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Coming attractions: 2014's must-see movies

Published 9:39 AM ET, Wed January 1, 2014
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The year will be filled with Transformers and superheroes, biblical figures and Jersey Boys. We can't fit all of them here, but here are a few to look out for -- such as George Clooney's newest film, "Monuments Men." It's based on a true story about a special World War II unit created to save some of Europe's most valuable art. The 1964 Burt Lancaster film "The Train" traveled some of the same track, but Clooney's version focuses on the art professionals and takes a more lighthearted view. And what a cast: Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett and Jean "The Artist" Dujardin. (February 7)
Claudette Barius/Columbia Pictures
"RoboCop": The original 1987 "RoboCop" was as much a satire on modern media and business as it was a story about a cop solving a crime. Judging from its trailers, the new version -- which stars Joel Kinnaman in the Peter Weller role -- seems to have a similar wit, but only time will tell if Michael Keaton and Samuel L. Jackson will take their roles to the absurd places visited by Ronny Cox and Miguel Ferrer. Will we, in Clarence Boddicker's words, "give the man a hand"? (February 12)
Kerry Hayes/Columbia Pictures
"Son of God" and "Noah": The Bible has been a source for movies since Cecil B. DeMille was in short pants, and the late winter includes two ripped from Scripture. "Son of God" follows last March's hit 10-part television miniseries "The Bible," also from Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, and focuses on Jesus. "Noah" stars Russell Crowe (shown here) as the titular character coping with the flood; the director is Darren Aronofsky. ("Son of God," February 28; "Noah," March 28)
Paramount Pictures
"The Grand Budapest Hotel": For some people, Wes Anderson films are events to be savored. For others, they're arch comedies to be missed. Either way, the writer and director obviously has a fan base among actors. "The Grand Budapest Hotel" has a spectacular cast that includes Bill Murray, Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Jude Law and Willem Dafoe. (And, of course, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman.) The plot concerns a European concierge, a noted painting and various characters at a hotel between the world wars. Oh, and perfectly framed shots. Lots and lots of perfectly framed shots. (March 7) Fox Searchlight
"Divergent": "Imitation," the great comedian Fred Allen once said, "is the sincerest form of television." Allen was being too kind: It's also the sincerest form of most other entertainment media. Take "Divergent," based on a book that has been compared to "Hunger Games." Plucky teenaged heroine? Check. Post-apocalyptic setting? Check. A final battle? You bet. It was even purchased by Summit Entertainment, now a part of the same company as "Hunger Games" studio Lionsgate. But "Divergent" has its differences, including the identity issues at its core. The film stars Shailene Woodley (right in photo) and Kate Winslet. Meanwhile, surefire hit "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1" is due in November. (March 21)
Summit Entertainment
"Muppets Most Wanted": The "Muppets" reboot was charming and clever, and on the surface the sequel also hits all the right buttons. Ricky Gervais and Tina Fey are in the cast -- as characters named Dominic Badguy and Nadya -- and even Kermit gets a chance to stretch as a lookalike named Constantine. The Muppets are on a world tour, but Constantine throws a wrench into their travels. Sounds like something even Waldorf and Statler would like. (March 21) Jay Maidment/Disney
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and "The Amazing Spider-Man 2": The Marvel universe continues to dominate the real world. Case in point: the sequels to "Captain America" and "The Amazing Spider-Man," due within a month of one another. In the new installment of the former, Captain America (Chris Evans) is still adjusting to modern life and trying to keep his distance from S.H.I.E.L.D. But, naturally, he's pulled back in and reteamed with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). In the other film, Spider-Man faces off against Electro (Jamie Foxx), a formerly mild-mannered Oscorp engineer, and the Rhino (Paul Giamatti), a Russian mobster in a particularly sharp suit. ("Captain America," April 4; "Spider-Man," May 2) Niko Tavernise/CTMG
"Maleficent": Once upon a time there were retellings of fairy tales that did well at the box office (such as "Snow White and the Huntsman"), and that time is now -- so, naturally, we're seeing more of them. "Maleficent" tells the Sleeping Beauty story from the point of view of "Mistress of All Evil," played by Angelina Jolie, who isn't as dark as she appears. The film is Disney's big summer bet, with a budget rumored to be in the $200 million range. (May 30)
Disney
"Gone Girl": The film version of Gillian Flynn's best-selling thriller has intrigue all around. The plot concerns a couple, played by Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, who leave New York for the husband's Missouri hometown. Their degrading marriage turns ugly when the wife goes missing. The film is directed by the master of chilly scenes, David Fincher. Flynn adapted her novel, and Affleck has said she's "very faithful to her book." Still, one wonders if she's kept the ending. (October 3) 20th Century Fox
"Interstellar": A few years ago, Mark Harris wrote a terrific story about Hollywood's blockbuster conservatism, noting director Christopher Nolan's "Inception" as the exception that proved the rule. Nolan continues to come up with big original ideas, thank goodness. "Interstellar" stars Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain as wormhole voyagers. Little else is known at this point, but even the photography sounds fascinating: for one bit, Nolan put an IMAX camera in a Learjet's nose cone. Incidentally, Nolan's longtime cinematographer, Wally Pfister, is making his directorial debut with "Transcendence," out in spring. (November 7)
Legendary Pictures