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2014 has only just arrived, and already feels like a year that movie history is gearing up to overlook. All the long-view-of-history eyes are squarely focused on 2015, the year that - depending on who you ask - is either the final cementing of the industry's franchise/multimedia/adaptation-centric business model or the beginning of the end for the same. That's the year that Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, Star Wars: Episode VII, Terminator: Genesis, Mad Max: Fury Road, Superman vs. Batman, Ant-Man, Jurassic World, Fox's Fantastic Four reboot and now Fast & Furious 7 will all be fighting for boxoffice supremacy. So yes, it's easy enough to see why film journos can't wait to get their hands on all that content.

Nonetheless, 2014 is here for now and contains a good number of releases that at least have my interest piqued. Here's a sampling - chronological for the most part, but with my most anticipated saved for the finale:

RAZE (January 10)
Bloodsport + Saw + Chained Heat = ? reads like the formula for just about the nastiest thing you could release; and as it turns out the nastiest thing you could release is called Raze. Zoe Bell (the Kiwi stuntwoman star of Tarantino's Deathproof) stars as one of 50 women abducted by a mystery organization and given identical instructions: Fight eachother to the death, one on one, bare-knuckle... and if you die, so does your family. This looks like my kind of rough.

THE LEGO MOVIE (February 7)
Thus far, everything about this just looks amazing. The voice cast, the Matrix-riffing premise, the fact that it's the team behind the magnificent (original) Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs and that deceptively simple animation trick being employed to give expensive CGI the texture and movement of a home-made stop-motion LEGO fan film.

The Monuments Men (February 7)
During WWII, a small but dedicated U.S. Military-backed organization of art, history and cultural experts dedicated themselves to retrieving priceless works of art looted by the Nazis and minimize damage to historical landmarks by the fighting. Though they faced resistance by armies not wanting to be told where to bomb and skepticism from those who considered art-preservation a waste of resources perhaps better spent rescuing the living; they pressed on under the belief that rebuilding the world after the war wouldn't be possible if the accumulated history of human culture was lost in the process. This is their story, and I've waited a long time for someone to recognize that it deserved a movie. George Clooney directs and stars alongside Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman and Cate Blanchett.

ROBOCOP (February 12)
Paul Verhoeven's original Robocop is a classic, and my favorite movie ever. This PG-13 remake... looks like a steaming pile of ass, despite a not-bad cast and a respected new(ish) director at the helm. Still, you never know (2013's Frozen was a potent reminder that a bad trailer is hardly indicative of a bad movie) and I'm anxious to give the film its day in court.

WELCOME TO YESTERDAY (February 28)
Am I tired of "found-footage" style movies? Of course I am. But this time-travel yarn seems to be borrowing Chronicle's attitude of found-footage not having to look like crap and has a killer sci-fi hook: A teenager watches a home-movie of his own 7th birthday party and catches a glimpse of his present-day self somehow standing in the background.

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE (March 7)
Nothing could've sounded more unnecessary and tiresome than a sequel to 300, but this looks surprisingly good so far. The change of setting (it's primarily naval warfare this time) a potentially more interesting set of heroes (Athens instead of Sparta) a new female villain (Eva Green as Queen Artemisia) and the prospect of some backstory for Xerxes are all intriguing.

MUPPETS MOST WANTED (March 21)
It's a new Muppet movie, evidently a spiritual-successor to The Great Muppet Caper. I shouldn't need to explain anything beyond that.

NOAH (March 28)
Darren Aronofsky directs Russell Crowe in a retelling of Noah's Ark drawn more from Apocryphal and ancient Talmudic accounts rather than from modern/mainstream Biblical versions? Sign me up, hope we see some Giants.

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