As a long, snow-laden February looms over the world’s ongoing COVID crisis, what else to do with all our free time but watch the best newly-released stories that can carry us, one to the next, until vaccination time? There’s a little something on offer for every conceivable taste this month; foreign and domestic, adaptations and original tales, starring everyone from A-listers and favorites to virtual unknowns. Stay warm, stay safe, and stay entertained with this eclectic mix.
Malcolm & Marie
February 5, 2021 (Netflix)
Directed and written by Sam Levinson (Euphoria, Assassination Nation, Another Happy Day); starring Zendaya (Spider-Man: Far from Home, Euphoria, The OA) and John David Washington (Tenet, BlacKkKlansman). Two of the world’s most talented, gorgeous people take on a relationship playing out in real time, based on (jumping off from) a moment in Levinson’s own life. The leads are so compelling that it almost doesn’t matter what the movie is about–we just want to hone in on the pair’s incredible electricity.
February 5, 2021 (Theaters, VoD)
Directed by Chad Hartigan (This Is Martin Bonner); written by Aja Gabel and Mattson Tomlin starring Olivia Cooke, Jack O’Connell, Raúl Castillo, and Soko. What if our pandemic caused major memory loss, too? This science-fiction outing takes reality a step further, adding governmental conspiracy, and injecting emotion through the lens of a young couple trying to keep from falling apart as a virus eats away their shared history.
February 5, 2021 (Theaters, VoD)
This is Viggo Mortensen’s directorial debut. He wrote the screenplay as well, and leads an excellent cast including Lance Henriksen, Laura Linney, Hannah Gross, David Cronenberg (!), Terry Chen, and Sverrir Gudnason. Mortensen stars as a married gay man who takes on caring for his ailing father (Henriksen), a homophobe suffering from dementia. It’s a shame that there probably won’t be any naked knife-fighting in this one, but this highly personal story (Mortensen’s parents both had the condition) will probably leave us all broken and still be worth it.
February 5, 2021 (VoD)
Directed by Neil Marshall (Hellboy, The Descent, Westworld, Game of Thrones, Constantine, Hannibal); written by Marshall, Edward Evers-Swindell (Dark Signal), and Charlotte Kirk; starring Kirk, Sean Pertwee, Steven Waddington, and Joe Anderson. Get your horrorfest on with this witch hunt set in 1665 plague-ridden England. With six more winter weeks predicted and snow days galore, we may as well slip all the way into the darkness with mood-master Marshall and his minions. Team witch, obvs!
Judas and the Black Messiah (Golden Globe-nominated)
February 12, 2021 (HBO Max, Theaters)
Directed by Shaka King; written by (and based on the screenplay by) King and Will Berson; starring Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons (f*cking Todd!), Martin Sheen, Dominique Fishback, and Ashton Sanders. Powerhouse Kaluuya stars as Black Panther chairman Fred Hampton in this gripping biographical account of his betrayal by FBI informant William O’Neal (Stanfield) which resulted in Hampton’s assassination. With an irresistible trailer and Kaluuya’s February 3rd Golden Globe Nomination, this film belongs at the top of your must-see list.
The World to Come
February 12, 2021 (Theaters)
Directed by Norway’s Mona Fastvold (The Sleepwalker); written by Ron Hansen (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) and Jim Shepard (and based on Shepard’s story); starring Katherine Waterston, Vanessa Kirby, and Christopher Abbot. If you’re a fan of those dark period pieces full of slow-paced suffering …er, I mean, if you’re a fan of the fabulous Kirby and Waterston, dive into their lauded Lady on Fire-ish forbidden romance set amongst hard times and stern husbands (one of whom is, unfortunately, Casey Affleck–though he doesn’t appear to feature prominently).
Two of Us
February 12, 2021 (Amazon Prime)
Feature directorial debut by Filippo Meneghetti (Maistrac: lavorare in Cantiere), written by Meneghetti and Malysone Bovorasmy; starring Barbara Sukowa, Martine Chevallier, and Léa Drucker. If you prefer your heavy love stories in French, check out this Academy Award-submitted film about retired neighbors who’ve hidden their relationship for decades. Speaking of, why must we still wait two years for amazing foreign films to hit streaming services?
The Mauritanian (Golden Globe-nominated)
February 19, 2020 (Theaters and VoD)
Directed by Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland, State of Play); written by Michael Bronner, Rory Haines, and Sohrab Noshirvani (Informer, Black Adam); starring Jodie Foster, Shailene Woodley (both nominated for Golden Globes), Benedict Cumberbatch, and Tahar Rahim. Foster and Woodley lead this accounting of the defense of Mohamedou Ould Salahi (Rahim) who, suspected of terrorism, was captured by extraordinary rendition and held at Guantanamo Bay for fourteen years without charges. Up against Cumberbatch’s terrible accent and masterfully fabricated evidence, we are helpless but to watch these brilliant women put military malignance in its place.
I Care a Lot
February 19, 2021 (Netflix)
Directed and written by J Blakeson (The Disappearance of Alice Creed); starring Rosamund Pike, Peter Dinklage, Dianne Wiest, Chris Messina, Macon Blair, Alicia Witt, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Eiza González, and Damian Young. As if that fantastic cast alone wasn’t enough to convince us, the dynamic between Pike’s gone-bad girl and Dinklage’s glorious gangster is most definitely fodder for a giant tub of popcorn on a February Friday evening.
February 26, 2021 (Theaters, then Apple TV in March)
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo; written by Angela Russo-Otstot and Jessica Goldberg; starring Tom Holland, Ciara Bravo, and Jack Reynor. Based on the Nico Walker semi-autobiographical novel, Holland plays a former soldier suffering PTSD and committing robberies to support his opioid addiction. It’ll be interesting (and a little confusing) to see our beloved Peter Parker take on a completely different role with those rowdy Russos at the wheel.