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End-of-year movies get serious

<p><strong>The Skinny:</strong> The story of a young man’s quest for survival in 15th century Mexico during the decline of the Mayan civilization.</p>

Last chance for studios to pitch Oscar contenders


Opens: Dec. 8

Director: Mel Gibson

Stars: Gerardo Taracena, Raoul Trujillo

The Skinny: The story of a young man’s quest for survival in 15th century Mexico during the decline of the Mayan civilization.

The Draw: Mel Gibson has proven he knows his way around historical epics, but let’s face it — all eyes (especially those of Hollywood execs) are on this movie because of the director’s recent drunken, anti-Semitic rant.

The Dope: Even if Gibson weren’t in public image purgatory right now, Apocalypto, which is in the Mayan language with subtitles, looks like a tough sell.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou star in Blood Diamond

Blood Diamond

Opens: Dec. 8

Director: Edward Zwick

Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou

The Skinny: The fates of a mercenary (DiCaprio), a fisherman (Hounsou), and an American journalist (Connelly) are entwined as the trio hunts for a priceless diamond in war-torn Sierra Leone. Zwick’s unsparing look at the felonious manner in which precious gems were — until very recently — harvested, has made the folks at De Beers plenty nervous.

The Draw: Might make people reconsider the dubious wisdom of dropping three months pay on an engagement ring.

The Dope: Should be bloody good.

George Clooney goes black and white in The Good German.

The Good German

Opens: Dec. 15

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Stars: George Clooney, Cate Blanchett

The Skinny: A sexy murder mystery set in post-WWII Germany based on Joseph Kanon’s acclaimed novel.

The Draw: Soderbergh’s smoldering black-and-white homage to classic cinema has the potential to be the year’s best picture.

The Dope: Top-notch cast, crew and source material — this one has “can’t miss” written all over it.

The Pursuit Of Happyness

Opens: Dec. 15

Director: Gabriele Muccino

Stars: Will Smith, Thandie Newton, Jaden Smith

The Skinny: Will Smith stars alongside his kid in a mostly true story about a single father who stands tall in the face of incredible adversity.

The Draw: This is precisely the sort of inspirational fare people love to get all gooey over during the holidays. Plus, Smith sports a moustache straight out of a ‘70s cop series.

The Dope: Who can resist a father-son tale starring a real-life father and son?

The Good Shepherd

Opens :Dec. 22

Director: Robert De Niro

Stars: Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie

The Skinny: Just in time for Xmas, it’s the history of the CIA!

The Draw: With this, Casino Royale and The Good German all on the holiday release schedule, it’s shaping up to be a very merry Xmas for espionage lovers.

The Dope: It’ll be nice to see Angelina in something other than the tabloids for a change.

We Are Marshall

Opens: Dec. 22

Director: McG

Stars: Matthew McConaughey, David Strathairn, Matthew Fox

The Skinny: Recounts the 1970 plane crash that killed a host of Marshall University football players, coaches and boosters, and the efforts to rebuild the program.

The Draw: One of the most tragic, yet ultimately uplifting sports stories ever.

The Dope: We are intrigued.

Beyoncé plays a singer in Dreamgirls.


Opens: Dec. 25

Director: Bill Condon

Stars: Beyoncé Knowles, Jamie Foxx

The Skinny: Adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical about a ‘60s R&B trio that bears a striking resemblance to Diana Ross & the Supremes.

The Draw: The girls, who are indeed dreamy. And who doesn’t want to hear Eddie Murphy sing again? (Don’t answer that!)

The Dope: Following a 20-minute preview at the Cannes Film Festival, many critics anointed this the Best Picture Oscar favourite. Opening dates are subject to change.

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