Reuniting the creative team behind The Pursuit Of Happyness (score!) including director Gabriele Muccino, Seven Pounds sees Smith as a sadsack taxman planning to off himself. Hoping to make amends for a life poorly lived, he sets about helping seven strangers before facing the big D, but reshuffles his schedule when he falls for Rosario Dawson.
Too downbeat for a hit? Tell that to Smith’s agent. His client is currently on a streak of eight straight $100 million films – including stinkers like Shark Tale and Hitch.
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Well, not really. “He isn’t a Nazi,” Cruise told Total Film last month. “He was a man who said, ‘Someone’s got to kill this guy…’” Valkyrie tells the tense tale of the doomed 1944 plot to off the Fuhrer with a briefcase full of bombs. Cruise is plot leader Claus Von Stauffenberg, ably supported by a titanic cast (Kenneth Branagh, Tom Wilkinson, Terence Stamp, Bill Nighy, Carice Van Houten…).
After the limp Lions For Lambs, Cruise’s second revived United Artists film is under sweltering pressure, but theever-cool Cruise, of course, loves the heat (“Reading the script made my hands sweat!”)
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Ricky Gervais heads to the USA for his first film lead, risking discrediting from churlish hacks desperate to dirty up the golden boy. In Ghost Town – the one before next year’s co-directorial debut This Side Of The Truth – Gervais plays Bertram Pincus, a nasty dentist who dies for seven minutes and comes back haunted by ghosts.
Helmed by War Of The Worlds/Crystal Skull writer David Koepp, it’s Ghost without Whoopi Goldberg, The Sixth Sense with laughs or, perhaps, Just Like Heaven starring the bloke off The Office.
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High School Musical 3: Senior Year
Total Film and High School Musical didn’t see eye-to-eye until Vanessa Anne Hudgens stripped starkers and had pics of herself spread webwide. Clever girl. Now the trilogy-closer of this sickly gooey singalong bit of kid-fluff has found its way into our Winter Preview and adolescent – not pre-pubescent – boys the world over are itching to see Hudgens on the big screen. As opposed to grainy webcam piffly porn shots.
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Pride And Glory
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But despite the source inspiration being dark and adult, rumours persist the film’s a PG. Will that neuter it or offer a refreshing new take? That is: the new Bourne or just another Hitman?
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The second cinema-shot at Coward’s play (Hitchcock did a silent version in 1928) stars Biel as the Yank divorcee whose hasty marriage to Prince Caspian stud Ben Barnes sets up a Meet The Parents-style clash with his blueblood mater and pater (Kristin Scott Thomas and Colin Firth).
Aussie Stephan Elliott’s first picture since 1998’s calamitous Eye Of The Beholder, this Ealing Studios production has the makings of a solid heritage crowd-pleaser with an outside shot at gong contention.
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James Toback’s naked, frank confessional of ol’ ear-biter hit this year’s Cannes critics like an uppercut. Toback unerringly tracks the first four decades of ‘Iron’ Mike’s life.
It’s some story: bullied childhood, criminal career, pugilistic passions, choked pain, tortured emotions, lost father figures, sexual hunger, bad choices, worse friends, and the youngest ever undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. It’s selective, sure, but Toback’s honesty cuts through Tyson’s bestial image to reveal a fractured, vulnerable man still struggling to understand his own flaws.
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Visual artist Steve McQueen’s exceptional personal-political drama debuted at Cannes this year to a packed cinema full of viewers watching through their hands. McQueen’s harrowing, unrelenting take on Sands’ story makes The Machinist look like Fat Camp.
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Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince
From The Philosopher’s Stone to The Chamber Of Secrets to the ones about Prisoners Of Azkaban and Goblets Of Fire and Orders Of Phoenixes, we’ve patiently sat through seven years of Harry Potter gubbins.
Next July will see The Half-Blood Prince’s arrival, with Daniel Radcliffe et al prancing about with magic wands, once more, valiantly trying to best Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). The final chapter – The Deathly Hallows Part I – is due out in 2010. Hang on. That’s followed by a second part, out in 2011. Maybe just read the books…
Read the other parts of our 30 must see films of Winter 2008: