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The year ahead: My 14 most anticipated films for 2014

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I think all movie fans, even the casual ones, make lists like this in their head after seeing a good trailer or reading a good article. I'm going to spell mine out and dig a little deeper, just as I have the last two years. For 2013, my top pick for this list was Man of Steel and it did not disappoint me one bit, while a few others (Gangster Squad, Elysium) disappointed or even got bumped (The Monuments Men) to this year. Plenty of these movies listed and described below for 2014 will likely be things you've heard of, but maybe I'll get the chance to shed some light on a few that maybe you haven't heard of too. In any case, if there's a trailer or an image for the film, I will list it with the title, along with a release date. Just be ready for that release date to shift. Happy New Year, everyone! Go see some movies, but save yourself a little bit for 2015 which already has the next James Bond film, Star Wars: Episode VII, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 2, 50 Shades of Gray, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Superman/Batman, Inferno, Mission: Impossible 5, Fast and Furious 7, Jurassic World, Ted 2, Alvin and the Chipmunks 4, Kung Fu Panda 3, Disney's Tomorrowland, Minions, Ant-Man, The Smurfs 3, Bourne 5, Hotel Transylvania 2, Assassin's Creed, Resident Evil 6, Insurgent, and remakes of Cinderella, Mad Max, The Terminator, The Fantastic Four, ​and The Jungle Book. Holy cow!

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THE "ALMOST" MUST-SEE LIST

The following list are movies I have no problem seeing and look forward to, but they aren't making my calendar or I'm not standing in line for tickets for anytime soon. For those of you that follow my website, you know I'm not the biggest Hunger Games guy in the world, so don't act all shocked that the movie that probably tops everyone else's 2014 must-see list doesn't get a spot on mine. Go ahead and put copycat Divergent right there with it. To say it simply, I can wait for these and sure-to-be-watered-down remake of Robocop or live-action/performance capture Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. While we're at it, forgive me if I don't have faith in Godzilla not being Pacific Rim 2: Now Without Robots. Speaking of robots, I don't even want to mention Transformers 4: Extinction or whatever the hell it's called. It might as well be a Saturday Night Live skit of "Mark Wahlberg Talks to Robots." That won't even make the list of maybes.

HONORABLE MENTION:

Guardians of the Galaxy, Divergent, Transcendence, Robocop, Godzilla, Noah, Edge of Tomorrow, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Into the Woods, Maleficent, Jersey Boys, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Draft Day, 22 Jump Street, The Equalizer, 300: Rise of an Empire, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Neighbors, Stretch, The Expendables 3, This is Where I Leave You, Jane Got a Gun, Exodus, Annie, Night at the Museum 3, The Judge, The Interview, Heaven is Real, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1, and, for the elementary teacher in me, The Giver.

MY 14 MOST ANTICIPATED FILMS OF 2014

14. Chef-- Other than the misstep that was Cowboys and Aliens, I've always been a big fan of Jon Favreau as an actor and as a director (Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Elf, Zathura). His latest film is a comedy about a failed chef who ends up back home in Miami trying to start a fledgling food truck. Favreau himself stars, but he brings along his Iron Man chum Robert Downey, Jr., Sofia Vergara, and Dustin Hoffman. I'll give it a rub as a piece of summer counter-programming. (May 9)

13. Unbroken-- Angelina Jolie made a strong splash as a first-time director with Oscar-nominated foreign film In the Land of Blood and Honey a few years ago. She returns to the director's chair for Unbroken, screenwritten by the Coen brothers. The film is the incredible athlete, soldier, and survival story of Olympic athlete and World War II veteran Louis Zamperini, starring a low-key and mostly unknown cast. The story is amazing one that I would like to see onscreen. (December 25)

12. Fury-- Staying in World War II, put me down for being interested in watching Brad Pitt lead a rag-tag team of soldiers against outnumbered odds rumbling across Nazi lines in a Sherman tank. I'm sure it won't be Courage Under Fire for World War II, but I'm interested to see what director David Ayer (End of Watch) can do with Pitt, Shia LeBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Pena, Jon Bernthal, Jason Isaacs, and Scott Eastwood. (November 14)

11. Gone Girl-- One of the dozen or so directors that gets an immediate must-see from me is David Fincher from Se7en, The Game, Fight Club, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. His films are constantly interesting and his latest looks to follow suit. Ben Affleck stars in a suspense thriller based on Gillian Flynn's novel of the same name which covers a possible spousal murder of a wife at the hands of the husband. (October 3)

10. Dumb and Dumber To-- I'm probably going to regret this pick at the end of the year, but I can't help being a fan of the long-lost 1995 original. If the reunited pair of Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels can rekindle even half of that comedic magic, this sequel will do enough to be worth the long wait and the trouble. (November 14)

9. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes-- Now we're getting to the heavy hitters. I was surprised and impressed by Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a surprise summer hit two years ago. I'm sold on the desire to see where they go next with this highly anticipated sequel. The first teaser is out and it sets an interesting stage. (trailer) (July 11)

8. The Monuments Men-- Despite waiting all of last year for this George Clooney directorial effort to be released and being disappointed by its bump out of Oscar consideration to February, my interest in The Monuments Men hasn't dulled. I like what I see in the trailer and I'm a fan of Clooney behind the camera as a director (Good Night and Good Luck, The Ides of March, Leatherheads). The stellar cast of Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, and Jean Dujardin is all still here. It will be nice to see this one finally make it to theaters. (trailer) (February 7)

7. Jupiter Ascending-- I was surprised how much Cloud Atlas from Larry and Lana Wachowski stuck with me, so I'm back on the wagon of being interested in their next gig. As fanciful and sci-fi as expected, it will either be The Matrix or the second coming of Battlefield: Earth. Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis star in this very out-there looking action film. It's got the greenlight for Warner Bros.'s cushy late July box office slot that made hits out of the Harry Potter and Dark Knight franchises. (trailer) (July 18)

6. The Lego Movie-- Go ahead and chart this now as the family and kid hit of the year. Who doesn't love Legos? This will be the shirt-tugging and ankle-biting movie that will clean house this winter with no other competition at the box office with a who's who of Lego figures come to life from Superman and Batman all the way to Abraham Lincoln and Shaquille O'Neal. It's even better that it's made by the writer-director team from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street. (trailer) (February 7)

5. The Amazing Spider-Man 2-- After a seemingly repetitious and tepid reboot original story, this Marc Webb sequel looks to have Spider-Man finally put his big boy pants and costume on. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone return to face new dangers from Electro (Jamie Foxx), the Rhino (Paul Giamatti), and the father-son evil team of Norman and Harry Osborn (Chris Cooper and Dane DeHaan). Rumor has it that Sony Pictures wants to emulate Marvel Film's success over at Disney and build this Spider-Man world exponentially with an eye on a "Sinister Six" massive villain team-up in the near future. It's lined up in slot of the first week of May summer season opener where 2002's Spider-Man and 2012's The Avengers set the opening weekend records respectively for their time. (trailer) (May 2)

4. Captain America: The Winter Solider-- Because that first Amazing Spider-Man didn't completely impress me, one more solo superhero gets to hop higher on this list. While everyone loves Robert Downey, Jr.'s Tony Stark, I found that Chris Evan's Steve Rogers/Captain America really grounded the super team of The Avengers. He's the steady engine while Stark greases the wheel. Marvel has taken a chance on Community show runners Anthony and Joe Russo to give Captain America a modern political thriller with newcomers Robert Redford and Anthony Mackie joining the returning supporting cast of Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, and Sebastian Stan. Personally, I'd rather see this more than The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and, as with every Marvel Film, I look forward to the world-building towards The Avengers 2 coming next summer. (trailer) (April 4)

3. The Hobbit: There and Back Again-- Regular readers of this website know that I've thought very highly of the first two chapters of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit. Both films made the Top 5 of this list in 2012 and 2013. Both films finished in those respective year-end "10 Best" lists. I have all the confidence in the world that Jackson and company saving more than a few big bangs for the concluding chapter to his new trilogy. With a dragon on the loose, I can't wait! (December 17)

2. X-Men: Days of Future Past-- First and foremost, I am impressed by the ambition of this movie. For those who haven't heard, Fox's X-Men franchise was pretty much rebooted by 2011's X-Men: First Class, but retained Hugh Jackman's popular Wolverine in a pair of standalone adventures. Now, with a new hit to build off of, original director Bryan Singer is back to merge both ends of the franchise together with this revered time travel story from the comic book. Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Halle Berry, and the X-Men we remember will crossover with the First Class timeline of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence with Jackman smack in the middle. This task looks huge and impressive in scope. I know they will butcher the source material as they always have, but as a summer blockbuster, this could really be something. It's parked on that classic Star Wars weekend before Memorial Day where Fast and Furious 6 made its box office killing last year. (trailer) (May 23)

1. Interstellar-- A big mystery ascends over all of the aforementioned blockbusters to become my most anticipated movie of 2014. In my eyes, director Christopher Nolan can do no wrong. He hasn't had an outright failure yet and when I heard he was tackling his first science fiction project, my appetite was started. Little is known about the plot other than the brief synopsis of Interstellar being a space epic about wormholes and human space travel starring the lineup of Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, Bill Irwin, and Michael Caine. The premise and promise alone was enough for me. The brand new teaser trailer then set a scale and a tone that ramped up my anticipation. It will be a long wait until November. (trailer) (November 7)

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