Oh yeah, Hollywood knows it had you at hello when it comes to the winter. With little else to do, and the lure of hot buttered popcorn to warm your numbed fingers, you'd watch clothes circling around in a dryer if it got you out of the cabin on a Saturday night.
And traditionally, the stuff you get this time of the year isn't much better than that - winter is the time when the studios unload the films that weren't good enough to compete in the holiday rush, can't make it in next summer's blockbuster season, and weren't worth making the cutoff for potential Oscar consideration.
Still, there can be some surprises coming out of the depths of winter - last year, the animated epic "300" and John Travolta's biker comedy "Wild Hogs" weren't exactly great, but combined to gross a couple of hundred million bucks. But then again, there was "Black Snake Moan" and plenty of other stinkers.
Here's a look at a few potential sleepers for this winter that you might want to check out:
* 27 Dresses - A witty romantic comedy with always likeable Katherine Heigl (Izzie of Grey's Anatomy) as the prototypical "always a bridesmaid, never a bride" girl who must face standing at her sister's side as her sibling marries the man she secretly loves. James Marsden is well cast as the leading man, and I hear the story is funnier than you might expect. Out this week.
* Cloverfield - There's a lot of buzz about this horror adventure, shot in the shaky style of a home movie to document some giant monster's takeover of New York City. Early reports say that the special effects are pretty amazing and so realistic that with the camera bouncing around for two hours, some viewers have gotten motion sickness. Cool. But maybe we aren't all ready to see a destruction of NY story - I'm just sayin'. January 18.
* Cassandra - A Woody Allen drama with Colin Ferrell and Ewan McGregor as brothers who are forced to turn to crime, and against each other. I'm curious as to how that pairing will work - Irish and Aussie playing English? January 18.
* Teeth - Personally, I'd skip this one, but it is the pack-leader in the bizarre horror field so far this year. As I understand it, a teen's virtue is guarded by razor-sharp teeth in, um, a place not to be expected. See it at your own peril, lads. January 18.
* Be Kind Rewind - Okay, I can't stand Jack Black, but with that said, Michel Gondry ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind") has a story of a couple of old-school video store geeks who end up having to reenact classic movies, and that sounds like something that is at least original. January 24.
* Fool's Gold - What could be more natural than a film all about Matthew McConaughey running around the beach with his shirt off? A re-pairing of the sexy beast with stunner Kate Hudson (ala "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days"), that's what. In this one, a lost treasure rekindles a couple's romance. Nothing new, but the chemistry is there, the Australian settings are beautiful, and venerable Donald Sutherland is said to steal the show. February 8. (If you must have even more Matt and even less shirt, shame on you - but note that his "Surfer Dude" will be right on the heels of this one.
* Vantage Point - According to the trailer shown at the Vista III, this one captures five different points of view from five stunned witnesses who apparently see the assassination of the president of the United States... except that they don't. Stellar cast with Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox, Forest Whitacker, Sigourney Weaver and William Hurt. Good old conspiracy theory. February 22.
* Semi-Pro - The choice of my middle school son. It's not a remake of that '70s Burt Reynolds "Semi-Tough" football movie, but a wigged-out basketball farce starring Will Ferrell as an uncoordinated owner-player in the old ABA days. Silly stuff, but if you liked "Talledaga Nights" or "Blades of Glory" this is for you. Woody Harrelson co-stars - here's hoping he can recapture his chops of "White Men Can't Jump" and "The Cowboy Way" days. February 29.
* Horton Hears a Who - Jim Carrey tries to make up for ruining Dr. Suess' "Grinch" a couple seasons ago, with this full-animated take on the awesome classic storybook. A great bet for younger children, with a whole mess of stars in voice roles. March 14.
* Pride & Glory - Edward Norton and Colin Farrell in an intense story of a family caught up in corruption within the NYPD. Looks pretty powerful. March 14.
* Drillbit Taylor - Owen Wilson hires himself out to bodyguard two kids from the school bully - problem is, he's just not tough. Seth Rogan ("Knocked Up" and "Superbad") helped write this comedy, with John Hughes, no less, creating the treatment, so it should have something going for it. I'm rooting for Owen. (March 21)
* Inkheart - A good choice for family fare, Brendan Fraser stars in a fanciful tale of a man who makes books come to life, just by reading them. What can I say, I'm a library nerd. March 21.
* Leatherheads - George Clooney as an old-time football star in the days of leather helmets, fighting a young star player for the right to woo Renee Zellweger. Sounds a bit "Bull Durham-esque) but it looks very entertaining. (April 4).
There's plenty more that doesn't look so promising. Stallone trying to rock the tank top one last time in "John Rambo" in January; Ice Cube and Tracy Morgan as con men after a church collection plate in another stereotypical comedy; "Witless Protection" with the inescapable Larry the Cable Guy. Plenty of cookie-cutter psycho-horror flicks, lots of insipid comedy, a swarmy chick flick or three.
Hang on peeps, Indiana Jones is on his way in May, and by then, we may need him to rescue us from movie ennui.