First and foremost, Happy New Year to all our beautiful readers; I sincerely hope you had a fantastic festive period and wish you all the best for the year ahead. Of course, many use a new year to turn over a new leaf and, not wanting to feel like I haven’t improved some aspect of my life, I have decided to make this monthly film preview bigger and better… YAY! Enjoy the new layout as us film writers begin our yearly binge of the Oscar contenders that will be enhancing our cinema visits over the next few months.

inside-llewyn-davisJanuary’s Top Pick

Inside Llewyn Davis (Dir. Joel & Ethan Coen) – Released Jan. 24th

A new Coen Bros. film is always something to get excited about and having taken 3 years to bring their celebration of the Greenwich Village folk scene to the big screen, fans of these powerful and peculiar siblings will be brimming with anticipation to see their latest masterpiece. Like many of the Coen’s finest creations, Llewyn Davis is a whimsical story with its roots firmly set in reality. An exceptional Oscar Isaac takes the role of the eponymous musician and our nominal hero, who must battle crippling poverty, a freezing New York setting and his own emotional demons to try and make something of his fading musical career.

As with many of the Coen Bros. past successes, Llewyn Davis is a film brimming with poignancy and hilarity that will simultaneously bring a smile to your face and a tear to your eye. A huge contender for the big prizes at this year’s award ceremonies, Inside Llewyn Davis is another slice of cinematic gold from our favorite directing partnership and not to be missed when it opens at the end of the month.

12-years-a-slave Awe-Inspiring Dramas

There are many great dramas, many of them factual, to wet your appetite this month, with the build-up to the Oscars now well underway.

Chiwetel Ejiofor shines in 12 Years a Slave (Jan. 10th), Steve McQueen’s critically acclaimed epic that brings to life the diaries of Solomon Northup, a freeman sold into slavery in 1841 and forced to work on various plantations for 12 years before being released. Then there’s The Railway Man (Jan. 10th), which sees Eric Lomax’s memoir of a man haunted by his experiences as a Japanese POW in WW2 adapted for the big screen with Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman as the stars. Most exciting is Martin Scorsese’s much-anticipated take on Jordan Belfort’s tale of greed and debauchery The Wolf Of Wall Street (Jan. 17th). With a powerhouse performance from Leonardo DiCaprio sparking heightened talk of an Oscar for the actor, and a story that explores the unrelenting gluttony of the financial sector, Scorsese’s latest may well be some of the most shameless fun you have at the cinema this year.

It wouldn’t be Awards Season without a star turn from Meryl Streep, contemporary cinema’s First Lady, and this month sees her playing the dysfunctional head of the Weston family in August: Osage County (Jan. 24th). A powerful family drama, starring a cream of acting talent that includes Julia Roberts and Ewan McGregor, it is likely to make you both laugh and cry with its tale of domestic rivalry from a strong-willed group of characters.

last-vegasRib-Tickling Comedies

If you’re looking for something more light-hearted, you’re unlikely to go far wrong with Last Vegas (Out Now). Think of it as The Hangover for an older generation, with screen legends Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline heading to Vegas for a bachelor party that gets out of hand faster than you can say “wolf pack”. If you’ve ever wanted to know who would win a fight between Rocky Balboa and Jake La Motta, then Grudge Match (Jan. 24th) will be right up your ally. This sports comedy see’s Stallone and De Niro’s boxing rivals come out of retirement for one last bout. Another great opportunity to spend time with some cinematic greats, it also stars Alan Arkin as Stallone’s less-than-courteous trainer.

If you like your comedy more lowbrow, then Vince Vaughn is on hand in Delivery Man (Jan. 10th), which sees the incessant comedy actor play a sperm donor who discovers he has fathered over 500 children. Don’t go expecting clever comedy, but if you’re a fan of Vaughn’s pervious work, you’ll no doubt leave with a smile on your face.

out-of-the-furnaceHeart-Pumping Thrillers

If it’s excitement you’re after, Out Of The Furnace (Jan. 29th) is without doubt the film for you this month. Set in America’s Rust-Belt, it follows Christian Bale’s Russell, who sets out to find out what happened to his brother, who is missing at the hands of Woody Harrelson’s local villain. However, if you prefer your thrills with a dose of espionage, then check out Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Jan 24th), the fifth Ryan film that sees the forth interpretation of Tom Clancy’s literary hero. Starring Chris Pine as the eponymous spy and directed by Kenneth Branagh, Shadow Recruit is a reboot that will hopefully serve as the foundation for a new series of films about the US super spy.

Another true tale that has generated Oscar buzz, Lone Survivor (Jan. 31st) will hopefully see director Peter Berg repent for the disaster of Battleship. Dramatizing the failed “Operation Red Wings” mission of 2005, in which a team of Navy Seals tried and failed to kill a high-profile Taliban target, it sees Mark Wahlberg flexing both his action and drama muscles to bring to life this tale of determination and survival against the odds.

the-armstrong-lieBest Of The Rest

The revelations that led to cyclist Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace are documented in The Armstrong Lie (Jan 31st). Featuring open and honest interviews with the disgraced sportsman and filled with archive footage from his illustrious career, this is Armstrong’s attempt to set the record straight.

First time writer/director Tom Gormican was fortunate enough to secure Zac Efron, who proved to have a suprising talent for comedy in Liberal Arts, for his debut film That Awkward Moment (Jan. 29th). It’s a film that follows 3 male friends as they all start to wonder where their respective relationships are going; cue sentimental heart to hearts and a large dose of male humor that could establish Gormican as a talent to look out for.

For those after another treat from the BFI’s Gothic season, look no further than La Belle Et La Bête (Limited Release: Out Now). A gorgeous gothic classic that is enlivened by exquisite performances and memorable for its sumptuous design; it may well be the most beautiful film you see this month.

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