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2015 at the movies: A&E editor Kaylen Strench picks out the most promising and anticipated films of the upcoming year

By Kaylen Strench, Arts and Entertainment Editor     1/14/15 4:18am

Okay, I know it’s not even Oscar season yet. That said, it’s never too soon to start planning which films you’re going to spend $20 to see. In all seriousness, 2015 has all the makings of a golden year for cinema. From Fifty Shades of Grey to a new Star Wars flick to works by the entire spectrum of elite directors, the competition for top place at the box office is sure to be brutal. Fortunately, the Thresher has filtered through the mountain of promising releases to pick out those that you should actually invest your time and money into seeing. The following movies are sure to spark conversation and define film this year. 

The Quirky Indie

Title: That’s What I’m Talking About

Director: Richard Linklater (Boyhood)

Starring: Ryan Guzman (Step Up, All In), Zoey Deutch (Vampire Academy), Tyler Hoechlin (Teen Wolf)

Plot: Ambiguous, something about college baseball players in 1980s Texas.

What’s the Deal?: Though Linklater’s been an indie-film king since his sleeper hits Slacker (1991) and Dazed and Confused (1993), he moved into the mainstream consciousness this year with his Best Picture contender, Boyhood, a coming-of-age story filmed over 12 years. There’s some pressure for him to top his previous success — quite a challenge, particularly since he has only a fraction of the time to work. Whatever happens, Talking is sure to be deep, artistic and enlightening.


The Promising Comedy

Title: Masterminds

Director: Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite)

Starring: Kristen Wigg (Bridesmaids), Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers), Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover)

Plot: A humble night guard attempts a colossal bank robbery.

What’s the Deal?: This comedy, which won’t be released until mid-August, isn’t being discussed much yet. With such a proven, knockout cast and director, however, it seems hard to go wrong. Expect Masterminds to be as silly as Bridesmaids or The Hangover, but with an added edge of intelligence, similar to the vibe in Hess’s cult hit Napoleon Dynamite


The Throwback

Title: Macbeth

Director: Justin Kurzel (Snowtown)

Starring: Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave), Marion Cotillard (Inception)

Plot: See SparkNotes.

What’s the Deal?: Why should you care about yet another Shakespeare on film piece? First, there’s Justin Kurzel, the mysterious, fresh face known for his 2011 critical hit Snowtown, a chilling tale of murder in a small community. Kurzel’s sure to provide a dark take on Macbeth that you couldn’t have anticipated during your No Fear Shakespeare skim in high school English. Furthermore, the combination of Fassbender and Cotillard, two of the most impressive and star-studded actors in Hollywood, is worth watching in itself. 


The Sure Thing

Title: Silence

Director: Martin Scorsese 

Starring: Liam Neeson (Taken), Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man) and Adam Driver (Girls)

Plot: In the 17th century, Jesuit priests go on a dangerous mission to Japan to meet up with their mentor and convert people to Christianity.

What’s the Deal?: Scorsese may have the best resume of any living director in Hollywood. He’s been making classics for over 40 years — from Taxi Driver to The Wolf of Wall Street. Even more interesting, however, is the strange plot synopsis he’s released for Silence and the eclectic cast. It seems like Scorsese has left cocaine and yachts far behind, and it’ll be fascinating to see what he does with this dark period piece.


The Violent Western

Title: The Hateful Eight

Director: Quentin Tarantino 

Starring: Channing Tatum (Foxcatcher), Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained)

Plot: A group of bounty hunters get stranded during a blizzard in late 18th-century Wyoming. Eventually, things take a strange turn for the worst.

What’s the Deal?: We all know Tarantino can hit a home run, something he’s proven again and again with classics like Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. What’s interesting about this film is its unexpected star, Channing Tatum. Tatum’s range seems to have no ceiling; he’s excelled in both comedic roles (21 Jump Street) and in extremely intense, complex characters (Foxcatcher). That  said, Tarantino’s violent, aggressive characters require a style of performance likely to pose a new challenge for the young actor. And no matter what happens, we’re sure to get an exciting, bloody thriller with a layer of intellectual complexity.


The Sci-Fi Action Flick

Title: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens 

Director: J.J. Abrams (Lost)

Starring: Harrison Ford (42), Mark Hamill (Star Wars Episode IV), Carrie Fischer (Star Wars Episode IV)

Plot: All we know is that it’s set 30 years after Episode VI and is a continuation of that film.

What’s the Deal?: What can I say? It’s Star Wars, it speaks for itself and it’s a proven formula of a deep plot with rich themes, complex characters and all the fun of the sci-fi genre. The main novelty of this film is director J.J. Abrams, who solidified his reputation for expressing suspense and creating top-notch action sequences with the series Lost and movies like Mission Impossible III. Hopefully Abrams can infuse something fresh and unexpected into this series, which, to be honest, is getting a little stale (sorry Star Wars fans). 


Kaylen’s Pick:

Title: Knight of Cups

Director: Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)

Starring: Joe Manganiello (True Blood), Christian Bale (The Dark Knight), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)

Plot: A man gets caught up in the life of the rich and famous and loses himself as a result.

What’s the Deal?: It’s really difficult to vocalize the beauty and power of Terrence Malick films unless you’ve seen them. The beautiful cinematography and spiritual themes of his movies are deeply moving. This film, a follow-up to his weird, wonderful The Tree of Life, could be Malick’s magnum opus. It is already dominating film festivals and receiving attention across the industry. Watch the trailer – you won’t need any more convincing that this is the 2015 release we should be most excited about.

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