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!