5. Guardians of the Galaxy
Starring: Chris Pratt, Lee Pace, Zoe Saldana
Director: James Gunn
Writers: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman
Release Date: August 1
Out of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, Guardians of the Galaxy is the most riskiest production. Not only do you have a relatively unknown comic book property, but it's a completely odd set of characters: An American Astronaut, a green-skinned alien who is the daughter of the possible Avengers 2 villain Thanos, a human gladiator, a talking tree and a talking raccoon. On top of all that you have a bunch of newer actors portraying this group - Chris Pratt (mainly known for his portrayal of lovable oaf Andy from TV's Parks and Rec), Dave Bautista (a former pro wrestler), Zoe Saldana (which many people will recognize as Uhura in Star Trek, but few know her name) and Lee Pace (The Hobbit) as the villain. The most recognizable cast members are doing voice work - Bradley Cooper is voicing the Rocket Raccoon and Vin Diesel will be the voice behind the Groot, the talking tree-like alien. A huge departure from the superhero norm - 95% of the movie is going to take place in space and while still tied loosely to the Avengers Universe, will be a completely stand alone movie that works by itself. It sounds like this movie is laying the foundation for not only some of the plot threads in Avengers 2, but possibly Phase 3 of Marvel's Cinematic Universe. I think this is simply astonishing that producer Kevin Feige and Marvel have assembled an outline that far in advance. I'm excited to see this space opera play out - James Gunn (who's previous directing efforts were the fun Slither and the very subversive Super) has stated that the film is more Star Wars than anything. Hell yeah! Details about the plot are under wraps, but it should be interesting to see how the movie combines all these superhero aspects into a science fiction space opera. I have really high expectations for this movie simply because Marvel hasn't had a misstep in all of these movies that are tied together. If they market this movie in the right way, it could do gangbusters at the box office and I think Guardians could be an unexpected hit next August!
Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writers: Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel
Release Date: March 28
If you thought Guardians of the Galaxy was weird, try imagining an art-house director whose known for his deep, psychological dramas (Black Swan, The Fountain, Requiem for a Dream) take on a biblical epic that sounds more like Roland Emmerich would direct. And then hire a Oscar-winning cast (Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Connelly) and decide to put this summer tentpole movie's release date in March. Talk about weird. But here it is, Noah - a film Darren Aronofsky has wanted to make for 6 years, finally getting a grand, sweeping Hollywood production. I'm not a huge fan of biblical stories or historical dramas - they tend to be boring for me and I always end up forgetting who is who along the way. But I trust Aronofsky and his writing partner, Ari Handel, to lead us into the promised land (sorry, wrong bible story!). This to me is the riskiest movie on my list - historical dramas can be hit or miss (Gladitor was HUGE, but Kingdom of Heaven? Not so much). And I could see it being a huge misfire from Aronofsky - where the production dwarfs the actual story and character. I have faith that this won't happen, but there has been plenty of examples where critically acclaimed directors faulter when they try and do something radically different (Ang Lee's Hulk comes to mind immediately, along with Martin Scorcese and The Age of Innocence, Clint Eastwood and Hereafter). This should be a spectacle and I think this film is going to blow me away - it's the least I expect from everyone involved in this film.
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill
Director: Phil Lord, Chris Miller
Writers: Michael Bacall, Rodney Rothman, Oren Uziel
Release Date: June 13
Sequels to comedies are becoming more and more common nowadays as studios see the money-making potential of comedy franchises thanks to movies like The Hangover and Grown Ups. But most of the time, it's hard for these comedies to live up to the original, let alone surpass it. They either get caught rehashing the same jokes like The Hangover, Part II, or the new storyline just isn't as strong, like the new Anchorman. Not to say these movies weren't funny, it's just that the first one is always better. 22 Jump Street is trying to be the exception and not the rule here and I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt even though I've been burned before. The reason is because everyone is back from the original - cast, writer and directors. But that isn't all - the trailer may call back some jokes from the original, but I love how the film is still acknowledging how ridiculous it is that they are doing a sequel (Nick Offerman's little monologue at the beginning is spot on hilarious) and college seems like the next best step for Tatum and Hill's odd couple. I hope college brings out the best in them and not stupid frat boy hijinks and terrible jokes.
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan
Release Date: November 7
Sometimes the mystery is what draws me to movies. Obviously the talent and setting have a huge impact, but much like most of Nolan's work and J.J. Abrams' - they know how to keep their movies on lockdown, especially now with the internet leaking secrets on a daily basis about almost everything. Nolan is done with Batman, which gives him time to explore new territory. He's already established that he can be a fantastic sci-fi director and in my opinion, hasn't really made a bad movie. Instellar should be another great movie that ends up being on critic's top 10 lists come next December. Apparently Nolan combined his idea for a movie with an existing script his brother wrote back in 2007. The premise is that scientists discover a wormhole and decide to send a team of explorers to travel through it. Time travel and alternate dimensions are said to play a heavy role in the film, but details are few. So you can at least expect the same amount of trippiness involved with the film Inception. What I like about Inception was that at its heart, it was a heist film set in a science fiction universe where people can dive into others' dreams. Inception knew it's plot and the setting provided us with some fantastic visuals and interesting metaphors and character development. And along with a fantastic cast, this should clearly be a winner. Matthew McConaughey has been on a role lately and there's not stopping him. Anne Hathaway surprised me a hellavu lot with her take on Catwoman and Jessica Chastain had one the best performances last year for Zero Dark Thirty. Add to that Casey Affleck, Wes Bentley and Michael Caine and this should be another great cast. While everything remains a up in the air, I don't think the success of the movie is a mystery - this will be awesome!
Starring: Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan
Director: Bryan Singer
Writer: Simon Kinberg
Release Date: May 23
There's been a lot of sequels on this list, but nothing gets me more excited than the sequel to the best X-Men movie so far! Days of Future Past is going to be HUGE - so huge, in fact, that Bryan Singer has stated this is the biggest film he's ever done. He even contacted James Cameron (the dude who brought us Aliens, Terminator 2, Titanic and Avatar) about doing a big production, but also time travel, string theory and multiverses. The story has the original cast sending Wolverine back in time to change history in order to save the mutant race. First of all - this is a big cast - a lot of the original trilogy cast is here and the newer cast as well. Plus you have a newer antagonist played by Peter Dinklage. I have pretty much loved the casting in all of the movies and to have them all in one movie is going to be spectacular. This is what a proper sequel does - raise the stakes and doubles down on character. Plus they're adding in time travel and who doesn't love time travel? Some of the best movies involve time travel - Terminator, Back to the Future, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. And with the recent announcement of X-Men: Apocalypse, it seems like the studio is taking a cue from Marvel and making sure they have an outline for the next set of movies. There is no reason this film shouldn't be the best movie next year, but it could collapse under its own weight. There might be too many characters and the plot could get messy. But I hope this thing is AT LEAST 3 hours because that seems appropriate for what's at stake in this movie. This should be a fantastic way to spend Memorial Day next year - you may see me camping out before midnight on this one.