By Matthew McKibben | January 22, 2015
Before we get started, a brief 2014 Recap..
I didn’t really have high hopes for 2014’s movies, to be completely honest. I was pretty excited about Bryan Singer’s return to X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Captain America: Winter Soldier looked promising; but almost everything else seemed kind of lackluster to me. Tom Cruise fighting aliens using some kind of futuristic robot suit? Yawn. The sequel to the “good, but not great” Rise of the Planet of the Apes? Looked okay. And what’s a “Star-Lord?” This would be the year that Marvel’s foundation could start revealing cracks, I thought. And The LEGO Movie looked pretty hokey, at best.
I couldn’t have been more wrong — 2014 ended up being a year of exceeded expectations. The LEGO Movie, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy,
All You Need is Kill oops Edge of Tomorrow oops Edge of Tomorrow: Live, Die, Repeat (or whatever Warner Bros. is calling it these days), Big Hero 6 and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes were all excellent and deserve to be in the discussion of “classics” in their respective genres. Throw in the solid Godzilla, Maleficent, and 22 Jump Street and one could make the case that 2014 was one of the better years in recent memory for big budget genre movies.
Now, let’s move on to my 15 Most Anticipated Films of 2015…
Although 2015 is already well under way, I thought it could be fun to spotlight 15 big budget movies that I’m most excited about. If 2014 was the year of exceeded expectations, 2015 seems destined to be one of those years that we will debate if some of the most hyped movies of all time actually live up to their tremendous expectations.
Director: Chris Columbus
Starring: Adam Sandler, Peter Dinklage, Kevin James, Josh Gad, and Michelle Monaghan
Release Date: July 24, 2015
I know what you’re thinking… You see the names Chris Columbus and Adam Sandler and you’re feeling nervous. Though both have been involved with movies that I’ve liked, it’s hard recalling exactly which movies off the top of my head. I don’t blame you for seeing Sandler’s name and cringing with fear — Jack and Jill will do that to a person. I echo and share many of your anxieties. But here’s the premise from this movie, as written on IMDB: “When aliens misinterpret video-feeds of classic arcade games as a declaration of war against them, they attack the Earth, using the games as models for their various assaults.” I don’t care how cynical you are, you have to admit that’s a pretty bad ass concept. If you need further convincing, watch the concept video below. If that doesn’t sell you on the premise, I ain’t got nuthin’ for you, man. I think this looks pretty fun. If any movie this year can be a surprise hit (like The LEGO Movie last year), I’d put my money on Pixels. Don’t eff this up, Adam Sandler. You will not be forgiven.
14. The Fantastic Four
Director: Josh Trank
Starring: Michael B Jordan, Kate Mara, Miles Teller, and Jamie Bell
Release Date: August 7, 2015
If you follow the production of superhero movies, you know that it’s really not that hard to get information about the movie being made. Star Wars is still about a year from release, yet they’ve already released a trailer, a retro-cool set of trading cards (digitally) for each of the main title characters, and a few different set videos, hinting at things to come. We’ve been seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron pictures and footage for months now. It has been the complete opposite with The Fantastic Four. 20th Century Fox has taken a hard line and have been very tight lipped about any details. The information that we do have has come from off-handed interviews with some of the cast and crew, usually while they’re promoting other movies. The movie comes out in August, yet we haven’t seen a poster, let alone a teaser trailer. The IMDB page is pretty bare. The information that has come out has been polarizing (to put it mildly) with perhaps as many people dreading this movie as there are excited for it. You can put me in the “excited” camp, though. As someone who’s gotten a little bored with comic book movies, I’m looking forward to seeing one that takes a few risks, even if those risks go against the history of the material (ie. Sue and Johnny Storm being siblings via adoption). Josh Trank’s Chronicle had a ton of great and subtle things to say about heroes and superhero movies, and I hope he’s able to bring some of those sensibilities to the Fantastic Four.
13. The Gunman
Director: Pierre Morel
Starring: Sean Penn, Idris Elba, Javier Bardem, and Ray Winstone
Release Date: March 20, 2015
This movie was not on my radar until I saw the trailer and noticed that Pierre Morel (Taken) had directed it. Taken is one of the better guilty pleasure movies of the past decade and this movie appears to be cut from the same “high octane fun, yet smart” cloth. That cast is pretty amazing, too. It probably won’t be Javier Bardem or Sean Penn’s best work, but I always love it when great actors get to chew a little scenery.
Director: Peyton Reed
Starring: Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Paul Rudd, and Michael Douglas
Release Date: July 17, 2015
If we’re being honest, this is Marvel’s biggest risk yet. I know I said the same thing last year about Guardians of the Galaxy, but that was only a risk because no one knew the property, not because the property itself was risky. Despite the lack of property awareness most of us had about Guardians of the Galaxy, when done right, sarcastic antiheroes always play well. Kurt Russell built a career off of sarcastic antiheroes. Marvel knew what they had with Guardians of the Galaxy, but we didn’t. I’m not so sure about Ant-Man. I think he’s a pretty great character and he is one of the original Avengers, but I’m really curious if the general public is ready for a dude that can not only shrink himself down to ant size, but can also communicate with said ants and maybe even ride an ant like it is a Harley Davidson. At times, the success of comic book movies reminds me of an economic bubble. No bubbles last forever. At some point, audiences will say “you know, I think I’m going to sit this one out.” At this point, Marvel deserves the benefit of the doubt, yet I’m curious if this is one that puts a dent in Marvel’s seemingly indestructible shield.
11. Mission: Impossible 5
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Starring: Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Alec Baldwin, and Ving Rhames
Release Date: December 25, 2015
You have to hand it to Tom Cruise. It was a stroke of genius getting a different director (Brian DePalma, John Woo, JJ Abrams, and Brad Bird) for each M:I movie. It’s helped to keep the franchise fresh, with each director bringing their own sensibilities to material that would otherwise get really stale, really quickly. By my estimation, each M:I movie has been better than the one before it. This movie wasn’t really on my radar until I remembered that Christopher McQuarrie was writing and directing it. Already a great screenwriter (The Usual Suspects and Edge of Tomorrow), McQuarrie’s directorial efforts have been better than they have any right to be. I’d go so far as to say that Jack Reacher (also with Cruise) is a great movie. It had a muscle and weight to it that a lot of suspense thrillers have never come close to matching. Jack Reacher moved this M:I installment from being something I was mildly interested in to one I kind of can’t wait to see.
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Lily James, Helena Bonham Carter, and Richard Madden
Release Date: March 13, 2015
It’s pretty easy to get cynical about Disney turning already established classics into feature-length live action movies, but I’m kind of a big softie for a good, well-made fairy tale. Studios don’t really make a lot of lighthearted movies anymore, so I welcome any and all offerings into this genre. Maleficent had its faults, but on the whole, it was a well made movie that connected with audiences more than it was given credit for. Kenneth Branagh’s directorial work never sets the world on fire, but he’s certainly an above-average director and can at least pull off some decent visuals in his movies. I’m curious as to how different this adaptation will be from the 1950 Disney version. Many are hoping that Disney throws a bunch of twists and turns into the movie, but I kind of hope for the opposite. I’d like to see a relatively straightforward adaptation of the story, just to see if a non-cyncial fairy tale movie can still work in a cynical and jaded world.
9. Jupiter Ascending
Directors: Andy and Lana Wachowski
Starring: Channing Tatum, Eddie Redmayne, Mila Kunis, and Sean Bean
Release Date: February 6, 2015
At long last, we’re going to find out what’s up with the Wachowski’s latest sci-fi outing. Depending on who you might believe, the delayed release was due to either more time being needed to complete the numerous SFX shots or the studio was being really nervous about how the movie would fare in a crowded summer movie season. So the movie was shelved and given a February 6 release date, all but ensuring it’d have a wide buffer zone from any competing movies. Regardless of the reason for its delay, I’m pretty jazzed that we’re finally going to get to see this thing. We don’t get a ton of original properties these days. Everything’s either a comic book movie, a remake, a reboot, or a remake of a reboot of a comic book movie. While the story arc will probably be be far from original (it seems to follow the typical Joseph Campbell “hero plucked from obscurity to go on a mythic quest” model), there’s something to be said about classic stories told well… especially when they involve Channing Tatum with big pointy ears (because he shares the DNA with a dog — while another character shares DNA with bees!!!). That’s a kind of audacious that we need more of.. I’m pretty excited for this one. Even when their movies fail, the Wachowski movies are always really interesting to look at and think about.
8. Jurassic World
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, David Oyelow, and CGI dinosaurs
Release Date: June 12, 2015
This movie kind of baffles me… After three Jurassic Park movies in which visitors of Isla Nublar become dinosaur digestibles, why would anyone in their right mind: a) set up an amusement park there b) allow the park’s scientists to create new dinosaur hybrids and c) travel there (let alone send their kids there alone on a vacation)? Pro-tip: if you send your children to an amusement park on an island where people were killed by living, breathing dinosaurs, please get your head examined. I’ve always rooted for the humans in these movies, but I’ll be rooting for the dinosaurs this time. I wonder how many minutes into this movie stuff will begin going wrong. I’m also a bit baffled that the folks behind this movie want to turn it into a trilogy. Unless the dinosaurs are going to get off the island, I find it incredibly hard to believe that they’ll be able to stretch this premise out over three films. I have this movie ranked eighth on my list, but that’s almost a rubbernecking ranking. While I hope for greatness, I’m fully prepared for it to be a trainwreck, too. At bare minimum, it has Chris Pratt being all super serious — and who doesn’t love a super serious Chris Pratt? Can’t wait to see him driving his motorcycle through canopy jungle with a team of velociraptor assassins by his side. I hope I’m wrong, but this movie has kind of a Jaws 3D feel to it.
7. Terminator: Genisys
Director: Alan Taylor
Starring: Jai Courtney, Emilia Clarke, Jason Clarke, and a grey-haired Arnold Schwarzenegger
Release Date: July 1, 2015
I’m a huge fan of the first two Terminator movies. I watched some of Terminator 2 the other day and, Guns N Roses aside, the movie holds up really well. The first Terminator will always be a classic sci-fi/monster movie mashup, despite its low budget 80s-ness. The notion that these new Terminator movies are going back and messing with the events of those two movies makes me extremely nervous. The trailer looks slick, and I like the casting of all the key roles; but my overriding feeling is that Terminator: Genisys will more than likely be the third best Terminator movie. And, if that’s the case, why bother? I almost would have preferred a full on reboot than something where John Connor sends ANOTHER protector back because Skynet sent ANOTHER Terminator back, too. If you’re keeping count, this will be Skynet’s 4th attempt at killing Sarah and John Connor. Maybe the next trilogy will be set in the 1940s with an 80-year old Schwarzenegger who protects Sarah Connor’s grandparents with a Tommy Gun? I sound down on this, but I do like the look and feel of the trailer. Both Terminator 3 and Terminator Salvation have their moments, but they never really worked for me as a Terminator fan. Unlike those two movies, I like that Terminator: Genisys seems to be treating the property seriously.
6. Kingsman: The Secret Service
Director: Matthew Vaughn,
Starring: Colin Firth, Samuel L Jackson, Michael Caine, and Taron Egerton
Release Date: February 13, 2015
The Bond franchise constantly walks the line between death and parody, unable to ever fully change and try new things (probably because of the Broccoli family’s influence), but also unable to fully embrace what it once was, thanks to how thoroughly the Austin Powers movies parodied everything about it. Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Secret Service says bullocks to all that and seems intent on showing the Bond franchise how much fun the spy genre can really be. The trailer promises a movie with a bit of Bond mixed in (Colin Firth was once a favorite to take over the role); but also with flashes of Ender’s Game, a heavy dose of Vaughn’s previous directorial work (Kick-Ass), and even some Arthurian legend of knights protecting God and Country.
5. Inside Out
Director: Pete Docter
Starring: Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, Diane Lane, and Kyle MacLachlan
Release Date: June 19, 2015
At one point, Pixar was an untouchable movie studio, producing ten consecutive movies that were hits, both commercially and critically. But if we’re being honest, after Brave, Cars 2, and Monsters University (which I liked but didn’t love), Pixar is in a bit of a slump and in desperate need of a movie that captures some of that lost Pixar magic. I have a feeling that Inside Out will be the movie that gets them back on track. Inside Out is about a young girl who recently moves to a new school, and how the emotions in her head work with/against one another. It’s an interesting premise and one that sounds to be right in Pixar’s wheelhouse. Pete Docter, who also directed Up and Monster’s Inc., certainly knows a thing or two about mixing high-minded concepts with grounded emotional situations.
Director: Brad Bird
Starring: George Clooney, Britt Robertson, and Hugh Laurie
Release Date: May 22, 2015
Studios should take note; this is how you do a teaser trailer. You hint at stuff and show some of the goods, but you don’t give away the store. Even without the teaser, knowing that Brad Bird, George Clooney, Damon Lindelof, and Jeff Jensen are involved with this = my butt in a theater seat.
3. Avengers: Age of Ultron
Director: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, James Spader, Scarlett Johansson, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Mark Ruffalo, Paul Bettany, Samuel L Jackson, Jeremy Renner, and Cobie Smulders
Release Date: May 1, 2015
The Marvel standalone movies are all pretty solid, but they kind of feel like appetizers. They all have their own story arcs and are fun and they all resolve themselves yada yada yada. The Avengers movies are the main course. This movie returns all of the Avengers you’ve gotten to know over the past decade or so, but also adds Scarlet Witch (Olsen), Quicksilver (Taylor-Johnson), and the Vision (Bettany). If the first Avengers movie has any faults, it’s that it felt a bit light, both thematically and in how it was shot. It was a kick ass movie, but it looked like something that could be on TV. Avengers: Age of Ultron seems to be a darker movie, both thematically and cinematically. Joss Whedon once said the Avengers are at their most interesting when it’s basically Glengarry Glen Ross with capes. I felt the first movie was light on that, too. This one seems to be fully embracing the inner turmoil of the group with Thor lifting Tony Stark into the air and the Hulk battling Iron Man in his “Hulk Buster” Mark suit. Knowing that Captain America: Civil War is in the pipeline only increases the notion that things aren’t going so well with the group — I have a feeling things won’t end well.
2. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Director: JJ Abrams
Starring: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisey Ridly, John Boyega, Peter Mayhew, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Max von Sydow, Lupita Nyong’o, Kenny Baker, and Gwendoline Christie
Release Date: December 18, 2015
I’m a Star Wars fan through and through. It’s a part of my DNA and something that I think about more than I would probably like to admit. But, like a lot of Star Wars fans, I’ve been in a bit of mourning since souring on the prequels. I liked all of them when they came out, but they haven’t aged well (to put it mildly). I’m not sure if I was kidding myself then, or if I’ve grown more cynical in my upper-30s… no matter. I had made my peace with the Star Wars movies. The original movies will always be the defining movies of my youth, but I was getting put off by the incessant tinkering of the original movies, the over saturation of SW stuff everywhere, and the prequels… those gosh darn prequels. But then we all know what happened next; Lucas sold to Disney, Disney hired JJ Abrams, and then that awesome teaser was released. That teaser certainly looks like a quality Star Wars movie, and JJ Abrams definitely has enough cred with for me to think he’s capable of pulling off a kick-ass Star Wars movie, but I’m… I’m being cautious. We’ve been down this road before. Gotta keep my expectations in check.
I’ve maintained two things all along:
1) Asking Abrams and co. to produce a movie that matches the mythological resonances of the first movies may be too much to ask for. I will be completely fine with a movie that’s just fun and well made. Any mythological overtones that get put in; icing on the cake for me. Just tell a good story well.
2) I don’t think fans (maybe even casual ones) are fully prepared emotionally to see Han, Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, et al on screen again. When Kevin Smith visited the Force Awakens set last year, he got emotional seeing those characters back on screen again after 30 years. I have a feeling that reaction might take place en masse all across the world.
1. Mad Max: Fury Road
Director: George Miller
Starring: Tom Hardy, Nicholas Hoult, Charlize Theron, and diesel engines
Release Date: May 15, 2015
You’d think with my love of superheroes and Star Wars, that Avengers or Star Wars would be first or second on my list, but you’d be wrong. Have you seen the Mad Max footage? HAVE YOU SEEN IT? Mad Max: Fury Road promises stuff that we’ve never seen before. It’s refreshing seeing a trailer for a movie using real automobiles, real stunts, and bad ass action. There’s going to be some CGI, sure, but this trailer is like a breath of fresh (or dusty) air. The footage speaks for itself.
Director: Sam Mendes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Christoph Waltz, Monica Bellucci, and Ben Whishaw
Release Date: November 6, 2015
Just gotta own it… It’s pure oversight on my part that this isn’t in the above top 15 list. I overlooked it. Over 50+ years, the Bond movies have had their fair share of ups and downs. They’ve been silly, they’ve been serious, and sometimes a mix of both. They’ve been gadget heavy, and then other times stripped bare of all the car and laser wristwatch stuff. No matter, we keep coming back. I like the groove that the Bond movies are in right now. They seem to have struck the right tone about being grounded in the real world, but not completely ditching the puns and the over the top action pieces that we’ve grown to love over the years. This is the last Bond Daniel Craig is contractually obligated to do, so it wouldn’t surprise me if this is the last time Craig takes the Aston Martin out for a spin. I hope they employ more of the gadgets and trick-cars that they haven’t really utilized thus far. There already is an ongoing debate about which Bond is the best. It’s mostly come down to Craig vs Connery. Giving him a movie with some of the typical Bond bells and whistles that they’ve put on the sideline with the Craig movies would be a great way to send him out on top.
Director: James Wan
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Kurt Russell, and Djimon Hounsou
Release Date: April 3, 2015
The Furious movies are dumb fun and this looks very much like more of the same. Is it wrong that a part of my interest in seeing this is to see how they handle Paul Walker’s tragic death halfway through filming? Word has it that they used everything from clever editing, to using his nearly identical brothers as stand ins, and probably a hefty dose of CGI. This is a movie to see on a big screen with a kick ass sound system and a big ol’ bucket of buttery popcorn.
Director: Neil Blomkamp
Starring: Sharlto Copley, Hugh Jackman, Dev Patel, and Sigourney Weaver
Release Date: March 6, 2015
This movie almost made my top 15. While Elysium was kind of hit and miss, I still swear by District 9 and hope that this movie is more the latter. Regardless, I welcome all attempts at good SciFi, even if the attempts miss. Plus, check out Hugh Jackman’s hair. That’s almost worth the ticket price itself.
Magic Mike XXL
Director: Gregory Jacobs
Starring: Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, and Jada Pinkett Smith
Release Date: July 1, 2015
Since Steven Soderbergh passed on directing the sequel and it’s rumored the plot involves a road trip with all the strippers (minus Matthew McConaughey, who also passed on the sequel), I have a feeling that Magic Mike XXL will be more what moviegoers wanted to see the first time around; more half-nekkid men, less character study.
Director: Brad Peyton
Starring: Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, Carla Gugino, and mass destruction
Release Date: May 29, 2015
It’s Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson saving earthquake survivors with a helicopter. That’s really all you need to know.
Fifty Shades of Grey
Director: Sam Taylor-Wood
Starring: Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson, nipple clamps, and whips
Release Date: February 13, 2015
This is a movie that would have been sent straight to video in the 90s. It would have starred Sharon Stone and one of the non-Alec “Baldwin brothers.” It still cracks me up that they’re releasing this over Valentine’s Day weekend. Nothing says romance quite like a whips and nipple clamps.
The Good Dinosaur
Director: Peter Sohn and Bob Peterson
Starring: Judy Greer, Bill Hader, Neil Patrick Harrison, and John Lithgow
Release Date: November 25, 2015
Two new Pixar movies in one year? I’m excited. Rumor has it, though, that this movie has been delayed a couple times and that they’ve had to go back and reshoot large portions of the movie. That’s never a good sign, but I’m cautiously optimistic.