The 14 best films coming to Prime Video this February
February is just around the corner and with it comes Black History Month. Prime Video is leaning into the celebration with several films featuring Black leads and others featuring Black writers and directors. But there’s plenty more in store for Prime Video in February, which is also showcasing some great neo-noir, animated hits, newly released horror, and all-time classics.
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (Available February 1)
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am - Official Trailer
Filmmaker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders made a much overdue documentary on national treasure Toni Morrison entitled Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am in 2019, the same year the acclaimed author passed away. This made the doc bittersweet but it also helped us celebrate the life of a literary titan. Featuring contemporaries and fans like Oprah Winfrey, Russell Banks, Barack Obama, and Angela Davis, the doc blends hagiography with dashes of how Morrison broke the glass ceiling by not only being a Black author but also a female one who inspired countless people along the way. Many of Morrison’s novels have also been adapted to film, most notably Jonathan Demme’s Beloved in 1998 which starred Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover. Greenfield-Sanders also teamed up with film critic Elvis Mitchell for the doc The Black List in 2008 which featured Morrison. If you only know the name Toni Morrison, then Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am is a great way to find out more.
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Beast (Available February 7)
Beast | Official Trailer
Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormákur directed Idris Elba in the 2022 film Beast which suffered at the box office due to some crummy-looking trailers but turned out to be a film that people were surprised to have enjoyed. Beast tells the story of Dr. Nate Daniels (Elba), a recently widowed father of two teenage girls who accepts an invitation to a South African wildlife reserve as a way to reconnect with his daughters and forge a path through painful trauma. From there, the trip takes a dark turn as a very angry lion, a recent victim of trauma himself via some nasty poachers, decides to take it out on Daniels and his family. Thus the film becomes a bit of an allegory for a once-distant father trying to protect those he loves while restoring a fractured relationship. Elba tends to get cast in some pretty mediocre films (we’re looking at you, The Dark Tower) but he always brings a strong presence to even the shakiest of material. Beast is just such a film, one that is almost sure to get a “hey, that was actually pretty good!” boost via Prime Video availability.
Three Thousand Years Of Longing (Available February 17)
THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING | Official Trailer | MGM Studios
Speaking of overlooked 2022 Idris Elba movies, George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road) plopped the fantasy/romance film Three Thousand Years Of Longing in theaters in 2022 and it landed with a thud even though critics tried their best to get butts in seats. It shouldn’t have been a challenge as Elba and his co-star Tilda Swinton would seem to be a match made in cinematic heaven, but alas the film failed to attract much of an audience. Three Thousand Years Of Longing is basically a modern genie tale with Elba playing a djinn (a genie in Arabian and Muslim mythos) who grants Swinton’s Dr. Alithea Binnie, you guessed it, three wishes in exchange for his freedom from geniehood. Since this is a modern spin, the offer is met with questions from Binnie, including whether or not the djinn is real. And, if he is, she’s keenly aware these types of offers are usually too good to be true. However, this makes things even more intriguing as we are immediately on the side of Binnie and the film almost becomes an interactive experience as we wonder what we might do if presented with three wishes. Three Thousand Years Of Longing is a great date night feature and is also sure to reach all sorts of new audiences via its Prime Video release, and that’s a good thing.
Smile (Available February 21)
Smile | Official Trailer (2022 Movie)
Horror fans were caught a bit off guard regarding how good Parker Finn’s low-key blockbuster Smile turned out to be. And, let’s be honest, the trailer didn’t really do the film justice. Paramount Pictures was equally surprised because originally, Smile was going to be a straight-to-VOD release, but after testing through the roof with audiences, it earned a shot on the big screen where it eventually pulled in over $200 million. Smile is the latest in a recent spate of “trauma horror films” as Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon, child of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick), a therapist at a psych ward, meets patient Laura Weaver (Caitlin Stasey), a young woman who has witnessed a horrible event. This causes Laura to become overwhelmed with the feeling that a transmittable psychosis is causing people to smile at her and threaten to kill her. That sounds dumb, but stick with it. Cotter tries to explain how unreal that is but soon, weird stuff starts happening and she becomes ensnared in a mystery and questions her own reality. Good on Prime Video for snagging this one so quickly as it’s ripe for a rewatch or a first-time spin.
Halloween Ends (Available February 14)
Halloween Ends - The Final Trailer
Prime Video wants you to have a very Michael Myers Valentine’s Day as they drop David Gordon Green’s divisive third entry in his uneven Halloween trilogy. The film seemed to really irk hardcore Halloween stans as much as the casual viewer but was it really that bad? Eh, yeah, kind of. One thing that seems to have been glossed over is that Green’s trilogy takes place during a very short time period so perhaps Halloween Ends will play better if you keep that in mind. In any case, as the title indicates, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has had just about enough of the never-ending attacks from the seemingly invincible ghoul Michael “The Shape” Myers. As her least favorite holiday arrives, she seeks to end this onslaught but, as always, it’s never that easy. Halloween Ends also takes a big swing as it looks at how trauma affects a community as well as the person being traumatized. This was another angle that seemed to lose viewers, but perhaps on a rewatch, the picture becomes more clear.
A Simple Favor (Available February 19)
A Simple Favor (2018 Movie) Official Trailer – Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding
Comedy director Paul Feig took a shot at something a little different with his neo-noir A Simple Favor and it turned out well for everyone. The film is a taut thriller with some great dashes of humor (including a truly fantastic gag involving an electric car). Anna Kendrick stars as Stephanie, a widowed single mom trying to get her life back on track. As a way of doing just that, she leans on her new bestie, Emily (Blake Lively), a well-to-do family woman who seems to have it all together. Since that wouldn’t be a very fun movie, Emily soon goes missing, inspiring Stephanie to launch an investigation. Obviously, some stones are better left unturned, and no good deed goes unpunished as Stephanie finds herself embroiled in murder, mayhem, and infidelity. A Simple Favor is a fun time and Kendrick delivers as the harried mom who falls prey to her more successful friend. Shout-out to the great Andrew Rannells as Stephanie’s put-upon BFF Darren.
Somebody I Used To Know (Available February 10)
Somebody I Used to Know Trailer #1 (2023)
Real-life husband and wife team Alison Brie and Dave Franco co-wrote Somebody I Used To Know, an intriguing rom-com that stars Brie as Ally, a lost woman who goes back to her hometown to see where things took a wrong turn. There she bumps into former flame Sean (Jay Ellis) and both seem to agree that they were each “the one that got away.” Sparks fly but Sean sends mixed messages as Ally soon learns that he’s engaged to the lovely Cassidy (Kiersey Lemons). Uh oh, drama! This film looks solid and also features a mini-Community reunion with Danny Pudi co-starring alongside Julie Haggerty, Haley Joel Osment, and Amy Sedaris. The film is also Dave Franco’s second directorial effort following his 2020 horror film The Rental.
The Lorax (Available February 1)
Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax - Theatrical Trailer
Dr. Seuss was the original wokester and that was never more evident than in his 1971 book The Lorax, which was among the many Seuss books adapted into a film in the mid-2000s. Chris Renaud directed this 2012 animated charmer starring Danny DeVito in the titular role as an aged forest creature who spends his days trying to warn humans that they’re destroying their planet. Possibly a major role model for Greta Thunberg, The Lorax is a modern-day fairy tale about how greed, commercialization, consumerism, and rampant selfishness may serve people for a few moments in time but will eventually have repercussions that we can’t come back from. Although this all sounds depressing, both the film and the book feature typical Seussian flourishes such as the colorful cotton ball-looking Truffala trees and a variety of whimsical animals. The Lorax himself isn’t even that much of a scold and although prone to rhyming rants, he leans more on a simple word, “Unless,” to convey his message of environmentalism. The Lorax is very well done with a message that, no matter how often the world hears it, seems to go unheeded. The cast is also a joy featuring Betty White, Ed Helms, Zac Efron, and Taylor Swift.
Hidden Figures (Available February 1)
Hidden Figures | Teaser Trailer [HD] | 20th Century FOX
It’s a great thing Prime Video is bringing 2016’s Hidden Figures back to the streaming service as we can all use a reminder that the film is a charming, beautiful, and inspiring story that is sure to bring a smile to your soul. While we all revere astronauts for bravely launching themselves into space, few take the time to remember that some brilliant minds got them there. Furthermore, few people previously knew about the incredible true story of Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), brilliant Black women working at NASA who were the behind-the-scenes brain trust that helped launch astronaut John Glenn into orbit. In many ways, the film is a procedural with a ticking clock that makes the story really chug along at a fun and brisk pace. It was a surprising Oscar nominee for Best Picture that also garnered nods for Octavia Spencer as Best Supporting Actress and the duo of Allison Schroeder and director Theodore Melfi for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Bad Times At The El Royale (Available February 1)
Bad Times at the El Royale | Official Trailer [HD] | 20th Century FOX
Writer/director Drew Goddard rode a hot streak consisting of his instant classic meta-horror film Cabin In The Woods in 2011 and then an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay with 2016’s The Martian. He followed those up with the less successful but certainly entertaining comedy neo-noir mystery Bad Times At The El Royale. The film features an insanely great cast including Jon Hamm, Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, and Chris Hemsworth as guests at a wacky hotel named, you guessed it, the El Royale. Its early claim to fame is that it was built on the state line between Nevada and California, meaning you can legally gamble on one side of the hotel. Why this matters figures heavily in the film as we soon learn that all the guests staying at the hotel are not there by coincidence. Hidden treasure, two-faced villains, heroes, and murderers all cozy up at the El Royale as the film’s topsy-turvy plot keeps you continually guessing. Bad Times At The El Royale is a fun one that never really got the audience it deserved.
Something Wild (Available February 1)
Something Wild Official Trailer #1 - Tracey Walter Movie (1986) HD
If you’ve yet to watch Jonathan Demme’s 1986 comedy Something Wild, you’re in for a real treat. The plot centers on upright and uptight banker Charles (Jeff Daniels) who meets Lulu (Melanie Griffith) and at first, they seem completely mismatched. She’s a freewheeling flake who realizes a straight arrow like Charles might make her look like her a winner at her upcoming high school reunion. The thing is, Lulu is hardly a winner and her lifelong string of bad decisions includes marrying a very aggro husband (Ray Liotta) who doesn’t take kindly to Lulu’s shenanigans. A madcap thrill ride ensues as Lulu drags Charles into her world, which he actually kind of likes. There’s way too much craziness in the plot to reveal. Just know you need to buckle up for a fun ride.
Devil In A Blue Dress (Available February 1)
DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS (1995) – Official Trailer
The 1995 Denzel Washington thriller Devil In A Blue Dress is a truly great under-the-radar mystery noir. Directed by Carl Franklin (who is a great, under-the-radar filmmaker) the story revolves around “Easy” Rawlins (Washington) who returns home to L.A. after a highly decorated stint in World War II to find racism towards African Americans is still alive and thriving. Struggling to make ends meet and provide for his family, Rawlins takes what he knows is a shady gig to help find a missing woman named Daphne Monet (Jennifer Beals). The moral struggle of Rawlins is at the center of the film: he knows he’s getting played but he does his best to stay one step ahead of the game. A classic noir unfolds via the steady hand of Franklin, a director who has recently been relegated to directing television (not necessarily a bad thing). He puts together a fine film that also features a solid, early Don Cheadle performance. Definitely a must-watch.
Seabiscuit (Available February 1)
Seabiscuit (2003) Theatrical Trailer
Who’s ready for some plucky, feel-good cinema? If you answered in the affirmative, then get ready for 2003’s inspiring drama Seabiscuit. The film was a huge hit two decades ago and it still holds up today. Based on the true story of a horse named Seabiscuit who, even though he has horse racing championship bloodlines, is widely considered the black sheep of his family. While a down-on-his-luck horse is the centerpiece here, the film is really a tale of overcoming the odds as Jeff Bridges plays wealthy Charles Howard, who enlists former boxer turned mediocre jockey Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire) to ride Seabiscuit, who’s being trained by the troubled Tom Smith (Chris Cooper). Everyone in the film has a personal struggle to overcome, including Seabiscuit, and the results are goose flesh-raising excitement as you can probably guess what happens. Still, the ride makes it all worth it.
Almost Famous (Available February 1)
Almost Famous (2000) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers
One of Cameron Crowe’s finest films, Almost Famous should be on a list of movies that even those with only the slightest interest in cinema need to watch. Young Patrick Fugit stars as William Miller, an aspiring rock journalist who manages to work his way onto the staff of Rolling Stone magazine, a feat which Crowe himself actually pulled off as a kid. Even though his editors are displeased at William’s ruse, they allow him to travel with the up-and-coming band Stillwater, which is fronted by burgeoning rock star Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup). Everyone in the film is excellent, especially Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays Lester Bangs, the real-life rock writer and legend who becomes a mentor to William, advising him to never get too close to the band, lest his integrity be questioned. But William is an impressionable kid and he soon befriends Russell’s groupie, Penny Lane (a brilliant Kate Hudson), which sends William on the adventure of a lifetime. Have we mentioned Almost Famous is an amazing movie?
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