Wild West Outlaws, Gory Gangsters: Pitt, Crowe Bring The Drama In '07

'Assassination of Jesse James,' 'American Gangster' and eight other highly anticipated films.

Of all the types of films moviegoers look forward to in a new year, the hardest to forecast are always the dramas. At the beginning of 2006, for instance, who would've been daring enough to place their bets on tiny little films like "The Queen" and "The Last King of Scotland" while avoiding such clunkers as "A Good Year," "All the King's Men" and "The Good Shepherd"? Without the usual crutches of sequels, superhero flicks and remakes, let's dramatically take a peek at the most promising adult fare of 2007:

10. "Rescue Dawn"

The Hollywood buzz that Christian Bale and/or Steve Zahn were Oscar contenders for this Vietnam drama had become nearly deafening — and then the flick was suddenly pushed back to 2007. Now, with a late March release date, there are fears that it could turn into the "King's Men" of the new year. Still, any movie buff has to be intrigued by Bale's 55-pound weight loss for the role and the equally impressive dramatic transformation of funnyman Zahn. Dramatizing his own 1997 documentary, acclaimed director Werner Herzog ("Grizzly Man") tells the true story of a German-born U.S. soldier shot down over Vietnam and captured by the enemy. Along with a handful of other POWs, the battered pilot attempts an escape.

9. "The Last Mimzy"

Those who've seen the captivating first trailer for this little film are already putting it on their radar; you'd be wise to do the same. Equal parts fantasy and drama, "Mimzy" is based on a powerful sci-fi short story about two children whose toys appear to be turning them into "Good Will Hunting"-like geniuses. Soon, the entire city loses electricity and the government becomes convinced that the children and their stuffed rabbit Mimzy are emitting mysterious levels of energy that must be contained. Think "Phenomenon" meets "Searching for Bobby Fischer" with a dash of "E.T." and you're in the right neighborhood for this potential sleeper hit, directed by "Lord of the Rings" executive producer (and New Line Cinema CEO) Bob Shaye. Casting fresh-faced youngsters alongside Timothy Hutton ("Kinsey"), Joely Richardson ("Nip/Tuck") and fast-rising Rainn Wilson ("The Office"), the flick is currently slated for release in late March.

8. "A Mighty Heart"

Certain movies fall under the "Unless They Screw it Up ..." heading, like this high-profile Angelina Jolie drama recounting the final days of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Through the eyes of his pregnant-at-the-time wife Mariane, the flick (directed by "24 Hour Party People" helmer Michael Winterbottom) looks back on Pearl's kidnapping, the photos and video footage his wife watched alongside the rest of the world and his eventual beheading in Pakistan. Unless they screw it up, the tragically powerful story seems ripe for awards-season domination, and might remind us all that Jolie can actually act when she isn't busy dodging paparazzi. The fact that early awareness is being dominated by Jolie's casting as the mixed-race Mariane, however, indicates a potential marketing nightmare.

7. "Reign Over Me"

Adam Sandler's dramas have been a mixed bag at best ("Spanglish," "Punch-Drunk Love"), but here's hoping that the presence of Don Cheadle finally brings out his A-game. Named after a song by the Who that helps bring them together, "Reign" deals with a grieving man (Sandler) who runs into his old college roommate, who helps him work through his problems. The movie's first trailer debuted recently, giving some tantalizing peeks at Sandler's disheveled appearance and Cheadle's powerful charisma — as well as a surprising avoidance of the film's 9/11 plotline. Written and directed by "The Upside of Anger" filmmaker Mike Binder, "Reign" seems promising as long as the movie isn't afraid to seriously explore the grief of Sandler's character, a fictional stand-in for those who lost so much on that terrible day.

6. "Zodiac"

Considered by many to be among the top directors working today, David Fincher ("Fight Club") finally returns from a five-year hiatus with this intricate exploration of a madman's mind. Framed by the lightly fictionalized tale of the detectives and reporters who became obsessed with hunting him down, the film tells the story of the so-called Zodiac serial killer, who terrorized the San Francisco area in the late 1960s and early '70s, before simply vanishing. The fact that the movie stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo makes its chances of awesomeness look very good; its constantly pushed-back release date, however, might indicate otherwise.

5. "Hannibal Rising"

We're saving a spot for just one prequel/sequel/remake on this list because fava bean-feasting, Chianti-swigging killer Hannibal Lecter will always hold a place in our hearts. There are more questions than answers about this "Episode I"-like origin story that follows a young Lecter through his childhood and formative years in Paris to his eventual relocation to the United States. With French actor Gaspard Ulliel strapping on Anthony Hopkins' Oscar-winning face mask and Gong Li along for the ride, one thing seems certain: It's gotta be better than "Red Dragon."

4. "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"

If you think that only one half of Brangelina has a high-profile drama in 2007, get ready to be knocked out of your cowboy boots. With Brad Pitt donning the gun belt of one of the Old West's most legendary characters, the flick tells the story of Robert Ford (Casey Affleck), a member of James' gang determined to bring down the gunslinger. The film, based on a Ron Hansen novel, also stars Zooey Deschanel and Mary-Louise Parker. If pirate movies can make a comeback, maybe Westerns can as well.

3. "American Gangster"

Russell Crowe, Denzel Washington, Common, T.I. and RZA in a Ridley Scott gangster movie? Oh, we are so there (see "T.I. To Star With Oscar Favorites Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe"). This long-awaited crime drama, set in the 1970s, tells a bloody tale of a drug lord using the coffins of Vietnam soldiers to smuggle heroin. If 2007 has any chance of yielding a "Scarface" or "Donnie Brasco," this is it.

2. "Pride and Glory"

Edward Norton and Colin Farrell go toe-to-toe in this gritty flick about a multi-generational family of New York cops. Written by "Narc" mastermind Joe Carnahan, the movie follows the erosion of a family's moral code as one brother starts investigating the crimes of another. Here's hoping that Norton returns to his full powers as an actor, and that Farrell comes along for the ride.

1. "Charlie Wilson's War"

Don't look now, but it's been five years since Tom Hanks has made a real drama (and no, "The Da Vinci Code" doesn't count). With the currently filming "War," the double Oscar winner has at his disposal a critically acclaimed book, respected supporting players (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams), a legendary director (Mike Nichols) and a leading lady (Julia Roberts) out to prove she's still a force to be reckoned with. With Hanks cast in a rare unlikable role, he'll play the real-life Texas congressman who conspired with a CIA operative to help rebel Afghan mujahideen during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, thereby endangering his political career and, quite possibly, his life. With a late-December release date and that kind of pedigree, it's already the 2007 Oscar front-runner — now all they've got to do is film it.

Check out everything we've got on "Reign Over Me," "Zodiac" and "American Gangster."

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