From the Fred Hampton biopic to Tom Holland as a drug-addicted bank robber to the supernatural horror of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley – the forecast of flicks throughout February looks bright.
This February offers several new films that serve as brooding looks at various, big, topical crises – the civil rights movement, the Great Recession, and the opioid epidemic are all given tough introspectives, but smaller and more personal stories also find some room to breathe.
A few horror gems and thrillers sneak their way into the month as well, as well as the big screen return of a Hanna-Barbera favorite.
‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ February 12th (Theaters and HBO Max)
Judas and the Black Messiah is a biographical film that details the life of Fred Hampton, an often unsung figure of the civil rights movement. Hampton was chairman of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s, and when his activism led to the formation of the Rainbow Coalition – which joined various street gangs together to end violence and work for social change – he was assassinated by the FBI. He was only 21 years old.
Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, Black Panther, Black Mirror) stars as Hampton, and he’s joined by another equally fascinating actor, Lakeith Stanfield (Atlanta, Sorry to Bother You, Uncut Gems), who plays the Judas in question, William O’Neal. O’Neal betrayed Hampton by working as an FBI informant. The film is certainly sure to be a topical one that can offer some perspective on a part of history that not enough people seem to know.
‘Minari’ February 12th (Theaters and VOD)
Minari is a distinctly American tale of assimilation and the pursuit of self-sufficiency told through the eyes of a young Korean boy. Written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung, who based the film on his own immigrant experience growing up as his dad moved the family to rural Arkansas to start a farm.
Starring Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Noel Kate Cho, and Alan Kim, Minari has been receiving endless praise for its performances and its intimate and emotional depiction of a family struggling to make it in 1980s America. It has appeared on dozens of film critics’ top lists of the year, and will be available on demand February 26th following a two week theatrical run.
‘Nomadland’ February 19th (Theaters and Hulu)
Nomadland is the latest film by Chinese filmmaker Chloé Zhao, who made waves with her 2017 film The Rider and the announcement that she would be directing the upcoming Marvel Studios film Eternals. With not a single one of her films ever falling below 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, she’s certainly an artist to pay attention to.
This movie is a blunt and poetic rumination on modern-day America in the wake of the Great Recession. When a Nevada plant shuts down, a worker named Fran (played by Frances McDormand) has nowhere else to go. She sells most of her possessions to purchase a van and travel across the American West as a nomad, where she meets others that are leading similar lifestyles. It’s being praised as one of the best films of the year.
‘Cherry’ February 26th (Theaters – Eventually Apple TV+)
After successfully pulling off the biggest movie of all time, Avengers: Endgame, filmmaking duo Anthony and Joe Russo are looking to take a break from the sleek and polished look of Disney’s Marvel universe in favor of something a bit smaller and grimier. Spider-Man star Tom Holland, also looking for a change of pace, has been brought along for the ride. The result is Cherry, a gritty crime drama about an opioid-addicted Army veteran who begins robbing banks.
The film is based on the novel of the same name by Nico Walker and has been getting consistent buzz over Holland’s powerful performance. It will be released in theaters before being added to Apple TV+ in March.
‘I Care a Lot’ February 19th (Netflix)
Rosamund Pike is bringing the same energy she had in Gone Girl to her latest film, I Care A Lot. It’s a legal thriller with a side of black comedy along the lines of Better Call Saul, and it features an all star that includes Peter Dinklage, Eiza González, and Dianne Wiest.
The film is about a woman named Marla (Pike) who cons elderly people out of their money by getting herself appointed to be their legal guardian. Marla and her lover, Fran (González), have had tons of success with their scheme, but they soon find themselves in the sights of a gangster (Dinklage) who has ties to one of their victims (Wiest).
‘Tom and Jerry’ February 26th (Theaters and HBO Max)
The slapstick comedy stylings of Tom and Jerry have lasted for over 80 years, making them two of the most enduring and iconic cartoon characters in entertainment and animation history. A return to the big screen for them has been long in development, but the pair are now finally ready to be introduced to a new generation of fans with their new film.
The film will be a hybrid of animation and live-action in the style of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, featuring a cast that includes Chloë Grace Moretz, Michael Peña, Colin Jost, Rob Delaney, and Ken Jeong. I personally believe that some good old fashioned cartoon violence is exactly what we might need after the past year.
‘The Vigil’ February 26th (Theaters and VOD)
The Vigil takes place over the course of a single night as Yavok Ronen (Dave Davis) keeps watch over the body of a deceased community member. As the lights flicker and the shadows ebb and flow on the walls of the dilapidated house he’s staying in, the film settles into familiar but strong scare tactics to tell the tale of a haunted house and religious guilt.
The film marks the directorial debut for writer and director Keith Thomas and has received high praise for its successful scares and unique inspiration from Orthodox Judaism and demonology.
‘The United States vs. Billie Holiday’ February 26th (Hulu)
Billie Holiday is one of the most recognizable names and voices when it comes to music. The soul and jazz singer has a fascinating legacy, and filmmaker Lee Daniels (Precious, Empire, Lee Daniels’ The Butler) is approaching her story at a unique angle The United States vs. Billie Holiday is actually based on the book Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs by journalist Johann Hari, detailing the incredibly harmful effects of drug criminalisation.
Holiday, a long-time heroin addict, is profiled in the book, and Daniels’ appears to be attempting to inject some much needed life into the tired music biopic formula. Anyone familiar with his work knows how Daniels deftly combines dramatic personal stories with strong and pointed social commentary. The film stars musician Andra Day in the lead role, along with Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight, Birdbox), Natasha Lyonne (Orange is the New Black, Russian Doll), and Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy, Triple Frontier).
‘Crisis’ February 26th (Theaters and VOD)
Crisis is a searing indictment on the causes and effects of the ongoing opioid crisis. Told through multiple interwoven storylines, the film reveals the devastating impact of for-profit healthcare, corporate corruption, and addiction. The various stories include: A drug trafficker arranges a multi-cartel Fentanyl smuggling operation. An architect recovering from an oxycodone addiction tracks down the truth behind her son’s disappearance. A university professor battles unexpected revelations about his employer, a pharmaceutical company bringing a new “non-addictive” painkiller to market.
Written and directed by Nicholas Jarecki (Arbitrage), it boasts an impressive cast that includes Gary Oldman , Armie Hammer, Evengeline Lilly, Greg Kinnear, Michelle Rodriguez, Luke Evans, and even Kid Cudi. The film will be available on demand March 5th after its theatrical release.
‘Pelé’ February 23rd (Netflix)
Brazil is home to one of the biggest football legends of all time: the one and only Pelé. Netflix’s latest documentary combines exclusive interviews with the man himself and others with rare archival footage to track the rise of the international sensation and celebrate his life and legacy.
Pelé led Brazil to a shocking three World Cup titles between 1958 to 1970; an incredible accomplishment during what was a turbulent time for the country. The film will follow the icon from childhood to now to give perspective on one of history’s greatest athletes
‘Land’ February 12th (Theaters)
Robin Wright has proven herself time and time again to be one of the most commanding presences onscreen. You can find her in almost anything – perhaps you know her as Jenny from Forrest Gump, or as Princess Buttercup from The Princess Bride, or more recently, General Antiope in Wonder Woman and Justice League. With Land, she’s finally making her directorial debut, and naturally, starring in it as well.
When a lawyer named Edee is blindsided by a tragedy in her life, she runs away to the harsh and unforgiving wilderness of the Rockies. Perhaps she’s come here simply to find herself anew, but pretty soon she’s fighting for her life against the elements. It will make its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival before heading to theaters.
‘Malcolm and Marie’ February 5th (Netflix)
Zendaya and John David Washington are two of the hottest actors currently on a meteoric rise in the industry, so a film starring the two of them was a no-brainer. Filmmaker Sam Levinson – who has collaborated with Zendaya already in his hit show Euphoria and directed 2018’s Assassination Nation – made headlines when his latest project, Malcolm & Marie, became the first feature film to be entirely written, financed and filmed during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The film, presented in black and white, captures one eventful evening at the home of Malcolm (Washington) and his girlfriend, Marie (Zendaya). The couple are returning from a movie premiere; Malcolm has just debuted his latest film and is anxiously awaiting responses from critics, but his ranting eventually leads to damning arguments between him and Marie, and their relationship is put to the test. It promises to be career-best performances from its stars while also laying bare the complexities and harsh truths of romantic relationships.
‘A Nightmare Wakes’ February 4th (Shudder)
Mary Shelley is credited with pioneering the horror and science fiction genres with her novel Frankenstein, which still inspires and gets retold to this day. A Nightmare Wakes follows the writer as she’s writing that particular masterpiece, before falling into an opium-fueled fever dream while also carrying on a torrid love affair with Percy Shelley (Giullian Yao Gioiello). As she writes, the characters of her novel come to life and begin to plague her relationship with Percy. Before long, she must choose between true love and her novel.
The psychological horror film promises to offer a glimpse into the literary icon’s raucous life. Alex Wilton Regan of video game voice acting notoriety will play the leading role.
‘Space Sweepers’ February 5th, Netflix
Space debris isn’t an issue you see brought up very often, but it is indeed a very real thing for space explorers. It’s mostly dangerous to satellites, which are often damaged or destroyed by the thousands of pieces of trash floating through orbit, and it’s a problem that’s tricky to solve. Space Sweepers is about a ragtag group of space junk collectors who fly aboard their ship The Victory. After successfully snatching a crashed space shuttle in their latest debris chase, Victory’s crew discovers a 7-year-old girl inside.
The film is being called the first Korean science fiction blockbuster, and by launching on Netflix, it’s likely hoping to become an international hit in the same vein as 2019’s The Wandering Earth.
‘The Reckoning’ February 5th (Shudder)
The Reckoning is a period piece that follows Grace Haverstock (Charlotte Kirk), a young widow haunted by the recent death of her husband Joseph (Joe Anderson). She’s accused of being a witch by her jealous landlord, Squire Pendleton (Steven Waddington), after she rejects his unwanted advances. Grace must now endure physical persecution at the hands of England’s most ruthless witch-hunter Judge Moorcroft (Pertwee) and face her own inner demons as the Devil himself starts to work his way into her mind.
Pretty dour stuff, but what can you expect from director Neil Marshall – who helmed one of the most genuinely scary movies of all time, The Descent. Strap yourself in for punishment, hopefully the kind that brings the thrills just as much as the chills.
Check back each week for a run down of everything coming to streaming in the Screen Crusades: Weekly Streaming Guide.
Please be sure to adhere to all proper health and safety guidelines at your local theater.