The rules for this annual blog are simple: choose 10 films that debut somewhere between January and the end of June that I’m excited or interested in and write a brief blurb on each of them. I like putting this post together so much that I do it twice a year (part two, covering July through December, will hit sometime in late June), which allows me to A.) Highlight twice as many films and B.) Get a look at some of the smaller movies headed our way in the latter half of the year before staking my name to them. My batting percentage in these posts is pretty strong (I feel good about seven of the ten movies I named in last year’s part one) but there’s usually at least one big swing-and-miss (I’m talking to you, Monuments Men). To help avoid these big misses as much as possible, I generally try to stick to movies that have a trailer available but as you’ll see, I’ll violate that rule when absolutely necessary.
As far as this year goes, I expect 2015 will go down as one of the bigger years in movie history, at least as far as the blockbuster films are concerned. The tentpole movies, the big budget popcorn types, are so strong this year that it’s difficult to imagine we won’t see an uptick at the box office this year. That said, the first half of the year is, uh, a bit weak to say the least. I’m really, REALLY stoked about six movies headed our way in the next six months. After that…well, you’ll have to see for yourself.
Honorable Mention: Jurassic World (June 12)
Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Judy Greer
I want this to be good, you guys. I really, really, REALLY want it to be good. I love Jurassic Park; it’s one of my top-five favorite movies of all time. The idea of a new Jurassic Park installment, starring Pratt, whom I love, and directed by Colin Trevorrow, who made a great little sci-fi flick in 2012 (Safety Not Guaranteed) sounds glorious. But that first trailer looks HORRENDOUS to me. Like, Jaws 3-level horrendous. I hope I’m wrong, I hope the movie finds itself in the next six months, but I’m wary.
10. Mad Max: Fury Road (May 15)
Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult
I was much more excited about the prospect of a Mad Max reboot than I actually am on this finished product (based on the trailer). I’ve made the mistake in recent years of pointing out this movie or that as the “right” kind of movie to remake (RoboCop, Total Recall, etc.) and been burned numerous times. So, while I do think this is the kind of movie worth remaking, I’m cold to the sort of hyper-violence that it looks like Fury Road is going to use. That said, uh, Tom Hardy is awesome and this is kind of the perfect role for him. So that’s tough to knock.
9. The Gunman (March 20)
Sean Penn, Idris Elba, Javier Bardem
I’ve said it in this space before and I’m sure I’ll say it again: When Sean Penn is locked in, he is a sight to behold. The Gunman definitely looks like it was one of the three action films Liam Neeson was offered but couldn’t squeeze into his schedule this year but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Truth be told, more aging actors could probably learn a thing or two from Neeson. But hey, if Sean Penn wants to pal around with Idris Elba and go guns a’blazing against Javier Bardem, I’m interested.
8. Chappie (March 6)
Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Sharlto Copley
On the one hand, I’m a big fan of director Neill Blomkamp’s first film, District 9; on the other, his follow-up film, Elysium, was hugely disappointing. Blomkamp has a great mind for sci-fi, I think, but perhaps hasn’t honed his craft enough to be completely trustworthy. I don’t know that Chappie is going to be the movie that pushes his career in the right direction, as it is definitely just an R-rated Short Circuit, but it has an excellent cast and features some great-looking special effects.
7. Kingsman: The Secret Service (February 13)
Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson
The Internet has sold me on this one so I reserve the right to blame said cyber strangers should Kingsman turn out to be a bust. I’m not a huge fan of just about anyone involved in this project and the first few times I saw the trailer I came away underwhelmed. But somewhere around the 100th trailer viewing, something clicked and I started seeing how this movie could be a lot of fun if done correctly. In addition, director Matthew Vaughn does have a talent for infusing smart humor into his comic book movies and I would hazard to guess Kingsman will provide a healthy dose of that combination.
6. Untitled Cameron Crowe Project (May 29)
Bradley Cooper, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray
Okay, okay. So I’m breaking the “no trailer” rule I laid out in the intro. And, yeah, this is definitely a case of, “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” in that this film made my Most Anticipated list last year and then was bumped to this year. The fact that it STILL doesn’t have a title is not a good sign. But I just can’t help myself. Crowe is one of my very favorite directors and this cast is fantastic. In this case, I choose to set aside all the red flags and dive in recklessly.
5. Inside Out (June 19)
Amy Poehler, Diane Lane, Bill Hader
Here’s where things gets really exciting for me. Whereas 2014 failed to deliver our annual Pixar therapy session, 2015 promises to bring with it not one but two Pixar films to make up for last year’s indiscretion and get us all back on track emotionally. Alright, so maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement. Anyway, Pixar will bring us The Good Dinosaur in the fall but judging by the terrific trailer, it will have a lot to live up to in relation to its slightly older counterpart, Inside Out. A great concept added to one of the more name drop-y casts Pixar has ever put out should make this an instant winner (at least for this guy).
4. In the Heart of the Sea (March 13)
Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson
Chris Hemsworth is an absolute movie star and I love Ron Howard movies that don’t relate to Dan Brown. I’m also terrified of the sea and enjoy any cautionary tale about why the sea should be respected but left alone. So In the Heart of the Sea is right up my alley. The trailer, too, is outstanding.
3. Avengers 2: Age of Ultron (May 1)
Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, James Spader
There’s not just a whole lot to be said about this movie that hasn’t already been said. The first installment of The Avengers is one of the very best comic book movies of all-time and probably holds a similar place on the wider list of great blockbusters. To follow that up, all Joss Whedon and company did was add the slippery greatness of James Spader to the cast. That sounds lovely, thank you very much. This whole universe is amping up to something even grander than Marvel has already been able to achieve and I’m looking forward to another building block in its foundation.
2. Tomorrowland (May 22)
Britt Robertson, George Clooney, Hugh Laurie
Fans of movie news, rumors, and rumblings like myself have been following this mysterious project for quite some time and yet, we still know very little. We know Clooney is involved. We know it’s directed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol). We know it has major backing from Disney. And we know the little teaser trailer that started making the rounds a few months ago is so, so cool. That’s about it, really, and yet…that’s plenty enough for me. I almost hope we don’t get another trailer or another ounce of information before Tomorrowland debuts.
1. Furious 7 (April 3)
Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham
Furious 7 should have been one of the crown blockbuster jewels of 2014. Instead, this cruel world stepped in and claimed the life of co-star Walker, sending the entire production into uncertainty. Diesel and his friends, nay, his family, managed to pick up the pieces and put together what looks to be the definitive Fast/Furious film and I CANNOT WAIT!!! I know this franchise is ridiculous and that not everyone can appreciate or understand its SIGNIFICANT value. I just happen to believe those people are missing out on some of the most enjoyable filmmaking of the last decade. There are few things better in this industry than an action movie that understands its own identity and executes accordingly and that’s exactly what I expect Furious 7 to pull off.