Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Paramount Pictures)
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
(Paramount Pictures)

The Hunt for Red OctoberPatriot GamesClear and Present Danger, and The Sum of All Fears are solid action films, so why shouldn’t the latest Tom Clancy CIA thriller be any different?  Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit stars Star Trek‘s Chris Pine as the beloved literary character who sniffs out a Russian scheme to collapse the U.S. economy via a terrorist attack.  Kevin Costner plays his handler, Keira Knightley his oblivious fiancée, and Kenneth Branagh (who also directs) as the foreign baddie.  The post-production delays of The Wolf of Wall Street prompted Paramount to push Jack Ryan back from its Christmas Day release, so despite the dumping-ground debut date, I have a good feeling that another quality adventure awaits.

Devil's Due (Twentieth Century Fox)
Devil’s Due
(Twentieth Century Fox)

January has become a lucrative month for low budget horror films, and following the latest Paranormal Activity‘s lead is Devil’s Due from V/H/S alums Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett.  If an association with that kinda bad anthology film doesn’t have you at least somewhat concerned, then perhaps the found-footage…I mean, “recording everything for posterity” approach will.  Filming their lives are newlyweds Samantha (17 Again‘s Allison Miller) and Zach McCall (Zach Gilford a.k.a. Friday Night Lights‘ Matt Saracen), whose in utero child may be the antichrist.  I can smell the sequel already.

Ride Along (Universal Pictures)
Ride Along
(Universal Pictures)

There hasn’t been an Ice Cube film since 2012’s 21 Jump Street, but to get to that comedy’s forthcoming sequel we must first wade through Ride Along.  The rapper/actor stars as veteran cop James who takes mouthy security guard Ben (Kevin Hart) on a 24-hour patrol through Atlanta to determine if the pup is worthy of marrying James’ sister Angela (Tika Sumpter, Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas).  While I’d rather see Cube reteam with Chris Tucker for something like this, perhaps he and Hart will exhibit some strong chemistry?  As long as the latter is more tolerable than he was in Grudge Match, it’ll be a minor victory.

The Nut Job (Open Road Films)
The Nut Job
(Open Road Films)

Looking to fill the animation gap between Frozen and February’s The Lego Movie is The Nut Job, in which Surly the squirrel (voiced by Will Arnett) plots a nut store heist in order to give his fellow varmints enough food for the winter.  Liam Neeson, Brendan Fraser, Katherine Heigl, and Maya Rudolph also provide voices, but as Free Birds and Turbo taught us, recognizable names do not guarantee a fun time at the movies.

Also, back for an encore at the Carolina after their Golden Globes wins are 12 Years a SlaveDallas Buyers Club, and, for those who didn’t see it a fourth time, Gravity.

Fleeing the Scene

Nebraska is out at the Carolina but survives at the Fine Arts Theatre.  Also gone are The Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugThe Secret Life of Walter MittyThe Book ThiefParanormal Activity: The Marked Ones, and Anchorman 2.

On DVD

Two of Brie Larson’s three good decisions from 2013, The Spectacular Now and Short Term 12, join Dec. 31 alum Don Jon on DVD.  Not far behind is the haunting Fruitvale Station, which has lost some awards-season steam since its July release, and the pleasant, realistic romantic comedy Enough Said, which popped up on far more critics’ Top 10 lists than I expected.

Likewise worth your time is the back-up singers doc 20 Feet From Stardom and the surprisingly sly Civil Rights biopic Lee Daniels’ The Butler.  Not worth your time are two of last year’s worst horror films, the dumbed down Carrie remake and the overhyped, practically worthless home invasion indie You’re Next.  You may also skip the latest Vin Diesel growler Riddick, but if you can find a clip of its dog-training montage on YouTube, that part’s not so bad.

On Netflix Instant

Want more Kevin Hart?  You’ve got it now that his stand-up special Let Me Explain (which earned over $32 million at the box office last year) is available for streaming.  Also up is The Hunt, a Crucible-like drama starring Mads Mikkelsen (NBC’s Hannibal; Le Chiffre from Casino Royale) that would get my vote for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar; Touchy Feely, Lynn Shelton’s disappointing follow-up to Your Sister’s Sister; and 2013 ActionFest monthly series alum Ip Man: The Final Fight.

Additionally, Netflix has added director commentary to season one of its excellent original series House of Cards.  There are worse ways to get hyped up for February’s second season than hear the likes of David Fincher and Joel Schumacher discuss their work.

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