Around this time every year, many of us Western New Yorkers begin to hit the wall when we realize that there is no end to this winter abyss in sight.
In fact, according to researcher Cliff Arnall, we are approaching the most depressing day of the entire year. He has determined that day is the third Monday in January, which is Jan. 17, just a few days away.
This desolation factor is based on circumstances typical of this time of year - we're flaking out on our New Year's resolutions (if we haven't already two weeks ago), the holidays are over and we're strapped for cash, the snow won't stop falling and it is just so, so cold.
I feel there is a special kind of misery that comes with having to clean off my car more than twice in one day, with the snow trickling down my sleeves each time. The mere thought of once again putting on my tired, old winter coat is enough to make me want to help accelerate global warming. For my readers who suffer similarly, I dedicate this column to you.
Just like you, I've been hibernating and watching movies rather than giving up my good parking space and venturing out into the world. Here is my guide on what's worth watching and what to skip, with reviews of five DVDs.
"Going the Distance"
A couple (Drew Barry-more and Justin Long) has to be separated after spending the summer together and tries to make it work long-distance.
The verdict: Sometimes it tries too hard to be quirky and cute and misses the mark, but it's hard not to like it; the movie is charming overall and has the occasional laugh. "Going the Distance" benefits tremendously from its cast, especially supporting actors like Christina Applegate and Charlie Day from "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."
Recommended for: Saps for romantic comedies and people who have the scars that prove they too have endured a long-distance relationship.
Five strangers are trapped in an elevator together when things take a turn for the demonic in M. Night Shyamalan's latest attempt to recapture the success he last experienced in 1999 with "The Sixth Sense."
The verdict: How do you know if the devil lurks nearby? Why, the toast lands jelly-side down, of course! Thank goodness one of the security guards watching the events unfold on the elevator's surveillance camera can help instill us with so much crucial information on Lucifer. "Devil" certainly could have been worse (see: "Lady in the Water") but it also could have been a whole heck of a lot more entertaining and a lot less predictable. In case Shyamalan fans are wondering, there is no truly epic, mind-blowing twist I watched it hoping for one so let me save you the trouble.
Recommended for: Someone who can find no better way to kill 80 minutes.
In a new spin on Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter," a high school girl (Emma Stone) looking to escape anonymity embellishes about her date with a college boy and the rumor spreads like wildfire, leading everyone to believe she's a tramp.
The verdict: Rent it! Stone proves she can carry her own film and moments of the movie were actually hilarious. How many recent movies can you say that about?
Recommended for: Anyone who shamelessly enjoys a smart, witty teen comedy and fans of "Mean Girls."
A Piece of Work"
A documentary on pioneering comedienne Joan Rivers and her struggle to survive as a working entertainer, along with a fascinating history of how Joan paved the way for anyone in comedy today.
The verdict: It's a fascinating film, whether you're a fan of Joan or not - her influence has been tremendous. Going for shock value was always her thing, long before it was considered acceptable, and now (unfortunately for Joan) it is nearly impossible to truly shock anyone. Joan never gives up and her resolve is inspiring - apparently it continues to pay off, with her new reality show "'Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best?" premiering Jan. 25 on WEtv.
Recommended for: Anyone who has an affinity for showbiz stories about the backstage drama.
"Wall Street 2:
Money Never Sleeps"
Gordon Gecko (Michael Douglas, great as usual) gets out of jail just in time for the financial crisis, and tries to rebuild his relationship with his estranged daughter (a lifeless Carey Mulligan) with the help of his future son-in-law (Shia LeBouf). It's not long before Gecko is up to his old tricks.
The verdict: Money may never sleep but I sure did, like a baby, by about the 45-minute mark. I was not buying Shia LeBouf as a Wall Street hotshot. I watched the original "Wall Street" right around the time it was announced that a sequel was in production and wondered, "Why would that be necessary? There really isn't much more you can do with this story." That is exactly how the sequel turned out: lame and uncalled for.
Recommended for: People who would enjoy having the financial crisis explained to them in a way that a toddler could understand. That was the point of this movie, right?
DRINK OF THE WEEK
Warm and boozy, like a winter depression-quashing drink should be: Hot Rum Tea. Here's what you'll need for one drink (recipe from veetea.com): 1 Tbsp. black tea, 1 cinnamon stick, 2 cloves, 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, 1 slice of lemon peel and 1 Tbsp. honey.
Bring one cup of water to just below boiling and remove from heat. Add tea leaves and spices. Steep for four minutes. Strain. Pour tea into a large mug and stir in honey, lemon juice, and lemon peel. Float the rum and add the cinnamon stick as a garnish.
After four years of dedicated work, Travis Carlson, Cassadaga Valley graduate and Buffalo State film student, will be releasing his two hour action-adventure film that highlights local talent and scenic regional locations including Allegheny State Park, Letchworth State Park, Mayville Gorge and Quebec. The premiere, which is open to the public, will be held Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Reg Lenna Civic Center in Jamestown. The film has been submitted to the Buffalo-Niagara Film Festival.
"Myself and several dedicated local talent decided it was time we made our own adventure film of the highest quality available with no budget other than the 'weapons at hand,' which are countless hours of time and raw, local talent coupled with stunning and exciting area locations," Carlson said.
Carlson diligently worked on the film since his days as a sophomore at Cassadaga Valley, overcoming disaster.
"Midway through filming, well over a year into it, the entire project was lost in a devastating accident," he said. "But we weren't stopped for long and I restarted the project, only this time it would be exponentially better. Now after another year of filming and two years of editing the project has finally and proudly completed."
Admission is free with donations welcome to help defray theater costs. For more information, visit facebook.com/thecodexmovie.
Season 10 of American Idol starts Wednesday, Jan. 19, on Fox with something old Randy Jackson and Ryan Seacrest and something new Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler. I am honestly not convinced that this new judging panel is going to work out but I did read that they're planning on making the eliminations quicker, among other "improvements." Either way, it will be interesting to watch. The two-night season premiere continues Thursday, with two hours of "Idol" from 8 to 10 p.m. each night.
April Diodato is the OBSERVER Lifestyles editor. Send comments on this column to firstname.lastname@example.org