Welcome to "Last Month In Movies", a column that takes a look back on all the new releases that came out in the past month. Posted at the end of every month, LMiM talks about the good, the bad, and tops it off with a "Movie of the Month".
Well movie fans, we did, we survived it. The "dump month", the "New Year Stinker", we made it through January and, to be honest, it wasn't a bad start to 2016. I know, we've gotten our fair share of bad eggs but all in all, it was definitely not the worst January for movies.
Just because it's a good month for bad movies, doesn't mean it's a bad month for good movies. Listed below are the diamonds in the rough, the movies that are actually worth our time and hard-earned money.
'Kung Fu Panda 3'
At this point, most people would assume that a third entry to a movie series about a panda with martial arts abilities would be a cash grab from parents with kids who gawk at anything with cool fighting moves. But, surprisingly, this movie is just as strong as the other two. The animation is astounding, the fight sequences are well put together and the jokes are a hit with kids AND adults. Not to mention Bryan Cranston and J.K. Simmons are welcome additions to the cast as the voices of Po's dad Li and bad guy Kai. Their voices match the personalities of their characters perfectly, the lines they deliver always hit their mark, and their emotions are clearly stated as they go through their lines. In the end, 'Kung Fu Panda 3' is a surprisingly good sequel, that could have very easily become Dreamworks' next 'Shrek 4'. Its a solid ending to a trilogy, and its worth checking out as February approaches.
'13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi'
If you told me that a Michael Bay directed true-story war film, released in January, was actually good, I would have told you to leave the room. We still have plenty of explosions, but its pretty clear that Michael has somewhat matured since his last 'Transformers' movie. However, with the January release date and Michael Bay's previous work, its sort of a reminiscent of Peter Berg, he directed the awful summer blockbuster 'Battleship' but also the astounding 'Lone Survivor', another true event war movie that was also released in January. The story is based on the true attack on the American diplomatic compound that happened on September 11, 2012, and how a security team of six men fought to protect it. The actors do a solid job, the action is great, although a bit shaky-cam, and when there's a comedic moment, it works well. But the bizarre thing is, when comedic moment does come along, it doesn't feel like the writer is trying too hard. In fact, maybe that's what the writers of 'Transformers 5' should do, not try too hard to make jokes and focus on the story. All in all, its a good movie, and if you find yourself on a weekend with no good movies, this one is worth checking out. And if there's one thing to take away from it, it's that if you make a crappy movie for the summer, you can always bounce back with a true story war movie for January.
'The Finest Hours'
Disaster movies are always a crowd-pleaser, whether based on actual events or just brilliantly crafted from the minds of writers, they're nail-biting thrilling, intense, and you're always asking yourself who's going to make it out alright. 'The Finest Hours' is exactly that, but delivers in a way that you can't ignore it. Chris Pine plays Coast Guard Captain Bernie Webber who leads a team of four men out to sea during a storm to save sailors trapped onboard an oil tanker that has been ripped in half. The worst part about it, is that they only have room on their lifeboat for twelve people and they have to save thirty. Although I have yet to see it at the time of writing, it has decent reviews from critics and had not that bad of an opening weekend, despite the competition. What really sold it for me is that it was produced by Disney, not distributed, produced, and in all honesty, we need movies like this from them. Don't get me wrong, I like their animated movies and real-life fantasy films, but a movie about the Coast Guard rescuing people during a storm is one of their rare darker movies. It shows people that sometimes not everything will work out ok for the hero, and that the ending isn't always happily ever after, something I think Disney overlooks when it comes to their movies. I'm hoping I do get the chance to see it in February and I hope you do too, because its movies like this that make a multi-billion dollar company like Disney a bit more grounded.
Saying that January is a best time of the year for movies is like saying June is the best time to build a snowman in Canada, you could catch a lucky break and be right one year, but chances are you're just kidding yourself.
'Ride Along 2'
Let's just face it, no matter whatever came out in December, its going to lose to a Kevin Hart crap-edy in January. It happened in 2014 with 'Ride Along', it happened in 2015 with 'The Wedding Ringer', and now its happened again with 'Ride Along 2'. In this sequel, Hart and Cube have to go Miami to track down a crime lord, that's basically it. Out of all the movies that could have dethroned 'The Force Awakens' as box office champion, why did it have to be this shlock-fest? I'm sure Kevin Hart's a good actor, but at this point it feels like he's just doing these movies because stand-up isn't paying well enough anymore. Ice Cube has done comedic work in the past and he was great, which explains why the first 'Ride Along' was such a success. It had two well-known funny people working together, and that was also what probably made Hart's collab with Will Ferrell, 'Get Hard', the blockbuster that it was. As much as I hate to admit it, it seems 'Ride Along 2' will go on to become another effortless comedy success and, if it makes enough money, we might see 'Ride Along 3' in 2018, I know for a fact 'The Wedding Ringer 2' is in development.
Like comedies, horror movies are dime-a-dozen productions with little effort and big stars. This time, the A-lister headlining the movie is Natalie Dormer from 'Game of Thrones'. For those of you who don't know, there is an actual forest in Japan where hundreds of people go to commit suicide. It does sound like the perfect setting for a fictional supernatural thriller, but, like so many other movies with great ideas and poor reception, it had a great premise that failed to deliver.
The story follows a woman named Sara Price looking for her twin sister Jess, who supposedly went missing in the Aokigahara forest. She's joined by a reporter and a tour guide and, despite the warnings, they wander off the path to find Jess. As they venture deeper and deeper, angry spirits that haunt the forest torment them. I don't know why this movie got made, other than provide another jump-scare fest. Although they can be effective in moderation, jump-scares have become the cheapest form of horror, and in the movie such as this, they're there to provide the viewer with a brief shot of adrenaline just so they don't fall asleep from the boring plot and cheesy acting. I'll take jump-scares over gore-fests any day, but I won't plop down my hard earned cash just to have a nap in the movie theater.
'The 5th Wave'
YA adaptation, aliens, Chloe Grace-Moretz, dull romance, need I say more? Ok, so the actual plot is that there's these aliens who attack Earth in waves. Wave 1 takes out our electricity, Wave 2 causes huge tsunamis, Wave 3 is a plague, Wave 4 is aliens in disguise, and Wave 5 is what's going to happen next. Chloe is trying to get her kid brother back, she meets this guy and, you can guess the rest. This is one of those movies where you can tell how it will end just by watching the trailer. Seriously though, how many books for teenagers are we going to adapt? I have nothing wrong with this sort of thing if it works, and 'The 5th Wave' does not. It's predictable, it has the worst love story since 'Twilight, and it's obviously made just for the fans of the book. Being faithful to a novel can still be entertaining for people who didn't read the book, just look at 'Harry Potter' or 'The Hunger Games', good movies that stayed true to the source material. Yes, movie adaptations of books will never go away, but can Hollywood at least try next time?
Well, we've taken a gander at what January had to offer and boy was there a lot of bad stuff. But now we've reached a more joyful time of the column. The "Movie of the Month". It was a hard decision so I took the easy way and made it a tie. Both movies came out in January, but had limited releases in December, they're great films and are worth seeing.
Movie of the Month: 'The Revenant' and 'The Hateful Eight' (Tie)
Yes, I know, 'Hateful Eight's wide release was December 30, technically making it a December movie. But it gained so much popularity as the month went on that I just couldn't leave it out. Both movies are phenomenally shot, have stellar performances from all their actors, a memorable musical score and have a great director at the helm. While Alejandro G. Inarritu's latest is more appealing to moviegoers ($138 million, although it could be because of Leo) than Quentin Tarantino's murder mystery ($52 million), both are worth checking out and I can't wait to see them again.
That's it for this month but check back next month for "This Month In Movies". Comment down below your thoughts and if you want to read more awesome news, reviews, and more, give that Follow button a click!
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