12 Years a Slave (K16)

Steve McQueen’s third film arrives upon a colossal wave of positive word of mouth, and some 10 Oscar nominations to boot. Here Chiwetel Ejifor takes the lead as a free black man in 1840s America, who soon finds himself sold into slavery by two white men. Based on a true story the film has been lauded by critics, seen as the ultimate in white guilt by cynics and even had its promotional posters scrutinized in Italy, when images of co-stars Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender overshadowed that of Ejifor.

Regardless, after the mild disappointment of Scorsese’s bloated Wolf of Wall Street, it appears as if the first great film of the year is finally here.

Premieres 24 January

Dallas Buyers Club (K16)

Continuing with his purple patch of credible roles that has long erased memories of his tepid rom-com past, here Texas’ favourite son Matthew McConaughey helps tell the story of Ron Woodroof, a Texas electrician who was diagnosed as being HIV-positive in 1986. What’s an alpha male player to do when given 30 days to live? Devoting his life to providing fellow HIV patients with non-FDA-approved drugs and supplements is his calling, in the midst of an era when doctors were still getting a grip on the devastating disease. Having dropped 20 kilos and picking up a swag of critics awards already for his performance, after this cinemagoers can turn their gaze in the direction of his forthcoming starring role in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar later this year.

Premieres 31 January

Her (K12)

Just in case the start of the year hasn’t had enough strong flicks to entertain the throngs, along come the latest from Spike Jonze, director of Being John Malkovich, among others. Oh, and a Jackass alumni to boot. Anyway, here Joaquin Phoenix’s lonely writer falls in love with his computer’s highly advanced operating system. In a case of Siri gone wild, the perceptive software soon adopts the name Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), and sets about slowly bringing him our man Phoenix back out from under his shell. Encouraging him to start dating again, and joining him everywhere he goes, things begin to grow intimate. An unusual set of circumstances it may be, but nothing in comparison to the fact that Phoenix’s high-waisted slacks of a bygone era of fashion nightmares have inexplicably caught on again in the fashion world.

Premieres 7 February

The LEGO Movie (7)

Rounding out the month, keep an eye out for this animated flick that appears to be infinitely better than it sounds. A lowly Lego figure (voiced by Chris Pratt) joins a group intent on battling an evil force after a case of mistaken identity. From the filmmakers behind Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and co-director Chris McKay (Robot Chicken), the impressive likes of Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell and Liam Neeson head up the rest of the voice cast.

Premieres 14 February