Ferrer’s most anticipated films of 2015 (January–June)

Jan. 13, 2015, 4:20 p.m.

Although many Oscar contenders still haven’t been released in theaters across the U.S., here’s a look at our most anticipated films of the first half of 2015. From Toronto International Film Festival favorites like “’71” and “While We’re Young,” to splashy big-budget blockbusters like “Tomorrowland” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” 2015 is chock-full of diverse and intriguing cinematic offerings.

“What We Do in the Shadows” (Feb. 13)

The New Zealand comedy “What We Do in the Shadows” has made quite the splash since its premiere at Sundance last year. A mockumentary in the same vein as the BBC’s “The Office,” the film follows a trio of rather Luddite flatmates, as they attempt to scrape by in the harsh and unfriendly 21st century. The trio — Viago (Taika Waititi), Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) and Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) — also, kind of, sort of, happen to be vampires. Heralded as one of the funniest films of the 2014 festival season, “What We Do in the Shadows” has drawn comparison to “Shaun of the Dead” and “Ghostbusters,” an apparently solid blend of both edge-of-your-seat horror and laugh-out-loud comedy. If the hilarious first trailer, which pokes fun at self-serious found-footage films like “The Blair Witch Project,” resembles the finished product in any way shape or form, “What We Do in the Shadows” should attract quite the cult following.

“Leviathan” (Feb. 27)

Having just won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film on Sunday evening, “Leviathan” has effectively catapulted itself into the eye of the mainstream media — and rightfully so. A popular topic of discussion at the Cannes Film Festival last May, “Leviathan” has been a favorite among critics for quite some time now. Centered upon one man’s fight with the corrupt local government, the Russian film, directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev, has been heralded as an astute and masterful take on the Bible’s Book of Job. Although I have yet to catch the film myself, I am undoubtedly looking forward to its late February debut.

“ ‘71” (Feb. 27)

Jack O’Connell, star of “‘71,” has emerged as one of the most in demand actors in contemporary cinema this year. After a career-making turn in the otherwise flat “Unbroken,” O’Connell has been snapping up roles like no other. Before “Unbroken,” however, O’Connell starred in a number of high-quality independent films — including the extraordinary “Starred Up,” his best performance to date — some of which have yet to emerge stateside. Among these is “’71,” a film about an abandoned British soldier trapped on the violent streets of Belfast IRA territory in 1971. “’71” debuted at the Berlin International Film Festival last year to much acclaim, and, if the film’s hype is any indication, “’71” should prove to be one of the best independent releases of early 2015.

“Chappie” (March 6)

“Chappie” director Neil Blompkamp is definitely one of the hottest names in science-fiction filmmaking. Heralding from South Africa, Blomkamp has, to date, produced two of the most boldly original sci-fi spectacles in recent years including the runaway hit “District 9” and the equally promising, though ultimately obvious, “Elysium.” At this juncture, it is unclear whether “Chappie” will merely be “Elysium” redux or if it will manage to rise to the heights of Blomkamp’s debut. Once again, the film’s cast is promising, including Blomkamp-favorite and fellow South African Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Sigourney Weaver and Hugh Jackman (complete with the year’s best hair). The plot, which pits a robot and his ragtag “adoptive” family against a corporation dead-set on wiping the robot from the face of the planet, is fraught with potential. Here’s to hoping lightning really can strike twice.

“In the Heart of the Sea” (March 13)

I have mixed feelings about this swashbuckling adventure-on-the-high-seas flick from director Ron Howard (“Apollo 13”). With such a high-profile director at the film’s helm, it’s slightly disconcerting that the studio behind “In the Heart of the Sea” felt that the film would be best served by a March release — a rarity for a big-name director whom you’d expect to be chasing awards. Then again, cinematic visionary Wes Anderson has been releasing his films in the spring for some time now. Based on the teaser and poster, “In the Heart of the Sea” certainly looks good. The film boasts a pretty impressive cast, which includes Chris Hemsworth (known for playing Thor) and the exceptional Tom Holland as crewmen aboard the ill-fated whaling vessel, the Essex (the inspiration for Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick”). So, with any luck, “In the Heart of the Sea” is the exception, not the rule.

The premiere of “In the Heart of the Sea” has since been moved to December 11, 2015.

“While We’re Young” (March 27)

Okay, so this one’s a bit of a cheat. I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Noah Baumbach’s “While We’re Young,” a flick about old folks (Naomi Watts and Ben Stiller) who start hanging out with young folks (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried), when it debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. So “While We’re Young” is not necessarily a film that I’m anticipating… per se. Regardless, I’m definitely looking forward to a second watch come March. Sharp, achingly funny and just all around great, Baumbach’s latest is a flick that will certainly lend itself to repeat viewings.

“Ex Machina” (April 10)

Screenwriter Alex Garland (“28 Days Later”) makes his directorial debut this spring with “Ex Machina,” a white-knuckle thriller about the potential perils of artificial intelligence. After winning a peculiar company-wide contest, programmer Caleb (Domnhall Gleeson) is whisked away to meet the company’s reclusive CEO (Oscar Isaac) and to participate in a twisted Turing test with his latest creation, a beautiful and mysterious robot played by British beauty Alicia Vikander. I’m not really sure what happens after that, but the film’s early trailers’ suggest lots of “trust-no-one” shenanigans. Hopefully, Garland can make good on the promise of his early screenwriting and expertly avoid the mess of robots-are-going-to-kill-us A.I. clichés. Moreover, Gleeson and Isaac, both critically underappreciated gems, should produce some excellent psychological sparring.


“Avengers: Age of Ultron” (May 1)

Joss Whedon’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” features one of the best ensemble casts in big-budget filmmaking. All survivors are back for “Round #2” — including Academy Award nominees Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner and Robert Downey Jr. — though, this time, they’re joined by a supporting cast, which includes the exquisite Elizabeth Olsen and the perfectly cast James Spader as the film’s eponymous big bad. Casting can make or break a tentpole, and while DC throws its time (and money) at such misguided selections as Ryan Reynolds and Jason Momoa, Marvel continues to score dynamic cinematic talents like Bradley Cooper, Anthony Mackie and Chris Pratt. In this regard, “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — which has managed to score the studio’s  finest cast yet —could prove to be the studio’s magnum opus.

“Far From the Madding Crowd” (May 1)

With an ensemble cast that includes Carey Mulligan and Matthias Schoenaerts, the much anticipated “Far From the Madding Crowd,” based on Thomas Hardy’s classic novel, seems poised to combine a nature-centric Malick-ian aesthetic with all of the dramatic intrigue that we have come to expect from the film’s director, Thomas Vinterberg (“Festen” and “The Hunt”). Set in the farmlands of southern England, “Far from the Madding Crowd” deals with the romantic pursuits of one Bathesba Everdene (Carey Mulligan), a hubristic bachelorette seeking to secure both her independence and her estate whilst deeply enmeshed in an intricate web of male temptations. With a stunning trailer, set to the divine crooning of Mulligan herself, it would appear that Vinterberg will easily clear the lofty bar set by his previous labors.

“Tomorrowland” (May 22)

“Tomorrowland” is a curious little film. With plot details kept almost entirely under wraps, the film has been treated more like a Chris Nolan or J.J. Abrams flick than a live-action Disney venture. Based upon the attraction/arena/kingdom in Disney World of the same name, “Tomorrowland” would appear to have something to do with robots, Hugh Laurie and George Clooney — and that’s just about all we know. Perhaps with the passage of time we’ll get a bit more information but, for the time being, we’ll have to get by on the minimal breadcrumbs dutifully thrown our way by the film’s shady marketing team. Needless to say, my interest is definitely piqued. Here’s to hoping “Tomorrowland” won’t be the next “John Carter.”

“Untitled Cameron Crowe Project” (May 29)

Initially slated for release in 2014, Cameron Crowe’s upcoming Hawaii-set comedy — involving a military contractor on a nostalgia trip to the old stomping grounds — is now scheduled for a timely May release. Boasting an A-list cast that includes Emma Stone, Bradley Cooper, Rachel McAdams and Bill Murray, the “Almost Famous” director’s latest promises to be, at the very least, easy on the eyes. Let’s pray that the film’s excruciating gestation period and unusual absence of a title are merely evidence of the film’s excellence and not of its lack of coherence and eventual quality. Fortunately, with Crowe manning the camera, my money’s on the former.

“Jurassic World” (June 12)

Words cannot describe my personal anticipation for “Safety Not Guaranteed” director Colin Trevorrow’s attempt to rekindle the dying flame of the “Jurassic Park” franchise. Trevorrow, as yet unproven in the world of big-budget filmmaking, is definitely an odd choice to carry the torch of one of the most bankable franchises in history, yet his emphasis on character development, and his evident love for the original trilogy, suggest that he could just be the right man for the job. Regardless, Trevorrow faces a huge challenge in resuscitating a series so cruelly beaten to death some years ago. Despite some trepidation, however, I can assure you that I will be there opening night, because, and I say this without the slightest shade of ridicule, there is simply no way that Chris Pratt on a motorcycle immersed in a herd of velociraptors can ever disappoint my fan-boy sensibilities.

Contact Will Ferrer at wferrer ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Will Ferrer is a junior at Stanford, a current member of The Editorial Board, and a former Executive Editor, Managing Editor of Arts & Life, and Film/TV Desk Editor at The Stanford Daily. Will is double-majoring in Film and Media Studies and English Literature. After a childhood spent nabbing R-rated movies from his brother’s collection, Will is annoyingly passionate about all things entertainment. Heralding from Northern Virginia, Will abhors Maryland drivers and enjoys saying he is “essentially from Washington DC.” Contact him at [email protected].

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