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10 things to look for in 2014 at the movies

Friday - 1/10/2014, 3:18pm  ET

This film image released by Fox Searchlight Films shows Paul Schlase, Tony Revelori, Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes in a scene from "The Grand Budapest Hotel." (AP Photo/Fox Searchlight Films, Martin Scali)

JAKE COYLE
AP Film Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Hollywood may be hoping for a little less drama in 2014.

2013 was a tale of two cinemas. Blockbusters like "The Lone Ranger" and "After Earth" flopped spectacularly 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 $11 billion in revenue, while critics hailed the year's crop -- from "Gravity" to "12 Years a Slave" to "Inside Llewyn Davis" -- as one of the best in years.

The movie business remains, as ever, an incomprehensible Jekyll and Hyde act of up and down, hit and bomb.

How will 2014 unfold? The plot, at least, will be unchanged. However much some would like to see a new rhythm to Hollywood's seasonal cycle, the year will move 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 especially high for "Interstellar" (Nov. 7), Christopher Nolan's deep space travel adventure starring Matthew McConaughey. Nolan, the 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 cameras) 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 and Rebecca Hall, is the directorial debut of Nolan's longtime cinematographer Wally Pfister. Other science-fiction entries in 2014 include a reboot of "Robocop" (Feb. 12), a futuristic, time-traveling war film with Tom Cruise; "Edge of Tomorrow" (June 6), the Wachowskis' latest fantasy oddity, "Jupiter Ascending" (July 18); and Ryan Gosling's directorial debut "How to Catch a Monster" (no date yet), a less effect-heavy domestic drama that tunnels into an underwater realm.

HOLD-OVERS FROM 2013

This year will benefit from last year's unusually good leftovers. George Clooney's World War II art rescue tale "The Monuments Men" will open Feb. 7 after being delayed from December. James Grey's Ellis Island drama "The Immigrant" (undated), starring Joaquin Phoenix and Marion Cottilard, could emerge as an Oscar dark horse after earning acclaim on the festival circuit. Bennett Miller's "Foxcatcher," featuring a dark turn from Steve Carell, will bow sometime in 2014. "Grace of Monaco," with Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly, opens March 14. The schedule for 2014 will doubtless contain its own shifts, too. The seventh "Fast & Furious" film, planned for July, was moved to 2015 following the death of star Paul Walker in November.

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" (Aug. 1). The last, the lone non-sequel, represents Marvel's reach for another ensemble team-up film, and, with a cast including Chris Pratt and Bradley Cooper, perhaps something a little different than its usual output.

MUSICALS SING AGAIN

Though 2013 contained no major live-action musical, several are coming this year. Clint Eastwood, of all people, directs the screen adaptation of the hit production about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in "Jersey Boys" (June 20). "Annie" (Dec. 19), produced by Will Smith and Jay Z, will get a contemporary update with "Beasts of the Southern Wild" star Quvenzhane Wallis as the titular orphan. Rob Marshall ("Chicago") will transfer James Lapine and Steven Sondheim's Grimm fable "Into the Woods" to the big screen (Dec. 25), with Meryl Streep as the Witch and Depp as the Big Bad Wolf. The Muppets, too, will be back in "Muppets Most Wanted" (March 21), a caper where Jim Henson's furry troupe travels to Europe. And not yet dated is John Carney's "Once" follow-up, "Can a Song Save Your Life?" a similarly naturalistic musical starring Keira Knightley as an aspiring singer and Mark Ruffalo as a record producer.

SURE BETS FROM VETERAN HANDS

Paul Thomas Anderson ("There Will Be Blood," ''The Master") releases have become the highlight of many a movie buff's year. His "Inherent Vice" (not yet dated), adapted from Thomas Pynchon's novel and starring Phoenix, continues the director's series of California-set films. Also hotly anticipated is David Fincher's version of Gillian Flynn's best-selling thriller, "Gone Girl" (Oct. 3), starring Ben Affleck. Other directors to watch in 2014 include Wes Anderson ("The Grand Budapest Hotel," March 7), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu ("Birdman," undated), Woody Allen ("Magic in the Moonlight," undated) and Tim Burton ("Big Eyes," undated). Terrence Malick's latest is also expected this year, though little is ever certain with "The Tree of Life" director.

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