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Braving the swirling winds of the polar vortex (which had thankfully died down substantially; we were getting tired of wearing more layers than a Victorian-era prostitute), Super Bowl XLVIII took place in the wintery northeast this Sunday. While the game itself was fairly humdrum (poor Broncos), there were a fair amount of exciting movie previews that played during the commercial breaks. So, hooray for Hollywood!

This year, we got bite-sized morsels that doled out the big-budget extravaganzas scheduled to hit theaters in the months ahead -- for things like "Amazing Spider-Man 2," "Need for Speed," "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," "Muppets Most Wanted," "Noah," and, or course, "Transformers: Age of Extinction."

'The Monuments Men' Release Date: 2/7/14
What's It About? Based on the true story of a group of intrepid art historians who, towards the end of World War II, fly into Nazi-occupied Europe in an effort to retrieve stolen works of art from the Nazis and protect the pieces they couldn't get to. George Clooney co-wrote, directed, and co-stars, alongside Bill Murray, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, and Jean Dujardin. Your dad has probably already preordered his tickets.
Excitement Level: Since we've already seen this one, we can tell you that whatever excitement you have towards this movie should probably be halved. It's kind of boring. Oh well. Clooney can at least be happy knowing that he's the handsomest, richest, most talented man on earth.

'Pompeii' Release Date: 2/21/14
What's It About? Taking the "Titanic" / "Pearl Harbor" mold of sweeping melodrama set against a real-world tragedy, "Pompeii" follows a young slave-turned-gladiator ("Game of Thrones" heartthrob Kit Harington) who is in a race against time to save his true love (Emily Browning, from "Sucker Punch") before the titular volcano erupts and turns everyone into spooky ash-shadows. In 3D.
Excitement Level: Honestly, this one is pretty low on our radar, although the last time director Paul W.S. Anderson, a kind of drive-in auteur if there ever was one, tried his hand at a sweeping historical 3D melodrama, he gave the world "The Three Musketeers," which is nearly sublime in its silliness. (Seriously -- watch it!) The supporting cast, which includes Kiefer Sutherland (as a Roman senator), Jared Harris, Jessica Lucas, Carrie-Anne Moss, and the outrageously wonderful Paz Vega, also has us hoping for the best, but fearing the worst.

'Need for Speed' Release Date: 3/14/14
What's It About? An adaptation of the long-running video game franchise in which the race is of secondary importance to evading the fuzz, the film stars "Breaking Bad"'s Aaron Paul as a newly freed convict looking for revenge on the man who set him up and murdered his BFF. Expect a lot of macho engine-revving.
Excitement Level: On the precipice. While it doesn't sound all that thrilling on paper, early reports have indicated that the stunts (all practically accomplished) are nothing short of jaw-dropping. If this one turns out to be a solid genre offering, don't say that we didn't call it here first.

'Muppets Most Wanted' Release Date: 3/21/14
What's It About? A sequel to 2011's middling (but Oscar-winning) "The Muppets," this follow-up ditches Jason Segel but retains original director James Bobin and, more importantly, singer-songwriter Bret McKenzie. This time, the Muppets are in Europe, with a plot vaguely reminiscent of "Great Muppet Caper," with Kermit getting kidnapped and replaced by a legendary jewel thief who also happens to be his exact double.
Excitement Level: Honestly, pretty high. While the trailers have been less-than-inspired (except for this one), the footage that we saw last summer at D23 had us in stitches, and the cast, which includes Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, and a whole host of starry cameos, is kind of unstoppable. While it seems unlikely that these new movies will ever be as good as the vaulted, Jim Henson-supervised originals, we have a feeling that this one will come pretty close, even with Walter, the most boring Muppet of all time.

'Noah' Release Date: 3/28/14
What's It About? You know... biblical story... lots of rain... giant ark... two of every animal... You guys get it. Noah will be played by Russell Crowe and is flanked by a cast that includes Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, and Anthony Hopkins. Oh, and lots of computer-generated beasts.
Excitement Level: This one vacillates on a daily basis. On one hand, it looks boring and pompous and a complete waste of the considerable talents of Darren Aronofsky, coming off his Oscar-winning thriller "Black Swan." But then there are moments when we're almost unbearably excited, especially since we've heard it's way weirder than the fairly square trailers are indicating. We'd follow Aronofsky just about everywhere, including a biblical flood.

'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' Release Date: 4/4/14
What's It About? Everyone's favorite recently thawed super-soldier Captain America (Chris Evans) returns to battle the greatest threat to the world: bureaucracy! Supposedly, this one is fashioned after '70s spy thrillers, and costars "Avengers" teammates Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson).
Excitement Level: We're getting there. While another movie set in the Marvel universe is the last thing we want or need, the promise of an atypical superhero adventure (with Robert Redford, for crying out loud) has us at the very least intrigued. Plus, there seems to be a lot of hovering airships, which is always cool.

'Draft Day' Release Date: 4/11/14
What's It About? Kevin Costner, who is in one of every three movies released in the 2014 calendar year, plays an offbeat football manager who uses a math-based formula in the hopes of building an unstoppable roster for the Cleveland Browns. Also, Jennifer Garner is in it. We're hoping she has more to do than she did in "Dallas Buyers Club" but less to do than she did in "Elektra."
Excitement Level: Honestly, our expectations are pretty high. "Ghostbusters" filmmaker Ivan Reitman, a man who knows a thing or two about making emotionally gripping, utterly hilarious studio comedies, directed "Draft Day," and, honestly, we're not so bummed about the whole Costner-being-in-every-third-movie-in-2014 thing. Also, the studio is already screening the movie for critics, which means that it's both done and that they're really, really proud of it. Are you ready for some football?

'Amazing Spider-Man 2' Release Date: 5/2/14
What's It About? Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield, once again) faces off against many foes in this sequel, including (but not exclusively) the Rhino (Paul Giamatti), Electro (Jamie Foxx), and the Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan). All of this villain battling will undoubtedly take a toll on his romantic relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone, again). Ah, the drama of being a teenage superhero!
Excitement Level: Tempered. We weren't all that crazy about 2012's "Amazing Spider-Man," which felt very much like a warmed-over retread of the Sam Raimi originals. But maybe with different villains and a fresh coat of paint, he can become our favorite cinematic superhero once more.

'Transformers: Age of Extinction' Release Date: 6/27/14
What's It About? It's the fourth "Transformers" movie directed by Michael Bay. If you don't know what to expect by now, there's really no hope for you.
Excitement Level: Even though the "Transformers" movies seem to be making less and less sense as the franchise wears on, Bay is able to produce visuals that have a striking, nearly unparalleled quality to them. Nobody working in Hollywood today can stage large-scale destruction with the kind of wit and aplomb, quite frankly. This entry acts as an in-franchise reboot, ditching the entire human cast of the first three movies (replaced by Mark Wahlberg and... does it even really matter?) and only retaining two of the original movie's robots (Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, obviously). It should be exciting and really, really loud. Oh, and Dinobots!
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