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Some good reasons to hit the multiplex this year

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Movies, like newspapers, are not dead yet.

In fact, 2013 was a decent year for Hollywood, with close to $11 billion in grosses, which qualifies as a record high.

The platforms may be evolving -- all-digital cinemas, downloads, 4K ultra-high-definition discs -- but the studios are still cashing in.

While 2014 may offer the usual inexplicable money-spinners (Transformers: Age of Extinction opens June 27), the year should yield a few good reasons to venture out to the multiplex. For example...


1. Homegrown product

Cry/Fly, the Manitoba-lensed drama starring Jennifer Connelly and Cillian Murphy, changed its awful title to Aloft and will screen at this year's Berlin Film Festival in February, so an art-house release should be in the cards. Hitting theatres with full studio support is Heaven Is for Real (April 16) starring Greg Kinnear as a minister who believes his young son visited heaven after a near-death experience. (Watch for a healthy number of local actors, including Jon Ted Wynne, Darcy Fehr and Nancy Sorel in supporting roles.) The locally shot thriller Reasonable Doubt stars Samuel L. Jackson and Dominic Cooper as, respectively, a killer and a district attorney playing a game of cat-and-mouse after the DA commits an act of hit-and-run. It opens Jan. 17 in a few North American markets and will likely go to video-on-demand soon after.

Keep an eye out for the shot-in-Churchill family drama Midnight Sun, directed by Roger Spottiswoode (Tomorrow Never Dies), about a young boy's efforts to save a polar bear cub. Strings is a dance-drama starring Josh Duhamel and Laura Dern. Last but not least, those lo-fi wizards of retro film collective Astron-6 are still at work on their lurid giallo-thriller pastiche The Editor, but director Adam Brooks promises a 2014 release.


2. Holiday movies arriving late

Some big Oscar-bait dramas opened in larger cities at Christmas but open in Winnipeg this month, including the star-spangled August: Osage County, starring Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Benedict Cumberbatch, among others. It opens Jan. 10. Spike Jonze's oddball romance Her (Jan. 10) stars Joaquin Phoenix as a man who falls in love with his handheld device. Originally scheduled for a Christmas release, the reality-based art nerds-go-to-war story The Monuments Men, starring George Clooney, Matt Damon and Bill Murray, opens Feb. 7.


3. Intriguing Reboots

There are more good Jack Ryan adaptations (The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger) than bad (The Sum of All Fears), so there is reason to hope for the best with the upcoming reboot Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit (Jan. 17), starring Chris Pine and Kenneth Branagh. A PG-13 rated RoboCop (Feb. 12) certainly won't match the impact of Paul Verhoeven's great take-no-prisoners original, but we're still willing to suspend judgment, given a cool supporting cast including Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Jackie Earle Haley, Samuel L. Jackson and Jay Baruchel. After wrapping the series Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston lends his thespian credentials to the monster reboot Godzilla (May 16), also starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen and the giant reptile.


4. Auteur, Auteur

Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel (March 7) is the -- we're guessing -- droll story of a European hotel between the world wars with Anderson newcomer Ralph Fiennes among the usual Anderson suspects (Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman). Nymphomaniac, Lars Von Trier's sexually explicit provocation about a woman with some sexual issues, releases March 21 (Part 1) and April 18 (Part 2).

Versatile director Clint Eastwood changes it up once again with... a musical, specifically an adaptation of the Broadway hit Jersey Boys (June 20), the back story of the pop group the Four Seasons.

Co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller return to graphic noir with Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (Aug. 22) -- a veritable homecoming for Sin City cast members Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis and Rosario Dawson.


5. Spectacular Spectacular

Couple a volcano disaster movie with a swords-and-sandals period piece and you get Pompeii (Feb. 21), directed by genre geek Paul W.S. Anderson. Combine swords-and-sandals historical melodrama with Sin City and you get the graphic novel-like 300: Rise of an Empire (March 7) with Eva Green as a particularly fatal femme/warrior. Edge of Tomorrow (June 6) once again pits Tom Cruise against aliens, except Cruise's character is caught in a time loop and rises up to fight anew every time he gets killed, in a plot twist reminiscent of the 2011 thriller Source Code.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (July 11) continues the re-invigorated Ape franchise with Andy Serkis reprising his role as simian revolutionary Caesar.

A couple of unlikely directors offer up duelling biblical epics: Darren Aranofsky gives us Russell Crowe as Noah (March 28) and Ridley Scott casts Christian Bale as Moses in Exodus (Dec. 12). Peter Jackson, meanwhile, wraps up the gospel according to Tolkien with The Hobbit: There and Back Again (Dec. 17).


6. Action, Jackson

As a U.S. air marshall, Liam Neeson has a particular set of skills that do not prevent his becoming Suspect No. 1 when people on a trans-Atlantic flight start dying violently in Non-Stop (Feb. 28).

The Raid 2 (March 28) begins two hours after the violent 2012 hit The Raid ended. If it delivers anywhere near the same martial arts mayhem, we're good.

In a new spin on the old Edward Woodward TV series, Denzel Washington plays a retired operative who employs his talents for good in The Equalizer (Sept. 26).


7. For the Kids

Muppets Most Wanted (March 21) sees Kermit the Frog framed by an evil Russian look-alike in an adventure co-starring Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais and Ty Burrell.

The Sleeping Beauty story gets a live-action spin with emphasis on the story's villainess, played by Angelina Jolie, in Maleficent (May 30).

The Boxtrolls (Sept 26) is the story of cute little entities who wear boxes for clothing and shelter in a stop-motion animated epic from the people who gave you ParaNorman.


8. It's a Marvel Universe. We just live in it.

The No. 1 box-office hit of 2013 was Iron Man 3, so it should come as no surprise that 2013 will see the release of five new Marvel movies. First on the roster is the sequel Captain America: The Winter Soldier (April 4) with Robert Redford joining Cap (Chris Evans), Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johannsson). Amazing Spider-Man 2 (May 2) pits Andrew Garfield's rebooted Spidey against no fewer than three villains: Electro (Jamie Foxx); the Rhino (Paul Giamatti); and a rebooted Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan). X-Men Days of Future Past (May 23) brings director Bryan Singer back to the franchise, along with a mysteriously revived Prof. X (Patrick Stewart). Guardians of the Galaxy (Aug. 1) stars Chris Pratt as a pilot obliged to unite a diverse band of aliens against various threats to the universe, whose members include a raccoon (Bradley Cooper). In Big Hero Six (Nov. 7), Disney Animation offers its own anime-flavoured spin to a Marvel property about six superheroes drafted by the government to protect the world.


9. Original movies

Yes, there is occasionally a non-franchise movie that comes out, such as the sci-fi thriller Transcendence (April 18), starring Johnny Depp as a scientist whose experiments with artificial intelligence take an unexpected turn.

The Judge (Oct. 10) stars Robert Downey Jr. as a lawyer who returns to his hometown for his mom's funeral and confront the man (Robert Duvall) who is the prime suspect in her murder -- his father.

Into the Woods (Dec. 25) is a star-studded adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's fairy-tale musical with Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Anna Kendrick, and Tracy Ullman, among others.


10. We could use some laughs

In 2012, Seth MacFarlane scored some legit chuckles with a bawdy teddy bear in Ted and this year, doubles down on the risk-taking by starring in and directing a western in A Million Ways to Die in the West (May 30). Trailer Park Boys: Don't Legalize It (April 18) sees Canuck degenerates Ricky, Julian and Bubbles on a mission to prevent pot legalization, as it would cut into Ricky's marijuana profiteering.

Sex Tape (July 25) stars Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz as a couple tracking down a missing sex tape they made to spice up their marriage.

Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels reunite for another stupidity-enhanced road trip in Dumb and Dumber To (Nov. 14), in what we hope will be a return to form for the filmmaking Farrelly brothers.

Horrible Bosses 2 (Nov. 26) posits Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day contending with yet another series of awful administrators by whatever means necessary.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 2, 2014 C1


Updated on Thursday, January 2, 2014 at 6:38 AM CST: Replaces photo, changes headline

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