You may have heard that 2015 is all set to be a remarkable year for cinema. It's true, there's never been a line-up of blockbusters like it, with huge titles liberally scattered across the calendar. It's not just huge franchises though, some of the medium's most revered directors return to the big screen and potential festival line-ups are buzzing with some of the most exciting talents working today. As with last January, to aid you with planning your year's cinemagoing, I've highlighted one film from each month that looks unmissable. It was hard narrowing it down to just one but I've concentrated hard and I think I've pulled it off.
Whiplash (16 January)
January is always the trickiest month to select just one title because there are just so many good films out, however, there is one film I'd pick above all others. Whiplash is the tale of a talented young jazz drummer, who joins a New York jazz conservatory and comes into conflict with a sociopathic instructor whose methods are unorthodox, to say the least. It's also my favourite film I've seen in the last year. The story is as tight as a drum (sorry), the two main performances by Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons are awards-worthy and it all builds to the most exciting climax of any film in living memory. Coupled with the fact the director was only 28 when he made it and it was all shot in 19 days, it's a cinematic miracle. It's already in cinemas, so whatever you do for the rest of January, don't miss this film.
It Follows (27 February)
Icon Entertainment is developing quite a track record for distributing the best in independent cinema. The second half of last year alone saw them release Cold In July, The Guest and The Babadook and surprisingly, the best is still to come with It Follows. A teenage girl (Maika Monroe) is afflicted with a sexually transmitted curse that results in a malevolent entity slowly following her wherever she goes and the only way to stop it is to pass it on to someone else. It's an ingenious concept, brilliantly executed with a haunting, piercing score and when I calmed down from the excitement of watching it, I realised I was severely creeped out. It's the horror film to beat in 2015.
Top Five (20 March)
Chris Rock is one of the most revered stand-up comedians of all time, yet his most famous screen role to date is probably in the Grown Ups franchise. I'm sure Chris isn't too happy about that, which is probably why he's written, directed and stars in this new comedy. He plays a comedian who tries to make it as a serious actor when his reality-TV star fiancée talks him into broadcasting their wedding on her TV show. Early word suggests that this is the first film to properly utilise Rock's stand-up persona, so that in itself makes it a must-see.
John Wick (10 April)
Keanu Reeves' career has generally been a succession of forgettable titles (did anyone see Henry's Crime?) punctuated by a blistering stunner (Point Break, Speed, The Matrix). He's recently had a succession of forgettable titles, so hopefully John Wick is the stunner to punctuate them. Reeves plays the titular character, who happens to be a retired hitman. As is always the case (has any hitman just stayed retired?) something brings him out of retirement and he has to exact vengeance on a succession of ne'er-do-wells in increasingly brutal fashion. The trailer is a knock-out and according to the stateside reviews, it delivers exactly what a film of this kind should do. Count me in.
Pitch Perfect 2 (15 May)
Some comedy sequels are not welcome but one that most definitely is, is Pitch Perfect 2. The first Pitch Perfect, aside from a couple of bum notes, was one of the more satisfying comedies of 2012 and as you'd expect from a film about acapella groups, it had some cracking musical numbers. This sequel reunites all the main characters and adds Hailee Steinfeld. Elizabeth Banks makes her directing debut and once again reprises her role as the acerbic commentator, Gail, while Anna Kendrick is set to retain the title of the most engaging person in film.
Jurassic World (12 June)
Dinosaurs are making a comeback in 2015, mark my words, and the main reason for that is Jurassic World. As we're all adults here, I'll take it as read that we've all seen Jurassic Park - I'm pretty sure it was part of my school's curriculum - and I'm sure we can all agree that it's still one of the best blockbusters of all time. Forget the not-so-great sequels (apart from that breaking glass bit in The Lost World), this is the Jurassic Park sequel I've been waiting for. The park is fully operational, hopefully with insurance, and the foolish park operators have decided that they need to create a new dinosaur to keep enticing the crowds. The ever-so-watchable Chris Pratt (The Lego Movie, Guardians Of The Galaxy) looks to continue his hot streak as the park ranger who has to tidy the ensuing mess up.
Inside Out (17 July)
For the first time in their history, Pixar have two films released in one calendar year in 2015 and the first to hit screens has the potential to be their best for years. Told from the perspective of the emotions inside the mind of a little girl, it's directed by one of Pixar's most talented directors, Pete Docter (Up, Monsters, Inc) and written by Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3). It's ingenious, inventive and something only Pixar would attempt, and likely pull off. This is the most exciting animated title in a year with a few and could be Pixar's biggest hit since Toy Story 3.
Trainwreck (28 August)
Over the last 15 years Judd Apatow has been one of the most influential names in comedy, producing Bridesmaids, Superbad and HBO television show, Girls amongst countless others, but his own directorial projects since Knocked Up have been met with ever decreasing fanfare. I'll accept that every film he's directed is at least 15 minutes too long (for Funny People, it's 45 minutes) but they're always perceptive, brilliantly cast, and most importantly, very funny. Trainwreck features relative newcomer, Amy Schumer, whose love-life is something of a disaster (hence, trainwreck). Bill Hader plays the man who may yet get the (love) train on the right tracks. As you'd expect, the support cast is a cracker, including Brie Larson, Tilda Swinton, Marisa Tomei and Daniel Radcliffe.
Triple Nine (11 September)
The best word to describe John Hillcoat's directorial career so far (The Proposition, The Road, Lawless) would probably be 'gritty' or 'dusty'. His next project looks like it fits more with the former than the latter. A gang of criminals and corrupt cops plan the murder of a police officer in order to pull off their biggest heist yet. Hillcoat has shown to date that he can attract the very best actors and he's done it again with Winslet, Harrelson, Affleck (C) and Ejiofor all saying yes to Triple Nine. Perhaps most intriguingly though, anyone who has seen The Walking Dead is bound to have some kind of crush on Norman Reedus, so seeing him in this on the big screen is set to be a treat.
Spectre (23 October)
In a year filled with big films, Spectre is surely the biggest. Skyfall broke UK box office records in 2012 becoming the first film to gross over £100m and it banked over $1billion worldwide too. If you were creating a list of ideal cast members for this 24th Bond film (and I'm not saying I didn't do this) Christoph Waltz would be top of the villain list and Lea Seydoux and Monica Bellucci would probably be battling it out for the top of the Bond girl list. So either the producers share my opinion or they stole my list, because they've all been signed up for Spectre. With Sam Mendes returning in the director's chair, expect the same level of craftsmanship and style as in Skyfall and this coupled with the return of Daniel Craig means that in 2015 Spectre is the film to beat.
The Martian (26 November)
There's no getting away from the fact that Ridley Scott hasn't made a classic film in decades but even his less notable projects have a level of craft and artistry that most big budget directors can't match. As someone who was very much pro-Prometheus, despite the idiocy of Fifield and Milburn, and even enjoyed the thick, slightly impenetrable dialogue in The Counsellor, I eagerly anticipate any project from one of the UK's greatest working directors. The Martian is based on Andy Weir's novel about an astronaut left stranded on Mars, who faces a fight for survival in the harshest environment. The cast is terrific - Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig - and one thing is certain, it'll look stunning. Fingers crossed that this is up there with Scott's best.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (18 December)
In any year without a Bond film, this would be a near certainty for the title of biggest film of the year. JJ Abrams has swapped the Enterprise for the Millenium Falcon and he's very wisely signed up Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher. The new cast members are intriguing too, with British actor John Boyega (Attack the Block) in the lead and Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver in supporting roles. The first trailer did a great job of removing any apprehension around bringing Star Wars back to the big screen and also making you forget Episodes I-III. As soon as Han Solo is seen back in the Falcon, any lingering doubts will surely be blown away. I can't wait.
Twelve months and twelve films and I didn't even mention the new films from Steven Spielberg (St. James' Place), Robert Zemeckis (The Walk) and Guillermo Del Toro (Crimson Peak). It all makes for what's shaping up to be a terrific year.