Best New Movie Bets: January

"The Best Offer" starring Geoffrey Rush 

From Giuseppe Tornatore, the director of “Malena”, comes an art caper starring Geoffrey Rush (“The Book Thief”), Jim Sturgess (“Cloud Atlas”), Donald Sutherland (“The Hunger Games: Catching Game”) and newcomer Sylvia Hoeks.

Rush plays the eccentric director of an art auction house, who finds himself embroiled in mystery and romantic intrigue, after a reclusive woman contacts him, wanting to sell her exhaustive collection of family heirlooms. Tornatore is a master at multi-layer storytelling and the stellar Rush; is the perfect anchor for Tornatore’s heartfelt style of filmmaking. Release Date: January 1, 2014

"Open Grave" starring Sharlto Copley

When a man (Sharlto Copley, “Elysium”) wakes up in a pit, suffering from amnesia and at the center of a visual horror, he runs off, only to discover a group of fellow amnesiacs, who hold him at gunpoint, demanding answers for the atrocity.

Films surrounding memory loss are nothing new, the underrated Greg Kinnear, Jim Caviezel starrer “Unknown” cleverly delved into similar territory. The promising aspect of this particular movie is the casting of Copley. He’s an underappreciated talent whose breakthrough performance in “District 9” proved to be anything but a one hit wonder, when he wowed as the villain in last summer’s “Elysium”. Seeing what he can do with this script is going to be interesting. Release Date: January 3, 2014

"Beyond Outrage"

This Japanese film is the sequel to 2010’s “Outrage” and actor/director Takeshi Kitano returns as both the film’s star and director. The story picks up after the police have begun an expansive takedown on mob activity which, results in an all out war between the yakuza.

Mob dramas can be hit and miss, as a crime thriller it is poised for the most interest. For Western audiences, a glimpse into the world of the yakuza is an exotic leap that lends itself to heady exploration. Release Date: January 3, 2014

"Her" starring Joaquin Phoenix

Spike Jonze’s critical darling goes wide, after its limited release at the end of last year, to assure its bid for the awards season. Joaquin Phoenix’s (“The Master”) performance has been garnering raves, ever since the film’s premiere. As has the performance of vocal co-star Scarlett Johansson (“Don Jon”), her Oscar hopes are still possible despite hitting a setback when the Golden Globes ruled she was ineligible due to not being on-screen.

As for the plot, Phoenix plays Theodore, a lonely man who finds solace for his lonely heart by romancing an A.I. system. Interestingly, comparisons to the underrated “Simone” starring Al Pacino haven’t been very pronounced. The similar storylines on surface level; sound mildly similar. Read Eclectic Pop's Review here. Release Date: January 10, 2014 (Wide Release)

"Lone Survivor" starring Mark Wahlberg

The harrowing true story of Marcus Luttrell is told by director Peter Berg, who reportedly went to extreme lengths to keep the accuracy of the film, as true to the events as possible. Mark Wahlberg portrays Luttrell, who was one part of a four member, SEAL Team that went on the 2005 mission “Operation Red Wings”. As the title suggests a tragic chain of events take place afterwards.

Rounding out the cast is Taylor Kitsch (“John Carter”), Emile Hirsch (“Bonnie and Clyde”) and Ben Foster (“Contraband”). Kitsch and Berg are re-teaming after their failed venture “Battleship” and the pressure for this to redeem them is immense. Both took a critical bruising and Kitsch was given the premature branding of “box office poison”. This film could be tantamount to proving those who wrote them off, wrong. Release Date: January 10, 2014 (Wide Release)

"Like Father, Like Son" 

After sweeping through Cannes last year, this critically acclaimed Japanese film is finally making its way to an international release. The story centers on the aftermath of a baby switch. When the capitalistic patriarch (Masaharu Fukuyama) learns of the switch, he takes his time to determine which boy he wants.

While daytime dramas have been rife with baby switch storylines, theatrical films have not spent as much time on the subject. The angle that sets this film apart is the focus on the paternal aspect of the conflict. The philosophical implications of a parent deciding, whether to raise their biological son lays the groundwork for quite the morality tale. Release Date: January 17, 2014

"Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" 

Yet another installment in the Jack Ryan franchise, this time the title role is being played by Chris Pine (“Star Trek”) and Kevin Costner (“Hatfields & McCoys”) stars as his trainer. The storyline is rather simple. Ryan discovers a sinister plot by the Russians to ruin the U.S. economy.

While Pine is the lead, the personal excitement for this movie lies with the role of Ryan’s wife, played by Keira Knightley. Her role appears to be a promising one. After an all out casting war broke out for the part, one can only hope that the other actresses were fighting for the chance to play a role that amounts to more than a one-note, supporting character. Release Date: January 17, 2014

"Reasonable Doubt"

Samuel L. Jackson (“The Avengers”) and Dominic Cooper (“The Devil’s Double”) star in this crime thriller. Cooper plays a rookie D.A. who is involved in a fatal hit and run accident. Only to learn that another man (Jackson) is being charged with the crime and he has to prosecute it. Now he is faced with the ultimate quandary. In the interest of not having the story spoiled, it would be advised to avoid watching the trailer for this one.

Keeping the suspense is the key to any good thriller. The plot is sort of reminiscent of another Jackson starrer, “Changing Lanes”, which was an under seen gem. Cooper is an emerging talent and the story should be elevated given the involved talent. This hopefully won't be, a by-the-numbers thriller. Release Date: January 17, 2014

"A Most Wanted Man"

There is so much to be excited about with this film. An outstanding director and cast, endows it with exceptional expectations. Anton Corbjin, the director behind the brilliant George Clooney starrer “The American”; comes this adaptation of John le Carre’s 2008 novel. The plot action is sparked when a Chechen immigrant is detained after illegally entering Germany; thus setting off a chain of international conspiracy.

The cast that Corbjin has assembled for this film is quite impressive, newcomer Grigoriy Dobrygin is going opposite, the spectacular Philip Seymour Hoffman (“Hunger Games: Catching Fire”), Rachel McAdams (“About Time”), Daniel Bruhl (“Rush”), Robin Wright (“Adore”), and Willem Dafoe (“Out of the Furnace”). With a cast like that, how can you say "no?" Release Date: January 19, 2014 [Sundance Premiere]

"I, Frankenstein"

Aaron Eckhart (“Olympus Has Fallen”) has been poised for his leading role break, for some time. Seeing the trailers for this one, doesn’t necessarily indicate that this will be the project that makes his ascent into leading status, a done deal.

 The thing about Eckhart, is he is so freaking likable that even in a modern retelling of Frankenstein, closely resembling the “Underworld” trilogy, he still makes even the most ludicrous plot feel humanly tangible. Billy Nighy (who starred in the “Underworld” movies) co-stars and he will bring his own brand of refined sophistication to the grimy subtext of the film. Release Date: January 24, 2014

"That Awkward Moment"

Zac Efron has been on the radar for a while, waiting for his breakout role. After tackling dramatic territory in Nicholas Sparks’ “The Lucky One” and last year’s “Parkland”, he’s changing course, trying his hand at comedy. Efron needs someone to level him out though and his co-stars Michael B. Jordan (“Fruitvale Station) and Miles Teller (“The Spectacular Now”) might be just the ticket. “That Awkward Moment” tells the story of three best friends, two of whom, take a vow to stay single in solidarity with their newly unattached pal.

What gives this romantic comedy an assured flair is that its narrative is being told from the guy’s perspective, thus avoiding the possible bewilderment of the male contingent, who might have written it off. Not to mention it also stars up and comer, Imogen Poots (“The Look of Love”) who is poised for a big year in 2014. Read the full review here Release Date: January 31, 2014

"Labor Day" starring Kate Winslet 

 From “Thank You for Smoking” to “Up In the Air” director Jason Reitman is no stranger to delving into the dark crevices of the human journey. No matter how mundane or ordinary, his subject matter might appear at first, Reitman has managed to find the unique and tender underside that inhabits, each of his characters. All the while, admitting with brazen honesty that these are flawed people who while, falling short of being perfect, do succeed in being perfectly human.

His latest effort, centers on single mom Adele (Kate Winslet) and her son (Gattlin Griffith) after they aid a man (Josh Brolin) who turns out to be a fugitive. The events that unravel appear to be that of a romance and coming-of-age drama. A story that seems destined for an unhappy ending, has you hoping, all the more, for the opposite. Release Date: January 31, 2014