Winter movie preview 2007 

So, the holidays are over and you’re wondering what’s next. Here’s a brief look at a few of the films set for release this winter, along with some notable movies due here this month after opening in New York and L.A. in December for awards consideration. All dates are subject to change.

Clint Eastwood’s companion piece to Flags of Our Fathers looks at the battles over Iwo Jima from the Japanese point of view. I saw this very powerful film last Friday and let me tell you, had it been screened earlier, it would have occupied a place high on my 10 Best list. Opens later this month.

Peter O’Toole is at his best as an aged London actor who develops a relationship with a young woman who is supposed to be taking care of one of his friends. Trying to figure out what each of them really wants from the other is just one of the treats in this erudite mix of comedy and drama. Opens later this month.

Penélope Cruz (who is a much stronger and more appealing performer when speaking her native Spanish) grandly anchors the latest from Pedro Almodóvar, a colorful, invigorating story about the trials of a group of women in Madrid. Rich, wise and satisfying. Opens Jan. 12.

Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber star in a 1920s love story about an English couple that relocates to Shanghai, where all sorts of drama happens. Based on the novel by W. Somerset Maugham. Opens Jan. 12.

Freaky adult fairy tale from writer/director Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, The Devil’s Backbone), set against the postwar repression of Franco’s Spain. Opens Jan. 12.

Writer/director Zhang Yimou’s (Hero, House of Flying Daggers) colorful 10th century epic fuses high adventure and romantic intrigue with the best of contemporary martial arts. Opens Jan. 12.

Renée Zellweger stars as renowned children’s author Beatrix Potter in this biography co-starring Ewan McGregor and Emily Watson. Opens Jan. 12.

Harrowing drama, inspired by a true story, about what happens when the gangsta posturing of a group of suburban L.A. teens takes a fateful turn. The cast includes Justin Timberlake and Shawn Hatosy, who was great on E.R. recently as a guy suffering from multiple personality disorder. Opens Jan. 12.

Remake of the 1986 thriller about a young couple who pick up the wrong hitchhiker. Sean Bean plays the title character. Opens Jan. 19.

When his London office is repeatedly burgled, architect Jude Law decides to launch his own investigation and soon finds himself in over his head. Juliette Binoche, Robin Wright-Penn, Ray Winstone and Martin Freeman co-star. Written and directed by Anthony Minghella. Opens Jan. 26.

Horror thriller starring Kristen Stewart, Dylan McDermott, Penelope Ann Miller and John Corbett in a story about two siblings who start seeing ominous apparitions after their family moves to rural North Dakota. Will the grownups heed their warnings? Not for a while, I think. Opens Feb. 2.

A comedic battle of wills between mother Diane Keaton and daughters Mandy Moore, Lauren Graham and Piper Perabo. The screenplay is from the writers of Stepmom and I Am Sam, which scares the hell out of me. Opens Feb. 2.

Good grief, it’s another thriller from Thomas Harris about Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter. What’s next, a TV series where Lecter tries to eat a different guest star each week? This one is a prequel about the early days of the celebrated psycho. Gaspard Ulliel stars as young Hannibal. Opens Feb. 9.

Eddie Murphy plays three roles (the title character, a Chinese man and a big, brassy woman) in a raucous R-rated comedy. Thandie Newton, Eddie Griffin and Cuba Gooding Jr. co-star. Opens Feb. 9.

Romantic comedy starring Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore. He plays the washed-up ’80s pop star trying to make a comeback. She plays the quirky plant lady who helps him as he struggles to write a hit song. Opens Feb. 14.

Spy thriller with Ryan Phillippe as the fledgling agent picked to work with renowned operative Chris Cooper to protect classified materials. Ah, but wait. All is not as it seems. Laura Linney, Dennis Haysbert, Kathleen Quinlan and Gary Cole co-star. Feb. 16.

Nicolas Cage stars as Johnny Blaze, a superstar motorcycle stunt rider by day and a bounty hunter of rogue demons by night. From the Marvel comic book series. Opens Feb. 16.

Family concerns forced him to drop out of the NASA program, but Billy Bob Thornton hasn’t given up his dreams of becoming an astronaut, as he proceeds to build his own rocket on the grounds of his ranch. Opens Feb. 23.

Brother and sister Tom Cavanagh and Heather Graham decide to find mates for each other in this romantic comedy. Sissy Spacek, Bridget Moynahan, Molly Shannon, Alan Cumming and Gloria Gaynor co-star. Open Feb. 23.

Uh oh, Jim Carrey’s doing drama again. This one is a thriller about a guy who finds a book titled The Number 23 and becomes convinced it is based on his own life. My, the premise certainly sounds Stranger than Fiction. Open Feb. 23, natch.

David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club) presents a thriller based on the real-life Zodiac serial killer. Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Edwards, Brian Cox, Elias Koteas, Donal Logue, John Carroll Lynch and Dermot Mulroney star. I am so there. Opens March 2.

Gerard Butler stars in an adaptation of the epic graphic novel by Frank Miller about the ancient Battle of Thermopylae. Opens March 9.

Sandra Bullock sees dead people. Specifically, her husband Julian McMahon, who is quite alive. Can Sandra prevent her vision from coming true? Opens March 16.

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