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February 2015 Film Preview

February 2015 Film Preview

February is known as a month for lovers, but the films set to debut at the box office next month are much more varied than that particular stereotype would suggest. Fifty Shades of Grey is perhaps the month’s most-hyped film, coinciding with a perfectly marketed Valentine’s Day release. However, anyone who knows the least bit about the best-selling books can tell you that it’s not your usual fairy-tale romance. The story that became a worldwide sensation is one of lust, control, and the first-time forays of its main character, Anastasia Steele, into the realm of BDSM.

Speaking of untraditional, our first release of the month is No Evidence of Disease, a documentary directed by Andrea Kalin that focuses on cancer surgeons who meld their medical practice with something more intangible: the power of music. This group of OBGYN surgeons began as a rock cover band with the aim of raising awareness of what the film refers to as “below the belt” cancers. The documentary follows their journey, as well as the struggles of the patients they treat.

The Wachowski siblings (The Matrix trilogy) are back — this time, with the blend of sci-fi, action, and fantasy that is Jupiter Ascending. After a few false starts, including a postponed release date, we’ll finally get to see Mila Kunis as Jupiter Jones, a lowly worker who discovers she’s space royalty. 

Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine explores the life of Matt Shepard, a young gay man who was killed in a hate crime in 1998. The film, which explores his life through interviews with his friends and family, is written and directed by one of his high-school friends, Michele Josue. The Price of Honor, a documentary about the murders of two Texan sisters, also examines the nature of homicide based on bias. In this case, Amina and Sarah Said were victims of “honor killings.”

Opening on Feburary 6 is The Voices, directed by Marjane Satrapi. It’s a mix of comedy and horror, following the life of Jerry (played by Ryan Reynolds) as he goes on and off his antipsychotic medication. It won the Audience Award at the French L’Etrange Festival last year. That weekend’s other film, Love, Rosie, is quite the opposite in genre. It’s a love story about friendship — and the moment it becomes something more. Sam Claflin and Lily Collins star, both poised to make a splash after a few years spent in smaller parts on other high-profile projects.

There’s also variety on the drama front. Ronit Elkabetz and Shlomi Elkabetz’s Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem focuses on an Israeli woman’s quest to get a rabbi-approved divorce from her unfeeling husband. Niki Caro’s McFarland, USA tells the story of white track coach who’s a fish out of water at a Latino-dominated high school. Bluebird, starring Amy Morton and John Slattery, is a portrait of a small town torn asunder by the smallest of decisions.

There’s quite the slate of female-focused documentaries opening this month, and Cary Bell’s Butterfly Girl looks to be leading the pack with its examination of Abigail Evans, a girl with a life-threatening skin disease. My Way follows the life of Rebekah Starr, a former corporate warrior who hits the road with a passion to become a musician. Approaching the Elephant turns the lens away from the journey of one person and shows us the year of an entire classroom at the Teddy McArdle Free School, where students are allowed equal say in rule-making with adults and choose their own curriculum.

We have a few comedic performances to look forward to as well, starting with The DUFF. Mae Whitman stars as Bianca, a high-school student battling stereotypes and perceptions based on her appearance. Ana Maria in Novela Land is a twist on the classic comedy trope of switching lives, with Ana Maria taking on the life of her favorite telenovela star. Finally, Maps to the Stars is a dark comedy with a stellar cast, including Mia Wasikowska, John Cusack, Julianne Moore, and Robert Pattinson. It’s a satire of Hollywood mixed with an examination of family ties.

Here are all the February films written, directed, and/or about women. All descriptions are from press materials unless otherwise indicated.

February 4

No Evidence of Disease (doc) – Directed by Andrea Kalin

No Evidence of Disease interweaves the harrowing experiences and remarkable courage of women, devoted families, and dedicated doctors. As music and medicine join forces in the fight for life, the surgeons are transformed into rising rock stars, and their patients and loved ones jump on the bandwagon, infusing the struggle for survival with heart, hope, and rock and roll.

February 6

Jupiter Ascending – Co-Written and Co-Directed by Lana Wachowski

Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) was born under signs that predicted future greatness, but her reality as a woman consists of cleaning other people’s houses and endless bad breaks. Caine (Channing Tatum), a genetically engineered hunter, arrives on Earth to locate her, making Jupiter finally aware of the great destiny that awaits her. Jupiter’s genetic signature marks her as the next in line for an extraordinary inheritance that could alter the balance of the cosmos.

Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine (doc) – Written and Directed by Michele Josue

Michele Josue’s debut — and the first film helmed by someone from Matt’s life — is an intimate tribute to the young man she knew, the young man behind the story that rocked the nation and cause outcry around the world. On October 7, 1998, University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten, tied to a fence, and left to die because he was gay. Years later, Michele Josue, a close friend of Matt’s, revisits the shocking case with never-before-seen photos and rare video footage, as Matt’s all-too-brief life is remembered through the vivid testimonies of those whose lives he touched, from the friends and family who knew him best to the bartender who saw him the night of the attack.

The Voices – Directed by Marjane Satrapi

Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) is that chipper guy clocking the nine-to-five at a bathtub factory, with the offbeat charm of anyone who could use a few friends. With the help of his court-appointed psychiatrist, he pursues his office crush (Gemma Arterton). However, the relationship takes a sudden, murderous turn after she stands him up for a date. Guided by his evil, talking cat and benevolent, talking dog, Jerry must decide whether to keep striving for normalcy, or indulge in a much more sinister path.

Love, Rosie – Written by Juliette Towhidi

Since the moment they met at age 5, Rosie (Lily Collins) and Alex (Sam Claflin) have been best friends, facing the highs and lows of growing up side by side. A fleeting shared moment, one missed opportunity, and the decisions that follow send their lives in completely different directions. As each navigates the complexities of life, love, and everything in between, they always find their way back to each other — but is it just friendship, or something more? Based on Cecelia Ahern’s bestselling novel, Love, Rosie is a heart-warming, modern comedy-of-errors posing the ultimate question: Do we really only get one shot at true love?

February 8

The Price of Honor (doc) – Co-Directed by Neena Nejad; Written by Leah Welch

The Price of Honor is a documentary about the murders of Amina and Sarah Said, teenage sisters from Lewisville, Texas, who were killed in a premeditated “honor killing” in 2008. The film shows the lives of the sisters and the path to their eventual murders by their own father, Yaser Said, who fled the crime scene and is a fugitive on the FBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted List. The film reveals new details and uncovers evidence about the case that has never before been made public, including a previous murder committed by Yaser, and the ultimate sacrifice of Amina Said, who had a secret plan to protect the love of her life. Her words, through emails, letters, and diary entries, become the voice of the film and change much of what has heretofore been assumed about this case. Despite the tragedy, viewers will learn of an incredible love story that still has life after death.

February 13

Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem – Co-Written and Co-Directed by Ronit Elkabetz

In Israel, there is neither civil marriage nor civil divorce. Only Orthodox rabbis can legalize a marriage or its dissolution, which is only possible with the husband’s full consent. Viviane Amsalem (Ronit Elkabetz) has been applying for a divorce for three years, but her religiously devout husband Elisha (Simon Abkarian, Casino Royale, Persepolis) continually refuses. His cold intransigence, Viviane’s determination to fight for her freedom, and the ambiguous role of the rabbinical judges shape a procedure where tragedy vies with absurdity, and everything is brought out into the open for judgment.  

February 14

Fifty Shades of Grey – Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson; Written by Kelly Marcel

Fifty Shades of Grey is the hotly anticipated film adaptation of the bestselling book that has become a global phenomenon. Since its release, the trilogy has been translated into 51 languages worldwide and sold more than 100 million copies in e-books and print – making it one of the biggest and fastest-selling book series ever. Stepping into the roles of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele are Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson.

Butterfly Girl (doc) – Directed by Cary Bell

At first glance, it is not obvious that Abigail Evans lives with a life-threatening skin disease. She is a typical teenager: moody, rebellious, irreverent, and also strikingly beautiful. But her life is the antithesis of normal. Abbie grew up in hospitals, cared for by her protective mother and father. She then came into her own in honky tonks, selling merchandise for her father’s band. But just like any other 18-year-old, Abbie yearns for a life of her own. Butterfly Girl charts Abbie’s journey toward a new understanding of how she must balance her past with her future, her parents with her independence, and her disease with her desires. But what price must she pay for that freedom?

February 20

McFarland, USA – Directed by Niki Caro; Co-Written by Bettina Gilois

Track coach Jim White (Kevin Costner) is a newcomer to a predominantly Latino high school in California’s Central Valley. Coach White and his new students find that they have much to learn about one another, but things begin to change when White realizes the boys’ exceptional running ability. More than just physical prowess drives the teens to succeed; their strong family ties, incredible work ethic, and commitment to their team all play a factor in forging these novice runners into champions.

My Way (doc) – Co-Directed by Dominique Mollee

My Way begins with the conventional “small-town girl livin’ in a lonely (corporate) world.” Yet instead of taking the midnight train, Rebekah Starr trades her briefcase for a Les Paul, grabs her sassy Estonian tambourine-banging sidekick Annika, and hits the highway. Destination: the Sunset Strip. When Rebekah’s marriage falls apart in real time, we realize her dream is not a whim, but a burning passion for music that comes with its share of real-world sacrifices. Her contagious optimism acts as the film’s throughline, hoping to inspire anyone feeling trapped by their circumstances.

Approaching the Elephant (doc) – Directed by Amanda Rose Wilder

Amanda Rose Wilder’s acclaimed feature debut dives head first into the inaugural year of the Teddy McArdle Free School in New Jersey, where all classes are voluntary and rules are determined by vote – adults and children have an equal say. Wilder is there from the beginning to the end of the school year, documenting and observing founder Alex Khost and an indelible cast of outspoken young personalities, as they form relationships, explore their surroundings, and intensely debate rule violations, until it all comes to a head. Evoking the immersive nonfiction styles of Frederick Wiseman and Allan King, Approaching the Elephant is a rare, inspired portrait of unfettered childhood. 

The DUFF

Bianca (Mae Whitman) is a content high-school senior whose world is shattered when she learns the student body knows her as “The DUFF” (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) to her prettier, more popular friends (Skyler Samuels and Bianca Santos). Now, despite the words of caution from her favorite teacher (Ken Jeong), she puts aside the potential distraction of her crush, Toby (Nick Eversman), and enlists Wesley (Robbie Amell), a slick but charming jock, to help reinvent herself. To save her senior year from turning into a total disaster, Bianca must find the confidence to overthrow the school’s ruthless label maker Madison (Bella Thorne) and remind everyone that, no matter what people look or act like, we are all someone’s DUFF.

February 27

Maps to the Stars

Meet the Weiss family, who are making their way in Hollywood rife with money, fame, envy, and relentless hauntings. Stafford Weiss (John Cusack) is a famed TV self-help therapist with an A-list celebrity clientele. Meanwhile, Cristina Weiss (Olivia Williams) has her work cut out managing the career of their disaffected child-star son, Benjie (Evan Bird), a fresh graduate of rehab at age 13. Yet unbeknownst to them, another member of the Weiss family has arrived in town — mysteriously scarred and tormented Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), just released from a psych ward and ready to start again. She soon works her way into a friendship with a limo driver (Robert Pattinson) and becomes personal assistant to unraveling actress Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore), who is beset by the ghost of her legendary mother, Clarice (Sarah Gadon). But Agatha is on a quest for redemption — and even in this realm of the artificial, and the unearthly, she’s determined to find it, no matter what it takes.

Ana Maria in Novela Land – Directed and Co-Written by Georgina Garcia Riedel

Ana Maria in Novela Land is the fun-filled story of how one super fan, Ana Maria, switches places with her favorite telenovela star, Ariana Tomosa. Starring Edy Ganem (Devious Maids) in a breakout, dual role as both Ana Maria and Ariana Tomosa, the film centers around Ana Maria, a typical 20-something who is living life on her own terms but frustrating her family and friends all the while doing so. As she journeys inside a world of seemingly limitless opportunities in “Novela Land,” things get heated during a love affair with a wealthy businessman and his younger, sexy son. Meanwhile, Ariana is forced to deal with the harsh realities of living in Los Angeles with an over-protective but loving family. As each of these women navigate their new lives, they come to the realization that love and true faith in themselves is all they really needed to have the life they dreamed of.

Bluebird

When Lesley (Amy Morton), the local school-bus driver, becomes distracted during her end–of–day inspection, she fails to notice a sleeping boy in the back of the bus. What happens next shatters the tranquility of her small logging town, proving that even the slightest actions have enormous consequences. Stricken by an overwhelming sense of guilt, Lesley‘s fragility is further tested by her husband (John Slattery), a local logger preoccupied by the imminent closing of the town paper mill, and the boy’s mother Marla (Louisa Krause), a disaffected young woman looking to take advantage of a delicate situation.

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