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Film Fanatic: First Quarter Movie Preview

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Solid Slate of Movies to Open 2014

With 2013 officially behind us, it’s time to start thinking about what’s coming out in the new year.  Thankfully this year, that doesn’t mean skipping over the first three months like usual.

Besides holiday holdovers, the first three months of the year are usually the worst for new films coming out.  It’s like a dumping ground for all the crap Hollywood made and they figure releasing it before blockbuster season begins.  It’s also apparently the only time an Exorcist-type movie or a Liam Neeson vehicle is released.

However, the first quarter of the year looks very promising thanks to a couple of films that were supposed to come out in December as well as a few other dare-I-say highly-anticipated features from acclaimed directors?

January

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Release Date: January 17

Jack Ryan - agentsofgeek.com
Chris Pine is the new Jack Ryan. | (agentsofgeek.com)

Who says the Summer is the only time you can release a major Hollywood blockbuster.  Originally slated to open on Christmas, Jack Ryan is yet another reboot of the famous Tom Clancy spy series.  The previous actors to portray the character were Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck.

Out with the old and in with Chris Pine who will be leading his first big non-Star Trek movie.  The film also stars Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner and Kenneth Branagh doing double-duty as the villain and the director of the film.

The trailers have been fairly conventional and they’ve appeared to change the Ryan character from being a reluctant analyst in the past films to a more Jason Bourne-type action hero in the new installment.  But hey, it looks like a fun popcorn movie in January so you won’t hear any complaining from me.

Enemies Closer

Release Date: January 24 (Limited)

I know, a movie starring Jean-Claude Van Damme is supposed to come out in January because it’s probably terrible.  But just look at this trailer!  It’s like a car crash.  You can’t look away no matter how badly you want to.  And what about that hair and that enhanced bone structure!  Van Damme doesn’t care that it’s January.

http://youtu.be/rxgqN0yvHFg

Tom Everett Scott is in this too which means we’re delayed yet another shot at a reunion concert for The Wonders.  Orlando Jones shows up as well and it got me thinking that the peak of Orlando Jones was those 7-Up commercials and his cameo in Office Space.

Side note:  The film marks the return of Peter Hyams, the man who brought us a couple of underrated ’90s gems (The Relic, End of Days) as well as a couple of ’00s disasters we’d like to forget (The Musketeer, A Sound of Thunder).

February

The Monuments Men

Release Date: February 7

The Monuments Men - Collider
The Monuments Men. | (Collider)

The first week in February brings not one, but two big movies.  The first is George Clooney’s The Monuments Men.  Originally supposed to come out in December, Clooney delayed the release so that the visual effects could be finished.

The film follows a ragtag group of art historians and museum curators tasked with recovering precious works of art before they are destroyed by the Nazis.

I’ve been waiting for this movie for a year.  The plot seems to be a mix of two of my all-time favorite movies (Kelly’s Heroes, Ocean’s Eleven) and the cast is one of the best ever assembled (Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman).  Let’s all go steal back some art from the Nazis together!

The Lego Movie

Release Date: February 7

That’s right, they made a feature-length animated Lego movie.  Directed by the guys who brought you Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street (and its sequel), the film looks like all sorts of wonderful and nostalgic fun.

The voice cast is deep (Will Ferrell, Channing Tatum, Elizabeth Banks, Jonah Hill, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, etc..) and the directors seem to have brought a lot of heart and energy to the project.

RoboCop

Release Date: February 12

We could have ourselves another Total Recall debacle or this just might be a worthy Verhoeven remake.  The trailer sadly looks closer to the former but director Jose Padilha’s last feature, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, was an excellent Brazilian action movie so I’m holding out hope.

Joel Kinnaman (The Killing) is our new Alex Murphy/RoboCop and the rest of the cast includes Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Jay Baruchel and Samuel L. Jackson and his hair.

Of course the new film will be lacking the ’80s excess and irony that made the original such a cult classic, but maybe, just maybe it will be a worthy successor.  That or the Verhoeven filmography will be permanently locked away for good (sorry Showgirls fans).

March

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Release Date: March 7

Wes Anderson movies are an acquired taste and thankfully I’ve been enjoying them for more than a decade.  Coming off of the wonderful Moonrise Kingdom, the director’s latest effort looks even more Andersony.

The usual Anderson clan is onboard (Jason Schwarztman, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson), but it’s Ralph Fiennes as Gustave H, the concierge at the European hotel, who looks to be having loads of fun in the trailer as a promiscuous and perhaps sleuthing man.

It has Anderson’s signature style and aesthetic and it’s certainly one to see on the big screen.

300: Rise of an Empire

Release Date: March 7

It’s been seven long years since 300 sweaty, six-pack abed men CGI’d their way through as man Persians as they could before meeting their death.  The sequel unsurprisingly doesn’t feature director Zack Snyder or Gerald Butler or even Michael Fassbender, but it does have younger, replacement dudes who know how to scowl and wield a sword and Lena Headey returns as the vengeful widow of King Leonidas.

The new film at least looks to change things up a bit by focusing the battles primarily at sea while at the same time appeasing fans of the original by keeping the graphic novel look and R-rated edge.  Plus Eva Green is in it which is never a bad thing.

Enemy

Release Date: March 14

Enemy (2013)
Jake Gyllenhaal is seeing double in ‘Enemy.’ | (insidemovies.ew.com)

Director Denis Villeneuve announced his presence with authority this past fall with his dark and engrossing thriller Prisoners, but he also has another film starring Jake Gyllenhaal that he made called Enemy.

The film received a lot of buzz when it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and it follows Gyllenhaal as a paranoid teacher who believes he has found his exact doppelganger.

This seems like the kind of movie where the little you know going in, the better. One critic who saw it said, “Might have the scariest ending of any film ever made.”  Just a tad hyperbolic, but it still has me intrigued.

Noah

Release Date: March 28

Darren Aronofsky dips his toe into the mainstream with his Biblical epic Noah.  Starring Russell Crowe, the film follows the Great Flood story of Noah, who after envisioning a massive storm that would wash away all life, built an ark to carry people and animals to safety.

The trailers feature great visuals and beautiful landscapes and knowing Aronofsky, the film certainly won’t be as conventional as other films of this size.  There has been some bad buzz behind the scenes, but I’d say I’m more curious than skeptical at this point.

So there you have it.  The first quarter of 2014 brings us films from Clooney, Anderson and Aronofsky as well as a couple more blockbusters and Van Damme.  Not too shabby.

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