10 movie blockbusters to blow your mind

Ten reasons why this blockbuster season will blow your mind

Films

1 Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
(December 17)

When is a movie not a movie? When it’s this movie. It is, essentially, impossible to overstate the significance that Lucasfilm’s return to a galaxy far, far away will have on global movie audiences. Even the ones not currently reading this wearing Yoda underpants. “The pressure is absolutely immense,” Abrams told us backstage at a recent awards ceremony. “But so it should be.” His first foray back into the world that George Lucas birthed – with the original trilogy – and then slapped in the face – with the prequel trilogy – is certainly staffed with quality. Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi) is on words, John Williams (all the Star Wars movies and just about any soundtrack you love) is on music and Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill are all back too, to guide a hot young cast including Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver and Oscar Isaac through all the asteroid fields and any potential (Sarlacc) pitfalls. And, hey, a substantial chunk of it was shot down the road in Abu Dhabi, so we at least know it’ll look nice. In this year of Jurassic box office, can The Force Awakens deliver the broken records the industry will expect? Absolutely. And can Abrams do what the fans long thought impossible? Can he overcome the curse of Jar Jar Binks? Can he bring balance back to The Force? Simon Pegg, a friend of Abrams since working together on Mission: Impossible 3 and Star Treks 1 and 2 (and who will reportedly cameo here too), spoke to us later on at that same awards ceremony. “I’m telling you,” he said, “he is going to knock it out of the park.”

2 The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2
(November 19)

Call it Harry Potter syndrome. Just as her speccy predecessor in the teen gangbuster stakes discovered, you split your final book in two at your dramatic – if not financial – cost. For Katniss Everdeen and Suzanne Collins, as Potter and JK Rowling before them, the decision to make two movies out of a single final novel may have kept the accounts department in staplers and attitude for a while, but for the rest of the world Mockingjay – Part 1 was, well, a little turgid. Still, with the preamble done, now it’s time for the showdown – Jennifer Lawrence’s hero taking the fight right to the heart of President Snow’s (Donald Sutherland) evil Capitol. A genuine phenomenon, this series clincher will be right up there with Spectre and Star Wars in box office, and with good reason. Forget your Daniel Craigs and Harrison Fords. The biggest star on the planet right now is Jennifer Lawrence by a (probably not that graceful) stride. “Oh, I don’t know about all that,” she demurred when we put this to her. “I just do my thing.”

3 The Good Dinosaur
(November 26)

Bright and lovely though they are, underneath that computer-sheen surface Pixar’s movies have never been afraid to tell human truths. Good or bad. This honesty runs deep in their creative veins too, which has meant a change of directors – over story concerns – for their latest. That original director Bob Peterson (one of the co-directors of Up) was replaced with Peter Sohn is actually not uncommon for the animation giants. Ratatouille saw Jan Pinkava switched with Brad Bird, John Lasseter replaced Brad Lewis on Cars 2 and for Brave – Pixar’s most recent original story before this – the studio controversially substituted Brenda Chapman for Mark Andrews. The Good Dinosaur is, in essence, a boy and his dog story between a young Neanderthal and a dinosaur. The twist? The boy is the “dog” and the dinosaur is the “boy”, a pair of pals trying to survive in an imagined timeline where that asteroid misses Earth and the two species are forced to co-exist. So, it’s Jurassic World then. But probably with a little less in the way of people munching.

4 Crimson Peak
(October 15)

Guillermo del Toro has had a turbulent few years since his career high double-whammy of Pan’s Labyrinth in 2006 and Hellboy II: The Golden Army in 2008. Moving from that straight into The Hobbit, for which he invested years of pre-production in a trilogy he would later walk away from (with Peter Jackson stepping in at the eleventh hour) due to creative differences, he got back in the saddle with Pacific Rim – the perfect big-budget rebound – in 2013. Now, with the blockbuster itch he’d hoped to scratch with Bilbo and co sated by that robots versus monster smash, he can return to the horror genre that first made his name. Crimson Peak is a good old-fashioned haunted house movie with a fantastic cast – Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska – and a classic premise: falling in love with Hiddleston’s Sir Thomas Sharpe, Wasikowska’s Edith Cushing finds herself whisked away to his gothic, creepy country pile, only to discover that the place, and just maybe her beau, have terrible secrets lurking within. “I wanted to show,” says del Toro, “what happens when you finally marry Mr Darcy. And one morning you open the door and he’s doing something unspeakable.”

5 In The Heart Of The Sea
(December tbc)

Based on the events that would inspire Herman Melville to write Moby Dick, Ron Howard’s latest looks suitably epic. Set in the 19th century, Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy and (new Spider-Man) Tom Holland are among the crew of Nantucket whaler The Essex, a ship plagued by perilous seas, starvation, the threat of cannibalism and, of course, a ruddy great sperm whale out for revenge. The movie has moved from March to Christmas, which suggests either the festive period is felt by Warner Bros to be the ideal time to watch people get eaten by a big fish, or that this is ripe for Oscars. Certainly this is a release slot that worked wonders for the similarly scaled sea-faring adventure Life of Pi…

6 The Hateful Eight
(January tbc)

Quentin Tarantino has always been a man of principle. When we once asked him, for instance, if he’d ever consider toning down the violence in his movies, his response was this: “If people are shocked then they shouldn’t have bought the ticket. My movies are what they are and I think most people understand that. No-one goes to a Metallica concert and asks them to turn the music down.” In fact, it’s a miracle that this movie even exists. When the script leaked online two years ago Tarantino had what can only be described as a grade-A tantrum and killed it, doing a live-read in LA and then in theory parking the project for good. “But then,” he smiles now, “I just thought, ‘Stop being a jerk.’” Shot on 70mm, with the very lenses that filmed Ben-Hur no less, his new Western has a '90s vibe to the cast, with the likes of Tim Roth, Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason Leigh part of a band of strangers holed up in a shelter during a blizzard in post-Civil War Wyoming. Expect betrayal. Expect tensions mounting between deadly characters in a single, claustrophobic location. Expect a Western version of Reservoir Dogs? “There is definitely a sense of me returning to my roots,” says Tarantino. “It just feels right.”

7 Pan
(October 8)

A mega-budget prequel to the Peter Pan story, Joe Wright’s spin on the classic fairytale arrives on a wave of hugely successful fantasy spin-offs from Hollywood. Like Maleficent and Cinderella before it, this has scale and spectacle, but also Hugh Jackman panto-ing it up as Blackbeard. “But it’s also one of the more personal films I’ve made,” says Wright. “I wanted to make a film that represented something of my experience of fatherhood.” So far so obtuse. Then again, it’s not like J.M. Barrie’s original text was exactly grounded in reality, either. “While I didn’t feel bonded to the book,” Wright says, “I did feel a bond to Barrie’s, I suppose, eccentricity. That's for sure.”

8 Victor Frankenstein
(December tbc)

In this new twist on the classic Frankenstein story James McAvoy's doctor, Victor, and his assistant, Igor (Daniel Radcliffe), play a sort of Butch and Sundance of science, on the verge of a pioneering breakthrough to create new life. The problem? That they succeed. The talent here is as steampunk as the movie’s Victorian-gothic aesthetic. Chronicle’s Max Landis (son of An American Werewolf In London director John Landis) is behind the screenplay and Paul McGuigan (Gangster No.1) directs. Neither are men interested in straight retellings. “We admire it,” McGuigan says of Mary Shelley’s milestone novel. “But we aren’t reverential to it.” So put the Kenneth Branagh version to the back of your head because this is set to get yours spinning with its mix of horror, romp and dark wit. “That’s the plan,” says Radcliffe. “To mess with your brains.”

9 Steve Jobs
(November tbc)

The mixed early reviews for Danny Boyle’s study of the titular Silicon Valley icon perhaps shed new light on the words he first chose to describe Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay. “Almost cut-proof,” he called it. Has Boyle, unlike David Fincher before him, who turned Sorkin’s tech-text into a compelling narrative for The Social Network, favoured words over pictures, complexity over story? Don’t bet against him. Only a handful of directors have the style to stand shoulder to shoulder with Sorkin’s words, and Boyle is undoubtedly one of them. And, in Michael Fassbender, who could read the phone book with equal amounts charm and menace, he has the perfect lead to play a man as complicated he was visionary. iSold.

10 Spectre
(November 6)

Is Christoph Waltz really playing Blofeld? Who is Monica Bellucci’s mysterious Lucia Sciarra? And will Daniel Craig be wearing those trunks again? Just some of the questions circling what some claim could be Craig’s last outing as 007. More importantly, how do you go about topping Skyfall, the first Bond movie to ever cross the billion dollar mark? “That one’s easy,” says returning director, Sam Mendes. “You don’t go about topping Skyfall. If you do that you’re doomed. Our job here is to tell the best story we can.” Plotwise much is, of course, classified. But what we can expect is both a considerably more global experience than last time’s Scottish-based adventures (locations here include Mexico City and Rome) and a tighter, more intimate story based around a smaller number of characters. Will Craig be back next time around? At this stage, who knows. But for now we can at least take solace that he made it through this one safe and sound, after sustaining an injury on set. “Sorry to hear Daniel Craig has sprained his knee on the set of Spectre,” tweeted Roger Moore when the news broke. “Being 007 is not without its hazards. I’m available to step in if needed.” Then, a day later: “Ahhh, good news. Daniel will be back on set tomorrow. I’m hanging my safari suit back in the wardrobe.”

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