Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to January


January tends to be a bit of a cinematic wasteland every year, as studios dump a bunch of films they didn’t like or couldn’t market properly. Meanwhile, most people are catching up on awards contenders that have finally expanded beyond their limited runs. This January is a mixed bag of new installments in old series, a few original movies and a couple of promising new flicks. But even amid those installments of rusty franchises comes some films that may just be weird enough to last beyond the January wasteland.

“Amityville: The Awakening”

Who: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bella Thorne, Cameron Monaghan and Kurtwood Smith
What: A single mother moves her three children into a haunted house, unaware of its bloody history.
When: January 6th
Why: The story of the Amityville haunting has been pretty well documented in movies, including last year’s “The Conjuring 2,” but this film looks like it’s using the original case as a jumping off point for a new source of terror. The trailer features lots of jump scares and cross-cutting but also some genuinely gross moments and cool visuals. While this could just be a cash-in on an established property, the addition of Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kurtwood Smith in front of the camera and writer/director Franck Khalfoun (who helmed the exceptional “Maniac” remake) behind it suggests that there could be something more to this movie.

“Underworld: Blood Wars”

Who: Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Tobias Menzies and Charles Dance
What: Vampire death dealer Selene fights to end the eternal war between the Lycan clan and the Vampire faction that betrayed her.
When: January 6th
Why: At this point entering the fifth installment in the “Underworld” series, viewers pretty much know what they’re going to get out of these films. It’s been four years since the last entry, but it’s unlikely that there’ll be much of a change to the (winning?) formula, which usually consists of some okay action, subpar monster CGI and Kate Beckinsale dressed in black leather. Still, there is an audience for these film and they remain popular despite their repetition and diminishing returns. And even with their many problems, it’s always an intriguing premise that could lead to some cool vampire-on-werewolf violence.

“Monster Trucks”

Who: Lucas Till, Jane Levy, Rob Lowe, Amy Ryan, Berry Pepper and Danny Glover
What: After discovering a subterranean creature with the ability to power his monster truck, high school senior Tripp may have just found the key to getting out of town.
When: January 13th
Why: This one looks pretty rough, but it may end up being charming despite itself and will probably end up being a winner with a lot of children out there. That’s mostly due to director Chris Wedge’s pedigree of directing the first “Ice Age” and a few other kid-friendly animated films. There’s a surprising number of talented actors in this film as well, including Danny Glover and Amy Ryan, so perhaps there is some hope for this yet. Also, the whole premise seems like something that was dreamed up by a group of five-year-olds hopped up on sugar, which could actually be exciting. But still… yikes.

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