Top List Thursdays – 10 Movies released in January that don’t suck

If there’s a graveyard shift to movie release schedules, January is it. Traditionally, releasing your movie in the first month of the year is studio shorthand for “Meh. We already paid for it, so we might as well put it out there, hoping that you’re still so drunk on Christmas pudding that instead of finishing catching up on the deluge of awards season movies released in the last two months, you instead pay us to poop on your eyeballs.”

But occasionally, among all the Tinsel Town effluent, a couple gems rise to the surface. Here are 10 of them.

(Oh and please note, that I am of course referring to international/US release dates, not our local, often delayed release dates. Otherwise, I’d have a bunch of you on my case about how this month alone we see the release of 4 of the films up for Best Picture at the Oscars.)

Varsity Blues

Yes, Friday Night Lights was probably better, and James van der Beek’s character was essentially just Dawson playing American football, but there’s something about this movie that still makes it a guilty pleasure for many people, myself included.

Yes, some might say it had something do with introducing the world to Ali Larter in a whip cream bikini, but I have a feeling that there’s more than that. Oh, Amy Smart. There’s Amy Smart as well.

Blazing Saddles

Mel Brooks’ 1974 Western spoof may not exactly be high cinema, but is arguably the funniest movie of all time, and something that anybody within it’s target demographic has to see. That target demographic of course being anybody with eyes and a pulse. There really is nothing more to say about this. Well, except to let you know that the new sheriff is a nig-DINGDONG!

Cloverfield

Yes, I know that in the years since it’s release, it’s become fashionable to hate on this film for some reason, but at the time of its release people were losing their minds over it. And for some prone to motion sickness, also their lunches. Produced by JJ Abrams, it introduced most of the movie going world for the first time to the geeky genius of director Matt Reeves and writer Drew Goddard, who would eventually go on to make Let Me In and Cabin In The Woods, respectively. Yeah, you may have heard of those.

This monster movie was also one of the few to do found footage correctly, and had a viral advertising campaign before and after release the likes of which we haven’t seen since.

Tremors

While Tremors 2 to 4 is fully deserving of their January landfill waste status, the Kevin Bacon led original is still a hugely entertaining horror-comedy filled with a number of classic scenes, including this one that proves that being a paranoid gun nut, actually can come in handy some day.

Blood Simple

It’s January 1984 and a new crime movie is coming out from a writing-directing brotherly duo, whose only claim to fame thus far is that one of them once worked as an assistant editor on Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead. The movie was Blood Simple (#98 on AFI’s 100 Greatest Movies of All Time), the brothers were the eventual multiple Oscar winning Joel and Ethan Coen, and the rest was history.

From Dusk Till Dawn

The fact that this cult classic was dumped in January is doubly wrong due to the fact that this is essentially two great movies rolled into one. Directed by both Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez (each handled a half) it’s a gory, funny, scary thrill ride that combined the best of two genres. And while I still think that technically, the first Tarantino directed half is far superior (and gave us one of the greatest tattoos in movie history), the second half contained Salma Hayek. Case closed.

The Grey

Hands up everybody that expected this movie to just be Taken in the Arctic, with wolves replacing the Albanians and, er… the plane… er… the plane replacing his daughter? OK, so that analogy wasn’t very well thought out, but the point is that nobody expected nothing more from Liam Neeson and director Joe Carnahan – who had just done the ridiculous(ly entertaining) The A-Team before this – than a straight up action thriller. What we got was a surprisingly deep and philosophical study on mankind’s capacity to survival in the face of tremendous physical and emotional tragedy.

Also, you just know that Liam Neeson totally punched that wolf in the face.

Count of Monte Cristo

As much as I love it, I do realize that there are people that don’t like reading. I have tried to understand why, but viscous fluids started pouring out my face-holes as soon as I attempted to do so. Luckily for these heathens troglodytes people, you have movies like Count of Monte Cristo. Director Kevin Reynolds delivered a rip-roaring adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ novel, with Jim Caviezel and Guy Pierce providing some brilliant dueling – both verbally and physically. Hell, Dumbledore even shows up to give swordfighting tips.

Taken

I guess Liam Neeson had won so much acclaim for his dramatic roles, that by the time this actioner, with an almost non-existent ad campaign and directed by a pretty unknown Pierre Morel, rolled around, not many people gave it much thought. I mean, Oskar Schindler fighting human traffickers? Surely this must be the an ironic joke?

But we had no idea just how much middle-aged badassery was about to be unleashed on the world. Specifically, the male population of Albania. And thus began the Age of Neeson. It was filled with much ass kicking and internet memes.

Dr. Strangelove

A masterpiece of black comedy from one of cinema’s greatest talents, Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is ranked at #3 on AFI’s 100 years… 100 Laughs list. It has a perfect 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 8.6 score on IMDB. It has been deemed as “culturally significant” by the United States Library of Congress and thus chosen for preservation in the National Film Registry. It features not one, not two, but three amazing performances from the legendary Peter Sellers.

Do I even need to go on?

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  • http://twitter.com/the_krans Lourens Corleone

    Oh no, you did NOT just disrespect Tremors 2. I will have vengeance for this!

    • Talon

      It’s not often I find a fellow tremors fan.
      This is an outrage, I will have your head for this tremors 2 stuff

    • http://twitter.com/Echo_ZA Christo Kruger

      Is Tremors 2 the one where the creatures go above ground and have those little runner things?

      Cause that was dumb as hell :P