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“The Assistant,” “The Rhythm Section,” And “Underwater”: Films To See In January

Welcome to 2020, ladies and gentlemen! We made it to a whole new decade. First of all, as always (and slightly belatedly) I want to wish every single one of you a very hearty and sincere Happy New Year. Hopefully you all had a fun and safe sendoff to the continued flaming dumpster fire that was 2019. Now, on to the business at hand. Faithful readers, I’ve said it over the past few years, right around this time, and I’ll say it once again today. There’s really no getting around the fact that this month is not one to get excited about at all, new release wise. Frankly, January is usually a real dumping ground for films. That’s undeniably true, but if you go and look hard enough, you can find some worthwhile titles hitting screens. This year is no exception, as 2020 has a couple of potentially real decent movies hitting in its first month. I can personally vouch for one that I’ve seen already, so there’s that. Your mileage may vary with these, but if you look hard enough, you’re sure to find a few things to enjoy. For sure, the still expanding 2019 titles are superior, but it’s not all about those. Without any further delay though, here are the first batch of 2018 titles that don’t appear to be wastes of time. Time will tell, at least…

Here now are ten January releases in particular to look forward to:

10. The Grudge – This remake has an interesting director at the helm, at least. Nicolas Pesce isn’t a generic for hire filmmaker, so it’s possible that he’s done something cool with the property. It’s not likely (especially with it opening in a day and no screenings even yet), but at this point in the year, hope springs eternal, right?

9. The Last Full Measure – War dramas tend to be more prestige flicks than early year dumping ground titles, so this one is either a cut above and getting a raw deal, or a notch below. The odds are about even for either result. We shall see before the month is out…

8. Three Christs – Among independent titles, this at least has an intriguing premise, along with a really solid cast. However, since it’s January, it’s also important to note that this first played at the Toronto International Film Festival all the way back in 2017. I’ll be reviewing it soon, so stay tuned there!

7. Doolittle – A potential dumpster fire in the making, curiosity (morbid curiosity) is high for this remake. The buzz so far is just terrible, but Robert Downey, Jr. seems like a fun choice for the title role, at least. I suppose I’ll find out soon, but in all truth, this could challenge Cats for the most maligned flick of the winter.

6. The Gentlemen – This Guy Ritchie crime flick does not have a promising release date. However, Ritchie going back to the genre that he’s so well known for has to at least make it a small scale cinematic event. Maybe it’ll surprise? If nothing else, maybe it’ll be dumb fun? Only one way to find out!

5. Bad Boys for Life – Martin Lawrence and Will Smith return in this long in the making sequel. This is probably years too late for anyone to really care, but if the pair can recapture the franchise’s sense of buddy cop fun, it’ll easily be a January highlight. The bar to clear here isn’t really that high, so we’ll see.

4. Zombi Child – I saw this movie at the New York Film Festival and found it rather hypnotic. It’s a really unique indie that’s no traditional zombie tale, so don’t go in expecting that. At the same time, the mix of the undead, coming of age school story, and voodoo turns into something one of a kind. Seek it out!

3. Underwater – Kristen Stewart faces an aquatic monster here. She’s not usually one to sign on to this sort of thing, so that has my interest. She’s never a boring actress, so whatever tickled her fancy here (presuming it’s not just the paycheck), makes it worth paying attention to. I’ll be seeing it in a few days, so sit tight for a review next week…

2. The Rhythm Section – The latest from director Reed Moreno is a revenge tale starring Blake Lively. That combination of talent once made it seem like a potential Oscar contender. Is it likely still one? No, but it’s still easily one of the early year highlights, and not just for me. It stands out as a potential first quarter crossover hit.

1. The Assistant – Going to the Sundance Film Festival before hitting theaters later on in the month, this indie drama impressed at the Telluride Film Festival last year. Maybe we have an awards player? The odds don’t favor it, but just going by the festival crowd buzz, the quality is there, so that’s a nice starting point, at least…

Honorable Mention: Beanpole, The Corrupted, Inherit the Viper, Like a Boss, The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson, VHYes, and The Wave

Be sure to check these films out as the month of January rolls on!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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