With the Oscars right around the corner, your local cinema is packed full of gems to enjoy this month. Along with Valentine’s Day, there’s plenty of romance and laughter to be had too. Let’s take a look at what’s on offer in February.
Spike Jonze’s sensational ode to love is remarkable in every sense. Set in the near future, Joaquin Phoenix shines as a soon-to-be divorcee struggling to connect with life. He takes a chance on a new, advanced computer operating system (voiced by the sultry Scarlett Johansson) and falls head over heels for her. The artificial intelligence reciprocates and the two begin to date. This love story is wonderfully realised through a breathtaking visual style that ponders life’s big questions whilst cultivating beautiful environments, costume design and feasible tech that leaves you awe-struck. Amy Adams, Chris Pratt and Olivia Wilde add their support to one of the finest and most inventive films of the year. Simply unmissable.
Nick Frost goes it alone in this feel-good rom-com set against the world of Salsa dancing. A former child- star of the dance circuit, Bruce (Frost) loved to Salsa but some bullies changed his persuasions. Now an out of shape adult, he seems to be content with an ordinary life until he falls for his new boss (The US Office and Parks and Recreation star Rashida Jones). Now with a new sense of purpose, Bruce goes back onto the dance floor to wow the object of his affections whilst challenging a smarmy Chris O’Dowd for her hand. Throw in Olivia Colman, Ian McShane as his old dance instructor and a scene-stealing Kayvan Novak and you have laughs aplenty.
THAT AWKWARD MOMENT – 2 stars (out 29th Jan)
Zac Efron leads an impressive young ensemble in this by-the-numbers rom-com. Lifelong friends Jason (Efron), Daniel (Miles Teller) and Mikey (Michael B. Jordan) tackle the dating scene in New York just as Ellie (Imogen Poots) walks into Jason’s life and makes him question his bachelor ways. There’s real potential here but it all goes begging with a nonsensical final third that turns Efron’s character into a simpleton just for the sake of manufactured drama. It’s not all bad though; the film has a brilliant soundtrack, looks good and features Mackenzie Davis – surely a name to watch out for in the future.
Destined to be a cult classic, this timeless tale of vampirism plays out as the perfect alternative this Valentines. Having spent decades apart, two centuries-old vampires named Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) reunite and navigate an ever-changing world. This isn’t your usual teen love connection but instead a brooding and sweeping romance for adults with a dark twist of sharp comedy. Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt and Star Trek’s Anton Yelchin provide accomplished support but it’s the hypnotic performances of Hiddleston and Swinton that captivate the most in Jim Jarmusch’s glorious and beautiful tale of cursed love.
Shia LaBeouf’s self-exile from ‘public life’ may have turned him into a punchline but it’s nice to get a timely reminder of what he can actually do as a performer. He hands in a cultured portrayal as a young American struggling to find meaning in his life after the death of his mother. Taking her death-bed advice to go to Bucharest, he packs his bags seeking answers to questions he doesn’t quite know yet. Along the way he meets up with a music teacher, a beautiful young woman (Evan Rachel Wood) and her scary former husband who happens to be a criminal (the always reliable Mads Mikkelsen). Beautifully shot with an off-beat romance that surprisingly works, this is an unexpected treat.
Adapted from Markus Zusak’s influential novel, The Book Thief focuses on young Liesel who goes to live with some foster parents (Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson) in Germany during World War 2. Once there, she secretly steals books set to be burnt by the Nazi’s and finds solace in their words. An impressive leading turn from Sophie Nélisse marks this as a heartfelt story with plenty of emotional pull but it needlessly becomes distracted by Roger Allam’s imposing narration as ‘Death’.
Matthew McConaughey continues his remarkable comeback with an award-worthy performance. Homophobic redneck Ron Woodroof, who was diagnosed with Aids in 1985, begins a lengthy battle against the US drug administration to get life-prolonging drugs certified by the FDA. His journey takes him around the world, illegally bringing drugs into the US and establishing a ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ – a monthly membership where people suffering similar illness can buy non-sanctioned but effective meds. McConaughey shines but its Jared Leto that really drops the jaw as a transgender prostitute who befriends Woodroof. Hard-hitting, tragic and deeply moving with Oscar gold surely on the horizon for both leads.
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