I have to admit, I am not as enamored with 2015’s movie releases as I was with 2014’s. While there have been a few solid blockbusters and some interesting independent fare, 2015 just lacks the depth of creativity and the breadth of choice that 2014 offered. I am particularly lamenting the lack of films belonging to that indescribable genre of the enchantingly twisted, intelligent, and bizarre – films like Only Lovers Left Alive, Under the Skin, or Enemy (all released 2014). Maybe in retrospect it’ll match up, maybe I’ve just seen fewer films this year, or have been less aware. In any case, the year is beginning to wrap up, which means there are only a handful of year end movies left to see before 2016. I know which ones I’m looking forward to.
The Revenant – December 25 (limited)
Having read the excellent and gripping book by Michael Punke, and clearly seeing Inarritu in every stroke of every frame displayed in the trailer, I have absolutely no reason not to be excited for this movie. Leonardo Dicaprio plays Hugh Glass in the true story of a frontiersman robbed and abandoned after a savage bear attack. The bulk of the narrative is an intense survival story as Glass recovers from his wounds and makes his way on a path of revenge against the man who betrayed him (Tom Hardy). Based on the trailer it looks like extra elements have been added – the death of a son-figure – to increase the effect of Glass’s vengeful fury. It’s the perfect year end movie for Christmas.
MacBeth – December 4
This adaptation of the classic Shakespearean drama follows the Thane of Scotland, MacBeth (Michael Fassbender) as he is set on a path of murder and betrayal to claim the throne for himself. Its a bloody tale, filled with scheming villainy and madness, and the most beautiful ruthlessly ambitious couple as played by Fassbender and Marion Cotillard (Lady MacBeth). The film is directed by Australian director Justin Kurzel, known for the hauntingly ordinary and sinister The Snowtown Murders (2011). He also happens to be the director of the upcoming and long overdue Assassin’s Creed movie, also starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. The trailer makes this year end movie look both ethereal and visceral, a battle being fought on a mist of legends.
Rock the Kasbah – October 23
This movie looks a lot like Bill Murray running around being legendary in increasingly ridiculous and unlikely situations – so mostly like his real life. Rock the Kasbah is about a down-and-out talent manager (Murray) who finally discovers the voice he’s been looking for his entire career in the foreign culture of Afghanistan. While he struggles to bring this voice to the world, fighting both tradition and himself, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery. All I know is that it looks incredibly fun and that Bill Murray is in it, so that’s enough for me.
Star Wars – December 18
I debated even putting this on the list because it was so obvious, but here it is. I am really, really looking forward to Star Wars: The Force Awakens and am very excited to see what J.J. Abrams has done with the franchise. I am confident that nothing could be worse than the prequels, so as far as I’m concerned its already a win. Plus, Abrams has a knack for combining the old and the new, keeping the sense of nostalgia intact while infusing it with modern elements. He did it with Star Trek to varying effect (enjoyable and fan-servicey, but ultimately lacking the depth that makes Star Trek meaningful) and with his Spielberg genre piece Super 8 (it was like E.T. with lens flare!). All the press that has been released about Star Wars and all the official video (the trailers and that amazing Comic Con featurette) has given me the warm cuddlies inside, reminding me how I felt watching Star Wars as a kid and how I’m going to feel watching it now. I would say it reminds me of when Toy Story 3 was released, but in that case it was a disparity of generations drawn to the movie – a collection of young children and nostalgic Millennials. In the case of Star Wars, though, that’s a year end movie that’s going to draw fans of all ages. And maybe more than anything, I can’t wait to be in that audience.
Joy – December 25
I may not be on board many popular bandwagons – and I swear its not because I’m against popular things in general in a hipster sort of way, I just like what I like – but I’m definitely aboard the Jennifer Lawrence bandwagon. She’s a fantastic performer and actor, as well as an infinitely interesting and entertaining celebrity personality. I’ll watch her do just about anything. I’ve even seen the first two Hunger Games. I must admit that I haven’t seen David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, and I can’t decide whether the scattershot nature of American Hustle is meant to mirror the scattershot nature of the Abscam operation on which it was based or whether it’s just a disorganized film. I will say that whoever does the trailers for David O. Russell is a true artist, because I love watching those trailers. They are intense, rhythmic, and very, very alive. I could watch the trailer for Joy over and over again. I ardently hope this year end movie is even half as good.
The Hateful Eight – December 25 (limited)
It’s Tarantino. I really just wanted to leave it there, because honestly that’s all you need to know. Its a year end movie about a group of bounty hunters trapped together in a blizzard featuring a slew of Tarantino regulars (Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth, Zoe Bell) and intriguing newcomers (Channing Tatum, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Demian Bichir). Famous composer Ennio Morricone also wrote the score for the film, the first Western he’s scored in 40 years, and the first Tarantino film to even feature an original score. Tarantino is also one of the only directors left who still uses actual film and the fact that he filmed in Ultra Panovision 70 is epic and exciting. The last movie to be filmed in Ultra Panovision was Khartoum in 1966, and interestingly might next be used for Rogue One. The limited release on December 25 is specifically for the film to be shown in 50 theaters worldwide that Tarantino had equipped to project the 70mm film. If you’re not lucky enough to catch one of these screenings, the wide (digitally projected) release is January 8.