The shortest month of the year can still yield ten movies worthy of your attention! We continue through the doldrums of that cold time called “every month before summer,” and while March has transformed into a time for decent fare, we still have to blaze through February. The films assembled are a mix of blockbusters and art house, mindless entertainment and incisive filmmaking, so settle down and get ready to explore the month of February.
“A Field in England”
Synopsis: A group of deserters from the English Civil War tripping on mushrooms engage in a mystery, and possibly murder, they never saw coming.
What You Need to Know: You can’t find higher praise than what’s being said about director Ben Wheatley’s “A Field in England.” Several critics, including our own Jessica Kiang, drew allusions to Ingmar Bergman and Lars von Trier when discussing this drug-fueled acid trip. Kiang saw it during the Karlovy Vary Film Festival and called it a “bracing, sometimes exhilaratingly bonkers experience” in her “B+” review, and apparently Martin Scorsese liked what he saw because he’s slapped his name on the posters and trailers to provide a seal of approval. Additionally, Wheatley’s movie won a Special Jury prize at Karlovy Vary, giving the movie further clout for fans of bloody international cinema.
Release Date: February 7th in limited release and VOD
“The Lego Movie”
Synopsis: Emmett (voiced by Chris Pratt) is a blue-collar Lego trying to get through life. However, plans change when the evil President Business (voiced by Will Ferrell) plots world domination, pulling Emmett into the fray when he learns he’s the Chosen One.
What You Need to Know: The Lego company has shaped children’s imaginations for decades, and their arm of straight-to-DVD animated movies have their fair amount of fans. “The Lego Movie” has the distinction of being the first feature-length theatrical film in the Lego legacy, and the first trailer seems to show off more flair and superhero theatrics than any comic book adaptation out there. Because rights are different for the Lego movies you’ll get the chance to watch Superman and Batman face off well before the 2016 live-action version, on top of Morgan Freeman voicing a magical wizard and a Who’s-Who of additional character cameos. If the film is as delightful as directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s previous foray into animation, “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” expect this to please kids and adults alike.
Release Date: February 7th
“The Monuments Men”
Synopsis: A World War II platoon made up of art historians and museum curators is tasked with entering Germany in order to secure a wealth of valuable masterpieces from Nazi thieves and restore them to where they belong.
What You Need to Know: Director George Clooney has created an eclectic bunch of features, all with an Old Hollywood sensibility to them. He last got behind the camera in 2011 for the political thriller, “Ides of March,” receiving mixed opinions from audiences and critics. And his latest film is becoming gossip fodder, further dividing those who are pro- and anti-director Clooney. “The Monuments Men” was originally slated for a December 18th release, prime real estate for Oscar season. However, Clooney didn’t have the movie ready in time, and the film was shifted into the New Year. The movie is preparing to open the Berlin Film Festival on February 6th but has already screened for press, with our review coming down in the middle. But no matter what the critics think, the cast assembled (including Matt Damon, Bill Murray, and Oscar heavy-hitter Cate Blanchett) should secure a healthy audience opening weekend.
Release Date: February 7th
“The Pretty One”
Synopsis: Laurel and Audrey (both played by Zoe Kazan) are twins, but Audrey is generally considered “the pretty one” by her friends and family. When Audrey is killed in an accident, Laurel assumes her identity. Unfortunately, the distinctions between the two are painfully revealed and Laurel starts to wonder if people like her for who she truly is.
What You Need to Know: Actress Zoe Kazan burst onto the scene as the bubbly figment of a writer’s imagination in the 2012 romantic comedy “Ruby Sparks.” Since then, the indie darling is preparing several projects, and “The Pretty One” has become as equally intriguing as her previous film. Kazan pulls double duty as twins who realize they’re not treated as equally as they’ve assumed, and first-time feature-length director Jenee LaMarque tells a story that’s “much more affecting and genuinely melancholy than you’d expect.” Our own Rodrigo Perez enjoyed the movie back at Tribeca, giving it a “B,” declaring it “a sweet little feature.”
Release Date: February 7th in limited release
Synopsis: Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is a good cop punching his clock everyday in the futuristic world of 2028 where robot technology is a way of life. When Alex is severely wounded, an organization called OmniCorp utilizes their advancement in robotics to turn Alex into a new breed of crime fighter.
What You Need to Know: Director Paul Verhoeven brought his blend of violence and camp to 1987’s “RoboCop,” but a lot has changed since then in the world of science-fiction and remakes, with new forays into both genres coming out at least once a month. Compared to others in the genre, the cast for “RoboCop” looks interesting with a mix of veteran actors (Gary Oldman and Michael Keaton) and rising up-and-comers (star Kinnaman). It isn’t a surefire recipe for success, as evidenced by the lack of heat associated with a previous Verhoeven remake, last year’s “Total Recall,” and Verhoeven himself is ambivalent about the potential success of “RoboCop” in light the failure of ‘Recall.’ “RoboCop” also suffered from release date shuffling, being pushed to this February to give director Jose Padhila more time to complete it. Thankfully, its direct competition at the time, “Need for Speed,” vacated the date in favor of a later one, and with “RoboCop” being one of the few action films out this time of year, it could see an uptick from adrenaline junkies. However, its PG-13 rating could force some to stay home and wait for the eventual unrated DVD.
Release Date: February 12th
Synopsis: A thief (Colin Farrell) falls in love for a woman (Jessica Findlay-Brown) suffering from a terminal illness. Through a series of events he ends up traveling through time in order to reunite with her.
What You Need to Know: This is not an adaptation of the William Shakespeare play, in case you were confused like I was when I heard the title “Winter’s Tale.” Instead of being based on the Bard’s work, this is an adaptation of the 1983 novel by Mark Helprin, a work presumed to be unfilmable for decades. Well, filmable it is, with an all-star cast including Farrell, Jennifer Connolly and Russell Crowe. The movie was forced to shave a few million dollars off its budget, which could be beneficial to the story or proof of director Akiva Goldsman‘s emphasis on CGI. Regardless, the Valentine’s Day release date and the general dreaminess of Mr. Colin Farrell should get women into the theater opening day.
Release Date: February 14th
Synopsis: A wealthy architect in Bucharest (Luminita Gheorghiu) will do whatever it takes to keep her son out of jail for his part in a deadly car crash.
What You Need to Know: Romanian director Calin Peter Netzer’s third feature “Child’s Pose” gained a boost of critical acclaim after winning the coveted Golden Bear award at last year’s Berlin International Film Festival. The story of a desperate woman willing to use her wealth to secure favors for her son could strikes a chord for U.S. audiences adhering to the belief that the wealthy can get away with anything. Our own Jessica Kiang was pleased with the film during its Berlin run, giving the movie a “B” in her original review. She found the movie a touch dull at times, but felt the climax “manages to make sense of every directorial decision that has come before.”
Release Date: February 19th in New York
Synopsis: A young baker named Omar (Adam Bakri) becomes a freedom fighter dodging the police, all while struggling to juggle a forbidden romance and questioning the loyalties of his friends.
What You Need to Know: Director Hany Abu-Assad and his film, “Omar,” celebrated a great 2013 and look to have an even better 2014. After winning a Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, “Omar” shocked Oscar prognosticators when it made the shortlist for Best Foreign Film, trumping presumed sure things like “Gloria,” “Wadjda” and “The Past.” Its Oscar nomination marks the second time a Palestinian film has been nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, both times with Abu-Assad at the helm (“Paradise Now” was nominated 2006). With two Oscar nominations under his belt, Hollywood is calling for Abu-Assad, with reports in September saying the director was preparing a remake of “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.” Whether the film takes home the statue on Oscar night is anyone’s guess, but two previous nominations show Abu-Assad is bound for further acclaim in the future, so be sure to catch up with him now.
Release Date: February 21st in limited release
“The Wind Rises”
Synopsis: Jiro (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) dreams of being an airplane engineer, but can’t due to his nearsightedness. The film follows his life surviving earthquakes, the Great Depression, and tuberculosis as Jiro struggles to achieve his dream.
What You Need to Know: “The Wind Rises” created waves when its director Hayao Miyazaki revealed it would be his final film before retiring. Oliver Lyttelton saw the movie during its run at the Venice Film Festival, giving it an “A-” for its grounded storyline packed with difficult themes. Lyttelton goes on to call it “[Miyazaki’s] most personal film.” It recently received an Oscar nomination in the Best Animated Feature category, and our Oscar prediction article for the category proclaimed this and “Frozen” as the two movies that will likely duke it out for the win. For the Walt Disney Studios, they win regardless, as both this and “Frozen” are released under the House of Mouse banner, but “The Wind Rises” is a stellar achievement in animation worth experiencing.
Release Date: February 21st in limited release; expands February 28th
Synopsis: An air marshal (Liam Neeson) on a transatlantic flight is threatened, via text message, that a murderer will kill a passenger every 20 minutes unless the government transfers $150 million into an offshore bank account.
What You Need to Know: A better title for Neeson’s third collaboration with director Jaume Collet-Serra would be “Taken on a Plane.” Collet-Serra and Neeson clearly enjoy working with, having previously teamed on 2011’s “Unknown” and are set to reteam for a film called “Run All Night.” The first trailer feels like a parody of Neeson’s past films, and the emphasis on threats via text are laughable. If anything, “Non-Stop” could be a “so bad, it’s good” type of film, but it’s doubtful Collet-Serra and Neeson see it that way. Neeson’s movies continue to be crafted in a cookie-cutter Mad-Libs style, and while “Non-Stop” injects some testosterone into a month light on action, the actor is worthy of better. But admit it, you kinda want to see this anyway.
Release Date: February 28th