The best thing about movie viewing in January is how much time there is to play catch up if you’ve missed much of the prior year. Oscar nominations are right around the corner, and in the interim between now and any Sundance buzz that begins to brew, there’s not much in the way of theatrical releases that are going to catch an avid film fan’s eye. That is, unless you’ve been really looking forward to remakes and sequels of properties such as “Dolittle,” “The Grudge” and “Bad Boys.”
Things are looking dire and considering January is no one’s favorite month of the year (if you’re in our neck of the woods, it’s just far too cold and gloomy), the best bet is to play catch up, binge some therapeutic feel-good shows to get us out of the gray of winter or, better yet, finally dig through the films that have accumulated in your Criterion Channel watch list. At the very least, January TV will likely fare better.
Regardless, there are several films we think you may be interested in, so let’s get to it!
Synopsis: After a young mother murders her family in her own house, a detective attempts to investigate the mysterious case, only to discover that the house is cursed by a vengeful ghost. Now targeted by the demonic spirits, the detective must do anything to protect herself and her family from harm.
Cast: John Cho, Andrea Riseborough, Betty Gilpin, Demian Bichir
What You Need to Know: How often do remakes of foreign properties really, truly work? There are exceptions to the rule but more often than not, the original is what’s worth seeking out. With 2020’s take on “The Grudge,” they’re rebooting the 2004 remake which was already a retelling of the Japanese original “Ju-On: The Grudge.” So, really, at this point, it’s down to how in need we are for a January horror film and how much faith we have in a shockingly talented cast including John Cho, Andrea Riseborough, and Betty Gilpin. Furthering our tepid curiosity is director Nicolas Pesce who has already impressed with films “Piercing” and “The Eyes of My Mother.” Produced by Sam Raimi, perhaps this might be one of those nice, early year surprises.
Release Date: January 3
Synopsis: A crew of underwater researchers must scramble to safety after an earthquake devastates their subterranean laboratory.
Cast: Kristen Stewart, John Gallagher Jr., Vincent Cassel
What You Need to Know: Despite becoming something of an art-house darling over the years, with films such as “Personal Shopper” and “Certain Women,” Kristen Stewart has found herself back in the genre saddle recently, with 2019’s “Charlies Angels” reboot and now the ocean-set thriller “Underwater.” Directed by William Eubank, whose biggest film of yet was 2014’s modest science fiction flick “The Signal,” the film has the early edge of the natural fear and isolation that comes from their setting and the claustrophobia it inspires. Led by Stewart along with John Gallagher Jr. and Vincent Cassel, the big drawback of the film, aside from the relative caution tape the release plus title conjures up, is the inclusion of T.J. Miller.
Release Date: January 10
Synopsis: In 1959, psychiatrist Dr. Alan Stone (Richard Gere) arrives at a mental hospital in Ypsilanti, Michigan armed with the radical belief that schizophrenic patients should be treated not with confinement and electroshock therapy but with empathy and understanding. As his first study, he takes on the particularly challenging case of three men, each of whom believes they are Jesus Christ.
Cast: Richard Gere, Peter Dinklage, Bradley Whitford
What You Need to Know: Based on the true story documented in the controversial and similarly-titled 1964 book “The Three Christs of Ypsilanti” by Milton Rokeach, “Three Christs” being released through IFC takes a look at American psychologist Carl Rogers who offered a more humanist approach to his work. In a month full of dumping ground films, it’s a nice change of pace to get such character-driven stories. Initially screened at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, the film is directed by Jon Avnet (“Sneaky Pete,” “Justified”) and stars a post “Game of Thrones” Peter Dinklage as one of the patients who believes himself to be Jesus Christ.
Release Date: January 10
“Weathering With You”
Synopsis: Hodaka runs away from his remote island home to Tokyo, and quickly finds himself pushed to his financial and personal limits. He lives his days in isolation but one day, Hodaka meets Hina on a busy street corner. This bright and strong-willed girl possesses a strange and wonderful ability: the power to stop the rain and clear the sky.
Cast: Kotaro Daigo, Nana Mori
What You Need to Know: Makoto Shinkai is one of the biggest names in anime and deservedly so. Prior to 2016’s “Your Name,” which brought in a tidal wave of new international fans, he’d already made a name for himself with beautiful and meditative films such as “5 Centimeters Per Second” and “The Garden of Words.” He’s once again proved himself with his latest, “Weathering With You,” which brings together a race against time narrative and visuals seeped in his specialty, as rain has never been animated so vibrantly. The film has been chosen as Japan’s entry for Best International Film at this year’s Oscars.
Release Date: January 15
“Bad Boys for Life”
Synopsis: Old-school cops Mike Lowery and Marcus Burnett team up to take down the vicious leader of a Miami drug cartel. Newly created elite team AMMO of the Miami police department along with Mike and Marcus go up against the ruthless Armando Armas.
Cast: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens
What You Need to Know: It’s bizarre to think that the best Will Smith film/performance of the past few years might be, of all things, Disney’s live-action remake of “Aladdin.” “Gemini Man,” “Bright,” and “Collateral Beauty” certainly haven’t been highlights, and if we dare be so bold, we’re not holding out too much hope that “Bad Boys for Life.” A shame since Smith’s talents are so considerable, and he seems happy to play in safe roles. Starring Smith and Martin Lawrence, the film concludes the trilogy of films that started with 1995 “Bad Boys” and the sequel, 2003’s “Bad Boys II.” We’ll have to wait and see if that similar buddy comedy magic can be produced more than 15 years later.
Release Date: January 17
Synopsis: Dr. John Dolittle lives in solitude behind the high walls of his lush manor in 19th-century England. His only companionship comes from an array of exotic animals that he speaks to on a daily basis. But when young Queen Victoria becomes gravely ill, the eccentric doctor and his furry friends embark on an epic adventure to a mythical island to find the cure.
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Emma Thompson, Tom Holland, Jessie Buckley
What You Need to Know: Almost inarguably, Robert Downey Jr. could do anything he wanted with the clout and status he holds in Hollywood following his run as Iron Man in Marvel’s “Avengers” saga. Anything. On top of the level of success he’s brought in, he’s also still a tremendous actor who, despite solid work as Tony Stark, hasn’t exactly allowed his acting muscles to flex in quite a while. So excuse us if we’re wondering what in the hell he is thinking when championing a film as goofy looking as “Dolittle.” A remake that no one was asking for with massive reshoots and directed by, of all people, Stephen Gaghan who was behind “Gold” and “Syriana” there’s no guessing what on earth the final product is going to look like.
Release Date: January 17
Synopsis: Newly appointed nanny Kate is charged with the care of two disturbed orphans, Flora and Miles. Quickly though, she discovers that both the children and the house are harboring dark secrets and things may not be as they appear.
Cast: Mackenzie Davis, Finn Wolfhard, Brooklyn Prince
What You Need to Know: Yet another film that’s been pushed back from its original release date, being moved almost a year from its original February 2019 placing. Hopefully, the shuffling isn’t too much of a bad sign considering the talent on board and the interest in the project. The film stars up and comers Finn Wolfhard of “Stranger Things” fame along with “The Florida Project” star Brooklyn Prince and the always reliable Mackenzie Davis as the protagonist of the story. Based on the story “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James, the film is directed by Floria Sigismondi, best known for the 2010 film “The Runaways” and her work on television series such as “Daredevil” and “The Handmaids Tale.”
Release Date: January 24
“The Rhythm Section”
Synopsis: Blake Lively stars as Stephanie Patrick, an ordinary woman on a path of self-destruction after her family was tragically killed in a plane crash. When Stephanie discovers that the crash was not an accident, she enters a dark, complex world to seek revenge on those responsible and find her own redemption.
Cast: Blake Lively, Jude Law, Sterling K. Brown
What You Need to Know: It’s impressive how little has been said about “The Rhythm Section” considering the talent attached both in front of and behind the scenes. The cast is stacked and the director, Reed Morano, is coming off a triumphant past few years in particular with her work on Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Perhaps some of the silence comes from the film continually being bumped on the release schedule after an unfortunate injury sustained by Lively while filming, now finally hitting theaters almost a year later after its initial proposed release date. Regardless, Lively excels in roles where she’s allowed to play with her physicality (see: “The Shallows”) and this action vehicle seems perfectly calibrated towards her skill sets.
Release Date: January 31