Must-See Movies: January
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With 2015 having well and truly wrecked every box-office record in sight, 2016 has a lot to live up to, but January is certainly a good place to start.
As usual, the New Year finally brings plenty of the awards-season favourites to the UK, but also plenty of other random treats if you can't quite take any more moving dramas or political satires.
Be warned though, this month it's a heavy haul, so make sure that wallet/purse is well-stocked: there's a whole load of excitement and adventure you really won't want to miss on the big screen.
The Danish Girl (1st January)
Kicking things off in classic awards-baity fashion is a thoughtful drama from previous Oscar-winner Tom Hooper (otherwise known as the guy who robbed David Fincher of the top award back in 2011) about one of the world's first gender-reassignment surgeries. Starring last year's academy favourite Eddie Redmayne and arguably 2015's most talked-about actress Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl has already had a whole load of buzz surrounding it - you can find our opinion on the whole thing here.
Joy (1st January)
Keeping that awards train rolling on through for another year, David O. Russell returns looking to finally nab one of the big gongs that he seems to always just miss out on (well, was American Hustle really worth all that fuss?). As expected, he's dragged world-beater Jennifer Lawrence back for a third feature in a row, this time casting the fan-favourite as fierce businesswoman Joy Mangano, inventor of the ‘Miracle Mop’. Yeah, we don't know either. Still, trailers seem promising and Lawrence is always a joy to watch - no pun intended.
Yakuza Apocalypse (6th January)
Taking a slight detour from the emotional dramas for some much-needed Japanese vampire gangster action, January also sees the limited release of Takashi Miike's latest film. Having turned many a stomach with some of his previous efforts (give Audition a watch if you're feeling brave), the insanely prolific Miike returns this time with a riotously over the top action farce about a bloodsucking yakuza crime boss. Yep, you read that right. Miike remains as mental as ever.
The Hateful Eight (8th January)
This one needs no real introduction: legendary gore-fiend and cinematic fanboy Quentin Tarantino makes his mark with another western, largely set in one location with (shock horror) eight characters. Featuring the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell and Channing Tatum, this is sure to be a big hitter; there's even a couple of exclusive, extended 70mm presentations of the film being shown at a few locations around the UK too. Keep an eye out for where and when.
Creed (15th January)
The surprise contender in the heavyweight awards battle this year is Ryan Coogler's Rocky spin-off, charting the rise of Apollo Creed's son in the ol' boxing game, as played by the exceptionally talented Michael B. Jordan. But it's oddly enough not Jordan who's received the brunt of the attention, it's actually the veteran Sylvester Stallone, returning as Rocky Balboa for a seventh time to become the outside favourite for Best Supporting Actor. Oh, and apparently the film's pretty ace too - just check out that crazy Rotten Tomatoes score. Another simple Rocky sequel this ain't.
Dragon Blade (15th January)
More oddly timed excitement from the Far East now, this time from China and the historical war epic Dragon Blade. It's been milling around for a few years now, but this huge scale action drama stars none other than the bizarre trio of Jackie Chan, Adrien Brody and John Cusack. Have a look at the trailer and judge for yourself: it looks positively bonkers.
The Revenant (15th January)
Has Leonardo DiCaprio's time finally come? Will he finally shake off all other contenders and grab that Best Actor Oscar? Only time will tell, but Alejandro G. Inarritu's The Revenant looks to be his best shot to date. Starring as a fur trapper hell bent on revenge after being mauled by a grizzly bear, Leo put himself through one of the most gruelling shoots of his career in the American wilderness. Word on the street though, is that it was totally worth it. Look out for Emmanuel Lubezski's stunning cinematography too (shot entirely with only natural light) which may well earn him a third Oscar in a row.
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Room (15th January)
There's not much to say about Lenny Abrahamson's stunning kidnap drama Room other than simply: see it as soon as you can. If not for the premise then for Brie Larson's insanely moving performance. You can read more in our five-star review from the London Film Festival here.
The 5th Wave (22nd January)
On a more blockbustery note, Chloe Moretz stars in this alien invasion thriller which turned a decent amount of heads with its trailer. The more important factor here though is its director - J. Blakeson - who's finally making the jump to big budget filmmaking after his beautifully twisted British thriller The Disappearance of Alice Creed debuted to much acclaim back in 2008. If this is anything like that, it'll certainly be worth keeping an eye on.
The Big Short (22nd January)
Currently doing big business in the US, Adam 'Anchorman' McKay's star-studded take on the 2008 financial crisis has been making awards waves too, with a number of Golden Globe nominations already in its pocket. Even if the economics doesn't sound too appealing, maybe the expansive cast of Christian Bale, Steve Carrell, Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling will?
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (29th January)
This one's been quietly bubbling away in the background for some time, dropping a trailer last year without much critical notice, so you'd be surprised to find that 13 Hours is in fact the latest venture from none other than Michael Bay. Yep, the Transformers guy. Except this is a little more serious and describes itself as a "political thriller". You heard that right: "political". The man who gave us arguably the most aggressively stupid films ever made is giving politics a go. Surely this is a must-see, even just for intrigue sake alone? The trailer still has plenty of action, and Jim from The Office to keep you entertained too I guess.
Dirty Grandpa (29th January)
Robert DeNiro, one of the greatest and most legendary actors of his generation, takes on arguably his toughest role to date: the sex-craved, foul-mouthed grandfather of Zac Efron. Scorsese and Coppola have nothing on this shit. Who cares about carefully assembled, nuanced war veterans losing their grip on reality when you can just make fart jokes and sleep with Aubrey Plaza instead? Oh, Bob.
Spotlight (29th January)
Last but far, far, far from least is Tom McCarthy's heavily-acclaimed journalist drama Spotlight, the story of the Boston press team who broke one of the first stories about sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. Headed up by industry veteran Michael Keaton and carried through by the likes of Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams (to name just a few), McCarthy's film is one of the firm favourites to nab Best Picture this year. If you want to know why, you'll have to wait until the very end of January but rest assured, we have plenty of reason to believe the hype.