Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Avengers and more cinema highlights of 2015
Time Out Dubai staff
2015 is already shaping up to be a massive year in cinema. We will see the much anticipated returns of the Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Terminator and Mad Max stories as well as latest instalments from the Avengers, James Bond and Hunger Games.
But it is not just sequels and reboots with award-friendly originals from Steven Spielberg, the Cohen Brothers and Clint Eastwood.
What is it? The first sequel to the most successful movie trilogy of all time, and the first in a new sequence of films. Plot details are still sketchy but we do know it’ll involve Luke Skywalker and Han Solo coming out of retirement to tackle a new threat from the Dark Side of the Force. The revelation of the film’s title as well as the first glimpse of the trailer practically broke the internet and we’re cautiously optimistic the films themselves will live up to the hype.
Who’s involved? ‘Star Trek’ rebooter JJ Abrams directs, with a sprawling cast including original stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford alongside newcomers Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Adam Driver and London’s own John Boyega from ‘Attack the Block’.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
What is it? You have to ask? Assorted guys and gals in tights, metal suits and ripped hulk-shorts bond together to fight evil in the form of self-aware, human-hating artificial intelligence Ultron.
Who’s involved? Round up the usual suspects! Writer-director Joss Whedon is back, as are (deep breath) Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L Jackson and Mark Ruffalo.
What is it? See if you can guess. Yes, two decades on from the original ‘Jurassic Park’ we’re going back to the island of Isla Nublar, now the site of a functioning and successful dinosaur attraction. But not for long…
Who’s involved? Steven Spielberg has bigger things on his mind than dinosaurs, so it’s fallen unexpectedly to newcomer Colin Trevorrow, director of cheerful if unspectacular time travel indie ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’, to take the reins. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard appear, but the dinos are the real stars.
Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt. 2
What is it? The final instalment in the ‘Hunger Games’ series (unless they pull a ‘Star Wars’ and start bombarding us with sequels and/or prequels). The stage is set for the final battle between Capitol forces and the scrappy rebels led by Katniss Everdeen.
Who’s involved? The original cast – Jennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland and assorted non-threatening boys – will all return, plus the film will mark the very final screen appearance for the great Philip Seymour Hoffman. ‘Catching Fire’ director Francis Lawrence stays on to see the series out.
Spectre (Bond 24)
What is it? James Bond is back! For the twenty-fourth time (not counting the unofficial ones)! The latest adventure picks up where ‘Skyfall’ left off, with M still dead and Bond still wrestling with encroaching middle age and rampaging anger-management issues. Expect angst and action in roughly equal measure.
Who’s involved? The ‘Skyfall’ team reunite, including director Sam Mendes, writer John Logan and star Daniel Craig. We expect to see Ben Whishaw back as Q and Ralph Fiennes as slippery MI6 operative Gareth Mallory, who, for better or worse, has now stepped into M’s sensible heels.
What is it? Winner of this year’s silliest title award, ‘Genisys’ aims to repair the damage done by 2009’s lumpen ‘Terminator Salvation’ by getting back to basics: killer robots, massive explosions and Arnold Schwarzenegger in a leather jacket.
Who’s involved? The aforementioned Austrian Oak as the ageing robot assassin, plus the Khaleesi herself, ‘Game of Thrones’ star Emilia Clarke, as Sarah Connor (hang on, didn’t she die?). Alan Taylor, director of the recent ‘Thor’ sequel, will bark the orders.
Mad Max: Fury Road
What is it? Twenty years on from the last instalment, ‘Beyond Thunderdome’, we catch up with Australia’s roughest, toughest apocalyptic outlaw as he roams the wasteland in his souped-up roadster looking for trouble. We assume he finds it, or this’ll be quite a short movie.
Who’s involved? There’s a new Max in the form of muscular Brit Tom Hardy, though rumours persist that Mel Gibson will have some kind of walk-on. Original director George Miller has spent the better part of a decade putting this together – let’s hope it’s worth the wait.
What is it? Adapted from Thomas Pynchon’s novel, this psychedelic crime comedy follows an LA private eye’s investigation into a young man’s disappearance.
Who’s involved? The director many consider to be America’s finest living filmmaker, Paul Thomas Anderson (‘Magnolia’, ‘There Will Be Blood’) has rounded up an impressive cast including Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Josh Brolin and, um, Martin Short.
Far From the Madding Crowd
What is it? A full century on from its first big-screen adaptation, Thomas Hardy’s heartfelt 1874 masterpiece of love among the sheep pens gets the lush, upscale period-drama treatment. Expect sweeping landscapes, painstakingly stitched period costumes and chest-beating drama.
Who’s involved? Dogme veteran and ‘The Hunt’ director Thomas Vinterberg is in charge, with Carey Mulligan and ‘Bullhead’ actor Matthias Schoenaerts as the romantic leads.
What is it? Not a warts-and-all portrait of one of the UK’s most glamorous seafront locations, but a new comedy from Sacha Baron Cohen, creator of Ali G and Borat. He plays a moronic football hooligan whose brother, an MI5 spy, comes to hide out in his attic.
Who’s involved? Cohen co-writes and stars, with the mighty Mark Strong delivering a rare comic turn as the Secret Service sibling. In an unexpected move, Cohen has roped in director Louis Leterrier of ‘The Transporter’ and ‘Clash of the Titans’ to oversee proceedings, so expect some sparky action scenes alongside the knockabout laughs.
St James Place
What is it? Based on a real incident in 1960, ‘St James Place’ tells of an American legal expert who was drafted by the CIA to meet with Russian counterparts and negotiate the release of a US pilot who was shot down behind enemy lines.
Who’s involved? The heavyweight mob: Steven Spielberg directs, the Coen brothers wrote the script and the cast is led by Tom Hanks, with Amy Adams and Alan Alda in support. Prepare for Oscars.
Pitch Perfect 2
What is it? A sequel to the 2012 musical comedy about a group of young women taking part in an a capella singing competition. We’ve no idea of the plot this time, but given that the entire cast are coming back we expect it to be every bit as fun (and loud).
Who’s involved? We love it when an actor we admire takes up the directing reins. This time it’s the turn of comedian Elizabeth Banks, who produced and co-starred in the first movie. She’s joined on the cast list by Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Skylar Astin, Rebel Wilson and a whole host of funny women.
Kingsman: The Secret Service
What is it? Adapted from a graphic novel by ‘Kick-Ass’ author Mark Millar, this is the story of a young Secret Service agent taken under the wing of a more experienced spy.
Who’s involved? Colin Firth plays the older agent, with young Welshman Taron Egerton as his protégé and Samuel L Jackson, Mark Strong and Michael Caine rounding out the cast. Millar’s old mucker Matthew Vaughn, maker of ‘Kick-Ass’, directs.
What is it? The story of legendarily homicidal Boston crime boss Whitey Bulger, number two on the FBI’s Most Wanted list for 12 years until he was finally tracked down in 2011.
Who’s involved? Could this mark the return of Johnny Depp, proper actor? He hasn’t delivered a really meaty, serious performance since 1997’s ‘Donnie Brasco’, so the thought of him returning to similar territory gives us hope. ‘Crazy Heart’ director Scott Cooper oversees, with Benedict Cumberbatch, Sienna Miller and Joel Edgerton in supporting roles.
What is it? Remember that old bear-attack axiom – you only have to be faster than your slowest friend? Here’s the movie version. It’s a gritty old-school adventure starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a fur trapper left for dead following a tussle with a grizzly, and seeking revenge on the buddies who abandoned him.
Who’s involved? The only director with two films on our list, ‘Birdman’ helmer Alejandro González Iñárittu takes the reins with Tom Hardy, Will Poulter and Domhnall Gleeson as the objects of Leo’s righteous rage.
What is it? The latest take on Mary Shelley’s horror classic, this time told from the perspective of – wait for it – the doctor’s long-suffering hunchback assistant, Igor. But banish all thoughts of a bald, goggle-eyed loon muttering ‘Yesh, mashter’ – this Igor has undergone something of an audience-friendly facelift and now looks uncannily like a certain boy wizard.
Who’s involved? Yes, Daniel Radcliffe plays the lead, with James McAvoy as the troubled scientific genius of the title. British director Paul McGuigan (‘Gangster No 1’) will be calling the shots.
What is it? An adaptation of JG Ballard’s 1975 novel about the inhabitants of an ultra-modern tower block who allow petty disagreements and minor complaints to spill over into outright violence as their society begins to completely break down.
Who’s involved? ‘Kill List’ director Ben Wheatley directs and co-writes with his regular collaborator (and partner) Amy Jump. Tom Hiddleston plays the central character, Dr Robert Laing, with support from Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Reese Shearsmith and ‘Mad Men’ star Elisabeth Moss.
What is it? To be honest, we’re not entirely sure – it has something to do with an old Disneyland theme park ride based around ideas of what the future might be like. All other details are pretty hush-hush at the moment.
Who’s involved? This is where it gets interesting: ‘The Incredibles’ director Brad Bird brings his unique knack for a mind-melting action scene, while our favourite chiselled ex-bachelor George Clooney takes the lead role.
What is it? An eye-popping sci-fi extravaganza about an ordinary cleaner who discovers that she’s really the Queen of the Universe, and is spirited off into the middle of an intergalactic war. Hey, we’ve all been there…
Who’s involved? ‘The Matrix’ directors Andy and Lana Wachowski return to their pet theme of ordinary folks who turn out to be The One. Mila Kunis plays the lead, with Channing Taum, Sean Bean and Eddie Redmayne in support.
What is it? When will those hired assassins get it through their thick heads? You never get out of the game. Having clearly failed to see ‘Point Blank’ (or indeed ‘Grosse Point Blank’), a skilled assassin is forced on the run from his employers when he expresses a desire to go straight.
Who’s involved? In his trashiest role for a while, Sean Penn plays the lead, topping a striking cast of men’s men that also includes Javier Bardem, Ray Winstone and Idris Elba. ‘Taken’ helmer Pierre Morel directs.
What is it? This darkly comic drama about a gone-to-seed action star attempting to revive his career by putting on a Broadway show has received rave write-ups at festivals – including a five-star review from Time Out.
Who’s involved? Michael Keaton heads up an all-star cast including Emma Stone, Edward Norton and Naomi Watts, with ‘Babel’ director Alejandro González Iñárritu in the chair.
What is it? Following the mediocre ‘Elysium’, sci-fi master Neill Blomkamp returns to his native South Africa for this comic tale of a robot adopted by a gang of crooks. The signs point to a return to the darkly comic tone of ‘District 9’.
Who’s involved? Hugh Jackman plays the lead, with Sigourney Weaver supporting and Blomkamp’s regular collaborator Sharlto Copley providing the voice of Chappie.
What is it? A rogue’s gallery of major stars strap on their crampons and fill up their oxygen tanks for this 3D adventure inspired by the 1996 Everest disaster in which several climbers were killed.
Who’s involved? A man who knows his snow, Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormákur (‘Jar City’, ‘Contraband’) directs, with Keira Knightley, Jake Gyllenhaal, Sam Worthington, Emma Watson, Robin Wright, John Hawkes and Josh Brolin rounding out the cast. Sadly, Brian Blessed does not appear to be involved.
What is it? In 1950s Hollywood, an experienced ‘fixer’ goes about solving the problems besetting a number of stars and directors. Expect a cheekier, more sprightly take on ‘Barton Fink’.
Who’s involved? The Coen brothers return to familiar turf as writers and directors, and true to form they’ve rounded up an impressive cast of ne’er-do-wells including George Clooney, Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton, Josh Brolin, Ralph Fiennes and Jonah Hill.
Heart of the Sea
What is it? After being rammed amidships by an angry sperm whale, the crew of the British vessel Essex are forced to spend 90 days adrift at sea. Before you ask, yes, they do start eyeing each other hungrily…
Who’s involved? After his top-notch racing film ‘Rush’, ginger ninja Ron Howard is clearly on a roll, and he’s rousted out a rollicking crew of salty sea dogs including Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy and Brendan Gleeson to join him on this voyage.
What is it? In 1974, French tightrope artist Philippe Petit walked between the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center. In 2008, successful documentary ‘Man on Wire’ retold the story of Petit’s high-wire exploits. Now here’s a dramatised version, following Petit as he plans and executes this daring feat.
Who’s involved? ‘Forrest Gump’ director Robert Zemeckis adapts Petit’s own memoir ‘To Reach the Clouds’, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in creepy makeup as the high-wire man himself and Ben Kingsley in a supporting role.
What is it? It’s ‘Gravity’ on Mars! When his colleagues on the Ares 3 spacecraft are forced to make an emergency takeoff, astronaut Mark Watney is left behind to fend for himself. The novel on which this is based – originally self-published in 2011 by American author Andy Weir – has sold thousands worldwide.
Who’s involved? Ridley Scott directs, with Matt Damon in the lead – neither man is at the top of his game, exactly, but it’s a solid team.
Jane Got a Gun
What is it? The female-fronted western that ran into trouble last year when original director Lynne Ramsay left the project, taking star Jude Law with her. It’s the tale of a Wild West woman who takes on the gang of ruffians who shot her husband.
Who’s involved? ‘Warrior’ director Gavin O’Connor fills Ramsay’s shoes, with Natalie Portman in the lead role and a supporting cast that includes Ewan McGregor (in Law’s old part) and Joel Edgerton.
What is it? ‘Knocked Up’ director Judd Apatow shepherds another young comic talent to superstardom – this time it’s Amy Schumer, a relatively little known stand-up who has adapted this black comedy from events in her own life.
Who’s involved? Apatow and Schumer have written the script together, while the extensive and diverse cast also includes Tilda Swinton, Daniel Radcliffe and Method Man. Together at last!
What is it? As the title suggests, this is a drama set during the fight for women’s suffrage in the early twentieth century, when a group of well-to-do women took their determination to vote into parliament and onto the London streets. Who’s involved? It’s a who’s who of Oscar-hoovering actresses, with Meryl Streep, Helena Bonham-Carter, Carey Mulligan and Anne-Marie Duff all taking major roles. Sarah Gavron, who made ’Brick Lane’ for TV, directs.
Love and Mercy
What is it? A biopic of Beach Boy Brian Wilson told in two parallel narratives, one set in the mid-1960s as Wilson was crumbling under the pressure of fame, drug use and family trauma, and the other in the mid-‘80s when celebrity headshrinker Eugene Landy claimed to be able to cure the troubled genius.
Who’s involved? Paul Dano and John Cusack both play Wilson, with support from Paul Giamatti and Elizabeth Banks. Experienced producer Bill Pohlad makes his directorial debut, but it’s the presence of ‘I’m Not There’ scribe Oren Moverman as co-writer that’s really got us excited.
What is it? Set in remotest nineteenth-century Cumbria (but shot entirely in Toronto), this old-school spooker follows the travails of a young woman who becomes convinced that her aristocratic hubby is not all he appears to be…
Who’s involved? After the steel and thunder of ‘Pacific Rim’, we’re glad to see that horror expert Guillermo del Toro is getting back to his roots – and if this has half the atmosphere of ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ it’ll be a real treat. Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska play the leads.
Time Out of Mind
What is it? A tale of homelessness in America, shot guerilla-style on the streets of New York using hidden cameras and long lenses. Given that the instantly recognisable Richard Gere plays the lead, this must have been an uphill battle.
Who’s involved? Longtime homeless charity supporter Gere summoned ‘Rampart’ director Oren Moverman to realise a script he’s been wanting to make for almost two decades. In anyone else’s hands this could have been a dubious celebrity vanity project, but we trust Moverman to deliver something truly special.
The Theory of Everything
What is it? An early-years biopic of the great popular scientist Stephen Hawking following his courtship of fellow Cambridge student Jane Wilde and his descent into paralysis caused by motor neurone disease.
Who’s involved? Eddie Redmayne has been getting big love from the festival crowd for his portrayal of Hawking, while Felicity Jones offers support in all senses as Wilde. Sometime documentary-maker James Marsh (‘Man on Wire’) directs.
What is it? A biopic of Chris Kyle, the most successful sniper in US military history, who served four tours in Iraq and picked up numerous awards for service and bravery.
Who’s involved? Clint Eastwood directs, with Bradley Cooper starring as Kyle. Eastwood may be a confirmed Republican, but his films have often displayed a suspicion for all forms of flag-waving. Let’s hope this isn’t just another tale of squeaky-clean US soldiers proudly serving their country.
What is it? A high-speed action thriller in which an American backpacker gets in the middle of a running battle between two arch-rival assassins on the lawless freeways of Germany. Sadly, Kraftwerk aren’t doing the soundtrack. Who’s involved? Young British hope Eran Creevy writes and directs, with Nicholas Hoult as the hapless hero and – here’s where it gets good – Ben Kingsley and Anthony Hopkins squaring off as the two villains. Scenery will be chewed.
The Little Prince
What is it? A computer-animated adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s beloved 1943 fable about a stranded pilot and a boy from space. The book, a philosophical treatise aimed at kids, is the best-selling French-language novel of all time. Who’s involved? It’s an all-star affair, with ‘Kung-Fu Panda’ director Mark Osborne ordering the computer geeks around and James Franco, Marion Cotillard, Jeff Bridges, Benicio del Toro and Paul Giamatti among the voices.
The Sea of Trees
What is it? The sea of trees, also known as the suicide forest, is an area of woodland in Japan known partly for its eerie quiet – the trees are too densely packed to allow wildlife to thrive – and partly for its popularity as a place to take one’s own life. This film follows an American tourist who decides to kill himself, but who reconsiders when he meets a Japanese man on the same mission.
Who’s involved? This has got quality written all over it: Gus Van Sant directs, with Matthew McConaughey and Ken Watanabe as the two central figures and Naomi Watts in a supporting role.
What is it? The – as the title suggests – real-life tale of Christian Longo, who murdered his wife and three children, went on the run and ended up on the FBI’s Most Wanted list before being exposed by a journalist whose identity he had rather foolishly assumed. Who’s involved? Jonah Hill plays Longo, with James Franco as New York Times writer Michael Finkel who found out that the killer had been using his name. In a promising move, experienced London theatre director Rupert Goold, who has recently been shooting a series of Shakespeare’s historical plays for the BBC, has been given the job of helming.
What is it? Peter Pan makes his way back to the big screen once again in live action form. Having been Disney-fied and Spielbergised before it looks like as much childlike wonder as possible has already been squeezed out of J.M. Barrie’s novel. This may be a slightly darker telling of the well known tale. Who’s involved? Hugh Jackman’s name will leap off the posters and we’re looking forward to seeing any combination of Amanda Seyfried, Cara Delevingne and Rooney Mara sharing screen time. Most intriguing of all is ‘serious film director’ Joe Wright taking on the directing duties after costume dramas such as Pride and Prejudice, Atonement and Anna Kareina.