by HELEN GEIB
I’m on a 24/7 assignment in Kentucky this month so from a purely selfish perspective, I’m happy to report there are only three movies on this list I’m really interested in and none I’m desperate to see. Yes, Hollywood’s January lineup this year fulfills its usual promise. I just hope Crazy Heart is still playing at the local arthouse when I get back.
Daybreakers – My top pick for the month, Daybreakers is set in a post-plague future where vampires are the planet’s dominant species, the blood supply is dwindling fast, and it’s last stand time for the few remaining non-undead humans. Co-directed and co-written by twin brothers Michael and Peter Spierig, whose one prior feature is a zombie horror-comedy called Undead. The film stars Ethan Hawke as a vampire suffering from buyer’s remorse, Willem Dafoe as a rough and ready resistance fighter, and Sam Neill as a corporate-type defender of the status quo; co-starring several beautiful Australian actresses with unfamiliar credits.
Leap Year – Romantic comedy starring Amy Adams as a woman who thinks she wants her commitment-phobic long-term boyfriend to propose, but will probably change her mind after meeting a sexy Welshman played by Matthew Goode. And indeed, who could blame her. Directed by Anand Tucker (Shopgirl); the title has something to do with some fictitious Irish custom about women proposing to men.
Youth in Revolt – This is not the first time this movie has appeared in this feature. Copied from the last time (almost a year ago): Michael Cera plays a trailer park teenager desperate to lose his virginity. Adapted from the novel by C.D. Payne. The supporting cast includes Ray Liotta, Steve Buscemi, and Jean Smart.
The Book of Eli – And yet another tour of post-apocalyptic America. This road trip punctuated by eruptions of violent action across a bleak, barren, washed out landscape is taken by Denzel Washington (as the hero), Gary Oldman (as the villain), and Mila Kunis (as the eye-candy) and was directed by The Hughes Brothers (From Hell). And yes, this is another of the movies I would have planned to see if I wasn’t going to be in Kentucky.
The Lovely Bones (expanding to wide release) – Peter Jackson directed and co-wrote (with regular collaborators Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens) this adaptation of Alice Sebold’s novel of a murdered teenage girl who watches her family and killer from an in-between-worlds afterlife. Starring Saoirse Ronan (Atonement) with Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, and Stanley Tucci.
The Spy Next Door – Jackie Chan breaks a few more fan hearts with this starring turn as a retired secret agent who is caught up in a danger-filled incident of international espionage while babysitting his girlfriend’s three precocious (read: obnoxious) children, spaced in age for maximum audience demographic appeal. Directed by, appropriately, Brian Levant (Are We There Yet?, Jingle All the Way); co-starring, for maximum audience demographic appeal, Amber Valletta, George Lopez, and Billy Ray Cyrus.
Extraordinary Measures – Earnest medical drama based on a true story. Brendan Fraser stars as a father desperate to help his two children, who suffer from a fatal genetic disorder, and Harrison Ford is the researcher whose work may hold the promise of a cure. Keri Russell co-stars as the children’s mother; the film was directed by Tom Vaughan (in an extreme change of pace, his prior film was What Happens in Vegas).
Legion – A vengeful “God” sends his hitmen archangels down to earth to kill lots of humans but will they meet their match in a noble fallen angel sworn to protect a pregnant woman (two guesses who the unborn kid is in this scenario) and incidentally some other people in a desert diner. First feature by writer-director Scott Stewart; Paul Bettany, Dennis Quaid, Charles Dutton, Lucas Black, and Tyrese Gibson have really fallen on hard times.
The Tooth Fairy – Dwayne Johnson breaks a few more fan hearts with this starring turn as a minor-league hockey player bad boy who is, bizarrely and unaccountably, transformed into an actual tooth fairy (tights, wings, etc.) for a week as punishment for his bad deeds, or something like that. Directed by Michael Lembeck (The Santa Claus 2, a bunch of TV credits) and co-starring, bizarrely and unaccountably, Julie Andrews and Ashley Judd.
Edge of Darkness – The trailer gives away waaaay too much, but I’m still intrigued by this conspiracy thriller starring Mel Gibson as a Boston detective investigating his daughter’s murder. Much of my interest is attributable to the top-notch and extremely different from each other prior credits of director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale, No Escape) and co-writers William Monahan (Body of Lies, Kingdom of Heaven) and Andrew Bovell (Lantana, Head On). Ray Winstone heads up the supporting cast.
When in Rome – Romantic comedy revolving around a coin-in-the-fountain wish. The film stars the appealing Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel and was directed by Mark Steven Johnson (in another directorial change of pace: Ghost Rider, Daredevil).