Coming to theaters this winter break

It’s finally winter and that means two things to filmmakers: one, it’s cold, so theater attendance is at a high point as people want more indoor forms of entertainment and two, its time to crank out the Oscar-hopeful flicks, since the deadline for the next Academy Awards nominations is Dec. 31. I offer here a balanced view of pure entertainment in the form of artsy films that will be entering a theater near you sometime in the next two months. This is also a time when we at The Tartan won’t be around to offer fresh insight into films like Valkyrie.

Nobel Son
Release Date: Dec. 5, 2008.

Alan Rickman stars as a Nobel Prize winner in this tale of a dysfunctional family. A cast full of the best B-listers in the business helps make this critically acclaimed indie flick a smashing success.

Fun fact: Rickman was saddened by the sex scenes he had to perform in the film and felt sorry for the women he had to pretend to make love to. Snape’s an odd one, isn’t he?

The Day the Earth Stood Still
Release Date: Dec. 12, 2008.

A remake of the 1951 classic, the 2008 version updates elements of the story to make it relevant for today’s more modern society. For example, they replaced Cold War themes with global warming and Michael Rennie’s original unemotional Klaatu with Keanu Reeves, so he wouldn’t have to actually act at all.

Fun fact: Keanu Reeves was producer Erwin Stoff’s first and only choice to play Klaatu, making this the 13th time the two have collaborated on a film together since Bill and Ted’s Bogus Adventure in 1991.

Seven Pounds
Release Date: Dec. 19, 2008.

Will Smith wants to change your life, he just can’t tell you why. Such is the premise of yet another Best Actor vehicle for Smith, who can’t seem to let go of the fact that he won’t win one until he’s old and/or a director.

Fun fact: This film marks Connor Cruise’s first acting role; he plays a young Smith. For those of you who are unaware, Connor is the 13-year-old adopted son of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.

Yes Man
Release Date: Dec. 19, 2008.

Is this basically a carbon copy of Liar, Liar? In a word, yes...man. Jim Carrey returns to what he does best in this comedy about a man who is challenged to say yes to everything in his life for one full year.

Fun fact: Jim Carrey performed his own bungee stunts in the film and received no money up front for his starring role. He will instead be paid based on the film’s success.

The Spirit
Release Date: Dec. 25, 2008.

Frank Miller both wrote and directed this film about a cop who returns from the dead to fight crime. Based on the comic of the same name, The Spirit also stars Samuel L. Jackson, who is currently tied up in two comic franchises as the merciless villain.

Fun fact: Expect a very comic book feel to the film, as it was shot using still-shots from the comic and with the same technology as Sin City and 300.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Release Date: Dec. 25, 2008.

There’s something curious about Benjamin Button. Played by Brad Pitt, this titular character was born in his 80s and ages backwards with, obviously, very bizarre happenings. Directed by David Fincher and co-starring Cate Blanchett, who will likely get her fifth Academy Award nomination in the past five years, this adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story has been in the making since 1994.

Fun fact: Despite aging almost 100 years during the movie, Brad Pitt plays Benjamin Button nearly the entire time.

Release Date: (Wide) Dec. 26, 2008 (Limited) Dec. 5, 2008.

Frost/Nixon dramatically retells the infamous interviews between the two men following Nixon’s resignation. There’s been Oscar buzz surrounding this film for a while, including plenty for director Ron Howard.

Fun fact: Lead actors Frank Langella (Nixon) and Michael Sheen (Frost) repeat the roles they originated in the stage production; it was the only way Howard would agree to direct.

Release Date: (Wide) Jan. 16, 2009 (Limited) Dec. 31, 2008

In a respite from being James Bond, Daniel Craig stars as one of three Jewish brothers who escape the Nazi camps and soon join with resistance fighters. Defiance is based on the true story of the Bielski partisans, brothers who organized resistance movements in Belarus during World War II.

(Not So) Fun facts: The only surviving Bielski brother is currently facing 90 years in prison for conning a 93-year-old Holocaust survivor. Also, lethal raids committed by the resistance group in which women and children were killed were left out of the film.

Gran Torino
Release Date: (Wide) Jan. 16, 2009 (Limited) Dec. 17, 2008.

Clint Eastwood makes a lot of angry faces playing a disgruntled and racist Vietnam War veteran as he attempts to reform a teenage Hmong boy who tried to steal his Gran Torino. Eastwood also directs himself for what will likely be the last time, and also his last chance for a Best Actor nod.

No fun fact here, though this movie looks like it really wants to be taken seriously. I have a feeling it won’t be.