January 2017 Movie Preview
Let’s face it, 2016 was a pretty terrible year for almost everybody. If 2016 WASN’T a bad year for you then don’t worry, you’ll see the repercussions soon enough. It was one of THOSE years. However, one positive thing about January at the movies in the U.K. is that we get to see awards-contenders arrive in full-force. See, in order to capitalise on Golden Globe, BAFTA and Oscar nominations, distributors tend to release their heavy-hitters in January and February outside of the U.S. This means that while January is typically a terrible month in America for movies, it’s great in the U.K. In fact, it’s tough to keep up with all of the awesome releases. So that’s why I’m here! Here are some of the biggest releases for January 2017!
January 1st 2017
Let’s start 2017 off on a sour note and another reason to bash 2016. Last year was meant to be “THE” year where video game movies were going to start rivalling comic-book films when it came to box-office success and critical acclaim. People were desperate for films like ‘Warcraft: The Beginning‘ and ‘Assassin’s Creed‘ to pave the way for the sub-genre and give gamers the adaptations they deserve.
But it was not to be as ‘Assassin’s Creed‘, despite coming from ‘Macbeth‘ director Justin Kurzel, has been met with terrible reviews and despite opening in the last week of 2016 in America, has already sneaked onto many “worst of” lists for the year. The Ubisoft open-world action franchise feels like a series that you’d actively have to TRY to mess up when making a film adaptation but despite the Oscar-nominated talent on screen it would seem that video game movies will have to wait another year.
A Monster Calls –
And here we find the first true Oscar-contender of 2017. Based off the critically acclaimed book of the same name by Patrick Ness, ‘A Monster Calls‘ follows a young boy played by Lewis MacDougall whose mother, played by Felicity Jones, is dying of cancer with the boy also finding it difficult dealing with his emotions as he moves into adulthood. It’s in this scenario where a giant tree-monster with the voice of Liam Neeson starts visiting the boy to try and help him through this struggle. This sounds like a premise straight out of Studio Ghibli.
While the premise is great, the actors are brilliant and it’s interesting that Patrick Ness is actually writing the film’s screenplay, the big question mark for me is director J.A. Bayona. While the Spanish director made a great debut with ‘The Orphanage‘, his attempt at more mainstream “emotional” films show his weaknesses as a director; his ability to portray emotion but to not actually embody it in his films. Especially since his 2012 film ‘The Impossible‘ was a tone-deaf failure of execution. But he’ll be directing the sequel to ‘Jurassic World‘ and I’ve loved the trailers for ‘A Monster Calls‘ so I’m optimistic here, especially when you get Liam Neeson as daddy-Groot.
Normally the arrival of a film by Martin Scorsese (‘Taxi Driver‘, ‘Raging Bull‘, ‘Goodfellas‘, ‘Gangs of New York‘, ‘The Aviator‘, ‘The Departed‘, ‘The Wolf of Wall Street‘, the list goes on and on) would be considered a big deal. Whenever he attaches himself to a project that film is instantly pegged as an Oscar front-runner. However it would seem that the aptly titled ‘Silence‘ has arrived with relatively little fanfare. This seems strange considering that the film has still been critically acclaimed and managed to attract talent in the vein of Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver and Liam Neeson (hello again!)
It’s a shame because this ambitious project (adapted from the 1966 book of the same name by Shūsaku Endō) has been a passion project of Scorsese’s for 27 years after his work on 1988’s ‘The Last Temptation of Christ‘. The movie follows two priests who travel to Japan after discovering that their mentor has renounced his faith. Despite the well-known talent, this is not a mainstream film as it deals with issues of faith, religion and also has a brutal run-time of 160 minutes. This seems like the type of film where you should know what you’re getting into before spending money on it, but I must stress that I’m not implying that the film won’t be one helluva experience. After all, it is Scorsese.
January 12 2016
La La Land –
There are two types of people in a pre ‘La La Land‘ world; those who saw director/writer Damien Chazelle’s last film ‘Whiplash‘ and were hyped for ‘La La Land‘ and those who hadn’t seen ‘Whiplash‘ and were confused by the promotional material. However, once the film started to play at multiplexes it has become the talk of tinsel town and, in this critic’s opinion, is currently the frontrunner for “Best Picture” at the Oscars in terms of hype and momentum.
Much like ‘Whiplash‘, ‘La La Land‘ is a music-centric film about following your artistic passions centring on a mis-matched duo who find conflict and also common-ground in motivating each other. But ‘La La Land‘ is not only selling itself as a more positive movie but it also puts the music front-and-centre by making the film a full-blown musical in the vein of ‘Singin’ in the Rain‘ and ‘The Band Wagon‘. The original, big-budget music is practically an extinct genre so this is not only a novelty but the fact that reviews have been stellar, it’s been sweeping award ceremonies and…well, it comes from the director/writer of ‘Whiplash‘, this already looks set to be one of 2017’s best films.
January 13th 2017
Live By Night –
Ben Affleck has proven himself to be one of the most talented guys in the entertainment industry. He started off as a child-actor in the 80s before moving onto indie films in the 90s, tackling blockbuster fare in the early 2000s whilst also balancing work and romance by working with the media during his relationship with Jennifer Lopez. Then, when his move to writer and director with ‘The Town‘ and ‘Argo‘ (the latter winning “Best Picture” at the Oscars even though Affleck wasn’t nominated “Best Director” for some reason) proved that he could seemingly do it all. And then he became Batman.
Now Affleck will have to balance being Batman for Warner Bros. whilst also pursuing his own passion projects between DC films and the first fruits of that labour is ‘Live By Night‘, a prohibition gangster film based off the book of the same name by Dennis Lehane. While the film was pegged as an awards-contender during the original marketing blitz, its chances seem to have diminished thanks to mediocre reviews. The films box-office prospects also haven’t been great meaning that ‘Live By Night‘ could be considered a black-mark on Affleck’s career. But worst-case scenario we’ll get a polished looking gangster film so there could be merit to be found here.
Manchester by the Sea –
Just to prevent confusion amongst many British readers, ‘Manchester by the Sea‘ is not referring to Manchester, England. It is referring to Manchester, Essex County, Massachusetts. That may sound random but I have seen many confused people wondering why this film has that title but is set in America. With that out of the way…
Considered another Oscar front-runner we find the other talented Affleck brother Casey Affleck portraying a man who travels back home to Manchester after the death of his brother to help arrange his funeral and look after his young nephew. It seems like a very low-key drama but it’s been picking up accolades all over the place, mainly for the lead performances from Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler and Lucas Hedges. ‘Manchester By The Sea‘ seems like a safe choice this month in terms of drama and practically the definition of an “actors film” and I for one am looking forward to it.
Underworld: Blood Wars –
And here we find another Oscar-contender with ‘Underworld: Blood Wars‘, the fifth instalment of the “Underworld” series which is a franchise entirely built on getting Kate Beckinsale in increasingly tight leather clothing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
However, I must confess that despite seeing the appeal of Kate Beckinsale in tight leather clothing I have actually never seen another film in this franchise so…I don’t know what to say here other than….why put a big coat on your leather-clad leading lady? Seems a bit strange.
January 19th 2017
xXx: Return of Xander Cage –
You have to admire the audacity of that title, right? The original ‘xXx‘ was hardly an iconic film and I think that if you stopped 100 people in the street no one would be able to tell you who the main character of that movie was. So proudly touting “The Return of Xander Cage” feels equally as ridiculous as a sequel continuing a dead franchise that no one was asking for revolving around extreme athletes who are also government agents. Especially when the straight-to-video sequel didn’t even feature Xander Cage, proving how disposable the character is.
Also, I have not seen either “xXx” film, so I have nothing of note to say in this preview other than wondering whether or not Ruby Rose will be the next female badass action star after her turn here, in the upcoming ‘Resident Evil: The Final Chapter‘, ‘John Wick: Chapter 2‘ and ‘Meg‘. Apart from that, I have no interest in this franchise.
January 20th 2017
Now, I’m sure that ‘Jackie‘ wanted a lot of attention thrust upon it for its award-worthy lead performance by Natalie Portman as America’s first-lady Jackie Kennedy after the assassination of her husband John F. Kennedy in 1963. However, considering the political climate in America right now, it may be considered a bit “too soon” to make a movie about a woman and a country who had the prospect of a better, more prosperous country taken away.
Either way, we have ‘Jackie‘ which stars the Oscar-winning Natalie Portman in the titular role and it’s already looking like Portman will at least be getting another nomination for her performance here. Apparently the rest of the movie is really good as well, but much like ‘Manchester By The Sea‘ this will be more of an actors film.
Isn’t technology awesome? I love living in the future. And so does Saroo Brierley, a man born in India who was separated from his family as a child when he accidentally boarded a train which took him hundreds of miles away. He was adopted by an Australian family and he lived a normal life there, until he decided to try and find out where he came from. Using Google Earth to painstakingly follow train-tracks and familiar rock formations, he discovered where he got lost and decided to travel back to India to find the family he lost.
It’s a great true story and the talent in this film adaptation based off Brierley’s memoir “A Long Way Home” is worthy of recognition. Also, let’s not forget Dev Patel who has been flying under many people’s radar for a while despite being attached to high profile projects like ‘Slumdog Millionaire‘. This may just be another great performance to add to his filmography, but true stories like this are worth re-telling on the big-screen and that’s why I’m very excited about ‘Lion’.
After the catastrophic, high-profile failures of ‘The Happening‘, ‘The Last Airbender‘ and ‘After Earth‘ it seemed like the career of M. Night Shyamalan was over. However, it would seem that he’s in the middle of a low-key comeback thanks to his recent, micro-budget collaborations with Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions. After the surprisingly solid ‘The Visit‘ in 2015, we now have another horror/thriller movie with ‘Split‘.
The premise; James McAvoy plays Kevin, a man with 23 personalities living inside his head. Once he kidnaps a group of young girls in broad daylight, a chain of events occur that threaten to unleashed a 24th personality known as “The Beast”. It’s unclear whether or not ‘Split‘ may delve into supernatural themes but either way, it’s a bonkers premise and if you’ve seen ‘Filth‘ then you’ll know that James McAvoy has the capacity to be outstanding in a role like this. For a film of this type, reviews have been pretty good and it looks like Shyamalan might be two-for-two.
January 27th 2017
Let’s face it, 2016 was the year that truth died. Fake news was a big deal online, lies, slander and the misrepresentation of the facts dominated political discussions from Brexit to the U.S. presidency. So, much like ‘Jackie‘ it feels like topicality has been thrust on ‘Denial‘ which seeks to portray the court case between David Irving and Penguin Books. Long story short, in the early 90s Deborah Lipstadt wrote a book about Holocaust Denial and one of the subjects of the book was David Irving who took her and her publisher Penguin Books to court for libel. This left Lipstadt in a strange situation where she basically had to prove that the holocaust happened and why people would lie about it, as the burden of proof was on the defendant and not the plaintiff.
And with that premise, you can see why ‘Denial‘ is one of my most anticipated movies of 2017.
Hacksaw Ridge –
And here we find the last Oscar-contender for January 2017 in ‘Hacksaw Ridge‘. Coming from formally disgraced director/actor Mel Gibson we could be seeing a glorious comeback as this film is one of the most critically acclaimed of the Oscar-season. ‘Hacksaw Ridge‘ portrays the true story of Desmond T. Doss played here by Andrew Garfield (hello again!), a religious pacifist during World War 2 who signed up for the military but his beliefs prevented him from touching a gun, let alone firing one. However, when his Division was sent to Japan to fight, he was responsible for saving 75 of his fellow soldiers during the conflict as a combat medic.
It’s a great true story, but in the hands of a passionate filmmaker like Mel Gibson who also has a great prepencity for violence we could see the most violent anti-war movie in recent memory. The trailer looks very Oscar-baity but critics that I regularly follow and trust have been praising this movie to high-heaven and I’m excited to see this on the big-screen.
Whenever people ask me what my “least anticipated” movie is, I think it’s a bit of a flawed question. Because if I were to answer it accurately, the answer would be a film that I’m not even aware of the existence of. But I think it’s reasonable to interpret the question as “most dreaded”, a.k.a. the movie I really really do not want to watch but will probably have to. For months, that movie has been ‘Sing‘. As someone who hates TV talent shows (and having worked behind-the-scenes on them has further solidified my hatred for them) the premise seems tailored-made to annoy me, but the marketing has done nothing to alleviate my concerns.
A trailer where the main joke is “this is a song you recognise” and a world whose production design looks lazy next to something like ‘Zootropolis‘ as well as jokes that are directly stolen from other movies, ‘Sing‘ looks like a film I am really not going to enjoy. However, the reviews have been surprisingly good so I hope that the generic, terrible marketing was just going for a lowest-common denominator audience but after seeing the same animation studio make ‘The Secret Life of Pets‘ I will not be holding my breath.
T2 Trainspotting –
Sorry to end this preview on a boring note but I know almost nothing about ‘Trainspotting‘. I know that it was the breakout film for director Danny Boyle and for many of the original cast members (who are returning for this sequel 20 years later) but apart from that…nope. I have no idea what I’m talking about here so I’ll leave it at that.
So January 2017 is a pretty stacked month full of great Oscar-contenders and counter-programming for all ages. My most anticipated (in no particular order) are;
- ‘La La Land‘
- ‘Hacksaw Ridge‘
What are you all 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: 18th Jan 17