The 2021 Film Release Calendar: February

What a weird year. Of course brought about by the weird year that was last year. It’s February 1st and I’m only publishing month two of my release calendar now. And only because I have to, to prevent me from seeing some of these before I post this and negating the guessing.

But that’s 2021, I guess. The good thing about this is that I have a much better handle on what’s actually coming out this month. So often do I get halfway through the calendar and stuff gets dated and shifts and gets pushed and I’ve already talked about it. Here, I can be pretty certain that the majority of these movies will be coming out this month.

Anyway, here’s February:

Earwig and the Witch

It follows an orphan girl, Earwig, who is adopted by a witch and comes home to a spooky house filled with mystery and magic.

It’s Goro Miyazaki. Hayao’s son. He directed Tales from Earthsea and From Up on Poppy Hill (which is an unsung Ghibli masterpiece). This, however, is not your standard Ghibli movie, because it’s completely CG animation. Still Ghibli, so I imagine still solid. But… watch a trailer. It’s weird seeing Ghibli do CG, kinda like when Disney first got into it with Chicken Little.

I’m not thrilled about the animation style, but given the studio and the trailer still seeming fun, I’ll go 3.5 stars. Which actually feels low for Ghibli. I feel like it’s an automatic 4 for them most of the time.

Rams

A decades-long feud between two sheep farming brothers comes to a head when disaster strikes their flocks.

Stars Sam Neil, Michael Caton, Miranda Richardson. Trailer seems fun but not anything spectacular.

Gonna go solid family movie 3 stars. Feels safer than 3.5. And honestly I was only gonna go 3.5 off of Sam Neill and nothing else. 3 seems pretty exact.

Bliss

A mind-bending love story following Greg who, after recently being divorced and then fired, meets the mysterious Isabel, a woman living on the streets and convinced that the polluted, broken world around them is a computer simulation.

Written and directed by Mike Cahill, who wrote Another Earth and I Origins. Which is cool. Though it also stars Owen Wilson and Salma Hayek. Who are weird choices. They feel like they’d have been the stars of a five-years-too-late rom com from 2013. Plus, the trailer… jesus christ.

3 stars feels like the safe bet. Maybe I can get 3.5, but there’s a lot of red flags for me.

Oh, and by the way? Bill fucking Nye is in this. Like, acting.

Malcolm & Marie

A director and his girlfriend’s relationship is tested after they return home from his movie premiere and await critics’ responses.

Directed by Sam Levinson, who did Euphoria and is the ‘genius’ of the moment. This is exactly the type of film I’d have expected out of him. It stars Zendaya and John David Washington and is literally jut the two of them, Virginia Woolf style. Shot in black-and-white to be all arty, too.

Honestly, I’m here for everything he’s trying to do with this… just not sure how much it’s gonna overcome the obvious trappings I can see with this whole thing.

So 3.5 stars, and I’ll hope I can maybe get 4. But I feel like 3.5 is the exact number for this.

Little Fish

A couple fights to hold their relationship together as a memory loss virus spreads and threatens to erase the history of their love and courtship.

Director of Morris from America. Great. Stars Olivia Cooke and Jack O’Connell. Also cool.

Trailer… gave me pause. I love Olivia Cooke, but this feels like a weird quasi-thriller version of Eternal Sunshine? Or maybe not thriller so much as heavy-handed and overly serious drama version. Which his never a sign for a high rating.

So 3 stars and I’ll hope for the best. Maybe it’ll work for me.

Willy’s Wonderland

A quiet drifter is tricked into a janitorial job at the now condemned Wally’s Wonderland. The mundane tasks suddenly become an all-out fight for survival against wave after wave of demonic animatronics. Fists fly, kicks land, titans clash — and only one side will make it out alive.

CAGE.

Oh fuck yeah.

3.5 stars.

This one looks the right kind of crazy.

Just go watch the trailer. It’s basically Cage locked in a theme park where the animatronic animals come to life and start trying to kill him. And he just starts murdering them all. That’s exactly the kind of Cage movie we all look for.

So I’m all in on this. 3 is the minimum here, and if I can get 3.5, this will make it one of the few notable paycheck movies he’s done in recent years and I’ll be thrilled.

Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar

Lifelong friends Barb and Star embark on the adventure of a lifetime when they decide to leave their small Midwestern town for the first time – ever.

Written by and starring Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo. Also has Jamie Dornan and Damon Wayans Jr.

I worried about this from last year when they dated it for summer before pushing it to now. And I just had that instinct of, “I’m gonna hate this, aren’t I?” And now, having seen a trailer, I’m definitely gonna hate this.

This looks like exactly the thing that I can’t stand.

2.5 stars. Thank god I retired the Unforgivables list.

This sounds like the two of them did characters together and had the juice to get it made and I’m gonna hate this on so many levels. I hope I’m wrong, but this is exactly the kind of movie I can’t stand.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things

Two teens who live the same day repeatedly, enabling them to create the titular map.

Kathryn Newton stars. Director did Sierra Burgess Is a Loser, which was meh.

It’s a teen coming-of-age movie with a time loop. Like, “Oh hey, we both realize we’re stuck in this, so let’s be stuck in this together.” So, you know, Palm Springs. Only teen shit. And apparently the trailer hints that she’s stuck in the time loop because she’s dying or something? So, the Fault in Our Clocks?

I mean, sure. I’m sure I’ll get 3 stars out of this and find a way to be okay with it. But jesus, guys. These YA-adjacent movies are getting real tiresome now. You’re just recycling ideas from better movies.

Music

Zu is newly sober when she receives news that she is to become the sole guardian of her half-sister named Music, a young girl on the autism spectrum. The film explores two of Sia’s favorite themes: finding your voice and creating family.

Sia directed this. This is that movie. Kate Hudson, Maddie Ziegler and Leslie Odom Jr. star.

This looks… not great and maybe even borderline offensive to autistic people? But the fantasy musical sequences are there and so I’m in on this being watchable.

3 stars. The plot sounds like I’m gonna hate it but the musical sequences make me think I’ll be fine with it.

Saint Maud

Follows a pious nurse who becomes dangerously obsessed with saving the soul of her dying patient.

A24. Female writer-director. Usually good things.

Based on the trailer, the filmmaking seems very good and I feel like I might be iffy on the story. But, if the filmmaking is good and it holds a tone, I can probably get 3.5 stars out of this. So we’ll go there and know the worst I’m getting out of this is 3.

To All the Boys: Always and Forever

Continuing the romantic life of the teenage girl and facing her good and hard times with her friends and family.

Oh hey, a third one, shot in conjunction with the second one. At this point, does anyone care? They’ve overkilled the first movie already and this just feels fully extraneous.

2.5 stars. At best I’m getting 3 out of this, so let’s just assume indifference and move along. Good for them for getting three out of this, but I barely cared about the second one, so I can’t imagine I’m getting anything of value out of this.

Judas and the Black Messiah

The story of Fred Hampton, Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, and his fateful betrayal by FBI informant William O’Neal.

It’s supposed to be very good, if the AFI/NBR shoutouts mean anything. I watched both trailers for this and they’re incredibly well cut and it looks like a gorgeous film.

I can’t tell if I wanna go 3.5 or 4 on this. I think I’ll go 4 stars and know that unless these are horribly misleading trailers (which they almost never are, in a situation like this), I’m at worst gonna get a 3.5 star movie out of this. So let’s play the hope card and think that there’s a chance that this could maybe make a play for top 20 of the year. Or just be a solid 4 star movie. That’s optimistic.

Breaking News in Yuba County

After her husband goes missing, Sue Buttons, an under-appreciated suburban wife, gets a taste of being a local celebrity as she embarks on a city-wide search in Yuba County to find him. In an effort to prolong her newfound fame, she stumbles into hilarious hijinks as her world turns upside down, dodging a wanna-be mobster, a relentless local policewoman), her half-sister a local news reporter desperate for a story, and her husband’s dead-beat brother, who all set out to uncover the truth behind the disappearance.

Tate Taylor directs. Female writer. Good things. Allison Janney, Awkwafina, Mila Kunis, Regina Hall, Samara Wiley, Jimmi Simpson, Ellen Barkin, Juliette Lewis, Wanda Sykes, Matthew Modine, Clifton Collins, Bridget Everett. They got a cast on this.

3.5 stars almost has to be the guess on that stuff alone. Plus the trailer looks bizarre and fun and the kind of movie they haven’t made for at least 15 years. Hopefully it holds up to all the craziness they’re promising. I worry that Taylor might not get the most out of this, but I also feel like he can easily get me a 3.5 star movie. I don’t wanna hope for more and be disappointed, but given everything, this better be 3.5 stars or else it’s a major disappointment.

Land

A bereaved woman seeks out a new life, off the grid in Wyoming.

Robin Wright directs and stars. Knowing nothing else, no matter how good this is, this feels like it’s gonna fall victim to Nomadland having a broadly similar plot and no one will see it or care.

That said — trailer looks solid and if anything, I like the idea of just her out in the wilderness learning to do shit. That interests me. So I’m gonna go 3.5 stars. Seems like it’ll just be a solid movie. Doesn’t have to change my life, just has to work.

French Exit

An aging Manhattan socialite living on what’s barely left of her inheritance moves to a small apartment in Paris with her son and cat.

Ah yes, our semi-annual ‘let’s throw Michelle Pfeiffer into the Oscar mix because she’s in a vaguely dramatic movie’ event. Remember Where Is Kyra? Generic indie. People tried to go nuts about that. Mother and Murder on the Orient Express — they half-tried, but the parts weren’t big enough and the movies never got any sort of traction. She barely works anymore, but they fucking run to throw her in the Oscar mix whenever she does. Like they did with Julianne Moore for years until she won one. Notice how that doesn’t happen anymore?

These situations almost never turn out well, and they’re almost never good movies to the level that people want to make you think in order to sell the performance. This at least has Lucas Hedges, Tracey Letts, Imogen Poots and Danielle Macdonald. Which tells me there was something in the material they responded to.

And the director made The Lovers, which was solid, and this was adapted from a book by the author of The Sisters Brothers. All things that make me have to assume this is a 3.5 star movie. I’m worried, but everything tells me it’s at least that. So we’ll go with that and take a trepidatious step forward, knowing how these Michelle Pfeiffer Oscar pushes always turn out.

The World to Come

Somewhere along the mid-19th century American East Coast frontier, two neighboring couples battle hardship and isolation, witnessed by a splendid yet testing landscape, challenging them both physically and psychologically.

This sounds awesome. Katherine Waterston and Vanessa Kirby. And they threw in Christopher Abbott and Casey Affleck for good measure.

3.5 stars. Portrait of a Lady on Farm? Little Hoes on the Prairie?

Either way, I’m ready for this to be good.

Also, please let’s make Little Hoes on the Prairie a thing.

Blithe Spirit

A spiritualist medium holds a seance for a writer suffering from writer’s block but accidentally summons the spirit of his deceased first wife, which leads to an increasingly complex love triangle with his current wife of five years.

Adaptation of the Noel Coward play. The 1945 version still holds up. This one has Dan Stevens, Isla Fisher, Leslie Mann and Judi Dench.

3 stars. Seems wildly over the top in the right way. Looks fun.

The Mauritanian

Mohamedou Ould Slahi fights for freedom after being detained and imprisoned without charge by the U.S. Government for years.

Kevin Macdonald directs (hard to remember much of anything he’s done since Last King of Scotland) and you’ve got Jodie Foster, Shailene Woodley, Benedict Cumberbatch and Zachary Levi.

Trial movie. Not thrilled about Iraq War movies, but Jodie Foster as a lawyer, trial stuff… I think it’ll be solid.

3.5 stars. This would have to be real bad for me not to get 3.5 out of this.

Flora and Ulysses

The adventures of a young girl and a squirrel with superpowers.

Disney+ movie. Seems kiddie as shit and not my kind of movie at all.

2.5 stars.

Actually sort of dreading having to watch this. It’s exactly the kind of movie that bores me.

I Care a Lot

A crooked legal guardian who drains the savings of her elderly wards meets her match when a woman she tries to swindle turns out to be more than she first appears.

As soon as I clicked the IMDB page to remind myself of what this was, I saw an image of the trailer and a poster and I thought, “Oh, it’s gonna have that kind of tone.” I assumed this was a thriller based on everything I had heard, but this looks like one of those quirky dark comedies like The Polka King. Gonna confirm with a trailer, but man, it’s fucked up that I can see this image and know exactly what tone I’m dealing with:

The director did The Disappearance of Alice Creed and The 5th Wave. Not inspiring. Rosamund Pike, Peter Dinklage, Eiza Gonzalez, Dianne Wiest, Chris Messina, Isiah Whitlock, Macon Blair and Alicia Witt star. That is inspiring.

Let’s check the trailer to be sure….

Goddamn though. SPOT ON. I know exactly what I’m getting out of this.

3.5 stars and I’m way more excited for this than I was an hour ago.

Rosamund Pike looks like she’s gonna be great in this.

Silk Road

Philosophical twenty-something Ross Ulbricht creates Silk Road, a dark net website that sells narcotics, while DEA agent Rick Bowden goes undercover to bring him down.

Logline alone tells me 3 stars. Cast (Nick Robinson, Pau Walter Hauser, Jimmi Simpson, Jason Clarke, Alexandra Shipp, Katie Aselton) also tells me 3 stars. Let’s see what the trailer says.

Trailer says 3 stars. So 3 stars.

That was easy.

The Father

A man refuses all assistance from his daughter as he ages. As he tries to make sense of his changing circumstances, he begins to doubt his loved ones, his own mind and even the fabric of his reality.

Stars Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Olivia Williams, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell, Mark Gatiss.

Solid cast, I kind of get what they’re going for with this. It sounds like a solid drama, and I have to assume the whole thing is that whatever going on is just a product of his dementia. So I can’t imagine I’m getting anything more than a 3.5 star movie. And that’s largely gonna be due to the performances. I’d be pretty surprised if I got 4 here. 4-star performances, 3-star story, split the difference. Boom.

Tom and Jerry

Adaptation of the classic Hanna-Barbera property, which reveals how Tom and Jerry first meet and form their rivalry.

From the writer of Brigsby Bear and directed by Tim Story, who is a capable director. Barbershop, Fantastic Four, Ride Along, the most recent Shaft movie. He knows what he’s doing. Live action actors in this are Chloe Grace Moretz, Michael Pena, Rob Delaney, Colin Jost, Ken Jeong.

The question is whether I believe I’ll get enough out of this to go 3 stars instead of 2.5. Which means it’s coming down to a trailer.

Yeah, can’t do it. 2.5 stars.

Oh boy, this looks… I mean it looks like it’s for younger kids, but I can’t stand how they’re immediately dating this movie with 2020 references.

Crisis

Three stories about the world of opioids collide: a drug trafficker arranges a multi-cartel Fentanyl smuggling operation between Canada and the U.S., an architect recovering from an OxyContin addiction tracks down the truth behind her son’s involvement with narcotics, and a university professor battles unexpected revelations about his research employer, a drug company with deep government influence bringing a new “non-addictive” painkiller to market.

This is Traffic but with opioids. Nicholas Jarecki directs. His last movie was Arbitrage, which was great.

This has Gary Oldman, Armie Hammer, Evangeline Lilly, Greg Kinnear, Michelle Rodriguez, Kid Cudi, Lily-Rose Depp. Not exactly the cast of Traffic, but still. Something.

Let’s check the trailer, because something tells me to go 3.5 instead of 4 with this.

Yeah, 3.5 stars. This feels more of a thriller than anything. Also looks borderline ridiculously over the top (there’s one Armie Hammer line in the trailer that really made me question whether or not this was gonna be okay). So we’ll go solid on director and cast and hope it can live up to that.

The United States vs. Billie Holliday

Follows Holiday during her career as she is targeted by the Federal Department of Narcotics with an undercover sting operation led by black Federal Agent Jimmy Fletcher, with whom she had a tumultuous affair.

Lee Daniels directs, Andra Day stars as Holliday. Curious to see what the tone on this is.

Oh, got it. Part biopic, part trial movie. Okay then. Bait it up, Lee.

3.5 stars. Looks solid, but also looks limited in how good it can be. Plus, let’s not pretend like The Butler overcame its narrative trappings. I hope it can be great, but I can’t assume it.

Cherry

An Army medic suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder becomes a serial bank robber after an addiction to drugs puts him in debt.

Directed by the Russo brothers and stars Tom Holland.

I trust the Russos as filmmakers. Not sure I’m overly into this story. Trailer was… questionable.

So 3.5 stars and let’s see what it can be.

I feel like they’re pushing this higher than it really is. But maybe they’ll make something good. I’m seeing a real conflict of tone somewhere, either in how they’re selling it or in the film itself. Guess I’ll find out in a month.

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