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January is the movie dumping ground – but not this time!

Traditionally, January is the time when studios dump their loser movies into the recycling bin of the public’s consciousness, tossing ill-fated action flicks with monosyllabic actors or woebegone romantic comedies with badly matched C-listers into theaters because people are too cold to leave the house anyway.

By January, the Oscar rush has come and gone, and it’s the time to cut one’s losses and release some of those less golden efforts in hopes that they might find an audience despite it all, even if it’s just angry people who get off on yelling epithets at the screen to impress their passive-aggressive dates.

But things have turned out a little differently this year. Just like seasonal weather seems to linger a little longer than it used to, so does quality film time. In January, not only will we have the wider releases of Oscar-bait flicks like ALBERT NOBBS, Ralph Fiennes’ CORIOLANUS, and EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE, but we also get a brand new Steven Soderbergh film!

That’s not exactly chopped liver, especially since Steve’s girl-goes-ballistic flick HAYWIRE, with Gina Carano showing her skills, features prestige names like Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, and Ewan McGregor, and is reported to have kickass action sequences designed to lift the weary out of their blustery doldrums. Fingers crossed that it’s quality and entertaining at the same time—a brand new genre!

On the 27th, Oscar winner Robert DeNiro goes for a whole other form of kickass action. He stars in LOMBARDI, in which he’s the legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, leading his team in a crucial game against the Dallas Cowboys. I know DeNiro seems to have been enjoying the cash-the-check mode for a few years now, but still, this sounds like it could be a notch above, and besides, it’s DeNiro! In January!

The Oscar winning BEAUTY AND THE BEAST comes back on the 13th in the inevitable 3-D version, a development that has throngs preparing to put on glasses and look for a more rounded teapot. And that’s not the only musical around. On the same day, real-life animated figures Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton costar in Todd Graff’s JOYFUL NOISE, about a small-town gospel choir trying to win a national competition. They could probably use Vince Lombardi, but in his absence, Dolly and Latifah sound like pretty strong leadership–and out of sheer you-don’t-see-this-kind-of-thing-every-day curiosity, I’m totally there.

So January’s looking not as hateful as usual, though there is a comedy on the agenda in which a star who’s had her share of turkeys plays an unemployed lingerie buyer who unexpectedly turns bounty hunter. Next year’s Oscar winner? Well, let’s not rush to say that. The year’s just beginning!