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January Preview: The 5 Must See Films

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire January 3, 2011 at 6:49AM

January is not exactly a dream month for options at the movie theater. Studios generally dump their leftovers or least-likely-to-suceeds while many moviegoers use this as an opportunity to catch up on films from the previous year, particularly those that make January's slew of awards announcements. But the specialty market is releasing quite a few quality options this first month of 2011, and indieWIRE is offering up a preview of five of the best bets. Check out a full list of January releases here, and this list that previews 30 of 2011's most anticipated releases.
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January is not exactly a dream month for options at the movie theater. Studios generally dump their leftovers or least-likely-to-suceeds while many moviegoers use this as an opportunity to catch up on films from the previous year, particularly those that make January's slew of awards announcements. But the specialty market is releasing quite a few quality options this first month of 2011, and indieWIRE is offering up a preview of five of the best bets. Check out a full list of January releases here, and this list that previews 30 of 2011's most anticipated releases.

1. The Time That Remains (January 7)

What's The Deal? Finally being released after premiering the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, Elia Suleiman's "The Time That Remains" is a semi biographic film, told in four episodes, about a family spanning from 1948 until the recent present. "Combined with my intimate memories of them and with them, the film attempts to portray the daily life of those Palestinians who remained in their land and were labeled 'Israeli-Arabs,' living as a minority in their own homeland," Suleiman himself described the film.

Who's Already Seen It? Critics have yet to score "The Time That Remains." But check out the film's criticWIRE page for links to reviews and grades as they come in.

Why is it a "Must See"? "Told with brightly colored imagery, using static shots to frame the scenes, Suleiman’s compelling new work - received quite warmly with an extended applause at a press screening here - evokes that of Jacques Tati and Buster Keaton," indieWIRE wrote when the film premiered in Cannes. Described by Roger Ebert as a "deadpan Palestinian comedy," the film deserves America's attention this January.

Check out the trailer here:


2. Kaboom (January 28)

What's The Deal? Gregg Araki is back with this sci-fi story centered around the sexual awakening of a group of college kids.

Who's Already Seen It? 23 critics gave "Kaboom" an average of B- on the film's criticWIRE page

Why is it a "Must See"? Starring a ridiculously attractive group of up-and-comers or near-unknowns including Roxanne Mesquida, Thomas Dekker, Rooney Mara, Juno Temple and Haley Bennett, "Kaboom" has a tone that's a throw-back to Araki's earlier work, and is a whole lot of fun.

Check out the trailer here:


3. Poetry (NOTE: Since the publishing of this article, "Poetry" has now been moved to a February release)

What's The Deal? Lee Chang-dong's portrait of an elderly woman in search of "the fundamental poetry from her life."

Who's Already Seen It? 22 critics gave "Poetry" an average of B+ on the film's criticWIRE page

Why is it a "Must See"? "It may go without saying that "Poetry" adopts a lyrical tone, but this forms the crux of its appeal," Eric Kohn wrote in his Cannes review. "In this case, the title says it all." Kohn's response was not unique, as critics in Cannes generally were quite Chang-dong's follow-up to the immensely well-received "Secret Sunshine."

Check out a scene from the film here:


4. The Way Back (January 21)

What's The Deal? Technically a December release thanks to an Academy qualifying run, Peter Weir's "The Way Back" is loosely based on the true story of a group of soldiers who escaped from a Siberian gulag in 1940, and stars Colin Farrell, Ed Harris, Jim Sturgess, and Saoirse Ronan.

Who's Already Seen It? 6 critics gave "The Way Back" an average of B- on the film's criticWIRE page

Why is it a "Must See"? Seemingly left out of the awards mix despite quite a few very big fans, "The Way Back" is a very worthy addition to Peter Weir's impressive filmography and worth a price of admission even if "nominated for XX Academy Awards" is unlikely to a banner on its newspaper ads.

Check out the trailer here:


5. Barney's Version (January 14)

What's The Deal? Based on Mordecai Richler's celebrated novel, Richard J. Lewis’ “Barney’s Version” finds an impressive cast in Paul Giamatti, Rosamund Pike, Minnie Driver, Rachel Lefevre, Bruce Greenwood, and Scott Speedman. The film centers on Barry Panofsky (Giamatti) a romantic, impulsive and blunt Jewish philanderer from Montreal, and the many women in his life, including his three wives played by Lefevre, Driver, and Pike.

Who's Already Seen It? 11 critics gave "Barney's Version" an average of B- on the film's criticWIRE page

Why is it a "Must See"? Nominated for a Golden Globe for Giamatti's performance, "Barney's Version" is a fun and clever film featuring a wide array of enjoyable performances. It's unlikely the studio comedies set for this month - from Ron Howard's Vince Vaughn-Kevin James starrer "The Dilemma" to Adam Sandler rom com "Just Go With It" will rival it in any of those regards.

Check out the trailer here: