Winter movie preview

Joe Cramer

Next to summer, winter tends to see the most notable movie releases of the year.

The looming presence of the Oscars in the early part of the upcoming year often prompts both major and independent studios to release the films that they believe have the best chance of winning statues on Hollywood’s biggest night.

The winter months do not belong exclusively to art-house fare and Kate Winslet movies, however.

Wise distributors, perceiving crucial openings in the release schedule, typically release a few epics or large-scale action movies.

What does this amalgamation of style and substance mean for the winter movie schedule?

It is an unpredictable, eclectic and, above all, exciting season at the movies and usually the best time to be a fan.

Here are a few films to check out in the coming months.

“Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” opens in theaters on Nov. 7, featuring the return of the runaway zoo animals (voiced by Ben Stiller and Chris Rock, among others) as they attempt to escape from the island they were stranded on in the last movie, only to crash again on the African mainland.

If edgier comedy is more up your alley, check out “Role Models,” with Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott, due out the same week.

Forced to enter community service in a Big Brother/Little Brother program because of some unsavory behavior, they are assigned to the toughest kids in the program.

Much hilarity and R-rated antics ensue.

This should be right up your alley if you enjoyed “Superbad” and “Knocked Up.”

The next week sees the release of arguably the most anticipated film of the season: “Quantum of Solace,” the next James Bond movie.

This film, the first direct sequel in the franchise’s history, continues the reimagining of the infamous secret agent, with Daniel Craig taking up the license to kill once more.

This is the film to see this weekend.

Continuing the blockbuster trend, the following week sees the release of “Twilight,” the eagerly anticipated adaptation of the book that has become a pop-culture phenomenon.

The love story follows the complications that result when one half of a teenage couple happens to be a vampire.

Hopefully the supernatural twist will make this romantic drama easier to bear for those who will inevitably be dragged out by their significant others to see this one.

Thanksgiving week is a major release weekend for movies, and this year is no exception.

In terms of holiday fare, you can check out “Four Christmases,” which follows a couple forced to visit all four of their divorced parents on Christmas Day.

The Hugh Jackman-Nicole Kidman epic “Australia” comes out this week, capping off the blockbuster season. By turns a Western, a war movie and a romance, this one could be a “Titanic” hit if it is done right.

December sees the release of some serious Oscar contenders.

If politics is your area of interest, check out “Frost/Nixon,” which investigates the infamous post-Watergate interview of the former president that revealed much about his role in the scandal.

If you enjoyed “I Am Legend,” you may want to check out “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” starring Keanu Reeves.

This science-fiction drama explores a cosmic mystery that threatens to destroy the Earth that is tied to arrival of the enigmatic Klaatu (Reeves), who may be more than human.

Clint Eastwood, an Oscar favorite, returns to the gritty action genre that made him famous in the ’70s in “Gran Turino.”

This time, he stars as a Korean War veteran forced to confront his racial prejudices when gang violence threatens to tear his town apart.

Finally, fans of ultra-stylized fare like “Sin City” and “300” will surely want to give “The Spirit” a look.

A throwback to early detective stories, it follows a cop who, after being brought back from the dead, patrols the crime-filled streets of his city as the masked vigilante dubbed “The Spirit.” The star-studded film sees release Dec. 26.

Whether you prefer action, drama, romance or comedy, chances are you will find yourself at one or more of these before the year is done.

Variety is the spice of life, and there is plenty to be had this season at the movies.