Welcome to that time of year which makes film critics cringe – after the Oscar releases, but before the big popcorn blockbusters, when studios “dump” the films they’re not entirely sure what to do with. There are however some shiny gems hidden in the crappola every year (Sin City two years ago, Akeelah and the Bee last year). This year there are several that have a chance, including one film opening this Friday that will start the year off with a bang. So here, just for you, is our preview of the next four months at the movies.
Freedom Writers (January 5) – Hilary Swank stars as a first year teacher struggling with gang violence shortly after the L.A. riots. I was lucky enough to see this weeks ago, and sorely disappointed that I couldn’t count it in my top ten list for 2006. Not just another Dangerous Minds, the film is a moving and emotional journey based off the real experiences of Erin Gruwell and her students who became known as the freedom writers. The first great movie of 2007; put this one on your list. Visit the official site
Stomp the Yard (January 12) – A troubled 19 year-old street dancer (Columbus Short) enrolls in Truth University in Atlanta, Georgia, to avoid juvenile hall, where he discovers the dance style known as “stepping” performed in African-American fraternities. Megan Good and Darrin Henson also star. Visit the official site
The Hitcher (January 19) – Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes production company brings us another horror flick remake (they produced both new versions of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Amityville Horror). The 1986 original starred C. Thomas Howell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Rutger Hauer as the hitchhikcer from hell. This one stars Zachary Knighton and Sophie Bush who pick up a hitchhicker from hell in Sean Bean. Visit the official site
Sacco and Vanzetti (January 21) – The “Monk” brothers (Tony Shaloub and John Turturro) bring the story of two famous immigrants and dissenters who were executed after a notoriously prejudiced trial in the 1920’s. As told from the prison writings of the pair, clips, interviews and commentary about an injustice of civil liberties of immigrants that still resonates strongly, perhaps now more than ever. Visit the official site
Nomad (January 22) – The story of a young boy in 18th Century Kazakhstan who is destined to one day unite the three warring tribes. Jason Scott Lee, Kuno Backer, and Jay Hernandez star. Visit the official site
Catch and Release (January 26) – Jennifer Garner in another lighthearted romantic comedy as a woman dealing with the death of her fiancé and finding new love in the most unexpected (unless you’ve seen any romantic comedy ever) place. Kevin Smith, Sam Jaeger, and Timothy Olyphant also star. Visit the official site
Seraphim Falls (January 26) – Former Bond Pierce Brosnan stars as a colonel at the end of the Civil War who refuses to give up the fight and decides to settle old scores. Liam Neeson, Angie Harmon, and Anjelica Huston also star. Visit the official site
Smokin’ Aces (January 26) – When a mob boss puts out a hit on a sleazy magician (Jeremy Piven) two FBI agents (Ryan Reynolds and Ray Liotta) have their hands full against ex-cons, mobster, bounty hunters, and hot vixens. Andy Garcia, Alicia Keys, Peter Berg, and Martin Henderson also star. Visit the official site
Because I Said So (February 2) – Diane Keaton plays a mother who just wants her youngest daughter (Mandy Moore) to find a stable guy and even goes as far as to place a personal online. Piper Perabo, Lauren Graham, Gabriel Macht, and Tom Everett Scott also star. Visit the official site
The Messengers (February 2) – Horror flick based on the idea that children are mores susceptible to paranormal phenomena as the Solomon family deal with odd events and an ominous evil in North Dakota. Dylan McDermott, Penelope Ann Miller, and Kristen Stewart star. Visit the official site
Puccini for Beginners (February 2) – On the rebound from her latest failed relationship a New York writer finds herself in the middle of an unexpected love triangle. Elizabeth Reaser, Gretchen Mol, Justin Kirk, Jennifer Dundas, and Julianne Nicolson also star.
Hannibal Rising (February 9) – The origins of the serial killer Hannibal Lector (Gaspard Ulliel) are explored from his childhood in Lithuania, through his time in Paris, to his arrival in the United States. Charles Maquignon, Dominic West, Gong Li, Rhys Ifans, Devin McKidd, and Stephen Walters also star. Visit the official site
Norbit (February 9) – Eddie Murphy stars as a nice guy who has lived out his life as life’s doormat. Raised from a baby in a Chinese restaurant/orphanage by Mr. Wong (also Eddie Murphy) and later marrying a ruthless junk food-chugging queen (also Eddie Murphy) his life is one disappointment after another. But when his childhood sweetheart (
Eddie Murphy Thandie Newton) returns to town will his life finally chance for the good? Eddie Murphy, Eddie Griffin, Eddie Murphy, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Eddie Murphy also star. Visit the official site
Close to Home (Karov La Bayit) (February 14) – Two female Israeli soldiers (Neama Shendar and Smadar Sayar) command their unit attempting to help keep the peace in Jerusalem despite their differences.
Music and Lyrics (February 14) – Valentines Day. Hugh Grant. Drew Barrymore. A romantic comedy about a 80’s pop star (Grant) and struggling musician, and a quirky plant lady (Barrymore) with a flair for words getting together to make beautiful music together. Yeah, this should make a few bucks. Visit the official site
Ghost Rider (February 16) – Longtime comic fan Nicholas Cage brings one of Marvel’s hottest (heh) heroes to life as cursed stunt biker Johnny Blaze who pays the price for his deal with the devil. Eve Mendes, Wes Bentley, Sam Elliot, and Peter Fonda also star. Visit the official site
The Astronaut Farmer (February 23) – Despite the sci-fi-esk title this is not based on a Robert Heinlein novel. A former astronaut dismissed from NASA (Billy Bob Thornton) decides to build his own rocket. If he builds it he will fly. Virginia Madsen, Bruce Dern, and Tim Blake Nelson also star. Visit the official site
Black Snake Moan (February 23) – Christina Ricci plays a nymphomaniac who goes on a bender after her lover (Justin Timberlake) leaves for military service. Beaten and left for dead she’s taken in by a man with his own demons (Samuel L. Jackson) who decides to save her, whether she likes it or not. Visit the official site
Glastonbury (February 23) – A new documentary on the 30th Anniversary of the best known and longest running music festival in the world featuring performances by David Bowie, Coldplay, Radiohead, Oasis, Velvet Underground and more.
Gray Matters (February 23) – An inseparable brother and sister (Tom Cavanaugh and Heather Graham) decide to find each other mates, but when he falls for a girl (Bridgette Moynahan) her life turns upside down. Sissy Spacek, Alan Cumming, James Marsden, Saffron Burrows, and Jane Krakowski also star. Visit the official site
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Exact date TBA) – Brad Pitt stars the outlaw Jesse James as he plans his next big robbery and deals with the betrayal of a close friend. Casey Affleck, Sam Shephard, Mary-Louise Parker, Sam Rockwell, and Zooey Deschanel also star. Visit the official site
Wild Hogs (Mach 2) – Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy play a pack of middle-aged friends who decide to leave the suburbs and take a trip cross-country on motorcycles. Marisa Tomei, Jill Hennessy, and Ray Liotta also star. Visit the official site
Zodiac (March 2) – Director David Fincher (Se7en) takes on the real life unsolved Zodiac murderers when a serial killer terrified San Francisco and taunted the police. Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Edwards, Brian Cox, and Dermot Mulroney star. Visit the official site
300 (March 9) – For the second time in three years a Frank Miller (Sin City) graphic novel hits the big screen as a theatrical film. The story here surrounds the Battle of Thermopylae as 300 Spartans are all that stand between Ancient Greece and the invading Persian Army. Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham, Vincent Regan, Rodrigo Santoro, Andrew Tiernan, and Dominic West star. Visit the official site
Fido (March 9) – In the small town of Willard the time is perpetual 1950’s, the sun shines every day, everyone knows their neighbor, and the town is powered by the industrial work of zombies. Every family now has zombie servants including young Timmy Robinson (K’Sun Ray) who considers “Fido” (Billy Connolly) his new best friend. Carrie-Anne Moss, Dylan Baker, Tim Blake Nelson, Sonja Bennet, and Henry Czerny also star. Visit the official site
Maxed Out (March 9) – A new documentary looks at the American debt lifestyle and how the modern financial industry really works and the truth behind a hidden nightmare most suspect but don’t think too much about. Visit the official site
Reign Over Me (March 9) – Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle play former college roommates who reunite five years later and deal with the changes in their lives. Jada Pinkett Smith, Live Tyler, Saffron Burrows, and Donald Sutherland also star. Visit the official site
Lucky You (March 16) – Curtis Hanson (Wonderboys, L.A. Confidential) examines the world of high-stakes poker through the eyes of a reckless all-or-nothing player (Eric Bana) and the obstacle standing in the way of his victory at the table – his father (Robert Duvall). Drew Barrymore and Debra Messing also star. Visit the official site
Premonition (March 16) – Sandra Bullock stars as a woman who loses her husband (Julian McMahon) in a car crash only to find him alive in her bed the next day. Somehow seeing the future she will try to save her husband’s life, but in the process will she learn more than she bargained for? Nia Long, Amber Valletta, and Marc Macaulay also star. Visit the official site
Shooter (March 16) – The latest from director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, King Arthur) focuses on former Army sniper (Mark Wahlberg) who is forced back into service only to end up the subject of nationwide manhunt. Michael Pena, Danny Glover, Kate Mara, Elias Koteas, and Ned Beatty also star. Visit the official site
First Snow (March23) – A cocky salesman (Guy Pearce) finally gets his big break, but the words of a soothsayer (J.K. Simmons) and a growing paranoia begin to make his world come apart at the seams. Piper Perabo, William Fichtner, and Shea Whigham also star. Visit the official site
TMNT (March 23) – The heroes in the half-shell are back as the turtles, with the help of Master Splinter, April, and Casey Jones, take on an industrialist, ancient monsters and the Foot Clan. Gone are the animatronic suits in favor of an entire film created by “state-of-the-art CG animation.” The film includes the voice talents of Mako, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Patrick Stewart, and Kevin Smith. Visit the official site
Blades of Glory (March 30) – Once great figure skaters (Will Ferrell and Jon Heder) who were banned from the sport for their no-holds-barred fight at the World Championships find a loophole that allows them to skate again – in pairs’ figure skating. Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, William Fichtner, Jenna Fischer, Romany Malco, Rob Corddry, and Craig T. Nelson also star.
Meet the Robinsons (March 30) – Disney’s latest animated adventure follows the young orphan (Daniel Hansen) who travels into the future and meets a family beyond his wildest imagination. Featuring the voice talents of Angela Basset, Tom Selleck, Harland Williams, Laurie Metcalfe, and Adam West. Visit the official site
The Reaping (March 30) – Hilary Swank stars as a former Christian missionary who lost her faith after the death of her family and works as an expert in disproving religious phenomena. But when she travels to a small Louisiana town her faith in science may be shaken as well. David Morrissey, Idris Elba, Anna Sophia Robb, and Stephen Rea also star. Visit the official site
Grindhouse (April 6) – Quentin Trantino and Robert Rodriguez team-up to bring you a double-bill of thrillers harkening back to the B-movie exploitation films of the past. Tarantino’s “Death Proof” is a slasher film that follows a killer hunting down prey with his car instead of a knife. The cast includes Kurt Russell, Zoe Bell, Rosario Dawson, Rose McGowan, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror” explores an alien world eerily similar to our own. The cast includes Freddy Rodriguez, Rose McGowan, Josh Brolin, Javeen Andrews, Marley Shelton, and Stacy Ferguson. Visit the official site
Disturbia (April 13) – A troubled youth (Shia LaBeouf) still reeling from the death of his father find himself under house arrest where his voyeuristic nature leads him to suspect one of his neighbors might be a serial killer. Carrie-Anne Moss, David Morse, and Sarah Roemer also star.
Hot Fuzz (April 13) – A new action comedy from director Dave Meyers (Shaun of the Dead) follows London’s top cop (Simon Pegg) who makes everyone else look bad and is transferred to the sleepy hamlet of Sandford, sleepy until a series of accidents may mean something is rotten in the town of Sandford. Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Paddy Considine, Steve Coogan, and Timothy Dalton also star. Visit the official site
Perfect Stranger (April 13) – Halle Berry stars as a reporter who goes undercover as a temp to one of the most powerful men in the country (Bruce Willis) to learn the truth behind the death of a close friend. Giovanni Ribisi also stars. Visit the official site
Spring Breakdown (April 13) – Three thirtysomethings (Amy Poehler, Parker Posey, and Rachel Dratch) babysit the boss’s daughter (Amber Tamblyn) at spring break in South Padre Island. Seth Meyers, Sophie Monk, Missi Pyle, and Jane Lynch also star.
Year of the Dog (April 13) – Writer Mike White (School of Rock) takes his first turn behind the director’s chair examining a happy-go-lucky good girl (Molly Shannon) whose life is turned upside down by the sudden death of her pet. Peter Sarsgaard, Regina King, John C. Reilly, and Laura Dern also star.
The Nanny Diaries (April 20) – A young woman (Scarlett Johansson) from a working-class neighborhood struggles to understand her place in the world as she takes a nanny position for a wealthy but dysfunctional family in this emotional comedy. Laura Linney, Donna Murphy, Chris Evans, Paul Giamatti, and Alicia Keys also star.
Vacancy (April 20) – A young couple (Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale) find themselves stranded in an isolated motel where they discover hidden video cameras, but that might be the least of their problems as they might be the live targets for a snuff film. Richie Varga, Cary Wayne Moore, and Kevin Dunigan also star.
Balls of Fury (April 27) – A comedic look at the “unsanctioned, underground, and utterly unhinged world of clandestine Ping-Pong tournaments.” Sounds like Dodgeball mixed with Beerfest except with, you know, ping-pong balls. With Christopher Walken and George Lopez. View the trailer
The Last Legion (April 27) – With the Roman Empire crumbling around him Romulus Augustus (Thomas Sangster) travels to Britain to rally new support. Colin Firth, Ben Kingsley, Aishwarya Rai, Rupert Friend, and Rory James also star. Check out this featurette
Pathfinder – A Norse child is found and raised by Native Americans. When the Vikings return 20 years later he faces the burden of preventing their pillage and slaughter on the land and people who he now calls home. Visit the official site