again and the fact that at least three screenwriters took a pass at this and all are credited (Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth), so it seems like there were several major rewrites (Wikipedia lists eight writers, and if that’s correct, yikes). The supporting cast includes Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton and mostly relatively unknown international character actors, but perhaps this Liman/Cruise combo can make for a decent escapist summer movie.
Release Date: June 6, 2014
84. “The Two Faces of January”
Synopsis: A con artist, his wife, and a stranger try to flee a foreign country after one of them is caught up in the murder of a police officer.
What You Need To Know: This thriller is intriguing for several reasons. One it's based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith (films based on her books include "Strangers On a Train," "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and Wim Wenders' "The American Friend") and it’s the directorial debut of Hossein Amini, the screenwriter behind “Drive” (and studio punch-up, pay-the-bills work like (“47 Ronin” “Snow White and the Huntsman”).
Why Is It Anticipated: For the aforementioned reasons, plus the cast: Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst and Oscar Isaac as the main trio (Daisy Bevan co-stars). Screenwriters-turned-directors can be a mixed bag of success, but fingers crossed. Though admittedly, there is some worry as this one shot back in 2012 and should be way done by now.
Release Date: TBD, but maybe a festival bow is in the works and our guess would be TIFF.
Synopsis: A group of frat guys move in next door to a friendly suburban couple, setting off an epic turf war that crosses generational divides.
What You Need To Know: While not a Judd Apatow production (the boys have left the nest), "Neighbors" continues director Nicolas Stoller’s association with this similar brand of comedy following “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “Get Him To The Greek” and “The Five-Year Engagement.” Having previously collaborated with Jason Segel and Jonah Hill, this time he teams with Seth Rogen, who, with Rose Byrne, play the exasperated suburbanites. This is also one of those movies absolutely loaded with comedic ringers, with Zac Efron leading a frat that includes Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and others. And in case you were wondering, no, this has nothing to do with the oddball '80s flick that starred Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi.
Why Is It Anticipated: There’s always been something creepy about Mr. Efron, as if his beauty was somehow cruel and unfair. Kudos to him for the career move in utilizing this appeal to play the villain. He doesn’t have to go as far as alienate his fanbase, given that it’s a comedy, but it also allows him to display an antagonistic side that kept manifesting during his brief run as a leading man. That nastiness will add plenty of acid to this R-rated culture-clash comedy, which promises several ludicrous gags as well as, the trailer promises, a brief Robert De Niro impersonation party. Which is the kind of thing you slap yourself for not coming up with yourself.
Release Date: May 9, 2014
82. “Into the Woods”
Synopsis: A baker and his wife (James Corden and Emily Blunt) journey through the world of fairy tales in the hopes of lifting a witch’s curse preventing them from having children.
What You Need to Know: Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim is immortal to fans of the Great White Way, and “Into the Woods" is one of his more accessible works, dealing with fairy tales and nursery rhymes. So no surprise Disney has run with it, despite the questionable sequences they may or may not be including.
Why Is It Anticipated: The all-star cast is worth applauding: Anna Kendrick, Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp and Chris Pine are just a few names on the massive cast list, all of whom will be flexing their musical muscles for Disney’s big-budget spectacle. And it certainly is prepped for razzle dazzle with Disney seeking to turn this into an epic Christmas day musical on par with “Chicago,” even going so far as to hire director Rob Marshall, who has a relationship with Disney through their “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise. “Chicago” gave Marshall his start, but the disastrous “Nine” is enough to have us questioning whether lightning can strike twice. Regardless, the coveted Christmas Day spot shows Disney has faith in this and it will definitely extend Sondheim’s work into the stratosphere.
Release Date: December 25, 2014
81. “Kill The Messenger”
Synopsis: This is the true story of journalist Gary Webb, who documented the CIA’s involvement in the global drug trade, and ended up having his career destroyed as a result.
What You Need To Know: Jeremy Renner is using his clout from “The Bourne Legacy” and “The Avengers” to get this story out there, serving as producer and star for this true story. The script from Peter Landesman draws inspiration from two books, Webb’s own “Dark Alliance: The CIA, The Contras And The Crack Cocaine Explosion” and “Kill The Messenger: How The CIA’s Crack Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Gary Webb” by Nick Schou. Renner was smart enough to reach into his past to hire his “Twelve And Holding” director Michael Cuesta, who has also logged hours in television with “Homeland” and “Dexter.” Rosemarie DeWitt, Tim Blake Nelson, Michael K. Williams, Robert Patrick, Barry Pepper, Oliver Platt, Paz Vega, Michael Sheen, Ray Liotta and Mary Elizabeth Winstead co-star.
Why Is It Anticipated: Simply put, this is a significant story that needs to be told about the CIA sullying the name of an innocent man in plain sight in order to protect their clearly illegal actions. There’s been a strand of aggression and antagonism towards honest reportage in the recent political climate, and the government (and the media, somehow!) have been allowed to control the narrative and distract the public from nakedly obvious wrongdoing. A movie isn’t going to do much in the long run, but as far as informing the public, it’s a start.
Release Date: Possibly fourth quarter 2014.