It's January, and that means we've entered the dog days of moviegoing. Studios release blockbusters in the summer and Oscar contenders at the end of the year, leaving poor li'l January, February, March and April with a bunch of movies that fit in neither category -- that is, horror flicks and films that, to put it kindly, sort of suck. (OK, that wasn't kind.)

In 2006, for example, the lowest-earning film of the year -- in fact, of all time -- was a thriller called 'Zyzzyx,' which co-starred Katherine Heigl (Izzie on 'Grey's Anatomy') and earned a grand total of ... $30. Yes, $30. I believe that covers the director, his wife and an insomniac who wandered in by mistake, looking for a nap. It opened in February. See my point? Anyway, despite that, there are still some gems to be found before we hit the summer. We'll keep our fingers crossed.

Hilary Swank in Freedom Writers'Freedom Writers': Speaking of 'Grey's Anatomy,' here's a movie that co-stars Patrick Dempsey, known to viewers everywhere as McDreamy. He plays the husband of Hilary Swank's character, a do-gooder teacher who comes to the inner city to do some good. Wait a minute, haven't we seen this movie before? Oh, my mistake. That was 'Dangerous Minds.' And about a million other movies. To its credit, the movie's getting decent reviews, and Hilary's got those two Oscars. I just don't know whether she's a big enough name to headline this type of movie successfully, particularly in such a crowded genre.

Happily N'Ever After'Happily N'Ever After':
The only family movie opening this weekend, 'Happily N'Ever After' would seem to have the best chance of knocking 'Night at the Museum' from its No. 1 perch. It's an animated fairy tale -- a comic retelling of 'Cinderella' -- starring real-life married couple Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr. as Cinderella and Rick, her dishwasher best friend who's secretly in love with her. The prince, interestingly enough (who isn't necessarily the good guy in this movie), is named Prince Humperdink, presumably in a nod to one of my all-time favorite movies, 'The Princess Bride.' At any rate, kids and parents who've already seen 'Museum' and 'Happy Feet' will probably want to give this a chance, though the fact that this movie is opening in January and not peak holiday time is a little suspect, methinks.

Clive Owen in Children of Men'Children of Men': Already showing in limited release but opening wide now is Alfonso Cuarón's ('Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,' 'Y Tu Mamá También') futuristic thriller, starring Clive Owen and Julianne Moore, about a world in which women can no longer give birth to children. I wasn't able to catch a screening of this one, but I can't wait to see it. It's gotten great reviews and has made plenty of Best of 2006 lists; in addition, my colleague Tommy says it has "the coolest sequence of the year": a 10-minute, uninterrupted tracking shot in which Owen, running through a war zone, ducks in and out of buildings and buses. This is the highest quality film going wide this week -- and as a fan of Cuaron's, I'm rooting for it to do well. It's not the most accessible film, but word of mouth is a powerful thing.

Also of note: Cedric the Entertainer's 'Code Name: The Cleaner' comes out this weekend. Shouldn't make the top five, but who knows, stranger things have happened. Cedric's got his peeps. Also, it co-stars Lucy Liu and Nicollette Sheridan. Um, that's pretty much all I have to say about this one.

Deadline: Saturday at noon. You've got 24 hours. Go.

1. Night at the Museum
2. The Pursuit of Happyness
3. Dreamgirls
4. Happily N'Ever After
5. Children of Men


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'Children of Men': Showtimes, tix, trailer & more | Photos | Reviews

'Happily N'Ever After': Showtimes, tix, trailer & more | Exclusive clips | Photos

'Freedom Writers': Showtimes, tix, trailer & more | Exclusive clip | Photos