Yes, we know: January has a reputation for being a dumping ground for films that smell a little iffy from a distance — witness this year’s Jan. titles Dolittle and Like a Boss. But it’s also the month when most of the world gets a first look at prestige films that previously only played in big cities (see: Les Miserables, the cop procedural that’s France’s Oscar submission for Best Foreign-Language Film), some intriguing stuff from the indie-movie sector (The Assistant, Color Out of Space) and a few studio projects that could be pulpy, outta-left-field gems (possibly The Rhythm Section). All this, plus Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, together again. Here are the 10 movies coming to a theater near you this month that you’ll want to keep an eye out for.
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The Assistant (Jan. 31)
Julia Garner (Ozark) is an entry-level production company employee who slowly becomes aware of shady goings-on while working for a never-seen showbiz industry bigwig. Any resemblance to real-life toxic males in power are etc., etc. Co-starring Succession‘s Matthew Macfayden, the film stirred a strong response when it premiered at the Telluride Film Festival last fall. And it’s a bit of an odd coincidence that director Kitty Green’s follow-up to her wonderfully meta-doc Casting JonBenet hits theaters the same month as disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein faces criminal rape charges.
Bad Boys For Life (Jan. 17)
Michael Bay’s 1995 buddy-cop action movie helped Will Smith evolve into a full-on movie star. That was a long time ago, however. This new sequel, following 2003’s Bad Boys II, reunites Smith with co-star Martin Lawrence as their now-retirement-age characters match wits with a cartel boss. The duo of Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (Black) take the reins from Bay. Will this mean tamer explosions and a less frenetic approach to editing? We’re about to find out.
Citizen K (Jan. 15)
For his latest documentary, the prolific Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) attempts to untangle the life of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a Russian oligarch-turned-exile who rose to power in the anything-goes days after the fall of communism. Then he made an enemy of a man named Vladimir Putin, which … let’s say things got complicated. The coup here is that Gibney managed to land an elusive interview subject: Khodorkovsky himself.
Color Out of Space (Jan. 24)
The term “dream team” gets thrown around pretty casually, but consider this: Color Out of Space brings together cult director Richard Stanley (Hardware) and star Nicolas Cage in an adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft story about a farmer driven mad when a meteorite crashes on his property. This is Stanley’s first non-documentary feature since his ill-fated attempt to direct The Island of Dr. Moreau in the mid-’90s — and his comeback delighted festival audiences who saw it last fall.
The Gentlemen (Jan. 24)
The past decade has seen Guy Ritchie helming a Sherlock Holmes sequel, the slept-on The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the would be franchise-starter King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and the live-action remake of Aladdin. His new film, however, looks to bring him back to his roots via a laddish, quippy, star-packed crime thriller featuring everyone from Matthew McConaughey to Henry Golding to Hugh Grant. Consider this his official return to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels territory. All it’s missing is Jason Statham.
The Grudge (Jan. 3)
Cast your mind back to the long-ago days of the early ’00s, when Hollywood studios became fixated in remaking the wave of innovative Japanese horror films that started to emerge, not unlike a creepy girl climbing out of a well or your TV screen, at the end of the 20th century. The Americanized remake of The Grudge did better than most, spawning two sequels — and this new entry, which is partially a next-gen reboot of the series, partially a sidequel set within the original Grudge continuity and totally creepy. Director Nicolas Pesce (The Eyes of My Mother) drops Andrea Riseborough’s new-to-town cop into the middle of an infectious curse. You can guess what happens next.
Les Miserables (Jan. 10)
A French police procedural with more than crime and punishment on its mind, director Ladj Ly’s feature debut follows a cop (Damien Bonnard) who quickly finds himself in over his head when he joins an a street-crime unit charged with keeping the peace in the volatile, diverse Montfermeil township in the Paris suburbs. Bringing tensions to a head: a stolen lion cub, of all things. Widely acclaimed in France (and during its awards-qualifying U.S. run this past November), it’s the country’s Academy Awards submission for Best Foreign-Language Film.
The Rhythm Section (Jan. 31)
Blake Lively plays a woman whose life has been turned upside down by the plane crash killed her family — a flight she was meant to be on. Except there may be more going on here than just an innocent “accident,” which means [checks genre playbook] elaborate, violent revenge. Directed by Reed Morano (I Think We’re Alone Now), the intriguing-looking thriller co-stars Jude Law and Sterling K. Brown and was produced in part by EON Productions, the company behind the James Bond series.
The Turning (Jan. 24)
Stop us if this sounds familiar: A nanny takes a job caring for a pair of orphans in a creepy house. Supernatural goings-on follow. Directed by Floria Sigismondi, this new horror movie attempts to put a fresh twist on Henry James enigmatic ghost story The Turn of the Screw. Whether this new Steven Spielberg-produced version can escape the shadow of the legion of supernatural thrillers that have used the novella as as a starting point (see: The Innocents) remains to be seen, but it does feature an impressive cast that includes MacKenzie Davis, Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) and Brooklynn Prince (The Florida Project).
Underwater (Jan. 10)
If nothing else, this deep sea thriller features what may be the year’s oddest cast. Playing researchers who encounter unexpected hostile creatures after traveling to the bottom of the ocean, Kristen Stewart and Vincent Cassel share above-the-title credits with T.J. Miller (you can already tell that this was filmed several years ago). Movies that sit on the shelf as long as this one rarely age well, but in the low-stakes, cheap thrills-friendly world of January that might not matter.
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