Django Unchained (directed by Quentin Tarantino)
Tarantino is back on form with this delirious revenge western set in 1858, with Jamie Foxx as Django, a freed slave on a mission to release his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), from the clutches of evil slave master Calvin Candie. Not only is Candie lipsmackingly played by Leonardo DiCaprio, he also has a sinister servant called Stephen — a superb performance by Samuel L Jackson. Outrageously enjoyable.
What Richard Did (Lenny Abrahamson)
The gifted Irish director who gave us Adam and Paul and Garage returns with a film about Ireland’s young and rich. Richard (Jack Reynor) is a schoolboy rugby star who has grown accustomed to being wealthy and successful. He sets his sights on a young woman, wins her away from her boyfriend, then becomes irked by her continuing friendship with the ex. The film has been praised for its emotional complexity.
Lincoln (Steven Spielberg)
Released in the United States to an awestruck critical reception, Spielberg’s film centres on a constitutional and personal crisis in the life of Abraham Lincoln.
Towards the end of the Civil War, the 16th president is trying to guide through an amendment banning slavery. Yet an end to fighting could see in a settlement that scuppers this law. Lincoln needs to fight on, but perpetuating the bloodshed and bitterness is a torment to him. Daniel Day-Lewis’s central performance has been widely championed.
Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow)
Bigelow, director of Oscar-winner The Hurt Locker, returns with this true-life thriller about the 10-year hunt for Osama bin Laden, culminating in his death last May. There is some controversy about torture and triumphalism, but audiences have been emerging with nails bitten to the quick. Jessica Chastain has been acclaimed for her performance.
I’m So Excited (Pedro Almodovar)
The original Spanish title of Almodovar’s new film is Los Amantes Pasajeros (Travellers in Love). A group of people on board a plane bound for Mexico City fear it will crash and begin to confess their spiciest personal secrets.
The action is restricted to the plane, making this a trapped-ensemble film the director has whimsically compared to Luis Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel and Rodrigo Cortés’s Buried. Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas have cameos.
Star Trek into Darkness (JJ Abrams)
The greatest bromance in screen history is back. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto return as Captain Kirk and Spock, thrown into turmoil when they discover that a sinister agency from within their own organisation has destroyed the fleet. Kirk has to journey into a war zone to neutralise a terrible weapon. The first of these revitalised Star Treks was wildly entertaining, which bodes well.
Elysium (Neill Blomkamp)
South African director Blomkamp was widely praised for his futurist political satire District 9. Now he returns with a big-budget science fiction thriller, set in a future in which the wealthy live on a luxurious space station called Elysium and the poor live on a ruined Earth. Jodie Foster plays the imperious Secretary, determined to keep the under class out of the gated planetary community and Matt Damon is Max, a former cop caught up in this titanic intergalactic class battle.
Twelve Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)
There can hardly be a filmmaker whose next project is more keenly awaited than McQueen, who directed Hunger and Shame. This is a version of the remarkable true story of Solomon Northup, a black man who was born free in New York, kidnapped in Washington DC in 1841 and made to work as a slave on a Louisiana cotton plantation for 12 years. Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Northup. — © Guardian News & Media 2013