T-minus one week and counting until 2015 —and now that we’ve finally put our 2014 top-ten lists to bed, it’s time to turn our attention to the new year. From the looks of things so far, it should be a good one.
We’d initially planned to highlight just 10 or 15 movies with this most-anticipated list. But when we researched the movies of 2015, we realized 10 or 15 picks just wasn’t enough to cover all the films we’re excited about. Even with out final list of 25, a bunch of really promising movies got left off. (Sorry, ‘Pitch Perfect 2.’ We hope you’ll aca-forgive us.) Right now, 2015 looks absolutely stacked, with both mega-blockbusters and fascinating-looking indie films. And right now, here are the blockbusters and indies were looking forward to the most, in the order of release date (those with no release date are listed in alphabetical order).
What It’s About: The Wachowskis’ first original screenplay since ‘The Matrix’ trilogy concerns an Earth woman (Mila Kunis) who is secretly the heir to an alien empire. Channing Tatum plays the Spock-earred warrior charged with protecting her and helping her reclaim her throne; Eddie Redmayne is an alien bad guy who has a funny voice and dresses like the love child of David Bowie and Jennifer Lopez’s character in ‘The Cell.’
Why We’re Excited: Admittedly, there are lots of reasons not to be excited for this one. Warner Bros. already delayed ‘Jupited Ascending’ from the high-stakes real-estate of mid-July to the low-stakes dregs of early February (never a good sign), and the movie just looks flat-out weird. Perversely, though, that’s what has us curious; the release date and the marketing suggests this is an even more uninhibited version of the Wachowskis’ crazy, funky sci-fi aesthetic than ‘Cloud Atlas.’ It could be a flop with audiences and a fabulously strange film all at once.
What It’s About: Ben Stiller plays a documentary filmmaker who, along with his wife (Naomi Watts), finds his life overturned when a disarming young hipster couple (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried) enters their lives.
Why We’re Excited: Writer-Director Noah Baumbach’s last movie, ‘Frances Ha’, was one of our favorites of 2013 and early word on ‘While We’re Young’ out of the Toronto Film Festival, is that this movie might be even funnier. With ‘Night at the Museum 3' still leaving a funny (not that kind of funny…) taste in our mouth, the idea of a really funny Ben Stiller movie is an appealing one.
What It’s About: Not much has been officially revealed about the specifics of the plot, but we do know it follows the events after the post-credits scene in ‘Fast and Furious 6'. After the death of Han at the hands of Ian Shaw’s brother, Deckard (Jason Statham), the gang reunites for vengeance.
Why We’re Excited: Our excitement for ‘Furious 7' is a little bittersweet, knowing that Paul Walker died halfway through filming and that his character, Brian O’Connor, will be leaving us. It’s a tragic turn for one of our most exciting franchises that will invariably spin the future of these films and characters into new and different directions.
What It's About: The next installment in the ‘Avengers’ series and the end of Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The sequel follows the team getting back together to stop the villainous Ultron, a highly-intelligent robot hell-bent on domination and human extinction.
Why We're Excited: After the first film, we’d return just on blind faith alone. But, with all Marvel has done since ‘The Avengers’ opened in 2012, the Marvel universe has only improved and director Joss Whedon now has even more exciting tools at his disposal. Whedon likely won’t return for the ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ movies (passing the buck to ‘Captain America’ directors Joe and Anthony Russo), so this is his last Marvel hurrah. We’ll be there to see him go.
What It's About: Max (Tom Hardy) becomes swept up with a group of rebels, led by Charlize Theron, who are fleeing from The Citadel. They're on the run from Immortan Joe who will stop at nothing to get his stolen cargo—a group of young, beautiful women—back, even if it means chasing them in a brutal Road War across the Wasteland.
Why We're Excited: There were a lot of reports out of the first ‘Fury Road’ test screenings that the latest ‘Mad Max’ movie was just one really long car chase. After seeing the Comic-Con footage and the most recent trailer, it could be a remake of ‘Paul Blart: Mall Cop’ and we’d still need to see it immediately. It may be a complete cliche, but it’s almost impossible to watch any footage from this film and think, “They don’t make movies like this anymore.” We want more movies like this, and we’ll be there to support it.
What It’s About: Before he takes over the ‘Ghostbusters’ franchise, Paul Feig will re-team with Melissa McCarthy for this spy comedy that pairs the bumbling ‘Bridesmaids’ star with action hero supreme Jason Statham. Jude Law and Rose Byrne also star in a story that supposedly involves McCarthy’s Susan Cooper going out into the field after a career working a desk at the CIA for an all-important mission. Hilarity theoretically ensues.
Why We’re Excited: Feig and McCarthy brought a fresh twist to the buddy comedy with ‘The Heat,’ and they could do the same here for the spy film. McCarthy and Statham also sound like an intriguing oil-and-water comedy duo; here’s hoping Feig continues his tradition of subverting genre expectations and gender roles by having McCarthy and Statham trade trademark moves—McCarthy could be the one punching dudes in the throat while Statham takes a dump in a sink. Now that’s sounds like a movie to look forward to.
What It’s About: That’s tough to say; the film remains shrouded in mystery. We know this much: Britt Robertson stars as a young woman who’s transported by a magical pin to a futuristic place known as Tomorrowland; George Clooney stars as a “former boy-genius inventor.” And, of course, the whole thing is loosely inspired by the famous area in Disneyland.
Why We’re Excited: ‘Tomorrowland’ is a tough project to get a handle on, and it’s entirely possible the film will be a disaster. But in this age of sequels, remakes, and reboots, original blockbusters like ‘Tomorrowland’ are an increasingly endangered species, and that alone makes it worth anticipating. Also, banking on director Brad Bird (‘The Iron Giant,’ ‘The Incredibles,’ ‘Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol’) has never failed us before, so there’s no reason to think that’s about to change.
‘Untitled Cameron Crowe Project’May 29, 2015
What It’s About: An all-star cast including Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, John Krasinski, Rachel McAdams, Danny McBride, Bill Murray, and Alec Baldwin star in Crowe’s latest project, a long-in-development tale of a defense contractor (Cooper) who falls for a woman (Stone) while working on a satellite-launch in Hawaii.
Why We’re Excited: Look, if after ‘Vanilla Sky,’ ‘Elizabethtown,’ and ‘We Bought a Zoo’ you want to say that you’re not longer excited for anything with Cameron Crowe’s name on it, we get it. But we haven’t forgotten ‘Say Anything…’ and ‘Almost Famous’ (or ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’) and we remain resolute in our belief that Crowe will regain his form and deliver yet another masterpiece. Here’s hoping this untitled project (previously known as ‘Deep Tiki’) is it.
‘Jurassic World’June 12, 2015
What It’s About: Chris Pratt and dinosaurs. What, you need more than that? Fine; it’s specifically about a new dino theme park named Jurassic World, and what happens every time some moron tries to make a new dino theme park: Chaos, madness, and death. ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’ director Colin Trevorrow takes over the beloved franchise; the cast includes Bryce Dallas Howard, Jake Johnson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Irrfan Khan, and returning ‘Jurassic Park’ cast members BD Wong and Tyrannosaurs Rex (as himself).
Why We’re Excited: Chris Pratt and dinosaurs. What, you need more than that? Fine; the ‘Jurassic Park’ franchise is one that seems tailor-made for a modern update with state-of-the-art special effects, and Trevorrow clearly loves his predecessors so much that he’s going to do whatever it takes to make this a worthy follow-up to Steven Spielberg’s classic blockbuster. Admittedly, the first trailer wasn’t a home run, but at least it didn’t look as bad as ‘The Lost World.’
What It’s About: Riley is a young pre-teen girl whose family just moved to San Francisco. As Riley and her emotions—Joy, Anger, Fear, Disgust and Sadness—struggle to adjust to a new life, turmoil ensues. Although Joy tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, new school and new friends.
Why We’re Excited: 2014 was a weird year; one without a Pixar movie. The good news is Pixar is back in 2015, and this isn’t just another sequel, but an original film from director Pete Docter (‘Up’ and ‘Monsters, Inc.’).
What It’s About: Jacobs, longtime assistant director to Steven Soderbergh, takes over for his now-retired boss at the helm of this sequel to the surprise 2012 hit about the misadventures of a bunch of enterprising (and extremely flexible [and very muscular]) male strippers. (Soderbergh’s not completely gone; he’s ‘XXL’’s cinematographer.) There’s no Matthew McConaughey this time, but Channing Tatum is back along with most of the original cast, including Matt Bomer and Joe Maganiello. Newcomers include Elizabeth Banks, Donald Glover, Jada Pinkett Smith, Michael Strahan, Gabriel Iglesias, and Amber Heard. The movie has almost as many big-name stars as articles of breakaway clothing.
Why We’re Excited: Soderbergh may have been (self-)demoted to director of photography, but this looks like a sequel very much in the spirit of the original, guided by most of the first film’s key creative voices, including Tatum, who helped write ‘XXL’ and based it on his experiences at a real-life “stripper convention” in the 1990s. I’m guessing that sort of thing looks a little bit different than Comic-Con.
What It’s About: Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang, a con man who must team with Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the original Ant-Man and Lang’s mentor, to protect Pym’s shrinking technology and plan a heist that could save the world. Evangeline Lilly co-stars as Hope Van Dyne, the daughter of Pym and Janet Van Dyne, the original Wasp; Corey Stoll plays Yellowjacket, another Pym protege. In a post-credits scene, Paul Rudd is asked to join the Avengers (we assume).
Why We’re Excited: The loss of original director Edgar Wright stings worse than one of The Wasp’s laser blasts, but ‘Ant-Man’ could still be one of the sleeper hits of the summer. Peyton Reed’s a talented filmmaker in his own right (see; ‘Down With Love,’ ‘The Break-Up’), and he’s still got that fantastic cast and the unstoppable Marvel movie machine backing him up. Ant-Man might not be the most intimidating Marvel superhero powers-wise, but his shrinking abilities should provide Reed the opportunity for some incredibly cool visuals (and should provide us lots of opportunities to make “Honey, I Shrunk the Superhero!” jokes).
What It’s About: We don’t know much about ‘Trainwreck’ other than it’s directed by Judd Apatow and stars Amy Schumer, who wrote the script based on her own life. It supposedly follows a a commitment-phobic woman trying to get past her self-sabotaging ways.
Why We’re Excited: Judd Apatow’s last two directorial efforts were something of disappointments, but his female-driven work as a producer—’Bridesmaids’ and ‘Girls’ among them—have been great. Schumer has proved herself to be almost a generation defining comedic voice for women and we’re excited to see what these two can do together. Plus, look at this supporting cast!: Bill Hader, Brie Larson, Tilda Swinton, Daniel Radcliffe, Merisa Tomei, Vanessa Bayer, Jon Glaser, LeBron James… Just the IMDb listing alone is enough to sell our ticket.
‘Untitled Cold War Spy Thriller’October 16, 2015
What It’s About: Steven Spielberg’s latest film is based on the true story of James Donovan who, according to the official synopsis, is “thrust into the center of the Cold War when the CIA sends him on the near-impossible mission to negotiate the release of a captured American U-2 pilot.” Tom Hanks plays Donovan; it’s the actor’s fourth film with Spielberg, and their first collaboration since 2004’s ‘The Terminal.’
Why We’re Excited: It’s great to have Spielberg and Hanks back together, and it’s even more exciting to have them back together in a film co-written by Joel and Ethan Coen. It’s hard to imagine a more promising combination of director, actor, and writer than this one.
What It’s About: Director Guillermo del Toro is playing ‘Crimson Peak’ very close to the vest, not detailing many specifics about his upcoming “gothic romance.” But he has described it as “kinky,” “shocking” an “scary.”
Why We’re Excited: Did you read that last part? The part about the kinky and the shocking and the scary? Yeah. We left ‘Pacific Rim’ feeling a little disappointed, but we can’t wait to see what del Toro has up his sleeve for this movie.
What It’s About: Daniel Craig returns for his fourth James Bond adventure—and so does SPECTRE, the terrorist organization that 007 battled through most of his 1960s movies. Ralph Fiennes and Naomie Harris are also back as M and Moneypenny; Lea Seydoux and Monica Bellucci are the new Bond girls; Christoph Waltz may or may not play Bond arch-nemesis Ernst Blofeld; and ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’’s Dave Bautista definitely plays bad-guy muscle Mr. Hinx.
Why We’re Excited: Sam Mendes is the first man in 25 years to direct two consecutive Bond movies; in the wake of Mendes’ last 007 picture, the thrilling and stylish ‘Skyfall,’ that’s fantastic news. It’s a shame Roger Deakins won’t be back to photograph the film for him, but Deakins’ replacement, Hoyte Van Hoytema is no slouch either (He just shot ‘Interstellar’). Plus, the prospect of Bond versus a renewed SPECTRE (and maybe a renewed Blofeld, too) is incredibly intriguing.—Matt Singer
What It’s About: The final installment in the ‘Hunger Games’ series, ‘Mockingjay, Part 2' promises an action-packed and dramatic conclusion to the revolution against The Capitol.
Why We’re Excited: Because now we get to the good stuff! After getting teased with a lot of standing around and waiting for something to happen in ‘Mockingjay, Part 1', the stuff actually starts to happen now in ‘Part 2'! If the last film was all sizzle and no steak, ‘Part 2' promises to be as juicy as the Old ‘96er.
‘Midnight Special’November 25, 2015
What It’s About: In interviews, Nichols (‘Take Shelter,’ ‘Mud’) has referred to ‘Midnight Special’ as ‘a sci-fi chase film’ akin to “a 1980s John Carpenter film.” There aren’t a ton of concrete specifics available beyond that—though IMDb adds that it’s about a “father and son who go on the run after the dad learns his child possesses special powers”—but the film stars Adam Driver, Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton, and Nichols’ frequent collaborator Michael Shannon.
Why We’re Excited: Again, we don’t know a lot about this one. But the prospect of Nichols—whose ‘Take Shelter’ is one of the best movies of the last decade—making his own version of a John Carpenter thriller is all we really need. Everything beyond that is just delicious cinematic gravy.
What It’s About: The first in a new ‘Star Wars’ trilogy of films, ‘The Force Awakens’ brings back original trilogy stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher while introducing a younger lineup including John Boyega, Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver.
Why We’re Excited: DUH.
What It’s About: As they like to do with ‘Mission: Impossible’ movies, very little is known about the plot, but you can expect the IMF team will be ripping off rubber masks, sneaking into secure buildings and Tom Cruise will be running.
Why We’re Excited: Knowing almost nothing about this movie, we’re excited on mere title alone. This maybe sounds a little pathetic (you’re excited based on two words, a punctuation mark and a number?), but the ‘Mission: Impossible’ franchise has more than earned its stripes. It’s almost impossible to believe that almost 20 years later, this franchise is still going strong. And that’s quite alright with us.
What It’s About: Jake Gyllenhaal stars as an investment banker struggling with the tragic death of his wife. As he begins to tear apart his life, he is rescued by a woman (Naomi Watts) he meets in a chance encounter.
Why We’re Excited: We haven’t seen a trailer for this movie, or even any official stills. We barely know more about than the logline above. But, Jake Gyllenhaal has proved himself to be one of the most fearless Hollywood actors with recent roles in ‘Nightcrawler’ and ‘Enemy’. That he’s working with director Jean-Marc Vallee, who brought out career-best performances from Matthew McConaughey (‘Dallas Buyers Club’) and Reese Witherspoon (‘Wild’) is icing on the cake.
What It’s About: A bounty hunter and his female fugitive make their way through a snowy Wyoming blizzard. Along the way they encounter two strangers—a Union soldier and a town Sheriff. Together they seek shelter at refuge at Minnie’s Haberdashery, where they are greeted by four unfamiliar faces. As the storm overtakes the mountainside stopover, our eight travelers come to learn they might not make it to Red Rock after all…
Why We’re Excited: We’re just happy that this film exists at all. Director Quentin Tarantino had abruptly called off the project last year when the script leaked online. But, lucky for us, he had a change of heart and after assembling a cast that includes Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Dern, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Channing Tatum, we’ve got a new Tarantino movie; and one in “glorious 70mm” to boot.
What It’s About: A 93-year-old Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) looks back on his life—and reconsiders one of his unsolved cases—as his one-of-a-kind brain finally begins to fail him. Laura Linney co-stars as Mrs. Munro, Holmes’ housekeeper.
Why We’re Excited: It’s an ingenious premise for a Sherlock Holmes story; the notion of the man with perhaps the most brilliant mind in fiction history losing his greatest weapon is an irresistible hook. Add in the fact that ‘Mr. Holmes’ marks a reunion between McKellen and director Bill Condon from the superb biopic ‘Gods and Monsters,’ and it doesn’t take genius-level powers of deduction to figure out why we can’t wait for this mystery.
‘The Nightmare’TBD (Premieres at the Sundance Film Festival)
What It’s About: This documentary explores the subject of “sleep paralysis”—in which a sufferer finds themselves completely paralyzed and subjected to crippling hallucinations and nightmares. Eight sleep-paralysis sufferers are profiled. Sounds like something that’s not to be watched right before bedtime.
Why We’re Excited: The subject alone is fascinating (and also terrifying), but it’s the director here that really gets our attention: Rodney Ascher, whose previously documentary was ‘Room 237,’ the fantastic examination of Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’ and crazy ‘Shining’ conspiracy theorists. ‘Room 237’ showed the deftness with which Ascher could turn first-person testimonials into compelling cinema, a skill that should serve him well in bringing these sleep paralysis victims’ stories to the screen.
‘Z for Zachariah’TBD (Premieres at the Sundance Film Festival)
What It’s About: Sundance’s website says this one’s set “in the wake of a disaster that wipes out most of civilization” and focuses on the last woman on Earth (Margot Robbie) and the complex relationship that develops between her and two men (Chiwetel Ejiofor and Chris Pine) she meets in her travels through the post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Why We’re Excited: Craig Zobel’s made some of the most provocative indies of the last few years. His work—‘Great World of Sound,’ ‘Compliance’—ruthlessly explores the ugly side of human nature, and the premise of ‘Z For Zachariah’ sounds like a perfect launching pad to explore that theme in an even more ambitious way.