The year of 2014 is full of hope and promise from blockbusters to indies that are more than worth your time. With a 12-month movie calendar that includes Marvel properties like Guardians of the Galaxy and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, as well as Oscar hopefuls akin to Richard Linklater's 12-year opus, Boyhood, and the Clint Eastwood Iraq War film that is American Sniper, it can be almost overwhelming to figure out what you absoutely need to see.
Thus, we at Den of Geek thought it was overdue that we countdown 2014’s most anticipated titles and figure out what cinema has to offer this year, not to mention what is most worth your time.
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think we needed a “Lego Movie,” but I’m happy we have one from comedy’s most recent mad scientists, Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Simply not contented with resurrecting mediocre ‘80s television into movies that made Channing Tatum cool, Lord and Miller switch to animation to address the entire girth of fanboy culture in this massive love letter/backhanded compliment to Lego enthusiasts.
Stuffing this animated film with more cameos than all of the Muppet films combined, there is an unbridled glee to this sugar rush that’s akin to a child is playing on his bedroom floor with his Batman, Star Wars, Ninja Turtles, and even Shaquille O’Neal toys all at once. Throw in some winsome voice work by Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, and Will Arnett, and then one shockingly sincere turn from Will Ferrell, and you have the surprise hit of early 2014. Everything really is awesome about this sly consumerist deconstruction/toy ad. Den of Geek Review
For his latest film, Wes Anderson conjured up a cinematic confection as sumptuously decadent as the titular hotel, and equally as haunted. Relying on his primary repertory of talent, and a new master class performance by first-time collaborator Ralph Fiennes, the ostentatious Grand Budapest Hotel would pretend to have all the hallmark beguilements of its director’s trademark humor.
However, this seeming Euro-romp reaches for something more ambitious and nobler with its surprisingly downbeat plot and overarching shadow, a dark menace from fascism in 1920s Europe. In some ways, this is a rip-roaring Hitchcockian adventure, complete with gruesome murders and exhilarating chases, but it still ends with a denouement worthy of Hemingway, and is framed within the context of several combined unreliable narrators (a feat complemented with its sliding aspect ratio for every individual perspective and time period). The effect is a pervasive sense of loss from the first frame. It appears that for even Anderson, the frivolity of a visual carousel must come to an end. After all, the brutal ugliness of reality is only one horse figurine behind you. Den of Geek Review
One to look forward to, just based off all the film festival buzz this year, is the upcoming "Scarlett Johansson is a Pod Person" movie. That's right, this is a psychosexual horror piece that appears to owe more than a little David Lynch from previously semi-retired director Jonathan Glazer (Birth, Sexy Beast). In this surrealist sci-fi, Johansson is Laura, an alien honeypot sent to Earth to gather information on our spiecies as she feeds on the men that she seduces. However, she eventually may grow to appreciate us, even as more of her kind come to invade our world. It may be a little bit Body Snatchers and a little bit Species, but this looks to also be a disturbing and hypnotic piece of arthouse terror most of all. Den of Geek Review
If someone told you three years ago that The Muppets would once more be one of the best family franchises in Hollywood, you’d laugh them all the way back to the swamp. But as it turns out, it is very easy being green at the box office when you have such enduring icons as Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Gonzo and the rest of the gang. Nothing beats a classic and Muppets Most Wanted promises more of that joy to come. With James Bobin of the 2011 picture, as well as Flight of the Concords, returning to the director’s chair, there is no reason that this should not deliver the goods again. Especially with new celebrity cameos/team-ups like Tina Fey, Tom Hiddleston, Salma Hayek, Christoph Waltz, Ricky Gervais, Ray Liotta and Danny Trejo. Click the link to see if all the star power added up! Den of Geek Review
Nearly every great or challenging work of cinema ever made has received a fawning documentary that looked back on how it came to be. But rarely has an unproduced film received such glowing treatment. Yet, that is exactly what happens in Frank Pavich’s brisk and wholly engrossing trip into the intergalactic madness that would have been Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune adaptation—a metaphysical wildness that still lives in the wry Chilean-French filmmaker to this day.
In Jodorowsky’s Dune, Pavich bemusedly tracks what happens when the filmmaker behind El Topo and The Holy Mountain attempted to birth a science fiction vision that might have rivaled Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 and still seems breathtaking via storyboards by today’s standards. And with a production that would have included a score by Pink Floyd and Orson Wells as a space dictator, it is something we still long to watch. While both the director and his documentarian’s assertions that this failed 1975 venture paved the way for Star Wars and Alien seem simultaneously truthful and exaggerated, there is no denying that Jodorowsky’s Dune is influential to this day and would have been far more satisfying than David Lynch’s failed attempt at an adaptation in 1984. This documentary certainly is. Den of Geek Review
For those who cannot wait for Avengers: Age of Ultron, Marvel Studios is happy to kind of, maybe, quietly give you just a taste of it next April. They’re sneaky like that. Based on Captain America’s most popular comic book story, Winter Soldier promises the return of Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) in a supposed throwback to the 1970s spy thrillers the likes of which Robert Redford would star in. Speaking of which, it does have Robert Redford! But it also has the return of the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), fresh off being turned into a fan favorite under the tutelage of Joss Whedon, as well as Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), Agent 13 (Emily VanCamp), and NEW superhero The Falcon (Anthony Mackie)! Plus, who doesn’t want to see more of The Avengers’ cycloptic BMF super-leader, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson)? Den of Geek Review
The first must see horror film of 2014 is also one of the year's most unique. Director Mike Flanagan unbelievably makes the every day activity of staring at a mirror into the most terrifying of prospects after a sentient one enters a young family's household. By juxtaposing the past via flashback with the present, Flanagan dizzyingly blurs the line between reality and fantasy, just like the possessed mirror, which has returned to claim the souls of the now adult children that got away. While Doctor Who's Karen Gillan is out for revenge against the haunted glass, the damage already done by this evil entity can never be forgotten for the characters or their audience, especially as a familial tragedy reaches its operatic crescendo. Den of Geek Review
In 1996, Jon Favreau announced himself as a major talent in the Hollywood writing pool when he examined the Generation X quarter-life crisis through a devastatingly hilarious (and squeamish) phone call scene in Swingers. With Chef, writer and director Favreau returns to the humor of the uncomfortable in a story about midlife anguish, conflicted emotions inherent with artistic and commercial interests, and really, really good food.
Chef is a delight as a comedy that will play for any audience and any age-group in its story about a chef (Favreau) whose bad temper and worse sense of knowledge about Twitter and social media costs him his job—but wins him time with his son and an audience only too happy to see him hit the road in a food truck selling Cuban sandwiches. A big screen party with notable supporting work by John Leguizamo, Sofia Vergara, Bobby Cannavale, Scarlett Johansson, and a cameoing Robert Downey Jr., Chef is the perfect summertime meal. Den of Geek Review
It is a rare thing when the SEVENTH film in a franchise feels like the freshest idea ever. Emboldened (or inspired) by Marvel Studios’ terrific success with The Avengers, 20th Century Fox appears to be pulling out all the stops to give fans the X-Men movie they have long craved. Not only is director Bryan Singer of the first two still-loved films back, but so too is most of the cast from those flicks. Also returning are Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence from the groovy 2011 prequel, X-Men: First Class.
But best of all, everything in between those films, including two or three clunkers nobody can truly remember, are about to get erased from continuity with a time travel story based on the much-lauded Chris Claremont and John Byrne comic book that is still revered by fans to this day. If you’ve seen the viral marketing for the Sentinels, the alternate timeline and especially Peter Dinklage rocking a ‘70s ‘stache as the big bad, you know that we are in for a treat that could rival anything coming from the House of Mouse. Den of Geek Review
A mysterious vagrant disrupts an upper middle class Dutch family in this unsettling allegory that functions as horror movie, satire, and surreal political statement. Director Alex van Warmerdam’s supremely eerie feature leaves its many questions unanswered, which only adds to the film’s disturbing nature. The plot itself is relatively straightforward, as the title character (the remarkable Jan Bijvoet) insinuates himself into the lives of an upper middle class family and proceeds to utterly destroy them with the aid of several equally malevolent companions.
Are Borgman and his friends demons? Psychic vampires? Symbols of Europe’s unease over its growing tide of immigrants? Their actions and motivations are never explained, making them that much more frightening. So many horror movies today depend on visual effects, heavy-handed back stories and conventional scares, which makes the quiet dread and stillness of Borgman that much more effective. Den of Geek Review
Everyone loves the movie Groundhog Day where Bill Murray must repeat the same horrific date until he embraces it. Now turn that premise into a war of alien invasion in which an inexperienced soldier must relive his death in battle again and again until he stops the space-aged scum, and you may have yourself a summer blockbuster. Granted, this will not be the first sci-fi film to experiment with such a premise (*cough* Source Code), but to be fair this is based on a pre-existing Japanese light novel called All You Need is Kill. Also, with a cast like Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt and Bill Paxton, it appears that killing will have a bit of a surplus too. Directed by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Go), this picture could be a wild ride in alien fighting and time paradoxes redux. Den of Geek Review
Comedy sequels are difficult, right Hangover? But if it there is one that is primed for a new adventure, it must surely be Jonah Hill’s comedic reimagining of 1980s teen show 21 Jump Street. In the 2012 film, Hill replaced Johnny Depp and Peter DeLuise with himself and a perfectly cast Channing Tatum. Between Hill’s hyperbolic condescension and Tatum’s wonderfully delivered deadpan, the two made for a great buddy cop parody in the midst of a high school spoof where everything unhip in the 1980s (or even from the 20-something leads’ 2005 days) is now as Twitter-trending as the latest episode of Glee. Depp and DeLuise even made cameos as their old characters before being humorously killed off. And it left the perfect hook for a sequel: Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) is so impressed with their unconventional, but goddamn results-getting success, that he’s sending them to college.
What college movie clichés can they spoof now? Smoking weed on the Quad? Getting into collegiate sports? Being hit on by a TA? The premise naturally lends itself to a sequel that can reuse the same set-up without feeling forced...at least this time. Den of Geek Review
To hell with mindless junk like Transformers: Age of Extinction. Snowpiercer is the real deal: a pulsating, wild-eyed rollercoaster ride through a post-apocalyptic landscape as only mad Korean director Bong Joon-ho (The Host) can envision it. But in addition to the relentless action and stylized, often shocking violence, Bong incorporates some actual ideas into his storyline, making Snowpiercer rich on an intellectual level as well.
The movie puts the last remnants of humanity on a super-train that endlessly circles the frozen earth with the haves living in luxury and decadence up front and the have-nots barely existing in the grimy, crowded rear. Chris Evans leads a rebellion and delivers perhaps the finest performance yet of his career -- his Curtis, while noble, is a far cry from Captain America. You should also show up to see Tilda Swinton as a vile bureaucrat from the front of the train.
Snowpiercer has inexplicably been given a very limited release by its distributor, the Weinstein Company, so you should do your best to seek it out. It’s worth it. Den of Geek Review
Continue with the second half of 2014's most exciting entries on page 2!