It’ll be a couple more weeks before we’re able to put 2018 to bed here – though, if you want to be spoiled on my thoughts, I think it’s been one of the strongest years for movies since I started doing this 13 years ago – but time waits for nobody. Here follows the first films of a brand new year, full of promise and unspoiled hope and all those things, and it looks barren. I’m not sure that I can even remember the last month that looked, in advance, so totally devoid of anything that would be appealing to anyone. Ah well, all the better to keep catching up with the lingering glories of the year-that-was.
As pissy as I just was, I’ll admit that Escape Room looks above-par by the standards of first-weekend-in-January thrillers. The pitch seems to be “Saw meets The Game“, which isn’t the worst high-concept. It also shares director Adam Robitel with last year’s first-weekend-in-January genre picture Insidious: The Last Key, which at least was better than it had reason to be. So okay, I’ll admit that I’m kind of looking forward to this one.
For the real rock-solid desolation, check out this trio. If anything is at least palatable, it will presumably be Replicas, a Keanu Reeves sci-fi thriller that’s had, I think, two release dates already go by, which is of course never a good sign. And it comes to us from distributor Entertainment Studios, which has not by any means had a terribly impressive track record of quality up till now. Still, Keanu in sci-fi is something, which is much more than I can say for the other releases. The Upside is bound to be sugary pap: it’s a remake of the dodgy 2011 French blockbuster comedy Intouchables, a project that was in development for ages to finally before Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston were finally sitting in the chairs when the music stopped. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2017, and only 16 months later is finally slinking its way into theaters, which I’m pretty sure tells us absolutely everything worth knowing about its quality.
Lastly, the most interesting thing about A Dog’s Way Home is that somehow it is not the same movie as 2017’s A Dog’s Purpose or the forthcoming A Dog’s Journey and is indeed apparently wholly unrelated to them, despite the three films sharing a producer and two screenwriters, one of whom also wrote the source books.
Even the most desolate winter wasteland can still have a little bit of beautiful glistening snow, and we now come to it. This month, the one thing I’m actually willing to declare looks like something I wish to see and expect to quite enjoy is Glass, which is an odd feeling to feel about the new M. Night Shyamalan film. But you know what, I dug Split, and I’ve been looking for a reason to return to Unbreakable, and the film that ties them all into a sprawling superhero universe has sounded weirdly appealing ever since the shocking twist ending to Split, one year and 364 days earlier. The best thing is that I’ll have a sense very early on as to whether I should expect 2019 to meet my expectations or disappoint them.
The third release date for Serenity is upon us, which somehow feels like a worse sign for this film than it did for Replicas. That’s a Keanu Reeves movie about cloning, or robots, or something – it was never going to be good, only, hopefully, enjoyable. But this is a sort of character-driven thriller starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Diane Lane, Jason Clarke, and Djimon Hounsou – if it’s failed its way all the way into January, something must just reek about this movie.
Meanwhile, Joe Cornish’s long-awaited follow-up to the great 2011 sci-fi thriller Attack the Block is FINALLY here, and it is… The Kid Who Would Be King, some kind of “Disney in the ’70s”-looking fantasy movie about a kid who turns out to be the reincarnation of King Arthur, or something. So, okay, that’s unexpected.