Let’s face it: not only is the winter movie season filled with more crap than Twinkies have crème filling, but it’s also ridiculously predictable. From the onslaught of horror sequels that probably shouldn’t be made, to the big-budget action movies that just aren’t good enough for the high-octane summer schedule, the early months of the year aren’t exactly known for delivering quality cinema. Breaking it down by genre, there’s not a whole lot of diversity on the slate. You’re going to be scared, thrilled, or made to sit through some very unfunny comedies. And just because Hollywood loves you, not one, but two giant crocodile movies will be released a month apart. Sit back, relax and enjoy as we take you through some of the more obvious selections for the new year.
Michael Bay would be proud (Action Movies)
The action sequences may not be as flashy in the winter months (probably because everyone still hasn’t taken down their Christmas lights), but that doesn’t mean that some of these action films don’t have the potential to entertain. True, the Viking epic "Pathfinder" (which was originally slated to open in the equally dead month of August) looks like complete and utter crap, and the box office bombs that were "Daredevil" and "Elektra" should have taught studios a lesson about making film adaptations of comic book characters no one cares about ("Ghost Rider"), but that doesn’t mean everything will be a complete washout. Joe Carnahan’s "Smoking Aces" has two things that every action movie should have – a great cast and loads of style – and we’ll be damned if that trailer doesn’t get our blood stirring. If done right, the film could quite easily become what 2005’s "Domino" should have been. And for all those diehard comic fans out there, the original vision of "TMNT" creators Kevin Eastman and Kevin Laird will finally make its big screen debut in what could be the surprise hit of March. Let’s just put it this way: those rubbery Jim Henson-produced costumes are a thing of the past.
"I’m not dead yet." (Horror Sequels)
Last year, the horror genre made some noise with the release of two new franchises: Eli Roth’s snuff film "Hostel," and the Alejandro Aja re-imagining of the classic Wes Craven flick "The Hills Have Eyes." Unfortunately, because another movie about sex and torture is apparently in such high demand, "Hostel 2" has been pushed to a summer release date. Horror junkie need not fret, however, because the unneeded sequel to "Hills" will still be around to demonstrate exactly how to ruin a perfectly good remake. Meanwhile, best-selling author Thomas Harris continues to milk his one original idea with yet another prequel from the Hannibal Lecter School of Who Could Care Less ("Hannibal Rising"), while the much-loathed Michael Keaton flick "White Noise" made enough money to merit a sequel in the cold, winter months. And while we’d like to completely bash Universal for greenlighting this piece of junk, the fact that "Firefly" star Nathan Fillion has been handed the torch gives us hope that it might not completely suck.
The next big thing (Sleeper Hits)
Every winter season, there are a couple low-key flicks that have the potential to breakout as sleeper hits. Of course, it doesn’t always happen that way. Some do become overnight sensations, while others disappoint horribly or just never get the recognition they deserve. Perhaps the most promising of this year’s litter is the new action/comedy "Hot Fuzz," which marks the return of writer/director Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, otherwise known as the guys behind "Shaun of the Dead." Fans of the duo’s British television series, "Spaced," already know that they’re not just a one-joke horse, but "Fuzz" is out to prove to the rest of the world that they have what it takes. And let’s hope that American audiences (in particular) bite, because one look at Pegg’s upcoming film slate will show you just how invested the rest of Hollywood already is in this guy. "Hot Fuzz" isn’t the only sleeper to look out for in the coming months, either. The zombie-as-a-pet comedy "Fido" received rave reviews at the Toronto Film Festival, and the new Sandra Bullock thriller, "Premonition," could very well become the next "Sixth Sense." And then there’s "Grindhouse" – that crazy exploitation double-feature from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez – which could very well be the box office hit of the season.
If "Crash" can do it, so can we (Early Oscar Bait)
It used to be common knowledge that if you want to win an Oscar, you open your movie at the end of the year. In fact, buzz-worthy films released anytime before the month of November were almost automatically eliminated from award talk, but now that "Crash" has done the impossible, it looks like the days of stacking the holiday schedule might finally be nearing an end. The beginning of the year isn’t exactly teeming with early Oscar bait, but there are a few titles with the potential of picking up a couple nominations come awards time. The Best Actor category is perhaps the most crowded, with Terrence Howard looking to return to the fold in the sports drama "Pride," Samuel L. Jackson regaining some credibility in the racially-charged "Black Snake Moan," and both Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle playing off one another in the 9/11-themed drama, "Reign over Me." Other, less obvious, alternatives include David Fincher’s "Zodiac," the Peter Berg-directed "The Kingdom," and the big-screen adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel "300." If you thought the visual style of "Sin City" was one for the history books, you ain’t seen nothing yet. This is "Troy" on crack.
What the winter movie season was made for (Box Office Flops)
Many would say that we’re ending on a sour note, and we’d have to say you’re right, but what better way to conclude a discussion on the winter movie season than to talk about all of the truly crappy movies that are coming out? Personally, there are a few so-called box office flops that we’d really like to see. Both "Reno 911: Miami" and "Balls of Fury" were written by the hit-and-miss team of Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant, so we’re not expecting much, but we’ll still be there to flush our hard-earned money down the toilet. And since the winter season is the absolute best for dumping very unfunny comedies, there’s plenty more to choose from, the worst of which includes Cedric the Entertainer’s "Code Name: The Cleaner," the old-farts-on-a-motorcycle-road-trip "Wild Hogs," and "Epic Movie," the follow-up from the same writers who brought you "Date Movie." You’ve all been warned: the rest is up to you.