2014 is over, but the conversation surrounding 2014's movies is far from over. Awards season affords us the chance to discuss the movies we loved, disliked, or downright hated last year. The Oscars are around a month away, and until then and the days following the event, we still get a chance to continue the dialog surrounding our favorite movies. There's nothing wrong with that, no matter how banal one finds the Oscars to be.
Until the Oscars, there's a slew of movies coming out and expanding into wide release that wouldn't make for a bad way to kickoff 2015. There's still time to catch up on some of 2014's critical darlings before Neil Patrick Harris takes the stage next month.
Here are five movies you should start the new year with:
Now in wide release
Do not let this movie go down as a box-office failure, everybody. Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's novel is trippie, dense, and surreal. In other words, it's not for everyone, but that doesn't mean almost everyone shouldn't give it a shot. Anderson's detective/breakup picture got shutout by the oscars, but, no matter, it's better than most of the movies that got nominated anyway. Do not miss Inherent Vice on the big screen. It is absolutely gorgeous.
Now in wide release
People are going to claim Selma is the biggest oscar snub of the year, and for the most part, they are correct. It's an upsetting, moving, and well-made film from director Ava DuVarnay. David Oyelowo completely disappears as Martin Luther King Jr., a performance that's the furthest thing from an intimation. It's a smartly structured ensemble drama. A bio film like this -- which primarily focuses on the march in Selma -- tells us more about its main subject than a film about Dr. King's whole life probably would have.
Now in limited release
Keep an eye on the Spierig brothers. The duo displayed a good eye for bloody action and world building with Daybreakers. Their vampire pic was a little flat when it came to drama, but that is not a problem with their latest film, Predestination. The Spierig brother's time travel tale is visually subdued but striking and exceptionally cool, but it also has an emotional backbone to make all those pretty shots take flight, and Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snooke definitely deserve plenty of credit for that.
Now in theaters
Michael Mann's last few efforts haven't been as beloved as Heat or The Insider, but, whether you love Miami Vice and Public Enemies or not, one has to admit, nobody today is making movies like Michael Mann. He's one of the finest visual storytellers working today. He doesn't tell you a story, he shows you a story. Narratively-speaking, Blackhat has its ups-and-downs, but Mann almost always infuses the film's clunkiest of moments with some sense of life. The digital filmmaking is gorgeous, making all the action, characters, locations, and costumes completely tangible and visceral.
Opens in theaters January 23rd
The trailers for Mortdecai haven't generated much positive buzz. People are wary of Johnny Depp these days, and understandably so. Depp has fallen into a bit of a trend -- loud and goofy characters -- that, when he rids of himself of, he generally turns in some excellent performances. Just look at his performance in Public Enemies or his strong work in the so-so Rum Diary. Now, he's playing a larger-than-life character once again in his latest film, but he's doing it for writer-director David Koepp. Koepp has written some of your favorite films -- Spider-Man, Panic Room, Mission Impossible, and Carlito's Way -- and he's also directed a handful of solid pictures. The writer got a good performance out of Depp with Secret Window, and we should expect the same with this bizarre-looking piece of R-rated slapstick.
What movies are you excited to see this month?