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2015 offers fresh films alongside sequels, adaptations

Tarantino's newest film, 'The Hateful Eight,' will feature a cast that includes Samuel L. Jackson and Channing Tatum, among others. IMDb

Drew Pendleton

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As the 2014 film year came to an end with Sunday’s Academy Awards, the 2015 film slate can finally begin to come into its own. Several 2015 releases have already underperformed, some severely so (“Blackhat,” “Jupiter Ascending,” “Mortdecai,” “Seventh Son”), and others have already made a massive mark on the box office landscape (“Fifty Shades of Grey,” “Spongebob: Sponge Out of Water”). Audiences will get new entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a new “Star Wars” and plenty of sequels, including ones to “Jurassic Park,” “Pitch Perfect” and “Ted,” but films that aren’t attached to a series can be just as ambitious and intriguing.

“Trainwreck” (July 17)

Since she got her own Comedy Central show, Amy Schumer’s stock in the world of Hollywood comedy has risen dramatically. While she’s been a presence on television and in the stand-up circuit, Schumer hasn’t had her movie breakthrough yet – until this July, that is, when “Trainwreck” is released. The film – in which Schumer writes and stars – recently released its first trailer, and it looks like a hysterical showcase of her talents. Sporting a huge ensemble cast that includes Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, Tilda Swinton, Daniel Radcliffe, LeBron James and John Cena under the direction of Judd Apatow (“Knocked Up”), “Trainwreck” could be the comedy hit of the summer.

“Southpaw” (July 31)

Jake Gyllenhaal has quickly become one of Hollywood’s best chameleonic actors. Soon after dropping 30 pounds for his unforgettable performance in 2014’s “Nightcrawler,” he hit the gym again for Antoine Fuqua’s “Southpaw” – so much so that the first still from the film makes him look unrecognizable. Playing a boxer whose life falls apart as he rises to the top of the boxing world, Gyllenhaal is primed for a huge dramatic breakout, and this could be it. Co-starring Rachel McAdams, Forest Whitaker, Naomie Harris, Rita Ora and 50 Cent and scripted by “Sons of Anarchy” creator Kurt Sutter, “Southpaw” could be an intense and thrilling film.

“The Hateful Eight” (Nov. 13)

Quentin Tarantino is one of modern cinema’s most notorious auteurs, known for the graphic violence and rampant pop culture references throughout his films. The first film from the “Pulp Fiction” filmmaker since 2012’s “Django Unchained” has been rooted in controversy after Tarantino threatened to shelve “The Hateful Eight” for good after an early draft of the script leaked. He returned with a rewritten script, however, and the film is currently being shot. Based on the premise, it’s Tarantino’s smallest film yet. The film follows eight travelers seeking shelter from a blizzard in an isolated mountain pass stopover years after the Civil War. The cast is top notch, reuniting Tarantino with frequent collaborators Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell and Tim Roth, and giving others – notably Jennifer Jason Leigh and Channing Tatum – their first shot at Tarantino’s remarkable vision. Due for release shortly before Thanksgiving, “The Hateful Eight” is definitely a film to anticipate.

“The Martian” (Nov. 25)

Since it first hit iTunes and Amazon, Andy Weir’s self-published sci-fi novel “The Martian” has become a widespread success. It figures that the novel, which follows an astronaut who is left behind on Mars after a sandstorm and must survive until a rescue mission can arrive, would be picked up for a film adaptation. Written by Drew Goddard (“The Cabin in the Woods”) and directed by Ridley Scott, whose past few films (“The Counselor,” “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” “Prometheus” and “Robin Hood”) haven’t been critically adored or particularly successful, “The Martian” boasts a huge cast with Matt Damon in the lead and key supporting roles filled by Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan and Kristen Wiig. Sure to be a visual spectacle, “The Martian” is a sci-fi film that could land big time and find success before “Star Wars” takes over in December.

“The Revenant” (Dec. 25)

While December is likely to be dominated by the release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the new film from Alejandro González Iñárritu (“Babel,” “Birdman”) is one of the most intriguing films being released that sounds like a good movie on premise alone. Leonardo DiCaprio stars in the film as Hugh Glass, an 1820s frontiersman who embarks on a journey for vengeance after being mauled by a bear and left for dead. Seeing DiCaprio in a gritty role is intriguing enough, but the supporting cast – Tom Hardy, Will Poulter (“We’re the Millers”) and Domhnall Gleeson (“About Time”) – adds even more appeal. Adapted from the Michael Punke novel of the same name and reuniting Iñárritu with “Birdman” cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, “The Revenant” is a film that could be 2015’s late-season Oscar breakout.

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2015 offers fresh films alongside sequels, adaptations