What to watch this weekend: Jessica Chastain in 'The 355,' Iranian Oscar entry 'A Hero'

Brian Truitt
USA TODAY

Think you're slow getting back in gear from holiday vacation? Hollywood's got you beat.

The first weekend in January is usually a dead zone when it comes to new movies, and with Spider-Man killing at the box office and omicron creating extra unpredictability in our COVID-19-era movie lives, this weekend is pretty par for the course. Jessica Chastain leads the only major new effort in theaters, a female-filled action flick with Penélope Cruz, Lupita Nyong'o and Diane Kruger.

It's a good time, however, to catch up on some great films with a global flair, from Cruz's Spanish drama reuniting her with director Pedro Almodóvar, to an Iranian film that's on the short list for the best international feature Oscar.

Here's a guide to new movies that'll satisfy every cinematic taste: 

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A German spy (Diane Kruger, from left), a CIA agent (Jessica Chastain) and a computer specialist (Lupita Nyong'o) team up to take on mercenaries in "The 355."

If you're a Jessica Chastain completist: 'The 355'

It’s just best not to think about Chastain following her stunning, Oscar-ready performance in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” with this starry spy dud. A high-stakes mission finds Chastain’s rogue CIA agent forming a motley crew including Kruger’s steely German operative, Nyong’o’s ex-MI6 computer specialist and Cruz’s Colombian psychologist. They play a globetrotting game of hot potato with bad guys over a hard drive that could pretty much wreck the world, though there are no winners here.

Where to watch: In theaters

Amir Jadidi stars as a man trying to pay off his creditor for a debt that has him serving jail time in the Iranian drama "A Hero."

If you dig a good morality play: 'A Hero'

Director Asghar Farhadi's tense drama centers on Rahim (Amir Jadidi), an Iranian man serving time in jail for being unable to pay a debt. During a leave, Rahim is given a chance by his girlfriend to take care of some of it, leading to a charitable act that causes more problems than not. His road to hell is actually paved with good intentions, in a film that feels very much like a modern tragedy thanks to Jadidi's gut-wrenching performance.

Where to watch: In theaters (and on Amazon Prime Jan. 21)

The lives of Ana (Milena Smit, left) and Janis (Penélope  Cruz) become entwined after their share a hospital room in "Parallel Mothers."

If you yearn for an unconventional parenthood story: 'Parallel Mothers'

Two pregnant women, middle-aged Janis (Cruz) and young Ana (Milena Smit), meet in the same hospital birthing room and form an evolving bond over the ensuing years, as the pair grow close but also navigate personal complications. Cruz and Smit are both standouts in a film that balances aspects of family drama and mystery thriller, and if their emotional tale wasn't enough, Almodovar's bookended it with a trenchant political message.

Where to watch: In theaters

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Skyler Davenport stars as a former blind skier whose cat-sitting duty turns deadly when burglars show up in "See For Me."

If you love home invasion thrillers with a twist: 'See For Me'

Played by visually impaired newcomer Skyler Davenport, a blind former Olympic-level skier takes on a cat-sitting job at an isolated mansion. When a trio of burglars show up in the middle of the night trying to break into a secret vault, she has to stay alive with the help of a visual-aid app – and a caring Army veteran (Jessica Parker Kennedy) on the other end. It makes for a welcome and inclusive tweak on familiar thriller territory.

Where to watch: In theaters and on Apple TV, Google Play

Luciano Pedro Jr. (far left, with Matheus Nachtergaele and Jules Elting) stars as a youngster who can talk to automotive vehicles in the sci-fi fable "King Car."

If you have a taste for the weird: 'King Car'

This royally bizarre, at times sweet Brazilian sci-fi fable stars Luciano Pedro Jr. as a youngster who talks with cars, including one that saved him when he was a boy. The kid and his uncle soup up old vehicles taken off the roads because of a new law, but a machine-worshipping cult arises in this sort of "Transformers" film with a politically charged engine that shifts into many strange gears. (Between this and "Titane," people having sex with automobiles is getting to be a trend.)

Where to watch: In theaters and on Apple TV, Google Play

An ex-con (Mickey Rourke, left) and a DEA agent (Michael Jai White) tussle in the action film "The Commando."

If you live for 1980s action shows: 'The Commando'

Full of two-fisted B-movie fury, the film stars Michael Jai White as an elite DEA agent wrestling with PTSD after a mission gone bloodily awry. A needed vacation gets disrupted by an ex-con (Mickey Rourke) hellbent on recovering the $3 million he left in his old place – which just happens to be the current home of our hero's family. Rourke gets screen time, but White's fun to watch brutally switching into suburban warrior mode.

Where to watch: In theaters and on Apple TV, Vudu, Google Play