The holiday season is finally, truly, definititively over. And I hope it was nice for one and all. Now, I suspect that many of you are emerging from a Champagne-plus-Christmas-returns-and-gift-card-binge coma to realize that—oh no!— once the guests are gone, January is actually pretty boring.
This goes double when it comes to pop culture. Gone are the prestige movies, the holiday mix CDs, the classic TV marathons, the hours-long stretches of “Guitar Hero” played with family. In their placeâ€¦nothing. With the writers’ strike holding steady, most networks have plunged themselves into reruns and schlocky game shows. Instead of Oscar-bait movies with big stars and showy performances, we have a nonstop parade of cheapo horror movies. (Explain to me how One Missed Call, the Japanese-horror-flick remake about haunted, deadly wireless technologies, is any different from 2006’s Pulse, the Japanese-horror-flick remake about haunted, deadly wireless technologies.) Don’t even ask about the music being released this month. It’s a bleak image.
We can get through this. Believe it or not, there are a few oases of entertainment throughout the month of January (including my birthday, which is on the 29th, so if you want to kill a few hours making me a glue-and-macaroni card, you can send it to me courtesy of the magazine).
There are still a few new shows on TV—bully for you if you have premium cable channels and can watch the universally beloved The Wire—and some of the biggest television events come courtesy of a few of our locals. Kudos to North Salem resident David Letterman for getting his production company, Worldwide Pants, to strike a deal with the Writers’ Guild of America. His shows are the only ones to return to the air with their top-ten list machines, I mean writers, thus making them attractive to A-list guests who don’t want to cross picket lines. Letterman’s first high-profile guest, Robin Williams, was a bit of a puzzler—both of his 2007 films, August Rush and License to Wed, underperformed and are already out of theaters, giving him little-to-no reason to be a guest in the first place—but things look up the rest of the week, with guests like Lucy Liu, Morgan Freeman, Tom Brokaw, and Tracy Morgan. The Late Show with David Letterman airs every weeknight at 11:30 pm on CBS.
Not enough celebrities for you? Look to our other Northern Westchester neighbor. Don’t act like you don’t know which one, and that you’re not at least curious about his Celebrity Apprentice. This time, The Donald has actors, boxers, athletes, and a Baldwin competing to raise big bucks for charity—so you can justify the guilty pleasure as doing a good deed. The Celebrity Apprentice is on Thursdays at 9 pm on NBC.
If you’re caught up on all of the December awards films (and make sure you catch There Will Be Blood if you haven’t), the multiplexes look pretty grim. Yet, even among cheapo horror films, some look more promising than others, most notably Cloverfield, a lo-fi, plot-closely-guarded monster movie from the producer of Lost. Due to the movie’s secrecy and a viral marketing campaign that has something to do with a fictional Japanese soft drink called Slusho, the film is garnering lots of buzz—along with speculation about what’ll be unleashed on the streets of New York City.
Unleashed in the wilds of Burma, on the other hand, is an older-but-wiser Rambo (bet you thought you’d never hear that name again), who’s given up his warring waysâ€¹until a church needs a mercenary to rescue helpless aid workers from the Burmese army. You can guess what happens next.
If you’re a little more high-minded, Woody Allen’s Cassandra’s Dream completes the director’s unofficial London trilogy. In it, Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell play brothers in trouble in a gritty crime drama that looks very much unlike any other Woody Allen film (and looks surprisingly neuroses-free.
Sure, it’s not an Oscar-winning group of films, but they’ll do in a pinch.
The good news is that, while the theatrical release schedule is pretty meager right now, the DVD slate is just starting to catch up with the meaty movies of the past few months. January is a great time to hunker down indoors and watch DVDs. In addition to the titles we promoted in the most recent issue of the magazine (3:10 to Yuma, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, Smiley Face, and Shoot ‘Em Up), there’s a really nice two-disc director’s cut edition of David Fincher’s hypnotic thriller
Zodiac coming out this month. Geeks gearing up for Cloverfield will want to check out Trainspotting‘s director Danny Boyle’s under-seen space drama Sunshine, or, if you’re a fan of Bedford resident Richard Gere, check out the American Gigolo in the darkly comic The Hunting Party.
Don’t think I haven’t forgotten about the readers out there. For a look at the best early-winter book releases, be sure to check out the February issue of Westchester Magazine.
Until then, what other popular culture are you consuming in January? Let me know at comments@westchestermagazine. com.