There are more movies released in a single season, let alone a calendar year, than any one person knows what to do with. While the fall offers a good mix of prestige pictures and indie darlings that everyone can get excited for, the summer is graded mostly on the intrigue of the summer’s loudest, most saturated commercial exploits.
But in a year when most people are more excited for the next Avengers, Superman and Star Wars in 2015 than yet another Spiderman, X-Men and Transformers, wouldn’t this summer be better served playing the field?
Confirming what’s already known about movies that are everywhere gets exhausting each few months. So while my watch list hasn’t shrunk by much, the comprehensive preview for 2014 has.
The Double – May 9
The British comedian Richard Ayoade’s “Submarine” was a bit too much of a “400 Blows” pastiche, but he did manage to show wonderful stylistic promise. In “The Double,” he follows up that knack with a dark comedy reminiscent of Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil.” It’s based on a Dostoevsky short story and features a dual performance by Jesse Eisenberg, one as a timid, nebbish office drone and the other as his confident, twisted (and possibly imaginary?) doppelganger.
Chef – May 9
It’ll be nice to see Jon Favreau step back from the action/sci-fi stuff for a while and give a taste to a small character comedy like “Chef”. Favreau stars as a chef who quits his kitchen job and goes to work for himself in the back of a food truck. The secret sauce of course is his big cast including Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Bobby Cannavale, John Leguizamo and Sofia Vergara.
Tracks – May 23
John Curran’s film is a true story about a young woman (Mia Wasikowska) determined to travel across the Australian desert with four camels. The film stars Adam Driver of “Girls” as her love interest and looks like an absolutely sumptuous adventure.
Night Moves – May 30
Here’s Jesse Eisenberg’s second (or third) appearance on this list. Kelly Reichardt makes slow, slow films (“Meek’s Cutoff,” “Wendy and Lucy”) but with this thriller about eco-terrorists trying to blow up the Hoover Dam, I can only expect that this film’s slow simmer will really boil over. Reichardt’s film also stars Dakota Fanning, Alia Shawkat and Peter Sarsgaard.
The Fault in Our Stars – June 6
Shailene Woodley may be going the full on J-Law route to stardom (tiny indie, blockbuster YA novel, mid-scale indie with Oscar potential), but “The Fault in Our Stars” looks lovely in a sardonic, acerbic way. It’s about two teen lovers who meet in a cancer ward and is based on John Green’s acclaimed novel I won’t finish reading before it comes out.
Begin Again – July 4
“Begin Again,” formerly titled “A Song Can Save Your Life,” is the follow-up of bassist turned filmmaker John Carney, the Irishman who gave us the beloved and tender musical “Once.” It stars Mark Ruffalo as an out-of-work record producer who works with a fresh singer (Keira Knightley) after she’s dumped by her rock star boyfriend (Adam Levine).
Boyhood – July 11
Believe the hyperbole; Richard Linklater cast a 6-year-old boy and filmed a story over 12 years, and it’s said to be every bit as groundbreaking and moving as you would imagine. After “Before Midnight,” this was the second Linklater vehicle in two years that took Sundance by storm, and it gives us the privilege of maturing along with Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette and newcomer Ellar Coltrane.
Life Itself – July 11
Roger Ebert passed away on April 4, 2013, and while Steve James’s documentary is a touching tribute regardless, the real shock is seeing the famous film critic in his final moments. Having seen the film as part of its Indiegogo release, I cried then just like I did on April 4. James, the documentarian behind “Hoop Dreams” and “The Interrupters,” captures the shaded nuance of Ebert and the Chicago he left an imprint on, but its likewise a film about criticism, friendships and as the title suggests, life itself. (My 4-star review will be released prior to release)
Land Ho! – July 11
One of this year’s more under-the-radar Sundance gems is “Land Ho!” a road-trip comedy set in Iceland between two elderly men who were once brothers in law. The men are polar opposites, one soft-spoken and the other brash and vulgar. Indiewire critic Eric Kohn calls it a “gentle meditation on growing old and bored.” It’s not quite “Neighbors,” but it should be an indie summer treat.
I Origins – July 18
Mike Cahill’s “Another Earth” is an underrated sci-fi classic, melodramatic and overtly parabolic, but it completely earns its broad strokes. That proved to be an excellent pairing between Cahill and actress/writer Brit Marling. She’s the co-star in “I Origins,” another sci-fi about a biologist (“Boardwalk Empire’s” Michael Pitt) trying to trace his deceased wife’s spirit by studying the pattern of human eyes.
Mood Indigo – July 18
Michel Gondry has never really found the same magic he once did with “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” but now he’s returned to his native France for a fantastical comedy and romance. Audrey Tautou is playing a very “Amelie” like role as a woman suffering from an unusual illness. The film also stars the French comedian Gad Elmaleh and Omar Sy of “The Intouchables.”
A Most Wanted Man – July 25
“A Most Wanted Man” will forever be famous as the last movie of Philip Seymour Hoffman, but Anton Corbijn is on his way to becoming a true auteur. His last film was the polarizing “The American,” and he’s back again with a spy thriller based on a John Le Carre (“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”) novel. Hoffman plays a German spy using a volatile and mysterious Islamic immigrant to nail a bigger fish.
The Two Faces of January – August 8
Oscar Isaac found his breakout role last year in “Inside Llewyn Davis,” and this is the year he becomes a real movie star. The first of several films he stars in this year is “The Two Faces of January,” a debut film by the writer of “Drive” (also featuring Isaac), Hossein Amini. Isaac plays an American tour guide smitten with the wife (Kirsten Dunst) of a wealthy American con man (Viggo Mortensen) on the run from mobsters. The thriller is also based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith (“The Talented Mr. Ripley,” “Strangers on a Train”).
Love is Strange – August 22
Only shy of “Boyhood” as the most acclaimed festival darling of the new year, “Love is Strange” showcases the fascinating pairing of John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a gay couple in New York forced to live apart. It comes from Ira Sachs, who broke onto the scene with 2012’s gay romance “Keep the Lights On.”
Frank – August 22
Michael Fassbender’s big starring role this year is in “X-Men,” but his “biggest” role is under a ceramic, cartoon head in the screwy Sundance comedy “Frank.” While it starts as a high concept of the mysterious Frank as the leader of a rock band, it deepens as a character study about mental illness, art and psychology.
25 Other Movies I’m excited for
Neighbors – May 9
Nicholas Stoller’s R-rated SXSW smash starring Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne and Zac Efron’s abs.
The Immigrant – May 16
2013 Cannes entry by James Gray starring Marion Cotillard as a 1920s American immigrant turned prostitute for caretaker Joaquin Phoenix.
The Angriest Man in Brooklyn – May 23
Robin Williams plays a volatile, loose cannon New Yorker told (falsely) he has just 90 minutes to live.
Obvious Child – June 6
An arrested development indie rom-com about a 20-something hipster played by SNL and “Parks and Rec” vet Jenny Slate.
Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon – June 6
A documentary directed by Mike Myers about legendary Hollywood Jewish music producer Shep Gordon.
Borgman – June 6
A twisted, psychological thriller out of Cannes 2013 and the Netherlands.
The Rover – June 13
Cannes 2014 entry and crime movie follow-up to David Michod’s 2011 sleeper gem “Animal Kingdom”.
22 Jump Street – June 13
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum team up again after the surprise TV spinoff “21 Jump Street.” Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are on a roll after “The Lego Movie” too.
Venus in Fur – June 20
Emmanuelle Singer and Mathieu Amalric star in another Roman Polanski play adaptation (following “Carnage”) with a meta twist of a play inside a play.
Third Person – June 20
Another film of interlocking stories by “Crash” director Paul Haggis, starring Mila Kunis, James Franco, Liam Neeson and Olivia Wilde.
Jersey Boys – June 20
Clint Eastwood directs the adaptation of the popular stage musical on the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
Snowpiercer – June 27
A much-delayed sci-fi by cult Korean director Joon-ho Bong. Stars Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton.
They Came Together – June 27
Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler pair up in David Wain’s rom-com satire of romantic comedies.
Wish I Was Here – July 18
Zach Braff’s Kickstarter movie and very much a follow-up to “Garden State,” but probably better than most haters will give it credit for.
Happy Christmas – July 25
A short and sweet Joe Swanberg comedy starring Anna Kendrick and Lena Dunham.
Magic in the Moonlight – July 25
Following “Blue Jasmine,” Woody Allen returns to comedy with stars Emma Stone and Colin Firth.
Very Good Girls – July 25
Friends Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen both vow to lose their virginity, but end up falling for the same man. A drama by first time director Naomi Foner.
Calvary – August 1
From John McDonagh, brother to “In Bruges” filmmaker Martin, “Calvary” reteams McDonagh with Brendan Gleeson (“The Guard”) as a priest.
What If – August 1
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan are just friends in the millennial romantic comedy by Michael Dowse.
Child of God – August 1
Yet another James Franco project, “Child of God” is a Cormac McCarthy adaptation starring Tim Blake Nelson and newcomer Scott Haze.
Life After Beth – August 15
Dane DeHaan deals with the death of his girlfriend (Aubrey Plaza) and vows to be better when she suddenly rises from the dead.
The Trip to Italy – August 15
More food porn and Michael Caine impressions! The sequel to the formless but hilarious “The Trip” with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.
The Congress – August 29
Ari Folman’s animated, sci-fi follow-up to the acclaimed biography “Waltz with Bashir.”
10 that could be good
Maleficent – May 30
How to Train Your Dragon 2 – June 13
The Signal – June 13
A Long Way Down – July 11
The Purge: Anarchy – July 18
Jupiter Ascending – July 18
Sex Tape – July 25
Lucy – August 8
The Giver – August 15
Jane Got a Gun – August 29
10 that are just whatever
The Amazing Spider-Man – May 2
Godzilla – May 16
Million Dollar Arm – May 16
X-Men: Days of Future Past – May 23
A Million Ways to Die in the West – May 30
Edge of Tomorrow – June 6
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – July 11
Get on Up – August 1
Guardians of the Galaxy – August 1
Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For – August 22