Wednesday, 14 January 2015
Happy New Year everyone and welcome back to The Ephemeric. Over the next few weeks we will be rolling out The Hot List, the essential guide to your year ahead. This week we begin with a look at the most exciting new movies set to hit the big screen in 2015 from March onwards, after this year's Oscars.
2014 was a very fine year for cinema, one of the best in recent times. The big hitters riding into awards season range from more classically styled prestige pictures to some truly original creations, brought to you by a mix of veteran directors and some of the best young blood in the business. There are a good 15 or so films this year that could make a legitimate case for a best picture nomination, and it's not often that one can say that.
2015 has the potential to be another especially exciting year. A healthy mix of blockbusters and artistic movies, adaptations of award winning novels and biographies of historic figures; the films set to hit the big screen in 2015 seem to tick every box. There is such potential here that narrowing our list down to even 15 from a long list of almost 30 was a tough job.
So behold, the key films to keep an eye on in the coming year (trailers linked in the title where available), starting with number 15:
In Hollywood it's never too soon to milk a prominent story. Icon tells the story of journalist David Walsh and his mission to bring down drug cheat Lance Armstrong, which of course resulted in the former sporting legend's spectacular fall from grace.
Brought to the big screen by two time Academy Award nominee Stephen Frears, who is best known for films such as High Fidelity, The Queen, and Philomena. The cast includes a potentially breakthrough role for young actor Ben Foster as Armstrong himself, while British comedian Chris O'Dowd takes the role of Walsh. Meanwhile Dustin Hoffman and Lee Pace have so far joined onto the cast in minor roles.
Part sporting drama and part legal thriller, the scandal should make for a riveting film. With a highly respected director and promising young cast to boot this will definitely be one to keep an eye on. Icon is only one of a few Lance Armstrong movies currently in development, but it's getting the most buzz right now, and is definitely due for release this fall.
Release Date: August 2015
Switching things up a bit we have Chappie, the new film from director Neill Blomkamp. A deceptively ambitious concept that regards an experimental intelligent robot, raising important and increasingly topical questions about artificial intelligence, consciousness, and human rights.
Blomkamp was briefly one of the world's hottest young directors after his debut with District 9, but after the disappointing follow up that was Elysium he now finds himself at an important juncture in his career. No doubt Chappie will feature more of his trademark realistic low-fi special fx and impressive visual work.
The cast, as always, includes Sharlto Copley, who is joined by Hugh Jackman, Dev Patel, and Sigourney Weaver. A talented cast for sure, but that wasn't enough to save Elysium. Much this time will depend on the quality of the writing. It is therefore reassuring to see the return of Teri Tatchell, who wrote District 9.
The addition of a Hans Zimmer score can only help. This is one to watch this Spring when it is released.
Release Date: March 6th 2015
Suffragette is one you'll probably be hearing about at the Oscars in March 2016. Meryl Streep plays historic women's rights activist Emmeline Pankhurst, supported by a cast that includes Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Ben Whishaw, and Brendan Gleeson. Streep already holds the record for most Oscar nominations of any actor, can any force in the universe stop Streep from adding to her tally further?
The talent is of extremely high quality, and the screenwriter Abi Morgan comes with similar award winning pedigree having scribed Oscar nominated films like The Iron Lady, and Shame. The only question mark comes from the relatively unknown director Sarah Gavron, who's cv so far contains little of note. A potentially career defining moment for her then.
Either way there is no doubt that this is a film that people will be talking about for the next year, and expect to see it talked about among the award nominees once it releases towards the end of 2015.
Release Date: September 11th 2015
12. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Well there's no avoiding it, probably the blockbuster of 2015. The long awaited return of the Star Wars franchise, now under the stewardship of Disney following the flop prequel trilogy, is being tipped to smash all the box office records.
Even as someone who has never been too interested in Star Wars, one can't help but admire the direction they're taking the series. The Force Awakens sees the reigns handed to acclaimed director J.J. Abrams, and a cast that is chock full of award winning talent like Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong'o, Andy Serkis, and other actors with real critical pedigree like John Boyega of Indie darling Attack the Block. Add to this the cast of the original Star Wars trilogy and the return of John Williams and things are looking very promising indeed.
Most intriguing though is the suggestion that Disney intends to do for Star Wars what they did for the Marvel Comics IP, which means lots of additional TV tie-ins and, most interesting, stand-alone films in offsetting years throughout the main trilogy, the first of which is set to be directed by up-and-coming director Gareth Edwards and is due for release as soon as 2016. The Force Awakens though will be here this year, and currently has a date set for just before Christmas.
Release Date: December 18th 2015
And now for one that's more of a guilty pleasure. Entourage was one of the best shows on TV for many years. A classic HBO dramedy about the Hollywood lifestyle, complete with all the sex, drugs and vulgarity one would expect.
The series finale left things open for a movie, and now that day has finally come. It seems oddly topical now with the recent Sony email leaks; if you couldn't get enough of Amy Pascal and Scott Rudin smack-talking each other you will love this movie.
The same core cast returns of Kevin Connolly, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara, and Jeremy Piven, plus the usual glut of celeb guest stars which is set to include Mark Wahlberg, Ryan Gosling, Calvin Harris, Liam Neeson, Piers Morgan, and Thierry Henry to name just a few. The film hits the big screen this June, if you're a fan of the show check it out, even if you're not it's going to be good fun.
Release Date: June 5th 2015
This is an interesting one, and something of a risky pick. Trumbo is the real life story of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, a successful writer in the 1940s who was ultimately blacklisted from Hollywood for his political beliefs.
Interesting because this presents the opportunity for a breakout Hollywood starring role for Bryan Cranston, an acclaimed actor who nonetheless is still mostly known for his TV roles. The rest of the cast is not exactly lacking for talent either with Helen Mirren, John Goodman and Alan Tudyk on board.
Director Jay Roach is another interesting choice. Mostly known for his ridiculous comedies, which includes the Austin Powers and Meet the Parents series, he has more recently been moving into more serious fare with highly competent political movies done for TV including Recount and Game Change. Trumbo marks a huge opportunity for him as well to make the transition to serious film on the big screen.
The Academy loves films about Hollywood, but does this portray them in a negative way? Can Jay Roach really make the jump to big-screen drama? There is much to be seen when this film nears release in the latter half of 2015.
Release Date: Fall 2015
Joy is the rags-to-riches story based on the life of Joy Mangano, a Long Island single mother of three who sold her Miracle Mop invention and made millions.
It is directed by Academy favourite David O'Russell, and stars another Academy favourite Jennifer Lawrence. The subject matter, a Christmas release, and two of the Academy's favourite people; Oscar-bait? You bet, this will definitely be one on people's lips towards March 2016.
It's also worth noting that despite five nomination, O'Russell has actually never won the Oscar for best director, and in fact none of his films have won best picture. This could be his year.
Release Date: Christmas 2015
James Bond is back, this time with Spectre, a plotline which dates back the original books as Bond battles against Blofeld and his criminal organisation Spectre.
Sam Mendes directs again, and of course Daniel Craig is still Bond. The question is how do you follow up a film that was as wildly successful as Skyfall? Apparently by going bigger. Spectre promises to be the culmination of the Craig Bond series, and according to the leaked Sony emails is set to cost a whopping $300 million. No word yet on whether two time Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz is set to play Blofeld himself or another bad guy.
Bond is on a bit of a roll at the moment. Casino Royale and Skyfall were both excellent movies, heres hoping that Spectre will be more like these and less Quantum of Solace. Whatever happens this film is going to be huge, possibly the most hyped Bond film ever. It releases in November this year.
Release Date: November 6th 2015
There is not one detail about Silence which doesn't suggest that it's going to be a very big deal. An adaptation of the acclaimed 1966 Japanese novel of the same name, a historical drama dealing with religious persecution in 17th Century Japan, screenplay by two time Academy Award nominee Jay Cocks, and directed by one of the greatest of all time, Martin Scorsese.
Originally the film had been mooted for one Daniel Day Lewis and Benicio del Toro when it first surfaced in 2009, but following a recent script rewrite the cast now includes two highly regarded young up and comers in Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver, as well as veteran Liam Neeson.
It all sounds great so far, so it's just as well that the film is lined up for a November release, right around when the awards season really gets going. Put this one on your list, it's going to be big.
Release Date: November 2015
6. Ex Machina
Next a potential hidden gem of 2015. Ex Machina is not a film you're likely hear much about or see plastered on buses, but there's a significant and growing buzz about it anyway, here's why.
Ex Machina is the directorial debut of Alex Garland, a novelist acclaimed for his work which includes The Beach, and The Tesseract, and a prominent screenwriter whose screenplays include 28 Days Later and Never Let Me Go, as well as the script for the infamous Halo adaptation that was never produced. His directorial debut, for which he also penned the screenplay, is the latest film to deal with the increasingly trendy topic of artificial intelligence, and word is that it might be the best on the subject matter.
It's impressive that for his debut film Garland has managed to secure a cast including some up and coming actors, including Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson, while producer Scott Rudin is one of the biggest names in the business.
Ex Machina is a big moment for Garland, it will be intriguing to see how this new direction in his career pans out when the film releases this Spring.
Release Date: April 10th 2015
5. The Hateful Eight
Welcome back Quentin Tarantino. His new film The Hateful Eight looked like it wasn't going to get made after it leaked all over the internet, and the famously tetchy writer/director threw a fit, but it has finally seen the light of day.
It's a shame to see no Christoph Waltz involvement with this project considering their successful recent collaborations, but we can content ourselves with a typically allstar cast that includes Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, and Channing Tatum.
The plot seems to be a road movie mixed with a classic spaghetti western, but this being Tarantino we can safely expect violence, witty writing, and his trademark eccentric style. The Weinstein Company is taking up distribution, and will be hoping that Tarantino continues his recent success when it comes to awards season. The Hateful Eight is set for release in November.
Release Date: November 13th 2015
4. Knight of Cups
The one remnant of our 2014 list still not yet to make release. Knight of Cups is the newest film from reclusive director Terrence Malick, a man as known for his unapologetically obtuse artistic vision as he is for his long breaks between projects (he famously took a 20 year absence between Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line). Strangely in recent years he seems to be becoming more and more prolific as he enters his 8th decade, filming Knight of Cups back to back with another film Project V, which appears likely to slip to 2016.
The rather cryptic proverb on IMDB does little to shed light on what Knight of Cups will be about, but word is this is going to be a modern Hollywood fable, all about celebrity, excess and corruption. Malick films tend to be pretty divisive, with his last film Tree of Life being met both with boos and applause on its debut, before promptly winning the Palm D'Or at Cannes. Early buzz around this newest project seems to be that it is a more accessible and crowd pleasing beast, and perhaps fits a more traditional style of filmmaking.
As usual Malick attracks a top cast, including Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, and Natalie Portman, who have four Oscars between them, among others. Emmanuel Lubezki, arguably the best cinematographer in the business and long time Malick collaborator, is on board too.
Knight of Cups will release initially at the Berlin Film Festival in February, with a wider release presumably to follow later in the year.
Release Date: February 2015
3. The Revenant
Next we head out west for The Revenant. A full-blooded American western, The Revenant is based on a novel of the same name by Michael Punke, and brought to the big screen by writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu.
Iñárritu is of course one of the hottest directors in Hollywood right now. With two Academy Award nominations under his belt for Babel and Biutiful, Iñárritu has well and truly hit the big time now with Birdman, which has arguably been the sleeper hit of the current awards season.
He's got a top quality cast to work with as well, with Leonardo DiCaprio the main man, and Tom Hardy and Domhnall Gleeson in support. This is very much a DiCaprio film though, think 127 Hours where it's essentially just the one actor on the screen for the entire film. Might this finally be Leo's year for Academy success?
As a film with high ambitions, it's no surprise to see it set for release on Christmas day this year.
Release Date: December 25th 2015
2. The Martian
One of the highest profile upcoming releases in 2015 is The Martian.
This is an adaptation of the best selling novel by Andy Weir, to be directed by Sir Ridley Scott. Now first off let's be honest, for all the films Ridley has made over the decades, there hasn't really been a great one since 2000's Gladiator. In fact from the past decade, his films have flopped more often than not, with only American Gangster in recent years (and that was 7 years ago) receiving positive reception. Ridley Scott badly needs a win in order to prove that he's not completely past it.
Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, and Jeff Daniels make for a fine core cast, and will be bolstered by the supporting roles for fine actors like Sean Bean, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Kate Mara.
Certainly of his recent work, The Martian looks the most likely to return Ridley Scott to the Hollywood elite. It's still early days yet, the film itself is not set for release until the end of November.
Release Date: November 25th 2015
1. Bridge of Spies
And for the number one entry on the 2015 Hot List, Bridge of Spies. The details of this film have only recently started to come together, but already it's looking like a winning combination.
Steven Spielberg is at the helm for the first time since Lincoln, which is good news for anyone underwhelmed that the long gestating remake of The BFG had been the only project on his calendar up til now. The script by The Coen Brothers covers the true story of James Donovan, a lawyer during the Cold War tasked with negotiating the release of a pilot shot down in the Soviet Union. It stars Tom Hanks, theatre actor Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, and Alan Alda.
So one of the all time greatest directors, with one of the all time greatest screenwriting duos, one of the all time greatest actors, a fine supporting cast, and a juicy historic drama. The Ephemeric bets good money that this is going to be one of the biggest releases of 2015, and is the most exciting project currently set for release this year.
Release Date: October 16th 2015
So there you have it folks: 2015 in movies. Tune in next week for the essential new television shows on the air in 2015!