With only the Academy Awards left, the release of films in theaters slowly starts to decline in quality and quantity. Most audiences are likely exhausted from the recent months of strong releases, but as February starts to set in, here are a few films to keep that excitement for cinema ignited. Ranging from a historical story to an animated feature to many romantic films appropriate for the upcoming Valentine’s Day, here is The Badger Herald’s February movie preview.

Labor Day

In theaters now

Kate Winslet (“Contagion”) plays a depressed single mom whose life gets turned upside down when she and her son unknowingly open their home to a recently-escaped convict played by Josh Brolin (“Gangster Squad”). As the two characters, along with Winslet’s son (Gattlin Griffith, “Green Lantern”) try to start a life hidden from the public, stories and rumors start to spread. While trying to determine how to sort everything out, their time becomes limited, even as their love grows strong. The film also stars Tobey Maguire (“The Great Gatsby”), Clark Gregg (“The Avengers”) and J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash”). The film seems to offer a powerful story of family, risk and love that many will enjoy.

The Monuments Men

In theaters Feb. 7

“The Monuments Men” is a true historical story based on a ragtag group of artists brought together from around the world to reclaim European art previously stolen by the Nazis during World War II. Directed by, written by and starring George Clooney (“Gravity”), the film also includes a diverse set of actors, including Matt Damon (“Elysium”), Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”), Jean Dujardin (“The Artist”) and favorite old-timers Bill Murray (“Moonrise Kingdom”) and John Goodman (“Argo”). The film tells an intriguing story about individuals going to extreme lengths at some of Europe’s darkest times in order to return important historical pieces of art to their rightful owners. Hype has been growing around the film for a few months, and it should offer the strongest performances of February.

Winter’s Tale

In theaters Feb. 14

An upcoming supernatural drama film based on the novel of the same name by Mark Helprin, “Winter’s Tale” stars Colin Farrell (“Saving Mr. Banks”) as Peter Lake, a thief interrupted during one of his burglaries when he sees Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay, “Downton Abbey”) and instantly falls in love. However, Penn has a secret, and when Lake learns of a personal unknown gift, he may just be the only person who can help her. The film also reunites “A Beautiful Mind” writer Akiva Goldsman, actor Russell Crowe and  actress Jennifer Connelly. The cinematography of the film looks beautiful, and fans of the impossible romance should be pleased.

The Wind Rises

In theaters Feb. 21

From Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki (“Spirited Away,” “Kiki’s Delivery Service”), “The Wind Rises” has created huge buzz in the world of animation film. Currently up for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and the top grossing film of Japan in 2013, this new film by Miyazaki tells the life story of Jiro Horikoshi, a designer of fighter planes during World War II. The voice cast includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt (“Don Jon”), Stanley Tucci (“The Fifth Estate”) and Emily Blunt (“The Five-Year Engagement”), along with many A-list stars. The film looks exciting for all audiences and could potentially become Miyazaki’s best film yet.

The Lunchbox

In theaters Feb. 28

An Indian romance film and winner of the Critics Week Viewers Choice Award at the Cannes Film Festival, “The Lunchbox” tells the love story of two individuals communicating through letters. These two people start to build a fantasy life after accidentally sending each other notes through Mumbai’s “dabbawalla” system, a real-life service in India that helps to transport hot food in lunch boxes from residences to workplaces. The film’s main star is Irrfan Khan, whose former roles include parts in acclaimed films “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Life of Pi.” A major contender for the India nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, “The Lunchbox” is a film all audiences should see.

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