At the time of going to press, two of the month’s (and indeed the year’s) biggest films had already been released. And, as many of you will no doubt have already seen both Birdman and The Theory Of Everything, neither of them will be included in this month’s movie roundup. But fear not dear readers, for there are still 19 other films we think you should be seeing at the cinema this January.
Of course, we are now right in the middle of the Awards season, meaning that many of the films released this month are the ones vying for attention from the Academy. There’s Bennet Millar’s Foxcatcher, Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash, and James Kent’s Testament Of Youth to name but a few. Check below for our first word on all three of these, and previews of many others.
All that’s left for us to say is Happy New Year to you all. 2014 was without doubt a great year for film. However, based on an initial glance at the slate, 2015 promises to be even better. So make sure you don’t get left behind, peruse our top picks below and then get yourself to the local cinema. Here’s to another fantastic year of film.
January’s Top Pick
Whiplash (Dir. Damien Chazelle) – Released Jan. 16th
Despite the wealth of impressive titles being released this month, there was only ever one choice for January’s top pick. Since it first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last year, Whiplash has gone on to astound and exhilarate many an audience and receive universal critical acclaim. It won both the Audience Award & the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, and was met with a lengthy standing ovation when it played at the London Film Festival.
Driven by award-winning performances from Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons, the film examines the relationship between Andrew, an aspiring jazz drummer, and his tyrannical tutor Fletcher. Fletcher is of the belief that through an unstoppable barrage of psychological pummelling, the next great musical prodigy will be discovered. Determined to prove himself to Fletcher and quench his own thirst for success, Andrew’s ambition soon turns into obsession and his confidence paves way to arrogance.
Chazelle, directing only his second feature film, conducts from the front with ear-shatter authority. Playing out as a psychological thriller, Whiplash pulses with a breathless beat from its first stanza. The wildly intense tempo, which reaches a mighty crescendo during the final minutes, leaves you in an exhausted but euphoric state. In a month that’s packed with must see movies, Whiplash is one that cannot be missed!
The battle for the Best Acting awards hots up this month. In the male category we have Steve Carrel leading the pack with his performance as John E. du Pont in true-life tale Foxcatcher (Jan. 9th). The film lifts the lid on the testing and eventually tragic relationship between eccentric millionaire du Pont and the Shultz brothers; champion wrestlers whom John sponsored. We first saw it back in October at the London Film Festival, and while it doesn’t quite deliver the smack down you’re hoping for, the performances and ending knock you for six.
Also garnering attention from the Academy is Bradley Cooper, who plays the titular character in Clint Eastwood’s biographical war epic American Sniper (Jan. 16th). The film, which tells the real life story of highly decorated Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, has been met with both criticism and commendation. However, many have applauded Cooper’s respectful performance, making an Oscar nomination inevitable.
Looking to revitalize her career after a lengthy slump, Reece Witherspoon is set to receive nominations aplenty for her performance in Jean-Marc Vallée’s Wild (Jan. 16th), where she plays a troubled woman who sets off on a 1100 mile solo hike following a personal tragedy. While a Bafta nomination should be all but guaranteed for Alicia Vikander, who plays Vera Brittain in the tragic WW1 memoir Testament of Youth (Jan. 16th). The film is a somber exemplification of loss that’s augmented with a great performance by Vikander, but it unfortunately suffers from a jejune script and poor supporting performance from Kit Harington.
Also in with a chance of Bafta recognition is up-and-coming British writer Alex Garland, who makes his directorial debut this month with Ex Machina (Jan. 23rd), a subversive sci-fi drama about a computer coder who inadvertently participates in an experiment involving a new brand of Artificial Intelligence.
Other films currently earning a lot of Oscar buzz include A Most Violent Year (Jan. 23rd), an atmospheric 80s-set crime drama from the impressively prolific J.C. Chandor that stars Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain, and which has already drawn aesthetic parallels with the likes of The Godfather and Goodfellas. Meanwhile, Mark Wahlberg is in with an outside chance of redemption following Transformers 4 as well as an acting nomination for his performance in Rupert Wyatt’s high-stakes thriller The Gambler (Jan. 23rd).
For those looking to get more bangs for their buck, Taken 3 (Jan. 8th) should have you covered. Liam Neeson once more returns to growl and brood onscreen as the skilful Bryan Mills in this (fingers crossed) final instalment of the now lumbering Luc Besson produced franchise. If you like your explosions even more mindless than that though, then to Matthew Vaughn you must turn as he finally releases his highly-anticipated homage to espionage Kingsman: The Secret Service (Jan. 29th).
Craving something more intense? Then make sure you track down Son Of A Gun (Jan. 30th), a forceful cat-and-mouse actioner from debut Aussie director Julius Avery that we saw and loved when it played at LFF.
Perhaps a less likely, although no doubt equally as worthy Awards contender is Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice (Jan. 30th), a comic crime caper that finds Joaquin Phoenix’s dishevelled detective Larry Sportello investigating the disappearance of his former girlfriend against the drug-fuelled backdrop of 70s Los Angeles. Equally as bamboozling, although perhaps less likely to win any awards, is Mortdecai (Jan. 23rd), which sees Johnny Depp once more playing a loveable rogue/fool in this eccentric tale about an arts dealer who is hunting for a stolen painting that could lead him to a stash of Nazi gold.
Best Of The Rest
There’s a succession of intriguing documentaries on release during the course of the month. There’s one of the hits from last year’s festival, Frederick Wiseman’s National Gallery (Jan. 9th), which takes the audience on a visually poetic tour through the walls of The National Gallery in London. Following on from the superb Night Will Fall, The Last Of The Unjust (Jan. 9th) carefully examines the origins of the Nazi’s Final Solution and the misinformation used by the Third Reich to mislead the Jewish community and indeed the world. And for fans of a certain cinematic genre, Beyond Clueless (Jan. 23rd) is a film you will not want to miss. Taking you on a journey through the mind, body and soul of the teen movie, director Charlie Lyne looks at over 200 contemporary coming-of-age classics and revels in one of the most engaging cinematic genres.
For the youngsters, there’s Big Hero 6 (Jan. 30th) to look forward to, as well as Into The Woods (Jan. 9th). The former is a futuristic sci-fi comedy in which a young boy and his plus-sized robot are forced to defend their city from a masked villain, while the latter is a live-action musical fairy-tale involving magical curses, evil witches, and handsome princes.
Finally for this month, if you find the chance then head over to the BFI Southbank, where there’s a host of special screenings and events to tempt and tantalize you. The most exciting prospect is the impending Marx Brothers season, which includes a special extended re-release of their wonderfully witty and sensationally slapstick masterpiece Duck Soup (Jan. 16th).