It’s International Women’s Day on 8th March, and appropriately enough, this month sees several big releases with women in the lead in front of and behind the camera.

Jennifer Lawrence gets into the spying game in Red Sparrow, while Alicia Vikander is the new Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider reboot.

There are new releases from acclaimed directors Ava DuVernay, Lynne Ramsay and Clio Barnard, plus Oscar-nominated Chilean drama A Fantastic Woman.

All this, and a welcome return to the big screen for the plucky heroines of Studio Ghibli…

Action / thriller

Red Sparrow

Cert 15, 140 mins

Vue York, Everyman

From Fri Mar 2

Movie website

The dust having settled from the jaw-dropathon of last year’s mother!, Jennifer Lawrence returns in this Russian spy thriller which reunites her with Hunger Games director Francis Lawrence.

Lawrence plays Dominika Egorova, a ballerina who suffers a career-ending injury and, needing to support herself and her mother (Joely Richardson), finds herself enrolling in the Sparrow School, a secret spy academy that trains young people to use their minds and bodies as weapons.

When she emerges from the gruelling training regime at the top of the class, she’s sent on her first mission – to seduce a CIA agent responsible for infiltrating Russian intelligence (played by Joel Edgerton, seen recently as the Orc cop in Netflix’s Bright).

A Lawrence-led spy movie sounds a goer on paper, and the film boasts a strong ensemble cast – including Charlotte Rampling, Jeremy Irons, Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone) and Mary-Louise Parker (TV’s Weeds) – but it has to be said that early reviews have been decidedly mixed…

Tomb Raider

Cert TBC, TBCmins

Vue York, Everyman

From Thurs Mar 15

Movie website

Reboot ahoy! Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina) takes over from Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft in this new film which promises to take the franchise back to its roots.

The plot, based on the 2013 video game which also hit the re-set button on the series, sees Lara investigating the disappearance of her adventurer father (Dominic West).

Her search takes her on a journey to a mythical island somewhere off the coast of Japan, where all manner of danger awaits.

She’s assisted by ship captain Lu Ren (Daniel Wu), while Walton Goggins (TV’s Justified) is on Bad Guy duty.

Sci-fi / fantasy

Pacific Rim: Uprising

Cert TBC, TBC mins

Vue York, Everyman

From Fri Mar 23

Movie website

More trauma for skyscraper insurers here, as giant robots once again do battle with equally giant sea monsters in this fantasy action sequel.

Set ten years on from the original, this sees John Boyega playing Jake, the son of the first movie’s Stacker Pentecost. A once-promising Jaeger pilot (they’re the heroes who control the massive robots, for the uninitiated), he’s abandoned his training for a life of crime.

However, he’s drawn back to the fold by his estranged sister Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi, reprising her role) when the kaiju (they’re the sea monsters, do keep up) return to wreak havoc – this time with a rogue Jaeger in tow.

Taking over directing duties from Guillermo del Toro is Steven S DeKnight, best known as the man behind the Spartacus TV series.

Family films

Peter Rabbit

Cert PG, 98 mins

Vue York, Everyman

From Fri Mar 16

Movie website

Beatrix Potter purists are advised to have a nice strong cup of tea on standby before viewing this trailer.

Like Paddington, her much-loved hero has had a modern-day, CGI-tooled update – unlike Paddington, though, he looks… well, pretty bloody annoying, to be frank.

That said, the film, for which James Corden voices Peter opposite live-action performances from Domnhall Gleeson and Rose Byrne, has had reviews of the ‘better than it looks’ type following its release in the US.

The original story still serves as the basis for this update, with the rebellious Peter trying to steal from Mr McGregor’s vegetable patch – but when McGregor (Sam Neill) dies of a heart attack, his rabbit-hating nephew Thomas (Gleeson) moves in, and divides his time between fighting with Peter and wooing kind-hearted neighbour Bea (Byrne).

There looks to be enough here to keep the kids happy, which is the main thing – and mercifully, it sounds like a scene from an early trailer in which Peter did a spot of twerking has not made the final cut…

A Wrinkle In Time

Cert TBC,TBC mins

Vue York, Everyman

From Fri Mar 23

Movie Facebook page

Which film is this?
I’m glad you asked. A Wrinkle In Time is the new fantasy adventure from Disney, written by Frozen screenwriter Jennifer Lee and directed by Ava DuVernay (who helmed 2014’s civil rights drama Selma).

It’s based on the 1962 novel by American writer Madeleine L’Engel, which was the first in a series of books – sound the New Franchise klaxon!

What’s it about then?
Well, it’s about teenager Meg Murry who, together with her little brother Charles and fellow student Calvin, finds a way of travelling to a new planet in search of her missing scientist father.

Who’s in it?
Storm Reid plays Meg, while Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling play Mrs Which, Mrs Whatsit and Mrs Who, three astral travellers who guide the children in their journey. Star Trek’s Chris Pine stars as the missing dad.

Which, Whatsit and Who, you say? Ah, I see what you’ve done there. Very clever.
Why, thank you. I try, you know…

Comedy

Walk Like a Panther

Cert TBC, TBC mins

Vue York, City Screen

From Fri Mar 9

Movie Facebook page

Will this plucky British underdog story be this decade’s Full Monty?

It certainly has a similar plot to the much-loved 1997 comedy, focussing on a group of out-of-shape middle-aged Yorkshiremen risking everything to put on a big show.

In this case, they’re a group of ex-wrestlers who try to recapture their 1980s glory days, staging a comeback to try and prevent their local pub from being closed.

Dave Johns (I, Daniel Blake) leads a talented cast of familiar British film and TV faces, including Stephen Graham, Jill Halfpenny, Stephen Tompkinson and Sue Johnston.

It also features some talent from closer to home, with York wrestler “Hot Blooded Dom Black”, who also works at City Screen, appearing in a couple of flash-back scenes!

Drama

Dark River

Cert 15, 90 mins

Vue York, City Screen

From Fri Feb 23

Movie Facebook page

Following on from last year’s God’s Own Country, here’s another Yorkshire farming based-drama, this time with a focus on sibling rivalry.

Ruth Wilson (TV’s Luther) stars as Alice, who returns to the family farm for the first time in 15 years following the death of her father (played in flashback by Sean Bean).

She believes the farm is rightfully hers, which throws her into conflict with her brother Joe (Mark Stanley, Game of Thrones), who resents her for abandoning the family.

Filmed near Skipton, this tense, brooding drama is the third film from writer/director Clio Barnard, whose previous feature, the Bradford-set The Selfish Giant, was widely acclaimed, with its social realist tone leading many to compare it to the works of Ken Loach.

A Fantastic Woman

Cert 15, 104 mins

City Screen

From Fri Mar 9

Movie website

This thoughtful, affecting Chilean drama following a transgender woman in the aftermath of her partner’s sudden death is an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film.

Trans actress Daniela Vega plays Marina, a singer and waitress whose life is thrown into turmoil after her partner Orlando dies of an aneurysm.

As she tries to come to terms with her grief and an uncertain future, she also has to deal with questions from the police and encounters with Orlando’s family, whose reactions to her range from self-conscious awkwardness to violent hostility.

Vega took the role after initially working with the film’s director Sebastián Lelio as a consultant on trans issues when he was developing the story, and has gone on to win huge praise for her empathetic, quietly defiant performance as Marina.

You Were Never Really Here

Cert TBC, 95 mins

Vue York, City Screen

From Fri Mar 9

Movie website

It’s been quite a while since director Lynne Ramsay’s last film – 2011’s chilling We Need To Talk About Kevin – but it sounds like her new one, a tense thriller starring Joaquin Phoenix, will be worth the wait.

Phoenix plays Joe, a traumatised veteran living in New York and working as a hitman. His specialism is finding missing children, but when he accepts the job of finding a politician’s runaway teenage daughter, the conspiracy he uncovers sends him on a violent quest for revenge.

An unfinished version of the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year to huge acclaim, with critics lining up to praise what Variety called “a stark, sinewy, slashed-to-the-bone hitman thriller far more concerned with the man than the hit”.

Special events

Scott and Sid

Cert 15, 99 mins

Everyman, City Screen

March 7

Movie website

Everyman York hosts a film premiere this month – for a film which was largely shot in York.

Scott And Sid is a coming-of-age movie about two teenage misfits who defy the low expectations of others and set off in pursuit of a list of goals to create a better life.

The Everyman premiere is sold out but there are tickets available at the City Screen viewing on March 7 at 9pm.

You can read more about the movie here.

Macbeth

Cert 15, 141 mins

Vue York, City Screen

Tues Mar 13

Movie website

This one-night-only screening promises to show us Shakespeare’s blood-soaked play as we’ve never seen it before…

Applying the same technique used on his previous film The Knife That Killed Me, director Kit Monkman has shot his version of the play entirely on green screen, courtesy of Bubwith-based GSP Studios.

As Monkman explains, green screen is normally used in films to create realistic-looking backdrops or action set-pieces – but his intention here was to use the technology to do the opposite – to achieve “the creation of a shared space which celebrates artificiality… in order to invite the audience to lean forward into that space as imaginative collaborators.”

This deliberately anti-naturalistic approach offers an immersive take on the familiar tale, as Macbeth (Mark Rowley), spurred on by prophesying drifters and his ambitious wife (Akiya Henry), plots to kill King Duncan and take the throne for himself.

It’s screening at both City Screen (6pm) and Vue York (7pm). City Screen’s showing offers both an introduction by the University of York’s Professor Judith Buchanan, who co-wrote the screenplay, plus an after-party with Kit Monkman in The Basement.

I’m sure the hangovers the next day will be murder…

Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour

Cert 12A, approx 3 hours

York Barbican

Weds Mar 14

Festival website

Here’s something a bit different, and likely to be of interest to lovers of the great outdoors and adrenaline junkies alike.

It’s a touring selection of highlights from the annual Banff Mountain Film Festival in Canada, comprising short films of intrepid explorers and awe-inspiring action stunts in spectacular locations across the globe.

You can expect to see skiers, rock climbers, BASE-jumpers, and a 60th birthday trek in Utah for one man and his dog…

Tickets are available from the Barbican’s website

Wes Anderson and Studio Ghibli seasons at City Screen

City Screen’s Vintage Sundays strand is back with a bang this month, with a season of films from the brilliant Studio Ghibli.

I’m something of a late convert to the works of the much-loved Japanese animation studio, having caught some of their classics at a previous City Screen season a few years ago – and I’d highly recommend getting down for some of these if you’ve yet to venture into their magical world.

Their films are an awe-inspiring blend of dazzling animation, masterly story-telling and seemingly limitless imagination, and this season offers a chance to see some of their most celebrated works.

I’m glad they’re kicking off with Grave of the Fireflies (Sunday 4th), which is one I’ve yet to catch but heard great things about – this tale of a brother and sister trying to survive during the Second World War was hailed by the influential US film critic Roger Ebert as “(one of) the greatest war films ever made”.

Ghibli is perhaps best known though for its more fantastical works, and it’s these that make up the rest of this month’s offerings.

My Neighbour Totoro (11th), in which two young sisters find all manner of weird and wonderful creatures living in the forests around their new country home, is one of their best-loved films, and deservedly so.

It’s followed by Kiki’s Delivery Service (18th), following the exploits of a young witch trying to blend into normal society.

Thrilling medieval fantasy adventure Princess Mononoke is next up on 25th, and on 1st April there’s Spirited Away, a joyously imaginative journey through a strange underworld of ancient gods and magical beings that feels a bit like being lost inside the freakiest children’s book you’ve never read.

All the films will screen in the original language with subtitles.

Meanwhile, the We Love Wes season continues on Monday nights, covering the second half of US indie master Wes Anderson’s career to date before his new movie Isle of Dogs opens at the end of the month.

Screening on the 5th is The Darjeeling Limited, in which three bickering brothers (Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson and Rushmore’s Jason Schwartzman) take a train journey across India a year after their father’s death.

(It comes with a warning though: Seeing this film carries a 76.4% risk that Where Do You Go To My Lovely by Peter Sarstedt will be stuck in your head for days afterwards…)

Fantastic Mr Fox (12th) was Anderson’s first, highly enjoyable foray into stop motion animation, a format he’s returning to with Isle of Dogs.

An adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s classic with George Clooney voicing the debonair chicken thief, it’s very much Dahl by way of Anderson, and even finds room for a cameo from a certain British music legend…

Three Billboards’ Frances McDormand makes her debut in Andersonland alongside Bruce Willis in charming coming-of-age tale Moonrise Kingdom on 19th, which also stars Tilda Swinton as a Social Services representative who goes by the name of, er, Social Services. Of course she does.

And finally, Swinton returns in The Grand Budapest Hotel (26th) as an elderly guest whose death triggers all manner of misadventures for Ralph Fiennes’ hilariously rakish concierge.

I’ll cover Isle of Dogs in next month’s round-up, as it’s not out until the 30th, but just to flag up that City Screen has two preview screenings on Sunday 25th – and brilliantly, the 11am screening is open to dogs too!

Other one-off screenings

First up, a very interesting-looking documentary showing at City Screen for International Women’s Day on 8th March – Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, followed by a live satellite Q&A with the director Alexandra Dean and Susan Sarandon, who was one of the film’s producers.

I confess I’d never heard of Hedy Lamarr before, but her story sounds a fascinating one – a star of Hollywood’s Golden Age in the 1940s and famed for her beauty, Lamarr was also a keen inventor whose iconic glamour prevented her from getting the credit she deserved.

The film focusses on her landmark invention, co-created with film composer George Antheil – a pioneering piece of technology which went on to be used by the military and in phones, GPS and Bluetooth.

Not a lot of people know that – which brings us nicely on to the month’s other big documentary plus Q&A, My Generation, a love letter to the 1960s narrated by and starring the one and only Michael Caine.

It’s not exactly an under-celebrated period of modern British history, but with Caine as the tour guide and big name interviewees including the likes of Paul McCartney and Marianne Faithfull, plus writing credits for legendary sitcom team Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, this should certainly be an authentic look back at the youth culture explosion of the era.

Showing at both Vue and City Screen on 14th, it’s followed by a live satellite Q&A with Caine and the film’s director David Batty.

An altogether quieter documentary experience can be found in Makala, showing in City Screen’s Discover Tuesdays strand on 6th.

The winner of the Critics’ Week Grand Prize at Cannes in 2017, it follows the arduous and dangerous work of a young Congolese farmer trying to earn a living by making and selling charcoal.

Next up, the highly acclaimed and Oscar nominated Russian family drama Loveless has one-off showings at both Everyman (on Weds 7th) and City Screen (on Tues 13th).

The new film from Leviathan director Andrey Zvyaginytsev, it focusses on the disappearance of a 12 year-old-boy who runs away after witnessing a bitter fight between his estranged parents.

Writing in The Observer, Mark Kermode made it his film of the week, calling it “profoundly uncomfortable viewing: mournful, monstrous and weirdly mesmerising”.

And finally, on an altogether cheerier note, there’s a couple of opportunities to sing your heart out on Sunday 11th, with City Screen and Everyman showing sing-along versions of two much-loved box office smashes.

At City Screen, you can sing-along-a-Jackman in the unstoppable juggernaut that is The Greatest Showman, while Everyman get into the Mother’s Day spirit with Mamma Mia!.

By a cruel twist of fate though, both screenings are at 3pm. Choose wisely…

Community cinema

Another great chance to see a film for free courtesy of Film At The Folk Hall this month.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, they’re showing Suffragette at the Folk Hall, New Earswick on Friday 9th.

This 2015 film, directed by Sarah Gavrori (Brick Lane) and penned by Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady), depicts the early days of the UK feminist movement.

Carey Mulligan stars as laundry worker Maud Watts, a wife and mother who experiences a political awakening in pre-First World War London.

Helena Bonham-Carter and Anne-Marie Duff provide support as two of Maud’s sisters in arms, while Meryl Streep has a cameo as Emmeline Pankhurst.

As ever with free screenings, you’re advised to book ahead to avoid disappointment.

Film At The Folk Hall’s offering also chimes nicely with South Bank Community Cinema’s current season celebrating 100 years since suffrage was first granted to women in Britain, which concludes with two screenings this month.

There’s an echo of The Virgin Suicides to Mustang, which screens on Friday 9th. It’s a highly acclaimed 2015 Turkish drama about five orphan girls whose innocent playing with boys on a beach panics their highly conservative guardians.

They’re kept away in confinement until forced marriages can be arranged for them in this debut feature from Turkish-French director Deniz Gamze Ergüven.

It’s followed on 23rd by British period drama Testament Of Youth. A coming-of-age story based on Vera Brittain’s best-selling 1933 memoir, it stars Alicia Vikander as Brittain, who abandoned her studies during the First World War to serve as a nurse.

Both screenings are in Clement’s Hall on Nunthorpe Road. Tickets are £3 for members or £4 for guests.