Check out our copious roster of winter-spring arrivals from Tinseltown. Perusing the lists, we’ve pondered the difference that distinguishes film fans from film fanatics. Give up? Fans are pretty sure it’s getting close to the New Year, which means new movies. Fanatics, on the other hand, have already marked their calendars for March 2, 2014, the 86th Annual Academy Awards presentation. (They not only know that Ellen DeGeneres will be hosting the ceremony for the second time, but that the proceedings will be a week later than normal so as not to interfere with the Winter Olympics in Sochi.) And what about the movies themselves—might any of these personalities go home with Oscar statuettes? Several eminent actors and directors are represented in our pages—consider such notable names as Kenneth Branagh, Anne Hathaway, Jamie Foxx, Kate Winslet, Kevin Costner, Keanu Reeves, Ralph Fiennes, Russell Crowe, and Nicole Kidman, who’s portraying one of filmdom’s beloved stars, Grace Kelly in Grace of Monaco.
Starring James Corden, Alexandra Roach, Julie Walters
Directed by David Frankel
Release date January 10 (The Weinstein Company)
Tie-in from Weinstein Books One Chance: A Memoir by Paul Potts
When Potts, a cell phone salesman by day and amateur singer by night, stepped onto the stage in the first season of Britain’s Got Talent, his life changed. As he launched into Puccini’s Nessun Dorma, judge Simon Cowell and millions of viewers were stunned. Potts won the competition, becoming a YouTube sensation and multiplatinum artist virtually overnight. Filled with recollections not featured in the film, this fascinating tale tells of the shy Welsh store manager who seized his dreams and won worldwide audiences. The film, which features James Corden, Tony-winning star of One Man, Two Guvnors, and Julie Walters, star of Mamma Mia! and Billy Elliot, was written by Justin Zackham (The Bucket List) and directed by David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada).
Starring Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Jin Akanishi
Directed by Carl Rinsch
Release date January (Universal Studios)
Tie-in from Tuttle Books by Steven Turnbull
After a treacherous warlord kills their master and banishes their kind, 47 leaderless samurai vow to seek vengeance and restore honor to their people. Driven from their homes and dispersed across the land, this band of Ronin must seek the help of Kaiâ. The film centers on a band of samurai who defied the Emperor to avenge the disgrace and death of their master, and faced certain death as a result. This set off a chain of events that led to one of the bloodiest episodes in Japanese history. In the process, it also created a new set of heroes in Japan. The book contains a new foreword by Stephen Turnbull, the historical advisor for 47 Ronin and the author of more than 50 books on military history. As an aside, the Tuttle version of 47 Ronin is a leading course-adoptive literature title for colleges & universities. As Turnbull says in his foreword: “The raid of the Forty Seven Ronin holds a unique place in Japanese history. There is nothing quite like it, and John Allyn’s masterful re-retelling of the tale captures for modern readers much of the excitement with which the Japanese populace of the mid-eighteenth century would have responded to what for them was the equivalent of a newspaper sensation.”
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Starring Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Release date January 17 (Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions)
Tie-in from Berkley: The Hunt for Red October, et al. by Tom Clancy
Following Tom Clancy’s death Paramount has released the first trailer for the new film based on his most famous character. Chris Pine (Star Trek into Darkness; Rise of the Guardians) takes over as the hero of such Cold War-era novels-turned-films as The Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games and brings him to the modern day. Jack Ryan follows the hero from 9/11 through Afghanistan and into the CIA, where he uncovers a Russian plot to undermine the U.S. economy. Directed by Kenneth Branagh and written by Adam Cozad and David Keep, the action thriller, which co-stars Costner and Knightley, is set for a Christmas opening.
Starring Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Tobey Maguire
Directed by Jason Reitman
Release date January 31
Tie-in from William Morrow Paperback: Labor Day by Joyce Maynard
As the end of summer approaches and a long, hot Labor Day weekend looms, the life of lonely 13-year-old Henry Wheeler is irrevocably changed when he and his emotionally fragile mother show kindness to a stranger with a terrible secret. As police search for the escaped convict, mother and son gradually learn his true story as their options become increasingly limited. PW’s review called “Maynard’s prose beautiful and her characters winningly complicated, with no neat tie-ups in the end. A sometimes painful tale, but captivating and surprisingly moving.” Director Reitman has been Oscar-nominated for two notably popular films: Juno (2007) and Up in the Air (2009); according to IMDb.com, his impressive directing career includes 54 wins and 37 nominations in a variety of illustrious film festivals and award ceremonies. His notable cast, too, has garnered several Oscar wins and nominations, making this entry a Labor to watch for.
The Invisible Woman
Starring Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones, Kristin Scott Thomas
Directed by Ralph Fiennes
Release date January (Sony Pictures Classics)
Tie-in from Vintage/Anchor Books: The Invisible Woman by Claire Tomalin
H.G. Wells’s Invisible Man hardly needs an intro, but Tomalin’s tome is a different tale indeed. Subtitled The Story of Charles Dickens and Nelly Ternan, the book, first published in 1990, centers on the couple who met in 1857: she was 18, an actress performing in his production of The Frozen Deep, and he was 45, the most lionized writer in England. Out of their meeting came an affair that lasted 13 years and destroyed Dickens’s marriage while effacing Nelly Ternan from the public record. (None of the letters between the pair survived.) Fiennes has been honored with two Academy Award nominations, the first in 1994 for his performance in Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning Best Picture, Schindler’s List, and the second for Best Actor, in another Best Picture winner, Anthony Minghella’s The English Patient (1996).
The Lego Movie
Starring Voices of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, and Morgan Freeman
Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller
Release date February 7 (Warner Bros.)
Tie-ins from Scholastic: an activity book with a mini-figure, a movie handbook, a junior novelization, and a sticker activity book are all out January 1; and DK: two hardcover readers, a sticker book, and a guide to the movie will be published on December 30
The familiar building blocks have come a long way over the last 80 years, from the wooden models of the 1930s to the 2010 introduction of Lego minifigures, which feature prominently in the forthcoming 3-D movie. The original cast of minifigures includes an underdog named Emmet, who becomes embroiled in a case of mistaken identity and is expected to rescue the universe from being glued together. Sixteen new minifigures based on the movie characters—among them Marsha Queen of the Mermaids, Bad Cop/Good Cop, and “Where are my pants?” Guy—will be available on December 29.
Starring Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay, Russell Crowe
Directed by Akiva Goldsman
Release date February 14 (Warner Bros.)
Tie-in from HMH: Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin
Set in a mythic New York City and spanning more than a century, Mark Helprin’s widely lauded Tale is a story of miracles, crossed destinies and the age-old battle between good and evil. Director/producer Goldsman, whose impressive credits include a variety of credentials for A Beautiful Mind (2001) , has assembled an illustrious duo of leading men in Colin Farrell and Russell Crowe. (And though Findlay is not yet a household name, she’s known by myriad TV addicts as Lady Sybil in PBS’s celebrated Downton Abbey.)
Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters
Starring Zoey Deutch, Lucy Fry, and Danila Kozlovsky
Directed by Mark Waters
Release date February 14 (Preger Entertainment/ The Weinstein Company)
Tie-ins from Penguin/Razorbill: Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy, featuring cover art and containing a movie poster, an illustrated movie companion by Brandon T. Snider, and a graphic novel adapted by Leigh Dragoon, illus. by Emma Vieceli, are out December 31; and Penguin/Price Stern Sloan: a Vampire Academy Mad Libs, also due out December 31
With eight million copies in print across six books, Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series has a robust fan base. The books take place at a boarding school for students existing somewhere along the vampire continuum. Lead actress Deutch plays Rose Hathaway, a half-human/half-vampire Dhampir. She’s training to protect her best friend—a Moroi, or benevolent vampire – from the dangerous Strigoi vampires. Trailers suggest a scandalous serving of forbidden romance and campy humor, plus plenty of backstabbing (staking?) among the undead mean girls.
Starring Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Felton, Jessica Lange
Directed by Charlie Stratton
Release date February 21 (LD Entertainment)
Tie-in from Penguin Books USA: In Secret by Émile Zola
In a dingy Paris apartment, Thérèse Raquin is trapped in a loveless marriage to her sickly cousin, Camille. When she embarks on a turbulent affair with her husband’s friend Laurent, their passion compels the lovers to commit a crime that will haunt them forever. Zola’s novel caused a scandal in its 1867 debut, bringing its 27-year-old author a notoriety that followed him throughout his life. Olsen, best known for her roles in the films Martha Marcy May Marlene and Silent House, is the sibling of Full House twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, and the multi-talented Lange has garnered numerous plaudits for her American Horror Story TV role—though the rumor mill says she’s vacating that gig.
300: Rise of an Empire
Starring Sullivan Stapleton, Rodrigo Santoro, Eva Green
Directed by Noam Murro
Release date March 7 (Warner Bros., Legendary Pictures & Cruel & Unusual Films)
Tie-in from Titan Books: 300: Rise of an Empire: The Art of the Film by Peter Aperlo
This lavish, oversized hardback art book features stunning production art, photography from the acclaimed Clay Enos (Watchmen Portraits) and input from producer Zack Snyder and director Noam Murro. (Warner Bros. pushed the release of 300: Rise of an Empire from August 2, 2013 to March 7, 2014.)
Mr. Peabody & Sherman
Voices of Ty Burrell, Max Charles, and Stephen Colbert Directed by Rob Minkoff
Release date March 7 (DreamWorks Animation)
Tie-in from Insight Editions: The Art of Mr. Peabody & Sherman by Jerry Beck
Based on the Peabody’s Improbable History sequences of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, this animated film stars Mr. Peabody, a talking canine genius, and his troublemaking adopted boy, Sherman. When Sherman misuses the duo’s time travel machine, he causes a kerfuffle in the space-time continuum. Fans of the 1960s Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, which has had extended runs in syndication, may be a target demographic for this one.
Need for Speed
Starring Aaron Paul, Chillie Mo, Dominic Cooper,
Directed by Scott Waugh
Release date March 14 (DreamWorks Pictures)
Tie-in from Penguin: a novelization from the movie’s screeplay, which is based on the Need for Speed video games
Tobey Marshall (Paul), once a famed off-road racer, was framed for a crime and spent three years in prison; for Tobey, revenge means getting back behind the wheel. The film’s fan base will likely be those familiar with high-adrenaline video games, upon which the movie is based. Others may eagerly tune in to see where Aaron Paul’s post–Breaking Bad career is taking him—apparently, he’s still driving.
Grace of Monaco
Starring Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth, Frank Langella
Directed by Olivier Dahan
Release date March 14 (The Weinstein Company)
Tie-in from Weinstein Books: Grace of Monaco by Jeffrey Robinson
Only in La-la Land. This Cinderella story features former Hollywood star Grace Kelly, whose crisis of marriage and identity, during a political dispute between Monaco’s Prince Rainier III and France’s Charles De Gaulle, brought about a looming French invasion of Monaco in the early 1960s. Filmgoers can only hope that this royal romance—and its leading actress—will fare better than Diana, last November’s highly touted biopic that sank like the proverbial stone. Celebrated names onscreen and off offer a heady atmosphere—Tim Roth is Prince Rainier III, Paz Vega is opera diva Maria Callas, Robert Lindsay is Aristotle Onassis, Parker Posey is Grace’s frenemy social climber Madge Tivery-Faucon, etc.
Starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, and Kate Winslet
Directed by Neil Burger
Release date March 21 (Summit Entertainment)
Tie-in from HarperCollins/Tegen: a tie-in edition of Veronica Roth’s novel will be published on February 11, and an illustrated movie companion is slated for March 4
Veronica Roth’s three-book series takes place in a dystopian Chicago in which society is divided into five factions, each meant to uphold a particular virtue of humanity. At 16, citizens take an aptitude test to discover which faction best suits them. When 16-year-old Beatrice (Woodley) is found to not fit neatly into a single faction, making her a “divergent,” her life is placed at risk. The popularity of the Divergent trilogy, which has sold more than eight million copies domestically, suggests that the dystopian wellspring has not yet run dry. And Woodley is fast becoming the darling of YA book-to-screen ventures, with starring roles in last year’s adaptation of Tim Tharp’s The Spectacular Now (Knopf) and the forthcoming film version of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (Dutton). The next movie installment in the Divergent series, Insurgent, is currently in production.
Voices of Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, and Jamie Foxx
Directed by Carlos Saldanha
Release date April 11 (Blue Sky/20th Century Fox)
Tie-ins from HarperCollins/HarperFestival: two I Can Read titles, two 8x8 storybooks, and a junior novel, all publishing on March 1; Barron’s: a sticker scene book and a sticker activity book, both out March 4, 2014; Titan Books: The Art of Rio by Tara Bennett out March 11
The sequel to the 2011 computer-animated film Rio (which has grossed more than $400 million worldwide) catches up with macaws Blu (Eisenberg) and Jewel (Hathaway), now raising three offspring in their Rio de Janeiro home. When the ever-adventurous Jewel suggests that the kids get acquainted with their roots, the family flies to the Amazon, where a host of feathered friends and foes await. Adults may enjoy the lush aerial views of the rainforest as well as a few inside jokes about child-rearing and family ties.