Studios hope for another blockbuster year of cinema

Hollywood may be hoping for less drama in 2014. 2013 was a tale of two cinemas.

Studios hope for another blockbuster year of cinema

Blockbusters like The Lone Ranger and After Earth flopped spectacularly while many in the industry (including Steven Spielberg) bemoaned the increasingly commercial trajectory of the studios.

And yet by the end of the year, Hollywood had set a record with nearly $11bn (€8bn) in revenue, while critics hailed the year’s crop — from Gravity to 12 Years a Slave to Inside Llewyn Davis — as one of the best in years.

But how will 2014 unfold? The plot, at least, will be unchanged. However much some would like to see a new rhythm to Hollywood’s seasonal cycle, the year will move to the familiar pattern of sketchy spring releases and summer superhero blockbusters.

Here are eight things to look for in 2014:

STELLAR SCI-FI

Anticipation runs especially high for Interstellar (Nov 7), Christopher Nolan’s deep space travel adventure starring Matthew McConaughey. Nolan, the director of Inception and The Dark Knight, is one of few directors whose name alone makes fans salivate. His imprimatur promises a cinematic experience (he likes to shoot with Imax cameras) that few today can match. Nolan’s name also looms large in Transcendence (Apr 25), which he produced. The artificial intelligence tale, starring Johnny Depp and Rebecca Hall, is the directorial debut of Nolan’s long-time cinematographer Wally Pfister. Other sci-fi entries in 2014 include a reboot of Robocop (Feb 7); a futuristic, time-travelling war film with Tom Cruise, Edge of Tomorrow (May 30); the Wachowskis’ latest fantasy oddity, Jupiter Ascending (Jul 25); and Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut, How to Catch a Monster (no date yet), a less effect-heavy domestic drama that tunnels into an underwater realm. It features Saoirse Ronan in the starring role.

2013 HOLD-OVERS

This year will benefit from last year’s unusually good leftovers. George Clooney’s Second World War art rescue tale The Monuments Men will open on Feb 21 after being delayed from December. James Grey’s Ellis Island drama The Immigrant (undated), starring Joaquin Phoenix and Marion Cottilard, could emerge as an Oscar dark horse after earning acclaim on the festival circuit. Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, featuring a dark turn from Steve Carell, will bow sometime in 2014. Grace of Monaco, with Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly, opens on Mar 14. The schedule for 2014 will doubtless contain its own shifts, too. The seventh Fast & Furious film, planned for July, was moved to 2015 following the death of star Paul Walker in November.

MARVEL EXPANDS

Marvel’s domination continues with Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Mar 28), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Apr 18), X-Men: Days of Future Past (May 22), and Guardians of the Galaxy (Aug 1). The last, the lone non-sequel, represents Marvel’s reach for another ensemble team-up film, and, with a cast including Chris Pratt and Bradley Cooper, perhaps something a little different than its usual output.

MUSICALS SING AGAIN

Though 2013 contained no major live-action musical, several are coming this year. Clint Eastwood, of all people, directs the screen adaptation of the hit production about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in Jersey Boys (due in the summer). Annie (December), produced by Will Smith and Jay Z, will get a contemporary update with Beasts of the Southern Wild star Quvenzhane Wallis as the titular orphan. The Muppets will be back in Muppets Most Wanted (Mar 28), a caper where Jim Henson’s furry troupe travels to Europe. And not yet dated is John Carney’s Once follow-up, Can a Song Save Your Life? a similarly naturalistic musical starring Keira Knightley as an aspiring singer and Mark Ruffalo as a record producer.

VETERAN HANDS

Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, The Master) releases have become the highlight of many a movie buff’s year. His Inherent Vice (not yet dated), adapted from Thomas Pynchon’s novel and starring Joaquin Phoenix, continues the director’s series of California-set films. Also hotly anticipated is David Fincher’s version of Gillian Flynn’s best-selling thriller, Gone Girl (Oct 3), starring Ben Affleck. Other directors to watch in 2014 include Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Mar 7), which also sees Saoirse Ronan take top spot in the film posters, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Birdman, undated), Woody Allen (Magic in the Moonlight, undated), and Tim Burton (Big Eyes, undated).

NET PROPHET

This year will boast not just a Noah, but also a Moses. First will come Darren Aronofsky’s Noah (Mar 28), starring Russell Crowe and a very big boat. Ridley Scott will follow on Dec 5 with Exodus, starring Christian Bale as Moses.

SEQUELS, REMAKES

Naturally, 2014 boasts a boatload of sequels and remakes including Godzilla (May 16), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 (Nov 21), Transformers: Age of Extinction (Jul 10), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Jul 17), 22 Jump Street (Jun 6), The Expendables 3 (Aug 15), and How to Train Your Dragon 2 (Jul 4). Peter Jackson will close out his lifetime with JRR Tolkien with The Hobbit: There and Back Again (Dec 19).

JOLIE’S RETURN

Angelina Jolie hasn’t starred in a live-action film since 2010’s forgettable The Tourist, but she’ll be a large presence in 2014. She stars as the title villain in Maleficent (May 30), a twisted Sleeping Beauty tale. She also directs her second feature in Unbroken (December), a prisoner-of-war drama co-scripted by the Coen brothers.

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