Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to January

january

Over the past few years, January hasn’t been quite as disastrous for new films as its reputation would suggest, but it’s hard to find much to be positive about this time around. Unless you like low budget horror movies (of which there are several to choose from, including the latest “Paranormal Activity”), the January release slate has very little to offer, save for a delayed Christmas blockbuster and failed Oscar bait from the usually reliable Jason Reitman.

“THE LEGEND OF HERCULES”

Who: Kellan Lutz, Scott Adkins, Gaia Weiss and Liam McIntyre
What: Betrayed by his stepfather, the King, and sold into slavery because of a forbidden love, Hercules must use his formidable powers to fight his way back to his kingdom.
When: January 10th
Why: The first of two Hercules films being released this year (and most likely the worst of the pair), Renny Harlin’s origin story of the Greek hero looks every bit the cheesy B-movie that you’d expect from the director of “The Covenant” and “Mindhunters.” Kellan Lutz has already proven himself to be a really terrible actor with the “Twilight” films, and not much seems to have changed in that department, but whoever started the rumor linking the actor with America’s favorite media obsession (Miley Cyrus) only weeks before the movie’s release was a brilliant marketing ploy. Unfortunately, no amount of publicity changes the fact that “The Legend of Hercules” promises to be even worse than the recent “Conan the Barbarian” reboot (another January dud), and that’s certainly saying something.

“JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT”

Who: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh and Kevin Costner
What: Jack Ryan, as a young covert CIA analyst, uncovers a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy with a terrorist attack.
When: January 17th
Why: It’s another reboot of a popular movie character, although one that, unlike James Bond and Batman, wasn’t exactly in high demand. Originally scheduled for Christmas before Paramount pushed it back to make room for “The Wolf of Wall Street,” the studio is apparently so unconvinced that moviegoers even know who Jack Ryan is that they had to include his name in the title. While my lack of excitement may be obvious, “Shadow Recruit” does have a few things going for it, including Kenneth Branagh in the director’s chair (as well as playing the Russian baddie), and Keira Knightley and Kevin Costner in supporting roles. I wish the same could be said about Chris Pine, but after already reviving one pop culture icon with Captain Kirk, his casting as Ryan is uninspired to say the least.

“RIDE ALONG”

Who: Kevin Hart, Ice Cube, Tika Sumpter and John Leguizamo
What: Fast-talking security guard Ben joins his cop brother-in-law James on a 24-hour patrol of Atlanta in order to prove himself worthy of marrying James’ sister.
When: January 17th
Why: There always seems to be at least one urban comedy released during the doldrums of January, and this year’s lucky winner is the latest movie from Tim Story, which reteams the director with Ice Cube (“Barbershop”) and Kevin Hart (“Think Like a Man”) for what Universal Pictures is no doubt hoping will be the studio’s first hit of 2014. (They have to start recouping that “47 Ronin” budget somewhere). These movies are usually made for pretty cheap and have strong opening weekends, but while “Ride Along” should find success with its target audience, that doesn’t mean it will be any good. The pairing of Ice Cube and rising star Hart is definitely encouraging, but between its paint-by-numbers plot and the surprising lack of laughs in the trailer, you might want to wait for this on Blu-ray.

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30 Sexiest TV Actresses of 2013

Television has always been home to a parade of beautiful actresses, and with the explosion of cable TV and now Netflix, the roles have even become sexier over the years. Here are some of our favorites from 2013:

Lizzy Caplan

This sexy brunette oozes sex appeal, and she was perfect as the sexually liberated Virginia Johnson in the new Showtime series “Masters of Sex.” She certainly wasn’t shy about showing off her impressive body as her character dove into her work researching how the female body responded during sex. This was by far the sexiest new show on television this year which shouldn’t be a surprise given the subject matter, and we saw a parade of lovely actresses disrobing as Virginia Johnson and Dr. William Masters began their study, though some of the best scenes took place when the two of them took part in their own study. “Masters of Sex” has established itself as one of the best shows on television as this period drama pulls the curtain on an era where most conversations about sex were taboo, and the show works mostly due to Caplan and costar Michael Sheen as Masters. Check out our interview with Lizzy from 2010.

Episode 109
Photo courtesy of Showtime by Michael Desmond

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Picture of the Day: Erin Marie Garrett in her sexy boots

Here’s a sexy shot of Erin Marie Garrett sporting some hot boots.

Erin Marie Garrett 45

  

The 5 Most Anticipated Albums from Major Music Publishers in 2014

The coming of a new year always has a strong effect on the music industry. Artists, labels and music publishers often focus their efforts on prepping releases and building hype, and it usually starts well before the holidays. 2014 is no different, with a handful of near-future releases already drumming up a great deal of excitement among music fans. Narrowing down which albums might actually be worth hearing, though, isn’t always easy given the plethora of releases scheduled for the coming six months.

2013 was certainly a great year for music, but there are plenty of reasons to believe that 2014 may even be more packed with top-caliber releases.

Here are 5 of the most anticipated major label releases scheduled to come out over the course of the next year:

1. Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes

Everyone knows Springsteen is The Boss for a reason, and his upcoming album High Hopes has a great deal of hype surrounding it, even if it isn’t exactly a proper new release (it’s a collection of odds and ends from Springsteen’s career). Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine guest stars, and there are also appearances from classic members of the E Street Band Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici. If you’re a Springsteen fan, this record will no doubt make you happy.

2. Dr. Dre – Detox

Hip hop fans hold Dr. Dre in high regard, and for good reason – he’s one of the godfathers of the genre. Given the history of his release schedule, though, it seems as if he has a hard time staying relevant. His first release in a handful of years, Detox is being called Dre’s return to the limelight, and will no doubt be one of the biggest rap releases in 2014. The record is full of cameos and even has its own blog for marketing and promotion purposes, making it one of the most anticipated releases for 2014. It’s still too early to tell whether or not it’ll be worth the hype though.

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Blu Tuesday: Don Jon, Ninja II and Hell Baby

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on Facebook and Twitter with your friends.

“Don Jon”

WHAT: There are only a few things that New Jersey bachelor Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) really cares about in life: his body, his pad, his ride, his family, his church, his boys, his girls and his porn. When he starts dating the gorgeous but bossy Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), however, he’s forced to rethink his porn addiction and the unrealistic expectations that it brings.

WHY: Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of the most talented actors of his generation, and the fact that he was able to write and direct such a smartly funny movie on his first attempt is enough to make anyone feel unaccomplished by comparison. But it’s hard to be jealous of someone as charming, modest and hard-working as Gordon-Levitt, whose immensely likeable screen presence even bleeds into his title role as the womanizing, porn-addicted guido. The actor was wise to keep things simple for his directorial debut, and though “Don Jon” starts to feel a bit repetitive by the third act, that’s mostly due to the story’s structure, which uses repetition for comedic purposes, from the familiar boot-up sound of his Macbook, to the weekly church visits for confession. It’s much harder to pull off than it looks, but between his razor-sharp script and the strong performances from his cast (including Tony Danza as Jon’s stereotypical Italian father), Gordon-Levitt makes it seem almost effortless.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes a making-of featurette, four additional featurettes and a trio of HitRECord short films.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear”

WHAT: When his pregnant wife is killed by a mysterious assassin, ninjitsu master Casey Bowman (Scott Adkins) tracks down the man responsible in order to exact his revenge, uncovering a Japanese drug ring along the way.

WHY: Scott Adkins is probably one of the most talented martial artists working in Hollywood today, and if you’re wondering why he’s not a bigger star by now, it’s because he’s a terrible actor. “Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear” is exactly the type of B-movie that Adkins will spend the rest of his career making, and that’s a shame, because it features some of the best fight sequences of the year. There’s no wire work or CG involved, and director Isaac Florentine doesn’t resort to close-ups or quick cuts either, instead giving each fight plenty of room to breathe so that you can fully appreciate the incredible skill on display. Adkins impresses in every action sequence, but unfortunately, the movie comes to a screeching halt any time he opens his mouth. The rest of the acting isn’t much better, and the dumb-as-rocks storyline doesn’t help matters, but for fans of old school action films (one of the producers also bankrolled the “American Ninja” movies), “Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear” might as well have been discovered in a time capsule from the ‘80s.

EXTRAS: There’s a short making-of featurette, cast and crew interviews and some behind the scenes footage from production.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Hell Baby”

WHAT: After a couple moves into a haunted house in New Orleans, expectant mother Vanessa (Leslie Bibb) becomes possessed by a demon spirit, prompting her husband Jack (Rob Corddry) to call on the services of the Vatican’s elite exorcism team.

WHY: I’m absolutely flabbergasted that “Hell Baby” not only managed to get into this year’s Sundance Film Festival, but that some people actually liked it, because it’s easily one of the worst movies of 2013. Written and directed by Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant (“Reno 911,” “The State”), who also co-star as a pair of Vatican exorcists with some of the worst Italian accents in cinema history, “Hell Baby” doesn’t really work as a comedy or a horror movie. Though Rob Corddry earns a few laughs as the straight man of the ensemble, and Keegan-Michael Key is amusing as the couple’s interloping neighbor, most of the jokes fall horribly flat. The film feels like it was thrown together over the course of a few days, with no mention that the titular hell baby even exists until it emerges from Vanessa’s womb in the final act. The whole thing is incredibly stupid, relying on gags that are drawn out so long that even the mildly entertaining ones (like the po’ boy scenes) become annoying after a while. Avoid this movie like the plague.

EXTRAS: There’s a large collection of deleted scenes and two gag reels, but that’s all.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

  

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