Movies I Wanna See Most: 2015

I can't help but feel I don't know enough to be making such a list as this anymore. Every year I go through the upcoming years slate of planned movie releases and come up, pretty easily, with ten or so films I'm genuinely excited to see and again, this year, that has been no problem. My issue with a list such as this is there is no way to go through each possible release or even know about every release in the way that a movie might come to light during the course of the year and becomes something you wish you might have highlighted way back when, that you knew about and held expectations for simply because it's nice to be "in the know". That sounds a little crazy and a little ridiculous, I realize, but it is easy to go through and say what blockbusters you are most excited to see in any given year, but you only wish you knew that there might be a Birdman or a Whiplash sneak up on you and blow you away. Then again, I'll just convince myself I actually enjoy the element of surprise and wait to see what gems 2015 currently has tucked away. To both points, I've attempted to go through and double check with some of my favorite directors and actors to see what, if anything, they might have on their slate for this year so as to hopefully surprise a few people with this list and not just satisfy/underwhelm folks who see another list where The Avengers and Star Wars take the cake. From my most anticipated list of 2014 three films made my year-end top ten. From my most anticipated list of 2013 one film made it, so I guess that could be taken as a good sign if there is any correlation to be found at all. Furthermore, 2014 seemed like a really solid year when looking back despite it feeling easier than ever to craft a top ten. There were a few exceptional films, but there seemed an abundance of more than solid features that are just as worthy for someone else's favorite films of the year. If 2015 is anything like it, we'll be in for a great crop of flicks (the best of which I likely don't even know about yet).

The Fantastic Four

I feel a little alone on this one and it could end up being my riskiest pick given the quality could really go either way. I genuinely enjoyed director Josh Trank's 2012 feature debut Chronicle centering around three high school friends who gain superpowers only making his interpretation of The Fantastic Four all the more intriguing. Interpretation is the key word here though as much has been made about the altering of the Marvel comics universe. The official synopsis for the film tells of how this is most definitely a contemporary re-imagining of Marvel’s original and longest-running superhero team. Trank's version will center on four young outsiders who teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe, which alters their physical form in shocking ways. Their lives irrevocably upended, the team must learn to harness their daunting new abilities and work together to save Earth from a former friend turned enemy. There has been much made of Toby Kebbell revealing his Doctor Doom is now an anti-social computer programmer and I'm sure more will unnecessarily come of the fact Johnny Storm is now African-American, but I can't help but think everything from the low-key marketing so far to the bad press it's already receiving for making so many changes will only help but to make this an even greater success when and if it turns out to be even pretty good. My fingers are crossed Trank has a solid trick up his sleeve. (8/7)

The Sea of Trees

The McConaissance has calmed considerably, but Matt McConaughey himself seems to have no intention of slowing things down or resorting to more mainstream films after starring in the pinnacle of the thinking mans blockbuster in 2014. In many ways, McConaughey is modeling himself on the Brad Pitt theory of working with the well-known and reliable directors that might offer the more diverse and unique experiences. With The Sea of Trees McConaughey teams for the first time with Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting, Milk) in a film co-starring Ken Watanabe and Naomi Watts about a man who enters the “Suicidal Forest” in Mount Fuji with the intention of taking his own life. He is interrupted by a Japanese man who is having second thoughts about his own suicide and the two begin a journey of reflection and survival. That synopsis makes this sound like quite the existential, contemplative journey and I can only imagine McConaughey will apply the same kind of mythical facade to his character as he did in Mud and that would be just fine by me. This is the first of many examples on this list where credentials get you a long way given not much is known about or has been seen of the film. I've loved seeing McConaughey turn his career around and as long as he continues to make interesting choices I'll be happy to follow wherever he decides to go.

Knight of Cups

Any time Terrence Malick decides to make (or at this point, release) a film I feel an unflinching loyalty in wanting to see what beauty the director might have crafted this time around. Since 2012 it has been known Malick shot two separate films and yet neither have seen a theatrical release. It was only earlier this month that we learned one of the two, titled Knight of Cups, would be getting its premiere at the Berlin Film Festival in February presumably followed by a theatrical release later in the year. A trailer was also released and while the elusive filmmaker has hued fairly close to the same style and textures over the course of his last few projects this looks distinctly different in its busier tone and chaotic imagery. The synopsis tells of a story concerning a young prince whose father, the king of the East, sent him down into Egypt to find a pearl and upon finding that pearl falls into a deep sleep and forgets he is the son of a king and that Christian Bale's character is told this story as a child who I'm sure will embark on a similar journey while conveying the larger themes Malick has chosen to explore in this piece. The film is also said to star Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Antonio Banderas, and Brian Dennehy, but of course we'll never know who all makes the cut until we see the final cut of the film.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Okay, time for an admission: I've never seen any of the previous Mad Max films. I received a fair amount of Best Buy gift cards for Christmas though and so I can go ahead and purchase the blu-ray collection of the first three films for $25.00 and catch up before the release of Fury Road. Director George Miller will continue his series with the fourth film in the franchise exactly thirty years after Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome hit theaters. So, not knowing exactly what the story is or even how the new film might tie in with the others why would I even remotely be excited you wonder? Two words: that trailer. After premiering at Comic Con this past summer the nearly three-minute introduction/re-introduction to Miller's post-apocalyptic wasteland blew the hinges off anything you thought you knew and/or all that you thought you'd seen before. With the likes of not only Tom Hardy but both Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult looking unrecognizable Miller teased what looks to be the most delicious of visual feasts. The films production was delayed multiple times with weather playing a large role, casting changes were made due to schedule changes in the shoot and multiple re-shoots have reportedly taken place none of which bode well fro the final product, but with the footage we've seen so far you can't help but hope for the best. The film is set in the furthest reaches of our planet, in a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, and most everyone is crazed fighting for the necessities of life. Within this world exists two rebels on the run (Hardy and Theron) who just might be able to restore order. (5/15)

The Light Between Oceans

Michael Fassbender certainly takes advantage of his time between X-Men movies as 2015 will see Fassbender in not only my number sixteen pick, but at least three other features. While Slow West (written and directed by John Maclean), Tresspass Against Us (directed by Adam Smith and co-starring Brendan Gleeson) and a new version of Macbeth (co-starring Marion Cotillard and directed by Justin Kurzel who will also helm Assassin's Creed with Fassbender) all sound interesting in some fashion or another, but it is the latest from director Derek Cianfrance that really entices. Cianfrance has previously made the gut-wrenching Blue Valentine and the family epic The Place Beyond the Pines, the latter of which was one of my favorites of 2013, and so to have another of his films on the horizon is a real treat. The Light Between Oceans is the debut novel of author M.L. Stedman about a lighthouse keeper and his wife living off the coast of Western Australia who raise a baby they rescue from an adrift rowboat. Fassbender will play the lighthouse keeper while Alicia Vikander will play his wife. Rachel Weisz has also joined the cast and while, at the present time, the film doesn't have a release date it is the one book I will add to my ever expanding "to read" list that I would hope to finish before seeing the film. I am a big fan Cianfrance's previous effort and enjoy the emotional weight he packs into every aspect of his films and while I have no familiarity with this source material I imagine he wouldn't have chosen to adapt it did it not have a strong emotional affect on him and one he'd like to parlay through his visual medium.

Trainwreck

Judd Apatow seems to be up to something fairly big with his fifth feature. Though his last two films did not receive the acclaim of his first two, I was a big fan of both as Apatow seems to want to do for comedy what Christopher Nolan does for mainstream blockbusters. His movies are large in length, deep in character and entrusted with themes bigger than just those intended to make people laugh. Apatow is telling human stories and including the humor so often involved, but so difficult to naturally convey in the most genuine way he knows how and, if nothing else, he should be applauded for the effort. With his latest film, Trainwreck, he tackles his first directing project where he is not also the writer of the material. That duty was handled by Amy Schumer (Comedy Central's Inside Amy Schumer) who also serves as the star of the film. Schumer describes the film as being heavily inspired by her own real-life experiences and revolves around “a commitment-averse woman trying to get past her self-sabotaging ways.” Besides Schumer the rest of the cast includes Bill Hader, Tilda Swinton, Brie Larson, Daniel Radcliffe, Colin Quinn, Mike Birbiglia, LeBron James, and Method Man. For me, though I'm not overly familiar with Schumer's style of comedy or any of her previous work, it is exciting to see Apatow giving up some of his creative control andallowing other influences into his process which might end up providing him with better critical reception while Schumer officially breaks into the big time with this major studio comedy. Here's hoping it turns out half as good as it promises to be. (7/24)

The Martian

People seem to always be waiting for Ridley Scott to make a sequel to one of his early successes and yet Scott seems to go on making films for himself, on his own terms with such proficiency his more recent filmography is really beginning to suffer. Every now and then he'll manage both a critical and commercial success, but out of his last ten or so features I'd say two probably made a wide enough profit to justify the amount of money this guy spends. His latest feature, Exodus: Gods and Kings, was made for $140 million and after almost three weeks of release has only accumulated $150 million worldwide and that budget likely doesn't account for the massive marketing campaign this thing carried. Sure, it's technically in the black, but is anyone making any money off this thing? and to boot, the reviews were less than stellar so why even bother hoping that what the director decides to do next might be any good? Well, because the guy keeps things interesting and his nextfilm, which is already in production, is an adaptation of an e-book by author Andy Weir and tells the tale of an astronaut who becomes stranded on Mars and must make his way back home. Matt Damon is attached to lead the pic while his supporting cast that includes Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Peña and Donald Glover is nothing less than stellar. Drew Goddard (Cabin in the Woods) was initially set up to direct the project before he was forced to drop out due to scheduling conflicts, but he finished what I assume is the shooting script only lending the project a little more credibility. It is about time Scott was due for another of those hits among his peers and among his fans and The Martian seems just enough up his alley to make good on those returns. (11/25).

Tomorrowland

Director Brad Bird's (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) next live action feature, Tomorrowland, has been brewing for quite some time and with only a short, cryptic teaser to go off of at the moment it makes the 2015 summer movie season only feel that much further off. The screenplay comes from Lost co-creator and head scribe Damon Lindelof and has been kept under wraps for the better part of what feels like forever. I am eagerly anticipating the film not only for the reasons that Bird has done nothing but prove himself time and time again (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Ratatouille all belong to him as well) but also because of Lindelof. While I know I'm in the minority I appreciate most of his work and his approach to mystery (seriously, check out his commentary on Prometheus). Lindelof certainly knows how to bring an audience into a world so let's just hope he has worked on nailing the landing this time. Bird and co-writer Jeff Jensen also helped with the script and cite Close Encounters of the Third Kind as a point of reference while also stating that the film is not heavily plot driven. In interviews Lindelof refers to it as a pure discovery movie. This is rather exciting as it clearly presents an interesting world to be discovered and that it will actually take the time to explore that world rather than allowing itself to become wrapped up in a standard plot is really refreshing. The film stars George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie, Tim McGraw, Kathryn Hahn, Judy Greer and Keegan-Michael Key in what I can only imagine will be a refreshing diversion from the super heroes and sequels that will crowd the majority of that summer movie season. (5/22)

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2

One of the few major movies I missed in 2014 was The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (which is a ridiculous title and will henceforth be referred to as Mockingjay) due to my daughter being born a few weeks before its release and my wife and I having something of a relationship with the series given she introduced me to the books long before they were blockbusters. I'll get around to it eventually, but unfortunately I hear I didn't miss much as Part 1 is more a placeholder and a precursor than anything else. I wondered how they might split what was the least interesting book in the series into two parts, especially when it was the same length as the first two books in the series, but where there is money to be made, producers will find a way. To be honest, I'm not sure what I expect from the finale, but I know once I re-watch Catching Fire and get around to Mockingjay's introduction that I'll likely be wrapped up in this world again and ready to see what the conclusion brings. New director Francis Lawrence truly delivered a vast improvement in that second installment and so I am anxious to see what he did with the remainder of his time in Panem as he returned to direct both parts of this broken finale simultaneously. (11/20)

Black Mass

It was hard for me to decide between including either this film on the list or director John Hillcoat's latest, Triple Nine, about a group of corrupt police officers who are blackmailed into pulling off a seemingly impossible heist. I really enjoyed Lawless even if The Road ended up being a bit underwhelming and the film features an insane cast with Kate Winslet, Aaron Paul, Norman Reedua and Chiwitel Ejiofor just to name a few. Ultimately though, and while still heavily interested in Triple Nine, I had to go with the third feature from director Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace). Black Mass tells the true story of Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp), the brother of a state senator and the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who became an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf. I simply love movies like this: period pieces, crime sagas with a tone you can already smell just from reading the synopsis and a cast of great talent playing the story up to its highest potential. I was a big fan of Crazy Heart and was on the loving side of Furnace when it came and went quietly at the end of 2013. I've actually re-watched that film two more times or so since buying it and the starkness of it blows me away every time. Cooper knows how to elicit an atmosphere and in attempting his first period piece, that will be key to his success. Besides Depp the film will also feature Benedict Cumberbatch as Bulger's brother as well as Sienna Miller, Joel Edgerton, Juno Temple, Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, Corey Stoll, Adam Scott, Peter Sarsgaard, Julianne Nicholson and Jesse Plemons. Consider me hooked. (9/18)

Pitch Perfect 2

Say what you will, but I base a lot of how much I love movies on their re-watchability factor and between my wife and I we've probably seen the first Pitch Perfect about eleventeen thousand times. It is a solid comedy and features more than its fair share of little moments that will make there way onto t-shirts in a few years when the next generation doesn't even fully understand the reference. The first film was something of a lightning in a bottle experience. Nobody really expected anything from it, but it amassed such a loyal following and exploded in home video sales to the point that in two short years it is already a mainstay at slumber parties and in female dorm rooms. It is simply one of those times when the stars align and everything falls into place as good as can be expected. The Barden Bellas are now a cultural mainstay while the film also allowed for Anna Kendrick to officially carve out her spot in the celebrity landscape and not to mention, score a hit song. While it feels like somewhat of a risk to possibly tarnish the reputation of the original by making a sequel there is also plenty of reasons to be optimistic about part two. For starters, Elizabeth Banks is in the directors chair this time around making her feature debut so I fully expect there to be some wacky, left field choices made. Next, the entire cast is returning (Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Skylar Astin, Anna Camp and Adam Devine while adding Hailee Steinfeld and Katey Sagal) and in the first trailer for the sequel it was clear everyone was happy to be back and seemed to be having a blast. I saw the first film with no expectation going in, but came away surprised and eager to tell others about just how much fun it was. It is one of those films you can pop in any time and everyone can agree it's entertaining. I'm excited to see what Banks and company have in store and can only hope it lives up to the awesomeness we all expect from it. (5/15)

The Revenant

If you've looked at my Top 10 of 2014 you'll see that director Alejandro González Iñárritu's Birdman is fairly close to the top of my list. Not only did he craft one of the more singular visions of this year though as he has been putting out beautifully depressing films stateside since 2003's 21 Grams and so on. With his latest, The Revenant, Iñárritu has adapted the novel of the same name by Michael Punke that tells a story of nearly unimaginable human endurance spanning three thousand miles of uncharted American wilderness, including what is today the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, and Nebraska. Based on the real life of fur trapper Hugh Glass, The Revenant recounts the toll of envy and betrayal, and the power of obsession and vengeance. Of the many reasons to be interested in the film one of the main draws will be that this was the next project Leonardo DiCaprio chose to embrace after taking an extended break after filming Gatsby, Django and Wolf of Wall Street back to back to back. DiCaprio will star as Glass while being joined by the likes of his Inception co-star Tom Hardy (who will also have a busy 2015 with the aforementioned Mad Max as well as Brian Helgeland's follow-up to 42, Legend co-starring Emily Browning and Christopher Eccleston, Daniel Espinosa's Child 44 co-starring Noomi Rapace, Gary Oldman, Joel Kinnaman, Jason Clarke, Vincent Cassell and Dev Patel as well as shooting The Suicide Squad alongside Will Smith, Jared Let and Margot Robbie for its 2016 release). As for The Revenant specifically, I'm excited to see how Iñárritu follows-up what will surely be an exciting awards season for both him and his film. (1/8/16 with what I assume will be a staggered release beginning in December of '15)

Inside Out

It has been an off year for animation as nothing other than The LEGO Movie really became a hit and while that film was immensely fun, I'd still pick How To Train Your Dragon 2 as the best of the bunch in 2014. Besides the disappointing box office returns though a big hole was also left open by the absence of a new Disney/Pixar film. For the first time in nearly a decade we received no new movie from the once illustrious studio. It has been quite a while since we've seen an original film from Pixar as well (only one of the last four has not been a sequel), but in 2015 we are headed for change as audiences will not only get one new Pixar film, but two; both of which will feature original stories. First up is director Pete Doctor's (Up) Inside Out. Telling the story of 11-year-old Riley Anderson (Kaitlyn Dias) the film goes inside her mind to explore the inner workings of her personality by creating personifications for her emotions including fear, sadness, anger, disgust and joy. As seen in the first full trailer that premiered earlier this month these personified emotions essentially run our brains and determine how we function in response to the situations and circumstances around us. Not only will we get a peak inside Riley's mind, but her parents voiced by Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan as well. As exciting as it is that Pixar is delivering an original film rather than another sequel, it should also be noted that this extremely inventive concept and entertaining and funny execution truly feels like it could be the return to form for the studio desperately needs to maintain their reputation for excellence that has waned considerably in the last few years. I certainly hope Inside Out proves to be as good as everything about it promises it can be as even the voice cast includes greats such as Bill Hader, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling and Amy Poehler. (6/19)

Midnight Special

There might be something of a bias in this next pick as director Jeff Nichols hails from my home state and city of Little Rock, Arkansas. Nichols has been making well received indie films since he broke onto the scene with 2007's Shotgun Stories. Following that up with the little seen, but universally hailed Take Shelter the director finally gained something of larger scale recognition when he took part in the McConaissance by contributing Mud to the actors resume. Both writing and directing each of these films Nichols made the decision to step into the ring of a major studio production next and was lucky enough to still pen his own script for what has come to be known as Midnight Special. While writing the script for the film Nichols described it as a yearning to make something akin to a 1980's John Carpenter movie, more specifically Starman. I've never seen that Carpenter film, but imagine I'll get on that soon. At first this felt reminiscent of a J.J. Abrams/Steven Spielberg a la the summer of 2011 and the final product that was Super 8 (man, I'd really love to watch that again soon), but Nichols is clearly trying to give more of an example as to where his head was at while writing the script. What might have come of the story since making that statement and whatever directing filter he put the film through since shooting has now wrapped could have completely changed that comparison given they are in deep post-production. Regardless, I am eager to see what Nichols has in store for us and if you're a fan of the director and a little upset he gave into the big studio system, fear not, as he also said he was working on another script at the same time that hued closer to his other work and was, "austere, quiet, sad, and beautiful." Midnight Special stars Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver and Sam Shepard. (11/25)

Avengers: Age of Ultron

The first trailer for the follow-up to writer/director Joss Whedon’s record-breaking 2012 film was supposed to drop during an episode of ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. but someone from within leaked the trailer three days early. This is how much people cannot wait to see what else Marvel will give them. There is no denying the anticipation for this one is sky high and our first glance at the sequel in those trailers only added to that hype in the most positive of ways. I can remember being slightly underwhelmed by the first trailer for The Avengers as the Nine Inch Nails soundtrack never met with what I imagined it to be, but ultimately we know everything turned out okay and if nothing else it was a treat to finally see all of these characters in one place together. This time around that isn't going to be enough, but what Whedon has given us a glance at here is a very different, much darker tone than the original possessed. From what we've seen so far (and I hope they hold back on the marketing and avoid an Amazing Spider-Man 2-like situation) I'm loving the color palette created from the broader scope of locations in this film, I enjoy the musical choice and I appreciate the vibes coming off genuinely dramatic while not taking itself too seriously. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) all return to battle titular villain Ultron (James Spader) while new allies and enemies join them in the form of Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and The Vision (Paul Bettany). Avengers: Age of Ultron will also utilize Don Cheadle, Andy Serkis, Samuel L. Jackson and Cobie Smulders. (5/1)

Silence

Martin Scorsese has been developing his next film for several decades. To call it a passion project feels like something of an understatement at this point. Having worked on an adaptation of the Shusaku Endo novel, Silence, for years things finally began shaping up when financing was secured near the end of 2013 and production officially began in what was reportedly July of this year. The story concerns two Jesuit priests who, in the seventeenth century, face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor and to spread the gospel of Christianity. Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver will serve as the priests in the film while the likes of Ken Watanabe and Liam Neeson will also star. It is difficult to find anything real concrete on whether or not the film moved forward as intended and will stick with its planned November release placing it right in the middle of awards season, but I can only hope these facts hold steady. It will be somewhat odd to see Leonardo DiCaprio in an Oscar season film not directed by Scorsese as The Revenant will also be in the race for 2016, but it will certainly be something of a refresher, like Hugo, as we see the legendary filmmaker work outside what has more or less become a comfort zone over the last decade. What is even more exciting is that this is pretty heavy-sounding material giving the director plenty to work with and so to be able to anticipate what as talented a director as Scorsese will do with that material in bringing it to life with the passion we all know he has for it, only serves to create what will hopefully be one of the more memorable movie-going experiences of the year.

The Hateful Eight

Oh, the trials and tribulations of Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight. First there was the script leak, then the director basically said the film wouldn't be made, but then he staged a live read of the script to which there seemed to be some inspiration to again make the film and so it was being made, but then there came delays and of course a barrage of casting rumors. All of this to say that the film is now obviously being made and has either just started production or will start next month with a full cast in place and a release date set for this November. Tarantino will again be venturing into western territory as The Hateful Eight tells the story of bounty hunters trying to find shelter during a blizzard in post-Civil War Wyoming, but get involved in a plot of betrayal and deception. I haven't read the leaked script nor have I looked at any videos of the live read (mainly because I can't find any), but needless to say that as a film geek I'm always excited for a new Tarantino movie. There was always the stigma around Pulp Fiction that you had to love it as a film student and no matter how many times I watch that film it seems coming to it later than when it first premiered takes it down a few notches for me who was unaware of what was so revolutionary about it at the time. For me, what really set the director apart as a strong, singular voice was Inglorious Basterds. I saw both Kill Bill movies in the theater as well as Death Proof and so I was given access to those films without prior opinion hanging over as an influence and still, it wasn't until Basterds that I felt I finally "got" what everyone else was talking about. I enjoyed Django in many of the same ways I did Basterds, but to a slightly less fulfilling degree. I can only hope that while Tarantino is working in the same genre as his previous film that he and his cast that includes Channing Tatum, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth, Demian Bichir, Zoë Bell, Michael Madsen and Bruce Dern will continue to keep things innovative in the way the director has become known to do. (11/13)

Southpaw

When I think of narrowing down the upcoming year in movies to a select few I am most excited for I think of it in terms of what movies I would want to see if these were the only movies I were allowed to see that year. This train of thought really comes into play when you get down to the top five. In the last couple of years Jake Gyllenhaal has proven himself to be one of the best and most versatile actors working in Hollywood today and that has not gone unnoticed by most. With the likes of not only Brokeback Mountain, Jarhead and Zodiac, but his recent string of Source Code, End of Watch, Prisoners, Enemy and a career-defining turn in Nightcrawler the actor has propelled himself to the front of my favorite actors list and I can't wait to see what the guy does next. Much like other constantly rising, constantly producing quality stars like Tom Hardy and Michael Fassbender, Gyllenhaal will have a busy 2015 with four films set for release. There is David O. Russell's comedy/romance Nailed co-starring Jessica Biel and James Marsden that sounds like fun, but not my top pick from his current crop. There is Everest from director Baltasar Kormákur (Contraband, 2 Guns) that co-stars Jason Clarke, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright, Josh Brolin, Sam Worthington and Emily Watson, but while I've enjoyed Kormákur's previous works as B-movie entertainment I wouldn't consider them worth having on a "must-see" list though that cast is certainly impressive. There is also Jean-Marc Vallée's (Dallas Buyer's Club, Wild) next film, Demolition, about an investment banker struggling to understand his emotional disconnect after the tragic death of his wife that co-stars Naomi Watts and Chris Cooper, but I wouldn't be surprised if this one ended up as a 2016 release. The one I want to see most out of his upcoming films though is Southpaw from director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Equalizer) about a boxer fighting his way to the top as his life falls apart around him. I watched The Equalizer again yesterday with commentary from Fuqua and his passion for filmmaking along with Gyllenhaal's clear dedication (see picture) only solidified this as the best choice at this given time.

Furious 7

2014 a tumultuous year for the cast and crew of the seventh film in the Fast & Furious franchise. I wasn't overly interested in the series until Justin Lin came along and decided there was something worth investing in. While Tokyo Drift felt like something of an audition for the director it has come to serve as a catalyst of sorts for the series. Going back in time to before the events of the third film, Lin brought us up to date with 2013's Fast & Furious 6 and from there on out we faced the unexpected. The unexpected came in tragic form last November though with Paul Walker's untimely death which sent the James Wan directed sequel into re-writes, delays, and an unquestionable future. Through all of this it feels like the series has become more of a cultural mainstay and closer to peoples hearts which will no doubt up the interest in the seventh film, but more than anything it will be nice to have one last opportunity to see Walker portray the character he will be most remembered for. I was and am beyond excited to see Jason Statham joining the cast this time around as the brother to Luke Evans Owen Shaw whom Statham is now out to avenge and it will be interesting to see how this plot plays out, but more than anything the future of the entire franchise rests on this installments shoulders as we wonder and wait to see where the crew will take us. Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson and Lucas Black all return while Ronda Rousey, Tony Jaa, Nathalie Emmanuel, John Brotherton, Djimon Hounsou and Kurt Russell join the ever-expanding cast. (4/3)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

By the time J.J. Abrams' Star Wars entry hits theaters just under a year from now it will have been over a decade since the last Star Wars film was in theaters. This may conjure up bad memories for most seeing as George Lucas' prequel trilogy wasn't received well, but this marks a new day. It was just before I graduated high school that I waited in line for the midnight showing of Revenge of the Sith and if Star Wars brings up anything more than the iconography of its characters it's nostalgia. These are event films in a manner no other films can strive to be. The movie will sell itself and fans and superfans alike will show up multiple times no matter what to see, to dissect and re-watch to make sure their opinion is correct. Though Abrams and company decided to release an 88-second teaser trailer in November, they could literally do no more marketing for this film and it would do gangbusters at the box office. That said, we will get a ton more marketing and with the teaser I'm at least happy to get a look at what tone, style and atmosphere we will be getting from this new film. In the teaser we get a first look at John Boyega (Attack the Block) in full storm trooper garb, Daisy Ridley riding across the desert and Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis) as a starfighter before cutting to a mysterious figure breaking out a new model lightsaber who I, for one reason or another, instinctively assume is Adam Driver. The Force Awakens will also see the return of original stars Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher with other new additions that include Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, Max Von Sydow, and many more. I do indeed love how simply cinematic the first footage looks and while I'm more than excited to see the final product I wonder if it will ever be able to live up to the ridiculous expectations already being held for it. (12/18)