The Collegian
Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Film Fridays | Movie recommendations for January

<p><em>Graphic by Carissa Gurgul</em></p>

Graphic by Carissa Gurgul

The first month of 2020 is here, bringing a few new drama, horror and gangster movies. I can’t say it was hard to choose which ones to include in my recommendations. If you decide to head to the movies, your options for a good show are limited this month. Nevertheless, I have selected six movies that I find intriguing and worth checking out.

The Assistant (Out Jan. 31st)

“What did you say to her?! They told me you were smart!” Directed and written by Kitty Green, The Assistant follows one day in the stressful life of Jane (Julia Garner), a recent college graduate and an aspiring film producer, who thinks she has just landed her dream job as a young assistant to a powerful entertainment mogul. Jane goes through her daily routine making coffees, ordering lunch, arranging travel, taking phone messages, etc. until she grows aware of the abuse and degradations existing in every aspect of her workday and the system she has entered.

While this real-time drama seems to be inspired by film producer Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuse allegations, his name is never directly spoken in the movie. That is because this story is not his or any other men of his ilk. This story belongs to Jane and the nearly 100 women that Green interviewed to develop this movie, uncomfortably portraying the quiet terror and silence that unequal power enforces throughout one day in the life of a young, female employee.

Just Mercy (Out now!)

“It’s never too late for justice.” Based on the bestselling book Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption written by lawyer Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy follows Stevenson’s (Michael B. Jordan) history-making legal battle in Alabama to defend wrongly convicted prisoners, with the support of local advocate Eva Ansley (Brie Larson). One of his first cases is the defense of death-row prisoner Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx) who, in 1987, was accused of the murder of an 18-year-old girl, despite evidence proving his innocence. 

While reading about this movie, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, I learned about Stevenson’s incredible work freeing more than 100 inmates facing unjust convictions in the US’ discriminatory criminal justice system. If you want to educate yourselves on Stevenson’s inspiring work, HBO’s documentary True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality may be more informative and thorough, but watching Just Mercy is a good start.

The Traitor (Out Jan. 31st)

“You can’t take money to the grave.” Directed by Marco Bellocchio, The Traitor tells the story of Tommaso Buscetta (Pierfrancesco Favino), the first informant on the Sicilian Mafia Cosa Nostra. In the 1980s in Sicily, when a war breaks out between Cosa Nostra bosses over the heroin trade, Buscetta flees to Brazil, only to watch from afar as his sons and brother are killed in Palermo. After being arrested and extradited to Italy by the Brazilian police, Buscetta decides to meet with Judge Giovanni Falcone and betray the eternal vow he made to the Cosa Nostra.

Judging from the trailer, the movie will focus on Buscetta’s testimonies in the Maxi Trial and the consequences it had on the future of Cosa Nostra, providing an insider’s perspective in the structure of the Sicilian Mafia. If you are a fan of mob movies, The Traitor seems to be a good one.

VHYes (Out now!)

“If you find this video, we’re… you’re probably dead.” Directed by Jack Henry Robbins, VHYes is described as a “bizarre retro comedy.” Shot entirely on VHS and Beta, the movie follows 12-year-old Ralph (Mason McNulty) as he accidentally records videos and his favorite late-night shows over his parents' wedding tape.

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The trailer features tapes of Ralph talking with his best friend mixed with trashy reality tv, conspiracy-theory and true-crime tv shows, telemarketing commercials and 90s workout videos. The concept may indeed sound weird, but the trailer is ludicrous and, frankly, it had me cracking up. I acknowledge it has a particular sense of humor that not everyone may enjoy, but I still applaud it for its originality and I can’t wait to give it a try. 

The Gentlemen (Out now!)

“In the jungle, only way a lion survives, not by acting like a king, by being the king.” The Gentlemen follows American expat and British drug lord Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) who tries to cash out of the business forever, selling off his highly profitable marijuana empire to a dynasty of Oklahoma billionaires. Plots, schemes, bribery and blackmail unfold in an attempt to steal his domain out from under him.

British director and writer Guy Ritchie returns to his London roots with this new crime comedy. The Gentlemen looks fun and crazy and it features an all-star ensemble cast including Charlie Hunnam, Colin Farrell, Henry Golding and Hugh Grant. 

Gretel & Hansel (Out January 31st)

“Careful, dear. I'd hate for you to start something you can't stop.” Gretel & Hansel is a horror take on the classic Hansel & Gretel fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. A long time ago in a distant fairy tale countryside, a young girl Gretel (Sophia Lillis) and her little brother Hansel (Samuel Leakey) enter into the dark woods in desperate search of food and work, only to stumble upon a house belonging to a creepy old lady (Alice Krige). 

In the original fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, Hansel and Gretel are kidnapped by a cannibalistic witch living in the woods in a house made of candy and treats, attracting little children. If this is not a story meant to turn into a horror movie, then I don’t know what is.

Directed by Oz Perkins, Gretel & Hansel looks creepy and chilling, yet it has a freaky fairy tale element which makes it even more horrifying to watch. 

Contact contributor Myrsini Manou-Georgila at  

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