18 new films to know for January, including a JLo rom-com, a promising cringe-comedy, and multiple horror offerings

18 new films to know for January, including a JLo rom-com, a promising cringe-comedy, and multiple horror offerings

Our movie advice to kick off 2023? Attend a Shotgun Wedding, catch a ride on Plane, watch Jonah Hill meet Eddie Murphy—and be careful when playing with M3GAN

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AV Club January 2023 film preview: Plane (Kenneth Rexach), Shotgun Wedding (screenshot), M3GAN (Geoffrey Short/Universal Pictures), You People (Parrish Lewis/Netflix)
(Clockwise from bottom left:) Plane (Kenneth Rexach), Shotgun Wedding (screenshot), M3GAN (Geoffrey Short/Universal Pictures), You People (Parrish Lewis/Netflix)
Graphic: Karl Gustafson

As many of 2022’s films jockey for attention from award voters, elsewhere in Hollywood it’s business as usual for new movie releases. January usually tends to bring welcome diversions like comedies and action-packed adventures to theaters—for some, perhaps, a welcome change of pace from all the Oscar-contending prestige and holiday fare. And that’s certainly the case for the first month of 2023. While the month is a bit lean on new releases compared to most other months, there are some intriguing titles. Kenya Barris and Jonah Hill have teamed up for a Netflix comedy starring Eddie Murphy, a virally popular doll will dance her way onto the big screen, and the JLo rom-con renaissance continues. Read on for The A.V. Club’s handy guide to the January 2023 films worthy of your attention (and if you’re wondering about the best options from 2022, check out our ranking here).

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M3GAN

M3GAN

Theaters everywhere January 6

M3GAN - official trailer 2

Ripoffs are often more fun than remakes, and producer James Wan’s latest creepy puppet looks to have borrowed a lot of DNA from the Mark Hamill robo-Chucky Child’s Play remake. Unlike that stubby-limbed evil redhead, though, M3GAN’s ballerina-like flexibility and acrobatics make her look much more deadly. And ludicrous, but in a good way (fans of Wan’s Malignant, also written by M3GAN scribe Akela Cooper, know that tone well). A sort-of acronym for Model 3 Generative Android, M3GAN is a robotic doll programmed to be a child’s best friend and playmate—but like Bart Simpson’s Treehouse Of Horror Krusty doll, may have had her switch flipped to “evil.” She’ll protect with lethal force and, like little kids the world over, overreact to adult correction. Allison Williams stars as the unfortunate aunt who gifts her niece an unvetted prototype robot, and probably deserves what she gets as a result. Director Gerard Johnstone previously made the New Zealand horror-comedy film Housebound. [Luke Y. Thompson]

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Plane

Plane

Theaters everywhere January 13 

13Plane (2023 Movie) Official Trailer – Gerard Butler, Mike Colter, Yoson An

Gerard Butler continues his streak of Die Hard sequels that never existed but maybe should have; in this case, Die Hard On Militia Island. As a commercial pilot named Brodie Torrance in Plane, he’s forced to transport convicted killer Louis Gaspare (Mike Colter) along with his usual passengers, but a lightning storm takes the plane down. The lucky survivors must deal with the fact that they’ve landed on an ungoverned island occupied by violent militias who just love taking and killing hostages. Naturally, Brodie and Louis team up, while Tony Goldwyn acts concerned a continent away. Director Jean-Francois Richet directed the 2005 Assault On Precinct 13 remake and Mel Gibson’s Blood Father, an action movie that actually reckoned with Gibson’s extremely tarnished reputation and personality. So while it’s safe to say nobody’s expecting Spielberg here, Richet seems like the type who understands an assignment, and Butler’s usually game for anything. [Luke Y. Thompson]

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House Party

House Party

Theaters everywhere January 13

HOUSE PARTY Trailer (2023)

A surprise hit in 1990 that spawned two theatrical sequels and another two direct-to-video outings, the original House Party briefly made rappers Kid ’n Play into movie stars, playing versions of themselves putting on an out-of-control shindig without their parents’ knowledge. The “remix,” produced by LeBron James, ups the stakes. Two cleaners (Doctor Who’s Tosin Cole and The Maze Runner’s Jacob Latimore) realize that their latest job is at LeBron’s house, and he’ll be out of town for a while, so they plan a massive, celebrity-laden party there in hopes of paying off their debts with the proceeds. The movie’s loaded with cameos, including Snoop Dogg, Bill Bellamy, Lil Wayne, and Lena Waithe. Kid n’ Play will also appear, though it’s unclear if it will be as their real selves or their movie characters with the same names. This House Party is directed by Calmatic, best known for making Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” video. [Luke Y. Thompson]

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Skinamarink 

Skinamarink 

Select theaters January 13

Skinamarink - Official Trailer [HD] | A Shudder Original

Four-year-old Kevin and six-year-old Kaylee wake up in the middle of the night to find that all the doors and windows in their house have vanished ... along with their father. The trailer for Skinamarink, which is pointedly shot in a 1973 grindhouse style, indicates writer-director Kyle Edward Ball has mastered the ability to creep us out with simple, dark images, and the right amount of distortion on the soundtrack. Having filmed user-submitted nightmares on his YouTube channel, he derived Skinamarink from some of the common themes he observed. With a budget of only $15,000, this could be the next Paranormal Activity … or, like the 2006 When A Stranger Calls remake, a tedious hour and a half of actors walking around an empty house. If the whole movie proves as unsettling as the trailer, it’s going to be the former. [Luke Y. Thompson]

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The Drop

The Drop

Hulu January 13

The Drop | Official Trailer | Hulu

Hulu is building a name for itself with whip-smart, often hilarious original films featuring under-appreciated actors. In that vein is The Drop starring Anna Konkle and Jermaine Fowler, who deserve exactly this kind of off-kilter comedic material. Director and co-writer Sarah Adina Smith casts them as a couple whose marriage is put to the test during a tropical island vacation with their friends. What the title refers to, and the above trailer makes no bones about revealing, is the catalyst for their crisis: Lex (Konkle) drops one of their friends’ newborns onto the ground. As we eagerly await this perfect date-night film, we can rest assured with the reasonable assumption that no babies were harmed in the making of it. [Jack Smart]

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When You Finish Saving The World

When You Finish Saving The World

Theaters everywhere January 20

When You Finish Saving The World | Official Trailer HD | A24

Jesse Eisenberg’s directorial debut is finally hitting theaters exactly a year to the day after it premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews. Eisenberg also adapted the screenplay based on an audio drama he wrote for Audible back in 2020. When You Finish Saving The World is a darkly comedic look at the clash between Ziggy, a young rock-star wannabe with an online following (Finn Wolfhard), and his do-gooder mom Evelyn (Julianne Moore), who’s somehow altruistic and narcissistic at the same time. Though they constantly fail to connect, the two are more alike in their self-absorption than either of them would care to admit. Sharply funny and keenly observant, this portrait of the generational divide features nuanced performances that make you feel for the characters, even if you don’t always like them. [Cindy White]

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Teen Wolf: The Movie

Teen Wolf: The Movie

Paramount+ January 26

Teen Wolf: The Movie | Official Trailer | Paramount+

Just to get it straight: Teen Wolf: The Movie is a movie that’s a sequel to a series based on an older movie. And it’s directed by Highlander’s Russell Mulcahy, who was in his prime when the original 1985 Michael J. Fox comedy (co-written by Jeph Loeb!) came out. The show, which ended in 2017 after six seasons, is a more serious and mythology-heavy take on the notion of werewolves in a high school. (For an actual, albeit unauthorized remake of the original, try Pixar’s Turning Red.) This 2023 movie will introduce a new supernatural threat, and reunite most of the cast, except Dylan O’Brien, Arden Cho, and Cody Christian. Direct to Paramount+, it’s also designed to kick off a new spin-off series, Wolf Pack, starring Buffy The Vampire Slayer herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar. [Luke Y. Thompson]

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Shotgun Wedding

Shotgun Wedding

Prime Video January 27

Shotgun Wedding - Official Trailer | Prime Video

We’re officially in the midst of a Jennifer Lopez rom-com renaissance, and we couldn’t be more thrilled. Her latest outing is a sort of action-rom-com mashup with a simple premise that’s also kind of genius: in Shotgun Wedding, she teams up with Josh Duhamel to play Darcy and Tom, a couple whose gorgeous destination wedding is plagued by prenuptial jitters, meddling parents (Jennifer Coolidge plays the mother of the groom), and the arrival of a hot ex-boyfriend (Lenny Kravitz). Oh, and their big day is also hijacked by pirates who take all their guests hostage. Together, they spring into action together to save the day, rekindling their romance through an adrenaline-fueled adventure. Sounds fun! The film is coming exclusively to Prime Video, so it’s a perfect opportunity to curl up with a loved one or invite some friends over for a cozy night in. [Cindy White]

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Distant

Distant

Theaters everywhere January 27

Anthony Ramos
Anthony Ramos
Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Tribeca Festival (Getty Images)

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile directors Will Speck and Josh Gordon take to outer space in their next collaboration, Distant, starring Anthony Ramos and Naomi Scott as astronauts who encounter great peril. He crash lands on an alien planet, and must contend with the excessively articulate AI (Zachary Quinto) in his spacesuit. Meanwhile, she is somewhere else trapped inside her escape pod. Can he find her before his own air supply runs out? And even if he does, what then? In theory, this sounds a lot more serious and suspenseful than the comedies (Office Christmas Party, Switch, Blades Of Glory) the directors are known for. A lot depends on how they play the material here. And, perhaps, whether or not Quinto sings. [Luke Y. Thompson]

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You People

You People

Netflix January 27

You People | feat. Eddie Murphy and Jonah Hill | Official Teaser | Netflix

What’s wild about the teaser trailer for Kenya Barris’ You People, which includes a nervous white man (Jonah Hill) telling his girlfriend’s Black parents (Eddie Murphy and Nia Long) his proposal plans, is that it’s only the tip of this movie’s iceberg. Playing the parents of Hill’s character are none other than Julia Louis-Dreyfus and David Duchovny, while the great Lauren London rounds out the cast as the proposee. It sounds like a mash-up of Meet The Parents and Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, and we can’t wait to squirm at what is surely two hours of cringe comedy. [Jack Smart]

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Close 

Close 

Select theaters January 27

Close | Official Trailer HD | A24

Belgian director Lukas Dhont follows up his acclaimed yet divisive trans ballerina drama Girl with Close, a tale of two 13-year-old boys. Initially the best of friends, they begin to drift apart after classmates accuse them of being gay. As Léo (Eden Dambrine) pulls away from Rémi (Gustav de Waele) and begins acting more pointedly macho, a tragic event shakes everyone’s lives up even further. The co-winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes (along with Claire Denis’ Stars At Noon), Close is this year’s Oscar submission by Belgium for Best Foreign Language Film. For anyone who has ever been bullied or felt the pain of leaving childhood behind, Close is apparently quite the tearjerker. If that’s your thing. [Luke Y. Thompson]

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Plus:

Plus:

Kayije Kagame in Saint Omer
Kayije Kagame in Saint Omer
Image: Courtesy of TIFF

You’ll be forgiven for not knowing there’s a Nicolas Cage Western coming out this month: The Old Way, from director Brett Donowho, arrives in select theaters January 6. France’s submission to the Oscars’ international film category, the legal drama Saint Omer from writer-director Alice Diop, lands in select theaters January 13. Horror fans have the intriguingly titled There’s Something Wrong With The Children (VOD January 17) and the delightfully titled Kids Vs. Aliens (select theaters January 20).

Also this month, don’t miss Bob Odenkirk in Cecilia Miniucchi’s Life Upside Down (select theaters January 27), Alexander Skarsgård and Mia Goth in Brandon Cronenberg’s Infinity Pool (select theaters January 27), and the starry quartet of Diane Keaton, Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, and William H. Macy in Michael Jacobs’ Maybe I Do (select theaters January 27). Happy New Year! [Jack Smart]

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