Moviegoing becomes a game of catch-up early in each new year. It’s the time to see some of the best-reviewed work that opened a few weeks earlier in New York and Los Angeles for Academy Awards consideration. Then there’s all the rest, the stuff – true to the season - that opens cold, without high Oscar hopes.
In many ways, winter holds the biggest potential for happy cinematic accidents. This is the time, with luck, when we stumble upon movies even their own distributors didn’t realize were actually good.
So, we’ll see. And we’ll certainly be seeing these 10, among dozens more, out on the big screen — or at home on smaller ones.
Dates are subject to change. Check your local listings.
“Silence,” Jan. 13. Is God there, listening to His believers’ cries? Martin Scorsese’s latest made its world premiere in November at the Vatican, and for movies devoted to the power of Christian belief, that’s what’s known as playing the big room. The film is based on the 1966 novel by Shusaku Endo; its story of Portuguese Jesuit missionaries persecuted in 17th century Japan has haunted Scorsese for decades. Starring Andrew Garfield, Liam Neeson and Adam Driver, and shot in a stunning variety of Taiwanese locales.
“The Founder,” Jan. 20. Michael Keaton stars as burgermeister Ray Kroc, the man who turned McDonald’s into the highest-cholesterol success story in 20th century American business. Directed by John Lee Hancock, this biopic co-stars Laura Dern, John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman.
“The Lego Batman Movie,” Feb. 10. What is it? Is it the stubby lil’ Lego legs that make the action figures in the “Lego Batman Movie” trailers so durn cute? If you were a fan of “The Lego Movie,” gender politics aside, you’re jolly well looking forward to director Chris McKay’s animated Lego Batman romp.
“Get Out,” Feb. 24. Jordan Peele, of “Key &” fame, goes for the cold creeps in what the trailers suggest will be a weird blend of sociopolitical satire and bells-out horror. White woman brings black boyfriend home to meet skeptical folks; complications ensue.
“Toni Erdmann,” March 3. Raucous, tender, completely unpredictable in terms of tone and narrative, this remarkable black comedy from writer-director Maren Ade concerns a humorless German business consultant (Sandra Huller) and the stunning lengths her practical-joking father (Peter Simonischek) goes to, in order to reconnect with his only child. A smash at Cannes and, if there’s justice in the world, a good bet for this year’s foreign-language film Oscar.
“Table 19,” March 10. This one answers the question: What has June Squibb, Oscar nominee for “Nebraska,” been up to lately? She plays one of several misfits stuck at the same forlorn wedding-reception table (in back, in Loserville) alongside headliner Anna Kendrick, Craig Robinson and others. Written by the Duplass brothers, Jay and Mark, this could be a sleeper. Or, who knows, it could be a different kind of sleeper.
“Kong: Skull Island,” March 10. I’d love to see the TripAdvisor reviews for vacations on Skull Island: “Enjoyed the beaches and activities, with one ENORMOUS exception …” The uncharted South Pacific isle of the title has its locals (Kong, plus other beasts) and it has its visitors, played by Brie Larson (Oscar winner for “Room”), Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson and John Goodman.
“Beauty and the Beast,” March 17. Bill Condon directs a live-action version of the animated 1991 Disney smash, which exists because Disney tends to make money on these things. Emma Watson is the new Belle; Dan Stevens, the new Beast; various supporting knick-knacks and whatnots are played by Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson, Kevin Kline and others. The question hanging over this enterprise: Can director Condon make it live and breathe on its own terms?
“I Am Not Your Negro,” March 17. Another 2016 festival hit, this portrait of novelist, playwright and trenchant civil rights chronicler James Baldwin was a lot of folks’ favorite documentary last year. This year, it’s getting out and about in limited release.
“Wilson,” March 24. The gloriously alienating antihero of the Daniel Clowes graphic novel comes to life via Woody Harrelson, in one of the riskier literary adaptations of recent times. Judy Greer co-stars, so that’s an immediate plus. The movie was shot in the Twin Cities. Here’s hoping it’s even half as odd, and splendid, as the source material.