2015 is going to bring us some huge movie events, including the second outing of Marvel's super team in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, a return to an iconic theme park in Jurassic World, and new chapters in a galaxy-spanning saga of Star Wars with The Force Awakens - but you aren't going to see ANY of that fun stuff until later in the year!
As 2015 kicks off, we'll have the usual slew of lackluster sequels and studio dumping ground offerings, peppered with the occasional breakout or surprise hit. Our Winter Movie Preview is a good way to know which films are coming - and which are worth leaving your wintertime hibernation to go see.
[REC] 4: Apocalypse
Ángela Vidal (Manuela Velasco), the spunky young television reporter that entered the building in 2007 has exited with the swat team. Little do they know that she carries the seed of the strange demonic infection. She is taken to an oil tanker miles off shore which has been especially equipped for the quarantine.
OUR TAKE: After [REC] 3's pitiful attempt to push the franchise in a new direction, [REC] 4 thankfully brings us back around to the where the franchise started - with a somewhat bigger sandbox to play in. That doesn't guarantee we'll get a fourth installment on par with the first one, but at least we can say the potential is once again there.
The Woman In Black 2: Angel of Death
40 years after the first haunting at Eel Marsh House, a group of children evacuated from WWII London arrive, awakening the house's darkest inhabitant.
OUR TAKE: The Woman In Black adapted a classic English myth to reasonable success on the big screen - albeit more so in the UK than the US. A January release date for the sequel is smart, as lack of competition in the horror genre (and a genuinely creepy trailer) will be a lure for fans.
Inherent Vice (Wide)
Jan 9th (Wide)
In 1970, drug-fueled Los Angeles detective Larry "Doc" Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.
OUR TAKE: While the film will have very limited appeal for casual moviegoers, Inherent Vice is great genre entertainment for intellectual and/or cinephile types. FULL REVIEW HERE.
Jan 9th (Wide)
The unforgettable true story chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement.
OUR TAKE: A lot of people may think that this movie is some kind of MLK biopic, but in actuality this movie memoir's central character is an issue of race, society and policy that's ironically now at the forefront of our culture once again. Hopefully director Ava DuVernay can convey the message of how Dr. King used hope, faith and non-violence (keyword) to sway minds and quell injustice.
Liam Neeson returns as ex-covert operative Bryan Mills, whose long awaited reconciliation with his ex-wife is tragically cut short when she is brutally murdered. Consumed with rage, and framed for the crime, he goes on the run to evade the relentless pursuit of the CIA, FBI and the police. For one last time, Mills must use his "particular set of skills," to track down the real killers, exact his unique brand of justice, and protect the only thing that matters to him now - his daughter.
OUR TAKE: If you've been a fan of the Taken series through the inspired first chapter and less-inspired second chapter, you're already signed on for this third go-round. However, if you're on the fence because you liked the first and didn't care for the second? This third installment is directed by the guy who did the second film (Olivier Megaton). Take that how you will.
Jan 16th (Wide)
Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle's pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and turns him into a legend. Back home to his wife and kids after four tours of duty, however, Chris finds that it is the war he can't leave behind.
OUR TAKE: Clint Eastwood is a masterful director, and this film's trailers (see below) have been uniquely structured to showcase moments of high tension and dramatic thrills. In short, American Sniper looks like it could join a tradition of great modern warfare films like Zero Dark Thirty or Black Hawk Down.
A man is released from prison to help American and Chinese authorities pursue a mysterious cyber criminal. The dangerous search leads them from Chicago to Hong Kong.
OUR TAKE: After the Sony and North Korea hacking incident, we have a feeling that Blackhat is arriving on a wave of public interest in its subject matter. Chris Hemsworth (Thor) is also a leading man with pull, so this film could find legs at the January box office.
A young Peruvian bear with a passion for all things British travels to London in search of a home. Finding himself lost and alone at Paddington Station, he begins to realize that city life is not all he had imagined - until he meets the kindly Brown family, who read the label around his neck ('Please look after this bear. Thank you.') and offer him a temporary haven. It looks as though his luck has changed until this rarest of bears catches the eye of a museum taxidermist.
OUR TAKE: Paddington is a favorite across the pond, but it remains to be seen if American audiences respond enough to boost this animated feature to box office success.
Jan 16th (Wide)
Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children, is a renowned linguistics professor who starts to forget words. When she receives a devastating diagnosis, Alice and her family find their bonds tested.
OUR TAKE: It's Julianne Moore in an Oscar-bait dramatic role, with co-stars like Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth and Kristen Stewart, to boot. If you're up for this kind of well-acted tragic drama, this film is a good pick.
The Wedding Ringer
Doug Harris (Josh Gad) is a loveable but socially awkward groom-to-be with a problem: he has no best man. With less than two weeks to go until he marries the girl of his dreams (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting), Doug is referred to Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart), owner and CEO of Best Man, Inc., a company that provides flattering best men for socially challenged guys in need. What ensues is a hilarious wedding charade as they try to pull off the big con, and an unexpected budding bromance between Doug and his fake best man Jimmy.
OUR TAKE: Kevin Hart is practically unstoppable at the box office right now (Think Like A Man, Ride Along), so this movie should already have a strong head-start towards success. Meanwhile, Sony will be happy to put out a comedy that WON'T likely start an international incident.
In order to make good with his former employers, a submarine captain takes a job with a shadowy backer to search the depths of the Black Sea for a submarine rumored to be loaded with gold.
OUR TAKE: Kevin MacDonald has directed some great films (Last King of Scotland, Marley, State of Play), but also some films like The Eagle. This one has a pretty strange premise, and the fact that this is the first feature-film for writer Dennis Kelly really keeps it on the fence.
The Boy Next Door
A divorced woman (Jennifer Lopez) falls in love with the young man (Ryan Guzman) who moves in to the street and finds he has a dark secret.
OUR TAKE: Remember when this film was called Fatal Attraction, Fear, Swimfan or countless other films of the like? This particular telling seems like it will pale in comparison.
Juggling some angry Russians, the British Mi5, his impossibly leggy wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) and an international terrorist, debonair art dealer and part-time rogue Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp) must traverse the globe armed only with his good looks and special charm in a race to recover a stolen painting rumored to contain the code to a lost bank account filled with Nazi gold.
OUR TAKE: Johnny Depp playing yet another zany, strange character - and Gwyneth Paltrow putting on an English accent? Not really a winning combination for us, per se, but it's easy to see this flick landing well with family audiences.
A fairy tale of goblins, fairies and imps meeting for the first time and the consequent confusions and conflicts the culture clash causes.
OUR TAKE: At this point it's unclear whether or not the tagline "From the mind of George Lucas," is a good or bad thing. Still, it's from ILM and has names like Kristin Chenowith in the voice cast, so it's really about the subject matter capturing people's attention. See for yourself:
Black or White
Black or White is the story of a grandfather (Kevin Costner) who is suddenly left to care for his beloved granddaughter. When the little girl's paternal grandmother (Octavia Spencer) seeks custody, a legal battle ensues that forces the families to confront their true feelings on race, forgiveness and understanding. Anchored by an all-star cast and based on real events, the movie is a look at two seemingly different worlds, in which nothing is as simple as black or white.
OUR TAKE: Race is once again at the forefront of American culture, but whereas a film like Selma may provide critical looks at how history repeats itself, the question here is whether or not feel-good material like Black or White is actually contributing to the conversation. You decide:
As a group of friends discover plans for a time machine, they build it and use it to fix their problems and personal gain. But as the future falls apart with disasters, and each of them disappear little by little, they must travel back to the past to make sure they never invent the machine or face the destruction of humanity.
OUR TAKE: This movie has been a long time coming, but we got a glimpse of it during a special Comic-Con 2014 event, and were pleasantly surprised. For a lot of movie fans, this could be the next Chronicle.