As another movie year comes to an end, its time to start looking forward to what the new year has in store; more Hobbits, more Hunger Games, the return of Harry and Lloyd and a rapping Annie. Something for everyone then.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Premise - After the poorly received The Sum of All Fears (2002) the Jack Ryan franchise gets another reboot with Chris Pine as the fourth JR. We're heading back to the beginning with Ryan receiving his field agent promotion just in time for a terrorist busting adventure. Kevin Costner pulls elderly mentor duties, while Kenneth Branagh will sharpen his Russian accent as the token bad guy.
Prediction - With Branagh also getting behind the camera to direct, Ryan fans are hoping he pulls a Thor (2011) and delivers another unexpected success. Fast moving thrillers aren't finding friendly audiences at the moment though, the likes of The Bourne Legacy (2012), Alex Cross (2012) and Jack Reacher (2013) falling flat. Jack Ryan will live or die by its script which needs to deliver something different.
The LEGO Movie
Premise - An ordinary Lego minifigure is mistaken for the "Master Builder", some sort of Lego messiah who can save the Lego universe from the imaginatively titled super villain Lord Business.
Prediction - The only plus side at the moment is the Lego voice cast which includes Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell, Liam Neeson, Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. Everything else, including the seen-it-all-before plot and the shoe-horning in of various DC comic characters, stinks of cash-cow. An off-beat, quirky comedy is a possibility, but don't get your hopes up.
The Monuments Men
Premise - Ocean's 11 (2001) meets Kelly's Heroes (1970) as George Clooney puts together a ragtag band of Army men and art experts to liberate stolen masterpieces from Nazi Germany.
Prediction - Early front runner for film of the year, the cast alone makes this unmissable (Clooney, Bill Murray, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Cate Blanchett, Hugh Bonneville). With Clooney behind the camera, a chucklesome World War II heist caper is on the cards, with early trailers showing all the right moves.
Premise - Remake of the 1987 Paul Verhoeven classic, with an ordinary bobby in crime ridden future LA rebuilt as an indestructible super cop.
Prediction - It was a bold move to hand this classic sci-fi franchise to indie Portuguese director Jose Padilha, and the sort of choice that makes you think MGM and Columbia might be pushing for something a little different with this latest reboot. Casting was strong with Gary Oldman, Jackie Earle Haley, Samuel L Jackson and Michael Keaton filling the supporting roles around new titular hero Joel Kinnaman. Early trailers indicate Padilha has swapped Verhoeven ultra violence and black humour laced social commentary for a more realistic take on the metal law enforcer. Whether that's a good thing, time will tell.
Premise - Big budget retelling of the singed sandal disaster, with a slave turned gladiator, daughter of a wealthy merchant love saga thrown into the volcanic chaos. Titanic (1997) meets Dante's Peak (1997) then.
Prediction - Director Paul WS Anderson isn't known for his subtlety, and you'll get long odds betting on him progressing from recent b-movie flicks Death Race (2008) and Resident Evil: Retribution (2012) to deliver the period drama of the year. Where-are-they-now actors Kiefer Sutherland and Carrie Anne Moss might lend some gravitas but I wouldn’t get your hopes up for a classic.
Premise - Taken (2008) on a plane, Liam Neeson's Air Marshall must foil a bomb on board / dead passenger every twenty minutes plot to save the day.
Prediction - Hot contender for cheesy action flick of the year, who isn't still enjoying Neeson's unlikely reinvention as the action star of the decade. Long may he reign I say, and with the Irishman reteaming with Unknown (2011) director Jaume Collet-Serra, this will be familiar, comfortable territory for both.
300: Rise of An Empire
Premise - Prequel to 300 (2007) with more Persia vs Greece fisticuffs
Prediction - Whether the sparse dialogue, all-action swords and sandals trick can work a second time remains to be seen, with much of the Sparta shouting excitement around the first film now dissipated. A lack of Gerard Butler isn't going to help much either.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Premise - When a hotel concierge is bequeathed a famous painting in 1920's Budapest it kicks starts a murder revenge plot that spirals out of control.
Prediction - Director Wes Anderson may not always get it right, but the man couldn't deliver a mundane movie if his life depended on it, and Budapest is shaping up to be another quirky masterpiece. Contender for ensemble cast of the year includes (deep breath) Ralph Fiennes, Bill Murray, F Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Owen Wilson and Tom Wilkinson. Even if the movie isn't top notch, admission fare may well be worth it to watch this much juicy acting talent alone.
Grace of Monaco
Premise - Cinematic retelling of the Grace Kelly saga
Prediction - It can't be any worse than this year's woeful Diana (2013). Nicole Kidman should be a safe pair of hands for the lead but script and direction will make or break this one.
Need for Speed
Premise - A cross-country road race actioner with the usual good-guy gearstick jockey racing to clear his name.
Prediction - Computer game movies have the worst track record in Hollywood. Whether Scott Waugh's Need for Speed will change all that is doubtful. Early talk of the picture embodying the spirit of 1970's cult car classics feels like the sort of pre-release hype we've all heard before, and when you consider that the studio behind the Need for Speed gaming franchise is the money grubbing Electronic Arts, things look bleak. It'll be nice to be proved wrong.
Premise - Stormy Bible story, it rains cats and dogs forcing local carpenter to build a boat and fill it with cats and dogs (and giraffes, elephants, aardvarks, etc).
Prediction - Its hard to see how anyone could stretch this story out to a compelling two hour movie without doing it for laughs (hello Evan Almighty) but if anyone can Darren Afronsky can. A weighty cast features Russell Crowe in the title role. Anthnony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Jennifer Connelly and Ray Winstone should provide suitably Biblical acting support.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Premise - Still struggling to adjust to modern life Steve Rogers teams with the Black Widow Natasha Romanov to untangle a mystery within SHIELD, with the help of new recruit Falcon. Things take a turn for the worse though when an old friend returns as a new adversary.
Prediction - Are the cracks starting to show in the Avengers bandwagon? The trailer for Avengers outing number nine was underwhelming, looking like a bigscreen version of an Agents of SHIELD episode (which isn't exactly setting the world alight). Falcon joins the series from the comic pages but his styling looks far to Transformery and the threat of an enemy within feels like an uncomfortable darkening of a series that has done well to avoid po-faced territory so far.
Premise - Kevin Costner plays the general managed of the Cleveland Browns American Football team trying to get his hands on the number one draft pick to secure the superstar rookie his team desperately need.
Prediction - Gridrion might be a sport more beloved by our American cousins but its produced a list great movies a hundred yards long. This comedy drama sees old hand Ivan Reitman getting back behind the camera, with an interesting cast in front to play with, including Costner, Frank Langella. Jennifer Garnet, Sam Elliott, Rosanna Arquette, Terry Crews, Denis Leary and Ellen Burstyn. This year's Moneyball (2011).
Premise - A team of DEA officers is double crossed busting a drug lord's safe house, when a mystery killer starts taking out members of the DEA squad one by one.
Prediction - Schwarzenegger does Agatha Christie, a premise so balls our barmy it has to work. The plot is loosely based on the writers 1939 story And Then There Were None, as Arnie and director David Ayer offer up a Commando (1985) inspired thriller. Arnold’s first foray back into action cinema The Last Stand (2012) was hardly a classic; here's hoping this brings him back to the big time.
The Amazing Spiderman 2
Premise – Digging into his father’s past with buddy Harry Osborn, Peter Parker starts to uncover worrying links between OsCorp and new villains in town Rhino and Electro.
Prediction – The first instalment in the new Pete Spiderman franchise took a mint at the box office but failed to stir critics and fans. The trailer for the second movie in the Andrew Garfield era was impressive though, much grander in scale and much darker in its reckoning for our hero. Jamie Foxx was an interesting choice for Electro, as was Paul Giamatti donning a giant Rhino shaped mech-suit. The trailer also teased an appearance for the Green Goblin. All round, this could be the surprise smash of the year.
Premise – A new origin story for the classic Japanese beast, reinvented as a "terrifying force of nature”.
Prediction – Godzilla might be a cinematic legend in the Orient, but in Hollywood he’s best approached with caution. Godzilla (1998) was a turkey despite teaser trailers that ran a year before release promising a big budget epic. Legendary Pictures have rolled the dice with British director Gareth Edwards, who will follow up his stunning debut picture Monsters (2010) with a beast of bigger proportions. If he can combine the magic of Monsters with the traditional nuclear-annihilation angst of the classic Jap movies we could be in for a treat.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Premise – When a pro-mutant political figure is assassinated, the future is changed forever. Mutants are now hunted by Sentinel robots and kept in concentration camps. To avert this nightmare future, Wolverine must travel back in time to seek the help of a reluctant Charles Xavier and a brooding Erik Lehnsherr.
Prediction – The two part story Days of Future Past is possibly the best in X-Men comic history. It should make for a knock-out movie then, right? That’s what they said about X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) when it attempted to bring the other great X-story to cinemas, the Dark Phoenix Saga. Look how that turned out. Still, we have Bryan Singer back in the director’s chair and he somehow managed to pull together everyone from the old X-Men cast and the new X-Men cast. A post credits scene in The Wolverine (2012) and a tantalising trailer promises much. Here's hoping XDFP lives up to the hype.
Edge of Tomorrow
Premise – Near future Earth is getting a battering from an alien race called Mimics. Only Tom Cruise caught in a regeneration time loop can save the day.
Prediction – Based on the Hiroshi Sakurazaka novel All You Need Is Kill, this Doug Liman directed effort hopes to succeed where recent future sci-fi films Cloud Atlas, Elysium, After Earth, Ender’s Game and Oblivion (2013) failed. The chance to see Tom Cruise get killed over and over again in brutal alien combat is strangely appealing. Less enticing is the thought of watching Emily Blunt try and pretend she’s genuine Special Forces material just so Liman can shoe-horn in a love interest.
22 Jump Street
Premise – Undercover coppers Schmidt and Jenko move on to college to infiltrate a crime ring in a fraternity house.
Prediction – This welcome follow-up to surprise 2012 comedy hit 21 Jump Street (2012) sees Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum return for another round of tripping major balls and trying to fit into contemporary culture. Thankfully Ice Cube also returns to verbally tear the boys a new arsehole. Whether Johnny Depp and Peter DeLuise will return from beyond the grave we’re not quite sure. Front runner for comedy of the year.
Premise – The rise and fall of 1960’s rock ‘n’ roll group The Four Seasons.
Prediction – Ordinarily music theatre adaptations fail to get cinema fans particularly excited. But as this one has Clint Eastwood behind the camera in the director’s chair it might be worth a look. Even more exciting is the chance to see Christopher Walken hoofing it and giving it both barrels in the Gyp DeCarlo role. As Eastwood is an accomplished jazz pianist himself the musical numbers should have some swing to them to as well.
Transformers: Age of Extinction
Premise – Several years on from Dark of the Moon Earth is Transformer free and living in peace. But when a scientist fiddles with some found Transformer technology the giant robots return to beat seven shades out of each other all over again.
Prediction – Where did it all go wrong? The first Transformers movie promised so much, then two god-awful scripts and a predilection for confusing, blurry battle scenes sunk the franchise. Going back to the drawing board Michael bay has ditched Shia LaBeouf and any other hangovers from the first trilogy. The dependable Mark Wahlberg nabs leading man duties, with some intriguing support from the likes of Kelsey Grammer and Stanley Tucci. The big news is that the fan favourite Dinobots will be making an appearance. Still no sign of a Frank Welker Megatron though. Approach with caution.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Premise – Jumping forward fifteen years from Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) a group of surviving humans lead the fight against Caesar and his planet occupying apes.
Prediction – With Matt Reeves replacing Rupert Wyatt in the directors chair, star of unexpected success Rise James Franco moved on as well. Gary Oldman takes his place with support from Jason Clarke and Kodi Smit-McPhee. Whether they can deliver on the global scale that part two now has to deliver will rest on how well Reeves has spent the $120million budget. That the success of the first film sat largely with the wonderful relationship between Franco and Caesar is also a worry; Dawn’s script better have something equally engaging lined up as a replacement.
Premise – An immigrant Russian toilet cleaner is visited by an interplanetary warrior who informs her that she is actually the future leader of the universe.
Prediction – The careers of the Wachowski brothers didn’t quite go to plan following the astounding success of The Matrix (1999). Two turgid sequels were offered, before the boys went on to direct the uninspired Speed Racer (2008) and the uneven Cloud Atlas (2012). Somewhere in the interim Larry Wachowski became Lana Wachowski; so can the now brother and sister writer/director team get their career back on track? Their latest story premise might fall in the "WTF?” category but then so did The Matrix before that came out, and with Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum leading the charge this might just surprise a few people.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Premise – Across the other side of the galaxy a mixed band of heroes comes together on the run to defeat a potentially universe ending cosmic force.
Prediction – Will Marvel’s $100million plus gamble pay off? While most movie fans had prior knowledge of the Avengers crew before they reached threatres, only a hardened comic fan will have any idea who the Guardians are. Based on an on-off Marvel comic series that has never really moved from cult fandom to the big time, this James Gunn directed feature hopes to build on the 2008 comic rebirth. An intriguing blend of Star Wars and Marvel comic superheroes, fans got their first taste of the Guardians during the end credits of Thor: The Dark World (2013) when Guardians character The Collector (Benicio Del Toro) was introduced. Whether it will pique fan interest enough to force the start of a new franchise is still anyone’s guess.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Premise – A sewer dwelling band of man sized, martial arts proffering turtles must take the fight above ground to stop super villain The Shredder.
Prediction – A live action TMNT update that no one asked for, producer Michael Bay decided we were going to get it anyway. Perhaps failing to learn from previous Transformer errors, Megan Fox will be taking on the human lead as reporter April Jones, while William Fichtner will be somehow turning back the hands of time and hitting the gym to play pumped up, blade sporting bad guy Shredder. Whether this will embrace the quirky humour of the early comics, I have my doubts. Expectations are low, which is the only plus point at the moment.
The Expendables 3
Premise – The Expendables must go mano-o-mano with the their evil co-founder Conrad Stonebanks after he returns from the dead to seek revenge on Barney and his gang.
Prediction – Here’s hoping it’ll be third time lucky. Stallone needs to knock up a decent script to go with his all-star cast, as the plots and dialogue for The Expendables (2010) and The Expendables (2012) were dire. Bruce Willis is out, replaced by Mel Gison on villain duties as Stonebanks. Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas, Kelsey Grammer and Robert Davi also join the fun. With talks of part four all ready doing the rounds, there’s no sign of the old boys slowing down yet.
Sin City: A Dame To Kill For
Premise – A quartet of crime thriller plots interweave through one night in Sin City.
Prediction – Another portmanteau offering from Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, previous players Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba and Clive Owen return. The cast is bolstered further by joining stars Josh Brolin, Jospeh Gordon-Levitt, and Eva Green. Miller has created two new stories for the film, as well as adapting the popular short story from book five Just Another Saturday Night. With the same pedigree both in front and behind the camera the chance of a repeat of Sin City’s (2005) success is high.
Premise – A retired intelligence officer goes off grid to help a young prostitute but lands in trouble with the Russian mafia for his efforts.
Prediction – Not many people will remember the CBS television show The Equalizer which ran from 1985 to 1989, but the Edward Woodward vehicle was a surprisingly accomplished crime thriller series. Director Antoine Fuqua reteams with his Training Day (2001) leading man Denzel Washington for an original story which sees Washington turning vigilante to save hooker Chloe Grace Moretz from some nasty Russian gangsters. A possible hard boiled hit for the summer.
Premise – When a wormhole is discovered in space a team of explorers and scientists are sent in to investigate. Time travelling and inter-dimensional travel ensues.
Prediction – Any project from director of the moment Christopher Nolan is highly anticipated, and this space and time meddling drama is no different, already drawing parallels with his mind-bending hit Inception (2010). Nolan is typically tight-lipped about the story itself, but the cast is already looking stellar with Matthew McConaughey leading the way, followed by Jessica Chastain, Ellen Burstyn, Matt Damon, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, John Lithgow, and returning Nolaners Michael Caine and Anne Hathaway. Make sure you see if in 3D IMAX.
Dumb and Dumber To
Premise – Desperately in need of a new kidney, long-time buddies Harry and Lloyd head out in search of one of their long lost children.
Prediction – There has of course been a Dumb and Dumber (1994) sequel before in the form of Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd (2003). It was an ill-judged affair though, with none of the original cast or crew returning. Almost twenty years on though, the original gang is back together, with the Farrelly brothers back on writing and directing duties, and Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels returning to the best comedy couple of all time. They will be joined by Laurie Holden, Kathleen Turner and Jennifer Lawrence. Hopefully, the Farrelly’s can recapture the wonderfully crude comedy gold of the first outing, as another Harry and Lloyd adventure is frankly long overdue.
Premise – A battle hardened tank commander must lead his five man tank crew on a death defying mission behind enemy lines during the latter stages of World War II.
Prediction – Director David Ayers pissed off Oxfordshire locals in November this years by filming Nazi panzas rolling across our green and pleasant land on Remembrance Sunday. Leading man Brad Pitt managed to placate the usual outraged Mary Whitehouse crowd and crack on with leading fellow tankmen Shia LaBeouf and Michael Pena on a suicide mission in their Sherman. Hopefully Ayers can make amends for rewriting World War II history with his U-571 (2000) script.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
Premise – Katniss Everdeen reluctantly leads the Districts in a civil war against the corrupt Capitol.
Prediction – Crap title aside, part three in the Hunger Games story might finally offer something different than another round of Katniss running around in the woods, as our heroine leads the charge against beardy Sutherland and his cronies. Unless you want part two spoilt for you, I’d avoid the cast list for part three.
Premise – The story of little orphan Annie and her struggle to break out of her horrible orphanage home.
Prediction – Contemporary updates of famous musicals are a risky business; just look how much Fame (2009) sucked. When you consider that this reboot of the famous cockney sing-along features all original songs by Jay-Z, and will be headlined by Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz, you already know this will be one to avoid. Still, it at least gives a well deserved starring role for Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) child acting phenomenon Quvenzhane Wallis. It’s a motherfucking hard knock life, bitches.
Premise – A long overdue big screen outing for Peru’s favourite son. Marmalade sandwiches will be munched, Mr Gruber will get pissed off.
Prediction – Little is known about the story behind Paddington Bear’s cinematic debut, but a jolly good British cast has been assembled to compliment Colin Firth on bear duties, with Hugh Bonneville, Jim Broadbent, Matt Lucas and Julie Walters cropping up. Nicole Kidman is on villain duties.
The Hobbit: There And Back Again
Premise – With Smaug the dragon defeated, Bilbo and Gandalf embark on a raucous road trip back to the Shire, getting mixed up with coke sniffing donkeys, dead hookers and a troupe of Brooklyn drag queens on the way.
Prediction – The Hobbit being a slip of a book compared to Tolkein’s mammoth Lord of the Rings saga, many wondered how director Peter Jackson would find enough material for two films, let alone three. Most likely a bridge between the original trilogy and The Hobbit three parter, fans are hoping for some Rings cameos, and hopefully the return of Viggo Mortensen’s hundred plus year old Aragorn.