by Sara Michelle Fetters -
SGN A&E Writer
With as glorious a year as 2013 became, it's hard to look at the first quarter of 2014 and the slate of cinematic choices that are on the table and not wince a little bit.
January, in particular, is remarkably thin this year - a horror spin-off, a Tom Clancy reboot and an odd Mary Shelley meets Underworld hybrid the only bigger budget items of note to be found.
That's not entirely true, of course. Many of the 2013's December Academy Award potentials go into wide release during the first month of 2014. August: Osage County, Lone Survivor, Labor Day and The Invisible Woman hit Seattle screens, as do the outstanding French-Iranian import The Past and the critically acclaimed documentary Tim's Ver-meer, all six hoping for a bit of love from Oscar even though their collective prospects - save one notable exception (think Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts) - are relatively thin.
February sees the release of George Clooney's star-studded WWII effort Monuments Men as well as MGM/Sony's curious looking Robocop remake, while Hayao Miyazaki's magnificent final animated feature The Wind Rises hits theatres at the end of the month.
The big news in March is the Easter arrival of Darren Aronofsky's massive Biblical epic Noah, the film starring Russell Crowe already garnering its fair share of controversy even though all that's been seen of it is a rather straight-forward, Gladiator-esque trailer.
Then there is April.
Looking at the slate arriving that month, it's easy to assume a few studios are looking to get an early jump on the summer - high profile sequels Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Rio 2 hitting theatres alongside intriguing, star-heavy curiosities like Transcendence with Johnny Depp, Sabotage with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Draft Day with Kevin Costner and The Other Woman with Cameron Diaz.
All-in-all, there are a few motion pictures worth keeping an eye out for, and almost certainly a few independent and foreign releases will surprise, proving to be some of the fin-est films of the year.
The following is a list of a small handful of the titles scheduled to hit Seattle screens during the first four months of 2014. As always, release dates are subject to change, some-thing to keep in mind before heading out to the multiplex.
Bettie Page Reveals All - The world's most famous pinup model talks about her life, with additional insights from the likes of Dita Von Teese, Hugh Hefner and Re-becca Romijn.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones - The massively successful found-footage horror series offers up its first spin-off, a Mexican immigrant flavored effort re-volving around a California teen marked by evil forces for possession.
August: Osage County - Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Margo Martindale, Sam Shepard, Ewan McGregor, Juliet Lewis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dermot Mulroney, Abigail Breslin and Julianne Nicholson topline director John Wells' adaptation of author Tracy Letts' award-winning play. As expertly acted as you assume it to be, the movie is still a bit of a hypochondriacal mess at times where the melodrama can consume the honest emotional fireworks that permeate the proceedings.
The Legend of Hercules - The year's first Hercules adventure is directed by currently down-on-his-luck, former Die Hard 2 wunderkind Renny Harlin and stars Twilight heartthrob Kellan Lutz in the title role. Pretty much says it all, right?
Lone Survivor - Peter Berg's recount of the failed 2005 Navy SEAL 'Operation Red Wings' mission in Afghanistan has been garnering all kinds of Oscar buzz, many saying this effort starring Mark Wahlberg in the title role is 2013's Zero Dark Thirty or Black Hawk Down. Can't wait to see it.
Big Band Wolves - Quentin Tarantino named this violent independent crime-thriller 2013's best; something potentially to keep in mind.
Devil's Due - More found-footage horror, this time revolving around an unplanned pregnancy with satanic undertones.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit - Paramount shuffled the release of this Tom Clancy reboot after Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street stole its original Decem-ber 25 date, so this Kenneth Branagh-directed effort starring Chris Pine, Kiera Knightley and Kevin Costner might be better than a January bow might initially lead one to assume.
The Nut Job - Animated effort revolving around squirrels planning the perfect heist. I've nothing more to add.
Gimme Shelter - Based-on-fact account of a New York teen looking for her father forced out onto the street even though she's pregnant. Vanessa Hudgens is excellent even if the movie is a slightly schmaltzy melodrama that doesn't make its points as eloquently as it potentially could have.
I, Frankenstein - Aaron Eckhart is the titular monster battling ghouls, goblins, demons and all kinds of supernatural entities secretly trying to keep the world safe for a clueless humanity. The trailer makes the movie look as silly as that description sounds.
The Invisible Woman - Felicity Jones is Oscar-worthy in Ralph Fiennes's solid, if slightly perfunctory, drama about author Charles Dickens' clandestine romance and the repercussions their affair has upon both their lives.
Knights of Badassdom - Live-action role players inadvertently conjure up an actual demon and are forced to face the consequences. A favorite on the 2013 festival circuit, this B-movie comedic genre mash-up has generated a little controversy when it was revealed distributor eOne Entertainment had recut the film without the director's ap-proval.
At Middleton - Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga shine in an otherwise slightly underwhelming love story about two parents taking their respective children on a college admissions tour.
Best Night Ever - A Vegas-set bachelorette party is the location for this comedy directed by Epic Movie and Date Movie duo Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, their names enough to make me very, very afraid to give this film even a passing glance let alone a full-on look.
Labor Day - Jason Reitman's (Young Adult) latest is a drama about a single mother potentially harboring an escaped fugitive for reasons she doesn't quite understand let alone admit. Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin star.
Oscar Nominated Short Films: Animated - Want to see all of the Academy Award-nominated animated short films? Now here's your chance.
Oscar Nominated Short Films: Live Action - Ditto from above, only this time the live action shorts are represented.
The Past - Outstanding French/Iranian drama from the director of A Separation featuring an award-worthy performance from The Artist star Bérénice Bejo. Master-ful stuff.
That Awkward Moment - Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller in a buddy comedy about three best friends each dealing with their respective relationships in different ways, none finding the kind of success they hope for.
Lego Movie - Yes. It's an animated movie about Legos. From the guys that made Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street. I am not making any of this up.
Monuments Men - George Clooney drafts Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin and Cate Blanchett into action for this inspired-by-fact WWII story of a special team of Americans (and allies) assigned with protecting priceless works of art from German destruction.
About Last Night - Remake of the '80s Rob Lowe/Demi Moore favorite with Kevin Hart and Regina Hall taking over the central roles.
Endless Love - Another remake of an '80s love story, this one starring Gabriella Wilde and Alex Pettyfer, most likely will feature a new recording of the Oscar-nominated title song.
Like Father, Like Son - The 2012 Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize winner finally makes its way across the ocean, Hirakazo Kore-Eda's (Nobody Knows) latest a drama concerning two loving families who discover their six-year-old children were inadvertently switched at birth by the hospital. By all accounts, this one is certain to be excep-tional.
Robocop - A remake-filled Valentine's Day weekend continues with this new take on the Paul Verhoeven sci-fi satirical masterpiece, Joel Kinnaman taking over for Peter Weller as the slain Detroit police officer brought back from the dead to keep the peace. Moderately intriguing only because Elite Squad director José Padilha is at the con-trols.
Vampire Academy: Blood Sister - I know nothing about the successful Young Adult novels by Richelle Mead upon which this film is based. The trailer is kind of terrible, but director Mark Waters made Mean Girls and House of Yes, so I'll keep my hopes up even though all my senses tell me I'm wasting my time.
Winter's Tale - Oscar-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind) makes his directorial debut with this adaptation of the best-selling Mark Helprin romantic fantasy. Keep in mind, the guy also wrote Batman and Robin, so don't get your hopes too high.
3 Days to Kill - Kevin Costner, Amber Heard and Hailee Steinfeld in a Luc Besson-penned action-thriller-comedy hybrid about a former Secret Service agent forced into doing 'one last job' for the government on the exact same weekend he's supposed to be looking after his strong-willed teenage daughter. Admittedly, the trailer for this one makes it look a heck of a lot more entertaining than it probably has any right to be.
One Chance - Director David Frankel's comedy-drama about 'Britain's Got Talent' phenom Paul Potts starring Tony Award-winning actor James Corden in the cen-tral role. Heartwarming, I'm sure.
Pompeii - Resident Evil filmmaker Paul W.S. Anderson tackles the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Pretty much says it all, right?
The Rocket - Australian coming of age import about a misunderstood lad who looks to make something of himself by joining a ragtag group of fellow misfits in par-taking in a rocket building competition-slash-festival.
The Wind Rises - Legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki's final motion picture is a drama centered around the man most responsible for the development and creation of Japan's Zero Fighter. Haunting, tragic, emotionally complex and bracingly intimate, this is one of 2013's best films and by all accounts should be a Best Animated Feature frontrunner.
Non-Stop - Liam Neeson as an air marshal forced to stop a terrorist from killing off the passengers on his plane even though the pilots and the rest of the flight crew think he's the criminal. Think Taken on a plane.
Son of God - It's the story of Jesus. What else do I need to say?
Welcome to Yesterday - Time travel thriller about a group of scientists who invent and construct before they think about the consequences, which is, of course, al-ways a good thing (no&it isn't).
300: Rise of an Empire - Sequel to 300 chronicling the journey of Greek general Themistocles as he continues the battle against Xerxes inspired by the sacrifice of the fallen Spartans.
Child's Pose - Romanian import that was the top prize winner at the 2012 Berlin Film Festival, this film is an incisive, devastating look at a successful architect pull-ing out all the stops to keep her son out of prison after he kills a child in an automobile accident. Strong stuff, not for the emotionally squeamish.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman - The WABAC machine! Mr. Peabody! His 'pet boy' Sherman! If these statements excite you as much as they do me, then you know your classic Saturday morning animation.
Grace of Monaco - Nicole Kidman is Grace Kelly. I have nothing more to add.
Need for Speed - Adapted from the video game, Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul is an ex-con who takes to the road to avenge himself against the man responsible for putting him behind bars.
Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club - Do people still care about Tyler Perry movies? Do they actually make any money? Who sees them? Seriously, I'd really love to know.
Veronica Mars - We used to be friends, a long time ago& Is it just sad that out of all the movies hitting theatres the first quarter of 2014, this theatrical spin-off of the cult television show with Kristen Bell is without a doubt my single most anticipated title? Nah. Not a bit.
Blood Ties - A 1970's-set Brooklyn crime noir about two rival families clawing at one another for supremacy. Guillaume Canet (Tell No One) directs.
Divergent - Director Neil Burger (Limitless) tackles author Veronica Roth's popular piece of Young Adult sci-fi fiction about a teenager forced to lead others like her against the dystopian system that keeps them in check and rules every facet of their lives. Sounds like another prequel-to-a-sequel-we're-never-going-to-see.
Muppets Most Wanted - Sequel to The Muppets finds Kermit and company in Europe involved in a jewel heist led by a mustachioed frog with a certain resem-blance to the famed song-and-dance amphibian. Yeah. I want to see it, too.
Nymphomaniac: Part I - Director Lars von Trier's (Breaking the Waves) massive sex-fueled, star-studded drama gets its domestic release. Expect a ton of contro-versy and very small audiences (it's going to be NC-17, probably, after all).
Stretch - Comedy-thriller from writer/director Joe Carnahan (The Grey) about a chauffeur who takes a job he shouldn't have. Chris Pine and Jessica Alba star.
Bad Words - Jason Bateman's directorial debut finds him starring as former Spelling Bee loser who uses a loophole to go back and enter the competition again as an adult. Garnered rave reviews at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival.
A Haunted House 2 - More scary movie nonsense featuring Marlon Wayans; I honestly could care less.
Noah - Darren Aronofsky's massive, epic retelling of the Biblical story of a man, his family and an ark filled to the brim with zoological wonders. Not sure what to make of this one; incredibly eager to find out.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Marvel's best movie sees its first sequel come to the screen, Chris Evans returning as the titular hero while a friend from his WWII past returns to make his modern day struggles a whole new kind of personal Hell. I admit, as superhero worn out as I am I'm curious to see how this one turns out.
Dom Hemingway - Safe-cracker Dom Hemingway (Jude Law) has returned to the London streets after a 12-year stretch in the pen and he wants what is owed him. Think Point Blank meets Get Carter with a side of Sexy Beast (I hope).
Island of Lemurs: Madagascar 3D - IMAX documentary revolving around lemurs, no animated lions, giraffes, zebras or hippos to be found.
Under the Skin - Scarlett Johansson as an alien seductress looking for a mate. Have heard good thing about this one and am curious to give it a look.
Draft Day - Kevin Costner is out to draft the NFL's next star in this Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters) directed comedy.
Only Lovers Left Alive - Jim Jarmusch, of all people, descends into the world of vampires and their minions with this critically acclaimed thriller starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston. Cannot wait to see this.
Rio 2 - Animated sequel to the 2011 surprise hit with all the central vocal artists (namely Anne Hathaway and Rodrigo Santoro) returning for a second flight.
Sabotage - David Ayer (End of Watch) tries to make Arnold Schwarzenegger relevant again with this hopefully hard-hitting thriller about a successful tactical unit of the DEA under siege from both a drug cartel wanting to see them dead and moles secretly padding their own pockets by betraying those they've long called friends.
Heaven is for Real - Faith-based drama about a father (Greg Kinnear) trying to find the courage to talk about the revelations he learned from his son after the latter had a near-death experience. Directed by Randall Wallace (Secretariat).
Bears - DisneyNature returns with this documentary about Alaskan bears in the wild.
Nymphomaniac: Part II - The second half of Lars Von Trier's epic sexual adventure.
Oculus - A driven sister attempts to prove her brother is innocent of murder by toying with the supernatural. You can guess the results.
Transcendence - Christopher Nolan's favorite cinematographer Wally Pfister (Batman Begins, Inception) makes his directorial debut with the artificial intelli-gence thriller about a scientist (Johnny Depp) who returns from the grave when his brain is uploaded into an all-powerful super computer. One imagines this will be more than The Lawnmower Man for a new generation (or at least hopes it will be).
Earth to Echo - An odd set of text messages leads a close-knit group of friends to wonder if they're being contacted by an intelligence not of this Earth.
The Other Woman - A man's mistress and his wife secretly join forces to plot revenge for the wrongs they feel have been committed against them. Cameron Diaz and Kate Upton star.
The Quiet Ones - A university professor and his hand-picked team of students attempt to create a poltergeist; you can imagine the results.
Walk of Shame - Elizabeth Banks has eight hours to put her life back in order after a one-night stand goes disastrously wrong.
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