Don’t get out to the movies as often as, say, a single 29-year-old manchild with an escapism complex? Well don’t fret, I’ve taken all of Hollywood’s shoddy offerings and narrowed them down to the three that won’t make your $20 movie ticket feel like a total waste. I call it Dustin’s Three to See because I am as creative as a kindergartner. As always I keep things as spoiler free as possible.
As any even casual observer of movie culture can tell you, January is a bad month for movies. Generally considered the graveyard of the release calendar, January is where bad movies go to die. After the holidays people usually have less in the budget for activities like moviegoing or tipping their bartender, and as a result, movies that are deemed not as good as movies like Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection end up here. Whether it’s rewrites, poor focus group results, or just an overall bad film…if you think of a movie as a toddler, January is the timeout-chair its sent to when it’s misbehaved.
That said, there were still a couple diamonds to be found in the rough of this January, and if you got an AMC giftcard for Christmas like I did, here are the January releases that are worth your while.
Movie 1) — Gangster Squad
Remember a second ago when I said how January is full of mediocre movies? Gangster Squad is not a good movie. However, it’s not a terrible movie, either. And against the rest of the January slate, that makes it…watchable. The awful tragedy in Aurora, Colorado last summer meant that Gangster Squad’s much-publicized scene where the gangsters shoot through a movie theater screen and into the audience instantly became extremely inappropriate, meaning that the newly-infamous scene and the ending of the movie both needed to be rewritten and reshot before the film could be released. Whether it was those drastic post-wrap changes or something else that made Gangster Squad only okay, we’ll never know. But if you like Ryan Gosling (and just a cursory glance at any social media suggests that you do…a lot), flapper-style Emma Stone, and some cool period-accurate visuals, Gangster Squad is worth a go…if only to whet your whistle for when The Great Gatsby comes out.
Movie 2) — Parker
Okay I’m gonna go full homer status here, no BS…this is also not a good movie. Jason Statham gives a one-note performance (which is honestly fine with me), J-Lo seems more like Jenny from the community college acting program than a bonafide leading lady, and the story is so lackluster that I’m not even going up to bother coming up with the second half of that simile. HOWEVER, my brother worked on this movie, which is incredibly cool, and that makes it worth a viewing — especially amongst the poor competition. Go into it expecting a Jason Statham movie that’s just so-so and you won’t be disappointed.
Movie 3) — Zero Dark Thirty
Just like Linus waiting in the pumpkin patch, sometimes the faithful are rewarded for their belief, and the diligent moviegoers’ reward for suffering through the January slate is Zero Dark Thirty. Director Kathryn Bigelow’s first major work since 2008’s The Hurt Locker (a movie I only thought was okay), Zero Dark Thirty takes the story of everything it took to finally bring Osama bin Laden to justice and tells it with a grace and care that is respectful to the gravity of the story, while still being compelling for the viewer. The acting is top-notch, the atmosphere feels gritty and real, and it doesn’t drag despite the almost three-hour runtime. It would be easy here to make a movie that was over hyped on itself and was too “U-S-A! U-S-A!” to be tasteful, but Bigelow avoided that and made a movie that forces you to consider all the different layers involved in something as complex as the planned capture/murder of a person, no matter how awful that person might be. We’ll see what the rest of 2013 has to offer, but Bigelow might be looking at another set of Oscar nominations with this one, and rightfully so.
So there you have it, movies by people who know movies for people who only kind of know movies. Dot com. Check back in late February/early March to see the next round of must-sees.
Honorable Mentions: Broken City, John Dies at the End, The Last Stand
PS Maybe you’re more of a watch-it-at home sort? Well check out my list of December’s hits, which should be making their way to DVD any day now.