The drop in temperature each winter usually signals a drop in quality at the movies, but this season looks unexpectedly sunny.
Last winter’s movie lineup was remarkably dreary, enlivened only by Disney’s live-action Cinderella and the enjoyable hot-rod flick Furious 7.
This year, though, is front-loaded with such potential crowd-pleasers as Ben Stiller’s long-awaited Zoolander 2, the kid-friendly Kung Fu Panda 3 and two major comic-book movies, Deadpool and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
The new Coen brothers comedy, Hail, Caesar!, and the Sundance-winning horror film The Witch may also be bright spots.
Surely they can’t all be winners, but keep your fingers crossed for these 27 major winter movies:
The Finest Hours — The story of a 1952 Coast Guard mission to rescue the crew of an oil tanker split in two by a storm. With Chris Pine, Eric Bana and Casey Affleck.
Jane Got a Gun — Jericho-raised Natalie Portman plays a defiant heroine in this Western from Huntington-raised director Gavin O’Connor (Warrior). With Ewan McGregor and Joel Edgerton.
Kung Fu Panda 3 — Jack Black returns as the voice of the roly-poly Po, who must train his panda brethren for battle. With Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie and the rest of the voice gang.
Fifty Shades of Black — Serial spoofer Marlon Wayans (Scary Movie) takes on the S&M romance Fifty Shades of Grey. With Kali Hawk.
Hail, Caesar! — The Coen brothers’ new comedy, set during Hollywood’s Golden Age, stars Josh Brolin as a studio fixer trying to track down a kidnapped movie star (George Clooney). With Scarlett Johansson, Jonah Hill and Tilda Swinton.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies — Bodice-ripping and brain-bashing combine in this film adaptation of the 2009 parody novel. With Lily James (Cinderella) and Sam Riley (Control).
Deadpool — Ryan Reynolds plays the Marvel anti-hero with a twisted sense of humor. This is his origin story. With Morena Baccarin and Gina Carano.
How to be Single — A comedy about two friends (Rebel Wilson and Dakota Johnson) navigating New York City’s dating scene.
Zoolander 2 — Ben Stiller returns as America’s favorite male model in this long-awaited sequel. Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell and Milla Jovovich reprise their original roles.
Race — A biopic about Jesse Owens (Stephan James), the African-American Olympian who left Hitler’s master racers in the dust. With Jason Sudeikis.
Risen — Two Romans (Joseph Fiennes and Tom Felton) are tasked with solving the mystery of what happened to Jesus after his crucifixion. Directed and co-written by Kevin Reynolds.
The Witch — In the early 1600s, an isolated New England family turns against one of its own. Robert Eggers won best director for this debut feature at last year’s Sundance festival.
Eddie the Eagle — A comedy based on the true story of British underdog ski-jumper Michael Edwards (Taron Egerton, Kingsman: The Secret Service). Hugh Jackman plays his disreputable (and fictional) coach.
Triple 9 — A crew of dirty cops is blackmailed into pulling off a seemingly impossible heist. With Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Anthony Mackie and Kate Winslet.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny — Michelle Yeoh returns in a sequel to Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning martial-arts film of 2000. The original film’s choreographer, Yuen Woo-Ping, directs. Premieres in IMAX and on Netflix.
Desierto — A group of illegal Mexican border-crossers runs afoul of a deranged vigilante in this topical action-thriller by Jonas Cuaron (Gravity). With Gael Garcia Bernal.
London has Fallen — Gerard Butler is back as Secret Service agent Mike Banning in this sequel to the 2013 sleeper hit Olympus Has Fallen. With Aaron Eckhart and Morgan Freeman.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot — Tina Fey plays a war correspondent in a film based on Kim Barker’s memoir, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Also starring Martin Freeman.
Zootopia — In Disney’s animated film, a rabbit cop (Ginnifer Goodwin) teams up with a fast-talking fox (Jason Bateman) to solve a mystery.
The Brothers Grimsby — An MI6 agent (Mark Strong) and his idiotic brother (Sacha Baron Cohen) must stop a doomsday plot.
The Young Messiah — A drama about the 7-year-old Jesus and his family. Based on an unlikely novel written by Anne Rice (Interview With the Vampire) during her Catholic period.
The Divergent Series: Allegiant — Shailene Woodley returns as the dystopian misfit Tris, who must venture beyond the walls surrounding Chicago. With Theo James.
The Little Prince — The wistful children’s book by Antoine de Saint-Exupery is now an animated film with the voices of Jeff Bridges, Paul Rudd, Marion Cotillard, Bud Cort (Harold and Maude) and many others.
Midnight Special — Michael Shannon reteams with director Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter) in a thriller about a man whose young son has special powers. With Adam Driver and Kirsten Dunst.
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice — Ben Affleck makes his long-awaited and much-decried debut as Batman. With Henry Cavill as Superman and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 — Nia Vardalos returns as the star and writer of this sequel to her 2002 hit. With Andrea Martin, John Corbett, Joey Fatone and new addition Elena Kampouris.
I Saw the Light — A biopic of the tortured country legend Hank Williams, played by the acclaimed British actor Tom Hiddleston (Thor). With Elizabeth Olsen.