While these next set of movies seem familiar, they're not quite directly related to and earlier movie (well, except for one). These are like cousins or something. I think this is great - I mean, a lot of attention next year is centered on a few big-time sequels, but despite that small handful, there's a lot of risky moves for the studio by taking existing properties and trying something different. It's a welcome change from just writing a direct sequel with all the same characters. And yes, I'm fully aware of my hypocrisy here by ranking the direct sequel as the top movie in this section. I can't help myself, I'm just excited about that one despite all the alarm bells going off that it might be terrible.
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Ezra Miller, Colin Farrell
Director: David Yates
Writer: J.K. Rowling
Release Date: November 18
Okay, I'm a HUGE Harry Potter fan, I've obsessed over the books and movies for countless hours. That being said, I have yet to pick up Rowling's side project set in the same universe - Fantastic Beasts. I really don't know too much about the books and if they're any good. But I feel a tinge more excited knowing that it takes place 70 years before the events of Harry Potter and it's in New York. Add the fact you have a fantastic cast - Eddie Redmayne (who one an Oscar last year for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking), the up-and-coming Ezra Miller (the new Flash) and Katherine Waterston (Steve Jobs), the underrated Colin Farrell, and frickin' Ron Perlman. The film is being helmed by previous Potter director David Yates and I love what he did with the last four films in Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling wrote the screenplay and it'll be interesting to see how she handles adapting her book to screen. This is her first real screenplay, so I'm a little wary of how that'll turn out. But there's lots of promise here and I'm excited to delve deep into the wizarding world again!
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon
Director: Paul Feig
Writers: Katie Dippold, Paul Feig
Release Date: July 15
Hooray for feminism! After being talked about for years and years, alls it took was for a few women to get together and decide they're doing their own damn Ghostbusters movie. Screw Channing Tatum and Chris Pratt (please don't, they're nice guys, but we just don't need you in this movie as well). And this is a straight-on reboot. The story is about a couple of scientists that posit ghosts are real and get laughed out of the scientific community. Then ghosts start to invade Manhattan and the two ladies form the Ghostbusters. This is probably a good decision - they're won't be any baggage from the other two movies that the movie has to address - it can live and die on its own. What's great is that Chris Hemsworth is making an appearance as the receptionist for the team. And although the movie will miss the cameo of Harold Ramis (RIP), the rest of the original cast will show up. Well, except for Rick Moranis, who is apparently too good for a cameo. That's fine, the movie doesn't need to reflect too long on the past - as long as the story is good and it's just as funny as the original, this should be a slam dunk for the studio. Katie Dippold, who's known for working on Parks & Rec and the Bullock/McCarthy buddy cop movie The Heat, is writing the script. I'm confident this will be a blast.
13. Doctor Strange
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton
Director: Scott Derrickson
Writers: C. Robert Cargill, Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, Jon Spaihts
Release Date: November 4
So far, Marvel's riskiest movies have paid off pretty well. Guardians of the Galaxy was the second-highest grossing movie in 2014 and Ant-Man was successful critically and financially - topping Captain America and Thor's worldwide grosses. So while Captain America: Civil War will capture most of the attention, Doctor Strange continues Marvel's experiment with oddball, quirky and fairly unknown superheroes that nonetheless have a devoted fanbase. I was a little wary with the choice of Cumberbatch for the role, but seeing him dressed up above, I feel a little bit more confident he's going to be a good fit. Marvel really hasn't missed a beat, even if Avengers 2 wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Plus the cast looks to be fantastic - Rachel McAdams has always been solid in everything she does and it sounds like she's playing the Natalie Portman role of this origin story. Mads Mikkelsen (better known as TV's Hannibal) will be protraying the villain and I just can't even. AND THEN you have Tilda Swinton playing The Ancient One, the mentor of Strange. This is great because Swinton is like a chameleon in every role she plays. Seriously, did you see her in Snowpiercer? And then see her in Trainwreck. Yes, those two are the same person! I love how they traded in the male character in the comics for a female. So yeah, the more I hear about this movie, the more I'm getting excited for it. This is another huge step/risk for Marvel and if they can pull this movie off, there's no character they can't turn into a hit (can we please just get a Black Widow movie now?). Phase 3 for Marvel is going to be great - we'll see the end of Captain America and Thor, the continuation of Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, new characters with Black Panter and Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel. So while the superhero genre is getting crowded, I think Marvel is doing a great job and mixing things up every year.
Starring: Travis Fimmel, Dominic Cooper, Paula Patton
Director: Duncan Jones
Writers: Duncan Jones, Charles Leavitt
Release Date: June 10
Speaking of risks, this is probably the most riskiest movie on the whole list. Universal has had a banner year (Furious 7, Jurassic World, Minions all topped a billion worldwide), but we'll see if that streak continues with Warcraft next year. There's been lots of rumors swirling around that the studio is a little worried about how to market this movie and its summer blockbuster prospects. While the budget isn't insane ($100 million reportedly), it's still going to sink or swim on whether it can cross half a billion worldwide. I've always loved the Warcraft strategy games. World of Warcraft is a universe I never want to step into - it just doesn't appeal to me. But the original games were fun and the stories were actually good. And it looks like the movie is basing itself more on the original strategy games than the mega-successful online World of Warcraft game. Which may or may not appeal to those fans, but I'm guessing is the better move for a more wide-appealing, critical success. While the movie looks pretty much like a LOTR clone, I think this can stand out with an exceptional story and characters. Duncan Jones has proven he's a great filmmaker - Moon and Source Code were great science fiction movies and I trust he can turn this fantasy epic into something special.
Starring: James McAvoy, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender
Director: Bryan Singer
Writer: Simon Kinberg
Release Date: May 27
I was super duper excited for X-Men: Days of Future Past, but was left feeling a little disappointed by the whole thing. It was still a fun movie, but First Class still remains the high bar for this franchise. I'm still excited for this movie even if the trailer leaves a little to be desired. I'm not going to lie, I kinda blame Bryan Singer for all of this. Sure, he handled the first two X-Men admirably, but the whole genre has moved beyond those films and I felt like Days of Future Past, which was his lauded return to the franchise as somewhat of a 'safe' and fairly by-the-books superhero movie. I think Singer is talented, but he just doesn't appeal to me and he feels a little granola in a way. Sure, you're going to get a decent film, but will it be memorable? Okay, it sounds like I'm bashing the whole film, but there's a lot to love here. Apocalypse continues the decade evolution of the X-Men and we've hit the 80s now. I kinda wish they'd just go full cheese with colorful suits and crimpy hairdos and leg warmers and SPANDEX. I mean, let's be honest - if the movie just embraced this 80s mentality, it might actually stand out. But the trailer looks like they're all wearing drabby grey clothes. Sigh. Oscar Isaac (who last melted your hearts as Poe Dameron, the love interest for Finn in Star Wars. Seriously, there's a bromance there waiting to happen), well, he's playing the badass Apocalypse who is just this insane mutant who has lived forever and can control other mutants and do some pretty bad ass shit. So yeah, this could be fun if they decide to raise the stakes a little bit and kill off a few, substantial characters. But I'm a little hesitant to get too excited - it still is Bryan Singer here and I feel like the studio is going to play it safe instead of making something truly memorable.