Must See in 2014

Looking back over the 2013 version of this list that I made, it has become increasingly clear that just because I am really excited about a film that is coming out, it does not mean that it is going to end up being an enjoyable film in the end.

Of the ten films that made the list last year, nine were released into the theatre with one getting bumped to early this year.  Of those nine films, three of them actually managed to make my Most Disappointed list for 2013: ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’, ‘Jack the Giant Slayer’ and ‘Man of Steel’.  Of the other six, although I enjoyed them all, only two or three of them will be good enough to make my Top Ten of 2013 list when I do that next week.

This is not an inditement against big budget Hollywood films and the fact that I am moving away from them, but more of a fact that until trailers for films later in the year come out, it is hard to gauge films you know nothing about that are clearly aimed at winning Oscars, as those are the films that seem to be trickling into my Top Ten lists now.

The hope for 2014 is that more of the ten films you are about to read about will make my Top Ten of 2014 list next January as there will be a momentous step up in the quality of bigger films coming out of Hollywood.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit – January 17

jackryan

On my Must See of 2013 list, ‘Jack Ryan’ held the latest release spot.  Due to rescheduling of other Oscar bait films, the newly retitled ‘Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruite’ was bumped to the middle of January and thus has managed to make this list for two consecutive years.

I grew up reading Tom Clancy’s novels on his CIA analyst turned part-time field operative.  To be honest, I still own almost all of those novels on a shelf behind me.  I also have a fondness for all four previous Jack Ryan based films that have been released, so it should be no surprise that this most recent reboot attempt is something I am excited to see.

With that being said, it will be interesting to see if Chris Pine has enough star power to carry a second franchise not titled ‘Star Trek’ or if this will be another one off shot from Paramount ala ‘The Sum of All Fears’ back in 2002.

The Monuments Men – February 7

monumentsmen

From the moment that I first saw a trailer for ‘The Monuments Men’, I knew that it was going to have to be a film to see in theatres.  Set during the end of World War II, the film sees a team put together in the hopes of saving priceless art that the Nazis have stolen throughout their occupation of Europe and are willing to destroy during their retreat back to Germany.

Featuring a strong cast from George Clooney to Matt Damon to Bill Murray and John Goodman, ‘The Monuments Men’ is sure to not take itself too seriously but also touch on a forgotten part of the war in Europe.

Muppets Most Wanted – March 21

muppets

For anyone that knows me, they know just how much I love The Muppets and how important they are to me.  With that in mind, it really should come as no surprise that their new film, ‘Muppets Most Wanted’ appears on this list.

Following up on their return to theatres in 2011 with ‘The Muppets’, this film will see the familiar cast of Kermit, Fozzie, Miss Piggy and others off to Europe for a crime caper that will also involve a familiar looking villain.  Also featuring a brand new human cast, expect all new hi-jinx this March.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – April 4

cap2

Quite possibly the biggest surprise of Marvel’s Phase One films was not just how big ‘The Avengers’ was, but in just how amazing ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ was.  A World War II origin piece, it actually showed just how much Chris Evans has evolved as an actor over the years since his days as Johnny Storm in the ‘Fantastic Four’ films.

What we are actually going to be getting with ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ is a film franchise that is forced into not replicating itself.  To be honest, this is a welcome situation.  Having placed Steve Rogers firmly in the here and now in ‘The Avengers’, Marvel is giving us a modern day 1970’s style spy thriller disguised as a superhero flick.

Based on the popular comic book run from Eisner Award winner Ed Brubaker, ‘Winter Soldier’ features the long though impossible return of Cap sidekick Bucky Barnes in the role of the Winter Soldier.  In the comics Bucky eventually took up the mantle of Captain America, so it will be interesting to see just how far they go in this film.  Interesting indeed.

X-Men: Days of Future Past – May 23

xmen

The second Marvel-based film to make this list, from 20th Century Fox is what may be the most ambitious film of the summer this year.  Bryan Singer returns to the franchise he started as director of ‘X-Men’ and ‘X2: X-Men United’ by giving us ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’.  Featuring members of both X-Men generations, ‘Days’ will be bringing one of the most beloved X-stories of all time to the big screen.

Featuring both Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy as Professor Xavier along with Ian McKellan and Michael Fassbender as Magneto, and Hugh Jackman taking his seventh turn as Wolverine, ‘Days’ has a large ensemble cast. Also featuring a series of new characters from comic book lore, this is sure to be one of the more unique films we see in theatres in 2014.

How To Train Your Dragon 2 – June 13

dragon2

The first ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ was a surprise hit back in 2010 and is a universally loved film.  The fact that we are getting a sequel is not really a surprise. What may come as a surprise to some is that this is the only real top end animated film that we will be getting in the summer of 2014.

As a result of that lack of competition, should ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’ carry the same level of enjoyment as the first film, there is a very real possibility that this could be the highest grossing film in North America until very late in the year.

Featuring all of the main characters from the original, expect the same level of laughs and animated action when this film comes to a theatre near you.

Transformers: Age of Extinction – June 27

transformers

The three previous “Transformers’ films from director Michael Bay have brought in over $2.6 billion worldwide, and it is on the strength of that number that we are getting a fourth film this summer in ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’.  Bay is back behind the camera, with revamped Transformers and a brand new cast of humans to present a whole new story.

The ‘Transformers’ franchise features one of the only seventeen films of all time to cross $1 billion worldwide and you can bet that Paramount is expecting more of the same.  With a film that was shot partially in Hong Kong, you can bet that this film will reach that magical mark again thanks to a strong Chinese box office.

Wether you are a fan of the franchise or not, there is no denying the kind of impact these films have had at the box office and it is hard to imagine any film in 2014 bringing in more worldwide dollars than ‘Age of Extinction’.

Guardians of the Galaxy – August 1

guardians

After the success of all six of the Marvel Phase One films, including the huge all-time summer blockbuster success of ‘The Avengers’, and the moderate risk it took in doing so, it appears that they are willing to increase the risk factor during their Phase Two.  Pushing that envelope will come in the form of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ in August.

On the surface, ‘Guardians’ seems to be a film that will not mesh with the other Marvel Cinematic Universe films that have come before it, and that is actually a pretty cool thing.  Based on a team of space-faring outlaws, this film will truly show just how much the Marvel name can sell in theatres.  Featuring a walking tree that says one line, a gun-toting talking racoon and other noticeable alien elements, this film will be a breath of fresh air at the end of the summer blockbuster season.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One – November 21

mockingjay

At this point and time I think it is safe to say that ‘The Hunger Games’ franchise can no longer be compared to the ‘Twilight’ series. While both series began life as Young Adult books, there is no denying just how impactful ‘The Hunger Games’ has become.  The first franchise in history to have both of its first two films cross the $400 million mark at the North American box office, it is clear that these films are not just for women and girls.

The franchise that has made Jennifer Lawrence a household name is due for a shakeup following the ending from ‘Catching Fire’. And with the third book, ‘Mockingjay’, being split into two films this November and next, we are sure to see more of the political side of Panem that we saw in the second film. As a result, we could be in for some interesting changes amongst our lead characters in what is sure to be another $400 million blockbuster.

The Hobbit: There and Back Again – December 17

hobbitThis film will be huge. I am calling it now. ‘The Hobbit: There and Back Again’ could very well top the list of best Middle Earth films from director Peter Jackson. Yes, I am that serious. While ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ was a step up in quality from ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’, it was still saddled with the dreaded middle film syndrome at time. Such will not be the case for ‘There and Back Again’ when it hits in what looks like a bare December.

This film will feature Smaug in all of his destructive glory, the culmination of the Dol Guldor plot threads and then will reach its climax with The Battle of Five Armies. For anyone that loved the Battle of the Pelennor Fields in ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’, The Battle of Five Armies could be an even bigger wonder to behold on the big screen.

The end of the second Middle Earth trilogy will be one of the biggest films of 2014 for sure, and should wind up as my favourite film of the year.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer. Cheers.

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