“Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol”
Directed by Brad Bird
In theaters Dec. 16
The punctuation-laden fourth installment of the “Mission: Impossible” franchise will be opening in IMAX screens five days before it hits regular theaters and many locations will boast a sneak preview of the opening scene to “The Dark Knight Rises.” If that’s not enough to get you into the theater, “The Incredibles” director Brad Bird has shown he knows how to film and stage action, and he rounded out the pre-existing cast with “Lost” favorite Josh Holloway and future “Avengers” star Jeremy Renner.
Directed by Jason Reitman
In theaters Dec. 16
The last time “Up in the Air” director Jason Reitman teamed up with screenwriter Diablo Cody, “Juno” injected several new phrases into the pop culture lexicon and cleaned up at the 2008 Oscars. The buzz surrounding “Young Adult” — which has been screening across the U.S. — is growing every day. Charlize Theron stars as a young adult novelist returning home to steal high school flame Patrick Wilson away from his wife and newborn son, but much of the buzz is surrounding stand-up comedian Patton Oswalt’s performance as an old friend of Theron’s character from high school.
“The Devil Inside”
Directed by William Brent Bell
In theaters Jan. 6
Usually, early January genre releases fall just below the bottom of the barrel in terms of quality, and “The Devil Inside” director William Brent Bell doesn’t exactly inspire confidence — his last film was 2006’s borderline-unwatchable “Stay Alive”. Even so, “The Devil Inside” appears to be taking a mildly different angle on the demonic possession subgenre that’s seen a resurgence in recent years thanks to the “Paranormal Activity” films, and its trailer has enough creepy imagery — a woman carving crosses on the inside of her lips! — to make the film worth noting.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
In theaters Jan. 20
Here’s another January genre film, but this one packing considerable prestige. After all, it’s directed by Steven Soderbergh — who recently created droves of germaphobes with this year’s “Contagion” — and the cast is filled with consistently entertaining performers, like Michael Fassbender, Michael Angarano and Bill Paxton. MMA fighter Gina Carano stars in the female-driven action film as Mallory Kane, a government-trained superweapon who goes rogue after her organization betrays her.
“This Means War”
Directed by McG
In theaters Feb. 17
Casting Chris Pine (“Star Trek”) and the always impressive Tom Hardy (“Inception”) as spies competing for the same girl (Reese Witherspoon) is a creative enough concept to make “This Means War” worth checking out. While director McG’s track record could be considered spotty to say the least, his peripheral involvement in the long-running NBC spy comedy “Chuck” and smart casting earn him a bit of good faith. Hopefully “This Means War” can balance its spy and romantic comedy angles as well as its funny, propulsive trailer does.