What to Watch in 2014

"Maleficent" beguiles, "Downton Abbey" returns, movies sequels abound, the 2014 Sochi Games will thrill, and "House of Cards" is back ... in Ultra HD, no less!

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PBS Masterpiece
Downton Abbey Season 4rSundays, January 5 – February 23, 2014rOn MASTERPIECE on PBS Season 4 of the international hit Downton Abbey finds aristocrats and servants coping with last season’s shocking finale. The acclaimed ensemble is back, including Dame Maggie Smith, Elizabeth McGovern, Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Jim Carter, Penelope Wilton, and Laura Carmichael—together with returning guest star Academy Award®-winner Shirley MacLaine and new guest star Paul Giamatti. © Carnival Film and Television Limited 2013 for MASTERPIECE
"Downton Abbey" Returns for a Fourth Season 24 million Americans tuned in for the third season of the British drama, making it the highest-rated PBS drama of all time. Can Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham continue to maintain control of his vast estate in a rapidly changing, post-World War I world? Will Lady Mary ever recover from the grief of losing her husband? And could the Dowager Countess become any more caustic? When it comes to the latter question, our most fervent hope is, yes!
“Maleficent” Angelina Jolie as one of the most infamous storybook witches ever created? Count us in. Disney revisits the world of "Sleeping Beauty," though in this fable the action centers around the untold story of the woman who will ultimately condemn the beauty of the 1959 animated classic to a life of eternal slumber. Elle Fanning stars as the Princess Aurora, but if the early trailers are indication, the film belongs to Jolie in all her elegantly-horned wickedness. (In theaters May 30, 2014)
"True Blood" Finale Season seven of the weekly HBO series based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries series of novels created by Charlaine Harris will be the last. Based on the premise that vampires and other supernatural creatures live among us, "True Blood" revolves around Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), a telepathic human-fairy hybrid known as a halfling. To go into all the character developments, deaths, possessions, murders and scenes featuring a half-naked Joe Manganiello as the werewolf Alcide over the past seven years would take more space than allotted here. So let's just get ready for the end and say: Fangs for the memories! (Season begins Jun. 1 on HBO)
Paramount Pictures
Reboots Continue to Roll Out For every audience draw like "The Amazing Spider-Man," there's a "Lone Ranger" languishing at the bottom of the box office. Regardless, reboots continue to roll out in 2014 with new versions of “Robocop,” “Godzilla,” “Hercules,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” "Annie," "I, Frankenstein" and “Dracula Untold” all scheduled to bow in theaters. Also getting an origins makeover is the Tom Clancy character Jack Ryan, embodied this time around by actor Chris Pine in "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" (Jan. 17).
Joel Ryan/Invision/AP
A New “Doctor Who” Fans of the venerable British science fiction series were saddened in 2013 when it was announced Matt Smith (the youngest ever actor to play the titular Time Lord) would be leaving "Doctor Who" after three years. That anguish was allayed when news broke that Scottish thespian Peter Capaldi would become the thirteenth Doctor during the annual Christmas special that aired on Dec. 25. How Capaldi will interpret the 900-plus year old Doctor remains to be seen, but as the last 50 years has proved, fans will continue to support the series as long as the Doctor continues to fight evil across the galaxies. (Return date to be advised)
2014 Sochi Olympics The biggest Winter Olympics in history, set to take place in the world's biggest country will receive the most US coverage in Winter Games history. NBC will present more than 1,539 hours of coverage across NBC, NBCSN, MSNBC, CNBC, USA Network and NBCOlympics.com.NBC's coverage begins in primetime on Thursday, Feb. 6 at 8 p.m. and continues up until the closing ceremony on Sunday Feb. 23. Primetime coverage will include the opening and closing ceremonies, figure skating, short track, alpine skiing and freestyle snowboarding.
Lionsgate/Murray Close
Chances are high that a few films you choose in 2014 will feature actors reinhabiting characters for a second or third time. Sequels and prequels slated to hit theaters next year include “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1," “Captain America: The Winter Soldier," “X-Men: Days of Future Past," “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” “Transformers 4,” “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” “Expendables 3,” “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” “Muppets Most Wanted,” "Sin City 2," "300: Rise of an Empire," "The Hobbit: There and Back Again," "Dumb and Dumber To" and “22 Jump Street.”
Eric Liebowitz/NBC
"Believe" on NBC From executive producers Alfonso Cuaron ("Gravity") and J.J. Abrams ("Star Trek," the upcoming "Star Wars 7"), this science fiction/fantasy series with X-Men overtones centers around Bo (Johnny Seqovah), an orphaned girl with special gifts - telekinesis, levitation, the ability to control nature. At the age of 10 Bo's powers begin to amplify and she requires a full-time protector. Only problem is the best person for the job is currently on death row, and has no interest in the job. Until they break him out of prison. (Air date to be advised)
"House of Cards" Season 2 - In Ultra HD Netflix changed the viewing landscape when they began streaming their original series and made the entire season available for subscribers to view on day one. "House of Cards," the Emmy-winning political thriller starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright as a power-hungry pair of DC denizens, returns Feb. 14. Adding yet another bow to their quiver, Netflix announced the new season will be available in 4K Ultra HD on select Internet TVs. While Ultra HD screens are still a rarity in most homes, adding highly-anticipated content such as "House of Cards" can only promote and generate interest in the high-res format, say execs at Netflix. Ultra HD provides resolution four times that of full HD 1080p. Evil has never looked so sharp!
Niko Tavernise
Biblical Epics In 2013 reality TV kingpin mark Burnett and The History Channel showed how popular religious programming could be with their 10-episode series based on the Bible, the first installment of which drew more than 13 million viewers. A sequel to that series, "AD," has been given the greenlight and will air on NBC when it debuts, most likely in the spring of 2015. Those needing a bible story fix in the interim need only head to the local cineplex where Russell Crowe (pictured here with co-star Jennifer Connelly) will build an ark as "Noah" (Mar. 8) and Ridley Scott will direct Christian Bale as Moses in "Exodus" (Dec. 12). - Colin Bertram
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