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Anticipated Films for 2014
Dir. David Fincher
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike
Release date: October 3rd
David Fincher seems like the ideal director to adapt this popular page-turner by Gillian Flynn. Fincher’s cold detached style could be the perfect complement to the marital bliss run amok of Gone Girl. Expect one doozy of a twist as Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) looks deeper into the disappearance of his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), who vanished on their wedding anniversary. Gone Girl could divide audiences into camps of Team Nick or Team Amy as the story deliciously twisted mystery frames and reframes the way readers (or viewers) interpret their public and private lives. (Oscar season could bring flags of Team Amy if Rosamund Pike delivers on this juicy role.) Fingers crossed that David Fincher does for Gone Girl what he did for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo!
Dir. Tommy Lee Jones
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank, Meryl Streep
Release date: TBA
2014 promises a triple-header of Meryl Streep movies: the musical adaptation of Into the Woods and the adaptation of Lois Lowry’s The Giver, which has the novelty of Streep sharing the screen with Jeff Bridges and Taylor Swift, are Streep’s projects with arguably the highest profiles, but her reunion with Hope Springs co-star Tommy Lee Jones sounds the most promising. The Homesman marks Jones’s first theatrical film as a director since 2005’s strong western The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, which scored two prizes at Cannes, so Jones and Streep might be bound for a premiere on the Croisette if The Homesman is completed by May. The Homesman is Jones’s adaptation of the novel by Glendon Swarthout in which the actor/director teams up with pioneer woman Hilary Swank to escort three insane women (played by Miranda Otto, Hailey Steinfeld, and Grace Gummer) from Nebraska to Iowa. I haven’t read The Homesman, for it isn’t available from Canadian retailers until February, but Jeff at Word on the Streep reports that the novel offers Streep a small role at the end as a minister’s wife whom Jones’s westerner encounters at the end of his long voyage. Despite the potentially scant Streep time, The Homesman sounds like the best of Streep’s upcoming projects since she and Jones had such good chemistry together in Hope Springs. The Homesman also gives Streep the chance to work with another of her daughters, Grace (from Frances Ha), after she played the elder version of the character played by Mamie Gummer in 2007’s Evening.
Deux nuits (Two Nights)
Dir. Denys Arcand
Starring: Éric Blondeau, Marie-Josée Croze, Mélanie Thierry, Yves Jacques, Edith Scob
Release date: TBA
It’s so exciting to see Denys Arcand back behind the camera after such a long absence. It’s been seven years since Arcand’s last film Days of Darkness completed his trilogy that began with The Decline of the American Empire and the Oscar winner The Barbarian Invasions. It’s especially exciting to see Arcand return with Invasions scene-stealer Marie-Josée Croze, whose captivating performance helped make The Barbarian Invasions one of the best films this country ever produced. Croze’s role in the film is unclear, as details about the production are scant, but Two Nights hints at Arcand’s signature musings on love and sexuality. Early press on the film tells of a romantic triangle between an architect named Luc (Éric Blondeau, Laurence Anyways) who is unfaithful to his wife Stéphanie (Mélanie Thierry, The Zero Theorem) when he is summoned to Toronto for jury duty and spends two nights with an Anglophone stranger (Melanie Myrkosky, Away from Her). Might Arcand be hinting at a greater meaning with Luc’s bilingual infidelity?
Dir. Wes Anderson
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Tony Revolori.
Release date: March 7th
Tilda Swinton dons some wrinkly make-up and goes all Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in this hotly anticipated film from Moonrise Kingdom director Wes Anderson. Seeing Swinton as an elderly matron alongside Ralph Fiennes’ stiff concierge should start the year off with a quirky delight. The film offers a rare comedic turn from Fiennes, which might be the greatest appeal of the film. Fiennes’ closest role to Budapest might be his droll turn playing it straight as the cuckold husband to Kiera Knightley in The Duchess, but is often a highlight of an Anderson film. (See: Bruce Willis as a fatherly cop in Moonrise.) Zany twee whimsy of the Harold & Maude variety seems to be had, as the Internet burst with a unison squeal when the first trailer for The Grand Budapest Hotel unveiled another Anderson world restricts itself to one key setting. It’s always fun to see how big of a story he can tell within the confines of a single house, train, or island. Budapest opens the Berlin Film Festival in February and then hits theatres the Friday after the Oscars, so there will be no usual lull in quality moviegoing.
Dir. Michael Radford
Starring: Christopher Plummer, Shirley MacLaine, Marcia Gay Harden
Release date: TBA
Elsa & Fred sounds like the dream love story for any fan of classic cinema. The film, a remake of the 2005 Argentine-Spanish comedy of the same time, offer a late-blooming romance for Elsa (Shirley MacLaine) who has spent the past few decades dreaming about her favourite film scene. It’s that scene in La Dolce Vita where Anita Ekberg dances in the Fontana di Trevi. Elsa, however, imagines herself in the role of Anita Ekberg and instead of Marcello Mastroianni, Elsa dances before the love of her life who married another woman while she found love at the movies. That man is Fred (Christopher Plummer) and he has recently become a widower. Elsa decides that it’s never too late to fulfill her fantasy, so screen legends MacLaine and Plummer realize the magic of big screen romance as the loony old lady and the cranky old curmudgeon live the sweet life before it’s all too late. Michael Radford (The Merchant of Venice) directs.
Magic in the Moonlight
Starring: Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Marcia Gay Harden, Jacki Weaver
Release date: Summer 2014
While Christopher Plummer and Shirley MacLaine are making magic in the moonlight in the fountains of Rome, Woody Allen and company are making Magic in the Moonlight in sunny France. Magic marks Woody’s return to France after his 2011 masterpiece Midnight in Paris. Woody, ever one to reuse what’s worked before, has this ensemble romance wrapped in period dressings, albeit with 1930s’ threads instead of the flapper garb of the 1920s. Plot details are tightly under wraps, as is the case with most Allen films in production, but the cast includes Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Marcia Gay Harden, Eileen Atkins and Jacki Weaver. Où est Marion Cotillard?
Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon, Maya Rudolph, Katherine Waterston
Release date: TBA
Expect Inherent Vice to be the weirdest acid trip of 2014. The book by Thomas Pynchon is a wild psychedelic noir. The gist of the book is something along the lines of someone saying that if you can remember the 70s, you probably weren’t there. Everyone in the book is on some cocktail of drugs as gumshoe Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) investigates the disappearance of his girlfriend (Katherine Waterston) and encounters a sea of bizarre riff raff and drifters in the seedy LA nightlife. The whole mystery seems like a McGuffin for a playfully drugged-out kind of sociology. Everything explodes in a cloud of smoke at the end, so I can’t wait to see how Anderson devises the finale.
Dir. Mike Leigh
Starring: Timothy Spall
“A look at the life of British artist J.M.W Turner.” That’s pretty much all there is to go on for Mr. Turner, plus the still above highlighting Timothy Spall, but that’s enough to excite any cinephile. It is, after all, a Mike Leigh film. And it’s not just any Mike Leigh film—it’s a Mike Leigh film that harkens back to Topsy-Turvy territory. Leigh’s 1999 Topsy-Turvy is one of the best films he has ever done, perhaps because it seems so out of synch with all the scaled-down working-class kitchen sink pics he’s made. Topsy-Turvy still has the director’s unique social consciousness despite all the fancy dressings of a musical about Gilbert and Sullivan, so Mr. Turner is bound to take the biopic into uncharted terrain as Leigh gives his own take on the heritage film.
The Ballad of Maura MacKenzie
Dir. Molly Parker
Release date: TBA
Word on this project has been floating about for a while now, but production on the film reportedly began in the spring of 2013. Molly Parker makes her first directorial effort with this Cape Breton tale of a mentally ill woman who, in a moment of artistic frenzy, forgets about her two children while tending to the passions within her. Maura MacKenzie, based on the Joan Clark novel An Audience of Chairs, marks the second collaboration between Parker and screenwriter Rosemary House, as Parker previously appeared in Hold Fast, which House adapted from the novel by Kevin Major. Hold Fast is currently enjoying a healthy theatrical life on the East Coast, so hopefully those of us in Ottawa will get one more chance to see Parker onscreen before we see what kind of magic she works behind the camera. Anyone who has worked with such a fine roster of Canadian directors as Parker has is bound pick up a trick or two along the way, right?
Dir. Jean-Marc Vallée
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Thomas Sadowski, Michiel Huisman, Gaby Hoffman, Laura Dern
Release date: TBA
Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée follows the success of Dallas Buyers Club with another compelling drama about a true story. Wild brings to the screen the bestselling memoir by Cheryl Strayed, adapted by Nick Hornby, about her decision to escape life on a whim and find it anew in the American wilderness. Vallée lost not an ounce of his signature style in bringing the American Dallas Buyers Club to life, so there’s little to fear in the director making a repeat trip south of the border, especially since much of his arts and crafts team is joining him again. This story about humanity and self-discovery will be realized by not only the energy and style of Vallée’s team, but also by Reese Witherspoon’s performance as the soul-searching Strayed. Interestingly enough, Wild marks one of three 2014 films in which Reese Witherspoon steps in front of the camera for a Canadian director: the Atom Egoyan-helmed Devil’s Knot will hit theatres after premiering at TIFF this fall, while The Good Lie from Monsieur Lazhar director Philippe Falardeau is currently in post-production.
Dir. Lowell Dean
Starring: Leo Fafard, Amy Matysio
Release date: Spring 2014
A film about a crime-fighting werewolf would not make the list of movies I'm excited to see under most circumstances. WolfCop isn’t your usual film, though. It’s the result of the first real effort to use the online community and the power of social media to see the creation of a Canadian film through pre-production to release. WolfCop won the inaugural CineCoup Film Accelerator challenge last year, which essentially rallied filmmakers to conceive projects that would develop before the eyes of film-lovers who would then vote for their favourite film until the remaining project received a million dollars in financing and a guaranteed release through Cineplex. It seems fitting that this homage to B-movie filmmaking could lead Canadian independent cinema into a new life. WolfCop was just a batshit crazy enough idea to carry the spirit of independent filmmaking the distance from novelty to reality.
WolfCop could very well represent the future of filmmaking, as the CineCoup challenge built a ready-made audience for this Saskatchewan production. (Audiences, or perceived lack thereof, generally represent a big hurdle for Canadian films in the eyes of distributors and exhibitors.) Instead of following conventional crowd sourcing routes that ask filmgoers to finance the projects themselves and then cough up money again if and when the film is released, the CineCoup project let WolfCop emerge the victor because the demands of the audience worked in sync with the creative and practical efforts of the filmmaking process. Director Lowell Dean and the WolfCop team has continued to make WolfCop feel like everyone’s movie by keeping audiences abreast of production as the hairy detective keeps the social media impressions rolling on Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook long after he was crowned the CineCoup winner.
Add to this list the upcoming Malick films, Todd Haynes/Cate Blanchett/Rooney Mara film Carol, Lars Von Trier's five-hour full-porno Nymph( )maniac, the caught-in-distribution-limbo Snowpiercer, what-is-going-on-with-this-film Serena, the Marion Cotillard/Michael Fassbender Macbeth that is just beginning photography, and all the festival holdovers from 2013 and we might have something that resembles a full list.