PREVIEW: Our 20 Most-Anticipated Fall-Winter Movies - 2015 Edition
Settle in – if summer movies aren’t your thing (and if so, what’s wrong with you?!), the “prestige” films of the fall and early winter are on their way. Traditionally, these are the awards-bait films that fill up the calendar in the last months of the year, as they jostle for attention before the awards season kicks off in January-February. In short, they're the ones that annoying film buff will be giving you a hard time about forgetting to see.
As usual, the Toronto International Film Festival and New York Film Festival are bringing lots of new work to the surface, but Jason and I have dug through the many trailers, write-ups and rumours flying around this season to bring you our digest of everything we’re tracking over the next 3-4 months. There’s corporate drama, quirky romance, Gothic scares, Cold War espionage, near-future sci-fi and more waiting below – take a look and tell us what you’re excited to see!
Everest – September 25
ROBERT: We only get one or two “man vs. nature” films every year, and they don’t always work – sometimes they try too hard to be symbolic, or they rely heavily on voiceover and flashbacks. But the cast in Everest gives me hope: Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal, Robin Wright, John Hawkes, Michael Kelly, and others make for a strong ensemble – the question is whether director Baltasar Kormákur (Contraband, 2 Guns) can shift away from his action-film roots and deliver some drama.
The Martian – October 2
JASON: Is Ridley Scott finally back?! As a big Scott fan, I hope that’s the case. If this Matt Damon vehicle is a hit, it would be Scott’s first big hit since 2001’s Black Hawk Down, which remains one of the best modern war films to this day. As usual, he’s been cranking out films regularly over the past decade, but most of them have been good but not great. That would be my caution against this film, that somehow, Scott will find a way to bungle it.
ROBERT: The buzz behind this film is intense, and I’ve purposely avoided most trailers or marketing. It seems like a far more crowd-pleasing version of Interstellar, with more comic relief and a more grounded type of science. Plus, the cast here is one of the best ensembles I’ve seen in a long time.
Sicario – October 2
JASON: Denis Villeneuve’s previous effort, Prisoners, was a captivating psychological thriller with Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman in impressive performances, and Sicario looks like it will be another hit, this time with equally astounding talents Emily Blunt and personal favourite Benicio del Toro. The plot isn’t terribly intriguing, so you hope that Villeneuve is able to bring in an original twist or really crank up the tension, like he did in Prisoners.
ROBERT: For some reason, I was excited about Sicario ever since I heard about it last year, and I hadn’t even seen any previous films by the director yet! Now, with Prisoners under my belt, and the premise of a bad-ass FBI agent taking on the Mexican cartel in this new film (not to mention one of my favourite actresses in the lead), Sicario is poised to join my Top 5 of the year if it performs the way I expect.
Steve Jobs – October 9
JASON: Men of power, backroom politics and massive egos are Aaron Sorkin’s specialty, and with Danny Boyle directing and Michael Fassbender in the lead role, he should deliver another award-winning hit. Think of this as the sequel to The Social Network. I’m glad that this biopic is attempting to portray Jobs in a more realistic and less than positive light, because unless you bought into the cult of Apple, to say that Jobs wasn’t likeable would be an understatement. This is a man, after all, who was convinced he could beat cancer by going on diets and never got along with anybody. I don’t think there’s any coincidence that Apple has really distanced itself from its once-loved CEO.
Crimson Peak – October 16
ROBERT: Something about Guillermo del Toro’s films and I just click. Whether it’s his gonzo films like the Hellboy series and Pacific Rim, or his more artful, skin-tingling movies like Pan’s Labyrinth, I feel like he and I share a lot of similar ideas about movies. His latest work, Crimson Peak, seems more in line with Labyrinth, in that it will terrify and captivate people for years to come, especially fans of Gothic literature. I expect I won’t be sleeping for a week after I see this one.
Bridge of Spies – October 16
ROBERT: I know better than to doubt one of the masters of modern cinema. Steven Spielberg’s new film (and his fourth collaboration with Tom Hanks) ticks a lot of boxes for me: a Cold-War espionage film, a revival of the courtroom drama, a script co-written by the Coen brothers, Janusz Kamiński’s cinematography, and – of course – Hanks.
The Lobster – October 16
ROBERT: Everything about this film feels profoundly weird, and that’s why I love it. It takes a lot of bravery (and some mild insanity) to tell a story like this, about a mysterious hotel where guests have only 45 days to find a romantic partner before they are turned into an animal of their choosing. Colin Farrell (who has been doing a noticeably impressive range of work recently) stars along with John C. Reilly, Ben Whishaw and Rachel Weisz.
JASON: When Colin Farrell wades into comedy, he’s brilliant. Once believed to be a leading man and successor to Tom Cruise, I think Farrell is a far superior actor. He’s certainly got more range and with a strong supporting cast, this should be a very good film, but with its limited release and small budget, it may not generate the buzz it deserves.
Room - October 16
ROBERT: I didn't hear anything about this film until it was announced as part of the Toronto festival lineup, but it soon grabbed my notice when it picked up the annual People's Choice Award, which has been a good barometer in years past about which films will come out swinging come Oscar time.
It features Brie Larson - an up-and-comer I really liked in the indie drama Short Term 12 - as a young woman who's been kidnapped and forced to raise the child of her captor in a small room. It's also directed by Irish filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson, whose last film was the very weird and very enjoyable Frank (the one about the musician who wears a giant fake head). That aside, I'm curious to see what the TIFF buzz was about.
Spectre – November 6
ROBERT: I am a die-hard Bond fan (I actually have a framed portrait of Sean Connery’s portrayal on my wall – not a word of a lie) and I would still see Spectre even if the industry deemed it the worst of the franchise. From all indications, though, the new Sam Mendes installment looks like a natural progression of Daniel Craig’s Bond, and a worthy follow-up to its predecessor, Skyfall. (P.S. Don't listen to anything Jason says about Skyfall.)
JASON: Quantum of Solace just wasn’t very good and Skyfall missed the mark by being a tribute film than an original 007 adventure. I wanted something new, not a fanboy film that treated every scene like “Where’s Waldo” with its Easter eggs. As a lifelong Bond fan, I don’t need a rehash of every single thing that’s ever happened. With a new villain and a strong cast, I’m hoping Spectre will deliver on what its two predecessors couldn’t. Daniel Craig is a good Bond, but it would be disappointing if Casino Royale was his peak.
Trumbo – November 6
JASON: Bryan Cranston plays Dalton Trumbo, the screenwriter behind Spartacus and Roman Holiday, who was blacklisted following World War II when he refused to testify during the American government’s investigation of Communism in Hollywood. (Yes, things got a little crazy back then). Cranston is a brilliant dramatic actor, even if he does overdo things a little, but a strong performance should garner an Oscar nod. The film received a standing ovation after its first screening, perhaps partly because Hollywood loves to congratulate itself. Was the film really good enough to warrant a standing ovation on its own merit? I have my doubts, but it features a very strong cast that can certainly elevate its status.
By the Sea – November 13
ROBERT: If there’s one film on this list that throws my filmic Spidey-senses out of whack, it’s the latest Angelina Jolie directorial effort. The actress-turned-filmmaker has taken two less-than-successful stabs at narrative films before (In the Land of Blood and Honey and Unbroken), but this is the first one featuring her husband, Brad Pitt.
I’m hoping that Pitt is only involving himself because of the value he sees in the story, about a failing marriage between a writer (Pitt) and his wife (Jolie), a former dancer. The fact that Jolie and Pitt can draw on their own relationship to lend credence to a cinematic one is the main draw here.
Legend – November 20
JASON: By now, it shouldn’t be surprising that Tom Hardy’s performances are consistently top-notch, but he’s also one of those good actors that ends up picking some really poor projects. I’m sure that Legend will show off his acting chops and be a worthwhile challenge for Hardy, but I’m not sure that the rest of the film will be just as good. Very few directors can make their films a black comedy and an epic gangster drama.
Creed – November 25
JASON: Michael B. Jordan is a star, in that he’s a very marketable leading male who also happens to be a very good actor. He takes over the Rocky series as Apollo Creed’s son, Adonis, with Sylvester Stallone returning as Rocky Balboa, although this time as a trainer. I’ve said it many times, but a successful boxing film needs a winter release, and if anyone knows how to make a good boxing film, it’s Sly. The film should do well, but I fear that it may spawn a sequel, since Creed neatly comes full circle with Rocky becoming a trainer like his mentor Mickey, and making the son of his former rival a champion.
The Night Before – November 25
JASON: The last time Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt teamed up, it was in the very enjoyable 50/50. Now, the duo are back in a far less serious comedy, featuring three friends who have one last hurrah on Christmas Eve, a theme that will also surely be lampooned by Rogen’s Jewish faith. Did I also mention that this film also features the criminally underappreciated Lizzy Caplan? No doubt this film will be better than The Interview.
Macbeth – December 4
ROBERT: Macbeth is many Shakespeare fans’ favourite play, including mine (I’ve seen numerous stage and film productions, written about the play, and even appeared in a production myself). And now a new version joins the fray from Justin Kurzel, who only had one Australian indie under his belt when he took this one on.
A few theatre friends and I laughed at first about it, calling it “Sexy Macbeth” due the casting of Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard as Lord and Lady M. But the recent trailers and word of mouth indicate that Kurzel’s film could be the spiritual successor to Roman Polanski’s infamous 1971 version, set in the correct time period and filled with gorgeous imagery. I’ve been looking forward to this one for over a year, and I hope it lives up to the hype.
The Big Short – December 11
JASON: Moneyball was a difficult book to adapt, yet somehow Steven Soderbergh did it. Maybe Hollywood's figured it out, though, with The Big Short becoming the third Michael Lewis book to come to the big screen. The film will cover the financial crisis and the credit bubble in 2007, and has a star-studded lineup with Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling, Melissa Leo and Marisa Tomei. Expect a taut political thriller, which is also new ground for veteran comedy director Adam McKay.
In the Heart of the Sea – December 11
ROBERT: There’s a decidedly old-fashioned adventure-film feeling about Ron Howard’s new movie, but it may live or die on the strength of its special effects, which have gobbled up a sizeable amount of post-production time (the film began principal photography two years ago). The story has callbacks to Moby Dick – it follows a whaling crew battling a vengeful sperm whale – but is based on a true story. It’s hard to predict how effective the film will be, given Howard’s off-and-on success as a director, but the film’s premise and style have piqued my interest.
JASON: Seeing Ron Howard attached to this film is rather odd, because the source material deals with some very dark issues. I’m not talking John Nash and hallucinated government spies, but sailors on the brink of death who resort to cannibalism in order to survive. Cillian Murphy is just creepy and I’m quite eager to see if Chris Hemsworth can do drama, after passing marks in comedy and action.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – December 18
JASON: The original trilogy was released before I was born, but I distinctly remember seeing Episode I in theatres. And honestly, I really loved it, but only because the razzle dazzle was thrilling stuff for an 11-year-old. The pod race was exciting (as was the video game it inspired) and the kinetic lightsaber duels were so much better than the originals. Of course, it’s become my most hated Star Wars film (not because of Jar Jar, actually), and I openly regard the prequels with disgust.
I, for one, am kind of glad that George Lucas isn’t around for this trilogy because his scripts are unimaginative, stiff and generally atrocious, and his unnecessary digital revisions kept ruining films that didn’t need fixing. I’m excited because things should be different this time around. I need to experience a good Star Wars film in theatres.
ROBERT: If there’s one landmark release of 2015, it’s without question the newest Star Wars film. The first installment of the franchise post-Disney buyout, post-George Lucas, The Force Awakens will set the tone for how accepting fans will be of Disney’s multi-billion dollar plan for the series. It’s not an easy task, as Star Wars fans are some of the most discriminating film fans around. But a lot of what we’ve seen from J.J. Abrams’ effort – including a reel of outtake footage that says a lot more than the trailer - is very encouraging.
The Revenant – December 25
ROBERT: If the pop-culture side of my brain is most looking forward to Star Wars in December, the art-house side is most looking forward to The Revenant. The new film from Birdman and 21 Grams director Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant was plagued by huge cost and scheduling overruns that would normally be red flags. However, when you account for the fact Iñárritu was shooting the story chronologically in sequence in the Canadian winter and only using natural light, the production problems make lots of sense. It actually gives me a case of excited shivers (as if that recent trailer didn’t already!)
JASON: Leonardo DiCaprio in another role in which he seeks revenge? Tom Hardy as well? Tons of on-set drama, you say? A slow burn Western that features little dialogue and lots of violence? Sign me up!
Joy – December 25
ROBERT: I used to have mixed feelings about David O. Russell (the stories about production on Three Kings being what they were). And then Russell went and made three Oscar-friendly, heartfelt films that felt quintessentially American: The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle.
Russell – working alongside his go-to acting team of Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert de Niro – is set to release another film that feels like a spiritual companion to Silver Linings and Hustle: a multi-decade drama called Joy, featuring the ups and downs of an enterprising woman played by Lawrence. The film seems poised to extend Russell’s concept of the American experience, and I’m curious to see where it goes.
That does it for our picks! Were there any September-December releases that we missed that you’re excited to see? If so, join the discussion in the comments section, and if you liked this post, share it with your friends and followers!