Sunday, January 4, 2015

The 2015 Movies I'm Excited About

Here's a quick look at the movies coming up this year that I'm looking forward to, either because of their predicted quality or because their story is of interest.


They named it Stinky? It's going underwater.
Let me just note that I'm not expecting Spare Parts to be a great movie.  Its director's best work was Soul Surfer, after all.  I fully expect it to play a bit like a Stand and Deliver ripoff where you quickly realize that George Lopez is no Edward James Olmos.  But it's on this list for a reason: there are going to be several robot-related movies put out this year, and this is the only one that stands even a chance to getting it right.  This is based on the true story of a team of high school kids competing in a national unmanned underwater vehicle competition against teams from greater academia.  I hope it's entertaining enough to be inspiring to a new generation of engineers, because we need them.  Spare Parts also stars Jamie Lee Curtis and 2-time Oscar winner Marisa Tomei (I never get tired of typing 2-time Oscar winner Marisa Tomei).

Teenagers in a circle?  Must be trouble!
Again, we're probably not looking at high art here, but c'mon, it's January.  In this case, it's a Chronicle-like flick tracking a group of troublemaking teenagers finding the plans for a DARPA project in time travel hidden one guy's garage (because that's where DARPA keeps secret blueprints), then somehow building it.  Hijinks ensue.  Don't watch it because these kids are going to have incredible non-porn acting careers in their future, watch it because the script appears to be playing fast and loose with the laws of temporal paradox to a degree that dwarfs even Back to the Future 2.


Admit it: Colin Firth as a secret agent just feels right.
Kingsman is based on the Secret Service miniseries written by Mark Millar, which means it took a beloved genre (in this case, James Bond spy capers) and added lots of modern attitude, mostly expressed through loads of cursing, gratuitous nudity, over the top violence, and a "Fuck all" attitude by the main protagonist, a street rat named Gary, who is recruited into Her Majesty's Secret Service by his uncle to try to keep him out of trouble.  But don't get me wrong, it's a lot of fun, and I expect this adaptation to keep that up.  The comic book plot starts when terrorists kidnap Mark Hamill, and lo and behold, the film cast includes one Mark Hamill, so it appears that Matthew Vaughn is trying to hew closely to the source material.  And the chance to see Colin Firth as an ass-kicking 007-clone should be worth the price of admission.


Odd that it doesn't say "From the Director of Elysium".
It's a hard knock life for robots it seems, with Chappie exploring what happens when you take a robot out of the laboratory and into the hood.  It appears that somehow that allows Chappie to develop a level of humanity.  I fully expect to be rolling my eyes at the bad AI concepts all the way through the film, but if there's one thing Neill Blomkamp can do, it's bring the weird, and that's what I'm looking forward to.

Um, maybe we should skip the wedding reception...
This would not normally be my kind of film, with Disney attempting to suck a little bit more from the marrow by commissioning a live action version of yet another of its classic animated films.  But this one is directed by Kenneth Branagh.  With the guy who played Robb Stark as Prince Charming, hoping this love story will have a less bloody ending.  With Cate Blanchett chewing scenery as the Wicked Stepmother.  And with Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother.  Let's repeat that: Helena Bonham Carter, who hasn't played a character in decades that didn't seem like she was either on acid or stone dead drunk, is playing the Fairy Godmother.  Oh, the possibilities!

No problem, I fought space whales in the Avengers!
I've seen the trailer for this in the theater, and the whale scenes (and I hope we didn't see all of them), were amazing.  Ron Howard, easily one of my favorite directors, teams with Chris Hemsworth (Rush) again to bring "the incredible true story that inspired Moby Dick".  Yes, Herman Melville is a character in the film.


RIP, Paul.
Paul Walker's final ride.  The introduction of Jason Statham (sadly, not as The Transporter) into the franchise.  And the final merging of all the previous movies with Lucas Black added to the cast.  All that and Kurt Russell appears in an unlisted role.


'Nuff said.

I was surprised by just how entertaining the first Pitch Perfect was, and the trailer for this one doesn't seem to indicate its successor won't hit all the right notes.  Acca-wait!

They're just here for the gasoline.
It's written and directed by George Miller, just like all the other films in this series, so I'm hoping that this is more like Mad Max and Road Warrior than it is Beyond Thunderdome.  And the cast is pretty engaging.  In particular, I think Tom Hardy is getting too much flak for being Bane when folks should be remembering him from Inception and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.  Besides, do you really want to have the shell that once was Mel Gibson on screen?  Charlize Theron has made some poor film choices of late, but she can still bring it on screen, especially in a supporting role.  I'm ready to give this a chance.

"Honey?  I don't think this is where we parked the car."
Hey look!  Another Disney money grab!  I'd make fun of turning an amusement park attraction into a movie, but hey, Pirates of the Caribbean.  I'm a little worried that they let Damon Lindelof touch the script, but it's co-written and directed by Brad Bird, and that has to mean something.  Oh, and it has George Clooney.

I wish all my pilots looked like Emma Stone.
The fact that it's untitled still has me a little worried (it's been reportedly titled Deep Tiki and Volcano Romance at different times, neither of them inspiring titles at all, so maybe waiting is the right thing to do).  Still, it's Cameron Crowe.  And a great cast, including Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, Alec Baldwin, Jay Baruchel.  Cooper apparently plays a defense contractor who falls for Air Force officer Stone while on the job in Hawaii.  Since we all know defense contractors go to Hawaii and find romance on the job all the time, I'm expecting this to be a bit of a documentary. (That last sentence was sarcasm in case you missed it.)  Still, the combination of director and cast is hard to pass up.


Wait, the humans ride around in a glorified hamster ball?  Who's really the zoo animal here?
I know I should forsake the Jurassic franchise, but really I kind of enjoyed the third movie.  Plus, this was written and directed by the same team that brought us Safety Not Guaranteed.  If those aren't the folks you want teamed up with Chris Pratt in a major franchise film, I don't know who you'd accept.  The idea of someone actually figuring out most of the technical kinks needed to make the dinosaur equivalent of Sea World work actually appeals to me.  The problem I see here is it ventures into genetic modification topics that I'm sure the film is unprepared to fully explore to the depth really needed.  The question is whether the film will attempt to preach or if it will take a cue from the first Jurassic Park and distract itself from that with lots of action.  I'm hoping for the action side, myself.


My mission for viewing this will be to once and for all figure out which one is Stuart and which one is Kevin.
The secret origin of the Minions.  If you've seen the Despicable Me movies, that's pretty much all you need to know to want to see it.

Wait, this doesn't look very funny.
I have to admit a little concern over Ant-Man.  I wondered a bit when the film was given to Edgar Wright, whose comedies I've truly enjoyed, because I happen to really like the Scott Lang Ant-Man and don't want him to be a joke.  When they fired (er, "parted ways with") Wright to then hire the guy who brought us The Yes-Man, that concern grew.  Still, it's a decent cast with Paul Rudd backed up by Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly.  But I'd feel a lot better if Marvel weren't being so cute with its teaser trailers.  Still, unless I'm assured it's an abomination, you'll find me in the theater when it opens, just to find out for myself.


To be a successful spy, you have to learn how to strike a pose that makes you look cool.
This is attempting to make Armie Hammer interesting (and we all know how that worked out for The Lone Ranger).  Still, it's Guy Ritchie directing with Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo, and somehow Hugh Grant is involved.  That just spells fun.

Man, has Dr. Dre aged.  And thank you for not digging up Eazy-E for this photo.
A biopic of NWA (a story I can't wait to hear) brought to us by the guy who directed The Italian Job.  This should leave room for humor and style.  Now if someone can just tell me why a picture like this has the top two cast credits in its IMDB profile given to two white guys (admittedly, Paul Giamatti is probably the biggest named star in the film).


There are serious doubts everyone in this photo survives the movie.
Keira Knightley, Jake Gyllenhall, Robin Wright, Josh Brolin, SamWorthington, Jason Clarke, and a host of other "That Guy" type actors attempt to summit on the deadliest day in Everest history (before 2014 brought a deadlier day).  Directed by the guy who did 2 Guns and Contraband, so it should be stylish.  I'm hoping for some stunning mountain shots.


It's odd to see the Twin Towers, even in retrospect.
I saw the teaser for The Walk in a theater recently, and it made me dizzy.  I have no doubt that it will be emotional seeing the Twin Towers through a two hour movie and then walk back out into a world in which they are gone.  Robert Zemeckis directs, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing the tight rope walker who crossed between the two buildings.  I've read that they shot all the green screen footage with Gordon-Levitt tens of feet above the ground so that there would be room to shoot things from below.  I can attest from the teaser that they did well with the above looking down shots as well.

"Wait, I'm not trying to catch Leo anymore?"
Yet another untitled film, though it's being called St. James Place on Wikipedia.  But c'mon, it's Spielberg directing Hanks.  That's a magical combination.  And it's Spielberg doing nonfiction, which is another good combination.  In this one, Hanks plays a lawyer assigned to negotiate the release of captured U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers.


Every time I see this, I keep getting the immediate impression of a horror film.
The next James Bond film!  This time, Spectre's back, and Bond has to face off with Cristoph Waltz as the main baddie.  No word on if he's going to have a cat.

How many flight hours can you put on a Sopwith Camel, anyway?
It was inevitable for Charlie Brown and company to join the 3-D world, and you know, based on the teaser trailer, it doesn't suck.  I prefer my Peanuts on tv rather than schlepping to the theater for them, but if the final product is as gorgeous as advertised, I think I'll have to make the trip.

Still early enough that there are no photos of the film in the press.  So you get the book cover image.
If you're a Facebook friend, then you know how much I enjoyed the book and how excited I was to see Ridley Scott directing an adaptation.  Matt Damon is perfect as Mark Watney, an astronaut who, through a bizarre sequence of events, finds himself marooned on Mars.  The rest of the cast is stellar, including Jessica Chastain as Matt's mission commander; Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, and Michael Pena as fellow crewmates; Sean Bean as the mission's fiery CAPCOM (spoiler alert: since he's sitting on Earth, he doesn't die!); Chiwetal Ejiofor and Jeff Daniels as key NASA decision makers; Kristen Wiig as the NASA communications director who has to explain how a mission to Mars went belly up; and Donald Glover and Mackenzie Davis in small key roles.  This is the film I have the highest anticipation for.


Does John Boyega do anything but fight aliens?
I'm certainly glad they decided to do another movie, otherwise I'm sure everyone would just forget about this franchise.

That's a lot of sausage.  Where's Paula?
After four MI movies, it's pretty easy to predict what we'll get from the plot and Tom Cruise.  The plot will involve some convoluted scheme that will require the heroes to hop around the globe always a step behind their goal until things fall into place.  We are guaranteed to get a scene requiring Tom Cruise to run a distance at high speed, and maybe, just maybe, ride a motorcycle or climb something really high without a net.  But the secret sauce has always been the agents (or double agents) put around Cruise.  The first one worked primarily because of Ving Rhames and Jean Reno.  With Ghost Protocol, they hit a solid combination with Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, and Jeremy Renner.  This time out, they bring Rhames back into the fold, though unfortunately the jury's still out on whether Patton comes back.  If she does, this has the chance to be the most fun entry of the series.

Sadly, there're no reports yet of Jackie Chan returning as Monkey.
Same cast as the first two, same director.  I doubt I really need to go into this one.  No word yet if stairs make a return appearance.

No photos from the film yet, so here's just one of Jennifer Lawrence.
Directed by David O. Russell.  Starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, with Robert De Niro.  Need I say more?  Okay, try this: Jennifer Lawrence plays Joy Mangano, a Long Island housewife who invents the Miracle Mop and falls into riches overnight.  With that cast and Russell directing, you can expect lots of yelling and witty repartee.  And pathos, oh, the pathos.

Again, too early for a photo from the film.  So no, they don't stop at an NBA game on their way to facing off over a blood debt.
It's the 1820s.  Hugh Glass (Leo), a frontiersman, gets mauled by a bear and left for dead by his buddies.  But Hugh survives.  And he vows revenge on those "pals" who abandoned him (hm, maybe he should talk with Matt Damon).  Tom Hardy plays a major role, along with a whole host of "That Guy" kind of actors.  Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarittu, who brought us Birdman this year.  

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