Looking forward to the rest of the year (and the six weeks or so of the new year during which I’ll focus on catching up), I see a few very promising contenders, a few more films with solid potential, and a number of films which could be excellent but could just as easily be forgettable.
2015 probably won’t go down as one of the great film years; indeed, there hasn’t been a Gravity or Boyhood-level critical juggernaut (though Mad Max came fairly close), which at the moment leaves the remainder of the year (and the awards season) a little more up in the air than usual. And I for one don’t mind.
So here are 60 films which are opening tomorrow or further on down the line which I actively want, or have reason to believe I ought, to see. Let’s dig right in.
The Films I Really, Really Want to See:
- Anomalisa – It’s Charlie Kaufman doing a stop-motion animated film. That would be enough by itself. But throw in reviews which toss out phrases like “Happiness is transient. Love an anomaly. We’re lucky such art as this is not“, “as achingly funny as it is deeply, voluptuously sad“, and “its emotional power creeps out from under the subtle humor and leaves a subcutaneous imprint that lingers long after the movie is over“, and it’s obvious we’ve got what could be a new gold standard for mature animation. So glad this is coming out in time to get awards attention.
- Arabian Nights – A three-part, 380-minute adaptation of the Nights set in modern Portugal. Well received at Cannes, and the very idea and sheer ambition of it is irresistible to me. Plus, the second part is the Portugese submission for Best Foreign Film, so this will count as a 2015 film, however long it takes me to see it. For which I am very glad.
- Beasts of No Nation – The trailer didn’t blow me away, and the only previous film I’ve seen by Cary Fukunaga (his Jane Eyre) left me cold. But the reviews for this have been excellent, and the prospect of Idris Elba finally having a great film role entices. So I’ve got very solid hopes for this.
- Brooklyn – It just sounds like a lovely little character piece. A good showcase for Saoirse Ronan, a possible awards contender, and just an overall rewarding time at the movies. Not sure if I’ll consider it a great film or just a very good one, but I’m eager to see it.
- Carol – The trailer looked absolutely gorgeous, and it looks like it could be even more a neo-Sirkian outing than Far From Heaven. I’m also really glad to see Rooney Mara again (and no, Pan doesn’t count). Add in the good reviews and strong awards buzz and I’m in.
- Entertainment – It’s a film starring Neil Hamburger. The trailer looks incredible. I’m absolutely sold.
- The Forbidden Room – The more I hear about or see of this film, the more I want to see it. It looks so freakishly beautiful and sounds so beautifully weird. There’s a plot element where stranded submariners survive on the oxygen hidden inside flapjack bubbles. How does that not sound awesome? (The reviews agree that it is.)
- Hardcore – If I ranked this list based on how great my expectations for each film were, this would be towards the bottom. But it’s a first-person-POV action film (co-starring Sharlto Copley, who’s generally awesome), and the response so far has been positive, if not overwhelmingly so. It’s going to be one of those films I’ll need to see at least once. If it works…more than once.
- The Hateful Eight – It’s in 70mm. It has a great cast. IT HAS A FUCKING INTERMISSION (they’d better keep that or I’ll be upset). And it’s Tarantino. End of story.
- High-Rise – It sounds really cool, kind of like Snowpiercer meets Dredd, but based on a well-regarded novel. The reviews have been a little iffy, and I didn’t think much of A Field in England, but come on, it has Tom Hiddleston. At the very least, it should be a strong Production Design contender.
- In the Heart of the Sea – It got pushed from March to December. The trailers look really fucking good (the cinematography looks astounding). Ron Howard and Chris Hemsworth made a pretty damn good pair with Rush (a very underappreciated film, that). I have to expect good things.
- The Lobster – Again, it’s the director of Dogtooth, making an English-language film, with Colin Farrell, John C. Reilly, Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw, Léa Seydoux, Ariane Labed, Angeliki Papoulia, and Olivia Colman, about a world where single people are gathered together and given 45 days to pair up or be turned into animals. The reviews have been great (though most of them suggest the second half is a bit less memorable than the first). I have to.
- Macbeth – Just watch the British trailer (it’s better than the American trailer). It looks fucking amazing. It’s Macbeth with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. It will be worthwhile.
- The Martian – Finally, a Ridley Scott movie that’s actually good–and, hopefully, not in a compromised way (I liked Prometheus, but the last 30 minutes or so are problematic to say the least). The reviews have been very strong indeed, to the point where it’s being mooted for Oscar glory. Here’s hoping.
- The Revenant – Here’s one we really have no idea about yet. Iñárritu is obviously riding incredibly high off of Birdman, and is aiming even higher with this one: location filming, attempted sequential shooting, a massive budget…the trailer does look fairly impressive, and it’s hard not to see this as a major Oscar contender (and, some will doubtless say, the film that should finally get DiCaprio an Oscar). I will most definitely see it. But this is really either going to be a masterpiece or a trainwreck, and it really could go either way. It could be one hell of a journey or an incoherent series of violent set-pieces. If it is a failure, though, it’ll be a bold one.
- Room – It won the Audience Award at TIFF. The last seven films to do so? The Imitation Game, 12 Years a Slave, Silver Linings Playbook, Where Do We Go Now? (a really underappreciated little film), The King’s Speech, Precious, and Slumdog Millionaire. So that puts it in a pretty prime position to kick some Academy ass. And it looks really good. Brie Larson (who better get nominated for this after she got snubbed for Short Term 12) looks to be giving an incredible performance, and Jacob Tremblay seems to be matching her. The story sounds quite wrenching, and there are some moments in the trailer that should be really stunning in context.
- Son of Saul – I’d been dubious about this one. At first I wasn’t sure what would set it apart as a Holocaust drama–but then I saw how good the response was, and I realized I should give it a chance. And indeed, it seems to be a genuinely harrowing and wrenching experience, and I think I’ll probably be quite satisfied when it wins Best Foreign Film.
- SPECTRE – It’s the new Bond movie. There’s no way I’m not going to see it. I badly want it to be good. I want it to be better than Skyfall, which had brilliant moments alongside problematic (or simply absurd) ones. That said, I wasn’t wild about the trailer, I don’t care for the new theme song (it sounds like a ballad from a 90s Disney film), and I’m fairly sure “Oberhauser” (that’s Christoph Waltz) is going to be Blofeld. And yes, they said he wasn’t, but they also said Marion Cotillard wasn’t Talia al-Ghul and Benedict Cumberbatch wasn’t Khan. In any case, I’m not expecting this to be the new gold standard for the series, I just want to like it. If it’s actually a great film that’ll just be gravy.
- Steve Jobs – To be sure, this felt gratuitous–Jobs is only 4 years gone, and we’ve already had an attempt at a biopic (albeit an apparently terrible one). But it has a superb pedigree (Danny Boyle, Aaron Sorkin), a great cast (Michael Fassbender, Seth Rogen, Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels, Katherine Waterston), and the trailer looks pretty fucking slick. I’m also really curious to see how the supposed three-act structure plays out. I don’t know how much it’ll connect with me, per se, but I’m sure I’ll at least appreciate the craftsmanship.
- Victoria – This is a bit like Hardcore–a film where the central conceit is compelling enough that I’m already sold. In this case, though, it seems to be a genuinely good film, a German action film shot in one 140-minute take (suck on that, Russian Ark), which is apparently pretty damned exciting. This should be the shit in a good theater. (Oddly, Germany didn’t submit it for Best Foreign Film.)
The Films I’d Like to See:
- Bridge of Spies – New Spielberg. Tom Hanks. Co-written by the Coens. I can’t say the trailer had me writhing with anticipation, but it does have potential.
- Burnt – As a Food Network buff, and for the cast, I’ll go. But it doesn’t look too great (and the multiple title changes are a bad sign). Though if that line about people wanting to kill Cooper for opening a restaurant isn’t a bluff, it could be memorably overwrought.
- Concussion – Will Smith has apparently been kind of phoning it in lately (Winter’s Tale, anyone?), but this has promise. It’s about the discovery of CTE–the brain disorder which affects football players, and which the NFL tried to pretend didn’t exist. Smith is Dr. Bennett Omalu, who discovered CTE; it also has Albert Brooks, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw (YES!), Paul Reiser, Luke Wilson, David Morse (BIG fan of his, and he’s playing Mike Webster, which could be a really heartbreaking performance), and others. It could get preachy/biopic-y, but for the cast alone I’ll give it a shot.
- Creed – Fruitvale Station was good, and now the director (Ryan Coogler) and star (Michael B. Jordan) have reunited for…a Rocky spin-off? But it looks really good (and hopefully Stallone’s presence doesn’t come off as a gimmick), and while I can’t be absolutely assured of its greatness, I’m optimistic. I’ll be seeing this.
- Crimson Peak – I wanted to put this higher. It looks gorgeous, it’s got a solid cast, and Del Toro is a hell of a director. But the plot sounds like a mash-up of Jane Eyre, Rebecca, and pretty much every Gothic haunted-house story you could name. And for that I must temper my expectations. I hate that, but sight unseen I can’t expect real greatness.
- Equals – It’s a science-fiction romance set in a future where human emotions have been purged. Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart (both of whom have impressed me this year) star. The reviews haven’t been that strong, but the concept is intriguing, and I’m usually game for cerebral sci-fi.
- Experimenter – It’s a film about Stanley Milgram, starring Peter Sarsgaard (who’s awesome) and Winona Ryder. I thought the trailers looked quite strong, but the response to date has been extremely mixed. So if I get to see it in a theater, I’ll keep my expectations tempered.
- 45 Years – Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay. A married couple, right around their 45th anniversary, learn that the husband’s ex-lover, long ago lost in a mountain-climbing accident, has been found (her body, that is), and the foundation of their marriage is undermined by the revelation(s). Not sure how I’ll like it as a film, but Rampling and Courtenay are apparently magnificent in it. For them, I’ll give it a look.
- The Good Dinosaur – Again, I want to be more excited for this. But the trailers haven’t really impressed me (the character designs are much cruder than I’d expect from Pixar), the premise feels like it’s been done, and the production was apparently a troubled one. It’s Pixar, so I can’t dismiss it, and I hope it proves me wrong, but I think in the final accounting Inside Out will overshadow it.
- Goosebumps – I loved the books as a kid. “The Horror at Camp Jellyjam”? A favorite. So here’s a movie that takes as its premise the reality of the various monsters in the series, kept under careful control by R.L. Stine (Jack Black), and what happens when they’re unleashed. Looks pretty silly, but it could be fun, and if it’s true enough to the spirit of the books, I should appreciate it.
- Green Room – Patrick Stewart as a neo-Nazi. That’s really all I’m interested in. It’s apparently mostly set in one room, as a rock band is besieged by Stewart and his henchmen. It’s also apparently pretty good. No reason not to check it out.
- James White – It’s a film about a young man whose life is spiraling out of control as he faces various family tragedies (I think his mother is dying). Sounds a bit stale, but the reviews have been really fucking good. I probably should bump it to the next section, but fuck it. I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt for now.
- Legend – I’m not expecting much from this as a film. I’m just going to see Tom Hardy playing both of the Krays. If it’s actually decent, so much the better.
- Love – Yeah…I like Gaspar Noe a lot (Enter the Void is a masterpiece), and the prospect of him making a 3D sex film seemed like a guaranteed win. But it’s apparently not that great, and the clips I’ve seen look well-shot but pretty horribly acted. Not that acting is the main attraction with Noe, but this is pushing it too far. Plus, the main character just looks like a whiny tool. I’ll see it, especially if I can catch it in 3D, but I’m not bullish.
- Miles Ahead – Don Cheadle (who’s also directing) as Miles Davis. I’m a big jazz fan, and I like Davis (though I really need to listen to more of his stuff), and I like Cheadle, so I’ll definitely give it a shot–if it comes out this year. It’s showing at NYFF on the 11th, but I don’t think it’s got a secure release date yet. It may get bumped. We’ll see.
- The Night Before – Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in an R-rated Christmas Eve farce. It looks really funny, and I generally like Christmas movies. So I’m game.
- The Peanuts Movie – They’re clearly trying. The animation looks a bit weird at first, but they’re obviously trying to replicate the look of the strip while allowing for 3D. And, aside from the awful music in the trailer (which may or may not be in the film itself), it looks like they’ve got the spirit decently right. This could still suck, but I’m not assuming anything.
- Spotlight – I wasn’t expecting much from this until recently. It’s about the “Spotlight” investigative unit at the Boston Globe and how they uncovered the child abuse which was running rampant in the Catholic Church. It got incredible reviews out of Toronto, to the point where it seems a foregone Best Picture contender. It’s got Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci…I should probably have put this higher. This could be amazing.
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Of course. It’s not higher because I’m not a huge fan, and because I fully acknowledge Abrams could fuck it up (it’s like we’ve collectively decided to forget Star Trek Into Darkness exists), but this could also be the best film in the series in…35 years?
- Trumbo – The reviews have been mixed, but it’s Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo. He looks like he’s having a blast being a snarky dick. Good enough for me.
The Films I May or May Not See:
- Bone Tomahawk – I needed an extra film, and this fit the bill. It’s a Western starring Kurt Russell (which makes two this year!), Patrick Wilson, Richard Jenkins, Sid Haig, Fred Melamed (who’s awesome)…it’s got a weird little cast, and the premise matches: “Four men set out in the Wild West to rescue a group of captives from cannibalistic cave dwellers.” So…C.H.U.D. as a Western? It’s also got a semi-epic running time (133 minutes) which makes me think it could be a cut above your generic modern Western. I’m curious. I’m damn curious.
- By the Sea – I wanted this to be kind of like a Burton-Taylor film for Jolie and Pitt (or Jolie Pitt, as she’s credited here), but that trailer…that did not boost my confidence. (The posters, on the other hand, are really quite good.) That, and Unbroken didn’t exactly blow me away, so this has a lot of room to be a dud. I’d like it not to be; it’s got people I like in it (including Mélanie Laurent), and the core idea is still promising. But I’m more than a bit nervous.
- The Danish Girl – Ugh. I’m sure Redmayne and Vikander are excellent, but this just looks like pure bait to me. Since the character transitions over the course of the film, I can sort of accept Redmayne’s casting, but even then, this just doesn’t look like that great of a film. And the reviews have not been altogether too glowing.
- Dheepan – It won the Palme d’Or. It’s a drama about Sri Lankan refugees living in France. What I’ve seen doesn’t look especially compelling, but it will probably behoove me to see it.
- Freeheld – This is apparently really not good at all. Unless it’s a major awards player, I’ll probably avoid it. Julianne Moore is usually good, and it’s nice to see Ellen Page again, but apparently this is really boring, except for the parts with Steve Carell, which are really dumb. Between this, Stonewall, and About Ray (which got bumped because the response was so tepid), it’s not been a great year for LGBTQ cinema.
- Hell and Back – An R-rated animated comedy about a journey to Hell? Sounds pretty promising. But there are no reviews just two days before it comes out, and the main poster has an upskirt gag–not that crass humor is an automatic deal-breaker, but when you’re putting that shit right on the poster, it’s not a great sign. This will probably be forgettable at best and obnoxious at worst. But there’s always that faint glimmer of hope…
- The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 – I still need to see Part 1, but just to keep up with the conversation, I probably ought to.
- I Saw the Light – Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams. Sounds awesome, right? And Elizabeth Olsen is his wife Audrey. Apparently they’re good. But the film is actively not good. So I may see it for their performances, but I don’t expect the film to be any too satisfying. And that’s if it gets any real release.
- Jem and the Holograms – It just looks so fucking weird. Not good weird, but weird for what it is. Probably I won’t actually bother, but if the opportunity presents itself, I might go for ironic purposes.
- Joy – David O. Russell, you son-of-a-bitch, we’re not through.
- Our Brand is Crisis – Another film I can’t expect too much of (though Sandra Bullock is apparently very good in it), but there’s a perverse fascination to these prestige/passion projects which are too convoluted or arcane to stand a chance at real success. It’s not quite as out-there as The Men Who Stare at Goats, but it’s a bit of a head-scratcher regardless.
- Pan – Joe Wright does Barrie. Hugh Jackman is Blackbeard, Rooney Mara is Tiger Lily (because it’s 2015), and Garrett Hedlund is young Hook. The reviews have been mixed-to-negative, and Mara’s casting has certainly put a cloud over it (a shame, because I like her), but it may be worth giving a chance. (Though this seems to be getting the response Anna Karenina merited.)
- Rock the Kasbah – Bill Murray as a rock manager stranded in Kabul who comes to manage an Afghan girl as she competes in the Afghan equivalent of American Idol. So sayeth Rotten Tomatoes, at least. Directed by Barry Levinson and written by Mitch Glazer, who’s got a fairly weak track record (his last film was Passion Play). This might be fascinatingly bad; the premise could get sappy as fuck and Levinson hasn’t been doing too well this last decade (though I’ve heard good things about The Bay). It could just as easily be totally forgettable, though.
- Secret in Their Eyes* – A remake of an Argentinian film which won Best Foreign Film in 2009. A thriller starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman, and Julia Roberts. Written and directed by Billy Ray, who wrote Captain Phillips and wrote and directed Shattered Glass, which I recently rewatched and really liked. He also made Breach, which is apparently quite good. It’s coming out right around Thanksgiving, which is kind of a dumping ground (it’s the release-date equivalent of getting “kicked upstairs”), so it might not be incredible, but it should be worthy.
- Suffragette – A film about the British suffragette movement, starring Carey Mulligan, with a cameo from Meryl Streep as Emmeline Pankhurst. It didn’t get such hot reviews out of Telluride, but Mulligan should be a solid Best Actress contender. I’ll probably see it.
- Trash – Stephen Daldry strikes again. It’s a drama set in the favelas, with essentially guest appearances by Rooney Mara (whose career trajectory is really fucking weird) and Martin Sheen. It’s apparently okay, but I could see it coming off as poverty tourism or as a Slumdog Millionaire knock-off.
- Truth – It’s about the controversy over Dubya’s military service (and the allegations that he got preferential treatment and went AWOL), and how it destroyed Dan Rather’s career and that of his producer, Mary Mapes. Mapes is played by Cate Blanchett. Rather is played by Robert Redford. The reviews have been kind of on the mixed side, so it might not be a must-see, but I’ll probably check it out anyway.
- Victor Frankenstein – James McAvoy is Dr. Frankenstein. Daniel Radcliffe is Igor. I’d be more bullish if there were more buzz (I haven’t even seen the trailer yet), and if it weren’t getting stuck in late November (since…Halloween would make more sense, right?). But it could be good.
- The Walk – I should really have bumped this up. The reviews are trending very positive right now; even JGL’s French accent is apparently acceptable (which did not seem to be the case from the trailer). It’ll be one of those films I’ll need to see in 3D, but in this case I’m willing. Really hoping this won’t let me down.
- Youth – I don’t know. I didn’t really love The Great Beauty, and this looks like more of the same. It’s in English this time, and it’s got a good cast (Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Jane Fonda, Paul Dano), but…I can’t get too excited over this. I know it’s being mooted as a Best Picture/Actor/Supporting Actor/etc. contender, and the reviews have been mostly good, but from the trailers it doesn’t look like a whole lot to me. I guess that’s my problem.
60 films. Let’s see how many I can get under my belt before my film awards–not to mention the films I need to catch up on.
*STOP DROPPING THE FUCKING “THE” IN MOVIE TITLES. IT’S THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES! FUCK, FUCK, FUCK!!!