| 2003 - A look ahead
I know I should have done this weeks ago but, to be honest, the festive season just about wore me out. So much so that I haven't even ventured into the dark recesses of my local cinema since just after Christmas, for my second viewing of "The Two Towers". So, with that in mind, I thought now would be a good time to relish the prospects of the cinematic treats in store for us in the coming twelve months
2003 has got off to a good start with Martin Scorcese's 'Gangs of New York' already on release. Although it's been met with mixed reviews (mainly criticising it's 3 hour running time), it's hard to resist the lure of this picture. Almost thirty years in the making, Scorcese has finally realised his vision of the brutal history between street gangs in turn of the century New York. With a stellar cast, including a return to the screen from Daniel Day Lewis, after a five year hiatus, this is the first 'event' movie of the year. Also released this month is 'City Of God'. Arriving on a wave of almost unanimous praise, the Brazilian gangster flick looks set to be this year's 'Amores Perros' (and if you haven't seen that yet, what on earth are you doing wasting your time reading this for!! Go and rent it now!!!).
Away from the violence of the streets of both North and South America, January also sees the release of 'Chicago'. Following on from 'Moulin Rouge', which was one of my favourite releases of 2001, this appears to be another step towards to the revival of the musical, that most reviled of film genres. Catherine Zeta Jones, Renee Zellwegger, Richard Gere and the fantastic John C Reilly (who's also in 'Gangs...') have all already been nominated for Golden Globes and strong advanced word of mouth seems to bode well. Music also has a strong influence over '8 Mile', the new drama from Curtis Hanson which boasts the acting debut of a certain Eminem. Now, I know what you're thinking - rapping + acting = Vanilla Ice, right? Well, not according to US reports, which state that not only can Mr. Mathers actually act, but an Oscar nod might also be in the bidding for his semi-autobiographical turn as a wannabe rapper from the typical 'wrong side of the tracks'. Time shall tell....
Looking ahead to the end of the month, we get our second dose of Di Caprio, who teams up with Tom Hanks in Steven Spielberg's 'Catch Me If You Can'. Di Caprio stars in the real-life story of Frank Abagnale who, at one time, was the youngest person on the FBI's Top Ten most wanted list. Tom Hanks stars as the agent assigned to track the young conman down.
In February, superhero fans can look forward to a fix on Valentine's Day when Ben Affleck stars as 'Daredevil', based on the Marvel comic book. Two fantastic trailers promise an awful lot from this adaptation. Michael Clarke Duncan and the brilliant Colin Farrell look perfect for the villainous roles, but, after 'The Sum Of All Fears', it still remains to be seen if Affleck can pull off the chops required to be a true action hero.
Colin Farrell also headlines in 'Phone Booth', a thriller which has been knocking around Hollywood desks for years. The brilliant premise is thus : A man answers a ringing phone, in a booth on a busy street. The voice at the other end of the line tells him that if he leaves the booth, he will be shot dead by the sniper who's rifle is trained on the booth. This film has been much delayed and is finally due for release on March 14.
April sees the adaptation of Stephen King's 'Dreamcatcher'. Morgan Freeman, Tom Sizemore and Jason Lee star in the story of four hunting friends who come across a stranger in the woods who turns their lives upside down.
May sees the return of the X-Men in 'X2'. All the heroes from the wildly successful first film return along with some other fan favourites (Nightcrawler, Pyro). Brian Cox joins fellow Brit heavyweights Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen but it won't do any good - Hugh Jackman stole the show as Wolverine last time and it's a safe bet he'll do that same this time round too!
Also in May, The Wachowski brothers release the first of TWO sequels to 'The Matrix' to be released in 2003. 'The Matrix Reloaded' reteams all of the principals from the first film, as they fight to save humankind from the machines. Rumour has it that 'Reloaded' and the third instalment, 'Revolutions' (to be released in the Winter) are actually make up two halfs of a single movie, that will bring the whole story to a conclusion. Regardless of what you thought of the original, I defy you to miss these films.
Moving away from Sci-Fi, Jim Carrey stars in 'Bruce Almighty' as a man who finds himself given the powers of God for a day, just so he can see how difficult it is to run the world.
Looking further ahead, we can look forward to what appears to be the worst idea in the world. A remake of 'The Italian Job'. Mark Wahlberg takes on the Michael Caine role and, if it wasn't for the awesome supporting cast (Edward Norton, Donald Sutherland, Seth Green, Jason Statham and Charlize Theron), this would seem destined for the scrap heap. I can't help thinking that Norton wouldn't appear in a bad film, so I'm going to reserve judgement - but surely they can't better the original's ending. Can they? We have more superhero shenanigans as Eric Bana stars in Ang Lee's 'Hulk', which has the potential to be one of the most spectacular films in history. Anyone who grew up watching the low budget TV series with a bodybuilder painted green, wearing a pair of jeans two sizes too small (God bless Lou Ferrigno!), will relish the idea of watching a twelve foot Hulk, laying waste to the streets of San Francisco - fully realised thanks to the wonder of CGI. Of course, if the computer jiggery-pokery isn't up to the job, it could all end in tears.
Talking of ending in tears - Arnold Schwarzenneger has finally realised that his career is on the ropes and has taken the easy option out - 'Terminator 3 : Rise Of The Machines' opens in the summer. But without Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong and (especially) James Cameron, it looks like this is going to have to be something special to resurrect Arnie's long term prospects.
If all the sci-fi/superhero talk has got you down, fear not. The end of the year will see the fourth film from Quentin Tarantino. 'Kill Bill' stars Uma Thurman as a character known simply as 'The Bride' who swears vengeance on the man who left her for dead (I'm guessing that'll be 'Bill', then?). Boasting one of the best teaser trailers I have ever seen, it's almost like QT never went away.
And then of course we have probably the most highly anticipated film of this, or any other, year - 'The Lord Of The Rings : The Return Of The King'. Peter Jackon's trilogy has rightly taken it's place amongst the best films ever made and, whilst still in post-production, it's hard to see Jackson dropping the ball now. Expect to see the biggest battle scenes this side of a Millwall home game and expect to cry buckets of tears over a character who doesn't even really exist, except in some supercomputer somewhere in the depths of New Zealand.
And before you know it, it'll be 2004!
I'll see you in line!