Brian Burlage: Most Anticipated Movie Releases of 2015

Film in 2014 seemed to be largely about the human drama, as movies like “Boyhood,” “Selma” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (all Oscar favorites) told stories in a wholly new honest and human way. Many of the most critically acclaimed films relied on little CGI animation, instead opting for a more straightforward approach to cinematic grace.

2015, however, seems to promise a different set of riches. Many of this year’s heavyweights exist now as big-budget, big-stick blockbusters waiting to rake in the millions (billions likely) — poised to smash box office records and ticket sales and reduce last year’s film pool into a puddle of rainwater. While this is, of course, not a bad thing, I predict that 2015 will be a year of computerized movie magic – but one of the strongest yet.

“The Peanuts Movie”

Though Bill Melendez, creator of the original “Peanuts” TV film series, passed away in 2008, his legacy will thrive in 2015. Melendez’s paramount voice work as Snoopy and Woodstock will be revived, as director Steve Martino (“Ice Age: Continental Drift”) plans to integrate archival recordings of the voices. Produced by Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids”), written by Charles M. Schulz’s sons Craig and Bryan and scored by Christophe Beck (“Frozen”), “The Peanuts Movie” will deliver all the charm and sentimentality of the original cartoon with the wit and animation effects of the modern age.

“In the Heart of the Sea”

Nathaniel Philbrick’s 2000 eponymous nonfiction book sets something astir in the mind of director Ron Howard, something like confidence. The story’s been told and retold a hundred times (most notably in Herman Melville’s 1851 novel Moby-Dick) but never with the technological capabilities of today. “In the Heart of the Sea” is a nautical tragedy, one that speaks to the fear all sailors face when confronted by one of nature’s most eminent forces: the sperm whale. The tragedy of the whaleship Essex is, as the trailer states, a story about men. And a demon.

“Mad Max: Fury Road”

It takes two full plays of the trailer to fully grasp everything that’s happening in director George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road,” the fourth installment in the Mad Max franchise. Specially engineered cars tear across the Australian desert as music from the previous century illustrates the terror of their flight. Men with facial deformities yell things like, “What a lovely day!” as they make chemical weapons out of gasoline and oil. Explosions, storms and strangeness abound in this fantastical flick. Prepare for anarchy.

“Jurassic World”

While Steven Spielberg’s original “Jurassic Park” film observed a variety of dinosaur species and focused mainly on the Tyrannosaurus Rex, “Jurassic World” will look at a few dinosaur species and focus mainly on the Velociraptor. Chris Pratt (“Guardians of the Galaxy”) stars as Owen, a member of the theme park’s on-site staff who conducts behavioral research on the vicious Velociraptor species, and who seems to be able to control them in some way. “Jurassic World” will add a more jarring and horrific element to the franchise’s already thrilling story.

“St. James Place”

Directed by Steven Spielberg (“Lincoln”), written by the Coen brothers (“No Country for Old Men”), starring Tom Hanks (“Captain Phillips”), shot by Janusz Kaminski and edited by Michael Kahn (the team that brought you the unforgettable reality of “Saving Private Ryan”). “St. James Place” is a spy thriller based on the 1960 U-2 Incident. Be ready. Be excited.

“The Revenant”

Alejandro González Iñárritu, who directed last year’s comedy-drama sensation “Birdman,” will return this year with “The Revenant,” a story about the life of American frontiersman Hugh Glass. Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio, “Wolf of Wall Street”) was a fur trapper and adventurer renowned for his exploits in the American West throughout the 19th century. The film will focus mainly on his expedition with Ashley’s Hundred (a band of 100 people), in which Glass was mauled by a grizzly bear, crawled more than 200 miles to Fort Kiowa, recovered and sought the revenge of those who left him behind.

“Avengers: Age of Ultron”

Big budget, big sequel, big characters, big action, big stakes.

“Sisters”

Though this film’s premise seems to draw a bit (or a lot) from the 2008 comedy hit “Step Brothers,” it certainly promises its fair share of laughs, gags and memorable lines. Director Jason Moore has made a career on Broadway and directed his debut film in 2012 with “Pitch Perfect,” a combination of music, fun performances and wild theatrics. “Sisters” stars Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph, a trio of Saturday Night Live comedians so funny and so right for each other, this film is bound to be a home run.

“Ricki and the Flash”

If the writer of “Juno” (Diablo Cody), the director of “The Silence of the Lambs” (Jonathan Demme) and Meryl Streep announced that they had a movie in the works, would you believe them? What would you imagine? “Ricki and the Flash” answers both of those questions. Streep (“Into the Woods”) is set to play Ricki, an aging rock star who abandoned her family to become a famous musician. Ricki’s life takes an even greater dramatic turn when her ex-husband Pete (Kevin Kline, “The Conspirator”) asks her to visit Chicago in order to help their estranged, divorced daughter Julie (Mamie Gummer, “Cake”) through a difficult time.

“Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens”

You’d think they could come up with a better title. J. J. Abrams (“Star Trek”), Lawrence Kasdan (“Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark”), Adam Driver (“Frances Ha”), Oscar Isaac (“Inside Llewyn Davis”), Andy Serkis (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”), the entire main cast of the original films, John Williams, George Lucas and practically all the forces of a galaxy far, far away, and they come up with, “The Force Awakens.” Well, personal qualms aside, this film seems to reinvigorate all the themes and tropes that made the original trilogy so popular. I just hope Kasdan and Abrams bring back Jar Jar Binks.

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