The film world’s eyes will be focused on London on 8 February as the stars trot up the red carpet to the BAFTA film awards. But that isn’t the only cinematic highlight of the month. February sees a pick and mix of new releases to suit all tastes with our own city, not to mention home grown talent, taking a starring role in several.
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Release date: Out now / Certificate: 15 / Director: Matthew Vaughn
Stars: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Michael Caine, Mark Hamill
Why are the Lundun yout generally relegated to roles as drug dealer #2 in low budget, sub Guy-Ritchie gangster films? Kingsman, at last, redresses the balance. Colin Firth stars as the immaculate Harry Hart, a bespoke-suited member of a London-based clan of secret servicemen selected on the basis of talent and skill. Hence streetwise young sarf Londoner Eggsy (Taron Egerton) finds himself recruited to join them. Part action movie, part culture clash comedy (we’ve yet to hear a better timed “Shut UP” than the one Eggsy splutters on being shown Harry’s clandestine weapons collection), it’s a marvellously-spirited, tongue-in-cheek affair — an irreverent Bond pastiche turned inside out, shaken AND stirred.
Love Is Strange
Release date: 6 February / Certificate: 15 / Director: Ira Sachs
Stars: Alfred Molina, John Lithgow, Marisa Tomei, Charlie Tahan
How many articles and/or TV reports about exorbitant London house prices have you squawked with indignation at this week? Then hated yourself for being so middle class? Prepare to squawk some more after watching the New York-set Love Is Strange. Rent-controlled apartments? Whaaat? Property prices aside, this is a sweet and wryly funny portrait of an elderly married gay couple who find themselves woefully reduced to dossing on friends' sofas in what should be the comfortable twilight of their lives.
Release date: 6 February / Certificate: 12A / Director: Ava DuVernay
Stars: David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, Carman Ejogo, Tim Roth, Oprah Winfrey
London has always nurtured world class talent. Our latest high-profile alumnus is LAMDA graduate David Oyelowo, who received a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of Martin Luther King in Selma. Chronicling the struggle of King to secure black voting rights in Alabama, against the will of both the state and President Johnson (Tom Wilkinson — us Brits get everywhere), it pulls no punches in its depiction of the cruel racism of the time.
Shaun The Sheep Movie
Release date: 6 February / Certificate: U / Directors: Richard Starzak, Mark Burton
Stars: Justin Fletcher, John Sparkes, Omid Djalili, Richard Webber
Admit it — this is the one you’re really excited about. Following in the clanking mechanical footsteps of Wallace and Gromit, Aardman’s much-loved Shaun the Sheep makes his big screen debut in this pig-in-the-city style adventure. Admirably sticking to the dialogue-free formula it’s chock full of British humour (is there anything more comically British than a caravan?) and sly movie references. Baa-rilliant.
Release date: 6 February / Certificate: 12A / Director: Uberto Pasolini
Stars: Eddie Marsan, Joanne Froggatt
In our bustling London metropolis, we forget situations like this exist. John May (Eddie Marsan) works in ‘client services’ for the 'London Borough of Kennington'. Specifically, he deals with people who have died alone and unnoticed, trying to track down an estranged relative or long lost friend to lay them to rest. For those who remain unclaimed, he arranges dignified funerals. But, ironically, John is every bit as lonely as those he buries. Elevated by a touching, restrained performance from Eddie Marsan, Still Life gives pause for thought. Just how many of the people you passed on the street today were a John — going home to a empty flat to eat a solitary meal, knowing there would be no-one to mourn them once they are gone? Sobering.
Fifty Shades Of Grey
Release date: 13 February / Certificate: TBC / Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Stars: Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson, Jennifer Ehle, Luke Grimes, Marcia Gay Harden
You can (attempt to) run in your 5in spike stilettos, but you can’t hide. Yes, Fifty Shades whips into town in time for Valentine’s Day, with Jamie Dornan putting The Fall’s sexually deviant Paul Spector not in any way behind him to take up Christian Grey’s fluffy handcuffs. Directed by our very own Croydon born Sam Taylor-Johnson, graduate of Goldsmith’s College of Art and Turner Prize nominee, if anyone can impose discipline and order to the mummy porn phenomenon, it’s her.
The Duke Of Burgundy
Release date: 20 February / Certificate: 18 / Director: Peter Strickland
Stars: Sidse Babett Knudsen, Monica Swinn, Chiara D’Anna
Fifty Shades a little too downmarket and mainstream for you? Keep your cerebral, arthouse credentials intact with the provocative Duke Of Burgundy, a study of a perverse, sadomasochistic relationship between a maidservant and her mistress who studies butterflies and moths. It’s a deeply atmospheric, adult mood piece, receiving much critical adoration. Think Secretary meets Under The Skin.
Release Date: 20 February / Certificate: 15 / Director: Daniel Barnz
Stars: Jennifer Aniston, Anna Kendrick, Sam Worthington, Mamie Gummer, William H Macy
Jennifer Aniston is so synonymous with THAT show it’s easy to forget she is a terrific dramatic actress. Cake is a timely reminder. A portrait of a woman in chronic pain, both physically and mentally, it’s not the cheeriest of subjects but it deservedly earned her a Golden Globe nomination. Look out for a stellar supporting cast.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Release date: 26 February / Certificate: 15 / Director: Daniel Barnz
Stars: Dev Patel, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy
Harrow-born Dev Patel reprises his role as the irrepressible hotelier to the Elderly and Beautiful, now with dreams of expanding his empire while dealing with his impending marriage. Chock full of British talent, all the old cast are back, along with new recruits Richard Gere and Tamsin Greig (surely she isn’t old enough to join the fusties? Tamsin, have words with your agent). Even if you didn’t like the first one, your mum certainly did. Go on, take her along, she’ll love you for it.
Release date: 27 February / Certificate: 15 / Director: Kornél Mundruczό
Stars: Zsόfia Psotta, Sándor Zsötér, Lili Horváth
And now for something completely different. A highlight of 2014’s London Film Festival, now on general release, White God is the rebellious, illegitimate son of Lassie and 28 Days Later. A metaphorical critique of state oppression in which dog pound strays turn nasty on their human captors, not only did it win the Un Certain Regard award at Cannes but its remarkable four-legged stars won Cannes’ coveted Palm Dog for best canine performance. Nutty and sublime in equal measures, it features extraordinary, CGI-free shots of its cast of over 100 dogs running rampant through deserted streets. We’d say ‘don’t have nightmares’, but you most probably will.
By Ruth Sloss