10. The Hobbit: There and Back Again
Starring: Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Luke Evans, Ian McKellen
Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro
Release Date: December 17
After a much maligned first outing, The Hobbit's second installment was much, much better with more satisfying action and adventure. The last half an hour with Smaug was simply fantastic. Sure, it was long and a lot of it was fan service, but as a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings, I didn't mind. I don't think any Harry Potter fans would mind a 4 hour movie based on each book. So it comes as no surprise that the final chapter in this bloated trilogy lands in my top 10. I just get goosebumps when I hear the music and see Middle Earth. I can't explain the feeling - but I've been hooked since I was a kid. The third film is supposedly using extensive knowledge from the appendices (as MGM does not have the rights to the Tolkien's other Middle Earth books, The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales) to make a narrative thread to connect to the LOTR trilogy. While I'm going to be there once again opening weekend, I still feel The Hobbit could have reached the heights of the LOTR trilogy, but turning this 300 page book into three movies was not a good move. I can understand two movies - there is a lot of action and adventure, but three is just too much. I'm sure it's going to be fantastic with everything getting resolved, but I can't shake the feeling this novel would have been better served up in two movies.
Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Writers: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Release Date: April 4
What Marvel has done in the past 4 years with the Avengers franchise is nothing short of genius. They took a relatively unknown franchise with relatively unknown superheros (with the exception of maybe the Hulk) and have built it into a money-making machine. Practically no one knew who Tony Stark was 10 years ago, Thor was regulated to Norse mythology books and Captain America was considered camp to the max. Now with a full 8 (!) films in this franchise, the next installment with the Captain is set to lay the foundation for the next Avengers movie. Much like the first Captain America had the Tesseract, this new movie will provide a connective tissue to the next films. To say that I'm excited is an understatement. I've loved every Marvel film so far and they have all been good, if not great, films. The writing team behind the first Captain America is back and the Russo brothers, known mostly for the directing efforts on the small screen (including the fabulous show Community and Arrested Development) are in charge for this installment. And I can't wait to see what they can do with the material. The supporting cast they got is great, including Robert Redford as an senior leader in S.H.I.E.L.D. That says to me they're taking this shit seriously and I can't wait to see how his character develops during the movie (I'm pretty sure he's going to be a bad guy!). This movie may be opening at the beginning of April, but it's truly going to be a summer blockbuster level of movie.
8. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
Director: Francis Lawrence
Writer: Danny Strong
Release Date: November 21
Lionsgate has done a fantastic job of handling the Hunger Games franchise. The first movie was a very good adaptation of the book (it didn't hurt that the screenplay was written by the author, Suzanne Collins), but I think Catching Fire was even better (in fact, I would say the second book is my favorite out of the three so maybe I'm a bit biased). The action and drama was nonstop and they've pretty much nailed it with the cast. Jennifer Lawrence is Katniss Everdeen - she's absolutely perfect in that role. And the supporting cast is just as great (Jena Malone steals every scene she's in as the uptight Johanna Mason). But I think they're making a huge, huge mistake by splitting up the third book into two movies. Harry Potter set an ugly precedent. While I will say it was warranted with the Deathly Hallows (the book was huge and it was wrapping up plot threads from the previous six books), there's really not any reason to stretch out the third book. In fact, the first 100 or so pages are just plain boring and I hope they can find a better way of portraying the dullness of District 13 on screen than what was on the page. There's a new screenwriter this time around but Francis Lawrence is back in the director's chair for the final two movies. I'm excited to see Julianne Moore's portrayal of President Coin and how and where they'll split the movies. If Mockingjay was one whole movie, I'd probably have this in my top 5, but still, number 8 ain't so bad - I know I'm going to be lined up at midnight for this one!
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx
Director: Marc Webb
Writers: James Vanderbilt, Alex Kurtzman, Robert Orci, Jeff Pinkner
Release Date: May 2
The Amazing Spider-Man may have been premature, but I am coming around to thinking this may have been the best possible move Sony could have made. The first film was a fun and much more serious version of Spider-Man. While I still love the original Sam Raimi trilogy, The Amazing Spider-Man certainly throws away most of the campy, cheesy dialogue and attitude with a more grounded and gritty take. Which is fine - I haven't gotten sick of this "darker" take on comic books and films. It's made for some interesting character development and metaphors to the real world. And it sounds like the sequel is ratcheting things up while uncovering more of the mystery surrounding Peter Parker's dad and Oscorp. Jamie Foxx is playing Electro - a man who idolizes Spider-Man, but finds himself super-fied when he has an accident at Oscorp with electric eels. And Paul Giamatti is the Rhino - a Russian mobster who puts on a mechanical suit that resembles a rhino. And then there's Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn - it seems like we're going to get the origin of the Green Goblin as well. If it seems like the second movie is throwing the everything and the kitchen sink into this movie, well they're just pulling an Avengers-type move. Sony just announced two more Spider-Man movies after this one, on top of a Venom movie (which he totally deserves his own movie) and a Sinister Six movie (of which Electro is a part of ). Which is awesome! I can't wait to see how they tie all these movies together - I would think the Sinister Six movie would be similar to The Avengers - which I'm guessing Venom and the third Spider-Man installment would lead into The Sinister Six movie. And thank god for Sony for not putting on some vague subtitle for the sequel. As much as a love the Avengers movies, Thor would have been fine being called Thor 2 and Captain America 2 would be fine as well. If it's good enough for Iron Man, it's good enough for anybody!
Starring: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum
Director: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Writers: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Release Date: July 18
After a brief hiatus following the abysmal Speed Racer, the Wachowski siblings are back in form. Their fantastic adaptation of Cloud Atlas was simply breathtaking and was one of the best films from 2012. So no doubt am I PUMPED for another science fiction outing from these two talented writer/directors. Mila Kunis plays Jupiter Jones, a Russian immigrant who cleans toilets for a living, and her unlikely encounter with a intergalactic (no joke!) bounty hunter played by Channing Tatum. Apparently he was sent to kill her by the Queen of the Universe (seriously, that's her name - no joke!), but instead falls in love (sounds like a certain fairy tale...). Despite the cheesy names and fairly transparent plot line, I have no doubt this is going to be a fantastic movie. I'll take the Wachowski's version of Snow White any day over some half-baked action movie with bullets flying everywhere. Plus you have Sean Bean! You can't go wrong with Sean Bean, folks! Also, Terry Gilliam is in this movie which to me solidifies this as a must see. If you don't know who I'm talking about, go and watch 12 Monkeys and let me know how awesome I've made your life now that you've seen that movie. I hope for lots of success, because the Wachowskis need it - their last two movies have been fairly big-budget box office bombs. They are a wonderfully unique voice in Hollywood and deserve more credit than they've been given lately.