This month's top movie releases, reviewed

Ian Sandwell, Gabriella Geisinger
Photo credit: Altitude Film Entertainment

From Digital Spy

Cinema tickets are pricey these days, so you want to know that the movie you're spending your hard-earned cash on is worth it. So which to choose?

Here's our handy round-up of reviews for the biggest releases this month.


Films out February 1 - 29

Dark Waters (out February 28)


Dark Waters stars Mark Ruffalo as real-life laywer Rob Billot, a corporate defense attorney who takes his knowledge and uses it against the very types of companies he usually defends. The Todd Haynes movie has moments of humour which helped underpin the very real human cost at the heart of the story.

It is beautifully made, without relying on melodrama to make its point. Dark Waters is a meticulously crafted, impassioned movie. Ruffalo gives a quiet-but-powerful performance, full of restrained fervour as Robert Bilott. The nuance and sheer scale of the story blended together seamlessly for an impactful, deeply felt film.

For Americans, it will resonate deeply – through the almost inarticulable "American spirit" that we understand as if through osmosis. Anne Hathaway packs a hell of a lot of character into not a lot of space, and deserves an especial mention as the 'lady lawyer' who is more than just a foil for her husband.

Little Joe (out February 21)

With a heavy Invasion of the Body Snatchers vibe, Little Joe is a quirky and offbeat thriller that's powered by excellent performances from Emily Beecham and Ben Whishaw.

The two play plant breeders Alice (Beecham) and Chris (Whishaw) who are working on a unique flower that makes its owner happy, nicknaming it 'Little Joe' after Alice's teenage son Joe. However when her co-workers start acting oddly, Alice soon comes to suspect that despite its colourful appearance, 'Little Joe' might have some dark intentions.

While it might be a bit too slight plot-wise for its 105-minute runtime, there is plenty to savour in Little Joe. From the ominous score and visually striking cinematography to the performances, everything is perfectly pitched to its unique, creepy tone that keeps the viewer captivated.

Key to it all is Beecham – who rightly won Best Actress at Cannes for the role – as Alice is our way into the world, remaining believable and grounded as all the weirdness goes on around her. Even if Little Joe doesn't quite stick the landing, it's a movie that'll linger in the memory.


Greed (out February 21)

Greed reveals itself to be something totally different to what you think it will be. It's smarter, funnier, and more poignant than the trailers reveal. Steve Coogan is vile, and watching him flounder elicits a gleeful schadenfreude.

But Greed doesn't rest on cheap jokes, instead it uses clever satire to make a broader point about wealth, fast fashion, and celebrity. It is well-paced, funny, and intelligent commentary, without being heavy-handed.

Joining Steve Coogan is David Mitchell, seemingly playing a version himself in which he's a biographer, but he is also a stand in for the audience: misplaced and on the outside, half star-struck and half nauseated by what's going on. When comeuppance finally comes, it's always at a price.

Emma (out February 14)

If you've read the book or seen any of the previous adaptations of Emma, you'll know exactly what to expect from the latest version. Whether that's a good or bad thing will depend entirely on your interest in Emma.

Unlike Greta Gerwig's Little Women, Autumn de Wilde has taken a very traditional approach to Jane Austen's novel about the "handsome, clever and rich" matchmaker Emma Woodhouse. While she has no desire to marry, it doesn't stop her getting involved in the love lives of her friends which, unsurprisingly, doesn't always go smoothly – and might eventually lead to her falling in love too.

While there might not be much new on offer, Emma is expertly made and often a joy to watch, thanks to its terrific cast, including Anya Taylor-Joy as Emma and Johnny Flynn as George Knightley. If period rom-coms aren't for you, stay away, but for everyone else, Emma is a enjoyable Valentine's Day treat.

Birds of Prey (out now)

Birds of Prey inherently carries a base level of authenticity without being heavy-handed, and the male gaze is happily obliterated in a technicolour firework display. And there's another thing to remember if you think Birds of Prey has suddenly gone "woke".

It's a DC Comics movie! There's a hyena named after Batman in it! The movie stars women and is uproariously fun.

Read our full Birds of Prey review here.

Parasite (out now)

What Bong Joon-ho has created is deliciously unexpected and sure to take first-time viewers by surprise.

Through its various twists and turns, Parasite builds to an unforgettable climax and a perfect final scene, all the while mixing in meaty real-world issues like class and social standing with its genre thrills.

Read our full Parasite review here.

Dolittle (out now)

It would be easy to outright dismiss Dolittle as a truly bad movie, but the truth is that it's mainly just a boring one.

If it had committed to its quirky concept of talking to animals, then perhaps we could have been looking at Downey Jr's next franchise. As it is though, there's a severe lack of family fun on offer.

Read our full Dolittle review here.

Films already in cinemas

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood


Even for those who didn't grow up curled into the corner of their sofa watching the TV flicker to life and belting out its theme song, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood will make you feel. Just that. Feel.

Read our full A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood review here.

The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse is a dizzying blend of horror, dark comedy, tense psychological drama and fantasy that will keep you captivated.

Read our full The Lighthouse review here.

The Rhythm Section

A grounded, messy and realistic thriller, The Rhythm Section is not flawless but propelled by a compelling performance from Blake Lively.

Read our full The Rhythm Section review here.

Bad Boys for Life

It's a welcome surprise to discover that Bad Boys For Life isn't just as good as Bad Boys – amazingly, it's better.

Read our full Bad Boys for Life review here.

Bombshell

Set in Fox News in 2016, Bombshell follows Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron), Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman), and Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie) as they come forward against Ailes.

But Bombshell wholly ignores the toxicity of Fox News, as well as the bigoted stance of Kelly and their other employees. It makes for an unsettling watch, and not because the movie challenges you to inspect your own privilege but because it ignores that problem entirely.

Bombshell should be a moving tale of taking down a prolific predator by his victims. Instead, it barely scratches the surface of the true story, and all that this particular true story entails. Solid acting, from Theron in particular, can't save the movie from itself.

Just Mercy

Just Mercy is a five-star story in a three-star movie, a film that proves the whole isn't always more than the sum of its parts. Its parts are spectacular: deep-down-soul-digging performances from Michael B Jordan and Jamie Foxx, sweeping landscapes of Alabama fields and dirt roads, and a tear-jerking, rage-inducing true-story that ends on a note of hopefulness.

Through Jordan we meet real-life lawyer Bryan Stevenson, who dedicates his career – and life – to giving legal assistance to poor, often minority, prisoners on death row. This is how we meet Foxx's Johnnie D, clearly wrongfully sentenced to death for the murder of a young white woman.

There are moments of soul-bearing intimacy, where Foxx and Jordan speak both in words but also in subtext, explaining what it means to be a black man in America to each other, and to the audience. It is a movie about power, humanity, empathy, and change – a lot of capital-I-important messages. But Just Mercy retains an air of authenticity thanks to Stevenson's input and the very reality of the situation.

These parts, however, don't blend into something elevated beyond the standard template of a biopic, no matter how badly we want it to. Just Mercy's crescendos are easily predicted, but still impactful.

1917

Tense, powerful and breathtaking, 1917 is a visceral movie you won't forget in a hurry – and it's the first must-see movie of this year.

Read our full 1917 review here.

Uncut Gems

It seems odd to recommend a movie that makes you feel constantly stressed, yet Uncut Gems is a unique experience that you'll find hard to tear yourself away from. That's if it doesn't all become too anxiety-inducing for you, mind.

Read our full Uncut Gems review here.

Jojo Rabbit

Jojo Rabbit is effective at doing what Waititi presumably set out to do: make people think critically about what it is that informs our beliefs. And, you know, laugh while we do it.

Read our full Jojo Rabbit review here.

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