Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Top 11 Most Anticipated Films of 2015


Every year there comes a time when we look back at the year we are leaving behind and reflect on what we loved or hated, but we also like to look towards what is yet to come and speculate. As much as we all loved films like Guardians of the Galaxy and The LEGO Movie it is easy to forget how skeptical we all were about them before hand (who would have thought the LEGO movie would be that good...seriously?). That is what makes these lists of films yet to be released so much fun. It is the one time of year where we can choose to be either extremely optimistic or pessimistic about an upcoming flick without anyone truly knowing just yet.

So that is what this is, a list of films due out next year (or this year depending on when you read this) that I am looking forward to the most. While there will certainly be some of these that let me down and others that I have either overlooked or haven't been announced yet that may surprise me, the fact of the matter is that these are the films I see the most potential in for one reason or another and hope that they deliver on that potential. So don't look at this list as feeling negative towards anything not listed, see it more as a wish list for hoping these particular films don't suck ass, which sadly is always a possibility whether we like to admit it or not. Regardless though, 2015 looks to be an amazing year for movie geeks.

OK, enough of this, lets get to the list...

#11

THE FANTASTIC FOUR
Directed by: Josh Trank
Starring: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell and Toby Kebbell
Release date: August 7, 2015


The two previous Fantastic Four feature films were travesties on nearly every level with their combined failures capable of being summed up in just four fantastic little words, Galactus is a (f**king) cloud! While the ideal situation for fans would be for the rights to be reverted back to Marvel, we sadly have to give 20th Century Fox another go at it. At the very least it seems like they are trying this time around with their biggest accomplishment right out the gate scoring writer/director Josh Trank. If anyone could give us the Fantastic Four movie we deserve, it has to be Trank.

Yes, he has only made one film before but oh my what a film it was. He achieved two nearly impossible feats with his film Chronicle by delivering a successful original (as in not adapted from any existing work) super hero origin story using the dreaded found footage format and actually making it seem like a viable format again for the first time since the Blair Witch Project. You combine that amount of talent behind the camera with an extremely capable young cast including rising stars Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, Miles Teller and Jamie Bell along with a fresh coat of paint on the old formula and you have yourself one of the most exciting potential blockbusters of the year.


#10

CHAPPIE
Directed by: Neil Blomkamp
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Sharlto Copley and Dev Patel
Release date: March 6, 2015


While the world still waits with breathless anticipation for the sequel to writer/director Neil Blomkamp's District 9 (that we may very well never get), we can still be thankful to get films like Chappie to make the wait a little more tolerable. It's no secret that Elysium was met with a lot of indifference upon its release. Most expected to be blown away by his follow up feature and with a bigger budget, bigger star power and even more political undertones masked by Blomkamp's keen eye for action and thick layers of Sci-fi geekery, and when the film failed to live up to those mostly impossible expectations suddenly team-Blomkamp shrank considerably while simultaneously wondering if the filmmaker might pull an M. Night Shyamalan on us.

Jump ahead almost two years later and we find ourselves on the verge of Blomkamp's third and surprisingly less anticipated feature Chappie. Being released in the much less competitive Spring movie season and scaling the narrative back a little to a more personal story seems to be a smart move (at least from what the trailer shows). All Blomkamp needs to do is nail the emotional journey of the robot called Chappie (something that the history of films with A.I. protagonists has proved more difficult to attain than not) and he may very well win back many of his supporters who abandoned him after the disappointment that was Elysium. Plus the film just looks great which is to be expected since both of his films (yes, even Elysium) were gorgeous pieces of eye candy in nearly every category.   


#9

CRIMSON PEAK
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Mia Wasikowska Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston and Charlie Hunnam
Release date: October 16, 2015


Guillermo del Toro is one of the most exciting filmmakers working today. I have stated time and time again that he is one of the very few geek filmmakers who doesn't make movies for geeks to pander to them, but because he himself is one. His filmography seems to indicate a filmmaker who is always on the verge of greatness and rarely achieves it (with Pan's Labyrinth being the one universally praised work and rightfully so), but not one individual in Hollywood at the moment can rival the man's imagination and ambition. Pacific Rim, Hellboy 1 & 2 and even Mimic all have their problems but I challenge anyone to accuse del Toro not pouring his heart and soul into those films.

His next film Crimson Peak will cover both new and familiar territory for the ambitious filmmaker. Labeled as both a "ghost story and a gothic romance", the film promises a return to the classic style ghost story while trying to shake the genre free of its B movie heritage. If there is one man who can make a modern ghost story work it is del Toro, but while the production is likely to be very slick, it is unknown how the love story portion of the film will play out (especially with Mia Wasikowska adding her blandness to the lead role). Guillermo del Toro is more than capable of making this work despite who his lead actors are though and just the idea of a del Toro ghost story is enough to make me want to purchase my advance ticket now.


#8

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
Directed by: George Miller
Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult
Release date: May 15, 2015


The Mad Max films are a favorite of mine for many reasons. Most would immediately go to the copious amounts of glorious car carnage as the best example as to why the character and franchise has persisted over the decades, but I would argue that it is writer/director George Miller's vision of an apocalyptic wasteland as a whole that to this day still stands as the blueprint for every post-apocalyptic thriller since the 80's. In the world of film, Mad Max is to the post apocalypse as Blade Runner is to the future.

Although franchise creator George Miller took a couple decades off (to make the kid friendly Happy Feet no less), he has returned to the character that defined his career. Sadly time (and his radical behavior) has taken a toll on star Mel Gibson, the original Mad Max, so Miller had to recast the role which seemed like a fools errand until it was announced that he acquired Tom Hardy as his new Max. Hardy single handedly made me a new believer in this new incarnation of Max and although I remained skeptical for quite some time, even knowing that Miller was still in charge, it wasn't until I saw the first footage out of Comic-con that I realized just how much I have missed seeing Max and all the mayhem he brings with him on the big screen.


#7

SPECTRE
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Monica Belluci and Ralph Fiennes
Release date: November 6, 2015


Casino Royale is my favorite James Bond film. There are no ifs or buts in that statement because I have no doubts in that particular films excellence. Director Martin Campbell came back and once again reignited the 007 flame (which he did a decade earlier with Goldeneye), but this time he also gave us the greatest Bond since Sean Connery in Daniel Craig. Going back to his roots and seeing how he becomes the male chauvinist womanizer with a cold heart that we all love was a masterstroke, as was the casting of the impeccable Eva Green as the only woman in the world who anyone would believe could destroy James Bond emotionally. 

Quantum of Solace was a decent enough counterpart to Casino Royale but completely fails as a standalone film, but Skyfall was an unexpected upturn for the franchise which many consider to be better than Casino Royale (they are wrong of course) and once again redefined our expectations for a James Bond film. The next film Spectre has the unfortunate honor of following up Skyfall's unprecedented success, but with a cast that includes the likes of Lea Seydoux and Monica Belluci as the two new Bond girls, Christoph Waltz possibly playing Bond supervillain Blofeld (the guy with the cat) and returning cast members Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw adding their greatness as well as Skyfall's director Sam Mendes once again sitting in the director's seat, how could this not be one of the biggest movies of the year?


#6

JURASSIC WORLD
Directed by: Colin Trevorrow
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins and Jake Johnson
Release date: June 12, 2015


Some films should NOT get the sequel/franchise treatment...ever. I know, it's kind of a silly statement considering how many sequels are on this list, but there are some that just should have never even tried. Case in point are two films directed by Steven Spielberg that spawned franchises with Jaws as the first example and the other being Jurassic Park. Other than being made by the same man in the director's seat, they have a lot of other similarities but sadly the biggest commonality between them is that their sequels just kind of sucked (sorry Lost World fans). But since we live in a world where the almighty dollar has the final word on what is/isn't made we have to take the good with the bad.

After two lackluster sequels everyone was just about over dinosaurs killing people, but since we also live in a world filled with reboots we now have to contend with those hybrid requels (reboot-sequel) and you know what...it looks pretty darned good! Writer/director Collin Trevorrow may have only one (amazing) movie under his belt, but from the looks of that initial trailer and featuring an actual working theme park this time around, this has the possibility of being so good that it may lead into a whole bunch of new sequels we don't need. Sadly though with the imminent release of Jurassic World we will likely never discover the awesomeness that was supposed to be Jurassic Park 4 which featured human-dinosaur hybrids with guns.


#5

THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 2
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore and Donald Sutherland
Release date: November 20, 2015


It would be understandable for anyone that saw The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 that some of you may jump off the hype train for a little bit because let's face it, that was barely a proper prologue to the final chapter let alone a complete film. The whole idea of splitting a final novel into two parts has been criticized for years now (thanks for nothing Harry Potter) and Part 1 of the final Hunger Games film did nothing to combat that argument. In fact it only strengthened it! But that STILL doesn't prevent us from holding out hope that Part 2 delivers the goods.

It may have just been an unnecessary footnote leading into the final part, but Mockingjay Part 1 did it's job and has made the wait for Part 2 feel that much longer. Much like Catching Fire came in and restored faith to those (admittedly very few) people who did not care for the first Hunger Games, Mockingjay Part 2 should restore faith to us once again by giving the fans the final chapter they deserve. And who knows, it may be good enough to even make it seem like a good idea that they split the film up, but let's wait and see before we start counting on too many miracles.


#4

FURIOUS 7
Directed by: James Wan
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson and Kurt Russell
Release date: April 3, 2015


No other film franchise in history has done what the Fast & Furious franchise has done. What started out as a Point Break imitator with street racing junkies and FBI undercover agents has slowly become a full blown action blockbuster series that likes of which have never been seen before. You have to understand, each film in the franchise has been MORE successful than the last to the point of ridiculousness. Some franchises see their second film spike higher just because of brand awareness, but after 6 (soon to be 7) films with a consistent increase in revenue? That is simply crazy, especially for such a silly series of films such as these.

What has been the lasting appeal? It's been the cast surprisingly, as the car porn that ignited the franchise has slowly become a non-factor. But when tragedy struck last year and actor Paul Walker was killed in an accident it left many wondering what would become of the franchise since they were already filming the seventh film and had two more planned. After some careful tiptoeing around a difficult situation (both emotionally and financially), the FF team finished filming a revised script that has some nearly impossible expectations put on it (such as paying respect to Paul Walker's memory, delivering a film worthy of all the hype and for those more fiscally inclined, saving the franchise). An early peak at the film from a teaser trailer does seem to indicate however that we shouldn't have anything to be worried about as it should retain everything fans have come to love about the franchise and give Walker the proper send off he deserves. This one is gonna be big.


#3

TOMORROWLAND
Directed by: Brad Bird
Starring: George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie and Kathryn Hahn
Release date: May 22, 2015


At this point I will see anything with Brad Bird's name attached to it, there's just no reason to question the man's genius. If you for some reason doubt his magnificence then go watch The Iron Giant. If you're crazy and still don't trust the man then go watch The Incredibles. If you are insanely out of touch with reality, then check out Ratatouille or Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol. The man is just incapable of making anything that is at the very least just shy of amazing.

That is the reason why I can tell you with one hundred percent assuredness that Tomorrowland will kick all kinds of ass when it is released. Don't judge it by how much it makes or how many critics tell you to must like it, see it for yourself and discover why you will immediately fall to your knees and kiss the very ground Brad Bird walks on. Even better is the premise of the film, this idea of going to an alternate fantastical universe where your actions effect the other universe seems like a match made in heaven with Bird's filmmaking sensibilities, which is just another one of the thousands of reasons why this film will rock.


#2

AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johanson and Mark Ruffalo
Release date: May 1, 2015


Marvel is kind of wielding a double edged sword at this point with how they are handling their cinematic universe (MCU for short). When the first Avengers film was announced there wasn't a person alive who wasn't willing to line up weeks in advance to see it. While that film went on to make all kinds of history (and money), the second Avengers film has to deal with some unforeseen obstacles. The biggest of which is that despite the film looking amazing and garnering all kinds of positive buzz, with the recent announcements for all the MCU stuff planned up through the end of the decade (including the two-parter third Avengers film), most people are already more excited about that than they are for what is right in front of them.

But you know what? None of that matters because when Age of Ultron gets released it will be amazing, it will make tons of cash and when it is over it will make the wait for that third Avengers even more unbearable. Plus it marks the end of the second phase for the MCU which means it will herald in a whole slew of new elements for the Avengers to face off against. We should see all kinds of hints, nods and lead ups to everything coming down the pipeline including Blank Panther, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man and maybe (if we are lucky) some Guardians of the Galaxy stuff. This is an exciting time to be alive for comic book fans, film fans and fans of awesome things in general alike. It may not be the biggest film of the year (that honor may go out to a galaxy far far away), but it will most certainly leave its mark well before it is over.


#1

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, John Boyega, Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley
Release date: December 18, 2015


What does one say when trying to relay the excitement one feels for the release of a new Star Wars film? Well, the first thing would probably to state what side of the playing field they are on. I am an original trilogy fan, hated the prequels for the most part (eh, ROTS was alright I guess) and have generally become less and less of a Star Wars fan each year. I still hold the original trilogy dear to my heart but the stench of the sequels (and all of George Lucas' re-tinkering) has left me kind of cold to them anymore with the sole exception of ESB since that is just a quality film regardless of what you think about Star Wars.

As for this new trilogy (and all it's spin-offs), I don't know how to feel just yet other than to say I am really really happy George Lucas has little to nothing to do with them in a creative sense. I know it is the popular thing to do to hate on Lucas, but he just isn't the same filmmaker he once was. As for J.J. Abrams in the directors seat, I am mostly optimistic on that front. The cast seems capable, bringing back Hamill, Ford, Fisher and having a primary focus on using practical sets/locations and effects all go a long way in rebuilding that bridge of trust that Lucas broke a decade and a half ago. Nothing I say here though will change the fact that this is THE most anticipated film of 2015 by just about anyone, if for no other reason to see what a George Luas-free Star Wars movie entails.

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