Children of Men
The latest from director Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mamá También, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) has a premise that is immediately intriguing: In the distant (but not too distant) world of 2027, man has mysteriously lost the ability to procreate; the population, as a result, is slowly dying off, and that population, naturally, has panicked itself into chaos. Clive Owen, doing all sorts of Clive-Owen-y-type things, must help escort to safety a woman who is pregnant with a miracle baby so that scientists can literally save the world. Sure beats an alien attack, huh? Beyond Owen, the cast is filled with reliable players such as Michael Caine and Julianne Moore, who also happen to be Academy favorites. So expect a few nods here, unless the sci-fi elements scare Oscar voters off. From what I've seen so far, it would be their loss.

The Departed
Martin Scorsese offers his take on 2002's gripping Infernal Affairs, transplanting the cat-and-mouse action to Boston. There, the Irish mob hunts for an undercover cop among its numbers, while the cops try to sniff out an Irish mobster hiding in their ranks. Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon head the cast, which also features Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg. There is an almost zero percent chance that Nicholson will be shut out when the nominations are announced. Scorsese, of course, will probably join him, which brings me to this: Can we please give Scorsese an Oscar this time? He probably should have won for Raging Bull. He definitely should have won for Goodfellas. I wouldn't have complained if he had won for The Aviator. Is everyone really okay with Kevin Costner having a Best Director Oscar while Martin Scorsese does not? Seriously?

The Last Kiss
A remake of up-and-coming Italian director Gabriele Muccino's 2001 film, L'ultimo bacio, The Last Kiss could be this year's sleeper hit - at the box office and during award season. Zach Braff follows up 2004's Garden State, his debut as writer/director, with a role that's right in his wheelhouse: a boy who is in the process of becoming a man and wants to keep being a boy. In a way, it's sort of the flip side to Garden State; in another way, it's also its spiritual sequel. But it's not Braff's movie this time around; his only duty beyond acting was assembling the film's excellent soundtrack. In his place: writer Paul Haggis, the first person to ever write consecutive Best Picture winners (Million Dollar Baby and Crash), and director Tony Goldwyn. The latter is less of a known quantity, since he's spent more time acting (Ghost, From the Earth to the Moon) than directing (A Walk on the Moon, Someone Like You, a couple of episodes of Grey's Anatomy). Still, we wouldn't bet against anything that involves Haggis. Even his cameo on Entourage was entertaining.