It's time again for my list of my most anticipated films of the year. I split this up into two posts, one for the mainstream would-be blockbusters that are released on three thousand screens at a time and enjoy massive marketing blitzes months in advance, and one for the smaller, more specialized films that are harder to keep track of. We're doing the big boys first. 2015 was at one point overscheduled with huge titles, creating several potential showdowns between massive properties. Things have calmed down, but there are still plenty of familiar names in play. In the past I tried to avoid putting too many franchise films on the list, but I've given up this year, because it feels like nearly everything is a franchise film.
"Mad Max: Fury Road" - Have you seen the trailers for this thing? I wasn't much of a fan of the original Mad Max movies, but I always admired their anarchic spirit and grungy post-apocalyptic style. "Fury Road" introduces a lot of modern pyrotechnics and big budget production values, but it's still got the same attitude. Tom Hardy is a great choice to fill Mel Gibson's shoes, and I love the descriptions I've heard so far of the plot - no frills, little dialogue, and almost entirely comprised of one big, accelerating chase. Now that sounds like a summer action movie.
"Tomorrowland" - We've been hearing about Brad Bird's top secret 1952 science-fiction themed project for a long time now, and I'm glad we'll finally be able to see the finished product after a couple of delays. The teaser featuring Britt Robertson and George Clooney was great, revealing very little, and I'm doing my best to stay in the dark about any plot details. Such scant information might normally be cause for doubt, but this is Brad Bird, who has never made a movie I haven't liked. That it's a passion project of his is all I need to know to have "Tomorrowland" on my list.
"Fantastic Four" - 2015 will be fairly light on superhero films. I'm ambivalent on "Avengers," honestly, and I have little interest in "Ant-Man" since Edgar Wright left. That leaves "Fantastic Four," which is being directed by "Chronicle's" Josh Trank and stars Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan coming off "Whiplash" and "Fruitvale Station" respectively. I'd want to see anything with that kind of talent involved. The first teaser trailer just came out, pointing to a much more grounded, less campy take on the property than the Tim Story films offered. Frankly, anything would be an improvement on that last sequel.
"The Man from U.N.C.L.E." - Originally this adaptation of the '64 spy series was to have been Steven Soderbergh's swan song, starring George Clooney. Now we've got Guy Ritchie directing and Henry Cavill in the lead role, with Armie Hammer as his partner. That still sounds like a pretty promising combination to me. I liked what Ritchie did with Sherlock Holmes, and thought Cavill and Hammer did well as the leads in the less-than-stellar "Man of Steel" and "Lone Ranger." I love a good spy romp, especially the ones with a lighter touch, and I'm really hoping that this one hits the spot.
"Crimson Peak" - This is Guillermo Del Toro's haunted house movie with Mia Wasikowska and Tom Hiddleston, and it promises to be one of those lovely, atmospheric, phantasmagoric horror projects that he's so good with. I love that it's also got shades of "Jane Eyre," which Mia Wasikowska was already in an excellent version of a few years ago. Sure, I'd be happier if this was "At the Mountains of Madness" or the last film in his Spanish Civil War trilogy, but after the massive break he took between "Hellboy 2" and "Pacific Rim," it's a relief that Del Toro is working steadily again.
"Spectre" - I loved "Skyfall," and I'm very excited to see much of the same creative team onboard for the follow-up, "Spectre," which will introduce modern versions of some of James Bond's most famous adversaries. The cast list is fantastic. Lea Seydoux and Monical Bellucci as the new Bond girls! Christoph Waltz as the Big Bad! - and Christoph Waltz was born to be a Bond baddie. Alas, Roger Deakins has moved .n, but we can't have everything. There have been some rumbles here and there about worrying budget numbers since the Sony hack, but I really don't see how this one can fail to knock it out of the park.
"The Martian" - Ridley Scott has been incredibly hit-or-miss in recent years. Frankly, I don't think he's had a real winner in about a decade. I've got a good feeling about his latest gig, though. Matt Damon will star as an astronaut stranded on Mars, so this is a survival story first and foremost, and Scott's always been better when he's handling simpler stories like this than his grandiose epics. Also, he's directing off of a screenplay by Drew Goddard, of "Cabin in the Woods" fame, which should help avoid the narrative loopiness that plagued "Prometheus." Fingers crossed.
"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" - Because really, who isn't looking forward to this?