2014 movie highlights include 'Lego Movie,' 'Spider-Man 2'
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Legos, wormholes, new superheroes and old musicals are on the movie schedule for 2014, which so far looks like a fairly entertaining grabbag. Sequels run the gamut from "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" to "Dumb and Dumber To," while a genre that seemed long dead -- think robes and sandals -- is suddenly very much alive. And speaking of throwbacks, 2014 may mark the first time in years that folks actually go to a theater to watch pornography. Here's a sample of what's ahead.
THE BIG RELEASES
THE LEGO MOVIE (Feb. 7) This animated adventure film takes place in the Lego universe, and while it's done with the usual computer animation (don't you wish it were stop-motion?), it comes with a promising voice cast that includes Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell, Chris Pratt and Elizabeth Banks.
NYMPHOMANIAC (March 21 and April 18) From the uncompromising writer-director Lars von Trier ("Antichrist") comes this two-part drama filled with what is reported to be real on-screen sex. "Everything that is illegal, we'll shoot in blurred images," co-star Shia LaBeouf said over the summer. "Other than that, everything is happening."
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (July 3) Franchise star Andrew Garfield and unlikely director Marc Webb -- of the indie romance "(500) Days of Summer" -- get another shot to ditch the dour emo attitude of their first film. Three new screenwriters, all from Fox's "Fringe" series, might help.
LUCY (Aug. 8) If you didn't get enough of Scarlett Johansson in "Marvel's The Avengers," prepare for "Lucy," the latest from writer-director Luc Besson ("La Femme Nikita," "The Professional"). Johansson plays a drug mule who accidentally ingests what she's carrying and turns into a superpowered metahuman. Morgan Freeman and Choi Min-sik (2003's "Oldboy") also star.
GONE GIRL (Oct. 3) Gillian Flynn's 2012 novel, about a failed journalist whose loving wife frames him for murder, was a compelling read with a pop sensibility, like an Elvis Costello song transformed into a thriller. The movie version could also be a treat, with Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in the lead roles, a script by the author herself and no less a director than David Fincher ("The Social Network").
INTERSTELLAR (Nov. 7) The plot of this sci-fi mind-boggler from Christopher Nolan ("Inception") is still under wraps, but we do know that it's inspired by the work of the theoretical astrophysicist Kip Thorne. If that sounds too heavy, maybe you'll be sucked into theaters by cast members Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, Casey Affleck and David Oyelowo ("The Butler").
DUMB AND DUMBER TO (Nov.14) Twenty years after Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels made lowbrow history in the Farrelly brothers' "Dumb and Dumber" comes this long-awaited sequel. Will the dopey wigs still be funny? Have the Farrellys lost their comedy mojo after flops like "The Three Stooges"? If things go south, Carrey can always disavow his participation like he did after filming "Kick-Ass 2."
NEW SUPERHERO BLOOD
Getting a little tired of Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man? "Guardians of the Galaxy," due in theaters Aug. 1, will launch a new crop of Marvel heroes and villains. They're being played by an eclectic cast, which includes Zoe Saldana as the superhuman Gamora and Benicio Del Toro as The Collector (actually, we just saw him in "Thor: The Dark World"). The movie's most intriguing idea: Bradley Cooper as the genetically engineered Rocket Racoon.
SOMETHING TO SING ABOUT
If two's a coincidence and three's a trend, then 2014 just might be The Year of the Musical, with at least four entries in the genre. We'll see "Muppets Most Wanted," with Ricky Gervais and Tina Fey joining Kermit and Piggy; "Jersey Boys," Clint Eastwood's adaptation of the hit play about singer Frankie Valli; "Annie," starring Quvenzhané Wallis ("Beasts of the Southern Wild") in the title role; and Stephen Sondheim's fairy-tale twist "Into the Woods," starring Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp and Emily Blunt. We might even see one more, "The Last Five Years," which wrapped production with Anna Kendrick this past summer.
SEQUELS THAT MIGHT ACTUALLY BE GOOD
All are follow-ups to movies that were pleasant surprises. One is "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," with motion-capture performer Andy Serkis returning as the simian Caesar; another is "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," in which Robert Redford joins an already classy superhero franchise. Bryan Singer's "X-Men: Days of Future Past" promises more stylish action with Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and the mutant gang. And the award for best sequel title goes to the upcoming comedy with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum returning as undercover cops in "22 Jump Street."
THE RETURN OF THE BIBLICAL EPIC
We're talking both Testaments, too. "Exodus," about the Jews' release from Egypt, stars Christian Bale as Moses and Joel Edgerton ("The Great Gatsby") as the pharaoh Rameses II; the supporting cast includes Sigourney Weaver and Aaron Paul of AMC's "Breaking Bad." "Noah," starring Russell Crowe as the wildlife-rescuing patriarch (whose ark, by the way, was built and filmed in Oyster Bay), has already drawn ire from the Christian blog Beginning and End for taking liberties with the source material. From 20th Century Fox comes "Son of God," an adaptation of the History channel's miniseries about the life of Jesus Christ.
JAN. 12 Golden Globes (NBC)
JAN. 16 Academy Award nominations announced
JAN. 18 SAG Awards (TNT, TBS)
MARCH 1 Independent Spirit Awards (IFC)
MARCH 2 Academy Awards (ABC)
APRIL 13 MTV Movie Awards