January is usually a very rough time at the movies. It’s infamously known as a dump month, the time where studios will release the worst of the worst that they clearly had no real faith in beforehand. Every once in awhile, we get a diamond in the rough and get a January release that turns out to be pretty good. Sometimes being great. With Bad Boys For Life seemingly being this year’s good January flick, we thought it’d be fun to take a look at some other gems that came out in the first month.
01-18-08. For months, that’s all the JJ Abrams-produced monster flick was known by, following a mysterious teaser attached to the first Transformers movie. It continued building hype with a very creative viral marketing campaign that had people searching all over the Internet looking for clues to figure out just what the hell was going on. “What did the monster look like?” “What is Slusho?” Thankfully, Cloverfield managed to deliver on the hype, being a very clever twist on the monster movie and also re-popularizing the found footage subgenre throughout the late 2000s/early 2010s, for better and worse.
Literally just a week after Cloverfield came out, another surprise gem came in the form of the fourth Rambo flick, simply titled Rambo. The main thing to discuss here is how excessively violent it is. It’s so bloody, you would think they gave squibs to every person who paid to see it. However, the constant carnage contained here made the movie feel like more of a genuine throwback to 80s-era machismo than any Expendables flick could even attempt to muster years later. It also felt like a fitting swan song to Sylvester Stallone’s second-biggest franchise…one he would eventually tarnish about a decade later.
Final Destination 2 (2003)
The original Final Destination was a silly-but-clever slasher that introduced the novel concept of Death coming to kill a group of people through elaborate accidents. Final Destination 2 essentially took that concept and said: “Let’s do it again, but bigger and crazier.” FD2 is the series at its absolute best, from the chaotic freeway crash to the famously elaborate ways people are killed, to the movie’s pitch-black sense of humour. In fact, it’s hard to state how funny the movie genuinely is. Each set piece feels like the set-up to a joke that keeps building and building the more clues are introduced, only for the punchline to be something so out of the left-field, you can’t help but laugh with it, no matter how much you shouldn’t.
Smokin’ Aces (2006)
An oft-forgotten gem of the mid-2000s, the criminally underrated Smokin’ Aces is one of the better versions of the hyper-stylized, “let’s take a bunch of insane characters, put them all together in a room and see what happens” type of filmmaking you used to see a lot in the late 90’s. Writer/director Joe Carnahan does a great job balancing out the various dynamics of the massive roster of characters, all by an absurdly stacked cast that includes Ben Affleck, Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven, Common, Taraji P. Henson and a pre-Star Trek Chris Pine as one-third of a family of neo-nazi human wrecking balls that cause more chaos in 5 minutes than some movies’ entire runtimes.
With how long Liam Neeson has cornered the “old man action star” market, it’s funny to think back on how refreshing it was just a decade ago. Even despite 2 god-awful sequels, the original Taken is still a refreshingly simple and highly entertaining action flick. We all know the speech about Liam Neeson’s particular set of skills, but seeing him put those skills to use as he tears up Paris never gets old.
The Grey (2012)
That’s right, Joe Carnahan and Liam Neeson have two entries on this list! When the trailers for The Grey originally came out, the marketing gave the idea that the movie would be Taken with wolves. However, no one was prepared that it would end up actually being not just a rough and effective survival thriller, but also a philosophical look at how a person faces death and despair. It even delivered one of Liam Neeson’s strongest performances in recent memory.