2015 Epic Preview: Film & Television

You’ve heard it before, but this time it’s true: this year’s film slate is going to melt your brain a dozen times over. Here are 25 films (and 10 new TV series!) I’m eager, or at least curious, to see:

All release dates subject to change, naturally.

25. A Hologram for the King (11/25)
The first Tom Hanks film on the list, Hologram (based on the fascinating Dave Eggers novel) casts him as an American businessman hoping to make a career-saving deal in Saudi Arabia. But of course, with Tom Tykwer (Cloud Atlas) directing, it’s about much more than that.

24. Chappie (3/6)
Hoping to bounce back from the disappointing Elysium, Neil Blomkamp brings us Chappie, about a military robot (mo-capped by Sharlto Copley) who is re-programmed with human emotions. Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver and Dev Patel co-star.

23. Fantastic Four (8/7)
I admit, it’s mostly the cast that has me intrigued — especially Miles Teller, hot off Whiplash, as a young incarnation of Mr. Fantastic. Can director Josh Trank (Chronicle) make something of the material, operating outside of Marvel Studios?

22. Sea of Trees
In a forest near Mt. Fuji, A suicidal Matthew McConaughey encounters Ken Watanabe. Gus van Sant directs. That should be enough to go on, right?

21. In the Heart of the Sea (3/15)
Ron Howard re-teams with his Rush star Chris Hemsworth (and, crucially, with cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle) for the story of the the 1820s whaling expedition that inspired Moby Dick itself. Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson, Ben Whishaw co-star.

20. Ant-Man (7/17)
Many are pegging this as Marvel’s first flop, owed to a tumultuous production that saw brilliant director (and a personal fave of mine) Edgar Wright depart over “creative differences.” But its classification as a “heist comedy” is enough to distinguish it from its more super-powered brethren — maybe it’ll work?

19. Macbeth
The latest adaptation of “The Scottish Play” sees Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard as the murderous lord and his lady wife, which — I don’t know about you — sounds like a great time.

18. Everest (9/18)
Based on the real 1996 disaster that claimed the lives of several climbers, Everest stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright, Josh Brolin, and Jason Clarke.

17. Mad Max Fury Road (5/15)
I mean…just watch that trailer. George Miller is back.

16. That’s What I’m Talking About
Richard Linklater follows up his (Oscar-winning?) masterpiece Boyhood with another long-awaited project, a “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused. We don’t know much, except that it’s about baseball.

15. Mr. Holmes
Ian McKellen reunites with Gods and Monsters director Bill Condon for a story set at the end of the life of Sherlock Holmes. Laura Linney co-stars as his Great Detective’s longtime housekeeper.

14. Mission: Impossible 5 (12/25)
The continuing adventures of Tom Cruise Dangling Off Things resumes this December, with Christopher McQuarrie in the director’s chair.

13. Silence
That Martin Scorsese has a new film is exciting enough, but Silence is special: a passion project the director has been trying to get off the ground for two decades. Liam Neeson and Andrew Garfield will play Jesuit priests, facing persecution and violence in 17th Century Japan.

12. The Good Dinosaur (11/25)
The year’s other Pixar release, with a troubled history: originally scheduled for last year, Dinosaur had its director replaced and its story completely re-tooled. But it’s Pixar, so I’m there. Neil Patrick Harris, Bill Hader, Judy Greer, and John Lithgow provide voices.

11. Avengers: Age of Ultron (5/1)
Marvel! Joss Whedon! James Spader as an evil sentient robot! A billion dollars in box office!

10. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part II (11/20)
Katniss and company take the fight to the Capitol, and I’m pretty sure not all of them are going to survive. Director Francis Lawrence looks to stick the landing on this surprisingly excellent series.

9. The Walk (10/2)
If you haven’t seen the brilliant documentary Man on Wire, this isn’t an excuse not to see it. In any case, Robert Zemeckis directs Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Philippe Petit, who famously strung a tightrope between the towers of the World Trade Center. But in IMAX 3D? Noooooo thank you.

8. Untitled Spielberg Cold War Spy Thriller (10/16)
If that non-title doesn’t intrigue you, I’m not sure what you’re doing here. Tom Hanks plays an American lawyer, sent into the Soviet Union by the CIA to rescue a downed pilot.

7. Spectre (11/6)
Sam Mendes returns to follow up Skyfall, now with even more toys from the Bond-verse to play with: the new M, Q, and Moneypenny settled into their roles, and Christoph Waltz as the villain who may-or-may-not-be Blofeld. Not to get too excited, but best Bond ever?

6. The Hateful Eight (11/13)
The film Quentin Tarantino almost cancelled — fortunately, he got over the script being leaked, and now we get to see his western chamber play (bounty hunters sheltering during a blizzard) brought to life. Cast includes Channing Tatum, Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, and more.

5. Tomorrowland (5/22)
Brad Bird is a genius, and him teaming up with LOST writer/nerd punching bag Damon Lindelof only fills me with glee. The plot is being kept under wraps, but what we know sounds great: a young girl (Britt Robertson) teams up with a jaded former boy-genius (George Clooney) to…something, something, destiny, Disney. I’M IN.

4. The Martian (11/25)
I LOVED Andy Weir’s novel — it’s hard science fiction, but thrilling and often laugh-out-loud funny. And Ridley Scott has assembled a heck of a cast: Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, and Matt Damon taking top billing as the erstwhile astronaut accidentally stranded on the red planet. Very, very, very pumped for this.

3. Inside Out (6/19)
This should silence all the doubters, I believe. Pixar’s first film in two years is an ORIGINAL idea, and a very clever one at that, centering on the emotions governing the mind of a precocious young girl. Pete Doctor (Up, Monsters Inc.) has never let us down. Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling, and Lewis Black provide some of the voices.

2. Jurassic World (6/12)
Sure, this isn’t the greatest trailer, but don’t even lie and tell me you won’t be there opening weekend. Chris Pratt’s meteoric rise continues, this time on the back of a motorcycle. And DINOSAURS. DINOSAURS! JURASSIC PARK DINOSAURS!

1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (12/18)
Like there would be any other choice for the top spot. It may be impossible to sink any lower than the prequel trilogy, but JJ Abrams is currently under more pressure to deliver than the President of the United States. Don’t let us down, buddy.

And on the television side…

10. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix, March)
NBC cancelled it before it even aired, so producer Tina Fey took her latest series to Netflix. Ellie Kemper plays a doomsday cult escapee joining “the real world” for the first time. Early returns are positive!

9. Agent Carter (ABC, 1/6)
No, that’s not Carmen Sandiego. It’s the irrepressible Hayley Atwell, bringing her Captain America character to TV, a sister series to MARVEL’s Agents of SHIELD, set in the aftermath of World War II.

8. Utopia (HBO)
David Fincher will direct every episode of this conspiracy series, adapted by Gone Girl’s Gillian Flynn from a British show. The story centers on a group of comic-book fans who become targets after discovering a prophetic manuscript. Intriguing!

7. Roadies (Showtime)
Cameron Crowe returns to the world of rock & roll in this series about a concert tour told through the perspective of the hardworking crew. JJ Abrams executive produces.

6. The Last Man on Earth (FOX, 3/1)
LEGO Movie / 22 Jump Street geniuses Phil Lord & Chris Miller co-created this high-concept comedy, along with star Will Forte. This extended trailer makes it look like fun, even if Forte’s female co-stars (January Jones & Kristen Schaal) have yet to appear.

5. Westworld (HBO)
Another JJ Abrams joint, this one an adaptation of the cult 1973 film for HBO. Jonathan Nolan co-created this series about a high-tech theme park and the androids that populate it, running amok when the central computer breaks down.

4. Better Call Saul (AMC, 2/8)
Breaking Bad may be long over, but that hasn’t stopped AMC and Vince Gilligan from returning to the well. Better Call Saul is a prequel series, in case that isn’t clear, and will have a much lighter tone than its predecessor. It should, anyway.

3. Scorsese & Jagger’s HBO Series (HBO)
Martin Scorsese re-teams with Boardwalk Empire producer Terence Winter for another period series, this one set in the 1970s rock-and-roll scene. And it’s got the input of Mick Jagger, so you know it will be fascinating.

Stephen Colbert
2. The Late Show With Steven Colbert (CBS, Fall)
The biggest entertainment question of 2015 — other than “Will the new Star Wars be good” — is how Steven Colbert will do replacing David Letterman on The Late Show. I, for one, can’t wait.

1. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (BBC America)
My favorite book that I read last year might have been Susanna Clarke’s magnificent tome, and I’ve been tracking casting and production announcements from the BBC miniseries with bated breath. For the uninitiated, it centers on two English magicians — a scholar (Eddie Marsan) and his protege (Bertie Cavel) — in the time of the Napoleonic wars, who aid King and Country while getting themselves into a very dangerous and supernatural mess. My expectations are sky-high.

But wait, there’s more! There’s the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler vehicle Sisters;  new films from Guillermo del Toro (Crimson Peak), Terrence Malick (Knight of Cups), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (The Revenant), David O. Russell (Joy), Michael Mann (Blackhat), Jeff Nichols (Midnight Special), and Todd Haynes (Carol); Disney’s The Jungle Book; the gamer-centric Pixels; hyper-violent Kingsman: The Secret Service; Hugh Jackman in Pan (as Hook, not as Pan); Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger in Black MassTerminator: Genisys (just kidding–that looks terrible); and whatever will come out of Sundance and Cannes to surprise us. The point is, THERE’S A LOT.

What are you most excited about?

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