BIG RELEASE: Beautiful Creatures (Feb. 14)
THE BIG PICTURE: The recipe for this cinematic elixir: 25 per cent Star Wars, 25 per cent Harry Potter, 25 per cent Twilight, 10 per cent Romeo and Juliet and five per cent Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. Beautiful Creatures hopes to enchant Harry Potter junkies looking for a new magical fix. Based on the novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, the series follows the exploits of Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), a young girl with strange powers who learns she must undergo "the Claiming" and align her fate with the Dark or the Light. She's essentially Luke Skywalker in eyeliner and a puffy dress -- only her "galaxy far, far away" is the small, mysterious town of Gatlin. Things get complicated when she falls for Ethan, a young man from a rival family of spell casters. Wherefore art thou Romeo? In this case, I'd check the local occult bookshop.
FORECAST: Beautiful Creatures must have cast some dark magic to lure in thespian big shots like Jeremy Irons and Viola Davis. They should add some heft to this tale of dark sorcery and raging teen hormones. But Hunger Games will remain the new Hollywood franchise to beat. (Katniss could take out these witches in her sleep.)
HONOURABLE MENTION: A Good Day to Die Hard (Feb. 14). Yippy ki yay! What better way to spend Valentine's Day (if your date was born pre-1990) than to watch a grizzled Bruce Willis shoot 'em up yet again in Die Hard 5. This time around, the trouble-prone John McClane travels to Russia and teams up with his son, a secret CIA operative. The original Die Hard hit screens in 1988, so this franchise is starting to risk being way out of touch. The kids, after all, love the supernatural these days. For the next installment, how about McClane takes on a coven of terrorist witches? Die Hard 6: Beautiful Creatures Hunter has a wonderful ring to it.
BIG EVENT: Zero Hour (Feb. 14, ABC/Global, 8 p.m.
BIG PICTURE: It's Indiana Jones meets The Da Vinci Code meets that "crazy" guy in your neighborhood who thinks the government implanted microchips in his brain (I wouldn't be surprised if Stephen Harper implants them personally). Anthony Edwards (ER) returns to network television as Hank, the editor of a skeptics magazine who is pulled down the rabbit hole into one of the greatest conspiracies in human history. First a terrorist kidnaps his wife! Then we found out Nazis might be involved! We know things are getting uber serious when we start hearing talk about "an ancient order that constructed 12 clocks to conceal a secret they were sworn to protect" -- one with a power to "bring about the end of the world."
FORECAST: Clocks? Horcruxes? Doesn't anyone hide valuables under their mattress anymore? Way more time and cost effective. Only time will tell whether audiences will want spend an hour with Zero Hour each week.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Killing Lincoln (Feb. 17, National Geographic Channel, 10 p.m.: In the network's first scripted drama, we find out how Lincoln was killed. Admittedly, I'm confused. I thought Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter settled this in 2012: He didn't die! He was turned into a vampire! Way to muddy the facts, National Geographic! This TV movie stars Billy Campbell as Honest Abe and Jesse Johnson as his "alleged" murderer John Wilkes Booth. Tom Hanks even shows up as an on-camera narrator. Killing Lincoln promises fresh insight into Wilkes Booth, one of the "most notorious, yet complex villains of all time." (I'm hoping the channel tackles Skeletor's life story for their second homegrown drama).
BIG RELEASE ON FEB. 12: The Stone Foxes (Small Fires)
BIG PICTURE: This is the San Francisco band's third full-length effort of country and blues-soaked hard rock. Imagine The Black Keys with a little more twang and a dash of San Francisco counter-culture. Cozy up around this small fire.
FORECAST: From now on, I think every new "it band" should have the word Foxes in its title. It should be mandatory. It just sounds sooooooo cool (I blame Fleet Foxes). Any struggling band right now should just put some nouns and verbs in a hat and see what happens: The Copper Foxes, The Fumbling Foxes, The Jamie Foxes, The Foxy Foxes (the possibilities are truly endless).
Honourable Mentions: Hollerado (White Paint). The Canadian indie band, which earned the Best New Group Award at the 2011 Juno Awards, returns with its second album. They may soon have a lot to "Holler" about. They'll be opening for Billy Talent on the 2013 Dead Silence tour (along with Sum 41). This could be a breakthrough year for the Ottawa-area natives.
"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows," but these days, a guide through the seemingly endless flurry of pop culture offerings is just what we need. With that in mind, here is what's on the radar screen in TV, music and film for the coming week.
-- Chris Lackner