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January Movie Preview 2012

Oh January, the month of Oscar contender holdovers, action movies deemed too weak for the summer, dumped studio films and Liam Neeson revenge thrillers. How we've missed you. If you haven't gotten out to 2011's big awards contenders, you'll probably spend your time doing that this month, but if the only Oscar you care about is Oscar the Grouch, then we've got you covered with 2012's first litter of movie babies.




Jan 6

The Devil Inside

Another exorcism flick will have folks gasping to start 2012, either in freight or sarcasm, as this is yet another documentary-style horror film about folks being possessed. Clearly, audiences cannot get enough, or are just not paying attention to the last five exorcism-themed films they saw.

This time around, The Devil Inside takes place in 2009 Italy, focusing on Isabella’s (Fernanda Andrade) quest to get answers about her mother Maria’s 1989 exorcism, in which she killed three people before being locked up in a Catholic psychiatric hospital. In her search, she enlists the help of those skilled in both science (haha) and religion, attempting to draw out the demon(s) possessing her mother.

What can be said about this flick that hasn’t been said about its predecessors? More than likely, the best money shots are on full display for the trailer. It doesn’t matter to most audiences who will flock to a darkened theater (with amped up sound) looking for a few jumps at the start of the year. Considering how dry the market is for horror right now, it would surprise nobody if the film will made back its low-budget. Repetitive it may be, but exorcism/possession flicks never go out of style this time of the year. At least this one doesn’t claim to be based on a true story … kinda. 

 

The Devil Inside
Directed by William Brent Bell

Written by William Brent Bell, Matthew Peterman

Starring: Fernanda Andrade, Simon Quarterman, Evan Helmuth, Suzan Crowley

 

 

Jan 13

Contraband

We're almost always up for a Mark Wahlberg crime thriller, but one in the middle of January? That raises a few red flags. This is the time of year for modestly budgeted action movies, remakes of Japanese horror films, and really broad comedy — not films like Contraband

Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) got out of the crime world long ago, but after his brother-in-law is attacked, and his family is threatened, he's forced to jump back in to clear the names of those he cares about. Yes, it sounds incredibly familiar, but the trailer promises a few surprises (which it may or may not have completely spoiled?). Hopefully the film's relatively inexperienced director (Baltasar Komakur) is up to the task. Though it might not break any new ground, there's no reason this can't be a good time at the movies, especially in January.

 

Contraband
Directed by Baltasar Komakur
Written by Aaron Guzikowski and Arnaldur Indrioason, Oskar Jonasson (film Reykjavik-Rotterdam)
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Giovanni Ribisi, Kate Beckinsale




Beauty and the Beast 3D

Returning to theatres more than 20 years after its initial release, Disney is hoping Beauty and the Beast 3D will sweep viewers off their feet with the same magic that made it the first animated film nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. They also no doubt hope it will follow the success of The Lion King 3D, a re-release that netted a cool $90 million during its limited run last fall.

The tale as old as time follows French villager Belle after she’s kidnapped by a beastly prince, which makes for an awkward introduction when what he really needs is the true love that will free him from his cursed form. The voice talent includes Paige O’Hara and Robby Benson as the titular stars, respectively, with support from the likes of and Angela Lansbury and the late Jerry Orbach as singing and dancing furniture.

Fans probably know the story and music beat for beat, but the chance to see it once more on the big screen could make this January’s heavy-hitter at the box-office. Rest assured, should it prove as lucrative as The Lion King 3D, you can bet another Disney film will get a 3D update before the year is out. Oh wait, Finding Nemo 3D already comes out this fall … 

 

Beauty and the Beast 3D
Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise
Written by Linda Woolverton
Starring Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson and Richard White 




Joyful Noise

Seems like everyone’s finding their voice these days. How are we ever going to live in a censored dystopian society? Anyway, you can thank Glee for Hollywood’s perceived increase in demand for music-filled movies such as Joyful Noise. That’s perfectly okay by writer/director Todd Graff, whose passion has always been making music films. He previously directed Vanessa Hudgens in Bandslam as well as the aptly titled Camp, a 2003 film with a big gay and lesbian following.

Queen Latifah stars as a woman in a small Southern town charged with directing the local church choir to competition glory, but she’ll need the help of Dolly Parton to put together a winning group. Parton makes her first appearance in anything since a three-episode stint playing Miley Cyrus’ aunt on Hannah Montana. Keke Palmer, star of 2006’s Akeelah and the Bee, and unknown Jeremy Jordan, co-star the film’s young lovers, the latter of which shakes things up with his pop repertoire suggestions.

Expect at least a decent soundtrack from this movie, but it will take a lot more than Parton’s self-deprecating plastic surgery humor for this small-town comedy/drama to connect with an urban audience.

   

Joyful Noise
Written and Directed by Todd Graff
Starring: Dolly Parton, Queen Latifah, Keke Palmer, Jeremy Jordan

 

 

Jan 20

Underworld Awakening 

Thanks very much in part to the star-making turn by Kate Beckinsale as the sensual female vampire Seline, the first two “Underworld” films became a cult favorite among horror fanatics, action lovers, and the rather large demographic that likes seeing sultry Brits in spandex. After unexpectedly departing from her bread-and-butter franchise for the prequel Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, it seems Beckinsale has realized popularity is fleeting as she returns in “Awakening” after starring in a string of low-key and ultimately forgettable fare.

In this continuation of the original modern storyline, we find Seline awakening (wow I just blew my own mind) 12 years in the future to discover that werewolves and her blood-sucker kind now face a common foe: humans, who have found out about the existence of these creatures and seek to eradicate them forever.

“Awakening” seems to promise all the action we could want (and then some) in sheer throat-slitting, neck-snapping fashion (plus 3-D). Scott Speedman, who played the love interest in the first two films, will be the absentee this time round, and with Michael Sheen and Bill Nighy long gone, let’s hope we can ride off the charms of Beckinsale alone for part four.

 

Underworld Awakening
Directed by Måns Mårlind, Björn Stein
Written by Len Wiseman, John Hlavin
Starring Kate Beckinsale, Michael Ealy, India Eisley, Theo James


 

Haywire 

Yes, Steven Soderbergh told us all he was retiring about four years ago, but he's back again — just months after wowing us with Contagion — with this woman-on-the-run tale that looks very much like Phillip Noyce's 2010 Angelina Jolie vehicle Salt. As a fan of that movie, this only makes me more excited about Haywire, a film that probably doesn't belong in the wasteland of January, but is a welcome addition to the lineup, if only to make it a little less wasteland-like this year.

When freelance government operative Mallory Kane (former American Gladiator Gina Carano) is betrayed by the leaders of her latest mission, she goes on the run. But she'll need to use every skill she's ever learned if she's to protect her family, clear her name, and get revenge on those who wronged her. Though it sounds very formulaic, Soderbergh will almost certainly inject the film with some uniqueness. It could easily flop, but with a strong supporting cast (McGregor, Banderas, Fassbender — oh my!), we'll definitely be there.

 

Haywire
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Lem Dobbs
Starring: Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender

 



Red Tails

The Tuskegee Airmen were a brave group of African-American Air Force pilots who despite facing segregation and racism within the American military became of the most famous fighter groups of World War II. Their story was first turned into a TV movie in 1995; now George Lucas and Lucasfilm have produced this true story into a feature movie. Red Tails is Lucasfilm’s first original movie since Radioland Murders in 1994.

A top-notch cast of actors was assembled for this movie including Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Don Cheadle, Nate Parker (The Great Debaters) and David Oyelowo (Rise of the Planet of the Apes). Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston is also featured 

In Red Tails, Colonel A.J. Bullard (Howard) and his airmen show they are capable of serving on the front line in World War II and escort bomber missions over Germany.

 

Red Tails
Directed by Anthony Hemingway
Written by John Ridley and Aaron McGruder
Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howards, Nate Parker, David Oyelowo, Bryan Cranston

  

 

Coriolanus (Limited Release)

Coriolanus is one of William Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays, a tragedy about power and revenge set in Rome in the 5th century BC. Coriolanus is actor Ralph Fiennes’ directorial debut and it has been met with a large amount of praise on the festival circuit. It won the Golden Berlin Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival, one of the most prestigious film festival awards. 

Top screenwriter John Logan (Gladiator, Hugo, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street) adapted the work of the Bard and Logan and Fiennes moved the setting to a more modern, war-torn world. Fiennes leads the movie as Caius Martius Coriolanus and the movie features an all-star cast including Gerald Butler, Brian Cox, Jessica Chastain (The Tree of Life, The Help), Vanessa Redgrave and James Nesbitt (The Passion).

Coriolanus is a famous soldier who attempts to gain political office, but he has to gain the support of the masses. When the people of Rome reject him, Coriolanus is exiled from the city and the former soldier has to unite with his sworn enemy, Tullus Aufidius (Butler), to gain revenge.


Coriolanus
Directed by Ralph Fiennes
Written by John Logan (screenplay), William Shakespeare (play)
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Gearld Butler, Brian Cox, Jessica Chastain 

 



Jan 27

Man on a Ledge

Not since Snakes on a Plane have we gotten such a literal title. The movie is called Man on a Ledge and no, it isn’t a metaphor. Thrilling, eh? The plot details are sparse, but we know that Sam Worthington plays ex-cop-turned-fugitive Nick Cassidy, the man … on a ledge. Proclaiming his innocence in the case of a stolen diamond (by apparently threatening suicide), Elizabeth Banks is tasked with talking Nick down, unbeknownst to the fact that Nick’s younger brother Joey (Jamie Bell) is in the process of actually stealing diamonds. The idea is to get revenge on David Englander (Ed Harris), the apparent villain of the film who Nick says framed him.

If this all sounds convoluted and cluttered, we wouldn’t blame you for your confusion. The trailer is a bit of a mess but features an “eclectic” cast: Worthington, Bell, Banks and Harris joined by Edward Burns, Kyra Sedgwick and Anthony Mackie. It looks (or at least aims) to provide thrills to some degree in a similar vein to 2002’s Phone Booth or a similar close-quarters thriller.


Man on a Ledge
Directed by Asger Leth

Written by Pablo F. Fenjves

Starring: Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Ed Harris, Jamie Bell

 

 

The Grey

Those looking for excuses to stay indoors and avoid air travel will want to check out The Grey, also known as “Liam Neeson Punching Wolves with

Broken Bottle Claws.” Ok, so it’s really more about a group of Alaskan workers struggling to survive after being stranded in the tundra by a plane crash, but can you really get over the image of Neeson charging full-bore into a group of wolves armed with half a mini-bar strapped to his fists? 

The actor-turned-action-hero looks to continue his recent career arc, as he’s reteamed with director Joe Carnahan (who co-wrote the script). Their last collaboration was 2010’s explosive The A-Team, and now they have the Scott brothers, Ridley and Tony, producing this latest effort.

It might sound like the usual thrill-ride trifle common for the early months of the new year, but early word on The Grey from fan festivals has praised both Neeson’s performance and Carnahan’s direction. The trailers have hinted at some personal mediation that goes beyond mere survival, and the Oscar-nominated Neeson (who at one point was rumored to get an Oscar push for this film) has proven his ability to carry the workload, so The Grey could be an early surprise for 2012.

The Grey
Directed by Joe Carnahan
Written by Joe Carnahan and Ian McKenzie Jeffers
Starring Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney

 

 

One for the Money

I have some good news and some bad news for you, folks. The good news is this is not a sequel to the Jennifer Aniston/Gerard Butler-starrer The Bounty Hunter. The bad? It’s pretty much the damn same movie just with a gender swap.

Adapted from the first book in Janet Evanovich’s successful Stephanie Plum series, One for the Money finds a down-on-her-luck former lingerie saleswoman (Katherine Heigl) turning to her cousin, a bail bondsman, for a job. Her first target as a bounty hunter is an old flame who just so happened to dump her years early. Let the good times begin. I have nothing against the romantic comedy genre in principle just that the overall quality over the last decade has sunk to such off-putting lows, how can anyone be optimistic?

Heigl really made an impact (and a positive one at that) with her turn in Knocked Up, but since then has slid into rom-com abyss – a tough realm from which to escape. Opposite little known (if not charming) TV actor Jason O’Mara and poised for a early year “dumping ground” release, this will be a hard sell to audiences who haven’t even been interested in some of the years biggest releases around Christmas. The only glimmer of hope I see is the involvement of director Julie Anne Robertson, who since 2005 has garnered two BAFTA noms (with one win) and one Golden Globe nod for her small-screen work. Let’s hope she can bring some dramatic flare to this standard-order fluff.

One for the Money
Directed by Julie Anne Robertson
Written by Stacy Sherman and Karen Ray, Liz Brixius, Janet Evanovich (novel)
Starring: Katherine Heigl, Jason O’Mara, Debbie Reynolds, Sherri Sheppard

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