Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Just like every other year that has gone before it, there are a plethora of new releases that I am looking forward to seeing in 2014.   We have a brand new David Fincher film (“Gone Girl”), the Mo Brothers follow up to “Macabre” (“Killers”), Denis Villeneuve’s first collaboration with Jake Gyllenhaal (“Enemy”), the latest from Jean-Pierre Jeunet (“The Young & Prodigious Spivet”), and a mammoth two-part film from Lars Von Trier (“Nymphomaniac”), and I am still waiting for Bong Joon-Ho’s “Snowpiercer” to be released.   But to list every single feature I am anticipating would take forever and a day, so I am only going to highlight my six most anticipated releases of 2014, starting with:

Contrary to everyone else in the world, I was not one who went absolutely ga-ga for Wes Anderson’s previous film “Moonrise Kingdom”, but believe me, it surprised me more than anyone.  I am a massive fan of Wes Anderson, so it came as a bit of a shock to be completely underwhelmed by one of his features.  However from all of the trailers that have come out for his follow-up “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, it looks as though he may have created his most entertaining film yet.  Having the film set in three different time periods (each shot in a different aspect ratio) looks interesting, but it is the quirky murder mystery storyline that really excites me.  That, and it is great to finally see Ralph Fiennes do something completely different and he looks to be in career best form here.  As usual for Anderson, the design of the film and its quirks are specific to the director and instantly recognizable, which gets me once again pumped for the film, but I must remind myself that it was these same quirks that I found so self conscious and annoying in “Moonrise Kingdom” and temper my expectations before going in.  That said, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” looks like a rollicking good time, if nothing else.

This film has the biggest question mark next to it because it could be anything, everything or nothing.  Because this is Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut, it is unknown just how much talent the guy has in that department, but knowing the kinds of movies he commits himself to when acting and the sort of directors he likes working with, I am pretty confident that this is going to be a special film.  If nothing else it sounds original.  Here is the official plot description for the film: “"A dark fantasy/neo-noir about a single mother (Christina Hendricks) who gets lost in the criminal underworld, while her son discovers a road leading to an underwater utopia."   Personally I think it sounds amazing especially the part about the underwater utopia; it just brings to mind some amazing visuals that I hope Gosling can capture.  Aside from Hendricks, Gosling has filled his cast with Saoirse Ronan, Eva Mendes, Ben Mendelsohn and Barbara Steele (!), while behind the camera he has got the great Benoit Debie as his director of photography.  I admit I am expecting big things from “How To Catch A Monster”, and think it has the potential to be the surprise hit of the year, but I also understand that it has the potential to go the other way too.  Either way, I cannot wait to see this film.

David Michod’s directorial debut, “Animal Kingdom”, absolutely blew my mind when it came out.  I adored the film and was stunned by just how brilliant a director Michod was with his first feature.  He was so assured and precise and obviously knew exactly what he wanted and what he delivered was masterful.  It was obvious too that he had a knack of collaborating with actors and getting the best out of them because “Animal Kingdom” is filled with stunning performances and even saw Jacki Weaver garner an Oscar nomination.  Whatever Michod did next, I was always going to be first in line for and “The Rover” is that new film.  Here is the official plot description for it: “….is set in the Australian desert in a dangerous and dysfunctional near future. Eric has left everything and every semblance of human kindness behind him. When his last possession, his car, is stolen by a gang of dangerous criminals, Eric sets off to track them down and is forced along the way to enlist the help of Reynolds, the naive member of the gang left behind in the bloody chaos of the gang's most recent escape.”  From the still above, it looks as though this is going to be an intense film and it makes obvious that Michod has reteamed with Guy Pearce who plays the role Eric.  The role of Reynolds surprisingly went to Robert Pattison and hopefully behind Michod’s steady hand we can see the best of this actor and something completely different.  

Any time Paul Thomas Anderson makes a film, it is an event and should not be missed.  He is a director that has yet to make a bad film, but what makes “Inherent Vice” so compelling is that after two somber character pieces, it looks like Anderson has returned to having “fun” with his new film.  “Inherent Vice” is adapted from Thomas Pynchon’s novel of the same name and is about “…a drug-fueled detective…” named “Larry "Doc" Sportello” who “… investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.”  The film is set in Los Angeles in the 1970’s and I must say that I am getting a serious “The Long Goodbye” vibe from it which makes me very excited.  Anderson has reteamed with Joaquin Phoenix who plays the detective and has filled his cast with some stunning actors the likes of Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon, Jena Malone, Owen Wilson and Martin Short.  The other news of note regarding this film is that Robert Elswit returns as Anderson’s director of photography for “Inherent Vice” after missing “The Master”.  This thing can only be a hit in my eyes and I am so looking forward to it, and it is also great to get a new film from Paul Thomas Anderson so soon after “The Master”.

While it is well known that Tim Burton and his films have been inconsistent lately, I am not one of those that thinks the director has lost it and does not have another good film in him.  After all, his best film “Sweeney Todd” only came out seven years ago.  I will admit that I think Burton needs to find something fresh and work with different actors again in an attempt to re-capture his early brilliance and he may have found this opportunity with “Big Eyes”.  This film is something completely unique in Burton’s filmography  as it is a drama focusing on Margaret Keane, an artist who first found acclaim in the 1950’s and whose work was instantly recognizable due to the big doe-eyes she drew in her subjects that usually consisted of children or women.  The film charts her success and her subsequent legal battles with her husband, Walter, after he attempts to claim the work as his own.  As you can see, this is nothing like anything Burton has tackled before but the most exciting thing about “Big Eyes” is that the script is written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski who were the geniuses behind Tim Burton’s other perfect film, “Ed Wood”.  And the cast?  Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter are nowhere to be seen, instead we have a completely new group of actors who have never worked with the director before with Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz filling out the roles of Margaret and Water Keane.  The director of photography for “Big Eyes” is the extremely talented Bruno Delbonnel (check out his stunning work in the Coen Brother’s recent film “Inside Llewyn Davis”) who also shot Burton’s “Dark Shadows” so it will definitely be a beautiful looking film.  At the end of the day, I think “Big Eyes” is going to be a small film that may struggle to find an audience in today’s market, but in terms of quality I think it has the potential to be very special and it will hopefully be another gem in Tim Burton’s career.

My most anticipated film of “2014” is the martial arts actioner “The Raid 2: Berandal”.  While I am a little embarrassed that my most anticipated movie isn’t something more highbrow, I am not going to apologize for my love of visceral, kinetic cinema.  The original film I declared as the best action film I had seen in a decade, and I stand by that.  It is a brutal and stunning film full of amazingly choreographed fights and mayhem.  The sequel has been opened up considerably by not being contained in a single location and increasing the number of characters ten-fold.  The film kicks off right at the spot the original finished, and becomes something of a crime epic as Rama is forced to go undercover into a prison to befriend the son of the biggest crime boss in Indonesia, in an attempt to destroy the organization from the inside.  The film premiered at Sundance earlier this week and the response has been incredibly positive with almost unanimous reports stating that it outdoes the original in every facet.  This is almost unbelievable but apparently the film is chock full of pulse pounding action the likes never seen before, and I have seen it mentioned as the “best action film ever made”.  While that sounds like hyperbole, I will admit it has got me even more excited to see the film.  It was obvious in the first film that director Gareth Evans understands action and how to film it, but it also appears that he has the ability to tell a grand sweeping crime epic too.  As of yet the film does not have an Australian release date, which kills me, but it does come out in the U.S on March 28, which means that the blu-ray release of the film will arrive before the end of the year.  Hopefully I wont have to wait that long to see this two and a half hour martial arts epic, because as I said before this is my most anticipated film of 2014.

Well, that is it.  My enormous round up of the year that was 2013 is finally over.  Hopefully you enjoyed reading it and got something out of it, but how about we go back to watching some new films now?

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