What to see in 2014!

What to see in 2014!

CBM lovers may have four big films left this year, but what about next year. Let’s take a look a the extremely exciting slate of films the studios have ready for us in 2014!

In my previous article on the films of 2013, I made no secret that I considered it to have been a rather abysmal year for CBMs. Needless to say, I’m hoping 2014 will be better. Plenty of these films are a long ways away. Most don’t even have a trailer yet. So there’s plenty more room to speculate. Let’s do just that.

One thing I found hard to narrow down was what to consider a true CBM, or rather a "hype film." I noted last time that being based on a comic book was not the actual sole qualification, and defined it as some sort of action-adventure (usually science-fiction or fantasy) film that has a certain degree of hype due to being based on popular material marketable to the comic book crowd (Although some films garner hype just by being sci-fi). In short, the kinds of films that have Comic-Con panels. But there are just way too many. So I had to narrow it down to ones that people really cared about, that had the most hype, or were most related to the comic book genre.
Here are some movies that didn’t quite make the cut:

I, Frankenstein, The Lego Movie, Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters, Need for Speed, Divergent, Noah, Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Maleficent, Fast & Furious 7, Hercules: The Thracian Wars, Dracula, The Expendables 3, “Resident Evil 6," Frankenstein, Exodus, and Tomorrowland.

So here we go, here are hype films to watch out for next year.

UPDATE: Edited to include Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which I somehow earlier neglected. Also, I would have included Veronica Mars, but it does not yet have a release date.

Feb. 07: RoboCop

Directed by Jose Padilha
Screenplay by Nick Schenk, Joshua Zetumer, & James Vanderbilt
Produced by Marc Abraham, Gary Barber, Roger Birnmaum, & Eric Newman
Starring Joel Kinnaman, Abbie Cornish, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson, Jackie Earle Haley, Jay Baruchel, Michael K. Williams, Jennifer Ehle, Marion Jean-Baptiste, & Miguel Ferrer
Music by Pedro Bromfman
Cinematography by Lula Carvalho
Edited by Daniel Rezende

This probably stands as possibly the most unnecessary remakes ever made. Now, I will admit that they’re taking it in an interesting new direction with this film. While using the original as a jumping off point, they’re using it to tell a different story, one of Alex Murphy being at risk of losing his humanity, rather than having already lost it and slowly gaining it back. I still think it’s stupid.

I have to ask the question: Why a remake at all? Yes, I know RoboCop was a popular franchise in the past, and in an age of reboots and sci-fi adaptations, the time has never been more ripe. But it seems, to me at least, that, if you really want to resurrect the RoboCop series, the best thing to do may have been to simply make a completely new chapter in the established series.

Think about it. RoboCop, despite being a great sci-fi film, bore the curse of never having a decent sequel. If 1990’s RoboCop 2 was hokey, 1993’s RoboCop 3 made it look like The Dark Knight. They also never gave real satisfaction to Alex Murphy’s story arc. By the end of number three, hasn’t gone anywhere from the first film, nor has the storyline with his family, and there was never any real sense of closure.
It has now been twenty years since RoboCop 3. It seems likely that, while Murphy’s organic attributes would start to age, his robotic body would remain as energetic and agile as ever. Where is he in his life twenty years later? Has he regained any notion of human life, or still existed in his sad state? His long lost son is now an adult. How would that affect him? These kinds of topics could make for a fantastic sequel, and even for a triumphant return of Peter Weller to the role after all these years that would gather massive amounts of hype.

Instead, they just remake the original.

Mar. 07: 300: Rise of an Empire

Directed by Noam Murro
Screenplay by Zack Snyder & Kurt Johnstad
Produced by Gianni Nunnari, Mark Canton, Zack Snyder, Deborah Snyder, Thomas Tull & Bernie Goldmann
Starring Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Rodorigo Santoro, Lena Headey, David Wenham, & Hans Matheson
Music by Junkie XL
Cinematography by Simon Duggan
Edited by David Brenner & Wyatt Smith

It's a film Hollywood wanted so badly it would seem that Frank Miller write a graphic novel essentially so they could make a movie out of it. If you like 300, congratulations, more machismo and blood and guts for you. I'll wait until video.

Apr. 04: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Directed by Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Written by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeeley
Produced by Kevin Feige
Starring Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Emily VanCamp, Cobie Smulders, Hayley Atwell, Dominic Cooper, Toby Jones, Frank Grillo, Georges St-Pierre, Garry Shandling, Jenny Agutter, Chin Han, Maximiliano Hernandez, & Stan Lee
Music by Henry Jackman
Cinematography by Trent Opaloch
Edited by Jeffrey Ford & Mary Jo Markey

I have remained, for the most part, cautiously optimistic about Captain America: The Winter Soldier. That’s mainly due to faith in Marvel Studios. Also, the plot being adapted from the Winter Soldier story arc is exciting in its own right. So there is already a lot going of this. That being said, there are, of course, always concerns to talk about.

One strange thing is that this film just seems to have too much going on. The storyline with the Winter Soldier is one thing. But in the midst of the emotional roller coaster that will be for Steve, he will also be meeting his best bud Sam Wilson (The Falcon), as well as teaming up with the Black Widow. He will also be meeting Sharon Carter, another agent of Shield, while also taking on villains like Crossbones and Batroc. There’s also the matter of Robert Redford’s character, and what he’ll contribute. An actor like that does not sign on for a nothing role. Oh, and Peggy Carter, Arnim Zola, and Dominic Cooper are also coming back, so there will probably be plenty of flashbacks. With so many characters being thrown into the mix, I hope it works to the film’s advantage to make it a massive epic adventure, and doesn’t turn it into another Spider-Man 3.

But my main concern is the presence of Black Widow. It is fairly obvious that her involvement in this film is due to the fact that, while Johansson is a big star, and was featured heavily in The Avengers, the character doesn’t exactly merit her own movie, so they wanted to stick her in someone else’s. That’s not a very good reason for injecting her into the narrative. I’ve found myself especially hoping that she would not dominate too much of the narrative, but recent comments from the director have left me biting my nails. This from Joe Russo:

“Well, it’s really an introductory film for Sharon – for Agent 13. For Black Widow, it’s a very strong relationship with the two of them in this film … the journey that they go on together is the heart of the movie.”

To the best of my knowledge, Cap has never had much of any interaction with Black Widow, and has far more important relationships with Sharon Carter and the Falcon. Who really wants to see a Captain America/Black Widow loves story just because she was in The Avengers? Well, that said, we can still hope it actually comes out feeling natural, and that it still remains a Captain America movie and not “The Adventures of Captain America and Black Widow." The presence of Falcon make me happy, and with both him and Widow (and Sharon) being his sidekicks, it may make it seem more natural, and keep Cap front and center. Hey, we haven’t even seen a trailer yet, right?

I think this film has a lot going for it simply on the merit of it being from Marvel Studios. Even Iron Man 3 can’t tarnish my faith in them completely. Please be good. Please, please, please.

May 02: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Directed by Marc Webb
Story by James Vanderbilt
Screenplay by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, & Jeff Pinker
Produced by Avi Arad & Matthew Tolmach
Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Paul Giamatti, Chris Cooper, Dane DeHaan, Sally Field, Martin Sheen, Denis Leary, Felicity Jones, B.J. Novak, Sarah Gadon, Marton Csokas, & Chris Zylka
Music by Hans Zimmer
Cinematography by Dan Mindel
Edited by Pietro Scalia & Elliot Graham

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” represents an amazing example of filmmakers actually listening to the fans, admitting they made a mistake, and fixing it in a subsequent film. I am, of course, talking about the costume. Now, there wasn’t exactly Batfleck-level outrage over the outfit that Andrew Garfield wore in the first film. But when the time for the sequel came, the filmmakers still decided to put him in a far more traditional, classical-looking outfit (even more akin to the comics than the Maguire version), and claimed it was because it was what the fans wanted. That’s just something that makes me very happy.

Now, I was not a fan of the original “Amazing Spider-Man.” To be honest, it didn’t even really feel like a Spider-Man film to me. It featured Spider-Man as some sort of dark avenger, coming out only at night and showing up in the back of people’s cars. The entire thing was basically an attempt to “Nolan-ize” Spider-Man, hence the “edgier” looking costume. I can only hope that the change in costume also means that the filmmakers realize their entire approach was wrong and that, to be frank, we get to see Spider-Man is some blooming daylight this time around!
Now as to what really matters: The story. The writer of the first film, James Vanderbilt, obviously had a specific story in mind for the trilogy, and this film is obviously called to expand upon the first in all the right places: Peter’s search for the truth about his parents, his relationship with Gwen, and his growing responsibility as New York’s resident protector. The screenplay itself is in the hands of Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, and I am very happy about that. Whatever setbacks some of their films may have had, they prove to be writers who genuinely understand what is good about certain characters and, and then write them well. (I’ve stated before that I blame the problems of the Transformers films mostly on Bay). They can go certainly go overboard on humor, but with the right director, this can be held back.
Then there’s the villains, Electro and Rhino. The whole “two villains” thing can be concerning for some people, given it’s history. But some time ago, Kurtzman made this statement in an interview:

“I think you have to go into it and say, 'is this character essential to the story or are you just throwing him in for no reason whatsoever'… We would never do anything other than what felt like it was organic to the flow of the story. A lot of consideration was given to the construction of that [story], so that when you see it, you'll get the big picture.")

That’s another thing that makes me very happy. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how they bring Rhino to life. Electro, on the other hand, is what my main reservation is composed of. There’s just no way you can look at him can think of it as the comics character come to life and, as most people pointed out, he looks kind of dumb. It smacks of the same kinds of mistakes they made in the first film. Most of the time that sort of thing is a major bad omen. But let’s try to give the film the benefit of the doubt.

With the right people behind the screenplay, and an indicated change in direction, we can all hope that this will be a solid character-driven and action-packed Spider-Man film that satisfies all.

May 16: Godzilla

Directed by Gareth Edwards
Story by David Callaham & Max Borenstein
Screenplay by Frank Darabont & Max Borenstein
Produced by Jon Jashni, Thomas Tull, Mary Parent, & Brian Rogers
Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins
Music by Alexandre Desplat
Cinematography by Seamus McGarvey
Edited by Bob Ducsay

I’m loving what I’m seeing from Godzilla. I grew up watching the classic Godzilla films with my cousin, in all their cheesy glory. It’s pretty awesome that that same Godzilla is going to be rearing his ugly head on the big screen in a major big-budget CGI extravaganza. This is the second attempt by American filmmakers to make a Godzilla movie, and with just one poster these fellas are already showing that they’re getting it more right than their predecessors. We’ve seen very little from the film thus far, but that fact alone, that it’s Godzilla and the real Godzilla, is fairly awesome. That's what we love, as fanboys, when filmmakers just cut out all the bullcrap and just give us the character, pure and true.
With a script co-written by Frank Darabont, tight now I'm choosing to hope that his will be something incredible, and the beginning of a great new film series.

May 23: X-Men: Days of Future Past

Directed by Bryan Singer
Story by Bryan Singer
Screenplay by Simon Kinberg & Matthew Vaughn
Produced by Bryan Singer, Lauren Schuler Donner, Matthew Vaughn, Simon Kinberg, & Hutch Parker
Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Halle Berry, Ellen Page, Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore, Daniel Cudmore, Peter Dinklage, Lucas Till, Omar Sy, Booboo Stewart, & Bingbing Fan
Music by John Ottman
Cinematography Newton Thomas Siegel
Edited by John Ottman

How many directors have left a big franchise and come back multiple films down the road? Aside from horror films, not a lot. After a fairly decent first film, everyone and their cousin fell in love with X2 when it came out ten years ago, and has been pretty disappointed with the films since, except for First Class. That was supposed to be Singer’s big comeback, and he did still co-write and produce it. But now, in what will be eleven years after X2, Singer will finally make his grand return.
To be perfectly honest, I’m not that excited about the “First Class” cast making a return. Not that the film was bad, or that the presence of McAvoy, Fassbender, and Lawrence isn’t awesome. It’s just that I’m far, far, far more excited about the fact that we’re finally getting an “X-Men 4,” complete with just about the entire cast returning, and finally facing Sentinels. That’s pretty tight.

Now, since I’m not all that excited about the “First Class” part, I have to point out that this would have been all the more awesome if it was an honest-to-goodness adaptation of the classic “Days of Future Past” storyline from the comics, with Kitty Pryde coming back to the modern X-Men from the future. As it stands, the filmmakers simply used time travel as a plot device to cross over the two casts, and took elements (and the title) from “Days of Future Past” to make it so. But that’s fine, because it still involves a post-apocalyptic, Sentinel-ridden future, and most of the X-Men banding together again to stop it from ever happening. And, yes, McAvoy, Fassbender, Lawrence, and the entire team up is pretty cool. That said, I have to say one thing: The Sentinels look lame. You know it's true.

All things considered, I think we have a really cool movie to look forward to.

Jun. 27: Transformers: Age of Extinction

Directed by Michael Bay
Written by Ehren Krueger
Produced by Tom DeSanto, Ian Bryce, Don Murphy, & Lorenzo DiBonaventura
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Kelsey Grammer, Stanley Tucci, Sophia Myles, Bingbing Li, Titus Welliver, & Peter Cullen
Music by Steve Jablonsky
Cinematography by Amir Mokri
Edited by William Goldenberg

All right, so we pretty much know what to expect from this film, right? It’ll be stupid and full of ridiculous jokes that go on forever and interrupt what might otherwise be a decent film.
I hate the first three films. And I love them. I hate them because there’s so much to love about them. I hate them far more than I do something like G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra which is just garbage from beginning to end. All three actually have good stories that were perfect for Transformers films, likeable characters, great action scenes, and awesome music. It’s just that all the things that are good about the films is completely undone by what seems like hours of “comic relief” and shameless military propaganda that has no place in a Transformers film. Now, if I were to edit all that out, they might be pretty darn enjoyable films. So that’s what I’m expecting from Transformers 4.

At this point, we've had a definitive trilogy, telling the story of Sam Witwicky, and featuring the (hopefully permanent) death of Megatron in the end. This new film picks up with an entirely new cast of human characters joining Optimus and the Autobots. That’s interesting and exciting, to wonder the different directions the potential new series will take. That said, the war against the Decepticons may be getting pretty stale. We’ll just have to see if writer Ehren Krueger has anything clever up his sleeve. He came up with good stories for the last two films, so I have faith that he will do the same here.

And, of course, we have to mention the big news: The Dinobots will be making their live-action debut. How on Earth these things are going to be brought to life is a subject of both excitement and concern for me. After all, if there is one other major gripe I, and every other fan, has had over the course of this series, it’s Bay butchering the character designs. I just hope he makes the Dinobots look cool in both forms.

Either way, I’m bound to have a love-hate relationship with this movie, just as I have had with the last three.

Jul. 18: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Directed by Matt Reeves
Story by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver
Screenplay by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Scott Z. Burns & Mark Bomback
Produced by Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa, & Amanda Silver
Starring Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Judy Greer, Jason Clarke, & Kodi Smit-McPhee
Music by Michael Giacchino
Cinematography by Michael Seresin
Edited by William Hoy & Stan Salfas

I thought 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes was an enjoyable film. Although it was always my impression that Planet of the Apes took place in the far, far, far (far) future, where apes had naturally evolved into the superior species, not gotten that way overnight due to medication. But nevertheless...
The sequel seems like it will be more akin to the original films, with (talking) apes vs. man in a post-apocalyptic film all the way through. And with Matt Reeves directing from a script reworked by Scott Z. Burns, I don't doubt that it will be a good adventure film.

Aug. 01: Guardians of the Galaxy

Directed by James Gunn
Story by James Gunn & Nicole Perlman
Screenplay by James Gunn
Produced by Kevin Feige
Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Batista, Lee Pace, Benicio Del Toro, Karen Gillan, Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, Michael Rooker, & Bradley Cooper
Music by Tyler Bates
Cinematography by Ben Davis
Edited by Fred Raskin & Hughes Winborne

When I first heard they were making a movie out of Guardians of the Galaxy, my initial reaction was “What the heck is Guardians of the Galaxy?” Honestly, as a comic book fan, I had never heard of this series! But I suppose it’s gained enough of a following in recent years to deserve it’s own major motion picture within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, right alongside Iron Man and The Avengers.
And the more I hear about it, the more excited I am. From everything that’s been discussed about the movie it seems like a really cool space opera. I haven’t seen much of James Gunn’s work, but it’s clear he’s a very humorous filmmaker with a passion for this kind of genre. Chris Pratt in the lead role assures there will be plenty of humor, and I could not be happier about such a talented actor getting the exposure.
The rest of the cast is phenomenal. Whether it’s great big stars like Benicio Del Toro, Glenn Close, John C. Reilley, and Bradley Cooper, or cult favorites like Michael Rooker and Karen Gillan (Amy!), or quickly rising star Lee Pace as the main villain, this cast is sure to please everyone. The film itself will clearly have some major tie-ins with The Avengers, and I think we can all hope for a great rousing adventure in outer space.

Aug. 08: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman
Produced by Michael Bay, Andrew Form, Bradley Fuller, Scott Mednick, & Galen Walker
Starring Pete Ploszek, Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard, Noel Fisher, Megan Fox, Danny Woodburn, William Fichtner, Whoopi Goldberg, Will Arnett, & Abby Elliot
Music by Brian Tyler
Cinematography by Lula Carvalho
Edited by Joel Negron

It seems kind of strange, not only how far back this film continues to be pushed, but how little we've seen of it. Obviously, it's already had it's fair share of criticism ever since Michael Bay was announced as producer. But I'd like to go ahead and come out in defense of Megan Fox as April. She's not anywhere near the terrible actress people make her out to be.I think the whole sex-kitten appeal she got talked into portraying hurt her image, but I have no complaints about her based on what I've seen, and no reason to think she won't make a fine April.

No, I'm more concerned about other decisions, like casting Danny Woodburn as Splinter. Maybe he's an actor with a lot of range, and he'll surprise us all. But just given what we've seen him in, I'm afraid they'll be turning Splinter into a cigar-chomping smart aleck. The other questionable decision is to cast William Fictner as Shredder, and change his name from Oroku Saki to Eric Sachs. Get it? Oroku Saki, Eric Sachs. It sounds similar, but it's whiter? Heh heh.

These are very bad omens, of course, as is the continual push back. But without so much as an official pic from the film so far, let's try and remain optimistic and believe we're in for a surprise. Maybe they'll pull a good film out of their hats after all!

Nov. 21: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Screenplay by Danny Strong
Produced by Nina Jacobson & Jon Kilik
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore, Natalie Dormer, & Philip Seymour Hoffman
Cinematography by Jo Willems
Edited by Alan Edward Bell

Anyone who read my previous article on the films of 2013 knows how I feel about the Hunger Games, so I won’t repeat it here. Now, I’m aware that the final book, Mockingjay, does not follow the same survivalist formula of the first two. Nevertheless, since I won’t read the second book, there’s nothing to get me to read the third or be exicted for it.
And even fans of the book can agree that the entire splitting-the-final-book-into-two-movies schtick is beyond shameless. It was done out of necessity for the Harry Potter series, but fans of Twilight and Hunger Games have told me just how ridiculous it is to arbitrarily do the same for those series. I fail to see how an artistic director trying to make a legitimate adaptation can succumb to such greedy executive garbage.
So yeah, I won’t be seeing “Mockingjay, Part 1.

Dec. 12: The Hobbit: There and Back Again
Directed by Peter Jackson
Screenplay by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, & Guillermo Del Toro
Produced by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, & Carolynn Cunningham
Starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom, Luke Evans, Billy Connolly, Hugo Weaving, Aidan Turner, Dean O’Gorman, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott, Adam Brown, Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow, Bret McKenzie, & Manu Bennett
Music by Howard Shore
Cinematography by Andrew Lesnie
Edited by Jabez Olssen

Once again, if you’ve read the previous article, you know that I consider this entire trilogy to be joke. Even saying the word “trilogy” when talking about the Hobbit makes me want to gag. It’s nothing more than a shameless ploy to either make money, inflate the creative ego of it’s writers, or, more than likely, both. End of story (and hopefully it will be).
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