With new "Avengers" and "Star Wars" films, a new album from Bob Dylan and three new novels from author James Patterson, pop culture is featuring the return of some pretty heavy hitters in 2015. We at the Times are pop culture fans with some eclectic tastes that sometimes stray from the mainstream. For a look at some of the best pieces to come out in the upcoming year that might not otherwise catch your attention, check out our 2015 pop culture guide below.
Film picks by Jacob deNobel
After indie director Justin Lin took the franchise from dumb machismo to commercial and critical acclaim — yes, the last two "Fast and Furious" films have received positive reviews — he took off for a slower, less furious career. Replacing Lin is horror director James Wan, a master of form who directed last year's improbably great haunted house movie "The Conjuring." Wan is bringing with him an all-star cast, rivaling "The Expendables" marquee, including newcomers Jason Statham, Kurt Russell and "Thai Warrior" Tony Jaa. Add all of these components with the untimely death of star Paul Walker — whose remaining scenes are being completed with digital blends of his two brothers — and you've got an amazing action film that will almost certainly make me cry.
Guillermo del Toro's entire career has consisted of him fluctuating wildly between what critics view as high art — his Spanish-language fantasy films — and low art — "Pacific Rim's" kaiju action. "Crimson Peak" reflects a blending of his two aesthetics and interests. The film, a big-budget haunted house story in the vein of Robert Wise's "The Haunting" and Jack Clayton's "The Innocents," stars Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam and Jessica Chastain. Even at his worst, del Toro movies are filled with camp pleasures, and at his best, there is no one in Hollywood better at transporting you into a fantasy world of delights and horrors. Every new film of his is something to be treasured.
"Pitch Perfect 2"
The first "Pitch Perfect" quickly became a word-of-mouth hit, opening small but eventually becoming the second highest grossing musical comedy behind "School of Rock." The sequel represents the feature-length directorial debut of Elizabeth Banks, who has made a career out of stealing scenes in films from Judd Apatow and David Wain. The film mirrors the classic sports film sequel plot of taking the cast into an international a cappella competition. With larger scope, the same great cast from the first film and a talented comedian behind the lens, "Pitch Perfect 2" looks to break the mold of inferior comedy sequels.
Album picks by Heather Cobun
"Title" by Meghan Trainor
If you're sick of hearing "All About That Bass," you're probably not alone. But Meghan Trainor is prepared to remedy that Jan. 9 with the release of a full album of infectious pop songs to dig their way into your subconscious. "Dear Future Husband" brings the classic doo-wop style that helped make "All About That Bass" an earworm in the summer of 2015, and "Lips are Movin'" is the current single on the radio and shows that Trainer is capable of a sound other than bubble gum pop.
"American Beauty/American Psycho" by Fall Out Boy
Ten years after "Sugar, We're Goin Down" became their breakout hit, Fall Out Boy is preparing to release their sixth studio album Jan. 20 with "American Beauty/American Psycho." Though it may be tough to beat the infectiousness of 2013's "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)," the lead single "Centuries" brings the intense beat and rhythmic lyrics which make this band a perennial radio favorite.
"Froot" by Marina and the Diamonds
Welsh recording artist Marina Diamandis, better known as Marina and the Diamonds, will release her third studio album in April and all lovers of electropop and indie darlings will be eagerly waiting for her first album in three years since 2012's "Electra Heart." The extremely danceable title track "Froot" was released in October and the video has racked up more than 1.3 million views on YouTube. "Happy" was released in December and showcases Marina's songwriting and vocal skills. Hopefully, the remaining tracks continue to expand on the tone set by these singles.
Book picks by Jon Kelvey
"The Buried Giant" by Kazuo Ishiguro
British author and Booker Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro's seventh novel, "The Buried Giant," will be released March 3. Set in a Britain sagging after the departure of the Roman empire, the story follows a couple's journey through a bleak and sodden countryside in search of their lost son. The themes are, according to publisher Farber and Farber, "lost memories, love, revenge and war."
"Binary Star" by Sarah Gerard
Sarah Gerard's new novel follows the road trip of a young woman with an eating disorder and her alcoholic boyfriend and their exploration of alternative diets and political philosophies. In a small taste by way of an excerpt, the couple have stopped at a Dunkin' Donuts.
"John orders six donuts and four holes and we sit in the window eating them and taking pictures of each other and the display case. We finish and I throw up in the bathroom. I don't make noise because I know how to open my throat and purge in silence.
"When I come back, John knows what I've been doing."
"Purity" by Jonathan Franzen
Jonathan Franzen's new novel, "Purity," is expected sometime next September, but little is known of the story itself. Franzen's last, satirical family story, "The Corrections," was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. "Purity" will feature a woman named Purity on a quest to learn the identity of her father that takes her from Soviet East Germany to the contemporary United States.
- Marina and the Diamonds (music group)
- James Wan
- Haunted Houses (attractions)
- Fast and Furious (movie series)
- The Expendables (movie)
- Star Wars
- Pitch Perfect
- The Conjuring (movie)
- Charlie Hunnam
- David Wain
- Elizabeth Banks
- Jason Statham
- Paul Walker
- Guillermo del Toro
- Bob Dylan
- Tom Hiddleston