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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014

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In Movies & TV Commentary

"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is just one reason to be excited about 2014.

Five movies to look forward to in 2014


It's not hyperbole when I say that 2013 has been one of the best movie years we've had in a while. Okay, maybe it's a little bit of hyperbole, but it's hard not to be enthusiastic when so many terrific movies ("Gravity," "Her," "12 Years a Slave," "Short Term 12," the list goes on … ) came out.

In a way, 2014 is kind of the awkward middle child (go with me on this). This year was so impressively great, and then 2015 has an absolute feast of some of the biggest, most anticipated blockbusters this side of the millennium, including – but not limited to – "The Avengers: Age of Ultron," the new Batman/Superman/Justice League monstrosity, the new "Jurassic Park" movie, the next Bourne movie, "Fast & Furious 7," "Star Wars Episode VII" and, the most anticipated movie of them all, "The Smurfs 3."

Yes, there's a lot to be excited about a year from now, but 2014 is no slouch either. Here are five movies that will hopefully be blowing audience's minds within the next 12 months.

"Captain America: The Winter Soldier"

I wasn't a huge fan of the first "Captain America" movie. It was a bit hokey for my taste, and it felt like a safe set-up for "The Avengers." Risk nothing, lose nothing was likely the motto. "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," however, looks awesome. The action looks great in the first trailer, and the story – a "Minority Report"-esque moral conflict about security, freedom and fear on a national scale – seems perfect for a character like Captain America.

Plus, Marvel has been taking more and more creative risks as their empire has grown, whether it be letting Shane Black have some fun with "Iron Man 3," geeking up "Thor: The Dark World" or merely making "Guardians of the Galaxy" (your average moviegoer might not be prepared for how weird that could be, especially with James Gunn directing). Directors Joe and Anthony Russo may not have much of an auteur stamp yet – they're mostly TV guys, with "You, Me and Dupree" as their last movie – but hopefully they can at least deliver on what their trailer has promised.

"Godzilla"

Monster movies are kind of my pet genre. "Pacific Rim" was a hoot this past summer, I still love "Cloverfield" and "The Host" (the Korean monster movie, not the Stephenie Meyer book) was one of my favorite movies of the last decade. I grew up with the Power Rangers, which were heavily influenced by Japanese monster flicks. And then, of course, the classic Toho Godzilla movies.

Hollywood didn't exactly do right by everyone's favorite giant fire-breathing lizard back in 1998, but this summer's "Godzilla" looks to be a good attempt at forgiveness. The cast – featuring Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen and Juliette Binoche (?) – is solid, and the first trailer was not only exciting but kind of beautiful. All we need is Matthew Broderick's character from the 1998 movie making a cameo, only to get squashed by a giant lizard foot, and I'd say we have a hit on our hands.

"Transcendence"/"Interstellar"

I cheated on last year's list with The Rock double feature of "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" (welp, got that one wrong) and "Pain and Gain" (somewhere between brilliant and bonkers), and I can do it again, this time with a double feature of Christopher Nolan-related films with vague scientific titles.

The first one, "Transcendence," is Wally Pfister's directorial debut. You don't likely know Pfister's name, but you certainly recognize his work: He's pretty much Christopher Nolan's go-to cinematographer, working on each of the director's films and winning an Oscar for "Inception." He's got a great eye – his visuals in "The Dark Knight Rises" are probably the movie's best asset – and he's good with action, helping to create some of the most memorable action sequences in recent years.

He's wrangled together a top notch cast for his debut, including Johnny Depp (not in wacky mode), Morgan Freeman, Rebecca Hall and Cillian Murphy. The story – in a last-ditch effort to save his life, Depp downloads his body into his supercomputer. Chaos ensues – sounds both a little bizarre and a little familiar ("Tron" anyone?), but I'm on board to see what Pfister can do on his own.

While Nolan's cinematographer has "Transcendence," Nolan himself has "Interstellar." The recently released teaser didn't show us much (space will be involved), but Nolan has yet to make a bad movie, so I'm intrigued. Plus, the cast – including Matthew McConaughey and Jessica Chastain, two of the hottest actors working not named Jennifer Lawrence – is out of this world (sorry, I had to).

"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes"

"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" was a surprise hit back in 2011, mostly because everyone was shocked that it didn't suck. Next summer's "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" won't have the element of surprise this time; we'll expect it to be good this time. From what I've seen so far, though, we're off to a good start.

The first trailer looks moody and intense, seemingly moving the story much further from where the last film left off, and the new cast (Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke from "Zero Dark Thirty," Keri Russell) seems like a massive improvement on paper. Also, new director Matt Reeves is secretly quite good at his job, adept with genre fare ("Cloverfield") and drama ("Let Me In"). My only problem right now? These titles are a mouthful. Hopefully part three isn't "Approach of the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes."

"The Raid 2: Berandal"

It's this simple: "The Raid: Redemption" was one of the most badass movies two years ago. Yeah, the plot was an awkward combination of being both nonexistent and incomprehensible, but that's a small price to pay for some of the most viciously intense and ferocious action I've seen.

"The Raid 2: Berandal" seems to be that again, but this time bigger. Bigger cast, bigger story, bigger running time (148 minutes). So yeah, I've already bought my ticket. If you'd like to check out the very violent trailer, here is the link. Consider it my Christmas gift to you.

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