Movies I Wanna See Most: Fall 2015

So far, 2015 has been a rather solid year for film. Of course there were the early month droughts that featured the likes of Blackhat and The Boy Next Door, but by February we received Kingsman and even McFarland, USA which (if you haven't seen it) is a really solid Disney sports drama. I'm not saying things have been exceptional, there have probably been just as many if not more bad movies than there have been good movies, but I had a really good time at the movies this summer and I'm pretty sad to see it come to an end. That said, I am genuinely looking forward to the fall release schedule especially considering I will be making my first trek to the Toronto International Film Festival this year and hopefully seeing as many of the movies on this list as soon as I can. Transitioning to the fall we approach films in different kinds of ways. While the summer is typically looked at for and judged more on pure entertainment value the fall is almost explicitly Awards season and looked to for more stimulating material. Given this kind of precedent there seems to always be one or two films that seem pre-destined for Oscar glory and while Eddie Redmayne seems to make it clear that The Danish Girl is this years film to beat (timely, his follow-up to winning Best Actor last year and Tom Hooper's follow-up to Les Mis) I still don't see a clear contender this year (though last years Best Director winner, Alejandro González Iñárritu, is certainly putting his hat in the ring). That said, this list is not about what I think will win the most awards (as you'll notice with much of this fall's franchise films getting some love) come February, but more what I'm most excited to experience at the cinema this fall. So, without further adieu, let's dig in...

It's weird for a Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks collaboration to be this low on a list of most anticipated movies, especially when it drops in the midst of Awards season (their last collaboration, The Terminal, opened against Dodgeball in the summer of 2004), but alas here we are. It has simply been hard for me to muster any real excitement for this project though I have to imagine it will be a solid spy thriller/courtroom drama if not completely forgotten by the time nominations are announced. I'm not saying this type of film should be judged solely on its awards count either, just that something with these contributing factors typically lends itself to the assumed praise. The setting and story only enhance the seeming intentions of the release date, but there are honestly so many solid releases this fall I can't help but see this one getting lost in the shuffle. Bridge of Spies tells the story of an American lawyer who is recruited by the CIA during the Cold War to help rescue a pilot detained in the Soviet Union.

Disney and Pixar have already released one critically and commercially acclaimed film this year, can they make it two? That question will receive an eagerly anticipated answer when the much-laboured over The Good Dinosaur finally arrives this Thanksgiving. The film was originally intened to be Up co-director Bob Peterson‘s solo directorial debut and was originally scheduled for release in 2013, but after a last minute release shift Peterson was removed from the film in 2014 as were some of his ideas. Peterson's co-director, Peter Sohn, subsequently stepped in, the voice cast was completely replaced and then we were finally given a glimpse of the film earlier this summer hinting at the finished film we have now. This isn't the first time there has been a tumultous behind the scenes story to go along with a Pixar project, Toy Story 2 actually incurred multiple changes late in the game, but can this film end up anywhere near as good as that exceptional sequel? We'll have to wait and see.

It's kind of hard to believe the Hunger Games franchise is coming to an end as it really does feel like it just began the other day. That said, what's even harder to believe is that I kind of forgot this movie was coming out as the franchise has more or less grown to be something of a tired brand (seems contradictory, right? Just another sign of our non-stop culture). As soon as it was announced Mockingjay would be split into two parts I wondered how they might break-up what was the least interesting book in the series, especially when it was the same length as the first two books, but where there is money to be made, producers will find a way. To be honest, I'm not sure what I expect from Mockingjay-Part 2, but I know once I re-watch Catching Fire and Mockingjay-Part 1 (which hopefully I'll get more out of the second time) I'll be wrapped up in this world enough that I'll genuinely be excited to see what the conclusion brings. Director Francis Lawrence truly delivered a vast improvement with that second installment and so I am at least anxious to see what he does with the final, undoubtedly more epic conclusion.

The Weinstein Company's Burnt follows the career of a rebel chef who's determined to redeem himself by spearheading a top restaurant in London that can gain him his third Michelin star. While that synopsis doesn't exactly elicit intrigue what makes me curious about this project is if it will be the vehicle that gains Bradley Cooper his fourth consecutive Oscar nomination. If it does and he doesn't win that will certainly be some kind of record (and for the record, I don't think he'll win if he's nominated). At this stage though, the film seems a bit too much on the fluffy side to be considered awards material. That isn't to say the film won't be good or that Cooper won't deserve a nomination (he'll also appear in Joy this fall which reunites him for a third time with director David O. Russell and Jennifer Lawrence), but it inherently feels like something the Academy won't find worthy of such recognition. Regardless, the fact remains that Cooper has become one of the industry's top leading men (I'm not holding Aloha against him) who does consistently strong work and puts in serious effort that makes it clear he truly loves his craft and I can't wait to see what his next venture holds.

I hope to see director Thomas McCarthy's (The Station Agent, The Visitor) new film, Spotlight, at the Toronto International Film Festival this year. Telling the true story of the Boston Globe reporters who investigated and exposed the Catholic Church’s systemic cover-up of sexual abuse. This is a film that will both touch on some hot button issues while at the same time being immediately engaging for doing so. McCarthy seems to have been able to execute what is essentially one of the biggest stories of the 21st century with a stellar ensemble cast that will do the material justice. Hot off his Best Actor nomination for Birdman, Michael Keaton will play legendary reporter Walter 'Robby' Robinson while it seems Mark Ruffalo will serve more as the lead in the role of Michael Rezendes, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and political writer for The Globe. Spotlight was co-written by The West Wing‘s Josh Singer and also stars Rachel McAdams, Brian d’Arcy James, John Slattery, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup, Paul Guilfoyle and Len Cariou.

And now, the big ones...

It was really difficult for me to decide whether or not I should include the twenty-fourth Bond film on this list. I enjoyed Skyfall well enough and was happy to see director Sam Mendes returning to the franchise for one more go-around after delivering a crowd-pleaser with the previous installment, but I'm simply not a huge fan of the franchise and find it hard to conjure up a lot of excitement. I recognize this is in large part due to the fact I didn't really begin watching the Bond films until the latter part of Pierce Brosnan's tenure (which I again realize wasn't the best entry point) and that Daniel Craig has more or less been the definitive Bond for me so there isn't as much invested in the franchise, but I know that once the film draws closer and the realization of actually being able to see the next chapter in this new, larger world hits me I'll be genuinely excited to catch a glimpse of it and so I couldn't resist placing it at the beginning here. Spectre will apparently find Bond on a trail to uncover a sinister organization while M (Ralph Fiennes) battles political forces to keep the secret service alive. My only concern for the film is that after a summer consisting of great action spectacles like Furious 7, Avengers, Mad Max, Jurassic World and M:I-Rogue Nation can the oldest franchise of them all compete? 11/6

I keep a running list of my favorite films throughout the year so that when we reach the time to make the annual top ten list I have a strong point of reference and don't simply pull from the batch of Oscar contenders that crowd theaters at the end of the year. So far in 2015 I have five films on my list that I've ranked higher than any others and two of those just happen to be music biopics. I don't know if it's because I've always had an affinity for the music-making process or have been intrigued by how the human condition reacts to the intrigue of fame and adoration due to the reaction of bearing your sole in song, but I simply adore them and I can't imagine the Hank Williams biography, I Saw the Light, being any different. Especially having been raised in the south, Williams is something of a mythic figure who represents more than just what he sung about, but a way of life that is still preserved. With a cast that features Tom Hiddleston as Williams and Elizabeth Olsen as his wife Audrey Mae I can't wait to see what director Marc Abraham's feature holds for fans of both music and film. 11/27

I will have the chance to see Black Mass at TIFF this year, but considering it will open in wide release while I'm at the festival I may decide to skip it at the festival and see something I won't have the chance to see elsewhere for a while and catch up with director Scott Cooper's latest upon returning. That said, despite the abundance of press material for the film that has given away what fees like a lot I am very much excited to see what will no doubt be touted out as "Johnny Depp's Return!" In Mass, Depp plays Whitey Bulger, the brother of a state senator and the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who becomes an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf. Not only does this come from Cooper (Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace) who has a knack for tapping into stark tones, but Black Mass features a rather incredible cast outside of Depp that includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Sienna Miller, Joel Edgerton, Juno Temple, Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, Corey Stoll, Adam Scott, Peter Sarsgaard, Julianne Nicholson and Jesse Plemons. 9/18

I've always relegated the Rocky films to something of a memory where I know I've seen the majority of them (specifically the first, second, fourth and Balboa, so I actually have a little catching up to do), but it was in the underrated Rocky Balboa where I really caught a glimpse of what made the series mean so much to so many people. It was the film that came at the right time for me as I was really beginning to dig into cinema. That film deserved more than the pre-ordained bad word of mouth it received and by the time people saw it and realized it was actually a solid little closing chapter to the series the window of opportunity had passed. Almost ten years removed from that film though and we have a new chapter in the story, but this time it isn't about Rocky-we're talking Adonis Johnson, the son of Apollo Creed (as played by Carl Weathers) and his quest to follow in his fathers footsteps despite never knowing him. From Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler and starring Michael B. Jordan Creed will clearly capitalize on the nostalgia of the subject, but it also seems intent to be Johnson's story and Jordan looks to be giving a wholly dedicated performance that will only push his star further, and if we're lucky, spawn him his own boxing franchise. 11/25

I'm currently reading Andy Weir's The Martian and hope to have it finished before traveling to Toronto as I fully intend on catching Ridley Scott's adaptation once there. There isn't much reason to expect much from the extremely proficient director given he seems to have traded quality for quantity as of late, but it's hard to argue with the allure of the trailers for The Martian. The film tells the story of how, during a manned mission to mars, Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. Watney survives though and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he is forced to draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal Earth that he is, in fact, still alive. Besides Damon, Scott has recruited a rather stellar supporting cast including the likes of Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Peña and Donald Glover with Drew Goddard (Cabin in the Woods) adapting Weir's novel for the screen. Color me insanely intrigued. 10/2

Anything that Leonardo DiCaprio does these days seems destined to be on my most anticipated list. Whether it's that he has truly impeccable taste or the luckiest timing in the world, he seems to be consistently picking the right projects. Truth is, it is a combination of both those things. The taste aspect is most evident in that DiCaprio is finally working with heralded director Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams, Babel), whereas the timing aspect comes into play given he's working with him on the follow-up to Iñárritu's Best Picture Winner, Birdman. The fact that DiCaprio is one of the most well-regarded actors working today combined with Iñárritu's current clout and the added bonus of starring Tom Hardy (who is on a hot streak of his own as of late) in the supporting role gives off the impression everything fell in line perfectly for this film to be positioned as an awards season favorite. I'm sure the filmmakers and stars would gawk at that previous sentence though given the difficult and tumultuous shoot they reportedly experienced. Iñárritu shot the entire film with outdoor lighting in the rather inhospitable Canadian wilderness over nine months. The Revenant is based on the real-life story of Hugh Glass who was left for dead by his companions following a bear mauling in the early 19th century. Limited-12/25, Wide-1/8

Speaking of Tom Hardy, the guy who has already starred in one of the most critically lauded blockbusters of the summer and will be a part of what is no doubt a front-runner in the awards race this season (see above), will make his own bid for Best Actor with director Brian Hegleland's (42) Legend. With the success of Mad Max: Fury Road Hardy has become a more visible star than ever before and Legend seems perfectly poised to be that definitive performance that forever puts him on the map as one of the greats. In the film, Hardy plays both Ronald and Reginald Kray who were identical twin gangsters that essentially ran the London crime scene in the 1950's and 60's. The trailers for the film are selling it as a must-see and the potential for greatness seems to be off the charts. If you've been watching a variety of movies over the last few years you already know the true talent that Hardy is, but based purely on what we've seen from Legend so far he's seemingly getting ready to make sure the rest of the world knows who he is. The film overall looks to be a massive gangster epic with a top shelf supporting cast that includes Emily Browning, David Thewlis, Christopher Eccleston, Chazz Palminteri, Tara Fitzgerald and Kingsman's Taron Egerton. 10/2

When Tarantino makes a new film it immediately shoots up to the top of most movie-lovers most anticipated lists. It has been three years since Tarantino graced us with his last project, but he will return this Christmas with another venture into the Western genre. The Hateful Eight was famously the subject of a rather sordid affair after an early draft of the script leaked online causing Tarantino to more or less cancel any plans of actually making the film and instead staged a live read of the script in April of 2014. Tarantino finally confirmed The Hateful Eight would indeed be his next film in July of last year after much speculation about whether it would come to fruition or not. A few minor changes were made to the cast after the table read (the most notable being the addition of Jennifer Jason Leigh) and production officially began at the end of last year. So, it has been a long road for Tarantino and his crew to reach this point and for audiences who are aware of the journey, the film is a long time coming as well. Needless to say, I can't wait to see the final product as Tarantino has given himself the set-up of post-Civil War Wyoming where a small group of stagecoach passengers get stranded during a blizzard in which to flourish. 12/25  

Said to be made up of only three scenes, each backstage at the launch of one of Apple's iconic products, Steve Jobs is not just the second movie about the Apple founder. As for the reasons why, let's take a look at the credentials this thing has going for it. The screenplay comes to us via Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, The Social Network). The film is directed by Danny Boyle who, beyond winning an Oscar for 2008's Slumdog Millionaire, has directed more thrilling material with the likes of 127 Hours, Sunshine and 28 Days Later (though folks seem to really enjoy Trainspotting as well). The cast is toplined by Michael Fassbender as the titular CEO and I won't be surprised if he takes home the Best Actor statue come February (sorry, once again, Leo). The supporting cast is filled out by the likes of Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman, one of the original members of both the Macintosh team and the NeXT team, Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak, the man who single-handedly developed the 1976 Apple I or the computer that launched the company, Katherine Waterson of Inherent Vice will play Chrisann Brennan, Jobs high school girlfriend who's also the mother of his first child. Couple this with the fact Jeff Daniels will portray Chief executive officer of Apple, John Sculley, while Michael Stuhlberg will play original member of the Apple Macintosh development team Andy Hertzfeld and this thing can't be stopped. In short, the film looks rapturous and I don't use that word often. 10/9

It's now been over a decade since we received the last Star Wars film, 2005's Revenge of the Sith. In that time, the Star Wars universe has undergone some major transformations and shifts in power and thus we now have the beginning of a new trilogy that will continue where the original three films left off. Every other movie in town has pretty much cleared out of this juggernaut's path (save for the brave souls that are Tina Fey and Amy Poehler) and I'm still trying to register the fact we're actually getting a new Star Wars movie this year. All of the factors that inform this excitement are things no other film can really compete with and that's not necessarily fair, but it is what it is and while the subsequent Star Wars sequels and anthology films may not immediately rank as high as this one I would be lying to myself if I put anything above Episode VII on this list. Given the quality of the two trailers we've received thus far and the amount of good will that seems to be behind this project I can only hope for the best and relish in the fact no major story points have been given away as there is no need to divulge any plot details (people will show up for Star Wars no matter what), but that we've simply been hyped for The Force Awakens by catching glimpses of the new cast (Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac) as well as a quick peak at the older one as well. Chewie, I can't wait to come home. 12/18

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