The 2020 Film Release Calendar: January

And here we go. We finished one year, time to look ahead to the new one. We’re in a new decade now, even.

I normally spend the first week of the year going over all the films that are gonna come out during it. But this year’s a weird one because the Oscars take place so early. Oscar night is a month and a week from today. So we’re gonna do January’s Release Calendar today and February’s tomorrow just to get them down before the movies start coming out, and then we’ll move onto some other stuff I normally post before Oscar nominations/coverage, namely the top performance lists.

But a lot of the stuff I normally post to wrap up a year is coming AFTER Oscar season this year because it’s so early. So all the rest of the Release Calendar and the top scores list… it’s all coming after Oscar night, because that’s how the calendar works.

So anyway, here are all the films that are currently set to come out this month:


The Grudge

A house is cursed by a vengeful ghost that dooms those who enter it with a violent death.

Normally I would not care at all about this, but Nicolas Pesce is directing. Eyes of My Mother was very solid and I loved Piercing.

So that means rather than skipping this, I will watch it. Though it doesn’t particularly mean I’m going to care about it.

2.5 stars.


Ana meets Rafa in a chance encounter and they embark on a road trip to try and save him from bankruptcy, or worse.

Directed by a TV guy (who did the pilot of Desperate Housewives and won an Emmy for it and also did a couple of episodes of The Office and House of Cards) and stars Andy Garcia and Dafne Keen.

It feels like a generically likable indie movie. It’ll either go 2.5 stars or 3 stars depending on how much I care. Trailer basically gives me the entire movie in two minutes.

Let’s call it 3 stars and move along.


Dylan Burke attempts to move on from his former life as a criminal, with his true love, Maria. He soon realizes that his past will continue to haunt him, when he learns the new local prison warden, Daniel Calvin, has not forgiven him for an old crime. Calvin does everything in his power to make sure that Burke pays for his past mistakes, even going as far as to frame him for a murder he didn’t commit, landing him back in jail. When the prison erupts into a riot, Burke and Calvin are each forced to make a choice between righteousness and revenge.

Laurence Fishburne plays the warden. Edward James Olmos and Esai Morales are also in it. Director hasn’t made anything noteworthy to speak of. That means 2.5 stars or 3 stars, and we’ll use a trailer to figure out which.

Trailer says 2.5 stars. Maybe I can get 3 out of this, but I guarantee you I won’t get more than that.

I’m only gonna see this for Laurence Fishburne and because it’s coming out in a time when it’s easy to watch stuff like this.

The Informer

An ex-convict working undercover intentionally gets himself incarcerated again in order to infiltrate the mob at a maximum security prison.

I’ve had a copy of this for a while. I figured I’d wait to watch it until the actual year it’s coming out.

The director did Escobar: Paradise Lost, that one with Benicio Del Toro.

Stars Rosamund Pike, Joel Kinnaman, Ana de Armas, Clive Owen, Common.

Good cast, but January slot. That means 3 stars. If it’s fun and charming, it could get 3.5 out of me, but this feels like an exactly 3-star generic action-thriller.

Like a Boss

Two friends with very different ideals start a beauty company together. One is more practical while the other wants to earn her fortune and live a lavish lifestyle.

On paper, this sounds like a terrible, borderline Unforgivable-level comedy.

Tiffany Haddish is in danger of becoming another Melissa McCarthy, going from a breakout performance into nothing but shitty movies. Rose Byrne is basically bulletproof from bad movies because she’s funny and a good actress and can move back to drama, but she has been in a bad one or two here and there. Salma Hayek is also in it, which is neither a plus nor a minus, and then Ari Graynor and Jennifer Coolidge.

However, Miguel Arteta is the director. And as much as I’m pretty meh on all his stuff… he’s not one of those generic comedy guys. He’s an offbeat indie guy. Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl, Youth in Revolt, Cedar Rapids, Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Bad Day, Beatriz at Dinner, Duck Butter… he makes indie movies. I don’t like some of them and others I’m just tepid on, but he’s not the kind of guy that makes the shitty comedies you’d expect. So I’m torn about this one. So we’ll see what the trailer says.

Another concern I have is that the film was originally written by a female TV writer and rewritten by a male writing team. And that’s almost never a good sign.

Oh, boy. That trailer is… not good.

2.5 stars.

I almost feel bad I retired the Unforgivables list. This feels destined for it.


A crew of aquatic researchers work to get to safety after an earthquake devastates their subterranean laboratory. But the crew has more than the ocean seabed to fear.

The director made The Signal, which was fine. This has Kristen Stewart, T.J. Miller, Jessica Henwick, Vincent Cassel, John Gallagher Jr. and Mamoudou Athie. Limited cast, people underwater and a monster. Alien, but underwater.

Coming out in January, trailer looks fine. Feels like an easy 3 stars. There’s gotta be a whole lot going on that they’re hiding for me to think it can go 3.5 stars. And they don’t dump that stuff in January.

Inherit the Viper

Crime thriller about three siblings in Appalachia getting by as local opioid dealers, trying not to get caught in the spiral of violence that comes with the territory.

Aww, this is the generic, early month VOD thriller that I know.

This is the director’s first feature, this is the writer’s first feature, and it stars Josh Hartnett, Bruce Dern… yeah. Let’s see what the trailer says.

2.5 stars. Could go 3. They all could go 3. But let’s assume indifference and actually let it do something worthwhile rather than assume it will.

Three Christs

Three Christs follows Dr. Alan Stone who is treating three paranoid schizophrenic patients at the Ypsilanti State Hospital in Michigan, each of whom believed they were Jesus Christ.

This one played Toronto in 2017 and is now getting dumped on VOD in January 2019. So that should tell you a lot.

It’s directed by Jon Avnet, who did Fried Green Tomatoes, Up Close & Personal, 88 Minutes, Righteous Kill and a lot of TV latel, like Justified and Sneaky Pete.

Richard Gere stars as the doctor and the three patients are Walt Goggins, Peter Dinklage and Bradley Whitford.

I don’t care how bad this movie sounds/looks, that cast should get it to 3 stars.

Bad Boys for Life

The Bad Boys Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett are back together for one last ride.

16 years after the second one, we get the third one. Money talks, I guess. This has gone through about a half-dozen writers and directors over the past six years. They announced this in 2013, and at one point Joe Carnahan was gonna make it, and then some other various ‘action’ guys, and now they’ve gone to a foreign directing team who probably made one cool action movie, are gonna get blamed for the failure of this movie and then never be able to work in Hollywood again. That’s what this town does. They chew up and spit out people like this.

Joe Carnahan is still credited on a script, which leads me to believe he was the layout guy who came up with the broad story and then the other writers did the bulk of what’s on the screen. One credited writer has written nothing else that’s gotten made, and the other is a real writer. He worked on The Town, Mockingjay, Blood Father (based on his own book), 12 Strong, the new Top Gun movie (though clearly that’s a Chris McQuarrie movie)… he feels like an action guy that becomes one of a piece of all these movies because they all have like six writers, only three of whom get credit.

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are back, as is Joe Pantoliano, fucking DJ Khaled is in this, Vanessa Hudgens… I mean, the cast doesn’t really matter.

This is 3 stars. We know this is 3 stars. If it were Bay, I’d have given a mercy 3.5 stars. But this is only gonna go 3 stars, and it would have to be exceptional to get a 3.5 out of me. 2.5 is impossible. No matter how broad and generic a Will Smith movie is, they never go below 3.


A physician discovers that he can talk to animals.

Stephen Gaghan is directing this. That’s so insane to me. Dude made Syriana and Gold. He wrote Traffic. And here we are.

This was a passion project for Robert Downey, who apparently really wanted to do a Welsh accent, I’m guessing.

They got some insane number of famous people to voice the animals, which is fine, but they’re not gonna determine the rating on this. There are really only two things that will determine if this goes 3 stars or 3.5 stars — if the writing is clever and gets me to laugh (i.e. how dumb and kiddie it’s trying to be), and how annoyed I am by the fact that it’s all really obvious CGI animals.

The trailer basically told me I’m getting 3 stars out of this. The fact that it’s Stephen Gaghan makes me hold out hope that there’s a sliver of possibility for 3.5 stars, but the fact that they had a chance to put it out at Christmas and are now putting it in January means they know it’s not good. So we’re sticking with 3 stars and we’ll figure they’re gonna take a financial bath on this domestically.


This bizarre retro comedy, shot entirely on VHS and Beta, follows 12-year-old Ralph as he accidentally records home videos and his favorite late night shows over his parents’ wedding tape.

The premise sounds funny. And the fact that they shot it on VHS and Beta means I should enjoy it.

The trailer looks wild.

I’m going 3.5 stars on this. It looks weird as fuck. Maybe it’ll only be 3, but I’m loving how crazy this looks. I’ll be wrong on this, but I want it to be awesome.

The Wave

Frank, an opportunistic insurance lawyer, thinks he’s in for the time of his life when he goes out on the town to celebrate an upcoming promotion with his co-worker, Jeff. But their night takes a turn for the bizarre when Frank is dosed with a hallucinogen that completely alters his perception of the world, taking him on a psychedelic quest through board meetings, nightclubs, shootouts, and alternate dimensions. As Frank ping-pongs between reality and fantasy, he finds himself on a mission to find a missing girl, himself – and his wallet.

This looks weird and trippy. I’m in.

3 stars. The visuals should counteract whatever bad writing is in it.

A Fall from Grace

Disheartened since her ex-husband’s affair, Grace Waters feels restored by a new romance. But when secrets erode her short-lived joy, Grace’s vulnerable side turns violent.

I was really hoping this was gonna be the Jennifer Lynch movie she’s been trying to get made, but no… it’s a Tyler Perry movie. For Netflix.

But, the fact that it’s Tyler Perry means 2.5 stars. I’ve seen three or four of his movies now, and I haven’t found yet I wasn’t indifferent toward. So let’s assume more of the same until something changes my opinion.

Troop Zero

In rural 1977 Georgia, a misfit girl dreams of life in outer space. When a competition offers her a chance to be recorded on NASA’s Golden Record, she recruits a makeshift troop of Birdie Scouts, forging friendships that last a lifetime.

It’s coming out on Amazon Prime on the 17th.

It looks cute.

Can’t tell if it’s gonna be 3 stars or 3.5 stars, so let’s say 3 stars and hope for 3.5. I can’t quite tell what I’m getting from that trailer, but I think there’s a shot of 3.5. I think 3 stars is the safe guess though.

The Gentlemen

A British drug lord tries to sell off his highly profitable empire to a dynasty of Oklahoma billionaires.

It’s Guy Ritchie returning to his crime roots. Which means at worst it’s a 3.5 star movie. The question is if I wanna guess 4.

You’ve got McConaughey, Hugh Grant doing a Michael Caine impression, Charlie Hunnam, Colin Farrell, Michelle Dockery, Eddie Marsan, Jeremy Strong and Henry Golding. That’s a really solid cast.

Let’s say 3.5 stars and hope for 4. I know that’s because I was pretty muted on ratings last year. My normal instinct would be to guess 4 and let it just be 3.5. But I’d rather go low and let it be high than the other way around. I’m not getting lower than 3.5 anyway. It would have to suck to be 3 stars, and I know Guy Ritchie. It’s not going less than 3.5.

The Last Full Measure

Thirty-four years after his death, Airman William H. Pitsenbarger, Jr. is awarded the nation’s highest military honor, for his actions on the battlefield.

War movie. Great cast. Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Plummer, Sebastian Stan, Ed Harris, Diane Ladd, Bradley Whitford, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Jeremy Irvine, Peter Fonda, William Hurt, Lunis Roache, Michael Imperioli, John Savage. Crazy, right?

Problem is, the trailer looks really generic. It’s people talking about giving someone a medal rather than war stuff or anything else. So I’m gonna guess 3 stars, though that cast makes me think it should be 3.5 stars. But the director hasn’t really made anything particularly good and the trailer is giving me a pretty good idea of the overall film. So 3 stars it is.


A home schooled teenager begins to suspect her mother is keeping a dark secret from her.

It says it’s supposed to come out on the 24th, but no trailer has been released yet. What does that tell you?

It says Lionsgate, who are VOD central, but even still… VOD movies get trailers. They wrapped filming a year ago, so it’s done. Sarah Paulson plays the mother, by the way, and it’s by the director of Searching, which I quite enjoyed.

I know Searching was really well done, but I can’t assume this is anything more than a generic thriller. So 3 stars and we’ll see what it’s gonna be.

Though based on what I’m seeing, I’d be really surprised if this even comes out when it says it’s gonna. How can you put a movie out without any advertisements whatsoever three weeks out?

The Turning

A young governess is hired by a man who has become responsible for his young nephew and niece after the deaths of their parents. A modern take on Henry James’ novella “The Turn of the Screw”.

It stars Mackenzie Davis, who I love, as well as Brooklynn Prince from The Florida Project and Finn Wolfhard from Stranger Things and It. The director did a lot of music videos and also made The Runaways.

The problem is, though… it’s horror. And I can’t stand movies like this. So I’m going 2.5 stars and I know I’m not gonna care about this at all, even though it might be perfectly decent. Maybe I get 3 stars out of this, but chances are I’m just not gonna care at all. And if I get 3 stars I guarantee it’s because of Mackenzie Davis and nothing else.

Gretel & Hansel

A long time ago in a distant fairy tale countryside, a young girl leads her little brother into a dark wood in desperate search of food and work, only to stumble upon a nexus of terrifying evil.

Oz Perkins directs. He’s done two movies before this. One was pretty good and the other was not. Sophia Lillis stars in this, so there’s that. Really it’s gonna come down to tone, so let’s see what the trailer says.

3 stars.

This actually looks okay. It looks really well shot and it looks like the character moments are gonna pull it through to 3 for me.

The Assistant

A searing look at a day in the life of an assistant to a powerful executive. As Jane follows her daily routine, she grows increasingly aware of the insidious abuse that threatens every aspect of her position.

This is the ‘Harvey Weinstein’ movie. It played Telluride and is playing Sundance before, I’m guessing, a day-and-date release on the 31st.

Julia Garner, who I like a lot, stars. This is gonna be one of those trailer-dependent ratings. There’s really only a couple of options for this, though. It’s either gonna be 2.5 or 3. Let’s see what the trailer says.

Let’s say 3 stars and hope it’s watchable. Could go very badly, could be even better than that. The January release either means they want the buzz or it’s not that great and the subject matter is the only noteworthy aspect of it. So let’s go baseline and see what the movie is.

The Rhythm Section

A woman seeks revenge against those who orchestrated a plane crash that killed her family.

I’ve seen this trailer in front of seemingly every movie I’ve gone to see over the past two months.

Reed Morano directs. Her first movie was Meadowland, which I thought was meh. Her second was I Think We’re Alone Now, which looked good but was just decent. This looks like a step up, but still a generic action movie.

Feels like a 3-star movie all around.

Cast is fine… Blake Lively, Jude Law, Sterling K. Brown… but all of these people can easily give you a generic action movie. So let’s stick with 3 and see if it can be good enough to get to 3.5.

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