We’ve made it to February, and that means things are starting to heat up at theaters. This first Friday in February gave us two highly anticipated releases and I saw both. My thoughts on those and other films I saw this week! If you’d like to see more of my scores for films and thoughts, feel free to follow me on Letterboxd here.
A Hero (Amazon Prime)
Starring: Amir Jadidi, Mohsen Tanabandeh, and Sahar Goldust
Synopsis: This is the entry into the International Feature competition from Iran, making its American debut on Amazon Prime after a short theatrical run. Rahim (Jadidi) is in debt and, as a result, has been placed in prison. He seeks to get out so he can marry Farkhondeh (Goldust), but he needs money. He also needs to convince his creditor (Tanabandeh) to free him. Along the way, Rahim and Farkhondeh find a pursue containing gold coins. Rather than using the money to help his situation, Rahim decides to return it, which takes him down an unexpected path. This is an interesting film with a different kind of story. It’s engaging and emotional, taking a number of unexpected turns. Through it all, Jadidi does a great job of helping Rahim come alive and helping audiences invest in his story and his journey. Director Asghar Farhadi, who wrote the screenplay, does a nice job of bringing this narrative and world to life. I liked the shots and the way the story was crafted, building and drawing you along a journey. This was an engaging and heart-breaking story, well worth seeking out.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and language.
Book of Love (Amazon Prime)
Starring: Sam Claflin, Verónica Echegui, and Lucy Punch
Synopsis: This Amazon original is ideally timed for February and the season of romance. In it, a stiff British author (Claflin) has finally published his novel, the Sensible Heart. It’s a flop everywhere—but Mexico. Soon, his publisher (Punch) sends him to Mexico for a press tour, where he discovers his translator (Echegui) has punched up his original story, turning it into more of a racy telenovela. The pair butt heads but, in the end, could sparks fly? This isn’t a Hallmark movie, but you wouldn’t be blamed for getting that feel. It’s a funny concept and it’s played to the fullest by the cast and director Analeine Cal y Mayor, who co-wrote the script. Claflin and Echegui have good chemistry, which helps. The story follows the beats you’d expect, but the performances and some of the fun sequences are enough to keep you invested. It’s not great, but if you’re looking for a light romantic comedy for a night in, this fits the bill.
Catch the Fair One (VOD February 11)
Starring: Kali Reis, Michael Drayer, and Kevin Dunn
Synopsis: This indie drama makes its debut on VOD on Friday. It’s earned some buzz thanks to the lead performance from Reis, which earned her a nomination for Best Female Lead at the Independent Spirit Awards. The film, which comes from writer/director Josef Kubota Wladyka based on a story he crafted with Reis. It focuses on Kaylee (Reis), a former boxing champion who finds herself in the midst of a dark world when her sister goes missing. This isn’t an easy story, touching on the costs of Human Trafficking, among other topics. Reis does a great job in the lead role, while the overall track of the story doesn’t quite deliver on the potential of the topic. The last act, in particular, felt like a bit of a let down despite the engaging performance and the earlier parts of the journey. Overall, the film is worth checking out for the work of Reis and because of the importance of the topic it covers.
Jackass Forever (Theaters)
Synopsis: The crew from this long-running gang of pranksters is back with another feature film, this one coming 20 years after the original feature film and 10 years after the last feature film. The crew is mostly all back, even with a few new additions, pulling pranks and different stunt challenges. This film faced a few delays due to COVID and other issues, but likely comes as a treat for fans. If you loved the MTV show and the previous films, this is probably right up your alley. For me, much of the humor doesn’t land. I wasn’t taken with the stunts and the film felt overly long despite running just 96 minutes. It’s a crass presentation that likely appeals to a specific audience that isn’t me. Others feel differently, but this was a highly anticipated film that didn’t work for me.
Rating: Rated R for strong crude material and dangerous stunts, graphic nudity and language throughout.
Starring: Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson and John Bradley
Synopsis: Roland Emmerich is no stranger to a disaster movie. In fact, it’s in part what he built his name as a director upon. He gave us Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012, among others. His latest film, Moonfall, is another addition to his catalog of disaster films. The difference here is that the film itself is a disaster. It’s ostensibly about the moon falling out of orbit and threatening to collide with Earth, and the team that has to try and stop it. But the real plot is a lot denser and more convoluted, mixing genres and creating a film that is more spectacle than entertainment. That combined with a script that adds little depth to its characters and overstays its welcome, and we have a potentially fun disaster epic that misses the mark—kind of like the Moon misses its orbit. Too soon? Is this thing on? If you didn’t think that joke was great, you likely won’t be impressed with this script, either. It doesn’t make much of a cast that feels too talented to be trapped in a film this ridiculous. There are likely some that will just sit back and enjoy the ride, but all I could think was I should have stayed home and watched Independence Day. You’ll likely feel the same.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for violence, disaster action, strong language, and some drug use.
The Tinder Swindler (Netflix)
Synopsis: The first film release for Netflix in February was this documentary, which dropped on Wednesday, February 2. The film tells the story of Simon Leviev, who used Tinder to connect with women around the globe, bilking them out of millions of dollars. The film, from director Felicity Morris, chronicles the sequence of events in the words of Leviev’s victims, using his real WhatsApp communications and voicemails to fill in the gaps. It’s a fascinating and ultimately sad tale of a man who mastered the art of the con and the victims still seeking something that feels like justice. It was an interesting and well-crafted documentary that sadly doesn’t have a very satisfying ending, through no fault of the film’s producers. I found it fascinating and worth checking out.
We Need to Talk About Cosby (Showtime)
Synopsis: This documentary from W. Kamau Bell first debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. It’s now airing on Showtime in weekly one-hour installments for the next month, but all four hours are available to stream. It tells the story of Bill Cosby from his rise and comedy contributions, to his activism and television work, and ultimately the actions and scandal that have rightly destroyed his legacy. The film is a mixture of file footage, clips from Cosby’s on screen and on-stage performances and interviews with fans and victims. It’s an in-depth and harrowing look at the comedian and the legacy he leaves behind. It’s not an easy watch but it was an incredibly powerful, timely and necessary work. I highly recommend checking it out.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.