After a relatively slow start to the year, on the film front, at least, February looks to provide a larger range of films across streaming platforms (and some still only available in theaters.) There’s a decent mix of awards hopefuls, feel-good romances, and experimental indie films in the mix, with trilogy finales, directorial debuts, and knock-out performances from Anthony Hopkins and Daniel Kaluuya to look forward to.
The movie world, as it has been for nearly a year now, remains in flux, but looking ahead it’s comforting to see there’s still plenty on the docket that we’ll be able to immerse ourselves in, including plenty that aren’t even listed below. Add to that the ongoing Sundance coverage from this year, even if wildly different circumstances from only a year ago, it’s nice to have the steady reliance on film to help distract.
What You Need to Know: Starring Owen Wilson and Salma Hayek, “Bliss” is the latest output from writer/director Mike Cahill, the brain behind under the radar films “Another Earth” and “I Origins.” Fans of either film will immediately understand the high concept energy he brings to his indie-features with an interest that lies strictly in the bizarre, science fiction field. In “Bliss,” we’re once again placed in a world slightly askew to our own, this time focusing on a man and a woman who believe they’re stuck in a simulated reality and must find answers to what is real and what is manufactured happiness.
Release Date: February 5 on Amazon Prime
What You Need to Know: Over the course of his career, Viggo Mortensen has delivered plenty of noteworthy performances from epic fantasy to intimate character studies. In “Falling,” he introduces a new element to his craft with his directorial debut. Mortensen, along with writing and directing the film also stars, playing John Peterson, a man who’s recently had to move his conservative and homophobic father, played by Lance Henriksen, to Los Angeles with him and his husband (Terry Chen). The film made its premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, where our critic called it “exhausting,” writing, “…it’s lurid and soulless. A shame, because ‘Faling’ is a passion project for Mortensen. But the passion never translates.”
Release Date: February 5 in select theaters
“Malcolm & Marie”
What You Need to Know: Considering the recent Emmy win for rising star Zendaya for her tremendous performance in HBO’s “Euphoria” it’s little surprise she’d be eager to team up with showrunner Sam Levinson for yet another project. Luckily for her, she seems to be the only one coming out largely unscathed. From the offset “Malcolm and Marie” has been a divisive film amongst critics – and not only because the film takes aim at them. Co-starring Zendaya and John David Washington, the film focuses on a filmmaker and his girlfriend following the premiere of his latest film over the course of one night. Our critic called it “…a purposely self-absorbed meta-narrative about a navel-gazing director at odds with his muse—an enticing premise on paper—that too often obscures its heart in lieu of tedious diatribes.”
Release Date: February 5 on Netflix
“Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar”
What You Need to Know: Kristen Wiig has had an eclectic career this last decade. The ‘SNL‘ alum has gone big in supporting roles in everything from the recent “Wonder Woman 1984” to voice acting roles in series such as the “How to Train Your Dragon” films. However, most interestingly in comparison to her larger than life characters on ‘SNL‘ has been her foray into darker comedy and drama in films like “Welcome to Me” and “The Diary of a Teenage Girl.” This range was hinted at initially in the 2010 breakout hit “Bridesmaids” and in “Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar” Wiig re-teams with her Annie Mumolo as her writing and screen partner. The film also stars Jamie Dornan and Damon Ways Jr., following two women as their vacation away from their small town turns into something more adventurous. It looks more deliberately silly than “Bridesmaids” but considering the success of the former, it will be interesting to see how their latest team-up turns out.
Release Date: February 12 on VOD
“Judas and the Black Messiah”
What You Need to Know: Considering this year’s changing landscape for awards season and a much later than usual Oscars, it’s no surprise to see a few films that might be awards contenders outside of their usual timeframe. One such film is the highly-anticipated “Judas and the Black Messiah,” directed by Shaka King and starring Daniel Kaluuya, LaKeith Stanfield, and Dominique Fishback. The film follows Stanfield’s William O’Neal as he’s offered a plea deal from the FBI to infiltrate the Black Panther Party in order to gain intelligence on Chairman Fred Hampton. Reactions so far have been positive, with Kaluuya and Fishback, in particular, receiving praise for their performances. Sean Bobbitt (“12 Years a Slave,” “Widows”) is the cinematographer for the film with a script by King and Will Berson.
Release Date: February 12 on HBO Max
What You Need to Know: As it is with Viggo Mortensen’s “Falling,” “Land,” directed by Robin Wright also marks as a first-time directorial debut for a longtime actor. Following a near-death experience and being saved by a local hunter (Demián Bichir,) Wright’s Edee must learn how to live on her own again. The script was written by Jesse Chatham, and Erin Dignam, and, along with Wright and Bichir, “Land” stars Kim Dickens. A personal and intimate story about overcoming grief, the film makes its premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Wright has largely done action films over the last few years with “Wonder Woman” and “Blade Runner 2049” so it will be nice to see her in a less showy and more central role.
Release Date: February 12 in select theaters
“The World to Come”
What You Need to Know: Between “Pieces of a Woman” and now “The World to Come,” actress Vanessa Kirby is having herself quite the year, already. While the former is garnering her more critical notice, “The World to Come” which stars Katherine Waterston as her romantic interest has similarly drawn strong reviews. Directed by Mona Fastvold with a script by Ron Hansen and Jim Shepard (based on Shepard’s novel of the same name) the story follows two women set in the mid-19th century along the East Coast as they weather hardships and isolation while finding solace in one another. Christopher Abbott and Casey Affleck also star in the film. Our critic, who saw it at the 2020 Venice Film Festival wrote, “Set in 1850s rural upstate New York, it’s delivered in careful, spare 16mm that echoes, in its artisanal, handcrafted loveliness, the painstaking, slightly crooked hand-written calligraphy in which the film’s titles and intertitles are written.”
Release Date: February 12 in select theaters
“To All the Boys: Always + Forever”
What You Need to Know: The first installment of the “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” trilogy, based on the immensely popular series by author Jenny Han, remains a credible addition to the rom-com genre – bite-sized and charming and sweet enough as a means of escape. The follow-up, as they often are, was less impressive, though Lana Condor and Noah Centino remained charismatic with tangible chemistry as the lovestruck teens Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky. In the final installment, the couple is faced with their latest challenge as they set out to decide on where to apply to college. The trailer gives away a big plot development, but hopefully, there will be more to the story beyond the telltale obstacle. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, “Always + Forever” will hopefully be like the first film and result in a delightful and sweet romantic comedy.
Release Date: February 12 on Netflix
“The United States vs Billie Holiday”
What You Need to Know: An undisputed legend and icon, Billie Holiday is an artist with rich storytelling potential. In “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” based on the novel “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs” the story follows Holiday as the Federal Department of Narcotics targets her with an undercover sting operation. Holiday is played by Grammy-nominated Andra Day in her debut feature role. The supporting cast is strong with performances by Trevante Rhodes, Natasha Lyonne, and Garrett Hedlund and is the first film Lee Daniels has directed since 2013’s “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.” With such a powerful story in his hand and such an iconic singer to honor, here’ hoping the reception is stronger this time around.
Release Date: February 26 on Hulu
What You Need to Know: It was a strong year for first-time filmmakers and Florian Zeller is just one of the names on that extensive list as he adapted his own 2012 play into the film version of “The Father.” Starring Anthony Hopkins with a performance many have called a career-best along with Olivia Coleman and Imogen Poots, the film centers itself on an aging man who refuses to allow any help from his daughter as he tries to cope with his increasing memory loss. A definite tear-jerker, the film premiered at last year’s Sundance where our critic found the performances strong but overall effect lacking, writing, “And despite the efforts of Hopkins and an outstanding ensemble, Zeller can’t divorce his feature directorial debut from its theatrical origins.”
Release Date: February 26 in select theaters
What You Need to Know: After the tonally inconsistent trailer and truly bizarre, For Your Consideration like promotional material, it’s tough to glean what we’re supposed to make of “Cherry.” Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo in their first film following “Avengers: Endgame” and starring Tom Holland, the film clearly is supposed to be a very serious film that establishes all parties outside of the roles/films they’re best known for. Co-starring Ciara Bravo and based on the novel of the same name by Nico Walker, the story follows an Army medic suffering from PTSD who becomes addicted to opioids and finds himself robbing banks in order to pay for the addiction. It’s heavy material and Holland looks engaging, we’re just not sure on how the rest of the story will play out and, with all the shifting tones at play, if it will come together cohesively.
Release Date: February 26 in select theaters and then March 12 on Apple TV+