Tag Archives: Johnny Depp

Tom Petty and the Movies

The clip above shows Tom Petty’s very last performance of “Free Fallin'”, at Hollywood Bowl on September 25th. On October 2nd, he died at the age of 66 after a massive heart attack. Bizarrely enough, it was first reported that he had died, then that the initial reports were wrong, that he was still fighting for his life. When I went to bed that night in a hotel room in Palma, Mallorca, I had a bad feeling that he would be dead again when I woke up. 

The death of Tom Petty came the same day as a hateful man called Stephen Paddock murdered 59 people attending a country music concert in Las Vegas. Along with Petty’s death, October 2nd truly became a date of infamy in the history of American showbiz.

My first memory of Tom Petty came courtesy of MTV in 1991. I was 15 and I remember the man with blond hair who wore a high hat and sunglasses. “Into the Great Wide Open” stuck with me a bit as a gateway to other Petty songs that I came to like even better. That’s how I learned about Jeff Lynne… and of course, that music video is packed with Hollywood celebrities, including Johnny Depp, Faye Dunaway, Matt LeBlanc and Gabrielle Anwar. 

This video is even more of a classic though. “Don’t Come Around Here No More” is my absolute favorite of Tom Petty’s songs, the lead single from his 1985 album “Southern Accents”. Written as a portrait of a weird romantic encounter between Dave Stewart and Stevie Nicks, this brilliant song was accompanied by a video echoing “Alice in Wonderland”, with Petty as the Mad Hatter. Stewart himself appears in the video as the caterpillar. 

As this is primarily a movie and TV blog, let’s remember Tom Petty’s contributions in that field. Mashable posted a (largely) unimpressive list of Petty songs that are used in movies, but I do like how Jonathan Demme put “American Girl”, Petty’s breakthrough song, in The Silence of the Lambs (1991) as an introduction of the senator’s daughter (Brooke Smith) who gets kidnapped by Buffalo Bill. Symbolic value, indeed.

Petty appeared as an actor in a few movies and TV shows. He played himself on several occasions on The Garry Shandling Show as a neighbor. He was a mayor in The Postman (1997), as seen in a few scenes in the clip above, but the lasting impression he made may have been on King of the Hill where he was the voice of “Lucky”. Perhaps the most rewarding cinematic experience you’ll have of Petty right now could be a film by Peter Bogdanovich. Runnin’ Down a Dream (2007) is a four-hour documentary and concert movie chronicling the rise of Tom Petty and his collaborations with The Heartbreakers and The Traveling Wilburys. The movie also features interviews with many performers who’ve been connected to Petty in one way or another.

Still, I think Tom Petty’s greatest work as a performer onscreen is in his music videos. I think I’ll enjoy his turn as the Mad Hatter once again tonight. 

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Mortdecai

SOPHISTICATION HAS A NAME.

Lord Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp), an art dealer and swindler who owes the U.K. government a lot of money, reluctantly agrees to help inspector Alistair Martland (Ewan McGregor) find a stolen Goya painting. This adaptation of a novel that’s part of a popular series of comic thrillers was maligned by critics and a box-office flop, but it helps to approach it as a bomb. The story is for the birds and there are far too few laughs in this over-the-top, silly adventure… but it isn’t dull and Paul Bettany is amusing as the manservant no woman can resist. Depp is probably having more fun than you.

2015-U.S. 107 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by David Koepp. Novel: Kyril Bonfiglioli (”Don’t Point That Thing at Me”). Cast: Johnny Depp (Charlie Mortdecai), Ewan McGregor (Alistair Martland), Gwyneth Paltrow (Johanna Mortdecai), Paul Bettany, Jonny Pasvolsky, Olivia Munn… Jeff Goldblum.

Trivia: Co-produced by Depp.

 

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), who’s being chased by an undead pirate hunter (Javier Bardem), joins forces with the son (Brenton Thwaites) of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) in the search for the Trident of Poseidon. The fifth entry in the series, this one also in 3D, has a busy plot but still drags for long stretches… and this is the shortest yet in the franchise. The climactic rescue on an anchor chain gets our adrenaline going though. The directors try hard to pump new blood into the franchise (as well as offer closure), but results are so-so. Bardem is a good, vividly designed ghost villain.

2017-U.S. 129 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg. Cast: Johnny Depp (Jack Sparrow), Javier Bardem (Armando Salazar), Brenton Thwaites (Henry Turner), Kaya Scodelario, Geoffrey Rush, Kevin McNally… Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Paul McCartney.

Trivia: Released outside the United States as Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge. Christoph Waltz was allegedly first cast as the main villain.

 

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

FROM J.K. ROWLING’S WIZARDING WORLD. 

In 1920s New York City, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) arrives from Britain carrying a peculiar suitcase that turns out to be bursting with magical creatures… In her screenwriting debut, J.K. Rowling returned to the world of Harry Potter, which had been explored in eight previous movies; this is a separate tale that takes place decades before the events at Hogwarts. Pleasingly familiar to Potter fans, perhaps a tad too formulaic for others, but still very enjoyable. Spectacular visual effects in 3D recreate New York of the day and bring us colorful beasts. In a sweet performance, Dan Fogler is the stand-out of the cast.

2016-U.S.-Britain. 133 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by David Yates. Screenplay, Novel: J.K. Rowling. Production Design: Stuart Craig, James Hambidge. Costume Design: Colleen Atwood. Cast: Eddie Redmayne (Newt Scamander), Katherine Waterston (Porpentina ”Tina” Goldstein), Dan Fogler (Jacob Kowalski), Alison Sudol, Colin Farrell, Carmen Ejogo… Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Ron Perlman, Jon Voight, Johnny Depp, Zoë Kravitz.

Trivia: Followed by Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018).

Oscar: Best Costume Design. BAFTA: Best Production Design.

 

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Donnie Brasco: A Made(Up) Man

IN 1978, THE U.S. GOVERNMENT WAGED A WAR AGAINST ORGANIZED CRIME. ONE MAN WAS LEFT BEHIND THE LINES. 

donniebrascoI was just listening to a political debate about Islamic terrorism. One of the participants talked about how intelligence agencies need to do more than just tap phones; they need to put ”boots on the ground” by trying harder to infiltrate terror cells. Perhaps they already are. I came to think of the story of Donnie Brasco and how an FBI agent infiltrated organized crime and spent a whole year undercover. Rightwing and Islamic terrorism are some of our time’s greatest threats, another kind of organized crime. Are there any new Donnie Brascos out there?

In the late 1970s, New York City gangster Benjamin ”Lefty” Ruggiero (Al Pacino) starts noticing a young man and asks around. He turns out to be Donnie Brasco (Johnny Depp), a jewel thief. ”Lefty” asks Donnie for the value of a ring he got from a diamond dealer, but Donnie tells him it’s a ”fugazzi”, fake. ”Lefty” doesn’t believe him, but when they go to the dealer Donnie turns out to be right and his aggressive attitude impresses the old gangster. ”Lefty” takes Donnie under his wing and introduces him to several ”made men”, notably Dominick ”Sonny Black” Napolitano (Michael Madsen) who is promoted to captain when the Bonnano family’s street boss is killed. As these men come to trust Donnie Brasco, they have no idea that he is in fact an FBI agent.

Stays true to the actual story
Director Mike Newell showed a wider range here, after a few pleasantly British comedies; this wouldn’t be his only movie to have a darker streak. The film stays true to the actual story of how Joseph D. Pistone infiltrated the Bonnano family, but takes a few liberties. In the book, Pistone writes about how close he came to ”Sonny Black” and that the mobster couldn’t believe that this man he had confided in turned out to be working for the feds. But screenwriter Paul Attanasio obviously thought it would be more interesting dramatically to make ”Lefty” the gangster who virtually becomes a father figure to Donnie/Joseph over the year. Pacino is excellent in that role, a sad figure who has grown older and is quickly losing influence even though he’s reputed for having 26 hits to his name. When ”Sonny Black” gets promoted, ”Lefty” confides in Donnie, letting him know how bitter he’s becoming. As the relationship between ”Lefty” and Donnie grows deeper, the more touching it is, especially since we all know that it is going to come to an end in one way or another. Depp is also compelling as the undercover agent. On the surface, his record at the FBI has been erased but he still has a wife and three daughters whom he rarely gets to see. The deeper he gets involved with the Bonnano family, the more he turns into an actual gangster, committing crimes and finding it hard to separate his mobster mentality when he talks to his wife. Anne Heche’s part is largely thankless, but the declining marriage between her and Depp says a lot about the immense sacrifice that Pistone makes, trying to ensure a successful investigation but also protecting ”Lefty” as much as he can. The film’s final scenes depicting Pistone and ”Lefty’s” ultimate fates are heartbreaking. Pacino is famous for his gangster movies, but this is an entirely different role, echoing a Shakespearian tragedy. The period details seem right; Patrick Doyle’s music score subtly emphasizes tension and emotion.

Pistone was involved in the making of the film and wrote in a subsequent book called ”Unfinished Business” that it is 90 per cent accurate. Doing what he did seems almost impossible… but the film brilliantly brings out the human aspects of such a lethal challenge.

Donnie Brasco 1997-U.S. 127 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Louis DiGiaimo, Mark Johnson, Barry Levinson, Gail Mutrux. Directed by Mike Newell. Screenplay: Paul Attanasio. Book: Joseph D. Pistone, Richard Woodley. Music: Patrick Doyle. Cast: Al Pacino (Benjamin ”Lefty” Ruggiero), Johnny Depp (Joseph Pistone/Donnie Brasco), Michael Madsen (Dominick ”Sonny Black” Napolitano), Bruno Kirby, James Russo, Anne Heche… Zeljko Ivanek, Tim Blake Nelson, Paul Giamatti.

Trivia: Also available in a 147-min. version. Joe Pesci was allegedly considered for a role. At an earlier stage, Stephen Frears and Tom Cruise were reportedly attached as director and star.

Quote: “Whackin’ the boss… another thing I get left out of.” (Pacino)

Last word: “Because ‘Four Weddings’ was a romantic comedy, I was getting a lot of romantic comedy scripts and most simply weren’t very good. And I don’t like doing the same trick twice because it bores me… So I really wanted to do something tough, about men. And I got the script by Paul Attanasio. And it had been on the shelf about six years, because it originally had been scheduled to get made at the same time ‘GoodFellas’ was being done. And the producers thought, quite wisely, that that wouldn’t work. So I got the script and thought the writing was just fabulous. There was a drama of real lives there.” (Newell, The Hollywood Interview)

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After New Hampshire Comes… Johnny Depp

It’s the day after the Democratic and Republican New Hampshire primaries and the time has come to take a deep breath and see where we stand now. Since I last blogged about the campaigns, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton barely won Iowa and decisively lost New Hampshire, while her Democratic rival Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders looked like a winner even when he lost Iowa. On the Republican side, business tycoon Donald Trump lost Iowa to Texas Senator Ted Cruz, but won New Hampshire (with Cruz falling far behind). Among the also-rans, Florida Senator Marco Rubio did really well in Iowa, and Ohio Governor John Kasich in New Hampshire. It’s a thrilling, unpredictable presidential race, but yesterday more analysts reached the conclusion that the GOP are going to have to accept that if nothing else sensational happens, Trump will be their nominee. Yes, the dirtbag who calls Cruz a “pussy” in the clip above, a moment that could serve as a symbol of how jaw-dropping this election cycle has become.

 

Today, Funny or Die released a 50-minute long movie “based on” the Donald’s book “Art of the Deal”, starring a heavily masked Johnny Depp as the crypto-fascist tycoon. Made to look like a TV production from the 1980s (complete with VCR flicker), this deliberately ineptly shot movie features appearances and performances by Patton Oswalt, Ron Howard, Alfred Molina, Henry Winkler, Christopher Lloyd, Andy Richter, ALF (still voiced by Paul Fusco!) and many others. Funny – but also strangely sad, because it gets at the heart of how scary Trump’s campaign is. A megalomaniacal  billionaire taking advantage of confused and angry voters on this level is not exactly any democracy’s proudest moment. Mind you, no Trump voter will change his mind after watching this parody.

In an op-ed piece for The Hollywood Reporter, Bill Maher writes that Sanders and Trump are successful because America is tired of political correctness. Self-serving, yes, but he’s obviously on to something there – voters on the left and the right really want to throw out the old and replace it with something new and outrageous. Still, the old guard is fighting hard. On the Republican side, John Kasich, who did so well in New Hampshire, is ready to prove to voters that he’s sane, and (unlike Rubio) older and stronger. The spot above was released by the obviously upbeat Kasich campaign as it turns its attention toward South Carolina.

Martin O’Malley, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Rand Paul are now gone from the race. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is reportedly pondering the future of his campaign. Next stop is Nevada for Democrats and South Carolina for Republicans, both on February 20th, followed by Nevada for Republicans on the 23rd and South Carolina for Democrats on the 27th. The Nevada race is just another caucus; the South Carolina primary is more important. Trump and Clinton both enjoy solid advantages there. Trump is likely to keep his, but we all wonder if Sanders has enough momentum from Iowa and New Hampshire to pose a real challenge to Clinton there.

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Black Mass

KEEP YOUR ENEMIES CLOSE.

blackmassIn the late 1970s, the FBI makes a deal with up-and-coming Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp); in exchange for information on his rivals, the authorities turn a blind eye to Bulger’s activities. One of the most outrageous cases of corruption, where law enforcement ended up protecting the most dangerous mobster in the history of Boston, gets a traditional but engrossing take in this movie that focuses on Bulger and the Special Agent who became too close to his old neighborhood. The filmmakers handle the inevitable gangster clichés deftly, but are careful at the same time to maintain realism. Still, it wouldn’t be this entertaining without Depp’s chilly performance. 

2015-U.S. 122 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Scott Cooper, John Lesher, Patrick McCormick, Brian Oliver, Tyler Thompson. Directed by Scott Cooper. Screenplay: Mark Mallouk, Jez Butterworth. Book: Dick Lehr, Gerard O’Neill. Cast: Johnny Depp (James “Whitey” Bulger), Joel Edgerton (John Connolly), Benedict Cumberbatch (William “Billy” Bulger), Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, Jesse Plemons… Corey Stoll, Peter Sarsgaard, Juno Temple.

Trivia: Co-executive produced by Brett Ratner. Guy Pearce was allegedly first cast for a role. The story of Bulger was also told in the documentary Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger (2014).

Last word: “I came across many people that – because I have a lot of non-actors in the film – and a couple of them had worked for Whitey, seeing really all different sides. I wanted to put forth the multifaceted portrait of this man, but again, you’re making a narrative feature. It’s not in service as a documentary. I don’t think people come to movies for facts. I think they come for psychological truth and humanity and emotion.” (Cooper, Coming Soon)

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From Religion to Porn to Horror Greatness

One of the world’s great horror directors, Wes Craven, has passed away at the age of 76. In the clip above, he talks to Fangoria about the forbidding environment of his Christian upbringing and what role it played as he became a filmmaker. It is certainly easy to trace that negative influence to his films, but also interesting how he turned it into something positive – for himself and for us.

After a brief spell as a teacher, the Cleveland native turned to making movies – porn in fact, for a while, until he was able to put together The Last House on the Left (1972), a movie that was inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring (1960). The gruesome scene above is so disturbing not only because of the violence and the blood, but because of its chilling calm, the sheer determination of the sadistic killers. The movie was shocking in its day, and has become a classic. The same is true for that other memorable Wes Craven flick from that decade, The Hills Have Eyes (1977).

Craven’s commercial breakthrough came in 1984, with A Nightmare on Elm Street that introduced not only Freddy Krueger, one of the decade’s biggest horror icons, but also Johnny Depp who was killed off in the spectacular scene above.

Craven reinvented the genre in the 1990s. After what might look like a trial balloon, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994), the director gave us Scream (1996), a horror movie with a sense of humor, packed with meta references to the genre. As with the Freddy Krueger movies, teenagers were the target audience. Another iconic killer was introduced, Ghostface, in the scene above, an incredibly well staged sequence where Drew Barrymore is subjected to a lethal quiz.

Other notable films in Craven’s oeuvre include the thriller Red Eye (2005), which is not a horror movie, but a very exciting Hitchcock exercise, and Music of the Heart (1999), a drama starring Meryl Streep that gave the actress one of her many Oscar nominations.

Many of the people who worked with Craven talked yesterday about what a friendly man he was. Kevin Smith had a hockey comparison to show just how highly he thought of Craven:

Scream has turned into a TV series recently, and it was announced yesterday that the last episode of the first season will honor Craven’s memory. Rest in peace.

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Into the Woods

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR. 

 

intotehwoodsChicago and Nine director Rob Marshall is the right person to bring this complex Broadway musical to the big screen. Assembling a variety of famous characters from Grimm Brothers fairy tales, the story sends them into the forbidding woods and explores what drives their actions. A few changes from the original have been made, but nothing big; this is still an adult experience, with undertones of even darker things than what we see on screen, with Johnny Depp as a creepy wolf/pedophile. Uneven, mostly because few of the songs are real standouts, but intelligent and gorgeously staged. A good cast, especially Meryl Streep as the witch.

2014-U.S. 124 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by John DeLuca, Rob Marshall, Callum McDougall, Marc Platt. Directed by Rob Marshall. Screenplay, Book: James Lapine. Songs: Stephen Sondheim (“Into the Woods”, “No One Is Alone”). Cinematography: Dion Beebe. Production Design: Dennis Gassner. Costume Design: Colleen Atwood. Cast: Meryl Streep (The Witch), Emily Blunt (The Baker’s Wife), James Corden (The Baker), Anna Kendrick (Cinderella), Chris Pine, Tracey Ullman… Christine Baranski, Johnny Depp.

Trivia: Emma Stone was allegedly considered for a role.

Last word: “It was always something I always had in the back of my mind, but I wanted to make sure it was the right time. It was in 2011, it was the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and I was watching President Obama speak to the families of the victims on television. He said to them, ‘You are not alone. No one is alone.’ I thought, ‘Oh my gosh. What an important message for children of today.’ Obviously, it’s the sort of penultimate song in ‘Into the Woods.’ It was that moment that I thought, ‘This might be the right time to do this.’ I called James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim and said, ‘Can I have this to do?’ They were thrilled. So it was a nice beginning.” (Marshall, Coming Soon)

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Richard Grieco at 50: Where is He Now?

Richard Grieco turns 50 years old today. Congratulations are in order, but this might be a case where we actually have to ask ourselves: what is he up to these days? Originally a fashion model for Calvin Klein and other brands, Grieco got his breakthrough as an actor on 21 Jump Street, competing with Johnny Depp for the spot as the show’s number one heartthrob; eventually, he landed a short-lived spin-off called Booker. In the clip above, he makes an appearance at Comic-Con in San Diego last summer to talk about games. Essentially staying true to his look from the late 1980s, early ’90s, he’s starting to look a bit like Alice Cooper.

Grieco got a shot at movie stardom in the shape of a teen-oriented action comedy called If Looks Could Kill (1991); the same year he also played “Bugsy” Siegel in Mobsters. Both films bombed and his career never recovered after that, in spite of attempts to revive it as a musician and a painter. In later years, his acting stints have been sporadic at best. Last year, he played Booker again in a 22 Jump Street cameo. He’s also appearing in lots of films that are released straight to DVD and VOD; one of them is Minutes to Midnight this year, a horror movie where one of his co-stars is Kane Hodder, better known as Jason in several Friday the 13th movies.

In this jaw-droppingly bad short film called Viral Video (2014), Grieco plays a stalker terrorizing the YouTube personality Trisha Paytas. OK, so his career hasn’t exactly lived up to its promise from the late 1980s. On the other hand, Johnny Depp isn’t looking too good these days either.

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Tusk

LET ME TELL YOU A STORY…

tuskPodcast host Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) goes to Manitoba, Canada to interview a guy who accidentally chopped off his leg, but ends up a guest at the mansion of a retired seaman (Michael Parks) with stories to tell – and a frightening plan to enact. Kevin Smith gave Parks another juicy role after Red State (2011) as a man with a dream in this very freaky horror-comedy. Not for all tastes, the film even introduces a clownish Clouseau-type French-Canadian cop, played by Johnny Depp, halfway in that will divide audiences. But you’re never quite sure where Smith is headed, and the film gets points for originality, its sense of humor and game cast.

2014-U.S. 102 min. Color. Widescreen. Written, directed and edited by Kevin Smith. Cast: Michael Parks (Howard Howe), Justin Long (Wallace Bryton), Genesis Rodriguez (Ally Leon), Haley Joel Osment, Johnny Depp, Harley Morenstein.

Trivia: Inspired by Smith’s own podcast. Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Melody Depp, daughters of the director and Johnny Depp, play bored teens in the store scenes. Quentin Tarantino was allegedly considered as the French-Canadian cop.

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The Lone Ranger

NEVER TAKE OFF THE MASK.

lonerangerLawyer John Reid (Armie Hammer) arrives in Texas in 1869 and is immediately drawn into a hunt for an outlaw (William Fichtner) that ends in tragedy – and a new career for John. The Pirates of the Caribbean crew and star lie behind this blockbuster adaptation of the classic matinée idol from radio, TV and movies. A box-office and critical failure, the movie is bloated but book-ended by spectacular (and funny) action sequences involving trains. Plenty of nods to the original and there’s an ambition to portray Native Americans as human beings, not stereotypical sidekicks. Hammer and Johnny Depp make a fun duo.

2013-U.S. 149 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Gore Verbinski. Cast: Johnny Depp (Tonto), Armie Hammer (John Reid), Tom Wilkinson (Latham Cole), William Fichtner, Helena Bonham Carter, Barry Pepper.

Trivia: Co-executive produced by Depp. Jessica Chastain was allegedly considered for a part.

Razzie: Worst Remake, Rip-Off or Sequel.

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The Greatest Hits of 2015

It’s time for that annual list of next year’s highly anticipated Hollywood films. Here’s 2015 for ya.

JANUARY:

* Blackhat – Michael Mann’s first directorial outing since Public Enemies (2009) is a cyber thriller starring Chris Hemsworth. Its January release makes it hard to really get excited about it. 

* Escobar: Paradise Lost – Notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar reaches the big screen in the shape of Benicio Del Toro. Josh Hutcherson plays the innocent young man who becomes a witness to Escobar’s life of crime. 

* Still Alice – There have been several Alzheimer dramas before (most notably Away From Her (2007)), but this one boasts an already heavily lauded performance by Julianne Moore.

* Mortdecai – David Koepp is an unreliable director, but this art-heist comedy might be worth a look. A true star vehicle for Johnny Depp, who needs a hit.

FEBRUARY:

* Jupiter Ascending – The Wachowski siblings deliver another sci-fi movie, this time starring Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis. The stars will help, but it’s doubtful that audiences will be much attracted to the film.

* Kingsman: The Secret Service – An action thriller from Matthew Vaughn that follows a veteran secret agent taking on a protégé. Starring Colin Firth and Michael Caine. 

* Fifty Shades of Grey – No one expects this adaptation of the hugely successful novel to be any good; the only question is how naughty will it be? And will audiences line up to find out? Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan are in the leads.

MARCH:

* Cinderella – Kenneth Branagh directs this movie that seems to follow in the footsteps of Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and the Huntsman and Maleficent. Lily James plays Cinderella in the live-action version. 

* Insurgent – The sequel to Divergent (2014). It’s hard to separate this series from the Hunger Games movies and all the other dystopian youth thrillers. But the first film was a huge hit. 

* Serena – Susanne Bier’s first American film since Things We Lost in the Fire (2007) is a Depression-era drama about a love affair between a girl and a millionaire. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are likely to bring star power.

APRIL:

* Furious 7 – There’s an anxiety to make this movie worth the effort, considering it’s Paul Walker’s last. It will no doubt be interesting to see how well the filmmakers have worked around his absence. It certainly looks wild.

* Child 44 – Daniel Espinosa directs this adaptation of an excellent hard-boiled bestseller, a serial-killer thriller set in Stalin’s Soviet Union. Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and Gary Oldman are headlining.

MAY:

* Avengers: Age of Ultron – Summer puts in a higher gear with this sequel that reunites some of our favorite superheroes.  I hope Joss Whedon lives up to the original, and I look forward to watching James Spader as the villain.

* Mad Max: Fury Road – Perhaps few expected George Miller’s belated sequel to the 1980s franchise to be noteworthy, but the trailers that have been released so far indicate a furious thrill ride. Tom Hardy is in the lead. 

* Tomorrowland – A new Brad Bird movie is always worth a look. This sci-fi adventure, that was co-authored by Damon Lindelof and stars George Clooney, looks very intriguing.

JUNE:

* Jurassic World – It’s been 14 years since the last Jurassic Park movie and that time difference is illustrated in the story of this sequel. Now it’s a fully operational theme park, and very busy. I’m sure everything will go wrong. 

* Inside Out – The new Pixar movie is a weird concept. We follow the emotions inside a little girl, all represented by quirky characters. Co-directed by Monsters, Inc. director Pete Docter.

* Ricki and the Flash – Meryl Streep plays an aging rock star who’s trying to reconnect with her kids. May sound unremarkable, but Jonathan Demme is directing and Streep is probably a hoot to watch. And there’s Kevin Kline.

JULY:

* Terminator Genisys – Terminator Salvation (2007) failed to jump-start this franchise, but here comes a movie that seems to be everything – a sequel, a remake and a prequel all at once. And Arnold Schwarzenegger returns. Has to be seen. 

* Ant-Man – Can’t say I’m excited about this latest superhero project, but perhaps a sense of humor will boost it, as in the case of Guardians of the Galaxy. The cast has Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly.

AUGUST:

* The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – Guy Ritchie directs this adaptation of the 1960s spy series. I guess Warner is hoping for their own Mission: Impossible franchise. Stars Henry Cavill and Hugh Grant.

* Straight Outta Compton – The story of the legendary hiphop group N.W.A. reaches the big screen. Director F. Gary Gray’s first film in six years. Paul Giamatti is in the cast.

SEPTEMBER:

* Everest – A star-studded thriller about a Mount Everest expedition that is hit by a snowstorm. Starring Keira Knightley, Jake Gyllenhaal, Robin Wright and Josh Brolin.

* Black Mass – Infamous Boston mob boss Whitey Bulger is the subject of this film that focuses on his rise. Johnny Depp plays Bulger and the cast also has Benedict Cumberbatch, Sienna Miller and Joel Edgerton.

OCTOBER:

* The Walk – Did you see the documentary Man on Wire (2008)? Well, here comes Robert Zemeckis’s fictionalized version, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The teaser is eye-popping, and I believe this is an occasion where the 3D will truly serve a purpose.

* The Jungle Book – Hard to tell what Jon Favreau might make of this adaptation, but it seems inspired by the Disney version as much as Rudyard Kipling. Bill Murray and Christopher Walken will provide the voices of Baloo and King Louie.

* Crimson Peak – Guillermo del Toro directs this ghost movie starring Charlie Hunnam and Jessica Chastain. Early footage was a hit at Comic-Con last summer.

NOVEMBER: 

* Spectre – The 24th James Bond movie promises to reintroduce both SPECTRE and Blofeld. Daniel Craig returns and Christoph Waltz plays the villain. Sam Mendes is back in the directing chair after the success of Skyfall (2012). 

* The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 – The book certainly did not need to be divided into two separate movies, but here’s the final film in this franchise.

* Midnight Special – Take Shelter director Jeff Nichols returns with a film about a man who goes on the lam with his son after discovering that the boy has special powers. Stars Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst and Michael Shannon.

DECEMBER:

* Star Wars: The Force Awakens – The most heavily anticipated movie of the year. The teaser trailer got everybody curious and J.J. Abrams’s take on this franchise certainly looks exciting. Now we’re waiting for a first look of the old stars…

* Mission: Impossible 5 – Both the plot and, likely, the title are unknown at this time. But Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner and the other familiar faces from this franchise are returning. Christopher McQuarrie, who made Jack Reacher, is helming.

* Joy – David O. Russell is back with another vehicle for Jennifer Lawrence, who plays a Long Island single mom who becomes a wildly successful entrepreneur. Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro are also in the cast.

* The Revenant – Alejandro González Iñárritu directs this drama about a frontiersman who sets out for revenge in the 1820s. Stars Tom Hardy and Leonardo DiCaprio.

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