By Kristen Lopez | The Playlist January 2, 2014 at 12:06PM
“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”
Synopsis: Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) is a CIA operative tasked with uncovering and subduing a financial terrorist plot.
What You Need to Know: Tom Clancy’s most popular character, CIA agent Jack Ryan, has seen four major big-screen adaptations with three separate actors playing Ryan, pre-Chris Pine. The early '90s saw Alec Baldwin originate the role in “The Hunt for Red October,” eventually segueing into Harrison Ford being the first, and only actor, to play Ryan twice (in 1992’s “Patriot Games” and 1994’s “Clear and Present Danger”). The Ryan character took a break for almost a decade until 2004 when Ben Affleck, in the midst of a downward spiral of subpar characters, played Ryan in “The Sum of All Fears.” After that, the series was in flux with many wondering if Affleck would continue in the role, or if someone new would start the series fresh. In 2009 the script for “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” started floating around under the title “Dubai.” The original plot remains, despite several screenwriters cannibalizing and changing the material into what its finished form is now. The movie was originally meant for a Christmas Day release, but after “The Wolf of Wall Street” raced to make a 2013 debut, Paramount shoved aside 'Jack Ryan' to give the release date to Scorsese’s latest. Regardless, the trailer hearkens back to an earlier mentality in action films, and Ryan is a character who deserves a continued franchise.
Release Date: January 17th
“Like Father, Like Son”
Synopsis: The story of a family coping with the knowledge that the son they’ve raised since birth is not their son and was accidentally switched at birth.
What You Need to Know: January is the month of the anti-Oscar with this being, yes, another film failing to make the Foreign Language shortlist. It isn’t a slight against the film’s quality because our own Kevin Jagernauth fell in love with this “charming study” of parenthood. He gave the film an “A” during its Cannes run, and the film’s touching exploration of parenthood and the relationship between parents and their children continues to warm audiences’ hearts. DreamWorks apparently sees additional potential as they’ve announced plans for an American remake of the picture. Nothing’s known on director or screenwriter, but fingers crossed it doesn’t end up being another “Oldboy”-esque disappointment. The original film is partnered up with Sundance Selects, who is giving this a limited release mid-month with the hopes of further expansion throughout the year.
Release Date: January 17th in limited release
Synopsis: Before Ben (Kevin Hart) can marry the woman of his dreams, he must go on a “ride along” with her overprotective detective brother, James (Ice Cube) to prove his worthiness.
What You Need to Know: No one’s expecting “Ride Along” to garner awards or end up on 2014’s Best of the Year list, but for such a dismal month, a little levity is needed. Kevin Hart will inundate theaters this month and next with his movies, and “Ride Along” appears to be one of the better options out there. The trailers have certainly hyped up the camaraderie between Hart and Cube and Universal must have seen something because they started working on a sequel back in April. That’s April of 2013! Whether this ends up being a comedic surprise or a total disaster, expect the movie to get a fair amount of audience members, and a sequel if the numbers add up in its favor.
Release Date: January 17th
Synopsis: A convict (Josh Brolin) kidnaps a mother (Kate Winslet) and her young son over the Labor Day weekend. As the trio are holed up, a relationship develops between the felon and young mother which could change everything.
What You Need to Know: Joyce Maynard’s novel has a difficult premise to overcome, especially considering the audience has to buy the relationship between a murderer and a young mother without it coming off as Stockholm syndrome. Thankfully, the leads are Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, so audiences shouldn’t have such a difficult time. The movie won’t see wide release till the month’s end, but its limited run has resulted in a Golden Globe nomination for Winslet, and some critics are calling it director Jason Reitman’s most accomplished effort. Unfortunately, much like the premise, the movie is divisive. Chris Willman saw it during the Telluride Film Festival in August and failed to witness the same sentiment as others, giving it a “C” for its soapy melodramatic premise hewing “far closer to Nicholas Sparks’ brand of contrivance.” With romances slowly ramping up in time for Valentine’s Day, women will definitely be checking this out, with the added benefit of Oscar potential.
Release Date: January 31st
Synopsis: A documentary exploring how 17th-century Dutch painter, Johannes Vermeer was able to create paintings with near photographic authenticity before the invention of the camera.
What You Need to Know: Here’s one which has made the Oscar shortlist for the documentary category, placing it against heavy-hitters like “The Act of Killing” and “Stories We Tell.” It might be hard to figure where the fun is in the story of a documentarian theorizing how a 17th-century painter created his most iconic works, but critics have fallen in love with “Tim’s Vermeer.” The film has gone on to garner several smaller awards on its road to the Oscars, most recently being one of the runners-ups for the BMO Allan King Documentary Award from the Toronto Critics Association. Documentaries get the smallest release windows so if it’s headed to your town, definitely make a point of seeing it!
Release Date: January 31st in limited release