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Movies we hope don’t suck 2014 edition

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Part 3

And now we come to part three in our eloquently named series, “Movies we hope don’t suck.” As with the previous entries that covered movie releases in the first half of the year up through July, the movies on this list aren’t just movies we are looking forward to seeing, they are movies we really, honestly do hope won’t suck, because if they do there will be larger ramifications than just a once A-list star considering a role in TV.

The films in Part three are those scheduled for release in August 2014, through the end of the year. The end of summer and start of fall remains a time for marquee summer blockbusters and franchise release, but it quickly tapers off. It then picks back up around the holidays with more big dollar releases and the odd sequel.

Whether there be sun and heat or wind and snow, there Hollywood will put out movies. And we’ll be there, by God, hoping those movies don’t suck.

Part 1: January – April
Part 2: May – July
Part 3: August – December

Guardians of the Galaxy
(August 1)

guardiansMarvel Studios knows what it’s doing. When Guardians of the Galaxy was first announced, all but the hardest of hardcore comic fans were more than a little puzzled by the decision to fast-track a CGI-laden story about a bunch of relatively unknowns that includes a homicidal space raccoon and a tree that only says three words. Again though, Marvel knows what it is doing.

When the film was properly introduced at San Diego Comic Con, during a panel that featured the full cast as well as a brief clip from the film, fans went wild. And not just wild like when fans get really excited over something and take to the Internet to tell people all about it, but wild like when the Lakers win an NBA championship. Pity the poor ComicCon employees that had to clean up after that party.

The reveal showed fans that Marvel is willing to take some chances, and that it has a long-term vision that includes some of the more fantastical space stories from the comics. Most fans can get behind that because they are familiar with it already, but it might be too much for casual fans. Yes, Marvel already has Norse gods, giant rage monsters, a guy that used his own pacemaker as a weapon of mass destruction, and more. The movies aren’t exactly grounded in reality, but still, a storyline set in outer space with several new species and no frame of reference might not work.

Guardians is a lynchpin movie for Marvel. If Thor: The Dark World had sucked it would have been a shame, but wouldn’t have really hurt much in the future. If Guardians sucks – and more importantly doesn’t do well at the box office – all of Marvel’s future, space-plans may not work.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
(August 8)

RaphIf you don’t think people care about this franchise anymore, then you haven’t been following the development of the film. The reboot of the beloved comic-turned-animated series was originally revealed by Michael Bay, who wanted to call it “Ninja Turtles.” In the same announcement, he hinted that the turtles would be aliens from a planet of turtles. This was a mistake.

Bay is no stranger to criticism. He’s taken so much crap over the years that you may be able to find tear stains on the upholstery of one of his 200 or so cars that each cost more than what most of us will make in a year. Fans went berserk, TMNT co-creator Peter Laird claimed it was “ill-conceived,” and the actor that voiced Michelangelo in the cartoon claimed Bay “sodomized” the property. When you imagine him saying that in his cheerful Michelangelo voice, it’s a tad horrifying. Bay then replied that everyone should calm down since they hadn’t even begun to work on a script.

Bay brought it on himself. He made an off-hand comment about one possible idea for a reboot of a franchise that hadn’t even been greenlit yet, and for days, the Internet burned. People still care about this franchise. Very, very much. Most fans also didn’t seem to like Megan Fox being cast as reporter April O’Neil, one of the few fully human stars in the film. They worried that her lack of acting cred may hurt the otherwise stellar cast of computerized pixels.

The film is being directed by Jonathan Liebesman (Wrath of the Titans, Battle: Los Angeles). He beat out several contenders, including THE Brett Ratner. Liebesman has a knack for taking a small budget and turning it in to a big box office like with The Killing Room and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Massacre, but this will be a heavily effects-laden film. It’s not unlike Wrath in that sense, and that film did turn a profit, even as it was savaged by critics. That won’t be good enough for a TMNT movie. If it is anything less than awesome, there may be riots.

The Expendables 3
(August 15)

2014---Expendables-3

At this point, we should all know what to expect from these movies. They are nostalgia-covered homages to the action films of yesteryear, when big men with big guns caused big, big explosions. Many of us grew up with these testosterone-filled explosion-fests, and the casts of the previous films probably have at least one or two actors that you were at some point a fan of. The third outing goes even further in that direction.

The Expendables 3 could carry the subtitle “The Redemption,” because that’s what this series has become for many of the actors involved – beginning with Sylvester Stallone, who has seen his career surge since the 2010 original. In the new film, Mel Gibson attempts to return from his sabbatical as one of the most despised stars in Hollywood, and he joins the fresh-out-of-jail Wesley Snipes. With them is another series newcomer, Antonio Banderas, whose biggest role in the last 10 years was as the voice of Puss in Boots. He appears as “Rapido.” No, seriously, that’s his character’s name. Not to be left out, Kelsey Grammar, Robert Davi, and – bafflingly – Harrison Ford also appear. Unlike the others, Ford’s career is still doing just fine.

Look, you know what to expect with this series by now. Old heroes – some of whom are being kept alive by the miracle of science – blow things up. Stallone may be the first actual bionic man, assuming you count plastic, and Schwarzenegger in his late-60s could still kick the crap out of most of us. If you grew up watching these guys, you almost owe it to them to check out this movie. So here’s hoping it doesn’t suck.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
(August 22)

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This is actually the second time this one has been on our list of films we hope don’t suck. Originally scheduled for release on October 4, 2013, in June 2013, it was announced that the movie would be delayed until August 2014. Co-director Robert Rodriguez claimed Sin City: A Dame to Kill For was never actually meant for release in 2014, and the October date was really just a clever ruse to hold the date for Machete Kills. The film’s distributors, The Weinstein Company and Dimension Films, must have loved that.

Regardless of the delay, the same reasons for us not wanting this film to suck remain. Sin City was an original take on a unique comic book that offered a distinctive visual look. It was a box office success too, even with an exceedingly dark and mature storyline. It was a difficult property to adapt, but Rodriguez pulled it off, in turn opening the door for Hollywood to tackle to other, more obscure comics. Like The Spirit.

A Dame to Kill For is co-directed by Frank Miller, the author and artist of the original Sin City comic. Rodriguez fought for Miller to have credit on the original movie as well, and eventually battles, and ultimately left the Directors Guild of America in order to ensure Miller received co-billing. The comic book author then went on to direct The Spirit on his own, which was a critical and financial disaster. The late, great Roger Ebert claimed that “There is not a trace of human emotion in it,” and that was one of the nicer reviews.

Miller, undaunted, returns to collaborate with Rodriguez once again on the Sin City sequel. Hopefully Rodriguez can reign him in. If so, A Dame to Kill For may be able to recapture the freshness of the original film. If not, it may be closer to The Spirit. Be afraid.

Resident Evil 6
(September 12)

2014---Resident-Evil

The Resident Evil franchise simply refuses to die, both in films and in video games. Nothing can stop it, not even tired plots and terrible critical receptions. From most accounts though, this will be the last film in the series featuring the director/star husband-and-wife duo of Paul W.S. Anderson and Milla Jovovich.

If you really want to test a friendship, tell someone you are having bad day, and then ask them to stay with you as you watch the entire Resident Evil live-action quintology. If you make it through all five films together, that’s a mark of true friendship. It isn’t that the movies are bad; they are just somewhat mindless and forgettable. That said, there is a reason to root for this film to not suck.

The odds of Resident Evil 6 winning an Oscar are low, but at least we can hope it is inoffensive and fun. If so, it can help pave the way for the upcoming video game movie adaptations that could finally do for games what we are now seeing with comic-based films. Assassin’s Creed, Splinter Cell, and Warcraft films are on the way, and it appears that they are all being handled with care. Resident Evil 6 doesn’t have to be great, or even very good, but if it sucks, it could steal some of the momentum fans hoping for some respectable video game film adaptations are feeling going into 2015 and beyond.

There’s another reason we hope this film doesn’t suck. After five previous movies, it would be nice to go out on a high note, assuming this is the final film in the series (before an inevitable reboot). Fans that have stuck around this long have earned it.

Dracula Untold
(October 17)

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Vampires have had a rough break of late, and different depictions tend to come in waves. Some years back vampires were monsters that needed to be destroyed, then they became Twilight turned them into sparkly emo creatures that drive Volvos and date high school girls hundreds of years younger than them in what would, at best, be morally reprehensible. Once one new depiction sticks, others imitate it. From then on it is the popular representation, at least until another wave of films, TV shows, comics, etc. yet again recasts them in a new light. Where the undead go next is still up in the air, but throughout it all, Dracula has endured.

Freshman director Gary Shore is going to try to bring Dracula back to the big screen once again, but this time it’s an origin story starring Luke Evans as Vlad Tepes, aka Vlad the Impaler, aka Vlad Dracul. The story will combine the quasi-historical figure and the mythical bloodsucker in what will – hopefully – amount to a fresh take on the origin of Count Dracula. Maybe it will even explore how a Prince Vlad got demoted and became a Count. Perhaps there was a recession. Everybody has to make sacrifices during a recession.

There are a couple of good reasons we hope this doesn’t suck. First, Dracula is a legendary figure that has been bounced around Hollywood for years. A new take that can refresh the character and expand on a fictional history that is over a hundred years old, while possibly reaffirming vampires as being … well, anything other than sparkly, leering creeps, would be good. The other reason is that Halloween needs more quality horror/monster movies. There’s nothing wrong with Paranormal Chainsaw Massacre 23, but a Dracula film on Halloween would be a great fit. Assuming, of course, it doesn’t suck.

Interstellar
(November 7)

2014---InterstellarSince he began making films just over 15 years ago, the films directed by Christopher Nolan have earned, over $3.5 billion dollars. Granted, more than $2.5 billion of that is thanks to a guy in a bat suit with a bad case of laryngitis, but Nolan is among Hollywood’s elite directors. His name carries so much weight that “Christopher Nolan” was featured just as much prominently during Man of Steel’s promotion as the movie’s director Zack Snyder, maybe more.

With Interstellar, Nolan can get back to doing the things he really wants to do, namely writing, producing, and directing his own, original movies. There hasn’t been much revealed yet about Interstellar, other than the fact that it features space travel, a team of explorers, and a star-laden cast that Paparazzi will be circling like flies for the rest of their lives. But it is an original Nolan film, therefore has a lot of buzz.

Nolan has made some films that weren’t as well received as others, but none have outright sucked, at least not according to Rotten Tomatoes. In fact, his worst reviewed film was Man of Steel, which he didn’t direct. The Dark Knight Rises may not have been the best of the Batman series, but it still earned a billion dollars and made Anne Hathaway look amazing. Nolan’s movies are generally well made.

Now that Nolan has dropped a rung from producer to the far more nebulously defined executive producer role for the upcoming Man of Steel, he can focus on his own projects. If Interstellar sucks, Nolan will be fine. A string of box office hits will do that. It will likely lead him to focus even more on his own projects though, which will leave less time for DC properties. That could mean Zack Snyder would be the man in charge of the future of DC films. God help us.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
(November 21)

The Hunger Games Catching Fire

So far, Lionsgate has been doing things right when it comes to The Hunger Games films. It brought on quality actors like Oscar winners Jennifer Lawrence and Philip Seymour Hoffman, and that has paid off to the tune of nearly $1.5 billion in box office revenues – and climbing. The second movie was bigger and better than the first, and that trend will hopefully continue. One decision that may cause problems though, is the choice to expand the final book into two films.

No matter how they do it, there will be some padding in stretching one film to two. Maybe the filmmakers will manage to turn that padding into something interesting, like a new subplot featuring an ancient prophecy in which a fiery girl brings peace to the Earth. Maybe the characters will fight a dragon. Actually, those would both be terrible, but the point remains. It’s tough to see this as a move to ensure quality rather than just a cash grab. The filmmakers, including returning director Francis Lawrence, are going to have to justify that decision.

The third book is roughly the same length as the previous two – it’s even a little shorter than the second book – and Catching Fire was fairly faithfully translated to the screen without too many major cuts. The third book is packed with stuff to see adapted, but it will require major changes in the film.

So far the films have operated under a clear vision, but they had the source material to work from. For the first part of the two-part finale, it will require new, or significantly expanded material. Hopefully it won’t suck.

Exodus
(December 17)

2014---Exodus

This film has the distinction on this list of being the only movie that could potentially be branded as “blasphemous” – although with Mel Gibson on The Expendables 3, there is an outside shot there as well. Exodus is the Biblical story of the Hebrew exodus out of Egypt, as seen through the lens of director Ridley Scott. The film stars Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, and Aaron Paul as Moses, Ramesses II, and the prophet Joshua, respectively.

Retelling any religious story can be … tricky. No matter who does it, no matter how well it is filmed, someone, somewhere is going to be upset. You can go to YouTube and watch a short video of a puppy frolicking and you’ll find several people that gave it a thumbs down. People are inherently contradictory, and when it comes to religion, we can be a wee bit sensitive.

Scott and 20th Century Fox are sure to know this going in, and so Exodus probably won’t depict Moses as a gambling lech or anything, but no matter how much respect the subject matter is given it will still be a Hollywoodized version of a Biblical story. Scott likes to combine deep themes with action, so amidst the story of slavery and persecution, you’ll probably see a lot of cool destruction. If they do try to keep it at least somewhat close to the Biblical story, God will require some epic special effects.

There is so much that can go wrong with this film, and the subject matter alone may have some people on the defensive regardless of the finished product. So far this looks to be geared as a historical film more than a religious one, but that won’t stop some from being angry. Those offended will likely be in the minority, but they will be an extremely vocal minority. If the film sucks, there could be serious consequences.

The Hobbit: There and Back Again
(December 17) 

2014---The-Hobbit-There-and-Back-Again

And finally we come to the third and final Hobbit. At least, we hope it is the final Hobbit. As much joy as Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth films have given us, it’s time for him to move on. If he really wanted to, he could spend the rest of his life making the The Silmarillion into a 47-part epic covering every possible aspect of life on Middle-earth.

Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings is an epic trilogy, while The Hobbit is beginning to feel self-indulgent. Part of that is due to the decision to stretch a single book into three films. Not only was that unnecessary, it inevitably led to pacing problems. But! The first two films were set up for the massive finale in the third, with battles being fought everywhere, and resolutions abound.

If Jackson can pull it off and stick the landing, it should help redeem the new trilogy, whose biggest sin may be as simple as it not being as good as the award-winning films that came before it.

This will almost certainly be Jackson’s last foray into Middle-earth. After two films that were met with mixed reactions, the third needs to end strong to justify their existence. If it succeeds, the second trilogy will likely be remembered as a good, albeit lesser companion to the original. If it sucks, it could tarnish what is one of the best fantasy film series’ of all time, and hurt the Oscar winner’s reputation. Please don’t suck, There and Back Again. Please?

Part 1: January – April
Part 2: May – July
Part 3: August – December

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