Likely Oscar Contenders:
“Knight of Cups” (dir. Terrence Malick, Berlinale 2015)
Malick’s long-awaited tale of celebrity excess stars Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett and Natalie Portman, is shot by Emmanuel Lubezki and will world-premiere at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival in February.
“In the Heart of the Sea” (dir. Ron Howard, March 13)
In this maritime adventure, Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson and Ben Whishaw star as crew members of a whaling ship who, in 1820, were preyed upon by a sperm whale and left stranded at sea for 90 days.
“Mad Max: Fury Road” (dir. George Miller, May 15)
The highlight of Warner Bros.’ 2014 Comic-Con panel, “Mad Max” stars Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult and Zoe Kravitz. Director Miller wanted this movie–written by Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris– to never stop moving, to be non-stop all-out action from start to finish. We will see if he has achieved this.
“Far from the Madding Crowd” (dir. Thomas Vinterberg, May 1)
It was inevitable that someone would remake the 1967 John Schlesinger classic “Far from the Madding Crowd.” This one stars Matthias Schoenaerts in the farmer role once played by Alan Bates, Michael Sheen is the more mature gentleman who proposes marriage (Peter Finch) to headstrong Bathsheba (Carey Mulligan), and Tom Sturridge is the rakish sergeant (Terrence Stamp).
“Inside Out” (dirs. Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen, June 19)
The latest Pixar outing follows in the footsteps of “Frozen”‘s female-driven storyline, told from inside the mind of a little girl with voice-acting from Diane Lane, Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader and Kyle MacLachlan. It should be well worth waiting for after sitting out 2014 with no Pixar entries.
“Ricki and the Flash” (dir. Jonathan Demme, June 26)
Written by quippy “Juno” Oscar winner Diablo Cody, director Jonathan Demme’s forthcoming dark comedy stars Meryl Streep, who learned to play guitar to play a fading rockstar who tries to reunite with her family. The film costars Streep sprig Mamie Gummer and Kevin Kline.
“The Walk” (dir. Robert Zemeckis, October 2)
Oscar-winning doc “Man on Wire” told the story of amazing French artist Philippe Petit who, in 1974, walked a high-wire between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. In Zemeckis’ 3D/IMAX take, Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Petit alongside Ben Kingsley.
Untitled Cold War Spy Thriller (dir. Steven Spielberg, October 16)
Co-written by the Coens with Matt Charman, Spielberg’s yet-to-be-titled Cold War thriller stars Tom Hanks as an American lawyer recruited by the CIA to rescue a pilot detained in the Soviet Union. Amy Ryan and Alan Alda also star.
“The Revenant” (dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu, December 25)
Hot off “Birdman” success, Iñárritu gets right back to work with this 1820s-set frontier drama starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a man who seeks revenge after surviving a bear mauling, where he’s left for dead. Hot UK leading men Tom Hardy and Domhnall Gleeson also star.
“The Hateful Eight” (dir. Quentin Tarantino)
Slated for Fall 2015 release via The Weinstein Company, Tarantino’s 70mm, post-Civil War western centers on a group of stagecoach travelers trapped after a blizzard sends them off course. Amongst the crew are two bounty hunters and a rogue Confederate soldier. The dreamy cast includes Channing Tatum, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Demian Bichir, Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and Bruce Dern.
“Silence” (dir. Martin Scorsese)
Busybody Scorsese’s longtime passion project, starring Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver and Liam Neeson, centers on the undercover investigation of a remote Christian community in 17th century Japan. Based on Shūsaku Endō’s 1966 novel, it’s rumored to be one of Scorsese’s least commercial efforts yet.
“Macbeth” (dir. Justin Kurzel)
Aussie director Kurzel wowed in 2011 with his gritty crime drama “Snowtown.” Previewed by Harvey Weinstein at Cannes 2014, but notably missing from the fest circuit ever since, this moody Shakespeare adaptation stars Michael Fassbender in the title role as the future King of Scotland. Marion Cotillard plays Lady Macbeth.
“The Lobster” (dir. Yorgos Lanthimos)
“Dogtooth” provocateur Yorgos Lanthimos returns with an ensemble film set in a near-future where single people are arrested and forced to find a mate in 45 days–if they fail, they’re turned into an animal and released into “The Woods.” Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw, Lea Seydoux, Olivia Colman and John C. Reilly lead this amazing cast.
“Queen of the Desert” (dir. Werner Herzog)
Herzog’s first narrative feature since 2009’s entertaining “Bad Lieutenant,” this rich-looking period biopic stars Nicole Kidman, who plays influential cartographer Gertrude Bell opposite Robert Pattinson, Damian Lewis and James Franco.
“Carol” (dir. Todd Haynes)
Haynes’ adaptation of Highsmith’s landmark lesbian novella “The Price of Salt, centered on the romance between an unassuming shop girl (Rooney Mara) and a glamorous New York socialite (Cate Blanchett), wasn’t included in Cannes 2014 dog-and-pony show because it wrapped shooting that month. While Cannes 2015 may be in its future, this one finally looks headed toward a Fall release according to producer Christine Vachon.
“Queen of Earth” (dir. Alex Ross Perry)
The New York filmmaker reunites with his “Listen Up Philip” star Elisabeth Moss, bringing on board “Downton Abbey”‘s Michelle Dockery, to tell the story of a pair of friends whose beach-house retreat takes reality-bending turns. This looks to have more genre elements than we’ve come to expect from the director of “Philip” and critics’ cause célèbre “The Color Wheel.”
“Love in Kohn Kaen” (dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
The always-intriguing, young Thai auteur who won the Palme d’Or for the mystical “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” returns with this drama about a middle-aged housewife whose relationship with a damaged soldier leads her into dark hallucinations and dreams. According to IMDb, the film is still shooting, which mean we may see “Love” late in the festival run.
“A Hologram for the King” (dir. Tom Tykwer)
Tom Hanks stars as a middling American entrepreneur who travels to Saudi Arabia to recoup his losses in this adaptation of the acclaimed Dave Eggers novel.
Films Heading Soon to Theaters:
“Jupiter Ascending” (dirs. Andy and Lana Wachowski, February 6)
Warner Bros. pushed this back nearly a year for artistic reasons, officially. But other worries were afoot. (More on that here.) Kunis plays Jupiter Jones, who dreams of the stars while living a cold reality as a housekeeper until a genetically engineered former bounty hunter (Tatum) arrives on Earth to deliver her cosmos-altering fate.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” (dir. Sam Taylor-Johnson, February 13)
The driving force behind this screen version of the smash-hit bodice ripper—starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson—comes from parent studio Universal, whose chairman Donna Langley is hugely invested in making her baby a hit. She landed the property amid a fierce bidding war partly by steering it through specialty subsidiary Focus Features, producing on a modest budget without having to hit it out of the park on a big-studio level.
Later 2015 releases:
“Chappie” (dir. Neill Blomkamp, March 6)
“Tomorrowland” (dir. Brad Bird, May 22)
“Jurassic World” (dir. Colin Trevorrow, June 12)
“Magic Mike XXL” (dir. Gregory Jacobs, July 1)
“Trainwreck” (dir. Judd Apatow, July 17)
“Pan” (dir. Joe Wright, July 24)
“Regression” (dir. Alejandro Amenábar, August 28)
“Jane Got a Gun” (dir. Gavin O’Connor, September 4)
“Crimson Peak” (dir. Guillermo del Toro, Oct. 16)
“Spectre” (dir. Sam Mendes, November 6)
“The Martian” (dir. Ridley Scott, November 25)
“Midnight Special” (dir. Jeff Nichols, November 25)
“Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” (dir. JJ Abrams, December 18)
“Joy” (dir. David O. Russell, December 25)
What We’ve Seen and Recommend:
“The Duke of Burgundy” (dir. Peter Strickland, January 16)
In terms of weirdness and visual invention, the Brit director outdoes even his profoundly strange “Berberian Sound Studio” with this lurid yet tender S&M romance between a butterfly enthusiast and her punishment-seeking housekeeper.
“Timbuktu” (dir. Abderrahmane Sissako, January 28)
“Timbuktu” could win the foreign Oscar; so far it has made the shortlist of nine. Why? Director Abderrahmane Sissako, an elegant filmmaker who was educated in Moscow and has lived in Paris for decades, went home to film this simple, intimate and immediate story set in Timbuktu, which was overrun by Libyan jihadists for a time. (Director interview here.)
“Mommy” (dir. Xavier Dolan, January 23)
Dolan wisely restrains his bravado and has never been more at home than with these three richly made characters: a scrappy and outrageously brave single mom, her smart yet deeply troubled teen with blond hair and behavioral problems, and the timid housewife with a speech impediment and secrets next door. (Our director interview here.)
“Maps to the Stars” (dir. David Cronenberg, February 27)
Julianne Moore is hysterically good as a deluded, washed-up, pill-swilling Hollywood has-been in Cronenberg’s angry, messy, sick but often brilliant tragicomedy. The arrival of a schizophrenic burn victim (played by Mia Wasikowska) turns this world of this world of Tinseltown dreamers upside down, featuring solid performances from John Cusack, Olivia Williams and Robert Pattinson.
“The Salt of the Earth” (dirs. Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, Wim Wenders, March 27)
Wim Wenders loved the amazing photos of Sebastião Salgado and with his son Juliano shot the Sony Pictures Classics documentary “The Salt of the Earth,” which is a strong contender for the Best Documentary Oscar. (Watch our interview with the directors here.)
“While We’re Young” (dir. Noah Baumbach, March 27)
Noah Baumbach’s timely comedy follows Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts as married, middle-aged filmmakers who befriend a twenty-something hipster couple. Baumbach’s most commercially minded film, “While We’re Young” costars Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried and will be released by A24, who picked up the film following its TIFF premiere.
“White God” (dir. Kornél Mundruczó, March 27)
Though snubbed by the Oscar shortlist, this fairy-tale allegory features the best movie dog acting you’re ever likely to see. It’s also an incisive portrait of Hungary, and Eastern Europe, as it stands today.
“The Look of Silence” (dir. Joshua Oppenheimer, July)
The Venice prize winner continues the story of Indonesian survivors begun by “The Act of Killing,” exploring the genocide and legacy from the point-of-view of one male victim as he chases down his brother’s killers.
“It Follows” (dir. David Robert Mitchell)
Dripping with dread and style, and not to mention deeply scary, this STD horror tale wowed Cannes Critics’ Week, snapped up prizes at Fantastic Fest and will surely impress genre buffs attending this year’s Sundance, where it plays the Midnight section. This is already destined to top horror geek’s year-end best lists in 2015 when it opens in theaters and on VOD.
“The Keeping Room” (dir. Daniel Barber)
If you’re eager to see movies about strong women who might actually exist in the real world, check out anything starring brainy actress Brit Marling, who plays yet another sharp role in 2014 Toronto world premiere and Drafthouse pickup “The Keeping Room,” a Civil War drama that mixes a character study with the home invasion genre.
“The Tribe” (dir. Miroslav Slaboshpitsky)
The Ukraine foolishly neglected to submit this grueling “Lord of the Flies”-esque masterpiece for the 2015 Foreign Language Oscar. But it’s in the right hands with Drafthouse Films, who will finally bring the film, set in a boarding school with an all-deaf cast of teen non-actors, in the states this year. Slaboshpitsky’s nimble, purely cinematic direction relies on gesture and movement to speak for these characters as they hurtle toward certain doom.