The following are the Torstar News Service’s picks for some of the most interesting films scheduled for release this year.

Polytechnique (Feb. 6):
A drama to dread as much as to anticipate, dealing with a horrific chapter of Canadian history still fresh in many minds: The Montreal Massacre of Dec. 6, 1989, when 14 women were killed, and 10 women and four men injured, by deranged gunman Marc Lépine at the École Polytechnique.

Watchmen (March 6): Lauded as the best and also the grimmest graphic novel ever published, Alan Moore’s serialized tale of Cold War superheroes is set to reach the big screen after numerous setbacks.

Directed by Zack Snyder, whose 300 was certainly graphic, it’s set in a mid-1980s America where vigilante superheroes fight crime, conspiracies and their own mixed emotions, all while the nuclear “Doomsday Clock” ticks towards Armageddon between the U.S. and Russia.

Monsters vs. Aliens (March 27): DreamWorks Animation vows to come out swinging with reborn and revised 3-D technology in 2009, and the leadoff batter is this comedy of Earth freaks versus outer-space geeks. Directed by Rob Letterman (Shark Tale) and Conrad Vernon (Shrek 2), the film is loaded with inside jokes guaranteed to twirl the beanie propellers of sci-fi fans.

Star Trek (May 8): Will this reboot of the Star Trek film franchise blandly go where so many instalments have gone before? The premise of starting the whole damn thing over, right back to rocket class when Spock first met Kirk, has blockbuster chops and the ability to cross the TV-cinema divide with director J.J. Abrams.

Public Enemies (July 1): Michael Mann’s movies are always interesting, even when they don’t completely work, and how could he miss with both the pirate Johnny Depp and the Batman Christian Bale in his corner? Depp plays gangster John Dillinger to Bale’s G-man Melvin Purvis in this adaptation of Bryan Burrough’s book Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34.

Inglourious Basterds (Aug. 21): Quentin Tarantino is determined to annoy newspaper copy editors (and nitpicking readers) with that deliberately misspelled title. It’s a double-barrelled story about a team of prisoner-soldiers sent to open a can of whup-ass on a band of Nazis, while a Jewish woman seeks to avenge the deaths of her parents caused by the same swastika scum. The story reteams Troy stars Brad Pitt and Diane Kruger, with a cameo by Mike Myers.

Jennifer’s Body (Sept. 18): Was Juno a one-off for Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody? We’ll find out when her smartass brand of comedy takes a horrific turn with this yarn about a Minnesota cheerleader (Transformers’ Megan Fox) who becomes demon-possessed and dangerously attractive to local farm lads.

Amelia (Oct. 23): Female heroes don’t often get their due, so this biopic about the late, great flying ace Amelia Earhart is long overdue. There have been only a handful of previous film and TV treatments of the daredevil pilot whose 1937 disappearance during a globe-circling flight still fuels many a conspiracy theory. Hilary Swank stars in the title role, a casting choice that looks ideal on paper and Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding) directs.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox (Nov. 6): This is Wes Anderson’s first animated film, a stop-motion one at that. It’s based on a Roald Dahl children’s classic about a wily fox seeking to outwit three brainless farmers. Check out the voice artists: George Clooney as Mr. Fox, Cate Blanchett as Mrs. Fox, Bill Murray as Mr. Badger and other characters played by Meryl Streep and Anjelica Huston.

The Wolf Man (Nov. 6): The world doesn’t need another horror picture, but who can resist Benicio Del Toro as El Gran Lobo himself? It’s directed by Joe Johnston, who showed much promise with Hidalgo and October Sky, and it also stars Anthony Hopkins, Hugo Weaving and Emily Blunt. It’s an original story, taking it right back to the bearded basics on the soggy moors of Victorian England.

Sherlock Holmes (Nov. 20): This has every chance of being a ripping good yarn if Guy Ritchie can reign in his usual Blighty triteness. Here again casting is key: a revived Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes, Jude Law as Watson and Rachel McAdams as the love interest.

Avatar (Dec. 18): Canuck-born writer/director James Cameron had better have something good up his sleeve with this sci-fi saga, which has been in the works so long it was beginning to look like his big boat blockbuster would be his feature film swan song. Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez, Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana star in this outer-space survival epic.

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