Ed Johnson-Ott

So the holidays are over, you've seen everything and you're looking for something new. I can't help much. The only film opening locally is the rock documentary Dig (at Key Cinemas Friday) and I haven't seen it. So I've decide to take a little time to look ahead to some of the more interesting films coming up this year.

Nothing comprehensive, mind you, just a casual sneak peek.

Except for Star Wars, I'm not including sequels (which include Big Momma's House 2, Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, Miss Congeniality 2, Pirates of the Caribbean 2, The Ring 2, Saw 2, The Transporter 2, Underworld 2, XXX: State of the Union, Son of the Mask and The Mask of Zorro 2). Hopefully, you'll find some of the following as intriguing as I do.

Fantastic Four

The superhero comic book that made Marvel a major player finally becomes a movie. Well, actually, there was a Fantastic Four movie made some years back. It was a super low-budget affair that was purchased, then immediately shelved. Copies are available at comic book and sci-fi conventions. Anyhow, the cast members I'm familiar with seem well-chosen. I don't know Ioan Gruffudd, the actor playing stretchable team leader Reed Richard, aka Mr. Fantastic, or Chris Evans, who plays fireball Johnny Storm/The Human Torch, but Jessica Alba feels right as Sue Storm/Invisible Woman and Julian McMahon, the smarmy sex-obsessed co-lead in Nip/Tuck, seems perfect to play the evil Dr. Doom. Most importantly, Michael Chiklis, star of The Shield, is a great choice for the pivotal role of Ben Grimm/The Thing. Getting his misshapen appearance correct is crucial for fans to accept the movie. Making a film as strong as the X-Men and Spider-Man movies is essential to get the general audience to attend. We'll find out at the beginning of July.

King Kong

I'm excited about this only because of one name: Peter Jackson, the man that made The Lord of the Rings trilogy work. Jackson used his new-found clout to get the backing to remake the 1933 classic, which will be set during the same time as the original. He claims to have his own vision of the giant ape epic and I trust him, even though visions of that horrible '70s remake still linger in memory. Jack Black heads the expedition this time, which seems like a good idea. The film, which will be one of the big holiday offerings next December, also stars Naomi Watts, Adrien Brody, Andy Serkis, Jamie Bell, Kyle Chandler, Thomas Kretschmann, Evan Parke and Colin Hanks.

War of the Worlds

Again, I'm enthused only because Steven Spielberg is directing and Tom Cruise is starring. The 1953 original adaptation of the H.G. Wells tale of alien invasion was a terrific movie and a remake seems unnecessary, but I have faith that Spielberg and Cruise have a unique take in mind. Tim Robbins, Miranda Otto and Dakota Fanning co-star in the film, which is set in contemporary times. Look for it in late June.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Douglas Adams hit the bulls-eye with his comic tale of a perfectly ordinary Englishman whose day is ruined when the Earth is destroyed as part of an intergalactic construction project (luckily, his best friend turns out to be an alien and snags a ride for the pair on a spaceship). Adams' story has been a radio play, a book, a mini-series, a stage show and more. This should be a doozey as well. Martin Freeman, who is great as the befuddled Tim in the TV series The Office, is the perfect choice to play everyman Arthur Dent. Mos Def, Sam Rockwell, Zooey Deschanel, Bill Nighy and John Malkovich co-star. This one hits screens at the beginning of May.

Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith

Finally, this damned thing wraps up. For me, the main attraction is seeing if George Lucas can successfully link this to the original. Who knows, maybe after the crappy Episode 1 and not-quite-as-crappy Episode 2, he might get more than the special effects right. We'll find out in mid-May.

Sin City

All I know - all I need to know - is that this is based on the acclaimed graphic novel by Frank Miller (The Dark Knight Returns) and that the cast includes Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Elijah Wood, Maria Bello, Bruce Willis, Benicio del Toro, Michael Clarke Duncan, Carla Gugino, Josh Hartnett, Michael Madsen, Jaime King, Brittany Murphy, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke and Nick Stahl. Man, with a roster like that, this one is going to be grim! The film opens at the beginning of April.

Romance and Cigarettes

The initial appeal here is that it was written and directed by John Turturro. Plus, check out this cast: James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Christopher Walken, Mandy Moore, Bobby Cannavale and Aida Turturro. It's a dark, comic musical, which is intriguing. No firm release date yet.

The Ringer

How's this for bad taste? In order to pay Uncle Steve Buscemi's gambling debts, Johnny Knoxville attempts to fix the Special Olympics by passing himself off as one of the athletes. The comedy arrives in a few weeks.

All the King's Men

Based on the Robert Penn Warren novel about a Huey Long-style Southern politician that inspired the 1949 film. Once again, take a gander at the cast and tell me you won't be there when it opens sometime later this year: Sean Penn, James Gandolfini, Anthony Hopkins, Jude Law, Patricia Clarkson, John Lovett (not the comic actor), Mark Ruffalo, Kate Winslet and Jackie Earle Haley.

A Scanner Darkly

Freaky sci-fi thriller based on a Philip K. Dick novel, written and directed by Richard Linklater (Before Sunset, Dazed and Confused) and featuring the kind of animation he used in Waking Life. The cast includes Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, Winona Ryder, Heather Kafka and more. Due in September.

The Wallace and Gromit Movie

The popular clay-animated characters finally get their big break in this comedy, due this fall.


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