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10 Films To See In January

by Kristen Lopez
January 2, 2014 12:06 PM
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January is perceived to be a flat-out, no-good month to release a movie. Usually considered the dumping ground for films which would be killed opening up any other time—no disrespect—but if your movie’s being released this month, it will be approached with a greater sense of wariness. However, it's not all bad, as the post Christmas/New Year’s malaise not only sees Oscar and awards season contenders expand from limited to wide release, savvy distributors find pockets to release adult, intelligent fare into a marketplace that desperately needs it. So in case you thought January was a lost cause, here are ten movies to see this month, including two that opened in limited release in December but are getting a second tribute in honor of their wide releases.

Synopsis: A writer (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with a computer operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) that, in turn, becomes more aware of the world.
What You Need to Know: “Her” appeared on last month’s 12 Movies to See in December, but if you didn’t live in New York or L.A., you weren’t able to see it. Spike Jonze is a director known for his wildly inventive films and after his 2009 adaptation of “Where the Wild Things Are,” the director took a break to focus on shorts and documentaries. By 2012, he returned to the feature format and filmed “Her,” a romance about a Siri-like computer program’s relationship with a mild-mannered writer. Cut to this season’s award calendar where “Her” is taking the world by storm. Our own Rodrigo Perez gave the movie an “A-” for its “disarmingly funny” examination of love and loneliness when it closed the New York Film Festival. There have even been questions of whether Johansson would see a Best Actress nomination for her vocal work, although the Golden Globes have deemed her ineligible. “Her” is sure to hit a sweet spot for Jonze aficionados, as well as the art-house crowd with the buzz possibly infecting mainstream audiences too.
Release Date: January 10th

Lone Survivor
Synopsis: Based on a true story, “Lone Survivor” follows four Navy SEALs on a covert mission, finding themselves isolated and outnumbered in the mountains of Afghanistan.
What You Need to Know: Another wide release in January, “Lone Survivor” continues to be touted as a serious awards contender. The movie is directed by Peter Berg (“Battleship”) and starring Mark Wahlberg, and despite Charlie Schmidlin’s tepid response to it at AFI Fest—he gave it a “B,“ dinging Berg for never taking the story beyond “bravery and sacrifice”—it’s the outlier with mountains of praise being heaped on it from other outlets. If the word of mouth stays strong fans will take a chance on it.
Release Date: January 10th

The Rocket
Synopsis: A young boy, believed to bring bad luck, takes his family and friends on a journey to find a new home.
What You Need to Know: Australian director Kim Mordaunt’s latest film is slowly earning an outspoken slew of followers, despite the film failing to make the Foreign Language shortlist for this year’s Academy Awards. Our own Rodrigo Perez loved the film when it showed at Tribeca, giving it an “A-.” In his review he mentions the movie’s ability to be “endearing, gripping, and heartwarming,” calling it a crowd pleaser. Mordaunt is generally regarded for his documentary films, but based on the reception to "The Rocket," narrative filmmaking should be the director’s new territory.
Release Date: January 10th in New York; January 17th in Los Angeles

Big Bad Wolves
Synopsis: A series of brutal murders force three men to come into contact with each other: the victim’s father seeking revenge, a vigilante police detective, and the main suspect.
What You Need to Know: This gritty crime thriller didn’t make the Oscar shortlist for Foreign Language either, but similar to “The Rocket, “ it’s garnering exorbitant amounts of praise. At Tribeca, Drew Taylor gave “Big Bad Wolves” an “A” grade, calling it a “deeply brilliant” tale of revenge. The hype is so pervasive director Quentin Tarantino called the movie the best film of the year at the Busan International Film Festival in October. Magnet Releasing has U.S. distribution and with a limited release run, it’s hoped the lack of competition this month will get a wider swath of audiences out to see it.
Release Date: January 17th in limited release

Synopsis: Gloria (Paulina Garcia) isn’t a young girl anymore but still feels youthful in her heart. She spends her evenings in dance clubs for single adults where she meets Rodolfo (Sergio Hernandez), a man who changes her outlook on life.
What You Need to Know: It sounds repetitive, but January really is the month for foreign films. With a smaller, and less than exemplary, lineup of major Hollywood releases, foreign cinema thrives in expanded release. “Gloria,” like “The Rocket,” failed to make the foreign language shortlist for the Oscars, a snub many are still questioning. It’s a shame, considering Jessica Kiang gave the film an “A-” during its showing at the Berlin Film Festival. This entry from Chile is superb, with Kiang’s review heaping accolades on everything from the acting, to the directing, and screenplay. With such a lackluster slew of blockbusters, one should definitely make time to check out “Gloria.”
Release Date: January 17th in limited release

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  • fearandloathinginalanvega | January 4, 2014 5:42 PMReply

    January is the ceremonial dumping grounds for studio movies so I'm imagining there is little hope for movies like "Ride Along" (remember similar January releases like "Double Take (2001)," "National Security (2003)," "Cop Out (2010)", etc.?). Also, "Labor Day" looks awful.

    I'm holding out for "Jack Ryan" and "I, Frankenstein" though, despite my better judgment :)

  • NewYorker | January 3, 2014 7:53 PMReply

    10 movies of january im looking forward for are
    1-Ride Along
    2-That Awkward Moment
    3-Gimme Shelter(with Vanessa Hudgens, Brendan Fraser & Darth Vader aka James Earle Jones)
    4-Dumbbells(which stars Tom Arnold, Fabio & Steve Urkel himself Jaleel White)
    5-Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
    6-Back In The Day(with Michael Rosenbaum & Nick Swardson)
    7-The Nut Job
    8-G.B.F.(an indie film with Sasha Pieterse, Harry Potter's Evanna Lynch & Jojo)
    9-Labor Day
    10-I, Frankenstein

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