2013 was a good year for movies. The bounty of Tinsel Town rained down on our eager eyes like sparkles from a sparkler, with big budget wonder after big budget wonder being released throughout the year.
But it seems like 2014 is all set to give last year a run for its $16 (+ $1.50 for 3D glasses).
In January alone we’ll be seeing Oscar contenders August: Osage County, American Hustle, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom and The Book Thief; action blockbusters Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and 47 Ronin; and, er, Justin Bieber’s Believe.
That’s just the start of an exciting year of popcorn and silver screen dreams.
Later on there there will be three new Marvel comics based franchise films, a Mad Max reboot, a Godzilla reboot, a biblical epic starring our very own Russell Crowe, the next installments in the Hunger Games and Hobbit cycles, and best of all two, count ’em, two Zac Efron films (hallelujah).
If anything, it might be hard to stay away from the cinema in 2014. It may pay to be picky.
So without further ado, here are Cinemaddict’s top five picks for the multiplex in 2014.
5. Jupiter Ascending (July)
If space opera is your thing then look no further than the Wachowski siblings’ (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas) next offering, Jupiter Ascending.
It tells the fairytale-esque story of Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a janitor, who is also unwittingly the saviour of the universe and a target for alien assassination shenanigans.
If the short trailer released last month is anything to go by it’s going to be a mix of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Matrix, The Fifth Element and Terminator.
Channing Tatum stars alongside Kunis, as her genetically enhanced defender and rescuer.
He has pointy ears and a goatee. Who’d want to miss that?
4. 12 Years A Slave (February)
Already released in the US, 12 Years A Slave, by director Steve McQueen, tells the grueling tale of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man in 1800’s New York, who is kidnapped and sold into slavery.
It’s been described by more than one critic as utterly unflinching in its depiction of the indignity, torture and brutality heaped upon Northup, and is a shoo-in for a clutch of Oscars.
Ejiofor is, in Cinemaddict’s opinion, one of the great actors of our age, so, together with McQueens knack for getting to the uncomfortably pulpy core of human suffering, 12 Years a Slave should be required viewing.
3.The Grand Budapest Hotel (April)
Here at Cinemaddict Towers, director Wes Anderson is routinely treated as a god-like being.
His flawless, arch and charming films – The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic, Moonrise Kingdom – never fail to win hearts and bamboozle minds.
This next installment looks like a distillation of everything Anderson stands for – centred shots, off-beat characters and locations with as much personality and affectation as the subjects that inhabit them.
This time it’s a baby pink grand hotel in central Europe on the eve of the second World War, populated by Anderson stalwarts Bill Murray, Ed Norton and Owen Wilson who return for more of the maestro’s hipster madness.
2. 22 Jump Street (June)
21 Jump Street was a huge surprise. Who knew Channing Tatum could be funny and endearing?
And who would have guessed a film based on a mediocre 80s cop show with an outlandish premise – babyfaced cops go back to high school to bust drug rings and other teen misdemeanors – could be one of the comedy hits of the year?
The answer was no-one, and we were all happy to be wrong. 22 Jump Street (You see what they did there?) promises to be more of the irreverent fart-joke loving same and we can’t wait.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy (August)
If the prospect of Bradley Cooper playing/voicing a talking, gun toting, militant raccoon named Rocket isn’t enough to tweak your interest in this bound-to-be-bizarre Marvel film, then surely the fact that it’s the last one before Avengers 2 is released in 2015 is.
Directed by maverick, comedy director James Gunn (Super, Slither), Guardians tells the tale of a rag-tag group of alien freedom fighters headed up by human loser-turned-hero Star-Lord (a buffed up Chris Pratt).
Given it’s obscure comic book roots, it seems set to be the most whacky, exciting and out there thing – literally, none of the film is set on Earth – Marvel Studios has released to date.
It’s all part of a plan to give the Avengers a bigger playing field and higher stakes for the next film by taking the story into the great beyond.
It also introduces Marvel film fans the Anvenger’s arch nemesis Thanos, whose big purple visage popped up at the end of Avengers.
Gunn has said that Thanos will feature prominently in Guardians.
As a filmmaker, Gunn likes a mix of practical and computer generated effects, which means huge sets (one for a prison has more than 300,000 pounds of steel in it) and “utterly beautiful” space ships that will feel much more grounded than the usual completely computer created backgrounds.
With a cast that includes Benicio Del Toro, Lee Pace and Zoe Saldana, we can expect some outstanding (and possibly grandstanding) performances to boot, making Guardians of the Galaxy Cinemaddict’s number one pick for the year.
So warm up the popcorn and bust out your limited edition, hand tooled, Marvel Universe 3D glasses. 2014 has arrived.
(Honorable mentions for the coming year have to go to: Her, the story of a man and his operating system girlfriend and Captain America: Winter Soldier, in which two guys beat the everloving crap outta each other for our entertainment.)