Jan 1, 2015

Most Anticipated Films of 2015

By Josh Oakley 

Though a few offerings from 2014 have yet to open wide (Inherent Vice and Selma chief among them), 2015 has officially begun and with it, numerous films to anticipate. From last year’s festival holdouts to mammoth blockbuster releases, the year ahead looks to hold a number of potential treasures, many of which we probably aren’t even aware of yet. Below I’ll talk about the ten films I’m most looking forward to this calendar year. Leave a comment with the ones you can’t wait to see, and join me in getting excited for yet another great year at the movies.

10) Untitled Christmas Eve Project (dir. Jonathan Levine)
One of the films on this list with little information, what we do already know about Levine’s next project sounds so up my alley I may have dreamt this into reality somehow. I quite liked Levine’s last film to star Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 50/50, and this time around Lizzy Caplan and Anthony Mackie (one of my favorite actors working today) round out the central cast. The story concerns friends reuniting for what may be the last of their annual Christmas Eve celebrations. That plot, if handled with the smart sentimentality of 50/50 could be crushing, especially given my affinity for the holiday season and my anxiety about losing friends over time. There’s every reason to believe this film could suffer from the same flaws that made 50/50 a good movie rather than a great one, but the plot and lead actors are so intoxicating that I’m willing to take the risk. (Nov. 25th)

9) Tomorrowland (dir. Brad Bird)
There’s a lot to bemoan in the world of blockbuster filmmaking, from the “franchise fever” that has infected every major studio, to the sameness in style that obsession supports. Most troubling, and connected to those ideas, is the lack of originality, with almost every idea stemming from some already-beloved property. Tomorrowland looks to be a solution to this, a film based on nothing but the thoughts in the heads of co-writer/director Brad Bird, and co-writers Damon Lindelof and Jeff Jensen. You may already be sighing at the sight of the name “Lindelof”, but I would kindly ask you to consider the fact that while he has his flaws, he’s never one to back away from an ambitious idea. And with Bird around, who has never made a less-than-very-good movie, there’s every reason to believe whatever the story of Tomorrowland is will be thrilling. Add a trailer that highlights some magnificent special effects and the cast (the underrated Britt Robertson, the properly rated George Clooney, Judy Greer, Kathryn Hahn and Keegan-Michael Key) and all signs point to Tomorrowland being 2015’s most exciting big-budget release. (May 22nd)

8) The Look of Silence (dir. Joshua Oppenheimer)
Oppenheimer’s last documentary was the staggering and vital The Act of Killing, a look at the Indonesian killings of the mid-60’s through the eyes of those who committed the atrocities. The Look of Silence functions as a companion piece, allowing those that survived that genocide to confront one of the killers. Reports from festivals have spoken highly of the doc, saying that it rivals Act of Killing in terms of horror and filmmaking. The last scene of The Act of Killing haunts my mind over a year later, and if The Look of Silence has anything to rival that, it will likely be unforgettable and equally as important. (July 17th)

7) It Follows (dir. David Robert Mitchell)
This one’s another semi-cheat, as anticipation can be based on the word of critics from festivals, rather than a blind endorsement. It Follows is a horror film that spins the genre’s cliche of “if a teenager has sex, they’re going to die”. Maika Monroe stars, coming off a solid performance in 2014’s The Guest. I won’t detail the plot too much, as there’s been some debate as to what constitutes a spoiler, but the basic details concern some sort of creature that walks, slowly, toward its intended victim. “You can run, but you can’t hide”, personified. I’ve gotten chills just thinking about this film, and can’t wait to see it for myself. (March 27th)

6) Entertainment (dir. Rick Alverson)
Alverson’s previous film, The Comedy, was as divisive as films get. Those who didn’t like it despised it, finding it obnoxious and needlessly off putting. Others, like myself, found its exploration of the narcissism of aging hipsters both scathing and hilarious (culminating in a final scene that offered a perfect, out-of-nowhere emotional catharsis). That film also offered star Tim Heidecker a role with more depth than his previous (terrific) work in sketch comedy. Now Entertainment looks to do the same for Gregg Turkington (who often performs as Neil Hamburger, and is Heidecker’s parter in the great webseries On Cinema at the Cinema). Turkington plays a comedian looking to reconnect with his estranged daughter; it will be fascinating to see what tone Alverson goes for with that sort of plot. The cast also features John C. Reilly, Michael Cera, Tye Sheridan and Amy Seimetz. The film debuts at Sundance later this month. (TBA)

5) Kumiko the Treasure Hunter (dir. David Zellner)
The last 2014 festival-holdout on the list, Kumiko the Treasure Hunter received mostly positive reviews. But I’d be excited without any advance word, based solely on the story and lead actress. The plot is based on the urban legend about a Japanese woman who was found dead in Minnesota; the rumor became that she thought the events of the film Fargo to be true, and was attempting to find the buried money. Though that isn’t really what happened, Kumiko takes it at face value, following what would have happened if this legend was fact. Given the surprisingly great expansion of the Fargo universe we received last year on TV, this is another chance to further explore one of the best films of the 90’s. And playing the titular lead is Rinko Kikuchi, a great actress who is said to have a potentially breakthrough role here. (March 13th)

4) The Hateful Eight (dir. Quentin Tarantino)
The rest of this list is comprised of assured directors, people whose projects would be worth anticipating no matter what the content. Luckily, The Hateful Eight sounds intriguing as the director continues to explore the western genre. Besides Tarantino, the real selling point here is the cast, from those who are part of the director’s stable (Tim Roth, Michael Madsen) to the wildly fascinating first-timers like Channing Tatum. The plot sounds like a western spin on Reservoir Dogs (a group of bad people, stuck in one place together begin to lose trust in those around them), which sounds great to me. (Fall TBA)

3) Mistress America (dir. Noah Baumbach)
Baumbach actually has two films coming out next year, the other being While We’re Young which arrives in March. Where that one seems to echo Greenberg (a film I don’t care for all that much) in both story and the presence of Ben Stiller, Mistress America has the major element that made Frances Ha one of the best films of the decade so far: co-writer and star Greta Gerwig. Like their previous collaboration, Mistress America is about young women in New York City, and that’s enough to excite me. Not much else is known about the film, but Frances Ha was so good that just putting Baumbach and Gerwig together again is enough promise for me. (TBA)

2) Silence (dir. Martin Scorsese)
“dir. Martin Scorsese” (TBA)

1) That’s What I’m Talking About (dir. Richard Linklater)
If you’ve read my writing before, or know me personally, this pick should come as no surprise. Linklater is my favorite contemporary director, and his previous two films are both masterpieces in my eyes. Before Midnight and Boyhood played with the idea of time in separate and uniquely powerful ways, the later already becoming one of my all-time favorites.The film is set in the 80’s at the beginning of a college school year, and the cast is full of lesser-known actors, which could offer them the same opportunities Dazed & Confused offered so many in the early 90’s. That’s What I’m Talking About was originally discussed as a spiritual sequel to Dazed, but after wrapping the shoot, Linklater said “it overlaps with the end of Boyhood”, and though he means this in a thematic sense rather than a plot one, it’s just as thrilling.  If Linklater can pull off three great films, three years in a row, there will be no doubt that he’s one of the best working filmmakers alive. (TBA)

Runners-Up: Crimson Peak (Oct. 16th), Eden (TBA), Trainwreck (July 17th), Spectre (Nov. 6th), Digging for Fire (TBA), Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Dec. 18th), Phoenix (TBA)


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