Just when the winter-time Prestige Bath has wiped away all traces of Summertime Googoplexia, boom: we're smack dab at the start of a whole new cycle. January is here, and with this month comes two things: 1. Lots of crappy movies, and 2. A whole lot to look forward to in the next 12 months. Let's see what the whole damn year has to offer, shall we? (I should probably thank G.D. Schmitz ahead of time, as his website - still accessible at www.upcomingmovies.com - is the backbone of this entire blathering rant.) And a few small disclaimers: 1. Wide releases only. The best surprises often pop up out of nowhere, and it takes a wiser man than myself to predict the teeny-tiny dark horses. Plus including all the indies and arthouses would tack like three extra hours onto this project, and I haven't even started yet! 2. Release dates are subject to change, doubly subject when the movie A) is released by Dimension Pictures, B) stars Sylvester Stallone, or C) was picked up as a prestige flick by Miramax only to be dumped onto the Showtime Network because advertising and releasing a movie is expensive work. 3. I will include studio, director, and actors. I'll leave it to you to figure out which is which. Oh, and here's a helpful table that may teach you a little something: Sony = Columbia/Tri-Star = Sony Screen Gems = Sony Classics Warner Bros. = New Line = Fine Line Disney = Buena Vista = Touchstone = Miramax = Dimension 20th Century Fox = Fox Searchlight Paramount = Nickelodeon = MTV = Paramount Classics MGM = United Artists Universal = Focus DreamWorks Artisan Lion's Gate January Just Married - (Shawn Levy (Big Fat Liar) / Fox / Ashton Kutcher, Brittany Murphy, Christian Kane, Monet Mazur, David Moscow, David Rasche) - Looks like something that would debut on the Fox Network Friday nights at 8. In other words, blah. On the other hand, Brittany's easy on the eyes...and bad comedy never killed anyone. A Guy Thing - (Chris Koch (Snow Day) / MGM / Jason Lee, Julia Stiles, Selma Blair, James Brolin, Diana Scarwid) - Pushed back more often than Joan Rivers' forehead, this one has the ever-likable Jason Lee (though he's really pushing it with some crap flicks) in what sounds like your typical generic rom-com. Stiles bucks for Bullock territory, and since she's pretty she'll succeed. Not much chance this movie's any good. Kangaroo Jack - (David McNally (Coyote Ugly) / WB / Jerry O'Connell, Anthony Anderson, Estella Warren, Christopher Walken, Dyan Cannon) - You just know this one went into development the split-second Snow Dogs turned a profit. So thanks, American Parents, for perpetuating this sort of flotsam. Kangaroo steals money, morons chase, Australia is visibly humiliated. National Security - (Dennis Dugan (Beverly Hills Ninja) / Sony / Martin Lawrence, Steve Zahn, Timothy Busfield, Bill Duke, Colm Feore, Eric Roberts, Joe Flaherty) - Lawrence got $20 million for this one. Keep that in mind when it grosses $45 million total. Steve Zahn is always able to save bad material (Saving Silverman is a good example), but does the world really need a remake of John Candy's Armed and Dangerous? Not a good note: this one was originally scheduled for a November release. November 2001. Darkness Falls - (Jonathan Liebesman (debut) / Sony / Chaney Kley, Emma Caulfield, Joshua Anderson) - This website lists about 20 actors for this one; I've never heard of any of them. But who knows? They came up with a cool title after trying about nine ridiculous ones (including The Tooth Fairy!), and it could be a serviceable little genre flick. Or it could be muddled and indecipherable low-budget junk. Since I dig on the horror flicks, I'll be sure to let you know. Biker Boyz - (Reggie Rock Bythewood (debut) / Dreamworks / Laurence Fishburne, Derek Luke, Tyson Beckford, Lisa Bonet, Djimon Hounsou, Kadeem Hardison, Orlando Jones, Brendan Fehr, Eriq La Salle, Larenz Tate, Kid Rock) - Fast Boyz 'N tha Furious Hood: That's all I could think of as the trailer unspooled. Interesting cast and lotsa fast cars will make for a solid return from its intended demographic; could show some legs if it's actually any good. Sequel #1: Final Destination 2 - (David Ellis (Homeward Bound 2: Lost in San Francisco) / New Line / A.J. Cook, Tony Todd, Ali Larter, Michael Landes) - Bad news: unnecessary sequel. Good news: Devon Sawa (though a survivor of Part 1) is not returning. New Line, Todd, Larter, and the 'death' theme seem to be the only holdovers. Perhaps this one should have gone straight to video. (You'd never guess that I actually liked the first one, huh?) The Recruit - (Roger Donaldson (Species) / Disney / Al Pacino, Colin Farrell, Bridget Moyhahan, Gabriel Macht) - Farrell is the titular noun, Pacino is grizzled (possibly devious) trainer. CIA is the setting, maybe FBI. (Heck, CTU is all I care about these days.) Trailer has a Point of No Return vibe, which to most people raises some red flags. (Great title, btw.) February Deliver Us From Eva - (Gary Hardwick (The Brothers) / Focus / Gabrielle Union, LL Cool J, Johnny Gill, Essence Atkins) - Essence Atkins; what a cool name. Urban rom-com that has the good fortune of delivering the lovely Ms. Union in a lead role. Is she the next Lela Rochon? Or the next Kim Fields... No idea, but she is a cutie. Plus who doesn't like LL Cool J? Bah, I don't care. I like LL. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days - (Donald Petrie (Miss Congeniality) / Paramount / Kate Hudson, Matthew McConaughey, Adam Goldberg, Kathryn Hahn) - On the plus side, it's got Kate Hudson; on the negative it's a Paramount comedy/romance with Matt McC and the director of My Favorite Martian. The screenwriters are fresh off of 102 Dalmatians, but the script got a solid polish from Buzz (Igby Goes Down) Speers! I've no idea what to make of it, though (I gotta be honest) the trailer actually offers a few laughs. Sequel #2: Shanghai Knights - (David Dobkin (Clay Pigeons) / Disney / Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson) - Inevitable sequel to a flick that was twice as entertaining as it should have been. Chan and Wilson make for an affable duo, so a revisit could be nice. Of course, we thought the same thing about Men in Black 2, and I still haven't cleansed my cranium of that brainwash. It'll either be 'not bad' or 'pretty crappy'; I may wait for the DVD to find out. Comic Book Flick #1: Daredevil - (Mark Steven Johnson (Grumpy Old Men) / Fox / Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Michael Clarke Duncan, Jon Favreau, Colin Farrell, Joe Pantoliano, Leland Orser, David Keith, Ellen Pompeo, Coolio, Kane Hodder, Kevin Smith) - Sure, the Bullseye makeup looks a bit silly, and the idea of Ben-Lo as a spry and athletic blind superhero may take some getting used to...but this one could be a big wet ball of fun. Duncan as Kingpin is an inspired choice, and Jenny Garner's so cute she could melt paint. Writer/director Johnson is an admitted fan of the comic, plus early reports hint that it could actually be an R-Rated flick! Either way, lookin' forward to this one. (* New reports indicate a PG-13 has indeed been awarded.) Sequel #3: The Jungle Book 2 - (Steve Trenbirth (The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride) - Disney - John Goodman, Haley Joel Osment, Tony Jay) - So this is where 'traditional' animation is headed: expensive duds like Treasure Planet and low-rent grave-robbing like this one. There's something aggravatingly sleazy about these knockoff sequels that always bugs me. I digress. It'll gross $78 million domestic and Moms'll buy the Happy Meals. All is right in the world. Dark Blue - (Ron Shelton (White Men Can't Jump) / MGM / Kurt Russell, Ving Rhames, Brendan Gleeson, Scott Speedman) - Delayed (but apparently fairly decent) cop thriller that deals with the events of the Rodney King trials, riots, etc. Russell can do no wrong in my eyes (Soldier notwithstanding) and Ron Shelton's a personal favorite, so color me interested. Gods and Generals - (Ron Maxwell (Gettysburg) / WB / Bruce Boxleitner, Jeff Daniels, Robert Duvall, C. Thomas Howell, Stephen Lang, Mira Sorvino) - OK, follow me here: originally produced as a mini-series for TNT, then edited in half, then picked up by New Line to be released by WB. Got that? Heck, maybe it's worth all the trouble. It's a prequel to the film Gettysburg, it runs over 200 minutes, and the eventual DVD version should run about six hours. If you choose to see it in theaters (which I happily plan to do), you might wanna bring something comfortable to sit on. The Life of David Gale - (Alan Parker (The Commitments) / Universal / Kevin Spacey, Laura Linney, Kate Winslet, Gabriel Mann, Matt Craven, Rhona Mitra) - An outspokenly anti-death penalty guy undeservedly ends up on death row. Whoops! Expect obvious irony and a lot of empassioned speeches. Old School - (Todd Phillips (Road Trip) / Dreamworks / Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell, Elisa Cuthbert, Andy Dick, Juliette Lewis, Craig Kilborn, Breckin Meyer, Jeremy Piven, Ellen Pompeo, Artie Lange) - Three guys my pathetic age (31-ish) open their own fraternity house at a nearby college campus. From the writer and director of the surprisingly funny Road Trip, and with Vaughn and Ferrell on board, I'm anticipating solid laughs. Heaven help them all if I'm wrong. Cradle 2 the Grave - (Andrzek Bartkowiak (Exit Wounds) / WB / Jet Li, DMX, Mark Dacascos, Tom Arnold, Anthony Anderson, Gabrielle Union, Kelly Hu) - Sheesh, all this flick is missing is that tubby pony-tailed karate idiot. Joel Silver loves his new rapper/action/bad actor formula these days, doesn't he? Personally, I love the usage of "2" vs. "to" in the title. Hitchcock used to do that. DysFunKtional Family - (George Gallo (Double Take) / Miramax / Eddie Griffin) - Half a stand-up concert, half an Osbornes style comedy schtick. Simple equation: if you dig Griffin, go see it. I'll stay home that night and watch dust particles settle. The Guest - (David Zucker (The Naked Gun) / Dimension / Ashton Kutcher, Tara Reid, Carmen Electra, Andy Richter, Terence Stamp, Molly Shannon) - Wow, two Ashton Kutcher movies within just a few weeks. Now he knows how DiCaprio felt last December. Kelso plays a housesitter who (get this) tries to bed his boss' daughter...and it's his boss' house too! OK, so it ain't O-fargin-Thello but with a goofball cast (and Zucker on a good day) there could be some laughs in there. (Clever title, btw.) The Hunted - (William Friedkin (The Exorcist) / Paramount / Tommy Lee Jones, Benicio Del Toro, Connie Nielsen, Leslie Stefanson, Jenna Boyd) - Man, if anything spells 'snooze', it's Paramount + Tommy Lee Jones, but since this one was picked up from Touchstone, maybe it's a whole different kind of familiar. Del Toro (who broke an arm while filming, how interesting) is an assassin, Jones is (SPOILER) the grizzled cop who tracks him down, Nielsen is his mismatched partner. I swear I've seen this movie already! (Compelling title, btw.) March Boat Trip - (Mort Nathan (debut) / Artisan / Cuba Gooding Jr., Horatio Sanz, Will Ferrell, Vivica A. Fox, Artie Lange, Roger Moore, Richard Roundtree, Lin Shaye, Victoria Silvstedt) - Hoo boy: two straight guys mistakenly hop aboard a gay cruise. Don't expect Jane Austen here. And am I nuts, or are titles like Just Married and Boat Trip just begging to be completely forgotten??? Bringing Down the House - (Adam Shankman (The Wedding Planner) / Disney / Steve Martin, Queen Latifah, Eugene Levy, Joan Plowright, Jean Smart, Betty White) - It's probably just my adoration for Steve Martin that allows me to overlook how bad the trailer is. Martin is a lonely divorcee looking for love on the internet...when jailbird Latifah comes a'callin' - and all the cross-cultural witticisms that premise implies. Originally titled In the Houze, if that helps make things clearer. Please don't let Steve become another Robin Williams. Tears of the Sun - (Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) / Sony / Bruce Willis, Monica Bellucci, Cole Hauser, Tom Skerritt, Fionnula Flanagan) - Four release dates and five title changes later, this one still smells like something left lying in the Genre Pantry for a decade too long. (Think Collateral Damage.) Willis is a Navy commander sent to rescue a beautiful doctor in the middle of an African jungle. Guilt sets in and the Seals are forced to help transport a bunch of locals as well. This one sounds fairly old-hat, but one never knows; it could be a good time. Against the Ropes - (Charles S. Dutton (debut) / Paramount / Meg Ryan, Omar Epps, Tim Daly, Tony Shalhoub, Kerry Washington, Joe Cortese) - One to tell your Mom about: Meg Ryan in a 'based on a true story' flick about a lady boxing manager and her long career. Kind of a Mr. Holland's Opus meets...something with a Jewish lady boxing manager. I'll approach this one tentatively, though it's nice to see Roc getting to direct his own flick. Agent Cody Banks - (Harald Zwart (One Night at McCool's) / MGM / Frankie Muniz, Hilary Duff, Andrew Francis, Angie Harmon, Darrell Hammond, Martin Henderson, Ian McShane, Judge Reinhold, Cynthia Stevenson, Arnold Vosloo) - Spy Kids meets Big Fat Liar, and a big colorful cast of B-listers for the grown ups! I see lots of onscreen adults screaming and falling down, Muniz looking smug and pubescent, and product placement by the boat load. Duplex - (Danny DeVito (The War of the Roses) / Miramax / Drew Barrymore, Ben Stiller, Eileen Essell, Harvey Fierstein, Swoosie Kurtz, James Remar, Wallace Shawn, Amber Valletta, Justin Theroux) - Nobody does solid bleak comedy like DeVito, and this one sounds like it should fit the bill: Barrymore and Stiller are a NY couple who aim to kill an old lady for her rent-controlled duplex. Sounds like one that's right up my alley. Johnny English - (Peter Howitt (AntiTrust) / Rowan Atkinson, Natalie Imbruglia, John Malkovich) - And here we thought we'd never see an Atkinson/Imbruglia/Malkovich movie. Bean plays a (wait for it) doddering imbecile who's mistaken for England's premiere spy. Pop has-been Imbruglia promises to be easy on the eyes, and it might be fun to see Malkovich vamping in a comedic villain thing. Then again, maybe not. Phone Booth - (Joel Schumacher (8MM) / Fox / Colin Farrell, Ron Eldard, Katie Holmes, Ray Liotta, Radha Mitchell, Forest Whitaker, Kiefer Sutherland) - Delayed for a few months thanks to a few asshole cretins, this one's got some healthy buzz as a tight little thriller. A solid cast, regardless, but how many times does Schumacher have to redeem himself? Identity - (James Mangold (Cop Land) / Sony / John Cusack, Jake Busey, Rebecca De Mornay, Clea DuVall, Ray Liotta, John C. McGinley, Alfred Molina, Amanda Peet) - OK, on the cast alone I'm mega-down for this one. Here's what else piques my interest: the screenwriter (Michael Cooney) is the guy who wrote those wacky Jack Frost horror flicks! PLUS this one's kind of a Ten Little Indians thing...in a motel...at night! I'd see this movie tomorrow. Piglet's Big Movie - (Disney / John Fielder, Jim Cummings, Ken Samson, Peter Cullen) - More Disney stuff pulled up from the vault. Does any studio pray to the altar of Name Recognition like the Mouse House does? Heck, it may be a fun little kiddy flick, but surely there's something to be said for leaving beloved characters well enough alone... View from the Top - (Bruno Barreto (One Tough Cop) / Miramax / Gwyneth Paltrow, Christina Applegate, Candice Bergen, Rob Lowe, Mike Myers, Marc Blucas, Jon Polito, Kelly Preston, Mark Ruffalo, Christian Slater, Robert Stack, Stephen Tobolowsky, Regis Philbin) - Paltrow's attempt at a Legally Blonde-style farce, this one centering on a crew of bubbly blonde stewardesses, none of whom seem all that bright. The trailer is loaded with Mike Myers doing loud things, so this one could make some money. And what a cast! The Core - (Jon Amiel (Entrapment) / Paramount / Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank, Bruce Greenwood, Tcheky Karyo, Delroy Lindo, DJ Qualls, Stanley Tucci, Alfre Woodard, Richard Jenkins) - Earth's core gets too sweaty and a crew of engineers is dispatched to plumb the planet's guts and plant a nuke. Pushed back from a late 2001 release, but these days only ONE delay is practically good buzz. Could be silly fun in the Armageddon vein, could be retina-burningly awful like Volcano. Dreamcatcher - (Lawrence Kasdan (Silverado) / WB / Thomas Jane, Morgan Freeman, Jason Lee, Timothy Olyphant, Tom Sizemore, Donnie Wahlberg, Damian Lewis) - Stephen King's best novel in years comes to the screen with an impressive pedigree. Aside from Kasdan (a film fan's best friend), the adaptation comes penned from legendary Bill Goldman himself. Solid cast, extremely creepy trailer, and my own goodwill all indicate that this one's a winner. (Read the book NOW people, before the movie hits!) Head of State - (Chris Rock (debut) / Dreamworks / Chris Rock, Bernie Mac, Robin Givens, Tracy Morgan, James Rebhorn, Lynn Whitfield, Dylan Baker, Tamala Jones, Nick Searcy) - Chris Rock as a black (what else) presidential candidate. (Yes, democrat.) I don't know how else to expound on such a literate and weighty synopsis, but if the flick sucks we know who to blame: Rock wrote it, produced it, directed it, and gets top billing. Not bad for a brilliant comedian who also happens to be a truly atrocious actor. House of 1,000 Corpses - (Rob Zombie (debut) / Lion's Gate / Karen Black, Sid Haig, Michael J. Pollard, Jeanne Carmen, Erin Daniels, Chris Hardwick, Bill Moseley) - I'm including this one with the fondest hopes of Lion's Gate actually releasing it in March as promised. Give us the truncated R-rated version already; that way you can get started on the Director's Cut DVD. I speak for many curious gorehounds when I say: "I wanna see this freakin' flick already." Coming Very Soon: April, May and ... June!