1. Mad Max: Fury Road
How can I not agree?
This has everything I want in a blockbuster. Great action, great characters (just look at their names: Imperator Furiosa! The Organic Mechanic! Rictus Erectus!), stunning visuals, a world worth visiting (is there another major franchise which builds such an idiosyncratic environment?), a strong cast…this has so much potential to be amazing.
But there are ways it could go wrong. The lengthy production period (and the rumors of reshoots) could be a bad sign. The story could be a mess, or too thin to support the film (there’s a fine line between archetypal and one-dimensional). The cast could be wasted–especially Tom Hardy, coming off Locke, probably his greatest triumph to date as a performer.
But if it remotely lives up to the promise of the trailer, I apologize in advance to everyone I’m going to annoy by raving about it for the rest of the year.
(Also, I like that Miller had the brass to bill himself as a “mastermind”. Hopefully that doesn’t backfire on him.)
2. Knight of Cups
Terrence Malick’s status as one of the geniuses of modern American cinema was, for me, not challenged by To the Wonder; it might have been one of his lesser works, but it had the beauty, pictorial and emotional, that characterizes his masterpieces. Here he seems to be leaving behind his normal focus on small-town and rural life, and his usual portrait of a quiet, low-key way of life, in favor of the hedonism of the modern jet set (and maybe a look at filmmaking?)–and the desire to get back to a simpler, purer world.
Add to that some really intriguing-sounding dialogue (“We are like flavors. Sometimes you want raspberry, then after a while, you want some strawberry”), and a hell of a cast (I’m really excited to see what Cate Blanchett does here), and of course, the amazing cinematography you expect from Malick, and you’ve got a film I can’t wait to see.
3. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
Songs from the Second Floor was incredible. You, the Living was just as good (and since its release has been quite overlooked). This received raves from Venice, and won the Golden Lion. Is there any reason to believe it won’t continue the streak?
4. The Hateful Eight
(The teaser trailer is only available in low-quality bootlegs online, for some reason.)
It’s a Tarantino film. That really says it all.
I am concerned about him doing another Western right after Django (and the fact that one of the characters is nicknamed “The Little Man” makes me worry he’s really repeating himself), but considering his track record, and considering the fact that most of this apparently takes place in two rooms (which I expect would result in a greater focus on character dynamics and dialogue), I’m assuming greatness.
No idea if this will even come out in 2015. But if it does, I’ll be ready for it. Because Gaspar Noe’s track record is pretty damn good; I haven’t yet seen I Stand Alone, but Irreversible is a masterful portrait of brutality, and Enter the Void is a stone-cold masterpiece of filmmaking. So this has the potential to be right up my alley.
6. The Postman’s White Nights
This won the Silver Lion at Venice (essentially their Best Director award), and met with generally excellent reviews. Some found it sluggish, but I’m a fan of meditatively-paced cinema when it works. The trailer has me excited; the eerie score (by Eduard Artemyev, who did the score for Stalker), the Herzogian portrait of rural life, the lovely imagery…this is something I could really dig in theory. I also like the nice little renaissance Russian/post-Soviet cinema has been having lately (though I’m pissed that I might not get to see Leviathan until after the Oscars).
FYI, I found the whole film on YouTube, but sans English subtitles. So while I’ll hold out for a subtitled release, you can check it out if you so desire.
7. The Look of Silence
The Act of Killing was amazing. And so, apparently, is this. That film told the story of the 60s Indonesian massacres from the vantage of the perpetrators. Now it’s looking at the story from the point of view of a man whose brother was murdered–and from the trailer alone, it looks to be a seriously emotional experience.
8. The Revenant
It’s Iñárritu’s new film. That alone would make it worth notice.
It’s based on the story of Hugh Glass–played by DiCaprio–who was attacked by a bear and left for dead by his companions (Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, and Will Poulter).
He then made his way over 200 miles of wilderness to get revenge. True story.
Emmanuel Lubezki is returning as a cinematographer. It’s set to come out Christmas Day.
This is clearly some Oscar-caliber shit. I can’t wait for a trailer.
9. Gangs of Wasseypur
I only recently learned about this film. It came out in India in 2012, but it’s getting a limited release here in January. And I’m so going to see it.
It’s a five-hour-plus epic about crime in a small town in India over the course of several decades. And it’s the full Bollywood experience, with, according to Wikipedia, 25 songs. Plus it got glowing reviews when it played Sundance.
So yeah, I’m going to see the fuck out of this movie.
10. In the Heart of the Sea
(A new trailer just came out, but I think this trailer is better.)
A Ron Howard film in the top 10? But consider the following:
- Rush was a really strong film. I would have totally supported a Best Picture nomination for it (the Globes actually went there, but the Academy totally overlooked it). So another Howard/Hemsworth collaboration is going to command my attention.
- The story of the Essex is a great one. This could get into really dark territory (though I am concerned about the PG-13 rating. Rush was solidly an R–they didn’t sugarcoat Niki Lauda’s injuries–and this story involves cannibalism).
- It looks beautifully shot. Some good old-fashioned oversaturated colors there. (The cinematographer also did Antichrist and Slumdog Millionaire. So I think we’re in good hands.)
- It’s got a solid cast: Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Benjamin Walker (who was actually really good as Lincoln in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but has since kind of vanished), Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleeson, etc.
The March release isn’t necessarily a bad sign either. March has sort of become an oasis of potential quality in the early months of the year.
I wouldn’t be totally shocked if this was a disappointment, but I think the chances are it’ll be pretty damn solid.
11. Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
The trailer looks amazing. And again, I’m so happy to have a film that Rinko Kinkuchi is headlining (and apparently does a great job in). If you didn’t know, it’s based on the story of a Japanese woman who went to Minnesota in the middle of winter and was found dead. In reality, she had committed suicide, but a story sprang up that she had seen Fargo, believed it was a true story, and went looking for the money Steve Buscemi buried.
This film tells that story. And it looks really good. Really hope this gets enough of a release that I can see it in a theater.
12. Inside Out
Not gonna lie…that trailer has me just a little worried. It looks funny, but at the same time, the jokes are kind of softballs. The dad is always thinking about sports! The mom still moons over her old boyfriend (who’s a total Latin-lover stereotype, but whatever)! It feels like sitcom stuff. Hopefully the actual film will be a little cleverer.
But it’s a really good premise, it has a great voice cast, and Pixar, when they’re on their game, are about as good as they come. So I’m still looking forward to it.
13. Crimson Peak
New Guillermo Del Toro.
It’s a Gothic horror film–I assumed haunted house story; we’ll see–and it’s got Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, and Charlie Hunnam. Oh, and Burn Gorman. It’s coming out just in time for Halloween.
Can’t imagine this won’t be entertaining.
It’s the new James Bond film. Christoph Waltz is the villain, and is probably secretly Blofeld (just like Benedict Cumberbatch was Khan and Marion Cotillard was Talia al-Ghul). It’s also got Léa Seydoux, Monica Bellucci, and Dave Bautista as “Mr. Hinx”.
The only reason this isn’t higher is because, with Mendes returning (along with the writing team), I’m a little concerned this might have some of the same issues I had with Skyfall. I still liked that movie a lot, but the best of the series? Nope.
15. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
I’m not a Star Wars devotee, and I can’t say I’m an unequivocal fan of J.J. Abrams as a director, but this is obviously a big event film. And it does look good. Much more vividly directed than the prequels. (And another great, great cast. I really hope Max von Sydow and Lupita Nyong’o get enough to do.)
16. The Good Dinosaur
New Disney feature. The production issues are a bit worrisome, but Disney has been doing quite well lately (Big Hero 6 is kind of forgettable, but it was objectively well-done), and this has a cool premise (dinosaurs never died out and went on to co-exist with humans), so I’m certainly game.
This just looks so fucking strange. It’s the director of District 9 doing a film about a sentient robot (voiced by Sharlto Copley), where Hugh Jackman is apparently the villain and Die Antwoord are Chappie’s friends. I’ve seen it billed as a comedy, but it seems to be played fairly straight. And…it just looks weird as fuck.
This might not be good (Elysium, anyone?), but it looks so bizarre that I have to give it a look.
I’m less sold on Disney’s live-action output (The Lone Ranger was a real piece of shit), and I’m not totally sold on this being good, but it has promise. It’s a nicely done trailer, and Clooney is usually good value. I think I’ll make up my mind more fully when I have more of an idea of what this is really about/when we get a full trailer, but if this works, this could be a really great year for blockbusters.
19. Z for Zachariah
The cast alone has me interested. Pine, Robbie, Ejiofor…all people I like. It’s a post-apocalyptic story, based on a novel by the guy who wrote Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of N.I.M.H. The book apparently had only two characters, and the film having three could be an issue; Pine’s character is the new addition, and if he’s a cookie-cutter love interest…that’s a problem.
But this is bowing at Sundance, and while not every film that opens at Sundance is good, that makes me think there’s more here than just your standard Hollywood sci-fi crap.
20. The Martian
Truthfully, I can’t be too bullish on this. Ridley Scott is coming off two really problematic films, and with Exodus, it really felt like his heart wasn’t in it.
But his science-fiction work includes his two undisputed masterpieces, as well as Prometheus, which I really need to see again (I liked it quite a bit, I just don’t remember it that well). Plus, it’s an adaptation of a well-received novel, written by the guy who did Cabin in the Woods. And it’s got Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Kristen Wiig, Donald Glover, Kate Mara, Aksel Hennie, Sean Bean, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Sebastian Stan.
That is one weird fucking cast.
Unless this turns out to be boring as fuck, I’ll give it a look. I hope it’s good. But this is a total “wait and see” scenario.
21. The Peanuts Movie
It bills itself as a “film event”. I like that.
In its heyday, Peanuts was really fucking good. Go back and read some of the 60s and 70s strips. It’s an icon for a reason.
If this film can capture that, I’ll be all over it. And this trailer looks decently promising. The animation style is really nice. Not too big on the song, but otherwise, I could see this being a real treat.
22. St. James Place
It’s the new Spielberg. It’s a Cold War thriller starring Tom Hanks, involving the U-2 shootdown.
Recent Spielberg has definitely been a few notches below his best work, but you can still count on him to do solid work. I’ll say more when I know more.
This is Judd Apatow’s new film. It’s apparently a vehicle for comedian Amy Schumer (who I’m not really familiar with). Now, here’s the rest of the cast:
Tilda Swinton, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, Colin Quinn, Barkhad Abdi, Mike Birbiglia, Jon Glaser, Vanessa Bayer, John Cena, Ezra Miller, LeBron James, Method Man, Norman Lloyd, Jim Norton, Daniel Radcliffe, and Marisa Tomei.
This could totally live up to the title. But the films Apatow actually directs tend to be good (Funny People has a lot of issues, but the first half is really good; I haven’t seen This is 40), and I’ll see this just to see what it’s like.
24. Child 44
It’s a murder mystery set in Stalinist Russia. It stars Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Noomi Rapace, Joel Kinnaman, Vincent Cassel, Paddy Considine, and Jason Clarke.
The setting alone has me interested. The fact that it’s an April release concerns me, and if it turns out to be mediocre, I might not bother, but I’m hoping for something I can champion.
25. The Lobster
Yorgos Lanthimos, who gave us Dogtooth and Alps, now gives us a film starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw, Léa Seydoux, John C. Reilly, Ashley Jensen, Olivia Colman, and Ariane Labed. And here’s the premise, from Wikipedia:
“The Lobster is set in a dystopian near future where lonely people are obliged to find a matching mate within a 45-day period in a hotel. If they fail, they are transformed into animals and sent off into the woods. In that setting, one man escapes and finds love, despite the rules of the City.”
Bring it the fuck on.
I’ll do a more comprehensive post on this subject sometime in the next couple of months.
I also just realized I didn’t mention Age of Ultron. I suppose swap Trainwreck off for that if you’re so inclined.