The Best Movies, TV, Music and Books of January

Erotic snake princesses? Tom Hardy? It’s a fascinating month.

By The Editors
January 3, 2017 9:00 am

Welcome to Culture Hound, InsideHook’s deep dive into the month’s most important pop cultural happenings.

WATCH: ArcLight Presents Architecture Afternoons with CAF
Fact: Chicago loves seeing itself on the big screen. It helps that our city has some of the most spectacular urban architecture in the world. Chicago’s architectural legacy on the big screen is the topic of a four-part monthly film series from the Chicago Architecture Foundation and ArcLight Cinemas. The screenings — which include the Untouchables, Stranger Than Fiction, Metropolis and the Dark Knight — will be followed by a discussion and Q&A led by panelists from the Chicago Architecture Foundation on architecture and design, and filmmaking in Chicago. (Begins Jan. 22)

BINGE: Taboo
Tom Hardy and his dad “Chips” (yes, plural, and yes, best name ever) co-created this violent miniseries for F/X—with a little help from Ridley Scott and the creative forces behind The Killing and Peaky Blinders. Here, an early 19th century British explorer (Hardy) returns from Africa seeking vengeance, facing off against the East India Company … you know, the Google of their day. (Jan. 10)

WATCH: Split
January’s usually a dumping ground for bad flicks. But Split, ostensibly a low-budget kidnapping thriller, finds James McAvoy donning 23 different, conflicting personas (!). It’s a bold move, and proof that director M. Night Shyamalan is in the midst of a real creative comeback. (Jan. 20)

Photo: Michael Courier Photography and Paul Clark

DO: Chicago Sketch Fest
The largest sketch comedy festival in the country returns for its 16th year with headliners including LA group Heavy Weight featuring Silicon Valley and Office Christmas Party funnyman TJ Miller, and a new solo show from Community star Danny Pudi. Let’s start off the year with a good laugh, eh? (Jan. 5-15)

GO: Fact-Checking in the Age of Trumpism
A.V. Club Managing Editor Laura Browning — who used to fact-check for Encyclopedia Britannica — leads this enlightening talk on the state of fake news and the media. As timely a workshop as ever, Browning will share her methods of sorting fact from fiction, showing how a well-informed citizen can fact-check quickly and accurately. (Jan. 7)

READ: Miniatures: The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi
Scalzi, who crafted one of the more grounded dystopian novels of the past few years in Lock In (if you were a fan of The Last Policeman or Wool, you’d dig it), returns with a collection of tiny tales of no more than 2300 words. Touching on artificial intelligence, alternate realities and interplanetary lawyers, he’s aiming for fun here. Witness the story title “The AI Are Absolutely Positively Without a Doubt Not Here to End Humanity, Honest.”  (Dec. 31)

Photo: BadBadNotGood

DO: Tomorrow Never Knows
Summer ain’t the only festival season this city keeps. Organized by the fine folks at Lincoln Hall and Schubas’, Tomorrow Never Knows has grown over the years from a modest seasonal showcase to a full-fledged winter music festival. This year’s must-see acts include local stalwarts Tortoise, garage rockers Jeff the Brotherhood and jazz hip-hop combo BadBadNotGood. (Jan. 11-15)

LISTEN: Japandroids
This Vancouver duo certainly takes its time — in their decade of existence, they’ve survived one break-up and four-plus years between albums. But it’s worth it: new platter Near to the Wild is Heart of Life is the classic rock/garage-y punk singalong album that’ll make 2017 seem like it’s going to be ok. And what other band could unite Pitchfork readers and Springsteen fans? (Jan. 27)

LISTEN: Our monthly Spotify playlist
Any month that gives us new Japandroids, The xx and Run the Jewels (who jumped the gun a bit early on their release, stealth launching it on Christmas Day) is fine by us. Also, new tracks by Born Cages, Wale, Ryan Adams and a couple of new stars on the way.

GO: Henry Darger’s 125th Birthday
2017 marks the 125th birthday of outsider artist Henry Darger — the recluse janitor known for the posthumous discovery of his bizarrely brilliant art (if you’ve never seen In the Realms of the Unreal, we suggest you do so immediately) — and The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art is celebrating with a yearlong series of exhibits. The first two open this month, and are not to be missed. (Jan. 20)

ALSO: Resident Evil VII (the game, not the movie) trades in some of the gunplay for straight-up horror, and adds a creepy VR element (Jan. 24) … Ken Russell’s bizarro 80s erotic/horror flick Lair of the White Worm finally arrives on Blu-ray. It will make you feel all the wrong things in a good way (Jan. 31) … Decipher what exactly happened in Mr. Robot season 2 when it hits DVD/Blu-ray (Jan. 10) … Owen Wilson comedy! Turn off your brain, enjoy Bastards (1/27) … The best month of TV ever? Let’s count it down: Walt Goggins heads up a U.S. Navy SEAL team in Six (History Channel, Jan. 18) … Riverdale (The CW, Jan. 26) turns the old Archie comic book gang into teen Twin Peaks … And we welcome the much-needed return of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX, Jan. 4), Man Seeking Woman (FX, Jan. 4), Portlandia (IFC, Jan. 5), Teachers (TV Land, Jan. 17) and Baskets (FX, Jan. 29).

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