10 Meryl Streep plays it big and broad in the screen adaptation of Tracy Letts’ acclaimed play August: Osage County, directed by John Wells and featuring a boatload of talent including Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Sam Shepard. It’s not great, but it’s entertaining. The Grand Illusion has the third anime in the Evangelion series—like Pacific Rim, but a cartoon. Then Mark Wahlberg stars in the very violent and harrowing Lone Survivor, based on an actual 2005 battle in Afghanistan. It’s full of patriotic feeling, and the two big firefights seem to go on forever. John Sayles is back after a long break with Go for Sisters (at SIFF), about Mexican drug cartels. And Northwest Film Forum has something called Pig Death Machine, which may not actually involve pigs or death.
17 Chris Pine fills the shoes previously worn by Harrison Ford and Alec Baldwin in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Though what we’re all obviously thinking is, how will he stack up against Matt Damon in the Bourne movies? Animated talking squirrels figure in The Nut Job, while Ice Cube tries to become a cop in the comedy Ride Along. (Why couldn’t Cube be an animated talking squirrel who wants to become a cop? There’s a movie we’d pay to see.) Takeshi Kitano promises to shoot and shock in Beyond Outrage, his latest yakuza flick. Devil’s Due sounds like a rehash of Rosemary’s Baby, but January’s the traditional dumping ground for such dreck.
24 Ralph Fiennes plays a adulterous Charles Dickens in The Invisible Woman (which he also directed). The Japanese documentary Tokyo Waka examines the bond between urban-dwelling humans and urban-dwelling crows. And in I, Frankenstein, the monster somehow becomes a good guy, possibly a superhero, battling baddies who need battling. (Extra points, however, for including Bill Nighy—a sign they’re going for an Underworld vibe.) And beginning Thursday the 23rd is NWFF’s Children’s Film Festival, with 11 days of family-friendly programming. Another festival is Women in Cinema, running a week at SIFF.
31 Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin star in the crime melodrama Labor Day, directed by Jason Reitman (Juno, Young Adult); this ought to be promising, but it’s an end-of-the-year stealth release in New York and L.A. The Past features an equal pedigree, directed by Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) and starring The Artist’s Bérénice Bejo as a woman seeking to extricate herself rom a bad marriage. Poor black teenagers in Baltimore ride illegal dirt bikes in the documentary 12 O’Clock Boys. The new documentary Jobriath A.D. celebrates the life of the late, one-named gay rocker, an icon of New York in the ’70s. And a month before the Academy Awards (March 2), you can see a traveling package of the Oscar-nominated short films.
7 George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, John Goodman, and Bill Murray are among those seeking to save art treasures in the rubble of the Third Reich in The Monuments Men, directed by Clooney. Then there’s The Lego Movie; no idea what that’s about. And bloody Ben Wheatley (Down Terrace, Kill List) returns with A Field in England, about a gory British battle during the 1600s.
14 There was nothing wrong with the original, but now we have a reboot of Robocop, starring Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman. In support are vets like Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, and Samuel L. Jackson—so it can’t be all bad, right? Not a remake, despite the title, is the teen romance Endless Love. But this one is a remake of the 1986 movie (itself based on a David Mamet play): About Last Night, now with an African-American cast. Less of a Valentine’s Day date movie is 3 Days to Kill, an action flick written by Luc Besson, directed by McG (aka the Charlie’s Angels guy), and starring Kevin Costner. Eddie Muller will visit town to introduce titles at SIFF’s ever-popular Noir City series. And the Grand Illusion will salute Woody Allen’s 1980s work this month, with titles including Hannah and Her Sisters, Broadway Danny Rose, and The Purple Rose of Cairo.
21 One Chance is an English feel-good dramedy with music, based on the life of a contestant on Britain’s Got Talent, essentially the male Susan Boyle. Hayao Miyazaki’s last animation effort—he promises!—celebrates aviation before World War II; some have criticized The Wind Rises for that very reason. Evan Rachel Wood plays a mental patient taken to a society wedding in Barefoot; we’re guessing that ends badly. Made in Paraguay, the chase-thriller 7 Boxes was a favorite during SIFF last year; now it’s back for a weeklong run.
28 Finally an action flick we’re excited about! Liam Neeson wields his AARP card as a deadly weapon in Non-Stop. Do we care about the plot? He’s on a plane, he’s Liam Neeson, and that’s all you need to know. Then some teenage girls get a hold of a time machine in the Michael Bay–produced Welcome to Yesterday (previously Almanac); this also portends bad things . . . unless they go back and try to kill Hitler? It’s the Oscar telecast weekend, always dead at the multiplex. And beginning this weekend, the Seattle Jewish Film Festival will play at SIFF and other venues.
7 Here’s the first real movie of the new year: Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, starring everyone who’s previously been in a Wes Anderson movie. The plot? Luxe life and romantic entanglements in the 1920s. And for absolute counterprogramming, there’s 300: Rise of an Empire, with all the beefcake, blood, swords, and sandals you can handle. Meanwhile, the homoerotic tension is more manifest in Stranger by the Lake, about a summertime romance between two Frenchmen.
14 Grace of Monaco stars Nicole Kidman, of course, as screen icon Grace Kelly. It’s apparently more about political intrigue than Hollywood, though some actor will wear the fat suit to play Hitchcock. That Awkward Moment stars Zac Efron and a couple other dude-bras uncertain whether to commit to their girlfriends. Need for Speed announces itself as a potential gasoline franchise entry (after The Fast and the Furious), about guys who need . . . well, you get the idea. North Carolina teens help create low-income housing in the doc If You Build It.
21 Tina Fey and Ricky Gervais join the gang in Muppets Most Wanted, a jewel-heist caper comedy set in Europe. (Cameos will include Lady Gaga and Zach Galifianakis, the latter billed as “Hobo Joe.” What else could he be?) Jason Bateman directs himself in Bad Words, a dark comedy about a grown man who enters a children’s spelling bee.
27 Again with the Bible movies: Darren Aronofsky and Russell Crowe join forces in Noah, about the guy, the boat, the animals, and the flood. And for something completely different: Tim’s Vermeer, a documentary about a Texas man obsessed with Girl With a Pearl Earring (the painting, not the movie).
4 Wait, it is summer already? Now we have the second Marvel installment Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Unrelated to those cartoon Madagascar movies is Island of Lemurs: Madagascar, a nature doc with the voice of Morgan Freeman. Then Jude Law shows up as a London safecracker in Dom Hemingway, an ex-con looking for money, not revenge.
11 The talking cartoon birds are back in Rio 2, and Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to action mode in Sabotage. Couldn’t these two movies be combined somehow?
18 Bears! (No, don’t go there . . . ) John C. Reilly narrates this Disney nature doc about our glorious ursine neighbors in Alaska. They are cuddly and cute, and your kids haven’t seen Grizzly Man, so let’s leave it at that.
25 Earth to Echo: Preteens receive strange text messages . . . from space?!?
2 Now summer begins, right? It’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2, so it must be summer. Someone tell me I’m wrong.
9 Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne, plus new baby, move next door to a frat house in Neighbors. And who’s the frattiest of their rowdy new neighbors? Zac Efron.
15 SIFF! The 40th annual Seattle International Film Festival runs through June 8.
30 Angelina Jolie stars as the evil witch in Maleficent, a PG-rated Disney retelling of Sleeping Beauty, with Elle Fanning as the slumbering princess.