The year ahead at the movies

Published: Sunday, January 16, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 16, 2005 at 1:00 a.m.
If there's a prevalent theme in the movies set for release in 2005, it's war. It makes sense. Given the usual two- or three-year development cycle of Hollywood films, this year marks the first in which nearly every project was conceived in the post-9/11 consciousness.
Granted, none of the coming movies directly addresses the current war on terror, but several may take metaphorical approaches. Parallels appear hot and heavy in Ridley Scott's Crusades-based ''Kingdom of Heaven'' (May 6), in which Christians attempt to liberate the Holy Land from Muslims.
Steven Spielberg's ''War of the Worlds'' (June 29) looks to take the fantastical approach, as he adapts the H.G. Wells novel of alien invasion with grandiose special effects. The prose gives Spielberg ample opportunity to comment on our culture of fear, as well as lingering worries of border invasion.
Spielberg's pyrotechnics will need to be superb to match what his pal George Lucas surely has in store in ''Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith'' (May 19), which Lucas claims will be the final entry in his six-film series of sweeping interstellar battle.
War films of 2005 will not only focus on galaxies far, far away. The closest-hitting of the lot could be ''Jarhead'' (Sept. 30), which tackles the Gulf War experiences of a Marine played by Jake Gyllenhaal. It will be the first film for ''American Beauty'' director Sam Mendes since ''Road to Perdition'' in 2002. ''The Jacket'' (March 4), with Adrien Brody, tells the tale of a Gulf War vet who has the ability to travel through time and rescue friends and family. And nary a year passes without at least one World War II film. ''The Great Raid'' (Dec. 2), starring Benjamin Bratt and focusing on action in the Philippines in 1945, is blipping on the radar.
The well-pedigreed ''The Interpreter'' (April 22), with Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman, looks to be an old-fashioned tale of espionage and international intrigue. Penn plays a government agent assigned to protect an interpreter (Kidman), who has overheard an assassination attempt. Director Sydney Pollack ("Three Days of the Condor'') has tilled these fields before.
Less grounded in tense realities should be the action flick ''XXX: State of the Union'' (April 29), an explosive affair looking to toss some ice cubes onto a simmering public disturbed by terrorist conflict. The movie tosses an actual Ice Cube, actually. The rapper/actor stepped in for Vin Diesel after he turned down an offer to star in the sequel to ''XXX,'' clearing the way for the Cube-man to play the role of a secret agent attempting to stop a splinter cell from overthrowing the government.
Battle and covert ops are also ripe for funny satire, as Diesel hopes to show in ''The Pacifier'' (March 4), a ''Mr. Nanny''-like lark in which the action stud plays a former Navy SEAL who takes a job as a baby sitter. His rigid military demeanor clashes with the kids' free spirits. Though director Adam Shankman ("Bringing Down the House'') surely won't be tackling any heavy themes in what looks to be a dopey comedy, his concept does touch on a relevant issue - war-hardened soldiers returning as family men in civilian life.
Here are capsules of the most anticipated movies of 2005, broken down by month. Release dates are subject to change and vary by city.
  • ''Million Dollar Baby'' (Jan. 28, expanded from limited release) - Clint Eastwood's boxing movie with Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman has knocked out the critics. Later this month, it will be time to step into the ring with the general public.
  • ''Hitch'' (Feb. 11) - Will Smith is a matchmaker who helps guys act smooth. A schlump played by Kevin James (TV's ''King of Queens'') could be his greatest challenge.
  • ''Constantine'' (Feb. 18) - He's finally out of the Matrix, and now Keanu Reeves is out to save the world as a detective explorer, presumably without the benefit of computer-aided kung fu.
  • ''Cursed'' (Feb. 25) - The title seems to fit the production of Wes Craven's horror film, which was shut down, rewritten and reshot. We'll see if Christina Ricci running from werewolves is scarier than the making-of.
  • ''Be Cool'' (March 4) - The sequel to ''Get Shorty'' gets Uma Thurman and John Travolta dancing together once again.
  • ''The Jacket'' (March 4) - Adrien Brody, the Oscar winner still trying to recover from last year's pathetic ''The Village,'' plays a Gulf War vet who travels through time.
  • ''The Pacifier'' (March 4) - Vin Diesel, you are hereby expelled from the legions of cool action heroes for selling out in this ''Mr. Nanny''-looking family flick.
  • ''Robots'' (March 11) - The makers of ''Ice Age'' re-up with a computer-animated extravaganza with androids.
  • ''Melinda and Melinda'' (March 18) - Woody Allen hasn't been on his ''A'' game for a while now, but he attempts to rebound with this tale of a woman's (Radha Mitchell) bungled life.
  • ''The Ring Two'' (March 24) - How did the freaky videotape killer come back? Why is ''Two'' spelled out? These mysteries and more shall be spelled out in this horror sequel.
  • ''Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous'' (March 25) - Sandra Bullock is back as an undercover agent, masquerading as a beauty queen. This time she tries her luck in Vegas.
  • ''Beauty Shop'' (March 30) - Spinning off the ''Barber Shop'' series, Queen Latifah sets up shop for her own comedy.
  • ''Sin City'' (April 1) - Hot lead actress Jessica Alba has sin written all over her. She stars in this comic-book-adapted tale of love and vengeance, co-directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller.
  • ''The Weather Man'' (April 1) - Nicolas Cage may be prone to overacting, so this role as a cheesy TV weatherman should be perfect for him.
  • ''Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo'' (April 8) - Rob Schneider makes his grand return to comedic male prostitution.
  • ''The Amityville Horror'' (April 15) - Man, was the 1979 haunted-house flick - being remade here - scary as heck. Comedy vet Ryan Reynolds shows his serious side.
  • ''The Interpreter'' (April 22) -Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn go all international intrigue-y in this tale of assassins and espionage.
  • ''XXX: State of the Union'' (April 29) - Ice Cube takes the wheel after Vin Diesel bailed on the spy-action franchise.
  • ''The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'' (May 6) - The zany Douglas Adams novel finally comes to theaters, starring Martin Freeman ("Shaun of the Dead'').
  • ''Kingdom of Heaven'' (May 6) - Director Ridley Scott unveils a sweeping knight's tale, featuring Orlando Bloom.
  • ''Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith'' (May 19) - Let the mad speculation from Internet geeks begin! Darth Vader comes to mechanically aided life in this sixth ''Star Wars'' film.
  • ''The Longest Yard'' (May 27) - Burt Reynolds' classic prison-football comedy gets Adam Sandler-ized.
  • ''Madagascar'' (May 27) - An animated comedy with zoo animals made for easy voiceover paychecks for Ben Stiller and Chris Rock.
  • ''Cinderella Man'' (June 3) - Russell Crowe looks so tough in this rags-to-riches boxing tale, you'd be crazy to call him ''Cinderella'' to his face.
  • ''Herbie: Fully Loaded'' (June 3) - If there's one thing Lindsay Lohan has proven she can do, it's star in Disney remakes ("The Parent Trap,'' ''Freaky Friday''). Now it's time to take the wheel of the Love Bug.
  • ''Mr. & Mrs. Smith'' (June 10) - Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie star in a remake of Alfred Hitchcock's screwball comedy of a marriage gone sour.
  • ''Batman Begins'' (June 17) - Will the Caped Crusader leap back to life? Christian Bale and ''Memento'' director Christopher Nolan have got big Batcave plans.
  • ''Fun With Dick & Jane'' (June 24) - Strutting along in the summer remake conga line, Jim Carrey and Cameron Diaz star as bank-robbing spouses.
  • ''War of the Worlds'' (June 29) - With Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg joining forces, invading aliens don't stand a chance.
  • ''Fantastic Four'' (July 1) - Fantastic, eh? We'll be the judge of whether Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis and Ioan Gruffudd make up a superlative comic-book hero team.
  • ''Bewitched'' (July 8) - Nicole Kidman is twitching her nose in excitement for the chance to play our favorite TV witch/housewife, Samantha. Or is she doing so because co-star Will Ferrell is stinky?
  • ''Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'' (July 15) - Johnny Depp plays Willy Wonka - and Tim Burton is behind the camera - in this remake of ''pure imagination.''
  • ''Into the Blue'' (July 15) - Paul Walker and that ubiquitous Jessica Alba are divers who get in trouble with a drug lord in this thriller.
  • ''Wedding Crashers'' (July 22) - Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn were on opposite sides in last year's ''Starsky & Hutch,'' but now they work together to crash weddings and pick up on babes.
  • ''The Dukes of Hazzard'' (July 29) - Johnny Knoxville, Seann William Scott and Jessica Simpson put up their dukes for some Southern-fried shenanigans, just like what we saw on 1980s TV.
  • ''Elizabethtown'' (July 29) - Cameron Crowe's latest stars Orland Bloom as a depressed man who returns to his hometown and seeks to fulfill his father's dying wishes.
    August There are no big movies yet scheduled for August, a traditional ''dump month,'' in which studios unload films that don't meet expectations.
  • ''A Scanner Darkly'' (Sept. 16) - Writer/director Richard Linklater adapts the future-set Philip K. Dick tale of a cop (Keanu Reeves) with multiple personalities.
  • ''The Legend of Zorro'' (Sept. 23) - Antonio Banderas dons the mask and sword once again, for a Zequel - er, sequel - to ''The Mask of Zorro'' (1998). Catherine Zeta-Jones returns, but will her slash-away dress also be back?
  • ''The Pink Panther'' (Sept. 23) - Steve Martin takes over the comic detective role that Peter Sellers, as well as the silent cartoon character, made famous.
  • ''Jarhead'' (Sept. 30) - Jake Gyllenhaal battles in the Gulf War. ''American Beauty'' director Sam Mendes is behind the camera.
  • ''Oliver Twist'' (Sept. 30) - Following up his best-director Oscar win with ''The Pianist'' (2002), fugitive director Roman Polanski takes on Charles Dickens.
  • ''Fever Pitch'' (Oct. 7) - Boston Red Sox fans, rejoice! This Drew Barrymore-Jimmy Fallon comedy about a Sox fanatic got a rewrite after last year's World Series.
  • ''The Wallace & Gromit Movie: Curse of the Wererabbit'' (Oct. 7) - Claymation British humor has its cult following and will attempt to spread it to the masses with a silver-screen treatment.
  • ''Land of the Dead'' (Oct. 21) - George Romero, maestro of the zombie movie ("Night of the Living Dead''), follows up his ''Dead'' trilogy with a fourth zombie apocalypse movie.
  • ''Saw 2'' (Oct. 28) - Last year's violent horror thriller about two men captured by a serial killer gets a second chapter.
  • ''The New World'' (Nov. 9) - Writer/director Terrence Malick tells the gritty, true story of explorer John Smith (Colin Farrell) and the British clashes with American Indians.
  • ''Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire'' (Nov. 18) - Year 4 at Hogwarts could be a rough one, what with wizard tournaments and death threats, but Harry and crew are up to the task. Hopefully, the same will be true of director Mike Newell.
  • ''The Brothers Grimm'' (Nov. 23) - Matt Damon and Heath Ledger play the famous tale-spinning siblings in the latest dive into the imagination of director Terry Gilliam.
  • ''The Great Raid'' (Dec. 2) - Benjamin Bratt takes to the front lines in the latest in a long line of World War II epics.
  • ''The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe'' (Dec. 9) - Director Andrew Adamson ("Shrek'') casts his creative eye on the first book of C.S. Lewis' classic children's novels.
  • ''King Kong'' (Dec. 14) - After the massive ''Lord of the Rings'' trilogy, Peter Jackson can no longer think small. For his next trick, he will remake the enormous tale of a giant ape creature who rampages in New York.
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