2015 may not bring everything that Back to the Future II promised it would: flying cars, self-lacing shoes, we don't see 'em happening over the next 12 months. (Then again, don't bet against Nike.) But this year will definitely pack plenty of punch when it comes to cultural happenings. Mad Max will roar back out of the apocalypse while Mad Men rides off into the sunset, rock's Antichrist Superstar and hip-hop's Yeezus will rise again. There will be Beach Boys, Fall Out Boys, and screaming females – the last, both inside and outside screenings of Fifty Shades of Grey. With the caveat that all dates are subject to change, here are the music, movies and TV you need to know about all year long.
Originally titled Loomis Fargo, the latest offbeat comedy from Napoleon Dynamite director Jared Hess stars Zach Galifianakis as a disgruntled armored car driver who agrees to help out with a heist — and then gets royally screwed over by his accomplices. The reliably funny Owen Wilson, Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis, Ken Marino, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones fill out the cast, while Eastbound & Down auteurs Jody Hill and Danny McBride both worked on the script and executive-produced. N.M.
Finally, the biopic we've been dying to see for decades now: It's the story of how a bunch of kids in South Central Los Angeles formed a rap group called N.W.A., put West Coast hip-hop on the map, pissed off legions of parents and the federal government, and made musical history. The fact that Ice Cube and Dr. Dre signed on as producers lends this project a sense of legitimacy; if the musicians and director F. Gary Gray (Friday) display the same kind of brutal honesty that characterized the collective's lyrics, this could be blistering. And did we mention Paul Giamatti(!) is playing manager Jerry Heller? D.F.
An adaptation of Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill's 2001 book on Whitey Bulger, this drama on the notorious Boston mobster is notable for scoring some serious casting coups: Johnny Depp plays Whitey, Benedict Cumberbatch is on board as his brother William, Sienna Miller plays his moll Catherine Grieg, and Joel Edgerton is John Connolly, the former FBI agent who got caught up in the Beantown kingpin's web. A cynic might insert jokes about Jack Sparrow sporting a Bah-stun accent here, but the uncanny-resemblance photos of Depp in Bulger make-up and bald cap suggest that director Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart) and his stars aren't playing around. D.F.
It's remarkable to live in an era when people are actively looking forward to James Bond movies. (Sorry, Pierce Brosnan.) On the heels of the rousing Skyfall, Spectre returns star Daniel Craig and director Sam Mendes alongside a stellar supporting cast that includes Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Léa Seydoux and Christoph Waltz — who you can stop asking whether he's playing infamous Bond villain Blofeld, by the way. The recent Sony email leaks revealed internal concerns about a ballooning budget, but moviegoers won't care, just so long as Spectre is as smart and stylish as Skyfall — and Daniel Craig keeps shaking and stirring us by bringing his patented sense of blue-eyed brutishness to the role. T.G.
Even critics who enjoyed the first half of the Hunger Games finale have admitted that the movie offers more build-up than payoff, and left Jennifer Lawrence's gritty heroine Katniss Everdeen on the sidelines a bit too much. If nothing else, the second Mockingjay will bless us with an honest-to-goodness ending, and bring a proper finish to a series that's been the class act of the whole dystopian YA genre. (The film also marks the end to the career of the great Philip Seymour Hoffman, who was working on this project when he died.) N.M.
Whether or not you care about George Lucas's space opera, the seventh installment in the Star Wars franchise will be 2015's most unavoidable cinematic event. With plot details at a minimum and a recent teaser trailer that emphasized the tease, The Force Awakens will be shouldering the expectations, antipathy and guarded optimism of millions of moviegoers. The cast features a who's-who of prominent rising stars — Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Lupita Nyong'o — to accompany familiar faces like Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. But the biggest X factor is the man behind the camera. J.J. Abrams grew up a Star Wars kid: He's now the first director of his generation to put a stamp on a series that defined plenty of childhoods. May the force be with him. T.G.
In October, XL Recordings released a statement admitting that the follow-up to Adele's world-conquering 21 (tentatively titled 25, though the singer has since jumped to 26) would not come out in 2014. There still isn't a release date, but longtime collaborator Ryan Tedder is thrilled with what he's heard. "I'm super-stoked," the producer and OneRepublic singer recently told ABC News. "I know that with the amount of insanely good songs she has to pick from – 'cause I've heard most of 'em" – this album's gonna be crazy." R.S.
Fans of producer Ryan Murphy's FX anthology series American Horror Story will be pleased to know that this spin-off is already on-track to be as ballsy and outrageous as the original. For its first season (soon to begin filming), American Crime Story tackles the O.J. Simpson trial, with Cuba Gooding, Jr. as Simpson, Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark, and David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian. The show's head writers will be Ed Wood/Big Eyes/The People vs. Larry Flynt screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski – two guys attuned to the freakier side of pop history. N.M.
On July's Grammy-nominated "0-100/The Catch Up" Drake teased his fourth studio album, tentatively titled Views From the 6. "We already got spring 2015 poppin'," he rapped, referencing new releases by his Toronto-based crew before adding "not to mention me droppin'." He continued hyping Views via non-album singles, a hilarious and personable SNL appearance, a tour with Lil Wayne and meme-ready antics courtside at Raptors games. In all, it has been quite the preamble – the kind of thing only a killer new album can top. A.M.
Fergie's only solo LP, The Duchess, remains a mid-aughts pop classic. Its follow-up comes after the two biggest albums of the Black Eyed Peas' career and the birth of a son, Axl Jack. The singer tells Rolling Stone that the record will likely include beats from Mike Will Made-It and DJ Mustard (who produced lead single "L.A. Love"), as well as guest verses from "No Flex Zone" rappers Rae Sremmurd. "It's definitely similar to The Dutchess in that each song is different and has its own character," she says. N.M.
Expect Kendrick Lamar's next album to pick up where the last one left off. "There was a lot I left out of good kid – it could have been a 30-track album," he says. So far, he's worked with producers like Dr. Dre and Flying Lotus and has at least one track (besides Isley-sampling single "i") that he can't wait for the world to hear. "It's one where I just went in the booth and spilled out what I want to say at that moment," he says. "I just freestyled, because I really just wanted to grab the raw emotion of it." N.M.
A consistent chart-topper, headline-maker, musical innovator and sartorial chameleon, Rihanna has also proven to be a mandatory follow on social media. Two months ago – two years after the release of her latest LP – the singer Instagrammed an audio clip of herself "phuckin roun in da studio," and in December she shared a video of her touring guitarist, Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme, tracking a new tune – called “Kiss It Better,” according to songwriter John Glass. No official release info regarding the album, rumored to be called R8, has been revealed, but keep following Rihanna, because according to a recent tweet, any news will be delivered directly from her. A.M.
In May 2013, Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman passed away from liver failure, leaving a huge void in the pioneering thrash band. Hanneman hadn't toured with the group since 2011, when he contracted the flesh-eating disease necrotizing fasciitis, but he was a crucial songwriter, penning Slayer's most definitive anthems and contributing to all the group's records, including 2013's World Painted Blood. In April 2014 the band debuted "Implode," its first new song in five years, and a few months later hit the studio with producer Terry Date (Pantera, Deftones) to work on its 11th album, which, according to guitarist Kerry King, may include material written by Hanneman before his death. Look out for a new song “When the Stillness Comes” early this year. B.G.
No Doubt's latest LP flopped, but Gwen is back solo and "Baby Don't Lie" was her catchiest single in years. According to Pharrell, an album will soon follow. "It was time for her to really express herself and not have a bunch of people telling her what to do," says the "Hollaback Girl" producer. "I held up the mirror and [said], 'Do you know who's in there? Do you know how many people respect that person?' The more she saw, the deeper she reached, and the crazier the stuff came out." N.M.
Fans have been waiting for nine years – or roughly a third of "10,000 days" – for a new Tool album, an unusually long gap even for a band that has only released four full-lengths over its 25-year existence. In a July interview with Rolling Stone, guitarist Adam Jones and drummer Danny Carey revealed that a multi-tiered lawsuit against the prog-leaning alt-metal group has played a major role in delaying its fifth album; while the band members whetted die-hards' appetites by dropping words like "heavy," gnarly" and "nose-bleeding" when describing a new song, they also cautioned that writing was still in the incipient stages. This all appeared to change in October when Jones posted a photo of the band in the studio on Instagram —including vocalist Maynard James Keenan, who historically doesn't join the process until it's well along its way. B.G.
Rumors of a new record have been swirling almost since 2012’s well-received comeback album A Different Kind of Truth dropped out of the Top 10. Last December, vocalist David Lee Roth said that he and guitarist Eddie Van Halen were "starting to put music together" and that it would be ready in about 18 months. In April, he claimed that he was "working on a great Van Halen project," and in July, mastering engineer Howie Weinberg posted a photo with Eddie outside his studio. For now the band is keeping quiet, but a new eruption seems imminent. N.M.
If we know anything about Kanye's new album, we know that it's constantly changing. Seth Rogen heard one version early in the year, but come July the rapper told GQ that he had "a new song that's so good that the album has to be balanced against it." In September, West reportedly played the yet-unfinished record for 20 or so people at a private listening session, where, according to musician Theophilus London, the songs had its listeners "moshing drunk with mad babes." Some think that Kanye thrives off heartbreak (his car accident, the death of his mother, the unraveling of long-term relationships), so what will he make now that he's happily married dad? A.M.
In October, Lil Wayne revealed plans to release Tha Carter V in two parts. "I got too many songs," he said. "I worked way too much to give y'all half of it." By December 4th, he wanted off his label, claiming that "my album won't and hasn't been released bekuz [label co-founder] Baby and Cash Money Records refuse to release it." Expect things to change at some point in 2015 when this album drops to fulfill the promise of lead single "Believe Me," which became a radio hit this past summer. N.M.