The Oscars race is hotting up – but York cinemagoers won’t have an opportunity to see one of the frontrunners on the big screen.
The Favourite and Roma lead the field with 10 nominations apiece – but thanks to Netflix’s (some would say cynical) decision to give it a very limited release, the only way we can see the latter is via their streaming platform.
While it’s great that it’s available to a massive audience on TV, it seems wrong that many film fans won’t get the chance to experience it in a cinema.
Maybe they’ll have a change of heart if it wins big? In the meantime, there’s plenty else to look forward to this month – from the new film by the director of Moonlight to the return of Emmet and co in The Lego Movie 2…
Alita: Battle Angel
Director Robert Rodriguez (Sin City) and producer James Cameron (Avatar) team up here for this fantasy adventure adapted from a hit manga series.
Like the recent Mortal Engines, it sees a mysterious heroine do battle with dark forces in a dystopian future – in this case, the Iron City, where the titular cyborg Alita (Rosa Salazar, the Maze Runner series) is found in a scrapyard by Dr Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz, Spectre), who becomes her caretaker.
With no memory of her past, Alita must navigate this strange new world and its many threats – not least the villainous Zapan (Ed Skrein, Deadpool), a cyborg who has been sent to kill her.
With Cameron as producer, it’s no surprise that the film blends live action and state-of-the-art effects, with motion capture and CGI being used to bring Alita to life.
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
Back in 2014, few expected The Lego Movie to be much more than a serviceable bit of product placement.
However, thanks to writer-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, it went on to become one of the best-loved family films of recent years, thanks to the wit, creativity and story-telling nous they brought to the project.
Two spin-offs later, we now have the next chapter proper, as Emmet, Wyldstyle and of course Batman are back for a new adventure, facing their toughest foe yet – Duplo.
As introduced at the end of the first film, the toddler-friendly monsters are causing havoc in Bricksburg – but help is at hand from intergalactic hero Rex Dangervest…
Lord and Miller have again written the screenplay (though they aren’t directing this time) – while original cast members Chris Pratt and Elizabeth Banks are joined by Girls Trip’s Tiffany Haddish and Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Stephanie Beatriz as two of the dreaded Duplo invaders.
The Kid Who Would Be King
Twenty years on from the days when he and Adam Buxton remade films with soft toys, Joe Cornish now gets to use real live humans as his puppets – and his latest big screen outing sees him bring Arthurian folklore crashing into modern-day Britain.
The kid of the title is schoolboy Alex (Louis Ashborne Serkis), who discovers King Arthur’s mythical sword Excalibur, and learns that he must stand against the wicked enchantress Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson, Mission Impossible: Fallout).
He’s soon assembling his own Knights of the Round Table, aided by legendary wizard Merlin (Angus Imrie), who’s taken gangly teenage form to fit in with Alex and his friends.
In Jodie Whittaker and John Boyega, Cornish’s excellent 2011 debut Attack The Block contained in its ranks both a future Doctor Who and a hero of the new Star Wars generation – so who knows where his largely unknown cast of youngsters might find themselves in a few years’ time?
This true-life drama takes its name from the annual travel guide that was published for African-American motorists in the era of racial segregation, giving details of services and places that were safe and friendly.
Set in the 1960s, it sees world-famous African-American pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali, Moonlight) hiring Italian-American bouncer Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen, The Lord of the Rings) as his driver and bodyguard for a tour of the Deep South.
A combination of feel-good road-trip movie and social history lesson, the film follows the developing friendship between the two men over the course of their journey.
It’s attracted awards nominations and acclaim for both performances, but also a fair amount of criticism as another example of the ‘white saviour’ narrative seen previously in films such as Driving Miss Daisy.
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
This comedy-drama about a struggling New York writer who turns her hand to forgery has been earning star Melissa McCarthy rave reviews – as well as her first Oscar nomination since Bridesmaids.
McCarthy stars as author Lee Israel (on whose memoir the film is based), whose nice line in celebrity biography work dries up, leading her to pursue an alternative career – forging letters by deceased authors.
Aiding and abetting Israel is her drinking buddy Jack Hock, played by Richard E. Grant (who’s also got an Oscar nod for his role).
There’s an interesting combination of talents behind the screenplay – Nicole Holofcener scored a critical hit for Netflix last year with suburban drama The Land of Steady Habits, while co-writer Jeff Whitty wrote the Book for hit puppet musical Avenue Q.
In the latest example of the curious ‘twin films’ phenomenon (where two films about the same subject are released within months of each other), Boy Erased follows in the footsteps of last September’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post, being the story of a teenager sent to a gay conversion camp.
Based on a true story, it stars Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea) as Jared Eamons, the son of a small-town Baptist pastor who is made to attend conversion therapy sessions after he is outed to his parents (played by Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman).
As in Cameron Post, it’s through rebelling against the programme’s leaders that Jared starts to come to terms with his identity.
It’s the second film from actor/director Joel Edgerton, who’s cropped up in everything from Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby to Spielberg-esque sci-fi drama Midnight Special, and whose directorial debut was 2015’s well-received psychological horror The Gift.
If Beale Street Could Talk
Expectations were high for director Barry Jenkins’ follow-up to his Oscar-winning coming-of-age drama Moonlight – and happily, the critical reaction to If Beale Street Could Talk suggests he’s once again delivered something special.
Set in 1970s Harlem and based on the novel by James Baldwin, the story follows young lovers Tish (newcomer KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James, Selma), whose bright future together is threatened when Fonny is wrongfully imprisoned.
Pregnant with their first child, the determined Tish sets out to clear Fonny’s name, with the support of her loving family (including mother Sharon, a role for which Regina King recently won Best Supporting Actress at the Golden Globes).
As with Moonlight, reviews indicate that Jenkins has crafted another immersive, mesmerising story, which Little White Lies described as “Bursting with life and love yet at once fiercely angry… a faithful adaptation that will break your heart 10 times over”.
A child sues his parents for bringing him into the world in this Oscar-nominated Lebanese drama, which has had critics full of praise for its charismatic young lead, Zain Al Rafeea.
Al Rafeea plays 12-year-old Zain, whose tough, streetwise exterior belies his inner turmoil caused by his home life – a situation which becomes so dire it forces him to run away from home.
The court case against Zain’s parents serves as the framing device for the story, which looks back through the hardships of his childhood and the friendship he forms with a young single mother while living on the streets.
Filmed almost entirely with a cast of non-professional actors, director Nadine Labaki’s picture was hailed by The Telegraph as “a social-realist blockbuster – fired by furious compassion and teeming with sorrow, yet strewn with diamond-shards of beauty, wit and hope”.
On The Basis of Sex
Felicity Jones stars as US Supreme Court Justice and feminist icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in this biopic of her early years as a struggling activist.
The film sees the young Ginsburg fighting for equal rights as she begins her career in the male-dominated legal sphere of the 1950s and 1960s.
When Ginsburg and her husband Marty (Armie Hammer) take on a groundbreaking tax case based around one of the few laws to discriminate unfairly against men, it goes on to change the direction of her career.
Director Mimi Leder seems an appropriate choice to helm the film, having herself experienced the inequality of the movie industry first hand – in the 1990s she was responsible for the hit movies The Peacemaker and Deep Impact, but the failure of her next film Pay It Forward saw studios unwilling to give her the second chance readily afforded to countless male directors, leading to her spending years in the Hollywood wilderness.
Happy Death Day 2U
First up, a warning: massive spoiler in the trailer if you haven’t seen the first film (I hadn’t). Also, best avoid if you’ve got a headache (I have). There’s a lot of screaming.
There’s something admirable about the unpretentious, cheerfully commercial attitude found in the horror genre – if a film’s a hit, it gets a sequel, banged out in the time it takes your average auteur director to decide on the font for their opening credits.
So it is with Happy Death Day 2U, sequel to the surprise hit original, which came out in October 2017, and saw Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) re-living the day of her murder again and again until she could identify her killer.
The new film (directed again by Christopher Landon) switches things up by having the killer go after Tree’s friends, forcing her to go back into the time loop and die another day (and another, and another) in order to save them.
Let’s kick off with a couple of Q&A screenings – first up, City Screen and Everyman are showing A Private War on Monday 4th.
This acclaimed biopic sees Rosamunde Pike take on the role of the legendary Sunday Times war correspondent Marie Colvin, who was tragically killed in 2012 while covering the siege of Homs in Syria.
It’s been praised both for Pike’s performance and for the voice it gives to the civilians caught up in the conflicts, whose stories Colvin worked so fearlessly to bring to wider attention.
The screening is followed by a live satellite Q&A with Rosamunde Pike, co-star Jamie Dornan and director Matthew Heineman.
Later the same week on Weds 6th, City Screen have a Q&A screening of new Shakespeare film All Is True.
An intriguing proposition, this drama sees Kenneth Branagh (who else?) portraying the playwright in the last years of his life, reckoning with the failures of his past.
It’s written by Ben Elton (who’s had his biggest TV hit in years with his Bardcom Upstart Crow), and the two men will take part in a live satellite Q&A after the film.
Meanwhile, Elton’s Blackadder writing partner Richard Curtis gets a Valentine’s Day screening of one of his much-loved romcoms, when Notting Hill shows at Vue on Thurs 14th.
It’s a well-timed reissue, what with Hugh Grant’s career experiencing something of a second wind of late (thanks to stellar turns in Paddington 2 and a A Very English Scandal).
You can hear Grant discuss the film as part of an entertaining career retrospective in the clip below – in which he intriguingly says that the ordinary-bloke-meets-huge-film-star plot was inspired by the real-life relationship of one of Curtis’ friends…
Looking for a more old-fashioned kind of romance? Then I say, “What about Breakfast at Tiffany’s?”
Showing at City Screen on Sunday 10th, it’s the film that gave Audrey Hepburn her most iconic role (though Truman Capote, on whose book it was based, famously wanted Marilyn Monroe for the part of Holly Golightly), and won the Oscar for Best Original Song for the timeless Moon River.
City Screen have another Valentine’s treat on Thurs 14th, when the bouncer from Road House and Ferris Bueller’s sister get up close and personal in perennial ‘80s favourite Dirty Dancing.
Over at Everyman, they’re celebrating the big day with a showing of Moulin Rouge.
The Greatest Showman of its day, Baz Luhrmann’s spectacular musical chucks everything from Madonna to Nirvana into the mix, and is worth seeing for Jim Broadbent’s take on Like A Virgin alone.
As Parks and Recreation fans will be aware, you can’t have Valentine’s Day without Galentine’s Day – and happily, Everyman are honouring Leslie Knope’s celebration of female friendship with a screening of Legally Blonde on Weds 13th.
If Moulin Rouge has got you in a musical mood, you might like to know that City Screen have singalong screenings of the all-conquering Bohemian Rhapsody on Sun 24th, and the original Mamma Mia! on Mon 25th – the latter showing in their Dementia-Friendly Screening strand.
Next, over to Spark York, where you can see a locally made independent film for free on Sun 10th.
Billed as a tense crime drama, Sparrowhawk was shot just up the road in Darlington. The action all takes place in a police safe house, where a homeless man finds himself alone with a team of corrupt cops who’ll stop at nothing to track down their nemesis.
Start time is 6:30 and entry is free, but there will be an opportunity to make donations to Breast Cancer Care.
And finally, one you can watch for free without leaving the house. Black Sheep was the powerful, moving documentary that won Best of Fest at last year’s Aesthetica Short Film Festival – and last week it was announced that it’s up for an Oscar!
It’s been nominated for the Best Short Documentary category, so fingers crossed it repeats its ASFF success – in the meantime, you can watch it here.
With Julia Roberts back on the big screen in Notting Hill at Vue this month, Film at the Folk Hall’s offering takes us back to the film that launched her career.
Showing on Saturday 16th, Pretty Woman is, as if you needed telling, the story of the blossoming relationship between a Los Angeles prostitute (Roberts) and a businessman (Richard Gere).
Roberts was nominated for an Oscar for her dazzling performance, which catapulted her to the Hollywood big league.
You won’t be surprised to learn that, like seemingly every hit movie from the 1990s, the film now has its own musical version, which debuted on Broadway last year (really looking forward to that Seven musical when they get round to it).
It’s on at the Folk Hall, New Earswick at 7:30pm (doors 7pm). Tickets are £3 for members, £5 for guests.
There’s a love story at the heart of both films showing at South Bank Community Cinema this month too – though they’ve actually been chosen to fit with SBCC’s current ‘food and drink’ themed season.
First up on Friday 8th is a film I’d never heard of until I saw it in their listings – but am keen to check out having read up on it.
Originally released in 1974, Fear Eats The Soul is a West German drama by highly regarded director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and considered by many critics to be a masterpiece.
The story follows the unlikely romance between elderly German widow Emmi (Brigitte Mara) and Moroccan migrant worker Ali (El Hedi ben Salem) – a relationship which meets with suspicion from Emmi’s family and friends.
On the film’s rerelease in 2017, Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian gave the film five stars, saying of the two leads that “they act with instant sympathy and charm and in their own way, they are the most purely lovable characters I have ever seen on a movie screen”.
SBCC’s other offering this month is well-timed, what with Olivia Colman currently wowing critics and audiences alike in The Favourite.
Showing on Friday 22nd, The Lobster is the English-language debut of The Favourite’s director Yorgos Lanthimos, in which he first worked with Colman and co-star Rachel Weisz.
An ideal film for those who would rather pretend Valentine’s Day isn’t happening, this surrealist black comedy is set in a hotel designed for single people to find a partner – with the catch being that, if they haven’t paired off after 45 days, they, er, get turned into an animal of their choice.
Colin Farrell stars as the hotel’s newest occupant, whose chosen animal gives the film its title, while Weisz is the woman he falls for, and Colman has a supporting role as the hotel’s manager.
The kind of film that’s not, perhaps, to everyone’s tastes, but one I really enjoyed when it was released in 2015, and I’d definitely recommend for those who like their humour a little offbeat.
Both screenings are in Clement’s Hall on Nunthorpe Road, starting at 8pm (doors 7:30pm). Tickets are £3 for members or £4 for guests.