Welcome to January at the movies, a mixture of reliably terrible new releases that studios didn’t want to waste prime fall and holiday slots on, along with prestige movies that only saw release in “select cities” before the end of the (Oscar qualifying) year finally making their way out to the rest of the country. It makes for some pretty sketchy movie-going; this week’s sole new wide release, The Forest, is getting exactly the kind of reviews you expect for a January horror movie. But two December awards hopefuls are creeping out into the rest of the country, and there’s some action at the art-house as well.
- The story this week is the wide release of The Revenant, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s story of a trapper, left for dead, who manages to brave the elements and exact revenge against the man who left him there. It’s beautifully photographed, with fine performances by Leonardo Di Caprio and (especially) Tom Hardy, but good lord is it a miserable slog, a decent adventure tale bogged down by its own self-conscious sense of misery. Read our review here.
- Also going wide (well, wide-r) this week is Anomalisa, Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s masterful, stop-motion examination of a lonely man in a strange city, and the emotional ride he takes. It’s a moving, funny, and often uncomfortably truthful film; read our review here, along with our ranking of Kaufman’s protagonists, and some thoughts on how it fits into this year’s cinematic romances.
- Lamb is a tough movie to get your head around, tinkering as it does with our notions of sympathy and reliability. But there’s much to recommend, particularly the lead performances of writer/director Ross Partridge and leading lady Oona Laurence (probably the best thing in last summer’s Southpaw). Read about it in this month’s indie guide.
- And just as a reminder that the indie distributors dump their garbage in January to, we have Anesthesia, which wastes a terrific cast and tremendous filmmaker to tell the kind of everyone-is-vaguely-connected story we saw way too often in the post-Crash years. When it premiered at Tribeca, I called it “90 minutes of people reciting speeches at each other,” and I’ll stand by that appraisal; read more of that review here.