Films to watch (and avoid) this month

Eva Mackevic

Here's our roundup of the best and worst movie offerings this February 

Film of the month: One Night in Miami 

"We smell Oscars in the air for this glossy yet profound masterpiece from the trailblazing Regina King"

An Oscar-winning actress, King is also an outspoken advocate for the rights of marginalised communities and she made history when she became the first Black female director whose film was selected to premiere at the Venice Film Festival. The film in question is One Night in Miami—a fictionalised account of a meeting between Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, Jim Brown and Muhammad Ali to discuss their roles in the civil rights movement.

The film kicks off with a punchy introduction to these icons, going through different phases of their lives: Ali emerges as the new Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World, while Brown, the legendary NFL running back contemplates a career in Hollywood. Despite the enormous status and egos of all four characters, and the “boys’-night-out”-sounding title, the film is very much a subdued, low-key chamber piece, confined mostly to a small hotel room, where the colourful foursome joke and dance in a prelude to a heated, personal tear-down based around the civil rights movement, and their individual roles in it.

The film has it all: nuanced, timely discourse around racial issues, delightful chemistry between the four celebrities and their vastly different personalities (the verbal sparring between the trashtalking Muhammad Ali and levelheaded Malcolm X deserves a film on its own), and a delicious 1960s setting, abundant in old Cadillacs, eye-popping suits and great music.

One Night in Miami is out now on Amazon Prime Video 

 

A Promising Young Woman

A Promising Young Woman has been making the rounds in the news lately, when its star Carey Mulligan became the target of a sexist remark in a Variety review that has now gone viral, prompting furious social media backlash.

But that’s hardly the main reason to talk about this arresting, in-your-face revenge thriller. A daring genre movie, it follows a 30-something woman with a rather unusual vocation: going into bars pretending to be blind-drunk and ending up in the bedrooms of predatory men looking for an easy catch, just to give them a lecture they won’t forget.

With its Barbie-house colour palette that pops off the screen, a complex, layered message that ricochets around all sides of morality and a truly impressive performance from Mulligan (the scenes in which she “snaps out” of her fake drunken stupor, looks her “benefactors” dead in the eye and utters impassively, “Hey, what are you doing?” will chill your blood) it was certainly the highlight of the 2020 Sundance film festival.

And though the climax of the film is just a touch underwhelming, as one can grow fatigued from its relentless message that teeters on the brink of misanthropy, it’s a punchy, vivid work that’ll stay lodged in your brain for a long time.

A Promising Young Woman is out in cinemas on February 12

 

The Capote Tapes

Most of us will of course associate the name Truman Capote with one of the greatest 20th-century American novelists. However, to the people who knew him personally—friends, proteges, family members—he was the most gregarious, exhilarating, entertaining company you’d ever have. This intimate documentary, featuring numerous taped interviews with Capote himself as well as his intimates, paints a glowing picture of this larger-than-life character, giving us the precious opportunity to bask in the shimmering light of his company.

He was a great wit, a notorious gossip, a sharp dresser, a wild party animal and a shockingly manipulative companion who exploited his friends’ saucy stories to fuel his own literary material. We’re let in on the details of his outrageous anecdotes and shindigs by his glamorous socialite pals, fellow writers and followers who reminisce about his animated quips and stunts with the gusto of someone recalling the best meal they ever had.

It’s an engrossing rags to riches story that examines Capote’s humble beginnings, as well as an opulent, luxurious documentary dripping in pearls and champagne, that shows how this boy from a broken family in New Orleans became the cream of the crop of New York’s most exclusive social circles.

The Capote Tapes is out now on altitude.film and on all digital platforms across the UK and Ireland

 

76 Days

As we follow the news about the development of COVID-19 around the world, it can be easy to get desensitised to the horrific nature of the events we’re witnessing. New cases and death rates are presented to us as cold, hard statistics and, after a while, they become just that—figures. What this chilling documentary about Wuhan in the early days of the pandemic does, is it brings home to us just how deeply tragic and life-altering COVID has been for millions of people around the world.

Shot in four different hospitals during the 76 days of lockdown, the film puts focus on the details that we don’t see in the newsreels—boxes full of watches, wallets and other small personal belongings of the people who passed away, patients weeping down the phone to their loved ones, exhausted doctors sleeping on hospital chairs in their hazmat suits between shifts—every gruelling reality of the everyday battle against the pandemic is on show here.

It’s a difficult film to watch while we’re still very much in the midst of the nightmare that COVID has been for the past year; but it’s a crucial reminder to stay thankful to the heroic key workers risking their lives to make us better, as well as a celebration of people’s unbreakable spirit and kindness.

 76 Days is out in cinemas in the UK and available on demand 

 

Stardust

Whenever a new biopic about our favourite artist comes out, we desperately seek it out, hoping to savour all the things about their work and personality that make us tick and, Stardust—the retelling of David Bowie’s rise to fame—misses the mark in this respect rather spectacularly.  

A low-budget indie project, the film stars Johnny Flynn as a young Bowie who sets out to reinvent himself as Ziggy Stardust while touring the US. It’s undeniable that Flynn possesses a magnetic screen presence, and his flamboyant, loose-limbed mannerisms and spaced out mien are fun to groove on.  

Yet Stardust’s charm pretty much runs dry here. As captivating as Flynn’s performance is, the film portrays Bowie as a rather spineless mediocrity dependent on other people’s handholding—which is a disheartening version of a rock god of Bowie’s stature to witness.  

The supporting characters are downright repulsive (Marc Maron as his bumbling publicist and Jena Malone as his domineering girlfriend) to the point where spending time in their company is a chore, while the pedestrian dialogue and uninspired story-telling make Stardust all the more tiresome.

Perhaps if you’re a Bowie superfan looking to tick off any last bit of material made about him, go for it. Our advice though is to give this one a miss and re-watch The Man Who Fell to Earth instead.   

Stardust is out now 

Read more: David Bowie, the children's entertainer 

 

Read more: Oscar 2021 predictions 

Read more: Everything you need to know about psychedelic cinema 

Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter