Tag Archives: movies 2015

Most Anticipated Movies of 2015: Bollywood Boxing, Argentine Vampires, Go Team Spader — #30-21

Mary Kom starring Priyanka Chopra

by Gabriel Valdez

Yesterday, we tackled 10 films and talked about everything from diversity in action movies to a burgeoning influx of Tom Hardy roles. Today, Thor’s on a boat, I wonder why the “best actors of their generations” are always considered men, and I have a theory about Ridley Scott.


It’s hard to watch a non-Marvel Chris Hemsworth film and not think, “Why’s Thor fighting North Koreans?” or “What’s Thor doing in that race car?” or “How did Thor get on that 1820s sailing vessel?” He always delivers solid performances, they’re just all a little similar. I like him, but the jury’s still out on his acting. Maybe this is the project to break that mold – In the Heart of the Sea is based on the true story of the Essex, the first whaling ship sunk by a whale. Director Ron Howard is usually at his best when telling offbeat adventure tales, and you’ve got something that’s built for Hemsworth to be physically engaged throughout. Trailers clearly show the loudest, most awe-inspiring moments, but it’ll be the quiet ones in between that make or break a film like this.

While the wreck of the Essex served as the inspiration for Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick, we tend to treat the idea of whales attacking sailing vessels as science-fictional. To the contrary, whales attacked whaling ships every few years. To think such a social and intelligent species didn’t put two and two together, and consciously seek to combat their hunters, is to ignore a glaringly obvious piece of recorded history. I’m particularly curious how they speak about that reality in the lead-up to the film. December 11.

Carol Blanchett


I remember when the very forgettable The Score came out, everyone kept talking about Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, and Edward Norton joining forces as “the best actors of three generations.” All I could think was, “Wait, Meryl Streep’s in it?”

We tend to think of the best actors of their generations as men, so if I call Carol the meeting of the best actors of two generations, please don’t be surprised when I tell you I’m talking about Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett. See, it’s 1950s New York. Mara plays a clerk at a department store. She dreams of bettering her situation, and falls for a married woman played by Cate Blanchett.

That’s intriguing enough, but the director of all this is Todd Haynes. Safe. Velvet Goldmine. Far From Heaven. I’m Not There.

It’s also adapted by Phyllis Nagy from a Patricia Highsmith novel, whose work has been adapted before into Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley, among other films. That gives her work an incredibly good cinematic track record. It’s attracted a diverse array of directors over the years, but Todd Haynes might be the most unpredictable of them all. It remains to be seen what Carol looks like in the end. All that behind it, and how can you not be excited? No date set.


This has been making the festival rounds, and Desiree Akhavan’s feature debut feels like one of the few comedies I’m truly excited for this year. The story of a Persian bisexual caught between what her culture tells her to be and what our culture tells her to be…it speaks in certain ways to cultural issues I’ve struggled with. Sometimes you can be good at inhabiting the identities you’re told to without feeling like any of them are are perfect fits for you. That can be cultural, sexual, social, even academic – it can take shape any number of ways.

That’s been the social struggle of my generation. The Americana answer of the 80s and 90s told us the solution was partying: women, cars, and money as rites of passage. Everybody find their place in that hierarchy or it’s just you who’s to blame. That’s only ever been salve for a symptom, ignoring and exacerbating the underlying problem. There’s a reason identity comedies have become the comedic voice of this particular generation, much as they were in the 60s. Identity isn’t something to be cured and normalized, like a cancer that needs to be cut out. It’s less broadly cultural now, more individualized. These comedies aren’t trying to give advice to the masses the ways 80s and 90s comedies (many of which I love) did. They’re simply transmitting personal stories in the hope of finding common ground. January 16/Out now/You’ll probably have to wait to DVD to have a realistic chance of seeing it.

Mockingjay Jennifer Lawrence


And I thought Untitled Cameron Crowe Defense Industry Romance was an unwieldy title. Look, it’s the end of a franchise that’s had a lot to say along the way. I haven’t read the books, so I have no idea what’s coming. Some people didn’t enjoy the third film. It wasn’t what I expected, but it settled into the world, its characters, and its internal politics in a way the other films hadn’t. That I enjoyed. Even though it was a little less exciting, it was also a little less broadly goofy. It felt important, but it also felt like it was building toward something far more relevant.

I’m not as concerned with how Peeta’s brain gets saved as I am with what happens to Panem and what Katniss, President Snow, and President Coin all have to say to each other at the end. November 20.


That’s right. It’s in the #26 spot. (And Ant-Man isn’t even on this list, because that trailer looked awful.) It’s behind a historical drama about a painting, starring Helen Mirren. Look, this isn’t a knock on Avengers. It beat out 150+ other films that didn’t make it to #26. My biggest worry is that, after the realizations that were two Marvel films that were really about something – Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy – we’re in for another beat-em-up. I like my beat-em-ups, especially when Joss Whedon is helming them, and Avengers 2 could have a very important message. It just hasn’t hinted what that message might be yet, so it’s sitting in the middle of the top 40. Nothing wrong with that. I also thought Guardians was going to be a disaster, not a lovely piece of emotive space opera. I’m just careful about overrating Marvel movies before I see them, particularly when Robert Downey Jr. (much as I like him) threatens to take over any individual film he stars in.

That and I’ll probably be rooting for James Spader as the villain. Why? He’s James Spader. It’s a life decision. Frankly, I’m shocked and disappointed that the rest of you will probably be rooting against him. I really expected more from you guys. Sorry, Avengers. Go Team Spader! May 1.


One of the most forgotten movies of the year – well, by critics, since audiences made it a success – was The Monuments Men. It was loosely based around a real-world team of art historians who tracked down French and Jewish art stolen by the Nazis. The German army had orders to destroy the art as they were pushed back in the closing days of World War 2. It was the job of these art historians to discover where the art was being kept and get to it before the Germans could do this. That film is half the story.

The other half is the art that never was found, that made it into private German and Austrian collections, never to be seen by its rightful owners again. Woman in Gold tells this side of the story. Helen Mirren plays a Jewish refugee who tracks down a Gustav Klimt painting that once belonged to her family. In a very un-Ryan Reynolds-like role, Ryan Reynolds plays the lawyer who decides to take on her case and fight the Austrian government for the painting. It will be interesting to see how they handle the complicated history of the painting and what was done with it after the whole affair was settled. April 3.


An Argentinian vampire film about a shy, young woman who becomes more confident, outgoing, and bloodthirsty once she…well, I don’t want to spoil anything, but it is a vampire film. It’s been getting raves for its atmosphere and beautiful cinematography on the horror festival circuit, and Argentinian horror is an industry still finding its footing and community. No date set.

Child 44 Tom Hardy Noomi Rapace

23. CHILD 44

What’d I tell you yesterday? 2015 is the year of the Cold War thriller. This one stars Noomi Rapace, Gary Oldman, and…. No. No, it can’t be. I thought we were done with him.

It’s…it’s Tom Hardy, you guys. He’s back. And this time, he’s Russian!

Child 44 takes place in Stalin’s Soviet Russia, and follows a disgraced investigator (Hardy) who must navigate corrupt orphanages, decrepit mental hospitals, and the secret police in order to track down a mass murderer.

It’s based on the novel by Tom Rob Smith, which is apparently the author’s real name and totally not a super-generic deep cover. April 17.

Ridley Scott on Prometheus set


Movies that include stranded astronauts facing dire circumstances have gotten a huge boost from Gravity and Interstellar. Unfortunately, movies that take place in deserts and directed by Ridley Scott took a hit with Exodus: Gods and Kings. Throwing the two together makes…I’m not sure what exactly. Me nervous, mostly.

Based on the novel, the concept of an astronaut (played by Matt Damon, no less) having to jury-rig his own survival on Mars – that should shoot to the top of this list. But Scott, legend that he is, has been anything but consistent lately. He still puts forward beautiful movies, but he doesn’t make them matter as much as the audience would like to care for them. It leaves a strange empathy gap between a willing audience and movies that put the effort into everything but connecting.

Scott’s always let actors do what they want, preferring to focus on the design and technical portions of a film. This has given us flat performances by stellar actors ranging from Julianne Moore (Hannibal) to Christian Bale (Exodus). It’s also given us career-best performances from Nicolas Cage (Matchstick Men) and Noomi Rapace (Prometheus). Hell, Russell Crowe owes part of his career to the five films he’s made with Ridley Scott. What a Scott films turns into depends entirely on its actors’ abilities to work in beautifully realized spaces with some of the least direction for acting they’ll ever get in their lives. The more green-screen used, the faster the story is told, and the faster scenes whip by one to the next, the less opportunity those actors have to stretch their arms out into a space and exist in it as their characters. So I’m very nervous for The Martian, which could rely on green-screen, or take place entirely in fabricated sets, depending on how you decide to film it. November 25.


India has a rape epidemic. That isn’t to say other countries – including the United States – don’t have their own, as well. One of the most important aspects of addressing issues of inequality and marginalization is to tell the kinds of stories that aren’t being told, that champion the subjugated and offer them examples of strength. Mary Kom has hardly solved such a large issue on its own, but as part of a greater movement that crosses art, politics, and a melting pot of cultures, it is a piece of the puzzle. As more movies like this are made, they begin to define a battle that takes place between a country’s civil rights and its status quo.

So to you and me, Mary Kom may play into Bollywood narrative tropes that seem melodramatic or overwrought, but Mary Kom isn’t made for you and me. That’s what makes it more interesting – films like this aren’t just about the narrative on-screen, they’re also about the narrative off-screen. They’re a chance to witness and have just a glimpse of greater understanding into how and why another culture is telling certain stories today. That’s an incredibly special opportunity, and it makes Mary Kom – based on the true story of a female Indian boxer who won multiple world championships, but was barely known in her own country – a very important movie.

It’s a film that has – since its Indian release – effected rulings of discrimination by Bombay’s governmental authority on sports, and that has inspired a dance style that helps teach women how to defend themselves. Pirated copies have flooded Kom’s home region of Manipur, which bans Hindi films from the theaters and has a long history of suppressing women’s equality. In these ways, it may be one of the most important films in terms of women’s rights of the past year.

So I don’t care if the boxing looks a little stiff or the plot looks a little trite. I care that I can watch something that is rare and special in the effect it can have in the world. Some of the best, most classic films can’t say they do that. And there is a certain feeling of awe when watching films that demonstrate the ability to effect change in the real world that all the best cinematography and Oscar-winning acting can’t match. Out now/Available on DVD.

Keep an eye out as we count down the top 20.

If you want to see yesterday’s choices, here they are.

Most Anticipated Movies of 2015: Cameron Crowe, Patrick Stewart, & The Tom Hardy Dream — #40-31

Tom Hardy Legend

by Gabriel Valdez

I have a problem: Nearly all the “Most Anticipated” lists I come across seem to be countdowns of which 2015 movies have the largest budgets. The top few are always the same: Avengers, Star Wars, Jurassic World, Spectre, Mission: Impossible. I’m looking forward to all these sequels, sure, but how many critics do you think will really put those films in their year-end Top 10s? How many will turn around mid-year and write the ridiculous argument that Hollywood is dying because of sequels and remakes?

My biggest problem with these lists is that none of them include movies made by women, foreign films, or horror. Few of them include very diverse films. No sci-fi is included unless $200 million was spent putting giant robots in it. I’m not saying there should be a quota. I’m just saying that, in the current system, if you don’t do your research, everyone’s going to be listing the same films you’ve already seen 80 trailers for.

I’d rather see personal lists than budget countdowns. I’ve got two sequels or remakes in my Top 20 Most Anticipated Films, and I’m not even someone who has anything against sequels and remakes. I happen to think they’re not killing Hollywood and that, if you look at the history of film, those two things have been around almost as long as movies have. The years 1908-1910 saw a franchise of no less than six Sherlock Holmes movies made. The Fall of a Nation was the first big-budget studio sequel, in 1916. The Wizard of Oz was made on film more than two dozen times before we got to the “original” Judy Garland version that we often claim any remake of is tantamount to sacrilege. Let’s not even mention Romeo and Juliet or A Christmas Carol.

I know I’m arguing for both sides here, but when every Most Anticipated list names the same exact movies, and it feels like there’s a budget requirement for being on the list in the first place, it just doesn’t feel like those lists are digging very deep or telling you anything you don’t already know. In which case: what’s the point of the damn list?

I’ll tell you three big films that are missing from my list, and why: Jurassic World? I’ve seen the original Jurassic Park more than 80 times. (I like to think I’m Orson Welles when he watched Stagecoach dozens of times in a row.) But the Jurassic World trailer, while showing off some pretty sights, also looks like it’s advertising a really bad movie.

Spectre? Of all the Daniel Craig James Bonds, Skyfall is the only one I feel no need to revisit. Director Sam Mendes is as talented as it gets, but he was given a franchise in which he let his most egregious sensibilities and blatant misogyny shine through. Yeah, I get it: Sam Mendes really hates women. If I wanted to see that in my Bond again, I’d pop in some late-era Roger Moore. I look at Spectre and it feels like a chore of rehashing extinct clichés and attitudes without any awareness as to how the world’s changed. We already have 20 James Bond movies like that. It stops being interesting. I thought we’d moved on.

Mission: Impossible V? I’m really excited for it, but every M:I film brings a new director and a whole new style. I admire that approach to making sequels, but it also means I have a wait-and-see attitude to each new entry.

So what is on the list? Let’s talk about the first ten entries:


“Hah, what a hypocrite!” you’re thinking. But as up and down as this franchise is, let me tell you something about why it does so well: Vin Diesel. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Michelle Rodriguez. Jordana Brewster. Tyrese Gibson. Sung Kang. Ludacris. Now Nathalie Emmanuel. Here are African-American, Polynesian, Hispanic, and Korean action heroes – many of them women – who aren’t just sidekicks, but are leads. Maybe the Fast & Furious franchise wouldn’t be as much fun to watch if we had other films where these kinds of characters could avenge and assemble, but without those other films, this is the franchise that gives us the big-budget heroes a good number of us don’t get anywhere else.

Add in that this entry is directed by Malaysian-born horror director James Wan, who’s given us both Insidious and The Conjuring, and my interest is well piqued. And that’s before we even talk about this being the last film for the late Paul Walker, an actor many admired just as much for his humanity as for what he did on-screen.


One film you’ve heard of, one you haven’t is a good way to start. Winter Sleep is a Turkish movie directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, whose previous work is nothing short of stunning. It concerns an aging actor at odds with his younger wife and his recently divorced sister, and what those relationships become when trapped together for the winter in the hotel they run. The beautiful-looking film won a Palme d’Or at Cannes and the Directing award at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards. No North American release date is set.

The Man From Uncle


Many of us wrote Guy Ritchie off as a flash in the pan after his passion project Swept Away with his then-wife Madonna. That was 2002. In 2008, he reannounced himself into the genre of British low gangster comedy he helped to create, adding RocknRolla to a resume that included Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch.

Then came his two Sherlock Holmes movies starring Robert Downey Jr. Hilarious, a bit creepy, and surprisingly artful, these were Ritchie finally finding his groove. Now comes The Man from UNCLE, and the opportunity to see what Ritchie does to the Cold War in the 1960s feels too good to pass up. Starring Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer as a CIA and KGB agent forced to work together, one might expect the same sort of semi-married couple banter he gave to Holmes and Watson. August 14.


Any fan of Star Trek has to admit that, even in his 40s, Patrick Stewart was always a bit stiff. He found great nuance and emotion in that stodginess, but dear god, he was proper. The opportunity to see him stretch his wings outside of the role of a strict yet endearing father figure seems rather rare. In this adaptation of the Broadway play, Stewart plays a Juilliard dance professor who is approached by a young couple (Carla Gugino and Matthew Lillard, both vastly underrated). They want to interview him, but it becomes clear that they have other motives in mind, and a complicated three-way tug-of-war over obsessions both past and present begins to develop. January 14/Already out, but good luck finding it.


If you were dying at an old age, and had the opportunity to take over the body of someone younger, relive life with all the advantages of youth once more, would you do it? Comedies take away the responsibility by having you transport into your own, younger self, and relive life with the lessons you know now. But what if that younger person was someone else alive today?

Starring Ben Kingsley, Ryan Reynolds, Michelle Dockery, and Matthew Goode, this wouldn’t make the list on its own. But you put a director like Tarsem Singh on board, and his unparalleled (yet very hit-or-miss) visual sense suddenly threatens to take this into unexpected territory. Toss in a mystery about where the younger body comes from and a secret society and suddenly it all makes perfect Tarsem sense. July 31.

Since there are no trailers or promotional images yet, above is the trailer for Tarsem’s masterpiece and the Official Best Movie You’ve Never Seen: The Fall. If you love cinema, it’s a movie you cannot pass up.

St James Place Spielberg Hanks


Well, if Tarsem is the director from whom you never know what to expect, Steven Spielberg is the director in whom you can always rely. Teaming up with Tom Hanks in a surprisingly under-the-radar cold war spy thriller, there’s only one thing that gives me pause. And that is, surprisingly, the Coen Brothers, who co-wrote the screenplay with Matt Charman. Simply put, their last effort on Unbroken was abominable, and no director was forced to do more to save a film from its screenplay last year than Angelina Jolie.

A shoddy effort like that for Spielberg, and no one’s going to be blaming the director anymore. The Coens have a phenomenal track record, but they were the one thing holding Unbroken back, and they were doing it in historic style. So let’s hope they shape up here, because the idea of a classically Coen-written, Spielberg-directed, Hanks-starring thriller is awfully tempting.

It may or may not be named St. James Place when it finally comes out on October 16.

Untitled Cameron Crowe Bradley Cooper Emma Stone


Just savor that description above: “Untitled Cameron Crowe Defense Industry Romance.” What? In my heart of hearts, I imagine a reality in which that’s the actual title they release the film under. It stars Bradley Cooper as a military contractor who falls for his Air Force overseer. It co-stars three of the best film comedians working today: Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, and some guy named Bill Murray, as well as Alec Baldwin and John Krasinski.

From the writer-director of Almost Famous and We Bought a Zoo, it’s too soon to tell if it’ll take on the defense industry the same way Crowe once took on the professional sports industry in Jerry Maguire. But Crowe, and that cast? And a movie which leaked Sony e-mails (the gift that keeps on giving) reveals made studio heads extremely nervous? Sign me way the hell up. May 29.


From David Robert Mitchell comes a low budget horror movie that’s been earning comparisons to John Carpenter’s best work on the festival circuit. Even the trailer is creepy by way of being smart. The conceit at the center plays like The Ring: Something horrific follows you and makes your life hell until you pass it along to someone else. Yet it plays the passing of that conceit into metaphorical date rape territory, and in so doing begins to speak about a horror that’s just as cultural and personal, not just supernatural. That’s the kind of thing that gets under your skin, that turns a horror movie from cliché fun to, in the words of David Fincher, “movies that scar.”

I’m always interested in the movies that seek to scar and have a reason for doing so, because they can confront audiences in a way other movies aren’t allowed. Horror often allows the best opportunity to do that. March 27.

Legend Hardy and Hardy


If 2015 in movies is about one thing, it’s cold war spy thrillers. If it’s about two things, it’s cold war spy thrillers and gangster movies. So how about a cold war gangster movie? You see, identical twins are terrorizing 1950s London. They’re played by Tom Hardy and Tom Hardy. Yes, there are two Tom Hardys.

Moving on, it also stars- yes, I said two Tom Hardys. But the film’s also about- I’m sorry, did you ask if they both take their shirts off? I…well, I don’t know. But Emily Browning is a powerhouse Australian actress who’s been making- yes, I’m sure he speaks in that sexy, Tom Hardy accent. But I look forward to seeing director Brian Helgeland’s realization of London. After A Knight’s Tale and 42, he’s shown – do the two Tom Hardys kiss? They’re twins! Get your mind out of the gutter! Legend offers – no, I don’t know if there’s a poster with both of them on it. Do they have a flexing competition?!? They’re gangsters, they- do they have hearts of gold that make them worth saving? I’m telling you what I know, it’s – oh, forget it. All your Tom Hardy dreams come true on October 2.


Moving on to Colin Firth, thank god, Kingsman: The Secret Service looks – are there two Colin Firths in this? No! There’s just one Colin Firth and he’s, like, 100 years old and acting stodgy now. The single Colin Firth that stars in this movie works for an Avengers (think British Avengers)-like outfit that goes on secret missions that require them to save the world by riffing on the most ridiculous James Bond tropes. It’s directed by Matthew Vaughn, who saved the X-Men franchise, and – perhaps more importantly – it’s written with Jane Goldman, Vaughn’s partner-in-crime whose name no one knows despite adapting Stardust, Kick-Ass, and X-Men: First Class all into really good screenplays for Vaughn to direct.

My one worry for Kingsman is that it seems like all the heroes are able Caucasian stereotypes, while the villains are played by Samuel L. Jackson with a lisp and an amputee with blade legs. Could maybe change that up just a hair, but I don’t want to presume too much before I’ve actually seen the thing. February 13.

Stay tuned for our top 30.