Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Movie Review: "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit"

Reboot is a word that I've grown to detest in Hollywood, primarily because reboots or remakes rarely live up to their original counterparts, but for once I think there is a reboot that actually works.  I am speaking of the new film, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.

Based off of the Tom Clancy CIA analyst formerly played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck, Jack Ryan has always been the everyman secret agent.  While yes, Jack Ryan was in the Marines and knows how to fight, he's kind of like the Jimmy Stewart James Bond.  He's how you and I would be in these situations.  In essence, he's a boy scout with a moral compass, and for me that's why I've always loved Jack Ryan.  In this film, we see Star Trek's Captain Kirk, Chris Pine, as Jack Ryan, and he is probably the second best Jack Ryan ever, behind only Harrison Ford himself.

In Shadow Recruit, we see the origins of Jack Ryan, how he came to be in the CIA, meet his future wife, and so forth.  When Jack uncovers a plot orchestrated by Russian businessman, Viktor Cherevin (played with delight by director Kenneth Branagh), Jack must go to Russia to investigate.  What ensues is a Hitchcockian game of cat-and-mouse that is as suspenseful as anything in the previous films involving Jack Ryan.

While in my opinion nothing can really touch director Phillip Noyce's Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, Shadow Recruit manages to come close.  With Shadow Recruit being the first Jack Ryan film not based entirely on a Tom Clancy novel, there was some trepidation on my behalf, but while the mission that Jack is going on in this film did not have its roots in Clancy, everything that the character goes through does.  What the filmmakers did with this film was they took everything that was just backstory in the Tom Clancy novels, such as the helicopter crash that ended Jack's career with the Marines, and they actually show it and make these origin elements integral parts of the story.  It's this attention to detail that makes this film worthwhile as a fan of the series.  However, what really distinguishes this film from many other spy films, and it's what's always distinguished the Jack Ryan films in general, is that there is a heart to not only the character, but to the stories as well.

In most Jack Ryan adventures, his family plays an important role in dictating his actions and painting him as a man we can relate to, Shadow Recruit is no different.  The heart of this film is Jack's relationship with his future wife, Cathy, who has to deal with the ramifications when she learns that Jack is in the CIA.  It's all really good stuff that plays to the heart of who the character is, and it affects your heart as well and makes you care for these characters.

While Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit may not be as over-the-top or implausible as other spy films, it's probably the most realistic spy film made in a few years, and for that nice change of pace, I think anyone should check this film out and give it a chance.

I give Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit an A-!


For two other new movie reviews, check out the links below.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Predicting the SAG Awards - 2014

After tonight's SAG Awards we should know a whole lot about the Oscar race.  If 12 Years A Slave can pull off the hat trick of the major awards at the Golden Globes, the Critics' Choice, and the SAG Awards, then it will more than likely win the Best Picture Oscar.

If you've been watching the previous award shows this season, you probably know how all of these categories will pan out.  The only two that I feel are in flux are Supporting Actress and Ensemble, where Lupita Nyong'o could beat Jennifer Lawrence for Supporting Actress like she did at the Critics' Choice, and American Hustle's star-studded ensemble could eke past 12 Years A Slave to get the big win, putting it firmly back in the Best Picture Oscar race.  We'll see.  While I am predicting that most of the categories will be very similar to the previous award shows from this season, this is the first award show where actual members of the Academy are voting, so if there are any surprises they'll mean a whole lot in regards to Oscar.

As for now, here are my predictions for tonight's show.  As is usual, I only will predict the film nominees, because I am not versed well enough in the world of television to accurately predict those.  For a full list of nominees, go here, and remember to check back after the show where I talk about what the results mean in the Oscar race.  Till then.

Outstanding Stunt Ensemble - Lone Survivor
Outstanding Supporting Actress - Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Outstanding Supporting Actor - Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Outstanding Actress - Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Outstanding Actor - Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Outstanding Cast - 12 Years A Slave

UPDATE:  So 4 out of 6 isn't that bad.  Thankfully, the members of SAG-AFTRA saw fit to break up the monotony that seemed to be creeping into these categories over the past week, even if it was only a little bit.  At this point, after their wins tonight, I think it's safe to almost go ahead and call the Oscar race for Matthew McConaughey, Cate Blanchett, and Jared Leto.  If their names are not called out on Oscar night, I will be personally shocked.  As for Best Supporting Actress, it's really split wide open with Lupita Nyong'o winning for her performance in 12 Years A Slave.  While Jennifer Lawrence-lovers still have a shot, Nyong'o's win tonight and at the Critics' Choice on Thursday makes Best Supporting Actress the only acting category where there still might be surprise in regards to the Oscars.

As for Best Picture, well perhaps 12 Years A Slave is not the juggernaut that it was shaping up to be.  After losing the ensemble award tonight to American Hustle (which is usually one of the most accurate predictors for Oscar's Best Picture), and having only won one Golden Globe last weekend, only three Critics' Choice Awards on Thursday, and getting a few snubs in some key technical categories with the Oscar nominations the other morning, 12 Years A Slave might still be the Best Picture frontrunner, but only by a nose.  If any film other than 12 Years A Slave wins the Best Picture Oscar it will be American Hustle.  After it winning the Best Comedy award at the Golden Globes and then winning the big one tonight, it has about as many major Oscar precursor awards as 12 Years A Slave does with its Critics' Choice award for Best Picture and its Golden Globe for Best Drama.

At this point, it's now just a waiting game as the next televised award show doesn't happen until halfway through February with the BAFTA awards, Britain's equivalent of the Academy Awards, and the final stop before Oscar night (unless you count the Indie Spirits).  If the BAFTAs spring for Gravity, watch out, that film may come bounding back into the Best Picture race at the last minute, but I really don't think so.  While the BAFTAs gave Gravity the most nominations, they'll still probably opt for 12 Years A Slave or American Hustle, and whichever film wins the BAFTA will have the edge when it comes to the Best Picture Oscar.  Till then.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Predicting the Critics' Choice Movie Awards - 2014

Another night, another award's show, this one being the Critics' Choice Movie Awards, airing tonight at 8/7 central on the CW.  The importance of this show is that it's all those movie critics you see on TV and read in newspapers that nominate and vote on these awards.  The taste of the Broadcast Film Critics Association often lines up very well with the films that eventually win their respective Oscar categories, so in terms of the show being a predictor for the Academy Awards, the Critics' Choice may be the most accurate.  Personally, I'm feeling the Best Picture winner tonight will either be American Hustle or 12 Years a Slave, but if there is a curveball, it will be direcotr Spike Jonze's Her, which could also surprise in directing.  Just keep that in mind.

Below you'll find my predictions for tonight's show.  As is usual, check back after the show for my final tally, as well as my thoughts on the show and how it will impact the Oscar race.  For a full list of nominations, go here.

Best Score - Hans Zimmer, 12 Years a Slave
Best Song - "Let It Go" from Frozen
Best Documentary Feature - Stories We Tell
Best Foreign Language Film - Blue is the Warmest Color
Best Sci-fi/Horror Movie - Gravity
Best Actress in a Comedy - Amy Adams, American Hustle
Best Actor in a Comedy - Christian Bale, American Hustle
Best Comedy - American Hustle
Best Actress in an Action Movie - Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Best Actor in an Action Movie - Henry Cavill, Man of Steel
Best Action Movie - Star Trek Into Darkness
Best Animated Feature - Frozen
Best Visual Effects - Gravity
Best Hair & Makeup - American Hustle
Best Costume Design - American Hustle
Best Editing - 12 Years a Slave
Best Art Direction - Her
Best Cinematography - Gravity
Best Adapted Screenplay - 12 Years a Slave
Best Original Screenplay - Her
Best Director - Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Best Acting Ensemble - American Hustle
Best Young Actor/Actress - Adele Exarchopoulos, Blue is the Warmest Color
Best Supporting Actress - Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Best Supporting Actor - Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Best Actress - Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best Actor - Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Best Picture - American Hustle

UPDATE:  Well, that's that.  Overall I went 18 out of 28, that was better than the Golden Globes, but still not perfect.  The biggest thing we learned tonight is that if 12 Years a Slave manages to win Best Ensemble at the SAG Awards this weekend, then the Best Picture Oscar race is pretty much over.  As well, we also learned that the Best Supporting Actress race is still not set in stone, with Lupita Nyong'o getting a major boost with her win for her performance in 12 Years a Slave.  While I love Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle was not even her best performance of last year, so I think the critics made the right call.  The only other things of note in regards to Oscar is that Best Director and the other three acting categories held strong from the Golden Globes.  If Jared Leto, Cate Blanchett, and Matthew McConaughey, can go 3 for 3 with the big Oscar precursor awards with the SAGs on Saturday, then those races are all but tied up.  Similarly, while nothing is ever a done deal in Hollywood until its over, if Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron can win the Directors' Guild Award, then he too is about as sure a thing for Oscar as anyone else.  Till the SAG Awards on Saturday night.

Reactions to Oscar Nominations - 2014

Well, it's safe to say we're back in the thick of things with this morning's Oscar nominations and tonights Critic's Choice Awards.

Personally, I feel the Academy missed the mark in many ways this morning.  Not a single nomination for two of my favorite films of last year, Rush and Monsters University, not even make-up for Rush, which was beat out by Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa.  Just let that sit for a moment, for the rest of time, Bad Grandpa will further be known as an Oscar nominee, but not Rush or Monsters University.

The latter of the two films is the biggest shocker, with Monsters University being shut out completely in the animation race, which is showing signs that perhaps animators aren't as smitten with Pixar as they once were.  Personally, I still think Pixar is the most original animation house in the US, so for films like The Croods and Despicable Me 2 to beat it, is a serious oversight in my opinion.

Of course, my biggest frustration with the Oscar nominations came in the form of Saving Mr. Banks getting only one nomination for Best Original Score and nothing else.  No Emma Thompson, no Best Picture, no Best Original Screenplay, joining Gravity on the sidelines in the Screenplay race to be two of the best written films of 2013 overlooked.  Then there's Tom Hanks missing for both Saving Mr. Banks and Captain Phillips, with the Academy opting for Christian Bale and his phoned in performance in American Hustle instead (seriously, if anyone thinks this is one of Bale's best performances, go back and watch films like American Psycho or The Prestige).

Then there's the whacked out music categories.  If Inside Llewyn Davis was going to get any mention it would have been for Best Original Song, and it didn't even get that, and composer Hans Zimmer completely missed out after one of the more prolific years of his career.  While I would have most wanted his score from Man of Steel or Rush nominated, Zimmer didn't even get in for composing the music for 12 Years a Slave, which speaking of that film, it finally showed a few signs of slowing down.

12 Years a Slave only got nine nominations total, three of which in the acting categories, missing out in Best Cinematography.  Can a film win Best Picture without its cinematography being nominated?  Yeah, but it's not very common, but there and again, American Hustle didn't get in either, while still tied with Gravity for the most nominations with ten apiece.  Seeing as how American Hustle or 12 Years a Slave will still probably wind up winning Best Picture, it is kind of funny that neither film will probably win the most awards come March 2nd.

With four of American Hustle's noms being in the acting categories, with only two of them having a realistic shot (being Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence), there is a very good chance that American Hustle may only take home three to five Oscars due to the little love shown on the technical side of the film.  Meanwhile, Gravity has the added benefit of being the frontrunner for Director, Editing, Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, and Cinematography.  We're looking at a very good chance that Gravity may wind up with the most wins come March 2nd, but it may still lose the big prize to either American Hustle and 12 Years a Slave, simply because the actors are the largest branch in the Academy and they tend to love movies with a large ensemble of actors, and that isn't Gravity.

As a whole, a bad morning of nominations can't shake my love of the Oscars, but it was a very dismal nomination morning.  Sometimes I feel like these voting bodies simply vote on an autopilot system, especially in the acting, writing, and technical categories.  I think voters, rather than being creative and looking for what truly was the best work of the given year in a particular category, just chalk up a film that's a Best Picture play because they aren't thinking right.  This might explain why American Hustle got a nod in all four acting categories and in Best Original Screenplay, where as the three best written films of the year:  Gravity, Saving Mr. Banks, and Rush, got snubbed.

Overall, this Oscar season is still a highly unpredictable one, with three films still having a very realistic shot of winning Best Picture:  American Hustle, Gravity, and 12 Years a Slave.  As is usual, there will be at least one or two surprises on Oscar night, but I would not place bets on any other film winning Best Picture.  If Gravity ekes out a win at the Critic's Choice Awards tonight, and American Hustle manages to win the Best Acting Ensemble award at the SAG Awards Saturday, then we may really be in for a photo finish for Best Picture.  If Gravity fails to get the Critic's Choice award for Best Picture, then I think its chances at the Best Picture Oscar are over, even though it still might win anywhere from five to seven Oscars.

With all that taken care of, I'll be back later today to post my predictions for tonight's Critic's Choice Movie Awards, which air on the CW.  It's usually the sloppiest produced award show, but it's still a major precursor for the Oscars.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Predicting the 2014 Golden Globes

Globes Hosts Amy Poehler and Tina Fey

It's that time of year again.  The start of the year is often a fairly weak time for new movie releases, and it's often so bleak outside that you don't really feel like doing a whole lot, which is why I love it so much that it's the time of the year when the movie industry feels its necessary for them to hand out awards honoring last year's crop.  The Golden Globes is the first major ceremony up this year, airing tonight on NBC.

While we've already had the People's Choice Awards, the Golden Globes is the first of the award shows that is considered a precursor to the granddaddy of them all, the Academy Awards.  With Oscar nominations coming in less than a week, we're off to the races, and while the Globes tend to skew a little more populist than the Oscars, expect whatever movies that win big at the Globes to receive a major Oscar boost.

This year's a little bit of a different year than previous awards' seasons.  There really is no clear frontrunner.  Currently, I'd call it a three way race between 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, and Gravity.  It can go any which way, and with the Globes splitting the Drama and Comedy categories, classifying Hustle as a Comedy, the Globes more than likely wont settle much of the debate over which film is a frontrunner for Best Picture.

I say this all to say that no matter how the Globes pan out, it really doesn't mean a thing in regards to the Oscar race this year.  Of course, any type of award gives that individual film a boost purely because Academy members hear its name called out from onstage and get curious:  Is it really that good?  Throwing that film to the top of their screener pile to watch before voting on the Oscars, so a Globe win is still highly important in that regard.  We'll see what happens tonight.  As for now, here are my predictions for the 2014 Golden Globes (per usual, since I don't really cover TV, I only predict the film categories).

Best Original Song - "Let It Go" from Frozen
Best Original Score - Hans Zimmer, 12 Years a Slave
Best Foreign Language Film - The Past
Best Animated Feature Film - Frozen
Best Screenplay - Spike Jonze, Her
Best Director - Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Best Supporting Actress - Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Best Supporting Actor - Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Best Actress, Musical or Comedy - Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
Best Actor, Musical or Comedy - Christian Bale, American Hustle
Best Actress, Drama - Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best Actor, Drama - Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy - American Hustle
Best Motion Picture, Drama - Gravity

As always, check back in later tonight after the show where I'll calculate my final tally and give a rundown of how I think the show went and what effects it will have on the Oscar race.

UPDATE:  So my final tally was 7 out of 14, a pretty bad total if I do say so myself.  There were a few surprises sprinkled in there, plus it's always hard when Comedy and Drama are split up into different categories.  The big story is that the Oscar race is still wide open for Best Picture.  With American Hustle predictably winning for Comedy, and 12 Years a Slave being victorious for Drama, it really comes down to this week's Critic's Choice Awards and SAG Awards to really paint a clearer picture as to the potential Best Picture winner.  At this point I'm feeling like if Gravity was going to get a Best Picture boost it would be with the Globes, and since that didn't happen it will have to simply hope to repeat its Best Director win from tonight at the Oscars.  Till Thursday's Critic's Choice Awards.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Movie Review: "Her"

Writer/director Spike Jonze is a genuine original, and his newest film, Her, is unlike any other film you'll ever see.  While many have jokingly called the film, "Siri: The Movie," that statement isn't that far off from what the film is.

Her tells the story of Theodore, a lonely man who's recently divorced, who finds a special connection with the AI operating system named Samantha on his phone and computer.  What follows is one of the most unique romance films the cinema has ever seen.  Long distance relationships are hard, but how do you even have a relationship when one person doesn't even have a body?  It's these questions that are at the forefront of this film, and Spike Jonze manages to micro-analyze the ideas of love and what true love means through the lens of this story.

Joaquin Phoenix has the unenviable task of portraying Theodore, who spends more than half of the film acting with thin air.  For this performance to be as emotionally honest and sincere as it is, it took tons of imagination on Phoenix's behalf and he knocks the role out of the park.  In many ways, it's a shame he's not nominated for the Best Actor Oscar.  As for the voice of Samantha, actress Scarlett Johansson delivers a soulful performance that manages to bring this artificial voice to life, so that we actually care about her, the same as Theodore does.

Spike Jonze manages to keep the film engaging for most of its two hour runtime, by and large thanks to Phoenix and Johansson, but Her does kind of get stuck in a bit of a loop around the hour mark.  It kind of feels like the film could have said everything it needed to say in an hour and a half, rather than in two hours, with many scenes often feeling like retreads of scenes that occurred thirty minutes before.  While this film is thematically rich and needs time to explore these themes, the impact of the thematic ideas can often not be as strong if drawn out, and that's what happens here.

Even with that all said, Spike Jonze's words and retro-Hipster vision of the near future are so sensational you're willing to forgive a little indulgence.  Personally, I love the way video games are in a few years, but the high-waisted pants?  No thanks.

I give Her an A-!

Movie Review: "Inside Llewyn Davis"

The new Coen Brothers film, Inside Llewyn Davis, is very much a Coen Brothers film in its dark sense of humor, with its pessimistic story of failure, yet it kind of feels like a been there done that exercise.

The film follows the titular Llewyn Davis, a struggling folk singer in Greenwich Village in the 1960s.  Llewyn is the kind of complete and total mess that the Coens seem to be drawn to.  Llewyn is not the nicest guy on Earth, he bums off friends, sleeping on couches with nowhere to call home, and yet we still like him.  Why?  Perhaps it's because the Coen Brothers know what they're doing when they write characters like this.  If anyone knows how to make a tragic, seemingly unlikable character likable, it's the Coen Brothers through their witty dialogue.  Of course, while this is an enjoyable film in the Coen-style, it fails to really differentiate itself from many other films in their filmography.

Here's the thing, Inside Llewyn Davis features superb performances from the actors, in particular Oscar Isaac as Llewyn, and the songs produced by T Bone Burnett are all sensational, but aside from those elements, it feels like we're watching A Serious Man or Barton Fink all over again.  Perhaps if you've never seen any other Coen Brothers films, Inside Llewyn Davis might feel a little more fresh, however don't go thinking that I disliked this film, I just think it pales in comparison to their previous works as writers and directors for a few key reasons.  The film drags a little bit in the middle portions, especially when Llewyn is on a strange road trip with John Goodman, and the ending was a tad confusing, drawing into question what the Coens were really trying to say with this whole story.  For these reasons, Inside Llewyn Davis just failed to live up to the heights of what the Coen Brothers have previously achieved.

I give Inside Llewyn Davis a B!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Great Scenes: "Man of Steel"

Today I am introducing a new kind of post that I'm going to start doing off and on called "Great Scenes."  Sometimes in a movie there is just that one scene that really sticks out and sums up the entire experience of that movie for you, and today's scene is no different.

I have recently had a complete 180 experience on this past Summer's Superman film, Man of Steel.  I have grown an actual fondness for it, and when I think back to a lot of the things I said about it last Summer, I feel really ashamed, so time to make up for it by looking at the greatest scene of Man of Steel.  

The crazy thing about Man of Steel is that in the midst of all the big, epic action scenes, the scene I found the most moving and spiritually affirming was quite possibly the quietest scene of the entire movie.

When General Zod shows up on Earth, asking Kal-El (aka Clark Kent/Superman) to turn himself in or he'll wreak havoc on humanity, Clark has yet to reveal himself to the world for fear of how people will react once they learn that an alien has been living among them for over thirty years.  In this scene, perhaps the most pivotal scene of the movie, Clark shows up at a Smallville church where the only person there is the priest, asking the priest for guidance on what to do next.

Over the 75 year history of Superman, there have been many biblical allegories attributed to him.  There is no denying that when Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster first created him that he was a modern allegory for Moses, seeing as how they were both Jewish kids who felt oppressed.  However, it wasn't really until the comic book writers of the Seventies and Eighties when they started to fashion Superman more as an allegory for Jesus, with the precipice reached in the Nineties' storyline featuring the death and resurrection of Superman.  Whether or not you choose to see Superman as a stand in for Moses or Jesus, there is no denying the spiritual context of this scene in the church.

Even after Clark has revealed to the priest that he is the alien that Zod is looking for, the priest hangs in there and tries to help Clark work through his thoughts and feelings.  Clark knows that he can't trust Zod, but at the same time, he doesn't think he can trust the humans either.  This is when the scene really takes shape, and it's when we finally get the classic Superman from the comic books.

The thing is, Superman could very easily have been a tyrant who took over our planet when he came to Earth.  It was the morals and sense of humanity instilled within him by his adoptive parents, the Kents, that made him the man he becomes.  In this moment when the priest tells Clark that he just has to take a leap of faith, it is when Superman once and for all chooses humanity over his Kryptonian heritage.  He has placed his faith and trust in a people with no idea how they might respond.

Henry Cavill as Clark Kent during the Church Scene

The overarching message of Man of Steel is all about hope and faith, and to me this scene exemplifies those themes perfectly.  Faith means believing in something that we may not see, and seeing Clark after this scene having complete and total trust in humanity is so emotionally powerful for me on a spiritual level.  If only we could be so brave and daring to continue believing when we aren't sure of the eventual outcome.  The humans are scared of Superman, when the Kryptonians attack Smallville, they fire their guns on Superman as well, and yet he doesn't fight them and continues to stick with that leap of faith he took.

For a big budget Summer blockbuster to include a scene such as the one in the church I think is genuinely shocking.  Very rarely is religion even portrayed in films such as these, and if it is, it's usually as a detriment to people who believe than it is to those who don't.  To see a film like this where the priest is not only shown as human, but also as a person with an actual message, it's genuinely fascinating to me, and it's why this was the greatest and most pivotal scene in Man of Steel.  Hey, even Superman needs some guidance from time-to-time.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

My Most Anticipated Films of 2014

Ah, a new year.  A time of new beginnings and second chances.  In many ways I think that is why everyone always loves to ring in the new year, because no matter how bad last year was, you've got a fresh set of days to do things right this time.  Hey, we all know things never go according to the perfect plans in our head, but the idea of a fresh start is always invigorating and can lead us down some interesting paths if we just allow them.

Take last night for instance, I was ringing in the new year laying in bed watching Man of Steel for the first time since I saw it in theaters that one and only time last June.  I will be the first to admit that I've been almost downright ugly in my hatred towards the film since then, and I must apologize.  That's the funny thing about second chances sometimes, things aren't as bad as they were on first glance.  I am not saying that I've become a steadfast believer in everything that director Zack Snyder did, because I still prefer my Superman a little more innocent, lighthearted, and fun, but I actually enjoyed it the second time around.  I think I finally got to a point where I was able to accept the Superman film that we got, rather than the Superman film I deeply wanted in my heart.  While this was not the Superman movie I would have made, I actually liked it now.

See, that's the fun and funny thing about a new year and why I think we are always looking forward to it.  As people, we are constantly changing.  We aren't the same people we were even a week ago, and that's because the events in our lives are always shaping us into the people we will be tomorrow, which is why sometimes us critics (albeit an amateur one) can make mistakes.  I'm not saying I think Man of Steel is perfect, and I still don't think it comes close to touching the first two Christopher Reeve movies, but I would probably give it an A or an A- rating now.  Besides, who said every movie that you like has to be perfect for you to like it?  That's an idea I've often struggled with, but the truth is, I like and love a lot of movies that I know the script, or the acting, or the directing, isn't all that great, but I still like, and love them, anyways.  Why?  Because I like the ideas that do work in the movie enough to outweigh the ones I don't.

I still don't like the idea that Superman **Spoiler Alert** kills General Zod at the end of the film, but the situation actually worked better for me the second go around.  Maybe it's because I was expecting it, and rather than dreading it, I was trying to give it a second chance.  As for the rest of the film, with some distance, I must say I absolutely love Henry Cavill as Superman.  While Cavill is a little more stoic than I typically want my Big Blue Boy Scout to be, that's the script.  The morality and charm Superman exudes is all from Cavill.  Plus, the action truly is awesome, and I think they absolutely nailed the Lois Lane-Superman relationship.  I really like the fact that they had Lois Lane **Spoiler** know that Clark is Superman from the very beginning, I mean, she is the world's greatest reporter after all.  As well, I think the relationship between Clark and his parents, Jonathan and Martha, is very touching, and I especially loved Diane Lane as Martha and her chemistry with Cavill.

All in all, it's funny how a little distance can help create understanding.  I don't know what I was expecting last June, but the dramatic, mythic epic that we got was better than I initially gave it credit for, and I must apologize to you, the readers, for letting a few petty feelings affect my grading of a film that a lot of people wanted to see.  I promise to try and be better in the new year.  With that all said, it's time to start looking forward to what 2014 has to offer in terms of film, as I countdown my 10 most anticipated films of 2014!

There are a good many films that I am looking forward to seeing this year that did not make this list, primarily because early looks have created enough trepidation on my part to not be fully sold on them yet.  Films like the Wachowski's new original sci-fi film, Jupiter Ascending, the animated flick, The Lego Movie, Darren Aronofsky's biblical epic, Noah, and Michael Bay's Transformers: Age of Extinction, have the right elements to be good, but it all depends on those elements all coming together.  The same can be said for The Amazing Spider-Man 2.  I loved the first Amazing Spider-Man, however the first trailer's special effects were very shoddy for a modern blockbuster, and three villains!?!  The last time there were three villains in a Spider-Man film, it was Spider-Man 3, and we all know how that turned out, but enough with the honorable mentions, time for the 10 films I am most looking forward to seeing in 2014.


10.  Edge of Tomorrow
I am not the biggest fan of Tom Cruise, but Edge of Tomorrow looks really awesome.  Early buzz has been very strong on this sci-fi action flick where Cruise portrays a futuristic soldier in a war against aliens who continuously relives the same last day of his life, dying on the battlefield and awakening to fight that same battle again.  While it may sound a bit like Groundhog Day, the film is actually based on a Japanese manga called All You Need Is Kill.  While I don't think this will be an Oscar contender next year, this has all of the elements I am looking for out of a Summer blockbuster.  There looks to be tons of action, an intriguing high concept premise, and potentially, some great characters.  With a cast featuring Cruise and Emily Blunt, and the awesome potential that comes in action sequences from the cool-looking exoskeleton armor that these soldiers wear to fight the aliens, this could be a sleeper success next Summer.
(In theaters June 6th)


9.  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes was one of the biggest surprises of that respective year, and for me it is also one of the best reboots ever made.  With the sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I am expecting nothing less than an insane ride.  This film will pick up a decade after Rise, following our ape hero, Caeser, as he leads the ape nation against the few remaining humans after a deadly virus wiped out most of humanity at the end of the first film.  With Andy Serkis back doing the motion capture work for Caeser, expect another emotionally sincere performance, and with a better cast of human characters this time about, featuring Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, and Gary Oldman, my expectations are very high.  New director Matt Reeves (Let Me In, Cloverfield), is a director that has been on the cusp for a good many years, and I think this may be the film that he can finally show what he can really do by delivering tons of awesome simian on human action.
(In theaters July 11th)


8.  Godzilla
To be perfectly honest, there doesn't really have to be much reason for me to see this movie beyond the fact that this is a new, big budget Godzilla movie.  I mean, does anyone who grew up loving science fiction movies not love Godzilla?  Even still, this film is shaping up to be a good one, with a noticeable focus on character given the top notch talent that is in the film, from Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen, to Bryan Cranston.  Character has always been the thing that has for me distinguished each and every Godzilla film from one to the other.  If we actually care for the characters and their plights, then the film will work, if we don't, then it wont.  Fortunately, I don't think actors of this caliber would sign on to a film like this if these roles weren't good.  Of course, even if the characters don't work, this is still going to be a Godzilla film, and I mean, it doesn't have to do much to be better than the only other American-made Godzilla from 1998.  This one already has the '98 film beat purely because they are using the original Japanese Godzilla design from Toho Studios, not to mention the word from Comic-Con last July that said we'll see Godzilla doing battle with a giant scorpion.  Who doesn't want to see that?
(In theaters May 16th)


7.  Guardians of the Galaxy
If Marvel Studios has a film that is going to break their hit streak, it will be this film, and yet, this could also be their most wildly original film they've ever done.  Here's the thing, I'm excited for this film and think there is a very high chance I will love it, but I am not sure how the casual moviegoer will perceive it.  Based on a lesser known comic book series, there is already a lower profile surrounding this release because it is not about a name superhero, which could hurt it, but if you've read the comics, that doesn't matter.  Guardians of the Galaxy takes the Marvel films to the farthest reaches of space, but it's not Star Wars or Star Trek.  This is a space with giant tree men and a talking, gun-toting raccoon, aptly named Rocket Raccoon, so it is very much Marvel.  The film follows half-human/half-alien, Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, as he forms a celestial superhero team known as the Guardians of the Galaxy.  To say anymore will give away the crazy, imaginative surprises that are in store for audiences with this film.  I'll just say this, this could be Star Wars meets The Avengers.  Perhaps that might be too weird for the casual moviegoer, but I couldn't be more excited to see Marvel do something this different.
(In theaters August 1st)

First Official Image from the Film.


6.  How to Train Your Dragon 2
Sequels are always tricky, especially animated sequels, with sequels to most animated films often coming across as cash grabs and not as necessary exercises in story.  The only studio that has figured out the sequel-prequel conundrum in animation is Pixar, but if there is a non-Pixar film that could do it, it will be How to Train Your Dragon 2.  Most Dreamworks' films often come across as tongue-in-cheek comedies that are steeped in bathroom humor, but 2010's How to Train Your Dragon wasn't.  Here was a film that, while funny, told an emotionally inspiring story of unlikely friendship between a boy and a dragon, and how his doing something different, changed his village.  This sequel promises to expand upon the ideas of the original, with our hero, Hiccup, being the first dragon rider, or is he?  Part of the reason I loved the first film was it dealt with the emotional complexities of family in a very real way, and with us being introduced to Hiccup's mother in the sequel, I expect to see more of that.  As well, the first film featured some genuinely stunning action, and if the first trailer for the sequel is any inclination, we'll be getting some more of the same this second time around.
(In theaters June 13th)


5.  The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part I
Both parts of Mockingjay are in good hands, as long as director Francis Lawrence continues using the same mentality he had for this past November's Catching Fire.  It is rare for a sequel to be better than its predecessor, especially when there is a change in director, and that is what happened with Catching Fire.  Lawrence really got to the emotional, and philosophical core of The Hunger Games-universe in his last outing, and I expect him to do the same with these final two parts, the first of which is coming out this year.  If you're already a fan of The Hunger Games, you know you are going to see this film when it comes out, so is there really anything else to say as of now?  We're finally going to see war in the world of Panem.  We saw sparks of revolution last time, now is the time to see it actually play out.  While some fans are upset that the filmmakers are adding a new character that was not in the books, I fully trust what Francis Lawrence is doing right now with The Hunger Games series and cannot wait for this next installment.
(In theaters November 21st)

Katniss in her Mockingjay dress from Catching Fire.


4.  Captain America: The Winter Soldier
My favorite character in The Avengers was Captain America.  I just love his unwavering morality, good is good, and evil is evil, however, as we saw in The Avengers, when Cap is faced with gray areas, he often doesn't know where to go.  Expect more gray areas for Cap in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the next Marvel Studios film that will continue to set up 2015's sequel, The Avengers: Age of Ultron.  Even if I wasn't the biggest Captain America fan, I'd be looking forward to this film merely because I loved The Avengers, but as a Cap fan as well, I'm at fever pitch, especially after seeing that awesome elevator scene before Thor: The Dark World (if you haven't seen it, try seeing a 3D screening of the latest Thor before it is out of theaters).  Based on the now classic storyline where Cap's former sidekick, Bucky, returns as a brainwashed assassin known as the Winter Soldier, expect tons of emotional turmoil for Cap this next time out, but isn't that what we want to see?  No one likes to watch a movie and not feel anything.  We already know with this being a Marvel film that it will be funny and that the action will be awesome, but if this film can deliver the emotion that I think it can, it could very well be the best movie of Marvel's Phase Two.  Plus, we're going to be getting Cap's sometimes partner, the Falcon, and what comic book fan ever thought we'd get that?
(In theaters April 4th)


3.  Interstellar
At this point, anytime that director Christopher Nolan is making a film, it is going to be highly anticipated.  He's just set the bar that high for himself, but I have a feeling that with Interstellar he'll manage to meet those lofty expectations.

In truth, I have been looking forward to this one ever since the days that it was announced as a directorial vehicle for Steven Spielberg.  Based on the theory of wormholes by physicist Kip Thorne, the script was initially written by Nolan's brother, Jonathan, and then when Spielberg dropped out, Christopher married Jonathan's script with an idea of his own and voila, we have the new and improved Interstellar.  All we really know about the film is that it's about astronauts who travel through a newly discovered wormhole to adventure farther into space than has ever been possible, but expect lots more character, drama, and thrills than just that.

For me, it is telling that the film features probably the biggest A-list cast I've ever seen for a science fiction movie, from Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, and Michael Caine, to Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, and many more.  This film is packed to the gills with talent.  Not to mention the fact that the script must be good for so many top notch actors to have signed on.  I know Nolan has made a name for himself, and that probably helped their signing, but I can't help but feel this is going to be something special.  Nolan has long been a fan of Stanley Kubrick, and has always mused about wanting to make his own 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Here's the difference between Kubrick and Nolan, though, Nolan grew up in the blockbuster era of the Seventies and Eighties.  Nolan loves to entertain and create emotion as much as he loves to provoke thought, which is why I am so pumped for Interstellar.
(In theaters November 7th)


2.  The Wind Rises
Hayao Miyazaki is the greatest director in animation history.  While there may be a few animation aficionados that will dispute that, most would agree.  Miyazaki's films are some of the most beautifully drawn, and yet detailed animated films of all-time, but it's always the stories that stick with you.  Like the animation itself, the stories are often beautiful, full of vibrant, detailed characters, and tons of emotion, so it's with a heavy heart that I write that The Wind Rises will be Miyazaki's last film as a director.

Having announced his retirement last Fall, Miyazaki, the director of such classics as My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away, is taking his final bow with The Wind Rises, one of his most divisive films he's ever made in his home country of Japan, but still the highest grossing film of 2013 there.  While this film is eligible for this year's Oscars, casual moviegoers wont be getting to see it till it is released by Disney in February, which is why it makes this list, because it is a 2014 film.

The Wind Rises is a marked departure for Miyazaki, and looks to show a maturity from him that has always been there in the cracks of his works, but is now front and center for his finale.  The film is a fictionalized biopic of one of Miyazaki's personal heroes, Jiro Horikoshi, an aircraft designer in early 1900's Japan who created the infamous zero fighter that was used in World War II, well known in America for being the plane used in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

It's always been known that Miyazaki is a fan of aviation, so expect sensational flying sequences, and there is also word of some dream sequences, so Miyazaki isn't completely abandoning the fantasy that he is known for, however, what makes Miyazaki's films magical is always the characters and the true emotions involved in their relationships.  This is what I am most excited about with this film, which is essentially a love letter to a man Miyazaki has always admired.

While some Americans may be wary of this film because Horikoshi created the zero fighter, the thing you have to remember is that Miyazaki is a pacifist, and word is that message rings loud and true throughout this film.  The film drew tons of ire from Japanese conservatives who felt that Miyazaki's film disrespected the history of Japan with this film's idea that Horikoshi was not wanting his aircraft to be used for destruction, he just wanted to create something beautiful.  In fact, it was Horikoshi's stating something to that effect in an interview that Miyazaki says inspired him to make The Wind Rises.  So for me, personally, I plan on strapping in for The Wind Rises when it hits theaters and be swept away by one of my favorite directors' final film.
(In theaters February 21st)


1.  X-Men: Days of Future Past
If there is a superhero film that could rival The Avengers in sheer audacity, it would be this one.  I don't think anyone would argue when I say that the X-Men franchise has had many ups and downs, with suspect continuity that rarely lines up from film to film, but X-Men: Days of Future Past looks to rectify all of that.  It's inspired by a comic book storyline of the same name, with the movie finding the X-Men from the original X-Men trilogy, led by Patrick Stewart as Professor X and Ian McKellen as Magneto, battling for survival in the near future.  The only way for the X-Men to make things right is by sending Wolverine's consciousness back in time to his Seventies' body to try and convince a young Professor X and Magneto, played James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender along with the rest of the First Class cast, to change the timeline and avoid the future that they are living in.

It's an ambitious film to say the least, but one that I am confident that the filmmakers can pull off.   With Bryan Singer, the director of the first two, and still best, X-Men films back, all bets are off.  Singer has been the only director to ever truly capture the right tone and feel of the comics, while still retaining a sense of fun, and I expect nothing different here.  With probably the biggest A-list cast in superhero movie history, from Halle Berry to Jennifer Lawrence, Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Ellen Page, and so many more, this film is full of talent bringing our favorite mutants to life.  Not to mention the fact that we're finally going to see sentinels, the giant, government commissioned, mutant hunting robots that have been the bane of the X-Men's existence in the comics for decades.  Plus, that teased scene of a young Professor X meeting his older counterpart really sends shivers down my spine whenever I see it in the trailer.
(In theaters May 23rd)


And that's that, feel free to share your own thoughts about what you are looking forward to this year in the comments below.