Oscar season is in full flow, with many big nominees hitting UK cinemas in the weeks before the ceremony in Hollywood on February 22.
February is also used as a strange sort of dumping ground for films too odd, quirky or just plain bizarre to compete with the big hitters of blockbuster season later in the year. As a result, there’s a thrilling little horror movie out this month, as well as an animated comedy and the film that nearly kick-started an international incident.
Here are the ten films you cannot miss in UK cinemas in February 2015.
10. The Duke of Burgundy (Feb 20)
It hasn’t escaped my attention that there is another film about sadomasochism in cinemas this month (more on that later), but The Duke of Burgundy is something very strange indeed.
Peter Strickland (Berberian Sound Studio) sets his newest film in an old manor house, which is home to a lesbian couple (Chiara D’Anna and Sidse Babett Knudsen) in a dom-sub relationship. It emerges over time that, actually, the power dynamic isn’t as simple as it seems on the surface.
I caught The Duke of Burgundy at the London Film Festival and found it a little too odd for my tastes. However, I am intrigued to see it again and discover whether there’s even more meaning in the masochism.
9. Blackhat (Feb 20)
Hemsworth plays a jailed hacker, who is offered a temporary release if he aids the government in tracking down a cyber-criminal.
The film flopped at the box office and has received middling reviews, but trailers sell it as an intriguing journey through a very timely subject. It could be a fun little thriller in amongst the awards hopefuls.
8. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Feb 26)
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was a surprise hit in 2012, kick-starting a whole wave of movies that aimed to harness the box office power of the “grey pound”. A sequel was inevitable and it has now arrived, bringing a tonne of British acting royalty along with it.
Now permanently resident at the hotel, everyone’s favourite pensioners must deal with the demands of helping to run the place on top of an imminent traditional Indian wedding.
It’s unlikely to move mountains for viewers who don’t own a bus pass, but anything that gets a wider audience into the cinema is something to be championed.
7. Jupiter Ascending (Feb 6)
The Wachowskis, of The Matrix fame, are back with another head-scratcher in the shape of sci-fi oddity Jupiter Ascending.
Mila Kunis plays an ordinary Earth woman, who is rescued from certain death one day by Channing Tatum’s warrior. She soon learns that she is the genetic reincarnation of an alien matriarch, whose death has triggered a conflict between her children.
Reviews of the film suggest it veers from the sublime to the ridiculous with absurd frequency, but if you’re looking for a mind-boggling alternative to the Oscars shortlist, this is a reasonable bet.
6. Fifty Shades of Grey (Feb 13)
Hotly anticipated by fans of EL James’ bafflingly popular novel, the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey has both critics and audiences sharpening their hatchets in glee.
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan star, respectively, as a college senior and the enigmatic businessman she is sent to interview for the student paper. Soon after they meet, they begin a sexual relationship, which is threatened by his desire for something other than what he describes as “vanilla” sexuality.
Frankly, it doesn’t matter whether Fifty Shades of Grey is any good because it’s more or less guaranteed to succeed at the box office. However, with the leads seemingly lacking any affection for each other, sequels may not be forthcoming.
5. Love is Strange (Feb 13)
After being something of a hit on the festival circuit, drama Love is Strange is finally appearing in UK cinemas.
John Lithgow and Alfred Molina play a gay couple who marry after almost 40 years together. When the news reaches the Catholic school Molina teaches at, he is fired and the dip in income means the couple must live apart and deal with their unwanted separation.
Glittering reviews have greeted every screening of the film so far, with the two central performances said to be worth the price of admission alone.
4. The Interview (Feb 6)
It seems odd to discuss a Seth Rogen comedy through the prism of current affairs, but The Interview became an enormous news story when hackers forced Sony to delay the film’s festive release.
The source of the controversy was the film’s brazen attitude to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The film depicts a chat show host (James Franco) and his producer as they travel to North Korea for an interview with the leader, with secret instructions from the CIA to attempt an assassination.
Political chaos aside, the film looks set to be a standard Rogen/Franco movie with dick and drug gags left, right and centre.
3. Shaun the Sheep Movie (Feb 6)
British stop motion animation masters Aardman have a great track record on the big screen. Chicken Run, Wallace & Gromit and The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists were all terrific family films and now supporting player Shaun the Sheep is set to go big with his own solo outing.
When Shaun causes some mischief on the farm, the farmer goes missing and the sheep are left to find him and return their lives to normality.
In a ballsy move, Shaun the Sheep Movie will retain the near-silent nature of the television show. This leaves Aardman’s gorgeous stop motion work with a centre stage role and, hopefully, their trademark wit will be present as well.
2. Selma (Feb 6)
Of all of the controversies and snubs surrounding the Oscars this year, the lack of appearances of Selma was one of the biggest. Although the Martin Luther King drama is nominated for Best Picture, many have questioned the absence of Ava DuVernay from the Best Director field and David Oyelewo from the Best Actor race.
Oyelewo is attracting rave reviews for his portrayal of the iconic civil rights leader as he organises a demonstration in the titular Alabama town. It follows his interactions with President Lyndon B Johnson in an effort to score equal voting rights for people of colour in America.
The film is the epitome of a weighty historical awards season biopic. But with an interesting director at the helm, it looks like one of the good ones.
1. It Follows (Feb 26)
From writer-director David Robert Mitchell comes It Follows – a horror film that has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes after 20 reviews. It has attracted five-star reviews aplenty from the festival circuit and is being lauded as one of the most original and scary horror films in years.
After a seemingly normal sexual encounter, Jay (Maika Monroe) finds herself experiencing bizarre visions and the constant sense that there is something or someone following her.
Just like with last year’s surprise genre hit The Babadook, It Follows seems like the sort of film that is better the less prior knowledge you have. But it certainly could be an early contender for the best horror film of 2015.
Which films will you be heading out to see in UK cinemas during February 2015? Are there any that you’re definitely going to avoid? Let me know in the comments section.