10 gems re­leased in dregs of Jan­uary

USA TODAY International Edition - - LIFE - Brian Truitt

If new movie pos­si­bil­i­ties like a weepy dog film and a weirdo Keanu Reeves sci-fi flick have you scam­per­ing back to see “Aqua­man” again, it might just be Jan­uary.

Wel­come to Hol­ly­wood's dump month, where your fa­vorite stu­dios slate the odd hor­ror flick or oc­ca­sional awards-sea­son also-ran that prob­a­bly is not go­ing to make any money. In the av­er­age year, most of Jan­uary and the last week of Au­gust makes Netflix an at­trac­tive al­ter­na­tive movie-watch­ing op­tion.

There are some gems, though, and here are 10 note­wor­thy flicks you can stream right now that ar­rived dur­ing a mostly for­get­table time at the cine­plex.

‘Amer­i­can Sniper’ (2015)

Ev­ery year, awards-wor­thy films qui­etly de­but in De­cem­ber for Os­car con­sid­er­a­tion be­fore a proper re­lease in Jan­uary. And af­ter ap­pear­ing on four screens at Christ­mas, Clint East­wood's Iraq War drama “Amer­i­can Sniper” be­came a full-on phe­nom­e­non the next month, rack­ing up $350 mil­lion and mak­ing a best-pic­ture nom­i­nee out of Bradley Cooper's cap­ti­vat­ing por­trayal of mil­i­tary marks­man Chris Kyle.

Stream it: iTunes, Vudu, Ama­zon

‘Be­fore Sun­rise’ (1995)

The be­gin­ning of di­rec­tor Richard Lin­klater's talky romantic tril­ogy was re­leased soon af­ter its pre­miere at the Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val, with Ethan Hawke's Jesse and Julie Delpy's Ce­line hav­ing a chance meet­ing and fall­ing in love over the course of a Budapest train ride and a rev­e­la­tory day spent tool­ing around Paris. If you dig this one, you can also dive into all the feels of 2004's “Be­fore Sun­set” and 2013's “Be­fore Mid­night” – both of which were sum­mer re­leases.

Stream it: iTunes, Vudu

‘Cloverfield’ (2008)

Out­side of a cou­ple of teaser trail­ers and a viral mar­ket­ing cam­paign, no one knew any­thing about the J.J. Abram­spro­duced found-footage mon­ster movie. But au­di­ences flocked to the film that un­leashed a huge crea­ture on New York City, to­tally foul­ing up a party at­tended by a bunch of 20-some­things. The flick proved so pop­u­lar it cre­ated an un­con­ven­tional fran­chise that has spawned the 2016 kid­nap­ping thriller “10 Cloverfield Lane” and last year's outer-space mys­tery “The Cloverfield Para­dox” (which had a sur­prise re­lease on Netflix af­ter the Su­per Bowl).

Stream it:iTunes, Vudu, Ama­zon

‘Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Wor­ry­ing and Love the Bomb’ (1964)

The best film to ever come out in Jan­uary is also one of the best movies, pe­riod. Stan­ley Kubrick's darkly comic po­lit­i­cal satire, nom­i­nated for four Os­cars and one of the Na­tional Film Reg­istry's in­au­gu­ral in­ductees, took on the Cold War with a nu­clear cri­sis need­ing to be averted af­ter a kooky Air Force gen­eral or­ders a bomb dropped on the So­vi­ets. Come for Peter Sell­ers play­ing three roles (in­clud­ing the pres­i­dent), stay for the iconic im­age of Slim Pick­ens rid­ing a nuke like a buck­ing bronco.

Stream it: iTunes, Vudu, Ama­zon

‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ (1996)

There's no schlock like A-list schlock. In Robert Ro­driguez's crazy vam­pire flick, Ge­orge Clooney and Quentin Tarantino team up to play crim­i­nal brothers who take a fam­ily hostage, head for the bor­der and end up at a Mex­i­can strip club run by un­dead blood­suck­ers. Sure, you can also binge three sea­sons of a re­make se­ries on Netflix, but there's noth­ing like the cult-clas­sic orig­i­nal with Salma Hayek ta­ble-danc­ing with a very large snake.

Stream it:Netflix, iTunes, Ama­zon,


‘Great Ex­pec­ta­tions’ (1998)

Ethan Hawke, ap­par­ently the pa­tron saint of Jan­uary movies that aren't ter­ri­ble, stars in this mod­ern-day take on the Charles Dick­ens clas­sic as a New York artist caught in a love tri­an­gle with a child­hood love (Gwyneth Pal­trow) and her wealthy boyfriend (Hank Azaria). Maybe not the great­est of the “Great” adap­ta­tions – that would be the 1946 one with Alec Guin­ness – but an in­trigu­ing watch con­sid­er­ing it's an early film from Os­car-win­ning di­rec­tor Al­fonso Cuaron.

Stream it: iTunes, Starz, Vudu,


‘Padding­ton 2’ (2018)

Both Bri­tish “Padding­ton” films – the 2015 orig­i­nal and last year's se­quel – are great lit­tle fam­ily-friendly Jan­uary jams. Ben Whishaw voices the good­hearted, mar­malade-lov­ing bear who runs into a va­ri­ety of shenani­gans in both movies, but the sec­ond ad­ven­ture is the best mainly be­cause of the sup­port­ing cast: Hugh Grant plays a washed-up ac­tor who steals a valu­able pop-up book and frames Padding­ton for it, and Bren­dan Glee­son is a grumpy prison cook with a heart of gold.

Stream it:HBO, iTunes, Vudu, Ama­zon

‘Scan­ners’ (1981)

To­day's gen­er­a­tion of film fans are prob­a­bly in­tro­duced to the David Cro­nen­berg sci-fi hor­ror film via the GIF of its in­fa­mous head-explosion scene. Memes aside, it's a pretty in­ter­est­ing, so­cially rel­e­vant story about a bunch of peo­ple with tele­pathic, tele­ki­netic and other abil­i­ties (aka “scan­ners”) who are weaponized by a shady se­cu­rity firm and the in­evitable re­volt that re­sults.

Stream it: iTunes, Ama­zon

‘Split’ (2017)

M. Night Shya­malan's thriller about a trou­bled dude (James McAvoy) with 23 per­son­al­i­ties, and the clever teenage girl (Anya Tay­lor-Joy) who has to es­cape his vil­lain­ous clutches, is a neat psy­cho­log­i­cal tale. The fact that it's a sur­prise and very sat­is­fy­ing se­quel to Shya­malan's own superhero flick “Un­break­able” – and the must-see setup to the up­com­ing “Glass” (in the­aters Jan. 18) – just makes “Split” that much cooler.

Stream it: iTunes, Vudu, Ama­zon

‘Taken’ (2009)

It's the hit project that made Liam Nee­son a mid­dle-age ac­tion-movie icon. The Ir­ish­man plays an ex-CIA op­er­a­tive “with a very par­tic­u­lar set of skills” who gets tossed back in the thick of it when Al­ba­nian sex traffick­ers make the re­ally dumb mis­take of kid­nap­ping his teenage daugh­ter dur­ing a jaunt to France to fol­low U2 on tour. The ac­tion stuff is good, but his threats to the bad guys (“I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you”) are truly epic.

Stream it: iTunes, Vudu, Ama­zon


Bradley Cooper was Chris Kyle in “Amer­i­can Sniper.”


“King” Kong (Slim Pick­ens) rides a nuke to obliv­ion in an iconic mo­ment from “Dr. Strangelove.”


The Gecko brothers (Ge­orge Clooney, left, and Quentin Tarantino) visit a vam­pire-filled strip club in “From Dusk Till Dawn.”


Kevin (James McAvoy) has many per­sonas in “Split.”


The head of the Statue of Lib­erty in “Cloverfield.”


The bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) goes on a new ad­ven­ture.

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