Check your serotonin levels, this winter’s dramas could bring on seasonal affective disorder. But that doesn’t mean they’re not worth seeing. An aging wrestler bumps up against his own limitations; an older racist man bonds with his minority neighbors; an IRS agent, who feels bad about his life, decides to change the lives of others; a newspaper reporter reveals a CIA agent’s identity; a woman discovers that everything is that much harder when you’re poor; and two petty criminals decide it’s time for one last big score — and we all know that never goes well.
Starring: Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Michael Ealy, Barry Pepper, Woody Harrelson Director: Gabriele Muccino Story: Smith stars as an IRS agent who feels guilty and depressed for the mistakes he’s made in his life. He decides to change the lives of seven people, including a blind man (Harrelson) and a woman with a heart problem (Dawson) he ends up falling for. Worth seeing? Looks promising. Muccino and Smith last worked together on “Pursuit of Happyness,” so expect this one to be a tearjerker. In this economy, it’s hard to believe an IRS agent could be a sympathetic character, but this film looks to be potentially a lot more uplifting than much of this winter’s fare. It could be an Oscar dark horse (particularly in the best actor category) if it strikes a chord with audiences. Smith told Oprah Winfrey that part of the reason he chose the film is because “I want my work to mean something.” Dawson told Winfrey that she began reading the script and “I'm just crying immediately.” Web site: http://www.sevenpounds.com/ Release date: Dec. 19
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Cory Hardrict, Geraldine Hughes, Dreama Walker, Brian Haley Director: Clint Eastwood Story: Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a prejudiced Korean War veteran who bonds with an immigrant Asian neighbor over his classic car, a 1972 Gran Torino. Worth seeing? Yes. A mysterious Eastwood movie in late December means one thing: Oscar bait. Eastwood told USA Today, “I play a real racist. … It's a great time in life (to do that) because, you know, what can they do to you once you're past 70? There's nothing they can do. But (the film) also has redemption.” The Envelope’s Pete Hammond reported, “I received a ‘this is the honest-to-God truth — I swear on a stack of bibles’ response from an insider who saw a rough cut of Eastwood's December entry ‘Gran Torino’ earlier this week saying that ‘the old guy could actually win it all for this one. He's THAT good in this.’” Web site: NA Release date: Dec. 17
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood Director: Darren Aronofsky Story: Set in the late 1980s, Rourke stars as Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a has-been wrestler who now just wrestles to entertain fans. But after he has a heart attack in the ring, he’s forced into retirement. He tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter (Wood) and forms a relationship with an aging stripper (Tomei), but eventually gets drawn back into wrestling. Worth seeing? Yes. In an interview that ran on YouTube, director Aronofsky (“Requiem For a Dream”) said, “When Mickey came on, he and I went over the script word for word. Basically every line in the movie he rewrote for his own mouth.” Film critic Emanuel Levy wrote, “Mark your Oscar ballot: In a major comeback, Mickey Rourke gives the year's most dramatically impressive, not to mention iconic and self-reflexive performance of the year.” The Academy loves a comeback, and it really doesn’t get sweeter than Rourke’s. Web site: NA Release date: Dec. 19
“Wendy and Lucy”
Starring: Michelle Williams, Will Patton, Larry Fessenden, Will Oldham, Walter Dalton, John Robinson Director: Kelly Reichardt Story: Williams stars as Wendy, a woman, who with her dog Lucy, heads to Alaska for a summer job. But when her car breaks down, she faces a series of increasingly difficult hardships and doesn’t have the money to dig herself out of them. Worth seeing? Yes. Reichardt’s last film, “Old Joy,” is one of those indie gems and “Wendy and Lucy” looks to be the same. This is a crowded year for the Oscar best actress category, but Williams could definitely sneak in there. Slant.com’s Nick Schager wrote Williams’ “performance makes painfully real Reichardt's depiction of everyday problems magnified by poverty into mini-calamities.” Web site: NA Release date: Dec. 10
Note: Release dates are subject to change.