TV or not TV?

Mesa back and in 3-D, bitches.

Mesa back and in 3-D, bitches.

Used to be there was a distinct difference between the output of television and film studios. Although the film studios had their television divisions, the distinction was there. As a medium, TV was lowbrow and film highbrow. But then HBO had to go and get classy and the crasser elements of reality TV began to seep onto the screens of the multiplex. Now things are all topsy-turvy and we get the somberly epic The Walking Dead on the small screen and the sitcom Zombieland at the theater. Given the climate, will the next couple of months be worth a trip to the multiplex?

January kicks off with the familiar-looking The Devil Inside (Jan. 7), which looks to be something like last year’s forgettable The Rite vérité-d down to the reality-TV approach of the Paranormal Activity franchise. The following week (Jan. 13) gets funky as Meryl Streep vamps it up as a sexy, alternate-reality version of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. (What’s left of my soul just shuddered while typing that.) Cross the hall and follow the tide of red hats and you’ll find Joyful Noise, a Queen Latifah feel-gooder about choir singers butting heads on their way to a gospel competition. And with Contraband we’ll get more boilerplate huffing from Mark Wahlberg as he plays a former drug runner who goes to town when drug lords threaten his family.

The really bad news in week two is for parents, as Disney re-releases Beauty and the Beast in 3-D. Get ready to kick down a day’s wages to watch a movie you’ve already sat through countless times (and probably even own). But hey, it’s in 3-D. Have fun. I’ll be down the hall watching Xavier Gens’ post-apocalyptic nuke ’em The Divide.

Mid-January offers Kate Beckinsale in pleather caught, again, in the middle of a duel between vampires and werewolves in Underworld Awakening (Jan. 20). The same weekend brings the uplifting Red Tails, a period actioner about the all-black Tuskagee airmen of WWII featuring Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr. Things will also go Haywire for a covert op (played by mixed-martial artist Gina Carano) who is compelled to kick some ass to protect her family and get some payback—directed by Steven Soderbergh.

Jan. 27 starts with The Grey, featuring Liam Neeson and other survivors of a plane crash in remote Alaska being stalked by wolves. Over in theater 8, cops have the course of the movie to figure out that Sam Worthington, the Man on a Ledge, is threatening to jump only as a diversion. Or is he?

Feb. 3 is packed: Harry Potter tries to break into adult roles with The Woman in Black, an old-school ghost story. Chronicle needs to try pretty hard to be anything but a Heroes knockoff. And, more spooky stuff when The Innkeepers see a lot of old guests checking in for the last hours of a creepy inn. Oh, wondering what Madonna’s been up to? Me neither. But it turns out that she directed a movie. It’s called W.E. and it’s about that thing that happened when a British king hooked up with a Yankee commoner. And rounding out the weekend, for the family, Drew Barrymore and Jim from The Office race to save whales trapped under ice in Big Miracle.

The following week heads to the Safe House as Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington play a cop and a thug who have to go on the lam together. The Vow being kept is a husband (Channing Tatum) rewooing his wife (Rachel McAdams) after she wakes up from a coma (with amnesia, of course). And for those with selective amnesia, they’ll get the joy of being rewooed by Jar Jar Binks as George Lucas unleashes That Star Wars Movie We’d Rather Not Say By Name … in 3-D!

Speaking of heads exploding into flames, Feb. 17 sees the directors of Crank teaming up with Nic Cage for another run at getting Ghost Rider to be a comic-turned-film franchise in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Although I’ll cop, this one might be twisted enough to be amusing. This Means War means we have a couple of CIA ops (Chris Pine and Tom Hardy) fighting over a woman (Reese Witherspoon).

And on Feb. 24, the leap-year month goes out with Act of Valor (Navy SEALs sneak off to rescue a CIA agent), Gone (woman tracks down serial killer), Good Deeds (a Tyler Perry movie) and Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd leaving the big city behind for a hippie commune in Wanderlust.

So, slowly but surely the lines blur. At times, it appears that the only difference between the television and film experience is the screen size and an hour’s work to pay for a bucket of popcorn and a Coke. And if you’re stuck 20 rows back between texting teens on one side and a posse of toddlers dragged along to see Hostel: Part III on the other, the home screen seems that much bigger. And, The Walking Dead resumes Feb. 12.