January 2016 Movie Preview
Happy 2016 everybody!
Now, with that out of the way, it’s time for January! We can’t stop now because while January is normally a slow month in America due to all of the prestige films being released in November and December for Oscar consideration, those films normally get released in the U.K. in January and February to capitalise on awards buzz. As a result, whilst December was an incredibly slow month in the U.K. (sans ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘,) we have a jam-packed January. So let’s dive right in!
January 1st 2016
The Danish Girl –
This time last year, Eddie Redmayne broke out in spectacular fashion with his Oscar-winning portrayal of Stephen Hawking in ‘The Theory of Everything‘ (a movie that wound up being my first 5/5 review on this website) and it would seem he’s hoping for similar results portraying the first transgendered woman to undergo surgery; Lili Elbe in ‘The Danish Girl‘. Along for the ride is 2015 break-out star Alicia Vikander.
We also have the director of the Oscar-Winning ‘The King’s Speech‘ and ‘Les Misérables‘, Tom Hooper. While I absolutely love ‘The King’s Speech‘, Hooper’s direction was easily the weakest thing about it and his direction was outright bad in ‘Les Misérables‘ despite all the award nominations and wins picked up by both. With ‘The Danish Girl‘, early reviews have been generally good (though it’s been lambasted by the transgender community for Lili Elbe’s portrayal) but it seems that the only awards-buzz to come out of this is for both Redmayne and Vikander as opposed to the movie itself.
Speaking of directors coasting off of actors to try and get awards-recognition, here’s David O. Russell, the director of the terrible ‘American Hustle‘ and mediocre ‘Silver Linings Playbook‘ with another Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro movie. Lawrence plays Joy Mangano, the inventor of the “Miracle Mop” who built her own business empire after a divorce as well as being single mother of two kids.
Yes, Jennifer Lawrence is meant to be playing a 35 year-old, divorced mother of two. And you can see the naked transparency of David O. Russell capitalising on his stars.
As interesting a story as Joy Mangano has in real life, the trailers are more concerned with aping Martin Scorsese and showing Jennifer Lawrence looking intimidating whilst making speeches. There’s no actual “hook” for the movie if you look at the promotional material. After the lukewarm critical reception to ‘Joy‘ as well as the lacklustre output from O. Russell recently (whose career easily peaked with the genuinely exceptional ‘The Fighter‘) it seems like Russell may have cashed in all the goodwill his favourite actors have given him.
January 8th 2016
The Hateful Eight –
The master of dialogue, Quentin Tarantino returns to the Western Genre for his eighth movie ‘The Hateful Eight‘ which stars Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walter Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and Bruce Dern as eight villains stuck in a log cabin during a snow storm. It’s a closed-off setting reliant almost entirely on dialogue which is why it’s a perfect vehicle for Tarantino. It’s 3-hour run-time may turn off a few people (the length of his last movie, ‘Django Unchained‘ was really the only issue with the film) but thankfully the film actually has an intermission.
While there’s been a big push over the past few weeks and months to see ‘The Hateful Eight‘ in a 70mm print, there are only TWO theatres in the whole of the U.K. that will be showing that print (as well as the exclusive scenes and sequences that come to that version of the print); Odeon Leicester Square in London and the Filmhouse in Edinburgh. You also can’t see the movie at a Cineworld, PictureHouse or Curzon due to negotiation issues. However, Vue cinemas will be offering unlimited popcorn to those who watch the movie in its first week. Ideal for a 3 hour movie with an intermission.
Either way, regardless of how you see the film, the critics are raving about it so it would seem you’re in for a good time. It’s Tarantino. You know what you’re getting.
January 15th 2016
The saga of Rocky Balboa, much like the famous boxer himself, just won’t stay down. After five successful movies in the 1970s and 1980s, the franchise was laid to rest on a low but bittersweet note. Then, Sylvester Stallone wrote and directed another sequel, set 16 years later with the surprisingly brilliant ‘Rocky Balboa‘ which ended the series on an infinitely better note. But, just like Rocky said in that last movie; “It ain’t over ’til it’s over”.
This time, the reigns of the franchise have been handed to Ryan Coogler, the director of the must-see and harrowing ‘Fruitvale Station‘ and he’s bringing the star of that movie, Michael B. Jordan with him playing the son of Rocky’s rival from the original run of movies, Apollo Creed. Stallone is back but this time as a mentor in an awesome looking legacy sequel/spin-off. Coogler’s ‘Fruitvale Station‘ cemented him as a superb director, but with ‘Creed‘ it looks like he’s going to really hit the mainstream and for good reason.
Incidentally, I caught a preview screening of ‘Creed‘. It’s pretty superb. Review coming next week.
The Revenant –
Riding high after winning “Best Director” and “Best Picture” last year with ‘Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)‘, director Alejandro González Iñárritu isn’t slowing down and instead has directed and co-written an epic-revenge movie based (very loosely) off American frontiersman, Hugh Glass’s encounter with a bear in 1823. The big “gimmick” of the film is that it’s mostly been shot using natural light and that Leonardo DiCaprio practically tortures himself in order to get an Oscar.
While I had my issues with ‘Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)‘ you can’t deny its technical prowess and directorial craft, so expect the same with ‘The Revenant‘. And you can bet your bottom-dollar that DiCaprio along with Tom Hardy will do a brilliant job and probably win lots of awards, maybe even that elusive Oscar. But I’m not really hyped about this. I think we’re in for a beautiful-looking movie and something dramatically solid but that looks like that’s all it’ll be. Hopefully my mind can be changed when this hits theatres.
Director Lenny Abrahamson, in 2014, directed my favourite movie of that year; ‘Frank‘. So naturally, the next thing he did would garner my hype. That movie is ‘Room‘, based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Emma Donoghue (who also wrote the screenplay). ‘Room‘ tells the story of 5-year old Jack (played by Jacob Tremblay) and his mother Ma (played by current Oscar frontrunner Brie Larson) who are trapped in a room together with only a single skylight hinting at an outside world, which Jack refuses to believe in.
The trailers look rather saccharine, but I think we’re still set for a rather powerful movie and Abrahamson earned a lot of goodwill with me after ‘Frank‘. Brie Larson has been great in supporting roles for a while so it’ll be great to see her get some overdue recognition here. This looks pretty darn good and I hope the trailer hasn’t spoiled too much of the film.
The 5th Wave –
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that other young-adult movies even exist when franchises like “The Hunger Games”, “The Divergent Series” and “The Maze Runner” are so prominent. But with “The Hunger Games” coming to a disappointing and underwhelming conclusion, Columbia Pictures want to get in on the action and have commissioned a trilogy based off of Rick Yancey’s successful book series. The first instalment is ‘The 5th Wave‘ and stars Chloë Grace Moretz as one of few survivors after a five-step alien invasion.
The books have been described as “Twilight with Aliens” which makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little bit, but the trailers seem to be selling something more interesting with a post-apocalyptic survival movie in the vein of Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road‘. I’m not expecting anything ground-breaking, but it looks like there’s some talent involved and solid atmosphere, at least from the trailers. I’m not holding my breath, but I’m not writing this off yet.
The Big Short –
One of the scariest things about the modern-day world is that some of the most powerful and influential people in on the planet are also some of the most careless, selfish and short-sighted. This became apparent when it was clear that the housing-bubble was about to burst during the 2000s and no one was ready or willing to stop it, which ultimately plunged most of the world into a recession that we’re still dealing with today. It’s almost funny in a tragic sort of way which is why it was an odd stroke of genius to bring on board comedy writer/director Adam McKay to make a movie about it in ‘The Big Short‘, based off the best-selling non-fiction book by Michael Lewis “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine”.
Adam McKay, predominantly known for doing farcical comedies such as ‘Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy‘, ‘Step Brothers‘ and ‘The Other Guys‘ but with ‘The Big Short‘ he’s side-stepping into dramedy with an all-star male cast of brilliant actors such as Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt. The trailers haven’t sold me on the film, though to be fair it’s hard to get across the complexity of such a story in a trailer. But it’s had great reviews and is being considered an Oscar-darkhorse. I’m oddly pumped for this movie even though the odds seem to be against it from where I’m stood.
Our Brand Is Crisis –
Originally meant to be an Oscar contender from the producers of ‘Argo‘ and the screenwriter of ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy‘, ‘Our Brand Is Crisis‘ kinda dropped off the radar early on despite having George Clooney as a producer and Academy Award winner Sandra Bullock in the lead role as a retired political consultant tasked with helping an unpopular Bolivian politician win an election.
So it’s ‘My Fair Lady‘ but gender-swapped and based around politics? Interesting hook.
The trailer is clearly meant to be light-hearted but with enough depth to try and make a point about marketing, politics, poverty etc. But the reviews have been average and Warner Bros. haven’t done much to promote the film once people didn’t respond to it upon its initial American release. I don’t see it finding a U.K. audience.
This one also doesn’t look very good. I have no intention of seeing it.
January 29th 2016
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi –
Paramount Pictures and director Michael Bay have a mutual understanding. Michael Bay can make whatever film projects he wants, as long as he makes billion-dollar grossing “Transformers” movies in-between. These passion-projects haven’t been entirely bad as 2013’s ‘Pain & Gain‘ was a morbid curiosity, but we have something that does look rather promising. ‘13 Hours: Te Secret Soldiers of Benghazi‘ takes place in 2012 on the eve of the anniversary of 9/11 and tells the true story of how six soldiers defended an American/CIA compound from Islamic Militants in Benghazi.
The trailers don’t look too bad but there’s still a lot of eye-rolling “America is god” stuff that is present in most of Bay’s work and may prevent this movie from being too well received outside of the States. However, it does look solid and the story itself is promising source material. While these smaller, Michael Bay passion-projects don’t quite justify terrible giant-robot movies, they’re at least a welcome reprieve and Paramount Pictures is clearly happy with the decision.
The 33 –
In 2010 (blimey, was it really only 6 years ago?) there was a cave-in at the San José Mine in Chili which trapped 33 men for a record 69 days. ‘The 33‘, directed by Patricia Riggen, tells that true story of the trapped men as well as all the political controversy happening on the surface as all of the eyes of the world were on Chili. Starring Antonia Banderas, Rodrigo Santos, Josh Brolin and a mostly Spanish cast, ‘The 33‘ is the first film to utilise funds from the Colombian Film Comission. It’s awesome that Spain gets to tell their own heroic story.
That having been said, the reviews have been average with quite a few of the critics that I trust and follow tending to rate the movie slightly higher then that. I’m looking forward to this film, if only to support more international filmmaking but the trailer has been posted below. Watch that and see if this biopic is for you.
That’s the joke.
Now, to be fair, this looks okay. De Niro plays a Widower (a role he knows well after ‘Last Vegas‘ and ‘The Intern‘) who decides to party hard and convinces his son, played by Zac Efron, to drive down to Florida days before his wedding. De Niro was good in ‘Last Vegas‘, Zac Efron was good in ‘Bad Neighbours‘ so I don’t doubt the pedigree of the leads. But I’m wondering just whether or not this movie will be more than a random distraction. With so many films coming out this month, there may be better things to spend your money on.
A year ago, the Oscar front-runners before they even came out were ‘The Danish Girl‘, ‘The Revenant‘, ‘Steve Jobs‘ and ‘The Hateful Eight‘. Right now, on the cusp on the nominees getting announced, that buzz for the top prizes has started to fizzle out. As usual, the front-runner is a movie that kinda took everybody by surprise. This year, it’s ‘Spotlight‘ which has already taken home numerous of “Best Picture” accolades from dozens of prestigious publications and outlets.
With an all-star cast comprised of Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci and more, ‘Spotlight‘ focuses on the Boston Globe newspaper uncovering the child sexual abuse happening throughout the Catholic Church in the early 2000s. The movie looks awesome, the cast are great and it’s a story worth re-telling in film. Right now, it’s the odds-on favourite to clean up at the Oscars, but we’ll find out soon if the hype is well deserved.
And that is January in film. It’s a stacked month so there are a couple of films I didn’t elaborate on such as ‘Capture the Flag‘, ‘Youth‘, ‘A War‘ and more but if I spent anymore time previewing these movies then they’d never get watched. Incidentally, the three I am most looking forward to, in no particular order are;
- ‘The Hateful Eight‘
But what are you folks looking forward to this January? Are there any other releases that I missed that you can’t wait to see? Be sure to sound off in the comments section below!
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Posted: 9th Jan 16