Colin’s List of Movies to Look Forward To in 2014

2013 was a great year for movies, and 2014 is set to continue that trend. Here are 25 movies I am excited about (or at least intrigued by) in the coming year. A couple of them are marked as Wild Cards, these are ones I’m not quite sold on or don’t know much about, but are worth keeping an eye on anyway.

The Monuments Men – February 7

2014 movies monuments men

Here is a movie that sounds like quality in just about every way. Great cast (George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett) – Check. Intriguing premise (art historians and museum curators try to save priceless works of art from the Nazis) – Check. Good director – (George Clooney, who is quite good behind the camera as well as in front of it) – Check. Really looking forward to this one.

RoboCop (Wild Card) – February 12

 2014 movies robocop

I’m not like super-excited about this one or anything (we all know how most remakes tend to turn out) but I’ll probably see it anyway just because I like sci-fi movies. And it’s hard to object too much to any movie that has both Samuel L. Jackson and Gary Oldman.

Non-Stop – February 28

 2014 movies non-stop

My good pal Liam Neeson is back in what looks to be a no-holds-barred, adrenaline-fueled thrill ride. Neeson plays an Air Marshall on a transatlantic flight that gets hijacked. Mayhem ensues. Sign me up.

300: Rise of an Empire – March 7

2014 movies 300-rise-of-an-empire-poster

At least they didn’t call it “300 2.” The sequel to Zack Snyder’s 2006 movie was supposed to come out last year (that’s why it says August 2 on the poster above) but got pushed back to March this year for whatever reason. It looks similar stylistically to the first one, though the only returning cast members are Lena Headey as the Queen of Sparta and Rodrigo Santoro as Xerxes (since everyone else is, you know, dead). I’m looking forward to this one, it should be fun. Bond girl Eva Green plays the main villainess, and I am completely in favor of Eva Green being in as many movies as possible.

Divergent – March 21

2014 movies divergent

I really liked the book on which this film is based (although its sequels were disappointing) and the last film adaptation of a YA novel I really liked was The Hunger Games, which came out well, so I’m cautiously optimistic about this one. Good director (Neil Burger, who directed The Illusionist and Limitless) and a good cast (including Kate Winslet as the villainess) make this one a movie I’ll be checking out.

Noah – March 28

 2014 movies noah

A multimillion-dollar, Russell Crowe-starring Biblical epic directed by the guy who directed Black Swan? I’m intrigued.

The Raid 2 – March 28

2014 movies raid 2

The Raid: Redemption is a tremendously great action flick, and I cannot wait to see what kind of fresh craziness writer/director Gareth Evans has in store for this one. The movie’s US release date is March 28 but I don’t know if it will be in wide release or not, so I might have to wait for the Blu-Ray before I can see it. Oh well, I’m still looking forward to it. Apparently it’s two and a half hours long and Evans spent six weeks designing the final fight, so expect nothing less than total epicness.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – April 4

 2014 movies captain america

I’m a big fan of Marvel movies and Captain America 2 looks very promising. The first couple trailers were badass and I have high hopes for this one.

Sabotage – April 11

 2014 movies sabotage

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Agatha Christie. There’s two names I never thought I’d hear mentioned together. The plot of this film was based on the Christie classic “And Then There Were None” (which I read recently, it was fantastic), and it’s directed by David Ayer, who has a solid resume of action/crime movies. Although I’d still see just about any Ahnuld butt-kicking movie, this one sounds just a bit more intriguing.

Transcendence (Wild Card) – April 18

2014 movies Transcendence

This is the directorial debut of Christopher Nolan’s long-time cinematographer Wally Pfister, and it’s got a suitably Nolan-esque premise. Johnny Depp plays an artificial-intelligence expert whose consciousness gets uploaded into a computer and he goes crazy and tries to take over the world…or something. It’s got a great cast and sounds enjoyably trippy.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – May 2

 2014 movies spider man

I was pleasantly surprised by the first Amazing Spider-Man movie, and I’m interested to see what they do with the second one. I just hope it doesn’t fall prey to Spider-man 3 syndrome, with too many villains (it has at least three) and subplots and the like. It also looks like they’re going with a more classic look with the Spidey outfit, so that’s cool.

Godzilla – May 16

2014 movies godzilla

This movie has nothing whatsoever to do with the 1998 Roland Emmerich movie. The first trailer offered tantalizing glimpses of the legendary beast, and the movie looks like it’ll be more than capable of scratching that giant-monster-movie itch. I am prepared for epic destruction.

X-Men: Days of Future Past – May 23

 2014 movies xmen

This is nothing less than a megamovie. Multiple generations of X-Men? Check. Bryan Singer (director of the first two X-Men movies) returning to the director’s chair? Check. Based on one of the most highly-regarded X-Men comic-book series of all time? Check. This is one of my most-anticipated movies this year. May 23 can’t come fast enough.

Edge of Tomorrow – June 6

 2014 movies edge-of-tomorrow-poster

Say what you will about Tom Cruise and his couch-jumping antics, the man’s a really good actor with a solid sci-fi pedigree. This is kind of a sci-fi Groundhog Day, where Cruise has to keep reliving the same battle over and over. It’s based on a Japanese novel called “All You Need is Kill”, which was the movie’s original title before they changed it to the much more generic-sounding “Edge of Tomorrow.” Still, the first trailer looked promising and it’s directed by Doug Liman, who made the first Bourne Identity movie, so there’s a lot to look forward to here. I like Emily Blunt a lot too. Just, you know, throwing that out there.

Transformers: Age of Extinction (Wild Card) – June 27

2014 movies Transformers4_Teaser_Poster

Okay, bear with me on this one. Yes, Michael Bay is a pig, but at least this movie has a legit actor (Mark Wahlberg) in the lead role. Shia “The Plagiarist” LaBeouf is nowhere to be seen in this movie. And allegedly it’s going to be less than two and a half hours long, which would be a first for this series. Also, dino-bots. Also, obligatory joke about how at least they didn’t call it “Trans4mers.”

Guardians of the Galaxy (Wild Card) – August 1

2014 movies Guardians-Of-The-Galaxy-Teaser-Poster

Marvel’s other Marvel Cinematic Universe movie this year (Captain America is the other one) is definitely more of a wild card. I don’t know much about these characters, other than that one of them is some kind of alien tree-creature (voiced by Vin Diesel) and one is an anthropomorphic raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper). So, um, yeah…not really sure what to make of that, just have to wait and see.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Wild Card) – August 8

 2014 movies ninja turtles

Speaking of Michael Bay, he’s producing the latest live-action version of Ninja Turtles. Nobody knows what the Turtles will actually look like in the movie yet, since the only photos that have surfaced online are production stills like the one above showing the actors (mostly unknowns) in their funky-looking motion-capture suits. Megan Fox plays reporter April, which could be either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.

The Expendables 3 – August 15

2014 movies expendables 3

As far as I know the above poster is fake, but Mel Gibson is indeed going to be in the third installment of the action franchise. Other new cast members include Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes, and Antonio Banderas, and Gibson plays the villain. Should be fun.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For – August 22

 2014 movies sin city

And speaking of Eva Green being in as many movies as possible, she plays the titular Dame to Kill For in the long-awaited, frequently-delayed sequel to the 2005 original.

Gone Girl (Wild Card) – October 3

 2014 movies gone girl

This one is based on a book I’ve seen on bookstore shelves a lot but don’t know much about, other than the basic setup about a man whose wife disappears, and he becomes one of the prime suspects. I’m including it here because David Fincher is one of my favorite directors and I also really like Rosamund Pike, who plays the woman who disappears. Ben Affleck plays the husband, and Gillian Flynn, who wrote the book, also wrote the screenplay. Should be one to keep an eye on.

Interstellar – November 7

 2014 movies interstellar

A new Christopher Nolan movie is always an event. Next to nothing is known about the plot, other than that it (supposedly) involves wormholes and space travel, and maybe alternate dimensions. The cast includes Matthew McConaughey (who has been enjoying a bit of a career resurgence lately), Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Michael Caine.

Fury (Wild Card) – November 12

 2014 movies fury

This is David Ayer’s second film of 2014, which stars Brad Pitt as a tank commander on a dangerous mission behind enemy lines. Should be interesting.

Exodus (Wild Card) – December 12

 2014 movies exodus

2014 is looking like the year of the Biblical epic (there’s another movie about Jesus coming out this year too). I only recently found out about this one. Sir Ridley Scott tells the tale of the Jews’ escape from Egypt, as told in the book of Exodus. Christian Bale plays Moses.

Honorable Mentions: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 (November 21) and The Hobbit: There and Back Again (December 17)

These last two are honorable mentions because I have not yet seen the second installments of these two franchises. I feel like a hypocrite for including the third films in both of these series when I have not yet seen the second ones, but oh, well. Both are still deserving of spots on this list.

So, there you have it. There is a lot to be excited about in 2014. I’m sure plenty of other good movies will be released this year, these are just some of the bigger ones.

See you at the movies!

Live to Tell the Story

January is seen as the dumping ground for movies. Statistically, less people go to the movies in January, so if a studio has a crappy film on their hands, they sometimes give it a quiet January release in the hope that its crappiness will go relatively unnoticed.

Peter Berg’s “Lone Survivor” may be the film to buck that trend.

 Lone_Survivor_Poster

The film tells the story of Operation Red Wings, an ill-fated military operation in Afghanistan which took place back in 2005. A team of four Navy SEALs was ambushed and three were killed, and sixteen more American soldiers were killed when one of the helicopters sent to rescue the SEALs was shot down by a rocket launcher.

This is one of the most relentlessly intense films I’ve seen in quite some time. The film takes its time getting to the main battle sequence, but once it starts, hang on tight. The combat scenes in this film are easily as intense as those in Saving Private Ryan or Black Hawk Down.

Needless to say, it’s not an easy film to watch. This movie is not for the squeamish. Director Peter Berg pulls no punches in depicting the sheer ferocity of combat, and the pain of the wounds suffered by the SEALs. They’re all shot multiple times, fingers are blown off, shrapnel wounds are suffered, and in a couple of scenes, they fall off cliffs.

Oh man, do they fall off cliffs.

The terrain the SEALs were dealing with was rocky and unforgiving, and in their attempts to escape from their attackers (in the movie anyway, I don’t know if this bit happened in real life), they jump off a couple of very steep, rocky cliffs. Berg films these scenes in a manner that is very up-close and personal, making you feel every cut, scrape, and broken bone.

There was a similar scene in The Rundown, a movie Berg made in 2003 starring Dwayne “I-was-still-credited-as-The-Rock-in-this-movie” Johnson, where a couple of characters take a tumble down a very steep cliff. But that movie was at least partly intended as a comedy, which is absolutely not the case with Lone Survivor.

It’s a brutal, bloody, relentless movie. I noticed that the makeup effects were done by Gregory Nicotero and Howard Berger, movie and TV veterans known for their gruesome work on the zombies on AMC’s The Walking Dead, which should give you a pretty good idea of how horrific the wounds suffered by the SEALs were.

The movie has been praised for its realism, and it puts you about as close to the reality of combat as film is able to do. In this movie, gunfire and explosions are LOUD, and some of the dialogue shouted during the firefights is sometimes hard to understand, but I did not think that was to the film’s detriment. If anything, it heightened the realism, since it would probably be pretty hard to hear what the guy next to you was saying if you had a couple dozen guys shooting automatic weapons and rocket launchers at you.

These are the movie SEALs…

Lone_Survivor_Movie_SEALs

And these are some of the real SEALs…

 Lone_Survivor_Real_SEALs

Pretty similar, right?

The titular lone survivor was Marcus Luttrell (who I’m pretty sure is on the far right in the picture of the real SEALs above), who wrote a best-selling book about his experiences and was one of the technical advisors for the film.

Lone_Survivor_Book

Luttrell is played in the movie by Mark Wahlberg, an actor I like more and more these days. He can be a seriously good actor given the right material, which he has in spades with Lone Survivor.

The acting in the movie was really good across the board, and the actors who played the other three members of Luttrell’s squad (Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster, and Emile Hirsch) were excellent.

Berg’s film has drawn some criticism for focusing more on the battle scenes than the characterization of the four main SEALs, and I even read one review which stated that the movie came dangerously close to glorifying warfare. I respectfully disagree. I’ll reiterate what I said about Zero Dark Thirty, which is that depicting these events onscreen is not the same as glorifying them. The message I took from this film wasn’t “Hey, look how great war is,” but “Hey, look how much war sucks.”

Seriously. War is dirty, bloody, painful, and horrible, and that’s just how the movie portrays it.

If you can listen to the raspy, gurgling wheeze one of the SEALs makes as he tries to breathe through multiple grievous injuries and think that the film portrays this sort of thing as cool, then you and I are destined to never agree on anything.

Lone Survivor is a harrowing film. I won’t be seeing it again in theaters, but I’ll pick up the Blu-Ray. It’s a well-made, well-acted, and ultimately quite moving portrait of the selflessness and sacrifice of those who serve.

A Live Viewing of the Weirdest Disney Movie of All Time

For me, The Lone Ranger was the most puzzling movie of 2013. Yes, even more so than Iron Man 3 and G.I. Joe Retaliation. Ever since I watched it the first time, I’ve been trying to sort out what I think about it, but so far I haven’t really gotten anywhere. Today I find myself with time on my hands, so I am going to try something different. I am going to put the movie on and attempt to write about it as I am watching it. This will be a new experience for me, since with every other post I’ve done I haven’t written about the movie until after I was done watching it.

All right, here goes nothing.

 ???????????????

First observation: the frame story. For some reason I can’t quite comprehend, the movie starts in San Francisco in the 1930’s, at some kind of fair or exhibition, where a little kid in a familiar-looking white hat and black mask combo walks into a Wild West exhibit. He looks around a bit and comes to a stop at a display of a very old-looking Native American man. A plaque reads “The Noble Savage in his Natural Habitat.” The boy thinks it’s a statue, until it looks at him. The old man seems struck by the boy’s appearance, and mutters “Kemo Sabe?”

Most kids and their parents watching the movie in the theater at this point are probably wondering what movie they wandered into.

The kid takes off his mask and asks, “Who did you think I was anyway?” The old man looks away from him and mutters, “Never take off mask.” The movie then cuts to a flashback of Tonto and The Lone Ranger robbing a bank. The boy is confused by this, since he didn’t The Lone Ranger and Tonto went in for that sort of thing. “There comes a time, kemo sabe, when all good men must wear mask.”

Then the movie cuts to Colby, Texas, in 1869, where the Transcontinental Railroad is being built (although I’m pretty sure the Transcontinental Railroad didn’t go through Texas at all). So most of the movie is seen in flashbacks as Tonto tells his story to the boy.

Back in 1869, notorious outlaw Butch Cavendish is being brought to Colby to be hanged, and wouldn’t you know that our mild-mannered hero John Reid is on the same train with him, as is Tonto. Tonto and Cavendish are both prisoners. It’s clear that Butch’s men are going to break him out. In the prison car, Butch is twisting a nail out of a floorboard, and there’s a close-up shot of his torn and bloody fingers, which is a disturbing image for a Disney movie. He removes the floorboard and takes out a gun, and promptly kills the two men guarding him and Tonto.

2013 villains cavendish

Butch’s men board the train and kill several passengers. So at least five people in this Disney movie have already been killed by outlaws. Tonto and John end up chained together and there’s a genuinely disturbing shot of some of Butch’s men terrorizing the passengers, forcing them to sing songs while guns are being pointed in their faces. One woman tries to take a ring off her finger and screams “I can’t get it off!” while a creepy-looking guy waves a gun in her face. It reminds me of the upsetting scene near the end of Dirty Harry where the killer forces a school bus full of hostage children to sing songs while he waves a gun around.

There are some funny sight gags involving John and Tonto being chained together on the top of a train and inadvertently taking out a few bad guys. The train ends up crashing spectacularly and I have to admit that the special effects are impressive.

Okay, I realized something. I’m getting too caught up in plot summary, so I’m going to try to curtail that a bit or this post is going to be a thousand years long. I described the first part in so much detail partly because I wanted to try to get across the really weird first impressions you get from this movie.

Did I mention Tonto has a dead bird on his head and gives it food throughout the movie? But the bird is, obviously, dead, so he just ends up sprinkling bird seeds or peanuts or whatever down the front of his face.

So John heads out with his brother Dan the heroic Texas Ranger and a group of other Rangers to try to track down Butch, but a member of their group betrays them and they all get killed except for John.

So just in case anyone was wondering, this Disney movie has a body count in the double digits and we’re less than forty minutes in.

Did I also mention that Butch Cavendish shoots John and Dan and then cuts out Dan’s heart and eats it in front of John? And that this happens in a Disney movie? Sure, it isn’t seen explicitly (you see the reflection in John’s eyes as he watches), but the fact remains that Dan the heroic Texas Ranger ends up coughing up blood before Butch cuts out his heart and eats it in front of the dying man’s brother. Butch’s blood-drenched hands and face are clearly shown, as is Dan’s bloody corpse.

I mean, holy shit. Bloodiest Disney movie ever? Um, yes.

And then the movie cuts back to old Tonto talking to the little kid! The kid is confused because he thought Dan was the Lone Ranger, not John. Then the movie cuts back to Tonto burying the dead Rangers, except for John who is somehow not dead despite having been shot in the chest. THEN, this white horse shows up and starts pawing around John, despite Tonto’s protests that the so-called “Spirit Horse” bring Dan back to life instead of John. So THEN, Tonto ties John to the back of the horse and starts dragging him along behind them, AND THE MOVIE ACTUALLY STOPS TO LET THE HORSE POOP, AND THEN JOHN’S HEAD GETS DRAGGED THROUGH THE POOP. And did I mention that Butch Cavendish was shown peeing in a bucket earlier?

Less than an hour into this DISNEY MOVIE and we’ve got a bizarre frame story, an unreliable narrator, a double-digit body count, a gruesome act of cannibalism, some quasi-spiritualism, and multiple bodily functions. Not to mention Tonto’s bizarre appearance.

Skipping ahead a bit, John wakes up and he and Tonto end up sitting around a campfire, roasting what appears to be a rabbit. Some other cute little bunnies appear and watch them. Tonto tears off a chunk of meat and tosses it to the bunnies, who SUDDENLY BARE SHARP FANGS AND SCREECH WEIRDLY AND POUNCE ON THE MEAT CHUNK.

WHAT?!?!

Where the HELL did the vampire bunnies come from?!?! All that other stuff was weird, but at least it kind of serves a purpose to the plot, mostly.

Okay, okay, so John and Tonto end up agreeing to hunt down Butch Cavendish. They start by looking for the traitor in Dan’s group of Rangers who sold them out to Cavendish, and the first place they look is in a BROTHEL.

“Are all these women…professionals?” John asks Tonto. And yes, they clearly are. There is more cleavage in this scene than in just about every other movie I saw last year put together. And Helena Bonham Carter plays a one-legged brothel madam with a shotgun hidden in her fake leg! And then there’s something about a cursed rock and John has some weird visions and Tonto doesn’t like cats and runs around with a bird cage on his head and the white horse drinks a bottle of booze and what the hell is even happening.

Dear God, this movie is all over the place. I’m trying to keep up with watching and writing at the same time, but it’s not easy. I’ve had to pause a few times to catch up. And also, a guy in this movie gets freaking SCALPED.

I know you’re trying to process all this. So am I.

lone ranger poerp

Good luck processing this next bit: later, John and Tonto question a CROSS-DRESSING bad guy, and when the bad guy runs away and rejoins his fellow bad guys, he says, and I swear to God I am not making this up, “They was goin’ to violate me with a duck foot!”

Yes. Rape with a foreign object is implied in this DISNEY MOVIE. I feel that ellipses are the only way to express my feelings on this.

I don’t know who the makers of this film thought they were making it for. The appearances of two of the main characters are too frightening and there is too much dark violence for kids, and the movie is so pervasively weird that it’s hard to imagine it appealing to many adults on anything other than nostalgia.

And this movie cost somewhere in the neighborhood of 225 to 250 million dollars to make, not to mention another $150 million spent on marketing. I honestly can’t fathom why Disney acted all surprised when this movie tanked at the box office. It couldn’t be more all over the place.

lone ranger poster

The rest of the plot has to do with an evil railroad baron’s scheme to extend the railroad through Comanche territory, or something. In the process, an entire Comanche tribe is machine-gunned in one scene, which probably brings the body count pretty close to triple digits.

This movie is a giant bundle of contradictions. There’s a lot of dark, bloody violence and genuinely disturbing imagery, a very suggestive brothel scene, and the plot is too complicated for little kids to understand. There’s also quite a bit of drinking and quite a few uses of “damn” and “hell,” which is pretty mild language but still a bit much for a kids movie. And with a running time of 149 minutes, it’s also punishingly long.

And YET, there are things to like. The movie was directed by Gore Verbinski, who directed the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films, and he has a hell of an eye for striking visuals. The scenery in the film is pretty stunning, and the special effects, costumes, sets, and the like all look great, and the climactic train chase is suitably epic.

The movie is also pretty well-acted. Tom Wilkinson and William Fichtner are great as the villains, and Armie Hammer is appealingly stoic and likable as the title character, although he gets second billing to Johnny Depp, who plays Tonto.

Depp’s performance is a bit of a mystery, however. He has this bemused expression on his face for much of the film, though in yet another of this movie’s many contradictions, it’s hard to tell if he’s acting or simply, I don’t know, reacting. His character is certainly memorable, despite his strangeness.

 lone ranger bemused

And the REALLY weird thing is that you can’t trust anything in the movie, because old Tonto is an unreliable narrator. The viewer spends the entire movie doubting Tonto’s sanity, and therefore you cannot trust anything he tells the young boy in the frame story. Who knows how much, if any, of Tonto’s story is true? How much of it is he just making up? How much of it has become warped in his mind?

And for little kids who go to see Disney movies, this sort of storytelling is far too sophisticated for them to understand. One wonders why they even bothered to include the frame story at all.

Is this movie an action movie? Black comedy? Drama? Horror? Family? I have no idea, and clearly the movie doesn’t either.

And all of this, my friends, leads us to the most puzzling thing of all.

I didn’t hate this movie.

In fact, I kind of liked it.

Why? I don’t know why.

Maybe it’s the sheer audacity of the whole thing. That sense of, “Screw it, let’s just throw all this stuff at the wall and see what sticks.” The movie really is completely unlike any other movie I saw in 2013, and that certainly makes it more memorable than any other random six-pack of generic blockbusters.

You could call it a noble failure, perhaps. I dunno. Call it what you will. It’s worth a watch, just to experience the weirdness for yourself. And it’s hard not to feel a stir of emotion when the classic William Tell Overture starts playing at the beginning of the climactic train chase. And also at the end of the film, when old Tonto tells the young boy to decide for himself how much of the story is true, there’s a certain wistful quality that I like. I don’t think this movie will necessarily be remembered as a misunderstood classic or anything, but I could see it developing a cult following.

I’ll leave you with one final line from this messed-up masterpiece:

The Lone Ranger: “Hi-Yo Silver, Away!”

Tonto: “Don’t ever do that again.”