The Must-See Movies of Early 2014
Movie studios do not release their movies haphazardly. Studios carefully calibrate the release dates to ensure the highest return on their investment. For example, blockbuster action movies most often hit theaters in the summer while movies that may generate Oscar buzz come to theaters in the fall or winter so they are fresh in the minds of voters. Unfortunately, this means that the spring is typically the weakest season for quality films. Nevertheless, studios have released three films in the spring of 2014 that stand head-and-shoulders above the rest.
"Divergent," released on March 21, 2014, takes place in post-apocalyptic Chicago. Every person living in this dystopian future has one of five possible aptitudes, and the authorities group people accordingly. The five groups, or factions as the movie labels them, are abnegation, amity, erudite, dauntless and candor. The star of the movie, Beatrice "Tris" Prior, soon discovers that she has multiple aptitudes and fits in with more than one faction. In the movie, which derives its plot from the novel of the same name, Prior, played very well by Shailene Woodley, soon discovers that all is not as it seems. A sinister plot is afoot.
Although some have criticized "Divergent" for being similar to "The Hunger Games," this may ultimately help the film succeed financially. In truth, the movie does not parallel "The Hunger Games" any more closely than any number of other genre films. The primary similarity between the two films is that they both feature a young female protagonist. While this film may not draw many boys and young men, it is destined to be popular amongst most other demographic groups. The story is clear and compelling, the young leads turn in wonderful performances, and the production quality is top-notch. Given the novel's large fan base, the film is sure to succeed and become a favorite for years to come.
In many other years, "Non-Stop" would be the type of movie released as a summer blockbuster. By releasing it a few months early, the film will likely dominate other action films in the spring and be hailed as one of the year's best. "Non-Stop" opened on February 26, 2014 in France, and it opened two days later in the United States. In the U.S., "Non-Stop" was the number one movie of the weekend, beating out both "The Lego Movie" and "Son of God."
"Non-Stop" audiences follow U.S. Air Marshall William Marks, played by Liam Neeson, as he attempts to prevent a series of murders on a flight traveling form New York to London. Neeson plays the role beautifully, and costar Julianne Moore shines in her role as Jen Summers. As the plot unfolds, Marks must fight both intellectual and physical battles as he tries to prevent tragedy and get the plane down safely. Marks must not only battle the mastermind behind the movie's plot, but he must overcome suspicions that he is actually the terrorist. At the climax, the plot takes a bold turn that leaves audiences questioning the true intentions of the film's primary characters.
"The Lego Movie"
"The Lego Movie," written and directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, follows the adventures of an ordinary Lego figure as he tries to save the Lego universe from imminent destruction. A computer-animated masterpiece, the movie's colors and artwork make it visually stunning. The film is a playful romp through the fictionalized world of the popular toys that has delighted audiences since its February 1, 2014 release.
An all-star cast brings the movie to life by providing the voices of the main characters. Funny man Chris Pratt provides the voice for lead character Emmet Brickowski while Will Ferrell provides the voice for Lord Business, the movie's foil. Other notable actors whose voices appear in the film include Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. Shaquille O'Neal, Billy Dee Williams and Anthony Daniels have cameo appearances in the film as well. Through the combination of a family-friendly script and the type of stars that parents love, "The Lego Movie" is destined to be one of the best films of 2014.
While the spring is usually the weakest season for movie releases, each year a few special gems hit the big screen. "Divergent," "Non-Stop" and "The Lego Movie" are the 2014 year's best films to date, and given early box office numbers, each is sure to be highly successful. It is no accident that these three movies do not have broadly overlapping target audiences. Rather than slogging it out with the numerous high-quality films scheduled for summer or winter releases, these films have dominated their respective genres.