With the 2014 movie schedule now underway, movie fans are already looking past the dead of winter to the most heralded releases of the year, including new movies from A-list directors like Christopher Nolan, Darren Aronofsky and Paul Thomas Anderson as well as new entries in popular series like "Planet of the Apes," "X-Men" and "Spider-Man." Here's a look at a few of the titles that will bring plenty of fanfare in the weeks and months leading up to their releases this year.
10) A Million Ways to Die in the West (Universal), May 30:
It was unclear what type of success "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane would have when making the switch to feature films, though the success of "Ted" largely spoke for itself. With mostly positive critical reviews, "Ted" hauled in a spectacular $549 million worldwide to make it one of the most successful R-rated comedies in history. Now with "A Million Ways to Die in the West," MacFarlane again writes and directs, only this time it's a comedy about a farmer in the west hoping to win over the woman who walked out on him. Starring Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried and MacFarlane himself, "A Million Ways to Die in the West" has the potential to again tap into a wide mainstream audience thanks to MacFarlane's current popularity.
9) Jupiter Ascending (Warner Brothers), July 18:
Many fans of filmmaking duo Andy and Lana Wachowski touted the ambition of their recent release "Cloud Atlas," though mixed fan reaction led to very disappointing numbers at the box office. This time around, the Wachowskis have another A-list cast, led by Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum, and a mid-summer release schedule that suggests Warner Brothers has some major commercial expectations. With another sci-fi premise that should have some appeal among fans of the genre, "Jupiter Ascending" could be a commercial comeback for the filmmakers behind "The Matrix" trilogy.
8) The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Sony/Columbia), May 2:
The sequel to the mildly popular original could be a make-or-break release for the entire series, as the first "Amazing Spider-Man" was generally well-liked but was far from a breakout commercial success. Kicking off the summer release schedule, "Amazing Spider-Man 2" has arguably the best release timing of the year and there won't be any excuses if it can't find mainstream action-seeking audiences. Though it looks like the series might have some momentum, a misfire with its intended audience will make it look premature to set release dates for third and fourth installments, which Sony has already done.
7) Inherent Vice (Warner Brothers), TBA:
Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" may have sent mainstream audiences running for the hills, but it also had enough support amongst critics and the Anderson faithful to maintain his reputation as one of the best American filmmakers in the game. Bringing Anderson back to the 1970s for the first time since his cult classic "Boogie Nights," "Inherent Vice" follows the story of a detective (Joaquin Phoenix) trying to track down his former girlfriend in a drug-infused Los Angeles. Also starring Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro and Owen Wilson, "Inherent Vice" has one of the most interesting casts of the year and is guaranteed to be anything but your ordinary crime story.
6) Divergent (Lionsgate/Summit), March 21:
There's no getting around the fact that "Divergent" is a huge release for Lionsgate, a formerly minor studio that has recently been cranking out some of the most popular movie franchises in the world. Much like "Twilight" and "The Hunger Games," "Divergent" once again will take aim at teenage audiences with a worldwide bestselling book series that appears to have the potential to be a huge franchise. Starring Shailene Woodley and Kate Winslet, "Divergent" has some major talent in the cast and is being built up to be one of the most anticipated releases of the spring.
5) X-Men: Days of Future Past (Fox), May 30:
With the success of "X-Men: First Class," the "X-Men" franchise got back on track after the very disappointing numbers and outlook from "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." Following up "First Class," "The Wolverine" was also a quiet commercial success that was generally liked by audiences and critics, helping to build some momentum leading up to the release of "Days of Future Past," which hits theaters at the end of May in a prime summer spot. Having an A-list cast led by Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy also doesn't hurt.
4) Noah (Paramount), March 28:
Darren Aronofsky is the rare director who has been able to keep his art house credibility while also finding some success at the box office. "The Wrestler" was a steady success back in 2008, reviving the career of Mickey Rourke in the process, and Aronofsky followed it up with crossover success "Black Swan," which racked up an astounding $329 million worldwide despite a production budget of only $13 million. With that type of commercial success, Aronofsky went off and made the highly ambitious biblical biopic "Noah," starring Russell Crowe as the Old Testament icon who is the centerpiece of one of the most famous stories in human history. Thanks to a reported $130 million budget, $95 million more than any movie in Aronofsky's filmography, this is a bold and ambitious project that could be a huge success or a major box office bust.
3) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Fox), July 11:
Expectations were somewhat limited when "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" hit theaters back in August of 2011, but excellent reviews and solid box office numbers despite its so-so release timing made it look like the "Planet of the Apes" series had some fresh legs. Now with a mid-summer release and the popularity of the original, "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" should hit theaters with higher expectations than the original, though we'll have to wait and see if the series can survive losing James Franco atop the cast.
2) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I (Lionsgate), Nov. 21:
With "Catching Fire" cementing the "Hunger Games" series as a big-time success for Lionsgate, the first release of the two-part finale should bring plenty of fanfare leading up to its release. "Catching Fire" managed to be both a hit with critics and its intended audience, which should just about guarantee that "The Hunger Games" will roll into its last release no matter how "Mockingjay Part I" plays when it hits theaters. With Oscar buzz surrounding her current release, "American Hustle," Jennifer Lawrence is as popular as anyone on the planet right now, with "Mockingjay Part I" ensured to be yet another smash hit in her meteoric career.
1) Interstellar (Paramount), Nov. 7:
You might have heard of Christopher Nolan's last couple of movies: "The Dark Knight Rises" and "Inception." Nolan has had a streak of critically acclaimed blockbusters that have ushered him to the forefront of mainstream movies, setting "Interstellar" up to potentially be Nolan's latest smash hit. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Michael Caine, "Interstellar" follows the story of a group of scientists who discover a wormhole and attempt to revolutionize space travel, bringing together some of the classic tropes of the genre for an action-adventure that has had sci-fi fans drooling since it was first announced.
Given Nolan's track record and a cushy early November release, "Interstellar" comes with big commercial expectations from Paramount, who would love to see it turn into the 2014 version of "Gravity." It also doesn't hurt that it was originally a passion project of iconic director Steven Spielberg, who started the project back in 2006 before passing it over to Christopher Nolan due to scheduling conflicts.
by RTT Staff Writer
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