List: Top 30 Most Anticipated Films (January-April 2014)


Sorry I have been absent this month. Circumstances and events resulting in family tragedy have prohibited me from spending any time on this site, or even of watching films as of late. While I may be slow-going for now, I figured I could muster up the motivation to at least get this list up. It’s nearing the end of February. I usually wait a while before posting my Winter/Spring Anticipated Films list because release dates take longer to come into fruition during this time of the year and I end up with a largely incomplete list if I get it up in January.

As I say every year around this time, it’s the least popular time of the film-going year, but it tends to be the time I get perhaps the most excited for. Expectations tend to be low, surprises are far more the reality over disappointments and the hype machine is off hiding somewhere in the bushes waiting to pounce. And the films being released are not automatically rushed into some kind o future awards context. As far as bigger releases, yes, it’s slim pickings. But the arthouse circuit tends to be an embarrassment of riches, particularly in the documentary realm. I usually make a list of 20 films for Winter/Spring and 30 each for Summer and Fall. This year it’s far too packed a house to warrant such a small collection of films, so I’ve expanded to 30. Until now, I haven’t seen a year that has more of my top anticipated films coming out in the first four months. It’s an unprecedented level of insanity. It’s also the time of year where I’ve seen the least amount of trailers. I’ve largely stopped actively seeking them out so my anticipation levels for some of these are purely from other means.

Note: Things like “General interest” (which should go without saying but I figured I’d throw it in for most of these anyways) and “Long Anticipated” under reasons may also be applicable to the film community at large, but I’m talking about my general interest and the fact that I have long anticipated these films. Long Anticipated refers to films I’ve been aware of/waiting to see from anywhere between 4 months to over a year(s).

Below are summaries courtesy of IMDB, US release dates, and country of origin as well as bullet point reasons.

30. Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (USA, Karasawa) (February 21st) (Documentary)
Summary: The uncompromising Tony and Emmy Award-winner is showcased both on and off stage via rare archival footage and intimate cinema vérité.

  • It’s a documentary about Elaine Stritch. Need I say more?

29. Oculus (USA, Flanagan) (April 11th)
Summary: A woman tries to exonerate her brother, who was convicted of murder, by proving that the crime was committed by a supernatural phenomenon.

  • Karen Gillan and, far more importantly, KATEE SACKHOFF LADIES AND GENTLEMEN
  • I’ll give any horror that has an ounce of potential a chance
  • Solid early buzz/notices

28. Raze (USA, Waller) (January 10th)
Summary: Raze, a horror/action film, focuses on two abducted women & 50 other women who are forced to fight each other using their bare hands.

  • Zoë Bell. Zoë Bell. Zoë Bell
  • Ladies kicking ass
  • Additional bonus triple header of Tracie Thoms/Sherilyn Fenn/Doug Jones
  • Low-rent butchery I can get into

27. Gloria (Chile/Spain, Lelio) (January 24th)
Summary: A story set in Santiago and centered on Gloria, a free-spirited older woman, and the realities of her whirlwind relationship with a former naval officer whom she meets out in the clubs.

  • High acclaim/buzz
  • General interest

26. The New Black (USA, Richen) (February 12th) (Documentary)
Summary: The New Black is a documentary that tells the story of how the African-American community is grappling with the gay rights issue in light of the recent gay marriage movement and the fight over civil rights.

  • General interest
  • Female POC filmmaker

25. Blue Ruin (USA, Saulnier) (April 25th)
Summary: A mysterious outsider’s quiet life is turned upside down when he returns to his childhood home to carry out an act of vengeance. Proving himself an amateur assassin, he winds up in a brutal fight to protect his estranged family.

  • Winner of the FIPRESCI prize at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival
  • Revenge film
  • Seems effectively taut and direct

24. Ernest and Celestine (France/Belgium, Aubier) (February 28th) (Animation)
Summary: The story of an unlikely friendship between a bear, Ernest, and a young mouse named Celestine.

  • Long Anticipated
  • Hark! Can it be? Hand drawn animation!!!
  • Adorable animal friendships

23. Transcendence (USA, Pfister) (April 18th)
Summary: A terminally ill scientist downloads his mind into a computer. This grants him power beyond his wildest dreams, and soon he becomes unstoppable.

  • Wally Pfister’s Nolan-influenced debut. Are his directorial skills as accomplished as his cinematography?
  • Johnny Depp. Oh, so that’s what you look like under all that makeup.
  • Intriguing sci-fi plot

22. Big Bad Wolves (Israel, Keshales/Papushado) (January 17th)
Summary: A series of brutal murders puts the lives of three men on a collision course: The father of the latest victim now out for revenge, a vigilante police detective operating outside the boundaries of law, and the main suspect in the killings – a religious studies teacher arrested and released due to a police blunder.

  • Long Anticipated
  • Lots of buzz
  • General interest
  • The ol’ QT endorsement isn’t exactly a mark against it

21. Joe (USA, Green) (April 11th)
Summary: An ex-con, who is the unlikeliest of role models, meets a 15-year-old boy and is faced with the choice of redemption or ruin.

  • David Gordon Green continuing his return to Southern Gothic territory
  • David Gordon Green
  • Long Anticipated
  • Solid buzz
  • Nicolas Cage stepping outside of recent money-making throwaway action fare to dig deep into a character

20. Cheap Thrills (USA, Katz) (March 21st)
A couple engages two friends in a series of innocent dares in exchange for money over the course of the evening, with each challenge upping the ante in both reward and boundaries.

  • Looks like a cruel, brutal, and extremely dark thriller comedy
  • General interest
  • Sara Paxton. Also, Sara Paxton reuniting onscreen with Pat Healy.
  • Solid buzz

19. In Bloom (Georgia, Ekvtimishvili/Groß) (January 10th)
Summary: Set in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi in 1992. Friends Eka and Natia look to leave childhood behind as they ignore societal customs and work to escape their turbulent family lives.

  • Female filmmaker
  • Never seen any film from Georgia
  • General interest
  • Acclaim

18. Child’s Pose (Romania, Netzer) (February 19th)
Seeing a way to reassert control over her adult son’s life when he faces manslaughter charges, an affluent Romanian woman sets out on a campaign of emotional and social manipulation to keep him out of prison, navigating the waters of power, corruption and influence.

  • General interest in recent Romanian films in international market
  • Grand psychological family drama. Can’t get enough of this stuff
  • Critical acclaim

17. Grand Piano (Spain, Mira) (March 4th)
Summary: Moments before his comeback performance, a concert pianist who suffers from stage fright discovers a note written on his music sheet.

  • Phone Booth with a concert pianist? Speed with a concert pianist also seems apt. Yes please. I’ll take a do-over on that potentially frightful high concept.
  • Looks to be channeling De Palma
  • Strong early buzz

16. Maidentrip (USA/Australia/etc, Schlesinger) (January 17th) (Documentary)
Summary: 14-year-old Laura Dekker sets out on a two-year voyage in pursuit of her dream to become the youngest person ever to sail around the world alone.

  • Female filmmaker
  • Coming-of-age
  • General interest
  • High acclaim

15. Anita (USA, Mock) (March 21st) (Documentary)
Summary: Anita tells the story about a young, brilliant African American Anita Hill who accuses the Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of unwanted sexual advances during explosive Senate Hearings in 1991 and ignites a political firestorm about sexual harassment, race, power and politics that resonates 20 years later today.

  • Female filmmaker
  • General interest

14. Enemy (Canada, Villeneuve) (March 14th)
Summary: A man seeks out his exact look-alike after spotting him in a movie.

  • This looks to be the year of the Double/doppelgänger stories and, lucky me, works about surreal and overlapping identities are basically my Achilles Heel (“William Wilson” might be my favorite Poe story)
  • Long Anticipated
  • Prisoners disappointed me and it isn’t exactly ‘hip’ to get behind Villeneuve, but I loved Incendies too much to not anticipate his work.
  • Jake Gyllenhaal gave possibly his best performance in Villeneuve’s Prisoners; what will he do as the lead?
  • Sarah Gadon
  • Based on a novel that has been on my to-read list for a couple of years

13. The Missing Picture (Cambodia/France, Panh) (Documentary) (March 19th)
Summary: Rithy Panh uses clay figures, archival footage, and his narration to recreate the atrocities Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge committed between 1975 and 1979.

  • Long Anticipated
  • Important historical value and context
  • Film about Cambodian history made by Cambodian filmmaker
  • Use of claymation

12. Tim’s Vermeer (USA, Teller) (January 31st) (Documentary)
Summary: Inventor Tim Jenison seeks to understand the painting techniques used by Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer.

  • Long Anticipated
  • High acclaim
  • It’s about Art
  • Themes of obsessiveness and the artist’s process

11. Like Father, Like Son (Japan, Koreeda) (January 17th)

  • Big Hirokazu Koreeda fan
  • Long Anticipated
  • High acclaim (as per usual)

10. The LEGO Movie (USA, Lord & Miller) (February 7th)

  • Phil Lord and Chris Miller
  • High acclaim
  • One of maybe 3 big budget releases this season I am excited about
  • Animation techniques using combination of CGI and Legomation (substitute clay for LEGOs)
  • Score by Mark Mothersbaugh

9. Jodorowsky’s Dune (USA/France, Pavich) (March 7th) (Documentary)
Summary: The story of cult film director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s ambitious but ultimately doomed film adaptation of the seminal science fiction novel.

  • Long Anticipated
  • Failed/strenuous movie project doc
  • Strong buzz
  • Jodorowsky

8. Veronica Mars (USA, Thomas) (March 14th)
Summary: Years after walking away from her past as a teenage private eye, Veronica Mars gets pulled back to her hometown – just in time for her high school reunion – in order to help her old flame Logan Echolls, who’s embroiled in a murder mystery.

  • Long-time Veronica Mars fan. Enough said.

7. Stranger by the Lake (France, Guiraudie) (January 24th)
Summary: Summertime. A cruising spot for men, tucked away on the shores of a lake. Franck falls in love with Michel. An attractive, potent and lethally dangerous man. Franck knows this, but wants to live out his passion anyway.

  • Long Anticipated
  • High acclaim
  • Erotic and/or chamber piece thrillers are my jam

6. The Wind Rises (Japan, Miyazaki) (February 28th)
Summary: A look at the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed Japanese fighter planes during World War II.

  • Hayao Miyazaki’s final film. Pardon me while I go cry in that corner over there. Be right back.
  • Super-duper Long Anticipated

5. Finding Vivian Maier (USA, Maloof/Siskel) (March 21st)
Summary: A documentary on the late Vivian Maier, a nanny whose previously unknown cache of 100,000 photographs earned her a posthumous reputation as one the most accomplished street photographers.

  • I’ve been taken in by Vivian Maier and her story/work for some time now, so the idea of a full-length documentary on her with a theatrical release is a dream come true. So much so that its ultimately arbitrary but still telling placement above The Wind Rises is a testament to just how excited I am to see this.

4. Only Lovers Left Alive (USA, Jarmusch) (April 11th)
Summary: A story centered on two vampires who have been in love for centuries.

  • New Jim Jarmusch
  • Super-duper Long Anticipated
  • High acclaim
  • Jarmusch does vampires
  • Tilda Swinton as a vampire. Tom Hiddleston as a vampire.
  • Vampires I can get behind

3. The Grand Budapest Hotel (USA, Anderson) (March 7th) 
Summary: The adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend.

  • New Wes Anderson
  • New Wes Anderson
  • New Wes Anderson
  • 3 different aspect ratios!
  • The whole thing looks like a delicate and delectable pastel dessert
  • Ralph Fiennes looks to be pulling an Edward Norton-in-Moonrise type revelatory performance here
  • Super duper Long Anticipated

2. Under the Skin (UK, Glazer) (April 4th)
Summary: An alien seductress preys upon hitchhikers in Scotland.

  • Jonathan Glazer (and his first film in ten years to boot)
  • Very Long Anticipated
  • Looks like the combination of bizarre/hypnotic/disorienting I fall hard for
  • Unique and perfect role for Johansson to shine
  • High acclaim

1. Nymphomaniac Volumes 1 and 2 (Denmark, etc., von Trier) (March 21st and April 4th)
Summary: A self-diagnosed nymphomaniac recounts her erotic experiences to the man who saved her after a beating.

  • Do I have to explain this to anybody? I hope not. New Lars von Trier gets a first class ticket to the top of my most anticipated list any day of the week
  • Super duper Long Anticipated
  • High acclaim (more for Volume 1 than 2)
  • He makes films that defy reductive dismissal, that promotes complex grappling even at his most accessible. I look forward to his work more than almost anyone.

The Rest:
Kids for Cash
The Raid 2
The Monuments Men
A Field in England
In Secret
Blood Ties
Vampire Academy
In Fear
Nurse 3D
Cesar Chavez
Le Week-end
Bad Words
Muppets Most Wanted
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Don Hemingway
Hide Your Smiling Faces
Vic + Flo Saw a Bear
Need for Speed
Jimmy P
The Attorney
Enemies Closer
After the Dark
Particle Fever
12 O’Clock Boys
Love is in the Air
Beyond Outrage
The Banshee Chapter
If You Build It
The Wait
Summer in February
Knights of Badassdom
Lucky Bastard