Summer 2014 blockbusters: The best movie releases from Godzilla to Maleficent


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The Independent Culture

From Princess Grace to Godzilla, Magneto to Maleficent - there's something for everyone in the new slate of blockbusters


There are high hopes for this one, which is expected to steer clear of giant lizard clichés (think Roland Emmerich’s 1998’s Godzilla) and instead pitch sympathetically drawn kaiju against new rampaging monsters, in a world destroyed as much by human arrogance as by creatures from the deep.

Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston plays the lead, a sceptical nuclear physicist, joined by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen.

British director Gareth Edwards’s newbie credentials – he has only made one film before, the acclaimed Monsters, which was made on a £300,000 budget – are expected to give this reboot an intimate feel.

Box-office buzz: Toho, the Japanese company behind the original 1954 film, reportedly loves this version.


The first class and the old unite in this sort-of sequel to 2011’s X-Men: First Class, the excellent origins film set in the Sixties. Future Past is set in two time-zones: the apocalyptic future and 1973, to which Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is sent back to prevent an event that leads to disaster for mutantkind. The phenomenal cast includes Patrick Stewart/James McAvoy as Professor X, Michael Fassbender/Ian McKellen as Magneto, plus Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Ellen Page, Anna Paquin and Nicholas Hoult. Bryan Singer, director of two earlier X-Men films, directs.

Box-office buzz: Singer will also lead X-Men Apocalypse, due in 2016. With more Wolverine films, plus X-Force and Deadpool spin-offs in the works, could X-Men prove the most fruitful Marvel franchise?


Appearing on reality television would probably wreak havoc with most people’s lives, but what will it do to Greendale’s favourite postie? Stephen Mangan voices the titular Pat, who finds himself caught up in a scandal above his paygrade when his appearance on a TV talent show prompts robotic postmen to try to take over the world. Naturally. Meanwhile, of course, Pat must overcome the temptations of fame, fortune and far smarter outfits.

Box-office buzz: Recognise Pat’s singing voice? That’s not Mangan, but Ronan Keating.


A live-action inversion of Sleeping Beauty, told from the perspective of the “evil” fairy Maleficent, the one who places the original curse on the baby Princess Aurora. Angelina Jolie stars in the title role and, in a rather bold move, first-time director Robert Stromberg, Oscar-winning head of art direction on Alice in Wonderland and Avatar, is at the helm, replacing Tim Burton, who left because of scheduling conflicts. Look out for Elle Fanning, sister of actress Dakota, as Aurora.

Box-office buzz: Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, Jolie’s five-year-old daughter, makes her screen debut as the young Aurora, reportedly because she was the only child not scared of Jolie in her horns.


Doug Liman doesn’t often get that much of a write-up but he’s actually the director behind the first Bourne film, before Paul Greengrass took over, and  the cult hit Swingers. Now he’s back in the director’s chair with this sci-fi thriller starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt as soldiers forced to fight the same alien battle over and over again. “Groundhog Independence Day”, if you will.

Box-office buzz: In November, London’s Trafalgar Square was closed to the public when scenes featuring Cruise were shot there. At the time the film was still called All You Need is Kill, after the Hiroshi Sakurazaka novel on which it is based.


After the disaster that was last year’s Diana (“The film fails to convince us on any level,” wrote The Independent’s critic), one imagines the team behind the next princess biopic must be pretty nervous. Not so nervous though that they’re hiding it away: the film, which stars Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly, the Hollywood starlet turned princess, along with Tim Roth as Prince Rainier III, during a time of political and personal turmoil, will open the Cannes Film Festival on 14 May.

Box-office buzz: Monaco’s royal family have angrily denounced the film, claiming that it is deeply inaccurate.


It’s hard to imagine Clint Eastwood with an enthusiasm for musicals unless you think back to the loveable but absurd Western Paint Your Wagon in 1969 – Eastwood’s only musical – in which he rather lamely croons the gushy little ditty “I talk to the trees”. But here he is directing the screen version of the hit Broadway show about Sixties pop sensations The Four Seasons. It stars Christopher Walken as a mobster and John Lloyd Young, who won a Tony for his Jersey Boys role on Broadway – and Francesca Eastwood, Clint’s daughter, also makes an appearance.

Box-office buzz: The characters break the fourth wall in the film by talking directly to the camera.


The fact that this DreamWorks sequel is premiering (out of competition) at Cannes says a lot about the runaway success of its predecessor, which was applauded by critics for its superb animation and easy comedy. Jay Baruchel is back as the neurotic Hiccup, racked with self-doubt about assuming the chieftainship of his island and faced with dragon-haters, dragon-whisperers (enter Cate Blanchett) and, of course, an array of actual dragons, including one that breathes ice. Early footage screenings suggest that this is a film that should make rival studio Pixar a little anxious.

Box-office buzz: Director Dean DeBlois says his main inspiration for the sequel was The Empire Strikes Back.


Shia LaBeouf is gone and Mark Wahlberg is in the lead, as an inventor who unwittingly sets chaos in motion when he discovers a buried Optimus Prime, four years after the calamitous events of the last film. Wahlberg has modestly proclaimed this “bigger and better than the other three [films] combined” and to be fair, though some of us weary of director Michael Bay’s formulaic film-making, die-hard Transformer fans could be won over by the inclusion of the Dinobots (robots that transform into dinosaurs).

Box-office buzz: In Hollywood’s ongoing quest to woo the Asian box office, the film will air in China with additional scenes featuring local star Li Bingbing as Yueming, CEO of the Chinese Transformers.


It’s a decade since the events of the last film, when Caesar (Andy Serkis) so memorably yelled “No”, kicking off the linguistic evolution of the apes and that unforgettable simian/human battle on the Golden Gate Bridge.

A virus has now killed off 90 per cent of the human race and those who remain (Keri Russell and Gary Oldman included) live separately from Caesar’s growing ape community (who now build huts, ride horses and carry guns), mostly in a state of peaceful isolation.

Until now.

Box-office buzz: At the helm is Matt Reeves, Cloverfield director and a good pal of JJ Abrams ever since they screened short films together as Hollywood ingénues.


This sci-fi epic gets points straight out of the gate for being an original screenplay (the first from the Wachowskis since the last Matrix instalment) in a summer crowded, as ever, with sequels, reboots and superhero movies. Mila Kunis stars as a lowly cleaner from earth with a great Galactic destiny, while Channing Tatum pops up as an interplanetary warrior with funny ears. This has bucketloads of potential but the Wachowskis’ last film, Cloud Atlas, split audiences right down the middle and this looks as if it could be equally polarising.

Box-office buzz: In a backwards move, the score was recorded before the film was actually shot, which allowed fight scenes to be choreographed to the music.


The other superheroes had better watch out – this film has crept quietly on to the 2014 Hollywood landscape with an ensemble cast that will be hard to beat (Bradley Cooper, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Glenn Close, Vin Diesel, John C Reilly, Karen Gillan and Benicio del Toro).

It’s a little-known Marvel superhero team, with some fairly unorthodox characters (Cooper will voice a genetically-engineered racoon and Diesel a tree-like humanoid), but there’s something to be said for taking a risk here and curiosity may draw the crowds.

Box-office buzz: Don’t leave before the end credits. Producers have already said that the film “is definitely connected to The Avengers 3” (due in 2019).


Barney Ross, that loveable rogue. just keeps on coming back for more. It seems we just can’t get enough of Sly Stallone’s beefy mercenary – or his dream team, which returns with Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews and Arnie. There’s more 1980s Hollywood royalty too (who is head of casting for this franchise?), including Mel Gibson as a ruthless arms dealer, Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes and Antonio Banderas. The plot? Who cares. Diet Coke break anyone?

Box-office buzz: Pierce Brosnan has signed up for a fourth instalment.


Stripping, stylised violence, blood-red lipstick and a gritty monochrome aesthetic were what the first Sin City film was all about back in 2005 – and if ain’t broke, Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller have clearly decided, why try to fix it? Jessica Alba is back, as are Mickey Rourke and Bruce Willis, joined by Eva Green, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ray Liotta, Rosario Dawson and Lady Gaga. Again, the plot is based on short stories from the graphic novels penned by Miller.

Box-office buzz: This will be in 3D and if the stunning visuals of the first film are anything to go by, it’s just the kind of canvas an extra dimension could work well with.



Cameron Diaz reunites with her Bad Teacher love interest, How I Met Your Mother’s Jason Segel, for a silly but sexy bit of fun to end the summer on. Annie and Jay are a married couple who decide to recapture the magic by filming themselves in the bedroom. Somehow, the film syncs to iCloud and their sexploits are broadcast to anyone they recently gave an iPad to, which, it turns out, is a lot of people. Yep – this is a world where people randomly give iPads to their family, friends, colleagues and even the postman. You know, just because.

Box-office buzz: Segel has been working out. He told Us Weekly: “No more midnight pizzas. This time when I take my shirt off, I’ve made a promise to myself, it doesn’t have to be funny.”