Fans of franchises, remakes and reboots are going to be spoilt for choice in 2014 with many big name superheroes continuing their cinematic adventures and some classic characters, from Japan and abroad, returning to screens. The fun kicks off right now with reboots of Hollywood and Japanese favorites, but if you like your films a little more on the original side, the Academy Awards will have left us with plenty to think about and there’s still a chance to catch many of the big winners and losers this March.
By Christopher O’Keeffe
Robocop—Out March 14
Is nothing sacred? Well, in Hollywood it’s the almighty dollar that rules and so the never-ending succession of remakes continue to cash in on brand names and audience recognition. With other recent do-overs Carrie (which did pretty well over here) and Total Recall (which didn’t), the most common criticism is “What’s the point?” Can Robocop buck the trend, respecting the original and bringing us something we haven’t seen before? Well, yes and no. Fans now look back on Robocop with the warm fuzzy glow of nostalgia for 80s ultra-violence and biting satire, but that stuff doesn’t cut it when studios want movies that can play to the largest possible audience. This remake doesn’t have the gore of the original but does keep some of the satire intact with Samuel L. Jackson going brilliantly over the top as a nut-job TV host. New guy Joel Kinnaman is good cop Murphy whose body is almost destroyed in a hit on his life. Brought back as cyborg law enforcer by the Dr. Frankenstein-like Gary Oldman, Murphy’s old feelings come into conflict with his new programming. Is he now a man or a machine?
Don Jon—Out March 15
The actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt is rapidly becoming one of the most interesting players in Hollywood, ever since his emergence as an adult actor in modern noir Brick he has managed a balance between quirky indie pics like 500 Days of Summer and big budget fare like The Dark Knight Rises. Don Jon is the talented actor’s directorial debut, and on the surface it looks like a fairly standard romantic comedy yet it has a much more interesting premise. Gordon-Levitt plays Jon Mortello, a typical guy who likes working out, cars, and girls, who one night meets Barbara, played by Scarlett Johansson, and the two begin a relationship. Problems arise over Jon’s addiction to internet pornography and Barbara’s unrealistic ideals due to her own obsession with romantic movies.
Kiki’s Delivery Service—Out March 1
Kiki’s Delivery Service is one of the most beloved of Studio Ghibli maestro Hayao Miyazaki’s films, and the little witch Kiki and her faithful sidekick Jiji the cat are two of the studio’s most recognizable stars. Remaking such a beloved work is always going to tricky; however, this is not a retread of the Ghibli animation but a live-action attempt at the books on which the original film was based. Interestingly the film is to be directed by Takashi Shimizu, better known for his horror work on the Ju-on film series. It will be interesting to see if he can handle the story’s cutesy characters or whether he will have Kiki crawling backwards across ceilings on all fours. Young Koshiba Fūka makes her big screen debut as Kiki the witch who must move away from home on her thirteenth birthday and learn how to live in the big wide world.
Frozen—Out March 14
It seemed as if Pixar had stolen the Disney thunder. Ever since the release of Toy Story in 1995 they’ve had hit after hit the way the House of Mouse had done in the past. Frozen is a return to past glory for the original animation kings, bringing the catchy tunes, memorable characters and epic adventure that the studio is known for. Loosely based on the Hans Christian Anderson story “The Snow Queen,” we join young Anna as she attempts to find her sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom in an eternal winter. Anna is joined on her quest by mountain man Kristoff, his reindeer Sven and breakout star Olaf the snowman. The film has been one of the highest-grossing films overseas last year.
The Lego Movie—Out March 21
Did anyone not own Legos as a child? They were a kids’ staple, appealed to girls and boys, and even adults enjoyed the little colored blocks. While most toys-turned-movies elicit a groan (see last year’s Battleships), Legos are the kind of product that might just offer a little something more. In The LEGO Movie a very ordinary Lego minifigure named Emmet gets mistaken for a hero and is recruited in an adventure to stop an evil tyrant from gluing the Lego universe together. The film stars relative unknown Chris Pratt, an American actor and star of TV’s Parks and Recreation. Expect appearances from characters throughout Lego’s history from old favorites like pirates and astronauts to some of the newer models based on superheroes and Star Wars, with a hefty cameo from Lego Batman. The film has already opened to positive reviews and huge box office receipts abroad.
12 Years a Slave—Out March 7
12 Years a Slave is coming to Japan on the back of world-wide acclaim after racking up awards globally and becoming a major contender for the top prizes at the Academy Awards. By the time you read this, we’ll know whether or not it has won at the Oscars, but win or lose there’s no denying the power and impact of this mighty work. The film is based on the memoir of Solomon Northup, a New York-state-born free Negro who was kidnapped, sold into slavery, and forced to work on plantations in Lousiana for twelve years before his release. Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Northup in a film directed by fellow Londoner Steve McQueen, a former artist whose previous work includes heavy-hitters Hunger and Shame. Newcomer Lupita Nyong’o plays a fellow slave who is lusted over by a sadistic plantation owner, a role for which she has picked up a Best Supporting Actress nomination from the Academy. The rest of the cast is filled out with some of the finest acting talent around at the moment including Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti and Brad Pitt.