So, the other night I was on my third hour of endlessly cycling through the Netflix menu, when my bleary eyes suddenly registered a couple of films I’d somehow missed before – new, and yet strangely familiar.
The first one was in the Action/Adventure category, and titled Day 291 (2021) – “Gerard Butler stars as a man imprisoned in his own house by an invisible foe, which allows him out once a day for his thirty minutes of exercise. One bleak January day he finally snaps, and begins headbutting every single bit of air he can find until his nemesis is vanquished.”
Just below it, in the Thriller section, was Auntie Iris (2020) – “During a weekly family Zoom call, an elderly relative’s inability to use the mute function threatens to derail her nephew’s pop quiz, to the point he begins to suspect her of malicious intent…but can he prove it? Judi Dench stars as the wily octogenarian in David Fincher’s claustrophobic nightmare.”
It is possible, just possible, I thought, that I have been spending too much time indoors. The cinemas haven’t reopened a moment too soon…
Another iconic Disney villain gets the Maleficent treatment here, as Emma Stone breathes new life into 101 Dalmatians’ dog-hating fashionista.
Set in 1970s London, Cruella promises to show us how aspiring young fashion designer Estella de Vil becomes the would-be puppy-pulveriser we all know and love.
There are strong The Devil Wears Prada vibes from the trailer, which sees Estella cross swords with Emma Thompson’s imperious Baroness von Hellman.
The prospect of the two Emmas engaged in a Great British Vamp Off is certainly an appealing one, while director Craig Gillespie looks to have channelled some of the gleefully chaotic energy which characterised his previous film, 2017’s I, Tonya.
A pair of outsiders in the Oregon Territory concoct a daring plan in this gentle western from highly acclaimed US indie director Kelly Reichardt (Meek’s Cutoff).
Otis Figowitz (John Magaro, The Umbrella Academy), a skilled cook working for a group of fur traders, crosses paths one night with King Lu (Orion Lee), a Chinese immigrant on the run.
The two of them spy a chance to make their fortune with a new business venture – the catch is that it’s dependent on stealing milk from the prized Jersey cow belonging to wealthy English landowner Chief Factor (Toby Jones).
That might sound quite low stakes, but Reichardt’s films have a way of slowly but surely drawing you into their world, until suddenly the lights go up and you wish you could stay there just a little longer.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
It’s no surprise to see a nod to The Exorcist in the trailer for this third entry (ignoring the various spin-offs) in the popular horror series, based on the experiences of real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren.
Taking its cue from a widely reported 1981 US trial in which the defendant claimed demonic possession as a defence, the story sees the Warrens come to the aid of Arne Johnson, a young man on trial for murder – but could his actions have their roots in a family curse?
Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga reprise their roles as Ed and Lorraine, while Michael Chaves (who helmed 2019 spin-off The Curse of La Llorona) takes over directing duties from franchise creator James Wan.
And the Oscar went to…
The start of the new year is usually a bumper time for film fans, as the studios dangle their juiciest, most enticing pieces of awards bait over our heads in the hope of snaring a cinematic salmon, or at least bagging a bream (sorry, I watched a lot of Gone Fishing over lockdown).
Covid may have put a stop to all that this year, but some of the best and brightest of this year’s batch are now out in cinemas.
All four York cinemas are screening triple Oscar winner Nomadland, director Chloé Zhao’s hugely acclaimed, naturalistic tale of life on the fringes of the American Dream, which sees Frances McDormand take to the road after the death of her husband.
You can also still catch Daniel Kaluuya’s multi-award winning performance in real-life drama Judas and the Black Messiah (City Screen, Everyman), and tender family portrait Minari (City Screen), which saw 73-year-old South Korean actress Youn Yuh-Jung take home an Oscar for her portrait of the clan’s irascible, foul-mouthed grandmother.
Finally, British period romance Ammonite (City Screen) may have been all but overlooked by the major awards ceremonies, but the star pairing of Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan surely needs no fancy statuettes to recommend it.
And if you’re not quite feeling ready to head out to the cinema yet, all of the above are also available to stream on digital platforms now.
Other screenings: Half term special
I’ll be honest, I am one of those contrary souls who quite enjoys a nice rainy day, but even I think the weather’s taking the mick at this point…With schools on their half term break this week, here’s a round-up of family-friendly fare that might appeal while you wait for the sky to make its bloody mind up.
There’s plenty to pick beyond the all-conquering Peter Rabbit 2 (showing at all four cinemas), with several recent streaming releases now having their moment on the big screen – all also featuring animal protagonists, presented here in ascending order of size.
Let’s start around ankle height with everyone’s favourite warring cat and mouse duo – Tom and Jerry: The Movie (Cineworld, Everyman, Vue, digital platforms) is a Roger Rabbit-style live-action/animation hybrid which sees the pair get into their usual scrapes on the streets of New York. Fortunately Chloë Grace Moretz is there to keep them in line.
Next up, we head out into the wild with the ace-sounding Irish animation Wolfwalkers (Vue, Apple TV+), which sees a young apprentice hunter befriend a free-spirited girl whose tribe are rumoured to turn into wolves by night…
Keeping it mythical is Disney’s well-received CGI adventure Raya and the Last Dragon (Cineworld, Everyman, Vue, Disney+), which sees warrior princess Raya (voiced by Star Wars’ Kelly Marie Tran) go on a quest to find the long-lost dragon Sisu (rising star Awkwafina) in order to save her people.
And finally, the biggest and beastliest of them all (and one for the slightly older kids) – Godzilla vs. Kong (Cineworld, Everyman, Vue, digital platforms), in which the two titans of cinema duke it out once more, 21st Century style (sat at home, furiously subtweeting each other).