It's Arnold Schwarzenegger as you've never seen him before: as the father of a zombie teenager, depressed out of his mind. Henry Hobson's debut feature (after designing the title sequences for films like Rango and The Lone Ranger) is a challenging genre hybrid, using horror as a backdrop for an emotionally realistic story about dying from a terminal illness, and the way it affects the people who love. Maggie is such a severe motion picture that it's hard to know exactly who to recommend it to, but when it finds its target demographic - whoever they are - it's going to hit them hard.
Andrew Niccol, the director of Gattaca and writer of The Truman Show, doesn't make stupid movies. Even his last film, The Host, was an honest attempt to turn Stephanie Meyer's sci-fi romance into a thoughtful examination of what makes us human. But we're way more excited for Good Kill, which stars Ethan Hawke as a drone pilot who begins to question the ethics of his job. It's a challenging, important conversation to have, and Niccol seems like the perfect filmmaker to tackle it.
Whether When Marnie Was There turns out to be the last film ever made by Studio Ghibli, or simply the last film they make before taking a very long sabbatical, it's bound to be an important release. Arguably the greatest animation studio in the world, Studio Ghibli has never produced a bad film, and When Marnie Was There looks to be as emotional as any other. Hiromasa Yonebayashi directs his second film since The Secret World of Arrietty, another story about a young person sent away to the country, who makes a special but mysterious friend.
Paul Dano and John Cusack play Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson, while he was writing the seminal album Pet Sounds, and years later as he struggles with mental illness. Love & Mercy received rave reviews out of the SXSW Film Festival (including this one from CraveOnline), and looks to be an illuminating portrait of a truly great musician.
The winner of both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at this year's Sundance Film Festival, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl combines a love for cinema with the powerful emotion of grief, as two art house film lovers befriend a young girl dying of leukemia. But it's not a downer. CraveOnline called it beautiful and hilarious when it premiered on the festival circuit early in 2015.
Miroslav Slaboshpitsky's unique new drama The Tribe has been one of the most talked about independent films for months now, wowing critics on the festival circuit since Fantastic Fest. Featuring a cast comprised entirely of deaf actors, and filmed entirely in sign language. CraveOnline called it "outstanding filmmaking" last year, and this summer you'll be able to see for yourself if this drama about sex, drugs and prostitution at a boarding school for the deaf is as good as all our hype.
Indie films can be action movies too. Case in point: Big Game, a badass thriller about a young boy hunting alone in the woods who comes across the wreckage of Air Force One, and winds up defending the President of the United States (Samuel L. Jackson) from heavily armed terrorists. The premise is insane, and director Jelmari Helander (Rare Exports) knows exactly when to play it straight, and when to remind the audience that Big Game has been made in the spirit of superlative fun. CraveOnline called it "a fist-pumping old-meets-new school thrill ride" when it played the Toronto International Film Festival last year, and we stand by that assessment.
The documentary The Act of Killing is one of the best films of the decade (so far), illustrating the horrors of the Indonesian death squads from the denial-laced perspective of the killers themselves, who are revered as heroes in their home country and were encouraged to make a fictionalized film about their exploits. The sequel, The Look of Silence, could be equally powerful, this time following the family of one of the deceased as they confront the murderers who changed their lives forever. Having seen the first film, and the horrors depicted therein, we get chills just thinking about how The Look of Silence will play out.
Director Bill Condon won an Academy Award for his biopic Gods & Monsters, starring Sir Ian McKellan as Frankenstein director James Whale. Now, they're back together, in another drama about an aging overachiever looking back on his incredible life. This time, the protagonist is Sherlock Holmes (McKellan), whose memory is failing, and who has one last mystery to solve. If Condon and McKellan manage to recapture their old magic, Mr. Holmes will be a must-see.
Before "talking head" journalism became a haven for straw men and finger pointing, it was a revolutionary new idea in television. The stellar new documentary Best of Enemies depicts the fascinating true story of the intense series of debates held between William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal during the 1968 Republic National Convention, and setting the stage and then letting two of the brightest minds in America history sling barbs at each other. The event, like the documentary, was spellbinding. What it left in its wake was tragic. As we said after this film's premiere at Sundance, Best of Enemies is "is almost as smart, funny and vicious as Buckley and Vidal themselves."
From James Ponsoldt, the director of The Spectacular Now (also one of the best movies of the decade so far), comes an engrossing new drama about Rolling Stone writer David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) and his days-long interview with brilliant Infinite Jest author David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel). The End of the Tour is mostly just two guys talking, but the give and take between one aspiring author brimming with jealousy, and one accomplished but lonely author simply desperate to connect makes for fascinating cinema. We called The End of the Tour "a profound experience" after its premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, and it's probably destined to wind up on our list of the Best Films of 2015.
Writer/director Paul Weitz is reportedly back to his About a Boy best with Grandma, which stars Lily Tomlin as a woman dragging her granddaughter around town, trying to raise the $600 they need to pay for an abortion. Weitz has a great history of turning hard emotional truths into winning comedy, according to our Sundance review, "Tomlin hasn't been funnier since All of Me."
Another "best films of 2015" contender, Sleeping With Other People looks like a raunchy romantic comedy, and plays like a raunchy romantic comedy, because it is a raunchy romantic comedy. But it is also the best romantic comedy in many, many, many years, brimming with fascinating characters, witty dialogue and genuine arousal. Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie co-star as sex-obsessed former college chums who reconnect, and vow to remain platonic even though they clearly want to bone each other's brains out. Leslye Headland's sparkling screenplay and engaging direction makes the old rom-com tropes feel new again, and adds some few memorable twists of her own into the mix.