Yes, it’s been a pretty good year so far at the movies, from indie hits like Boyhood and The Grand Budapest Hotel, to the Marvel blockbuster X-Men: Days of Future Past and the Y.A. weepie The Fault In Our Stars. But there've been long stretches of assembly-line franchises, flat-footed dramas and flaccid comedies inbetween. 2014, not exactly film-going heaven.
Just wait for the fall. The lineup of big stars/big directors features angling for awards season attention include titles that have already wowed audiences in Cannes, and others slated to premiere at the Venice, Toronto and New York festivals in September and October. The buzz is especially buzzing for the following five:
BIRDMAN Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (21 Grams, Babel) directs Michael Keaton in the tale of an actor, once famous for his portrayal of an iconic superhero (hmmm, Keaton, Batman, sound familiar?), struggling to bring a stage adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story to Broadway. Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone and Zach Galifianakis are in on the action.
FOXCATCHER Bennet Miller won best director at Cannes for his true-life saga about Newtown Square multimillionaire John DuPont’s descent into madness and murder, and the sibling Olympic wrestling champs Dave and Mark Schultz who crossed DuPont’s path. Steve Carell gets serious as DuPont, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo are brothers Mark and Dave, respectively.
INHERENT VICE From Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, There Will Be Blood), an adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon novel -- a crime thriller set in 1970s, Manson-era L.A.. Joaquin Phoenix reteams with The Master director, starring as Pynchon’s pothead private eye hero. Cast includes Josh Brolin, Benicio del Toro, Owen Wilson and Reese Witherspoon.
A MOST VIOLENT YEAR Another period piece, this one set in 1980 New York, when the city looked to be on its last legs, broke, broken and riddled with crime. An immigrant family try to make a go of it anyway. With Inside Llewyn Davis’ Oscar Isaac, Zero Dark Thirty’s Jessica Chastain, Albert Brooks, David Oyelowo and Alessandro Nivola. All Is Lost writer/director J.C. Chandor is at the helm.
UNBROKEN A World War II survival drama from some director named Angelina Jolie (it’s actually her second feature – her first, In the Land of Blood and Honey, was also a war movie). British newcomer Jack O’Connell stars as Olympic track star Louis Zamperini, who survived a plane crash in the Pacific, was adrift for 47 days and then taken prisoner by the Japanese. The Coen Brothers get screenplay credit.