2007 Winter Movie Preview: January
Ah, January. The holidays are over, the bills are here, and it's cold and shitty outside. And actually, it's pretty shitty inside too, at least if you're in your local cineplex. This is the traditional month of Movies Not Good Enough for Other Months, and 2007 looks to be no exception -- unless, that is, you've been dying to see Cedric the Entertainer as an amnesiac janitor who thinks he's a secret agent, Renee Zellweger playing a children's author, or a sequel to Michael Keaton's last box office "hit." No question about it, friends; months like this one are what Netflix was made for.
Code Name: The Cleaner (New Line, January 5)
Starring: Cedric The Entertainer, Lucy Liu, Nicollette Sheridan, Elizabeth Hurley, DeRay Davis
Director: Les Mayfield
The Pitch: A janitor with amnesia (Cedric the Entertainer)
is led to believe he's a secret agent. Wacky hijinx, naturally, ensue.
The Buzz: January is typically the time of year when the studios try to pass off middling rental fare as box-office gold. But hey, something's got to be selling tickets the first week of the year. Maybe it'll be this.
Trailer Highlight: Wait, did Lucy Liu just shorten "Black Rambo" into "Blambo"?
Bottom Line: Not getting many scripts these days, eh, Cedric?
Official Web Site: http://www.thecleanermovie.com/
Happily N'Ever After (Lionsgate, January 5)
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Sigourney Weaver, Freddie Prinze Jr., George Carlin, Wallace Shawn, Andy Dick
Director: Paul J. Bolger
The Pitch: Cinderella (Gellar) goes all Linda Hamilton
in Terminator 2 to foil a plot by her evil stepmother, Frieda
(Weaver) and save Fairy Tale Land.
The Buzz: Remember how the kids in the Archie comics used to choose their vacation destinations by closing their eyes and throwing a dart? Well, that seems to be the way Gellar is choosing scripts.
Trailer Highlight: "Prince envy."
Bottom Line: Want to see an animated fairy tale with a satirical twist? Hold out for "Shrek the Third."
Official Web Site: http://www.baf-film.com/preview/start/index.php?main=produktion&sub=38
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (DreamWorks, January 5)
Starring: Ben Whishaw, Alan Rickman, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Dustin Hoffman
Director: Tom Tykwer
The Pitch: Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Whishaw) has a superhuman sense of smell; in 18th-century Europe, this naturally leads to a brilliant career in perfume (hey, with a schnozz like that, you'd want to make people smell better too). Obsessed with distilling the scent of womanhood, Grenouille eventually adopts some rather unorthodox methodology.
The Buzz: Perhaps the only perfume-based thriller in all of movie history.
Trailer Highlight: Trying to guess, just by listening to his accent, which country on Earth Hoffman's character is supposed to be from.
Bottom Line: Rickman and Hoffman have got some talent, and Hurd-Wood is seriously easy on the eyes, but whether all that will be enough to make up for the ridiculous plot is another story.
Official Web Site: http://www.perfumemovie.com/
White Noise 2: The Light (Rogue, January 5)
Starring: Nathan Fillion, Katee Sackhoff
Director: Patrick Lussier
The Pitch: A man (Fillion) who undergoes a near-death experience finds himself able to identify people who are about to die.
The Buzz: 2005's Michael Keaton-led first installment was a passable box-office draw, but if you didn't see the need for a Number Two, join the club.
Trailer Highlight: None available.
Bottom Line: Makes "Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties" look like an eagerly anticipated sequel.
Official Web Site: N/A
Alpha Dog (Universal, January 12)
Starring: Ben Foster, Shawn Hatosy, Emile Hirsch, Christopher Marquette, Sharon Stone, Justin Timberlake, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Willis
Director: Nick Cassavetes
The Pitch: Suburban drug dealer Johnny Truelove (Hirsch) gets himself in over his head when he kidnaps the younger brother (Yelchin) of a rival (Foster).
The Buzz: Based on the true story of Jesse James Hollywood, Cassavetes' film was created with some below-board assistance from the LAPD, which is part of why Universal has pushed Alpha Dog back so many times. Being exiled to the post-holiday wasteland doesn't bode well for the movie, but it's gotta be better than "The Astronaut's Wife," right?
Trailer Highlight: Treated to a game of naked Marco Polo by a doe-eyed guest at one of Truelove's parties, Yelchin discovers being a hostage might not be so bad after all. Can you say "Stockholm Syndrome"?
Bottom Line: The whole rich-kids-gone-bad thing was played out ages ago, but if the trailer is anything to go on, Cassavetes did this one up right.
Official Web Site: http://www.alphadogmovie.com/
Freedom Writers (Paramount, January 12)
Starring: Hilary Swank, Imelda Staunton, Patrick Dempsey, Scott Glenn, Mario
Director: Richard LaGravenese
The Pitch: A young schoolteacher (Swank) comes to Long Beach and earns the respect of her gangbanger students with compassion and respect. Based on a true story (and dozens of other movies).
The Buzz: Swank tends to choose her projects wisely -- and she makes the most of the heaping piles of corn she's required to dish out in the trailer -- but this still feels awfully stale.
Trailer Highlight: The soundtrack isn't bad.
Bottom Line: It's probably safe to say your local video store has copies of "Stand and Deliver," "Dangerous Minds," and "Lean on Me" on the shelf. Rent those instead.
Official Web Site: http://www.freedomwriters.com/
Miss Potter (MGM, January 12)
Starring: Renée Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, Emily Watson, Barbara Flynn, Bill Paterson, Lloyd Owen
Director: Chris Noonan
The Pitch: The hidden life of legendary children's author Beatrix Potter (Zellweger), and her forbidden love with Norman Warne (McGregor).
The Buzz: A period romantic drama about a woman who wrote books about a fuzzy bunny? Couldn't be more of a chick flick if it actually had breasts and periodically cried for no reason.
Trailer Highlight: That Ewan McGregor guy? Yeah, he's a pretty good actor.
Bottom Line: Unless you've got a serious thing for Zellweger, there is literally no earthly reason to see this.
Official Web Site: N/A
Stomp the Yard (Screen Gems, January 12)
Starring: Columbus Short, Meagan Good, Darrin DeWitt Henson, Ne-Yo, Brian J. White
Director: Sylvain White
The Pitch: His brother's tragic death sends a street dancer off to college, where -- wouldn't you know it -- he becomes the target of warring fraternities who need his skillz to win the big campus dance-off.
The Buzz: The whole thing seems a little silly, but that didn't keep audiences away from "Save the Last Dance." Clearly, there are people who enjoy some high-stakes dancing with their popcorn.
Trailer Highlight: "He was an OUTSIDER" scrolls across the screen about a minute in. Subtlety, thy name is "Stomp the Yard"!
Bottom Line: Tragically, this film does not star K-Fed.
Official Web Site: http://sonypictures.com/movies/stomptheyard/index.html
Fast Track (The Weinstein Company, January 19)
Starring: Zach Braff, Amanda Peet, Jason Bateman, Charles Grodin, Mia Farrow, Donal Logue, Amy Poehler, Amy Adams
Director: Jesse Peretz
The Pitch: A slacker (Braff) is forced to move to Ohio and work for his father-in-law (Grodin) after his wife (Peet) gets pregnant. A competition with her ex-boyfriend (Bateman) ensues.
The Buzz: Yes, Braff has gone from It Dude to Unbearably Annoying over the last few years, but as the trailer makes clear, "Fast Track" rests more on Bateman's gifts than Braff's shtick, and that's a good thing. Also, Amanda Peet is not difficult to look at.
Trailer Highlight: Braff inadvertently insults an Irish client.
Bottom Line: The plot sounds tired, and January is where movies go to die, but this looks funny. Trust the cast and check it out.
Official Web Site: http://www.fasttrack-themovie.com/
The Hitcher (Rogue/Focus, January 19)
Starring: Sean Bean, Sophia Bush, Zachary Knighton, Kyle Davis, Neal McDonough
The Pitch: A pair of college students (Bush and Knighton) are terrorized by a murderous hitchhiker (Bean).
The Buzz: Producer Michael Bay's appetite for horror remakes is apparently insatiable -- first updates of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "The Amityville Horror," and now this. But who's picking up hitchhikers these days anyway? Isn't this a little like making a movie about a haunted iron lung?
Trailer Highlight: "I want to die!"
Bottom Line: If Bay really felt the need to remake a scary C. Thomas Howell movie, then clearly, "Soul Man" would have been a superior choice.
Official Web Site: N/A
Blood & Chocolate (MGM, January 26)
Starring: Agnes Bruckner, Hugh Dancy, Olivier Martinez, Katja Riemann, Bryan Dick
The Pitch: A teenage girl (Bruckner) has to choose between her boyfriend (Martinez) and her family. Why, you ask? Because she's part werewolf.
The Buzz: If the trailer reminds you a little of "Underworld," there's a reason: the two films share producers. Expect plenty of highly stylized mythical beast action. Smart dialogue and a compelling plot? Perhaps not.
Trailer Highlight: Bruckner is profoundly easy on the eyes.
Bottom Line: "Underworld" did all right for itself at the box office, so there's clearly an audience for this kind of stuff, and Bruckner does the sexy-dangerous thing at least as well as Kate Beckinsale.
Official Web Site: http://www.mgm.com/bloodandchocolate
Catch and Release (Columbia, January 26)
Starring: Jennifer Garner, Timothy Olyphant, Sam Jaeger, Juliette Lewis, Kevin Smith
Director: Susannah Grant
The Pitch: A man's unexpected death leaves his wife (Garner) to pick up the pieces, which means discovering some unpleasant truths -- and finding love where she least expects it.
The Buzz: Garner continues her bid for America's Sweetheart status, and while she's no Meg Ryan, that's okay; Meg Ryan isn't even Meg Ryan anymore. Smith and Lewis add some necessary seasoning to what otherwise seems like a pretty rote romantic comedy.
Trailer Highlight: Garner, desperate for some alone time at her husband's funeral, hides in the tub -- only to wind up unintentionally eavesdropping on hubby's best friend grabbing a nooner over the sink.
Bottom Line: Your wife or girlfriend will probably want to see it, and as far as these things go, "Release" seems fairly painless.
Official Web Site: http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/catchandrelease/
Epic Movie (20th Century Fox, January 26)
Starring: Kal Penn, Adam Campbell, Jennifer Coolidge
Director: Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer
The Pitch: None, really; just broad send-ups of everything from "Da Vinci Code" to "Nacho Libre" to "The Chronicles of Narnia."
The Buzz: What the Zuckers started with classic satires like "Airplane!," hacks like Friedberg and Seltzer seem determined to grind into dust. We'll resist passing final judgment until the trailer is released, but on principle alone, it seems like everyone at 20th Century Fox who had a hand in greenlighting this should be fired.
Trailer Highlight: Trust us. "Epic Movie" and "highlight" are antonyms.
Bottom Line: If you somehow wind up seeing this, plan on bringing along a bottle of hard alcohol and a handful of Ritalin.
Official Web Site: http://www.epicmoviethemovie.com
Smokin' Aces (Universal, January 26)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia, Alicia Keys, Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven, Ryan Reynolds, Peter Berg, Martin Henderson, Taraji Henson, Common
Director: Joe Carnahan
The Pitch: Mob informant Buddy "Aces" Israel
(Piven) has finally pissed off enough people to earn a million-dollar
bounty on his head. A pair of FBI agents (Reynolds and Liotta) are all
that stand between Israel and hot smoking death.
The Buzz: Carries the strong odor of other movies -- "Ocean's Eleven," "Get Shorty," etc. -- but they were movies we liked, and the cast looks great, so what's the harm?
Trailer Highlight: The trailer's got it all: Jason Bateman sporting what looks like a cold sore, thousands of bullets, and Alicia Keys setting up a blowjob joke.
Bottom Line: After she drags you to "Catch and Release," this should cleanse the palate.
Official Web Site: http://www.smokinaces.net/