The Ten Spot: Best January movie releases of all time
Despite the upcoming release of the rescheduled GANGSTER SQUAD, January is often consider the dumping ground for studio pictures that turned out poorly or no one know show to market. Usually this leads to a lot of Nicolas Cage movies, horror flicks, and really bad comedies. But, there have been quite a few surprising movies released in the coldest month of the year. Here are 10 of the best movies released during January. Feel free to add your opinion in the Talkback below!
In 1989, this movie was a box office bomb. But, I include it on this list because it was released in January and has gone on to be a home video cult classic. Christian Slater playing a punk skateboarder investigating his adopted brother's murder is ridiculously fun. Many professional skateboarders cite this movie as the reason they got into the sport. I look back on it as one of those late night cable movies that introduced me to profanity.
The most recent movie on this list is exactly what January movies should be. THE GREY looks like it is TAKEN in the forest, but it is so much more than that. A surprisingly deep and philosophical movie, it left many people disappointed in the sudden ending. But, THE GREY is the perfect example of the old writer's tip: show, don't tell. For those of you who skipped seeing this movie, check it out. It is still new enough that I won't ruin it for you, but trust me that you will like it.
Denzel Washington got into a funk for a while where every role was basically a variation of the same character in the same broad circumstances. My favorite of those is the 1998 movie FALLEN. Taking a typical police procedural and mixing in the supernatural provides a potent and well made horror movie. The evil entity that is able to pass from person to person gives the movie an eerie feeling that will never let you hear The Rolling Stones the same way again.
You may only remember the whipped cream bikini scene from VARSITY BLUES, but around it was also a pretty good football movie. We can thank the movie gods for Ali Larter, but we also were introduced to Amy Smart in this flick. James Van Der Beek was still Dawson despite his efforts to break the mold, but I will fondly remember this movie for Jon Voight's maliciously evil coach Bud Kilmer. Despite being released in 1999, VARSITY BLUES still holds up pretty well over a decade later.
January has always been home to a shitload of bad horror movies (THE RITE, THE DEVIL INSIDE) but every now and then a good one pops up. Back in 1988, people didn't know what to make of RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART II, but we now know it would be the template for comedy horror movies. Essentially a remake of the first movie, PART II takes great pleasure in not taking itself too seriously. It is content to just do the most grisly things to the living and the dead while the audience tries to decide whether they want to laugh or scream. No other movie in the franchise has been able to replicate the balance evident here in PART II.
Rebecca De Mornay scares me and gives me wood at the same time. That is not right. THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE is pure and unadulterated insanity. Basically taking FATAL ATTRACTION and adding childcare, this movie will make you think twice about anyone aside from a family member watching your kids. It was never going to win any Oscars, but that should never be the sole goal for a movie. This movie knows it is a fun thrill ride and delivers some truly great jumps. Watch out for Julianne Moore with a stereotypical 80s hairstyle!
Speaking of hot and scary, we have HAYWIRE. Gina Carano can kick my ass any time, especially if being directed by Steven Soderbergh. HAYWIRE is another movie that is better than it has any right to be, but revels in the genre it calls home. A fun action thriller with a star-studded cast, HAYWIRE is basically a resume for Carano's big screen career and a good jumping off point for that all girl action movie, THE EXPENDABELLES.
Like we get with SAW and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, every year there should be a January release featuring Liam Neeson acting like a badass and having to kill as many bad guys as possible. TAKEN, TAKEN 2, THE GREY, UNKNOWN, and the upcoming NON-STOP are all slight variations of the same Neeson Season formula. All we need is for that to become an annual event and January will be all the better for it.
JJ Abrams first super secret theatrical release was a brilliant marketing job. For months we all were left wondering what the hell CLOVERFIELD was going to be. In the end, the movie turned out to be pretty good even if it was damn near impossible to live up to the hype it built for itself. This movie goes to show you can do a hell of a lot with very little. What would have otherwise been a early/late summer monster movie ended up being a nice mid-winter treat.
Back in 1996, I begged my father to take me to see FROM DUSK TILL DAWN. Little did he know that his 14 year old son was tricking him into attending his first Quentin Tarantino movie in a theater. I love FROM DUSK TILL DAWN in many ways. It is also the tale of two movies. Like GRINDHOUSE, half of this flick is all Robert Rodriguez and the other half is all Tarantino. In the end, it is one hell of a fun time at the movies. I still would love to get the same tattoo Clooney has.