The movie choices for January are a far cry from the December movie marathon. As of now, it’s slim pickens for the first month of 2014. We scoured the Internet, searched high and low, low, low and finally found a few worthy of mention. Don’t blame us that some are merely meh.
“Cold Comes the Night” is a violent and gory crime thriller noir that keeps you guessing. Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”) plays Topo, a thick-accented Polish career criminal. After many hours on the road Topo’s driver spots and flirts with a hooker then convinces Topo to stop at the nearby motel. Chloe (Alice Eve) is the hotel manager who has hit a crisis in her life. Social services has threatened to take her daughter and Chloe is in no mood to be messed with. Topo abducts Chloe to force her to help him retrieve missing money from a sleazy cop, Logan Marshall-Green. Okay, so it’s B-movie-ish but it’s got enough of the right stuff to work and it packs a powerful ending. Tze Chun directs. Rated R. 90 minutes.
There’s a title that’ll tweak your franchise alert. No, wait — sudden title change. Now it will be called “The Legend of Hercules.” Whatever. It’s “Gladiator” meets “300” and it’s beefcake galore. Ooh baby. Kellan Lutz plays Hercules. Need I say more? Renny Harlin directs (“Die Hard 2”). Action adventure. See it in 3D or 2D. Rated PG-13.
Troubled girl Emanuel (Kaya Scodelario) becomes obsessed with her new neighbor (Jessica Biel) because she looks like Emanuel’s mother who died in childbirth. Emanuel begins babysitting her neighbor’s newborn. “Single White Female”-ish but with a different setup. Francesca Gregorini wrote the screenplay and directs. The film won Official Selection at Sundance and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize. The cast includes Alfred Molina and Frances O’Connor. Rooney Mara is co-producer. Drama, thriller. Rated R. 96 minutes.
Based on characters created by Tom Clancy, Kenneth Branagh directs and stars. An injured Marine (Chris Pine) is recruited by a CIA veteran (Kevin Costner). The two are pitted against a Russian business magnate played by Branagh. Keira Knightley looks ravishing as always and plays the Marine’s love interest. It’s not deep and it’s nothing new, but the cast and high-production value make it fun to watch. Action, drama, thriller. Rated PG. 105 minutes.
Based on the true story of James Burns (newcomer Spencer Lofranco) who went from a troubled teen gang member to a convict in a maximum-security prison. Through an unlikely friendship with a fellow inmate, a murderer (Ving Rhames), James learns how to change for the better. The cast includes Mary-Louise Parker, James Woods and Taissa Farmiga (“Higher Ground”). This is Trevor White’s feature directorial debut. He also co-wrote the script with Lane Shadgett. Crime drama. Rated R. 109 minutes.
A major shipment of drugs goes missing on the U.S. and Canadian border. A former Navy SEAL (Tom Everett Scott) is forced to help the drug cartel retrieve the missing goods. Directed by Peter Hyams. Written by Eric and James Bromberg. Costars Orlando Jones (“Sleepy Hollow” TV series) and Jean-Claude Van Damme. It’s nothing new but entertaining, especially for Van Damme fans. Action thriller. Rated R. 85 minutes.
Based on a true story, 16-year-old Agnes “Apple” Bailey (Vanessa Hudgens) can’t take living with her abusive mother (Rosario Dawson) and sets out to find her biological father (Brendan Fraser). Mom is an addict but also a prostitute. Dad, a Wall Street businessman, doesn’t want her. Then the desperate teen finds out she’s pregnant. Apple ends up in a suburban shelter for homeless teens where she finally finds hope. OK, so it’s cliché, but Hudgens does a surprisingly good job. Dawson and Fraser do fine, and James Earl Jones adds gravitas. Drama. 98 minutes. Rated PG-13.
Amid gargoyles and demons, Victor Frankenstein’s creation, Adam (Aaron Eckhart), finds himself in a supernatural blitzkrieg. The cast includes Bill Nighy and “Dexter” fans in mourning will be reunited with his homicidal love, Yvonne Strahovski. Action, fantasy, sci-fi, thriller in 2D, 3D and IMAX. Rated PG-13. 93 minutes.
This one may appeal to adolescents and young — very young — adults. The main excitement is Zac Efron’s abs in his shirtless scenes — they are ogle-worthy. Efron, Michael B. Jordan (“Fruitvale Station”) and Miles Teller (“Footloose”) play three best friends who vow to stay single in NYC. It’s a rom-com (my least favorite genre). And it’s not rated PG, so use your imagination to figure out what that means. Disclaimer: watch the trailer first before deciding if this one’s too brainless for you. These kind of movies amuse some and make others feel like a screwdriver has been jammed in their ear. Romantic comedy. Rated R. 100 minutes.
This one looks like a winner. Depressed and agoraphobic single mother Adele (Kate Winslet) lives with her helpful son Henry (Gattlin Griffith). Henry meets Frank (Josh Brolin), an escaped convict in need of medical attention. Henry asks his mom if they can give him a ride — not knowing he’s wanted by the law. Things do not go smoothly, but Adele and Frank fall in love, under impossible circumstances. It’s an engaging romantic drama directed by Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air,” “Young Adult,” “Juno”) who also wrote the screenplay, which is based on the novel by Joyce Maynard. The cast includes Tobey Maguire and James Van Der Beek. Drama. Rated PG-13. 111 minutes.