For some, it's the talent behind or in front of the camera. For others, it's the sheer singular weirdness of their concepts. You'll get to the individual reasons below in our latest Rogue 10:
10 POTENTIAL GEMS OF 2014:
With their directorial debut This is the End, longtime writing partners Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg made a remarkably anarchic high-concept comedy that made great use of its ensemble and even smuggled a bit of heart in amidst demon phalluses and freewheeling funniness. Their sophomore directorial feature, The Interview, stars James Franco and Rogen as a talk show host and his producer who inadvertently end up in a plot to assassinate the prime minister of North Korea. The concept is absurd in just the right way, providing a backdrop for yet more transgressive comedic delights.
Before he joined the rarefied ranks of blockbuster studio directors, Jon Favreau wrote and starred in the scrappy independent comedy Swingers. He also wrote, directed, and starred in the equally scrappy, unfortunately underseen Made. With Chef, Favs returns to his roots as writer/director/star of this character study followed a respected LA chef who loses his high-profile job, leaving him to rebuild his personal and professional life while he starts his own food truck. The Iron Man director going back to basics is every shade of promising, especially considering his supporting cast of ringers.
What the hell even is this? Andy and Lana Wachowski will probably always be thought of as the directors of The Matrix, but the duo has demonstrated a truly rare willingness to go for broke with their ambitious efforts since then. Based on the first teaser trailer, Jupiter Ascending is poised to out-ambition their last two wild and experimental efforts, Cloud Atlas and Speed Racer. Starring Mila Kunis as a janitor fated to become an intergalactic queen and Channing Tatum as the wolf-albino hybrid space-warrior tasked with protecting her, this thing is a pulpy space opera that doesn't look like any other sci-fi event movie put out by a major studio in the last few decades.
Between Coraline and ParaNorman, stop-motion animation studio Laika is batting a thousand. The adorable and phantasmagoric The Boxtrolls jumps in with a loving community of outcasts, legends who live beneath the town of Cheesebridge. When The Boxtrolls adopt an orphan boy named Egg, it kicks off an adventure all about the meaning of family, one that boasts astonishing stop-motion, as well as visuals and a tone that channel Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
Kill the Messenger
Finally, somebody made a movie about Gary Webb, the Pulitzer Prize-winning San Jose Mercury News reporter who, in his 1996 article series "Dark Alliance," alleged that the CIA was
instrumental in importing crack cocaine to California in the 1980s, using the
profits to illegally fund the Contra rebel army in Nicaragua. Webb was then thrown under the bus by his colleagues and hounded until meeting a suspicious end. Webb's story is a fascinating one, and with Jeremy Renner playing him, we ought to get a complex character study. Throw in L.I.E. and prolific television helmer Michael Cuesta and Kill the Messenger could just be devastating and even important.
Only Lovers Left Alive
Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston may very well have been born to play vampires. That's what they do here, starring as Eve and Adam, a pair of immortals who have been in love for centuries. If you're burned out on beautiful vampires, don't write off Only Lovers Left Alive just yet. It's written and directed by Jim Jarmusch. When Jim Jarmusch dabbles in genre, we get beautiful oddities like Dead Man and Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
This looks like a live-action cartoon. We mean that as a compliment. Wes Anderson's latest finds the writer-director going hogwild with his deadpan sense of humor and hyper-detailed style. Throw in a European setting between World Wars I and II, a cast that's basically the Anderson All-Stars, and Ralph Fiennes in a rare comedic turn as the titular hotel's ultra-slick concierge, and you've got the makings of something special.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Yes, it's an event movie from Marvel Studios, the Disney-owned blockbuster factory currently being copied by every major studio with a comic book property or two. But as the only non-sequel, it's the odd little underdog of Phase Two. Not only that, but two of its main characters are a talking, gun-toting raccoon and a sentient, ass-kicking alien tree. Obviously, Guardians of the Galaxy is going to get weird. It is, after all, directed and co-written by James Gunn, a guy we never thought would get to take a crack at a big-time summer movie. To put it another way: Gunn and Marvel had the chutzpah to make a smartassed space adventure starring Parks & Rec MVP Chris Pratt as a rogue who swaggers like a self-proclaimed Han Solo. Like Iron Man, this could very well be a huge surprise, one that rewrites the rules of mainstream comic book movies.
Paul Thomas Anderson adapts a novel by Thomas Pynchon. We shouldn't really have to elaborate, but we will anyways. The writer-director reunites with his The Master star Joaquin Phoenix, this time playing drug-addled private detective Larry "Doc" Sportello. The story follows misanthropic pothead Sportello through a psychedelic noir as he investigates an ex-girlfriend and a real estate mogul on the tail end of the sixties. It's unusual material for PTA, and could prove to be his most accessible movie since, well, ever. Or it could be even stranger than The Master. Either way, the odds of greatness are high. No pun intended.
The Raid 2: Berandal
The best action movie of the last decade gets a sequel that appears designed to outclass, outcool, and outfight its predecessor in every possible way. Director Gareth Evans and star Iko Uwais return for the follow-up to 2011's The Raid (titled The Raid: Redemption) Stateside. That pummel-fest used its narrative simplicity and single setting an advantage, but The Raid 2 explodes the scale. Based on the trailer above, it appears Evans is aiming for operatic. This is as close to a sure thing as you'll find in 2014.
2014 MOVIE DOCUMENTARY BONUS
We love stories of projects that never quite became actual movies, and very few are as famous, as audacious, or as weird as Alejandro Jodorowsky's attempt to adapt Frank Herbert's sci-fi epic Dune in the mid-1970s.
The foul-mouthed, gun-toting, testosterone-boiling director of Conan the Barbarian and Red Dawn (also co-writer of Apocalypse Now) finally gets the star-studded profile he deserves. Worth looking forward to for a whole lot of reasons, not the least of which is Sam Elliott saying, "He doesn't write for pussies and he doesn't write for women. He writes for men. Because he's a man" in the trailer.
IT'S 2014 AND WE'VE ALREADY GOT 12 SO WHY NOT MAKE IT 14 BONUS:
The Trip to Italy
Odd couple hate-comedies don't get much more enjoyable than The Trip, which paired longtime rivals and British comedy titans Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon together for a roadtrip sampling England's finest cuisine. Director Michael Winterbottom returns for The Trip to Italy, which, as you'd expect, takes the duo to Italy for more digressive, low-key, slice of life dialogue.
They Came Together
Having worked with studios on Role Models and Wanderlust, Wet Hot American Summer director David Wain once again goes independent for this subversion of romantic comedy convention starring Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler as a corporate lackey for a candy corporation and the owner a small candy store being muscled out of business, respectively.