We've reached the halfway point in 2015, and it has been a pretty phenomenal year so far. 2015 got off to a slow start, but once May started, the movies got better and it has been a blast ever since. Before I go into my list of the 15 movies that I'm looking forward to for July- December of this year, I want to take a look back at the list that I made last year at the beginning of the year. On December 31 of last year, I published my Top 25 most anticipated films for 2015, along with 10 honorable mentions. I have seen 9 of the 35 movies published on that list already, so it's obvious that there's still a long way to go. But I think that we should still look at what has passed by already, so here are the grades for my anticipated 2015 movies that I've gotten a chance to see already.
Jupiter Ascending- B-
#22- Blackhat- N/A
#18- Tomorrowland- B-
#13- Kingsman: The Secret Service- A
#11- Inside Out- A+
#10- Jurassic World- A
#6- Avengers: Age of Ultron- A
#5- Furious 7- B+
#4- Mad Max: Fury Road- A
So obviously, I've mostly enjoyed the titles that I was looking forward to going into 2015. There haven't been any outright busts yet. Before the end of the year, I'm sure there will be a flick or two that I will be profoundly disappointed by, but it hasn't happened yet. The rest of 2015 promises to be incredibly exciting, and I can't wait to see what we have in store. From incredible IMAX experiences, to violent crime drams, to the return of everybody's favorite spy, and a trip back to the galaxy far, far away, the latter half of 2015 is going to be an exciting adventure. Here are the 15 movies that I'm looking forward to the most, along with some honorable mentions.
SNOWDEN- Directed by Oliver Stone, this one has a lot of promise and with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead, you never know what'll happen. Stone has lost favor with audiences and critics with his last few pictures so let's hope that he gets back on track with this one. DECEMBER 25
STEVE JOBS- This movie went through years of development hell, with Leonardo DiCaprio, Christian Bale and David Fincher all attached at some point. After moving from Columbia to Universal, director Danny Boyle and Michael Fassbender are finally getting the ball rolling on this one, with the hopes that the film will be an Oscar frontrunner. The first teaser was atmospheric and intriguing and I'm definitely interested to see what this one has to offer. OCTOBER 9
AMERICAN ULTRA- A movie that was not on my radar at all for a long time, American Ultra could be a blast of late summer stoner fun. It's hitting in August, where these kinds of movies typically thrive, and it has a great cast and one amazing trailer that completely sold me on the film. This is one of my most anticipated for the rest of summer. AUGUST 21
THE NIGHT BEFORE- If you've seen Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Jonathan Levine's 50/50, you know why I'm excited for this film. With Levine in the director's chair, Rogen has proven that he can work with serious emotional content and do his usual funny bits at the same time. And with a Christmas setting, a cast that includes Lizzy Caplan (who appeared with Rogen in The Interview), Anthony Mackie and Jillian Bell, The Night Before should be a fun and thematically engaging film. NOVEMBER 25
THE WALK- The first trailer for this one really blew me away, and I thought that the second trailer did a good job of highlighting the emotional stakes of the film. This will be an IMAX experience to behold and despite the trepidation over Joseph Gordon-Levitt's accent, I know he'll do a solid job. And also- it's directed by Robert Zemeckis, one of the finest filmmakers in Hollywood. Look for plenty of awards attention for this one. OCTOBER 9
STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON- Although I was more excited for this film earlier in the year, I can't wait to see what looks like an impressive biopic. Clocking in at 147 minutes, this should be a pretty comprehensive look at NWA, the most influential rap group in history and with two impressive trailers, I think we're looking at a pretty big box office hit as well. AUGUST 14
THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.- My excitement started to slip for Guy Ritchie's latest spy flick, but Warner Bros. has been screening it in advance for many critics and that is always a good sign. Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer appear to be having a lot of fun, and it's good to see Alicia Vikander in another big flick after Ex Machina. U.N.C.L.E. might not reach the heights of Kingsman or Spy, but it should be good fun nonetheless. AUGUST 14
Now, for my fifteen most anticipated films.
15. CREED- November 25
I have to admit- after seeing Southpaw, I'm approaching Creed with a bit more trepidation. As I stated in my review, there's not much more that can be done with the boxing movie and I don't know if this Rocky spin-off will be any different. But even if it does end up being another cliched sports drama, Warner Bros. has done one heck of a job selling it so far. The first trailer played off both the grittiness of director Ryan Coogler's vision and the nostalgia of seeing Michael B. Jordan's Adonis Creed train with Rocky Balboa. With Coogler and Jordan in tow, my excitement is high and I'm hoping for a strong franchise starter with this one.
14. CRIMSON PEAK- October 16
After Pacific Rim sent Guillermo del Toro into full-on Transformers mode, he's back to his horror roots with Crimson Peak. The trailers have sold the creepiness factor of this haunted house tale and I'm interested to see what del Toro does with his first American horror film. I recently watched Pan's Labyrinth for the first time, and it only made me more excited to see this film. del Toro has a mastery over mood and tone that is unmatched by most directors and with a strong cast, Crimson Peak should be one of 2015's finest horror films.
13. THE MARTIAN- October 2
Anybody who isn't a little scared about The Martian is a crazy person. Ridley Scott is still one of the most prolific directors in Hollywood, but after Prometheus (not as bad as you remember, but still a bit wild), The Counselor and Exodus (one of the worst movies in recent memory), there's good reason to worry that Scott may have botched The Martian. But after the first trailer, some of my worries have been put to rest. Although it is a bit ironic that Matt Damon is doing another sci-fi movie right after Interstellar (is that still considered a spoiler? Spoiler alert? Whatever), The Martian looks unique and thrilling, like Cast Away with a bigger ensemble. This could be a disaster, but I'm staying optimistic.
12. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE- ROGUE NATION- July 31
I'm seeing this one tomorrow night and I couldn't be more excited. Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol is one of the best action films of the 21st Century and early word on the street is that Tom Cruise and company have created another fine action film with Rogue Nation. Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames and Jeremy Renner are back and the team behind Cruise's Jack Reacher and Edge of Tomorrow wrote and directed the film. If that, combined with the spectacular stunt work and great reviews isn't enough to get you excited, nothing will.
11. SICARIO- September 18 (limited), September 25 (wide)
Denis Villeneuve's Prisoners is a brilliant procedural- smart, chilling and thought provoking in equal measure. After a premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, Villeneuve is returning to theaters with Sicario, a brutal cartel drama. Buzz out of Cannes was good, and the lead trifecta of Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro should provide for some good intensity. Mix that with the Roger Deakins cinematography and the empty desert locales, and you have a movie that should find that blend of thrills and smarts that Prisoners did so, so well.
10. THE END OF THE TOUR- July 31
One of the few Sundance films that has yet to debut in theaters, The End of the Tour looks like the kind of film that will appeal directly to me. Someone recently compared this film to Almost Famous and if that comparison is even slightly accurate, I will absolutely love The End of the Tour. Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg look to be a great pair, and considering how much I adored James Ponsoldt's last movie, The Spectacular Now, I can't see a scenario where I don't fall for this one.
9. IN THE HEART OF THE SEA- December 11
Ron Howard's Rush was one of the finest biopics in recent years, and In the Heart of the Sea should be one of the major Oscar players this year. Originally set to debut in March, I was immediately hooked by the two trailers for the Chris Hemsworth nautical drama, which hinted at a grand, sweeping and intense epic. In the Heart of the Sea should be a great theatrical experience and I'm pumped for another Hemworth-Howard joint production.
8. BRIDGE OF SPIES- October 16
The first Steven Spielberg flick in nearly three years, Bridge of Spies looks to be another fine collaboration between Spielberg and Tom Hanks. The first trailer was taut and suspenseful and I'm unfamiliar with the historical event that the film is based on, which makes this one even more interesting. Lincoln was a bit too talky for my tastes, but Bridge of Spies will hopefully combine that film's smarts with the intensity of a film like Saving Private Ryan. This is definitely shaping up to be another Spielberg classic.
7. JOY- December 25
After the one-two punch of Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle (two of my favorite films), David O. Russell is re-teaming with Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper for Joy, loosely based of the story of Miracle Mop creator and businesswoman Joy Mangano. Judging by the logline for Joy, Russell's latest will be a multi-generational story and it even sounds a little bit like The Godfather, only without the guns and the shootings and stuff. Russell is one of my favorite directors, the first teaser was great and Lawrence and Cooper are a dynamite screen pairing- I literally could not be more excited for this film.
6. THE REVENANT- December 25 (limited), January 8 (wide)
The Revenant looks insane. It looks absolutely, completely bonkers. And everything about it sounds absolutely, completely bonkers. Academy Award winner Alejandro G. Inarritu (who won last year for Birdman) pretty much took Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy and an entire film crew out into the Vancouver wilderness and shot this epic survival tale. Reshoots, budget restrictions, labor complaints and various problems ensued, but when the first trailer debuted, all worries were silenced. This looks majestic and after Birdman, it appears to be a complete 180 for Inarritu. We might not see this one until the last minute, but The Revenant should be on every film lover's must-see list.
5. LEGEND- October 2
As if Mad Max: Fury Road wasn't enough, Tom Hardy is continuing to appear in unique films from directors with vision. Before he heads off to the Canadian wilderness in The Revenant, Hardy will appear in Legend, which is already receiving fantastic early buzz. Playing both Reggie and Ronnie Kray, two London-based gangsters who took over the city in the 1950s, Hardy should be able to show some terrific range and the fact that the film is directed by L.A. Confidential screenwriter Brian Helgeland has me even more excited. Ever since the darkly twisted first teaser hit the web, I've been hooked and I can't wait to see what Hardy, Kingsman breakout Taron Egerton and Helgeland have to offer.
4. BLACK MASS- September 18
2015's other gangster drama, Black Mass is debuting at the Venice Film Festival and should be one of the year's biggest Oscar players. Led by a mesmerizing Johnny Depp, Black Mass has benefited from two great trailers and a terrific supporting cast, which features Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons, Kevin Bacon and more. Depp can be kinda erratic with his performances, but this one could get him an Oscar- terrifying, focused and brilliant so far in the teasers. I'm still not sure whether I'm more excited for Black Mass or Legend, but I have a feeling that Black Mass could be a classic for years to come.
3. THE HATEFUL EIGHT- December 25 (70 MM), January 8 (wide)
It's Quentin Tarantino. What more do I have to say? QT is one of the greatest directors on the planet and every time that he debuts a new film, you just know that it's going to be something special. I recently did a marathon of seven of his eight films (I didn't own Death Proof at the time, but I just fixed that) and it's so impressive to see how his style has evolved over time. Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs are still masterpieces, but with his recent works in the revenge genre, he's only strengthened his energy and filmmaking ability. With many calling The Hateful Eight a return to his Reservoir Dogs roots, only in the Western genre, I can't even imagine how fantastic this film will be.
2. SPECTRE- November 6
Skyfall was the best James Bond film since Goldfinger, and with everyone back, why wouldn't Spectre be just as good or even better? Christoph Waltz is in the mix this time, Mr. White and some of the loose ties from Casino Royale are coming back into the picture, and Sam Mendes is still in the director's chair. Rumors of a ballooning budget and script issues are troubling and the second trailer wasn't quite as perfect as the first teaser, but in all honesty, nothing can dim my excitement for this film. I love James Bond films and Spectre will hopefully be in the upper ranks of the series in regards to quality.
1. STAR WARS: EPISODE VII- THE FORCE AWAKENS- December 18
I don't think I've ever been so excited for a movie. That isn't even an overstatement at all. It might actually be an understatement. I'm so incredibly pumped for Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens that I don't even know where to begin. JJ Abrams and co. have shown us so little from this film that we've had to grab onto every little detail that we can find, making for a fun and frustrating journey over the last few months. But what we've seen has been oh-so-promising. The Force Awakens looks like a return to the Star Wars franchise that we know and love, and with a mix of old and new faces, this should be a nostalgia trip that blazes a promising path for a new generation. The cultural event of the year will come on December 18 and I simply cannot wait to open Abrams' mystery box.
Those are my top fifteen most anticipated movies for the rest of the year, along with the honorable mentions. There are some other films that I'm looking forward to, but these are the big ones. I'll be back later this week with reviews of Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation, Pixels and more.