With the dregs of January swirling down the drain, audiences can prep themselves for classier fare. This month marks the return of two cinematic masters in the form of Scorsese and Polanski. Their works might look a little loosey-goosey, but there’s little doubt about the razor-sharp talents behind a pair of crime dramas from Israel and France. Finally, get some uplift as Shah Rukh Khan battles Homeland Security for his dignity.
Release date: Feb. 3
The pitch: Israel’s problems—and lord knows there’s a lot of them—are filtered through several interlocking stories set in a tough neighborhood of Jaffa. It’s an Arab-Israeli Wire!
Fun fact: Jaffa gets a nod in the Bible as the port where Jonah boarded a ship on his ill-fated escape to Tarshish.
Why it could be great: After earning acclaim on the festival circuit, this tough drama won Best Picture and Director at the Israeli Oscars last year.
Why it could suck: There are very few happy endings in Israel.
My Name is Khan
Release date: Feb. 12
The pitch: An autistic Muslim (Shah Rukh Khan) finds happiness with a single mom (Kajol) in San Francisco. Then 9/11 turns his world upside down.
Fun fact: Last August, Khan was detained by Newark Airport security for questioning while promoting the film.
Why it could be great: SRK stars in a story that’s sure to tug the heartstrings of discriminated-against immigrants and angry liberals alike. There’ll be a few musical numbers, too.
Why it could suck: The emotional maelstrom reaches fever pitch when Khan embarks on an odyssey to meet Barack Obama himself.
Release date: Feb. 19
The pitch: A tortured cop (Leonardo DiCaprio) is trapped on an island insane asylum when a hurricane hits. Can he hold onto all his marbles? From the novel by Dennis Lehane.
Fun fact: Robbie Robertson’s soundtrack features modern classical pieces from the likes of John Adams, Max Richter and experimental filmmaker Nam June Paik.
Why it could be great: Director Martin Scorsese seems to have thrown caution to the winds for a delirious tribute to his favorite horror movies.
Why it could suck: The trailer makes My Name is Khan look like a model of restraint.
The Ghost Writer
Release date: Feb. 12
The pitch: A ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) works on the memoirs of an ex-PM (Pierce Brosnan) with secrets to hide. Soon the poor scribe is up to his neck in conspiracy. From the novel by Robert Harris.
Fun fact: Beleaguered filmmaker Roman Polanski finished the film while under house arrest in Switzerland.
Why it could be great: Polanski has been on a hot streak since his Oscar-winning The Pianist.
Why it could suck: For every Pianist, there’s a Ninth Gate.
Un prophète (A Prophet)
Release date: Feb. 26
The pitch: An Arab (Tahar Rahim) discovers that there’s more Shawshank than redemption amongst the competing tribes of a French prison.
Fun fact: The Beat My Heart Skipped director Jacques Audiard first met his star when they shared a taxicab. Rahim went on to win European Film and Lumiere awards for his performance.
Why it could be great: Audiard’s thriller has been acclaimed as one of the best films of the year—even by critics who haven’t seen it yet!
Why it could suck: It’s only a little shorter than The Green Mile.
Tags: A Prophet, Ajami, Ben Kingsley, Dennis Lehane, Ewan McGregor, Jacques Audiard, Kajol, Karan Johar, Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese, My Name is Khan, Nam June Paik, Niels Arestrup, Pierce Brosnan, Robert Harris, Roman Polanski, Scandar Copti, Shah Rukh Khan, Shutter Island, Tahar Rahim, The Ghost Writer, Un Prophete, Yaron Shani