The Film Fix: What’s in Theaters, Streaming in January
By JONATHAN W. HICKMAN, The Film Fix
Below are reviews and capsules of various films this month in theaters and/or streaming. Review rating … A “Fix” is recommended with a rating between 6 and 10. A “No Fix” is not recommended with a rating between 1 to 5.
Nightmare Alley (Now playing) Fix Rating 8/10 – In “Nightmare Alley,” Bradley Cooper steps into the role once inhabited by Tyrone Power in 1947. Oscar-winner Guillermo del Toro (see 2017’s “The Shape of Water”) directs this new adaptation of the William Lindsay Gresham novel.
The story, set in the late 1930s, follows the ambitious Stanton Carlisle (Cooper), who joins a carnival and becomes a mentalist. His luck changes when he gets involved with a mysterious psychiatrist (played by Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett).
Del Toro’s production is exactly the high-quality that you would expect from the talented auteur. The carnival setting is rich and textured, and the cast is just as deep and weathered. For example, Willem Dafoe plays a carnie who runs a geek show that features a man in a cage who eats live chickens. The “geek” is a horrible and appreciable terror in del Toro’s uncompromising tale that’s reportedly true to Gresham’s tome.
While not nearly as satisfying as the director’s Oscar-winning “The Shape of Water,” “Nightmare Alley” is consistently engaging and unnerving.
The 355 (January 7) – From producer turned director Simon Kinberg (see “X-Men: Dark Phoenix”), “The 355” is a flashy-looking action film with an ensemble cast of strong award-winning actresses. The story has international operatives teaming up to keep a top-secret weapon from being used by dangerous forces. Jessica Chastain leads a cast that includes Lupita Nyong’o, Diane Kruger, Penélope Cruz, and Bingbing Fan.
Ozark: Season 4, Part 1 (January 21) – The fourth and final season of the much-lauded series about the Byrde family’s adventures in the Ozarks will be delivered in two seven-episode segments. “Ozark” spins a money-laundering narrative that has been compared to “Breaking Bad.” In the first three seasons, we saw resourceful accountant Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) and his cunning wife, Wendy (Laura Linney), flee a drug cartel in the big city for the Lake of the Ozarks. To keep the cartel from killing his family, Marty proposes that he would launder money through the quiet resort community. Of course, as the Byrde’s rise in Missouri politics with a gambling operation, a myriad of dangers threaten at every turn.
The Book of Boba Fett (Streaming now) – After being re-introduced in Disney’s popular “The Mandalorian” series, the enigmatic Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) gets his own show. Another extension of the Star Wars universe, the story has Boba taking over Jabba the Hutt’s criminal organization. Determined to rule with respect instead of fear, Boba and his partner, a mercenary named Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), manage Hutt’s empire while attempting to stay alive.
Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts (now streaming) – Following the trend of reunion specials, the cast of the iconic franchise reunite to share stories and reflect on their experiences. The trailers promise hugs and tears from this lavishly produced special event. And since the entire series of films are available on the streaming platform, Potter fans can get their fix this January.
How I Met Your Father (January 18) – This ten-episode series is a “How I Met Your Mother” spin-off. Previous efforts to mount this production included the 2014 pilot titled “How I Met Your Dad,” which starred Greta Gerwig. This go-round has Hillary Duff in the lead as Sophie with “Sex and the City’s” Kim Cattrall playing a future version of Sophie.
The Afterparty (January 28) Fix Rating: 6/10 – For “The Afterparty,” Oscar-winning writer, director, and producer Christopher Miller gets a big boost from an attractive, winning cast. Sam Richardson, Ben Schwartz, Zoe Chao, Ike Barinholtz, and others play early thirty-somethings who reunite for a drunken night celebrating their high school reunion. But when one of their fellow students, a cheesy pop star played by Dave Franco, is murdered, a police investigation is led by a no-nonsense investigator (Tiffany Haddish). The laughs prove to be sporadic in this uneven comedic murder mystery.
A Hero (January 21) Fix Rating: 9/10 – One of the year’s best films, “A Hero” is another excellent drama from Oscar-nominated Iranian director Asghar Farhadi (see “The Salesman” and “A Separation”). The story centers on a frustrated man named Rahim (Amir Jadidi) serving time in a debtor’s prison. When he comes into possession of a quantity of lost gold, his good faith efforts to return the treasure lead him down a complex path. As the media celebrates his honesty, the government investigates the details of his seemingly altruistic gesture. Like Farhadi’s previous work, “A Hero” is a challenging and fascinating examination of Iranian society.
The Tragedy of Macbeth (January 14) Fix Rating: 6/10 – In this umpteenth adaptation of William Shakespeare’s classic play, writer/director Joel Coen, one-half of the Oscar-winning filmmaking Coen brothers, delivers a visually striking film filled with powerhouse performances.
However, this cold telling of the enduring tragedy is more of a triumph of form over substance. While the production is award-worthy, it’s hard to dismiss the clinical nature of the entire exercise that does little narratively to distinguish itself from the host of versions that preceded it.
Denzel Washington is in good form as the ill-fated Macbeth. After a visit by three witches, who tell him that he will become the King of Scotland, Macbeth and his ambitious wife (Frances McDormand) scheme to make that happen. Along the way, they encounter some resistance that ends in much bloodshed.
What Coen brings to this update is a visual flare and top-tier acting talent who handle the Great Bard’s words eloquently. And, thankfully, Coen keeps his story moving, briskly relating the weighty tale in a scant one hour and forty-five minutes.
Scream (January 14) – Like the reboot of “Halloween,” “Scream (2022)” reunites series hero Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) with the surviving members from the franchise that started in 1996. And, of course, a new killer is on the loose.
Cyrano (January 22) Fix Rating: 7/10 – Peter Dinklage proves that he can do just about anything. Here he sings and wields a sword like a master. The somber, emotionally engaging musical “Cyrano” should land him a justifiable Oscar nomination.
Morbius (January 28) – After the success of “Venom: Let there be Carnage” and the blockbuster performance of “Spider-man: No Way Home,” Sony has a lot of momentum as the pandemic-delayed “Morbius” finally sees theaters. The story follows the title character Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto), who discovers a frightening cure for his debilitating illness. While the treatment extends his life, the vampiric cost may be too great.
Film Fix Extra: Book Review
Camera Man (Available January 25) Fix Rating 9/10 – Slate Magazine’s chief film critic, Dana Stevens, chronicles the life of Buster Keaton, the famous actor, director, and stuntman who gave us silent film classics “Sherlock Jr.” and “The General.” In the book, Stevens shares her more than two-decade creative obsession with Keaton. She places her knowledge of the performer’s eventful life in context, tracing Keaton’s rise, fall, and final years in the entertainment industry. The finely written and impeccably researched work is much more than a biography of an iconic film presence, “Camera Man” reads like a history of the film business, warts and all.
Jonathan W. Hickman is an entertainment attorney, filmmaker, college professor, and novelist. More about Jonathan can be found by visiting: filmproductionlaw.com. Folks can also follow him at dailyfilmfix.com.