Winter normally brings dregs of the movie-release calendar, but here’s a handful of films we’re looking forward to seeing:
‘71 (February 27)
During a Belfast street fight at the height of Northern Ireland’s struggle for independence, a British soldier (Unbroken star Jack O’Connell) gets mistakenly left behind. His only hope: clawing his way back to safety during a harrowing back-alley journey through the dark heart of the city. Yann Demarge’s incendiary nail-biter—a tour-de-force of piano-wire tension—has played to packed houses at international film festivals from Berlin to Toronto.
Chappie (March 6)
Artificial intelligence gets its E.T. moment with this big-hearted story about a childlike experimental robot programmed for empathy whose rough encounters with the real world give him a crash-course in the contradictions of mankind. Oscar-nominated South African writer-director Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium) yet again proves his deft talent for crafting tech-heavy stories on a human scale.
Cinderella (March 13)
With Downton Abbey’s Lily James playing fabledom’s storied princess and Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden as her Prince Charming, TV’s latest Golden-Era actors could reinvigorate this live-action imagining of the hoary tale. But Kenneth Branagh’s shiny reboot seems destined to follow the Disney playbook instead of tapping into the fable’s Grimm roots. Still, the chance to relish Cate Blanchett’s wicked stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter’s flitty fairy godmother could be too magical to resist.
Fifty Shades of Grey (February 13)
Beyoncé commands you to watch this! Queen Bey’s sultry alt version of “Crazy In Love” highlights this kinky page-to-film adaptation of E.L. James’ massive BDSM pop phenomenon about rough-sex billionaire lonelyheart Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), out in theaters just in time for Valentine’s Day. For those too locked up to know, the actress steely enough to play chained ingenue Anastasia Steele is Dakota Johnson—daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson. (Isn’t that torture enough?)
Jupiter Ascending (February 6)
Following up their star-studded, intergenerational, quasi-mystical, multi-narrative hot mess otherwise known as Cloud Atlas, the Wachowskis return with another sci-fi epic, a characteristically ambitious space saga starring Mila Kunis as an ordinary woman who discovers that she is a distant relative of alien royalty and heir to the entire planet Earth. Channing Tatum plays her beefy warrior manservant with a predilection for heavy mascara.
Maps to the Stars (February 27)
Existential auteur David Cronenberg turns his clinical cinematic eye toward the most soulless place on Earth: Hollywood. A familial web of secrets binds a child star (Evan Bird), an aging actress (Julianne Moore), her motivational speaker husband (John Cusack), a droll limo driver (Robert Pattinson), and a mysterious out-of-towner (Mia Wasikowska) who wears her scars on the inside and out. Novelist Bruce Wagner—best known for his wickedly caustic views of Tinseltown—wrote the tart original script.
Red Army (January 23)
Despite their fluke loss to a ragtag bunch of scrappy American amateurs at the 1980 Winter Olympics, the USSR’s celebrated hockey team was otherwise heralded as one of the greatest franchises in the history of sports—never mind the personal and political toll it took on the players. Filmmaker Gabe Polsky pulls off his own miracle on ice with this internationally acclaimed and improbably compelling history lesson, the rare sports doc that’s more than just an ESPN highlight reel.