As if some of the end of year offerings from 2010 weren’t lame enough (Gulliver’s Travels, Yogi Bear, The Tourist and worst of all, Little Fockers), in comes 2011’s doldrum winter season. There’s hardly anything too exciting coming up aside from maybe a few guilty pleasures. But alas, better warned than sorry. (Ok, I had to come back after writing this article to add that there are some fun things ahoy after all, dear mateys.)
January isn’t a complete failure, although the box office numbers will probably prove otherwise. Kicking the year off this weekend, January 7, is another awful looking Nicolas Cage, CG-enhanced actioner, Season of the Witch. Coming from Dominic Sena, who also directed Cage in the Gone in 60 Seconds remake and Swordfish, I think we all know why this one is the first “big” release of 2011. The TV commercials make me laugh out loud, but I don’t think that’s their purpose.
There’s also no more question as to why Country Strong wasn’t screened for awards consideration after all the hype and buzz from Gwenyth Paltrow’s stint on Glee. Finally finding itself a wide release: what a disaster. When TRON: Legacy’s Garrett Hedlund gives a better performance than anyone else, you know you’re in trouble. But that could be a good thing; at least it will get keep his career moving along. As for the film itself, imagine if Nicholas Sparks decided to remake the George Strait-starring Pure Country and you’ve just saved yourself the cost of an admission ticket. You’re welcome.
On January 14, Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) hopefully offers up the month’s best wide release bringing an update to The Green Hornet. With star Seth Rogen beefing up and taking on co-writing duties with pal Evan Goldberg (they previously brought us Pineapple Express and Superbad) and bringing in Jay Chou to replace Stephen Chow, hopefully Gondry can bring his usual visual flair while Rogen and Goldberg can provide some big laughs with Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds), the “Jew Hunter” himself, as the villain no less. Meanwhile, Ron Howard tries to get wacky along with his throwaway cast of Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Channing Tatum, Winona Ryder, Jennifer Connelly and Queen Latifah in The Dilemma.
January 21 gives us the first of two bed buddy rom/coms headed our way and at least this one gives us a dirty mouthed, scantily clad Natalie Portman. Ivan Reitman is in desperate need of another great movie, and maybe the new decade can inspire him. I’m biting my tongue however, as he also cast Ashton Kutcher who’s not totally ingratiating but far from the rom/com inspired leading man Hollywood seems to think he is (Just Married, What Happens in Vegas, Valentine’s Day anyone? Anyone?!).
January 28 sees two helpings of possible guilty pleasure releases: one for being true to its big dumb fun action roots, and the other headed for “so bad it’s hilarious” territory. The Mechanic stars Jason Statham (who knows action all too well) and Ben Foster (who definitely knows a lot about acting). The two seem to pair well judging by the trailer so here’s hoping director Simon West (Con Air, Laura Croft: Tomb Raider, and TV’s Keen Eddie and Human Target) can bring the aforementioned fun even if the remake proves to lean towards dumb at some point. The other offering this week will be Anthony Hopkins playing a spiritual version of Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter in The Rite. Demonic possessions will ensue as Mikael Håfström returns to 1408 territory. Fingers crossed but I suspect giggles will abound.
Pressing on into February where things usually get worse, things don’t look quite so bad as usual. On February 4, if you’re looking for any reason to get out of the house and brave the cold it’s hopefully to see the James Cameron executive produced Sanctum. With a plot resembling The Descent but without the crawlers, here’s hoping Cameron protégé Alister Grierson can use Cameron’s PACE Fusion 3-D cameras to better use than Resident Evil: Afterlife. Looks fun; I’m in. Check me out however, from sitting through The Roommate, a film you’ve probably never even heard of. Having the luck of starring Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl) and Minka Kelly ((500) Days of Summer), maybe Screen Gems and the hilariously named director Christian E. Christiansen can bring some tongue-in-cheek to the proceedings. If this thing headed is into Black Swan territory then maybe it could be worth checking out; highly doubtful.