15 Movies to Watch Before You Go to the Movies in 2015

By  · Published on January 6th, 2015

Escalante Productions

When I did one of these posts a year ago, the basic idea was to highlight how many remakes were coming out in 2014. Most were obvious retreads, whether the name was a giveaway (RoboCop) or changed to promise a new angle (Maleficent). This year there are surprisingly few rehashes capitalizing on familiar titles and short memories. Yes, there are reboots of Poltergeist, Point Break and Fantastic Four coming later in the year, but at least for the first six months of 2015 we appear to be getting more continuations than do-overs – or in the cases of Mad Max: Fury Road, maybe a combination – with the mainstream releases. You don’t have to worry too much about your childhood being raped between now and the end of June.

Still, I was able to find 15 movies opening in the next half year that are either official remakes or new versions of previously adapted works (look for part two of this feature at the end of June for the second half of the year). Few of them will sound familiar, let alone have a significant fanbase built in through the original or precursor. Some of them – and this is different from last year – are not redoes at all. They might have some other notable relationship to a movie of the past. And in at least one case there is a sequel of sorts, arriving so much later and without any clear titular connection that it’s worth pointing out by recommending the prior part.

With each of these homework assignments I’ve included the release date for the new movie as a “due date,” so you know how long you have to become acquainted with the primary or source materials. I apologize in advance for all those that aren’t easily acquired in that allotted time, or ever.

Little Accidents (2010)

It’s actually unlikely that you’ll find a copy of this short film about a desperate small-town factory worker (Amanda R. Phillips) before the release of its feature-length extension. Writer-director Sara Colangelo debuted the 18-minute version at the Sundance Film Festival five years ago. It went on to win awards at other fests, including the 2010 Seattle International Film Festival, and then never made its way online or wherever else you might watch shorts. It’ll probably wind up on the DVD of the newer movie of the same name, which premiered at Sundance last year (see our review), now stars Elizabeth Banks, Josh Lucas and Boyd Holbrook and is currently nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. Due Date: 1/16

Veronika Decides to Die (2005) and Veronika (2009)

Since the publication of Paulo Coelho’s novel “Veronika Decides to Die” in 1998, three movies have been made out of the material. First up was a Japanese feature of the same name that is also not easily located here, as far as I can find. Then in 2009 came the other two. One is a short, 12 minutes in length and loosely inspired by the book (barely attributed with a special thanks to “Paulo”), directed by Borja Alvarez Ramirez. It was his final project at the New York Film Academy. The other is a feature directed by Emily Young and starring Sarah Michelle Gellar as the suicidal title character. While this one debuted at the Cannes Film Festival back then, it’s only now finally opening theatrically in the US. You can watch the short below in anticipation. Due Date: 1/20

Loft (2008)

The latest director to be invited to Hollywood to remake his own foreign film is Erik Van Looy, whose 2008 feature became the biggest Belgian hit of all time. Now he’s added an article before the original’s one-word title so it’s called The Loft. And he’s retained one of the original’s actors, Matthias Schoenaerts (Bullhead), as one of an ensemble of characters who share an apartment for the purpose of having extramarital affairs. Due Date: 1/23

Hard to Be a God (1989)

This first adaptation of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s 1964 sci-fi novel about a planet inhabited by humans stuck in the Middle Ages is directed by Peter Fleischmann, who the authorial brothers objected to so much on account of his not being of Soviet origin that they disowned it. Never mind that it also boasts a screenplay by the great Jean-Claude Carriere (who just received an honorary Oscar for a career that includes such masterpieces as The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, The Tin Drum and Birth) and a part played by Werner Herzog. The Strugatskys adapted their own work for the newer version, which took more than a decade to produce and has been making festival rounds since the fall of 2013. Its director, Aleksei German, who died before it was finished, was indeed born in the USSR. Due Date: 1/30

Heat (1986)

Most moviegoers who flock to the latest Jason Statham movie this month won’t have any idea that it’s a remake of a 29-year-old movie starring Burt Reynolds. The original was scripted by William Goldman, based on his own novel titled “Heat,” and is about a gambling addict living in Las Vegas and working as a “chaperone” – as in bodyguard and other for-hire jobs. The first adaptation is hardly a beloved classic, so even if anyone knew it was remade now as Wild Card, chances are they wouldn’t mind. Due Date: 1/30

Hope and Glory (1989)

It had been a while since we saw a new movie directed by John Boorman, but last year finally brought Queen and Country, a semi-autobiographical feature that debuted at the Cannes Film Festival. It’s about a young man named Bill Rohan (Callum Turner) who goes off to fight in the Korean War after growing up in London during World War II. It’s basically a follow-up, if not sequel, to his 28-year-old, multi-Oscar-nominated coming-of-age drama about a boy named Bill Rowan (Sebastian Rice-Edwards) who grows up in London during World War II. Due Date: 2/18

Tetra Vaal (2004)

One of our most anticipated movies of 2015 is Chappie, the latest from Neill Blomkamp and hopefully something to redeem after the disappointing Elysium. This time he’s working off something that I already like, which is a plus. Tetra Vaal, Blomkamp’s first film, is only two minutes in length and centers on rabbit-eared robot cops patrolling the slums of South Africa. Chappie is going to be more of a comedy, something that sound more in line with Blomkamp’s later short about a rabbit-eared office worker robot, Tembot, which is also worth a look. Due Date: 3/6

Cinderella (1950)

Last year’s Maleficent was focused on the villain of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, so it got a new name. This year’s live-action retread of an animated classic from the Mouse House is apparently more of a direct translation. We could treat the new release as just another adaptation of the fairy tale originally published by Charles Perrault in 1697 and redone by the Brothers Grimm over a century later. According to Wikipedia, there are close to 40 other versions, including two by Georges Melies, one starring Mary Pickford, a few based on the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical take on the material, a bunch of modernizations and even an earlier adaptation by Walt Disney from 1922. The 1950 feature, though, is the most appropriate to view in anticipation of the new Kenneth Branagh-helmed take, starring Lily James in the title role and Cate Blanchett as her wicked stepmother. Due Date: 3/13

Fargo (1996) and This is a True Story (2003)

One of the hits of the film festival circuit last year was Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, the Zellner Brothers’ drama about a Japanese woman (Rinko Kikuchi) who believes the buried money from the Coen BrothersFargo is really buried out in Minnesota to be found. The new movie is inspired by a true story of a Japanese woman who was found dead in Minnesota in 2001 after visiting the area for other reasons than what the urban legend alleges regarding Fargo. The real deal is documented in Paul Berczeller’s short This Is a True Story, which was nominated for a BAFTA TV Award. Due Date: 3/13

Almost Home (2014)

Technically, this four-minute film is just a promotional short for the upcoming DreamWorks Animation feature Home, which is based on Adam Rex’s children’s book “The True Meaning of Smekday.” But it’s not much different than all the shorts made nowadays that are basically just calling-card trailers for a feature their directors want to make. It was released theatrically as a short film, attached to both Mr. Peabody & Sherman and Rio 2, not as a trailer. In this film, aliens (the leader of which is voiced by Steve Martin) are attempting to find a new inhabitable planet to live on. The upcoming feature continues the story of their invasion of Earth. Due Date: 3/27

Far From the Madding Crowd (1967)

Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel of the same name has been adapted many times, starting with a 1909 short produced by Thomas Edison. This later feature version is the most well-known. It’s directed by John Schlesinger and stars Julie Christie as the protagonist, a woman who becomes romantically involved with three men after she takes over her late uncle’s farm. The new take is from director Thomas Vinterberg and stars Carey Mulligan. Due Date: 5/1

Umberto D.

If you ask me, this is Vittorio De Sica‘s best neorealist film, the one that breaks my heart every time I see it. I can’t even imagine someone trying to capture the magic of the original’s relationship between the old man, Umberto, and his dog, Flike. But apparently there’s an updated version set in Brooklyn on its way from a filmmaker named Roy Carlo and starring The Soprano‘s Dominic Chianese with Cathy Moriarty, and it already has a distribution deal with IFC Films. IMDb lists its release date as being this May, but that might not be accurate. Either way, even if someone got smart and canceled the whole thing, you have to see the original. I guarantee you’ll love it or you have no soul. Due date: 5/1

The Transporter (2002)

I guess it’s not too late to remake this 13-year-old movie and reboot its franchise given that we’ve already seen two installments of the reboot of Spider-Man, the first series of which also began in 2002. But driver-for-hire “Frank Martin” is not a superhero in an iconic costume. We associate the character with Jason Statham. Now we’re just supposed to accept British rapper-turned-actor Ed Skrein in the role? This is technically one of those continuation reboots, a sequel with a recast lead rather than a do-over, but I had to include it because I’ve actually never seen any of the Transporter movies and now because of the reboot feel I should. Due Date: 6/19

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.