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The 10 Must-See Movies of 2015

avengers-age-ultron
(Walt Disney Studios)

 

2014 had its share of outstanding movies, including expected blockbusters like Captain America: The Winter Soldier and X-Men: Days of Future Past, wonderful surprises Edge of Tomorrow and Guardians of the Galaxy, imaginative animation in The Lego Movie and Big Hero 6, and, of course, plain ol’ great cinema like Gone Girl, Interstellar, and my personal favorite Birdman.

Now with 2015 on the way come a whole new slate of movies and whole new reasons for excitement and disappointment. Sure, it’s the year of Avengers 2 and Star Wars Episode VII but there are many other movies to look forward to. At this point we may only be scratching the surface of what 2015 has to offer (in Dec. 2013 no one could have seen Birdman coming), but part of the fun of fandom is anticipation, so here’s what we at Pop Mythology are most anticipating right now.

In order of release date:


 Blackhat (Jan. 16)

blackhat
(Universal Pictures)

 

It’s been six long years since writer/director Michael Mann’s last film. Although many were disappointed by Public Enemies (not me, but others), Mann’s previous work, including Collateral, The Insider, and the greatest heist movie ever Heat, are masterworks of pacing, composition, and tension. Mann’s direction should also help Chris Hemsworth establish himself outside of the Marvel Universe, alongside Lust, Caution standout Wei Tang and Oscar nominee and expected Suicide Squad leader Viola Davis. Although a January release means Blackhat could be forgotten by the summer, the recent Sony hacks make the film look all the more relevant. Computer hacking doesn’t typically lend itself to large scale shootouts, but it appears Michael Mann is attempting to change that.


 Jupiter Ascending (Feb. 6)

Jupiter-Ascending
(Warner Bros. Pictures)

Like 2012’s Cloud Atlas, Jupiter Ascending could be a flawed masterpiece, a spectacular train wreck, or both. On one hand, being pushed from a summer release to a February one doesn’t bode well. On the other, extra time for special effects means Jupiter will not lack ambition. Similarly, the Wachowskis have a mixed record with critical favorite Bound, The Matrix phenomenon of rapidly diminishing returns (although I personally hate the entire trilogy), candy-colored garbage Speed Racer, and the aforementioned troubled but visionary Cloud Atlas. Mila Kunis is often more impressive in appearance than performance and Gambit-in-waiting Channing Tatum is typically functional at best. Jupiter Ascending is the cinematic equivalent of an Evel Knievel stunt: huge, showy, and with an equal likelihood of resulting in something incredible or a fiery crash.


Kingsman: The Secret Service (Feb. 13)

kingsman-the-secret-service
(20th Century Fox)

 

After Kick-Ass and ­X-Men: First Class, and even the underrated Neil Gaiman adaptation Stardust, Matthew Vaughn has shown a strong ability to turn out fun, energetic, entertaining adaptations. On the surface Kingsman doesn’t appear to have the same profane humor and lethality of Kick-Ass or the strong sense of character and place of First Class, but neither of those films looked memorable until they were released. This is, after all, the director that saved the X-Men film series and the film that Vaughn left that series to make. Maybe flying under the radar will help.


 

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (Mar. 13)

Kumiko-the-Treasure-Hunter
(Zellner Bros. / Lila 9th Productions)

 

After debuting at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, David Zellner’s desolate tragicomedy finally gets released for the non-film festival crowd almost a year and two Independent Spirit Award nominations for director and lead actress later. Rinko Kukuchi has already established herself in the West as a dynamic supporting performer with Babel and Pacific Rim (we’ll let 47 Ronin slide) and we look forward to seeing her in a starring role. Geeks worldwide should relate to Kumiko‘s story of escapist fantasy and media obsession, even if they are taken to extremes.


 

Avengers: Age of Ultron (May 1)

avengers-age-ultron
(Walt Disney Studios)

 

C’mon, does it even matter what we say here? You know you’re going to see this one.
In 2012, Avengers solidified Marvel Studios as one of the most ambitious and both commercially and critically successful brands in all of cinema. Since then the cast has long become more comfortable with their characters and each other, meaning the banter and Whedonisms should crackle. In addition to the returning cast, Ultron adds the most talented Olsen sister and James Spader’s sinister speech. While some people criticized immediate Avengers follow-up Iron Man 3, both Thor: The Dark World and, especially, Captain America: The Winter Soldier laid the groundwork for the next major entry and, combined with Guardians of the Galaxy, solidified the MCU as a source of consistent fun. Add the weekly hype and development of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and returning writer/director/all around geek god Joss Whedon promising a darker and more personal story that he’d been sculpting since before the first film, and Avengers: Age of Ultron is a no-brainer for our most anticipated movie of 2015. The only question is, why wouldn’t you see this movie?


Mad Max: Fury Road (May 15)

mad-max-fury-road-tom-hardy
(Warner Bros. Pictures)

 

While numerous reboots and restarts promised in 2015—particularly Terminator: Genisys, Jurassic World, Fantastic Four and Star Wars: The Force Awakens —that appear to ostensibly recreate the look and feel of their source material, Mad Max: Fury Road looks like it captures the fury and mentality of the Mad Max movies. It is also the only one which includes the original creator. George Miller looks to return to his stark and brutal world with the same reckless, relentless abandon and 30 years’ worth of advanced effects, techniques, and pent-up energy all primed to explode into a towering wall of fire for our amusement. After bringing power in Dark Knight Rises and Locke and quiet burn to The Drop, Tom Hardy is a promising successor of Max’s legacy. Hopefully Fury Road brings the madness and cackling joy that will likely be absent from the more mainstream and sanitized reboots.


 

Tomorrowland (May 22)

Disney-Tomorrowland
(Walt Disney Pictures)

 

So far we don’t know much about this movie, but what we do know makes us very interested in seeing more. After starting in animation, directing The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille, Brad Bird created one of the best action movies of recent years with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Meanwhile co-writer Damon Lindelof catches a lot of flack for Prometheus but Lost was a great show (even the end) and The Leftovers is one of the most engaging new series on television. Tomorrowland looks to have the world building and intrigue that often makes for excellent science fiction. Plus it has George Clooney in it, and that usually means good things.


Inside-Out (June 19)

pixar-inside-out
(Pixar)

 

Let’s face it, Pixar fell off a little bit after Toy Story 3. Both Monsters University and Brave were successful but the former was a superfluous prequel while the latter treaded a little too close to traditional Disney territory. After taking a year off and shedding itself of its worst property, Pixar looks to come back big in 2015 with an unprecedented duo of films, the more interesting of which at this point is Inside-Out. Placing debut feature director with Ronaldo Del Carmen with Up‘s Pete Docter is a great way to introduce a first timer. The early trailers suggest that Inside-Out will continue the studio’s tradition of providing plenty of upfront laughs for kids while loading in subtle humor for adults. Plus Lewis Black as the voice of Anger, that’s just good casting.


Spectre (Nov. 6)

007-bond-spectre
(MGM / Columbia Pictures)

 

2012’s Skyfall proved that not only is Bond still relevant, the series can still be surprising. Sam Mendes, known for prestige films like American Beauty and Jarhead, crafted many of the most visual striking sequences in the 50-year history of Bond while writer John Logan found a long absent emphasis on character. Daniel Craig has already placed himself among the best of the Bonds, Ralph Fiennes should deliver in a much larger role, Naomie Harris has been solid, and the additions of Christoph Waltz, Monica Bellucci, Léa Seydoux, and Drax the Destroyer himself, Dave Bautista, promise an intriguing cast for Craig to interact with. Fans of the series should have loads of fun seeing the return of SPECTRE and other 00’s. Plus early rumors had “Bond 24” being the first of two parts, finishing off both Mendes and Craig’s time with the character (to make way for Christopher Nolan and Idris Elba, please please please.)


The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (Nov. 20)

hunger-games-mockingjay
(Lionsgate)

 

Sure, Mockingjay Part 1 was a bit of a letdown after last year’s Catching Fire, but if nothing else all the set-up and arrangement leaves Mockingjay Part 2 the action and destruction that Part 1 lacked. Director Francis Lawrence should be familiar with the franchise by now, Jena Malone will have a larger part, and we get one more chance to see Jennifer Lawrence’s portrayal of Katniss. Most of all, this is the last movie so, as readers of the series understand, there’s no reason to hold anything back. Expect Panem to burn.

Honorable Mentions:

Chappie (Mar. 6)

Hopefully Neil Blomkamp can recapture the furious, visceral energy and sly social commentary that made District 9 such a pleasure. He’s a director with a unique voice and a strong visual sense, and Chappie looks to play into these strengths. To be blunt, we’d be more excited for Chappie if Elysium were a bit better.

Ant-Man (July 17)

If Edgar Wright were still directing then Ant-Man would be just under Age of Ultron in excitement. Still, it’s Marvel, so it should be a solid film with great effects and a lot of fun, especially with Paul Rudd in the lead. Marvel has definitely scored on sitcom directors before with the Russo Brothers moving from Community to Captain America: The Winter Soldier but we can’t help looking at Ant-Man in the same way we did The Wolverine after Darren Aronofsky left. It’ll be less about the movie we see and more about the movie we don’t see.

Silence (TBD, 2015)

It’s Martin Scorsese. That’s enough.

Knight of Cups (TBD, 2015)

Time was that Terrence Malick took several years between films. Starting with 2011’s Tree of Life, the director has been on a tear releasing To the Wonder in 2012 and filming two films together, one of which is Knight of Cups. Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchette, Freida Pinto, Wes Bentley, and Antonio Banderas are all listed in the cast, although it wouldn’t be surprising if some of them are left on the cutting room floor. There’s no real description of the story but we’re guessing it’s going to have lots of poetic narration, tracking shots, and pretty, pretty nature. It’ll also be long and vague and pretentious, even boring at times, and among the most stunningly beautiful films ever.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Dec. 18)

Okay, okay, the furor over not including this one on the main list can end now… and the furor over our commentary can begin.

We were all huge Star Wars fans. We grew up on the original trilogy, we dressed as Luke, Han, or Leia for Halloween, we had the toys and the lunchboxes, we stood in line for the anniversary re-releases and special editions where Jabba was thinner and computerized and Greedo shot first, and we were so incredibly excited for more Star Wars… then we saw The Phantom Menace.  It was not good.

We were still excited though. I mean, it must have been an aberration, a master shaking the dust after a long absence… then we saw Attack of the Clones.  So much pain.

Revenge of the Sith was a bit better but by then our standards were so low that as long as the dialog didn’t cause an aneurysm, we were content to see the saga end.

Sadly it was clear that George Lucas could no longer sustain the universe he created, thus Star Wars with different, more modern filmmakers could be great… then we saw it was J.J. Abrams. We are also Star Trek fans. We were so excited for the new films until seeing them, hijackings of the Enterprise with lens flares, pseudo-scientific claptrap, cliches, and poor interpretations of beloved characters. Well, we will not be fooled again. We will prepare for the worst and focus all our midi-chlorian energy on being proven wrong. But of course it doesn’t even matter what we say here. You know you’re going to see this one.

However, we are excited for Episode VIII (and possibly IX), when Rian Johnson, who made the brilliant Looper, takes over the series. That should be good.

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About Jess Kroll

Jess Kroll
Jess Kroll has spent years traveling the world, writing books, performing poetry, teaching, playing D&D, and occasionally discussing movies for Pop Mythology. His novels include 'Land of Smiles' from Monsoon Books and young adult series 'The One' and 'Werewolf Council' from Epic Press. He can put his foot behind his head.