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The 10 must-see new films to watch this spring

If awards season has left you craving new movies, here are the must-sees to add to your list

This spring looks to be much more promising than the last — with the announcement of a roadmap for leaving lockdown, cinemas are hoping to reopen their doors in May, finally bringing the much-awaited blockbusters to the big screen. In the meantime, there are a number of other exciting new films to stream at home, several of which have already been recognised by last weekend’s Golden Globe awards. From Andra Day’s award-winning turn as Billie Holliday in Lee Daniels’ biopic, to Tom Hanks’ powerful performance as a Civil War captain helping a young orphaned girl cross the perilous Texas terrain, discover our selection of the most gripping new films to stream this spring.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday

It’s Andra Day’s nuanced performance as the legendary jazz singer that has critics raving about this latest film from director Lee Daniels. Built around a speculative romance between Billie Holiday and an FBI agent, the biopic follows the agency’s campaign to stop the singer from performing her controversial song Strange Fruit, which had become an anthem for the civil rights movement, by targeting her for her drug use.

Day’s performance is mesmerising, perfectly capturing Holiday’s incredible musical talent and her vulnerability, while Trevante Rhodes, who many will recognise from his role in Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, proves a worthy partner as the FBI agent Jimmy Fletcher, who is torn between his belief that drugs are tearing the Black community apart and his realisation that he is being used as a tool by a racist government agency. With the addition of powerful renditions of Holiday’s famous songs and a sumptuous wardrobe including custom-made gowns designed by Prada, it’s an engrossing watch from start to finish.

Available now on Sky Cinema

Mogul Mowgli

Riz Ahmed has been on a bit of a roll over the past year — on top of releasing his ground-breaking album and accompanying video The Long Goodbye, he also starred in two films, Sound of Metal and Mogul Mowgli. The latter is finally, after much critical praise and Covid-induced delays, available to stream. Co-written, produced and starring Ahmed, Mogul Mowgli, follows the story of Zed, a British Pakistani rapper, who, just as he’s about to embark on his first world tour, is struck by a disease. Not only does it put Zed’s career in jeopardy, but it also forces him to finally confront his past.

Jumping between Zed’s hospital bed hallucinations and the starkly realist world of his family in Wembley, the film does an excellent job of exploring the multiple layers of selfhood. A beautiful and empathetic examination of identity, legacy and British Asian culture, Mogul Mowgli secures Ahmed’s place as one of the most exciting talents of today. 

Available now on BFI Player

Creation Stories

A joyous and wickedly fun look at the rock’n’roll scene of the Eighties and Nineties, Creative Stories is based on the memoir of Scottish record producer Alan McGee, detailing the wild days of his label, Creation Records. Although only open between 1983 to 1999, during those years Creation Records managed to bankroll some of the era’s most iconic bands, including My Bloody Valentine, Primal Scream and Oasis, who McGee discovered in Glasgow in 1993.

These adventures are all captured by director Nick Moran with the help of a revolving cast and a few imagined incidents, too. Ewen Bremner stars as McGee, meeting everyone from Liam Gallagher (Leo Harvey-Elledge) to Alastair Campbell (Ed Byrne), in his journey up the ranks of the music world. It’s a riotous and hilarious watch.

Available on March 20 on Sky Cinema

News of the World

Tom Hanks makes his Netflix Original debut in this epic Western drama, but it’s newcomer Helena Zengel who is the surprise hit. Based on Paulette Jiles’ novel of the same name, News of the World sees Hanks play Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a Civil War veteran who has found a career in travelling from town to town reading newspapers to its residents. On his journey, he happens upon an overturned wagon and a young White girl, Johanna (Zengel), who had been taken in by a Native Americans, and becomes responsible for returning her to her last remaining family.

What follows is an incredible journey across the dangerous and wildly beautiful Texas terrain that sees Kidd and Johanna develop a bong despite their language barrier. Confronted with violence, perilous storms and more, the duo fight their way through the lawless land in great traditional Western style.

Available now on Netflix

Rare Beasts

Billie Piper makes her directorial debut in this dark turn on the romantic comedy that sees Piper star as Mandy, a single mother who writes about love but has grown deeply cynical about its possibilities. Her life is upturned when she goes on a date with Pete (Leo Bill), an abrasive and at times misogynistic nihilist who she nonetheless finds herself drawn to due to his authenticity. But, staying true to its mission to depict the complexities of modern life, their courtship proves to be anything but simple. 

While Piper’s script is timely and sharply rooted in modern realities, the film breaks away from any standard romantic comedy formula, with fantasy musical segments and some seriously dark and frank conversations about dating norms that set it apart from other stories about love.

In cinemas on 7 May 

The Courier

A spy thriller with a twist, The Courier is based on the true story of a British businessman who was recruited by MI6 to help them infiltrate the Soviet nuclear programme during the Cold War. Benedict Cumberbatch stars as the unassuming businessman-turned-spy Greville Wynne, who is unwittingly pulled into an essential mission around the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

At the behest of MI6 and a CIA operative played by Rachel Brosnahan, Wynne is tasked with using his business in Russia to forge a dangerous partnership with Soviet officer Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze) in order to extract essential intelligence. Tense and with plenty of twists and turns, this addictive historical drama is a deeply satisfying spy chase.

In cinemas on 21 May

Cruella

Disney has been pushing ahead with its live action remakes, but for its latest revisit of a beloved cartoon classic, they cleverly decided to avoid trying to top the famous 1996 adaptation. Similar to Maleficent, which saw Angelina Jolie take the titular role in a film about the Sleeping Beauty villain, Cruella uncovers the backstory of the infamous 101 Dalmatians’ nemesis, Cruella de Vil. This time, Emma Stone steps into the stilettos — the first to portray the fashionable fiend since Glenn Close’s turn in the 1996 version — portraying a young Estella, an ambitious woman arriving in 1970s London determined to make a name for herself in the world of fashion. But after her criminal turns allow her to impress the fashion patron Baroness von Hellman (played by Emma Thompson), Estella realises the high fashion world isn’t quite what she expected, and so begins her transformation into the chilling Cruella de Vil.

Crossing London landmarks from Liberty’s to Annabel’s, the classic tale will get a fashionable update with this adaptation, with the trailer already showing Stone donning looks inspired by Vivienne Westwood’s early years. And given that I, Tonya, director Craig Gillespie is helming this version, audiences can expect plenty of dark humour, too. 

In cinemas on 28 May

Minari

After winning the Best Foreign Language film at the Golden Globes, Minari looks set to be one of the most talked-about films of 2021. Written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung, the tender drama is a semi-autobiographical film about Chung’s upbringing, tracing a Korean family’s move to an Arkansas farm in search of their own American Dream, as well as the upheaval of their new life following the arrival of their sly but loving grandmother.

The star of the show is undoubtedly 8-year-old Alan Kim, who gives an irresistible performance as the youngest child of the family, combating his boredom in the isolated farm with his own series of adventures. A beautiful tale of an immigrant family’s experience, Chung’s film conveys the resilience and importance of family, no matter the circumstances. 

Coming soon

French Exit

Michelle Pfeiffer gives an electric performance in this surreal comedy from director Azazel Jacob. Wonderfully off-beat and eccentric, Pfeiffer plays Frances Price, a nearly entirely broke widow who refuses to sacrifice her glamorous trappings, and so decides to move to Paris with her son (Lucas Hedges) and her cat — who also happens to be her reincarnated husband.

Wafting around Paris in fur-trimmed coats and with a martini glass almost always in hand, Pfeiffer is a sharp amorale heroine, unashamedly milking off friends and delivering perfectly damning and chilly one-liners. While the plot may be a little off-kilter, it’s a droll look at the melancholy of the uber-rich floating through the finals days of their cash reserve.

Coming soon

Chaos Walking

After two years, the highly anticipated sci-fi drama is finally coming to screens. Starring sci-fi pros Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley, the film is based on the first book of the eponymous series. Set in the not-too-distant future, Todd Hewitt (Holland) lives on a planet where all the women have disappeared and the men are afflicted by “the Noise” – a mysterious force that allows all their thoughts to be put on display. When he comes across Viola (Ridley), a mysterious girl who crash landed onto his planet, he knows that her life is at risk and vows to protect her.

It’s an all-star cast, with Mads Mikkelsen, Cynthia Erivo, David Oyelowo and even Nick Jonas all joining in the action. Directed by action film veteran Doug Liman, it’s an epic romp with high-speed chases, terrifying villains and entangled agendas. This thriller promises to deliver high-octane action with a dose of sci-fi escapism that will keep audiences on the edge of their seat.

Coming soon

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