There’s always the temptation to stay inside during the winter, made even more compelling by the wide array of films you can watch at home. But that would be ignoring the 89 reasons why the only place more inviting than a couch near the fireplace is a seat at your local arthouse where the options range from the ancient Roman war epic “The Eagle” with Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell to the fantastical Palme d’Or-winning elegy “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” from Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Many awards contenders will expand across the country while those sick of such serious fare can fall back on revenge-themed thrillers with Jason Statham, Nicolas Cage or the deadly Korean twosome of “The Housemaid” and “I Saw the Devil,” the action stylings of Donnie Yen (“IP Man 2”) and Tony Jaa (“Ong Bak 3”), or the comedies of John C. Reilly and Ed Helms (“Cedar Rapids”) and Paul Giamatti (“Barney’s Version” and “Win Win”). Likewise, if you don’t have a ticket to Sundance later this month, rest assured, you’ll finally get to see a few of last year’s hits (Josh Radnor’s “Happythankyoumoreplease”) along with this year’s (Gregg Araki’s “Kaboom”). All in all, it’s a surprisingly exciting time at the movies for this time of year and this is your guide to the indie films coming your way soon.
“Americatown” (IMDb, Facebook, Twitter, trailer)
The Cast: Jonathan Guggenheim, Cory Howard, Jon Stafford, Barbara Weetman, Tiffany Salter
Director: Kenneth Price
The Gist: The reRun Gastropub Theater in Brooklyn will host this surreal comedy starring Upright Citizens Brigade-bred stars Guggenheim and Howard (a.k.a. Superkiiids!) as denizens of a surreal township that has compressed all of America into a home of just 1000 citizens besieged by a skunk ape and prone to spilled coffee and crazy legs. A rare low-budget film that wasn’t considered by its makers to be “film festival-friendly,” it hopes to find a home itself in Dumbo.
“Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune” (IMDb, Facebook, trailer, screening schedule)
Director: Kenneth Bowser
Fest Cred: Woodstock
The Gist: After chronicling important moments in television (“Live from New York: The First 5 Years of Saturday Night Live”) and film (“Easy Riders, Raging Bulls”), Bowser’s latest documentary is a biography of folk singer Phil Ochs, the ’60s troubadour whose sharply penned songs about Vietnam and political apathy not only inspired activism during the era, but became an influence for musicians ranging from Ani DiFranco to Pearl Jam, who have kept his spirit alive through cover versions long after his death at the young age of 35. Sean Penn, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez and Christopher Hitchens are just a few of those interviewed for the film. Opens Wednesday, January 5th in New York.
“If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle” (IMDb, trailer)
The Cast: George Piştereanu, Ada Condeescu, Mihai Constantin, Clara Voda
Director: Florin Şerban
Fest Cred: Berlinale, Edinburgh, Warsaw, Thessaloniki, Telluride
The Gist: Winner of a Jury Grand Prize at Berlinale, this Romanian drama co-written by “How I Celebrated the End of the World” director Catalin Mitulescu tells the story of an imprisoned teen who waits out the final five days of his sentence at a reform school while his estranged mother returns home to reclaim his younger brother who he’s taken care of in her absence. At least he has the distraction of a young social worker who he hopes to run off with upon his release.
“Season of the Witch” (IMDb, Facebook, Twitter, trailer)
The Cast: Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, Stephen Campbell Moore, Ulrich Thomsen, Christopher Lee
Director: Dominic Sena
The Gist: Since we’re glass half-full kind of people around here at IFC.com, we take it as a good sign that Relativity had so much faith in Nicolas Cage’s Crusades-set epic that they were willing to buy it back from original distributor Lionsgate after several shuttered release dates. Then again, the first week of January isn’t always the greatest show of confidence. Either way, it’s Cage and Ron Perlman suiting up as knights assigned to escort a young girl they believe to have supernatural powers to a monastery to perform an exorcism to protect their homeland.
“The Time That Remains” (IMDb, trailer)
The Cast: Elia Suleiman, Ali Suliman, Saleh Bakri, Amer Hlehel
Director: Elia Suleiman
Fest Cred: Cannes, Toronto, Athens, London, Vancouver, Tokyo
The Gist: Israeli director Suleiman (“Divine Intervention”) uses the founding of the state of Israel as the basis for this seriocomic reflection on his own coming of age, with a series of vignettes spanning from the settlement of 1948 through the present day. Opens at the IFC Center in New York on January 5th.