With the exception of Oscar-ish movies expanding their platforms (like Zero Dark Thirty and Promised Land), January is a graveyard in which movie studios bury their malformed movies, the mistakes they committed to making but are too embarrassed to show in the bright light of day. Good movies don’t come out in January, but sometimes there are so-bad-it’s-good gems buried among the carcasses of aborted summer blockbusters and disavowed homeless Oscar bait. Let’s get to it.
A Dark Truth
You ever notice that Forest Whitaker makes a lot of shitty movies? He was amazing in The Last King of Scotland, but he’s rapidly become a candidate for the Cuba Gooding, Jr./Nicolas Cage Oscar Revocation Program. This is another of his crappy movies, with political pretentions and no resonance. There’s a massacre, and a cover up, and shady government involvement and it looks especially cheap next to Zero Dark Thirty. It also stars Eva Longoria, which doesn’t help.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D
There’s an emerging genre of movie, the “totally unasked for remake/reboot” (see also: The Amazing Spider-Man), that seems to be cropping up more and more, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D is the horror entry into that genre. Does anyone give a shit about this?
Here’s a rule of thumb for horror movies—bad horror movies can come out at any time, but a horror movie in January or February is the worst of the worst. Even by the graveyard standards of these months, these are the absolute worst of the lot.
Originally planned as 2012 Oscar bait, Warner Brothers pulled this off their fall slate in the wake of the Aurora theater shooting over the summer, citing a need to reshoot a movie theater shooting scene in the movie. That’s very tactful, but then WB dropped it in January, which means regardless of the re-edit, Gangster Squad is not what they hoped it would be. If it was, they’d have held it until the 2013 award season, or at least slated it for summer, but a January date means—all together now—it’s crap.
It does, however, star Ryan Gosling, so I will be seeing it regardless.
A Haunted House
The only thing worse than a horror movie in January is a horror movie parody in January.
Stand Up Guys
This premiered at the Chicago Film Festival, and despite a stellar cast—Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin—it didn’t impress me. It’s about old con men reunited when one gets out of prison and there’s a built-in backstabby twist but it just kind of meanders along and none of the leads seem particularly invested. Netflix at best, definitely not worth a theater trip.
A UK horror import, I’ve heard nothing but scathing, utterly disdainful comments for this movie. There’s a plane crash, the military is somehow involved, a group of people become trapped—no one likes this movie. Which is why it’s been sent to January to die.
Struck by Lightning
Glee’s Chris Colfer wrote this film about a high school student who is struck by lightning and dies, then recounts how he blackmailed people. Reviews have been mixed, but Colfer’s efforts as a scripter were largely well received, putting him at the head of the “which Glee kid will actually have a future” race, and Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect, Bridesmaids) got a lot of stand-out notice for her largely improvised role. I might go for this one on demand just for Wilson.
Limited, on demand
Zero Dark Thirty
This is another bit of would-be Oscar bait that was kicked to the graveyard when it didn’t measure up. Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Kyle Chandler and Catherine Zeta-Jones (along with stolid character actors Berry Pepper and Jeffrey Wright) head the cast and Allen Hughes (one half of the Hughes Brothers, the filmmaking duo responsible for Menace II Society) directs. It doesn’t look outright terrible, just a rote political thriller, but the trailer seems to give away a pretty major plot point, so it feels like I’ve just seen the whole thing in two minutes. Netflix.
The Last Stand
This January, Arnold Schwarzenegger is…way too old for this shit.
Despite the benefit of Guillermo Del Toro’s stewardship and the presence of a goth-remixed Jessica Chastain, this is a horror movie in January. Tell me class, what does that mean?
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
This is really terrible. Part of the re-imagined fairy-tale trend, Hansel & Gretel is built on the decent premise of “whatever happened to those kids anyway?”. Starring Jeremy Renner at the tail-end of his recent action movie run, the ad campaign is basically, “You liked Hawkeye, right? Sure you did! You’ll like Steampunk Hawkeye, too!” With the right level of commitment, this could have worked quite well, but as it stands, the studio lost their balls and Hansel & Gretel is hilariously stupid.
However, if you, like me, have a high threshold of pain for so-bad-it’s-good movies, there is a good time to be had here. Keep your expectations low—it helps if you’re a fan of horror—and it’s possible to enjoy this as nothing more than a campy, trashy couple of hours. But seriously, keep those expectations low. Like, really, REALLY low.
John Dies at the End
I caught this at the Chicago Film Fest and I wanted to like it but I couldn’t quite get it together with cult god Don Coscarelli’s (Bubba Ho-Tep, Phantasm, The Beastmaster) newest movie about a couple of slackers trying to stave off an invasion (of the body-snatching kind). Parts of it work okay, a little bit works quite well, but mostly it’s just a mess. It’s a shame, too, because with a little more development, this could have been an Attack the Block level genre romp.
This looks horrible, but the concept behind the movie is intriguing enough to have me curious. Pretty much every actor in Hollywood participated in this at some point, including a lot of people you wouldn’t peg for a base comedy, like Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts, and it was shot over several years to accommodate all the conflicting schedules by a dozen different directors, including Elizabeth Banks (!!), James Gunn (Super), Peter Farrelly, and Bob Odenkirk. There isn’t a single plot but a series of loosely intersecting tales, each of which looks awful in its own way, but the fact that is movie even exists kind of impresses me enough to want to see it.
This January, Jason Statham is…Jason Statham, in A Jason Statham Movie.