Wednesday, January 7, 2015

15 Anticipated in 2015

A new year is here which means there's more movies to watch. In order to ready myself for the weekly barrage of movies releasing, I've complied a bunch of films I am eager to see in 2015. Titles that perked my interest for a variety of reasons including; a favorite director or an engaging concept. Below I've ranked 15 I'm highly anticipating seeing along with a brief explanation why they made the list.

15. Triple Nine

John Hillcoat seems to be making movies that are tailor made for my liking. He's a director that has been met with mixed reactions yet I find his eye for storytelling exceptional. Simply put, if he's making a movie, I'm already in line to see it. "Triple Nine" sees Hillcoat working off a script written by newcomer Matt Cook. The concept is one of my favorites, a heist. It follows a group of corrupt cops who are blackmailed into carrying out an impossible heist. Heist movies, when done aptly, can serve as a thrill ride worth taking and this description under the talent of director John Hillcoat should prove to be exactly that. The well-rounded cast includes Kate Winslet, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Gal Gadot, Teresa Palmer, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, and Aaron Paul. Triple Nine is set for a September 11th release. Oh, I almost forgot to add, an extra special reason to be excited; Nick Cave is scoring the crime drama.

14. Jane Got a Gun
This feels like déjà vu and that's because it is, last year "Jane Got a Gun" was also on my anticipated list. The western directed by Gavin O'Connor was shelved last year and now it's finally getting a release in 2015. Gavin O'Connor nabbed my attention in 2011 with his sports drama "Warrior" starring Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton. O'Connor has a handle on emotion that I think will translate well into the western genre. Easy to say I'm hopeful O'Connor has something special on his hands. Natalie Portman stars as Jane, a wife stuck defending her farm from a gang of outlaws hunting down her wounded husband. Joel Edgerton, Ewan McGregor, Noah Emmerich, and Rodrigo Santoro co-star. Jane Got a Gun is set to release September 4th.

13. Pan
Peter Pan is something I've always been fascinated. For example, in high school I wrote fan fiction from the perspective of the Lost Boys in Neverland. Despite my love for Peter Pan, news for this update directed by Joe Wright had me hesitant. Then I saw the hair-raising trailer and my opinion changed in a big way. Its imaginative ideas on a beloved tale have me excited to see how this iconic fantasy plays out. The adventure stars Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard, Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily, Garrett Hedlund as Hook, and Levi Miller as Peter Pan. "Pan" is set for release on July 24th.

12. Midnight Special
Jeff Nichols seized my attention back in 2007 with his directorial debut "Shotgun Stories," since then he's yet to let me down. He's a director highlighting his aesthetic with unique stories and there's real value to uncommon voices working at the caliber Nichols is. "Midnight Special" focuses on a father who is forced to go on the run after learning his son has special powers. Two things come to mind after reading the description. First, that synopsis seems like an interesting story regardless of the director. Second, Nichols back working with a father and son relationship really excites me. Another thing exciting me is Michael Shannon. Shannon who has worked with Nichols in all of his previous three other films is back once again to show off his impressive skills. Joel Edgerton, Kristen Dunst, Adam Driver, and Sam Shepard also star. Midnight Special is set for a November 25th release.

11. Green Room
Jeremy Saulnier's "Blue Ruin" is the kind of movie that will get people talking. It takes territory that has been mined repeatedly and adds a few layers creating a more rare perspective than audiences are used to. Not only that, it is a taut thriller that never lets up. That said, Saulnier's next feature has my attention in a big way. This sounds like it will be a nasty thriller. "Green Room" follows a punk rock band who find themselves stuck in a very dangerous situation after witnessing criminal activity committed by a local group of Pacific Northwest skinheads. Leading the group of skinheads is the talented Patrick Stewart. The image above is intimidating enough, but match it with A.) Saulnier's style and B.) the description of Green Room and you should have a better picture of why it landed a spot on my anticipated list. Green Room is currently filming and hopefully will land itself a release date in the last quarter of 2015 if not before.

10. Tomorrowland
The idea of Disney making a movie out of one of its many rides or themed areas doesn't necessarily get me very excited. Let's shoot straight here, even Disney wishes they could sweep "The Haunted Mansion" with Eddie Murphy under the rug and while Pirates of the Caribbean has made them boat loads of money, only the "Curse of the Black Pearl" is worth its weight in salt. Simply put I'm very weary of attraction based movie making from the House of Mouse. Then Disney released a trailer to "Tomorrowland" and my reservations began to fade away for a couple of reasons. The first of which is the look, Tomorrowland is eye-catching to say the least. It sets up an idea of fantasy and mystery that should be plenty of fun to watch play out. Second is the director. When announced I overlooked the fact that Brad Bird was directing. Though he's only directed one other live-action feature, he has my confidence. Third is the cast, more specifically George Clooney. Clooney is an actor I'd watch in practically anything. Tomorrowland is set for release on May 22nd.

09. Sicario
Denis Villeneuve's "Prisoners" made me take notice, then he put my jaw on the floor with "Enemy." He has quickly become a director worth paying attention to. His latest feature "Sicario" stars Emily Blunt as FBI agent whose ethics are tested when she joins a CIA operation to take down a Mexican cartel boss. Blunt as the lead really perks my interest. We've seen numerous films with the FBI taking down cartel bosses, but very few have been centered around a woman. The crime thriller is being shot by longtime cinematographer Roger Deakins. A name that helps to propel this title as high as it is on this anticipated list. "Sicario" also stars Josh Brolin, Jon Bernthal, and Benicio Del Toro. No release date is set just yet for Sicario, but with the film already in post-production it is likely to see release somewhere in the third or fourth quarters of the year.

08. Pixels
Based off the french short of the same name, "Pixels" sees classic 8-bit arcade characters attack Earth. Yup, iconic characters like Donkey Kong hurling 8-bit barrels at Toronto, Pac-Man devouring San Francisco, Space Invaders looming over Paris, and Centipede attacking London. The comedy adventure directed by Chris Columbus follows a 1980s video game champion (played by Adam Sandler) who is recruited by the military to assemble a team of old arcade friends that will try and save the planet from the invading games. Sounds like "Ghostbusters" meets "Independence Day," right? A comparison that has me grinning from ear-to-ear. Pixels also stars Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad, Ashley Benson, Kevin James, Jane Krakowski, Sean Bean, and Brian Cox and is set for release on July 24th.

07. The Jungle Book
The Jungle Book has been done to death yet here it sits on my anticipated list for 2015. Some of that has to do with Jon Favreau. He's a director I appreciate. While he's had a few skids along the way, he's got a real passion for storytelling and filmmaking and I can't wait to see what he does with this beloved Rudyard Kipling tale. Another factor in why I'm so excited for this new version is the voice cast. Each of them seem so perfectly chosen. Bill Murray as the playful Baloo, Idris Elba as the ferocious Shere Khan, Scarlett Johansson as the alluring Kaa, Ben Kingsley as the mentoring Bagheera, and Christopher Walken as the kooky King Louie. Now in a phase of CGI technology, past the uncanny valley where motion capture looks real, I'm very curious to see how the jungle and the characters interacting with newcomer Neel Sethi as Mowgli look. One more added factor in pushing "The Jungle Book" onto my anticipated list is Bill Pope behind the camera. Pope is a legendary cinematographer and I'm always pumped to see what he's shooting. The Jungle Book is set for release on October 9th.

06. While We're Young
The last time director Noah Baumbach and actor Ben Stiller got together to make a movie I walked away really satisfied. "While We're Young" has me eager for more of the same gratification. The story follows a middle-aged couple played by Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts whose lives are confused when they meet a likable young couple played by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried. As you can see from the image above, the often funny Charles Grodin also stars as Stiller's father, which is a nice surprise. While We're Young is set for release on March 27th.

05. Furious 7
The tragic death of Paul Walker forever changed the course of "Furious 7." Now there's a whole carload of emotions being towed by the seventh installment in the franchise. Emotions that are sure to be bittersweet. Before the awful Walker news, anticipation for the next Fast and the Furious action was rampant. Let's refresh our memory, Furious 7 added two big names to an already loaded cast, Jason Statham and Kurt Russell. Statham made a brief appearance in "Fast & Furious 6" but will get a chance to have far more screen time here. Another new name worth mentioning surrounding Furious 7 is the new director James Wan. Pretty exciting to see Wan, who has focused most of his energy in the world of horror, behind the wheel of high-octane action franchise. Furious 7 is slated for a April 3rd release.

04. Spectre
James Bond is the most consistently enjoyable franchise in movie history. Since I was a little kid, every new 007 adventure that released I was eager to see. Even in the years when I wasn't particularly fond of the selected Bond, like Pierce Brosnan, I would be longing to see the next installment. Daniel Craig is my favorite Bond outside of the campy Roger Moore. I know I know, everyone adores Sean Connery. Like Brosnan, Connery had a demeanor that rubbed me the wrong way. Sure he was sophisticated and suave like Bond was supposed to be, but he tended to come across too cocky for my tastes. Craig on the other hand may not have the brown hair, but he fills out the role in a way that makes sense to me, especially in the contemporary setting 007 is now written in. He's dashing but also rugged. He carries himself in a way that doesn't scream he's so cool like Connery always did. Craig's Bond has been through the ringer and that matters to me. "Spectre" will be Craig's fourth appearance as Bond and the second time Sam Mendes directs. Mendes hit all the right strides with his last 007 effort "Skyfall," which helps to put Spectre so high on this list. The cast is exceptional with Christoph Waltz, Monica Bellucci, Léa Seydoux, and Dave Bautista coming in as newcomers to 007 universe. The film will also be welcoming back Naomi Harris as Moneypenny, Ralph Fiennes as M, and Ben Wishaw as Q. Three characters that fans have had a chance to get to know and care about in the last few Bond films with Craig in the lead. As for the plot, the 24th installment sees James Bond discover a sinister organization while a political battle rages over shutting down the secret service in Britain. Spectre is set for release on November 6th.

03. The Force Awakens
Star Wars is back and there's reason to be excited. It seems that Disney wants to make Star Wars great again versus just making a great deal of money. First step in doing that was getting away from the creator and allowing new blood to take the reigns. That new blood for this chapter will be J.J. Abrams. Yup, the guy who rebooted the Star Trek franchise. I've heard fans chant about how it is not fair one director is able to jump from one iconic franchise to the other but for me it only tantalizes. Abrams is a director I value working, even if all of his films house lens flares. Seriously, that's what you are complaining about? Lens flares? You need more to do if that is your primary concern with a movie. Abrams, like me, grew up with Star Wars and wants to resurrect the force for both old fans and new fans alike. He wants to incorporate both traditional effects and CGI effects. He wants to remind us why we love Star Wars so much and I think he's just the guy to do it. Another factor in raising interest and anticipation is having screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan return to put together a script with Abrams. Kasdan of course wrote the best Star Wars feature "The Empire Strikes Back" and fans surely have their fingers crossed this chapter will be just as good if not better. Abrams and company have done a hell of a job in the casting department. They've brought back beloved characters/actors from the original trilogy like Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fischer, Anthony Daniels, and Peter Mayhew. They've also added new faces that only give me further confidence that "The Force Awakens" is on the right path. Actors like John Boyega, Adam Driver, Oscar Issac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong'o, Daisy Ridley and Max von Sydow. Then there's the trailer, there's only six specific shots in the teaser, however it is a nice table setter. There's definitely some reservations and question marks, but those are questions I am growing impatient waiting to be answered. The Force Awakens is slated for a December 18th release.

02. The Hateful Eight
Quentin Tarantino is back with his eighth feature film and I couldn't be happier. The post-Civil War western has a bit of a flip flop back story. First, the script leaked and Tarantino lashed out. He hastily stated he wouldn't make the movie. After some time mulling over that decision, Tarantino changed his tune and started moving forward with the Wyoming set western that follows a group of bounty hunters trying to find shelter during a blizzard. Tarantino being the extremely passionate storyteller that he is, I can imagine him not being able to let the story go after lashing out, feeling he had to make it. Clearly I'm glad he made that decision having the feature so high on my anticipated list. After "Django Unchained" feelings couldn't be stronger to see Tarantino spend some more time in the western genre and with all the back story to this motion picture I can't help believing Tarantino felt the same. Much of "The Hateful Eight" was written with specific actors in mind and that cast is mighty impressive. It includes Channing Tatum, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Demian Bichir, Walton Goggins, and Bruce Dern along with a few Tarantino regulars like Tim Roth, Samuel L. Jackson, and Michael Madsen. Lastly, it features Kurt Russell as John 'The Hangman' Ruth. The last time Quentin Tarantino and Kurt Russell worked together the result was a joy to watch on screen. Who could ever forget those nachos? Here's to more of Russell eating on screen under the direction of QT. The Hateful Eight is set for a November 13th release.

01. Mad Max: Fury Road
It has been a long time coming. A Mad Max sequel, reboot, update or whatever you want to pitch it as has been rumored for what feels like the better part of the last few decades. Despite a long torturous drought without any new tales from George Miller's apocalyptic wasteland, a new installment is finally here. "Mad Max: Fury Road" looks like we never left the desert landscape even with new faces including a new Max, now played by the talented Tom Hardy. The cast also includes Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult and sees Hugh Keays-Byrne, who played Toecutter in the original "Mad Max," return playing a new villain Immortan Joe. Mad Max is one of those characters that made a dramatic impact on my youth. Miller's stories fixated me on apocalyptic futures in cinema. Something I couldn't shake. If there's an apocalyptic future in a movie, I'm 90% sure I'll be watching that movie. It may seem trivial but it is super awesome to see George Miller directing the fourth installment in the Mad Max franchise. He started this vehicle in 1979 and I love that he's still so passionate about continuing the story of the former Australian policeman. Lastly, I have to mention the two trailers that have been released. They are absolutely incredible and left me utterly impatient for the release. Mad Max: Fury Road opens May 15th.

Five that just missed a spot on 15 Anticipated in 2015: Untitled Steven Spielberg Cold War Project, The Revenant, Avengers: Age of Ultron, That's What I'm Talking About, and The Duke of Burgundy

Titles I'll gladly see in 2015: Spare Parts, Paddington, Still Alice, Mommy, Girlhood, Jupiter Ascending, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Macfarland, USA, FocusThe Lazarus Effect, Little Boy, In the Heart of the Sea, Chappie, Faults, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, The Gunman, The Good Dinosaur, Spring, Unfriended, Ex Machina, Rock the Kasbah, Pitch Perfect 2, San Andreas, Insidious Chapter 3, Jurassic World, Inside Out, Magic Mike XXL, Terminator: Genisys, The Gallows, Ant-Man, Trainwreck, Poltergesit, Point Break, The Fantastic Four, Masterminds, Straight Outta Compton, Kitchen Sink, Muck, Criminal, Sinister 2, The Visit, Hotel Transylvania 2, The Walk, Vacation, Crimson Peak, Jem and the Holograms, The Last Witch Hunter, Friday the 13th, Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2, Krampus, Mission Impossible 5, The Martian, Sea of Trees, Macbeth, The Voices, Silence, Child 44, and 31.

Being someone who can find an excuse to go to the movies almost every weekend, this list will only balloon larger and larger as the year progresses. Like most years, there's plenty of stuff to get excited about at the movies or via VOD platforms, let's start watching!