Up for debate: Noah and other upcoming 2014 films

Up for debate: Noah and other upcoming 2014 films

Every once in awhile, the writers at Going for Gusto will have an email back-and-forth on a particular subject. This time, we're discussing the upcoming movies in 2014, including Noah, which was released today.

JOE GRACE: OK. Here we go again. Another great email chain debate. This time, we'll be talking about what movies people should and should not be looking forward to heading into the rest of 2014. I'm sure you already have a few movies on your must-see list. But let's cut to the chase. What movie are you most looking forward to this year?

JAKOB BILINSKI:  I do have several movies on my must-see list for 2014. The roster of releases is actually pretty insane. Especially in the realm of franchises. SOOOO many anticipated sequels coming out. And you seriously want me to pick only ONE movie I'm most looking forward to?!? That's cold, Joe. Cold. Well, since I know that we'll end up spouting about most of them as this debate progresses, I guess I'll start off with Noah, which opens today. It has risk written all over it, and there is a very fine line to walk as to whether it turns out as brilliant or pretentious, inspiring drama or pure saccharine. But a large-scale, ambitious disaster drama pulled from an original adaptation of a Biblical tale, studded with an A-list cast and a more-or-less blank-check budget, directed by one of the strongest and most visually inventive auteurs working today, Darren Aronofsky? Ticket = bought. Though if you look at the cast here, it's kind of like we have a movie about Thor's father (Anthony Hopkins) giving advice to Superman's father (Russell Crowe) about the will of Jesus's father, and so Superman's father talks with Hulk's girlfriend (Jennifer Connolly) and they pick up Hermione (Emma Watson) and a bunch of CGI animals. If one of those animals happens to be Rocket Raccoon, we officially have the best nerd mash-up film ever. (I admit that the Superman's/Thor's father angle was something that I read in the comments on Aint It Cool and can't claim credit for.) But in all seriousness, I adore Aronofsky. Requiem For A Dream and Black Swan are two of my all-time favorites. So the man has my unconditional trust. So because there are so many other films I'm excited for and I should save some for further questions, I volley the same question back to you: What are you most excited for?

GRACE: I am most excited for X:Men: Days of Future Past, but ONLY if I find out beforehand for sure that Cyclops is being brought back to life. I still have not forgiven Brett "Tower Heist" Ratner for killing my favorite character off in Last Stand and will have nothing to do with the franchise until this has been corrected. I've heard rumors that my eye-powered comic strip BFF might be back, though, so I'm holding out hope. If it's true, I'm totally back in because X-Men is my favorite comic. As for Noah, I'm still on the fence. I love Aronofsky, but I'm afraid the hype might outstrip the movie. We'll see. Since the movie I might be most excited for is a sequel, which of the many, many movie followups are you most looking forward to watching this year?

BILINSKI: Yeah, I'm very excited for X-Men: Days of Future Past, too. And Ratner has nothing to do with this version, it's back in Bryan Singer's hands (who did X1 and X2), so I have a good feeling. Though while we are both aboard the same "screw X-Men: The Last Stand!" train, you need to check out First Class and The Wolverine (not X-Men Origins: Wolverine - avoid that one like the plague). First Class is actually the best in the franchise, in my opinion. As excited as I am for Days of Future Past, however, some of those costume designs that were just released are total garbage. Ugh. I hope everything looks better in the film than in the stills. Noah absolutely could prove to be a total misfire, totally. And a lot of people are predicting that. For me, Aronofsky hasn't missed yet. All of his films are good, and he's actually made two of my all time favorites (Requiem For A Dream and Black Swan), so I think he's earned enough credit and faith that I consider it his to lose, rather than win. I did misspeak though on Noah being my most anticipated film, I think. Because I forgot about Gone Girl - David Fincher's newest. I will probably have to go with that one instead.

And yes, there are a TON of sequels and franchise continuations happening this year. The ones I'm probably looking most forward to:

The Raid 2 - rumor has it that this sequel to one of the most badass action flicks of all time is even better than its predecessor. The Hobbit: There And Back Again - I've held true to the belief that this is the one that Peter Jackson has been saving all the greatness I know he's capable of for (the first two were entertaining, and I liked them more than most seem to, but they fall so, so short of what we were lead to expect). And, you can make as much fun of me as you want, but ... Transformers: Age of Extinction. Yes, they're big, dumb movies. Yes, I am a staunch defender of the first three (especially 1 and 3) despite popular opinion. Yes I happen to think Michael Bay is perfect for the franchise (no one can film things being destroyed like he can and honestly: cars are fighting each other and EVERYTHING explodes - he was born do to these flicks). Yes, I am clinging to childhood nostalgia that will just never fade (Transformers owned my childhood, the same way Superman or Batman or so many other realms owned others - it's just dear to me). I don't care what people say. Shit blows up, it's sexy, it's rife with shapeshifting alien ninja robots out to murderdestroy each other and Optimus Prime is swinging a sword while riding a giant robot Tyrannosaur (Grimlock). And since my last pick there is totally subject to opinion on whether or not it will be "good," I'll shift focus a bit. There are always some horrible looking flicks coming out in any given year. What are you particularly dreading or planning to avoid like the plague in this cinematic 2014?

GRACE: A small correction: I actually did see X:Men Origins: Wolverine, but I believed I blocked it from my mind. As for movies I want to avoid, Marvel has not at all sold me on Guardians of the Galaxy. I researched the characters a bit, and - well - blah. While I love most anything Chris Pratt does, I think we might have a little bit of a Seth Rogen as Green Hornet situation. (A movie I believe we disagree on.) Some people just aren't cut out to portray superheroes and I have a bad feeling Pratt falls into this category. Plus, you just can't sell me on the raccoon. I can accept all sorts of strange creatures wielding weapons, but a laser-toting raccoon might be my limit. (I don't know whether he actually carries a laser, but then change out laser for any other projectile device.) I'm also wary of Godzilla. Because, well, the memories of Hank Azaria still haunt me. What movies do you think will stink up the joint the most this upcoming Oscar season?

BILINSKI: I am truly sorry that you had to sit through X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Blocking it from your mind is a good thing. Often are the times I wish I could perform Inception on myself and forget I ever saw that turd stain on celluloid. And WHAT THE CRAP? I couldn't be more on the opposite end of the spectrum regarding Guardians of the Galaxy. I have been watching the trailer on repeat and geeking out (almost as much as the new Transformers trailer, but not quite to that obsessive degree). I find myself singing "I can't stop this feee-eeling ... OOGA CHAKA" throughout the day at random.  I love Chris Pratt. Dude is awesome. Parks and Rec represent. But I don't think you should be looking at him as a superhero. He's supposed to be a bit of a sardonic smartass hero-type. He bulked up for the physicality of the role, and I think he's just the right person to bring the comedy and charisma the role demands. Yeah, I don't know much about the comics or characters here - but you're looking at it the wrong way. You say you can't accept the raccoon. But let's recap: it is a gun-wielding, vulgarity-spewing, temperamental TALKING raccoon. With a British accent, I believe. Tell me one thing that is NOT awesome about that? You're saying you are put off by Rocket Raccoon. I say that is motive enough alone for all of the tickets to be bought. That, and James Gunn. Love that guy. I have a feeling he's going to knock this one out of the park. But hey ... that's just me.

And you're wary of Godzilla, but personally I love the look of this new one from the trailers. Seems epic and gritty and dark and looks to have the right level of cataclysmic destruction that is a prerequisite of such a cinematic endeavor. I don't think you need to worry about a retread of that film we try to forget happened while we were in high school. This one has Walter White, er, Bryan Cranston, and Ken Watanabe, among others. I am choosing to trust this one.

As for movies I think will stink up the joint in 2014? Can I just say anything that Tyler Perry puts out? Maybe with the exception of Gone Girl (because I believe David Fincher has cast him in that film, and I trust The Finch unconditionally). But anything Tyler Perry makes himself - no. Just no. And Hercules. I love The Rock, er Dwayne Johnson. Dude is an uncompromising badass of an action star. But Brett "I Made X-Men: The Last Stand, Bitches!" Ratner is helming Hercules. Therefore, I have zero faith in Hercules. Speaking of The Oscars, I actually dug this year's telecast. I think there were some wrong choices (as usual), but they also got quite a few right. It's too easy to argue since a lot of it all comes down to politics, campaigns, and Academy favoritism, but they celebrated a lot of stuff worthy of celebrating, in my opinion. And 2013 was a GOOD year for film. Actually, probably one of the best in recent times, if you ask me. And this was one year I managed to see ALMOST everything nominated in the major categories. What were your thoughts on the winners/losers this year?

GRACE: OK. So I just watched the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer. Still no. A raccoon with a British accent might still sway me, though. The raccoon didn't talk in the trailer I saw. So let's just put my official status as: swayable. I thought the biggest winner from the Oscar's was Pharrell's mountie hat. If I were in charge I would have given it every award possible, including Best Supporting Actress. Other than that, I don't have a ton of thoughts. I haven't seen 12 Years a Slave, Gravity or Dallas Buyers Club, yet, (I know, I know) so I can't comment on whether I thought they were good choices for the major awards. I was sad that Bad Grandpa didn't win for Makeup and Hairstyling because, well, that would have been fantastic. Also, I know I'm in the minority here, but "Let It Go"? Meh. Well, we've been all over the place with this email thread so I'll let you wrap it up with a quick thought on who you think the dark horse to win Best Picture next year might be.

BILINSKI: I am disappointed in you, Grace. Guardians is exactly the sort of film I would expect you and I to consume beers and attend, and ultimately enjoy the crap out of. I'm determined to sway you to my side of the fence here. Perhaps talking violent raccoon might indeed be the ticket. And I thought the same thing about Pharrell's hat ("Wait, when did he become Canadian law enforcement?" was my exact comment, I believe). 12 Years a Slave, Gravity and Dallas Buyers Club are all good films, to differing levels. You should check them out (though you totally needed to see Gravity on the biggest screen possible in 3D to fully appreciate its majesty, in my not-so-humble opinion). Bad Grandpa had dangling old man testicles and projectile wall-splattering poo. That it was nominated for an Oscar makes me smile oh-so-inappropriately. Thank you for saying that about "Let It Go." I haven't seen Frozen (nor do I have an aching desire to do so). But everyone talks about that song. I saw her perform it at the Oscars ... and I was intensely underwhelmed and unimpressed. I don't get it. The song wasn't all that great and the performance was "...meh." But she (insert Travolta joke on name pronunciation here) and the film have enough awards and accolades, the last thing in the world they need is my approval. Kids seem to dig it. So Disney wins again.

As for the dark horse for Best Picture next year ... it's so early to predict. I have a sneaking suspicion that Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice might be something special (as is most everything he makes). But I'm actually going to go ahead and put my chips with Gone Girl. David Fincher was a major contender for The Social Network, and has garnered increased Academy love over the years. And from what I gather, the material is perfectly suited to him. It just might be his time. And honestly, nothing would make me happier.

• Joe Grace and Jakob Bilinski love to write about fun stuff here at Going for Gusto. Please support Going for Gusto by liking the Facebook page at Facebook.com/GoingForGusto.

PREVIOUS UP FOR DEBATE: The great Christmas movie email chain debate

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