Next On The Big Screen: Jan. 2016

December 31, 2015 Updated: January 1, 2016

The Epoch Times film critic sifts through the 38 film offerings of January 2016, and picks five. The choices are based on which movies will have the most visibility and potential to impact culture, especially (but not always) in a positive way, and collates some critique excerpts from fellow reviewers from other news publications.

Jan. 1


All images are copyright © monterey media inc.
(R) James Franco stars in “Yosemite” which he also wrote. (monterey media inc.)

R | | Drama | 8 Jan. 2016 (USA)

In fall of 1985, three 5th grade friends, Chris, Joe, and Ted go on a “Stand By Me” type adventure in suburban Palo Alto. A dangerous wild cougar roams the neighborhood.

Alan Scherstuhl
Writes for: The Village Voice
“Franco has stripped nostalgia and innocence from his stories of growing up, except for nostalgia for innocence: His characters have begun to suspect that people as a rule are terrible to each other—and also begun to experiment with terribleness themselves—but there’s always a hint that perhaps they might right themselves still, that maybe kindness isn’t exclusive to suckers. 

Franco is fine, but the child performers … seem like your distant younger cousins sulking through some family get-together. The film itself has that feeling, like its scenes are a life you’re observing rather than staged approximations.”

Jan. 8


Sophie (Kristen Stewart) a brilliant Columbia grad student with extreme existential angst, reading in a cafe, in "Anesthesia." (© 2014 IFC LLC)
Sophie (Kristen Stewart) a brilliant Columbia grad student with extreme existential angst, reading in a cafe, in “Anesthesia.” (IFC LLC)

R | | Drama, Thriller | 8 Jan. 2016 (USA)

A philosophy professor is wounded during a mugging. This experience creates a ripple effect, touching multiple interconnected lives. Our heavily self-medicating world on display, along with musings on the meaning of life—we’d all like some answers about the meaning of life. Anyone still of the opinion that Kristen Stewart is not a world-class, talented actress will be proven wrong.

Rodrigo Perez
Writes for: The Playlist

“All of these characters are linked by their need for escapism and to numb the pain of existence. Joe uses heroin, Sarah the booze, Sam sex, the two Zarrow kids, Ella and Hal, pot, Sophie self-laceration, and on and on and so forth. And while all these disaffected people pick their poison with which to self-medicate, Waterston’s character is like the chorus; lecturing to his class, but really just hammering home the movie’s themes of human anguish, disillusionment and fairly well-worn notions of life, its worth and value, and what it all means in the end.”

 Jan. 15

’13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi’

John Krasinski plays Jack Silva in "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi" from  (Christian Black/© 2015 Paramount Pictures/3 Arts Entertainment/Bay Films)
John Krasinski plays former U.S. Navy SEAL Jack Silva in “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.”  (Christian Black/ Paramount Pictures/3 Arts Entertainment/Bay Films)

R | Action, Drama, Thriller | 15 Jan. 2016 (USA)  

“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” is a Michael Bay-produced/directed action thriller, based on the 2013 book “13 Hours,” by Mitchell Zuckoff.

On the evening of the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 trade center attacks, a group of militants storm the American diplomatic compound and a nearby CIA Annex, in Benghazi, Libya. CIA security contractors (military vets made up of former Navy SEALS, Marine Corps, and Army Special Forces operators) desperately defend the American Ambassador and his staff inside the diplomatic compound.

Jan. 22

Ip Man 3

Donnie Yen as
Donnie Yen as “Yip Man” in “Ip Man 3.” (Well Go USA)

  | Action, Biography, Drama | 24 Dec. 2015 (Hong Kong)

 Ip Man, best known as Bruce Lee’s real-life mentor, has recently become a Hong Kong local-hero legend. Donnie Yen and director Wilson Yip tell the tale of grandmaster Ip Man’s clash with a corrupt American property tycoon (Mike Tyson), and a title challenge from a rival wing chun master (Max Zhang Jin).

In 1959, when a local Hong Kong gang hired by Frank (Mike Tyson) intimidates teachers at a local school, Ip Man (Donnie Yen) stands guard. There he meets fellow practitioner Cheung (Max Zhang), whose son also attends the school.

Frank’s fight with Ip Man is like the early UFC, a confrontation of dissimilar styles; the speed of wing chun not a given advantage when going up against force of nature, former heavyweight champion of the world, Iron Mike.

However, both fighters are overshadowed by Max Zhang as Cheung. This mainland China star, who first attracted attention as the villain in 2013’s “The Grandmaster,” again steals the thunder here. 

Jan. 29

 Kung Fu Panda 3 

(L–R) Po (voiced by Jack Black) meets his long-lost panda father Li (voiced by Bryan Cranston) for the first time in DreamWorks Animation's "Kung Fu Panda 3." (© 2015 DreamWorksAnimation LLC)
(L–R) Po (voiced by Jack Black) meets his long-lost panda father Li (voiced by Bryan Cranston) for the first time in DreamWorks Animation’s “Kung Fu Panda 3.” (DreamWorksAnimation LLC)

 PG | Animation, Action, Adventure | 29 Jan. 2016 (USA)

“Kung Fu Panda 3” is a 3D action-comedy martial-arts cartoon directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson and executive produced by Guillermo del Toro. A sequel to 2011’s Kung Fu Panda 2, this three-quel features the voices of Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Bryan Cranston, Kate Hudson, J. K. Simmons, and James Hong.

Po the (Kung Fu) panda reunites with his bio-dad and discovers his true panda clan. He finds, to his surprise, the panda life does not come naturally to him. He meets his bride-to-be of his (unbeknownst to him) long-standing arranged marriage. When an evil spirit begins stealing the powers of Chinese kung fu masters, it’s up to Po to train all his fat, out-of-shape, not-too-graceful panda buddies to join him in Kung Fu Pandadom. 

This is an excellent big screen franchise. No reason number 3 shouldn’t measure up to its predecessors.

Follow Mark on Twitter: @FilmCriticEpoch