The Optimist’s Summer Movie Preview 2014

So long, cynicism. I have too much to be happy about this year. Sure, there will be plenty of failed action movies, comedies and romances, but I’m choosing to accentuate the positive this summer. So here are my 10 most anticipated releases of the year.

Andrew Garfield (or stunt double) and Jamie Foxx in The Amazing Spider-Man 2
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
(May 2)
Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Dane DeHaan
Screen story by Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci & Jeff Pinkner and James Vanderbilt
Screenplay by Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci & Jeff Pinkner
Directed by Marc Webb
I’m a big defender of the last installment, which got unfairly maligned simply because it rebooted a franchise that had only been done for five years. Judged on its own merits, it’s every bit as good as the 2002 Spider-Man. The only cause for concern is if the film has to bear the weight of setting up a series of spin-offs or collapses from having too many villains. Still, I’m confident in this cast and director Marc Webb.

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Taylor-Johnson in Godzilla
(May 16)
Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe
Screen story by Dave Callaham
Screenplay by Max Borenstein
Directed by Gareth Edwards
At the very least, it will be better than Roland Emmerich’s rainy take on the beast. Even if it ends up as a big-budget Cloverfield, the trailers have been outstanding. That’s what I want from advertising for my summer blockbusters: save the big reveals for the actual movie.

James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender in X-Men: Days of Future Past
X-Men: Days of Future Past
(May 23)
Starring Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender
Screen story by Jane Goldman & Simon Kinberg & Matthew Vaughn
Screenplay by Simon Kinberg
Directed by Bryan Singer
This is the movie I’ve been anticipating ever since I was a kid. With so many characters and a time travel element, there are lots of variable to make sure you don’t screw up, but Bryan Singer is integral to this franchise and my word, that cast. The most exciting addition is easily Omar Sy as Bishop.

Charlize Theron and Seth MacFarlane in A Million Ways to Die in the West
A Million Ways to Die in the West
(May 30)
Starring Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson
Written by Seth MacFarlane & Alec Sulkin & Wellesley Wild
Directed by Seth MacFarlane
Ted was my biggest surprise of 2012. Flat-out funny and occasionally touching, I was completely wrong about Seth MacFarlane’s first foray into filmmaking. So now I’ve flipped and can’t wait to see his Western comedy, which seems to pay homage to lone gunman flicks like High Noon. Plus, Liam Neeson’s the bad guy.

Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort in The Fault in Our Stars
The Fault in Our Stars
(June 6)
Starring Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Willem Dafoe
Written for the screen by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
Directed by Josh Boone
Neustadter and Weber have become the heart-tugging masters, collaborating on 500 Days of Summer and The Spectacular Now. Their latest script adapts John Green’s best-seller about a young cancer patient (Woodley) who falls for a basketball player (Elgort) despite her best attempts to stay guarded. In lesser hands, this would be far too saccharine, but this duo doesn’t pull any punches.

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in 22 Jump Street
22 Jump Street
(June 13)
Starring Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube
Screen story by Michael Bacall & Jonah Hill
Screenplay by Michael Bacall and Oren Uziel and Rodney Rothman
Directed by Phil Lord & Chris Miller
21 Jump Street went from a pretty funny movie to one of my favorite comedies of this young decade. All those who made the first one so great are back, and most of that credit goes to the endlessly inventive directing duo Phil Lord & Chris Miller (The LEGO Movie). Though the trailer doesn’t do much for me, I have total faith in these visually creative guys.

Hiccup and Ruffnut of How to Train Your Dragon 2
How to Train Your Dragon 2
(June 13)
Starring the voices of Jay Baruchel, Kristen Wiig, Gerard Butler
Screenplay by Dean DeBlois
Directed by Dean DeBlois
The first film is arguably DreamWorks’ finest achievement, with some of the most breathtaking animated visuals ever rendered. There’s no reason to fear I won’t be both dazzled and touched by this sequel.

Patricia Arquette and Ellar Coltrane in Boyhood
(July 11)
Starring Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane
Written and directed by Richard Linklater
More than a decade in the making, Richard Linklater’s labor of love follows the same cast as they go through life together, focusing on one boy’s coming-of-age story. Ellar Coltrane has played the kid from the get-go.

The cast of Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy
(August 1)
Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan
Screen story by Nicole Perlman and James Gunn
Screenplay by James Gunn
Directed by James Gunn
Here’s the intergalactic movie I’ve been waiting for since I was a kid: A big budget, a witty script, and a great cast of characters. I may not know much about the Marvel comic, but I can identify that this is a big-screen vision of the stories I used to make up with my friends or act out with action figures.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
(August 22)
Starring Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Written for the screen by Frank Miller
Directed by Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller
Robert Rodriguez’s visually stunning adaptation of Frank Miller’s influential graphic novel continues, though sadly without Clive Owen (Josh Brolin takes his place). The trailer didn’t do much for me, but I’ve been dying to go back to Basin City ever since I left the theater opening weekend in 2005.

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