MostlyFilm’s Preview of 2014 – Part 1

Over the next few posts, we’ll be looking ahead at some of the films that we’re keenest to see this year. On Friday, Philip Concannon will be taking an auteur-centric look at his most anticipated arthouse and festival fare, but today we kick off with the literally inimitable Ron Swanson, and his preview of the best in American movies coming up in the next 12 months.

"It's behind me, isn't it?
“It’s behind me, isn’t it?

Paul Thomas Anderson is one of American cinema’s greatest filmmakers. He’s made six feature films, of which the last five are unshakable classics in my opinion; nobody has made five better films in the past fifteen years than his last five. His new film, an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s slightly unkempt detective novel, Inherent Vice, will see him back in cinemas later this year.

As always, he’s assembled a fine, eclectic cast. Joaquin Phoenix, off his career-best work in The Master and a possible Oscar™ nomination for Her plays ‘Doc’ Sportello, an LA private eye investigating the disappearance of an ex-girlfriend. Phoenix is joined by Jena Malone, Reese Witherspoon, Martin Short (!), Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Owen Wilson and Maya Rudolph, appearing in one of her husband’s films for the first time.

While it could be a nice companion piece to Boogie Nights, with the 70s nostalgia, California setting and drug-induced paranoia running through it, it feels like a change of pace for the filmmaker Anderson has become. Both There Will Be Blood and The Master seem a little too serious to be followed by a film with a cast of characters named things like Japonica Fenway, Bigfoot Bjornsen, Sauncho Smilax, Puck Beaverton and Amethyst Harlingen, but given how radically he changed his source material for There Will Be Blood, I’m not sure anyone can be sure of what we’re going to get. We can just be pretty sure it’s going to be pretty great.

Gareth Edwards doesn’t have, and probably never will have, the near-flawless CV of PTA, but he’s one of Hollywood’s most exciting young filmmakers, coming off the success of his micro-budget ($800k) critical darling Monsters, released in 2010. His next film, Godzilla, probably has a larger budget, by at least a smidgeon.

I was a big fan of Monsters, I loved the aesthetic, the intimacy, and the consistent feeling of threat just off-screen. I thought that the melding of such a small story with such huge, impressive special effects was the sign of a real talent waiting to happen, and I’m predicting that Godzilla will play to Edwards’ strengths.

I’m not expecting Godzilla to be original, or to have a charismatic leading man (I’m still unable to comprehend Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s existence as an actor, let alone a movie-star), but I am expecting it to be pretty exciting. That’s a great trailer, which immediately sets up a mood – Monsters was nothing if not moody – has a definite sense of scale and surrounds Taylor-Johnson with a bevy of recognisable faces, all of whom (David Strathairn, Sally Hawkins, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe and the peerless Bryan Cranston) are terrific actors to boot.

The comedy I’m most looking forward to in 2014 (though I doubt I’ll laugh more at any film than I did at Wolf of Wall Street, I acknowledge that it’s cheating, somewhat to count all the laughs spread over its six week running time ) is Bad Neighbours (as opposed to the US title, Neighbors, maybe changed so no-one would go in expecting the big screen breakout of Toadfish Rebecchi). A comedy about a pair of young parents, whose tranquil home-life is threatened when a fraternity house moves in next door, it has huge potential to provide lots of laughs.

Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne play the parents (interesting to see if they have much chemistry), while Zac Efron and Dave Franco (younger brother of Rogen’s bff, James) play the leaders of the frat. There’s a great heritage in comedy coming from clashes, antagonism and older people trying to seem young and hip, so I have great hopes. Director Nicholas Stoller made Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Five Year Engagement, both of which I loved, and he wrote the Muppets movie to boot. The writers, Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien have less of a track record, but have come from the Judd Apatow stable.

It’s not as if it needed much more, but the cast includes my current No.1 man-crush – Jake Johnson, and this is one of the funniest trailers of the last few years (check out Franco’s face behind Efron when he’s dressed as Travis Bickle, it kills me).

One of the highlights of 2010 was the beautiful How to Train Your Dragon. A charming, compelling and exciting story, allied to the best 3D animation (to that point), made it a big hit. As with previous smash hits from Dreamworks Animation, they’ve developed a sequel (and, indeed a third film). What should make the franchise stronger than the likes of Shrek, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda, is that they have again taken the story from Cressida Cowell’s 12-strong series of books.

The same filmmaking team are also back – I had the privilege of seeing some footage recently, in 3D, and they’ve delivered another film that will be an absolute visual feast. One challenge for any family franchise is remaining relevant for kids of all ages, those who’ve grown up since the last film’s release, and younger kids who’ve only watched it recently at home. The first film was aimed at a slightly older audience than the likes of Despicable Me, and I think this may even be pitched slightly older than that – with the levels of BBFC faves ‘peril’ and ‘threat’ taken up a notch. Even so, it’s one of two stand-out kids films, in a year with no Pixar movie. The other…

The simple idea of a Lego movie is a winner right off the bat. I had so much fun playing with the stuff as a child, that I have an unembarrassed desire for the brand to be successful. However, I’m excited by this even with that taken out of the equation. Firstly, it’s written and directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, whose Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was an absolute delight, and who also directed 21 Jump Street, That’s all the pedigree I need to have high hopes. The trailer looks frenetic, wildly inventive and loudly funny. A little like both 21 Jump Street and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. I cannot wait.

Then, there’s the cast. (Deep breath) -Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell, Chris Pratt, Nick Offerman, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Channing Tatum as Superman, Jonah Hill as Green Lantern, Cobie Smulders as Wonder Woman and Will Arnett as Batman. I mean, I can take or leave Neeson or Freeman, but I’d be hard-pushed to find a more likable cast than that, in any year.

I mentioned that Lord and Miller directed 21 Jump Street, well, they’ve also reteamed with Hill and Tatum for the sequel, 22 Jump Street. If you haven’t seen the original, you really should, so here’s the trailer for the sequel, as a going away gift.

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