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The 50 Most Anticipated Films of 2015

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Artwork by Cap Blackard

2015 is going to be big. Maybe the biggest ever. I don’t mean to go all Fallon here, but it’s true. Not only are we getting a sequel to the third-highest grossing film of all time with Avengers: Age of Ultron, but we’ll also have a new entry in the Star Wars franchise that may rise above them all. If that weren’t enough, there will also be a new Bond (not starring Idris Elba), a new Mad Max (not starring Mel Gibson), and a new Terminator (not starring Christian Bale). Somewhere between these blockbusters will be a collection of genuinely original works coming our way from Steven Spielberg, Terrence Malick, Cameron Crowe, David O. Russell, the Wachowski siblings, and many, many more.

The force is strong with this year…

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Blackhat

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Release date: January 16th via Universal Pictures

It’s been over five years since Michael Mann’s last film, Public Enemies, hit theaters. Now, the 71-year-old filmmaker returns to thrust us into the gritty criminal underworld of cyber terrorism. (How timely, right?) His leading man is Chris Hemsworth, who plays Nicholas Hathaway, a convicted hacker who’s been furloughed to assist American and Chinese agencies track down an elusive cyber criminal responsible for attacks on a Chinese nuclear reactor and the Chicago Board of Trade. Ever devoted to realism, Mann spent years researching the material, while Hemsworth was assigned to learn code, which should assuage the more computer-savvy skeptics. And given all of its filming locations — Chitown, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, and Jakarta — Blackhat should serve as the perfect winter getaway you can’t afford. –Michael Roffman

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Son of a Gun

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Release date: January 16th via A24 Films

Between Whiplash and Foxcatcher, 2014 was a banner year for films about damaged proteges and their shitty mentors. The trend continues this year with Son of a Gun, which sees Ewan McGregor as a criminal mastermind who takes rookie Brentown Thwaites under his wing after a successful prison break. Things go sour, of course, and Thwaites finds himself in over his head. As juicy as the plot is, and as much as we’re jazzed about the trailer’s haunting caper imagery — including a bunch of hoods wearing creepy chimp masks — we’re most excited about seeing McGregor play a complex scumbag again, something that was once his bread and butter. –-Dan Caffrey

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Jupiter Ascending

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Release date: February 6th via Warner Bros. Pictures

So here’s the thing: There’s a halfway decent chance that Jupiter Ascending is going to be a complete and utter mess. Setting aside Warner Bros.’ decision to quietly bump its release from last July, where it was slated to drop the same weekend as the last two Dark Knight films, to early February, there’s also the matter of this being a Wachowskis joint. But I’ll be the one to argue that this is a good thing, not the bad thing many people might naturally assume. For better (Speed Racer) or worse (the parts of Cloud Atlas concerning Hugh Grant as a post-apocalyptic tribal warlord), the Wachowskis are still making ambitious mainstream cinema like few others out there. And this, the story of a Russian space princess (Mila Kunis) and the albino bounty hunter sent to protect her (Channing Tatum), looks like it could land on either side of that equation. Wherever it lands, though, Jupiter Ascending will assuredly be a hell of a thing to watch. Plus, look on the bright side. If it’s awful, at least the “more like Stupider Ascending” headlines practically write themselves. –Dominick Mayer

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Fifty Shades of Grey

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Release date: February 13th via Universal Pictures

What I like about the pre-release trailers for the 50 Shades of Grey film adaptation is that there’s no pretension, no cuteness, no whiz-bang. Cold, handsome, and proficient, the film posits itself as nothing more than a means of dampening granny panties, be it through the story’s BDSM 101 course or what star Jamie Dornan calls a “love story.” Some say Dornan, who replaced Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam in the role of sado-masochistic billionaire Christian Grey, is gambling with his career by starring in the adaptation, and maybe that’s true, but I can’t imagine the film itself not being a financial success. The sneers and chuckles of the literary cognoscenti haven’t hindered sales of E.L. James’ steamy trilogy at all, nor will the sneers and chuckles of snooty reviewers give the readers pause. It’s God’s Not Dead all over again: critics be damned, this thing’s got a built-in audience. –Randall Colburn

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Chappie

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Release date: March 6th via Columbia Pictures

If there’s one thing director Neill Blomkamp knows, it’s robots. He made them sympathetic in his Academy Award–nominated debut, District 9, and he made them menacing as all hell in the post-apocalyptic thriller Elysium. For his third film, Chappie, he teams up with his wife and writing partner, Terri Tatchell, for the first time since District 9 to weave a yarn about a sentient robot (voiced by frequent Blomkamp collaborator Sharlto Copley) who gets kidnapped by two criminals. Think Short Circuit 2 only with much better special effects — and without Fisher Stevens’ cringe-worthy portrayal of an Indian scientist. As an added bonus, Blomkamp has assembled one of the most bonkers casts of the year, including Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, and both members of the South African music duo Die Antwoord. –Adriane Neuenschwander

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In the Heart of the Sea

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Release date: March 13th via Warner Bros. Pictures

It’s fair to say that Ron Howard has had a spotty career, directing critically reviled films such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Angels & Demons alongside Oscar-winning pictures such as A Beautiful Mind and Apollo 13. This year, ol’ Ronnie boy looks like he’s poised to get that red-carpet tux out of storage with In the Heart of the Sea, which is based on an award-winning historical biography by Nathaniel Philbrick. The film tells the true story of the Essex, a whaling ship that sunk after being attacked by a whale who, let’s face it, had every reason to be pissed off at the boat’s crew. The disaster’s legend grew further after inspiring Herman Melville to write Moby Dick. After the wreck, the ship’s crew — portrayed by Cillian Murphy, Benjamin Walker, and Howard’s muse du jour Chris Hemsworth — fends off starvation, squalls, dehydration, and other sticky situations in order to survive. Early trailers suggest that, if nothing else, audiences can expect some pretty impressive visual effects, especially if screened on IMAX. –Adriane Neuenschwander

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Cinderella

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Release date: March 13th via Walt Disney Studios

The Cinderella story may only be rivaled by Peter Pan in terms of the number of adaptations it has produced. Besides numerous ballets, operas, and a popular Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, the ubiquitous French fairy tale has a lengthy cinematic history, from Georges Méliès’ groundbreaking 1899 silent film to Walt Disney’s 1950 animated classic to the cheeky, modern twists of Ever After and A Cinderella Story. But the newest version, a color-saturated, live-action fantasy film directed by Kenneth Branagh (perhaps best known for his equally lush rendering of Hamlet) and starring Burton-blonde newcomer Lily James as “Ella,” appears to be both a return to form and a revitalization of it. With Disney again at the helm, Cinderella boasts the visual grandeur of last year’s Maleficent and an intriguing cast that includes Helena Bonham Carter as The Fairy Godmother, Richard Madden (aka Robb Stark from Game of Thrones) as the blue-eyed Prince, and Cate Blanchett looking icily perfect as Ella’s wicked stepmother, Lady Tremaine. –Leah Pickett

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The Gunman

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Release date: March 20th via Open Road Films

Sean Penn wakes up atop of Charlize Theron, combusting with newfound testosterone that he just can’t expunge through hissy fits or blubbering monologues. He’s just about to put his boner through a wall when he gets a call from Liam Neeson. “O’Seaney, It’s yer ol’ pal Liam. My shamrock was shakin’, so I guess the force has finally awakened in you. Roll with it, man. It’ll change your life. Strangers will stop calling you ‘Sam’ and ‘Milk’ the same way nobody calls me ‘Schindler’ anymore.” And then Neeson sends Penn a care package containing the director of Taken, a script called The Gunman, a cast of ringers (Elba, Bardeem, Winstone), and a totally Neeson role of a man with a gun who has to fight other men with guns after his wife gets kidnapped and punch/kick/bang/vroom. Here’s hoping it’s good, because stunt doubles with Marlboro-tanned mugs don’t get enough work these days. –Roy Ivy

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Get Hard

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Release date: March 27th via Warner Bros. Pictures

So Will Ferrell’s a millionaire prick who gets busted for fraud and is gonna go to jail for 10 years. He’s too soft for prison life, so he enlists Kevin Hart to get him hard before he’s in the pokey. Hart’s never actually been to prison (Ferrell just assumes it), but he takes on the prison-coaching role for money, and for the joy of torturing the rich prick. There’s a great chance this is gonna suck, like an overextended riff on the “we bad” scene from Stir Crazy. But I’m keeping my fingers crossed, because there’s enough talent on board to make this great. Sure, with this and The Wedding Ringer, 2015 is top-heavy with movies where Kevin Hart helps the hapless white guy. And Will Ferrell’s shtick has certainly worn thin. But I’m hoping writer/director Etan Cohen (Tropic Thunder) and co-writers Ian Roberts and Jay Martel (Key and Peele) rise above what’s bound to be endless race and prison rapes jokes. –Roy Ivy

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While We’re Young

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Release date: March 27th via A24 Films

One day, Noah Baumbach will be recognized for capturing the often irrational, frequently ridiculous, totally histrionic angst of the millennials like few other filmmakers of our time. His last feature, Frances Ha, was an affecting chronicle of a sharp young woman drifting with vague aims through cities and her own life. Now, with While We’re Young, Baumbach looks to be hitting on something that’s going to ring all too true for a lot of viewers: that moment when the next generation down inherits the responsibility of determining what constitutes “cool” in life. Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts play a couple who befriends the trendy young hipsters next door (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried), only to realize that not everything is ahead of them like it once was. Imagine Neighbors if it wanted to sneakily tear your heart out. –Dominick Mayer

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White God

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Release date: March 27th via Magnolia Pictures

When this Hungarian film screened at Cannes last year, it garnered two awards: the Prix Un Certain Regard and the Palm Dog, which is an actual prize given to the year’s best canine performer. Of course, since dogs outnumber human actors in White God about 10:1, this latter honor was almost a gimme. Regardless, all the awards and hype helped director Kornél Mundruczó get wide distribution for his film, including an American release in 2015 courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. The story is simple: After a stiff tax is levied on any citizen who owns a non-purebred dog, the country’s poor begin dumping their mutts in shelters. Peeved about their mistreatment, the dogs break out and rise up against their human oppressors. Even with that two-sentence synopsis, it’s clear that this clever little parable has a lot to say about race and class — all disguised in an adorable four-legged package. –Adriane Neuenschwander

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Furious 7

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Release date: April 3rd via Universal Pictures

Fast Five was a revelation, the moment when a ho-hum, bro’d-out racing franchise somehow turned into America’s most reliably jaw-dropping American action series. Whether you credit director Justin Lin — who found his groove on Fast Five after directing Tokyo Drift and Fast & Furious — or The Rock, a franchise saver if there ever was one, you can’t deny the thick trail of motor oil separating the films before Five with everything after. Lin topped himself with Fast & Furious 6, capping it with a post-credits sequence that escalated anticipation for the next entry to a fever pitch. But then we lost Justin Lin to other projects and, most tragically, lost Paul Walker entirely. The Conjuring director James Wan took over for Lin (ehhhh…), and Walker’s brothers stepped in to help complete his scenes, making for an altogether different sort of anticipation, one laced with traces of melancholy. Still, Furious 7 looks every bit as ludicrous as the original (pun intended), with Jason Statham, The Rock flexing his way out of an arm brace, and cars plummeting from planes. Start your engines. –Randall Colburn

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Ex Machina

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Release date: April 10th via A24 Films

The trailer for the new sci-fi thriller Ex Machina, written and directed by Alex Garland (screenwriter of 28 Days Later, Sunshine) and produced by rising indie production house A24, recalls films like Minority Report and A.I. in both its futuristic imagery and its throbbing undercurrent of paranoia. Domnhall Gleeson plays Caleb, a young programmer selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment in artificial intelligence. Caleb is invited to live in the secluded mountain home of the company’s CEO, Nathan (Oscar Isaac, channeling David Krumholtz in bearded savant mode), and to visit with Nathan’s stunning A.I. creation, Ava (Alicia Vikander), and evaluate her human qualities. As a female bot, does Ava’s intelligence extend to emotional manipulation? Is she using seduction to her advantage? Is she an “ex-machine” to be feared, or should we be more disturbed by her creator, whom she warns Caleb not to trust? If all of these questions are to be explored, particularly in regards to gender dynamics and personhood, then Ex Machina is sure to leave an unsettling mark. –Leah Pickett

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Avengers: Age of Ultron

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Release date: May 1st via Walt Disney Studios

If you’re bothering to read a film site on the Internet, odds are you’re at least a little bit excited about Avengers: Age of Ultron. The legend writes itself: Marvel attempts to restart the public’s yen for superhero movies, releases one of the all-time greats in Iron Man to start, and spends the next four years building an untouchable empire, all leading up to the record-shattering The Avengers in 2012. Now, Cap and Thor and Iron Man and Black Widow and Hawkeye and Hulk have to take on a nigh-unkillable robot, voiced by James Spader, an inspired casting choice for a malevolent AI if ever there was one. This is a sequel that even people who don’t watch movies in theaters anymore will be turning out for on opening day. Things will go boom, one-liners will be uttered, and those who can cast aside their superhero movie burnout for a few hours will probably have a blast. –Dominick Mayer

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Mad Max: Fury Road

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Release date: May 15th via Warner Bros. Pictures

Normally, I scoff at word of any replacement, remake, or reboot. However, I feel only joy when it comes to news of the upcoming Mad Max: Fury Road. Tom Hardy has replaced Mel Gibson as “Mad” Max Rockatansky, and I have absolutely no problems with this whatsoever. Rumor has it the story takes place sometime between the original Mad Max and The Road Warrior (a.k.a. Mad Max 2 if you aren’t American), making it a non-remake nor a reboot but a prequel. But wait, I’ve come to loathe the word “prequel,” so why do I have so much faith in a franchise whose last entry was the a’ight Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome back in 1985? First: George Miller, writer/director of the original trilogy, has returned. Second: This answer he gave to The Los Angeles Times last summer: “There are moments of green screen mainly for some landscape, but this is not a green screen movie.” Ticket purchased. –Justin Gerber

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Tomorrowland

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Release date: May 22nd via Walt Disney Studios

Brad Bird has been at it for a while despite a filmography with only four movies to his credit. But what a quartet! The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol range from “very good” to “great. What does the director have up his sleeve for his second live-action effort? We know that Disney’s Tomorrowland stars George Clooney and Britt Robertson, who just last year escaped from the clutches of the awful CBS series Under the Dome. In the teaser trailer, Robertson’s character picks up a pin and is transported to … Tomorrowland? Will they take a ride on the WEDWay PeopleMover? The possibilities are endless. The cast also includes the underused Kathryn Hahn, the underrated Judy Greer, and the underwhelming Tim McGraw, along with a script co-written by … yikes … Damon Lindelof. Hype softened for the moment. Just keep saying “Superman” and (hopefully) everything will be fine. –Justin Gerber

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Aloha

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Release date: May 29th via Columbia Pictures

Cameron Crowe’s much-delayed followup to 2011’s We Bought a Zoo still doesn’t have a title, but Sony’s Amy Pascal has a good one: “Ridiculous.” Set in Hawaii, the action-adventure romantic comedy consists of a talking computer, some lost treasure, and a love story between Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone. It’s Crowe boxing up the drama and rolling up his sleeves for some good ol’ clean fun, and to his credit, he’s managed to piece together a wild cast of A-listers like Bill Murray, Rachel McAdams, Alec Baldwin, and Danny McBride. While it risks being an on-screen vacay for those involved (and a celluloid hiccup for those who watch), there’s something curiously vintage about its spirited premise. After all, when was the last time audiences could laugh and chew on popcorn at a quirky production like this? Romancing the Stone? Joe Versus the Volcano? Six Days Seven Nights? Today’s couples are due for another adventure. –Michael Roffman

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Entourage

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Release date: June 5th via Warner Bros. Pictures

Show of hands: Who else read those embarrassing leaked e-mails between Sony studio execs and thought, This would make for a great episode of Entourage? Although I don’t think many people besides Entourage superfans were exactly clamoring for a silver screen adaptation of the 2004-2011 HBO series (we saw what they did to Sex and the City), the Entourage film could not be coming in the wake of a more perfect storm. And hey, the whole gang is back — Vincent (Adrian Grenier), Eric (Kevin Connolly), Drama (Kevin Dillon), Turtle (Jerry Ferrera), and irascible agent-turned-movie producer Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), plus recurring characters Billy (Rhys Coiro), Scott (Scott Caan), Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui), Dana (Constance Zimmer), Lloyd (Rex Lee), and Melissa (Perrey Reeves) — along with a couple of new players (the father-son team of Billy Bob Thornton and Haley Joel Osment as Texas billionaire financiers) and a slew of cameos from the likes of Liam Neeson, Tom Brady, Kid Cudi, and producer Mark Wahlberg. –Leah Pickett

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Jurassic World

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Release date: June 12th via Universal Pictures

Some of the stuff looks cool (shark-chompin’ and GMO-dinos!). Much of it looks like the same ol’, same ol’. The plot is meh: evil corporation forces waning park to create new dinos, and it goes bad because man just never stops trying to play God! Every line of dialogue in the trailer is a clunker, and Chris Pratt looks silly playing stoic. Hopefully, that lackluster teaser trailer is truly just teasing us, and Jurassic World is actually filled with wonder and terror. It has a good chance with Colin Trevorrow behind the wheel. He’s an odd choice for this big-ass reboot, having helmed the sweet, lo-fi time-travel romance Safety Not Guaranteed. That’s like handing the Fast and Furious franchise to the Duplass bros. But maybe he’ll teach old dinos new tricks in the same way he made time travel seem novel again. No matter how it turns out, it’s gonna bank big. Pratt’s still on a roll, people still have nostalgia for Jurassic shit, and it’s critic proof. I’m just happy B.D. Wong is in it and hope he isn’t eaten on a toilet. –Roy Ivy

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Inside Out

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Release date: June 19th via Walt Disney Studios

It’s been a weird few years for Pixar. Ever since their incredible 2007-2010 run, which yielded two all-time animated gems (Ratatouille and WALL-E), followed by two of the three animated Best Picture nominees ever (Up and Toy Story 3), the company has gone in a weird direction. Cars 2 was generally agreed upon as the worst Pixar film to date, and Monsters University didn’t exactly set the world on fire. But now, with Inside Out, the beloved company looks to reclaim some of their innovative magic. Told from the perspective of a young girl in emotional turmoil, Inside Out personifies each of the voices in her head, her sadness and joy and anger. From the sound of it, this could be one of those Pixar movies that hits parents a lot harder than the kids they bring to the movies. –Dominick Mayer

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Terminator Genisys

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Release date: July 1st via Paramount Pictures

After its convoluted mess of a trailer, will Terminator: Genisys make enough sense to blow away the cloud of incoherence that hovers above it? Let’s discuss the positives. Director Alan Taylor’s television work (including Game of Thrones and Mad Men, to name but two) is highly commendable. Arnold Schwarzenegger is back as multiple versions of the T-800. The great Jason Clarke becomes the fifth actor to play John Connor (I’m counting the scarred dude from the beginning of T2: Judgment Day). Even The Eleventh Doctor himself, Matt Smith, is appearing in an as-of-now unidentified role. Genisys is to be the start of a new Terminator trilogy, but we heard similar reports before McG’s Terminator: Salvation was released in 2009. Maybe Genisys will be a fresh start while paying tribute to franchise past. Maybe Jai Courtney will prove doubters wrong. No matter what, this parody trailer may just be worth the film’s release. –Justin Gerber

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Magic Mike XXL

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Release date: July 1st via Warner Bros. Pictures

One of the biggest surprise hits of 2012 was Magic Mike, a sensitive and nuanced film about male strippers from director Steven Soderbergh. The story of a 19-year-old (Alex Pettyfer) who is inducted into the fraternity of erotic dancing by six-year veteran Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) and his Xquisite Strip Club crew was loosely based on the experiences of Tatum, who worked as a stripper in Tampa, Florida, when he was 18. Critical and commercial success no doubt spurned the production of a sequel, Magic Mike XXL, which Tatum confirmed on Twitter in July 2012 by saying, “We want to flip the script and make it bigger.” Whether “bigger” is better remains to be seen, especially with Soderbergh handing the reins over to longtime first assistant director Greg Jacobs (Soderbergh will stay on as executive producer and cinematographer) and several actors skipping out on the second go-round (Tatum, Matt Bomer, and Joe Manganiello will reprise their roles; Pettyfer, Matthew McConaughey, and Cody Horn, who played Brooke, will not). Here’s hoping that the new story – set three years after the first film left off, with the remaining Kings of Tampa deciding to go on one “last hurrah” of a road trip before calling it quits – and a new coterie of characters played by Amber Heard, Donald Glover, Elizabeth Banks, and Andie McDowell, to name a few, will transcend its awkward title and keep the magic alive. –Leah Pickett

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Ant-Man

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Release date: July 17th via Walt Disney Studios

Remember all that teasing and postulating about how Guardians of the Galaxy was Marvel/Disney’s riskiest gamble to date, and then it wound up winning the 2014 domestic box office? Well here’s Marvel’s truly diciest project yet, not to mention the most heavily publicized and scrutinized production (the loss of geek Brit auteur Edgar Wright in exchange for Mr. Show and Bring It On’s Peyton Reed). Also, it’s Ant-Man, a D-list Marvel character. He can make himself either really tiny, or really big, and it’s being quietly pitched as Marvel’s first comedy. Sounds like an exciting Godzilla/Honey, I Shrunk The Kids hybrid right there. So we’ll just have to wait and see how the latest in the Marvel Cinematic Universe plays out this summer, artistically. Commercially? Five bucks say this sucker has no difficulty whatsoever crossing $200 million. That’s just how strong Disney/Marvel’s game is right now. So onward Paul Rudd and your action film for ants! –Blake Goble

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Trainwreck

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Release date: July 17th via Universal Pictures

Judd Apatow has penned the script for every feature film he’s directed — until now. For the director’s upcoming effort, Trainwreck, he handed over the screenwriting reins to comedian Amy Schumer, who’s also set to star. This will be Schumer’s first stab at writing for film, but if the final product is even half as hilarious and subversive as her Comedy Central sketch series, Inside Amy Schumer, then I’ll be satisfied. Plus, with Schumer at the typewriter instead of Apatow, it’s possible that Trainwreck will be the first Apatow-directed film to clock in under two hours since his debut, The 40-Year-Old Virgin (which is still overlong at 116 minutes). Currently, there isn’t much known about the film’s plot besides the fact that Amy Schumer’s character is, well, kind of a trainwreck. Besides Schumer, the film’s eclectic cast also includes Daniel Radcliffe, Tilda Swinton, Bill Hader, and — because why the hell not? — LeBron James and Method Man. –Adriane Neuenschwander

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Pixels

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Release date: July 24th via Columbia Pictures

Here’s a movie that would have been awesome, in like 1997. Chris Columbus directs Adam Sandler in an action comedy about arcade junkies facing off against aliens that model themselves after ‘80s video game characters (Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Centipede, to name a few). Think, you’d have had Adam Sandler starring in a summer-effects spectacle while he still had attitude coming off of Happy Gilmore, and Chris Columbus would have been directing right after making, what, billions off of the beloved Home Alones and Mrs. Doubtfire? But this is 2015, and that combo stinks of desperation, and the premise feels like a crummy cash grab on nostalgia. Then again, that image of Donkey Kong trashing New York City is kind of funny. And Peter Dinklage is in this, and that guy’s awesome! Wait, Josh Gad, too? We’re doomed. Hey this was chronicled briefly in those Sony leaks! Sandler wanted $200 million to produce Pixels, but the studio got this down to about $120! So, one point for Sony! –Blake Goble
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The Fantastic Four

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Release date: August 7th via 20th Century Fox

Chronicle was awesome — a micro-budget miracle that amalgamated comic books, found footage, and teen flicks. And you knew the second it was over that its director would get sucked up for big-budget studio films. So with that in mind: Good luck, Josh Trank. Not only are you contractually obligated to deliver a Star Wars product in 2018, but Fox now has you on the hook for two Fantastic Four films. The first one surfaces in August, and the web’s been aggressively catty about this — and for good reason. It’s a forced production, a means by Fox to keep the brand while the comic it’s based on gets discontinued next year. But to Fantastic Four’s credit, the film has a terrific, young cast (Whiplash’s Miles Teller, Fruitvale Station’s Michael B. Jordan, House of Cards‘ Kate Mara, the Apes‘ Toby Kebbell, and Billy Elliot himself, Jamie Bell) and one promising young helmer. –Blake Goble

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Masterminds

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Release date: August 14th via Relativity Media

I like heist comedies. I love Jody Hill. And I’ve really got a soft spot for Devin “Buzz from Home Alone” Ratray, who’s had some scene-stealing turns recently in Nebraska and Blue Ruin. So I have high hopes for Masterminds, loosely based on the true story of the 1997 Loomis Fargo Bank Robbery. That armored car heist went horribly awry. Hopefully the movie doesn’t. I’ve yet to warm up to director Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite), but Masterminds has Jody Hill and Danny McBride’s fingers in the screenplay pie and one helluva cast. In addition to Buzz, the cast of criminals includes Kristen Wiig, Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Zach Galifianakis, Ken Marino, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. You’d think Lorne Michaels produced it, and you’d be right. His hot breath is all over this thing. But hopefully Hill’s toxic malevolence overpowers Lorne’s Lorne Michaelsness and strangles Hess’ quirk. We’ll see. This could be the blackest comedy of the year or just a never-ending SNL sketch. –Roy Ivy

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Straight Outta Compton

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Release date: August 14th via Universal Pictures

Well, F. Gary Grey’s probably the best guy for the job. And I don’t envy him, because telling the story of N.W.A. is a really tall order. Musical biopics always blow, and it’s as whack as me saying “whack” that Angela Berloff (the very whack World Trade Center) wrote the screenplay. But this longtime fan’s gonna rush to it anyway, out of loyalty to his 13-year-old self. I’m just afraid it’s gonna be a biopic. Here’s what will likely happen: We’ll be quickly introduced to all of the distinct personalities with attitude. There’ll be a scene where they start rapping together, and it all clicks. There’ll be a scene where some square exec (most likely Paul Giamatti) says, “You can’t write a song called “FUCK THE POLICE!!!” And then the usual rise shit, where they get famous, buy houses for their moms … maybe a spinning Billboard chart and jokes about parental advisory stickers. Then we’ll get the fall shit: jail/drugs/breakups/fights. And then Eazy-E gets A.I.D.S. Hopefully, it isn’t that rote. It doesn’t help that Berloff wrote the screenplay, but Grey will certainly keep it popping, and it’ll be fun seeing if this cast (which includes Ice Cube’s kid) can pull it off. –Roy Ivy

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Regression

regression hawke e1420613608969 The 50 Most Anticipated Films of 2015

Release date: August 28th via The Weinstein Company

While most remembered for The Sea Inside and Agora, I’ll always love Alejandro Amenábar for 2001’s The Others. And this year, we’ll see him helm a different kind of horror film. Alright, so Regression’s being branded as a “thriller,” but the first still looks pretty damn creepy (see above). Ethan Hawke plays an investigator looking into the case of a young woman (Emma Watson) who’s accused her father of abusing her. But just look at that image. Is Hawke comforting her or crossing a line? Who’s the real villain going to be? If we’ve come to learn anything from Amenábar’s films, it’s that nothing is as it seems, and we’re hoping Regression is no different. –Dan Caffrey

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The Visit

m night The 50 Most Anticipated Films of 2015

Release date: September 11th via Universal Pictures

M. Night Shyamalan needs a hit. It’s been over a decade since the troubled filmmaker last won over any fans and critics, leaving bad vibes with would-be DTV fluff like After Earth, The Last Airbender, and Lady in the Water. In a rather self-aware move, he’s returned to his roots with The Visit, a low-budget thriller that follows a brother and a sister on a week-long trip to their grandparents’ remote Pennsylvania farm. Of course, something wicked their way comes, and odds are there will probably be a remarkable twist, but that’s fine. As long as it doesn’t feel pedantic (The Village) or asinine (The Happening), Shyamalan certainly has the talents to win back his audiences. But hey, if it makes anyone feel better, producer Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity) also hopped on board to assist, which (maybe) bodes well for its ability to scare. It’s a gamble, but damn if we don’t love a good comeback story. –Michael Roffman

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Black Mass

black mass The 50 Most Anticipated Films of 2015

Release date: September 18th via Warner Bros. Pictures

The last time Johnny Depp didn’t grate my nerves by being all Johnny Deppy was when he played Dillinger in Michael Mann’s Public Enemies. And years before that, I loved him as an undercover snitch in Donnie Brasco. So I’m happy that he gets to play both a psychopath mob boss and an FBI snitch in Black Mass. It’s the story of the life and crimes of Whitey Bulger, a notorious Boston baddie whom I shamefully know little about (I know his name’s a great euphemism). But any guy who ranks one below Bin Laden on the FBI Most Wanted List has my attention, as does this cast of this potential epic. Besides Depp, we’ve got the commanding presences of Benedict Cumberbatch and Joel Edgerton as Whitey’s tightest chums, Sienna Miller as his moll, and the ever-reliable Peter Sarsgaard, Corey Stoll, and Adam Scott as guys who’ll probably be murdered. Although I didn’t care for director Scott Cooper’s Crazy Heart or Out of the Furnace (and was happy when he dropped out of The Stand), I feel like the guy’s got a good movie in him somewhere. This could be it. Here’s hoping Depp doesn’t overchew the Boston accent. –Roy Ivy

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Everest

Everest poster

Release date: September 18th via Universal Pictures

I’m usually the first person to scoff at films that are released in IMAX 3D. No movie ticket should cost the same as a down payment on a Honda Civic. But when a film’s plot and location are as epic as Everest’s, I’m willing to cough up the dough. Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur heads up this massive production, which took the crew from the Italian Alps to the furthest reaches of Nepal. It chronicles the true story of the deadliest disaster that ever took place on Mount Everest, one that killed eight people including famed mountaineer Rob Hall. But even if its plot wasn’t so captivating, Everest would still be on my must-see list because of a phenomenal cast that includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Jason Clarke, and Robin Wright. Seriously, the movie’s casting director must have been reading my dream journal. –Adriane Neuenschwander

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The Walk

the walk poster The 50 Most Anticipated Films of 2015

Release date: October 2nd via TriStar Pictures

The Walk could really go either way. Robert Zemeckis’ latest film, a return to his lofty visual experiments after the more humane melodrama of Flight, is based on the true story of Philippe Petit, a French tightrope artist who broke into the World Trade Center in 1974 to string a rope between the Twin Towers and conquer the unconquerable. Sound familiar? If it does, that’s because it was seven years ago that James Marsh’s Man on Wire won the Academy Award for Best Documentary for its riveting, detailed reconstruction of the event. Now, Zemeckis looks to dramatize it, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing the idealistic Petit. Here’s hoping Zemeckis took one of Petit’s key bits of wisdom to heart when fleshing out the story: “There is no why.” The glory of Petit is that he was a dreamer who wanted to cross the Towers just for the hell of it. Hopefully the movie can be so focused in its own purpose. –Dominick Mayer

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Vacation

ed helms vacation The 50 Most Anticipated Films of 2015

Release date: October 9th via Warner Bros. Pictures

The late Harold Ramis carved out an iconic and hilarious slice of Americana with 1983’s Vacation. And to date, the idea of remaking it seems useless; go buy it, or borrow it, or stream it. You’ll still pee your pants when Chevy Chase’s Clark Griswold drops F-bombs and goes nuts on his family in the third act. Just as you’ll still chuckle at his lame family pep talks and feel a strange dose of nostalgia about your own pops. Yet this is Hollywood baby, and no franchise is sacred, which explains why Warner Bros. is keeping the brand alive with another story from the Griswolds. This time, Clark and Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) are staying home, leaving the adventures to their son, Rusty (Ed Helms), who insists on taking his family to Wally World before it closes for good. Considering the star power behind this sucker — Christina Applegate, Leslie Mann, Chris Hemsworth, Charlie Day, Keegan-Michael Key, Tim Heidecker, and it goes on — there has to be at least a few laughs. If not, we’re all fucked in the head for tagging along. –Michael Roffman

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Crimson Peak

crimson peak The 50 Most Anticipated Films of 2015

Release date: October 16th via Universal Pictures

Charlie Hunnam dodged a bullet. “I was going to shoot [50 Shades of Grey], wrap that on the Wednesday, and the following Monday I was going to start shooting Crimson Peak in Toronto,” he told CNN last September. “I just had like … frankly, something of a nervous breakdown.” He needed to make a choice, and he chose the latter (movie, not breakdown). Looks like a smart move. Now, he’s back with Guillermo del Toro (Pacific Rim) and working with legitimate movie stars Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain instead of creating mommy porn with Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith’s daughter. Crimson Peak looks to be a welcome return to a good, old-fashioned ghost story, a storyline del Toro is more than familiar with (The Devil’s Backbone). It will be interesting to see a horror film released around Halloween that doesn’t have anything to do with saws, paranormal activities, or VHS tapes. Well, it will have to do with paranormal activities, but you get the joke. –Justin Gerber
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St. James Place

ST. JAMES PLACE

Release date: October 16th via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Check out this roster and byline. Steven Spielberg directs Tom Hanks with a screenplay written by Joel and Ethan Coen to tell the story of an American lawyer recruited by the CIA to rescue a pilot during the Cold War. It’s based on the 1960 U-2 Incident, the true story of Francis Gary Powers, who was shot down over the Soviet Union while flying a spy plane. Somewhere in the distance, you can hear these people folding note cards and sticking hypothetical awards acceptance speeches into their pockets for 2016. This just seems like that kind of movie. There’s very little to go on right now. Entertainment Weekly premiered a few snapshots recently (see above), and production only began last September in New York. We can’t handle another Terminal, no sir, so here’s to hoping for something akin to Catch Me If You Can. –Blake Goble

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Spectre

James Bond Spectre

Release date: November 6th via MGM and Columbia Pictures

I am 100% on board with the idea of Idris Elba taking over the role of the spy who loves his shaken martinis, Aston Martins, Walter PPKs, and, of course, the ladies. However, before that day comes (if it ever does), can we just enjoy what the Daniel Craig films have done for the franchise? He’s delivered two of the best Bond movies of the past 25 years! When he decides to hang it up, that’s fine. It’s like raving about Tom Brady’s back-up while the old Wolverine’s still at the top of his game. End of rant. As for EON’s 24th Bond film, it has Craig returning with director Sam Mendes, as well as his team of M (Ralph Fiennes), Miss Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), and Q (Ben Whishaw). As for villains, do they come much better than Christoph Waltz? Hope is at an all-time high, so let’s enjoy speculating about the upcoming movie, then we can speculate over any replacements that may follow. –Justin Gerber

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The Peanuts Movie

 The 50 Most Anticipated Films of 2015

Release date: November 6th via 20th Century Fox

“We need[ed] to have absolute quality control and keep it under Dad’s legacy,” Craig Schulz told The Washington Post last October, insisting why he wrote and produced the film with his son, Bryan. “You can’t bring people in from the outside and expect them to understand Peanuts.” And so, Charles M. Schulz’s timeless cartoon strip lives on this year with its fifth full-length film and first feature based on the characters in 35 years. What’s different? Well, for one, the whole gang will be in 3D animation. Don’t sweat it, though, as director Steve Martino (Horton Hears a Who!) spent over a year with his animators obsessing and studying the original strips in an effort to capture Schulz’s trademark style. They even nabbed the rights to use past recordings of the late Bill Melendez to voice Snoopy and his trusty pal Woodstock. Needless to say, this is a genuine production that warrants its poster’s tagline of “dream big.” The only problem is that we can’t start until November. To quote Charlie Brown: “AAUGH!” –Michael Roffman

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

The-Hunger-Games-Mockingjay-Part-2

Release date: November 20th via Lionsgate

Come November, it’ll be time for The Hunger Games to finally come to a close so that some other YA franchise might have a shot at printing its own money as this one has. Mockingjay – Part 1 was a remarkably bleak affair, even for this series, and if you know anything about Part 2, well … let’s just say that the consequences of war outlined in the film’s first half will only get more dire as things unfold. Panem is at war, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is still struggling to accept her role as the face of a revolution, and when we left off, our heroes had rescued Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) from the Capitol at long last, only to find him a brainwashed, rabid shell of his former self. Yeesh. While the two-part finale trend is as irritating as it is immovable for the time being, Hunger Games has always remained several steps ahead of its contemporaries, and this looks to be a fitting end. May the odds be ever in its favor. –Dominick Mayer

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The Martian

the martian The 50 Most Anticipated Films of 2015

Release date: November 25th via 20th Century Fox

I struggled with The Martian on paper. It’s not that it’s not well written — in fact, the humor author Andy Weir is able to wedge in between so many nuts and bolts is astounding. It’s that the left side of my brain hadn’t been given such a workout in years. Stranded on Mars, astronaut Mark Watney must draw upon every botanical trick he knows of to survive the four years until the next team arrives. Weir exploits every potato, every calorie, every ounce of hydrogen Watney needs to survive, resulting in a read that’s as educational as it is entertaining. Adapting the book is Cabin in the Woods mastermind Drew Goddard, whose smart, blackly whimsical approach seems perfectly suited to translating Weir’s dense prose into something accessible. And the story’s literary cred and crack cast — Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Donald Glover, and everyone else — seem like just the ticket to absolving director Ridley Scott for Prometheus, The Counselor, and Exodus: Gods and Kings (though maybe not his comments about that film’s casting — woof). –Randall Colburn

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Untitled Christmas Eve Project

jo go lev xmas The 50 Most Anticipated Films of 2015

Release date: November 25th via Columbia Pictures

Writer-director Jonathan Levine (The Wackness, Warm Bodies) has a knack for blending tragedy and comedy. This was especially apparent in his 2011 feature 50/50, a buddy-cancer comedy starring Seth Rogen and Joseph-Gordon Levitt. This year, that acting duo will team back up for Levine’s upcoming holiday film, which is currently being referred to as Untitled Christmas Eve Project. The film follows three best friends — Rogen and Levitt joined by the always-reliable Anthony Mackie — on their annual quest to find the best Christmas Eve party in New York City. In addition to the pedigree of the director and cast, there’s one more reason to mark your calendars for this release: Evan Goldberg, who cowrote the script. This will be Goldberg’s first chance at redemption since The Interview sparked an international incident and caused film critics everywhere to groan in unison. –Adriane Neuenschwander

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars

Release date: December 18th via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, George Lucas created three iconic films that would forever reshapen the way cinephiles go about life. Now, over 30 years and three maligned prequels later, director J.J. Abrams is doing the unthinkable: He’s continuing the story. Not only do we get to see Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), but he’s also assembled an enviable bounty of talent that includes Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o, Gwendoline Christie, Andy Serkis, Max von Sydow, and so many more. And for Christ’s sake, he even wrote the screenplay alongside Lawrence Kasdan, the co-writer of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Judging from everything that’s surfaced — the teaser, the video diaries, the leaked concept art — it would appear that this is the Star Wars sequel young and graying diehards have wanted for decades. As such, the excitement today is exhausting, enough that I would personally take Hibernol to sleep like a baby all the way up until its Christmas release. Sorry, sweethearts. I haven’t got time for anything else. –Michael Roffman

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Sisters

The Nest

Release date: December 18th via Universal Pictures

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are just as hilarious apart (most notably as the leads of their long-running, respective NBC shows 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation) as they are together (co-starring on Saturday Night Live, collaborating on Mean Girls, hosting the notoriously boozy Golden Globe Awards for three years running), but boy, do we love them together. And while their first film as a top-billed duo, 2008’s Baby Mama, received mixed reviews, their newest venture certainly looks promising. Sisters (previously titled The Nest) is about two estranged siblings, played by Poehler and Fey, who are summoned home to clean their childhood bedroom before their parents sell the house, during which time they decide to throw one final blow-out party. The film, which also features Maya Rudolph, Ike Barinholtz, and Kate McKinnon in supporting roles, is set to open on the same weekend as Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but your dream BFFs are undeterred. ”We said we’d only do the movie if it opened against Star Wars,” Poehler told Entertainment Weekly. ”We’re not scared. It’s what gets us up in the morning: We are going to f—ing crush Star Wars .” –Leah Pickett

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Joy

 The 50 Most Anticipated Films of 2015

Release date: December 25th via 20th Century Fox

It’s exciting to see the budding star/director relationship between David O. Russell and Jennifer Lawrence. The director has a (sadly) uncommon interest in telling stories about fierce and interesting women. Lawrence is easily one of the most exciting young actresses we have right now. Between the delirious American Hustle and the screwy Silver Linings Playbook, the duo have hit a groove, so here’s to hoping that Joy is another step forward in what’s turning out to be a beautiful friendship. This time, the two are working together to tell the story of Joy Mangano, the Long Island inventor of the Miracle Mop. The film is currently working on casting (with Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, and Edgar Ramirez padding things out), and Annie Mumolo (Bridesmaids) wrote the script. If all goes well, the film will boost Miracle Mop sales. And be awesome. That too. –Blake Goble

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Mission: Impossible 5

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - GHOST PROTOCOL

Release date: December 2th via Paramount Pictures

We don’t know much about the fifth film in Cruise’s highly successful series aside from its cast and crew. Returning to the M:I ensemble are Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, and, hopefully in a bigger role than he was given in Ghost Protocol, Ving Rhames as Luther. As is custom with the series, a new director is at the helm, with Christopher McQuarrie leading the troops for this go-round. McQuarrie’s best work has been on paper (The Usual Suspects), but he did direct Cruise in 2012’s Jack Reacher. Hey, with guys like Tom Cruise in movies you can’t lose! One other fun fact: The artist formerly known as Thomas Mapother has performed another crazy stunt for the movie. If you thought swinging atop Dubai’s Burj Khalifa was insane, Cruise has been filmed hanging outside a flying airplane. Your move, Will Smith! –Justin Gerber

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The Hateful Eight

hateful eight The 50 Most Anticipated Films of 2015

Release date: December 25th via The Weinstein Company

“I thought, ‘What if I did a movie starring nothing but those characters? No heroes, no Michael Landons. Just a bunch of nefarious guys in a room, all telling backstories that may or may not be true. Trap those guys together in a room with a blizzard outside, give them guns, and see what happens.’” I haven’t seen the leaked script for Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, but the above quote tells me all I need to know. This shit’s going to be salty, violent, and quite possibly the best thing I see all year. As usual, Tarantino’s rounded up a who’s who of grizzled character actors: Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Bruce Dern, and Michael Madsen. The Western seems to be making a comeback these days: Ti West’s Travolta-starring In a Valley of Violence also comes out this year, but while I love that young upstart, I can’t imagine anyone bringing the bygone blood-n’-dust genre into the 21st century like QT. –Randall Colburn

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The Revenant

leonardo dicaprio The 50 Most Anticipated Films of 2015

Release date: December 25th via 20th Century Fox

Birdman seemed to announce a new mode of work for Alejandro González Iñárritu. Yes, it possessed the emotional extremity of prior work, but filmwise it was a technical masterwork, and the director started to experiment with satirical and darkly humorous subject matter. It’s like Iñárritu was finally having some fun while making a movie. So we welcome The Revenant with opens arms. Here’s to the newer, loonier Iñárritu! So what does he have in store for 2015? Set in the 1820s, The Revenant is about a man left for dead after being mauled by a bear, and he decides to seek vengeance against the men who left him to die. Oh boy. The poster boy for nasty characterizations, Leonardo DiCaprio is in this as well? Okay, never mind. We’ll see this, but we liked you more when you were chill, Alejandro González Iñárritu! You hear us?! –Blake Goble

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Knight of Cups

knight of cups The 50 Most Anticipated Films of 2015

Release date: TBA

Watching the trailer for Terrence Malick’s next project, Knight of Cups, stirred up a similar feeling to that which welled in me when I watched the trailer for Malick’s previous film, Tree of Life, for the first time: an overwhelming smack of wonder, awe, and excitement. Whether the Knight of Cups film itself will match the dazzling visual and visceral tapestry of its preview is still a big question mark at this point; Tree of Life certainly has its detractors in terms of story and overall impact. But with such a gorgeous, undulating dreamscape of possibility, not to mention a cast of multiple Academy Award winners (Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett, Ben Kingsley) and an admirably murky cloud of mystery over the whole production (“Once there was a young prince whose father, the king of the East, sent him down into Egypt to find a pearl. But when the prince arrived, the people poured him a cup. Drinking it, he forgot he was the son of a king, forgot about the pearl, and fell into a deep sleep,” reads the official synopsis), going down Malick’s next rabbit hole, if only for curiosity’s sake, is all but inevitable. –Leah Pickett

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It Follows

It-Follows

Release date: TBA

I’m from Southeast Michigan, and I love horror movies, so It Follows, a horror flick filmed in Southeast Michigan, sounds like a dream come true. I haven’t seen it yet, but plenty others have. That’s because David Robert Mitchell’s film has been blazing through the festival circuit, a trail of ecstatic reviews glowing in its wake. The story of a sexual encounter that gives way to a stalkerish nightmare, It Follows is, according to all reports, the kind of movie that benefits from you not knowing much about it. For that reason, I’ll say little else except this: I hope it’s underlying STD metaphor is played subtly, for texture rather than message. Two of the most hyped horror reviews of the last year — The Babadook and Starry Eyes — suffered from strong central metaphors that went on to overwhelm the horror. (For the record, I still loved The Babadook. Starry Eyes? Not so much.) Here’s hoping It Follows doesn’t follow in their footsteps. Buh-dum-chah. –Randall Colburn

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31

31 zombie The 50 Most Anticipated Films of 2015

Release date: September 18th via Warner Bros. Pictures

If you scroll through the very NSFW FanBacked site for Rob Zombie’s 31, you won’t find many traces of a plot: it has to do with Halloween, it has a ton of murderous clowns, and it takes place at what looks like an amusement park called Murder Land. And that’s about it. We prefer it that way, as Zombie tends to falter when he worries too much about story (see his Halloween remakes). What you will find, however, is plenty of bugshit visual panache, which, as 2012’s The Lords of Salem proved, is the filmmaker/musician’s strong suit. We won’t spoil too much here, but take a look at Zombie’s concept art for 31 and tell us you’re not excited. Just make sure you’re not at the office, unless your office is in Murder Land. –Dan Caffrey

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