Film Previews: February and March

17 films to see in theaters and on Netflix over the next two months, ten of them directed by women

February 7

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn): Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn finally gets her Suicide Squad follow-up in this eccentrically bedazzled, R-rated, female-centric spin-off-quel courtesy of Chinese-American director Cathy Yan. Joker is nowhere to be found as Quinn joins forces with Helena Bertinelli/Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Dinah Lance/Black Canary (June Smollett-Bell), and Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) to save Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) from Black Mask, a sinister (and openly gay) Gotham City crime lord played by Ewan McGregor.

February 12

To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You (Netflix): Your favorite not-that-guilty-pleasure is back in time for its thematically correspondent corporate holiday in this adaptation of Jenny Han’s sequel to her YA novel To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (an adaptation of the third book in the trilogy is in post-production). Lara Jean (Lana Condor) and Peter (Noah Centineo) are a real couple now, with Lara relying on her sisters Kitty (Anna Cathcart) and Margot (Janel Parrish) for support as she navigates the emotional terrain of this new phase of her life. Things get even more complicated when a letter recipient not in the first film, the comparably swoon-worthy John Ambrose McClaren (Jordan Fisher) enters the picture. Emotionally sensitive adorableness ensues, alongside valuable personal growth.

February 14

Sonic the Hedgehog: Paramount Pictures spent $5 million to de-tooth, ocularly enlarge, and otherwise cartoon-ify the design of everyone’s favorite running blue hedgehog/primordial meme fodder (voiced by Ben Schwartz), resulting in a slew of internet denizens feeling compelled to watch this utterly conventional live-action/CGI hybrid kids’ movie that somehow escaped from its early 2000s habitat. Watch instead for Jim Carrey, making a welcome return to unhinged blockbuster performances as Dr. Ivo Robotnik, an evil scientist-inventor who loses his hair and quintuples his mustache over the course of the film.

Ordinary Love (Limited): Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread) are a newly retired couple finding their way through a breast cancer diagnosis in this modest, critically-acclaimed drama. This is a movie for those who like their sweetness taken with the sadness with which it learns to coexist.

The Photograph: From director Stella Meghie (Everything, Everything, Insecure) — who is also the scriptwriter — comes some comfort food in the form of an intergenerational rom-com starring Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield as the leads (I mean what more do you need?). Co-stars include Courtney B. Vance, Kelvin Harrison Jr. (It Comes at Night, Luce), Rob Morgan (Stranger Things, Just Mercy), Lil Rel Howery and Chelsea Peretti (Brooklyn Nine-Nine).

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Limited): Ravishing and ravaging, this period piece from French writer-director Celine Sciamma (Girlhood) was the best film you didn’t see last year (because it only played in New York and LA). Classically inflected and consummately modern, this enthralling look at looking follows a painter (Noémie Merlant) sent to an isolated island in Brittany toward the end of the eighteenth century, commissioned to secretly paint the portrait of a woman (Adèle Haenel), set to be married off to a Milanese nobleman, while acting as her hired companion. As her time on the island passes, the relationship between them becomes increasingly riveting.

February 28

All the Bright Places (Netflix): Jennifer Niven co-writes this adaptation of her bestselling YA novel directed by Brett Haley (Hearts Beat Loud), starring Justice Smith (Detective Pikachu) and Elle Fanning as teens who find solace in each other as they grapple with past traumas and their continuing mental health struggles while waiting to escape from their small Indiana town.

March 6

Sorry We Missed You (Limited): Double Palme d’Or winner Ken Loach follows up I, Daniel Blake with another sensitive, passionate socialist-bent chronicling of Britain’s modern working class. Kris Hitchen stars as Paul, a delivery driver still in debt from the 2008 recession whose turn to the gig economy to alleviate his family’s financial burdens leave him even further trapped in a cycle of exploitation.

Spenser Confidential (Netflix): Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg’s brand of Bostonian 30-year-old-man-core finds its natural home on Netflix in this “dirty cops, drug cartels, big politicians” murder‐conspiracy buddy movie, starring Wahlberg as the titular ex-cop and felon who works with Alan Arkin and Us’s Winston Duke, playing characters named Henry Cimoli and Hawk respectively, to “blow the whole thing open”. Iliza Shlesinger co-stars, along with Marc Maron and Post Malone, for some reason. 

First Cow (Limited): Portland author Jonathan Raymond co-wrote this adaptation of his novel The Half Wife by the critically-acclaimed director Kelly Reichardt (Certain Women). Set in nineteenth-century Oregon, the film follows a loner and cook (John Magaro) who finds a connection with a Chinese immigrant (Orion Lee) also seeking his fortune in the territory. They soon collaborate on a successful business venture, dependent on the prized milk cow of a wealthy landowner. Toby Jones and Ewen Bremner also star.

Onward: The first PIXAR original since Coco (with another, Soul, to follow later this summer) takes place in a suburban fantasy world where magic no longer exists. After attempting to resurrect their father in a Fullmetal Alchemist-like ritual, two Elf brothers (Chris Pratt and Tom Holland) must go on a quest for his top half after succeeding only in bringing back his legs. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Ali Wong, Lena Waithe, and Octavia Spencer also contribute voices.

The Way Back: Ben Affleck is a middle-aged alcoholic doing the hard work of getting himself and his life back together in this drama from his The Accountant director Gavin O’Connor. He plays a high school basketball all-star who gets offered the job of coaching his alma mater team.

March 13

Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Limited): A teenager working as a cashier in rural Pennsylvania, accompanied by her cousin, takes a Greyhound bus she can barely afford to get an abortion she can’t afford in this drama from writer-director Eliza Hittman that premiered to critical raves at this year’s Sundance film festival. (An example of the kind of below-the-board diversity much needed in the industry, the film’s director of photography, production designer, costume designer and composer were all women).

The Roads Not Taken (Limited): British writer-director Sally Porter helms this look at a day in the life of Leo (Javier Bardem), a man hallucinating alternate realities while in New York City with his daughter (Elle Fanning), who is increasingly being confronted with the uncertainties of her own future. Salma Hayek and Laura Linney round out the cast.

Lost Girls (Netflix): Oscar-nominated documentarian Liz Garbus directs this mystery-thriller adapted from Robert Kolker’s true crime book of the same name. Amy Ryan stars as Mari Gilbert, a woman who, in the face of police inaction, takes it upon herself to investigate the case of her missing daughter (Jojo Rabbit’s Thomasin McKenzie). Looking into the Long Island gated community where her daughter was last seen, she uncovers a series of unsolved murders of sex workers perpetrated by a serial killer.

March 27

Mulan: The unstoppable live-action remake machine continues, this time enlisting Whale Rider director Niki Caro and a Murderers’ Row of Chinese actors forced to speak in their second language, including Donnie Yen, Gong Li, and Jet Li. Mainland starlet Liu Yifei takes the titular role in this PG-13-dark-and-gritty, $300 million-scale reimagining of the classic story (don’t expect Mushu or “I’ll Make A Man Out of You,” though someone is providing a voice for Cri-Kee).

Saint Maud (Limited): Writer-director Rose Glass makes her debut with this A24 horror film about a newly pious hospice nurse (Morfydd Clark) dangerously obsessed with saving the soul of a patient (Jennifer Ehle) with whom she has become infatuated.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Related Stories


We would love your thoughts, please comment!x
%d bloggers like this: