There can be good movies in theaters in February. They can be hard to find, but they’re out there. Sadly, there’s also a lot of terrible dross out there, too, and even if these movies are making hundreds of millions of dollars at the national box office, that doesn’t mean you should give them your $14 as well. If your local cinemas are showing Julianne Moore descend rapidly into early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease in Still Alice, or fantastic MLK biopic Selma is already losing prime session times in your town, then how about you stay home and watch these movies instead?
Project Almanac (January 30)
If you’re like most sane people and shudder at the thought of “it’s the Project X (2012) of time-travel movies” then you would be wise to avoid Project Almanac from the director of literally-nothing-you-have-ever-seen-or-heard-of. Instead, why not get your time travel fix with Primer (2004), which is smart in ways that are hard to wrap your brain around and yet also comes off as coolly effortless. If you’re more in the mood for some teens-and-mayhem nonsense, then you could actually do far worse than Chronicle (2012), which is about a group of kids who stumble across super-powers and features The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s (2014) Dane DeHaan and The Human Torch, Michael B. Jordon, from the upcoming Fantastic Four (2015) reboot.
Primer is available to stream on iTunes, Google Play, and YouTube, and Chronicle is available to stream on iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, and YouTube.
Seventh Son (February 8)
Sure, Jupiter Ascending looks silly, but filmmakers as ballsy and weirdly original as the Wachowski siblings shouldn’t be immediately rejected. Out the same weekend, however, is Seventh Son, a film based on an absurdly-titled book called The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch that has been sitting on the shelf for a couple of years now awaiting release. You should know better, so why not seek out Jan Svankmajer’s Alice (1988) instead? It’s the most deranged adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland you’re ever likely to see, in which a young girl interacts with an underworld full of stop-motion dolls, hand-crafted sets, and road-kill animals. It’s altogether different from Seventh Son, but will allow you to get your dark fantasy jollies while watching something truly unique and special.
Alice is available to stream on Netflix.
Kingsman: The Secret Service (February 13)
Oh look, another film about a young upstart who turns out to have all the skills necessary to be a secret spy. This Colin Firth vehicle is filled with lots of nods and winks to spy movies and specifically the very Britishness of James Bond (a rifle in the form of an umbrella!), but I have always preferred my spies direct and to the point. That’s why you should ditch the excessive violence and lame gags for Alfred Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent (1940). It’s likely every bit as thrilling, but without all the nonsense scenes of CGI parachuting, and features some of Hitchcock’s greatest work, including a famous scene set inside a Dutch windmill, and twists until the very end.
Foreign Correspondent is available to stream on HuluPlus, iTunes, and XFinity Cable.
Fifty Shades of Gray (February 13)
We already offered you a bunch of sexy alternatives to the Valentine’s Day release of this book adaptation, but if you’re still not convinced you need an alternative — and the equally kinky, lesbian S&M comedy The Duke of Burgundy (2015) isn’t screening near you — then consider settling in for The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988), which has something for everybody: Daniel Day-Lewis and Juliette Binoche, but also with enough story to not just act as visual foreplay.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being is available to stream on iTunes and Youtube.
Focus (February 28)
Will Smith and Margot Robbie transcend their 22-year age difference in a grifting comedy from the directors of Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011) and the underrated I Love You, Phillip Morris (2009). While the world collectively balks at such a scenario, this is as good a time as any to make your acquaintance with the OSS films from director Michel Hazanavicius and star Jean Dujardin. You may know them as the main two behind Oscar-winning silent comedy The Artist (2011), but OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006) and OSS 117: Lost in Rio (2009) prove they had more up their sleeve long before America discovered them. Watching Dujardin is certainly a more charming and charismatic way to spend two hours than Smith and Robbie sharing awkward, flimsy sexual tension.
OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies is available to stream on Netflix, HuluPlus, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, and YouTube, and OSS 117: Lost in Rio is available to stream on Google Play.