As we massage away the crick in our neck from all the looking backward we’ve done recently (here’s the complete rundown of all our Best of 2014 features), now we get to look forward to looking forward. And since no doubt most of you are currently suffering some form of the back-to-work horrors, we got ours out of the way early, so we could bring you the soothing balm of our Most Anticipated Films of 2015 and ease you through the official Worst Day of the Year. Avoid chit chat about soon-to-be-broken resolutions! Eschew depressing conversations about how broke you all are! Avoid hearing that joke where some wag counts how many shopping days there are till next Christmas! Instead, immerse yourself in a long, long list of the quality entertainments the movie industry will be serving up to distract you from your miserable lives throughout 2015!
So without further ado, slip into something more comfortable: The Playlist’s Most Anticipated Films of 2015. Before you know, it it’ll be quitting time and you’ll have realized, contrary to the impression you had on this cold damp January morning’s commute, 2015 is going to be awesome.
100. “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies”
Director: Burr Steers ("Igby Goes Down," "17 Again")
Cast: Lily James, Sam Riley, Bella Heathcote, Lena Headey, Matt Smith, Charles Dance
Synopsis: Jane Austen’s classic tale of romance gets a new lease on life, with a new version that sets the story in a Regency England beset by a zombie plague.
What You Need To Know: Reader, I beheaded him: in development for what seems like decades, the long-gestating adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s parody novel finally arrives on screen this year. Surprisingly faithful to the original, bar the zombies, ninjas and kung-fu battles, it’s always risked being a one-joke premise, a la Graham-Smith’s “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” but we’ve always been intrigued, if only because the script is co-written by David O. Russell (who originally planned to direct, after “The Fighter”). New helmer Burr Steers isn’t quite as exciting, but we were fans of his breakthrough “Igby Goes Down” and he’s assembled a strong young cast for this new version.
Release Date: None yet. September/October seems like a good bet.
99. “American Ultra”
Director: Nima Nourizadeh ("Project X")
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Walton Goggins, Connie Britton, Bill Pullman, Topher Grace
Synopsis: A stoner and his girlfriend are forced to go on the run after he’s targeted by a government agency.
What You Need To Know: Eisenberg is one of the most unlikely stars out there: literate and indie-minded, mixing up small projects like “The Double” and “Night Moves” with big movies like “Now You See Me” and next year’s “Batman V. Superman.” “American Ultra” seems to be something that straddles the two: an unconventional action-comedy with Eisenberg joined by Stewart for a movie penned by “Chronicle” writer Max Landis. Not much is known about this one at present, but Eisenberg and Stewart played well together in "Adventureland", we mostly like Landis’ work, and though his features career got off to a shaky start with “Project X,” director Nima Nourizadeh is one of the most inventive music video helmers around, and so should give this film some visual spark.
Release Date: None yet.
98. "Jane Got A Gun"
Director: Gavin O'Connor ("Warrior,"Miracle")
Cast: Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Joel Edgerton, Noah Emmerich, Rodrigo Santoro
Synopsis: In the old west, a woman must protect her crooked husband from the gang he betrayed with the help of an old flame.
What You Need To Know: One of the most troubled projects in recent years, all was going swimmingly until original director Lynne Ramsay (“We Need To Talk About Kevin”) bailed on the project on the first day of production, causing a merry-go-round of cast and crew that saw the likes of Michael Fassbender, Bradley Cooper and Jude Law all involved at various points before dropping out. O’Connor, of “Warrior” fame, took over (not before heavily rewriting Brian Duffield’s Black List-ed script), but its troubles weren’t over: it was originally set for release last August before being pushed back to February and then September: not usually a good sign. That said, we’re still interested in checking it out: it’s been a passion project for Portman, we don’t get enough badass feminist Westerns, and with McGregor, Edgerton and Emmerich backing her up, there’s a strong cast involved too. Ramsay’s film will always be the one that got away, but there’s still reason for hope that this version will be a decent time at the movies.
Release Date: September 4th
97. "Pitch Perfect 2"
Director: Elizabeth Banks
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Elizabeth Banks
Synopsis: The Bellas are back, pitches.
What You Need To Know: Aca-what? Sorry elitists, “Pitch Perfect” was an infectious surprise hit and it’s now up there with contemporary teen-com classics like “Mean Girls.” What’s different this time? The girls are now seniors, the Bellas have broken up (though not for long), Hailee Steinfeld joins the cast and Banks is going from cheeky announcer supporting character to perform double duty as a first time feature-length director. Not an easy task. Can they recapture the first film's charm? We’ll see.
Release Date: May 15th
96. “Bone Tomahawk”
Director: S. Craig Zahler
Cast: Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Richard Jenkins, Matthew Fox, Sean Young
Synopsis: In the Old West, a sheriff leads a group of men to rescue their loved ones from a group of cannibals.
What You Need To Know: Four words: Kurt Russell vs. cannibals. Ok, fine, you want more? S. Craig Zahler is a novelist whose script “The Brigands of Rattleborge” has been getting buzz for years —it topped the Black List in 2006 and had Park Chan-wook attached for a time. Zahler’s making his directorial debut with another Western script which has been developing for a while but finally shot last year, with a long-due-a-comeback Russell in the lead role sporting some awesome muttonchops (plus old reliables like Wilson, Jenkins, Melamed and even Sean Young involved —when was the last time we saw Sean Young in a film?). There aren’t enough decent horror-westerns out there, and this seems like a promisingly gruesome piece of exploitation fare, as long as Zahler can direct as well as he can write.
Release Date: None yet: SXSW or Toronto International Film Festival Midnight Madness/Fantastic Fest are probably the best bets.
95. "Dark Places"
Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner ("Sarah's Key")
Cast: Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Corey Stoll, Tye Sheridan, Chloe Grace Moretz
Synopsis: A woman who survived the brutal killing of her family as a child is forced to confront the events of that day by a secret society obsessed with solving notorious crimes.
What You Need To Know: With “Gone Girl” proving a giant and acclaimed hit, hopes must be high for this adaptation of an earlier novel by author Gillian Flynn. The book is a little more straightforward as a genre piece than David Fincher’s movie turned out to be but still a shares an admirably ambivalent protagonist and plenty of dark twists. Theron stars and produces, and she’s assembled a strong cast with Hoult, Stoll and Hendricks playing key parts of the investigation, and Sheridan and Moretz appearing in the extensive flashback episodes. We’d be lying if we said we were as excited at the prospect of Flynn’s work being taken on by “Sarah’s Key” director Paquet-Brenner as we were by Fincher, but fans of “Gone Girl” should find something to tide them over here.
Release Date: Nothing firm yet: like “Captives” and “Son Of A Gun,” this is part of a partnership between A24 and DirectTV, so will hit the latter 30 days before theatrical release (which we figure will be in late spring).
94. "Jupiter Ascending"
Director: The Wachowskis ("The Matrix," "Cloud Atlas")
Cast: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Eddie Redmayne, Sean Bean, Douglas Booth
Synopsis: An ambitious space opera about an interplanetary warrior who helps a destitute woman on Earth go on the run from the Queen Of The Universe.
What You Need To Know: Fifteen years on from "The Matrix," the Wachowskis return to the original sci-fi blockbuster genre with a bonkers-looking mash-up of "Star Wars," Greek mythology, comic book "Saga" and a million other different things. Love them or loathe them (and there are plenty on both sides), "Speed Racer" and "Cloud Atlas" made it clear that the Wachowskis do not remotely give a fuck what anyone else thinks. "Jupiter Ascending" looks big, bold and potentially terrible (we've been calling it "The Chronicles Of Riddickulous" in the office), and we had fingers crossed this could be the most idiosyncratic blockbuster of last year, but Warner Bros’ confidence in the picture buckled when they bounced it from the heart of the summer to not-so-hot winter. So expectations should be tempered a bit.
Release Date: February 6th
93. “Furious 7”
Director: James Wan (“Insidious,” “The Conjuring”)
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Kurt Russell, Michelle Rodriguez
Synopsis: Dominic Toretto, Brian O’Conner and their crew are targeted by Ian Shaw, the older brother of the career criminal they took down in “Fast & Furious 6”
What You Need To Know: Delayed for a year and sadly tainted by the death of star Paul Walker (who shot enough of the film to appear posthumously), this otherwise carries on Hollywood’s surprisingly increasingly massive “Fast & The Furious” franchise. Most of the old gang return, with Statham fulfilling his destiny by squaring off against Diesel as the arch-villain, and Russell, Tony Jaa and Djimon Hounsou are also on board. It’s also the first film in the series since 2003’s “2 Fast 2 Furious” not to be directed by Justin Lin, with horror specialist Wan switching genres to take the helm instead. But the first trailer suggests that he hasn’t skipped a beat when it comes to the automotive carnage. Non-fans probably won’t be won over here, but devotees already know they’re going anyway.
Release Date: April 3rd
Director: Joe Wright ("Atonement," "Anna Karenina")
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Garret Hedlund, Rooney Mara, Levi Miller, Adeel Akhtar
Synopsis: A young boy is kidnapped from a Victorian orphanage by the fearsome pirate Blackbeard and is taken to the magical world of Neverland, where will he eventually become the eternally-young hero Peter Pan.
What You Need To Know: None of the fairy-tale reboot/prequel trend movies have particularly floated our boat, but “Pan” looks like it could be a little more intriguing than most. Sure, we’ve never particularly felt the urge to know how Peter Pan (newcomer Miller) and Captain Hook (Hedlund) reached the starting point of J.M. Barrie’s children’s classic, but we are interested to see what director Joe Wright could do on a tentpole budget, and we hope it's something distinctive and theatrical than most similar movies and a blessed relief from the garish CGI feel of “Alice In Wonderland,” “Maleficent” and co. There are certainly echoes of “Hook” in the trailer, which might not be that promising, but there was also enough there —including Hugh Jackman camping it up as a pirate king— to suggest something that could bring real wonder back to the genre.
Release Date: July 24th
91. “Our Kind Of Traitor”
Director: Susannah White (“Generation Kill,” “Parade’s End”)
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Naomie Harris, Stellan Skarsgard, Damian Lewis, Mark Gatiss
Synopsis: A British couple are lured into a Russian oligarch’s plan to defect to the West.
What You Need To Know: Between the sublime “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and the very strong “A Most Wanted Man,” it’s been a good few years for adaptations of acclaimed spy novelist John Le Carre onscreen, so fingers crossed that continues with the latest, “Our Kind Of Traitor.” Adapted by “Drive” writer Hossein Amini, it steps away from the Cold War and war-on-terror themes of the last two Le Carre movies to look at contemporary Russia, a subject that’s frankly only got more topical since the film went into production last year. Top-notch TV helmer Susannah White (whose unlikely sole big-screen credit to date is “Nanny McPhee And The Big Bang”) has the helm, with Skarsgard as the oligarch, McGregor and Harris as the central couple, and Lewis, “Sherlock” star/creator Gatiss and Jeremy Northam among the MI5-types.
Release Date: This seems to be hitting European theaters around the fall; once it finds a U.S. distributor, expect it to follow suit there.