WOW!! January was such a truly exceptional month for film that I’ve only just been able to stop and catch my breath. Indeed, the arguments as to what should eventually be crowned the best film of 2014 have already begun. February heralds the BAFTAs ceremony in London and marks a month until the Oscars. Therefore, this is the final month for releases of this year’s award hopefuls, with two of the Best Picture nominees released in the UK this February. Then there’s Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14th, that cesspool of commercialism, which is notable this year for its merciful lack of mushy romantic films plaguing the box office.
February’s Top Pick
Dallas Buyers Club (Dir. Jean-Marc Vallee) – Released Feb. 7th
With many exquisite films battling it out over awards season, Dallas Buyers Club looked like it was going to get lost in the ether. However, at the Golden Globe Awards and many others, the film came up trumps, with the ever-improving Matthew McConaughey and his co-star Jared Leto both walking away with string of acting awards for playing the two men at the centre of a battle against the US Government and the pharmaceutical industry. McConaughey plays Ron Woodroof, an electrician, racist, homophobe and local hustler, who is diagnosed with AIDS and given 30 days to live. Flummoxed by the lack of antiviral drugs offered to him, Woodroof began to explore other avenues for finding medication to help prolong his own life and the lives of other AID sufferers, with the help of Rayon; a HIV-positive transgender woman. Driven by potent storytelling and stellar performances, this painful expose of a subject many still consider taboo is a lesson in extraordinary filmmaking. Dallas Buyers Club is the underdog at this year’s Awards Season; expect to be hearing about it a lot more as the Oscars draw closer.
The Second World War provides a rich tapestry from which to tell two very different war set tales this month. The Monuments Men (Feb. 14th), directed by George Clooney, takes its narrative from true life accounts of the men charged with retrieving some of Europe’s most notable cultural gems before Hitler and the Nazis destroyed them. With his quick-witted cast, including Bill Murray and John Goodman, able to provide laughs between the striking scenes of wartime battles, Clooney’s film looks set to provide an immersive lesson about one of WW2’s lesser-known stories. Alternatively, The Book Thief (Feb. 26th) tells a fictional tale set against the terrifying backdrop of Nazi Germany. Based on the book by Markus Zusak, it explores the devastating themes of Jewish persecution and Hitler’s dictatorship through the eyes of a young German girl.
Both an insight in to the life of one of Britain’s leading literary figures and a poignant tale of passionate love, The Invisible Woman (Feb. 21st: Nationwide) dramatizes the tumultuous relationship between Charles Dickens and Nelly Ternan. Directed by and starring Ralph Fiennes, this tender tale may go someway in deepening our understanding of this defining English novelist.
Described by a fellow Culturefly writer as “haunting” & “bleak”, Bastards (Feb. 14th) should be considered an alternative Valentine’s Day release. A destructive tale of a broken family, it marks a welcome return to film for director Claire Denis after a notable 4-year absence and looks to be worth the wait.
Of course, Valentine’s Day means that the cinema is filled with tales driven by romance, but this year marks a far more diverse and exciting range. The Oscar nominated Her (Feb. 14th), is a brooding futuristic tale of virtual romance between man and machine that stars Joaquin Phoenix as a man infatuated with ‘Samantha’, a computer personality he obsessively communicates with both in and outside his home. A more generic rom-com to recommend if you’re looking for a date-night film is Cuban Fury (Feb. 14th). Starring a cream of British talent, including Nick Frost and Olivia Coleman, this amusing tale sees a former dancer reignite his passion for the art in order to woo his beautiful new boss.
Vampires are now so ingrained in modern culture that is was never going to be long before one of cinema’s brightest talents turned their head to the genre and Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive (Feb. 21st) looks to be the perfect antidote to those still reeling from the travesty of Twilight. Jarmusch’s gothic vision pays creed to vampire lore, while Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston play the blood-sucking lovers determined to keep their true identity a secret.
Lars von Trier has always been recognized for his dark and involving tales of the human psyche and Nymphomaniac (Feb. 22nd) looks set to be the director’s most potent pleasure yet. A two-part epic that explores the darkest recesses of love and desire, it has already created quite a stir from its graphic trailer and will no doubt acquire as many lovers as it does haters when it’s released back-to-back for a special cinematic event.
The 80s gave birth to some of cinema’s finest action thrillers and this month sees the release of Robocop (Feb. 7th), a remake of the iconic actioner. With a gleaming new suit and an equally sparkling cast, this explosive reinvention is something to be approached with heightened excitement; be you dead or alive.
Liam Neeson has had a career renaissance playing action men and Non-Stop (Feb. 26th) once again sees him on the frontline, playing an air marshal whose particular set of skills come in handy when a terrorist begins to threaten the lives of his fellow passengers.
Best Of The Rest
Having already had to endure a Battleship film & with a Monopoly film in development, it was inevitable that Lego would eventually get the big screen treatment and this month sees the release of the aptly titled Lego Movie (Feb. 14th). While the story sounds tediously ridiculous, a dazzling vocal cast and the promise of seeing Gandalf and Batman share the screen together bolsters the film.
Finally, re-released to mark its 40th anniversary, The Godfather: Part 2 (Feb. 21st) returns to cinemas this month. Make the most of this opportunity to see the film many consider it to be the finest sequel of all time; with it’s enthralling multi-layered narrative and exquisite ensemble of central performances, this is truly an offer that cannot be refused.