BIG RELEASE: Labor Day (Jan. 31)
BIG PICTURE: This is practically a Harlequin romance novel wrapped in Oscar pedigree. Directed by Jason Reitman (JUNO, Up in the Air), Labor Day is a drama about a sexy, depressed single mom named Adele (Kate Winslet) who falls for a dangerous, hunky stranger named Frank (Josh Brolin). Did I mention Winslet is agoraphobic and Brolin is a wanted fugitive and convicted murderer? (Or that, for part of the film, Brolin sports an amazing pirate beard!) After her 13-year-old son encounters the wounded con in a grocery store, he "insists" the duo to take him home. He quickly goes from pseudo hostage-taker to unlikely love interest and father figure. This is the kind of story where the unnaturally philosophical son has insights like, "I don't think losing my father broke my mother's heart, but rather losing love itself." Based on the novel by Joyce Maynard, Labor Day is a drama built around the themes of high risk, second chances and potential redemption -- much like Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's re-election campaign -- but with less late-night, drunk fast-food runs.
FORECAST: This film is the perfect fantasy for lonely single moms and ex-cons hoping to meet their own Kate Winslet. For everyone else, the talent behind this project makes it worth the gamble on tickets.
HONOURABLE MENTION: That Awkward Moment. Three clueless young men (Confession: All men are clueless until roughly 40) navigate the complex moment in a relationship where each party must decide "Where is this going?" Or as women prefer to call it: "commitment." Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller, Zac Efron star as three best friends navigating the usual man-child hijinks. Before this awkward moment has run its course, one or more of them will have taken Viagra, mistaken a girl they picked up for a hooker, been hit by a car, worn a fake penis or said something like "I love the way we fit together in bed because we're the same height and our crotches line up perfectly." Hey, what can I tell you. That counts as true romance in the Judd Apatow comedy era.
BIG EVENT: Super Bowl XLVIII (Feb. 2, FOX, CTV, 5:30 p.m.)
BIG PICTURE: The rest of the TV universe has ceded to the ratings champ this week, with no other major series premieres scheduled in the shadow of North America's biggest sporting event. For the fraction of the Super Bowl viewing population that actually likes football, Sunday's matchup offers a duel between the best two teams in the NFL: the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. For those whose eyes glaze over at Super Bowl parties -- silently praying the power will go out or that pterodactyls will swoop down and devour the players -- at least you can console yourself with the fact the halftime show should be good this year. The unlikely tandem of pop chameleon Bruno Mars and iconic band the Red Hot Chili Peppers will grace the stage. The latter, one assumes, was chosen to perform to avoid the infamous "wardrobe malfunction" antics of Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake circa 2004. Have no fear Parents Television Council! I don't think Chili Peppers' front man Anthony Kiedis even owns a shirt!
FORECAST: It will be damn cold at New York's MetLife stadium. Denver QB Peyton Manning will choke. None of the good commercials will air in Canada, but you'll watch them on YouTube the next day. And the Super Bowl halftime show will pave the way for future oddball pairings: Beyoncé with Weird Al; Taylor Swift with all her ex-boyfriend musicians; Miley Cyrus with Mick Jagger (just to see him out-twerk her), and Justin Bieber with Marilyn Manson (just to scare some sense in our bratty little pop prince).
BIG RELEASE ON JAN. 28: David Crosby (Croz)
BIG PICTURE: David Crosby is back with his first album of solo material in almost 20 years. Backed on key tracks by stellar guest musicians like guitarist Mark Knopfler and trumpet guru Wynton Marsalis, Crosby proves he still has a few tricks up his sleeves. A mellow, reflective album, Croz finds the aging rocker chilled out but still willing to speak his mind -- for example, on the subject of U.S. military drone strikes -- or getting personal on numbers like Set That Baggage Down.
FORECAST: Fans of Crosby, Stills & Nash won't be disappointed. If you don't know any of them, it means you're very young -- and that your parents aren't former hippies. My big prognostication? Crosby's career resurgence will find him paired with Jay-Z for a future duet album, and find the dynamic duo performing at the 2015 Super Bowl halftime show under the moniker Cro-Z.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Dum Dum Girls (Too True). Don't let the title fool you. This is not the soundtrack to HBO's TV series Girls. Dee Dee Penny and her band offer raw garage-rock mixed with a healthy sprinkle of '80s synth and pop. Warning to clueless dudes from the movie That Awkward Moment: These girls would eat you for breakfast.