January Movie Guide

Vampires, Oscar hopefuls and Katherine Heigl all want your money this month. We'll tell you which movies are worth it.

William Bibbianiby William Bibbiani

 

At last, it’s a new year. What better way to celebrate than the month when Hollywood usually dumps out its biggest piles of garbage? Well, actually, let’s be fair. Things to don’t look too bad this January, with some re-releases and expanded Oscar contenders vying for your currency instead of some wretched thing with “Failed Comedy Actor #234” in a fat suit. Maybe January 2012 will be pretty good for movies. Maybe this is the year that Hollywood turns it all around. Maybe this is the year when my hair starts growing back. Yeah… All of those things are equally likely. Here’s your first look at all the latest movie releases for the upcoming month.

 

BENEATH THE DARKNESS

Starring: Dennis Quaid, Tony Oller and Aimee Teegarden

Directed by: Martin Guigui

Opening: January 6

A thriller about a group of teenagers who suspect their local mortician (Dennis Quaid) is actually a murderer. Naturally, nobody believes them, even after they’ve witnessed his crimes firsthand.

CraveOnline’s Call: Quaid looks like he’s having fun playing against type as an affable serial killer, but this film from the director of National Lampoon Presents Cattle Call looks extremely formulaic from its early trailers. It might be worth watching to see the usually stalwart star of The Rookie and Dragonheart cut loose, but we’re not counting on it.

 

THE DEVIL INSIDE

Starring: Fernanda Andrade, Simon Quarterman and Evan Helmuth

Directed by: William Brent Bell

Opening: January 6

A young woman travels to Vatican City to investigate a series of exorcisms, hoping t uncover the truth behind her own mother’s demonic possession.

CraveOnline’s Call: The director of the utterly ridiculous video game horror movie Stay Alive (“You die in the game… You die for real!”) has a much better premise to work with this time in the latest found-footage spook-fest. We like that this one’s a little more plot-oriented than most of its brethren, but unless it’s a total knockout – something the trailers don’t seem to suggest – it’s probably for genre enthusiasts only.

 

ROADIE

Starring: Ron Eldard, Bobby Cannavale, Jill Hennessy and Lois Smith

Directed by: Michael Cuesta

Opening: January 6

An ex-roadie for Blue Oyster Cult returns to his hometown to find an ailing mother and an old love interest now married to his longtime rival.

CraveOnline’s Call: It looks like yet another plotless character study, but this might be one of the good ones. Eldard is an unappreciated talent, Cuesta’s the director of the 2001 indie darling L.I.E., and advance reviews have been excellent. If you’re into this sort of thing, Roadie is probably your best choice for the weekend of January 6.

 

ALBATROSS

Starring: Jessica Brown Findlay, Felicity Jones, Sebastian Koch and Julia Ormond

Directed by: Niall MacCormick

Opening: January 13

A teenaged rebel (Jessica Brown Findlay) has an affair with her best friend’s father.

CraveOnline’s Call: The promise of sexiness aside, this indie drama doesn’t appear to have a lot going on beyond Dawson’s Creek-style melodrama. We don’t have much more to say about it, really, since the trailer just plays like a less-meaningful version of An Education.

 

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 3D

Starring: Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White, Jerry Orbach and Angela Lansbury

Directed by: Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise

Opening: November 22, 1991… Oh, and January 13

The first animated film ever nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards returns to theaters with a 3D conversion, thanks to the successful re-release of The Lion King in 2011.

CraveOnline’s Call: It’s a chick flick, but it’s a really, really good one. We have no desire whatsoever to see a 2D animated film in three-dimensions, but for a date movie, or at least something to take your kid sister to, Beauty and the Beast is a great bet this weekend. It’s considered a classic for a reason.

 

CONTRABAND

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Giovanni Ribisi, Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster, Lucas Hass and J.K. Simmons

Directed by: Baltazar Kormákur

Opening: January 13

A retired smuggler (Mark Wahlberg) returns for one last job when his little brother screws up a deal with a dangerous drug lord (Giovanni Ribisi).

CraveOnline’s Call: Oh, the “One Last Job” genre… We’ve seen you before, haven’t we? It’s a solid premise for a crime thriller, but without any twists and turns – none of which the trailer actually promises – there’s no reason to suspect this is anything more than B-movie pap. It might be competent B-movie pap, though.


 

THE IRON LADY

Starring: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent and Richard E. Grant

Directed by: Phyllida Lloyd

Opening: January 13 (wide release)

Meryl Streep goes for the Oscar – again – playing former United Kingdom Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, as her rise to power takes a personal toll.

CraveOnline’s Call: It’s become a cliché, but damn it, Meryl Streep is a great actor. We’re down just for her performance alone. Of course, if the idea of a British political drama puts you to sleep just thinking about it, you should probably leave this one alone. There’s always Contraband

 

JOYFUL NOISE

Starring: Queen Latifah, Dolly Parton, Keke Palmer, Courtney P. Vance and Kris Kristofferson

Directed by: Todd Graff

Opening: January 13

Two choir members (Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton) try to win a national competition by singing contemporary songs like “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney. They're maverick renegades!!!

CraveOnline’s Call: Oh… we think not. Todd Graff’s third film with basically this exact same plot looks just like Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit without any of the good parts. Yes, we’re sure it’s “sincere” and “life-affirming,” but here’s the thing: there’s this little show called Glee, and even when that show sucks it still looks more entertaining than this.

 

LOOSIES

Starring: Peter Facinelli, Jaimie Alexander, Michael Madsen, Vincent Gallo and Joe Pantoliano

Directed by: Michael Corrente

Opening: January 13

A carefree pickpocket (Peter Facinelli) reexamines his life after a one-night stand  (Jaimie Alexander) tells him she’s pregnant with his child.

CraveOnline’s Call: Twilight co-star Peter Facinelli wrote and starred in this cutesy criminal character piece that, despite a very strong cast (we really hope Jaimie Alexander’s going to be a big star), looks absolutely insufferable to us. We’re going to pass.

 

CORIOLANUS

Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Jessica Chastain, Brian Cox and Vanessa Redgrave

Directed by: Ralph Fiennes

Opening: January 20 (wide release)

Ralph Fiennes makes his directorial debut with this contemporary retelling of one of William Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays, about a Roman general struggling to reconcile the needs of the people with his own imperialistic nature.

CraveOnline’s Call: It looks pretty badass to us. Fiennes appears to have taken one of Shakespeare’s less-sacred texts and turned it into an action-packed political potboiler with a stellar cast. We’ll be first in line.

 

HAYWIRE

Starring: Gina Carrano, Ewan MacGregor, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender, Michael Angarano and Bill Paxton

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

Opening: January 20

A black ops agent (UFC superstar Gina Carrano) goes out for revenge when she’s framed for a mission gone bad.

CraveOnline’s Call: We’ve had the privilege of actually seeing this one already, so we can tell you firsthand that it kicks serious butt. Soderbergh doesn’t reinvent the action movie wheel here – all the clichés are in place – but he has a refreshing way of telling the same story and a thoroughly compelling star in Gina Carrano, who makes an excellent cinematic debut. See it.

 

RED TAILS

Starring: Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., David Oyelowo, Nate Parker, Ne-Yo and Bryan Cranston

Directed by: Anthony Hemingway

Opening: January 20

The based-on-a-true story of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, a segregated but celebrated group of African-American pilots in World War II.

CraveOnline’s Call: Ooh… this is a tough one. It promises good old-fashioned civil rights melodrama, a pretty strong cast and a string of what appear to be excellent dogfight sequences, but it also appears to be what we in the industry call “Flagrant Oscar Bait.” Or it would, if it wasn’t coming out in January, which implies that Fox has little confidence in the finished product. Another red flag: the participation of producer/writer George Lucas. He’s not directing, but with the exception of the first three Indiana Jones movies, that’s not usually a good sign either. Eh… we say pass, at least until the reviews come in.

 

UNDERWORLD AWAKENING

Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Stephen Rea and Charles Dance

Directed by: Mans Marlind and Björn Stein

Opening: January 20

The vampire Death Dealer Selene (Kate Beckinsale) returns after mankind discovers the existence of vampires and werewolves, declaring war on both supernatural species.

CraveOnline’s Call: The Underworld series has gotten steadily, if only slightly better since the first film, and this latest entry looks like it might continue in that tradition. The plot still looks razor thin, but the action looks fun and the story finally moves on the from the rabbit hole myth building of the first three entries. Plus, Len Wiseman isn’t directing again, which we consider a good sign. We’re hoping it’s good, clean, brainless fun.


 

ALBERT NOBBS

Starring: Glenn Close, Mia Wasikowska, Aaron Johnson, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Brendan Gleeson and Janet McTeer

Directed by: Rodrigo Garcia

Opening: January 27 (wide release)

Glenn Close plays a woman who’s pretended to be a man to survive in 19th century Ireland. After 30 years of keeping her secret, her secrets threaten to emerge.

CraveOnline’s Call: Glenn Close is getting some serious Oscar buzz for her performance, and to her credit she’s always great, but this appears to be a very understated drama with little to excite our interest beyond the promise of good performances. We say pass unless you’re trying to watch every potential Oscar nominee.

 

THE GREY

Starring: Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney and James Badge Dale

Directed by: Joe Carnahan

Opening: January 27

A team of Alaskan oil drillers must defend themselves from a pack of wolves after a plane crash strands them in the icy wilderness.

CraveOnline’s Call: Joe Carnahan takes a break from the over-the-top craziness of The A-Team and Smokin’ Aces with a survivalist thriller starring an exceptional leading man. We don’t expect Carnahan’s usual explosive thrills, but we still expect it to be pretty damned awesome.

 

MAN ON A LEDGE

Starring: Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Jamie Bell, Kyra Sedgwick, Edward Burns and Ed Harris

Directed by: Asger Leth

Opening: January 27

An ex-con (Sam Worthington) causes a media frenzy when he threatens to jump off a New York skyscraper. What the press doesn’t realize is that he’s actually creating a diversion for one of the biggest heists in history.

CraveOnline’s Call: A nifty concept, a great cast and a surprisingly pulse-pounding trailer have us all really excited for Man on a Ledge, the narrative debut of documentary filmmaker Asger Leth. It’s probably not going to be high art, but if what we’ve seen is any indication it could at least be 2012’s Inside Man, and that wouldn’t be bad at all.

 

ONE FOR THE MONEY

Starring: Katherine Heigl, Jason O’Mara, John Leguizamo and Debbie Reynolds

Directed by: Julie Anne Robinson

Opening: January 27

Stephanie Plum (Katherine Heigl) is a former Macy’s lingerie clerk who takes up bounty hunting to pay the bills, even though she’s a woman. Making matters worse, Plum’s latest mark is – surprise! – her own ex-boyfriend. Based on the popular series of novels by Janet Evanovich.

CraveOnline’s Call: Oh god no… Please, just… No. Have you seen the trailer for this? This looks like The Bounty Hunter but gender-switched, and just as bad. We haven’t read Evanovich’s novels, but we assume they have to be better than One for the Money looks. And besides, it’s the 21st century… aren’t we beyond the old “Woman in a Man’s Job” gimmick yet? Like, as a society?

 

RAMPART

Starring: Woody Harrelson, Ben Foster, Robin Wright, Steve Buscemi, Ice Cube, Anne Heche and Sigourney Weaver

Directed by: Oren Moverman

Opening: January 27

A dirty cop (Woody Harrelson) tries to survive a brutality charge in 1999 Los Angeles.

CraveOnline’s Call: After Oren Moverman’s first film, the superb drama The Messenger, we’d have been stoked to see anything he directed next on sheer principle. But Rampart looks like a great film in its own right, vital and thrilling. As a bonus, it’s co-written by famed crime writer James Ellroy (L.A. Confidential). Suffice it to say, it’s got “winner” written all over it.

 

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN

Starring: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly and Ezra Miller

Directed by: Lynne Ramsay

Opening: January 27 (wide release)

The story of a mother (Tilda Swinton) coming to grips with how her son (Ezra Miller) grew up to massacre his high school.

CraveOnline’s Call: Ahem… In case you haven’t noticed, we called We Need to Talk About Kevin “The Best Film of 2011.” Because it was. There is no excuse not to see this, the most powerful drama in years, featuring a truly incredible performance by Swinton, who deserves to be the Oscar frontrunner for her leading role but will probably have to settle for a nomination thanks to ingénue Michelle Williams. Damned shame, that. We Need to Talk About Kevin is the “Must See” movie of the month.

 

Disclaimer: Release dates, and our opinions, are subject to change.