The force was strong in December as “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” smashed box-office records around the globe. The dust may not settle in space for some time but we’re already set to embark on a new year at the movies.
By Christopher O’Keeffe
While Christmas may have been spent in a galaxy far, far away, January brings us back down to earth for a month full of horror and historical dramas. Read ahead for our guide to your New Year’s viewing.
Bridge of Spies—Out January 8
There was a time when it wouldn’t have been possible for a new film from industry titans Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks to slip under the radar, but in a way it’s fitting that Cold War–era historical drama “Bridge of Spies” has done just that. This film may not have got the press but it has certainly earned the plaudits. The director and star, who collaborated in the past on “Saving Private Ryan,” “Catch Me If You Can” and The Terminal, return to tell a true story of espionage and heated negotiation in the 60s. Hanks plays lawyer James B. Donovan, a man tasked with representing Rudolph Abel, a possible KGB spy. Representing the enemy, and doing a better job at it than his superiors or the public would have liked, puts Donovan and his family under intense pressure. Later, when an American U-2 spy plane is shot down over the Soviet Union and its pilot is taken captive it’s up to Donovan to negotiate the exchange. Based on real events and from a script co-written by the Coen brothers, “Bridge of Spies” is a smart throwback to the tense, political Cold War movies of old.
The Walk—Out January 23
French high-wire artist Philippe Petit’s staggering walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 1974 has already been chronicled in award-winning 2008 documentary “Man on Wire.” Robert Zemeckis has now given the story the drama treatment, capturing Petit’s feat in heart-stopping 3D. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the diminutive Frenchman as he arrives in New York and assembles a team in order to accomplish his dream. The film has fun with the crime caper–like drama that precedes the main event but the film really soars once “The Walk” begins. Petit’s suicidal mission is staggeringly realized as the camera swoops and soars to capture the tiny walker trembling above the great city. Not one for sufferers of vertigo, this is a film where a 3D screening is highly recommended.
Crimson Peak—Out January 8
Guillermo del Toro has carved out a niche of his own as a master of deliciously dark fantasy. “Crimson Peak” is the director’s take on the gothic horror films of old; a deliciously macabre ghost story with the sumptuous visuals of a period drama. Mia Wasikowska stars as a young American author, Edith Cushing, who falls for a dashing and mysterious stranger, Tom Hiddleston’s Sir Thomas Sharpe. After marriage the pair move from the New World to the Old as they set off for Sharpe’s ancient family estate of Crimson Peak in a desolate corner of England. Thomas’s sister Lady Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain) is not the only sinister presence young Edith has to deal with inside the crumbling walls of the mansion; the estate is populated with gruesome apparitions and terrible secrets.
It Follows—Out January 8
One of the most talked-about horror movies of recent years and destined for cult-classic status, “It Follows” was one of 2015’s indie success stories. The film takes that old familiar horror cliché, sex is sinful, and gives it a post-modern twist to create a terrifyingly relatable tale for our time. College student Jay (Maika Monroe) has been dating Hugh, which inevitably leads to a fumble in the back seat of his car. After the event, Jay awakens to find she’s been tied to a chair as her lover proceeds to explain that he was being stalked by a demonic entity that is passed from person to person via sexual intercourse. Now the supernatural force is following Jay and there’s only one known way to get rid of it. “It Follows” is a slick and stylish affair that takes the best of classic horror and gives it a modern overhaul with an awesome 80s synth-inspired score.
Black Mass—Out January 30
Johnny Depp, whose late stage career seems almost entirely comprised of playing over-the-top characters while disguising himself under buckets of makeup, tones it down and gets serious for his latest role. Ditching the colorful costumes for a bald head, Depp has taken up the mantle of notorious Irish-American gangster James “Whitey” Bulger. As crime boss of South Boston’s Winter Hill Gang, Bulger was unchallenged in the area until Italian mobsters the Angiulo Brothers arrived on the scene. Bulger is given the chance to gain an upper hand over his competitors when the FBI ask him to turn informant—an alliance that will quickly spiral out of control. “Black Mass” charts the rise and fall of this infamous murderer and mobster. Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Dakota Johnson and Corey Stoll join Depp in the stellar cast in a film from “Crazy Heart” director Scott Cooper.
In the Heart of the Sea—Out January 16
Award-winning “Apollo 13” director Ron Howard returns to tell the true-life tale that inspired Herman Melville’s classic novel “Moby-Dick.” Setting sail in the year 1820, the New England ship Essex undertakes a voyage “In the Heart of the Sea” to catch whales and harvest them for oil. Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland and Ben Whishaw form the ship’s crew as they bond and bicker before an event which will alter the course of their lives forever. At the height of the expedition a whale of staggering size appears and destroys the ship, and after a mammoth battle against the planet’s mightiest mammal the survivors find that the fight for survival has only just begun. This period adventure pits man against an opponent of righteous size with a fearsome hunger for revenge that would eventually be turned into a story for the ages.
Best of the Rest:
Paddington — Charming family comedy with Ben Whishaw (“Q” in the Bond films) voicing Paddington, the little bear from deepest, darkest Peru who is found by the Brown family at a London train station. (January 15)
The Inerasable — Ai Hashimoto and Yuko Takeuchi play a student/author team investigating the series of unpleasant events that led to a curse hanging over an apartment building in this J-horror throwback. (January 30)
The Hallow – Dark fairytale in which a family move to the Irish countryside only to be tormented by an ancient presence lurking in the woods. (January 5)
Monsters: Dark Continent – Sequel to 2010 indie hit “Monsters” that increases the action quota to the detriment of the film’s drama. (January 9)
Nina Forever — Ben’s ex-girlfriend Nina, who died in a car crash months earlier, returns from the dead to sarcastically torment her former lover and his new girlfriend every time they have sex in this jet-black romantic comedy from the UK. (January 19)