After pitting a knife-wielding Jennifer Lopez and a submachine gun-armed Jennifer Coolidge against a pack of wedding-crashing pirates in the rom-com/action mashup “Shotgun Wedding” (you can read our review of the film here), Prime Video is slowing things down a little in February. That month will see the release of the second and final season of the streamer’s fantasy neo-noir series “Carnival Row,” which is dropping nearly three and a half years after the first season launched in August 2019, in case you find yourself wondering (much like /Film’s Valerie Ettenhofer), “Wait, so I didn’t imagine the show where Orlando Bloom solves crimes and hooks up with pixie Cara Delevingne?” No, no you did not, but hey, at least now it has a proper ending!
In the absence of too many major new releases beyond that, Prime Video and Freevee viewers might want to spend February catching one of the many older films coming to the services at the start of the month. (There’s never a bad time to finally watch or rewatch movies like “Inside Man,” “Devil in a Blue Dress,” or “A League of Their Own.”) Alternatively, you could also take a look at one or more of the noteworthy 2022 titles making their way onto the service over that period, including at least one film that a whole lot of people missed in theaters, judging by the box office returns.
Whether you’re waiting for the return of Idris Elba’s tortured detective John Luther in “Luther: The Fallen Sun” or in the mood for a genre movie that’s as straightforward as they come, you would do well to watch Baltasar Kormákur’s “Beast.” Written by Ryan Engle, the “Everest” and “Adrift” director’s latest action survival flick follows Elba’s newly-widowed doctor and his estranged teen daughters (Iyana Halley and Leah Sava Jeffries) on a trip to his late wife’s home village in South Africa, only for a rogue lion to ambush their would-be time of emotional healing and reconnection. Much like “Rampage” (which Engle also co-wrote), “Beast” maintains a firmly anti-poacher outlook and would even have you cheer on its man-eating four-legged antagonist whenever it’s attacking puny humans other than our nature-respecting heroes. The film is absolutely guilty of recycling the tired cliche of having a dad mend his broken family by acting really, really macho for a day, but between Steven Price’s relentless score and the bravado action scenes — most of which are shot and edited to look like single takes — you’ll be enjoying yourself too much to get hung up on that.
“Halloween Ends” was not even remotely the conclusion that anyone was expecting to David Gordon Green’s “Halloween” saga, but unlike other sequel trilogy finales, Green’s slasher at least had the guts to take a big swing. Most of the movie doesn’t even focus on Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) or Michael Myers at all, instead shifting its attention to Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell), a promising young man whose life is derailed by a horrible accident, resulting in him becoming an outcast among the citizens of Haddonfield four years after The Shape’s latest killing spree. The film tries to stitch together the themes from “Halloween” and “Halloween Kills” about intergenerational trauma and the idea of evil as a sickness, all while bringing Laurie’s granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) fully into the spotlight and giving the original “Halloween” final girl some long-overdue closure. It might’ve worked better as an anthology sequel (à la “Season of the Witch”) rather than the ending to Green’s run on the “Halloween” franchise, yet for all its understandable divisiveness, there’s too much that either works or is interesting here to dismiss “Ends” outright.
Where moviegoers were somewhat interested in seeing Idris Elba punch a lion in the face, they were far less keen on watching his lovelorn djinn try and grant three wishes to Tilda Swinton’s skeptical scholar, Alithea Binnie, in a hotel room. George Miller’s “Three Thousand Years of Longing” (itself adapted from A. S. Byatt’s short story “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye”) is too unwieldy to entirely succeed, as “Mad Max: Fury Road” cinematographer John Seale’s breathtaking visuals tend to overshadow the individual stories recounted by the djinn … which is a problem since the whole film is designed as an ode to the art of storytelling and the way stories both inform and reflect our lives and relationships. But when a movie is as ambitious, earnest, and overall committed to being the type of adult drama people keep clamoring to see more of as Miller’s, it feels a little silly to fixate too much on its flaws and miss the (in this case, weird yet deeply emotional and ultimately thought-provoking) forest for the trees. Think of this as the film adaptation of “The Sandman” Miller never made and you’ll start to better grasp why, exactly, it’s worth your time.
If you watched David Fincher’s movie adaptation of “Gone Girl” and didn’t find yourself wondering afterwards, “What if the director of ‘Bridesmaids’ re-imagined that film as a twisted noir comedy featuring Blake Lively as a chaotic queer femme fatale with an incredible fashion sense?” then you’re probably a perfectly well-adjusted person and not a /Film writer. If you did, however, and you’ve never seen Paul Feig’s “A Simple Favor,” or merely feel the urge to revisit it before the most unexpected sequel announced in 2022 comes out, then now’s the time to do something about it. The film stars Anna Kendrick as a single mommy vlogger who befriends one of her son’s parents (Lively), a refined, martini-sipping lady who inexplicably goes missing, leaving her new BFF to crack the case. Irreverent and filled with scenes of Lively wearing snazzy three-piece suits, “A Simple Favor” might lack the biting commentary on gender roles of “Gone Girl,” but it makes up for that with its darkly zany sense of humor, playful sense of style, and by taking potshots at a far wider range of targets.
“Smile” is one of those horror films that’s been so clearly cobbled out of parts from other movies that you find yourself listing off the films it’s, ahem, liberally borrowing from in your head as you watch it for the first time (“The Ring,” “It Follows,” “Sinister” — even “The Sixth Sense” informs a key sequence). But darn it if writer-director Parker Finn doesn’t know how to utilize those tropes, both visual and narrative, for their maximal impact, with Sosie Bacon delivering a performance that pulls you deep into her character’s anxious mindset. The actor stars as a therapist whose latest patient violently takes their own life right in front of her with a preternatural grin on their face, in the process passing on a supernatural curse that will kill her in a few days, should she fail to pass it on herself. “Smile” is a film that takes the “It’s actually about trauma” trend in the horror genre very literally, but it’s all the most effective and unnerving in its storytelling for it. And assuming you didn’t already spoil yourself for the climax by reading /Film’s Best 2022 Movie Moments or haven’t watched it yet, you would do well to prepare yourself for the film’s final horrifying reveal.
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