The total number of January 2016 releases that I might be able to sit through without too much difficulty is…uhm, three. Okay, make it four. But really only two. I’m talking about (a) a pair of actioners about tough guys doing the rugged heroism thing, (b) what appears to be just another stupid, vulgar boner comedy, and (c) a troubled western that probably isn’t much good but you never know. Be optimistic.
The only 2016 commercial release that I damn well know will be good if not excellent in a droll, understated way and which I’m expecting to see next month (even though it won’t open until February 5th) is Joel and Ethan Coen‘s Hail Caesar!
The safest January bets are Michael Bay‘s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Bengahzi (Paramount, 1.15) and Craig Gillespie‘s The Finest Hours (Disney, 1.29). Neither will offer much in the way of thematic undercurrents, but at least they’re dealing with real-life events and will therefore need to deliver the goods in an “execution dependant” way.
I expect competency, at least, from Bay’s film, which is about that 9.11.12 mob attack upon an American compound in Benhgazi that resulted in the deaths of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith. Will Bay include a line or even a scene that points the finger at then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for not having done all she could to prevent this disaster? Seems doubtful. Bay is primarily a technician. He’s never come within 100 yards of political content in his previous films. He just wants to ride the smooth seas.
And then there’s Dan Mazer‘s Dirty Grandpa (Lionsgate, 1.22), which costars Zac Efron and Robert DeNiro and may, I suspect, turn out to be oddly likable. No predictions, just a hunch. Because DeNiro has lately been on a kind of roll.
I suppose we could stretch the list to four if we include Jane Got A Gun (Weinstein Co., 1.29), which has been floundering around for…what, three years now? The original director was Lynne Ramsay, who quit the shoot at the last minute and was soon after replaced by Gavin O’Connor. Pic was going to be released in August 2014 by Relativity, and then February 2015. And then Relativity went bust. I’m still figuring it might be something as Brian Duffield‘s original script was on the 2011 Black List.
The rest, in my mind, are throwaways:
Jason Zada‘s The Forest (Gramercy Pictures, 1.8), a horror film set in Japan’s Aokigahara Forest, an area at the northwest base of Mount Fuji where people go to commit suicide. I’m trying to think of a joke about Gus Van Sant‘s Forest of Trees, which was set in the same location and died a quick death after being screened at last May’s Cannes Film Festival.
Trevor Wall‘s Norm of the North (Lionsgate, 1.15). I don’t do animated family fare.
“J” Blakeson‘s The 5th Wave (Columbia, 1.22). Another futuristic sci-fi movie in the vein of Convergent and The Hunger Games, based on the Rick Yancey novel (which has a sequel called “The Infinite Sea“). Aimed, as usual, at younger filmgoers who just want that bizarre territorial YA mythology and are for the most part unencumbered by taste or quality standards. Not with a knife at my throat.
William Brent Bell‘s The Boy (STX, 1.22). More crap horror. Get outta here.
Kung Fu Panda 3 (20th Century Fox/DreamWorks Animation) — Go away.