Top 10 of 2015


2015 Top 10After what I thought was kind of a down year in 2014, the overall quality of the movies I saw in 2015 went on the rebound and in general, I thought there were far better films in general than the year previous. A little more interestingly, I also thought that there were fewer movies that I’d give 10 out of 10 for this year, which is a bit of a dichotomy; better quality overall, but fewer slam dunks.

However, the films on this list were all as good as you’d find on the lists of any year previous with the top spot going to a movie that I thought was far and away the best film of the year – but oddly enough, very few people have seen it other than on streaming services. We’ll get to that in a moment, but the movies that followed were still of very high quality and are worth seeing every one.

While studio movies have tended to continue going with the traditional distribution model; a wide theatrical release followed by VOD/home video release once the movies are out of the theaters, then onto a premium cable outlet. They are still tending to avoid streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus, although Lionsgate and Paramount have bucked that trend. With Netflix flexing its muscles more and more with indie films, having made some pre-emptive deals even before films were screened at Sundance, something tells me that the majors may start following suit and putting their films on streaming sites or even creating their own. It may not be this year but as more and more people go with Netflix and Chill, it makes good sense for the majors to start looking at that audience more carefully.

As with previous years, you can learn more about each movie on the top 10 list by clicking on the title to access my initial review, or clicking on the photo of the movie to go to the movie’s website or Facebook page when available. The other information given in each entry should be self-explanatory, with box office and critics’ scores available to help you give an idea of how audiences and film critics alike responded to these films.

As always, the list is entirely arbitrary. How I rank these movies today isn’t necessarily how I would rank them tomorrow. I am also ignoring half-points from the initial ratings so you might see a 9.0 ranked ahead of a 9.5. It’s my list. Deal with it. In any case, at the end of the day the order the films are ranked in is unimportant save for the number one movie of the year. The thing to remember is that all of these films including the honorable mention films are all of the highest quality and you can’t go wrong seeing any of them. Hopefully this list will suggest a few to you that you might have missed during the year or didn’t get distribution in your home town. Many of them will be already out on home video or VOD, while a few may still be in your local theaters. Do yourself a favor and try and see as many of these as you can. You won’t regret it.

HONORABLE MENTION

There are a number of movies that didn’t quite make the cut of the top ten. I thought I’d add them here so you can get an idea of which ones came close, were considered and ultimately not chosen. Again, I will stress that all of these are quality films worth seeking out if you’re looking for entertainment, enlightenment or insight. I didn’t include links here but if you want to read my reviews of any of these, simply type in the title into the search field and have at it. So, in no particular order;

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Stepped Out of a Window and Disappeared, Love and Mercy, The Life and Mind of Mark DeFriest, A Brilliant Young Mind, Straight Outta Compton, My Life in China, 3 ½ Minutes, The Wrecking Crew, Bone Tomahawk, Sicario, Welcome to Leith, Mad Max: Fury Road, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Inside Out, The End of the Tour, Stink!, Gett: The Trial of Vivianne Amsalem, Room, Grandma, Phoenix, Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story

It Follows

10. IT FOLLOWS

(Radius) Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Lili Sepe, Olivia Luccardi, Jake Weary, Daniel Zovatto, Bailey Spry, Carolette Phillips, Loren Bass, Charles Gertner, Debbie Williams. Directed by David Robert Mitchell

Released March 23, 2015 19-year-old Jay has just graduated from high school and it is a summer of transition – soon she’ll be going away to college and it is time for one last hurrah with her friends before they scatter, each to their own place. Everything is perfect; except they are being stalked by something terrifying and supernatural. After having had sex with a seemingly nice young man, Jay has attracted a supernatural entity to her and it is coming ever closer. Her only chance is to have sex with someone else and send the entity after them, although if it kills them it comes back after her. How do you escape the inescapable?
WHY IT IS HERE: An extremely clever concept, for one. After an acclaimed run at Sundance, the movie was given a very brief limited release but the numbers were so astounding that Weinstein hurriedly arranged for a wide release. The movie went on to be one of the more acclaimed horror movies of recent years.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The climactic swimming pool battle.
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: 97% positive reviews. Metacritic: 83/100.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $14.7 million domestic, $20.3M total (as of 1/19/16).
BUDGET: $2M.
GENRE: Horror
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Rent Blu-Ray/DVD on Netflix. Stream on iTunes/Amazon/Vudu/M-Go. Download on Amazon/iTunes/Vudu/M-Go/Google Play.

Star Wars The Force Awakens

9. STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

(Disney) Daisy Ridley, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Max von Sydow, Peter Mayhew, Gwendolyn Christie. Directed by JJ Abrams

Released December 18, 2016 Three decades after the events of the first trilogy, the Empire is rising again and is being faced by a small but determined Resistance. With a new and improved weapon being brought to bear on the peaceful but ineffective Republic, unlikely new heroes will combine with familiar ones to take on a villain so heinous that he rivals even Darth Vader.
WHY IT IS HERE: The anticipation for this movie was enormous and when it finally arrived, it proved to be one of those rare films that was worth the wait. Everything about this movie worked and everything about it pleased fans who went back to see it again and again and again. It is already the all-time domestic box office champion and has a shot at dethroning the all-time global champ. In short, Star Wars is back.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The confrontation between father and son.
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: 93% positive reviews. Metacritic: 81/100.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $859.0 million domestic, $1.8B total (as of 1/19/16),.
BUDGET: $200M
GENRE: Science Fiction
STATUS: Still in wide release

The Hateful Eight

8. THE HATEFUL EIGHT

(Weinstein) Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Walton Goggins, Bruce Dern, Demián Bechir, James Parks, Dana Gourrier, Lee Horsley, Channing Tatum. Directed by Quentin Tarantino

Released December 25, 2015 A bounty hunter with a reputation for bringing in his quarry alive – to be hanged – is escorting a young woman to the Wyoming town of Red Rock but is forced to stop at a stagecoach stop high in the mountains, stranded by a blizzard. There are others there, some apparently innocently enough, others of suspicious character. By the time the snowfall ceases, there will have been a reckoning of Biblical proportions.
WHY IT IS HERE: Despite controversy over alleged racism and misogyny, this is still a well-crafted cracking story that keeps audiences on the edge of their seats throughout. Seeing it in the nearly extinct 70mm format was a rare treat but beyond all the noise surrounding it, at the end of the day this is a movie that sucked me in and kept me there.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Major Marquis Warren and Chris Mannix get some well-deserved payback for John Ruth.
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: 75% positive reviews. Metacritic: 68/100.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $49.6 million domestic (as of 1/23/15), $86.7M total.
BUDGET: $44M
GENRE: Western
STATUS: Still in wide release.

Beasts of No Nation

7. BEASTS OF NO NATION

(Netflix/Bleecker Street) Idris Elba, Abraham Attah, Ama Abebrese, Richard Pepple, Emmanuel Nii Adom Quaye, Kurt Egyiawan, Jude Akuwudike, Emmanuel Affadzi, Kobina Amissah-Sam, Fred Nii Amugi. Directed by Cary Fukunaga

Released October 16, 2015 Agu, a young boy in a civil war-torn African nation, is forced to become a child soldier for a charismatic warlord. Convinced he is going straight to hell for all the atrocities he is party to, we watch as his soul becomes more and more tainted, his eyes more and more lifeless. When hope for anything better is gone, what more is left but obedience?
WHY IT IS HERE: There is a realism here that is missing from other films that are similarly themed. It helps tremendously that both Elba as the warlord and young Abraham Attah as Agu deliver searing performances that will remain as indelible impressions for a very long time to come. I thought Elba was a sure thing for an Oscar nomination, although the Academy didn’t agree. This is one that the Academy got wrong.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Young Agu’s rage finally breaks free.
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: 91% positive reviews. Metacritic: 79/100.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $90,777 domestic (as of 1/23/15), $90,777 total..
BUDGET: $6M.
GENRE: Drama
STATUS: Available exclusively on Netflix.

The Big Short

6. THE BIG SHORT

(Paramount) Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, Marisa Tomei, Rafe Spall, Hamish Linklater, Jeremy Strong. Directed by Adam McKay

Released December 11, 2015 In the middle of the first decade of the 21st century, a brilliant medical doctor turned hedge fund manager discovered the terrifying truth; that American banks and other financial institutions were relying heavily on securities based on mortgages, securities that had always been considered stable and rock solid but had been filled with mortgages that were almost certain to be defaulted on. Other managers discovered the same truth and while some tried to raise the alarm, others moved to profit off of the information.
WHY IT IS HERE: A sobering look at how unregulated greed damn near brought the world economy to its knees with the even more sobering warning that those running those same banks and securities firms – who were never punished for their actions which often crossed the line of securities laws – are involved in the same behaviors once again, having failed to learn their lesson the first time mainly because the American taxpayers bailed them out. Although it is admittedly hard to find heroic the actions of those who eventually profited from the human misery that came of the 2008 financial meltdown, this has become perhaps the ultimate cautionary tale to come out of the 2015 movie year.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The mentor of a pair of young ambitious hedge fund managers tempers their enthusiasm by explaining the real-life consequences of their success.
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: 88% positive reviews. Metacritic: 81/100.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $54.2 million domestic (as of 1/24/15), $72.7M total..
BUDGET: $28M.
GENRE: True Life Drama
STATUS: Still in wide release.

Brooklyn

5. BROOKLYN

(Fox Searchlight) Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Maeve McGrath. Directed by John Crowley

Released November 4, 2015 In the 1950s, a young woman in a small Irish village leaves for New York, knowing that she has no future at home. However, she is best by homesickness and finds life in the Big Apple lonely and unsatisfying, but eventually she meets an Italian man at a church dance and is slowly won over by her persistence. However, bad news from home will send her packing back for Ireland where she’ll be courted by an eligible bachelor and where she finds she is fitting in more than she ever had before, but where will her heart lead her; to stay in her native land or to return to the man she loves in America?
WHY IT IS HERE: An award-worthy performance by Ronan in the lead role for one. Crowley, working off of a script by Nick Hornby, has delivered a lyrical and moving paean both to Ireland and America. Beautifully shot, rendering the sweet Irish countryside as well as the charms of Brooklyn, well-acted throughout and buoyed by a terrific script, this remains one of the most charming and lovely movies of the year.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Two lovers are reunited.
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: 98% positive reviews. Metacritic: 87/100.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $26.4 million domestic (as of 1/24/15), $34.5M worldwide.
BUDGET: $10M
GENRE: Romance
STATUS: Still in limited release.

Spotlight

4. SPOTLIGHT

(Open Road) Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Live Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian D’Arcy James, Stanley Tucci. Directed by Tom McCarthy

Released November 6, 2015 At the Boston Globe, the Spotlight investigative journalism team begins to look into allegations of covering up for a single Catholic priest who was accused of pedophilia. As their investigation widens, they discover to their horror that the problem is widespread on a global level. In a city where the Catholic Church is an immense political and social force, they encounter resistance to their investigation but their perseverance will lead to a scandal that will shake the very foundations of one of the oldest and most powerful institutions in the world.
WHY IT IS HERE: This may be the most realistic film about print journalism ever made. The emotional impact of the story itself cannot be overestimated as we see victims recount their harrowing experiences and the devastating aftermaths. The ensemble cast is made up of some of the most accomplished actors in the business and while Keaton and Ruffalo have been getting the lion’s share of the acclaim, the truth is that the performances here are outstanding top to bottom. It is fitting that one of the best-written films of 2015 was the movie about journalism.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The Spotlight team begins to realize the enormity and the impact of their story.
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: 96% positive reviews. Metacritic: 93/100.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $33.2 million domestic (as of 1/27/15), $34.5 million total.
BUDGET: $20 million.
GENRE: True Life Drama
STATUS: Still in general release.

The Martian

3. THE MARTIAN

(20th Century Fox) Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Pena, Sean Bean, Kate Mara. Directed by Ridley Scott

Released October 2, 2015 The first manned mission to Mars has to be cut short when a massive storm heads for the landing site. As the team of astronauts scurries to get their things stowed and the landing vehicle launched, one of their number is struck by flying debris and apparently killed. Reluctantly his team leaves without him but in the immortal words of Monty Python, he’s not quite dead yet.
WHY IT IS HERE: This tale of survival is certainly one of the best films of the year and is in my mind superior to other reality-based sci-fi films like Gravity for a number of different reasons. Not only is the science far more accurate than other films of this ilk, it has an Oscar-worthy performance by Damon, a terrific cast behind him and one of the most edge-of-your-seat plots you’ll see in this or any other year.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Matt Damon “sciences the shit” out of a problem.
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: 93% positive reviews. Metacritic: 80/100.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $227.7 million domestic (as of 1/28/16), $598.6 million total.
BUDGET: $108 million.
GENRE: Science Fiction
STATUS: Download from Amazon/iTunes/ Vudu/M-Go/Google Play.  Stream from Amazon/iTunes/Vudu/M-Go/Google Play. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix the week of February 7.

Ex-Machina

2. EX-MACHINA

(A24) Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Alice Vikander, Sonoya Mizuno, Corey Johnson, Claire Selby, Symara A. Templeton, Gana Bayarsaikhan. Directed by Alex Garland

Released April 10, 2015 A young programmer wins a company competition that spirits him to a weekend at the reclusive founder’s fortress-like mountain hideaway. There he discovers that the tech wizard is working on something game-changing; an artificial intelligence in a robotic body, taking the form of a beautiful woman. However whatever the plans are that both men have for her, she may have an agenda of her own.
WHY IT IS HERE: This speculative science fiction film made on a budget that probably didn’t cover the costs for massages and manicures on Star Wars: The Force Awakens is one of the smartest and most provocative movies to come out this year. I was completely done in by Vikander’s performance which was outstanding and kicked off an amazing year for her in which she’s been transformed into one of Hollywood’s brightest stars. Isaac and Gleeson also performed solidly, leading into a year when both of them also emerged as names to look out for.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Caleb and Nathan have a conversation on a glacier.
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: 92% positive reviews. Metacritic: 78/100.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $25.4 million (as of 1/29/15), $36.9M total.
BUDGET: $15M
GENRE: Science Fiction
STATUS: Available on home video. Download on Amazon/iTunes/Vudu/M-Go/Google Play. Stream on Amazon/iTunes/Vudu/M-Go/Google Play. Rent Blu-Ray/DVD on Netflix.

Message From Hiroshima

1. MESSAGE FROM HIROSHIMA

(Cinema Libre) George Takei (voice), Kazuo Fukushima, Akinori Ueda, Ryoga Suwa, Hisako Miyake, Kinue Nakamitsu, Chieko Fujiki. Directed by Masaki Tanabe

Released August 4, 2015 The atomic bomb that dropped on Hiroshima was a watershed moment in modern history. We read about in history books, but that really doesn’t come close to telling us what it was really like. This amazing documentary collects some of the few still-living survivors of the blast and details their stories, complimented with some excellent computer graphics that reconstruct what Hiroshima looked like before the bomb fell.
WHY IT IS HERE: There is no movie, no documentary, no television show, no book and no social interaction that will affect you as much as this movie will. It will literally change your life. Seeing a beautiful, vibrant city come to life before your eyes – and then to watch the astonishing destruction, hear the account of people who were children at the time explain what it was like to lose parents, friends, brothers and sisters – to see the emotions still raw 70 years later, is absolutely unforgettable. The movie barely got any sort of theatrical release and is mainly available on Hulu, but it’s also available on DVD. This should be required viewing for not just our political leaders, but for everyone human. Never again.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Basically, every one of the survivor’s stories.
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: N/A. Metacritic: N/A.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: N/A
BUDGET: N/A
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Stream from Hulu.

The Martian


Matt Damon takes a break.

Matt Damon takes a break.

(2015) Science Fiction (20th Century Fox) Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Peňa, Sean Bean, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Benedict Wong, Mackenzie Davis, Donald Glover, Nick Mohammed, Chen Shu, Eddy Ko, Enzo Cilenti, Jonathan Aris, Gruffudd Glyn, Naomi Scott. Directed by Ridley Scott

The exploration of other planets is a dangerous undertaking, maybe the most dangerous thing that humankind can do. So many things can go wrong. When compounded with human error, life or death can rest on a single decision made not always by ourselves but by others as well.

The Ares III manned mission to Mars is going well into its 18th day but then mission control in Houston detects an oncoming storm, a massive one that will force the crew to end their mission early and blast off into space. Already the escape vehicle is tipping over dangerously in the Martian sand. As the crew struggles to prepare for an emergency liftoff, the storm hits with brutal wind force. A piece of debris slams into astronaut Mark Watney (Damon) who is blown into the storm. His beacon and life signs indicator both are off. After a brief search in the storm fails to turn up Mark or his body, expedition leader Melissa Lewis (Chastain) is forced to leave Mars without him.

Except Mark isn’t quite dead yet, to quote Monty Python. Yes, he’s injured and his suit electronics non-functional but he’s alive. He gets back to the habitat and assesses his situation. He has food rations and water for a further 30 days but it will be four years before NASA can mount a rescue mission, assuming they realize that he’s still alive. As Mark says in his video logs that are to chronicle his struggle to survive, he’ll have to science the shit out of things in order to create drinkable water out of rocket fuel, grow potatoes from some vacuum packed spuds in an environment where nothing grows (let’s just say that he utilizes both the shit and the science), and manage to keep the atmosphere breathable in the habitat. It’s a daunting task.

Mark has a doctorate in botany so he’s a pretty smart guy. However, he knows that any one of a million things can go wrong. He has to contact NASA and once they realize that he’s alive, he has to stay that way until they can get there. However, it isn’t going to be just Mark on the line; when his crew discovers he’s still alive, they will put their own lives on the line to get their colleague and teammate back and what could be more heroic than that?

Ridley Scott is a prolific director who has a history of making screen worlds come to life, from ancient Rome to rural Provence to a doomed spaceship. Here the Red Planet – desolate and arid, although a mere four days before this movie opened NASA announced that water flowed on Mars – becomes a living creature, deadly as a cobra and majestic as a moose. Shot in Tunisia on red desert sands, The vistas are bleak and alien but realistic.

He got NASA’s cooperation on the movie which while it doesn’t come off as a two hour advertisement for the space agency, does portray it in a heroic light in much the same way Apollo 13 did. NASA doesn’t do movies that don’t have the right science; here they made something like 50 pages of notes in order for the solutions to the various problems that Mark Watney come up with are grounded in real science and are the lot of them quite ingenious.

Scott also had the good sense to put a stellar cast in place. While this is Damon’s movie without a doubt (more on that in a minute), he gets plenty of support including Daniels as a beleaguered NASA chief, Wiig as a press officer trying to spin the story the right way, Bean as a project manager whose first and only loyalty is to the crew who have placed their lives in his hands, Ejiofor as a NASA manager tasked with getting Watney home and Peňa as Watney’s closest friend on the crew. All of them do memorable work in parts that have in many cases much less screen time than they are used to.

But as I mentioned, this is Damon’s movie from start to finish and he responds by turning in maybe the best performance of his career. Certainly come Oscar nomination time he will have a very good shot at making the short list. He gives us exactly the heroic astronaut we’re looking for; one who is lonely and vulnerable but who faces his issues with intelligence and aplomb. He is a man who absolutely refuses to lie down and quit where many would have. Dying 145 million miles away from home is simply unacceptable.

The science in the film has been vetted by no less a personage than Neil deGrasse Tyson (who also recorded a trailer for the film) who proclaimed it accurate for the most part other than some minor details; for example, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena doesn’t work on manned missions, but the one element that doesn’t pass the science test is the storm that scrubs the mission; because the atmosphere on Mars holds 1% of the air pressure than the atmosphere on Earth, the dust storms there (and there are dust storms on Mars) are much less violent and only pick up the lightest of dust. Having a wind storm on Mars that has the capability of picking up debris and slamming it into the body of an unsuspecting atmosphere doesn’t work but of course it is necessary to the plot that the crew believe that one of their number is dead, otherwise they would never leave without him. Like our military, NASA leaves nobody behind.

But what we have here is a rare movie that promotes intelligence and individual scientific knowledge. Granted, we are unlikely to ever be put in a situation in which our science IQ is all that stands between us and oblivion, but it is a reminder of how important science is not just into making new cell phones for us to use but to our own survival as well. The kind of problem solving Watney exhibits is the kind of problem solving we need for our own future as our global climate changes, which may lead to famine and starvation. We’ll need a lot of Mark Watneys to get us out of that one. Nonetheless any movie that gives us this kind of portrayal of science and scientists and does it in a story that is this compelling gets the highest praise I can offer.

REASONS TO GO: Damon is brilliant. Gripping story with real life science. Maintains tension throughout. Realistic-looking Mars (other than the storms).
REASONS TO STAY: Not everyone likes science fiction..
FAMILY VALUES: Some foul language, images of injuries and brief male posterior nudity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Ridley Scott delayed filming on his Prometheus sequel to make this film.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 10/18/15: Rotten Tomatoes: 93% positive reviews. Metacritic: 81/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Gravity
FINAL RATING: 10/10
NEXT: Pan

New Releases for the Week of October 2, 2015


The MartianTHE MARTIAN

(20th Century Fox) Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peňa, Sean Bean, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Chiwetel Ejiofor. Directed by Ridley Scott

During a manned mission to Mars, a savage storm strikes the landing site and forces an early departure of the astronauts. One of them is presumed lost during the storm and the team takes off without him – except he’s not quite dead yet. Alone, abandoned on a dead planet hundreds of millions of miles from home, the stranded astronaut has to first contact NASA or his space craft and let them know he’s alive, then find a way to survive until help finally does come. Neither one is an easy task.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, a promo, a featurette and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard, 3D  (Opens Thursday)
Genre: Science Fiction
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG-13 (for some strong language, injury images and brief nudity)

Finders Keepers

(The Orchard) Shannon Whisnant, John Wood. When Shannon Whisnant buys a smoker from a storage unit auction, he is surprised to discover an amputated human leg being stored inside it. This unleashes a bitter dispute between Whisnant, who determines to keep the leg because it is bringing him the fame he craves, and John Wood – the smoker’s previous owner – to whom the leg has a very personal connection. It could only happen in the South, folks.

See the trailer and clips here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Documentary
Now Playing: Enzian Theater
Rating: R (for language)

Hell and Back

(Freestyle) Starring the voices of Mila Kunis, TJ Miller, Susan Sarandon, Bob Odenkirk. Never underestimate the idiocy of a young white male. When a group of bros inadvertently open a gateway to Hell and one of them gets sucked down into it, his three buddies try to do the right thing and go down to the infernal regions to welcome their friend. Hell has no idea what’s about to hit them. From the same animation studio that is guilty of giving us Robot Chicken and Bo-jack Horseman.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Animated Feature
Now Playing: AMC Disney Springs, AMC Loew’s Universal Cineplex, Regal Oviedo Marketplace, Regal Pointe Orlando, Regal Winter Park Village, UA Seminole Town Center
Rating: R (for pervasive strong crude and sexual content, language and some drug use)

Sicario

(Lionsgate) Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Victor Garber. An idealistic FBI agent is brought into the war zone that is the U.S.-Mexican border to join a task force with the mission of stopping cartel violence from reaching its tentacles onto American soil. A mysterious consultant with an enigmatic past and an elite government agent whose ambitions are only matched with his amorality force the agent to question everything she believes in as she must go to extreme measures just to survive. The latest from talented director Denis Villeneuve has been receiving critical accolades wherever it has gone.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, a featurette and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard (opens Thursday)
Genre: Action
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for strong violence, grisly images, and language)

The Walk

(Tri-Star) Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon, James Badge Dale. Only one man has – and ever will – walked on a high wire between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. That man is Philippe Pettit and his real life exploits were captured on the excellent documentary Man on Wire – if you haven’t seen it yet I highly recommend it. This is a dramatization of the events that took place way back when. Director Robert Zemeckis has apparently utilized modern technology to put the audience in Philippe’s shoes, so high above the ground in New York City. This may end up being one of the few movies Da Queen and I end up seeing in IMAX 3D this year.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, featurettes, premiere footage and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D (opened Wednesday)
Genre: True Life Drama
Now Playing: Large Format Screens
Rating: PG (for thematic elements including perilous situations, and for some nudity, language, brief drug references and smoking)

2015 Fall/Holiday Preview


2015 Fall-Holiday Preview2015 was touted as being an eagerly anticipated year by both movie fans and studio accountants alike and the summer hasn’t disappointed. Jurassic World has been one of the biggest successes of all time worldwide, smashing box office records left and right. It likely won’t reach Avatar levels but it has already reached third place on the all-time domestic box office charts. Avengers: Age of Ultron is also top ten on the all-time charts, in the eighth position. Not bad for a single summer; two movies in the all-time domestic box office top ten. It’s also been a great year for family movies as Inside Out battled Jurassic World for box office supremacy throughout June  It is currently the third biggest Pixar film and sixth animated feature overall. However, Minions had a record breaking opening weekend and is the third movie to pass $300 million in box office this summer. There have been some other big winners as well; Pitch Perfect 2, San Andreas, Spy, Mad Max: Fury Road and Ant-Man have all been big winners and while many of the August releases have been disappointing, Straight Outta Compton has been a huge success. There have been a few genuine flops – Fantastic Four, Entourage, Aloha and Self/Less among them but fewer than last year for sure.

Although there are no blockbusters on the level of Guardians of the Galaxy to end the summer on a high note with, there are several movies on the horizon that look like sure-fire hits. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is the much-hyped conclusion to that monster hit franchise and while there are hints that there may indeed be some prequels or further sequels in the pipeline, nonetheless you can be sure that this one will dominate the holiday box office charts. That is, until Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens opens at Christmas; although generally that one will be more of a box office force in the new year, it may well be the most-anticipated film of the year in a year when there have been a lot of eagerly awaited releases.

Holiday time is Oscar time and there are several movies already generating some buzz for the biggest prize in movies. The Danish Girl touts current Oscar Best Actor winner Eddie Redmayne in a part that is likely to garner him another nomination while Oliver Stone brings the story of Snowden to the screen which may attract some notice. Ron Howard’s In the Heart of the Sea was moved to December to give it a better chance at nominations, and other films, including Suffragette, the David O. Russell film Joy, Hitchcock/Truffaut and Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight could get a look by Academy voters.

Comedies are a big part of autumn and holiday scheduling and we can expect some big ones with the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler opus Sisters, Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg re-teaming in Daddy’s Home, the musical comedy Rock the Kasbah, the Joseph Gordon-Levitt/Seth Rogan Christmas Eve comedy The Night Before, and the Anne Hathaway/Robert De Niro workplace laugher The Intern. Another big part of the post-summer schedule is sequels and there are plenty of those with the aforementioned Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part II and Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens but also the latest James Bond epic Spectre, the final installment of the hugely successful Paranormal Activity series as well as a reboot of another horror series in Rings, bringing back the J-horror remake The Ring back to life. There will also be sequels to Hotel Transylvania, The Maze Runner and The Transporter, sans Jason Statham.

With all the choices this summer for great family movies, the hits should keep on coming with such family fare as Peanuts, The Good Dinosaur, Pan and Hotel Transylvania 2. On the opposite end of the spectrum, horror film fans have a bumper crop this year with the eagerly anticipated Guillermo del Toro-directed ghost story Crimson Peak along with the aforementioned Rings and Paranormal Activity: Ghost Dimension. In addition, we can look forward to the much-delayed The Green Inferno, Krampus, Cooties, The Visit, The Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, The Last Witch Hunter, Victor Frankenstein and Tales of Halloween all in the pipeline.

Space isn’t always the final frontier when it comes to the holidays and there will be plenty of movies to quell the appetites of even the most voracious sci-fi junkies with Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, The Martian, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part II and Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. For those into independent cinema there are always some choice cuts with The Danish Girl, Wolf Totem, A Walk in the Woods, Truffaut/Hitchcock, Sleeping with Other People, The Keeping Room, Suffragette, Beasts With No Nation, The Secret in Their Eyes, He Named Me Malala, Labyrinth of Lies, Brooklyn, Trumbo, The 33 and I Saw the Light in store. Drama will not be in short supply this fall with such efforts as Joy, In the Heart of the Sea, The 33, Creed, By the Sea, Bridge of Spies, The Walk and Black Mass. There is an unusual number of biographical films this fall as well, including Suffragette, Snowden, Black Mass, Steve Jobs and Concussion. Finally, action fans will have cause to rejoice with Everest, Dragon Blade, Wolf Totem, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part II, The Hateful Eight, Point Break, The Last Witch Hunter and Spectre.

The night sky in the fall and holidays always glitter with stars and in 2015 that means Matt Damon (The Martian), Brad Pitt (By the Sea), Robert Redford (A Walk in the Woods), Julia Roberts (Secret in Their Eyes), Harrison Ford (Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens), Robert De Niro (The Interns), Johnny Depp (Black Mass), Leonardo di Caprio (The Revenant), Amy Poehler (Sisters), Kirsten Wiig (Masterminds), Bradley Cooper (Joy), Will Ferrell (Daddy’s Home), Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl), Meryl Streep (Suffragette), Jake Gyllenhaal (Everest), Jackie Chan (Dragon Blade), Benicio del Toro (Sicario), Mel Brooks (Hotel Transylvania 2), Tom Hanks (Bridge of Spies), Sylvester Stallone (Creed), Nicole Kidman (Secret in Their Eyes), Chris Hemsworth (In the Heart of the Sea), Anne Hathaway (The Interns), Adam Sandler (Hotel Transylvania 2), Hugh Jackman (Pan), Tina Fey (Sisters), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), Antonio Banderas (The 33), Tom Hardy (Legend and The Revenant), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Walk, The Night Before and Snowden), Daniel Craig (Spectre), Keira Knightley (Everest), Vin Diesel (The Last Witch Hunter), Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part II and Joy), Oscar Isaac (Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens), Will Smith (Concussion), Benedict Cumberbatch (Black Mass), Ryan Reynolds (Mississippi Grind), Nicolas Cage (Snowden), Bruce Willis (Rock the Kasbah), Kate Beckinsale (The Disappointments Room), Nick Nolte (A Walk in the Woods), Christoph Waltz (Spectre), John Cusack (Dragon Blade), Josh Brolin (Sicario and Everest), Kevin James (Hotel Transylvania 2), Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs), Angelina Jolie Pitt (By the Sea), Tom Hiddleston (Crimson Peak and I Saw the Light), Tobey Maguire (Pawn Sacrifice), Mark Wahlberg (Daddy’s Home), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Secret in Their Eyes), Emma Thompson (A Walk in the Woods), Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) and Daniel Radcliffe (Victor Frankenstein). There are also some high-profile directors with projects big and small this season including Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone, Quentin Tarantino, Ron Howard, Sam Mendes, J.J. Abrams, David O. Russell, Guillermo del Toro, Angelina Jolie Pitt, Robert Zemeckis, Danny Boyle, Ridley Scott, Denis Villeneuve, Eli Roth, M. Night Shyamalan, Edward Zwick, Nancy Meyers, Jean-Jacques Arnaud and Tom Hooper

As with all previews, there are almost always changes that the studios make as the studios jockey for position or production delays cause movies to be moved to different slots, so check out your local listings to make sure that the movie you’re dying to see is indeed opening the week it says it is here. Be aware that the recent Chapter 11 bankruptcy of Relativity Media makes the release of films distributed by them somewhat dicey; some of their films will eventually be picked up by other distributors but others will be delayed for awhile, go directly to home video or disappear forever. To be on the safe side, check our weekly previews for movies opening in Central Florida, our monthly Pick of the Litter feature for previews of especially deserving films or our Coming Soon section for regular updates of the release schedule for movies with budgets big and small. Until then, you’ve got a preview to read – better get cracking!

SEPTEMBER

As summer wanes and Labor Day signals the end of the blockbuster and barbecue season and the beginning of school and football season, the studios tend to take a deep breath and program movies here that are not quite so exciting, although there are often a few gems among the rocks. This month we’ll be looking at a true-life mountain adventure, the sequel to a hit Halloween-themed animated feature, the biography of a notorious American criminal and the sequel to a surprise hit young adult sci-fi novel adaptation.

Hotel Transylvania 2

DEANS LIST

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2

RELEASE DATE: September 25, 2015
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi, Mel Brooks, Andy Samberg, David Spade, Fran Drescher
GENRE: Animated Feature
STORY: Dracula’s daughter Mavis has a son who is the light of Drac’s eyes but she yearns to leave the hotel for a safer place for her human husband and half-human son. With the boy not exhibiting any vampiric traits, Dracula is desperate for him to show his fangs and give Mavis no reason to leave. In order to help he’ll have to turn to the one place he didn’t want to – his father, Vlad.
PROSPECTS: Animated features, after a year off, are back and this one is the sequel to a pretty successful original. One thing that I found interesting – the director is Genndy Tartakovsky, director of the critically acclaimed Star Wars: The Clone Wars series and the writer is SNL favorite Robert Smigel so the pedigree is good.
OBSTACLES: Sandler has been on a bit of a rough patch as of late. It might be a tad early for Halloween-themed entertainment.
FACTOID: Cee-Lo Green was unable to voice Murray the Mummy due to an arrest; Keegan-Michael Key stepped in to voice the role.

GRADUATED WITH HONORS

THE MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS

RELEASE DATE: September 18, 2015
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Dylan O’Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Kaya Scodelario, Giancarlo Esposito, Will Poulter, Patricia Clarkson, Ki Hong Lee, Barry Pepper
GENRE: Science Fiction
STORY: Having conquered the maze, Thomas and the other survivors from The Glade are brought into a society of humans in an underground bunker trying to survive some sort of apocalypse. The intrigue involving the mysterious organization called WCKD forces the survivors into the wasteland called The Scorch which may do what the Maze couldn’t – kill Thomas and his friends.
PROSPECTS: The original movie’s success, which exceeded expectations, put the sequel onto a fast track so that it appeared only a year after the first movie.
OBSTACLES: Young adult novels have been, with few exceptions, box office bonanzas. The hurried manner in which the movie got made may come back to haunt the studio.
FACTOID: Brodie-Sangster along with Scorch Trials cast members Aiden Gillan and Nathalie Emmanuel all appeared in Game of Thrones.

BLACK MASS

RELEASE DATE: September 18, 2015
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Johnny Depp, Dakota Johnson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Juno Temple, Corey Stoll, Joel Edgerton, Adam Scott, Peter Sarsgaard
GENRE: Biographical Drama
STORY: Whitey Bulger, a Boston mobster, becomes one of the most powerful crime bosses in history. He becomes an FBI informant to help take down a crime family that rivaled his own and went on the lam for 11 years as one of the ten most wanted by the FBI.
PROSPECTS: Star-studded cast and a fascinating true crime story generally spell at least decent box office.
OBSTACLES: Depp has been on an extended cold streak and this movie doesn’t show signs of being any less likely to break the streak.
FACTOID: The movie was temporarily shelved when Depp walked away from the role over salary issues; when he was convinced to return, the film was greenlit once again.

EVEREST

RELEASE DATE: September 25, 2015
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright, Sam Worthington, Josh Brolin, Emily Watson, John Hawkes
GENRE: Adventure
STORY: The true story of two different expeditions stranded on the world’s tallest mountains by one of the most vicious and harshest snowstorms ever recorded.
PROSPECTS: Epic mountain climbing-themed adventures have traditionally done pretty well during the latter portion of the year.
OBSTACLES: Although the cast is strong, none of them have displayed an ability to carry a film of this nature (although Worthington and Knightley have had success in the action genre).
FACTOID: Clarke has replaced Christian Bale in two different films; this one and in Terminator Genisys.

THE WALK

RELEASE DATE: September 30, 2015 (limited and IMAX; opens October 9 wide)
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale, Charlotte Le Bon, Ben Schwartz, Steve Valentine, Sergio Di Zio
GENRE: True Life Drama
STORY: In 1974 French high wire artist Phillippe Petit is inspired to attempt to cross between the World Trade Center twin towers on a wire. He assembles a clandestine team to set up the wire and to run interference. There can be no nets; one false step and he will plummet to his death.
PROSPECTS: The movie has been pushed by Universal since the spring; it’s an inspiring true story (anyone who saw the documentary on the subject Man on Wire will tell you) and with Robert Zemeckis behind the director’s chair, it should be very entertaining.
OBSTACLES: The twin towers remain a very open wound for many and while this did actually happen, what happened to the buildings 37 years afterwards is still a fresh and painful memory.
FACTOID: The movie is based on Petit’s autobiography To Reach the Clouds: My High Wire Walk Between the Twin Towers, published in 2002.

ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION

SICARIO

RELEASE DATE: September 18, 2015 (Limited; opens wide September 25, 2015)
STUDIO: Lionsgate
STARRING: Emily Blunt, Jon Bernthal, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber, Jeffrey Donovan, Raoul Trujillo, Maximilliano Hernandez, Daniel Kaluuya
GENRE: Spy Action
STORY: An idealistic FBI agent is brought aboard a task force to aid in the war on drugs against the Mexican cartels. Aided by a consultant with a questionable past, the agent finds herself in a situation where nothing is as it seems and the motives of her superiors is suspect. Survival will not be easy with the vicious cartel and an untrustworthy government liaison to deal with.
PROSPECTS: Director Denis Villeneuve is highly regarded by film buffs; his movie Prisoners was a surprise success and his latest could very well advance his career a step forward.
OBSTACLES: Not a lot of star power here and the government corruption angle in regards to Mexican drug cartels may turn off some from coming.
FACTOID: Sicario means “hitman” in Spanish.

COMMUNITY COLLEGE

SEPTEMBER 2, 2015

A WALK IN THE WOODS (Broad Green) stars Robert Redford and Nick Nolte as two old but estranged friends who decide to walk the Appalachian Trail from the southern terminus to the northern top despite having little or no hiking experience. Based on Bill Bryson’s bestselling account of his incredible journey.

SEPTEMBER 4, 2015

BEFORE WE GO (Radius) stars Chris Evans and Alice Eve as two strangers stuck in New York overnight whose unexpected adventures cause them to take stock of their lives – and their loves. Evans directed this film which is opening in limited release. Also opening in limited release, DRAGON BLADE (Lionsgate Premiere) is an epic action film starring Adrien Brody as a corrupt Roman emperor, Jackie Chan as a Chinese general trying to protect his people and John Cusack as a noble Roman general tired of the greed and corruption staining the honor of Rome; the three will collide on a small but significant portion of the Silk Road. THE TRANSPORTER REFUELED (EuropaCorp) resurrects the Jason Statham franchise with Ed Skrein taking over the role of Frank Martin. This time it gets personal as Frank gets caught in the middle of a feud between a quartet of femme fatales and a ruthless Russian druglord, with Frank’s father being held hostage.

SEPTEMBER 11, 2015

THE PERFECT GUY (Screen Gems) stars Sanaa Lathan as a woman reeling from a painful breakup. She gets involved with a charming stranger and seems to be picking up the pieces when her ex-boyfriend re-enters the picture and she soon finds herself in a position of trying to figure out which one of the two handsome men she can trust, and which she should fear. Opening in limited release, SLEEPING WITH OTHER PEOPLE (IFC) stars Alison Brie and Jason Sudeikis as two monogamy-challenged people who reconnect by chance 12 years after a college one-night stand. They both have trouble maintaining relationships and decide to stay friends despite their attraction to one another. This proves to be much easier said than done.  THE VISIT (Universal) is the latest from M. Night Shyamalan in which two teens are sent to stay with their grandma and grandpa in rural Pennsylvania for a week. They discover the old folks are into something sinister and that their chances of getting home to Mom grow more dim the longer that they stay. In WOLF TOTEM (Columbia) a Chinese student is sent to live among the nomadic tribesman of Inner Mongolia in 1967. As civilization begins to encroach from the South and the tribesmen’s traditional enemies the wolves pressing in from the North, the student and his new friends must figure out how to survive in a changing world. This is the latest from acclaimed director Jean-Jacques Annaud.

SEPTEMBER 18, 2015

COOTIES (Lionsgate Premiere) is a horror spoof in which contaminated cafeteria food turns kids into ravenous zombies. The teachers must gather in the lounge to do more than drink coffee; they have to band together to defend themselves or die trying (much more likely). Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson, Alison Pill, Jack McBrayer and Jorge Garcia star in this limited release. PAWN SACRIFICE (Bleecker Street) stars Tobey Maguire as the mercurial but legendary American chess master Bobby Fischer as he goes from child prodigy to grand master to extremely disturbed. While this is opening in limited release, it is likely to play pretty much everywhere eventually.

SEPTEMBER 25, 2015

THE GREEN INFERNO (Blumhouse Tilt) is Eli Roth’s horror opus that has been awaiting release for awhile as it has gone through the distributor hop game. A group of American student activists head down to the Amazon to do some good; unfortunately they end up in a part of the Amazon where doing good means feeding the natives – with their own flesh. Sounds like Cannibal Holocaust to me. It doesn’t say that this is limited release but it may be. THE INTERN (Warner Brothers) is a comedy with Robert De Niro as an older man starting his life over again as an intern at a large tech company; Anne Hathaway is the young and lonely CEO. Together they will make a formidable team. MISSISSIPPI GRIND (A24) opens in limited release about a veteran gambler who is in the throes of an epic losing streak; with a younger man in tow, he sets out on a road trip through the Gulf Coast to take one last stab at changing his luck.

SEPTEMBER 30, 2015

In LABYRINTH OF LIES (Sony Classics) West Germany, 20 years after the war, is finally recovering from the economic catastrophe of rebuilding their nation. In a small town, when a teacher on is identified by a journalist as a former guard at Auschwitz, an ambitious prosecutor decides to take on the case. However, he encounters a West Germany that as a nation, wants to put the past behind them and in fact, erase the really unpleasant parts of it that reminds them of what they allowed to happen. Opens in limited release.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

A look back at how last year’s previewed movies did at the box office. The budgets and box office numbers are courtesy of Box Office Mojo. My verdicts are based on the typical studio formula that for a movie to break even it must make twice its production budget; any movie that achieves that will be labeled as profitable. I define hit movies as those that make three times the production budget and blockbusters as anything that makes $200 million in domestic box office or more, or made five times the production budget with a minimum of $100 million in domestic box office. The first four movies listed are the four main previewed items; I’ve also chosen a selection of other major releases that made the preview issue as well.

THE EQUALIZER (Columbia) Budget: $55 Million. Domestic Gross: $101.5M Total: $192.3M Verdict: Big Hit.
A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES (Universal) Budget: $28M. Domestic Gross: $26.3M Total: $53.2M Verdict: Broke Even.
THE MAZE RUNNER (20th Century Fox) Budget: $34M. Domestic Gross: $102.4M Total: $340.8M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE BOXTROLLS (Focus) Budget: $60M. Domestic Gross: $50.8M Total: $108.3M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE SKELETON TWINS (Roadside Attractions) Budget: $1M. Domestic Gross: $5.3M Total: $5.7M Verdict: Profitable.
THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU (Warner Brothers) Budget: $19.8M. Domestic Gross: $34.3M Total: $41.04M Verdict: Broke Even.
DOLPHIN TALE 2 (Warner Brothers) Budget: $36M. Domestic Gross: $42.0M Total: $52.4M Verdict: Lost Money.
NO GOOD DEED (Screen Gems) Budget: $13.2M. Domestic Gross: $52.5M Total: $54.3M Verdict: Big Hit.
TUSK (A24) Budget: $3M. Domestic Gross: $1.8M. Total: $1.8M. Verdict: Flop.
HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS (Relativity) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $1.1M Total: $4.0M Verdict: Flop.
PRIDE (CBS) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $1.4M Total: $7.5 Verdict: Likely Made Money.

OCTOBER

It’s a time for jack o’lanterns, goblins, and trick or treating, and as the weather grows cooler the offerings at the multiplex heat up. This year, we can expect a long-awaited passion project by fan favorite director Guillermo del Toro, a sequel to a memorable action film from two summers ago, the final installment in the most profitable found footage horror franchise in history, a new Steven Spielberg film and a live action version of a beloved 80s cartoon.

Crimson Peak

DEANS LIST

CRIMSON PEAK

RELEASE DATE: October 16, 2015
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Mia Wasikowska, Charlie Hunnam, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Doug Jones, Burn Gorman, Jim Beaver, Leslie Hope
GENRE: Horror
STORY: A young newlywed enters a Gothic mansion which is full of secrets. Possessed of an affinity for seeing ghosts, she becomes the focal point for the more sinister inhabitants of her new home.
PROSPECTS: Perhaps the most anticipated horror movie of the year by fans of the genre and for those same fans director Guillermo del Toro can literally do no wrong.
OBSTACLES: It has taken a very long time to get this movie made. Gothic ghost stories are not exactly the most beloved of sub-genres of late among horror fans.
FACTOID: Hunnam, Gorman and del Toro all previously worked together on Pacific Rim.

GRADUATED WITH HONORS

THE MARTIAN

RELEASE DATE: October 2, 2015
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Matt Damon, Kate Mara, Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Kristin Wiig, Sebastian Stan, Sean Bean, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor
GENRE: Science Fiction
STORY: The first manned mission to Mars ends abruptly when a gigantic storm forces the astronauts to leave, unfortunately having to leave one of their own behind when he is presumed dead. However he is very much alive and with a meager amount of supplies and food, he must figure out a way to survive and communicate to Earth to send a rescue mission – which will still take two years to get there even if he is successful in calling home.
PROSPECTS: This is the second straight autumn in which Damon has played an astronaut; this film seems to be pretty cerebral but with a lot more action. Could be a big hit if it’s done right.
OBSTACLES: Lone survivor movies are inherently not too cinematic. Unless the filmmakers and marketers are dead on, this one might fall by the wayside.
FACTOID: In order to use NASA as part of the movie, the filmmakers had to submit the script for review and make the necessary changes to ensure the most possible accuracy; over 50 pages in the script are strictly NASA material.

PAN

RELEASE DATE: October 9, 2015
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund, Levi Miller, Rooney Mara, Cara Delevingne, Amanda Seyfried, Nonso Anozie, Paul Kaye
GENRE: Fantasy
STORY: An orphaned boy is spirited away to the magical Neverland. There he becomes embroiled in a war between the dread pirate Blackbeard and the denizens of Neverland, led by the fierce Princess Tiger Lily and the ne’er-do-well Jim Hook.
PROSPECTS: The family film schedule is generally crowded this time of year, but this looks to be the most lavish and kid-friendly film of the early fall. Familiarity with the beloved J.M. Barrie character Peter Pan will certainly help sell this.
OBSTACLES: Purists are going to shudder at this re-imagining of Peter Pan’s origin story.
FACTOID: As a 5-year-old, Miller played Pan in a local stage production and won an award for it. Pan is one of his favorite fictional characters.

BRIDGE OF SPIES

RELEASE DATE: October 16, 2015
STUDIO: DreamWorks
STARRING: Tom Hanks, Amy Ryan, Alan Alda, Austin Stowell, Mark Rylance, Billy Magnussen, Eve Hewson, Sebastian Koch, Michael Gaston
GENRE: True Life Drama
STORY: At the height of the Cold War, James Donovan, a Brooklyn lawyer, is given the task of negotiating for the release of a captured American U-2 pilot from the Soviet Union while defending an accused Soviet spy in the States.
PROSPECTS: Directed by Steven Spielberg and written by the Coen Brothers, credits that are bound to get at least an eyebrow raise from the film buff community.
OBSTACLES: It’s a little bit early for Oscar bait.
FACTOID: While this is the fourth time Hanks has been in front of the cameras while Spielberg has been behind them, this is the first time in eleven years the two have collaborated.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS

RELEASE DATE: October 23, 2015
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Molly Ringwald, Juliette Lewis, Aubrey Peeples, Haley Kiyoko, Ryan Guzman, Stefanie Scott, Nicholas Braun, Aurora Perrineau
GENRE: Musical
STORY: When a small town teen girl’s home-made music video becomes an Internet sensation, she is signed to a deal by a high-powered record company who wants to make her into an image that can be sold. She falls prey to the seductive call, only to realize she is losing those she loves the most.
PROSPECTS: Certain demographics might well go bonkers over this; the pre-teen and young teen female audience and their moms.
OBSTACLES: While this was a hit animated series in the 80s, girls the age that this will appeal to won’t remember the show and other audiences might ignore this totally.
FACTOID: The filmmakers announced open casting auditions over the Internet; however, it was later established that this was a marketing ploy as the movie had already been cast before the audition call was sent out.

ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION

SUFFRAGETTE

RELEASE DATE: October 23, 2015
STUDIO: Focus
STARRING: Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleeson, Romola Garai, Anne-Marie Duff, Samuel West
GENRE: Drama
STORY: A working British woman at the turn of the 20th Century is recruited by outlaw feminist Emmeline Pankhurst to become part of the British suffragette movement.
PROSPECTS: An amazing cast and subject that is almost certain to attract some Oscar notice.
OBSTACLES: Unlikely to attract large audiences despite the presence of Streep unless critical notices turn out to be extravagant.
FACTOID: This is the first movie that the English Houses of Parliament have allowed to film within their hallowed halls.

COMMUNITY COLLEGE

OCTOBER 2, 2015

HE NAMED ME MALALA (Fox Searchlight) is the inspiring story of Malala Yousafzal, the teenage girl from Pakistan who stood up to the Taliban and for the education of girls and got shot. Recovering for her wounds didn’t dampen her resolve; she continues to advocate to this day and has won a Nobel Peace Prize for her courage and passion. This documentary was directed by Oscar-nominated director Davis Guggenheim and opens in limited release. Also opening in limited release is LEGEND (Universal), the story of London’s notorious Kray twins, Ronald and Reggie, who are maybe the most notorious gangsters in the history of Great Britain. Tom Hardy plays both roles in a performance that may be one of the early Oscar contenders this year.

OCTOBER 9, 2015

In THE KEEPING ROOM (Drafthouse) a trio of women – one a former slave – try to protect their farm and themselves in the waning days of the Civil War. This limited release screened at this year’s Florida Film Festival; my review can be found here. STEVE JOBS (Universal) stars Michael Fassbender in the title role as the tech visionary who turned Apple into one of the leading tech providers and innovators – twice.

OCTOBER 14, 2015

BEASTS OF NO NATION (Netflix/Bleecker Street) concerns a young boy torn from his Nigerian family and used as a child soldier in an unspecified nation’s civil war; Idris Elba stars as a warlord who takes an interest in the boy. This is the first release from the streaming giant’s feature film division; it will get a brief limited theatrical release simultaneously with its appearance on Netflix. FREEHELD (Lionsgate) is based on the true story of a New Jersey police detective, diagnosed with terminal cancer, who wants to leave her pension to her domestic partner but the county officials and townspeople stand in the way. GOOSEBUMPS (Columbia) stars Jack Black as R.L. Stine, the author of the beloved young adult horror series of the same name in a fanciful tale of the inadvertent release of the monsters he created into the real world. TRUTH (Sony Classics) which opens in limited release is based on the true story of producer Mary Mapes and journalist Dan Rather whose broadcast of a story about a sitting president’s military record turns out to be false and nearly takes down an entire network because of it.

OCTOBER 23, 2015

BURNT (Weinstein) stars Bradley Cooper as a once-rising star in French cuisine who lost everything; now he is trying to start anew – but in the cutthroat world of high end dining that can be much more dangerous than it sounds. THE LAST WITCH HUNTER (Summit) has been cursed with immortality, which comes in handy when the Queen of Witches is resurrected and threatens the world. Vin Diesel stars. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: GHOST DIMENSION (Paramount) wraps up the one of the most profitable franchises in movie history with a story that ties up all of the previous entries together.  ROCK THE KASBAH (Open Road) is about a rock road manager, stranded in Kabul during a USO tour who discovers an amazing talent that might just take him back to the big time – if he can get the both of them out of Kabul. The latest from Barry Levinson stars Bill Murray.

OCTOBER 30, 2015

In OUR BRAND IS CRISIS (Warner Brothers) American spin doctors take on the task of getting an unpopular Bolivian president re-elected. An all-star cast highlights this David Gordon Green movie based on a documentary of the same name. SCOUT’S GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE (Paramount) takes the motto of “Be Prepared” to new heights as a trio of Boy Scouts and the most badass cocktail waitress ever take on a zombie invasion of  a heretofore peaceful town.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

GONE GIRL (20th Century Fox) Budget: $61M. Domestic Gross: $167.8M Total: $368.1M Verdict: Blockbuster.
OUIJA (Universal) Budget: $5M. Domestic Gross: $50.9M Total: $102.5M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE JUDGE (Warner Brothers) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $47.1M Total: $83.7M Verdict: Lost Money.
BIRDMAN (Fox Searchlight) Budget: $18M. Domestic Gross: $42.3M Total: $103.2M Verdict: Big Hit.
DRACULA UNTOLD (Universal) Budget: $70M. Domestic Gross: $56.3M Total: $215.5 Verdict: Hit.
FURY (Columbia) Budget: $68M. Domestic Gross: $85.8M Total: $211.8 Verdict: Made Money.
THE BOOK OF LIFE (20th Century Fox) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $50.2M Total: $97.4M Verdict: Broke Even.
NIGHTCRAWLER (Open Road) Budget: $8.5M. Domestic Gross: $32.4M Total: $38.7M Verdict: Big Hit.
ANNABELLE (New Line) Budget: $6.5M. Domestic Gross: $84.3M Total: $255.3M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE BEST OF ME (Relativity) Budget: $26M. Domestic Gross: $26.8M Total: $35.9M Verdict: Flop.
ST. VINCENT (Weinstein) Budget: $13M. Domestic Gross: $44.1M Total: $54.8M Verdict: Hit.
ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY (Disney) Budget: $28M. Domestic Gross: $67.0M Total: $100.7M Verdict: Hit.

NOVEMBER

This is the month when the studios give thanks to the first wave of Holiday hits which make their way to the theaters this month. Included among them is the final installment in a massive young adult sci-fi franchise, the return of an iconic sports character, the latest in one of the most iconic film franchises of all time and two much-anticipated animated features – one from Pixar, the other based on one of the most beloved comic strips of all time.

Spectre

DEANS LIST

SPECTRE

RELEASE DATE: November 6, 2015
STUDIO: MGM/Columbia
STARRING: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes, Lea Seydoux, Dave Bautista, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris
GENRE: Spy Action
STORY: James Bond discovers some cryptic messages from his own past that lead him to discover the existence of a criminal organization, much more insidious and further reaching than Quantum. The daughter of an old nemesis is the key to finding the man behind this organization which is known only as Spectre.
PROSPECTS: Skyfall was the all-time box office champion of the Bond films, and anticipation for this installment is at a fever pitch. Director Sam Mendes returns and continues to work in elements of the classic Bond stories in a new and modern way.
OBSTACLES: With Spectre being the sixth major espionage-centered movie of 2015, audiences may be suffering a bit from spy fatigue.
FACTOID: Jesper Christensen reprises his role as Mr. White, the nemesis from the first two Daniel Craig bond films.

GRADUATED WITH HONORS

THE PEANUTS MOVIE

RELEASE DATE: November 6, 2015
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Noah Schnapp, Alexander Garfin, Bill Melendez, Hadley Belle Miller, Francesca Capaldi, Mariel Sheets, Noah Johnston
GENRE: Animated Feature
STORY: While his dog Snoopy battles the Red Baron in the skies above France and teaches him to tango as Joe Cool, good ol’ Charlie Brown tries to change his image and overcome his own shortcomings when a new red-headed girl moves into town.
PROSPECTS: The Charles Schultz comic strip remains one of the most beloved and iconic of all time. It continues to be run in syndication and every year the animated TV specials are broadcast like clockwork. This year, the Peanuts gang gets a 3D animated CGI treatment to bring them into a new, modern audience.
OBSTACLES: Purists may be put off by the CGI 3D and younger kids may not be familiar enough with the original to push their parents into taking them to see it.
FACTOID: The script was created by Schultz’ son and grandson, and the film is the first theatrically released animated feature based on Peanuts in 35 years – and the first to be released since Schultz’ death in 2000.

THE 33

RELEASE DATE: November 13, 2015
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, Cote de Pablo, James Brolin, Lou Diamond Phillips, Gabriel Byrne, Naomi Scott
GENRE: True Life Drama
STORY: 33 miners go to work as usual in the San Jose Copper Mine in Chile when a massive explosion and collapse of the mine traps them deep in the heart of the mountain. With world attention turning to the plight of the miners, a race against time begins to get the miners out alive.
PROSPECTS: The trailer is really moving and the story one that is a tribute to the resilience and courage of the human spirit.
OBSTACLES: It has been five years since the incident and some audiences might turn away from the film because the miners are Chilean rather than American.
FACTOID: This is composer James Horner’s final film. He died in a small plane crash less than two months after he finished work on it.

THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 2

RELEASE DATE: November 20, 2015
STUDIO: Lionsgate
STARRING: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore
GENRE: Science Fiction
STORY: With Panem in full revolt, Katniss Everdeen along with a team of her closest friends makes a daring raid on the Capital to assassinate President Snow, but will have to undergo a gauntlet of fiendish traps in order to get to him.
PROSPECTS: As this is the final film in the franchise (although reportedly Lionsgate may do a prequel or all-new sequel to the series) the likelihood is that this will draw big box office numbers. North of $300 million is certainly very obtainable.
OBSTACLES: Not everyone in the fan base liked the first Mockingjay installment and that might put a dent in the numbers some.
FACTOID: There are three Oscar-winning actors in the movie; Jennifer Lawrence, Julianne Moore and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.

ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION

TRUMBO

RELEASE DATE: November 6, 2015
STUDIO: Bleecker Street
STARRING: Bryan Cranston, Elle Fanning, Diane Lane, Alan Tudyk, Helen Mirren, John Goodman, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Louis C.K., Michael Stuhlbarg
GENRE: Biographical Drama
STORY: Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo was one of the most honored and respected writers in Hollywood during the 1940s. However, when he is accused by Senator Joe McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee of being a Communist sympathizer, his career comes to a crashing halt. However, a man for whom words are so precious will not give his freedom of speech away so easily.
PROSPECTS: Some Oscar buzz is being generated for Cranston as best actor. One of the best casts you’re likely to see in a single movie this fall.
OBSTACLES: Distributor Bleecker Street is fairly new to the game; it’s possible the movie won’t get the push it needs to get on the radar of most moviegoers.
FACTOID: Gary Oldman was originally considered for the title role which eventually went to Cranston.

COMMUNITY COLLEGE

NOVEMBER 6, 2015

BROOKLYN (Fox Searchlight) which opens in limited release takes an Irish girl immigrating to New York City in the United States, trading the comfort of her mother’s home for a new life, and that life is beginning to become intoxicating with a new romance – until her past may be calling her back to the Emerald Isle..

NOVEMBER 13, 2015

In A MEYERS CHRISTMAS (Universal) a family that has been torn apart must find a way to reunite for the first time since the death of their beloved matriarch. BY THE SEA (Universal) is the latest film from Angeline Jolie-Pitt in the director’s chair and reunites her with her offscreen husband Brad Pitt for the first time since Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Here, a couple whose marriage is falling apart goes to a peaceful French resort by the sea, hoping to find a way out of their troubles. RINGS (Paramount) is a prequel to the previous Ring movies which explores the origins of Samara and how her reign of terror and the infamous videotape came to be.

NOVEMBER 20, 2015

SPOTLIGHT (Open Road) opens in wide release after a gradual expansion from a limited opening two weeks prior. It is about the investigation by the Boston Globe that uncovered the pedophilia scandal in the Roman Catholic church and stars Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams and an all-star cast. SECRETS IN THEIR EYES (STX) is a remake of an Oscar-winning foreign film and details the stubborn determination of a cop (Julia Roberts), her partner (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and an assistant district attorney (Nicole Kidman) in bringing to justice the murderer of the cop’s daughter.

NOVEMBER 25, 2015

CREED (MGM/New Line) continues the Rocky saga with the son of his greatest opponent Apollo Creed trying to make it in the boxing world. His father’s great nemesis – and great friend – Rocky Balboa – will need to come to his aid as Adonis Creed will take on a tougher opponent than any he’s ever faced before. THE GOOD DINOSAUR (Disney*Pixar) posits an alternate world where the dinosaurs never went extinct and begin interacting with humans. THE NIGHT BEFORE (Columbia) reunites Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as two friends whose annual Christmas Eve reunions have been legendary occasions of debauchery. Now realizing that they are growing too old and too responsible for it, they determine to have one final fling – at the legendary, almost mythical, Nutcracka Ball, the pinnacle of all debauched Christmas parties. VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN (20th Century Fox) is a reimagining of the iconic horror story, with James McAvoy as the mad doctor and Daniel Radcliffe as his brilliant assistant who may be the only chance for the good doctor to stay sane – and alive.

NOVEMBER 27, 2015

Opening in limited release, THE DANISH GIRL (Focus) stars reigning Best Actor Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne as Einar Wegener, a Danish painter who realizes that he is a man trapped in a woman’s body and determines to change, despite being happily married. Early buzz says this biopic might get Redmayne another nomination and quite possibly another statuette. I SAW THE LIGHT (Sony Classics) is also a biopic, this time of legendary country singer Hank Williams with Tom Hiddleston in the role of the icon. This also opens in limited release.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

INTERSTELLAR (Paramount) Budget: $165M. Domestic Gross: $188.0Total: $675.0M Verdict: Big Hit.
BIG HERO 6 (Disney/Marvel) Budget: $165M. Domestic Gross: $222.5M Total: $657.8M. Verdict: Big Hit.
THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 (Lionsgate) Budget: $125M. Domestic Gross: $337.1M Total: $752.1M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR (DreamWorks) Budget: $132M. Domestic Gross: $83.4M Total: $373.6M. Verdict: Made Money.
FOXCATCHER (Sony Classics) Budget: $24M. Domestic Gross: $12.1M Total: $15.9M Verdict: Flop.
HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 (New Line) Budget: $42M. Domestic Gross: $54.5M Total: $107.7M Verdict: Broke Even.
ROSEWATER (Open Road) Budget: $10M Domestic Gross: $3.1M Total: $3.2M Verdict: Flop.
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING (Focus) Budget: $15M Domestic Gross: $35.9M Total: $12.2M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE IMITATION GAME (Weinstein) Budget: $14M. Domestic Gross: $91.1M Total: $227.8M Verdict: Blockbuster.
DUMB AND DUMBER TO (Universal) Budget: $40M Domestic Gross: $86.2M Total: $169.8M Verdict: Big Hit.
BEYOND THE LIGHTS (Relativity) Budget: $7M Domestic Gross: $14.6M Total: $14.6M Verdict: Broke Even.

DECEMBER

All good things come to an end and 2015 is no exception. Things will come to end with a bang as we will have an opportunity to see the year’s most anticipated film – a return to a galaxy far, far away. In addition we’ll get to see a reunion between Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, a biopic of one of the most controversial figures of recent years, a remake of a beloved Patrick Swayze film and a new collaboration between the Oscar-winning quartet of David O. Russell, Jennifer Laurence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro.

Star Wars The Force Awakens

DEANS LIST

STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS

RELEASE DATE: December 18, 2015
STUDIO: Disney
STARRING: Oscar Isaac, Simon Pegg, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Domhnall Gleeson, Adam Driver, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Max von Sydow, John Boyega, Peter Mayhew, Warwick Davis, Kenny Baker, Anthony Daniels, Daisy Ridley
GENRE: Science Fiction
STORY: 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi the Empire, despite their losses, is still as evil and as dangerous as ever. Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, C3PO and R2D2 return along with a group of new heroes to battle the latest threat.
PROSPECTS: After the prequel trilogy turned a lot of fans off, the new trilogy overseen by Disney (who have done a fine job on the Marvel Cinematic Universe) and especially by director JJ Abrams who rebooted the Star Trek cinematic franchise so well, have fans living in a state of new hope.
OBSTACLES: The taste of the last trilogy may have soured the entire franchise in a good deal of fans; bad word of mouth could really hurt them at the box office.
FACTOID: Abrams is the first director to do both a Star Wars film as well as a Star Trek film.

GRADUATED WITH HONORS

IN THE HEART OF THE SEA

RELEASE DATE: December 11, 2015
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Holland, Cillian Murphy, Charlotte Riley, Frank Dillane, Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleeson, Benjamin Walker, Michelle Fairley
GENRE: True Life Drama
STORY: Before Moby Dick there was the true tale of the whaling vessel Essex whose encounter with a nearly demonic whale would inspire Herman Melville to write what many believe to be the masterpiece of American literature.
PROSPECTS: Hemsworth is a hot commodity and director Ron Howard knows how to put a true life adventure story together with Oscar connotations.
OBSTACLES: For many, Moby Dick isn’t going to inspire a whole lot of people to go to the theater; Warners will have to mount a savvy campaign to get Millennials and the less adventurous into the multiplex.
FACTOID: The movie was originally scheduled for release in March but the studio felt it to be a legitimate Oscar contender, so they moved it to the middle of prime Oscar season.

SISTERS

RELEASE DATE: December 18, 2015
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, John Cena, John Leguizamo, James Brolin, Maya Rudolph, Kate McKinnon, Dianne Wiest, Madison Davenport, Rachel Dratch
GENRE: Comedy
STORY: Two very different sisters – one an uptight career-oriented woman, the other a party hearty woman child – return to their childhood home to clean out their rooms as their parents are selling the property. They decide to throw one last party to recapture their glory days – and maybe fix the issues that are plaguing them.
PROSPECTS: Poehler and Fey have been a dynamic and successful comedy team stretching back to their Saturday Night Live days but also including their hit film Baby Mama.
OBSTACLES: It’s been seven years since the two have done a film together which is a long time in Hollywood terms.
FACTOID: Screenwriter Paula Pell (SNL, 30 Rock) wrote the script specifically with Poehler and Fey in mind for the lead roles.

CONCUSSION

RELEASE DATE: December 25, 2015
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Will Smith, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alec Baldwin, Stephen Moyer, Eddie Marsan, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, David Morse, Albert Brooks, Bitsie Tulloch
GENRE: Sports Drama
STORY: Neuropathologist  Dr. Bennet Omalu made the discovery of football-related brain trauma in pro players and fought to make his discoveries public. Fought tooth and nail the entire way by the NFL, politicians and corporate interests, the doctor doggedly sticks by his guns and fights to protect the players who are at risk.
PROSPECTS: A compelling story that could net Smith another Oscar nomination.
OBSTACLES: Smith’s career has been on a bit of a downturn of late. Football-based films haven’t really translated to box office gold and the competition will be fierce this season. Chances are the NFL won’t give this film a whole lot of support.
FACTOID: The film is based in Pittsburgh and Baldwin, who plays an area doctor, studied and spent time with several prominent Pittsburgh doctors to prepare for his role.

JOY

RELEASE DATE: December 25, 2015
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Jennifer Laurence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Elisabeth Rohm, Isabella Rossellini, Virginia Madsen, Edgar Ramirez, Diane Ladd
GENRE: Dramedy
STORY: A young woman intent on founding a business dynasty faces sexism, heartache and triumph in a human comedy of capitalism and family.
PROSPECTS: The quartet of Laurence, Cooper, De Niro and director David O. Russell have done two highly acclaimed and Oscar-nominated films in the past few years.
OBSTACLES: Hasn’t generated the buzz that American Hustle or The Silver Lining Playbook did.
FACTOID: Based on the true story of Joy Mangano, the woman who developed the Miracle Mop in 1990 – the same year Laurence, who plays her, was born.

ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION

MACBETH

RELEASE DATE: December 4, 2015 (limited)
STUDIO: Weinstein
STARRING: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Sean Harris, Elizabeth Debicki, David Thewlis, Jack Reynor, Paddy Considine, David Hayman
GENRE: Shakespeare
STORY: A Scottish lord, urged on by his devious and manipulative wife, stops at nothing to gain the throne of the King of Scotland in the 11th century.
PROSPECTS: Fassbender has gotten some Best Actor Oscar buzz for his performance in the title role.
OBSTACLES: Shakespeare and big box office? Bitch, please!
FACTOID: The X-Men franchise has contributed four Macbeths to the screen; both Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy, who played Charles Xavier, as well as Ian McKellen and now Fassbender, who played Magneto, have now played the role; of the four, only Fassbender hasn’t tackled the part in a stage production.

COMMUNITY COLLEGE

DECEMBER 2, 2015

HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT (Cohen Media Group), opening in New York City, gathers a group of filmmakers ranging from Wes Anderson to Martin Scorsese and discusses the legendary French director Francois Truffaut’s book Cinema According to Hitchcock and how it influenced their filmmaking.

DECEMBER 5, 2015

KRAMPUS (Universal) resurrects an ancient Yuletide legend of a demonic presence who punishes unbelievers at Christmastime. This year on his naughty list is a fractured family whose non-believing son is the cause for the return of Krampus. In YOUTH (Fox Searchlight) Harvey Keitel and Michael Caine star as a pair of lifelong friends contemplating the end of their careers while vacationing at a beautiful lodge in the Swiss Alps. It opens in limited release.

DECEMBER 11, 2015

THE DARK HORSE (Broad Green) which opens in limited release stars Fear the Walking Dead‘s Cliff Curtis as a community leader trying to overcome his own adversities to leave a legacy for the children of his community.

DECEMBER 18, 2015

Opening in limited release, SON OF SAUL (Sony Classics) is the heart-wrenching tale of a Jewish worker in Auschwitz who discovers the body of what he believes to be his son in the crematorium. Against all odds he rescues the body from the flames and tries to find a way of giving his boy a proper Jewish burial.

DECEMBER 23, 2015

In ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: ROAD CHIP (20th Century Fox) Alvin and the Boys head to New York City to stop Dave from proposing to his girlfriend, dumping them and in the process putting them under the care of the step-brother from hell.

DECEMBER 25, 2015

DADDY’S HOME (Paramount) is the competition between a mild-mannered radio executive stepdad and the freewheeling freeloader ex-husband for the affection of the children. Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg star. THE HATEFUL EIGHT (Weinstein) is the latest from director Quentin Tarantino which stars a high-end all-star cast in a Western about a bounty hunter trying to haul a woman to her execution through mountainous terrain in a blizzard, taking refuge in a haberdashery/stagecoach stop where others are waiting for them – who have agendas of their own. Opening Christmas Day for an Oscar qualifying run, it opens in wide release January 8th. POINT BREAK (Warner Brothers) is a remake of the Patrick Swayze/Keanu Reeves thriller about an undercover FBI agent trying to nail a group of extreme athletes who have been masterminding a group of daring robberies using their skills to make nearly impossible crimes a reality. THE REVENANT (20th Century Fox), also undergoing an Oscar qualifying run before opening wide on January 8th, is the true story of explorer Hugh Glass, mauled by a bear and left for dead by his own hunting party, surviving an extraordinary chain of events to get back to his family; Leonardo di Caprio stars and noted director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu behind the camera. SNOWDEN (Open Road) is Oliver Stone’s biopic of one of the most notorious figures of our time – whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES (New Line) Budget: $250M. Domestic Gross: $255.1M Total: $956.0M Verdict: Big Hit.
NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB (20th Century Fox) Budget: $127M. Domestic Gross: $113.8M Total: $360.4 Verdict: Made Money.
INTO THE WOODS (Disney) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $128.0M Total: $212.9M Verdict: Big Hit.
ANNIE (Columbia) Budget: $65M. Domestic Gross: $85.9M Total: $133.8M Verdict: Broke Even.
BIG EYES (Weinstein) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $14.5M Total: $29.3M Verdict: Made Money.
WILD (Fox Searchlight) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $13.2M Total: $52.5M Verdict: Hit.
SELMA (Paramount) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $52.1M Total: $66.8M Verdict: Hit.
PADDINGTON (Dimension) Budget: $55M. Domestic Gross: $76.2M Total: $259.5M Verdict: Big Hit.
EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS (20th Century Fox) Budget: $140M. Domestic Gross: $65.0M Total: $268.0M Verdict: Lost Money.
INHERENT VICE (Warner Brothers) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $8.1M Total: $14.7M Verdict: Flop.
UNBROKEN (Universal) Budget: $65M. Domestic Gross: $115.6M Total: $161.5M Verdict: Made Money.
AMERICAN SNIPER (Warner Brothers) Budget: $59M. Domestic Gross: $350.1M Total: $547.3M Verdict: Blockbuster.
HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2 (Paramount/MGM) Budget: $14M. Domestic Gross: $12.3M Total: $12.3M Verdict: Flop.

So believe it or not, that’s a wrap for the movie schedule for 2015. It’s already been a heady year and there are sure to be some more big waves made by releases in the last third of the year’s schedule. Even with the impressive list of films waiting for us during the fall and holiday seasons, some are already looking ahead to 2016 which has an impressive line-up of its own. Perhaps most anticipated of all is Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice which not only brings two of DC’s most hallowed superheroes onscreen together for the first time but also marks the first cinematic appearance of such heroes as Wonder Woman and Aquaman; but DC is also banking on Suicide Squad to help launch their own cinematic universe to compete with Marvel’s. However, Marvel isn’t resting on their laurels; they have Captain America: Civil War waiting as well as Dr. Strange ready for our consumption, as well as the much-ballyhooed X-Men: Apocalypse, Gambit and Deadpool all coming from Fox. A sequel to Independence Day and a reboot of Ghostbusters with a female lead cast are also high on the list. Videogame fans are looking to see if versions of Warcraft. Uncharted and Assassin’s Creed can finally show videogames as a viable source for big budget movies. The resurgence of the Star Wars universe continues with the first of several projected stand-alone films Rogue One and Eddie Murphy returns as Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop 4. Universal is launching a shared universe line of their own based on their classic monsters with a new version of The Mummy while sequels to Finding Nemo, Now You See Me, Alice in Wonderland and Divergent will all appear sometime during the year. You can read more about it in our 2016 preview, scheduled to be published in late December. Until then, you’ve got plenty of 2015 to enjoy yet; we suggest you make your plans to catch a bunch of these in a theater near you. See you at the multiplex!