January 2nd - 4th-
Sneaking into four theaters on Wednesday (New Year's Eve), thus officially being called a 2014 release, was A Most Violent Year. As suggested by the title, this is about a really violent year. Specifically it's about New York City during the year 1981. Director J.C. Chandor is fairly new on the scene, but he did get a Oscar nomination for best original screenplay in 2012 with Margin Call. Last year he directed the Robert Redford movie All is Lost, which was thought to be an awards contender, but got almost completely left out, getting nothing but a sound editing nomination. A Most Violent Year was thought of as the movie that would redeem Chandor, but early predictions suggest that this will follow the trend of All is Lost. Oscar Isaac is a potential for best actor here, but that's looking like a long shot, so the best chance at an award will be Jessica Chastain for supporting actress. She picked up the Golden Globe nomination, which is a plus, but whether or not she gets the Oscar nomination is in question right now.
January 9th - 11th-
The new movie of the weekend here is Taken 3. Back in January 2009, Taken became a surprise hit as it made just under $150 million in the US box office. Taken 2 opened twice as high in October 2012, but wound up just below Taken's total. Now the third installment goes back to January as it hopes to replicate the success of the first two. If you saw the first two Taken movies, you'll know exactly what to expect with this third movie. This time around, Liam Neeson's character Bryan Mills is accused of murder and is being chased by the government, so he heads out to find the true killer and clear his name. The rest should be pretty self-explanatory. It's Liam Neeson kicking everyone's butt in the over-the-top style of the first two.
January 16th - 19th-
The new challenger to face-off against Selma and American Sniper is the new Kevin Hart comedy The Wedding Ringer. Speaking of that January record, it is currently held by Kevin Hart himself, having set the record on this exact weekend last year with Ride Along. Hart later went on to help two other movies from last year open up north of $25 million with About Last Night and Think Like a Man Too. So it's safe to say that Kevin Hart's brand is really strong right now. The Wedding Ringer co-stars Josh Gad (voice of Olaf from Frozen) and The Big Bang Theory's Kaley Cuoco and is a wedding comedy that has Kevin Hart in charge of a company that provides best men for those who can't get any and Josh Gad's character is in that exact position. In fact, he requests seven best men. There's a lot of popular wedding comedies, so this has the potential to join that club.
Joining the crowded weekend as yet another movie that has potential to do good business is Paddington. This was originally supposed to come out on Christmas, but backed out because of too much competition. So this goes from one crowd to another crowd, but the big difference is the number of family movies. On Christmas there was Annie, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, and Into the Woods fighting for family audiences. Adding Padding to the mix would've made it so one of those movies would've been ignored, which most likely would've been Paddington. So this is a really good move since Paddington has zero competition. This movie is a British comedy as Paddington Bear has been an classic character in English children's literature since the 1950's and has also made his way onto TV several times. Now he gets his first movie. Paddington already came out in the U.K. back in December and they loved him, so the bear has done his job already. Us Americans will be late to the party due to the release date change. This movie doesn't need to be huge here to be considered successful as its already made $85 million internationally, but it probably will be anyways.
Last but not least is the crime drama Blackhat. It might be hard for this to completely breakout because of the competition, but this does have the fire power to make it the fifth movie of the weekend to do good business. Blackhat stars Chris Hemsworth in what will be a very busy first half of the year for him alongside. The premise of the movie centers around a cyber criminal that American and Chinese authorities are trying to track down. Chris Hemsworth's character is the one they release from prison to get to help them stop this cyber criminal. With a good cast and a subject matter that feels quite relevant given recent cyber attacks and threats, this could be a decent sleeper hit that gets people's attention.
January 23rd - 25th-
Next up is Lucasfilm Animation's Strange Magic. At one point of time, the idea of a story by George Lucas would've been considered a big deal. Not so much here. Lucas' idea was to have a story with elves and goblins that is about finding beauty in strange places. The story is inspired by Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and has been in production for quite some time, well before Lucasfilm was purchased by Disney. While the story does come from George Lucas, Lucas himself has not been involved with any of the screenplay, writing, or directing, for better or for worse. While the film is called Strange Magic, the word strange is what best describes people's reactions to the trailer. In theory this could pull off what The Nut Job did last January, being a surprise hit that everyone thought was going to tank, but that seems less likely.
The final movie of the weekend is The Boy Next Door. Jennifer Lopez' career was resurrected when she became a judge on American Idol, but that success has been strictly on the music side of things. It's been a long time since we've seen Jennifer Lopez as a lead star in a movie that has been a big hit, which is what the attempt is here. Lopez stars as a recently divorced high school teacher who has a one-night stand with a young boy living next door, who quickly develops a very unhealthy obsession with her, turning from what might look like a romance movie in the first part of the trailer into a psychological thriller. The "young" boy next door that stars along side J-Lo is 27-year-old Ryan Guzman.
January 30th - February 1st-
Next up is Kevin Costner's Black or White. When the trailer for this first showed up in theaters, I thought that this was a movie starring Kevin Costner and Quvenzhane Wallis. I thought this was a good idea. However, it is not Quvenzhane Wallis at all. Instead it's a little girl named Jillian Estell. Anwho, this is a movie where Kevin Costner is in a custody battle over his granddaughter who he helped raise for her entire life. Along with Coster and Estell is Octavia Spencer. This seems like the type of movie that would get at least a bit of attention during awards season if it was released at the end of the year instead of in January. If for some reason it actually was eligible for this year and I missed that, it got zero awards buzz. As of now it's just a drama at the end of January that will get ignored by most.
The final movie of the month is one that I have not seen advertised at all. If there have been attempts to advertise this movie, I have totally missed them. This movie is The Loft. In fact, I had not even heard about this movie until I went to do this preview. Now it's very possible that it just flew under my radar. That's happened before, believe it or not, but I think they are going to have to do a bit of marketing for this if they are wanting to make money. The Loft is a thriller that is about a group of friends who own this loft for their extramarital affairs. One day a dead woman shows up in that loft and of course crazy things happen from there. This is definitely not the type of movie that would appeal to general audiences, which makes me feel like it'll be just another January movie that won't even show up on many people's radars.