Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! – Movies to Watch in Early 2015

By Freda Cooper 27.12.2014

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Movies to Watch in Early 2015

With the start of the awards season just over the horizon, the New Year is traditionally when the likely contenders come out to play. Lights, Camera, Action! checks out the best of the fresh releases that the start of 2015 has to offer.

The movie year usually swings from feast to famine, although the first three months always fall into the first category - and that means both quality and quantity, to the extent that it can be difficult to fit in everything. Too much of a good thing? Lights, Camera, Action!'s Freda Cooper takes a look…

January fairly roars out of the blocks with one of the most heavily fancied films for awards glory.  Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu's Birdman is released on New Year's Day and boasts the role of a lifetime for the resurgent Michael Keaton. Check out this page in a few days for the full Lights, Camera, Action! verdict. There will also be the lowdown on the other big film released on the same day, The Theory of Everything - the story of Stephen Hawking and his marriage to his first wife, Jane. It's the role that has brought Eddie Redmayne out of the shadows of his higher profile contemporaries - Benedict Cumberbatch, for one.

The following week, 9th January, sees another brace of award contenders come in to land. First, there's Bennett Miller's Foxcatcher, which won him Best Director at Cannes. Held back for its release by twelve months because of the strength of last year's competition, most of the fuss about this one has surrounded an almost-unrecognisable Steve Carell, with a huge prosthetic nose and unpleasant teeth in the role of multi-millionaire John DuPont, who sponsored the American wrestling team in the 1980s. Once again, Miller has gone for a true story and a one-word title (Capote, Moneyball). The omens are good.

By contrast, Disney's first offering of the year is its adaptation of Sondheim's Into the Woods, with an all-star cast including Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, and Johnny Depp. It may be based on Grimm's fairytales but, despite its PG certificate, this is a lot darker than the average family musical. It has attracted three Golden Globe nominations, including the mandatory one for Streep, but when it comes to the Oscars, musicals don't have especially good track records.

On 16th January, Clint Eastwood's American Sniper puts in an appearance. His most recent pieces of direction, including Jersey Boys and J. Edgar, indicated that his glory days might be over but, by all accounts, this is a return to form. Bradley Cooper stars as a relentlessly successful Navy SEAL sniper who finds it hard to leave war behind him when he returns home.

Out on the same day is one of the must-see films of the year, Damien Chazelle's jaw-dropping debut, Whiplash, which was screened at the London Film Festival. Check out the Lights, Camera, Action! review for a reminder of what makes it so different - and so great!

The month ends with Disney's second film of 2015, the animation Big Hero 6. With a teenager at the heart of the story, it's aimed at a slightly older audience and has one of the most unlikely superheroes ever in the wobbly shape of Baymax, a personal healthcare robot. The film's accompanied by Feast, a short animation about a Boston Terrier called Winston that tells his story through the copious amounts of food he eats. This double helping from the Mouse House has done well at the American Box Office and is likely to do the same here.

That's just January, folks! Things calm down in February, but there are still some goodies to come. Civil rights drama Selma is released on 6th February and has been quietly amassing awards nominations, with both Independent Spirit and Golden Globe nods. First time feature director Ava DuVernay has made a clear-eyed, authentic depiction of the events in Alabama in the '60s that dismantled the barriers preventing African Americans from exercising their right to vote. Most of the attention has been headed in the direction of British actor, David Oyelowo, who plays the legendary Martin Luther King, and that attention is well deserved.

On a smaller scale, and released on 13th February, is Love is Strange, the story of a gay couple who have lived together for 39 years. A change in the law makes them decide to get married, but that's not the only thing that changes the relationship. Alfred Molina and John Lithgow both give beautifully sensitive performances as the couple.

Finally, March sees the arrival of the film that looks increasingly likely to produce the winner of the Best Actress Oscar. Still Alice stars Julianne Moore as a University professor diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's and boasts an impressive cast, including Kristen Stewart and Alec Baldwin. The film opens on the 6th of the month.

That's just the highlights right there. With others like Wild, starring Reece Witherspoon (16th January), J. C. Chandor's A Most Violent Year with Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain (23rd January), and Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice, which has been described as his Big Lebowski (30th January), the first few months of 2015 are looking a touch crowded for movie fans, which means a proper movie feast… and, no, too much of a good thing is not possible.

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