Eight Upcoming Movies to Get You Through Winter

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Avoid the perils of the Hollywood off-season with our survival guide.

Interesting indie films tend to sprout in the spring, blockbusters rule the summer, and the classy Oscar-bait shows up in the fall. But winter has long been a cinematic dumping ground where toxic waste is disposed of as quietly as possible. Fortunately, we've compiled a list of some of the more promising flicks to tide you over until The Three Stooges lures the hoi polloi back into theaters.

1. Red Tails (January 20)

This historical tale of the all-black Tuskegee Airmen looks to combine old-fashioned war-movie tropes with state-of-the-art dogfight effects. But as executive producer George Lucas bluntly explained on The Daily Show, the real reason to see it is to celebrate heroes largely forgotten by America (as well as a galaxy of black actors too often ignored by Hollywood).

2. The Grey (January 27)

Getting attacked by virtual wolves in the sun-drenched wilds of Red Dead Redemption is scary enough, so watching a hungry pack of real (and CGI) beasties attack a band of plane-crash survivors in an arctic wasteland should be downright terrifying. Luckily, Liam Neeson stars as exactly the guy you'd want by your side in such a fucked-up situation.

3. The Innkeepers (February 3)

Like Ti West's previous mash-up of mumblecore and old-school horror, House of the DevilThe Innkeepers is a slow-burn affair. Yet viewers who take their Ritalin and surrender to the leisurely pace will be rewarded with a nicely creepy ghost story that builds to a petrifying climax.

4. Big Miracle (February 3)

Though encroaching ice is a major part of Big Miracle's storyline, the film itself sounds as cozy as a wool sweater and a mug of hot cocoa: it's about Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski teaming up to save a family of whales. Snark if you must (I'm tempted, too), but this might be a good antidote for a grey February afternoon.

5. Rampart (February 10)

Coincidentally, Woody Harrelson stars here as a renegade cop the same week Training Day's Denzel Washington returns to moral ambiguity with Safe House. But I'm way more excited for Rampart, Owen Moverman's follow-up to The Messenger, thanks to good buzz, a screenplay co-written by noir king James Ellroy, and a supporting cast including Steve Buscemi, Ice Cube, and Sigourney Weaver. (Together at last.)

6. Footnote (February 24)

The premise sounds like a Woody Allen film: in the world of academia, a father thinks he's received a prize intended for his son.  Israel's entry in the Foreign Language Oscar sweepstakes also seems like an offbeat comedy of morals in the vein of the Coen Brothers' A Serious Man (but without the golem, the tornado or the goy's teeth). That may be enough to get me noshing some brain food at the end of February rather than enjoying a Twinkie like Wanderlust (especially if reviews for the upcoming Paul Rudd/Jennifer Aniston comedy are less than stellar).

7. Casa De Mi Padre (March 16)

Uh, so this is Will Ferrell as some kind of south-of-the-border vigilante rancher in what appears to be a Spanish-language parody of the Robert Rodriguez oeuvre. And Nick Offerman (a.k.a. Parks & Recreation's insanely awesome Ron Swanson) is in it, too. This totally sounds like another fake Grindhouse trailer, but if it really does turn out to be an actual movie, consider me there.

8. Jeff, Who Lives At Home (March 16)

And, mumblecore. If Jay and Mark Duplass (of Cyrus and Baghead fame) are releasing another slacker tale (this time featuring Jason Segel, Ed Helms, and the ever-lovely Judy Greer), it can only mean one thing: the annual indie migration to the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, TX has begun. So even if it's not very good, I'm sure I'll breathe a sigh of relief when Jeff, Who Lives At Home comes out, because (like the first robin of spring) it will surely mean the end of the 2012 winter doldrums is just around the corner.