New year, new movies! There are some major awards favourites on at the cinema right now as well as plenty to enjoy on the small screen at home. Happy viewing!
Empire of Light (cinemas)
Olivia Colman stars in this gently powerful drama set on the south coast of England in the early 80s, playing Hilary - one of the employees at independent cinema The Empire. When the much younger Stephen (Michael Ward) joins the staff, the fragile Hilary finds her life changed forever. Beautifully made, emotional stuff and proof - if any more were needed - that Olivia is simply one of the best in he business. Colin Firth and Toby Jones co-star.
WATCH: Check out the affecting Olivia Colman movie
The mighty Cate Blanchett has already picked up multiple awards nominations for this unashamedly high brow character study of fictional orchestra conductor Lydia Tár. Lydia is smart, stylish and imposing but with a lot going on in her private life - from damaging gossip to legal cases - an increasing sense of chaos starts to mess up her very precise and ordered existence. It’s a slow burner this one, certainly ruffling a few feathers in the classical music world. But one thing no-one can argue about: Blanchett is, as always, magnificent.
Scary dolls have long been a feature of horror films and now the makers of one of the best - Annabelle - are back and have taken things to the next level. Designed by a brilliant roboticist, M3gan is a doll who can listen, watch and learn as she fills the role of friend and teacher to anyone who needs her. What could possible go wrong? Well, when 8-year old Cady gets a M3gan to help her cope, the doll gets a little too attached. Creepy - and surprisingly funny - thriller that already has a sequel planned.
The Pale Blue Eye (Netflix)
After a short run in cinemas, Christian Bale’s ingenious and eerie whodunnit hits Netflix - and it’s just perfect for these cold January nights. Set in 1830, Bale plays Augustus Landor, a veteran detective investigating a series of murders at the Military Academy in West Point, New York. The result is brilliantly moody, with Christian Bale as wonderfully intense as always. Meanwhile Landor’s sidekick in the film is a certain Edgar Allen Poe, played with a wild-eyed eccentricity by Harry Melling (Dudley Dursely from the Harry Potter films), giving the story a clever, gothic, literary twist. Gillian Anderson, Lucy Boynton, Timothy Spall, Robert Duvall co-star.
MORE: Hannah Simone on new ABC series Not Dead Yet and New Girl podcast
The Menu (Disney+)
Think Gordon Ramsey is a tough taskmaster in the kitchen? Wait until you meet Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes), a celebrated chef whose restaurant on a remote island is on every serious foodie’s To Do List. People like Tyler (Nicholas Hoult), a young man whose spent big money booking a table for him and his date Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy), only to discover that Julian’s culinary perfectionism might be hiding a dark side. It’s not to everyone’s taste that’s for sure but if you like your thrillers weird and warped, The Menu is deliciously disturbing fun that’ll make you wince (as well as hungry.)
Downton Abbey: A New Era (Sky Cinema)
All your favourite characters are back for this glossy sequel - and if the first Downton movie was mainly about a royal visit, then this second film has two stories going on. First of all we learn that the Dowager Countess has inherited, out of the blue, a villa in the South of France, so several of the family and staff head out there to find out more (nice job).
Secondly, a film production hires the mansion as a location for a movie, so those who aren’t across the channel now have to deal with technicians and actors wandering around their beloved building. Whilst no-one would this call edge-of-your-seat stuff, the costumes, the scenery and the simple escapism of it all makes Downton 2 a very easy and breezy to watch. And even though there are twenty or so characters in this, it’s still Dame Maggie Smith as Violet Crawley who absolutely owns the screen.
MORE: 10 most exciting Netflix shows and films coming out in 2023
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (Amazon Prime)
One of the most honest and funny films of last year sees Emma Thompson as Nancy, a sixty something teacher who’s nervous and insecure about her love life following the death of her husband. Enter Leo (Daryl McCormack) - a charming, dashing male escort who she hired to help her come out of her shell. An incredibly moving and often very funny story of a woman search for intimacy with a pitch perfect turn from Emma Thompson, making even the most awkward moments (of which there are many!) absolutely mesmerising.
Like this story? Sign up to our What to Watch newsletter and get the heads-up on the shows and films everyone’s talking about.