The Most Exciting Movie News Of 2014

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2014 was another eventful year, but aside from the spread of Ebola, fears over ISIS and the usual World Cup disappointment, it was also pretty big for movies. We’ve rounded up some of our favourite stories...

DC V Marvel: Dawn Of The Release Date Announcements

Between them, comic-book powerhouses-turned-cinematic stalwarts DC Comics and Marvel now have plans to fill movie screens with superheroes roughly every week between now and the Big Crunch. Admittedly, it’s not quite that many, but you do tend to get the feeling that it might reach that point. Both companies – via their Warner Bros. or Disney partners – put out ambitious big schedules that run as far as 2020, with Marvel plotting from the firm ground of established characters and new surprises, and DC looking to expand their own Justice League universe. There were some surprises to be found – DC is finally giving Wonder Woman her own film, but Cyborg (to be portrayed in Batman V Superman Colon Dawn Of Justice by Ray Fisher), seems like a strange choice for a solo outing. And the company’s latest move? A starry cast for Suicide Squad that includes Will Smith, Tom Hardy, Jared Leto, Jai Courtney and Margot Robbie as villains on a mission for the government. David Ayer’s in charge of that mob, and it’ll be out in 2016.

What’s next? Could we be reaching peak superhero? Will there come a point when audiences tire of masked crusaders battling over glowing McGuffins or villains plotting to lay waste to whole cities? It’s been posited before and hasn’t come to pass yet, but we’ve reached a truly crucial point in the development of comic-book characters as movie fodder.

Star Wars: The Bandwagon Rolls On

In 2013 we got the news that J.J. Abrams would be directing the new, seventh dispatch from that galaxy far, far away. This year brought enough news copy to bed down a Wampa. As production geared up on the film and even Abrams’ usually tight ship began to spring more leaks than Bothan spies could die to locate, the director and his team announced the cast for the movie, with franchise newcomers such as Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Gwendoline Christie, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Max von Sydow, Lupita Nyong’o and more joining old hands Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Kenny Baker for what we would later learn is called The Force Awakens.

All seemed to be going well until Ford had an unfortunate encounter with a door on the Millennium Falcon, leaving him with a broken leg. With shooting schedules quickly re-juggled, things continued largely in secrecy. And the end of November brought the first teaser. You know the one: you’ve probably watched it a few times already.

What’s next? We keep waiting, essentially: The Force Awakens isn’t due until December 18, 2015, with the full trailer now rumoured to be attached to Avengers: Age Of Ultron next April. Then there are the spin-offs, which are still largely veiled in secrecy with Gareth Edwards and Gary Whitta making one film for 2016 and Josh Trank set to make another. Rian Johnson, meanwhile, is reportedly aboard for Episodes VIII and IX.

12 Years A Slave Scores At The Oscars

Though American Hustle had been an early favourite, other films crept up to steal its limelight at this year’s big Hollywood gong show. 12 Years A Slave took home Best Picture, with Lupita Nyong’o winning Best Supporting Actress. The actor categories were dominated by Matthew McConaughey and his Dallas Buyers Club co-star Jared Leto, which was no big surprise since the pair had been sweeping awards ceremonies previously. Gravity was the big winner in terms of overall haul, as Alfonso Cuarón won Best Director and the orbital drama took home Original Score, Cinematography, Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and the well-deserved Visual Effects trophy. Other winners? Frozen predictably nabbed Best Animated Film with ‘Let It Go’ warbling off with Best Original Song, and one of the night’s bigger surprises – apart from John Travolta’s pronounciation of Idina Menzel’s name – saw Spike Jonze winning Best Original Screenplay for Her.

What’s next? This year’s Oscar race is already looking competitive, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne being talked about for The Imitation Game and The Theory Of Everything. Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is already picking up trophies and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman is also a likely candidate in more than one category. All Is Lost director J.C. Chandor’s latest, A Most Violent Year is a distinct possibility and Foxcatcher is drawing real chatter. As for actresses? Expect Felicity Jones, Julianne Moore and Reese Witherspoon’s names to come up.

Its official title had us wondering whether the best way to pronounce it might be via Borat-speak – “Terminalator Jeans-eye-sis” anyone? – and the latest incarnation of the long-running cyborg franchise had fans scratching their heads and dictionary aficionados reaching for their pitchforks. And then came the first images, with the cast including Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Jason Clarke and Matt Smith hate-gurning while firing big runs. Even more controversial was the news that the plot will play with time and reality, introducing a twist on the tale with a new version of Sarah Connor raised by an Arnie-style T-800 and denying her destiny. It’s either going to be the smartest move forward for the franchise in ages or go down as a giant laughing stock. We’re hoping for the former.

What’s next? The film itself arrives on July 3, and we’ll find out if it all works. Paramount is clearly thinking it might have something here: sequels are planned for 2017 and 2018, with a back-to-back shoot on the cards. The studio may wait to see whether the first film performs before truly flashing the green light, but the commitment is clear.

X-Men: Days Of Future Past Sparks Rogue-Gate

By all measures, X-Men: Days Of Future Past was a huge success for Bryan Singer and the mutant crew. It was the biggest worldwide box-office hit of the series and just about managed to weave together the First Class cast’s storyline and the classic actors without making everyone’s brain melt through time-travel paradoxes. It was funny, it was action-packed and it was even, at times, moving. One vocal group that was more moved to complain however, were fans of Anna Paquin’s Rogue. The power-leeching character was largely cut from the film. Explained writer/producer Simon Kinberg of the excision: “We felt like it was taking tension out of the main story drive." She still appears, but only briefly, at the end as – SPOILER ALERT – Wolverine creates a new timeline where Jean Grey and Cyclops survive and Iceman and Rogue are seen happy together at Professor Xavier's (Patrick Stewart) school.

What’s next? Fear not, Rogue squadron... As promised by Singer when the controversy flared up, the character will get her due in a new cut of the film set to hit Blu-ray/DVD in 2015.

Guardians Of The Galaxy

What many predicted might be Marvel’s folly turned out to be one of the company’s big success stories. Directed by James Gunn and featuring a star-making turn from Chris Pratt as cocky half-human rogue Peter Quill, the film was a smash from its first weekend at box offices around the world. All that ‘kerchinging’ propelled it to the top of the 2014 earnings charts for US box office, with $331.8 million grossed domestically and more than $771 million around the world. Partly the success was due to breakout characters such as Groot, whose – SPOILER ALERT – death and re-sprouting as a dancing baby version by the time the credits rolled made him one of the great and certainly the leafiest hero of the year, Rocket Raccoon, voiced to cranky perfection by Bradley Cooper, and Dave Bautista’s Drax, who made a habit of taking things literally.

What’s next? Gunn is already busy writing the sequel, which Marvel recently confirmed would now appear in April 2017 (in the UK, at least). Nothing official has been released about the film yet besides that date, but given what is talked about at the end of the first film, expect to see more about Peter Quill’s half-alien heritage. And since he’s a key component in the movie’s mythos, Josh Brolin’s Thanos will probably crop up to help lead into Avengers: Infinity War, due in 2018 and 2019.

Ghostbusters Goes Female With Feig

It’s been in development seemingly since about five minutes since the credits rolled on Ghostbusters 2, with all manner of high concepts pitched and casting rumours floated. Will a portal to hell open up? Could the torch be passed to a new younger, generation of ‘busters from the Judd Apatow comic stable? Might Bill Murray actually bother to read a script? But the Apatow chatter was actually closer to what happened as his old Freaks And Geeks collaborator Paul Feig signed on to co-write (with Heat scribe Katie Dippold) and direct a new take on the spook-hunting franchise with a female team. There were predictably dull complaints about this idea, but if you’re going to do anything with Ghostbusters, you might as well do something fresh.

What’s next? Feig and Dippold are busy with the script now, even as Feig works on his latest film the Melissa McCarthy espionage comedy thriller Spy. Expect casting announcements to start arriving next year, and hopefully a prime crop of established and lesser-known women from the world of comedy in the ensemble.

The Lego Movie Spawns A Surprise Franchise

We were already taken with the trailers, which laid the head-eggs for the future earworm that was 'Everything Is Awesome' and were full of the film’s fizzy, pun-a-second style. But we didn’t expect it to be quite so big. With a worldwide haul of more than $468 million, the film quickly spawned a sequel. Yet that was only part of the story. As writer-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller themselves told our podcast team recently, the film has helped spur the creation, via Warner Bros.’ animation brain trust, of The Bricksburg Chamber Of Commerce, which will oversee both the sequel and the other spin-offs. Lego might have long since conquered the toy market, and generated videos, but this was the blocks becoming a blockbuster factory-in-waiting.

What’s next? Ninjago, based on the martial arts Lego toy sets is next off the movie assembly line, with Charlie Bean directing and Lord and Miller producing. Then, leapfrogging the Lego Movie sequel is a standalone film featuring one of the first movie’s breakouts, Batman. Voiced once again by Will Arnett, and directed by Lego’s animation overseer/editor Chris McKay, it’ll arrive in 2017, with The Lego Movie 2 pencilled in for 2018.

Universal Corrals Its Classic Monsters

Looking with envious eyes at the shared universes built or under construction over at Disney/Marvel and Warner Bros./DC, Universal hatched a plan for its own combined set of franchise films this year. Long wanting to tap the deep well that is its classic monster titles, the studio assigned Star Trek/Transformers veteran Alex Kurtzman and Fast & Furious script merchant Chris Morgan to oversee the development of these linked films. In turn, they have hired the likes of Prisoners writer Aaron Guzikowski and Fargo TV man Noah Hawley to work on the movies with them. Kurtzman is already at work on another version of The Mummy, due in 2016, while Guzikowski has been assigned to develop The Wolfman, which may end up filling a recently announced 2017 slot. Quite how (or even if) they’ll all end up together – an Avengers-style team-up film? – remains a mystery.

What’s next? Universal has plenty of characters to play with – Frankenstein’s Monster, his bride, The Invisible Man, The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, The Creature From The Black Lagoon, The Rock’s Pectoral Muscles (maybe not the last one), so expect plenty of feverish development. But as James Gunn recently pointed out, putting the cart before the horse on this concept can be dangerous, especially when the initial films don’t perform as they might, something Sony is seemingly discovering with its Spider-Man franchise.

Steven Spielberg’s Giant Plan

Roald Dahl’s beloved Big Friendly Giant has already been adapted once for the screen, in a Cosgrove Hall animated version for Thames TV back in 1989. Then, David Jason was the voice of the titular tall bloke, but Hollywood has had other ideas. You might have read in our recent Peter Jackson guest-edited issue that the Hobbit filmmaker was courted to make his version years ago, but since then Steven Spielberg has decided to tackle it in one of his occasional work spurts (he’s currently shooting a Cold War thriller with Tom Hanks). And to voice (plus, potentially, performance-capture) the central creature? Spielberg has picked stage veteran Mark Rylance, whose work he has loved in the theatre and who is working with the director right now. Not much else is known yet, though E.T.’s Melissa Mathison has written the script, which will once more see the giant helping a little girl named Sophie stop his fellow beasts devouring human children. Snozzcumbers all round!

What’s next? Spielberg will start work on the film next year, probably even as he edits that Hanks film, much as he did with Schindler’s List/Jurassic Park. Disney is distributing this one, and it has a UK release date of July 22, 2016.

As part of its big Phase Three announcement – which studio boss Kevin Feige admitted he wanted to have prepared for Comic-Con, but settled for an event in Los Angeles in October – Marvel started to answer one of its big criticisms, the lack of diversity in its leading heroic stable. Chadwick Boseman, who had impressed in 42 and the more recent Get On Up, strode on stage to join Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans to announce that he’d be playing T’Challa, the African prince who becomes a hero as part of his royal family’s legacy in the nation of Wakanda. And while he is getting his own film – set for November 2017 – we’ll actually meet the man in Captain America: Civil War, due in April 2016. The Panther wasn’t alone, either – Captain Marvel, AKA Carol Danvers will make her debut in 2018.

What’s next? With Boseman in place as Panther, the big question is who will play Captain Marvel? Names such as Katee Sackhoff have been floated but nothing is official yet. “This film has been in the works almost as long as Doctor Strange or Guardians Of The Galaxy, and one of the key things was figuring out what we wanted to do with it,” says Feige. “Her adventures are very Earthbound, but her powers are based in the cosmic realm.”

Dad's Army Film

Admittedly, we were intrigued by the idea from the start, even as the negative reactions spread across the net. And yes, we can completely understand the concern about turning a comfy TV classic into a film – many a prime concept has been ruined by shoddy cine-handling. With its comedy portrayal of the Home Guard during World War II, Dad’s Army has long since settled into its role as a teatime repeats regular, with signature gags and beloved characters. Easy to mess up, right? But then came the cast list, with Toby Jones filling the great Arthur Lowe’s role as uptight Captain Mainwaring, Bill Nighy perfectly cast as the laidback Sergeant Wilson, Tom Courtney as veteran Corporal Jones, Michael Gambon as the elderly Godfrey, The Inbetweeners’ Blake Harrison as the nervy Pike, Danny Mays as shady spiv Walker and Bill Paterson as nervy Scot Fraser. Add in Catherine Zeta-Jones, Sarah Lancashire, Alison Steadman and Mark Gatiss and you have quite the ensemble.

What’s next? The first pictures of the cast in costume gave us more reasons to be cheerful, but the first real test will be the trailer, when we see them actually embodying the characters. We’re still waiting to learn when it will actually mobilise on to screens, but mid-2015 is the target.

Ant-Man’s Creative Scramble

It wasn’t all box-office success and big-slate announcements for Marvel this year – Ant-Man proved more of a challenge than some of the villains in its roster. It had all been going so swimmingly, too – fan-favourite Edgar Wright, veteran of the Cornetto Trilogy and confirmed Marvel aficionado, had been working on the script for more than seven years, co-drafting it with Joe Cornish and constantly saying how excited he was to get started. A shoot was set for August, and the cast was filled with the likes of Michael Douglas (as suit inventor Hank Pym), Paul Rudd (as Scott Lang, the thief he recruits for a mission) and Evangeline Lilly (as Hope Van Dyne, Pym’s daughter). Then, suddenly, Wright pulled the eject cord, frustrated by script changes from within Marvel. Thus began a fevered hunt to find a new director, with Peyton Reed the surprising choice and further script work from Anchorman’s Adam McKay, Gabriel Ferrari and Andrew Barrer. The shoot happened as planned, and the film is still set to arrive here on July 17.

What’s next? Marvel held a quick, low-key presentation at Comic-Con with Reed and some of the cast, and showed off more early effects test footage, hoping to allay fears. But forget the Guardians’ gamble: this could be a real test of the company’s ability to beat the odds.

The Hateful Eight: From Leak To Second Life

It’s been an eventful year for Quentin Tarantino’s latest project. Finally confirmed last November, the violent Western hit a serious roadblock when the director announced the script had leaked and he was therefore cancelling plans to make it. But after deciding to host a live reading of the work-in-progress draft with the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, Amber Tamblyn, Walton Goggins, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, James Parks, Denis Ménochet, Dana Gourrier and Zoe Bell lending their acting talents, he was convinced it could still work. A teaser sprang up attached to Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City sequel and Empire’s own pages were graced with a poster. QT is gearing up to shoot in snowy Colorado starting early next year. The story of two bounty hunters, a tough female prisoner and a local sheriff waiting out a brutal winter storm and encountering serious resistance is back on track.

What’s next? QT has rounded up most of the final cast, which includes Jackson, Russell, Tim Roth, Madsen, Goggins and Ménochet plus Jennifer Jason Leigh, Demian Bichir and Channing Tatum, with Dern, Bell, Parks, Gourrier and James Remar expected to sign on. The stagecoach is due in our cinemas later next year. There will be blood. Lots of blood.

Bond 24: A SPECTRE Calls

After last year’s drama over whether Sam Mendes would direct the 24th outing for 007, 2014 was much quieter on the Bond front. The usual rumours flew about potential villains and co-stars, and then there came the more official news that scripting veterans Neal Purvis and Robert Wade had been drafted in to rewrite John Logan’s screenplay for the new film. Finally, as the year came to a close and the hints about elements for the movie grew to fever pitch, we got an announcement: the new Bond adventure is called SPECTRE, named for the iconic organisation that once caused trouble for Sean Connery and Roger Moore back in the day. Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw and Rory Kinnear are back as M, Moneypenny, Q and Tanner respectively, with new arrivals including Christoph Waltz (as a character named Oberhauser, who everyone is already assuming will turn out to be stalwart Bond villain Blofeld), Monica Bellucci, Lea Seydoux, Guardians Of The Galaxy’s Dave Bautista and Sherlock’s Andrew Scott. Intriguingly, Jesper Christensen, Mr. White in Casino Royale and Quantum Of Solace, is also aboard. Will Quantum be back to muddy the waters? (Or at least increase the cost of drinking them.)

What’s next? Mendes is already hard at work shooting the film, with Interstellar cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema replacing Roger Deakins and a brand new, specially-created Aston Martin DB10. Cameras will roll at Pinewood Studios and on location in London, Mexico City, Rome, Tangier and Erfoud, in Morocco plus colder climes Sölden, Obertilliach, and Lake Altaussee in Austria. The film is scheduled to arrive in the UK on October 23 next year. We’ve been expecting you, Mr. Bond.