2004 will be like having deja vue. Expect the headlines to be full of big budget sequels, remakes, and adaptations of comic stories in the coming year.
Tobey Macguire fires his webs at a villain called Doctor Octopus in Spider Man 2 (July), 'toon town's likeable green ogre returns in Shrek 2 (July), Uma Thurman swings her samurai sword in Tarantino's Kill Bill: Vol 2 (May), Rene Zellweger wields her pen in Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason (November), Naomi Watts is unravelling another killer-videotape mystery in Ring 2 (November), and Scooby-Doo is chasing monsters again in April.
Starsky and Hutch, The Manchurian Candidate and The Cat In The Hat are among the remakes.
Not everything is a sequel. There are trilogies and series. And occasionally the odd new idea. But it is hard not to bump into sequels and remakes.
The Passion of Christ
Mel Gibson co-wrote and directed this emotional account of the final 12 hours in the life of Jesus Christ (played by James Caviezel). A high-ranking Vatican official who recently attended a special private screening described watching the film, whose dialogue is in Latin, Hebrew and Aramaic, as "an intensely religious experience". El Papa apparently also approved. The North American release is February, so expect the UK release sometime after that.
The Fog of War (March)
Documentary maker Errol Morris profiles Robert McNamara, who worked as a strategist during the WW2 firebombing of Japan and as Secretary of Defense for Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson orchestrated the US war in Vietnam. This is frank, disturbing and topical.
The first entirely Afghan film to come out of Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban reminds us just how oppressive that regime was for women. The minimalist drama shows things going from bad to worse for a 12-year-old girl (the "Osama" of the title) when, after disguising herself as a boy to raise money for her desperate family, she is conscripted to fight for the Taliban.
The Day After Tomorrow (28 May)
The greenhouse effect goes into overdrive in this apocalyptic disaster movie from the creators of Independence Day. Floods, tornadoes, tidal waves and other natural disasters wreak havoc worldwide. At the centre of this effects-laden drama is a Prof (Denis Quaid) trying to save the world and his son who is stuck in New York as a new ice age sets in. The big-budget special effects look great in the trailer, but will this be another lame Hollywood story?
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (June)
The boy magician and friends are expected to veer more off school grounds in this the third HP instalment. With a new director at the helm, Alfonso Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambien), the mood is expected to be darker and edgier, but with the usual array of fantastical flying things and magic moments.
The Stepford Wives (June)
Nicole Kidman stars in this remake of the 1975 women's lib satire about a young wife, Joanna, who moves with her husband (Matthew Broderick) to an upper-class suburb where all the housewives have been replaced with subservient clones by their husbands. The updated comedy includes a gay man - Joanna's confidante - who is "straightened out" by the men.
Halle Berry steps out as Patience Philips, a shy, sensitive graphic designer for a cosmetics company. When she stumbles across the company's dark secret, her boss (Sharon Stone) has her murdered. But Philips is brought back to life by an Egyptian Mao cat and, as Catwoman, uses her feline powers against her old employer.
Fahrenheit 9/11 (September)
As Dubya and the Republican gang gear up for the presidential election in November, who better to rely on to throw a spanner in the works than Michael Moore? The burly filmmaker's latest documentary will investigate alleged links between the Bush and bin Laden clans, and look at how the Bush administration has used the tragedy of September 11 to push through its agenda. Expect fireworks.
The Bourne Supremacy (September)
Okay, another sequel... but the first film in the trilogy, The Bourne Identity, was such a enjoyable thriller that I thought I would throw it in. Matt Damon grapples with identity problems again as undercover agent. It remains to be seen how British director Paul Greengrass, who has replaced director Doug Liman from The Bourne Identity, will do in the second in the trilogy. Greengrass was a surprise choice as director, although his tense docudrama feature Bloody Sunday was well-received.
A British actor, Clive Owen (Croupier, Gosford Park) stars in this "demystified" take, or as Hollywood likes to unconvincingly say the "true story of", the legendry king and round table knights, looking at the politics and power struggles that ensued following the collapse of the Roman Empire. That probably means swashbuckling action. Antoine Fuqua (Tears of the Sun, Training Day) directs.