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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.
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
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.
Directed by Baltasar Komakur
Written by Aaron Guzikowski and Arnaldur Indrioason, Oskar Jonasson
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
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
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.
Written and Directed by Todd Graff
Starring: Dolly Parton, Queen Latifah, Keke Palmer, Jeremy Jordan
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
“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.
Directed by Måns Mårlind, Björn Stein
Written by Len Wiseman, John Hlavin
Starring Kate Beckinsale, Michael Ealy, India Eisley, Theo James
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
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Lem Dobbs
Starring: Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender
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.
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.
Directed by Ralph Fiennes
Written by John Logan (screenplay), William Shakespeare (play)
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Gearld Butler, Brian Cox, Jessica Chastain
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
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.
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
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
Starring: Katherine Heigl, Jason O’Mara, Debbie Reynolds, Sherri