January is the time of year when studios dump films for which they have no other place and try to get audiences to the Oscar nominees instead. Pretty soon we’ll see the ramp up for this year’s best films. With apologies to Guardians of the Galaxy, because I really can’t get that excited to see a tree and a raccoon save the universe when Marvel still doesn’t think a woman’s capable of doing it, these are the thirty movies I’m most excited to see this year:
30. A Fantastic Fear of Everything
February 7 — Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End), mostly in his underwear, stars as a children’s author who is afraid of, well, everything, especially his laundromat. He is tormented by a stuffed hedgehog from his own books. If that doesn’t get you interested in finding out what happens next, I don’t know what would. Watch the trailer here.
29. The Voices
No date set — I remember my first Ryan Reynolds experience, the very questionable Blade: Trinity, in which he out-Parker Posey-ed Parker Posey herself. Since then, he’s made some bad career moves, so I’m excited he’s getting back to the indie circuit. Here, Reynolds plays a far too happy-go-lucky factory worker, as well as voicing the cat who keeps insisting he give into his urge to murder people, and the dog who insists that’s not such a good idea. Also starring Gemma Arterton and Anna Kendrick. Directed by Marjane Satrapi, director of the artful, animated memoir Persepolis…naturally.
December 25 — Angelina Jolie directs a screenplay by the Coen brothers about Olympian Louis Zamperini, who fought in World War 2 and was taken captive by Japanese forces. Jolie is relatively untested as a director, but she’s smartly and decisively managed her own career and has proven a desire to tell challenging stories.
27. The Lunchbox
February 28 — An Indian comedy about an older man and a young housewife who become accidental penpals through Mumbai’s lunchbox delivery system. It stars Irrfan Khan, whose central role in Life of Pi introduced Western audiences to an actor with the rare ability to communicate through the unspoken, quiet spaces between the dialogue. Watch the trailer here.
26. 300: Rise of an Empire
March 7 — The sequel nobody asked for looks much better than it has any right to be. Early trailers make it look like the naval battle of Salamis carries much of the synaesthetic sumptuousness of the first 300. While I expect about as much historical accuracy as my foot, Noam Murro is an incredibly intriguing choice at director, and those trailers also pose the battle as a clash led by queens. Lena Headey returns, and Eva Green looks to be chewing every piece of scenery she can lay her hands on. After the brawny manliness of the first 300, it will be nice to see women just as capable at leading their troops into battle. Watch the trailer here.
25. X-Men: Days of Future Past
May 23 — Bryan Singer fuses his modern and Matthew Vaughn’s First Class X-Men franchises together through the magic of time travel. Starring everybody who’s ever been in an X-Men movie, including Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender as the same character, Jennifer Lawrence and Ellen Page as much bigger deals than in their previous entries in the franchise, and throwing Game of Throne’s Peter Dinklage into the mix because…why wouldn’t you? Watch the trailer here.
24. Under the Skin
April 4 — The director responsible for the uneven Sexy Beast and Birth delivers a movie starring Scarlett Johansson as an alien seductress picking up hitchhikers in Scotland. Wait, what? The trailer looks downright Lynchian, and my favorite David Lynch movies are always the ones he has nothing to do with. Watch the trailer here.
23. Blue Ruin
April 25 — A prisoner is released from jail. The homeless man whose life he ruined sets out for revenge. Things quickly devolve into a contest to see which man can hurt the other more. Watch the trailer here.
22. Jupiter Ascending
July 18 — In the latest Wachowski beat-em-up, the Queen of the Universe targets a lowly Earth girl named Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) for assassination. Why? So we can have an action movie. Well, it’s because Mila Kunis has perfect DNA. So, at least it’s scientifically accurate sci-fi. Her DNA threatens the Queen, so the Queen sends her best assassin (Channing Tatum) for Jupiter’s head and he switches sides. So it’s Snow White and the Huntsman, but in space, and by the Wachowskis, so inevitably better. I’m always in the mood for a swashbuckling planetary romance. Certain parts of the trailer feel clunky and cliché and Tatum and Kunis haven’t proven they can carry this big a film, but the Wachowskis have rarely faltered. Success or failure, it will definitely be event cinema. Watch the trailer here.
21. The Grand Budapest Hotel
March 7 — Wes Anderson continues his campaign to film quirky, period characters exclusively at 90-degree angles, this time in a murder mystery set across the precious, snowy climes of Eastern Europe. I loved making dioramas as a kid, so I’m all in. Watch the trailer here.