Ahh, January we meet again. Most savvy filmgoers will know that January is a month of award season holdouts and a studio wasteland. Studios tend to release projects they have little to no faith in during the January slaughter, in hopes that they will gain traction with an audience ready to move on from the holiday season. Usually there will be one breakout of the month, but usually along the lines of Paul Blart: Mall Cop or Kangaroo Jack. With standouts like these, you can imagine that quality is a limited source throughout January. Coming off the high of the best films of the year, critics are deemed with the task of enduring the few new films that are released throughout the month. So dim is the prospect of quality, that a by-the-numbers action flick can seem like a great lead-in to a new film series.
Many are familiar with Jack Ryan, either by reading Tom Clancy’s books featuring the characters or in films like The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, and The Sum of All Fears. This film isn’t a continuation of any of the previous films, rather an attempt to restart the franchise. This time actor Chris Pine steps into the role of Jack Ryan, shoes previously filled by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck. Ryan’s story might not have the same exact background as his predecessors, but it is close. Ryan is still an economics student who joins the military only to be pushed out of action by a helicopter crash. Many other details are the same, while others are changed in an effort to modernize the character beyond the original Cold War beginnings.
Tired of remakes, rehashes, and sequels? Well, you’ll need to look elsewhere if you want original content. Delivery Man is a remake of a 2011 French-Canadian film by the name of Starbuck. Writer/Director Ken Scott has teamed up with Vince Vaughn to bring his story to American audiences. It’s also noteworthy that the film is also being remade for Bollywood and a French version of the film titled Fonzy was released this year as well. If nothing else, it has studio appeal.
David Wozniak (Vince Vaughn) is a loveable screwup. Sure, he puts his family in danger with his shady debts, and is quite possibly the world’s worst delivery driver, but he makes up for it with his shining charm. David’s case of arrested development comes screeching to a halt when the fertility clinic he donated sperm to years ago in exchange for cash, informs him that due to a mix up, he is the father of 533 children. In addition, these children are now trying to sue for the legal identity of their father. The shocking revelation doesn’t send David into a spiral of self-destruction, instead it gives him the motivation to turn his life around, and prove to his girlfriend he can be a father to their future child. David slowly starts to take an active role in his children’s lives, and his actions cause trouble for his eventual court case. David’s eventual struggle between keeping his identity and allowing his children to know who he is, is the focal point of the film.
Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) is a prodigy. He has quite possibly the best military mind in the world, and he’s still a child. In an effort to stem further violence from an alien invasion force known as the Formics, Ender and other children are trained throughout their young lives to become military strategists and soldiers. With their window to take down the Formics slowly closing, Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford) is tasked with quickly getting Ender up to speed, and helping him reach his true potential. Ender is sent to Battle School where he must go up against the best and brightest. The success of his training may ultimately decide humanity’s fate.
Regarded as one of the best science fiction novels of all-time, Ender’s Game has been sought for film adaptation for years. Unfortunately, the novel is dense with themes that aren’t easily pulled to the screen. When fans of the book heard the film was finally making its way to the silver screen, there was some apprehension most of their parts. Fans were immediately put off when the studio aged up the characters quite a bit for greater mass appeal. Fans of the book will be impressed with how true to the book the film is at most times, but will be equally frustrated the condensed nature of the film. Many favorite moments will be left out, and due to the deletion of some scenes, Ender may not feel like a full fleshed out character to some fans.
It’s hard to pin Best Picture frontrunners at this point in the year. The end of the year bonanza of films is sure to throw a wrench into the awards plans of some of the superb films of early 2013, but it’s hard to imagine that 12 Years a Slave won’t be in contention. Director Steve McQueen continues to make a name for himself, and crafts a film that could quite possibly end up being a definitive film on its subject matter.
Solomon Northrupp is a bit of an oddity in mid-19th century America, he’s a black man who is not only free, but educated and accepted by the majority of the community around him as a gentleman. Sure there are a few odd stares here and there from people who are unfamiliar with the Syracuse resident and his family, but this speaks more powerfully to the people who accept him in the community. By all accounts Solomon leads a great life with his wife and two children. When the opportunity comes to make some money on the road as a traveling musician, Solomon can’t pass it up. Unfortunately, the offer is ultimately a ruse that ends with Solomon being sold into slavery. Thus begins Solomon’s journey as a slave, and the intense struggles he endures for the ensuing 12 years.
Ahh, the dreaded remake of a classic film. Likely the thought of some Hollywood executive who caught the original on television and thought, “You know what? It was so perfect the first time, why don’t we find a way to modernize and possibly ruin it?” Okay, so that probably wasn’t the thought behind the remake of Carrie, but it sure feels like it.
Carrie White is the progeny of an insane religious woman who mistakenly thought she had cancer, when she was in fact pregnant. (Who hasn’t made that mistake, right?) Rather than view the baby as a gift from her god, she immediately thinks of the child as a product of Satan, but stays her hand when she sees the baby. Now as you can imagine, if the birth is that complicated, things are going to go well in the upbringing of this child. The film starts with Carrie as a shy outcast in high school. Her sheltered upbringing causes major problem when Carrie experiences her first period in the showers at gym. She immediately freaks out at the sight of the blood, and is cruelly taunted by classmates when they realize she doesn’t know about her menstrual cycle. This moment eventually spawns a viral video, and Carrie becomes a social pariah at her school.
In steps the white knights of the story, Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde) and Tommy Ross (Anson Elgort), the assumed prom king and prom queen of the high school. Sue feels remorseful for her part in the hazing of Carrie, and wishes to make it right. To make amends she convinces her boyfriend Tommy to ask Carrie to the prom. All of this creates an enemy of the vicious Chris (Portia Doubleday), and sets in motion a plan to embarrass Carrie at the prom.