A sheaf of the best, or at least most notable, movies due to come out over the next few weeks of February, in the screen-burned eyes of Buzz’s film critic, Keiron Self.
THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE
Jessica Chastian is already stirring up awards buzz for The Eyes of Tammy Faye, which chronicles televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker and her husband Jim who led the world’s largest religious broadcasting network (and also theme park!) in the 70s-80s-era America. A larger-than-life character, Chastain is unrecognizable below the prosthetics and makeup of Bakker – doling out cheery advice and wearing her heart on her sleeve as her corrupt husband, played by ex-Spider-Man Andrew Garfield, goes about embezzling money and hiding his sexuality behind her back.
The film follows their rise and fall with committed performances, period detail and an apparent and welcome lack of judgement. Tammy had an OTT personality, but she did seem to have more empathy than her male counterparts, embracing AIDS sufferers whilst others in her evangelical circle were calling it a gay plague and raining scorn on homosexuality. A biopic worth catching about an almost forgotten scandal, The Eyes of Tammy Faye is Oscar and BAFTA bait.
Dir: Michael Showalter (12A) (126 mins)
Opens Fri 4 Feb
More disaster mayhem from the man behind Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012, as you’d expect the premise of Moonfall is ridiculous. The moon has been knocked off its orbit and is heading towards Earth, dire city-levelling mayhem and gravity issues manifest. John Bradley – Game Of Thrones’ Samwell Tarly – is the scientist/conspiracy theorist who notices this phenomenon, Halle Berry and Patrick Wilson the rogue ex-astronauts along for the ride on a mission to the moon before it destroys the planet.
This will be the usual Emmerich blend of misplaced comedy in the wake of massive CGI destruction: some animal will probably need to be saved, tidal waves will wipe out cities causing huge loss of life while a main character cracks wise. With the disasters constantly unfolding in the real world, maybe this will prove a welcome tonic – or not. Expect nonsense with popcorn logic and grim lunar spectacle.
Dir: Roland Emmerich (12A) (120 mins)
Opens Fri 4 Feb
An anime retelling of Beauty And The Beast with a very positive view of the Internet, this promises to be an epic, innovative musical techno fairytale. Suzu (voiced by Japanese singer/songwriter Kaho Nakamura) is a withdrawn meek teenage girl mourning the loss of her mother who finds a way to become someone else, Belle, a musical superstar in the virtual world of ‘U.’
When one of her virtual concerts is interrupted by the Beast in true fighty anime style, Belle is intrigued to know who this interloper is. Cutting back and fore between the fantastical Belle and Suzu’s more banal everyday life, a search is on both on and offline for the identity of the Beast in the real world and his online base, The Castle. Belle received a 14-minute standing ovation at Cannes last year, so should delight anime fans with its arresting visuals and all fans of gobsmacking, inventive animation.
Dir: Mamoru Hosada (PG, 121 mins)
Opens Fri 11 Feb
DEATH ON THE NILE
After much delay, Death On The Nile – Kenneth Branagh’s second star-studded outing as Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and his outrageous moustache – comes to the big screen in the form of Death On The Nile. On a jolly up a river steamer on the aforementioned river, Poirot is called upon to flex his detecting muscles when an apparently perfect couple (Gal Gadot and potentially troublesome casting Armie Hammer) have their honeymoon cut short.
There are some big names on the suspect list, as you’d expect: Anette Bening, Letitia Wright, Rose Leslie, Sophie Okenedo, Ali Fazal, French & Saunders and Russell Brand amongst them, all rocking some period garb and being suspicious. Expect ludicrous twists and turns, ludicrous accents (especially from Branagh) and a big-budget shiny sheen amongst the wordplay, before they all gather in a room and are told who is “ze murderer”. An unecessary retread perhaps, but a diverting glossy slab of hammy escapism is to be expected… or is it?
Dir: Kenneth Branagh (12A) (127 mins)
Opens Fri 11 Feb
An innovative blend of documentary and animation, Flee is a harrowing and moving account of the plight of Amin, who left his war-torn homeland of Afghanistan in the 1980s in a bid to escape the regime. Seeking asylum, he and his family become refugees, trying to get to Sweden where they have relatives. The family is separated, some escaping, others not, whilst horrific trips across rough seas at the mercy of human traffickers shape his young life.
Amin’s real identity has been kept secret by the director, the animation adding another layer of anonymity protecting his story, this refugee who eventually ended up in Copenhagen, where he also struggled to accept his own homosexuality. Interviews with Amin were conducted over four years as the director got to know him and find a way to tell his story. The plight of the displaced, so prevalent in 2021 and the ongoing situation in Afghanistan, proves lessons have not been learned, but this film looks set to give a very personal innovative insight into one of those stories.
Dir: Jonas Poher Rasmussen (15) (96 mins)
Opens Fri 11 Feb
The ludicrous romantic comedy is back with Marry Me, high-concept fluff starring Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson. Lopez plays pop megastar Kat Valdez, who has vowed to marry her pop megastar boyfriend Bastian, played by Maluma, in front of their legion of fans live on stage. When, moments before the nuptials, she discovers he has been cheating on her, she takes the obvious decision of marrying a complete stranger in the crowd: nerdy high school teacher Owen Wilson.
What seems like a rash decision becomes something deeper. Both are fish out of water in each other’s world, but can love triumph over all? Hmm. A sturdy, funny cast including Sarah Silverman and John Bradley add to what could be a lightweight charming romance for those masked Valentines out there. J-Lo has provided the soundtrack, so it’s all very multi-platform, and Wilson can do ‘aw-shucks’ shenanigans well – making this a potentially engaging time passer for romantics.
Dir: Kat Coiro (12A) (112 mins)
Opens Fri 11 Feb
Tom Holland steps out of the Spidey suit for a globetrotting Indiana Jones-esque adventure based on the best-selling computer games. Holland plays Nathan Drake, who in the running about and jumping Playstation version is a more rugged mid-thirties adventurer; here, we get an origin story, finding Drake as a more naïve youth still looking for treasure and full of derring-do.
Mark Wahlberg, who over a decade ago was down to play Drake himself, now takes on the role of sardonic mentor Sully, with buddy/paternal vibes with his protege. Sophia Ali is a fellow adventurer out to thwart baddie Antonio Banderas from getting his hands on ancient loot. Eschewing supernatural elements found in the games, this is a straight-up action adventure full of set pieces, cargo plane tumbling, rope swinging and sarky banter – whether it will be a franchise starter is open to question. Expect familiarity amidst the stuntwork in a formulaic popcorn blockbuster.
Dir: Ruben Fleischer (12A) (96 mins)
Opens Fri 11 Feb
It’s sort of Turner & Hooch territory for Channing Tatum, who makes his directing debut with Dog alongside co-writer Carolin. Tatum is a washed up Army Ranger struggling to find a way back to normality, as is the dog he finds himself in charge of, Lulu, a Belgian Malinois. Both are battle-scarred and looking for purpose and after some predictable formulaic beats, they initially hate each other, learn to like each other, soon become best pals, lessons are learned and trauma is overcome.
The duo has to make it down the Pacific Coast to get to the funeral of the dog’s original handler, which it still seems to be mourning; naturally, this road trip does not go to plan. Tatum once again looks to demonstrate his likeable comedy chops, playing second banana to a canine in a family-friendly film for dog lovers.
Dir: Reid Carolin/Channing Tatum (12A) (90 mins)
Opens Fri 18 Feb
An Ealing Studios-esque romp based on a true story, and also the late Roger Michell’s last film as director. Michell crafted cinematic hits such as Notting Hill, the more arthouse Enduring Love and, more recently, the excellent luvvie-filled Nothing Like A Dame documentary. The Duke is a gentle comedy drama starring Jim Broadbent as Kempton Button, a 60-year-old taxi driver and committed socialist who, in 1961, steals Goya’s painting of the Duke Of Wellington from the National Gallery in London.
Button wants to highlight injustices and crusades to force the government into paying more into the care of the elderly, making sure they have paid for TV licenses etc., and holds the painting to ransom until his demands are made. A noble cause that included his wife and son (played by Helen Mirren and Fionn Whitehead) and one with much relevance to today, where the government still seems ignorant to the needs of the elderly. A charming, very British film seems on the cards.
Dir: Roger Michell (12A) (96 mins)
Opens Fri 25 Feb
words KEIRON SELF
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