After splurging on useless Christmas presents and waiting longer than usual to get paid, we understand that every penny counts in January. But with it typically being a packed movie month here in the UK, unlike in the US, thanks to a host of awards contenders, we've done the gentlemanly thing and picked out the five films you need to be aware of over the next 31 days.
if someone had told us a year ago that Michael Keaton would be the bookie's favourite to win Best Actor at the Oscars, we'd have sat them down and given them a brief but valuable history lesson, sponsored by his patchy IMDb profile. But it's his lukewarm post-Batman career that makes him the perfect choice for Amores Perros director Alejandro González Iñárritu's daring meta-masterpiece about an actor trying to escape the superhero he's known for and become a respected stage actor. Keaton is excellent and he's matched by an adept supporting cast that includes Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and Zach Galifianakis.
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 93%
Released: January 1
Unfairly shuffled around the release schedule, this creepy thriller is the second film to bring Jake Gyllenhaal together with French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve yet (pub fact) it was actually made before 2013's Prisoners.It's easy to see why it hasn't been released until now as it's a difficult film to push, with a far more obtuse plot than the more conventional Prisoners. For our money, it's the more successful of the pair with Gyllenhaal delivering two on point performances as men who discover they have a double. It's a film based more around sinister mood than plot, something highlighted in the audacious final scene, which will be haunting, and confusing, you for weeks.
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 74%
Released: January 2 (also on VOD)
Another film that got yanked off its initial release date and then delayed, we had our suspicions that this true crime drama would be a disappointment. But director Bennett Miller, who gathered acclaim for Capote and Moneyball, has done it again, with "it" being the ability to deliver a fascinating look at a real American story stuffed with a set of incredible performances. The one which you've probably heard the most about is that of Steve Carell, who taps into the horrifying awkwardness of his Office persona but layers it with menace as a millionaire who becomes obsessed with wrestling, which brings him into contact with brothers, played by Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum. It's a cold and often grim film bit features some of the finest acting you'll see this year.
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 86%
Released: January 9
Unless you're an obsessive drummer, the idea that a drama about drumming could end up being one of the most nail-biting films of 2015 would seem laughable. But the absurdly young Damien Chazelle (29 years old damn it) has created a masterful teacher/student epic that plays like a psychological thriller. Miles Teller, usually known as the wisecracking friend, drops the smirk to play a wannabe musician brought down a few hundred pegs by his brutal new teacher, played by Oscar favourite JK Summons. It's an impeccably made film that doesn't miss a beat, all the way through to the dynamic finale.
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 96%
Released: January 16
What is perhaps most fascinating about Inherent Vice isn’t the fact it re-teams Joaquin Phoenix and Paul Thomas Anderson for the first time since The Master. Nor the fact Anderson has once again called on Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood to score proceedings. It’s that this darkly comic thriller, following Phoenix’s shaggily dressed stoner sleuth Larry ‘Doc’ Sportello as he gets tangled up in a major conspiracy involving biker gangs, tycoons, cults and corrupt cops, is the first feature film based on a work by Thomas Pynchon, that most enigmatic of authors. In another director's hands, the general wackiness of Pynchon's book might easily wash over the audience, but as it is, Anderson, while never one to pass on the laughs - Doc's best comedic moments come when bothering Josh Brolin’s hippy-hating, walking buzz cut of a cop - gets the blend between thrills and chuckles just right.
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 71%
Released: January 30