The Shortest Month

January 27, 2007
A thought by James Berardinelli

First, a few notes. I will be writing something next week about the Oscars, although I'm formulating how to do it in a way that's different from the other million columns written about the nominations. I dislike being boring and repetitive (although that hasn't stopped me in the past). Also, thanks to everyone who responded to yesterday's "11 Years" entry. Sheryl and I were moved by some of the e-mails. I shared the more heartfelt ones with her since it's as much her story as it is mine.

A word about ReelViews' ads: If you see something that offends you, let me know. (Emphasis on "offends" as opposed to "irritates" or "annoys.") For the most part, BurstMedia does a good job of filtering out inappropriate banners, but some get through. I have the ability to block certain ads and I have used it twice: once to eliminate one of those "you just won" claims (misleading at best) and once to remove a Japanese ad that was more racy than I'm comfortable with. I'll look at questionable ads on a case-by-case basis, but if you "report" them, I need as much information as possible. The most important things for me to know: on what page it appeared on and where it appeared on the page.

It was a sad, sad January. I reviewed only ten new movies, half of which weren't screened for critics. If I was going to recommend a "Best of the Month," the award would go to Freedom Writers, one of only two January movies to which I gave positive reviews. (The other is Alpha Dog.) This has been the worst movie-going month since... last January. February typically doesn't offer much relief, but there's nowhere to go but up. The month contains an end of the year Top 10 contender and a film I'm genuinely excited to see.

Valentine's Day appears to be the turning point. Before that, there are five releases, two of which have no press screening scheduled. Norbit, perhaps surprisingly, is being screened, although one assumes this is not going to help Eddie Murphy's Oscar hopes. Also being shown are the chick flick Because I Said So (about which I am cautiously optimistic) and the German Oscar nominee The Lives of Others, which is very good. The two films I'll have to see in multiplexes both have awful trailers: The Messengers and Hannibal Rising. At this point, I'm tired of the Hannibal franchise, and what's the point if there's no Anthony Hopkins?

Valentine's Day brings Music and Lyrics. The pairing of Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore for a romantic comedy seems odd, but maybe there's a spark there that I don't sense. I'm hearing great things about A Bridge to Terabithia. I haven't read the book but my wife has and she liked it a lot. Ghost Rider is the month's comic book adaptation, and it's not being screened for critics. There are also Breach and Starter for Ten. I saw the latter at Toronto last year and found it to be cute but not great.

By the end of February, everyone is looking toward spring and the movies start improving. February 23 sees the release of Black Snake Moan, which I have been anticipating for months. The trailer looks offbeat enough to be fun for someone as warped as I am, and never has Christina Ricci looked hotter. Michael Apted steps away from his Up Series subjects to provide Amazing Grace, which got respectful but not glowing reviews when it screened as the closing film of last year's Toronto Film Festival. Jim Carrey teams with Joel Schumacher in The Number 23, although this isn't the first time the two have worked together. Billy Bob Thornton goes into orbit as The Astronaut Farmer. And Comedy Central's Reno 911! treads into R-rated territory. My sincere hope is that this movie is funnier than most of the recent "comedies" I have been forced to endure. I like to laugh but if I have to sit through another Epic Movie, I may consider embargoing anything that claims to be funny. There are more laughs in Schindler's List.

As for March... Well, that's farther ahead than I'd like to look but there's one storm cloud darkening the horizon, one horrific experience I will not subject myself to. Why, oh why, are they bringing back The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?