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Best movies of 2014 that you don't know about yet: John's list

Posted Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 10:49 AM Central
Last updated Friday, January 24, 2014 at 7:44 AM Central

by John Couture

2014 is certainly going to go down as an interesting one for film. There is just so much unknown coming into this new year that it's anyone's guess how it will all turn out. You only have to look at our predictions for the top box office films of 2014 to see just how uneasy we feel about this year.

Next year should be easy and fun because there are so many known commodities and a ton of them. But this year is truly a wild card and that has given us the unique opportunity to highlight a great selection of potential sleeper hits. Usually Tim, Dannette and I have to fight over films that we want on our sleeper list, but this year we easily secured our lists with little to no fighting whatsoever.

Of course, a list of sleepers is only as good as the ability of those picking said list, right? Well, you only have to take moment to look back at Dannette's, Tim's or my list and draw your own conclusions, but I think we do a pretty fine job given what little information is out there on some of these films.

But that's sort of the point, isn't it? We are providing coverage for titles that are currently flying under the radar for one reason or another. Hopefully, all of our picks dominate at the box office, but no one is perfect.

With the ever shifting landscape of release dates, many of these films might get bumped into 2015 (much like The Monuments Men for me or Mr. Peabody and Sherman for Tim got bumped into 2014), but they are our best picks given the current release dates.

I would be remiss if I didn't publicly give props to Tim. It pains me to do so, but he was completely dead-on when he selected Frozen as his sleeper film of 2014. It may be the single greatest sleeper pick of all time and he nailed it. Well done, Tim!

Without further ado, here is my list. Make sure and let me know what you think and when all of the lists are revealed, let us know which films we missed. Oh, and make sure that you check out Dannette's and Tim's lists.

Knights of Badassdom

There are really three main reasons why this film will be successful: Peter Dinklage, Summer Glau and Ryan Kwanten. The three thespians who are best known for their TV work have seen their respective stars go supernova since this film was shot way back in 2010.

Why the delay, especially when the optimum time to release this film was probably last Summer of the year before that? Well, if you read our in-depth investigative piece on the film from late 2012, then you'll start to see the picture. eOne Films has stepped in and saved the film, but the cut apparently doesn't have the blessing of the director.

Why it might fail: This film has been sitting on the proverbial shelf for over three years so it's quite possible that it's no longer relevant. It has a checkered past with internal squabbles that might show up on the big screen.

Opens in theaters on: This Spring. There isn't an official theatrical release date, but eOne Films has partnered with Tugg to create "pop-up" events in your city. Check out the site to see if there is a showing near you or take the initiative to create one.

Sex Tape

It's a film called Sex Tape being released in the Summer. As long as the studio doesn't force them to cut out all of the hilarious stuff, there's a pretty good chance that this film could be the breakout R-rated comedy of the Summer.

It doesn't hurt that Jake Kasdan is directing and Sony already trusted him with the hilarious Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and the far more lucrative Bad Teacher. Here, he's teamed back up with Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel from Bad Teacher and Sony is hoping that lightning will strike twice.

Why it might fail: Despite Sony allowing Kasdan to turn in two previous R-rated comedies, they force him to cut it down to a PG-13. The name of the film is changed to protect the young and innocent from seeing anything that contains the word "Sex" in it while they wait to see children brutally murder other children in the latest Hunger Games film.

Opens in theaters on: July 25, 2014

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

The gang from the first film is all back together for this oft-delayed sequel. The first film nearly did $75 million at the box office which means that this one should be headed for a total haul north of $100 million.

The original film was both critically well-received and a hit with audiences. Pretty much everything that Robert Rodriguez touches turns to gold. Comic book adaptations have never been more popular.

Why it might fail: The many delays might have stagnated the interest in the franchise. The August release date falls in the Bermuda Triangle of theatrical releases and it's usually where films go to die. Suddenly, the image of Jessica Alba in leather chaps partaking in exotic dances repulses people. In other news, Hell freezes over too.

Opens in theaters on: August 22, 2014

Jane Got a Gun

Padme, Obi-wan and Uncle Owen are getting back together. Before you get your hopes up too far, they aren't doing reshoots to fix the Star Wars prequels. Rather, they are the current leads (I think) in this Western flick. You would think having Natalie Portman in the lead as good girl married to bad boy (aren't they all?) who has to turn to her ex lover to save her husband is a no-brainer, but apparently it's not.

The number of people attached to this film at one time or another is staggering, but the one constant has been Portman who truly believes in the film. Westerns are a hot commodity right now and anytime you stick a gun in Portman's hands, you're probably going to do alright.

Why it might fail: All of the turbulence in casting has already cast a dark shadow on this film and it's unknown whether that will carry over to the film-going public. Star Wars fans show up to poke fun at the unintended comedy of a love triangle between Padme, Obi-wan and Uncle Owen and distract everyone else.

Opens in theaters on: August 29, 2014


So, what happens when you get really stoned and read a peculiar online ad searching for a lodger who is willing to trade a free place to live for just a small part of his dignity in the form of wearing a walrus suit and interacting with your landlord in character as a walrus? Well, if you're Kevin Smith, you turn that into a podcast, write a script on said podcast and finally film said movie as a Hammer style horror flick.

This idea is just kooky enough that it might actually work. It doesn't hurt that he's enlisted Michael Parks to play the serial-killing walrus aficionado or that I still firmly believe that Michael Keaton is the Ahab to Parks' Moby Dick.

Why it might fail: It's a film about a dude who makes people wear a walrus suit before he kills them. This is Kevin Smith's first attempt at straight horror and it might be a train wreck.

Opens in theaters on: Fall, 2014

Gone Girl

Ben Affleck and David Fincher are about as sure of a thing that you can get when it comes to lead actor and director. It doesn't hurt either that Gone Girl is based on a wildly successful New York Times best-selling book. I've read the book and while the film is about the darkest shade of dark that you can imagine, I always thought it would be a great film and no one does dark better than Fincher.

It seems that EW agrees with me that this film will indeed be a hit this year. This film enjoys the rabid fan base from the book, but will it translate into tickets sold? I think so.

Why it might fail: While the casting of Affleck was accepted and the choice of Fincher called inspired by the fans, there has been plenty of criticism of their decision to cast Rosamund Pike in the lead role of Amy. I tend to think that it will turn out OK, but I guess you never do know.

Opens in theaters on: October 3, 2014

The Interview

Anyone who has seen Pineapple Express or This is the End (and that's a lot of people) will be lining up to see the latest Seth Rogen, James Franco and Evan Goldberg offering. Basically, the story follows Rogen and Franco who score a TV interview with Kim Jong-Un. Naturally, the CIA steps in and recruits the pair to assassinate the North Korean leader. Hilarity ensues.

While there isn't much else out there right now on this film, I think it's safe to assume that it will be hilarious and that it will do gangbuster business at the box office.

Why it might fail: People all of a sudden develop an aversion to laughing. James Franco finally hits his saturation point about two years too late.

Opens in theaters on: October 10, 2014


The next film from Christopher Nolan alone should be enough to get butts in seats for Interstellar, but there seems to be a disconnect with this film for some reason. His not quite direct followup to Inception is more from the Science Fiction side of the tracks and takes place in space, which is usually studio code for avoid like the plague. But, Gravity has proven that audiences are willing to show up for a space film, even one with just two cast members.

Thanks to Matthew McConaughey's recent nomination, Interstellar boasts 8 Oscar nominees and/or winners in its cast and while the decision to cast McConaughey in the lead a year ago seemed foolhardy, it looks inspired now given his recent work.

Why it might fail: The Dark Knight Rises notwithstanding, it will be over four years since Inception when Interstellar finally hits theaters. Will audiences even remember who Christopher Nolan is? Will the storyline be "too SciFi" for a mainstream audience? Will the law of averages finally catch up to Christopher Nolan leading him to deliver a mediocre film?

Opens in theaters on: November 7, 2014

Into the Woods

Musicals turned into films are as hot as it gets right now and this one is appealing for many reasons, not the least bit being that Disney is bankrolling the film based a musical based on Grimm's fairytales, many of which were also the basis of many of Disney's animated classics. Did you get all of that?

With a talented cast headlined by Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Jake Gyllenhaal and Johnny Depp, it's hard to imagine how this film won't attract an audience, especially on Christmas day. Director Rob Marshall knows a thing or two about directing musicals, so you can bank on this one joining his prestigious list.

Why it might fail: Well, this is Disney after all and original composer of the musical version Stephen Sondheim has been rather outspoken about the mature themes just below the surface including child molestation. Johnny Depp is set to play the wolf opposite of 12-year-old actress Lilla Crawford as Little Red. While on the surface the song "Hello Little Girl" is about the wolf contemplating his eating of Little Red, there are plenty of subtle and not so subtle sexual overtures to the song. Naturally, one would assume that Disney would remove all of the sexual innuendo given their bread-and-butter target demo of children, but there are conflicting reports on this on the Internet. One report claims that original Little Red Sophia Grace was pulled out of the role by her parents when Disney refused to get rid of the sexual innuendos. And speaking of innuendo, there's nothing subtle about an anatomically correct wolf chasing a little girl through the deep, dark woods (see video below). I'm sure Disney at least let Johnny Depp wear pants.

Opens in theaters on: December 25, 2014


This real life tale is directed by Angelina Jolie and based on a best-selling book from the woman who wrote the book behind the film Seabiscuit. Jolie enlisted Oscar-winning scribes The Coen brothers to rework the screenplay, so this is a film that has been given every chance to succeed.

While the star talent behind the camera is nice, the acting pool is noticeably thin when it comes to A-list Hollywood talent, but the good news is that the story is so compelling that no one will likely notice. Having read the book I won't spoil the film for you, but suffice to say that when I was reading it, I was struck by one overriding thought, 'This would make one hell of an epic film.'

Why it might fail: Given the nature of the events, it's not surprising that the shoot would present unique obstacles. The Coen brothers recently quipped they were relieved at not having to direct the film as well.

Opens in theaters on: December 25, 2014