The turn of the calendar year represents a new beginning and, in the world of cinema, there’s no difference. This early on it’s always impossible to predict which film will be the biggest summer blockbuster (who would have guessed Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014?) or which drama will capture Oscar glory when it’s all said and done. But one thing is for sure, these are the 2015 films definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Focus (Feb 27): It’s not typical to see Will Smith outside of his usual summer or holiday season tent-poles, but a breezy rom-com/action-thriller seems like a strong fit for the mega star at this point in his career. The directing team of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy, Stupid, Love) tell the story of a con man that becomes romantically involved with his protégé – played by the entrancing Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street).
Chappie (Mar 6): Neill Blomkamp thrilled audiences with his 2009 directorial debut, District 9, only to follow it up with the middling 2013 effort, Elysium. In a relatively quick turn-around Blomkamp returns this March with the intriguing prospect, Chappie, which follows an ever-developing robot possessing the human-like abilities to both think and feel for itself.
In the Heart of the Sea (Mar 13): The first trailer for Ron Howard’s high seas adventure story was mighty impressive. After an impressive last outing with Chris Hemsworth in Rush, the director is once again back with the Aussie, with Cillian Murphy also along for the ride. The film portrays the tumultuous journey of the Essex whale-ship and the crew – as well as their encounter with a giant sperm whale that inspired the story of Moby Dick.
The Gunman (Mar 20): Sean Penn, Javier Bardem and Idris Elba star in this action-thriller, from the director of the first Taken, about an international operative (Penn) and his attempt to settle down with his longtime love, whilst trying to clear his name from the organization he works for.
Child 44 (Apr 17): This thriller will be the fourth film to star both Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman in as many years. Adapted from the 2008 novel of the same name, Hardy plays MGB agent Leo Demidov who investigates the brutal child murders taking place during the Stalin-run Soviet Union. Noomi Rapace, Vincent Cassel, and Jason Clarke also star.
Age of Adaline (Apr 24): Think Curious Case of Benjamin Button meets Nicholas Sparks – that’s exactly the vibe the trailer for this romantic sci-fi drama gives off. Blake Lively stars as a woman who becomes immortal after an accident, and stays the same age for nearly eight decades. After meeting a possible “Mr. Right”, his parents, played by Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker, believe they recognize her from their youth and threaten to reveal her secret.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (May 1): When you have the sequel to the highest-grossing non-James Cameron movie of all-time, little needs to be said to elevate the hype. The biggest question is will audiences eat this up like the first one? Or is superhero fatigue finally setting in with the masses? Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Andy Serkis and James Spader (as the voice of Ultron) join the already star-studded cast.
Tomorrowland (May 22): Brad Bird reportedly turned down directing Star Wars: Episode 7 for this movie, so obviously he felt strongly about the story that was written by himself and Damon Lindelof of Lost. A teaser debuted in October, narrated by star George Clooney, which shows a young girl discovering a pin that transports her to another world where she can seemingly alter the future. With it’s family-friendly story it seems like this could be a sleeper for a solid box-office run amidst the major franchises of the summer season.
Jurassic World (Jun 12): Executive producer Steven Spielberg dropped hints of this film’s development around the time of the fourth Indiana Jones, and nearly a decad later the project has finally found the right story and director. Colin Trevorrow who helmed the acclaimed indie, Safety Not Guaranteed has been given the task of breathing new life into this storied franchise and red-hot Chris Pratt is in the lead role with Bryce Dallas Howard in support. The first trailer looked promising, even if a little too reliant on CGI, and we’ll have to see how they handle the new lab-created dinosaur terror, but it should be a fun trip back to the park.
Spectre (Nov 6): While initially met with some trepidation and controversy, it’s difficult to argue the success of Daniel Craig as James Bond. Quantum of Solace aside, both Casino Royale and Skyfall were welcomed additions into the franchise, and Skyfall set box-office records and even threatened to nudge its way into the Oscar race. Expectations are high with Sam Mendes once again behind the camera; we’ll also see Christoph Waltz and Dave Bautista in villain roles, and Monica Bellucci takes on the role of the obligatory Bond girl.
Star Wars 7 (Dec 18): Another film that isn’t lacking at all in the hype department is the latest addition to the Star Wars franchise, sub-titled The Force Awakens. Fans rejoiced as George Lucas announced he’d be handing over the reins to Disney and JJ Abrams settled in as the director for the first installment. While the prequel trilogy was a box-office success, it was much maligned by critics and fans due to the addition of unwelcomed characters and an overabundant use of CGI. Abrams has promised to use more practical special effects this time around. Details of the story are still being kept quiet, but fans will see the major stars of the original trilogy as well as some fresh faces in key roles. I’ll remain cautiously optimistic about this one, even if it doesn’t reach the heights of episodes 4-6, it’ll be tough not to outdo episodes 1-3.
More Blockbusters: Furious 7, Mad Max: Fury Road, San Andreas, Terminator: Genisys, Ant-Man, Fantastic Four, Jungle Book, Mission Impossible 5
Spy (May 22): Spy will be the third collaboration between director Paul Feig and star, Melissa McCarthy, following Bridesmaids and The Heat. McCarthy has had a disappointing run recently with some critically panned efforts, but perhaps this comedic take on a CIA agent forced to go undercover can get her back to the heights of her Oscar nominated turn in Bridesmaids.
Untitled Cameron Crowe Movie (May 29): The upcoming, still untitled Cameron Crowe movie was one of the subjects of the recent hacked Sony emails, with executive Amy Pascal apparently unimpressed by the project’s development. It was once set to be released Christmas 2014, but was pushed back to May to finish work on it. Bradley Cooper stars as a military contractor who becomes caught in a love triangle with Emma Stone and Rachel McAdams. It’s been a while since we’ve had a great Cameron Crowe movie and while hopes may not be high for this one, let’s keep our fingers crossed it’s somewhat of a return to form.
Trainwreck (Jul 17): No story details have emerged about latest from director Judd Apatow, but with a script co-written by Amy Schumer and an extremely long and impressive cast list, we could be looking at the comedy of the summer, hopefully. Some of the names in that ensemble include the talented Brie Larson, Ezra Miller and Captain Phillips’ Barkhad Abdi.
Vacation (Oct 9): The Griswold’s are back and all grown up, as Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) now the patriarch of his own family set off on their own vacation adventure. Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo will make an appearance, at least. Chris Hemsworth, Charlie Day and Christina Applegate star as well.
Jon Levine Christmas Eve Movie (Nov 25): Jon Levine directed one of the finest films of 2011, 50/50, and his next project finds him back with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, so suffice to say this one will be on my must-see list. The untitled movie will see three friends setting out to find the best Christmas party in New York City, hijinks and hilarity ensue, I’m sure.
More Comedies: Rock the Kasbah, Entourage, Magic Mike XXL, Pitch Perfect 2, Ted 2, The Man from U.N.C.L.E, Goosebumps, The Intern
Black Mass (Sep 18): For Johnny Depp, it’s been a long line of Jack Sparrows’ and Tim Burton roles over the past decade. Even his attempts to do something more serious have been one critically panned, box-office failure after another. So with Scott Cooper, who directed Jeff Bridges to an Oscar in his first feature as director, maybe Black Mass will be the start of a much needed “Deppaissance”, in the vein of Matthew McConaughey. Depp plays Whitey Bulger, criminal turned informant, in a cast that also features Benedict Cumberbatch, Sienna Miller and Corey Stoll.
The Walk (Oct 2): Robert Zemeckis finally returned to live-action with 2012’s Flight, and his follow-up to the Oscar nominated drama is the story of French high-wire artist, Phillipe Petit, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and details his famous tightrope walk between the Twin Towers, in 1974. The feat was the subject of a documentary, Man on Wire, which also won the Oscar for Best Documentary in 2009.
Untitled Spielberg Cold War Thriller (Oct 16): Spielberg directing a period-thriller, written by the Coen Brothers, with Tom Hanks in the lead? Take my money. The last Spielberg effort in this genre was my beloved Munich, and Tom Hanks has been churning out some consistent, quality work as of late, too. Some feel Spielberg’s best days are behind him, but I have a strong feeling that the auteur can still pull out at least one more classic in the twilight of his career, if this movie is that, remains to be seen.
Hateful Eight (Nov 15): Controversy surrounded the new feature from Quentin Tarantino earlier this year, when the leaked script prompted the director to cease production. After a few months and a live table read of a first draft, Tarantino decided to resume production and he filled out his cast with frequent collaborators, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Madsen and Tim Roth. Bruce Dern and Channing Tatum have also been cast in roles. The Hateful Eight continues the director's tour of the Western genre and if it’s anything like his last effort, Django Unchained, we’ll be in for a treat come November.
By the Sea (No release date): Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken may not have been the awards juggernaut in was once thought to be, but she’ll have another chance again this year, this time with husband Brad Pitt in tow. Unlike Unbroken, Jolie wrote the screenplay for By the Sea and while details about the drama are scarce, the plot seems to be focused on a vacationing couple attempting to revive their marriage.
Midnight Special (Nov 25): *Taken from our 2014 preview, before being pushed to 2015* Jeff Nichols is certainly a young director worth keeping an eye on. Mud and Take Shelter are a pair of great, underrated films and he follows them up with a story about a father and son on the run after they learn of the child’s special powers. Starring Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton and Nichols' movie regular, Michael Shannon.
Joy (Dec 25): David O. Russell will once again be back with a late year release, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. The premise sounds like it could be a strong showcase for Lawrence, which is the story of a Long Island single mom who becomes an entrepreneur after inventing the Miracle Mop. O. Russell’s last three films have been nominated for a total of 25 Oscars, including three Best Director nods, so we’ll see this holiday season if Joy can add to that remarkable total.
The Revenant (Dec 25 ): Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. If you’re not familiar with this director by now, his profile will only get higher over the next year. The director is seemingly a lock for a Best Director nod for his 2014 black comedy, Birdman, and could take home multiple awards for his innovative direction. Later this year, his next feature finds him directing Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy in what will once again put the director back in the awards conversation. DiCaprio stars as Hugh Glass, a frontiersman, who treks cross-country, seeking vengeance on his enemies after being mauled by a grizzly bear. Certainly a nice change of pace for Inarritu, and the question that always looms with every subsequent DiCaprio role, will this be the one to finally bring him the Oscar?
More Oscar Hopefuls: Silence, Triple Nine, Knight of Cups, Carol, Regression, Sicario, Crimson Peak, Everest, The Martian, Sea of Trees
*** A special thanks to Reel True owner and guest writer extraordinaire, Greg Rouleau, for all his work on this piece.