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|Written by April Yorke|
|Thursday, 27 January 2011 18:48|
Let's face it: January is almost as big a cultural wasteland as August. Before you do a spit take, let me explain. It's not that there aren't a variety of worthy releases to see in the first month of the year. Blue Valentine opens in Ottawa today. But that's not a genuine new release, is it? Nope, it's spill over from awards season glut. For those of us who aren't blessed (cursed?) to live in New York, LA, or Toronto, the majority of "prestige" movies trickle out over December, January, and February. On the plus side, that trickle gives dedicated cinephiles plenty of time to catch up. On the down side, all those psycho ballerinas, stammering monarchs, and last-chance pugilists can really weigh you down. What's needed is a palate cleanser. And that's where the January Movie comes in.
January Movies are, essentially, the polar opposite of awards fare. They feature a strange combination of actors who are unlikely to ever be nominated for an Academy Award with celebrated winners that must be hard up for cash. The premises are generally rehashed from other movies or outlandish, rarely based in anything resembling reality, and do not contain anything resembling logic. Above all, when in doubt, a fight breaks out. Kill off a few characters, and keep moving. Despite these failings, January Movies generally have either a baseline competence, a winking performance, or a generous use of explosives to prevent them from being complete failures.
Last year's January Movie par excellence was Legion. In it, the archangel Michael (a never-hotter Paul Bettany) rebelled against God when He ordered Michael to wipe out humanity and instead took up arms with a small group of stranded travellers in a dusty truck stop. One of the stranded is pregnant, and her baby will . . . do something. Save humanity, I guess. That's one of the great things about January Movies: the massive plot holes and a chronic inability to maintain their own internal logic. What the movie does have in abundance, though, is crazy old ladies crawling on the ceiling, spider-men who can unhinge their jaws, and psycho little girls. Most importantly, Bettany's idea of displaying his unceasing love for humanity is to act like whoever he is speaking to is mere moments away from being soft rocked by him. Combined with Lucas Black's other male lead, who could best be described as developmentally delayed, that's just fun at the theatre.
2009 offered an embarrassment of riches in My Blood Valentine 3D (featuring year-long comas that give you superhuman strength instead of muscular atrophy!), Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (because not seeing this back story drawn out feature length was killing you!), and Taken (beware: affluent white Americans are often sold into sex slavery! Actually, Liam Neeson's pretty ballin' in this one).
Sadly, this year's January releases have not followed in that grand tradition. Season of the Witch certainly looked promising. Nicolas "I Will Die in the Name of Honour" Cage stars as a knight who drops the Crusades to transport a witch (or is she?) to a monastery to stand trial. Pestilence! Wolves and hellhounds! Jokes about holy water! Ron Perlman! Surely all good things, right? Normally they would be. In this case, they add up to boring. Neither Cage nor the movie goes crazy enough, so it's simply mediocre instead of deliciously bad.
The next weekend gave us The Green Hornet. Again, it had all the makings of a good January Movie. To be honest, between director Michel Gondry and star/co-writer Seth Rogen, it should have had all the makings of an actually good movie, but we'll leave that aside. Still, a lesser-known comic book (né radio serial) hero with a ridiculous name played by an unproven leading male with an unknown side kick at least has to be in the order of a Constantine or a Ghost Rider. Mystifyingly, Rogen wrote himself into a corner by giving his character Britt Reid an ugliness that goes unchecked and largely unaddressed, squandering any good will earned during the vastly superior first half of the film. You should never be disappointed by the January Movie. You should go into it gleefully expecting it to fail.
Given that last weekend produced no January Movies of note, all 2011 hopes are now pinned on The Mechanic and The Rite. While a slumming Anthony Hopkins in an exorcism thriller sounds like it fits the bill, safe money's on The Mechanic. Why? Jason Statham. O, he of the August movie (Death Race, anyone?). Statham doesn't do a lot, but what he does, he does so very well: scowling, smirking, quipping, and killing. If you want a dude who looks adept at kicking a boatload of ass, don't hire former wrestlers. Look to the lithe former Olympic diver. He can drown people in their own pools, jump out of buildings, and walk away from explosions better than the best of them. Pairing him with the eternally poised to break out Ben Foster and the always working Donald Sutherland is just gravy.
Tags: cinema, green hornet, january, january movies, jest, legion, nic cage, palate cleanser, paul bettany, season of the witch, sometimes actors need money, the mechanic, the rite, vampires, werewolves