Awards season is in full swing, but the glut of major January releases has left February looking a little thin on major awards fodder. Elsewhere, however, it’s a month of extraordinary variety at the multiplex. There’s all sorts on offer, from weighty true life drama to a man in spandex shooting people in the head.
It seems that February is the month in which to take risks, with several very intriguing propositions coming to the table. Alongside the aforementioned burst of superhero violence, there’s also a macabre take on Jane Austen and a film that blends the western genre with a twist of horror.
Here are the ten films you should be watching in cinemas this month.
10. Concussion (Feb 12)
Will Smith has been one of the most high-profile stars to speak out in favour of the #OscarsSoWhite campaign. He was a surprise omission from the Best Actor category for his work in topical drama Concussion, in which he plays a Nigerian sport doctor.
Smith plays Dr Bennet Omalu, who is investigating the head trauma suffered by professional American football players. His dogged determination in the face of an enormous corporate behemoth exposed the serious risks posed by football players and the repeated blows to the head they take on the field.
The film looks like traditional Oscar bait, albeit with a hardcore topical edge and a strong central performance from Smith. It doesn’t look like a standout on paper, but it could be a surprise package.
9. Dad’s Army (Feb 5)
Given the box office success of British sitcom-to-screen transfers in recent years, filmmakers can probably be forgiven for looking to television history for material. Dad’s Army, one of the most beloved sitcoms of the 1960s and 1970s, does not seem an obvious property to remake, though.
The story covers the Home Guard during the Second World War. In the 2016 version, the war is coming to an end and the guys are fairly bored, until a glamorous female journalist turns up. Toby Jones will play the iconic Captain Mainwaring, with the likes of Michael Gambon, Blake Harrison and Bill Nighy filling out the ensemble cast.
Early reviews for Dad’s Army have been decidedly mixed, but the wealth of talent on board suggests that there could be something here. The presence of Johnny English Reborn director Oliver Parker, though, is enough to set alarm bells ringing.
8. Goosebumps (Feb 5)
The books of RL Stine have been terrifying children for decades. He has become a household name as the scribe behind the Goosebumps series, which also spawned a TV series in the 1990s. Now, though, Stine’s creations will make their way onto the big screen for a spooky family adventure.
Jack Black plays Stine, who must confront the horrors he has created when the monsters who live within his books are unwittingly released into the world. He must team up with a group of teens to return the creatures to the pages before they destroy the world.
Based on the trailers, Goosebumps looks like a great, old-fashioned family film with the same sense of fun that made the books so popular. Jack Black’s finely honed presence in the lead role can’t hurt either.
7. Zoolander 2 (Feb 12)
There are few sequels currently in development that have been as in demand as Zoolander 2. Ever since the first film became a DVD hit years after its release, fans have been clamouring for Ben Stiller to reprise his role as the really really ridiculously good looking male model. Fifteen years after the original, it has finally arrived.
The plot sees Derek Zoolander and friend Hansel (Owen Wilson) recruited by Interpol to assist with their investigations after a series of celebrities die wearing Zoolander’s iconic “Blue Steel” facial expression. Meanwhile, Mugatu (Will Ferrell) is back on the streets.
Zoolander 2 is a film that could very much go either way. It could be a celebration of everything that worked with the original, or it could be a prime example of just how bad an effect sequels can have on the memory of their predecessors. The trailers certainly seem startlingly laugh-free…
6. Trumbo (Feb 5)
In the UK, February often sees the last few awards season movies make their way quietly into cinemas in amongst bigger blockbusters. One of the last awards movies to drop this year is Trumbo, in which Bryan Cranston stars as the titular screenwriter, who was blacklisted for his political views.
Cranston stars as major Hollywood writer Dalton Trumbo, who is outspoken in his left-wing political views. When he refuses to testify regarding his membership of the Communist Party, he is blacklisted and blocked from working in the industry. Through various clandestine means, he continues to write and becomes even more successful under the radar.
The draw here is Cranston’s performance. The story, meanwhile, is the kind of industry-centric fare that the Academy eats up. The question is whether it will work for everyone else.
5. The Forest (Feb 26)
In recent memory, the worst horror films on the slate have tended to drop in the early part of the year. That hopefully won’t be the case with The Forest, which will want to be more like It Follows than Devil’s Due or Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones.
Natalie Dormer stars as Sara, who receives a message suggesting that her twin sister Jess is in trouble. They think she may have entered the Aokigahara Forest near Mount Fuji, which is a popular destination for the suicidal. Against the advice of just about everybody, Sara decides to try and find her sister.
Trailers for The Forest suggest an absolutely crazy movie, complete with supernatural beasties, bizarre hallucinations and plenty of darkness. There’s also the lure of seeing perennial supporting player Natalie Dormer move into a well-deserved leading role. Can she step up to carry a film?
4. Grimsby (Feb 24)
Sacha Baron Cohen is back aboard the comedy train, having appeared recently as the lighter side of more dramatic films like Hugo and Les Miserables. His latest film, action-comedy Grimsby, pairs him with Mark Strong with genre stalwart Louis Leterrier behind the camera.
Strong plays a highly trained black ops agent, who has one of his missions royally cocked up by his long-lost brother (Baron Cohen). Forced to go deep under cover, Strong’s character reluctantly joins his brother in Grimsby in an attempt to lie low.
Leterrier is something of an inconsistent director. For every Now You See Me on his resume, there’s a Clash of the Titans at which to balk. With Baron Cohen on co-writing duties, however, this could be one of the year’s most impressive comedy outings.
3. Bone Tomahawk (Feb 19)
The fusion of the horror movie and the western doesn’t seem like an obvious proposition. Based on the reviews coming out of America for Bone Tomahawk, though, it somehow manages to work.
Kurt Russell, appearing in another western after his showing in The Hateful Eight, plays a sheriff who heads out into the wilderness with a band of friends in order to rescue some captives. The captors, however, aren’t everyday bandits and are, in fact, cannibals. So far, so unique.
Bone Tomahawk, above anything else, could benefit from being totally different to just about everything else that will be in cinemas at the time. It’s a genre hybrid that has not been explored all that much. There’s always the chance, though, that there could be a good reason for the unexplored potential.
2. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Feb 11)
Lily James, like so many British actresses before her, has proven to be rather at home in period garb. She starred in Downton Abbey before taking the title role in last year’s steadfastly traditional take on Cinderella. This month, she will don the corset again… but it will likely be splattered with the arterial blood of the rampaging undead.
James plays Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which is a twisted take on Jane Austen’s iconic high society novel. A roll call of Brit performers, including Sam Riley, Douglas Booth and former Doctor Who Matt Smith, have lined up for supporting roles.
If told with British tongue placed firmly in cheek, this could be a really impressive romp of a movie and a potential breakout for James, who is an immensely talented young performer.
1. Deadpool (Feb 10)
It would be fair to say that, five years ago, few people would’ve expected a Deadpool movie to get off the ground. Marvel, DC and friends thrive on selling lunchboxes to kids, so the prospect of a sweary, ultraviolent antihero with a penchant for breaking the fourth wall didn’t exactly scream financially sound.
Enter Ryan Reynolds, however, who has marshalled the “merc with a mouth” to the big screen, with all of his rough edges in tact. It’s safe to say that this won’t be the version of the character who was so maligned by comic book fans when he turned up in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Trailers promise everything that fans have hoped for in a Deadpool movie and the marketing campaign has been refreshingly playful. The true test will not be whether the rabid fanbase for the character likes the film, though, it will be whether an adult superhero with a meta sense of humour catches on with the average cinemagoer.
Which films did I miss of this list? What are you going to see in February 2016 and what will you be avoiding? Let me know in the comments section.