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2014 movie trends to watch

Hollywood may be hoping for less drama in 2014. In 2013, blockbusters like “The Lone Ranger” and “After Earth” flopped while many in the industry (including Steven Spielberg) bemoaned the increasingly commercial trajectory of the studios. And yet by the end of the year, Hollywood had set a record with nearly US$11 billion in revenue, while critics hailed the year’s crop as one of the best in years.

How will 2014 unfold? The plot, at least, will be unchanged, with Hollywood moving to the familiar pattern of sketchy spring releases, summer superhero blockbusters and fall awards-contenders. Here are 10 things to look for at the movies in 2014:

Stellar Sci-Fi

Anticipation runs high for “Interstellar” (November 7), Christopher Nolan’s deep space travel adventure starring Matthew McConaughey. Nolan, director of “Inception” and “The Dark Knight,” is one of few directors whose name alone makes fanboys salivate. His imprimatur promises a cinematic experience (he likes to shoot with IMAX) that few today can match. Nolan’s name also looms large in “Transcendence” (April 18), which he produced. The artificial intelligence tale, starring Johnny Depp, is the directorial debut of Nolan cinematographer Wally Pfister.

Hold-overs from 2013

This year will benefit from last year’s leftovers. George Clooney’s World War II art rescue tale “The Monuments Men” will open February 7 after a delay. James Grey’s Ellis Island drama “The Immigrant” (undated), starring Joaquin Phoenix and Marion Cottilard, could be an Oscar dark horse after acclaim at festivals. Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher,” featuring a dark turn from Steve Carell, is coming in 2014. “Grace of Monaco,” with Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly, won’t be released March 14 as planned and a new date has yet to be set.

Marvel’s expanding universe

Marvel’s world domination continues with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (April 4), “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (May 2), “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (May 23) and “Guardians of the Galaxy” (August 1). The last, the lone non-sequel, is Marvel’s reach for another ensemble film, and, with a cast including Chris Pratt and Bradley Cooper, perhaps something a little different.

Musicals sing again

After no major live-action musical in 2013, several are up. Clint Eastwood directs the adaptation of the hit production on Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in “Jersey Boys” (June 20). “Annie” (December 19), produced by Will Smith and Jay Z, gets an update with “Beasts of the Southern Wild” star Quvenzhane Wallis as the orphan. Rob Marshall (“Chicago”) transfers the Grimm fable “Into the Woods” to the big screen (December 25), with Meryl Streep as the Witch and Depp as the Big Bad Wolf.

Sure bets from veteran hands

Paul Thomas Anderson (“There Will Be Blood,” “The Master”) releases have become the highlight of the year. His “Inherent Vice” (not yet dated), adapted from Thomas Pynchon’s novel and starring Phoenix, continues his series of California-set films. Also hotly anticipated is David Fincher’s version of Gillian Flynn’s best-selling thriller, “Gone Girl” (October 3) with Ben Affleck. Other directors to watch in 2014 include Wes Anderson (“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” March 7) and Woody Allen (“Magic in the Moonlight,” undated).

Sequels, remakes and a Hobbit

Sequels and remakes this year include “Godzilla” (May 16), “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1” (November 21), “Transformers: Age of Extinction” (June 27), “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” (July 11), “22 Jump Street” (June 13), “The Expendables 3” (August 15) and “How to Train Your Dragon 2” (June 13). Peter Jackson will close out JRR Tolkien with his final “Hobbit” installment: “The Hobbit: There and Back Again” (December 17).

Bearded men from the Bible

This year will boast a Noah and a Moses. First will come Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah” (March 28), starring Russell Crowe and a very big boat. Ridley Scott will follow on December 12 with “Exodus,” starring Christian Bale as Moses. Greek mythology will also double up in 2014 with two Hercules movies. The demigod will be played by Dwayne Johnson in Brett Ratner’s “Hercules” (July 25) and by Kellan Lutz in “The Legend of Hercules” (in cinema now). More Greek warfare comes with the sequel “300: Rise of an Empire” (March 7).

That was not the end

Co-directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg  follow their 2013 hit “This Is the End” with “The Interview” (October 10), a comedy with James Franco as a talk-show host caught in an assassination plot. Rogen stars with Zac Efron in “Neighbors” (May 9), by director Nicholas Stoller, about a family living next to a frat house. Comedies include “Dumb and Dumber To” (November 14), with Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels; one-night-stand comedy “Walk of Shame” (April 25) with Elizabeth Banks; and “Sex Tape” (August 1) with Cameron Diaz.

Jolie’s return

Angelina Jolie, unseen in a live-action film since 2010’s forgettable “The Tourist,” stars as the title villain in “Maleficent” (May 30), the twisted “Sleeping Beauty” tale. She also directs her second feature in “Unbroken” (December 25), a World War II prisoner-of-war drama co-scripted by Joel and Ethan Coen. Her companion, Brad Pitt, stars in a WWII story of his own, “Fury” (November 14), about an American tank crew.

Hunting the Hunger Games

The competition is thick for the next hit young-adult franchise. Entries include the post-apocalyptic “Divergent” (March 21); the high-school vampire fantasy “Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters” (February 14); and the sci-fi dystopia “The Maze Runner” (September 19).

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