The Oscars are behind us and the eyes of the film world are now turning to the oncoming storm of summer blockbusters. The first of the year’s heavy hitters are going to make their presence known in March 2016, with DC launching its major cinematic universe and the Divergent franchise firing the starting pistol on its two-part finale.
That’s not to say that the blockbusters are going to have the run of UK cinemas this month. There are also a selection of deeply intriguing independent films, including an Oscar-nominated animation from Charlie Kaufman, Ben Wheatley‘s latest dive into a world of darkness and a supernatural horror film set in a 17th century village.
Here are the ten films you should try to catch in UK cinemas during March 2016.
10. The Divergent Series: Allegiant (Mar 10)
It’s fair to say that the Divergent films have largely failed in their bid to succeed The Hunger Games as the driving force of the young adult wave. In fact, the wave seems to be reaching its end, with Divergent and The Maze Runner perhaps the only two recognisable franchises still moving forward within the genre.
Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James), after the events of Insurgent, attempt to explore the world beyond the walls of Chicago. Outside of the city walls, they discover that the struggles and conflicts out in the wider world threaten the very existence of humanity as a whole.
Despite feeling rather slight and insignificant compared to other major YA franchises, there has always been a certain intrigue to the Divergent universe. Allegiant looks set to pile on even more revelations and hopefully it will set all of the pieces in place for a satisfying conclusion to the series.
9. Goodnight Mommy (Mar 4)
For some reason or another, this month seems to have been designated as an ideal moment to release a huge number of intriguing horror films. Goodnight Mommy, selected as Austria’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Oscars, arrives in UK cinemas on a wave of critical adoration with writers all over the world comparing it to the likes of The Babadook and even classic Eyes Without a Face.
The film, from directorial debutants Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz, follows twin boys who move into a new home with their mother as she recovers from facial reconstruction surgery. The bandages on her face, however, might well hide a dark secret.
Goodnight Mommy looks like an atmospheric and intriguing horror film in a market saturated with films that mistake loud noises for scares. It might be tough to find outside of London, but this one should be well worth seeking out.
8. 10 Cloverfield Lane (Mar 18)
10 Cloverfield Lane is a truly unique case in that it’s a film that appeared out of nowhere, despite being a sequel to a high-profile hit featuring several major Hollywood stars. It was shot in secret under the title Valencia and even the stars were not informed of its true title until moments before the release of its trailer.
The film stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as a young woman living underground with a survivalist, played by John Goodman. She is informed that the surface of the planet outside is uninhabitable, but fears she might have been kidnapped and vows to escape into the outside world.
It’s unclear whether 10 Cloverfield Lane will capture the horror zeitgeist as precisely as the original Cloverfield movie did. However, it is certainly a bold experiment and one that has propelled an otherwise small film straight into the attention of a mass audience.
7. Zootropolis (Mar 25)
Animation is often where the best of Hollywood comedy resides at the moment. No one was in any doubt as to whether Inside Out or The Wedding Ringer was last year’s better work of comedy. With that in mind comes Zootropolis, from the great minds over at Disney, presumably in a break between drinking all of the champagne that Frozen bought them.
The film, known as Zootopia in America, follows a young rabbit police officer who finds herself forced to work alongside a con artist fox in order to uncover a conspiracy within their city of anthropomorphic animals.
Zootropolis deserves credit for its main trailer, which centres on a single, slow-paced scene in which the film’s duo visit a DMV branch staffed entirely by sloths. It’s a brilliant execution of a tremendous central premise and, if that continues in the rest of the film, it could be another major victory for the Disney renaissance.
6. The Boy (Mar 18)
In amongst some of the more twisted independent horror fare appearing in British cinemas this month, The Boy could perhaps feel a little generic. It’s an interesting central conceit, but one that seems to have been wrapped up in the rather disappointing trappings of a big American horror movie.
The film tells the story of Greta, who takes on a nanny job for an eccentric British couple. She initially reacts with laughter when she is introduced to their son Brahms, who is an inanimate porcelain doll. The real Brahms passed away in a fire years before. The couple presents Greta with a list of Brahms’ rules, which she must follow.
There’s a tonne of potential in The Boy for a tense and creepy horror movie. However, in a film based around a creepy doll, the spectre of Annabelle looms large. Hopefully this will meet its potential because it could be a surprise treat.
5. Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (Mar 25)
It’s finally here – the opening salvo of DC’s cinematic universe. Their attempts to rival the juggernaut that Marvel’s big screen world has become will begin with Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, uniting two of the most famous superheroes on the planet. There’s also the prospect of seeing the rest of the Justice League of America in their new incarnations. With Ryan Reynolds wowing cinemagoers with Deadpool, we could even see the new Green Lantern?
The film sees Batman (Ben Affleck) and Superman (Henry Cavill) clash over the former’s discomfort at a destructive alien living amongst humanity. Meanwhile, somewhere, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is pulling the strings in nefarious fashion.
DC likes seriousness. In their mind, it’s what makes them refreshingly different to the Marvel hegemony. Hopefully, however, they can find some levity. Otherwise, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice could be a bit of a miserable affair.
4. Hail, Caesar! (Mar 4)
The Coen Brothers have been occupying themselves with rather serious fare in recent years. They have done script work on worthy dramas like Unbroken and Bridge of Spies since Inside Llewyn Davis in 2014 – their rather sombre last effort as directors. Hail, Caesar! is an entirely different beast.
Starring Josh Brolin as a studio fixer and George Clooney as a slightly goofy A-list performer, the film is a gleeful homage to the slight naffness of 1950s Hollywood. There is a loose story involving Clooney’s character being kidnapped, but the real joy is in the ridiculous set pieces, pastiching everything from toe-tapping musicals to Biblical epics, via a slapstick skit with a singing cowboy.
The whole thing is a little slight, but the performances are uniformly excellent and there’s such a remarkable sense of fun to the whole enterprise. Hail, Caesar! isn’t the best film I’ve seen this year, but I don’t think I’ve smiled more.
3. Anomalisa (Mar 11)
Charlie Kaufman is a truly unique screenwriter and indeed one of the most interesting writing talents in the world right now. Anomalisa unites Kaufman with stop-motion animation specialist Duke Johnson for a bittersweet animated movie that takes a machete to the genre’s reputation as the domain of kids’ movies.
David Thewlis voices a self-help author who sees everyone around him as being identical. One day, he meets the exception to that rule – a unique woman played by The Hateful Eight star Jennifer Jason Leigh.
Anomalisa has achieved nothing short of gushing critical reviews and would have won Best Animated Feature in any year that didn’t feature something as remarkable as Inside Out.
2. The Witch (Mar 11)
March 2016 looks set to be an incredibly interesting month for horror and the pinnacle could be Robert Eggers’ The Witch, which has received nothing but buzz since its debut at last year’s Sundance Film Festival. Eggers was almost immediately hired to direct a remake of Nosferatu, which provides a pretty clear idea of how talented a filmmaker he is. You don’t get given the helm of one of the most famous names in horror cinema without serious ability.
The plot follows a Puritan family in New England, who feel the presence of forces of evil beyond their dwelling and must discover whether these forces or real or a figment of their imaginations. It is told through the eyes of Atlantis director Anya Taylor-Joy as Thomasin.
Trailers and publicity for The Witch have amped up the creepiness of its unusual premise and Eggers seems to have a unique style. After the foreboding delights of The Babadook, could we be in for another horror that prioritises atmosphere over loud noises?
1. High-Rise (Mar 18)
Ben Wheatley has carved out a path for himself as one of the most unpredictable British filmmakers currently working. From the kitchen sink drama of Down Terrace to the cult horror of Kill List and the psychedelic nightmare of A Field in England, no two of his films are even remotely the same. His latest film, High-Rise brings the pitch black satire of author JG Ballard to the big screen.
Dr Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) joins the isolate community of the titular building in search of a life of luxury. However, when he meets a documentary filmmaker (Luke Evans), Laing is alerted to the class divisions within the building… and then everything goes crazy.
If it is even close to as interesting as the rest of Wheatley’s oeuvre, High-Rise will be one of the best films of the year. With the director given his biggest budget and starriest cast to date for the film, this could be the bridge that sends him to the cinematic big leagues.
Which films will you be seeing in March 2016? Are there any missing from this list or any that you will definitely be avoiding? Let me know in the comments section.