By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist February 1, 2013 at 1:57PM
As months on the movie calendar go, February is one of the quieter ones. It doesn't have the Oscar leftovers, or sheer terribleness of January, meanwhile, the hopeful blockbusters of the spring and summer still seem far, far away. But that doesn't mean that there's nothing worth seeing.
To help you figure out what's worth seeing (and to ensure your Valentine's Day goes smoothly), we've picked out ten of the most notable releases of the next 28 days below. It might not be one for the ages, but there's more than one must-see film hitting theaters before the start of March. Let us know what you're most looking forward to in the comments section below.
Synopsis: Documentary examining the history of Israel's Shin Bet security service through interviews with the six men who've led it.
What You Need To Know: One of the last taboos in Hollywood is the Israel/Palestine issue, which is almost never dealt with on screen -- Michael Winterbottom came close with "The Promised Land" a few years ago, but even the presence of Colin Firth couldn't get it financed. But documentaries are a little more palatable, not least if they're as powerful and revelatory as Dror Moreh's "The Gatekeepers." Made up principally of interviews with the six surviving heads of the Shin Bet security service, it's an even-handed look at a powder-keg subject, which, as Nikola Grozdanovic said when he reviewed the film for us at TIFF, "is unprecedented stuff." While it details "a select few of the most controversial incidents," the focus is on the men themselves, and "watching and listening to these men... is nothing short of engrossing." If anything, the film could have served to be a little longer, and perhaps over-relies on digital sequences, but it's still an impressive and potentially hugely important film, one which has already been rewarded by an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature.
When? Out today in limited release.
Synopsis: A documentary that sees Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl bring together a legendary group of musicians to record a new album in a legendary analog recording studio in the San Fernando Valley.
What You Need To Know: Having already carved out a hugely impressive musical career with Nirvana, Foo Fighters & Queens of the Stone Age, among others, Dave Grohl makes his directorial debut with this documentary about the Sound City recording studio in Van Nuys. Opened in 1969, it was where classic albums including Nevermind, Rumours, After The Gold Rush and Rage Against The Machine were all recorded, and Grohl's assembled a selection of big names who once used the non-digital studio to record a new album, including Stevie Nicks, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Trent Reznor, Rick Springfield and Paul McCartney. And according to Katie Walsh, who reviewed the film for us, he's done a pretty good job. She called it "a vibrant and vital tribute to a piece of recording and rock history that could have been lost to the ether." A sort of musical procedural, at least in its closing stages, Grohl shows "how the musical sausage gets made" with his all-star cast, and it's a fascinating watch, with an unsurprisingly "killer soundtrack." Ultimately proving to be "a loving celebration of great musicianship and a glorious tribute to tape," musos surely only have one real first choice this month.
When? Available on iTunes and in select theaters from today.
Synopsis: In an apocalyptic future where zombies have swept the world, one member of the undead, R, falls for the daughter of the general who leads the resistance.
What You Need To Know: The zombie genre is among the most well-trodden out there, but as we documented earlier in the week, filmmakers are constantly trying to reinvent it. And the latest is "Warm Bodies," which attempts to meld comedy and teen romance to the more familiar brain-eating antics, serving as something of a rotten answer to "Twilight" as a result. Directed by ever-rising helmer Jonathan Levine ("The Wackness," "50/50"), the film toplines Nicholas Hoult ("X-Men: First Class") as the main zombie, with Teresa Palmer as the girl he falls for, John Malkovich as her father, Dave Franco as her ill-fated boyfriend, and Rob Corddry and Analeigh Tipton as the leads' best friends, with an indie-happy soundtrack featuring Feist and M83, and a dextrous mix of tones. Our Kevin Jagernauth found things to like, particularly in the performances of Cordrry and Tipton, and the more interesting moments at its fringes, but ultimately found that it "never truly commits to the wit and reinvention it promises," and that the film "is a bit all over the place at times." Still, it's worth noting that notices elsewhere have been reasonably good, so if you're taken by the subject matter or cast, you might have a good time with it.
When? Opens in theaters today.
Synopsis: A mild-mannered family man discovers that a con-woman has stolen his identity and heads to Florida to bring her home and clear his name.
What You Need To Know: Everyone involved benefited from "Bridesmaids" in a big way, but no one more so than Melissa McCarthy. Even before the film was released, she was starring in the hit sitcom "Mike & Molly," but her furiously funny, scene-stealing turn in Paul Feig's film put her on the path for movie stardom. She's been quiet-ish so far, with "This Is 40" being her only real follow-up, but 2013 is a big year for the actress. She reteams with Feig this summer for "The Heat," but first up is her first real co-lead in "Identity Thief" with Jason Bateman. Seth Gordon, the filmmaker behind “Horrible Bosses” directs, and Craig Mazin, one of the main writers on 'The Hangover Part II & Part III' penned the script, so you can probably imagine what to expect here. While the trailers are intermittently funny, there are ringers in the supporting cast, including Jon Favreau, John Cho, Amanda Peet, Eric Stonestreet and Jonathan Banks, and the pairing of Bateman and McCarthy is one with inherent promise. The quiet release date isn't a huge vote of confidence, and we didn't much like Gordon's "Horrible Bosses," but we hope this could turn out to be a decent time-filling comedy.
When? February 8th
Synopsis: In the closing days of World War Two, five German children go on the run after their Nazi parents are arrested.
What You Need To Know: The best part of a decade ago, Australian filmmaker Cate Shortland made a hugely impressive directorial debut with "Somersault," a coming-of-age drama responsible for introducing the world to Abbie Cornish and Sam Worthington. For her follow-up, few would have expected it to take on such different subject matter -- a German-language period piece set against the fading moments of WWII. That said, it has the same lyrical and sensual qualities of its predecessor, which is all for the better. When Kevin saw it at TIFF last year, he acknowledged that it sticks "to the expected template of a point A to point B journey," but the film has "more resonant character texture and depth" than most. Beautifully shot by rising cinematographer Adam Arkapaw ("Animal Kingdom"), with a Terrence Malick-ish interest in nature and landscape, the film can tend to be "coldly enigmatic," with a "cryptical approach which almost completely internalizes Lore's turmoil, masking motivations that during key moments would've added greater impact, rather than giving them a slightly unsatisfying air of mystery." But while it's chilly, it's a new take on the World War II movie, and in a month somewhat starved of arthouse fare, could scratch that itch for the more highbrow cinema goer.
When? February 8th