Wednesday, January 14, 2015

2015 Movie Preview

Despite recording the lowest number of ticket sales last year since 1995, Hollywood apparently thinks you want your 2015 to be a whole lot like 2014. Because the cinematic menu looks very much the same.

Super-hero spectacles? We’ve got ‘em. High-toned dramas populating the year-end calendar, grubbing for awards? Ditto. Same for kids’ animated flicks, science fiction thrillers and crime stories.

Even the “new” stuff that people are most excited about -- including me -- is mostly reboots of decades-old franchises: Star Wars, Mad Max, Terminator, etc.

Everything old many be new again, but we should still see a few surprises and risk-taking in the coming year. So here is our look ahead to 2015 movies. (Release dates are subject to change.)

Pictures I'm personally excited about get awarded the Golden C. 

Blackhat (Jan. 16) -- An action/thriller in January might not seem like a good bet, but the presence of moody auteur Michael Mann in the director’s chair gives this a leg up. Chris Hemsworth plays a hacker freed from jail for a mission.

Mortdecai (Jan. 23) -- Johnny Depp plays another one of his slinky/kooky characters in this tale of an eccentric spy/art dealer’s search for a stolen painting and Nazi gold. With Gwyneth Paltrow and Ewan McGregor.

Jupiter Ascending (Feb. 6) -- The newest big-budget science fiction spectacle from the Wachowski siblings of “Matrix” fame could be a box office titan, or a new Titanic -- the sunken ship, not the movie. The fact it was bumped from a 2014 release is not a good sign. The fact it stars Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum -- a wooden acting tag team -- is even worse. She’s a maid who’s secretly the queen of Jupiter, and he’s her cloned protector.

Fifty Shades of Grey (Feb. 13) -- There’s been a lot of talk about the film version of the hit book, about an impressionable young woman who enters an S&M-heavy relationship with a successful businessman. Unknowns Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson star in the mommy porn adaptation.

McFarland, USA (Feb. 20) -- Kevin Costner does the Inspiring Sports Drama thing in this (semi) true tale of a gringo newcomer who starts a cross country team at tiny Latino high school.

Chappie (March 6) -- Sci-fi auteur Neill Blomkamp soared with his debut “District 9,” but follow-up “Elysium” fell to Earth. “Chappie” is about a robot designed to feel emotions like a human who is hunted by criminals and the government. Think sensitive and uplifting. Starring Hugh Jackman.

In the Heart of the Sea (March 13) -- Nineteenth-century sea epics haven’t been a thing since “Master and Commander,” but director Ron Howard may just be the man to give us our sea legs back. Chris Hemsworth (him again!) stars in this tale of a whaling ship that sunk chasing its Moby Dick. Based on the book by Nathaniel Philbrick.

Cinderella (March 13) -- Lily James plays the title role in a live-action version of the classic fairy tale about a young girl with a really terrible domestic situation but terrific footwear. With Helena Bonham Carter as the evil stepm… oh, wait, she’s actually playing the nice part for once as Fairy Godmother! Good for her.

Insurgent (March 20) -- The “Divergent” franchise/Hunger Games rip-off continues with its second film, in which young upstart Tris (Shailene Woodley) must help lead the revolt against the evil government that sets young people against each other.

Get Hard (March 27) -- Kings of comedy Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart team up in this tale about a billionaire about to go jail for fraud who recruits (he thinks) a street thug (actually a yappy beta male) to toughen him up.

Furious 7 (April 3) -- There’s a lot of morbid interest in the car racing franchise to see how they will get around the death of star Paul Walker, who hadn’t yet finished his scenes. Vin Diesel is joined by Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Kurt Russell and Djimon Hounsou in another souped-up joy ride.

Gold (April 3) -- Helen Mirren stars in this drama about an elderly Jewish woman who fights the government to reclaim artwork that was stolen from her family during the Holocaust. Co-starring Ryan Reynolds.

Ex Machina (April 10) -- The artificial intelligence angle gets a psycho/sexual twist in this sci-fi drama in which scientists (Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac) create a female robot who begins displaying disturbingly human emotions.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (May 1) -- Summer starts off with a bang, as the best super-hero movie of recent vintage sees its much-anticipated sequel debut. Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow and Captain America face off with an alien artificial intelligence (James Spader) with world-crushing ideas.

Pitch Perfect 2 (May 15) -- The inevitable sequel to the hit musical comedy about collegiate women who form a competitive a cappella group. Now they’re chasing an international prize.

Mad Max: Fury Road (May 15) -- They’ve been talking a fourth movie set in the post-apocalyptic Australian outback for decades, but Mel Gibson finally got too old (and rant-y) to play the role of the iconic ex-cop-turned-death-racer. So director George Miller goes back to square one with Tom Hardy. The trailer is epic, so hopes are high. Co-starring Charlize Theron.

Tomorrowland (May 22) -- Director Brad Bird has conquered animated films (“The Incredibles”) and live action (“Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol”), so what’s left? How about an intriguing CGI-heavy story in which a teen girl can instantly transport herself to an alternate dimension that resembles the Disney World theme park on steroids? George Clooney co-stars as a mysterious inventor.

Jurassic World (June 12) -- Really, none of the return-of-the-dinosaurs flicks have been any good since the first one, so why should we have any faith in this go-round? Two reasons: it stars cinema’s smirky new wonderboy, Chris Pratt, whose touch has been golden. And it’s directed by Colin Trevorrow, who made the smart little sci-fi movie “Safety Not Guaranteed.” The story is set years down the road with the misconceived theme park now open for business.

Inside Out (June 19) -- Pixar, once the most inventive studio in the game, has been in a rut lately with sequels and recycling stale ideas. So their new animated feature looks very promising and, dare we say, original. It takes place inside the mind of a young girl, as critters represent the different parts of her psyche. With the voices of Amy Poehler and Bill Hader.

Ted 2 (June 26) -- Television titan Seth MacFarlane, having conquered one medium, seems intent on becoming a bona fide movie star. Last summer’s awful “A Million Ways to Die in the West” dampened those dreams, but a sequel to the 2012 hit comedy starring a foul-mouthed living teddy bear seems like a safe bet.

Terminator: Genisys (July 1) -- The first two Terminator films have attained iconic status in the science fiction genre, for good reason. The last two ranged from horrid to awful. Not coincidentally, the latter pair were not directed by James Cameron. So first blush may not hold out much hope for this new version, which stars Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney in a total “retcon,” or remaking of the franchise’s origin story. Still, it’s the first one in 12 years to feature Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Ant-Man (July 17) -- Marvel’s latest superhero movie iteration is closer akin to last summer’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” in that it’s more about fun and laughs than the usual dour great-power-brings-great-responsibility spiel. Paul Rudd plays a criminal who gets a second chance when outfitted with a suit that shrinks him to insect size and endows him with powers.

Pixels (July 24) -- Arcade game characters from the 1980s have come to life and are terrorizing New York, so it’s up to super-nerds Adam Sandler, Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad and Michelle Monaghan to save the day.

Pan (July 24) -- The Peter Pan legend gets another crack with director Joe Wright at the helm, known more for high-toned costume dramas (“Atonement”). Here Peter is a young pip (Levi Miller) left an orphan in the real world until he’s transported to Neverland and finds the magic inside. With Hugh Jackman as an exuberant Blackbeard, flying pirate ships and Garrett Hedlund as a young Captain Hook who still has two hands and is… good?!?

Grimsby (July 31) -- The latest film comedy from merry prankster Sacha Baron Cohen is about a football (soccer) thug who teams up with his super-spy brother in all sorts of hijinks and adventures. Expect lots of action and lowbrow humor.

The Fantastic Four (Aug. 7) -- The iconic comic book quartet, who’ve already been the subject of two other film adaptations, get rebooted with a new, younger cast: Miles Teller as stretchy Mr. Fantastic, Kate Mara as The Invisible Woman, Jamie Bell as The Thing and Michael B. Jordan as The Human Torch. With Toby Kebbell as Doctor Doom.

Ricki and the Flash (Aug. 7) -- Meryl Streep strives to continue her winning streak as an aging rock star trying to reconnect with the family she left behind long ago, including a daughter played by Streep’s real-life child, Mamie Gummer. With director Jonathan Demme (“Philadelphia”) and screenwriter Diablo Cody (“Juno”), this seems like a good hook.

Straight Outta Compton (Aug. 14) -- This rap biopic takes a look at the seminal 1980s Los Angeles group N.W.A., and includes Ice Cube’s real-life son, O’Shea Jackson Jr., playing his daddy, plus Jason Mitchell and Corey Hawkins as Eazy-E and Dr. Dre, respectively.

Black Mass (Sept. 18) -- Johnny Depp plays infamous gang leader Whitey Bulger, who ruled South Boston with an iron fist and later became an FBI informant. Co-starring Benedict Cumberbatch as his politician brother; directed by Scott Cooper, who helped Jeff Bridges win gold for “Crazy Heart.” An early Oscar contender?

The Intern (Sept. 25) -- Nine years ago Anne Hathaway played an intern to a power-mad fashion mogul, and now she’s playing one herself -- who takes on her own hapless intern, Robert De Niro, as part of a senior citizen community outreach program. From veteran comedy writer/director Nancy Meyers (“Something’s Gotta Give”).

The Walk (Oct. 2) -- Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in this biopic of French aerialist Philippe Petit, who was the subject of “Man on Wire,” an Oscar-winning documentary about him walking between the Twin Towers on a high wire. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, continuing his (much-appreciated) return from animation exile.

The Jungle Book (Oct. 9) -- The Disney animated classic gets a live-action redo (with CGI critters) directed by Jon Favreau, who last year traded in big-budget spectacle (“Iron Man”) for the tiny indie comedy “Chef.” Can he make the switch back, and can 10-year-old newcomer Neel Sethi carry an entire movie?

St. James Place (Oct. 16) -- Stephen Spielberg and Tom Hanks team up again in this Cold War thriller that just screams “Oscar bait.” In 1960 an American spy plane is shot down over the Soviet Union, and Hanks plays the lawyer recruited by the CIA to negotiate for the release of the captured pilot.

Crimson Peak (Oct. 16) -- Guillermo del Toro trades in the giant robots of “Pacific Rim” for a return to his horror roots in this tale with a distinctly Gothic flavor. Mia Wasikowska is a 19th-century writer who learns her new husband and house have supernatural issues. Co-starring Jessica Chastain.

Peanuts (Nov. 6) --  Charles Schulz’ beloved comic strip gets the computer-generated animation treatment, in which Snoopy runs away to fight the Red Baron and good ol’ Charlie Brown tries to bring him home.

Spectre (Nov. 6) -- Daniel Craig returns as James Bond for a fourth go-round as 007 -- and possibly the last, as rumors of Idris Elba taking over the role abound. Christoph Waltz plays the villain, which seems like a harmonic convergence, and Sam Mendes takes another turn in the director’s chair after the success of “Skyfall.” The title refers to an international cadre of villains Bond battled back in the Sean Connery days.

The Hateful Eight (Nov. 13) -- Writer/director Quentin Tarantino’s been on a roll of late, and he’s sticking to the Old West setting of “Django Unchained” for this tale of a bounty hunter (Channing Tatum) who gets caught up in intrigue during a blizzard.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 2 (Nov. 20) -- The blockbuster franchise comes to a close, with teen Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) finally embracing her role as face of the rebellion against the evil Capitol, which has held gladiator-like games where youths from the oppressed districts kill each other for entertainment. Meanwhile, her former partner and would-be lover, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), has been brainwashed into wanting to kill her.

The Martian (Nov. 25) -- Ridley Scott, master of science fiction and spectacle, remains one of Hollywood’s busiest directors well into his 70s. The plot of his latest remains something of a mystery, other than Matt Damon plays an astronaut stranded on Mars and various NASA folks back on Earth are trying to get him back.

Sisters (Dec. 18) -- There is much anticipation for this latest pairing of comedy queens Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, in which they play warring siblings with opposing personalities. Though people seem to forget that while they’ve been great on TV, co-anchoring on “Saturday Night Live” and hosting award shows, their last big-screen pairing was the execrable “Baby Mama.”

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Dec. 18) -- Am I the only one bothered by the fact this ambitious continuation of the Star Wars universe is debuting in December instead of the traditional May? What’s the story about, since the evil Empire has been vanquished? Are people ready to watch Luke, Leia and Han Solo after they’ve gotten fat and old? Who are all these other young whippersnappers? Is J.J. Abrams ready to take over the mantle of creator George Lucas? What’s the deal with that three-beam lightsaber? Will any of these questions matter when it racks up the inevitable billion dollars?

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