In what has become an annual tradition, we look ahead to the coming slate of movies – not just the ones that we’re excited for, but the ones that we really, really hope don’t suck for a variety of reasons.
2014 is going to be a big year in film, one way or the other. It will either be a hugely successful one, filled with major hits that make so much money that Bill Gates would be jealous, or it will go the opposite direction. Franchises will fall, directors will be fired, and beautiful people will have to carry the stigma of being involved in a project that earned a few million dollars less than expected. We shall weep for them.
With that in mind, here are the films of 2014 we hope don’t suck so we see more like them, or maybe because we are going to see more of the same regardless, so hopefully they won’t be awful since we’re going to be stuck with them anyway.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Chris Pine becomes the fourth person in five films to play the character of Jack Ryan, created by Tom Clancy, who passed away in 2013. In the books, Ryan is a thinking man’s hero, who engages in political battles more than gun fights. He occasionally gets sucked into bouts of the old ultra-violence, but that’s not what he is about. The previous films have at least kept the spirit of this alive, generally portraying Ryan as a reluctant hero and an everyman in over his head rather than Rambo’s well dressed, illegitimate son.
Hopefully that continues, but the promotional shots show the obligatory, wearied hero walking with a gun in hand. Still, the plot synopsis says that Ryan is attempting to stop someone from ushering in a new economic catastrophe, and it’s tough to dramatically shoot an economic catastrophe in the head while falling backwards through a window, or while the economic crisis holds a loved one hostage. If anyone can find a way though, Hollywood could.
Paramount would love to reboot this into a new franchise with regular releases loosely based on author Tom Clancy’s books, and Pine is a rising star who would no doubt love to be able to single-handedly carry a franchise. But what kind of franchise will it be? Will it be yet another “guy learns of a plot and kills everyone involved, heroically,” or will it be closer to how Clancy wrote the character?
This is the first big action movie of the year, and it would be refreshing to start out with something beyond the traditional and well-worn action hero stylings we see so often. Plus, it would be nice to see Clancy’s legacy honored. Above it all though, the character is cool and has a ton of potential, so we hope the movie doesn’t suck.
Based on the comics by actor and screenwriter Kevin Grevioux, an intelligent and capable Frankenstein’s monster finds himself in the middle of a battle between two immortal clans in an ancient city. The reanimated being – who goes by the terrifying name of … Adam – is played by Aaron Eckhart, and joined by Yvonne Strahovski (Chuck), Mirando Otto (The Lord of the Rings’ Eowyn), and Bill Nighy (many awesome things).
Basically, you have monsters, angels, and demons fighting an epic war, a great cast, and a badass Frankenstein’s monster that knows martial arts and carries a big gun. Those are all good reasons for this film not to suck. Hopefully we’re on the same page here. But there’s more to it than that.
The film is based on an indie comic. Granted, it’s a comic from Grevioux, a Hollywood insider who worked on the Underworld films, but it’s still from a lesser known comic. Hollywood has an almost unnatural obsession with comics these days, and that isn’t going to change. If I, Frankenstein does well, maybe we’ll continue to see some more unusual, indie comics make their way to the big screen. There have been a few box-office bombs on that front lately with movies like Kick Ass 2 and R.I.P.D., so hopefully this can help fix that.
There’s nothing wrong with a good super hero film where guys in costumes punch each other in the face for justice or whatever, but there are some really interesting, lesser known comics that would make good films. So here’s hoping I, Frankenstein doesn’t suck.
The Lego Movie
If you know the Lego video games, then you should know why we hope this movie doesn’t suck. They are funny and charming, with a good natured innocence. This film takes all of that, then adds in the DC universe just because it can.
In the last DC superhero movie, Man of Steel, the climactic battle would have cost the lives of thousands – tens of thousands, maybe more. The film just kind of glossed over that like it was no bg deal. The upcoming Man of Steel sequel featuring Batman may not kill an entire city like its predecessor did, although it isn’t likely to be a comedy either. There is a place for dark and gritty superhero films, but that doesn’t mean all films need to be bloodbaths.
The DC universe is a rich and varied one, and there is no reason it needs to be life and death all the time. Watching Batman in the trailer, voiced by Will Arnett, miss his target with a batarang is a pleasant change of pace from him growling and throwing bad guys off roofs while screaming that he is the night. It’s nice to see a film ave fun with the rich DC lore.
Superhero films have become a go-to for Hollywood. That doesn’t mean we need to always take them so damn seriously though. The Lego Movie isn’t all about DC superheros, but hopefully the Lego movies can offer a bit of humor and clear the way for a few good old fashioned superhero parody movies – always assuming it doesn’t suck.
The Monuments Men
It’s a little disconcerting that a film with as much A-list talent as The Monuments Men was shunted out of the Oscar window and into February, following multiple delays. Maybe it really was just late to the party and the delays were unavoidable, but the lineup is so attention grabbing that it’s hard to think Oscar judges wouldn’t drool all over it. The film – which is about a group of well educated soldiers during World War II tasked with rescuing stolen artworks from Nazis – is set to premier at the Berlin International Film Festival. That’s either an inspired choice or the height of irony. It’s hard to tell.
Co-written and directed by George Clooney, the film stars a cast that could pool their money and buy the country of Belarus if they wanted. Joining Clooney are Academy Award Best Supporting Actor nominee (and winner for screenwriting) Matt Damon, Oscar nominee Bill Murray, Golden Globe and Emmy winner John Goodman, Oscar winner Jean Dujardin, Golden Globe nominee Hugh Bonneville, Oscar winner Cate Blanchett, and … um .. Bob Balaban. Who is probably a very lovely guy.
Clooney must throw some amazing parties. He continues to get the best ensemble casts together to work on his films, so either people like him and want to work with him or he has some exceptional blackmail material. Regardless, if you like Clooney and you like ensemble pictures, then hopefully this film won’t suck so we can see more like it in the future.
It wouldn’t be a slate of upcoming films without at least one reboot of a beloved franchise that really didn’t need a reboot. (You could argue that Jack Ryan is also a reboot, but its history and film chronology is a bit more convoluted.) There have been a lot of different takes on the character of RoboCop over the years. From the original, hardcore film from Paul Verhoeven (of Basic Instinct and Starship Troopers fame) that showed a brutal and bloody future, to the animated series that hopefully everyone has forgotten, RoboCop was as due for a reboot as anything.
In an earlier draft of this article, this section was dedicated to poking fun at the city of Detroit, which was depicted as a financially crumbling and crime-riddled metropolis in the original film. It was then pointed out that those jokes were a little mean. So you will not hear us say things like “You could make the mayor of Detroit the main villain, but documentaries don’t do as well in the theater,” or “The original RoboCop was scheduled to make a cameo, but he was stripped and sold for scrap.” Detroit has had a rough enough year already. It’s surprisingly tough to not draw parallels between the real and fictional city, but we’re moving on. Reluctantly.
The original touched on some serious issues. It was a subversive and satirical look at several hot button issues, including the unchecked rise of corporations, corruption, gentrification, and more. Hopefully the reboot follows that same pattern rather than just telling the story of a sad and lonely cyborg that shoots his way to justice. Reboots always have the potential to suck, and when they do they insult the original. Here’s hoping the new RoboCop avoids that.
January and February are typically a dumping ground for big budget, effects laden films like this. You do see a slew of action movies, as well as movies in January (following limited releases in December to make them award eligible for the previous year) that are Oscar contenders, along with low budget projects. Big budget films like this are usually held for summer though, and the odds of Pompeii competing for an Oscar (other than effects) are … low. Very, very low. And yet there are always a few films each year that try to change that.
Usually at this time of year we see a lot of low budget horror films, comedies about middle aged men getting into wacky situations, and tear-jerkers about people who thought they would never love again until they meet the one person that can change all that. But the pitch for this movie probably went something like this: “It’s Gladiator meets Titanic.” Not a bad pitch as things go. Director Paul W.S. Anderson probably had to arrange for armored trucks to cart off all the money off that Sony was throwing at him after hearing that. The story is about the Ancient Roman city of Pompeii that was eaten by the volcano Vesuvius. The film throws in a romance about a slave that falls in love with the daughter of a wealthy merchant that is unwillingly engaged to a powerful Roman Senator. Sound familiar?
Unlike Leonardo DiCaprio’s bohemian scamp Jack from Titanic, however, the slave in question is a gladiator (played by Game of Thrones’ Kit Harrington). So instead of a skinny waif running around as his new lady’s betrothed hunts for them, this guy will have a sword. It probably won’t help against, ya know, lava and ash so thick it suffocates people, but it will add a sheen of action. In case the whole “running from the exploding volcano” thing wasn’t enough, apparently.
It is one part action flick, one part disaster movie, held together by a love story. It has multiple fanbases to draw on, so the odds are it will appeal to a wide audience. If Pompeii and others like it succeed, we may see more of that and less of Spider 3D and Noobz. Man, that movie was bad.
Need for Speed
There are several reasons we hope this film doesn’t suck. Let’s start with the big one: it’s a video game movie. Hollywood just doesn’t get video game moves – or at least it hasn’t so far. At best, fans can point to the Resident Evil films with a shrug and say “those films are ok,” as if that is a victory of some sort. And in a way it is, since many video game adaptations are bad. Really, really bad. “Director” Uwe Boll alone has so much to answer for.
Second, Aaron Paul is coming off a triumphant run in Breaking Bad and deserves even more love than the show has earned him. He was exceptional in the role of Jesse Pinkman, and Need for Speed will show a different side of him that could further his ascendance in Hollywood. He deserves it.
Third, it’s a car chase movie that looks like it’s doing it right, with a focus on the cars and racing (at least based on what we’ve seen so far). No undercover cop plotlines, no look bad guys forcing someone to race to save a loved one. When gamers play race games, they rarely fantasize about being an undercover cop racing their way to the bad guy to arrest him. No, they imagine fast-paced races with them as the driver, trying to win. Everything else is background. The film incorporates a basic revenge plot, and then features a cross country race. Revenge-fueled racing sounds much better than a typical good-guy/bad guy showdown.
We’ll have to wait for the final product to know if it is any good, but hopefully it won’t suck for the sake of video game movies, Aaron Paul’s career, and car chase films in general.
There are a lot of reasons to root for this movie. First, the original TV show was great, everybody said so. Everybody. It took the familiar trope of a high school coming-of-age story, but gave it a smart and mature detective film noir twist to it. It then added a layer of clever and witty writing that made serious subjects like murder almost funny.
The film is also noteworthy due to its origins. Series creator Rob Thomas went to Kickstarter, where fans supported the film with $5.7 million in contributions and made it a film continuation a reality seven years after the TV show was cancelled. Warner Bros, which owns the rights, is content to let the fans do the heavy lifting on this one. WB will then distribute the film and happily count the money it makes from doing almost nothing. As far as business decisions go, it was likely an easy one, and could lead to similar resurrections for cancelled TV shows.
Maybe we can finally get that Baywatch Hawaii finale we’ve desperately been craving for years. Fingers crossed. Of course, it will first require Veronica Mars to not suck. If it does, not only will studios be wary, but fans may of other cancelled shows seeking redemption via crowd funding may be gun shy.
Oh hey, look, another young adult book series positioned to become a film franchise. Yay. The film is set in a futuristic Chicago where people are tested, then grouped in one of five factions. A handful of people called divergents (who have special powers) don’t belong in any of the five. The story’s heroine, played by Shailene Woodley, belongs in that group.
Summit Entertainment has already announced plans to create a trilogy of films, or as Hollywood calls them, a retirement fund for executives. With three films already planned, there is a lot riding on this film – and there’s a reason we should all hope it succeeds.
Divergent and the immediate sequel, Divergent 2: Diverge Harder (not the real name), are following The Hunger Games film philosophy. The studio is bringing in top level talent in front and behind the camera. Woodley is an up-and-coming Golden Globes nominated actor, and director Neil Burger is highly sought after following his 2011 low budget, big box office hit Limitless. The supporting cast is loaded with talent as well, including Ray Stevenson, Kate Winslet, and Ashley Judd to name a few. The story is also fairly dark, set in a dystopian future. Compare that to the Twilight films, which featured very pretty people that could act a little, and a story that was about mopey vampires wrestling with how awesome their lives are.
Young adult projects are hot right now, and they aren’t going away. With that being the case, the best we can hope for is that they don’t suck and take the cheap and easy path, with an average cast and laughable script. If studios instead continue to stock them with a talented cast and crew, we’ll all be the better for it. Divergent will be a good test to see which direction Hollywood goes with the genre.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
If this film sucks, it will be like when Alderaan exploded. A million voices will suddenly cry out in terror, the loudest of which will come from Marvel. The studio has built the most remarkable – and profitable – house of cards in Hollywood’s history, and so far each Marvel film has done its job in helping to propel the brand forward. The quality has varied, but none of the official Marvel Studios films have been badly received. Each is important in the grand scheme, but perhaps none more so than Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Cap is the heart of The Avengers. He is their leader, and their moral center. The first Captain America film had the benefit of also being a romanticized World War II flick, but the second will be far more hardwired into the bigger, post-Avengers Marvel universe. It features S.H.I.E.L.D., the Black Widow, and a modern setting. There’s no reason to think it won’t work, but this is an entirely new world for Cap.
If it sucks, then the upcoming bank deposit to Marvel from fans – aka the Avengers sequel – could be hurt by it. Not hugely, but enough. The new Cap film also introduces several new elements and characters to the Marvel universe that we’re likely to see again, maybe even in Avengers: Age of Ultron, including the characters of Falcon and the Winter Soldier. They need a strong debut.
So far Marvel seems to know what it’s doing, and the trailers for the new film look good. The directors, Anthony and Joe Russo, are an unproven commodity though, at least on a blockbuster scale, especially with this much pressure. The last film they worked on as producers was A Friggin’ Christmas Miracle, and the last film they directed was You, Me and Dupree. That film has a 21-percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. And now the Marvel films’ future is in their hands. Please don’t suck, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Please!
In part two of our list of films in 2014 we hope don’t suck, we get into the meaty part of the year, May through July, which includes the first wave of summer blockbuster films. Traditionally the summer film season ends in August, and even September sees the odd release that costs more money than the combined GDC of some countries. But the early part of the summer months is when Hollywood opens its collective wallet and really begins to let the money flow in an awesomely sickening way.
Seriously, the first five films in this list have a combined budget of close to a billion dollars, and that isn’t counting the marketing. If you pooled the advertising money and gave it all to a scientific research group like DARPA, we’d have a jetpack in every garage by tomorrow.
Expect to hear a whole lot about the movies on this list in the coming months thanks to ads, trailers, fast food tie-ins, subliminal messaging, and possibly even logos carved into the moon.
What? It’s just sitting there. Do you think Michael Bay and Paramount wouldn’t scratch the Transformers 4 logo onto the lunar surface if they could?
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
The first Amazing Spider-Man rebooted the franchise successfully, but it had to drag itself through yet another Spidey origin story to do so. Now that we’ve put that behind us – again – the series can rise again like Phoenix. Not a phoenix, but the city of Phoenix, which Sony could conceivably buy the naming rights to with the profits from these films, and rename it Spideyopolis, or Sonyburgh.
Following the release of Amazing Spidey 2, a third and fourth film have already been discussed, along with at least two spinoffs; one starring Venom and the other starring The Sinister Six. There have also been rumors of superhero spinoffs taken from the Spidey universe. While Fox has the rights to all the Marvel Comics mutant characters (as well as Fantastic Four), and Marvel Studios controls the rest, Sony can make as many Spidey-related films as it wants. Fans of the films will probably find that to be an interesting prospect. Longtime Spidey comics fans, on the other hand, should be justifiably afraid it will mean a feature film based on Cloak and Dagger. And Nobody wants that.
It could even lead to the introduction of the Scarlet Spider, a chilling prospect. The Scarlet Spider was a clone of Peter Parker with all his memories, created by Peter and Gwen Stacy’s professor, because he fell in love with her and blamed Spidey after she died in the comics. It was even dumber than it sounds, and it all led to a ridiculous story known in comic circles as the dreaded Clone Saga. If any single film can end the avalanche of comic book movies, it would be one based on the Clone Saga.
The flipside is a few cool possibilities though, like a Black Cat and/or Silver Sable spinoff along with many others. Regardless of how the film is received by critics and fans, the Spidey brand alone will likely make it a box office success. So unless Amazing Spidey 2 is so bad it literally kills people in theater seats, odds are there is no stopping more films. With that in mind we hope it doesn’t suck, because there is no escaping it. If you thought a dancing emo Tobey McSpidey was bad, just know it could get so, so much worse.
Watching the recently released trailer on the big screen, you get a sense of the epic scale the filmmakers are going for. This is not a cheap monster movie. Matthew Broderick will not fight off baby Godzillas while Puff Daddy raps about lizards over a viciously abused Led Zeppelin classic. We hope.
The original Godzilla was a markedly different creation from what the series became. In the years following the original 1954 film, the once-horrifying monster battled space monsters and romped with his adorable monster son. It became a B-movie series. The shift in tone produced a lot of fun films, but the original was a Japanese allegory about the dangers of radiation and man meddling with primal forces of nature, produced less than a decade after the country experienced nuclear devastation firsthand. Somewhere along the way, that idea yielded to a guy in a rubber suit punching space lobsters in the face … or whatever space lobsters have in place of faces.
Director Gareth Edwards’ reboot looks to rekindle that original idea. Godzilla is not cute. It is a force of nature that destroys everything in its path. It is man versus a malevolent force of nature that wants nothing more than to ruin everyone on Earth’s day. The film’s potential is huge, but so is the possibility of it horribly sucking. There is precedent. If you’ve forgotten the 1998 American version, count yourself lucky.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
This is another one of those films that, if it sucks, it could directly impact other films in the future. In that sense, X-Men: Days of Future Past has a responsibility to future to not suck. An amazing film would be great of course, but the previous X-Men films have taught us to manage our expectations. It’s been years, but the pain of X-Men: The Last Stand never goes away.
It’s a testament to the series – and possibly the casts (at least Hugh Jackman) – that these films continue to attract such a huge following. X-Men: First Class was a solid entry and so was X2, but The Wolverine had problems, and both X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: The Last Stand were god awful. managed to seriously slow the franchise, but Days of Future Past is part of a bigger plan.
This film is the culmination of all the previous X-Men films, and it features both characters and actors from past X-Movies. Director Bryan Singer has also already announced he is thinking of a follow-up featuring the villain Apocalypse. For fans, that is amazing, but frightening news.
Like Apocalypse, Days of Future Past is taken deep from the X-Men comics lore. The other films were original stories starring the X-Men, but this story is taken from a fan favorite and will need to be better than most of the previous offerings to satiate a rabid fanbase. At the very least it needs to not suck, as some of the previous X-Men films have. If it does, it may finally, and maybe even mercifully, kill the franchise. At least until Fox decides to reboot it and try again.
A Million Ways to Die in the West
Not everyone is in love with Seth MacFarlane and his unique brand of humor, but his first foray into live-action filmmaking, 2012’s Ted, was a breakout hit, earning over half a billion dollars. It was made for a mature audience and it reaffirmed to studios that – like many other similarly successful summer comedies – you don’t need to blow up a planet in order to compete in the summer movie landscape. Sure, everybody loves seeing things explode real purdy, but films like Ted help remind us that it’s not always necessary and that original films can also succeed too.
This film also has the benefit of having a ridiculous amount of famous people appear in it. Along with MacFarlane, who stars, are: Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, Neil Patrick Harris, and probably a lot of others in cameos where they will do something hilarious and undignified. Fingers crossed.
Whether you love MacFarlane or not, this western comedy about a coward who finds his courage is an original light in a sea of summer sequels, reboots, and spin-offs. It continues a fine tradition of original summer comedies, and hopefully it won’t suck so studios will continue to try out more originals.
Edge of Tomorrow
There are two ways to look at this Tom Cruise vehicle. The first is that it’s laudable to see Hollywood cast its Sauron-like gaze in a new direction by deciding to adapt an original Japanese novel about a Special Forces soldier that keeps fighting, improving, and ultimately dying in the same battle. The second is that Hollywood took an original idea, slapped on a more generic title, then had an alarming eight screenwriters hack it to bits before moving forward.
The film is based on the 2004 Japanese novel All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, and focuses on a soldier as he lives and continually dies throughout the worst Groundhog’s Day ever. It was first adapted by screenwriter Dante Harper and quickly had several A-listers wanting a piece, including Brad Pitt. Sounds great, right? But that was in 2010. Since then the film has changed stars, titles, and probably made some literary agents very rich. You know the expression “too many cooks spoil the broth?” That phrase isn’t just about cooks, you know.
And poor Tom Cruise. Sure he’s a little … crazy at times, but you have to give him props for again and again trying to work on original big-budget films like Oblivion and Jack Reacher. Both turned a profit, but not much more. Still, you have to admire Cruise’s gumption. If nothing else, he is a champion of original movies (original by Hollywood standards at least). Cruise for all his nuttery is still a huge international star. If he can’t get people interested in original films, we may all be in trouble.
Compared to the last few years we’ve actually seen a decent number of non-sequel/reboot big budget release, but eight of the ten highest grossing films in 2013 have been sequels. If All You Need is Kill – sorry, Edge of Tomorrow – sucks, Hollywood may go even deeper down the sequel/reboot rabbit hole. And damn, eight screenwriters is a lot.
22 Jump Street
Channing Tatum is a rising Hollywood star thanks to a combination of well-chosen movies, and because Hollywood seems to really like the guy. He comes across as a bit of a meathead now and then, which earned him the apt nickname of “Charming Potato,” but he has also shown a remarkable ability to make fun of himself and his image. The reboot of 21 Jump Street is a good example of this.
21 Jump Street was one of the highest-grossing and best-received comedies of 2012, and Tatum deserves a lot of the credit for that. His casting fit perfectly with what directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller wanted to do. They took all the tropes that made the original TV series work – things like the popular kids doing drugs, the guy with the muscle car being popular, and the jock as king in high school – and did the exact opposite. It was a refreshingly self-aware parody, and the sequel will hopefully continue that.
With films like 21 Jump Street though, there is the fear that part of what made it work was that it was unexpected, and the sequel doesn’t have that same advantage. Sequels to comedies frequently try to build on the jokes that worked rather than trying new ones. That can still work of course, but there’s only so much awkward Jonah Hill to go around. Hopefully 22 Jump Street can avoid that trap.
So far the plot description isn’t exactly encouraging on that front though. Tatum and Jonah Hill return to the role of undercover students, but this time in college. Their friendship is tested as they each begin to grow in different directions while investigating drugs in a fraternity. It sounds very similar to the original, almost to a fault. Charming Potato deserves better.
Transformers 4: Age of Extinction
Again and again critics hate the Transformer movies, and again and again Paramount and director Michael Bay react with a thoughtful “pfft.” Possibly while high-fiving each other as they drink bottled water carried down from the Alps by blind monks that cost more than the value of the city of Toledo. Financially, the films do very well, which means there is very little reason to change the formula. But we can hope.
The third film was a big step up over the second, with nary a racist caricature or metallic testicle to be seen, and the fourth film is the start of a new story with a new cast. Shia “the Beef” and his apparently interchangeable eye candy girlfriend have been replaced, and the starring honors now fall to Mark Wahlberg, who is rumored to have signed on for three films. This is still a Michael Bay movie though, so there will be plenty of beautiful women standing majestically as wind sweeps through their hair and the camera pans around them, and plenty of people will likely heroically get out of cars and look around. But otherwise it is said to be a completely new story, with only a handful of previously seen Transformers appearing.
If you grew up with the cartoons, toys, comics, etc., it’s hard not to want to root for the films, mind-numbingly dumb plot holes and all. The third film wasn’t exactly memorable, but at least it didn’t suck, and hopefully this one won’t ether. After all, it has Dinobots in it. If you are a fan from way back and that doesn’t get you at least a little excited, nothing will.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
As far as reboots go, 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes was one of the best received in recent years. It offered a smart take on a story that had already failed to be rebooted once, taking a wild concept and turning it into a deeply thoughtful film. Strong performances, excellent CGI, and a well thought out story gave life to the series once again, and a franchise was reborn.
For those reasons alone, we should all hope that the sequel doesn’t suck, and so far it’s looking solid. The story is set eight years after the end of the previous film. A virus has wiped out the majority of the human race and the survivors band together, resulting in a short-lived peace with the apes that doesn’t last. With the new story and setting also comes a whole new cast, including Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty) and Gary Oldman (if you’ve never heard of Oldman, we can’t help you).
It all sounds like 20th Century Fox, is taking great pains to ensure the quality of the franchise, but there are a few causes for concern. Rupert Wyatt, the director of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, was excited for more sequels – right before he left the project. He even mad sure to add a few nods to the original 1968 film, including the launch of the spacecraft Icarus, the ship Charlton Heston’s character was on. Rise could very well be a prequel to Planet of the Apes, and Wyatt had a long-term plan. He just didn’t like the timetable.
Following issues with the studio over an accelerated schedule, Wyatt walked off the project. The studio then brought in Cloverfield director Matt Reeves, which bumped the release date a few months, but there is still the possibility that Wyatt was right to run. If so, all those big plans about future films could come crumbling down when Dawn falls flat.
Hercules: The Thracian Wars
There are two Hercules films due out in 2014, but one of these things is not like the other. One stars Dwayne Johnson, Rufus Sewell, John Hurt, Ian McShane, and has a budget of well over $100 million. The other stars the big vampire bro from the Twilight films.
Based on the graphic novel of the same name, Dwayne Johnson’s Hercules: The Thracian Wars follows the titular character after years spent fighting and raging against the gods. He and his band of brothers are hired to train an army, and in the process they realize how far they have fallen. But probably not before they kill a whole lot of people. It’s directed by Brett Ratner, so you can safely assume it won’t be a deep character study on man’s inhumanity towards man. No, it will be about one man sword fighting against five other men, and possibly an elephant, in slow motion. Maybe even a cameo from Chris Tucker.
There are lots of movies coming out in 2014 that will have deep and thought provoking stories, but this probably won’t be one of them. And that’s perfectly fine. There’s nothing wrong with a good old action movie, and July is a good time for them. It has a good cast, a well-known hero in a unique situation, and … um, Brett Ratner. Who directed X-Men: The Last Stand. Well, hopefully this one won’t suck.
The Wachowskis return once more with an original science fiction project, with an emphasis on “original.” Unassuming janitor Jupiter Jones (played by Mila Kunis) is marked for death by the Queen of the Universe, because a prophecy claimed that the lowly toilet cleaner could be the universe’s next leader. Jones then meets a mercenary coming for her, Caine (played by Channing Tatum), a soldier with wolf DNA. They go on the run with Stinger (played by Sean Bean), who is described as a “Han Solo-type character.” That is either going to be awesome, or very stupid. Hard to tell at this point.
Jupiter Rising is a completely original story from a team that tends to split fans down the middle. Some love their work, others think it’s a mess. Wherever you fall, you have to at least give the Wachowskis some credit for trying new things.
Kunis and Tatum are both stars, and hopefully Bean can make it through a movie without dying for a change. It’s probably not fair to say that this is the Wachowski’s “last chance,” but it may be the last time they can operate on this scale. Their $100 million passion project, Cloud Atlas, failed to win over audiences, and their film before that, Speed Racer, was a box office bomb. Both earned something of a cult following though.
Love them or hate them, Hollywood needs filmmakers like the Wachowskis trying new things. Hopefully Jupiter Ascending will help to reaffirm them as Hollywood elite by not sucking.
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.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Marvel 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
If 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
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
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
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.
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.
Since 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
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.
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
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?
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