Maggie Cheung has done the glam thing (In The Mood For Love) and proved she can handle a sword in Hero, but Clean should show us if she can really act. She plays a washed-up European music video show host who's living in western Canada (!), grieving the death of her rock star husband and determined to move to France - where she becomes a waitress - so she can get off methadone before seeing her son. Cheung won best actress honours at Cannes for the part, and French auteur Olivier Assayas knows what she can do - he's her ex-husband and directed her in the haunting Irma Vep. But frankly, I'm most looking forward to seeing notorious scene-chewers Nick Nolte and Martha Henry play her in-laws. Opens February 25.
The mainstream will probably market it as a send-up of grrl-power films like Charlie's Angels, but insiders and L Word aficionados know that D.E.B.S. has the potential to be the hottest lesbian-themed intrigue film since Bound. Four plaid-skirted high school girls are recruited to join an underground academy, an acronym for Discipline, Energy, Beauty and Strength. Their first mission? To capture evil criminal Lucy Diamond, played by Jordana Brewster . But why does one of the four get all hot when she sets eyes on the luscious Lucy? Angela Robinson , who directed the original short film - a hit at Sundance 2003 and a cult favourite since - is at the helm again. Opens March 18.
Sean Penn 's intense acting style has always drawn comparisons to earlier icons like De Niro and Pacino. So it's fitting he's playing a Travis Bickle-style part in The Assassination Of Richard Nixon . Penn sinks his method acting chops into Samuel Bicke, a real-life disgruntled tire salesman who wants to knock off Tricky Dick by dropping a 747 on the White House. With a first-rate supporting cast ( Don Cheadle , Penn's 21 Grams co-star Naomi Watts ) and an intriguing producer list that includes Leonardo DiCaprio and Alexander Payne , this one could become a cult classic. Let's see if you earned that Oscar, Sean. Opens February 11.
Hirokazu Kore-Eda 's After Life was one of those divisive films that people called a haunting masterpiece or a waste of time. In his latest, Nobody Knows , a mother abandons her four children - each by a different father - in a Tokyo apartment and lets them fend for themselves. Kore-Eda reportedly draws stunning performances from the young actors, who are as young as four. One of them, Yuya Yagira , won the best actor award at Cannes. Be prepared, though: it's 141 minutes long. Opens mid-February.
A solid hit at the Toronto International Film Festival, Rob Stefaniuk 's Phil The Alien proves that, gee, Canadian movies can be... funny. Stefaniuk himself plays the shape-shifting title character who lands in Northern Ontario and encounters talking animals, an American spy base under Niagara Falls and lots of beer-drinking hosers. Could be the year's first home-grown hit. Opens February 25.
The great German director F.W. Murnau is probably best known for two films, his ur-vampire flick, Nosferatu , and the innovative silent film Sunrise , a staple of top-10 lists of the greatest films ever made. A new restored print of the Oscar-winning Sunrise kicks off Cinematheque's retrospective, which includes Tabu , The Last Laugh , Faust and Tartuffe - all fascinating viewing in light of recent theories about Murnau's repressed homosexuality and his work. February 11 to March 3.