Tomorrow morning, we’ll be publishing a piece about the 25 films we are most looking forward to in 2014, and it took quite a bit of back and forth before we decided on the final list. There are titles you’ll immediately recognize on there, and a few you might not. Before we get to the main event, we thought we’d explain our thinking on a few high-profile films that you won’t see on the list tomorrow.
A Million Ways To Die In The West
In Theaters: May 30, 2014
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Cast: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, Neil Patrick Harris, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, Wes Studi
Why we didn’t include it: MacFarlane’s certainly got his fans, and “Ted” was underestimated by everyone before it came out. There’s a huge difference, though, between a film where you have a movie star and MacFarlane voicing a character a la “Family Guy” and a film where MacFarlane is the actual live-action lead. This is brand-new territory for him, and we remain unconvinced that audiences will buy him as the star. Westerns are difficult to do write even when playing them straight, and until we see a trailer for this, we have no idea what sort of tone they’re even playing.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
In Theaters: August 8, 2014
Director: Jonathan Liebsman
Cast: Megan Fox, William Fichtner, Will Arnett, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Danny Woodburn, Pete Ploszek
Why we didn’t include it: While this franchise has longer legs than we ever expected, with a recent animated show that has done a great job of re-establishing the characters and the mythology for new young viewers, the script for this has been problematic, and we’re still not sure we believe there’s any real crossover potential here. Sure, Michael Bay may have taken a toy commercial and turned it into a mainstream action series, but robots from space seems like an easier buy-in for adults than talking kung-fu turtles who love pizza. We’ll be most interested to see if the film plays for longtime fans or if the big changes to the series will manage to alienate even the faithful.
In Theaters: October 10, 2014
Director: David Dobkin
Cast: Robert Downey, Jr., Leighton Meester, Vera Farmiga, David Krumholtz, Billy Bob Thornton, Melissa Leo, Vincent D’Onofrio, Robert Duvall, Balthazar Getty
Why we didn’t include it: Sounds like this one falls firmly in John Grisham territory, and while we’re always happy to see an adult-minded thriller, that’s not enough to get it a place on the list. Mainly, we’re just looking forward to seeing Robert Downey Jr. playing a character that sounds nothing like Tony Stark as he returns to his hometown for his mother’s funeral only to learn that his father, the town’s pre-eminent judge, has been arrested and charged with murder.
In Theaters: April 11, 2014
Director: Ivan Reitman
Cast: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Tom Welling, Terry Crews, Sam Elliott, Ellen Burstyn, Denis Leary, Rosanna Arquette, Frank Langella, Chi McBride, Sean Combs, Kevin Dunn, Pat Healy
Why we didn’t include it: We’re happy to see Reitman back behind the camera, and we like the premise a lot. Costner is the manager of the Cleveland Browns, and the film follows his efforts to get the number one draft pick for the year for his team. It’s a big fun cast, and the subject is ripe for satire. Still, we’re hoping for something that reminds us of Reitman as his best, a la “Dave” or “Ghostbusters,’ and not something like “Evolution” or “Fathers’ Day.”
The Raid 2
In Theaters: March 28, 2014
Director: Gareth Evans
Cast: Iko Uwais, Yaya Ruhian, Julie Estelle, Donny Alamsyah
Why we didn’t include it: If this entire project was just about which films I, Drew McWeeny, am most excited to see next year, this would be #1-#25, over and over and over. Not everyone shares my love for the work that Gareth Evans is doing, though, and I think it comes down to how much you love fight movies. No one working in the genre right now is better at visual storytelling than Evans, and his stunt team has to be considered the best in the world at this type of close-up bone-breaking mayhem. Still, the first film never really found its footing commercially, and there’s no guarantee this one will do any better with mainstream audiences.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
In Theaters: May 2, 2014
Director: Marc Webb
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Jamie Foxx, Emma Stone, Sally Field, Paul Giamatti, Denis Leary, Dane Dehaan, Martin Sheen, Felicity Jones, BJ Novak, Chris Cooper
Why we didn’t include it: Fatigue? We’re worried about all the villains? We didn’t like the first one that much? It’s hard to explain exactly why we’re not pumped up for this, but either the first film set its hooks in you or it didn’t, and none of us at HitFix seem particularly rabid to find out the secrets about Peter’s parents or to see what sounds like a lot of legwork for the eventual “Sinister Six” film. We love the chemistry between Garfield and Stone, though, and that first trailer does have some promising moments. Fingers crossed that this delivers a more cohesive overall film and wins us back over to the series.
Edge Of Tomorrow
In Theaters: June 6, 2014
Director: Doug Liman
Cast: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Jeremy Piven, Lara Pulver
Why we didn’t include it: “Groundhog Day” meets “Starship Troopers” is a weird premise, and there’s a high potential for it to fall flat. We’ve heard some very encouraging buzz from recent screenings, and if the film really does deliver as an emotional experience above and beyond the SF trappings, then we’ll be excited. Doug Liman could use a hit, and we’d love to see him pull this one off.
In Theaters: February 12, 2014
Director: Jose Padilha
Cast: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K. Williams, Jennifer Ehle, Jay Baruchel, Samuel L. Jackson, Miguel Ferrer
Why we didn’t include it: By far, one of the most infuriating recent reading experiences for me involved the script for this film, but I’d be the first to admit that I hold the first “RoboCop” dear, and I think there was a good deal of luck involved in pulling that off. Padilha is a smart, passionate filmmaker, and his “Elite Squad” films managed to nail the mix of personal and political and commercial required to make them huge hits in Brazil. He makes sense as the same sort of filmmaker that Paul Verhoeven was when he made the first one. But studio politics are very different now, and what we read seemed to be concerned first with setting up a franchise, not with exploring character or with pointed social satire. If this turns out to be “just” another action film, it has to be considered a failure, and that worries us.
In Theaters: April 18, 2014
Director: Wally Pfister
Cast: Johnny Depp, Kate Mara, Morgan Freeman, Rebecca Hall, Cillian Murphy, Paul Bettany, Cole Hauser, Clifton Collins Jr.
Why we didn’t include it: Because the chances of this being silly are so very, very high. Hollywood always reacts to new jumps in technology by making movies about how scary it is, and this is a perfect example. While Pfister made his bones as Christopher Nolan’s cinematographer and he’s poaching several key members of Nolan’s various casts, that’s no guarantee that this will be anything like a Nolan film. This one is a huge “wait and see” for us.
Transformers 4: Age Of Extinction
In Theaters: June 27, 2014
Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Nicola Peltz, Kelsey Grammer, TJ Miller, Peter Cullen
Why we didn’t include it: Bay’s got to prove that the real star of this franchise is his action and the robots themselves now that Shia LaBeouf has moved on. Then again, we’ve seen three movies of robot chaos so far, and if that’s all this has to offer, is that really enough to overcome the sense that they’re all pretty much exactly the same movie?
The Hobbit: There And Back Again
In Theaters: December 17, 2014
Director: Peter Jackson
Cast: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Lee Pace, Orlando Bloom, Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Armitage, Luke Evans, Evangeline Lilly, Aidan Turner, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee
Why we didn’t include it: Even among the staff of HitFix, opinions are hotly divided about whether “The Desolation Of Smaug” was an improvement over “An Unexpected Journey,” and when a good half the office has already decided they’re not going to bother seeing the final film in theaters, that’s a huge problem. It’s the opposite of how people seemed to feel after “The Two Towers” hit theaters, and if “There and Back Again” turns out to be our last trip to Middle-earth, it seems like most people won’t mind at all.
Even with this secondary list, we’re still missing films like “The Interview,” the directorial follow-up to “This Is The End” by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, as well as “Neighbors,” with Rogen starring as one-half of a married couple having to deal with a frat house that moves in next door to them. There are plenty of others we didn’t have room for, like “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” to kick off the year, George Clooney’s “The Monuments Men,” and Wes Anderson’s screwball “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” all of which we want to see. We want to see “The Muppets Most Wanted,” “300 Rise Of An Empire,” Joe Carnahan’s “Stretch,” and the YA adaptation “Divergent.” Things like “Sabotage,” “Maleficent,” and “The Fault In Our Stars” all have elements that we find enticing, as do “Jersey Boys,” “Deliver Us From Evil,” “Jane Got A Gun,” and “Sin City: A Dame To Die For.” We’ll absolutely make time for “The Equalizer,” “The Boxtrolls,” “This Is Where I Leave You,” and “Dumb and Dumber To,” and that’s still just scratching the surface.
In short, 2014 looks interesting on paper, and while we’ve done our best to do our legwork here, there will definitely be films that come out of nowhere to blow our minds, and plenty of these will fall short of their potential. For now, though, this should give you a sense of what to expect from the year ahead, and we’ll see you back here in the morning for the big list.