As we massage away the crick in our neck from all the looking backward we’ve done recently (here’s the complete rundown of all our Best of 2014 features), now we get to look forward to looking forward. And since no doubt most of you are currently suffering some form of the back-to-work horrors, we got ours out of the way early, so we could bring you the soothing balm of our Most Anticipated Films of 2015 and ease you through the official Worst Day of the Year. Avoid chit chat about soon-to-be-broken resolutions! Eschew depressing conversations about how broke you all are! Avoid hearing that joke where some wag counts how many shopping days there are till next Christmas! Instead, immerse yourself in a long, long list of the quality entertainments the movie industry will be serving up to distract you from your miserable lives throughout 2015!
So without further ado, slip into something more comfortable: The Playlist’s Most Anticipated Films of 2015. Before you know, it it’ll be quitting time and you’ll have realized, contrary to the impression you had on this cold damp January morning’s commute, 2015 is going to be awesome.
100. “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies”
Director: Burr Steers (“Igby Goes Down,” “17 Again“)
Cast: Lily James, Sam Riley, Bella Heathcote, Lena Headey, Matt Smith, Charles Dance
Synopsis: Jane Austen’s classic tale of romance gets a new lease on life, with a new version that sets the story in a Regency England beset by a zombie plague.
What You Need To Know: Reader, I beheaded him: in development for what seems like decades, the long-gestating adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s parody novel finally arrives on screen this year. Surprisingly faithful to the original, bar the zombies, ninjas and kung-fu battles, it’s always risked being a one-joke premise, a la Graham-Smith’s “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” but we’ve always been intrigued, if only because the script is co-written by David O. Russell (who originally planned to direct, after “The Fighter”). New helmer Burr Steers isn’t quite as exciting, but we were fans of his breakthrough “Igby Goes Down” and he’s assembled a strong young cast for this new version.
Release Date: None yet. September/October seems like a good bet.
99. “American Ultra”
Director: Nima Nourizadeh (“Project X“)
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Walton Goggins, Connie Britton, Bill Pullman, Topher Grace
Synopsis: A stoner and his girlfriend are forced to go on the run after he’s targeted by a government agency.
What You Need To Know: Eisenberg is one of the most unlikely stars out there: literate and indie-minded, mixing up small projects like “The Double” and “Night Moves” with big movies like “Now You See Me” and next year’s “Batman V. Superman.” “American Ultra” seems to be something that straddles the two: an unconventional action-comedy with Eisenberg joined by Stewart for a movie penned by “Chronicle” writer Max Landis. Not much is known about this one at present, but Eisenberg and Stewart played well together in “Adventureland“, we mostly like Landis’ work, and though his features career got off to a shaky start with “Project X,” director Nima Nourizadeh is one of the most inventive music video helmers around, and so should give this film some visual spark.
Release Date: None yet.
98. “Jane Got A Gun”
Director: Gavin O’Connor (“Warrior,”Miracle”)
Cast: Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Joel Edgerton, Noah Emmerich, Rodrigo Santoro
Synopsis: In the old west, a woman must protect her crooked husband from the gang he betrayed with the help of an old flame.
What You Need To Know: One of the most troubled projects in recent years, all was going swimmingly until original director Lynne Ramsay (“We Need To Talk About Kevin”) bailed on the project on the first day of production, causing a merry-go-round of cast and crew that saw the likes of Michael Fassbender, Bradley Cooper and Jude Law all involved at various points before dropping out. O’Connor, of “Warrior” fame, took over (not before heavily rewriting Brian Duffield’s Black List-ed script), but its troubles weren’t over: it was originally set for release last August before being pushed back to February and then September: not usually a good sign. That said, we’re still interested in checking it out: it’s been a passion project for Portman, we don’t get enough badass feminist Westerns, and with McGregor, Edgerton and Emmerich backing her up, there’s a strong cast involved too. Ramsay’s film will always be the one that got away, but there’s still reason for hope that this version will be a decent time at the movies.
Release Date: September 4th
97. “Pitch Perfect 2”
Director: Elizabeth Banks
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Elizabeth Banks
Synopsis: The Bellas are back, pitches.
What You Need To Know: Aca-what? Sorry elitists, “Pitch Perfect” was an infectious surprise hit and it’s now up there with contemporary teen-com classics like “Mean Girls.” What’s different this time? The girls are now seniors, the Bellas have broken up (though not for long), Hailee Steinfeld joins the cast and Banks is going from cheeky announcer supporting character to perform double duty as a first time feature-length director. Not an easy task. Can they recapture the first film’s charm? We’ll see.
Release Date: May 15th
96. “Bone Tomahawk”
Director: S. Craig Zahler
Cast: Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Richard Jenkins, Matthew Fox, Sean Young
Synopsis: In the Old West, a sheriff leads a group of men to rescue their loved ones from a group of cannibals.
What You Need To Know: Four words: Kurt Russell vs. cannibals. Ok, fine, you want more? S. Craig Zahler is a novelist whose script “The Brigands of Rattleborge” has been getting buzz for years —it topped the Black List in 2006 and had Park Chan-wook attached for a time. Zahler’s making his directorial debut with another Western script which has been developing for a while but finally shot last year, with a long-due-a-comeback Russell in the lead role sporting some awesome muttonchops (plus old reliables like Wilson, Jenkins, Melamed and even Sean Young involved —when was the last time we saw Sean Young in a film?). There aren’t enough decent horror-westerns out there, and this seems like a promisingly gruesome piece of exploitation fare, as long as Zahler can direct as well as he can write.
Release Date: None yet: SXSW or Toronto International Film Festival Midnight Madness/Fantastic Fest are probably the best bets.
95. “Dark Places”
Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner (“Sarah’s Key“)
Cast: Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Corey Stoll, Tye Sheridan, Chloe Grace Moretz
Synopsis: A woman who survived the brutal killing of her family as a child is forced to confront the events of that day by a secret society obsessed with solving notorious crimes.
What You Need To Know: With “Gone Girl” proving a giant and acclaimed hit, hopes must be high for this adaptation of an earlier novel by author Gillian Flynn. The book is a little more straightforward as a genre piece than David Fincher’s movie turned out to be but still a shares an admirably ambivalent protagonist and plenty of dark twists. Theron stars and produces, and she’s assembled a strong cast with Hoult, Stoll and Hendricks playing key parts of the investigation, and Sheridan and Moretz appearing in the extensive flashback episodes. We’d be lying if we said we were as excited at the prospect of Flynn’s work being taken on by “Sarah’s Key” director Paquet-Brenner as we were by Fincher, but fans of “Gone Girl” should find something to tide them over here.
Release Date: Nothing firm yet: like “Captives” and “Son Of A Gun,” this is part of a partnership between A24 and DirectTV, so will hit the latter 30 days before theatrical release (which we figure will be in late spring).
94. “Jupiter Ascending”
Director: The Wachowskis (“The Matrix,” “Cloud Atlas“)
Cast: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Eddie Redmayne, Sean Bean, Douglas Booth
Synopsis: An ambitious space opera about an interplanetary warrior who helps a destitute woman on Earth go on the run from the Queen Of The Universe.
What You Need To Know: Fifteen years on from “The Matrix,” the Wachowskis return to the original sci-fi blockbuster genre with a bonkers-looking mash-up of “Star Wars,” Greek mythology, comic book “Saga” and a million other different things. Love them or loathe them (and there are plenty on both sides), “Speed Racer” and “Cloud Atlas” made it clear that the Wachowskis do not remotely give a fuck what anyone else thinks. “Jupiter Ascending” looks big, bold and potentially terrible (we’ve been calling it “The Chronicles Of Riddickulous” in the office), and we had fingers crossed this could be the most idiosyncratic blockbuster of last year, but Warner Bros’ confidence in the picture buckled when they bounced it from the heart of the summer to not-so-hot winter. So expectations should be tempered a bit.
Release Date: February 6th
93. “Furious 7”
Director: James Wan (“Insidious,” “The Conjuring”)
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Kurt Russell, Michelle Rodriguez
Synopsis: Dominic Toretto, Brian O’Conner and their crew are targeted by Ian Shaw, the older brother of the career criminal they took down in “Fast & Furious 6”
What You Need To Know: Delayed for a year and sadly tainted by the death of star Paul Walker (who shot enough of the film to appear posthumously), this otherwise carries on Hollywood’s surprisingly increasingly massive “Fast & The Furious” franchise. Most of the old gang return, with Statham fulfilling his destiny by squaring off against Diesel as the arch-villain, and Russell, Tony Jaa and Djimon Hounsou are also on board. It’s also the first film in the series since 2003’s “2 Fast 2 Furious” not to be directed by Justin Lin, with horror specialist Wan switching genres to take the helm instead. But the first trailer suggests that he hasn’t skipped a beat when it comes to the automotive carnage. Non-fans probably won’t be won over here, but devotees already know they’re going anyway.
Release Date: April 3rd
Director: Joe Wright (“Atonement,” “Anna Karenina“)
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Garret Hedlund, Rooney Mara, Levi Miller, Adeel Akhtar
Synopsis: A young boy is kidnapped from a Victorian orphanage by the fearsome pirate Blackbeard and is taken to the magical world of Neverland, where will he eventually become the eternally-young hero Peter Pan.
What You Need To Know: None of the fairy-tale reboot/prequel trend movies have particularly floated our boat, but “Pan” looks like it could be a little more intriguing than most. Sure, we’ve never particularly felt the urge to know how Peter Pan (newcomer Miller) and Captain Hook (Hedlund) reached the starting point of J.M. Barrie’s children’s classic, but we are interested to see what director Joe Wright could do on a tentpole budget, and we hope it’s something distinctive and theatrical than most similar movies and a blessed relief from the garish CGI feel of “Alice In Wonderland,” “Maleficent” and co. There are certainly echoes of “Hook” in the trailer, which might not be that promising, but there was also enough there —including Hugh Jackman camping it up as a pirate king— to suggest something that could bring real wonder back to the genre.
Release Date: July 24th
91. “Our Kind Of Traitor”
Director: Susannah White (“Generation Kill,” “Parade’s End”)
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Naomie Harris, Stellan Skarsgard, Damian Lewis, Mark Gatiss
Synopsis: A British couple are lured into a Russian oligarch’s plan to defect to the West.
What You Need To Know: Between the sublime “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and the very strong “A Most Wanted Man,” it’s been a good few years for adaptations of acclaimed spy novelist John Le Carre onscreen, so fingers crossed that continues with the latest, “Our Kind Of Traitor.” Adapted by “Drive” writer Hossein Amini, it steps away from the Cold War and war-on-terror themes of the last two Le Carre movies to look at contemporary Russia, a subject that’s frankly only got more topical since the film went into production last year. Top-notch TV helmer Susannah White (whose unlikely sole big-screen credit to date is “Nanny McPhee And The Big Bang”) has the helm, with Skarsgard as the oligarch, McGregor and Harris as the central couple, and Lewis, “Sherlock” star/creator Gatiss and Jeremy Northam among the MI5-types.
Release Date: This seems to be hitting European theaters around the fall; once it finds a U.S. distributor, expect it to follow suit there.
Director: Robert Zemeckis (“Back To The Future,” “Forrest Gump”)
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Charlotte Le Bon, Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale, Ben Schwartz
Synopsis: The story of French high-wire artist Philippe Petit, who walked a tightrope strung between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 1974.
What You Need To Know: It’s probably too soon to call James Marsh’s thrilling heist documentary about Philippe Petit’s legendary twin towers high-wire walk “Man On Wire” one of the best non-fiction films ever made —it’s only six years since the film was released and won an Oscar. But by the same token, it might also be too soon to see a new film version of the story on screen: “The Walk,” which stars Gordon-Levitt as Petit, is also based on Petit’s memoir “To Reach The Clouds.” That said, we’re sure there must be more material to be mined, and Zemeckis might be the man to do it. Freed of his inexplicable love for dead-eyed performance-capture movies, Zemeckis is back in the live-action world with new vigor and is promising a 3D drama that will likely give vertigo-sufferers the heebie-jeebies. We were a bit unconvinced by the trailer, but the promise of a dizzying reconstruction of Petit’s work and the fun supporting cast (Jean-Ralphio from “Parks & Rec”!) have us keeping the faith for now.
Release Date: October 2nd
89. “Child 44”
Director: Daniel Espinosa (“Snabba Cash,” “Safe House“)
Cast: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Gary Oldman, Joel Kinnaman, Vincent Cassel
Synopsis: In Stalin-era USSR, a disgraced MGB agent tries to track down a serial killer of children while working to keep his wife safe from the authorities.
What You Need To Know: Although we’re closing in on thirty years since Perestroika and Glasnost led to the end of Soviet Russia, Hollywood’s mostly avoided setting movies in what would seem like fruitful territory. But that changes in 2015, with “Child 44,” an adaptation of the acclaimed best-selling thriller by Tom Rob Smith. Adapted by the great Richard Price and with “Safe House” director Espinosa at the helm, the film has a cast that’s about as good as you could ask for: Hardy and Rapace have the lead roles, with Kinnaman, Oldman, Cassel, Paddy Considine and Jason Clarke joining them. In an ideal world, this turns out as a sort of Eastern Bloc “Chinatown,” but we’ve been worried that this has been sitting in a drawer for a while. Was it just trying to get distance from the other Hardy/Rapace picture, “The Drop?” Or is there a more insidious reason for the delay?
Release Date: April 17th
Director: Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day,” “Olympus Has Fallen“)
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Naomie Harris, Forest Whitaker
Synopsis: A boxer fights his way to the top, only to find his life falling apart around him.
What You Need To Know: Inspired by Eminem’s music, writer Kurt Sutter set out to write a continuation of the “8 Mile” story using a “life’s a brawl” metaphor for the rapper’s struggles. Eminem eventually dropped out the drama, but his loss is Jake Gyllenhaal’s gain (which all seems super unlikely). Fuqua isn’t our favorite filmmaker of the moment (“The Equalizer” is entertaining but ridiculous), but in Gyllenhaal we trust. He’s been picture perfect of late and here has once again transformed his body and undergone rigorous training to shape-shift into the pugilist who hits rock bottom.
Release Date: The Weinstein Company is distributing
and they’re awards-season addicts, so likely a festival season bow straight into the fall. Nope, a wide July 31 release date instead.
Director: Neill Blomkamp (“District 9,” “Elysium“)
Cast: Sharlto Copley, Hugh Jackman, Dev Patel, Sigourney Weaver
Synopsis: An experimental robot designed to learn and feel is kidnapped by local gangsters (played by rave rap group Die Antwoord).
What You Need To Know: Neill Blomkamp is one for two. “District 9” dropped him on the map with a thunderclap, but “Elysium” was a hard swing and a miss. “Chappie” looks like it continues Blomkamp’s approach —high minded sci-fi with a socio-political bent— but seems to place a higher premium on comedy even as Blomkamp’s rabbit’s foot Copley returns, this time in a mo-cap suit, to play the robot. Not everyone here was convinced by the first trailer, and perhaps Blomkamp has something to (re)prove, but we’ll be rooting for him to nail it out of fondness for his debut and for those elements of his big-budget follow up that did work, and that should carry over well here, like the production design.
Release Date: March 6th
86. “Digging For Fire”
Director: Joe Swanberg (“Drinking Buddies,” “Happy Christmas”)
Cast: Jake Johnson, Rosemarie DeWitt, Anna Kendrick, Sam Rockwell, Brie Larson
Synopsis: A married couple take a break from raising their toddler by house-sitting for a friend.
What You Need To Know: We seem to have moved firmly into the second act of the career of Swanberg: the mumblecore maestro hasn’t entirely left his origins behind, but his movies have become less rough around the edges and have been cast with recognizable actors, as “Drinking Buddies” and “Happy Christmas” showed in the last couple of years. “Digging For Fire,” co-written with “New Girl” and “Let’s Be Cops” star Johnson (who plays one of the leads opposite the great Rosemarie DeWitt), looks to be Swanberg’s biggest endeavor yet. Aside from the central couple, we also have Swanberg vets like Kendrick, Ron Livingston, Jane Adams and Melanie Lynskey, plus Larson, Rockwell, Sam Elliott, Chris Messina, Jenny Slate, Judith Light, Timothy Simons and Mike Birbiglia. Oh, and, presumably hoping to kick off a comeback, Orlando Bloom. Yeah, it sounds a bit generic in premise, but so did his last couple of movies and we liked those, so our hopes are still high.
Release Date: Premieres at Sundance in a few weeks: will likely hit theaters and VOD in the summer like Swanberg’s last couple of pictures.
Director: Jason Moore (“Pitch Perfect”)
Cast: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, James Brolin, Dianne Wiest
Synopsis: Two adult siblings decide to throw one final party before their parents sell their childhood home.
What You Need To Know: It takes a movie with balls of steel to open the same week as “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” but that’s what “Sisters” is doing, for now at least. But if you had the killer comic pairing of Fey and Poehler in your movie, you’d probably be feeling bullish too. The duo have always made a great comic team, and while their previous big-screen outing “Baby Mama” was a bit middling, the signs are much better now: they’re more established, for one thing, thanks to their regular gig hosting the Golden Globes. For another, this is scripted by the great SNL and “30 Rock” writer Paula Pell, and has “Pitch Perfect” director Jason Moore at the helm. It also has the kind of brilliantly simple premise that should give Poehler and Fey their best big-screen showcase yet. It’ll make a fraction of its competition, most likely, but we’re almost as excited to see this one.
Release Date: December 18th
84. “By The Sea”
Director: Angelina Jolie
Cast: Jolie, Brad Pitt, Mélanie Laurent, Melvil Poupaud, Niels Arestrup
Synopsis: France, the 1970s: an estranged American couple wander the country, but one quiet, seaside town and its maritime dwellers draws them in toward spiritual rejuvenation.
What You Need To Know: Jolie is directing, producing and wrote the script. It’s the first time the power couple have been onscreen since 2005’s “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” and they actually shot it on their honeymoon (they only officially married last year). And as for those striking first-look photos? The movie is being lensed by “The White Ribbon” DP Christian Berger mainly using natural light. It also sounds pretty non-traditional, talky, moody and loose; perhaps more Jolie’s version of an European arthouse movie than an awards-bait offering, which could be really interesting. Either way, we’re hoping it’s more entertaining than “Unbroken.”
Release Date: TBD, and we’ll assume a fall/winter release.
Director: Sarah Gavron (“Brick Lane,” “Village at the End of the World”)
Cast: Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, and Ben Whishaw
Synopsis: The film centers on early members of the British women’s suffrage movement of the late 19th and early 20th century.
What You Need To Know: A terrific cast, a well-regarded director, a top-notch composer (Alexandre Desplat), a BAFTA darling writer (Abi Morgan) a rising DP (Eduard Grau, “Suite Française“), and big U.K. backers (Pathé, Film4): what’s not to love about this ostensible awards season slamdunk? The only possible pitfall is that in ticking so many boxed it’s too perfect —almost too slick and pre-manufactured awards-bait. Hopefully that’s not the case, but it does have us a tiny bit cautious as a result, and we’ll be very happy to be proven wrong.
Release Date: September 11th in the U.K. No date set for the U.S. yet
82. “Nasty Baby”
Director: Sebastian Silva (“Crystal Fairy,” “Magic, Magic“)
Cast: Kristen Wiig, TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, Alia Shawkat, Reg E. Cathey
Synopsis: A gay couple are trying to have a baby with the help of their best friend.
What You Need To Know: Chilean filmmaker Silva likes to take audiences into uncomfortable places with a mix of comedy, drama, absurdity and awkwardness. Already having landed with “The Maid” he became a bonafide Sundance darling in 2013 with the debut of two films “Magic Magic” and “Crystal Fairy,” one weird horror comedy, the other a weird serio-comic oddity. His latest, a mix of sexuality, parenting and intolerance (Cathey plays a menacing neighborhood local) sounds every bit as unapologetic and rough around the corners, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Release Date: Sundance premiere, no distribution yet.
81. “The Little Prince”
Director: Mark Osborne (“Kung Fu Panda”)
Cast: Mackenzie Foy, Marion Cotillard, James Franco, Rachel McAdams, Jeff Bridges
Synopsis: An elderly former aviator tells his next-door-neighbor child a story about a young pilot who met a little prince on a distant planet.
What You Need To Know: Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s 1943 novel is a beloved children’s classic and one of the best-selling books in history, but has never made much of an impact on screen, with Stanley Donen’s 1974 film being the only major adaptation to date. But that changes next year, with this French-funded, Paramount-released film, directed by “Kung Fu Panda” director Osborne, and employing a CGI “Princess Bride”-style framing device around the stop-motion main body of the story. An all-star cast encompassing Benicio Del Toro, Ricky Gervais, Paul Giamatti, Albert Brooks and Bud Cort joining Foy, Cotillard, Franco, McAdams and Bridges, and an early international trailer suggests that this is an animated film of rare craft and beauty. The source material is richer than most, so this could be one of the more interesting animated features of the year.
Release Date: Paramount haven’t announced a date yet, but the film’s confirmed to open in October in France; perhaps it’ll go in the gap between “Hotel Transylvania 2” and “The Peanuts Movie”?
80. “Money Monster”
Director: Jodie Foster (“Little Man Tate,” “The Beaver”)
Cast: George Clooney, Jack O’Connell, Julia Roberts
Synopsis: The host of a financial advice TV show is taken hostage live on air by a disgruntled viewer.
What You Need To Know: We’ve always liked Foster as a director, even if none of her three features to date have been entirely satisfying. But she’s been honing her skills with some top-notch work on TV recently with “Orange Is The New Black” and “House Of Cards,” and given the cast that “Money Monster” has assembled, we’re hopeful she’ll be knocking it out of the park this time around. Seemingly a “King Of Comedy”-ish look at a “Mad Money”-style TV show, it should see Clooney play enjoyably against type as its Jim Cramer-esque host, with the star reteaming with frequent collaborator Roberts as his producer, and the ever-awesome O’Connell surfing his new megastardom off the back of “Unbroken” to play the young hostage-taker. The film’s supposedly told in real time, and should deliver real drama while also examining the roots and villains of the 2008 financial crash.
Release Date: Nothing official yet (the film starts shooting shortly), but given the caliber of the cast, look for Sony to place this in the fall if there’s any hopes of awards success with it.
79. “Victor Frankenstein”
Director: Paul McGuigan (“Lucky Number Slevin,” “Sherlock”)
Cast: James McAvoy, Daniel Radcliffe, Jessica Brown Findlay, Andrew Scott, Mark Gatiss
Synopsis: The story of Victor Frankenstein and his attempts to re-animate life, told through the eyes of his assistant Igor.
What You Need To Know: Having revived one of cinema’s most over-used heroes with his direction of the pilot (and several other episodes) of BBC’s “Sherlock,” director Paul McGuigan now turns his hand to another frequently-filmed tale, Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” The film (delayed from January to October, which feels more like a vote of confidence than anything) is apparently a bold new take on the story by “Chronicle” writer/Twitter madman Max Landis, with Tod Browning-style carnival sequences and as much of an adventure movie feel as horror. The always-great James McAvoy stars as the not-so-good doctor, with Radcliffe as his loyal right-hand man, while McGuigan has brought “Sherlock” veterans including Scott, Gatiss and Louise Brearley along for the ride too. Could he do for the man of many parts what “Sherlock” did for the Baker Street-dwelling detective?
Release Date: October 2nd
78.”The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”
Director: Guy Ritchie (“Snatch,” “Sherlock Holmes“)
Cast: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Hugh Grant, Elizabeth Debicki
Synopsis: A reboot of the 1960s TV spy show, which teams CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB man Ilya Kuryakin on a mission to infiltrate a mysterious criminal organization during the height of the Cold War.
What You Need To Know: After Quentin Tarantino and Steven Soderbergh tried but couldn’t quite get there, it’s Ritchie who got a big-screen reboot of this classic before cameras, seemingly dumping the Scott Z. Burns script that Soderbergh was going to use but keeping its vintage Cold War setting. Cavill and Hammer step in for Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, while Grant (!) plays their boss, and Vikander and Debicki are the potential femme fatales. The Cavill/Hammer partnership might be the biggest question mark here, and it’ll need Ritchie to bring the fun and style of his first “Sherlock Holmes” film, rather than the tedium of the second, but we like the idea of a big-budget take on the sixties spy flick enough that we’re confident that this’ll be able to stand out, even in a year packed with espionage pictures.
Release Date: August 14th
77. “Miles Ahead”
Director: Don Cheadle
Cast: Don Cheadle, Ewan McGregor, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Michael Stuhlbarg, Keith Stanfield
Synopsis: Jazz legend Miles Davis attempts his comeback in the 1980s, as he reflects on his relationship with his first wife, Frances Taylor.
What You Need To Know: Actors quite often secretly want to be rock stars (and vice versa), and there’s always a sense of worry when you see that a star is directing and acting in a biopic of musician: think Kevin Spacey’s “Beyond The Sea.” “Miles Ahead” has the potential to be something different. For one thing, it’s directed by and stars Cheadle, who is, as we all know, awesome. For another, it’s the first movie about the life of Miles Davis, one of the greatest jazz trumpeters in history. And furthermore, Cheadle’s script seems to be avoiding the usual biopic trap, by focusing on a particular time in Davis’ life rather than attempting to tell the whole sprawl. There’s a very strong cast in place —we’re particularly excited about Emayatzy Corinealdi, who was so good in Ava DuVernay’s “Middle Of Nowhere,” getting a major role here— and though not every actor is suited to directing, Cheadle says he’s been getting tips from Steven Soderbergh, Paul Thomas Anderson and George Clooney, which bodes pretty well…
Release Date: The film doesn’t have a distributor yet, but a TIFF premiere sounds pretty likely.
76. “Umimachi Diary”
Director: Hirokazu Koreeda (“I Wish,” “Like Father, Like Son”)
Cast: Haruka Ayase, Masami Nagasawa, Kaho, Ryo Kase, Suzu Hirose
Synopsis: Three twentysomething sisters adopt their thirteen-year-old half-sibling after the death of their father.
What You Need To Know: Every film he makes has seen Japanese helmer Hirokazu Koreeda win over more and more fans for his quietly humanistic, un-melodramatic melodramas. He’s become a Cannes staple, and even counts Steven Spielberg as an admirer, the latter snapping up the remake rights for Koreeda’s last picture, “Like Father Like Son” (which won the Jury Prize on the Croisette). The director’s newest picture is “Umimachi Diary,” an adaptation of an award-winning manga by Akimi Yoshida. The premise —three sisters, a responsible nurse, a booze-loving office worker and a 19-year-old journalist, have to raise their teenage half-sister after the death of their neglectful father— might sound a bit like a Japanese take on “Party Of Five,” but Koreeda is one of the few filmmakers that we’d trust to make something like this without it becoming soapy or sensationalistic. Bar a real shock, it’ll be the most moving graphic novel adaptation of the year…
Release Date: Roughly slated for the summer in Japan, which suggests that Koreeda is likely to be returning to Cannes again.
Director: Paul Feig
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Jason Statham, Jude Law, Miranda Hart
Synopsis: A deskbound CIA analyst goes deep undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer, and prevent a global disaster.
What You Need To Know: After giving the gross-out and cop movie comedies a welcome female-driven makeover, director Feig and star McCarthy turn their attentions, like half the filmmakers this year, to the spy flick. It’s got stiff competition, but even after the uneven “The Heat,” the pair’s track record would be enough to get us in the door even without a cast that includes both comedy ringers like Rose Byrne, Allison Janney and Bobby Cannavale, but also more unlikely figures like Law and, holy-shit-yes, Statham. And if you’re tired of McCarthy’s more brash persona after “Tammy” (and who would blame you?), Feig has good news, telling Empire this month, “it’s a very different Melissa than you’ve seen. [Her character] Susan is very smart and meek.”
Release Date: May 22nd
74. “Mississippi Grind”
Director: Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck (“Half Nelson,” “Sugar”)
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Ben Mendelsohn, Sienna Miller, Analeigh Tipton, Alfre Woodard
Synopsis: A down-on-his-luck gambler teams with a charming young drifter to travel to a high-stakes poker game in New Orleans.
What You Need To Know: After their first real misfire, 2010’s “It’s Kind Of A Funny Story,” and a reported brief flirtation with the blockbuster world (they were said, bizarrely, to be on the shortlist for “Guardians Of The Galaxy”), “Half Nelson” directors Boden and Fleck return to Sundance this year hoping for a comeback. And there’s every reason to think that “Mississippi Grind” might provide one: a gambling road movie that seems to have some real 1970s character-drama vibes and a highly appealing pairing at its center, with Reynolds, who’s been making smart and varied choices of late in an attempt to course-correct post-”R.I.P.D,” and the great Mendelsohn (“Animal Kingdom,” “Starred Up”), finally getting a deserved leading role in a U.S. movie. The supporting cast looks strong, “Blue Valentine” DP Andrij Parekh is shooting, and so long as it turns out more “California Split” than, say, “Lay The Favorite,” we’re on board.
Release Date: Premieres at Sundance later in the month, so hopefully it’ll get snapped up sharpish.
73. “A Hologram For The King”
Director: Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run,” “Cloud Atlas”)
Cast: Tom Hanks, Tom Skerritt, Sarita Choudhury, Rolf Saxon
Synopsis: An American businessman travels to Saudi Arabia in an attempt to make a deal that could save his career.
What You Need To Know: Hanks has reached an interesting point in his career —he’s no longer the bulletproof megastar he was in the 1990s, but he’s still big enough that he can get projects financed and seems increasingly interested in taking gambles on smaller, more interesting movies. The latest in that category is “A Hologram For The King,” which reteams him with “Cloud Atlas” co-director Tom Tykwer on an adaptation of the well-received novel by Dave Eggers (the first actual screen adaptation of a book by the McSweeneys mastermind, who wrote the screenplays for Spike Jonze’s “Where The Wild Things Are” and Sam Mendes’ “Away We Go”). Inspired loosely by “Waiting For Godot,” the film’s an absurdist comedy in an unusual setting and should provide a fascinating role for Hanks: Tykwer’s the question mark here, as his work’s been somewhat uneven since startling debut ‘Run Lola Run.”
Release Date: No distributor yet, but expect it sometime in the fall.
Director: Baltasar Kormakur (“Contraband,” “The Deep” “2 Guns”)
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, Jason Clarke, John Hawkes, Keira Knightley
Synopsis: The story of two ill-fated simultaneous attempts to climb Mount Everest in 1996.
What You Need To Know: Given that most of us will never get off our asses and try, there’s an inherent cinematic appeal to the idea of the mountain-climbing movie, which can take audiences to a remote, terrifying and beautiful landscape where life and death can be the matter of the wrong footstep or handhold. Since the excellent “Touching The Void,” we’ve not seen many entries in the genre, but if it comes off, “Everest” could be near-definitive: telling the story of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster most famously depicted in Jon Krakauer’s best-seller “Into Thin Air,” the film has a stacked cast (also including Robin Wright, Sam Worthington, Emily Watson and Michael Kelly), a director who knows his way around tension and thrills, and 3D photography that could bring us closer than ever to the top of the world.
Release Date: September 18th
Director: Louis Letterier (“Clash Of The Titans,” “Now You See Me”)
Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Rebel Wilson, Penelope Cruz, Isla Fisher
Synopsis: For his latest mission, a top spy is forced to go on the run with his brother, a thuggish football hooligan.
What You Need To Know: Since “Borat,” Sacha Baron Cohen’s struggled to find an equally iconic comic vehicle: he’s done nicely in character roles in the likes of “Hugo,” but starring turns like “Bruno” and “The Dictator” mostly disappointed. But we’re hopeful that “Grimsby,” his first foray into action-comedy territory, which reteams him with his fellow “Borat” Oscar-nominee Peter Baynham on script duties (along with “Wreck-It Ralph” scribe Phil Johnston), will provide a return to form, if only because the idea of Baron Cohen, as a Gallagher-sideburned football thug playing off a suave spy played by Mark Strong (finally getting a long-deserved studio lead) is a pretty irresistible one. There’s some comic ringers involved too, from Ian McShane to U.K. comedian Johnny Vegas, but the question mark here is director Louis Letterier. The action should be well-staged, but can the “Transporter” helmer pull off comedy? And in a year full of spy comedies, will this be enough to stand out from the pack?
Release Date: July 31st
70. “Z for Zachariah”
Director: Craig Zobel (“Compliance“)
Cast: Margot Robbie, Chris Pine, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Synopsis: A young woman believes she is the sole survivor of a civilization-ending disaster until two men show up and an emotionally charged triangle springs up within the post-apocalyptic scenario.
What You Need To Know: Based on the 1974 book of the same name by Robert C.O’Brien, the plotline bears a striking resemblance to that of 1985’s “The Quiet Earth,” and 1959’s “The World, The Flesh and The Devil” (we wrote about both here). But Zobel, director of the controversial “Compliance,” along with this interesting, eclectic cast should no doubt bring something new to the story, which will be shot by David Gordon Green regular Tim Orr. Plus we’re curious to see Robbie in her first post- “Wolf of Wall Street” lead (she replaced Amanda Seyfried when the shoot was delayed) and while Pine needs to repair his rep after that turgid Jack Ryan movie, we’d show up to Ejiofor reading the phone book, and Lord knows we love a good dystopia. So consider us on board.
Release Date: As “Compliance” did in 2012, ‘Zachariah’ will premiere in Sundance.
69. “True Story”
Director: Rupert Goold
Cast: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Felicity Jones
Synopsis: A murderer living in Mexico under the assumed identity of a New York Times journalist is caught and brought back to the States to stand trial, but will only tell his story to the NYT reporter.
What You Need to Know: While theater director Goold is an unknown quantity on the big screen, this Sundance title has A-list cachet being produced by Brad Pitt and starring Hill and a post-“Interview”-hot Franco. Based on the memoir of NYT journalist Michael Finkel, the film is purportedly a true story, but as the arch title (also the book’s) might suggest, there’s a lot more going on here —Finkel himself had been fired from the NYT prior to these events for an ethical breach, and so these encounters were also an opportunity for him to redeem his professional reputation. Hill will play Finkel, giving him another straight role to build on his impressive dramatic resume after “Moneyball” and “Wolf of Wall Street” and Franco takes on what ought to be a complex, meaty role of the killer, Christian Longo, a man who murdered his whole family and ended up on the 10 Most Wanted list. Fingers crossed it could be 2015’s “Foxcatcher.” Here’s the trailer.
Release Date: Sundance premiere prior to April 10th release.
68. “Mission: Impossible 5”
Director: Christopher McQuarrie (Writer of “Valkyrie,” “Jack Reacher”)
Cast: Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin
Synopsis: Plot details are scarce as yet but dare we surmise that the film will involve international peril, a chase for a maguffin and a bunch of high places for Cruise to jump off/climb up.
What You Need To Know: The fifth installment of the popular series has its work cut out for it in so, so many ways. Opening the week after “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the film also has the terrific box office ($694m worldwide) and critical acclaim of its immediate predecessor ‘Ghost Protocol,’ directed with thrilling effect by Brad Bird, to live up to. And it marks the reunion of Cruise with his “Valkyrie” director McQuarrie, which is worrying because their last collaborations (‘Reacher’ and the McQuarrie co-scripted “Edge of Tomorrow”) underwhelmed at the domestic box office. But if the gloss has somewhat gone off the partnership, the one best hope to re-buff it to a high shine must surely be with Cruise’s reliable cash-cow franchise, this time penned by Drew Pearce and shot by the great Robert Elswit. And even if it underperforms stateside, it is likely to be rescued, as have many domestic Cruise underperformers including ‘Reacher,’ ‘Edge’ and ‘M:I3,’ by international box office. Provided overseas types prove loyal enough not be going to ‘Star Wars’ a second time instead, that is.
Release Date: December 25th
67. “Fantastic Four”
Director: Josh Trank (“Chronicle“)
Cast: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell
Synopsis: A disparate group of 20-somethings must learn to harness their newfound super abilities to save Earth from a former friend turned turned enemy.
What You Need To Know: “Fantastic Four” is easily 2015’s most controversial super-hero movie, simply because it’s breaking from cano,n which upsets fanboys. But upsetting the status quo for a superhero team that’s been hard to take seriously (see the original Tim Story films) is a necessary shake-up. Trank excited the most skeptical of found-footage moviegoers with “Chronicle,” a raw, unvarnished and dialed-back movie about a group of friends exposed to mysterious extraterrestrial influences and then forced to grapple with newfound superpowers. Trank seems like he’s taking a similar approach in what has been described as “Batman Begins” for The Fantastic Four. Bring it.
Release Date: August 6th
66. “The Martian”
Director: Ridley Scott (“Alien,” “Blade Runner”)
Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara
Synopsis: An astronaut is stranded on Mars after he’s left behind by his crew-mates and must find a way to survive and get off the planet.
What You Need To Know: Having warmed up for the space-Robinson-Crusoe thing with “Interstellar,” Damon goes wholeheartedly all in for “The Martian,” an adaptation of an acclaimed novel by Andy Weir. “Cabin In The Woods” helmer Drew Goddard wrote the script and was originally going to direct, but made way for Scott, making his fourth sci-fi film. Weir’s book is said to be both technically rigorous and unexpectedly funny, and we’ve heard great things about Goddard’s screenplay, but frankly, we might be more excited if the writer was still directing, given the duff run that Scott’s been on recently. But if he can recapture his “Alien” or “Blade Runner” magic (and the stellar cast, also including Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Sean Bean, Mackenzie Davis and Donald Glover, is promising), we could still be in for one more great film from Sir Ridley.
Release Date: November 25th
Director: Peter Sollett (“Raising Victor Vargas,” “ “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”)
Cast: Julianne Moore, Ellen Page, Steve Carell, Michael Shannon, Luke Grimes
Synopsis: A New Jersey police detective and her car mechanic girlfriend struggle to secure the officer’s earned pension benefits after she is diagnosed with cancer.
What You Need To Know: A feature-length adaptation of Cynthia Wade‘s 2007 short film documentary of the same name, which won the Academy Award for Best Short Documentary, this movie has a lot to live up to, but they’ve certainly assembled a hot cast for this one. Peter Sollett almost directed a Marvel movie (“Runaways”), but it was scrapped so he returned to his indie roots. However it’s been eight years since his last movie, so he’ll be looking to impress.
Release Date: TBD. We would have guessed a Sundance premiere, but maybe the picture has bigger things on its mind, like TIFF.
Director: Lenny Abrahamson (“What Richard Did,” “Frank”)
Cast: Brie Larson, William H. Macy, Joan Allen, Megan Park
Synopsis: A young boy is raised within the confines of a small shed.
What You Need To Know: Between “What Richard Did” and “Frank” in the last couple of years, Irish director Abrahamson has marked himself as one of the most exciting and varied filmmakers around. He’s taking another left-turn with his new project, an adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s wildly acclaimed novel, which is narrated by a boy raised in a single room by his mother —the latter being a potentially awards-attracting role for Larson. Without giving too much away, Donoghue’s story is inspired by the Josef Fritzl case, so there’s a risk that this comes off as unpalatably bleak for many, but if Abrahamson can capture the hopeful, moving tone of the book, this could be something very special.
Release Date: None yet, though A24 have the rights: expect it at Venice or TIFF.
63. “Untitled Chef Project”
Director: John Wells (“The Company Men,” “August: Osage County”)
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Omar Sy, Alicia Vikander, Daniel Bruhl
Synopsis: A disgraced bad-boy chef attempts to stage a comeback by putting together a kitchen dream-team.
What You Need To Know: A script that’s been doing the rounds for years at this point (it was known as “Chef” before Jon Favreau bagged the title for his own foodie film last year), penned by “Eastern Promises,” “Locke” and “Peaky Blinders” writer Steven Knight, this attracted the attention of David Fincher and Derek Cianfrance at various points, but finally made it before cameras with TV veteran and “August: Osage County” director Wells at the helm. It’s been something of a passion project for star Cooper, who’s stuck with it for a few years, and perhaps with good reason: Knight’s script was often called one of the best never made, a smart and well-researched look at the culinary scene that also doubles as a pretty good rom-com. The cast assembled here is very strong (Emma Thompson, Jamie Dornan, Lily James, Matthew Rhys and Uma Thurman also feature), but given some of the names involved before, we’re a little uninspired by the choice of Wells at the helm. Hopefully he can find some life here that wasn’t present in “August: Osage County”…
Release Date: Unknown at present, but The Weinstein Company might have their eye on a summer sleeper slot like “Begin Again,” unless they think it has awards legs.
62. “Trespass Against Us”
Director: Adam Smith
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Brendan Gleeson, Rory Kinnear, Sean Harris, Killian Scott
Synopsis: Three generations of the rowdy Irish Cutler family come into conflict when the law catches up to them.
What You Need To Know: Featuring a terrific Irish/U.K. cast, shot in Ireland and marking the feature debut of director Smith who was behind three of the best Matt Smith “Doctor Who” episodes and six of the BBC’s “Little Dorrit”: if there was one other element that could get us even more excited for this one, it would be the film’s Chemical Brothers soundtrack (Smith directed their video for “Don’t Think”). Mostly, we’re looking forward to the mouthwatering prospect of Fassbender facing off against the great Gleeson, himself coming off the terrific “Calvary,” supported by a cast full of up-and-coming talent who you’ll be catching elsewhere (Harris is the villain in “Mission: Impossible 5” and can also be seen in “‘71” along with Gleeson’s “Calvary” co-star Scott; Kinnear you may recognize from “The Imitation Game” and “Penny Dreadful”), here in their natural element.
Release Date: None yet, but it was picked up in December by A24.
61. “The Last Face”
Director: Sean Penn (“The Pledge,” “Into the Wild“)
Cast: Javier Bardem, Charlize Theron, Adele Exarchopoulos, Jared Harris, Jean Reno
Synopsis: A doctor and the director of an aid agency in war-torn Liberia fall in love but passionately disagree with each others’ approach to the life-threatening issues that surround them.
What You Need To Know: Penn’s fifth directorial outing has Important Africa Issues Movie stamped all over it, but the politically active star no doubt has the intelligence and the sincerity to make this Erin Dignam-scripted drama cut a little deeper. If nothing else, he’s assembled a cracking international cast and it’s always good to see the Oscar-winning Theron doing something other than gamely trading down in Seth McFarlane movies. In fact, with this as the prestige-y title in her 2015 triple-header (the terrific-looking “Mad Max: Fury Road” and the Gillian Flynn adaptation “Dark Places,” being the other two), Theronaissance, anyone? (Apologies to anyone who hoped that 2015 would mark the end of the …naissance thing)
Release Date: None yet, but this calibre of talent, and Lionsgate on board, suggest a festival red carpet premiere. Penn’s “Into the Wild” played TIFF, but this shot last summer so could be ready earlier.
Director: Jonas Cuaron (“Year of the Nail,” doc “The Shock Doctrine”)
Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Synopsis: A undocumented Mexican man trekking through the Sonora desert in the hopes of reaching the U.S. finds himself hunted down by a gunman who picks off his companions one by one and then comes for him.
What You Need To Know: The roaring success of Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” has done a good job of boosting Cuaron père, but also fils, as Jonas not only co-wrote the Oscar-winning space survival story, but also directed the delightful short companion piece “Aningaaq.” For his third directorial feature , Cuaron and co-writer Mateo Garcia seem on the surface to be exploring very different territory from “Gravity,” with a hot-topic tale of illegal immigration, desperate border crossings and murderous racism, but the story goes that it was actually while he and his father were working on the idea for this film (Alfonso exec produces here) that the premise of “Gravity” occurred to them. And so “Forsaken” was pitched in Cannes as a kind of spiritual prequel to “Gravity” —we’ll have to wait and see how much of that is marketing spiel, but with the film shooting all the way back in October 2013, the wait should not be too long.
Release Date: None as yet.
Director: James Vanderbilt
Cast: Robert Redford, Cate Blanchett, Elisabeth Moss, Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid, Bruce Greenwood
Synopsis: The true story of Dan Rather’s “60 Minutes” report on George W. Bush’s lack of service in the Vietnam War, and the resulting political, professional and personal fallout.
What You Need To Know: The directorial debut of Vanderbilt, the writer behind “Zodiac” (for which we’d say thereafter he could do no wrong except that thereafter he wrote “The Losers,” “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “White House Down”), the sheer quality of this cast and the presence of one icon (Redford) playing another (Rather) is too enticing to ignore. Based on “60 Minutes” producer Mary Mapes’ memoir (Mapes will be played by Blanchett) which details the resulting furore when the show took aim at the then-sitting President’s alleged dereliction of National Guard duty, expect no punches to be pulled if the famously political Redford is involved.
Release Date: None as yet, festival bow likely.
58. “Green Room”
Director: Jeremy Saulnier (“Blue Ruin”)
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Patrick Stewart, Alia Shawkat, Mark Webber
Synopsis: After playing a gig and witnessing a horrific act of violence, a punk band are targeted by a gang of neo-Nazis.
What You Need To Know: Last year’s “Blue Ruin” was one of the more striking American directorial debuts in recent years, a beautifully made genre picture than found new notes to play in one of the most tired plots around: the revenge picture. Director Saulnier’s follow-up looks to be heading into similar heightened exploitation territory, a twist on the siege movie that pits punks against psychotic fascists, the former led by ever-rising stars Yelchin and Poots, the latter by, in one of the best bits of casting of the year, Shakespeare veteran/winner of the internet Patrick Stewart, who rarely gets to play with material like this and is bound to have a ton of fun with it. We’d wondered if Saulnier might go more ambitious than this second time around, given his Cannes-lauded debut, but if it’s as gripping and well-executed as “Blue Ruin” was, count us in.
Release Date: Unknown. Unless Saulnier returns to Cannes, look for at TIFF Midnight Madness and Fantastic Fest.
Director: Thomas Vinterberg (“Festen,” “The Hunt”)
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge
Synopsis: A willful, flirtatious young woman unexpectedly inherits a large farm and becomes romantically involved with three widely divergent men.
What You Need To Know: John Schlesinger turned Thomas Hardy’s classic 19th century piece of literature into a film in 1967, but it’s time for a modern update. Coming off his best film (“The Hunt”), and featuring a stellar cast, Vinterberg seemed poised to deliver one of 2014’s best dramas. But ‘Madding Crowd’ was essentially completed back last year and has been retooled in the editing room ever since. We’ve heard mixed things about the results, and the May 1st date means Cannes is out. Not an awards-contender, fine, but maybe a strong period drama a la last year’s “Belle”? We wouldn’t argue against that, and were heartened by the trailer.
Release Date: May 1st
56. “Untitled Christmas Eve Project”
Director: Jonathan Levine (“50/50,” “The Wackness”)
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lizzy Caplan, Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie, Jillian Bell, Lorraine Toussaint, Kanye West
Synopsis: Three childhood friends reunite for a debauched night out in New York City on Christmas Eve, searching for the ultimate party, aware that this might be the last hurrah for this particular tradition.
What You Need To Know: However you felt overall about bittersweet cancer dramedy “50/50,” there was no denying there was some beguiling chemistry on display between the film’s leads, Rogen and Gordon-Levitt. And so the news that they’re reuniting with “50/50” director Levine (“The Wackness,” “Warm Bodies”) is welcome, especially for what promises to be a kind of frothy caper with just a touch of that bittersweet time-to-grow-up-and-move-on thing. And since all of us here, male and female, have a crush on both Caplan and Mackie, this is shaping up very nicely as a lighthearted Christmas title with added Kanye West. Let’s see if Rogen can have the most talked about movie at Christmas two years in a row (though “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” opening the following week may make that slightly unlikely).
Release Date: December 11th
55. “45 Years”
Director: Andrew Haigh (“Weekend,” “Looking”)
Cast: Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay
Synopsis: With only days to go before their 45th wedding anniversary, and with preparations for the party in full swing, a long-married couple’s relationship is put under severe stress by the discovery of the body of the husband’s long lost first love, frozen and preserved in the Alps.
What You Need To Know: Haigh’s terrific “Weekend” marked him out not only as a talent to watch but as an astute observer of some of the less cinematically well-worn types of relationships, in that case a love affair that results from a one night stand. This time out, he’s looking at a very different sort of love in this adaptation of a short story by poet David Constantine and has found a terrific duo in Rampling and Courtenay to play the central couple. Haigh’s been busy since “Weekend” with his HBO show “Looking,” but we’re excited to see him return to the big screen with such potentially meaty material.
Release Date: The film will play the Berlin Film Festival in February and is slated for an August 28 bow in the UK.
54. “Ricki and The Flash”
Director: Jonathan Demme (“The Silence Of the Lambs,” “Rachel Getting Married”)
Cast: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Sebastian Stan, Mamie Gummer, Ben Platt, Rick Springfield (!)
Synopsis: An ageing rock star returns home to try to reconnect with the now grown-up children she left decades earlier in pursuit of fame and fortune.
What You Need To Know: Based on a screenplay by Diablo Cody, the first narrative feature from Demme since the caustic “Rachel Getting Married” and starring some ingenue you’ve probably never heard of called Meryl Streep, this is a pretty mouthwatering line-up, with a strong supporting cast in Stan, Kline and Streep’s daughter Mamie Gummer, who’s becoming pretty much omnipresent recently. Cody’s directorial debut “Paradise” was a fumble, but her writing of “difficult” women is never less than a delight, and having those trademark barbs coming out of the mouth of La Streep by way of Keith Richards, under Demme’s sure hand sounds like a winning formula.
Release Date: June 25th
Director: Andrew Bujalski (“Mutual Appreciation,” “Funny Ha Ha” “Computer Chess“)
Cast: Guy Pearce, Cobie Smulders, Kevin Corrigan, Giovanni Ribisi, Anthony Michael Hall, Brooklyn Decker
Synopsis: Two mismatched personal trainers fall for each other due in part to the machinations of a wealthy client.
What You Need To Know: Honestly, even after mumblecore efforts “Funny Ha Ha,” and “Mutual Appreciation,” Bujalski’s last film “Computer Chess,” was so completely, uncategorizably oddball that it was hard to predict where he’d go next. Except to say that a romcom set in the fitness industry was probably the last thing we were expecting. In any case, Pearce is a favorite of ours, and it will be good to see what Smulders, who’s been bubbling under for an eternity now, can do outside of the rather “set phasers to stunning” role she’s been playing in the Marvel Universe movies to date, and if the logline sounds remarkably straight, well, Bujalski took a tale of petty rivalry at a 1980s computer geek convention and made “Computer Chess” so anything is possible, and we’re curious to see him step up to a bigger canvas.
Release Date: A Sundance premiere is slated.
Director: Rick Alverson (“New Jerusalem,” “The Comedy“)
Cast: Gregg Turkington, Michael Cera, John C Reilly, Tye Sheridan, Dean Stockwell, Amy Seimetz, Tim Heidecker
Synopsis: An ageing comedian en route to reuniting with his daughter plays a string of dead-end shows across the Mojave desert, encountering some oddball characters along the way.
What You Need To Know: Alverson’s last directorial effort, “The Comedy,” was certainly not one for everyone, and its critics will be horrified to learn that Alverson is reteaming with two collaborators from that film for his follow-up (“On Cinema” duo Heidecker and Turkington aka Neil Hamburger co-wrote the script along with Alverson). But we were impressed by the scathing, scabrous anti-comedy of his last outing and so are looking forward to this one, especially considering he’ll be working with some bigger names in the cast this time out with Cera and Reilly, while Sheridan and Seimetz are quickly proving among the most reliably watchable of indie performers too.
Release Date: With that cast it always felt like a shoo-in for Sundance, and so it has proven…
51. “The Tale of Tales”
Director: Matteo Garrone (“Gomorrah,” “Reality“)
Cast: Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, Toby Jones, Shirley Henderson, John C. Reilly, Stacy Martin, Alba Rohrwacher
Synopsis: We’re thin on plot details, but described by Garrone as a fantasy film with horror elements, this ambitious film is loosely inspired by the 17th Century collection of fairy tales of the same name by italian writer Giambattista Basile.
What You Need To Know: Two-time Cannes Grand Prix winner Garrone (for “Gomorrah” and “Reality”) tackles a seemingly atypical and extremely ambitious project for his English-language debut. A melding of fantasy, horror and fairy tale elements (the book it’s based on contains the earliest known versions of the “Cinderella,” “Rapunzel,” “Hansel and Gretel” and “Sleeping Beauty” stories among others), Garrone has assembled a huge international cast, mixing established Euro actors with rising stars Martin (“Nymphomaniac”) and Venice Best Actress Rohrwacher (“Hungry Hearts,” “The Wonders”), and will also use the considerable talents of Alexandre Desplat in scoring duties for what has to be an early hot favorite at Cannes.
Release Date: This would seem almost a certainty for Cannes 2015, as its Italian premiere date of May 14th also bears out.
Director: Jean Marc Vallee (“Dallas Buyers Club,” “Wild”)
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Chris Cooper
Synopsis: An investment banker spiraling out of control following the tragic death of his wife forms a bond with an unconventional pot-smoking single mother.
What You Need To Know: We’ve yet to be fully convinced of Vallee’s talents in any arena other than prestige-y, awards-friendly showcases for actors angling for a statuette, but his success even in that narrow field makes him a force to be reckoned with, especially when he’s got hotter-than-hot Gyllenhaal and the always committed Watts to hang this film on. To its benefit, the story sounds slightly less triumph-of-the-human-spirit than his last two outings, and Gyllenhaal has been making nothing but interesting choices recently, so we’re happy to hope this one will be the film that’ll have us embracing Vallee fully.
Release Date: None yet, though with this the third 2015 Gyllenhaal movie on this list some politics comes into play, especially with “Everest” already slated for September and “Southpaw” possibly going for a fall awards-friendly slot.
Director: Stephen Frears (“The Grifters,” “Philomena”)
Cast: Ben Foster, Chris O’Dowd, Dustin Hoffman, Lee Pace, Jesse Plemons
Synopsis: An Irish journalist becomes convinced that legendary cyclist Lance Armstrong is using controlled substances and sets out to expose him.
What You Need To Know: Various Armstrong-related projects started percolating after the cyclist’s downfall, and after Alex Gibney’s so-so documentary “The Armstrong Lie,” the first to make it to the screen is this project, penned by “Trainspotting” writer John Hodge and directed by Frears. Based on the book “Seven Deadly Sins” by David Walsh (played by O’Dowd in his first major dramatic big-screen lead role), whose dogged pursuit of Armstrong eventually paid off, we’re most interested in this as a chance to see Armstrong played by the excellent Foster, who has long deserved a part of this stature. The film’s been in the can for a while: the question is, was it made by the engaged craftsman Frears who made “Philomena” or the switched-off one who did “Cheri” and “Lay The Favorite?”
Release Date: Unknown, but Cannes or Venice are possible.
48. “Ex Machina”
Director: Alex Garland
Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac
Synopsis: A young coder participates in an experiment involving a new brand of artificial intelligence.
What You Need To Know: Garland has been the screenwriter behind some of the smartest and most notable genre films of the last decade (“28 Days Later,” “Sunshine,” “Never Let Me Go“)” and it seems like he’s sticking to similar territory for his directorial debut, which brushes against the same kind of zeitgeist-y A.I./singularity-related territory seen in “Her” and “Transcendence.” Garland’s got some heavyweight backers too, with Danny Boyle regular Andrew Macdonald and the legendary Scott Rudin both producing, while the excellent Rob Hardy (“The Forgiveness Of Blood,” “The Invisible Woman“) shot the film (watch the trailer for it here). More important is the cast: Gleeson, Isaac and Vikander have been among the standout breakout stars of the last few years and their close proximity here is something to be welcomed —look out for Vikander in several other spots on this list: she has a remarkable nine films due for release in the next twelve months.
Release Date: January 23rd in the UK; April 10th in the U.S.
Director: Thomas McCarthy (“The Station Agent,” “The Visitor”)
Cast: Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup
Synopsis: The true-life tale of how journalists at the Boston Globe revealed the shocking story of a cover-up of child molestation by local Catholic priests
What You Need To Know: By all accounts, writer/director McCarthy came way unstuck last year with Adam Sandler whimsy-fest “The Cobbler,” but the director’s first three films, most notably classic debut “The Station Agent,” were strong enough that we’ll always be interested in what he’s doing. And that next project seems much more promising. “Spotlight” (co-written with “The Fifth Estate” scribe Josh Singer) is an “All The President’s Men”- style docudrama look at the Catholic Church’s cover-up of child abuse, and the journalists who uncovered it. It’s a powerful and potent subject that Hollywood’s shied away from to date, and McCarthy has assembled a cracking cast, most notably Michael Keaton in his first post-”Birdman” role as Pulitzer-winner Walter Robinson. So long as it’s more “Zodiac” than “Kill The Messenger,” this time next year we may well think of “The Cobbler” as nothing but a bump in the road.
Release Date: Unknown, but a TIFF bow before Open Road release it in the fall seems like a good bet.
46. “Slow West”
Director: John Maclean
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Mendelsohn, Rory McCann
Synopsis: At the end of the 19th century, a teenage boy travels across the American Frontier with a mysterious traveler in search of the woman he loves.
What You Need To Know: Fassbender has reached the level where he can greenlight passion projects and he has been developing this ambitious western with director and former Beta Band member John Maclean for a few years now —their previous collaboration was the BAFTA-winning short “Pitch Black Heist.” That film showed that Maclean has some real directorial chops, and we like that he’s moving into features with a western, which is hardly the hippest of genres for a first-time filmmaker. Smit-McPhee’s been hugely impressive in the likes of “The Road” and “Let Me In,” and Mendelsohn’s always a welcome presence, especially if he gets to square off against Fassbender, who incidentally is in about a million films this year, almost all somewhere on this list.
Release Date: Premieres at Sundance, but A24 have already picked it up in partnership with DirectTV.
45. “Magic Mike XXL”
Director: Gregory Jacobs (“Criminal,” “Wind Chill”)
Cast: Channing Tatum, Amber Heard, Elizabeth Banks, Matt Bomer, Donald Glover
Synopsis: Three years after he gave up stripping, Magic Mike reunites with his former buddies for a road trip to Myrtle Beach for one final performance.
What You Need To Know: The surprise hit of the summer of 2012, Steven Soderbergh’s “Magic Mike” was a bit of a trojan horse: a smart character study and examination of the American dream disguised as a bachelorette-party-friendly male-stripper picture. With the film being one of the most profitable studio pictures in years, it was inevitable that we’d see a sequel, and Soderbergh’s retirement hasn’t proven much of an obstacle to the excellently-titled “Magic Mike XXL.” Indeed, though he’s handed over to the directorial reins to his long-time assistant Jacobs, Soderbergh’s still involved, acting as DP, editor and producer, while star Tatum has stepped up to co-write with Reid Carolin. Matthew McConaughey won’t be back, and Alex Pettyfer definitely isn’t either, but there’s some new blood joining the Kings of Tampa this time out, including Heard, Banks, Jada Pinkett Smith, Andie MacDowell and Glover. Much as we liked it, we’re not sure the original demanded a follow-up, but Jacobs told us last year that ‘XXL’ will be “different enough that you’ll understand why we made a sequel.” Bring it on.
Release Date: July 1st
Director: Peyton Reed (“Down With Love,” “The Break-Up”)
Cast: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Michael Pena
Synopsis: A thief and a scientist team up to protect a suit that’s capable of shrinking a person down to miniscule size from falling into the wrong hands.
What You Need To Know: Let’s be honest: if this project had all gone to plan, it’d be challenging for a place in the Top 10. But Marvel’s latest hero-launch decidedly did not go to plan, with director Edgar Wright (who’d been developing the film for nearly a decade) departing from the project at the eleventh hour, leaving the studio with their first real taste of bad buzz from the geek crowd. It’s unclear how much of Wright and Joe Cornish’s script has been retained (Adam McKay was among those brought on to rewrite; we suspect the WGA will end up with a headache on this one), but whatever happens, it’s unlikely to be the film it could have been. The question is, can new director Reed make a movie that’s entertaining enough to shake off its controversial origins? He’s got the cast and the fun premise of a superhero heist picture.
Release Date: July 17th
43. “Jurassic World”
Director: Colin Trevorrow (“Safety Not Guaranteed”)
Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Omar Sy, Nick Robinson, Jake Johnson
Synopsis: Over twenty-two years after the disastrous first attempt, Isla Nubar is now home to a fully-functioning dinosaur park playing host to millions of visitors a year. But an attempt to genetically create a new kind of dinosaur causes deadly chaos again.
What You Need To Know: The original film was at the time the biggest-grossing film in history, but over the last twenty years, the “Jurassic Park” franchise, has been superseded by pirates and superheroes and boy wizards. “Jurassic World” is the attempt to fix that, with “Safety Not Guaranteed” helmer Trevorrow the unlikely but intriguing choice to revive Spielberg’s dinosaur wonderland. He’s been saying all the right things about practical effects and putting story first, but the trailer was a bit CGI-heavy for our tastes (even the famous gates were computer-animated). But we’ve got faith in Trevorrow, and with Pratt, a freshly-minted megastar after “Guardians Of The Galaxy” in the lead role, few would bet against this being a T-Rex-sized hit.
Release Date: June 12th
Director: Drake Doremus (“Like Crazy,” “Breathe In”)
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Nicholas Hoult, Guy Pearce, Jacki Weaver, Kate Lyn Sheil
Synopsis: A love story set in a dystopian future where emotions have been eradicated, but begin to return when a disease spreads.
What You Need To Know: Post-”Hunger Games,” bleak sci-fi futures with a hint of romance are all the rage, with movies like “Divergent,” “The Giver” and “The Maze Runner” all hoping to capture Katniss’ audience. It’d be easy enough to lump “Equals” in with that crowd, with its attractive young cast and high-concept premise, but this sounds far more interesting. For one, it’s not based on a young adult novel but is instead an original screenplay by “Moon” writer Nathan Parker (and is produced by Ridley Scott, for added sci-fi cred). For another, it toplines Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart, two performers who are increasingly coming into their own. And finally, it’s directed by Doremus, who’s made quite the name for himself thanks to woozy, deeply-felt indies like “Like Crazy.” Supposedly it hews closer to Orwell than Susannah Collins, and we’re very interested in seeing Doremus get to play in a bigger sandbox with actors as appealing as the ones he’s got here.
Release Date: No distributor yet, so probably not till the fall at the earliest, but expect it to be a hot ticket.
41. “A Bigger Splash”
Director: Luca Guadagnino (“I Am Love,” “Bertolucci on Bertolucci”)
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Dakota Johnson
Synopsis: Paul and Marianne are an American couple vacationing in Italy. When Marianne invites former lover Harry and his daughter Penelope over for dinner, sexual tensions mount and the consequences are dire for all involved.
What You Need To Know: More than a couple of years in the making, Guadagnino’s English-language debut looks to be finally set for 2015 and is a remake of the neatly designed, Jacques Deray-directed, Alain Delon-starring, “La Piscine” from 1969. Guadagnino’s “I Am Love” was a fantastic sleeper hit from 2009, showcasing one of the greatest unsung Swinton performances, and “A Bigger Splash” sees the Italian director not only re-teaming with Swinton, but bringing on board red-hot Schoenaerts, the always up-to-par Fiennes, and Johnson who, with “Fifty Shades of Grey” and “Black Mass” on her plate as well, is set to have a very busy year. Add to this a location so photogenic it makes most others look like urine-stained alleyways in comparison under the auspices of ace Production Designer Marija Djurkovic (“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”) and you’ve thoroughly hooked us.
Release Date: Nothing official yet, but “I Am Love” premiered at Venice, so there’s no reason to think this won’t do the same. If finished in time, however, it could very well be Guadagnino’s cherry-popping Cannes entry.
Director: Michael Mann (“Heat,” “The Insider”)
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Viola Davis, Tang Wei, Leehom Wang
Synopsis: An imprisoned hacker is released on the condition that he helps a joint U.S./Chinese task force to track down rogue hackers who attacked the world’s stock markets.
What You Need To Know: It’s been six years since Mann’s “Public Enemies” so his return is enormously welcome. “Blackhat,” which topically turns out to be about the hunt for a malevolent hacker (surprisingly, it’s not a Sony movie) is interesting as one of the most prominent examples of the importance of the Chinese audience to Hollywood these days, with the American leads joined by “Lust Caution” actors Tang Wei and Leehom Wang. Normally a new movie from a first-rate filmmaker like Mann would easily crack our top 10 anticipated, but a January date without a qualifying run (and a slightly ridiculous trailer) is a little worrisome. Even if it turns out to be B-grade Mann, that’s more exciting than A-grade work from most filmmakers, so we’ll be there opening night.
Release Date: January 16th
39. “Our Brand Is Crisis”
Director: David Gordon Green (“George Washington,” “Pineapple Express”)
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Anthony Mackie, Billy Bob Thornton, Zoe Kazan, Scoot McNairy
Synopsis: A Bolivian politician hires a U.S. political consultancy firm to help him win the presidential election.
What You Need To Know: Green’s career has always been a tricky one to pin down, but after a trio of well-received back-to-basics indies with “Prince Avalanche,” “Joe” and “Manglehorn,” is he about to embark on his strangest adventure yet by making the next “Argo”? Based on a 2005 documentary and a one-time George Clooney directorial project (the star’s still involved in a producing capacity), this is a comedy-drama about U.S. interventionism in South America, penned by “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and “Frank” writer Peter Straughan. Green’s an unlikely but fascinating pick to helm, and he’s got lots to work with, most notably a killer cast led by Bullock in her first post-”Gravity” role. Our Brand Is Oscars, perhaps?
Release Date: Nothing firm yet, but given that this seems likely to be one of WB’s big awards hopes, look for it in the fall.
38. “Queen Of Earth”
Director: Alex Ross Perry (“The Color Wheel,” “Listen Up Philip”)
Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Katherine Waterston, Patrick Fugit
Synopsis: Two old friends go on vacation to a beach house together, only to realize how far they’ve drifted apart.
What You Need To Know: His second film, “The Color Wheel,” marked Perry as a filmmaker of immense promise, but last year’s smart, novelistic and sad “Listen Up Philip” confirmed all that promise and more. As such, we’re delighted to see that Perry’s already wrapped another movie, one that sounds like a bit of a change of pace, being billed as a psychological thriller. That he’s reuniting with Moss, who was so wonderful in ‘Philip,’ is good enough news; that she’s paired with “Inherent Vice” standout Waterston (who stepped in for “Downton Abbey” star Michelle Dockery after a scheduling snafu) is even better. We’re getting shades of “Persona” from the logline, though that may just be our imaginations running away with us: at any rate, we’re dying to see what Perry comes up with next.
Release Date: Nothing yet, but TIFF or maybe Venice is likely.
Director: Sam Mendes (“American Beauty,” “Skyfall”)
Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Dave Bautista, Monica Bellucci
Synopsis: With the secret services under threat, a cryptic message sends James Bond in search of a secret and sinister organization.
What You Need To Know: After years of avoiding big-name filmmakers for Bond movies, the hiring of Mendes for “Skyfall,” suggested that the Broccolis should have started doing it decades ago: the 23rd 007 movie got stellar reviews and took a billion dollars at the box office, making it by far the most successful film in the franchise. Most of the same creative team (bar DP Roger Deakins, replaced with “Interstellar” lenser Hoyte Van Hoytema) are back for follow-up “Spectre,” which, as the title might suggest, reportedly sees the return of Bond’s most enduring foes, and potentially/probably even nemesis Ernst Blofeld. All the surviving cast from the last film —Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw et al — are back for more, and they’re joined by Waltz, Seydoux and Andrew Scott among others. Some slightly ropey plot rumors from the Sony leak gave us a little pause, but we’re optimistic that we’re not about to see the “Quantum of Solace” to “Skyfall”’s “Casino Royale.”
Release Date: November 6th (and as is now traditional, it’ll hit Europe a week or two earlier).
36. “Avengers: Age Of Ultron”
Director: Joss Whedon (“Serenity,” “Marvel’s The Avengers”)
Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, James Spader
Synopsis: Tony Stark’s plan to create a robot peacekeeping force backfires when it unleashes Ultron, a murderous A.I. bent on wiping out humanity.
What You Need To Know: As the sequel to the third-biggest-grossing movie in history and coming after three years that have only proven Marvel to be more and more bulletproof, the only question about the box office prospects of ‘Age Of Ultron’ is how big it can go. The more pertinent question is whether it can be good. Whedon’s first team-up movie might still remain the high watermark for these films, as entertaining in the quiet character bits as when a city was trashed, but will the delicate balance be thrown out of whack now there are three new recruits, in the shape of Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch, Aaron Taylor Johnson’s Quicksilver, and Paul Bettany’s Vision (plus performers like Don Cheadle and Anthony Mackie borrowed from other movies) to juggle? Whedon’s been promising a darker follow-up that’ll tear his heroes apart, which the trailer backs up, but we just hope we get something, well, different from the last go-round, fun as it was.
Release Day: May 1st (rolling out from April 22nd in the rest of the world).
35. “Untitled Howard Hughes Project”
Director: Warren Beatty (“Reds,” “Bulworth”)
Cast: Warren Beatty, Lily Collins, Alden Ehrenreich, Annette Bening, Alec Baldwin
Synopsis: The story of the affair that reclusive, eccentric tycoon Howard Hughes had late in life with a much younger woman.
What You Need To Know: He’s been absent from screens for over a decade and hasn’t directed a movie since 1998 (in fact, he’s only directed four since 1978), but given that Beatty is one of Hollywood’s most fascinating, infuriating and enduring icons, his return to movies has to be one of the major cinematic events of the year. The now-77-year old legend has been looking to make a movie about Hughes for nearly two decades, but after being waylaid by “The Aviator” and others, this project got underway in early 2014. Some of Beatty’s passion projects work better than others, and he wasn’t able to convince pal Jack Nicholson to return from retirement for an appearance, but we’re dying to see how this turns out, particularly as between the lifelong womanizing and his recent reclusiveness, Beatty on Hughes could turn out to be as much autobiography as biopic.
Release Date: Beatty can take years in post-production, but all being well it’ll arrive in the fall.
Director: David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook,” “American Hustle”)
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Edgar Ramirez, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro
Synopsis: A biopic about Joy Mangano, a single mother coming to fame and wealth by inventing over a hundred products, including Shopping Network favorites like the Miracle Mop and the Huggable Hangers.
What You Need To Know: After the enormous success of “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle,” both giant hits and positively loaded with awards love, Russell reteams with star Lawrence for a third time (bringing co-stars Cooper and De Niro along for the ride too), for the true-life story of a young mother who lived the American Dream. Working from a screenplay by “Bridesmaids” co-writer Annie Mumolo, this seems to be the perfect blue-collar-made-good material for the pairing, and after a season without a female-driven awards contender, we’re glad that Russell and Lawrence have something up their sleeves for next year. Could we be seeing a fourth Oscar nomination for the star before she turns 26? It’s too early to tell, but it’s a certainty there will be Long Island-accented yelling and dolly shots.
Release Date: December 25th
Director: Brian Helgeland (“A Knight’s Tale,” “42”)
Cast: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, Christopher Eccleston, Taron Egerton
Synopsis: The story of legendary twin gangsters Ronnie & Reggie Kray, and their rise through the British criminal underworld of London in the 1950s and 1960s.
What You Need To Know: It feels like a long time since we’ve had a really good period London gangster picture, but on paper “Legend” could fill that gap nicely. The Kray Brothers have appeared on film before (most notably in a 1990 biopic by Peter Medak starring, uh, the Kemp Brothers from Spandau Ballet), but this is their highest-profile appearance on screen, and their colorful characters, total brutality, and celebrity status in Swinging Sixties London makes them the perfect subjects for a film like this. And this rendition has a real boon in that the identical Krays will for the first time be played by one actor, and you couldn’t ask for a better person to fill the role tha Hardy. American writer/director Helgeland might not seem like the obvious pick to direct, but bear in mind he did co-write “L.A. Confidential,” one of the greatest crime movies ever made.
Release Date: Universal will release, likely sometime in Q4.
32. “1001 Nights/Arabian Nights”
Director: Miguel Gomes (“Tabu,” “Our Beloved Month of August”)
Cast: Gonçalo Waddington, Rogerio Samora, Carloto Cotta
Synopsis: Set in Portugal, this is a modern, re-imagined version of the various popular Middle Eastern tales collected and released as “One Thousand and One Nights.”
What You Need To Know: Some speculated that this was going to be seen last year, but it looks like post-production is still underway and that 2015 will be the year we’ll have Gomes’ full feature follow-up to his breathtaking “Tabu.” The latest tidbit we’ve heard was that the current cut of the film is around the 7 hour and 30 minute mark, which can only mean one of two things: either Gomes is going to go all Lav Diaz on everyone this year and be bold enough to release a seven-hour film, or more likely he’ll trim it to around three hours. Whatever the case, it looks we’re getting a lot of film here, and since Gomes is one of the most fascinating arthouse storytellers, that can’t be a bad thing. Known for weaving the nature of storytelling itself into his core themes while allowing his love for his country to shine through, best let Gomes himself tell you about it on the film’s official website.
Release Date: None yet, but expect one of the bigger festivals to pick this up, most likely Cannes.
31. “Triple Nine”
Director: John Hillcoat (“The Proposition,” “The Road”)
Cast: Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Winslet, Woody Harrelson, Aaron Paul, Anthony Mackie
Synopsis: A group of corrupt cops are blackmailed into pulling off a heist and plot the murder of a rookie officer in order to cause a distraction.
What You Need To Know: He might have disappointed slightly with the rather lukewarm prohibition-era crime picture “Lawless,” but “The Proposition” and “The Road” mean that Aussie helmer Hillcoat is always going to be on our radar. “Triple Nine” is a project he’s been developing for half-a-decade (Shia LaBoeuf was attached to the earliest incarnation), and it’s intriguing if only because of the change of pace it offers, taking Hillcoat from the rural settings of his recent work to the urban jungle of L.A. Matt Cook’s script was a big Black List player at the time, and that’s reflected in the killer cast here: throw a rock and you’ll hit an Oscar or Emmy nominee. Sure, the premise is pretty similar to 2009 B-movie “Armored,” but this should be a much classier and more substantial picture.
Release Date: September 11th
30. “Black Mass”
Director: Scott Cooper (“Crazy Heart,” “Out of the Furnace”)
Cast: Johnny Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton, Sienna Miller, Kevin Bacon, Dakota Johnson, Adam Scott, Juno Temple, Corey Stoll, Peter Sarsgaard, Jesse Plemons, Julianne Nicholson
Synopsis: The incredible true story of the infamous Whitey Bulger, one of South Boston’s most notorious and violent Irish mobsters who turned FBI informant to take down the Italian mafia encroaching on his turf.
What You Need To Know: Seeking to avoid a “Capote” vs “Infamous” scenario, Warner Bros., when approached to co-finance this ongoing Depp passion project, decided to drop the rival Whitey Bulger pic being developed by golden Bostonian boys Ben Affleck and Matt Damon and come on board. But it’s hard to mourn that loss too much when you look at the stellar cast that’s assembled for this one, and not least Depp himself, who we’re constantly waiting to return to the form that made him, oh so long ago, one of our most exciting and uncompromising actors. Cooper in the director’s chair is maybe less exciting following the well-made but unoriginal “Out of the Furnace,” but the material is strong and maybe it’s good he has a little something to prove.
Release Date: September 18th
Director: Danny Boyle (“Trainspotting,” “Slumdog Millionaire”)
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Seth Rogen, Kate Winslet, Katherine Waterston, Michael Stuhlbarg
Synopsis: The story of the late visionary Apple founder’s rise to prominence, told via three product launches representing three different periods in Jobs’ life —the Mac, NeXT and the iPod.
What You Need To Know: Dropped by Sony, no longer to be directed by David Fincher and not starring Christian Bale, the Aaron Sorkin-scripted Steve Jobs film could have been a terrific what-if. Except, picked up by Universal, to be directed by Boyle and starring Fassbender, it’s entirely possible that we’re going to get an even better version —Boyle has a humanism that Fincher can lack, and since Fincher’s already done his Sorkin-scripted study of tech genius with “The Social Network,” it’ll be good to see a different directorial take. Reportedly talky and claustrophobic but also “brilliant” “spectacular” and “perfect,” we’re very happy this script is going to make it to the screen if only because we can’t let 2013’s Baby Looney Tunes version starring Ashton Kutcher and Josh Gad be the final cinematic word on the subject.
Release Date: None yet, and with casting and pre-production still underway, there’s a chance it may end up a 2016 title, but expect it to be a big awards player whenever it hits.
28. “Sea Of Trees”
Director: Gus Van Sant (“Good Will Hunting,” “Milk”)
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Ken Watanabe, Naomi Watts, Katie Aselton
Synopsis: A suicidal American travels to the famous “suicide forest” at the base of Mount Fuji, where he meets a similarly depressed Japanese man.
What You Need To Know: He’s been fully McConaissance-d, with an Oscar and the lead in a blockbuster Christopher Nolan film, but for his next trick, McConaughey might be back on the awards path for “Sea Of Trees,” which teams him with Van Sant. A dark character drama penned by “Buried” writer Chris Sparling, it doesn’t seem to be an obvious next step for McConaughey, but we’re excited to see him paired on screen with the great Watanabe, and with material that seems like the sort of thing that a star as big as he is wouldn’t typically do. Watts and indie darling Aselton are in the support cast, and the film is set in one of the more haunting (and still picturesque) places in the world. This could end up being more “Restless” than “My Own Private Idaho,” but the McConaughey/Watanabe/Van Sant trio sure is enough to get us in the door.
Release Date: No distributor yet, but given Van Sant’s track record there, this could crop up at Cannes.
27. “Untitled Cameron Crowe Project”
Director: Cameron Crowe (“Jerry Maguire,” “Almost Famous“)
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, John Krasinski
Synopsis: A celebrated military contractor returns to Hawaii —the site of his greatest career triumphs— and re-connects with a long-lost love while unexpectedly falling for the hard-charging Air Force watchdog assigned to him.
What You Need To Know: Once titled “Deep Tiki,” this “Jerry Maguire”-esque film was a script we read ages ago and was supposed to be Crowe’s follow-up to 2005’s “Elizabethtown.” An earlier iteration fell apart and Crowe has made three films since (two music docs and “We Bought A Zoo”). It’s likely morphed over the years, but if “Jerry Maguire” was about a sports agent who finds unlikely love after a fall from grace, the script we read felt like a spiritual cousin, only set against a backdrop of Hawaiian mysticism and the world of military contractors and satellite defense. Our best guess is that it aims for a similar humanistic, comedy romance vibe that Crowe often shoots for with an adventure tinge, and that’s enough to keep us onboard with a filmmaker we’re always interested in. Once due Christmas 2014, the film was pushed for reasons unknown to this summer.
Release Date: May 29th
26. “Louder Than Bombs”
Director: Joachim Trier (“Reprise,” “Oslo, August 31st”)
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Isabelle Huppert, Gabriel Byrne, Amy Ryan, David Strathairn
Synopsis: The family of a war photographer have to grapple with their contrasting memories of her after her death.
What You Need To Know: Over the past five or six years, Trier has proven himself to be one of the most fascinating and beguiling directors in world cinema: literate, compassionate and fiercely original. We’ve been amped about the idea of him making his English-language debut for a while, and after a few false starts, the film got underway last year. It seems like Trier (and co-writer Eskil Vogt, who directed last year’s equally excellent “Blind”) is bringing along his European sensibilities with what sounds like a firmly novelistic and distinctive tale, but he’s also picked up some excellent big-name actors, with Huppert playing the late photographer, Byrne her husband, and Eisenberg and “Olive Kitteredge” breakout Devin Druid her sons. Not much else is known beyond its Smiths-tastic title, but we probably didn’t need much more to look forward to this one.
Release Date: Unknown: the film was wrapped by November, so Cannes isn’t totally out of the question (‘Oslo’ premiered there), but Venice or TIFF might be better bets.
Director: Brad Bird (“The Incredibles,” “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”)
Cast: George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie, Kathryn Hahn, Judy Greer, Keegan Michael-Key
Synopsis: A troubled young girl teams with a reclusive scientist to find their way to a mysterious science paradise known as Tomorrowland.
What You Need To Know: The idea of turning a theme park ride into a movie was much-mocked, until the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” film came out and turned out to be one of the best blockbusters of the ’00s (the sequels, not so much). So while on the surface, the idea of a Disney-backed “Tomorrowland” movie might have seemed corporate synergy at its worst, it was always worth treating it with some optimism. And that goes quadruple when you have Bird, director of three of the best animated films of the last two decades in at the helm. Working from a script by Damon Lindelof (a much more interesting talent than his reputation suggests), and toplinin Clooney, who doesn’t just take any paycheck, it’s still mostly under wraps, but the teaser trailer suggests a blockbuster with an emphasis on wonder rather than explosions, which sounds like just the tonic.
Release Date: May 22nd
24. “Irrational Man”
Director: Woody Allen (“Midnight In Paris,” “Blue Jasmine”)
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Jamie Blackley, Parker Posey, Ben Rosenfield
Synopsis: A philosophy professor is going through an existential crisis. Once he starts dating one of his students, however, his life begins to get new meaning.
What You Need To Know: Another year, another Woody Allen movie. By now it must be clear to everyone that something cataclysmic would have to happen in order for there not to be a new Allen movie every year (the last year he skipped was 19-fucking-81). And for the most part, we wouldn’t want it any other way. 2014’s “Magic In The Moonlight” wasn’t the greatest, but 2013’s “Blue Jasmine” had that fantastic Allen satirical wit and inspired arguably Cate Blanchett’s greatest performance. 2012’s “To Rome With Love” wasn’t all that, but 2011’s “Midnight in Paris” was one of the man’s best efforts in the new century. Notice a pattern? When it comes to the 2010s, Allen’s best work is clearly in the odd-numbered years, but if that bullet-proof assessment doesn’t win you over, then surely the prospect of Phoenix (who has been picking projects like a boss ever since he came out of faux retirement) teaming up with Stone for a Woody Allen film must.
Release Date: There’s no release date, but his last four films all got summer releases, so shouldn’t be too long before we get confirmation.
Director: Judd Apatow (“Knocked Up,” “Funny People”)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, Tilda Swinton, Daniel Radcliffe
Synopsis: Plot details are pretty much under wraps, but this is said to be an unconventional rom-com about a terrible woman trying to find love.
What You Need To Know: One of Apatow’s greatest virtues has always been his encouragement of fresh talent: the likes of Mike White, Seth Rogen, Nicholas Stoller, Jason Segel, Lena Dunham and Kristen Wiig all had their big-screen breakthroughs partly facilitated or set up by the comedy titan. But given that “Trainwreck” marks the first time Apatow’s directed a script he didn’t write, that suggests he’s got something particularly special here in the first feature script by and starring Amy Schumer, who’s been killing it on her sketch show the last couple of years, and who we suspect will do the same on the big screen. This feels like a creative reboot for Apatow (he’s got “Girls” and “Martha Marcy May Marlene” DP Jody Lee Lipes shooting the film, which is exciting), and the cast he’s got on board is one of the most diverse and interesting of the year, with Schumer and Hader joined by Larson, Radcliffe, Colin Quinn, Marisa Tomei, Ezra Miller, Vanessa Bayer, Mike Birbiglia, Jon Glaser, Randall Park, Method Man, Oscar nominee Barkhad Abdi, 100-year-old veteran Norman Lloyd (!), Swinton (!!), wrestler John Cena (!!!) and LeBron James (!!!!).
Release Date: July 17th
22. “The Early Years”
Director: Paolo Sorrentino (“Il Divo,” “The Great Beauty”)
Cast: Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Jane Fonda, Paul Dano
Synopsis: A famous conductor and a film director holiday in the Alps together
What You Need To Know: Last time Italian director Sorrentino worked in the English language, the result was the bonkers Sean-Penn-as-Robert-Smith-as-a-Nazi-Hunter curio “This Must Be The Place,” greeted by boos at Cannes and sniffy reviews from most (we think it’s much better than its reputation). But he bounced back in lavish style with the Oscar-winning “The Great Beauty” and is now trying his luck in inglese again with “The Early Years” (also known as “Youth” and “In The Future” at various points). Seemingly a thematic continuation of his last film in its look at artists at its twilight years, it should feature another glorious setting in the shape of the Alps, but the real draw is the chance to see Sorrentino working with two of our greatest elder statesman in Caine and Keitel.
Release Date: Nothing firm, but Cannes feels like a pretty good bet.
Director: Denis Villeneuve (“Incendies,” “Prisoners”)
Cast: Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Daniel Kaluuya, Jon Bernthal
Synopsis: In the lawless border area stretching between the U.S. and Mexico, an idealistic FBI agent (Emily Blunt) is exposed to the brutal world of international drug trafficking by members of a government task force (Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro) who have enlisted her in their plan to take out a Mexican cartel boss.
What You Need To Know: Coming off his tremendous one-two of “Prisoners” and “Enemy,” Canadian director Villeneuve has fully established himself as one of our very favorite working directors. And this project sounds like it could play squarely into his intelligent, ambivalent thriller wheelhouse, this time without Gyllenhaal but with Blunt, an actor who only becomes more impressive role to role and fully deserves a central defining Jessica Chastain/Jodie Foster-ish part like this. In fact, we’d be very happy and not at all surprised if this film punches up her profile considerably, perhaps boosting her all the way into the awards conversation. Plus, Roger Deakins returns to shoot, having done such terrific, understated work on “Prisoners.”
Release Date: September 18th
20. “Mistress America”
Director: Noah Baumbach (“The Squid & The Whale,” “Frances Ha“)
Cast: Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke, Michael Chernus, Heather Lind
Synopsis: Tracy, a lonely college freshman in New York, is rescued from her solitude by her soon-to-be stepsister Brooke, an adventurous gal about town who entangles her in alluringly mad schemes.
What You Need To Know: Baumbach pulled a tricky form of creative reinvention in 2012, unveiling the shot-under-the radar “Frances Ha” on the festival circuit. A collaboration with actress/co-writer Gerwig, no one knew existed until it was revealed in the TIFF line-up. And even before “Frances Ha” hit theaters, the duo pulled the same trick again, wrapping production on another under-the-radar effort. This film’s been described as “looser and wonkier” than “Frances Ha,” and Baumbach has named “The Great Gatsby” and “Something Wild” as comparison points. Nothing concrete was known about it until it was revealed as part of the 2015 Sundance lineup, but we do know it was shot in color this time and Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips (ex-Luna) are writing the score, which is certainly a plus.
Release Date: Premieres at Sundance. No distribution yet.
Director: Anton Corbijn (“A Most Wanted Man,” “The American”)
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Dane DeHaan, Joel Edgerton, Ben Kingsley
Synopsis: Photographer Dennis Stock accepts a new assignment for Life Magazine to take pictures of rising star James Dean. The two became close friends as a result.
What You Need To Know: Everything about this picture sounds promising, except its shoddy title (we’re half-hoping it gets nixed last minute for something, anything, else). We’ve been fans of Corbijn’s work ever since his 2007 debut “Control,” in which he already proved his mettle with the tricky biopic genre. Now, after his continuously excellent, if slightly more subdued, work in “The American” and last year’s “A Most Wanted Man,” Corbijn is set to tackle the biopic again. What gives us even more hope this time around is that this is a world Corbijn knows all too well, since he started off his own career as a photographer. And he’s got a great cast to boot, with Pattinson already successfully shedding his post-“Twilight” glitter for “The Rover” and “Maps to the Stars.” We’d also be lying if we said we weren’t curious to see how DeHaan is going to pull off Dean.
Release Date: September 25th in the UK, but we’re not sure on an official date Stateside. Expect a Cannes premiere.
18. “High Rise”
Director: Ben Wheatley (“Kill List,” “Sightseers”)
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Elisabeth Moss, Luke Evans
Synopsis: Life in a high-tech ultra modern tower block descends into carnage as the inhabitant shut themselves off from the world.
What You Need To Know: With four films in almost as many years, Wheatley has fast established himself as one of the most exciting filmmakers of this decade, even while working on pretty negligible budgets (his last film, experimental psychedelia “A Field In England,” was likely made for the catering budget on most of the movies on this list). So what on earth will he be able to pull off once he has a bigger canvas to play on? “High Rise” should be the first indication of that: though it’s still relatively thrifty, this adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s dystopian novel promises to give Wheatley a scope and scale he’s never had before, and with a starry cast toplined by the internet’s boyfriend Hiddleston. Wheatley couldn’t be a better fit for the material, so this definitely feels like it could be the one that moves him up to the next level.
Release Date: The film shot last summer, so after “Sightseers” bowed at Cannes a few years ago, a return to the Croisette feels like it could be a good bet.
17. “Crimson Peak”
Director: Guillermo Del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Pacific Rim”)
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam, Burn Gorman
Synopsis: A young American writer marries a handsome English man and returns to his family home, only to discover a house of secrets .
What You Need To Know: As much as we’ve enjoyed his bigger-budget ventures, Del Toro’s best work to date has easily been his smaller Spanish-language films —“Cronos,” “The Devil’s Backbone” and “Pan’s Labyrinth.” So as the Mexican helmer has described his latest project as a successor to those films but with a Hollywood budget, you can count us signed up. A full-on Gothic romance (with added “kink,” according to the director) with a cast that could quite happily be doing or already have done “Jane Eyre” or “Rebecca,” early stills have suggested stunning production design, with the house as much a character as Hiddleston, Chastain & co, but it’s Del Toro’s return to pure horror for the first time in a decade that has us really champing at the bit for this one.
Release Date: October 16th — perfect timing for Halloween…
16. “Midnight Special”
Director: Jeff Nichols (“Take Shelter,” “Mud“)
Cast: Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton, Adam Driver, Sam Shepard
Synopsis: A father and son attempt to evade government officials when they learn the boy has supernatural powers.
What You Need To Know? You’d think this picture was a super-hero film or a “Star Wars” spin-off, as aside from Terrence Malick‘s projects, no other non-franchise film has been this closely under wraps. Likened to a John Carpenter film and a “chase movie,” which likely means a heavy genre influence, Nichols —who has up to now been making a series of down-to-the-bone dramas in the indie world— was one of the last people we’d think would take on a big budget original sci-fi movie. Nichols has also suggesting the shares DNA with Carpenter’s “Starman,” a film that doesn’t have much in common with the rest of that horror auteur’s filmography. ‘Special’ was shot over a year ago, so a lengthy post-production suggests something with involved VFX. Whatever the case is, we’re highly intrigued.
Release Date: November 25th
15.“That’s What I’m Talking About”
Director: Richard Linklater (The ‘Before’ Trilogy, “Boyhood“)
Cast: Tyler Hoechlin, Wyatt Russell, Ryan Guzman, Zoey Deutch, Will Brittain, Glen Powell
Synopsis: A college freshman falls in with a group of baseball players.
What You Need To Know: The most obvious side effect of Linklater’s newfound heat due to the all-conquering “Boyhood,” Annapurna Pictures have finally stepped up for this long-gestating “spiritual sequel” to his much beloved “Dazed and Confused.” Starring a largely unknown cast, it seems like he will try to recapture the loose-limbed, youthful energy of its precursor, though the baseball aspect sets it apart and may give it some structure. Which must surely be a good thing, because if we have one hesitation about this film, it’s that if it relies too much on a coming-of-age, passage-of-time narrative, hasn’t Linklater himself just made the last word in that genre with “Boyhood”?
Release Date: “Boyhood” played Sundance, but timing this time makes that impossible. We’d imagine he’ll have his pick of the later festivals however.
14. “St James Place” (unofficial)
Director: Steven Spielberg (“Always,” “The Terminal”)
Cast: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, Alan Alda, Eve Hewson
Synopsis: In the midst of the Cold War, lawyer James Donovan is asked to help negotiate the release of a pilot whose plane was shot down in the Soviet Union.
What You Need To Know: The usually prolific Spielberg’s had a slightly quiet few years after the completion of passion project “Lincoln” (and the collapse of blockbuster “Robopocalypse”), but the 68-year-old master was back behind the camera late last year, reteaming with Hanks, one of his most frequent collaborators. Described as a “spy thriller,” and penned by newcomer Matt Charman (with a polish by the Coen Brothers, though hopefully more of their work survives than it did in “Unbroken”), we’re hopeful that this marks a return to the territory of “Munich,” one of our very favorite late-period Spielberg movie. It’s also the first chance to see Spielberg work with British theatrical great Rylance, who’ll be playing the title role in the director’s family film “The BFG” in 2016.
Release Date: October 16th
13. “The Lobster”
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos (“Dogtooth,” “Alps“)
Cast: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw, Léa Seydoux, John C. Reilly, Olivia Colman
Synopsis: In a dystopian near-future, lonely people are obliged to find a matching mate within a 45-day period in a hotel. If they fail, they are transformed into animals and sent off into the woods, but one man escapes and finds love.
What You Need To Know: To those who decry the state of modern cinema as a wasteland of unoriginal ideas: did you read that synopsis?! Ok, so it’s safe to assume this one’s going to be different, but we knew that when it was announced as the next film by Lanthimos, the Greek provocateur behind one of this millennium’s very best films (“Dogtooth”). His ability to craft cinematic worlds that are just left-of-center and more than a little bit surreal is deeply appreciated in these parts, where we’ve championed his work for years. Although it’s his first crack at an English language film, this promises to be his weirdest effort yet, which is really saying something. We’re just as excited for the cast he’s gathered, named stuff like Lisping Man, Biscuit Woman and Nosebleed Woman, and we’re also glad to see DP Thimios Bakatakis return, as his work on “Dogtooth” was marked by bold framing choices and a sun-dappled pallette that played perfectly against the director’s chilly distance.
Release Date: Cannes seems most likely, though “Alps” premiered at Venice, so it could end up there.
12. “Inside Out”/”The Good Dinosaur”
Director: Pete Docter (“Monsters Inc,” ”Up”) & Ronaldo Del Carmen/Peter Sohn (“Partly Cloudy”)
Cast: Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling, Lewis Black, Diane Lane/Neil Patrick Harris, Judy Greer, Frances McDormand, John Lithgow, Bill Hader
Synopsis: Five of her emotions —Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear and Sadness— attempt to guide a young girl through a difficult time in her life / In a world where dinosaurs never became extinct, an Apatosaurus teams with a human being to restore peace between dinos and people.
What You Need To Know: It hasn’t been the best few years for once-untouchable animation giants Pixar: we’ve had two weak sequels in “Cars 2” and “Monsters University,” a middlingly received original film in “Brave,” a year off in 2014 (the first without a Pixar film since 2005), and various reports of behind-the-scenes issues. But this year promises a hell of a comeback, as for the first time ever we’re getting two Pixar movies in the space of six months and neither of the two projects are sequels. The first, “Inside Out,” is the most immediately promising, partly because of the neat “Herman’s Head”-style premise, but also because it teams Docter, whose “Up” might be the company’s high watermark, with “Toy Story 3” writer Michael Arndt. Less is known about “The Good Dinosaur,” in part because it was drastically retooled after original helmer Bob Peterson left the project. But that’s not necessarily a warning sign —many other Pixar projects have gone through similar turmoil. One of these in a year would make it a good one: two feels like we’re being spoiled rotten.
Release Date: June 19th/November 25th
11. “The Light Between Oceans”
Director: Derek Cianfrance (“A Place Beyond The Pines,” “Blue Valentine”)
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Rachel Weisz, Alicia Vikander
Synopsis: Tom Sherbourne returns from the Great War, to a job as lighthouse keeper in Australia, and when his wife finds an abandoned baby, she convinces him to keep it.
What You Need To Know: It’s an adaptation of a supremely popular bestseller of the same name by M. L. Stedman (who also adapted the screenplay). And supremely popular bestsellers adapted by their authors have been known to work wonders (see: “Gone Girl”). In all honesty, you could’ve told us that Cianfrance was directing an adaptation of a laundry detergent’s instructions, and we’d be excited. He’s knocked us off our feet with “Blue Valentine” and “A Place Beyond the Pines” (both getting A’s here) and the prospect of painting on a bigger canvas (not only because of the mouth-watering New Zealand and Australian locations, but because this is Cianfrance working with a big studio, DreamWorks, for the first time) with Fassbender as the lead brush is a seismically exciting one. Want more incentive? How about Alexandre Desplat scoring and “True Detective” cinematographer Adam Arkapaw shooting? Now you know how we feel.
Release Date: Still deep in post, there’s no official release date. Expect a fall festival premiere, though.
10. “Beasts of No Nation”
Director: Cary Fukunaga (“Sin Nombre,” “True Detective“)
Cast: Idris Elba, Abraham Attah, Richard Pepple
Synopsis: Based on the book by Uzodinma Iweala, the film tells the story of Agu, a boy forced to become a child soldier.
What You Need To Know: Indie director Fukunaga made a distinctive splash with his first two features “Sin Nombre” and “Jane Eyre,” but truly was welcomed into the mainstream after helming the HBO phenomenon “True Detective.” “Beasts of No Nation” marks a return to his socially-conscious roots, not just in subject matter but because he wrote the film while he was waiting for the release of first feature. Aside from the ever-rising Elba (who’s also producing), this features a mostly unknown cast, but Fukunaga’s powerful, visceral style feels perfectly suited for brutal material like this, and after his Emmy-winning success on the small-screen, everyone’s going to be watching his next move.
Release Date: TBD 2015, festival bow almost certain.
9. “Mad Max: Fury Road”
Director: George Miller (“Mad Max,” “Lorenzo’s Oil”)
Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Riley Keough, Zoe Kravitz
Synopsis: The familiar post-apocalyptic setting returns, this time seeing Max crossing paths with female warrior Furiosa in an epic chase of vehicles, in an attempt to protect a group of women known as the Brides.
What You Need To Know: This is Miller’s baby, the one he storyboarded in its entirety (close to 3,500 panels) years ago. After being stuck in its own post-apocalyptic version of post-production hell for about 25 freaking years, the furiously anticipated fourth installment of Miller’s “Mad Max” series is finally ready for release. And judging by the trailer (which we’ve ranked as the very best of last year), it looks like it’s going to be a breathtaking spectacle of operatic proportions. With two extremely gifted actors in Hardy and Theron at the forefront, “Mad Max: Fury Road” looks set to be one of 2015’s most fascinating blockbusters, daring to show most of its story through imagery rather than tell it through dialogue (Hardy’s Max is said to have less than twenty lines of dialogue). That the film shot three years ago was mildly concerning until we saw the kind of carnage involved and realized that it’s likely been time well spent…
Release Date: May 15th. Finally.
8. “Queen of the Desert”
Director: Werner Herzog (“Grizzly Man,” “Fitzcarraldo“)
Cast: Nicole Kidman, James Franco, Robert Pattinson, Damian Lewis
Synopsis: A biopic of Gertrude Bell, a British explorer, archaeologist, writer, political attaché and general adventuress who played a major role in establishing the modern state of Iraq.
What You Need To Know: Last summer, we predicted we’d see ‘Queen’ at one of the fall film festivals, but that was overly optimistic, as the film ran into “technical issues” in advance of Telluride and TIFF. We’re still waiting with bated breath for Herzog’s starriest and biggest pic to date, which he also wrote. Producer Cassian Elwes has tweeted raves about it, and Herzog himself even told us just how great Kidman is in the lead role. While it missed out on awards consideration this year, it just might find some traction in 2015. It’s got all the earmarks of a fantastic Middle Eastern epic, and the female lead makes it all the more original. The true story biopic is a genre Herzog has nailed before, eliciting memorable performances from his leads, so we can’t wait to see what he will do with this cast and this grand a story.
Release Date: TBD 2015
Director: Todd Haynes (“Far From Heaven,” “I’m Not There“)
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler, Sarah Paulson, Jake Lacy
Synopsis: Set in 1950s New York, a department-store clerk who dreams of a better life falls for an older, married woman.
What You Need To Know: Mara and Blanchett in director Haynes’ adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel “The Price Of Salt” is a no-brainer. It will also mark Haynes first feature film (outside the superb HBO mini-series “Mildred Pierce”) since 2007’s “I’m Not There” and it will find him working again with Blanchett, who was Oscar nominated for that film. Considering how unpredictably engaging their last pairing was, we expect no less here, and Blanchett’s post-“Blue Jasmine” buzz, even a year post-Best Actress win, can’t hurt the film’s chances of making a bigger splash either.
Release Date: A Cannes premiere is likely.
Director: Justin Kurzel (“The Snowtown Murders“)
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine, Sean Harris, Jack Reynor
Synopsis: Macbeth is driven to murder after hearing a prophecy and led on by the scheming machinations of his wife.
What You Need to Know: With countless adaptations, it’s easy to see why Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” is so popular —themes of power, corruption, betrayal and revenge are writ so large that they can be adapted to almost any milieu and still feel relevant. Sophomore feature director Kurzel is seeking to create a movie with massive battle sequences yet retains the original dialogue and time period. Fassbender has proven he can move seamlessly from period to contemporary settings, and Cotillard has already played crazy to perfection as the duplicitous Mal in “Inception,” but Lady Macbeth is considered one of the preeminent villains of literary history. All of which suggests the elements are in play for a definitive take on an evergreen classic.
Release Date: Like “Carol,” this could be headed to Cannes ahead of an awards season push.
Director: Martin Scorsese (“Taxi Driver,” “The Wolf of Wall Street“)
Cast: Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Tadanobu Asano
Two 17th-century Jesuit priests face violence and persecution when
they travel to Japan to locate their mentor and to spread the gospel of
What You Need To Know: Scorsese has been
threatening to make this passion project for several years, and with an
early 2015 shoot it’s finally happening. Of course Daniel Day-Lewis (the original lead)
is sadly no longer on board, but the cast is otherwise terrific and
it’ll be nice to see Neeson do something other than beat people up
for a change and remind audiences he can act when its actually asked of
him. File this one likely under: much closer to “Kundun” or “The Last
Temptation Of Christ,” religion-based Scorsese projects that
don’t always light up the box-office but are nonetheless usually among his finest work.
Though the cast alone will surely make it some kind of awards
contender, and it sounds like it may almost be the antithesis of
Scorsese’s last picture, the brash, gleefully excessive “The Wolf of Wall
Release Date: The movie is reportedly being slated for a tentative November release date.
4. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
Director: J.J. Abrams (“Star Trek,” “Super 8“)
Cast: John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Lupita Nyong’o, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Andy Serkis, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher
Synopsis: Set 30 years after “Return of the Jedi” the story follows a trio of new characters alongside just about all the old favorites from the original trilogy.
What You Need To Know: That sound you heard when the great teaser dropped online last month? Millions of nerds (ourselves among them) replaying it again and again. Readers of this site and just about any other that covers film news would have been hard pressed to avoid constant updates on what’s sure to be the biggest movie of the year, but the feeling we get from that trailer is that it might all actually be worth it… Abrams takes over in the director’s seat with a script he co-wrote with ‘Empire’ and ‘Jedi’ scribe Lawrence Kasdan (only after a version by “Toy Story 3” writer Michael Arndt was mostly discarded), and after two successful if divisive “Star Trek” movies, which for their faults still felt like everything the prequels should’ve been, we’re excited to see what Abrams brings to ‘Episode VII’, laying the groundwork for Rian Johnson to take over on the next installment. There’s not much more we need to explain. We’re just glad to actually be excited for a new “Star Wars” movie again, seeing as we’re gonna be reporting on it all year…
Release Date: December 18th
3. “The Revenant”
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu (“Babel,” “Birdman“)
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter
Synopsis: In the 19th century, fur trapper Hugh Glass is mauled by a bear while hunting. His companions rob him and leave him to die, but he survives and sets out to get revenge on the men who betrayed him.
What You Need to Know: Though several Playlist staffers have held strong and continued to champion Iñárritu even when he risked becoming a full-on parody of himself by the time “Biutiful” came out in 2010, we all pretty much loved his immensely stylish, huge-breath-of-fresh-air comedy “Birdman” last year. With this adaptation of the Michael Punke novel of the same name, the Mexican director looks to be going the way of legitimate genre material. With DiCaprio as the left-for-dead trapper out to get revenge and Hardy as one of his prey, we surmise this will be more than just a simple, clean revenge tale (but if it is, we’re cool with that too), and the behind-the-camera talent is top-notch as per usual: DP Emmanuel Lubezki is back to probably blow our minds again, and production designer Jack Fisk (“There Will Be Blood”) will no doubt bring the period to life in stunning detail.
Release Date: December 25th
2. “The Hateful Eight”
Director: Quentin Tarantino (“Django Unchained,” “Inglourious Basterds”)
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Kurt Russell, Walton Goggins, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bruce Dern, Demian Bichir, Channing Tatum
Synopsis: It’s post-Civil War Wyoming and a group of unlikely characters, full of hate, find themselves trapped under the same roof, as all seek shelter from a blizzard.
What You Need To Know: You probably know everything already, but here goes anyway. Tarantino made a huge fuss over his leaked “Hateful Eight” screenplay last year, vowing not to make the film. But then he hosted a fantastically well-received live-read (our review of that is here), and changed his tune. Not only was he filming “The Hateful Eight” as his next project, but he was going to do it with most of the same remarkable cast from the live read (which sees a lot his old regulars returning for the first time in a while). We’ve learned to anticipate whatever Tarantino does, and with the script receiving better buzz than his last few, and the chance to see Robert Richardson’s work in all its CinemaScope splendor, we can’t wait.
Release Date: November 13th
1. “Knight of Cups”
Director: Terrence Malick (“The Tree of Life,” “The Thin Red Line”)
Cast: Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Brian Dennehy, Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto, Wes Bentley, Jason Clarke, Imogen Poots
Synopsis: Rick goes to Hollywood and completely loses himself by getting drunk on fame and a hedonistic celebrity lifestyle. The women of his life, his father and the various acquaintances he meets along the way all become entwined in an existentialist modern-day moral fable.
What You Need To Know: It’s happening. It’s definitely happening, you guys. The new Terrence Malick film, after being in post-production since early 2013, is definitely getting released this year. We can’t say the same for Malick’s other project with Ryan Gosling set in the Austin music scene which may or may not have the various characters from “Knight of Cups” featured as well, but consider us just as excited for that project if word gets out that somehow, someway, Malick has miraculously finished editing both films in time for release in the same year (we’re not holding our breath). What we do know for sure, after a stupendous trailer and official confirmation of a festival premiere, is that “Knight of Cups” will be seen this year and we’re very excited. While set in a contemporary world he has rarely explored, ‘Cups’ looks positively Fellini-esque, and features just about the greatest cast (though who knows who’s actually in it), and a continued collaboration with maestro cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, so yes. Excited doesn’t really begin to cover it.
Release Date: Berlin has the honor of premiering it, but there’s no official date for theatrical just yet. Depending on reception, expect a release in the fourth quarter.
Honorable Mention & More
Where’s [insert your favorite omitted movie here]?!? Look pal, we’ve only got 100 picks and there’s more features on the way, so relax. :) Omissions that didn’t quite make the cut include Ron Howard’s “In The Heart of The Sea,” starring Chris Hemsworth, NWA biopic “Straight Out Of Compton,” the final “Hunger Games” movie (which we’re curious about, but you’ll all go see it so it needs no help), Jon Favreau’s “Jungle Book” movie and “The Gunman” starring Sean Penn. Also special pour one out mention for Olivier Assayas’ “Idol’s Eye” starring Robert De Niro, Robert Pattinson and Rachel Weisz. The project was canceled right as it was about to shoot which is a huge bummer because it would have easily cracked our top 15. Maybe it’ll come together in some shape or form down the line one day. Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart will hopefully bring us laughs in “Get Hard,” “Terminator Genesys” is hopefully better than it looks right now and The Untitled NFL Concussion Drama starring Will Smith is one to look out for too. Other films that are… coming out in 2015 include “Fifty Shades Of Grey,” “Kingsman: The Secret Service” (which has admittedly good advance buzz, but so did all the other Matthew Vaughn films that turned out to be rubbish), “Cinderella” and “Focus” but they’re maybe not so much “anticipated” and they’re big mainstream vehicles that don’t really need our help (but hey, maybe they’ll be great in which case, yay!). We’ll have more to say about foreign-language pictures from the likes of Apitchatpong Weerasethakul and Arnaud Desplechin in the next week or so too.
Probably Not Until 2016
Aka the “lets get this out of the way” section. The Coen Brothers’ next film is a comedy set for a February 2016 release date already, so that’s out: it could yet be moved up, but we imagine it’s aiming for the slot that did so well for “Grand Budapest Hotel” last year. Harmony Korine’s “The Trap” won’t shoot til mid 2015 so it feels like they’ll hold it much like they did with the 2015 Herzog, Todd Haynes, Anton Corbijn and more (some of which shot even earlier). Park Chan-Wook’s ”Lady” is presumably a 2016 effort and since we’ve heard very little about Abbas Kiarostami’s next effort, we’ll presume, for the sake of making this list a little easier on ourselves, much the same. Todd Solondz has “Wiener Dog” in the works with Greta Gerwig, but who knows when that’ll shoot. We know that Kenneth Lonergan couldn’t get his “Manchester-by-the-Sea” shoot together in time for Matt Damon who had to had a hard date to star in Ridley Scott’s “The Martian,” so that one’s already recast (Casey Affleck) and won’t shoot until sometime later this year. We’re dying to see “I Saw The Light,” a Tom Hiddleston-starring Hank Williams biopic, but it hasn’t shot yet, so we’ll presume next year. Other filmmakers with movies in the work we’re fairly certain won’t be ready until 2016 (but hey, we’re willing and ready to be happily surprised) include Tobias Lindholm‘s “A Hijacking” follow-up, Christi Puiu’s “Sierra-Nevada,” Xavier Dolan’s “The Death & Life Of John F. Donovan,” Lucrecia Martel’s “Zama” and Jia Zhangke’s “Mountains May Depart.” File those under, we can’t wait for 2015.
As you’ve seen already, a few picks from the festival made the cut and they’’ll be much more to come in our Most Anticipated Film from Sundance down the line. There’s plenty of options left, Rodrigo Garcia’s “Last Days in The Desert” sounds in particularly intriguing (it’s shot by Emmanuel Lubezki), James Ponsoldt‘s “The End Of The Tour” is surely going to be a talked about effort and it’s certainly to see Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman back with “Ten Thousand Saints.” The return of filmmakers Jared Hess, John Crowley, Bobcat Goldthwait and Louie Psihoyos (“The Cove”) should also hopefully give us much to scream about for much of the year too.
And A Few More To Keep An Eye For
Other interesting-sounding projects coming this year are “Suite Francaise” (which was on our list a few years back, because of the cast, but the March U.K. date and no festival release doesn’t inspire as much confidence), William Monahan’s “Mojave” starring Oscar Isaac and Garrett Hedlund, “Tulip Fever” with Dane DeHaan and Alicia Vikander, James Franco’s “Zeroville” with Megan Fox, Seth Rogen and more should prove at least fascinating, “The Hollars,” a John Krasinski directorial effort with Anna Kendrick and Mary Elizabeth Winstead sounds certainly intriguing, while “The Coup” a thriller starring Owen Wilson and Lake Bell sounds promising if it indeed comes out this year.
The compromised version of David O. Russell’s “Nailed,” retitled “Accidental Love” (bleurgh) and without the director’s name on it, is finally going to come out this year, and while he’s disavowed it, we’re sort of curious just as completeists. Falling under could be ready this year/could be interesting are Tarsem’s “Self/Less” with Ryan Reynolds, the “Point Break” remake, and “The Intern” with Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway. A few other indies that haven’t turned up at Sundance that could turn up and so will hit later in the year include Tom Hooper’s “The Danish Girl” with Eddie Redmayne (a likely awards player if it makes it in time), Hannah Fidell’s “6 Years,” “Kill Your Friends” starring Nicholas Hoult, James Corden and Craig Roberts, Eran Creevy‘s actioner “Autobahn” with Nicholas Hoult, Felicity Jones and Ben Kingsley, and “The Ticket” with Dan Stevens.
Past that, we’re also excited about Terence Davies‘ return with “Sunset Song” if it’s done in time, Woody Harrelson in Kieran Darcy-Smith‘s Western “By Way Of Helena,” Christmas-themed horror “Krampus” from the director of sleeper classic “Trick R Treat,” Wim Wenders‘ “Everything Will Be Fine” starring James Franco, Russell Crowe‘s directorial debut “The Water Diviner,” which is apparently pretty decent, Alejandro Amenabar‘s comeback with genre pic “Regression” and two chances for M Night Shyamalan to win his way back into our good graces with “The Visit” and “Labor Of Love.“
Not to mention Viggo Mortensen in drama “Captain Fantastic,” Max Landis‘ directorial debut “Valencia,” Reed Morano‘s “Meadowland,” Chris McCoy‘s “Good Kids,” Helen Mirren drone thriller “Eye In The Sky,” former Playlister Christopher Jason Bell‘s “The Winds That Scatter,” Simon Pegg/Lake Bell rom-com “Man Up,” Anna Kendrick/Sam Rockwell action flick “Mr. Right,” and Rufus Norris‘ dark musical “London Road,” featuring Tom Hardy in a cameo.
So that’s it for now. Our longlist was some almost-400 films long and there’s lots of festivals to come if you didn’t see your favorite obscure, small indie on this list. Hopefully like 2014, a banner year, really, we’ll have plenty of riches to sing about at year’s end.
– Oliver Lyttelton, Jessica Kiang, Rodrigo Perez, Katie Walsh, Nikola Grozdanovic, Erik McLanahan