Between now and the end of the year we’ll be presenting you with 100 films we’re more excited to see; there may even be a few more. For now, though, here are eight for February.
Jupiter Ascending (February 6th)
Another sprawling sci-fi epic from the directorial duo behind Cloud Atlas, the Wachowski’s latest has an A-list cast including Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, and Eddie Redmayne, and a budget of $175 million. Encompassing themes as grand and diverse as terraforming and the universality of love, it seems likely to prove a John Carter-sized flop: too odd, too ambitious, and with Tatum in bizarre prosthetics, this could be car-crash cinema on a galactic scale.
Almost six weeks after it was released in The States, Ava DuVernay’s civil rights drama is finally upon us. Starring David Oyelowo in a barnstorming performance as Martin Luther King, Jr., the film explores surrounding the pivotal Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march, which proved such a decisive moment in the enfranchisement of African Americans. Even if it was largely passed over by The Academy, Selma feels like an important work of filmmaking.
50 Shades of Grey (13th)
We’re perversely curious – or is it just generally perverse – about this mid-budget adaptation of the first of E.L. James’ “mommy porn” trilogy. Relative unknown Dakota Johnson, daughter of Don, plays Ana Steele, an unassuming literature student who becomes an object of desire for the wealthy, powerful Christian Grey (Once Upon a Time’s Jamie Dornan). Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, this could be this year’s filmic guilty pleasure.
Add Michael Mann to the list of possible suspects for the Sony hack. This increasingly prescient techno-thriller marks his first directorial effort since 2009’s underwhelming Public Enemies. Chris Hemsworth stars as bad-ass hacker Nick Hathaway who, released from prison to help the American and Chinese governments track down a devastating cyber-terrorist, seems to spend less time in front of a computer and more time punching people. C’est la cinema.
Despite sterling work in The Good Girl and Life of Crime, Jennifer Aniston has struggled to break free of her image as a “TV actor”. In Daniel Barnz’s new drama, she plays the hard-worn drug addict Claire Bennett, who, suffering from chronic pain, becomes obsessed with a fellow sufferer’s suicide. Despite missing out on a Oscar nom, Aniston’s performance has been described as “the single best performance by an actress this year”. The least you can do is check it out.
He may be up for Best Supporting actor for the critically acclaimed Boyhood, but Ethan Hawke also isn’t afraid to take a risk on a low-budget genre flick. Reuniting with the Spierig brothers, he stars as an unnamed Temporal Agent who finds his fate is intertwined with a mysterious writer (Sarah Snook in an apparently career-defining performance). Based on a short story by Robert A. Heinlein, if you like your sci-fi timey-wimey, this could be just the (non-linear) ticket.
Thinking it’s been a while since you last saw Will Smith in a leading role? Meet Nicky Spurgeon, a con man who finds his personal life intruding on his professional when the former love of his life, Jess Barrett (Wolf of Wall Street’s Margot Robbie) turns up during the – predictably – score of a lifetime. Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Sequa pulled off Crazy, Stupid, Love, and, with Smith and Robbie both known to smoulder, maybe they can do the same here.
Monsters: Dark Continent (27th)
With Gareth Edwards having gone on to bigger, better things – Godzilla, Star Wars, take your pick – film newcomer Tom Green is stepping in for this sequel to his ambitious micro-budget sci-fi Monsters. Here the alien quarantine is carried over to the Middle East, where, with Johnny Harris, Sam Keeley, Joe Dempsie, and Jesse Nagy on board as a team of jumped-up squaddies, it should serve as handy-dandy allegory for the occupation of Iraq.