Best Movies to See This February: ‘Lego Movie 2,’ Liam Neeson, ‘Alita’
From a toy-story sequel to black metal biopic and a long-awaited manga adaptation — here’s what’s coming to a theater near you this month
So you’ve caught up with all of the big-name Oscar-nominated films and are ready to move past the dead zone that is January at the movies — what do you have to look forward in February? There’s a gangster movie set among the indigenous population of Colombia and an off-beat indie set among the forbidding snows of Norway; an expensive manga adaptation and a sequel made of Legos; a Liam Neeson ass-kick-a-palooza and a bright, shiny, blithely self-aware rom-com. Here’s what’s coming to a theater near you over the next month.
Alita: Battle Angel (Feb. 14th)
Once upon a time, James Cameron was going to adapt the popular manga about an amnesiac android. Now Robert Rodriguez steps behind the camera as director (the Avatar creator is now simply producing) and brings us a live-action Alita (Rosa Salazar) who can negotiate a cyberpunk future of mecha-thugs and CGI perils. Her paternal caretaker Dr. Ido (Christoph Waltz) has equipped her with an arsenal’s worth of firepower, and yet she suspects her greatest power may be hidden even from her. She’ll realize her destiny in a big, old-fashioned blockbuster along with a deep-benched cast that includes Mahershala Ali, Jennifer Connelly, Michelle Rodriguez, Jackie Earle Haley and Ed Skrein, among many others.
Birds of Passage (Feb. 13th)
The gangster film gets a novel tilt as Colombian filmmaker Ciro Guerra (Embrace of the Serpent) and his co-director Cristina Gallego rewind back to the moment that a young man (José Acosta) introduces the drug trade into country’s indigenous Wayuu community. Soon enough, it’s all out tribe-vs.-tribe warfare. Because this crime saga runs through the Seventies, the ethnographical elements go hand in hand with fashion (hello, flare-collared shirts!), gunplay and some familiar moral downfalls. What’s the Wayuu word for “Goodfellas”?
Cold Pursuit (Feb. 8th)
It’s time once again for your annual addition to the “older Liam Neeson beats the crap out of men half his age” movies! The big man returns as a snowplow driver — recently-voted Citizen of the Year, no less — looking forward to retirement in his sleepy Rocky Mountain hometown. Until, that is, a psychotic drug lord (Tom Bateman) kills our hero’s son, landing himself right in the middle-aged warpath. When will criminal types learn: You never mess with Neeson.
Everybody Knows (Feb. 8th)
Oscar-winning Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) puts real-life spouses Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz threw some melodramatic paces, casting them as ex-lovers embroiled in scandal. It seems her daughter with her new husband gets kidnapped from a villa in the Spanish countryside; the ensuing rescue effort unearths secrets both of them would have preferred to leave buried. Did we mention it reignites a little forbidden romance in the process?
Fighting With My Family (Feb. 13th)
England-bred wrestling superstar Paige entrusted her life story to writer-director Stephen Merchant (one of the creators of the original British version of The Office) for a coming-of-age narrative with a greater-than-average number of sleeper holds. Florence Pugh dons the lip ring and jet-black dye job of Paige herself, working her way through the ranks to do right by her superfan parents (Nick Frost, Lena Headey) and similarly aspiring brother (Jack Lowden). Executive producer Dwayne Johnson, in full “The Rock”-mode, also appears as his younger self in this salute to the agony, ecstasy and fakery of the brave souls who beat the snot out of each other for a living.
Happy Death Day 2 U (Feb. 13th)
Horror factory Blumhouse scored a massive hit with last year’s Happy Death Day, a well-honed take on the elevator pitch “Groundhog Day gone slasher.” Like any good horror sequel, the new installment does the same thing, just a little differently: Theresa “Tree” Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) has fallen into another time-loop two years after the events of the first film. But this time around, her friends have also been targeted by an anonymous killer. Which means that our final-girl heroine has got to suicidally reset the clock if any of her pals die first. Enjoy a fresh round of baby-face-mask nightmares!
Isn’t It Romantic (Feb. 14th)
Aussie favorite Rebel Wilson plays an architect living in New York, thoroughly convinced that Sleepless in Seattle and its ilk are nothing but phooey. Then a magical head injury transports her to an aggressively PG-13 world of meet-cutes and rain-soaked confessions of love, leaving the lifelong cynic to dodge clichés as she figures out how to return to normal. Will she find the perfect man along the way? Is this highly meta take on the romantic comedy want to have its cake and critique it too? Does Matthew McConaughey have chemistry with Kate Hudson?
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (Feb. 8th)
Emmet and Lucy (voices of Chris Pratt and Elizabeth Banks) have a good thing going in their Fury Road-styled Lego world, until an alien visitor (Stephanie Beatriz) kidnaps her at the behest of the shape-shifting Queen Watevra (Tiffany Haddish). The sequel to Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s 2014 hit (they’ve ceded the director’s seat this time to Trolls‘ Mike Mike Mitchell) finds Emmet going on a quest to rescue his best friend; he also meets Rex Dangervest, a “galaxy-defending archaeologist cowboy raptor-trainer.” Sound like anyone you know?
Lords of Chaos (Feb. 8th)
As a music video veteran and native of Sweden, Jonas Åkerlund may have been the ideal choice to direct this look at the true story of church burnings and murder related to the rise of black metal in Scandinavia. The Nowegian band Mayhem and its captivating guitarist Euronymous (Rory Culkin) like to create havoc, play loud, maybe rock some corpse paint. Then guitarist Varg Vikernes, a.k.a. The Count (Emory Cohen) joins the band, and things get a tad homicidal. It’s a true-crime parable, sign-of-the-beast style.
Miss Bala (Feb. 1st)
The American film industry takes a whack at Gerardo Naranjo’s action standout from Mexico — and gives Gina Rodriguez a sorely overdue star vehicle to boot. The Jane the Virgin actor plays Gloria Meyer, a Los Angeles makeup artist visiting her best friend in Tijuana. At an otherwise ordinary night out at the club, an outbreak of violence lands Gloria in a drug cartel’s crosshairs; she soon finds herself severely out of her element as an amateur smuggler. Then DEA catches wind, and suddenly she’s playing both sides against the middle. She’ll have to learn how to load a semiautomatic, and quick.