Though February is typically slow at best for new movie releases, the month is actually looking pretty solid this year. Right at the top, the first entry February’s column is an Oscar nominated documentary whose prescience and importance has only been bested by the near unanimous wave of critical adoration for the film as it made its way through the festival circuit and finally to arthouses this month.
You’ll notice a few other Oscar contenders on this month’s final list, one animated and the other a foreign language nominee, and both rather obscure. And there’s a few pleasant, progressive festival gems. Less artsy, more fartsy, you say? Fear not, my dear, for there’s plenty of fun on the horizon with a few sequels (one with Legos and the other with Keanu Reeves) and even a couple good looking horror flicks. There’s plenty for everyone at the movies this month. Enjoy!
“I Am Not Your Negro”
Synopsis: Writer James Baldwin tells the story of race in modern America with his unfinished novel, “Remember This House.”
What You Need To Know: When this documentary from director Raoul Peck landed at number 12 on our best docs of 2016 list, we described the good and bad of the film is “that it’s as relevant today as when James Baldwin unknowingly wrote its script before he died in 1987.” The film, one of this year’s Best Documentary Oscar nominees, is built on the 30 pages of manuscript that Baldwin managed to complete for “Remember This House” before he passed away, and it tells the history of race in America through the lives and deaths of three civil-rights champions: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Those who’ve seen the film already have been singing its praises for a while now, and with its use of archival footage, varied film clips, a subdued Samuel L. Jackson voiceover (reading Baldwin’s words), and a contemporary angle that touches on plenty of big issues happening right now, it’s no wonder we also stated “ ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ joins ‘O.J.: Made In America’ and ‘13th’ in the trio of films that are 2016’s essential viewing on race that will incense and engage their audience in the conversation that we continue to need to have.”
Release Date: February 3rd (Limited)
“John Wick: Chapter 2”
Synopsis: After returning to the criminal underworld to repay a debt, John Wick discovers that a large bounty has been put on his life.
What You Need To Know: Now that the “whoa, that was way better than I ever imagined” reviews and strong box office returns have led to a sequel for the Keanu Reeves-starring 2015 shoot-em-up (which really was a lot of good, ultraviolent fun at the movies), there’s no longer the element of surprise. In its place comes the burden of expectations for fans of the first entry. Chad Stahelski, co-director on the first film, returns along with the ever-important Reeves (the first film showed what a truly gifted physical actor he is in the right roles), and if it’s even half as wickedly fun as the first episode, audiences will be in for a good ride. It’s even one of our Most Anticipated Films of this year. Reeves is joined by Common, Riccardo Scamarcio, Laurence Fishburne, Ruby Rose, Bridget Moynahan, Lance Reddick, Franco Nero, with John Leguizamo, and Ian McShane.
Release Date: February 10th
“The LEGO Batman Movie”
Synopsis: Bruce Wayne must not only deal with the criminals of Gotham City, but also the responsibility of raising a boy he adopted.
What You Need To Know: Once “The LEGO Movie” became a massive hit this same time in 2014, surely we should’ve expected more films to come in its wake. But the key will be if this new film, following the beloved Will Arnett-voiced Caped Crusader character featured in the first one, will be able to strike the right tonal balance again along with the legitimately fun and cool action sequences. This time around, Arnett will be be knocking blocky fists with Joker (Zach Galifianakis), while handling a very needy sidekick in Robin (Michael Cera). It really sounds like a whole load of fun, and one that will be filled with plenty of surprises and feature much of the rogues gallery from the Batman comics.
Release Date: February 10th
“A United Kingdom”
Synopsis: The true story of the romance between Sereste Khama, the heir to the African nation of Bechuanaland (now Botswana), and British woman Ruth Williams, that saw opposition from both their home nations and forced them each into exile.
What You Need To Know: Despite being ignored by much of the film press, Amma Asante’s “Belle” quietly proved to be one of the biggest indie hits of 2014, and putting its director very much on the map. Her follow-up is also a period romantic drama dealing with race and identity, and while we didn’t quite like it as much as “Belle,” it’s still very engaging and often moving. After an opening that’s, according to our review, “a bit of a slog,” it more than recovers, with Asante again showing “a real gift for getting into the political context of her stories while never neglecting the personal,” with the story building towards a climax that is “gripping, rewarding and eventually moving.” With Oyelowo as “tremendous” as ever, and Pike “doing the best work of her career,” it’s a very grown-up crowd-pleaser that should build on its success in the U.K, where it opened late last year, and find an audience in the U.S.
Release Date: February 10th (Limited)