Walking in a winter movieland

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Often derided as cinematic doldrums, the months between the prestige period of late autumn and the popcorn epics of summer are no longer the dumping ground for movie missteps.

Instead, it has become a period in which smaller movies flourish and unexpected films succeed. The winter 2009 schedule does feature a few marquee movies, but most are smaller films given an opportunity to thrive in a less-competitive market. Here's a sampling:

JANUARY

JAN. 16: PAUL BLART: MALL COP: Kevin James (The King of Queens) stars as a hapless mall cop. This film is not to be confused with Observe and Report (April 10), which stars Seth Rogen as a hapless mall cop.

JAN. 23: Killshot: The pedigree for this movie is strong. It's an Elmore Leonard adaptation (Get Shorty, Out of Sight) directed by John Madden (Shakepeare in Love) and starring Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler) and Diane Lane (Unfaithful). Why, then, has this movie been pushed back three times over three years?

FEBRUARY

FEB. 6: CORALINE: This dark fairy tale features the distinct stop-motion animation of Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas) and was adapted from a novel by Neil Gaiman (Stardust). It will be interesting to see how this movie plays to both an adult and adolescent audience, as it is tough to tell which it is aimed at.

FEB. 6: Fanboys: The geeks might not inherit the Earth, but they have clearly taken Hollywood. The premise of this project involves a group of Star Wars fans trekking to George Lucas's Skywalker Ranch to steal a pre-release of The Phantom Menace for an ailing friend. Expect many references to Wookies and very few to girls.

FEB. 13: Confessions of a Shopaholic: Behold the first ready-made recession comedy. Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers) stars as a dissatisfied financial journalist unable to curb a spending habit. It's based on the successful chick-lit novel.

FEB. 13: Friday the 13th: This is a re-make of the slasher classic, recounting the origins of the machete-wielding Jason Vorhees. Break out the his and hers hockey masks and call it date night.

FEB. 27: Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience: The success of Disney Channel cohort Hannah Montana's 3-D concert made this one inevitable. The pre-teen pic of the season.

MARCH

MARCH 6: WATCHMEN: Comic book fans are salivating over this deconstruction of the superhero archetypes. They might have to salivate a little longer, as there's still some dispute over which studio -- Warner Bros. or Fox -- has the right to distribute. Without a speedy resolution, the release could be held up.

MARCH 20: DUPLICITY: Julia Roberts hasn't been the silver screen regular she once was, making her starring turn in this industrial espionage flick an event. She stars with Clive Owen as her romantic interest and professional rival.

MARCH 20: I Love You, Man: A romantic comedy of sorts, with Paul Rudd (Knocked Up) as a man without male friends, and Jason Segel (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) as the slightly off-kilter amigo whom Mr. Rudd adopts in the hopes of finding a best man for his wedding.

MARCH 27: Monsters vs. Aliens: The monsters are the good guys; the aliens, the bad. They face off in a computer-animated battle of brain and brawn in IMAX and standard cinematic formats.

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.

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