And here are the films with smaller profiles that I'm looking forward to seeing in 2015. Please note that in some cases, the films are projected to be released in 2015, but may end up being delayed. Four of the titles from last year's list, "The Voices," "The Cobbler," "Ex Machina," and "A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence" have yet to become available stateside. As I've already written about them, I'm leaving them out of the lineup below.
"99 Homes" - Deadline Hollywood has been pushing hard for Ramin Bahrani's drama about the foreclosure crisis over the past few months, which premiered last year at the Venice Film Festival. I've heard very mixed reactions since, but Bahrani's done some great work in movies like "Man Push Cart," and "Chop Shop," and I've been curious about his recent shift from stories about immigrants to to stories about working class white Americans. Andrew Garfield, Laura Dern, and Michael Shannon headline, and I like all of those actors so I'm definitely on board.
"The Ferryman" - A Wong Kar-Wai romance with Tony Leung, Takeshi Kaneshiro, and Wei Tang? Yes, please. I've seen nearly everything Wong Kar-Wai has made, but I haven't been too fond of his last three pictures, including the highly lauded "Grandmaster." They felt like Wong trying too hard to be someone other than who he is. "The Ferryman," however, seems to be a return to the themes of his earlier films, which makes me very excited. This is the film on the list most likely to be delayed until next year or beyond, but at the time of writing it's still scheduled for 2015.
"The End of the Tour" - One of the most promising titles that's emerged from Sundance this year. James Ponsoldt of "The Spectacular Now" and "Smashed" chronicles the travels of journalist David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) with David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) on his book tour for "Infinite Jest," right as Wallace was becoming famous and grappling with that shift. Segel's been getting great notices for his work, and Eisenberg's been a dependably strong performer, but it's Ponsoldt who really has me interested. He's been getting better and better with every film he's made.
"Sicario" - Here's the brief synopsis: "A police officer (Emily Blunt) from Tucson, Arizona travels across the border to Mexico with a pair of mercenaries to track down a drug lord." Denis Villeneuve is directing. Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin have supporting parts. I am sold. I've been waiting for Emily Blunt to sink her teeth into some more challenging roles that could catapult her profile higher, and this sounds like a promising one. I feel like Villeneuve is still finding his footing after making one great film and a couple of very good ones, but he's definitely got it in him to knock this out of the park.
"Queen of the Desert" - Werner Herzog is making a Gertrude Bell biopic with Nicole Kidman in the lead role. Good grief, do I really need to say anything else? Okay, biopics are usually a minefield and "Grace of Monaco" was a clear misstep for Kidman, but with Werner Herzog at the helm, all bets are off. This is the man whose idea of remaking "Bad Lieutenant" involved a crazypants Nicholas Cage and imaginary iguanas. "Queen of the Desert" will premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival in a week or so, and hopefully hit theaters Stateside before the end of the year.
"The Lobster" - Remember "Dogtooth"? Well, its director Yorgos Lanthimos has decided that his English language debut will be a dystopian science-fiction film starring Colin Farrell, playing a man who has 45 days to make a love connection, or he'll be turned into an animal and exiled. Yep, that sure sounds like something the director of "Dogtooth" would make. The cast also includes Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly, and Ben Whishaw, so Lanthimos definitely has some good talent to work with. My hope is that he doesn't compromise an inch on whatever insane vision he's got in his sights.
"Spotlight" - Thomas McCarthy's last film, "The Cobbler," was not received well and it may be a long time before we're able to see it. I hope this doesn't hurt the fortunes of McCarthy's next film, about the 2013 Boston Globe coverage of the emerging sex scandals involving the Massachusetts Catholic Church. Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Michael Keaton will star. This will be a departure for McCarthy, who has stuck to small scale, gentle comedy-dramas so far. I'm very curious how he's going to do with this kind of material, and where that might lead in the future.
"The Other Side of the Wind" - And finally, a little curiosity for my fellow film geeks. Orson Welles' final unfinished film has been rescued from legal limbo, and is being edited and prepared for release this year to celebrate Welles' 100th birthday. I've seen enough of these unfinished projects and Welles' own later work to know not to expect a masterpiece. However, it's sure to be an experience worth having.