With the gut-wrencher Shame, an uncomfortably funny Young Adult, Spielberg’s heart-string pullin’ War Horse, a high-flying Tintin adventure, the shining return of Cameron Crowe, the oversized popcorn blockbuster Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, the overlooked hilarity of Carnage, the pulpy thrills of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and the subdued near-masterpiece that is Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, last month was a pretty fantastic time at the movies.
Now we’re entering January. While this time of the year is usually a dumping ground — and we’ll be getting plenty of films of that low-caliber — there’s a surprising amount of films to check out this month, mainly the award-ready expanding releases.
Opens January 13th. Now on iTunes and VOD.
I haven’t seen much of Edward Burns’ directorial work, but after Newlyweds, I definitely plan on fixing that. Burns’ cheap as nickels indie — 9,000 bucks, to be exact — is so damn enjoyable. It takes a few minutes for the documentary/breaking the 4th wall approach to work, but once it does, the film begins to play as a solid dramedy with some strong performances and plenty of relatable awkward situations.
Opens January 13th.
Ralph Fiennes‘ first venture into filmmaking isn’t as badass or as silly as the first trailer sold it. Plus, if Coriolanus was all action, that’d be a bad thing, since the scarce gun battles are certainly not the film’s strong suit. Outside of the clunky action, the bombastic drama is excellent. Fiennes makes a good first-impression with a gritty take on Shakespeare, but it’s his powerful and loud performance as Coriolanus which stands out.
Opens January 27th.
I missed the chance of seeing Joe Carnahan‘s survival film last month, and it’s been bugging me ever since. Not only because of the glowing feedback out of the Butt-Numb-a-thon screening, but mainly because Joe Carnahan’s a director I follow with great interest and excitement. He’s capable of overblown fun, proven by The A-Team and the underappreciated darkness of Smokin’ Aces, but he can also deliver compelling drama, as shown by Narc. The Grey comes off as a mixture of both sensibilities.
We Need to Talk About Kevin
Opens January 13th.
By far the best horror film of 2011. Lynne Ramsay‘s heightened horror film is, out of only three pictures, her best effort yet. Movern Callar and Ratcatcher were very good, but We Need to Talk About Kevin is on another level. Ramsay’s adaptation isn’t meant to be taken literally, though. With the over-the-top nature of the flashback scenes, both tonally and stylistically, it’s not intended as realism. This is a dark, funny, and all around excellent film.
Opens January 27th.
See Oren Moverman‘s Rampart more than once, even if you come out hating it. Unlike The Messenger, the type of film one sees the greatness of right away, his follow-up takes time to work. At first, I admired Rampart, but not until my third viewing did I come to love it for its audacity, the main character’s symbolic messineness, and Woody Harrelson‘s intense and vulnerable performance. Moverman either twists or throws out all the dirty cop cliches we know and goes for something more existential and internally bleak, making Rampart something kind of special and one of my favorite films of 2011.
Opens January 20th.
Even if everyone who saw the film at AFI loathed it, Haywire would still remain at no. 1. It’s Steven Soderbergh, someone who could film a box for 2-hours and probably still make it exciting or interesting. Good thing the reviews out of AFI, such as our own Kate Erbland’s, haven’t squashed the excitement for Gina Carano’s big screen debut. Apparently it’s quite ass-kicking. With the cast Soderbergh has, he would almost have to go out of his way to make a weak movie.
Honorable Mentions: Red Tails (alone for the aerial sequences, not the cheesy-looking drama), Man on a Ledge (could be a cool B-thriller, which I’ve heard it is), Miss Bala (haven’t seen it, but all the reviews say it’s an excellent and dark thriller), and, no, I’m not going to make One for the Money an honorable mention.