20 films ready to roll in 2005

VIV THOMAS Viv Thomas highlights 20 films worth looking out for in the region’s cinemas in the coming year.

VIV THOMAS

A feast of varied films awaits audiences in 2005 – and the year couldn't get off to a better start than with the release of two eagerly-anticipated big-budget movies.

Action epic Alexander, directed by Oliver Stone looks like it could be nudged out in the Oscars race by biopic The Aviator from director Martin Scorsese.

Also getting an increasing awards buzz is comedy/drama Sideways, also out in January, with Paul Giamatti as one of two middle-aged guys who take a road trip through California's wine country. His pal Jack (Thomas Hayden Church) is on the verge of getting married – but will he get to the church on time?

Hot on the heels of Sideways is hard-hitting drama Closer which sees the lives of characters played by Jude Law, Clive Owen, Natalie Portman and Julia Roberts start to get just a little intertwined and complicated.

January also sees the release of comedy sequel Meet the Parents II with Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro reprising their roles – but added to an already good cast are Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand as Greg's parents Bernie and Roz.

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As imagined, all hell's let loose when the two families, from very different backgrounds, get together.

Amélie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet and the hit film's star Audrey Tautou feature in new French drama A Very Long Engagement, released at the end of January. Based on an acclaimed novel, it's the story of a young woman's search for her fiancé, who has disappeared from the trenches during the first world war.

Ocean's Eleven was a huge hit a few years back and in February Messers Clooney, Pitt and Damon Garcia (plus Julia Roberts) are back for a second helping of stylish criminal activities in Ocean's Twelve. Catherine Zeta Jones is the new addition to the starry cast, directed by the usually dependable Steven Soderbergh.

Fans of TV classic The Magic Roundabout, as well as kids too young to remember the heady days of Florence, Dougal et al from 1965 to 1977, will be excited to learn that it's heading for the big screen in February. Lending their vocal talents to the project are Kylie Minogue as Florence, Robbie Williams as Dougal, Sir Ian McKellen as Zebedee and Bill Nighy as dopey Dylan.

In March Jamie Foxx can be seen doing an outstanding and uncanny impression of music legend Ray Charles in biopic Ray, directed by Taylor Hackford.

Foxx's performance has wowed the critics and many feel it's worthy of an Oscar – but will the Academy agree?

Chiller thriller sequel The Ring 2, out in April, sees Naomi Watts reprising her role as beleaguered mum Rachel. She and son Aidan have moved to a small coastal community to try and make a new life for themselves and erase the nightmarish memories – but she's none too happy when she claps eyes on an unmarked videotape at the scene of a crime.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe has been hugely popular in book, radio and TV form and now gets the big-screen treatment in May with The Office's Martin Freeman as the pyjama-wearing Arthur Dent, with Sam Rockwell as Zaphod Beeblebrox and Bill Nighy as Slartibartfast.

May 19th will be a significant day for Star Wars fans as the third prequel, Revenge of the Sith is released that day.

The Clone Wars are coming to an end and we rejoin Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman and Samuel L Jackson in the completion of the sci-fi epic, written and directed by George Lucas once more.

The black humour of The League of Gentlemen is transferred from TV and stage to the big screen in Royston Vasey: The Motion Picture, featuring all the usual suspects, brilliantly brought to life by Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith – plus some new creations.

Batman Begins will presumably do exactly what it says on the tin.

It features Brit actor Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne who also dons the black mask and cape of the aforementioned superhero in June, directed by Memento's Christopher Nolan. A great cast also includes Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Katie Holmes and Tom Wilkinson.

It caused pandemonium in many quarters in 1938 when Orson Welles' radio dramatisation of HG Welles' book War of the Worlds was taken to be coverage of a real Martian invasion.

Now the story has been turned into a film by Steven Spielberg, released in July and starring Tom Cruise.

Also that month Johnny Depp portrays Willy Wonka in the non-musical version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which aims to return to the dark edginess of Roald Dahl's best-selling children's book.

Nicole Kidman's false nose came in for a lot of attention in The Hours, but her real one will in the spotlight in August when she starts twitching it to create magic in Bewitched, based on the Sixties TV favourite, also starring Will Ferrell.

Highlights towards the end of the year include Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen's classic novel recreated in visual form again, starring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew MacFayden (Spooks) as Mr Darcy.

We can also look forward to Legend of Zorro with Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta Jones teaming up for more swashbuckling fun, and then the return of Britain's favourite claymation duo in The Wallace and Gromit Movie, with voices provided by Peter Sallis, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes and John Thomson.

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