By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist January 6, 2014 at 1:14PM
80. "The Boxtrolls"
Synopsis: A young orphan boy raised by cave-dwelling, box-wearing troll creatures must help save them from an evil exterminator.
What You Need To Know: In an animation scene dominated by Pixar, DreamWorks, Ghibli and a few other legendary long-running studios, Laika has made a real splash in the last few years: the Portland-based stop-motion specialists have brought their distinctly beautiful aesthetic to "Coraline" and "ParaNorman," both of which numbered among the best animated films of their respective years. Their new project, which lands this fall, is based on the book "Here Be Monsters!" and directed by underground comics figure Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi, and features a vocal cast led by "Game of Thrones" star Isaac Hempstead-Wright as the lead, Ben Kingsley as the villainous exterminator, Elle Fanning as the love interest, and Simon Pegg, Toni Colette, Jared Harris, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade and Tracy Morgan as the various trolls.
Why It's Anticipated: In a world dominated by CGI animation, the hand-crafted stop-motion of Laika's earlier work has been a refreshing antidote, with "Coraline" in particular being a gorgeous and rich piece of work. From the teasers, this seems to have the same ickily gothic look as the studio's other works, along with a similarly quirky cast and, hopefully, the big heart as well.
Release Date: September 26, 2014
79. "Theory of Everything"
Synopsis: The story of the early life of scientist and neurone disease sufferer Stephen Hawking, a major figure in the study of black holes, cosmology and the general theory of relativity.
What You Need To Know: It's only a few years since Benedict Cumberbatch played famous scientist Stephen Hawking in a TV biopic, but that hasn't stopped Working Title Films from going back to the well, with a new version, starring "Les Miserables" breakout Eddie Redmayne as Hawking, and Felicity Jones as his wife Jane. David Thewlis, Emily Watson, Harry Lloyd, Maxine Peake and Lesley Manville head up the supporting cast, while the script comes from acclaimed novelist and playwright Anthony McCarten, and directed by "Man On Wire" and "Shadow Dancer" helmer James Marsh.
Why It's Anticipated: Generally speaking, the idea of a biopic makes us roll our eyes a little bit, but we've got higher hopes for "Theory of Everything." In part, it's that Redmayne and Jones are both superb actors, and should be good fits for the roles (Redmayne in particular is one to watch in awards season next year). Also, this has James Marsh in charge: the filmmaker's documentaries like the Oscar-winning "Man On Wire" have been terrific, and his fiction movies almost as good. He doesn't seem like the type to knock out something conventional, so we're expecting something a little different here.
Release Date: None yet, but look for this around fall festival/awards season.
78. “How To Train Your Dragon 2”
Synopsis: Five years on from the events of "How To Train Your Dragon," all is harmonious in the world of vikings and dragons, but the heroes soon make a discovery of a secret cave, the home to the mysterious Dragon Rider, who may be a figure from one of their pasts.
What You Need To Know: "How To Train Your Dragon" is the high bar of DreamWorks Animation's output so far, and was a pretty giant hit, so a sequel was always going to be along quickly (indeed, a third film is already in development). This promises to expand the world from the original film, with co-director of the first film Dean DeBlois returning (Chris Sanders was busy on 2013's "The Croods"), along with the original cast of Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig et al. This time, there are some new additions too: Kit Harington, Djimon Hounsou and, in the key role of the Dragon Rider, Cate Blanchett.
Why It's Anticipated: DreamWorks Animation have had a few winners over the years, but "How To Train Your Dragon" is by heads and shoulders the best—perhaps the one time that their movies have stood hand-in-hand with the very finest from Pixar. Sequels are always tricky, but from the trailers, this looks to keep the same mix of spectacular action, gorgeous visuals and giant heart that made the first one so memorable. In particular, the addition of Blanchett promises to class up the joint a bit as well. If it's inferior, it wouldn't be the first time an animated sequel disappointed, but from what we've seen, there's no reason to expect much of a dip.
Release Date: June 13, 2014
77. "Suite Française"
Synopsis: In 1940s France, a woman waits for her prisoner-of-war husband's return, only to be drawn to a German officer posted in the village.
What You Need To Know: It took over sixty years for "Suite Française" to be published: writer Irene Nemirovsky was only able to finish two of a planned five-novel sequence before she was arrested and taken to Auschwitz, where she died. But it's now on the way to the big screen, and it's likely to be a big awards player. The film is written and directed by Saul Dibb, who was behind the undervalued "The Duchess," and Michelle Williams and Matthias Schoenaerts take the lead roles, with Kristin Scott Thomas, Sam Riley, Ruth Wilson, Margot Robbie, Alexandra Maria Lara, Tom Schilling, Lambert Wilson and Eileen Atkins making up a strong supporting cast.
Why It's Anticipated: Simply, it's based on a truly beautiful and powerful piece of source material with its it own tragic storyline behind it. Moreover, Dibb couldn't have assembled a more promising cast, and in particular, we're amped to see Williams and Schoenaerts create sparks.
Release Date: The Weinsteins will almost certainly drop this between September and December, with the Venice/Telluride/TIFF trio all likely.
76. “X-Men: Days of Future Past”
Synopsis: In a dystopian future decimated by war, Wolverine is sent back into the past to alter history, coming face-to-face with the early days of the Professor Xavier/Magneto conflict.
What You Need To Know: Bryan Singer directed the two best 'X-Men' films thus far, and he’s back to helm this one. Based on one of the most beloved stories in the X-canon, the picture will unite the cast members from the earlier films (primarily Patrick Stewart’s Professor X and Ian McKellan’s Magneto) with the group introduced in the Singer-produced “X-Men: First Class.” The fact that this picture leads into 2016’s ominously-titled “X-Men: Apocalypse” suggests that, perhaps, things don’t go too well for the merry mutants.
Why Is It Anticipated: With world building the name of the game these days, Fox is going ahead and employing time travel in an attempt to create continuity for this schizophrenic franchise. This installment seems to be streamlining the group from 'First Class,' which is good considering the flotsam that bogged down that film’s second half, taking the emphasis away from James McAvoy’s Xavier and Michael Fassbender’s Magneto. But that said, they seem to have invited everyone who ever appeared in an X-Men movie to return as well, so this could still be overstuffed and moreover, confusing. Either way, this is looking like a very different film than the previous six (!) movies, and certainly the ambition is intriguing.
Release Date: May 23, 2014
75. “The Gunman”
Synopsis: A secret agent attempts to retire peacefully, but his agency opts to eliminate him instead, forcing him to flee.
What You Need To Know: This is another one of those all-terrain European actioners that Luc Besson has turned into a genre, and “Taken” director Pierre Morel is at the helm of this one. Based on the novel “The Prone Gunman,” the film is being seen as the first in a potential series, with Sean Penn having noticeably put on some heavy duty muscle to play the lead. This is not the first time the book was adapted: it provided the source material for “Le Choc,” a French film starring the sexy duo of Alain Delon and Catherine Denueve. Pete Travis, of “Vantage Point” and “Dredd” fame, has penned this adaptation.
Why Is It Anticipated: Normally that sort of plot is an eye-roller, but Sean Penn doing this sort of thing is an interesting prospect. Not only that, he’s got pretty solid support from a killer cast with Idris Elba as a mysterious possible double-agent, Ray Winstone as Penn’s mentor, and Javier Bardem oozing evil as the bad guy. So yeah, we want to sit back and watch these guys toss tough-guy dialogue around.
Release Date: TBD
74. “The Interview”
Synopsis: An attractive talk show host and his producer unwittingly get caught up in an international assassination plot.
What You Need To Know: It’s like “The Pineapple Express” crew minus Judd Apatow and the creative team behind “This Is The End” minus all the famous guest stars. "The Interview" reunites Seth Rogen and James Franco with Rogen and Evan Goldberg directing (they helmed the aforementioned apocalypse comedy) this high concept political spoof. Franco plays the Manhattan talk show host, Rogen his producer and they somehow get entangled in a plot to kill the prime minister of North Korea thanks to a rogue femme fatale CIA agent (played by Lizzy Caplan).
Why Is It Anticipated: For all the reasons above. It sounds amusing and diverting. While some of us were divided on “This Is The End,” the non-summer release date for a studio comedy suggests something hopefully more (and actually) subversive and entertaining.
Release Date: October 10, 2014
73. “The Hobbit: There and Back Again”
Synopsis: Taking cues from “The Lord of the Rings” appendices to expand “The Hobbit” adaptation, director Peter Jackson completes the epic tale of Bilbo Baggins with this final third film in a showdown with the dragon Smaug and the Battle of the Five Armies.
What You Need To Know: New Line Cinema’s “The Hobbit” used to be two films. And in fact, two films with two screenplays were shot. And it wasn’t until post-production on the first film ended that Jackson and his writers decided they had enough material for a third film, so they rejiggered their screenplays to extend the series into a trilogy, going back to shoot more material, shifting all the release dates in the process. This certainly hurt 'The Desolation of Smaug' which felt more like a “waiting for more important things to happen later” episode than a movie. But with a final chapter on the way, perhaps this one will feel like a self-contained trilogy closer. It’ll pick up with the 13 dwarves and Bilbo having reached Smaug’s Lair, trying to reclaim Erebor and the treasure while the dragon may lay waste to Lake Town.
Why Is It Anticipated: Well, “The Lord of the Rings” triad is one of the best modern day blockbuster trilogies and while “The Hobbit” has had a bumpy road so far critically (the first one largely disliked, the second one getting better reviews), Jackson has proven his tentpole merits in the past and hopefully will come back and prove he can seal the deal.
Release Date: December 17, 2014
72. "The Man From U.N.C.L.E."
Synopsis: A reboot of the cult 1960s TV show spy, which teams CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB man Illya Kuryakin on a mission to infiltrate a mysterious criminal organization during the height of the cold war.
What You Need To Know: People have been trying to do a new version of "The Man From U.N.C.L.E" for decades: Quentin Tarantino expressed interest at one point, and it was nearly made a few years back with Steven Soderbergh before budgetary and casting issues caused the director to walk. In the end, it's Guy Ritchie who got it before cameras, and while Tom Cruise exiting the project late nearly caused a problem, Superman himself, Henry Cavill, stepped in as Solo, with Armie Hammer as Kuryakin. Hugh Grant, in a rare non-rom-com part, plays the head of U.N.C.L.E, with Alicia Vikander and Elizabeth Debicki in the female leads and Italian actor Luca Calvani as the villain.
Why It's Anticipated: We're disappointed that the Soderbergh version never happened, and sad that the script by Scott Z. Burns appears to be dumped (Ritchie and his "Sherlock Holmes" writer Lionel Wigram are credited at present), but we're big enough fans of the genre that the idea of a 1960s-set big-budget spy actioner is enough to get us in. If Ritchie can bring the fun and style of his first "Sherlock Holmes" film, rather than the tedium of the second, than we're certainly interested, and while Cavill and Hammer will have a certain amount to prove in the lead roles, there's a lot to like in the rest of the casting, particularly when it comes to Vikander and Debicki.
Release Date: None yet, but look for it to land around the "Skyfall"/"Ghost Protocol" slot in November or December, unless Warners decide to hold it for 2015 (which, given how stacked that year is, would probably be a mistake).
71. “The Cut”
Synopsis: Details are scarce, but from what we can glean it’s a Sergio Leone-like western with a Charlie Chaplin-esque lead who doesn’t speak
What You Need To Know: German-Turkish director Fatih Akin has been an international favorite of ours for some times but he's been somewhat AWOL over the last few years. "Head-On" made our Best Films Of The Decade list, "The Edge of Heaven" was one of 2008's best movies, foreign or otherwise, but things began to unravel after that. The 2010 comedy "Soul Kitchen" didn't land its mark quite right and the 2012 doc “Garbage in the Garden of Eden,” didn’t even score a U.S. release.
Why Is It Anticipated: It puts back Akin on familiar ground as the final installment of his loose “Love, Death and the Devil” trilogy (which included the aforementioned successful films) which he purposefully delayed to get out of “serious” moviemaking headspace and try something else (“Soul Kitchen”). It also stars the great French/Algerian actor Tahar Rahim (the breakout star of "A Prophet," who recently showed his mettle once again in Asghar Farhadi's "The Past") and perhaps more interestingly, he doesn’t speak a word throughout the entire film according to a recent interview.
Release Date: TBD, but editing is underway and Cannes could be a possibility.