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February Preview: The 5 Must See Films

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire February 1, 2011 at 7:46AM

While the biggest specialty releases of January were mostly December leftovers boosted by awards buzz, February has arrived to give 2011 its first significant batch of quality films. It includes some of the best bets from last year's Cannes and SXSW film festivals, a well-received comedy from this year's Sundance Film Festival, and a as-yet-unseen epic from director Kevin Macdonald.
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While the biggest specialty releases of January were mostly December leftovers boosted by awards buzz, February has arrived to give 2011 its first significant batch of quality films. It includes some of the best bets from last year's Cannes and SXSW film festivals, a well-received comedy from this year's Sundance Film Festival, and a as-yet-unseen epic from director Kevin Macdonald.

Take a look at indieWIRE's preview of five of February's best bets. Check out a full list of the month's releases here.

1. Cold Weather (February 4)

What's The Deal? In Aaron Katz's "Cold Weather," mumblecore meets the detective genre. The film follows Doug, a former forensic science major and avid reader of detective fiction, who returns to his hometown of Portland after dropping out of college only to become tangled up in a mystery with his sister Gail and his new friend Carlos.

Who's Already Seen It? 10 critics gave "Cold Weather" an average of A- on the film's criticWIRE page.

Why is it a "Must See"? A breakout from the 2010 SXSW Film Festival, "Weather" marks a significant evolution for Katz (who directed "Dance Party, USA" and "Quiet City"). Memorable and entertaining, "Cold Weather" is 2011's first great American indie.

Check out the trailer here:


2. Of Gods and Men (February 25)

What's The Deal? Set in the mountains of the Maghreb in the 1990s, Xavier Beauvois's "Of Gods and Men" tells the story of eight French Christian monks living in harmony with their Muslim brothers despite escalating violence and terror in their vicinity.

Who's Already Seen It? 21 critics gave "Of Gods and Men" an average of B- on the film's criticWIRE page

Why is it a "Must See"? One of the most talked about films at last year's Cannes Film Festival (and winner of the Grand Prix), and France's submission to the Academy Awards (though it was controversially left off the shortlist), "Of Gods and Men" is necessary viewing, even if it doesn't have the Academy's stamp of approval.

Check out the trailer here:


3. Heartbeats (February 25)

What's The Deal? The story of three close friends who are involved in a love-triangle, "Heartbeats" is young Quebecois filmmaker Xavier Dolan's folllow-up to his much-discussed debut "I Killed My Mother."

Who's Already Seen It? 16 critics gave "Heartbeats" an average of B on the film's criticWIRE page

Why is it a "Must See"? This is actually the first opportunity American filmgoers will have to check out Dolan's work as "I Killed My Mother" is sadly still undistributed thanks to problems at Regent Releasing, which had purchased the film nearly two years ago. His sexy, stylish follow-up is first-rate, but make sure to find your way to Dolan's debut as well.

Check out the film's trailer:


4. Cedar Rapids (February 11)

What's The Deal? The first theatrical release of a 2011 Sundance Film Festival debut, Miguel Arteta's "Cedar Rapids" is a showcase for Ed Helms, who stars as a small-town underachiever who travels to "major metropolis" Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to save his company at a do-or-die insurance comedy.

Who's Already Seen It? 4 critics gave "Cedar Rapids" an average of B- on the film's criticWIRE page

Why is it a "Must See"? Good, standard Fox Searchlight fun. Aided by the fact that Helms is joined by a stellar supporting cast including John C. Reilly, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Root, Alia Shawkat and Anne Heche.

Check out the trailer here:


5. The Eagle (February 11)

What's The Deal? An adaptation of the 1954 historical adventure "The Eagle of the Ninth" by Rosemary Sutcliff, Kevin Macdonald's film is set in the 2nd century AD and tells of a young Roman officer's search to discover the truth about the disappearance of his father's legion in the north of Britain.

Who's Already Seen It? No critics have yet, but check back with the film's criticWIRE page

Why is it a "Must See"? Remains to be seen. It's strange that, given its release date, Focus Features didn't premiere the film at Sundance (especially since Macdonald was already there with "Life in a Day"). Perhaps that's a bad omen, or perhaps not. But what is guaranteed is Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell will be running around shirtless and all warrior-like, so if that's your thing...

Check out the trailer here:

This article is related to: DVD and VOD, The Eagle