At the moment, Hartford's movie-lovers can savor some of the best pictures of 2002, released at the end of the year in major markets and now spreading to the provinces. Still, it is a long way to the start of the next big movie season, which begins May 2 with the arrival of the "X-Men" sequel.
In the meantime though, there is "Daredevil."
That Marvel Comics superhero, played by Ben Affleck, figures prominently in the pop culture parade of films opening in the coming months. Big books by two of the leading writers of movie-friendly tales of the supernatural, Stephen King and Michael Crichton, are also in view. Space invaders strike the heart of New England in King's "Dreamcatcher," and Yale kids journey back to medieval France in Crichton's "Timeline."
The big epic of the winter-spring season is "Gods and Generals," a prequel to "Gettysburg." There are few other pictures of much scope, as the vogue for war pictures seems to have faded, even as America prepares for a Middle East Armageddon. Perhaps the most thought-provoking offering among the new releases is "The Life of David Gale," an anti-death penalty drama starring Kevin Spacey, set in Texas.
Africa's turmoil inspires "Tears of the Sun," starring Bruce Willis in uniform again. It is hard to know what to think of the pairing of Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson in "Anger Management." Will it be funny or serious? "Head of State," a tale of a presidential run directed by and starring Chris Rock, also might have something on its mind. Or not. "Against the Ropes," with Meg Ryan as a fight manager, also might be of interest.
Because a story by James Ellroy inspired it, "Dark Blue" looks like the most promising cop picture. It will also be interesting to see the long-delayed "Phone Booth," about how the police handle an urban sniper. Another tale of the city, most likely with a comic edge, casts Drew Barrymore and Ben Stiller as yuppies willing to kill for a great apartment in "Duplex." The hard-edged action thrillers deal with federal government operatives: CIA types in "The Recruit," starring Al Pacino; "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," directed by and featuring George Clooney; and something lighter still, the kid comedy "Agent Cody Banks"; the FBI in "The Hunted"; and the DEA in both "Basic" with John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson and "A Man Apart" with Vin Diesel.
The most promising comedy, "Bringing Down the House," matches up Steve Martin and Queen Latifah. Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson also team up again in "Shanghai Nights," and "Old School" brings together Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn. Christopher Guest's "A Mighty Wind" has to be good for a few guffaws. As for romantic comedy, "Down With Love" with Ewan McGregor and Renée Zellweger looks like the brightest prospect.
Opening Friday, Jan. 17
The Hours - Three divas, Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore and Nicole Kidman, play women who are strangely linked in David Hare's adaptation of Michael Cunningham's acclaimed novel, directed by Stephen Daldry ("Billy Elliot"). Streep plays Clarissa Vaughn, a contemporary woman who re-enacts parts of Virginia Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway." Moore is a discontented housewife, a generation earlier, and a transformed Kidman is Woolf.
National Security - Martin Lawrence is a brash Los Angeles police cadet, booted from the academy for his bad-boy act, and thus reduced to security guard status, winding up as the partner of Steve Zahn's ex-cop, stripped of his badge after a complaint of harassment. Together, the strange bedfellows uncover a sophisticated smuggling operation led by Eric Roberts' heavy, and a possible police cover-up. Dennis Dugan directs.
Kangaroo Jack - Jerry O'Connell and Anthony Anderson head the cast of this offbeat comedy about two friends, a New York hairstylist and a would-be musician, who fall in with the mob and are told to deliver $100,000 to Australia. The title refers to a bounding wild thing that steals the money and refuses to give it back. David McNally directs .
A Guy Thing - Jason Lee plays the guy, happily engaged to a fiancée, acted by Selma Blair, until he meets her cousin, played by Julia Stiles, in this tale of the problems of committing, directed by Chris Koch.
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind - George Clooney directs and takes on a featured role in this comedy thriller based on the memoirs of game-show host Chuck Barris, who claimed to have been a CIA hit man. Sam Rockwell plays Barris, with Clooney as his Company contact. Drew Barrymore and Julia Roberts also take major roles.
View From the Top - The pampered golden girl Gwyneth Paltrow plays a young woman from humble roots who dreams of seeing the world as a flight attendant and finds a rival in training, played by Christina Applegate. Kelly Preston appears as an experienced role model, with Candice Bergen as an inspiration.
Darkness Falls - Chaney Kley heads the cast of this horror thriller about a young man who goes home to save his childhood love and her younger brother from an evil that has plagued the town for 150 years. Emma Caulfield is the old girlfriend, and Lee Cormie is her kid brother. Jonathan Liebesman directs.
The Recruit - Al Pacino growls and barks as a top CIA hand who recruits and trains a talented new agent played by Colin Farrell in this thriller about trust and betrayals, which also features Bridget Moynahan as another recruit. Roger Donaldson directs.
Biker Boyz - The veteran Laurence Fishburne and newcomer Derek Luke ("Antwone Fisher") head the cast of this self-styled "Western on wheels," pitting the undefeated underground motorcycle club racer Smoke, "King of Cali," against Kid, out to win the champ's helmet and title. Reggie Rock Bythewood directs.
Final Destination 2 - Devon Sawa is out, but the idea of being able to see deaths before they happen lives on in this sequel directed by David Ellis. This time around, the film reportedly centers on a highway catastrophe rather than a plane crash.
Shanghai Knights - Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson are together again, reprising their "Shanghai Noon" roles of Chon Wang and Roy O'Bannon. When rebels murder Chon's father, the partners journey to a London terrorized by Jack the Ripper.
Deliver Us From Eva - Gabrielle Union has the title role as a perfectionist who becomes the target of a scheme hatched by three young men who pay a dude played by LL Cool J $5,000 to romance the difficult and meddling little Eva. Gary Hardwick ("The Brothers") directs.
How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days - Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey pair up in this comedy-romance about a Lothario who bets his friends he can stay in a relationship for more than 10 days. Directed by Donald Petrie, the film turns on the efforts of the woman the loverboy picks up to dump him forthwith.
Daredevil - Ben Affleck dons tights and a horned mask to play Matt Murdock, alias Daredevil, the latest Marvel Comics superhero to reach the big screen. Murdock, a boxer's son, was blinded by a radioactive isotope while saving a man from being rundown by a truck. To compensate, Murdock gained a radar perception. By day, he works as a lawyer in Hell's Kitchen. By night, he fights the likes of the mob boss Kingpin, played by Michael Clarke Duncan. Mark Steven Johnson directs.
The Guru - An Indian dance teacher played by Jimi Mistry, who dreamed of fame in America but ended up working as a waiter and on a porn movie set, is mistaken for a Swami healer and becomes the toast of the town in this comedy from Daisy von Scherler Mayer ("Party Girl").
It Runs in the Family - It is truly a family affair in this comedy drama directed by Fred Schepisi. Michael Douglas is the star and producer of this portrait of a man trying to circumvent the mistakes of his father while facing up to the ones passed on to his son. Kirk Douglas is the old man, and Cameron Douglas and Diana Douglas are featured.
The Jungle Book 2 - In a sequel to the 1967 animated film, Mowgli (now voiced by Haley Joel Osment) tires of village life and returns to the jungle, only to face a vengeful Shere Kahn (voiced by Tony Jay). John Goodman provides the voice of Baloo. Steve Trenbirth makes his directorial debut.
Gods and Generals - This prequel to "Gettysburg" follows the rise and fall of the legendary Gen. Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson, played by Stephen Lang. Robert Duvall is Gen. Robert E. Lee, with Jeff Daniels back as Lt. Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. Ronald F. Maxwell directs.
Old School - Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn act up as aging frat boys in the company about thirtysomething pals who start their own off-campus house. Todd Phillips (who also horsed around with college life in "Road Trip") directs.
The Life of David Gale - Alan Parker directs Kevin Spacey, Laura Linney and Kate Winslet in this tale of a Texas professor, an advocate of ending the death penalty, who is falsely accused and convicted of raping and killing another activist. Linney plays the victim, and Winslet is a reporter who interviews Spacey's Gale on death row.
Dark Blue - Ron Shelton directs this noir thriller, based on a story by James Ellroy ("L.A. Confidential"). Kurt Russell plays a veteran Los Angeles Police Department detective, known for his toughness on the street and his volatile temper, assigned to investigate a high-profile quadruple murder. Russell's Eldon Perry tutors Scott Speedman's Bobby Keough in the realities of police corruption and intimidation.
Cradle 2 the Grave - Andrzej Bartkowiac, the distinguished cinematographer whose directorial credits include "Exit Wounds" and "Romeo Must Die," now helms this tale of an alliance between a leader of urban thieves and a Taiwanese intelligence officer, played respectively by DMX and Jet Li.
The Guest - Ashton Kutcher plays a young fellow asked to housesit for his nasty boss, and uses the assignment to woo the old man's daughter, played by Tara Reid. Then the houseguests begin to arrive. David Zucker directs.
Eddie Griffin: Dys-funk-tional Family - Formerly titled "Eddie Griffin: Live in Concert," this performance documentary also includes slices of the comic's life, featuring Uncle Buckey and Uncle Curtis. The former was once a pimp, while the latter has a vast porn collection, some of which he filmed himself.
Tears of the Sun - Bruce Willis dons a uniform again as a veteran Navy SEAL officer who faces a crisis of conscience when an assignment in Nigeria confronts him with the choice of following orders or acting on his beliefs. The Italian bombshell Monica Bellucci is also featured under the direction of Antoine Fuqua.
Bringing Down the House - Steve Martin plays another lonely guy, who finds love on the Internet with a prison inmate played by Queen Latifah. She breaks out to be with him, and chaos ensues, under the direction of Adam Shankman ("The Wedding Planner").
Boat Trip - Postponed from last fall, this sea-going comedy focuses on two straight men, acted by Cuba Gooding Jr. and Horatio Sanz of "Saturday Night Live," who take a female-hunting cruise on the USS Calypso, only to discover that they have booked into an all-gay holiday afloat. Mort Nathan makes his directing debut.
The Hunted -- William Friedkin ("The Exorcist," "The French Connection") directs Tommy Lee Jones, Benicio Del Toro and Connie Nielsen in this thriller centering on a tracker working with an FBI agent to find an assassin.
Against the Ropes - Ending a brief hiatus, Meg Ryan returns as Jackie Kallen, a Jewish woman from Detroit who became a boxing manager and, ultimately commissioner of the International Female Boxers Association. The film focuses on her relationship with a fighter played by Omar Epps. Charles S. Dutton makes his directing debut.
Johnny English - Rowan Atkinson ("Bean") plays a bumbling, low-level British diplomat mistaken for Britain's most dangerous spy in this comedy directed by Peter Howitt ("AntiTrust," "Sliding Doors").
Duplex - Drew Barrymore and Ben Stiller team as a young couple who just have to have a converted duplex in a great New York neighborhood, and thus elect to kill its tenant, a sweet old lady played by Eileen Essell. Danny DeVito ("Death to Smoochy") directs.
Phone Booth - Yanked from its earlier release date after snipers began killing in Maryland and Virginia, this harrowing tale takes place entirely in the vicinity of a pay telephone in New York City. Stu Shepard, a marginal media consultant played by Colin Farrell, picks up the phone by chance and a voice informs him that he is in the crosshairs of the rifle of a serial sniper and that he will be dead if he hangs up. Joel Schumacher directs.
Identity - John Cusack tops a strong ensemble in this "Ten Little Indians" meets "Psycho," set in a rain-swept desert motel where 10 travelers are thrown together by the storm. Soon, they discover that one of them is a killer, as the strangers begin to die. James Mangold ("Girl, Interrupted") directs a cast made up of Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, John Hawkes, Jake Busey, John C. McGinley, William Lee Scott, Clea DuVall, Alfred Molina, Pruitt Vince Taylor and Rebecca De Mornay.
Agent Cody Banks - Frankie Muniz plays an undercover CIA operative, a high school spy kid, in this teen comedy directed by Harald Zwart (the executive producers include Jason Alexander and Madonna). His assignment: to become the boyfriend of a hottie played by Hilary Duff.
Piglet's Big Movie - Winnie the Pooh's adorable little pink pal gets a movie of his own, following in the paw prints of Tigger. Carly Simon wrote seven songs for the animated feature.
Dreamcatcher - Lawrence Kasdan combines with screenwriter William Goodman to bring to the screen Stephen King's tale of four friends, an invasion from space and a military clampdown, with Morgan Freeman as the dangerous Gen. Abraham Curtiss and Thomas Jane as his civilian adversary, Dr. Henry Devlin.
The Core - Aaron Eckhart, the Neil LaBute favorite seen as a scholar in "Possession," enjoys a change of pace as the geophysicist Dr. Josh Keyes, who discovers that an unknown force has brought Earth's inner core to a halt, and that the planet's magnetic field is rapidly deteriorating. It is thus time for a journey to the center of the Earth, with "terranauts" played by Hilary Swank and Bruce Greenwood.
Head of State - Chris Rock stars and makes his directing debut, as well as sharing screenwriting credit on this tale of Mays Gilliam, an alderman in Washington about to lose his job. Then after the front-runner dies, Mays is suddenly catapulted into the spotlight, as his party's candidate for president of the United States.
What a Girl Wants - Amanda Bynes plays a spirited American girl, Daphne Reynolds, who travels to England to hunt down her father, a wealthy politician played by Colin Firth, under the direction of Dennie Gordon.
A Man Apart - Vin Diesel muscles back into the picture as Sean Vetter, a DEA agent hunting the mysterious Diablo, who takes over a drug cartel when the boss goes to prison, in this action thriller from F. Gary Gray ("The Negotiator").
My Baby's Mama - Eddie Griffin, Anthony Anderson and Michael Imperioli play the "Three Men and a Baby" game when their girlfriends, acted by Bai Ling, Paula Jai Parker and Joanna Bacalso. Cheryl Dunye ("The Watermelon Woman") directs.
Anger Management - After his breakthrough in "Punch-Drunk Love," Adam Sandler pairs with Jack Nicholson as patient and therapist. Sandler plays a mild-tempered fellow drawn into a fight on an airplane, and Nicholson is the doctor with raging problems of his own. Peter Segal directs.
Down With Love - Ewan McGregor is a womanizing playboy journalist and Renée Zellweger plays a feminist advice columnist in a throwback romantic comedy described as a homage to the three Rock Hudson-Doris Day pictures of the '50s. Peyton Reed directs.
Timeline - Drawn from the novel by the prolific Michael Crichton, this time-travel thriller from the veteran Richard Donner centers on three Yale students who journey back to 1537 France to rescue a history professor trapped in a time of feudal wars and rampant disease.
Bulletproof Monk - Chow Yun-Fat is the mysterious monk with no name who has circumnavigated the earth to protect the Scroll of the Ultimate, which holds the key to unlimited power. Paul Hunter directs.
Basic - The "Pulp Fiction" team of John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson are together again, this time in John McTiernan's military suspense-thriller. Jackson is a commander who disappears, along with some of his men. Travolta is the DEA agent investigating the disappearance.
A Mighty Wind - Christopher Guest, one of the band members in "This Is Spinal Tap" and the director of "Waiting for Guffman" and "Best in Show," returns with this tale of the Folkmen, a '60s trio drawn into a comeback tour 30 years after breaking up. Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer, Spinal Tappers all, are the aging threesome in an ensemble film that also features the writer-director's repertory company, co-writer Eugene Levy, Bob Balaban, John Michael Higgins, Catherine O'Hara, Parker Posey and Fred Willard.
Malibu's Most Wanted - Jamie Kennedy plays a wannabe rapper from Malibu, whose wealthy father worries about being embarrassed during his run for governor of California. The old man, acted by Ryan O'Neal, hires two Juilliard-trained actors, played by Taye Diggs and Anthony Anderson, to impersonate gangstas, kidnap the white hip-hopper and drop him off in Compton.
Holes - Teenaged Stanley Yelnats (a living palindrome), played by Shia La Boeuf, is shipped off to Camp Green Lake, a Texas detention facility, for stealing a pair of sneakers, a crime he didn't commit. The dragon lady warden, a different sort of role for Sigourney Weaver, forces Stanley and the other boys to dig 5-by-5 pits to build their characters. Andrew Davis directs.
Honey -- Jessica Alba has the title role, a sexy dancer who becomes a top music video choreographer, in this first feature from Billie Woodruff, a music video director. Mekhi Phifer, Lil' Romeo and Joy Bryant are also featured.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun