Big releases: Devil’s Due (Jan. 17)
Big picture: In a modern version of Rosemary’s Baby, newlyweds Zach and Samantha McCall (Zach Gilford and Allison Miller) experience an "inexplicable lost night" on their honeymoon. For a normal couple, this could be attributed to too many bottles of vino, but for a Hollywood screenplay couple in an early January release (increasingly a calendar destination for horror), "You blacked out because you were impregnated with Satan’s baby" is also a viable explanation. Faster than you can say "I do," Samantha is showing signs of a bun in the oven. But the happy news quickly turns terrifying when the mama-to-be begins to exhibit supernatural symptoms and terrifying powers (Yes. Even more frightening than the ability to suffer an overwhelming pickle craving at any given hour of the day).
Forecast: Gilford, who was superb on TV’s Friday Night Lights, could give this cinematic devil its due. (If only it could have been a mash-up called Friday Night Lights: Devil’s Due. I would have loved to see the Kyle Chandler’s pragmatic Coach Taylor offer guidance to a young couple that just happen to be having Lucifer’s little bundle of evil. "Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose," wouldn’t exactly cut it anymore on the words of wisdom scale.)
Honourable Mention: The Nut Job. Charlie Sheen breaks with tradition and stars in his own biopic. (Sigh. In my dreams.) This one is actually an animated family film about a mischievous squirrel named Surly (Will Arnett) that gets banned from the park and is forced to live in the city — only to discover a way to win back his rodent friends: A high-stakes heist of the local nut store. Brendan Fraser and Katherine Heigl co-star. When it comes to rodent cartoons, at least this one doesn’t feature Alvin, Simon and Theodore. Did I mention Liam Neeson voices a villainous Raccoon? (Admit it. Now you kind of want to see it, don’t you?). I’m hoping for a mash-up sequel that pits Neeson’s raccoon against Neeson’s lion Aslan from the Narnia films.
Big Event: American Idol (Jan. 15 and Jan, 16, Fox/CTV Two, 8 p.m. This two-part, four-hour 13th-season premiere fills me with a multitude of questions such as "Really, this show is still on the air?" and "Did the producers make their own deal with the Devil to get people to care in perpetuity?" It is Season 13, after all. If judge J. Lo’s head turns 360 degrees at some point, or one of the female contestants mysteriously becomes pregnant after an "inexplicable, lost night" and starts choosing songs like the Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil or AC/DC’s Hells Bells, you’ll know elements of the film Devil’s Due are crossing over from fiction to fact.
Forecast: Crooner Harry Connick Jr. joins the judging panel this season, alongside the returning J. Lo and Keith Urban. Connick Jr. summed up his new gig best with these telling words: "It’s not rocket science, right?" No Harry, rocket science it is decidedly not. But Connick Jr’s effortless charm and comic timing should help American Idol steer a new course. He instantly gives the revamped judging panel more credibility. Whether that translates into ratings remains to be seen.
Honourable Mention: Looking (Jan. 19, HBO, 10:30 p.m.) This new series follows the lives of three gay friends in San Francisco, offering a candid look at their relationships, romances and career challenges. Think Sex and the City and Girls, but with characters more grounded in the real world (Carrie, Samantha and company often felt like a borderline parody). Glee’s Jonathan Groff co-stars as Patrick, a 29-year-old video game designer returning to the romantic game after his ex-boyfriend’s engagement... I can guarantee Vladimir Putin won’t be watching. All the more reason you should.
Big releases on Jan. 14: Bruce Springsteen (High Hopes), Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings (Give the People What They Want)
Big picture: Fans have high hopes for a new Springsteen album that promises a mixture of studio outtakes, covers and re-recorded originals. Rage Against the Machine’s guitarist Tom Morello subs in for the E-Street Band’s Steve Van Zandt on eight of the 12 tracks, including covers of Just Like Fire Would from Australian punk band the Saints, and Dream Baby Dream from Suicide, a ’70s New York punk outfit. Meanwhile, the 57-year-old Sharon Jones has been giving the people what they want for years. The soul revivalist releases her fifth studio album. She’ll tempt you to shake every inch of your body with her timeless voice. The Dap-Kings horn section will seal the deal.
Forecast: The Boss came by the nickname for a reason. He is never wrong. Meanwhile, Sharon Jones’ retro soul will find an even wider fan base. Her last album peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard charts. Expect this one to top it. In a world of vacant pop stars and Auto-Tune addicts, Springsteen and Jones ring true.
Honourable Mention: Blackie and the Rodeo Kings (South). The Hamilton alt-country super group — featuring heralded songwriters Stephen Fearing, Colin Linden, and Tom Wilson — always turn south for their blues and country influences. With a fitting album title, you can expect they’ll once again be heading in the right musical direction. Expect this one to be a contender for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year at the 2015 JUNO Awards.