Here’s the films that I predict will dominate the blockbuster conversation in 2015. These franchise-starters, continuers, sequels, reboots, re-quels etc. is Hollywood’s way of basically saying “More is more, right?” Disclaimer: if you disagree with my picks, that’s totally cool. Disagreement with my opinions however can be taken up with my middle finger. Appointment required.
Jupiter Ascending: Feb. 6
From my experience on the Internet, it seems I am one of maybe three people who enjoyed the Matrix sequels. In particular, the epic spectacle of The Matrix Revolutions holds a special place in my heart. I loved their 2012 film Cloud Atlas, a three-hour opus through time with actors playing different roles depending on the period. Hell, I even enjoyed the fuck out of their lesbian neo-noir Bound and their live-action cartoon Speed Racer. All of this to say, I like the Wachowski Siblings.
Its hard to think of filmmakers with a more eclectic list of films that, while being wildly divergent, are also inextricably linked to one another. They are very good at dressing very classical stories in far-out-there weirdness and fetishism, so its no surprise their new film, Jupiter Ascending, stars Mila Kunis as proto-Snow White and Channing Tatum as her human/wolf hybrid bounty hunter/protector. It’s as if the siblings distilled their artistic interests down to two characters. Tatum in particular sounds like a Furry’s wet (hairy?) dream.
The Wachowski’s take chances and they do not compromise on their vision. With a Netflix series coming at the end of the year (Sense8), they’re not slowing down. Whatever your opinion of their output, voices this original and vibrant in entertainment deserve continued support, because even if their films miss the mark completely, they are often spectacular to look at and fascinating failures, as opposed to another cheap rom-com or horror film anyone could do.
Avengers: Age of Ultron: May 1
Dude, come on. Joss Whedon could take a shit on camera for two hours and I would still pay 10 bucks to see this sequel. He did the impossible. He not only made The Avengers not terrible, he made it good. To this day, the fact that he made the first cross-franchise film work still boggles my mind. The world agreed and it made over 1 billion worldwide.
From the horse’s own mouth, this is the Avengers’ film Joss Whedon always wanted to make. And as rumors persist on to becoming facts, it also looks like the last Avengers film he will make, with Captain America: The Winter Soldier helmers Anthony & Joe Russo taking over for the two-part Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 and 2 in 2018 and 2019 respectively. If that’s the case, he couldn’t have handled the material better.
Whedon is a man who understands how to take the audience on a ride. His approach to this film is best summarized in this quote made to SFX, way back in March 2012:
“By not trying to [go bigger]. By being smaller. More personal, more painful. By being the next thing that should happen to these characters, and not just a rehash of what seemed to work the first time. By having a theme that is completely fresh and organic to itself.”
That is a guy who completely gets cinema and on a even more basic level good storytelling. That’s why we can be completely assured Whedon has delivered something special and meaningful, packaged in a movie with the word “Ultron” in the title. That’s cool.
Mad Max: Fury Road: May 15
Three words. Tom Fucking Hardy. I make no attempt to hide my unabashed mancrush on this chunk of British man meat. In fact, the only thing separating my mouth and his dick is distance and our mutual, committed heterosexual relationships. I digress.
He’s been through this film in thick and thin, first announced for the role back in 2010. It wasn’t until 2012 that cameras rolled and now, after 30 years, we have a new Mad Max film (this time with 100% less antisemitism!) Add a bald, badass, one-armed Charlize Theron and a sodium-saturated Nicholas Hoult and there’s more to this cast than all the previous films put together.
This has been a passion project of director George Miller for decades and the only way it would work is with him behind the camera yet again. Beyond Hardy, what really sold me was last summer’s Comic-Con footage, which depicted the kind of batshit post-apocalyptic chases that money can buy for a new generation of “Maxes.”
Jurassic World: June 12
Jurassic Park is such a seminal film for me, it can’t not be one of my most anticipated and one with the most potential. Featuring a fully-functioning park for the first time in the series while bringing back the theme of science vs. nature in the villainous dino rumored to be called the D-Rex, or Diablous Rex (seriously, who the fuck name’s this thing thinking that’s going turn out well? Rule of Cool, my ass). Plus they were smart to jump on the Chris Pratt train early, before Guardians of the Galaxy told Hollywood they should ONLY cast Chris Pratt in all future roles.
Another “geek director” has been handed the reins of a mega-film in the form of fun indie sci-fi comedy “Safety Not Guaranteed” helmer Colin Trevarrow. But in recent years, studios, in a rush to reverse-engineer the next Christopher Nolan, have plucked first-time directors with potential from relative obscurity and fired $200 million and a franchise property at them. The results? Mixed.
As with the Nolan example, sometimes it works (Batman Begins, last year’s Godzilla), but sometimes (a lot of the time) not (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Amazing Spider-Man 1 & 2. Poor Marc Webb). Potential never promises quality, only interest and somewhere on this list a spectacular failure sits. Will it be Jurassic World? My nostalgic optimism wonders.
The trailer doesn’t encourage anything special either. Between Chris Pratt delivering cringe worthy lines and some bad special effects, this wasn’t the film’s best foot forward. But whatever, we all know we’re gonna go see it, regardless of shitty trailers so I guess mark this as a win for Universal. We’ll see how much of a “win” it is for audiences in June.
The Fantastic Four: Aug. 7
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Well that’s not encouraging, but it’s the sheer unknown of this product is what intrigues me. There have been rumors of a brutal production and the cast list is unusually short (there are only two characters other than the titular team and their nemesis Doom) which are causes of concern.
On the other hand, the last time a studio showed their superhero before they were ready was “Green Lantern,” so you can hardly blame the studio for waiting until their special effects don’t look like, say, green diarrhea in the audience’s faces. Also, Josh Trank is an emerging talent, responsible for excellent proto-superhero/found footage “Chronicle.” He’s also set to tackle a Star Wars spinoff for 2018.
But, like the examples of first-time directors handed franchise properties cited above, I fear for Trank and the word is not encouraging.
The benefit of the doubt is on this movie’s side – but not for much longer if Fox can’t change the narrative behind the film’s production. Whatever the case, they’ve already scheduled the sequel for June 2017 (with less than two-year-turnaround, this is a suspiciously-similar release cycle to the last two shitty FF films), which right know seems cocky or desperate. We’ll have a better idea when the first footage premieres, supposedly with Feb. 13’s “Kingsman: The Secret Service.”
Fantastic Four trailer description-predication: FOX logo, explosions, stretching, some fire, an ominous monologue. You’re welcome, marketing department. Get your shit together.
Crimson Peak: Oct. 16
Guillermo del Toro is another filmmaker I would happily watch defecate on camera for the sake of art. He’s that intriguing to me. His films sometimes play just as much as celebrations as they do as stories, from the Hellboy films to Pan’s Labyrinth to Pacific Rim. They’re such a hodgepodge of unmistakably del Toro auteurism that it completely encapsulates while films are a director’s medium.
Del Toro returns to an R-rating as well after the cotton-candy color of Pacific Rim (a favorite of mine, thankfully getting a sequel in 2017, proving quality new properties can survive in today’s international marketplace) which is exciting because he can unleash any whim he has.
Del Toro has been more than making up for his unintentional New Zealand sabbatical when he was attached to direct to The Hobbit films (God, I wanted those movies. Justice is dead, people) and he has referred to this one as his first adult English language film. Ticket sold.
Spectre: Nov. 6
Daniel Craig’s Bond is so indomitable, he survived two reboots: the first with the gritty and Bourne-esque Casino Royale which stripped away the bullshit and got to the heart of the James Bond character. We seemed set for a ride into the future . . .
Then Quantum of Solace happened.
After a four-year delay (longest period between films that didn’t involve legal disputes), they came out in 2012 with Skyfall, an unofficial re-reboot which added everything they stripped away in Casino Royale: new Q, new Moneypenny, new M villain lairs, gadgets, the works. If you have an afternoon, watch those two films as a double-feature, and leave out the miserable Quantum of Solace. It proves Joss Whedon’s theory that great sequels are rarely about anything to do with the first film (The Dark Knight being another example, with The Godfather: Part II and The Empire Strikes Back being others) and rarely dependent on bigger explosions and/or battles.
That said, the potential for this film is enormous. After the billion-dollar success of Skyfall, almost the entire team is back behind and in front of the camera, with new additions including Christoph Waltz, Monica Bellucci, David Bautista, Andrew Scott, and Lea Seydoux. With the title and rumors pointing to the return of Bond’s infamous archnemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld, there have been no confirmations, but make no mistake this is huge for the character. Blofeld has been off the table for almost 30 years and was almost certainly dealt a blow through the Dr. Evil character in the Austin Powers films. Whether he can regain the stature he once had in the Bond pantheon is an interesting question for this generation of audiences.
Now the question is this: are we facing another Quantum of Solace, too beholden to previous success to do much of anything, or are we looking at Bond finally getting the sequel he deserves? Whatever the case, the result will be expensive and fascinating to watch.
The Martian: Nov. 25
Ridley Scott, like Tim Burton, is a director who is at a point in their career where they can do pretty much whatever they want. Consequently, they slide into excessive masturbation of their most innate film traits and throwing their product at the audience, like a monkey in a cage. For Burton, it is best summed up here: (video)
For Scott however, his vices never cease to entertain as he is slavish first and foremost to the story he is telling, unlike Burton. His output the last 15-20 years has been prolific but hit-and-miss. Prometheus was fascinating but completely undermined by shitty plotting. The Counselor was fascinating but completely undermined by darkness-induced audience apathy (I remember someone said in my theater “Fuck these people.”) I have not yet seen Exodus: Gods and Kings but its telling that more attention was paid to the “fascinating” parts of the film, and not actually what made it a good story or film itself.
Hopefully with a focused narrative based on a novel, Scott will be able to grasp his storytelling dick again and actually produce some satisfying jizzum for audiences. I apologize that was crude. The term is semen.
The Martian is based on a well-known e-book by Andy Weir that become a NY times bestseller. Matt Damon plays Mark Watney, a stranded astronaut from the first mission to Mars Shockingly, this Robinson-Crusoe-on-Mars-esque story is backed by an impressive ensemble including previously-mentioned Jessica Chastain (this chick knows how to pick movies), Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Kristin Wiig, Sean Bean, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, and Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino. If this film fails, it won’t be for lack of trying. That’s a lot of good actors. Many things point this to being the best Ridley Scott picture in years. That’s something to be excited about.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Dec. 18
Dude, it’s Star Wars. We’re all going to see it.
Mission: Impossible 5: Dec. 25
This is the film I’m really looking forward to this holiday season. I am a big fan of the Mission: Impossible franchise, which has honed in on how to make a sustainable franchise model with a) the biggest global action star in Tom Cruise b) globetrotting spy adventures c) a rotating crew of exciting directors to refresh the material.
Hard to believe in today’s franchise-obsessed marketplace that this is Cruise’s sole franchise, but again, it subverts franchise expectations and confirms Whedon’s advice; these films have hardly anything to do with each other. Very few characters continue along in the films other than Cruise’s Ethan Hunt (although that is thankfully changing with additions in the past of prime actors Simon Pegg and Jeremy Renner, because there’s only so long you can swipe the pieces off the board after every game) and each follows a wildly-different plot filmed in an entirely-different manner to previous. You want nailbiting paranoia? Try the 1996 original. Up for gonzo action? That’s number 2. Looking for some drama, perhaps? They got it in 3. How about some blockbuster stunts? The fourth film has the most by far, including Cruise running down the tallest building in the world.
This film’s director Christopher McQuarrie is an excellent screenwriting (he won an Oscar in 1995 for writing The Usual Suspects) but an average director, compared to animation genius and the sheer fun of Brad Bird. His most recent effort, Jack Reacher, was a good vehicle for Tom Cruise but doesn’t make much of an impact.
More so than any other franchise, this one depends on the director to focus in on the story they’re telling and tell it entertainingly well. With the good will the fourth film engendered, the ball is in McQuarrie’s court to keep Mission: Impossible alive and vibrant. Here’s hoping.