Movie roundup: Support cinema this February
The year is starting to move into full swing as the limbo of January is blown away to make room for Valentine’s Day, the Super Bowl, and President’s Day. We know you’re super pumped for all the juicy sneak peaks and exclusive trailers previewed during the world’s biggest sporting event, but surely more than Marvel blockbusters and Fast and Furious spinoffs await us this month.
From foreign art films to the latest trends on Netflix, we’re taking a look at all the film releases set to drop in February so you can be clued in on what’s worth buying a ticket for, what can wait till it’s up on a streaming platform, and what disasters can be skipped entirely.
If you’re lucky enough to live near some great indie theaters, there should be some treats for you around the corner. Regardless, there are some solid mainstream flicks that’ll be well worth your time as well.
Velvet Buzzsaw (Netflix)
Dan Gilroy’s third directorial effort, and second collaboration with Jake Gyllenhaal since the outstanding Nightcrawler, pits him against an ensemble cast of vapid art critics and curators who soon discover that art has a mind of its own. Gyllenhaal stars as Morf Vandewalt, an uptight & frigid modern art critic disillusioned with his work and lovelife. When his new romantic partner, Josephina, stumbles upon a series of masterpieces painted by a dead man, his reality starts caving in around him.
Filled with pulpy horror set pieces and grisly kills, Gilroy’s latest doesn’t have the glossy sleaziness of Nightcrawler, nor the enrapturing central performance that Roman J. Israel, Esq. hinged on to carry it through the duller moments. Instead it softly emulates the Italian giallo traditions with a little less bite, whilst surrounding the ensuing chaos with paper thin critiques on the world of modern art that we’ve all seen before. Gooey visuals and some creative production design only go so far for this one.
Arctic (Armory Films)
After being completely misused in not one but two Disney productions in 2016 (Marvel’s Doctor Strange and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), mysteriously alluring Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen is finally returning to some smaller projects to flex his uncanny acting muscles a little further.
Arctic is not to be confused with Polar, another Mads vehicle based on the neo-noir comic series of the same name. Instead, here he immerses himself in a classic adventure tale of survival & endurance, playing Overgård, a man stranded in the icy tundra whose only chance of rescue crashes and burns in front of him.
The enigmatic performer will next be seen in Doug Liman’s Chaos Walking adaptation, as well as the long-anticipated video game from Hideo Kojima, Death Stranding, set to release sometime in the next decade or so.
Miss Bala (Columbia Pictures)
Gina Rodriguez stars as a makeup artist who finds herself in the clutches of a dangerous Mexican drug cartel. After visiting her best friend in Tijuana, both women go missing and find themselves navigating the deadly underworld of Mexico’s most nefarious gangs.
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke, who perfected the visual splendor of Twilight back in 2008, and co-stars Ismael Cruz Córdova (Ray Donovan) and Anthony Mackie (Avengers: Infinity War).
Then Came You (BCDF Pictures)
Fresh off his hit with Netflix, Sex Education, Asa Butterfield stars as Calvin, yet another awkward outcast with some serious hangups. As a hypochondriac, he has a crippling fear of pretty much anything, until Maisie Williams, playing a terminally ill teen, persuades him to help her finish an extensive bucket list.
Piercing (Borderline Films)
This Hitchcockian thriller from the disturbed mind of Ryū Murakami follows a man who sets about trying to commit the perfect murder. Everything is lined up & ready to go until his plot takes a dark turn and he finds himself in the midst of a deranged hellscape. Ruthlessly directed by Nicolas Pesce (The Eyes of My Mother), the fever dream features Christopher Abbott (First Man) and Mia Wasikowska (Crimson Peak).
Everybody Knows (Memento Films Production)
This dark Spanish drama stars Penélope Cruz as a mother returning to her hometown with her husband (Javier Bardem). The trip seems perfectly pleasant until an unexpected turn of events spills secrets & lies that threaten to tear their relationship apart. From acclaimed director Ashgar Farhadi, the celebrated Iranian filmmaker behind the brutally real dramas A Separation and The Salesman.
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (Warner Animation Group)
The latest adventure into kooky dreamworlds and building-block surrealism from the Lego team brings back Chris Pratt to the role of Emmett, a hopelessly naive and happy-go-lucky Lego man who has no problem retaining his sunny attitude even in the midst of a post-apocalyptic wasteland. The team of Master Builders are struggling to survive after the Duplo invasion when a new threat starts to tear their universe apart.
Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, and more all reprise their roles from the first film (that was far better than it had any right to be). The Second Part also introduces Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine Nine) as cosmic mini-doll General Mayhem and Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip), a shapeshifting queen of the galaxy with plans to take over the Lego universe. Expect catchy songs, Justice League cameos, and scads of new merchandise tie-ins.
The Prodigy (Orion Pictures)
This newest entry in the long line of creepy kid movies starrs It breakout Taylor Schilling as young genius, Miles, who’s suspected of demonic tendencies. When his mother takes him to therapy after some frightening episodes, the only natural conclusion is that he may be possessed by a supernatural force. Jumpscares, gurning, and pitch-shifted scary voices incoming.
Untogether (Stirling Road Films)
Two writers begin a whirlwind affair after a one-night stand: one, played by Jemima Kirke (Girls), is a recovering heroin addict and former child prodigy trying to forget her dark past and pursue her once-promising career; the other, Jamie Dornan (50 Shades of Grey), is a successful historical biographer, who has become disillusioned by a life of wealth & women. The directorial debut of screenwriter and novelist Emma Forrest.
Cold Pursuit (StudioCanal)
Yet another in a seemingly endless procession of Liam Neeson-led, mid-tier action thrillers featuring the gruff Irishman doing his poorest American accent in a remote location, punching bad guys, cocking shotguns, and looking dour. This one might be able to retain our attention more than most with its self-aware tone and fresh concept – or it could be yet more subpar stunts & brawls that just make us wish we were watching John Wick again.
In Cold Pursuit, Neeson is yet again portraying an avenging father, a dedicated snowplower forced to play vigilante when his son is murdered by the local cartel. Indirectly launching a turf war, the model citizen turns into a ruthless killing machine in a fresh new take on the old man action flick that has every chance to either revitalize the genre – or put it permanently on ice.
High Flying Bird (Netflix)
Visionary filmmaker Steven Soderbergh teams with a packed cast and the writer of Moonlight for an undercover take on the sleazy politics & boardroom deals of America’s sexiest sport. Newcomer Melvin Gregg stars as Erick, a basketball player who’s hired for a controversial job opportunity by Ray, a ruthless and savvy agent played by André Holland (Castle Rock). Also features Zazie Beetz (Deadpool 2), Zachary Quinto (Star Trek), and Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks).
Like Soderbergh’s previous project, Unsane, the film was shot on an iPhone, but the auteur still achieves dizzying cinematic visuals with the simplest of tools. Get ready to learn that basketball is about a lot more than shooting hoops. The prolific filmmaker will be following his latest film up with yet another Netflix original in 2019, making this the seventh time he’s released multiple films in the same year.
What Men Want (Will Packer Productions)
Loose remake of the Mel Gibson film of a similar name, What Women Want, in which a chauvinist advertising exec wakes up one morning to discover he can read women’s thoughts. Here the genders are swapped, with Taraji P. Henson taking the role of Ali, a sports agent consistently belittled by her male colleagues.
When Ali develops the uncanny ability to read the minds of the opposite sex, she quickly realizes she can get them by the balls – at the cost of a normal life due to the curse of her supernatural powers. Also stars Tracy Morgan (30 Rock), and directed by Adam Shankman, the writer/director behind the Step Up series and the popular remake of Hairspray.
Isn’t It Romantic (New Line Cinema)
Rebel Wilson is Natalie, a foul-mouthed architect living in New York who’s certain she’ll never find love. Convinced by her mother that romantic comedies are complete fantasy, after Natalie’s mugged on the subway and knocked out, she wakes up in an alternate PG-13 universe, where everyone is wealthy, happy, liable to burst into song, and true love is just around the corner. To escape this hellish nightmare she (of course) has to find love before her time runs out.
Birds of Passage (Snowglobe)
Thrilling Colombian crime film that made the December shortlist for the Academy’s Best Foreign Language Film. Directed by the mastermind behind the underrated Embrace of the Serpent, Ciro Guerra, he’s joined by co-director Cristina Gallego for a powerful saga that spans two decades following the tumultuous rise & fall of a Wayuu family, a community of Native Americans who are struggling to stay safe during the rise of the illegal drug industry in South America.
If the notice from the Academy Awards isn’t enough, a cursory glance at the rave reviews should be enough to convince you Birds of Passage is a must for foreign cinema fans. The cast is largely unknown, but you should be seeing a lot more of second lead Natalie Reyes, who’s joining the cast of the upcoming Terminator. Those lucky enough to live near an arthouse cinema should make every effort to see this heart-stopping epic on the big screen.
Alita: Battle Angel (20th Century Fox)
James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez team up for their passion project adapted from Yukito Kishiro’s popular manga series, in which a cybernetic hero takes down threats in an oppressive dystopia. Originally announced way back in 2003, the project has consistently been put on hold due to James Cameron’s hugely ambitious Avatar series.
Plus, if the pair insisted on remaining accurate to the source on Alita’s huge anime eyes, technology needed to come a long way to make her appearance at least somewhat convincing.
Cameron eventually conceded directing duties to Rodriguez, who we’re sure will pull all the CGI tricks he learned from the Spy Kids movies to make this action film a fairground attraction worth riding. Either that, or it’ll be another watered-down Hollywood subversion of worthy source material.
Rosa Salazar (Bird Box) stars as Alita, a fierce cyborg warrior with a pure heart, alongside supporting performances from Christoph Waltz (Spectre), Mahershala Ali (Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse), and Jennifer Connelly (Only the Brave).
Happy Death Day 2U (Blumhouse Productions)
There’s no better way to spend Valentine’s Day than taking your significant other to the most violent film playing in the multiplex. Happy Death Day 2U should deliver exactly that, with the return to the series that features Jessica Rothe as an unwilling participant of a time loop in which she becomes the target of a mysterious killer. The premise should feel familiar to anyone bingewatching Russian Doll, with just a little dash of classic slasher flavor.
Fighting With My Family (Film4)
Comedy biography based on the book The Wrestlers: Fighting with My Family that follows the true story of a family of wrestling fanatics who raise their daughter to be a superstar. Stars Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth) as Saraya Bevis, aka Paige, a wrestler who began her professional career aged just 13. This comedic take on the true story features Nick Frost (The World’s End) and Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) as her excitable yet well-meaning parents, as well as an appearance from The Rock, playing himself.
How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (DreamWorks Animation)
The epic trilogy finally reaches its epic conclusion after almost five years since Hiccup & Toothless took flight for the second time. Dreamworks’s sweeping saga of dragon taming has delighted kids and adults alike since it began in 2010, and we have no reason to believe that the third and final part should be any different.
One year after the events of the second film, Hiccup stumbles across an ancient hidden haven for dragons. Having always thought Toothless was the last of his kind, they finally discover a potential mate, an untamed yet inquisitive female. With his role as the village chief under threat, Hiccup is forced to make tough decisions and face insurmountable odds to protect the Hidden World from a hired mercenary who seeks to seize it for himself.
Features the voice talents of Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, and Cate Blanchett, all returning from the previous film, as well as F. Murray Abraham (The Grand Budapest Hotel) joining the cast as the ruthless villain Grimmel.
Mark Duplass (Tully) and Ray Romano (The Big Sick) portray two unlikely best friends who have formulated Paddleton, a game of their own making played with tennis rackets and a garbage can. When one of them is diagnosed with an incurable illness, they decide to leave their sleepy town behind for a few days and go on a trip. Another mumblecore venture from the Duplass Brothers directed by first-time director Alex Lehmann that will undoubtedly be sickly sweet one second and darkly witty the next.
Paris is Us (Netflix)
Celebrate female filmmakers and daring foreign cinema combine in this French romantic thriller. Originally funded by Kickstarter and picked up by Netflix, this kinetic whirlwind of a film pits dream and reality against each other in a clash of knife’s-edge light shows and hallucinations. Pump up the volume, mix the strongest drink you know, and let the arthouse corner of Netflix take you on a ride through hell and back again.
Run the Race (Reserve Entertainment)
Sports drama based on the life of retired quarterback and outspoken Christian Tim Tebow, who also executive produces. This autobiographical movie chronicles his early career and the hardships he experienced on the way. Likely to provoke some sentimental tears out of your older relatives.