Hollywood is doing the time warp again in 2004, tripping back to the swinging Seventies, the war-torn Forties and beyond to B.C.
We're keen to see Nicole Kidman lighten up as a too-perfect spouse in a satirical remake of the 1975 film "The Stepford Wives" and — wide-lapel alert! — Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson get their '70s groove on in "Starsky and Hutch."
"Elf" star Will Ferrell sheds his green tights but hopes to keep his box office mojo with the 1970s-set comedy "Anchorman," while Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett and No Doubt singer Gwen Stefani channel 1940s icons in Martin Scorsese's Howard Hughes biopic, "The Aviator."
Brad Pitt shows his Achilles heel in "Troy," and Colin Farrell should be "Great" as "Alexander."
The kids are all right, with a host of appealing family flicks on the slate. And, naturally, there are big-bang sequels and superheroes galore.
"Y Tu Mama Tambien" director Alfonso Cuaron weaves his special brand of subversive magic with the third "Harry Potter" movie; the ogre-licious hijinks continue with "Shrek 2"; Halle Berry is leather-bound for "Catwoman"; and Spidey goes to the mat with a well-armed villain in "Spider-Man 2."
Will Cameron Crowe's romantic comedy "Elizabethtown" be another perfect movie in the vein of "Almost Famous"? Can the intriguing, effects-laden kitsch-fest "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" deliver on its early promise?
Hope springs eternal.
HERE WE GO AGAIN
"Why don't you pass the time by playing a little solitaire?"
One of the most intriguing remakes of 2004 is Jonathan Demme's "The Manchurian Candidate." The 1962 classic about post-Korean War brainwashing has been updated to just after the first Gulf war and stars Denzel Washington in the role once inhabited by Frank Sinatra, who reportedly approved this do-over before his death.
The brains behind the reworked "Around the World in Eighty Days" were also thinking outside the box in casting Jackie Chan as Phileas Fogg's servant Passepartout, changing the sidekick's nationality from French to Chinese (although, strangely enough, keeping the oh-so-French name).
Owen Wilson will take on the Ryan O'Neal role in a Hawaii-set version of the 1969 film, "The Big Bounce," based on an Elmore Leonard novel; and Jennifer Lopez and Richard Gere star in "Shall We Dance?" (August), an English-language remake of a popular Japanese romantic comedy.
Last year was all about dud sequels ("Charlie's Angels 2," "Legally Blonde 2," the second-rate "Matrix" finale) but this year promises follow-ups to movies we actually liked the first time round.
We're keen to see new addition Gary Oldman as Harry's shape-shifting godfather, Sirius Black, in the box-office behemoth "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"; looking forward to watching Uma Thurman's The Bride continue merrily ticking off her "to kill" list in "Kill Bill: Vol. 2" — and what's not to love about Antonio Banderas voicing a mustachioed Puss-in-Boots in "Shrek 2"?
As for what sort of people name their son Gaylord Focker? We'll find out in "Meet the Fockers," the sequel to 2000's Robert De Niro-Ben Stiller hit comedy "Meet the Parents."
The 2004 sequel slate also includes "The Ring 2," "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason," "Barbershop 2: Back in Business," "The Bourne Supremacy" and "Ocean's Twelve."
BACK TO THE FUTURE
Sci-fi fans are in for a treat in 2004, with a number of big tentpole pictures looking to the future. "Independence Day" and "Godzilla" director Roland Emmerich again visits disaster on New York City with "The Day After Tomorrow," a special-effects extravaganza that imagines the beginnings of another Ice Age.
Will Smith stars as a "robotophobic" police detective investigating a murder that implicates an android in "I, Robot," and Vin Diesel is back from Siberia to star in "The Chronicles of Riddick," a sequel to his 2000 breakout film "Pitch Black."
Spidey's second spin in "Spider-Man 2" sees him battling multi-tentacled villain Dr. Octopus (Alfred Molina), while slinky Halle Berry gets her claws out for "Catwoman" and Ron Perlman plays a good-guy demon in "Hellboy."
Wolverine Hugh Jackman does the monster mash as a titular vampire hunter stalking freaks and fiends such as the Wolfman, Frankenstein's Monster, Mr. Hyde and Count Dracula in "Van Helsing."
MEN IN SKIRTS
Looking for some B.C. beefcake? Two of Hollywood's hunkiest actors will be showing off their gams in Oscar-baiting historical epics this year.
Brad Pitt stars as the Greek hero Achilles in Wolfgang Petersen's "Troy," set during the Trojan War, and a blond Colin Farrell plays the colorful Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great in Oliver Stone's "Alexander," with a presumably heavily made-up Angelina Jolie co-starring as his mother.
THE HARDEST WORKING DUO IN SHOWBIZ
"Cold Mountain" co-stars Nicole Kidman and Jude Law furiously denied rumors of an affair in 2003 — and a look at their upcoming slates makes one wonder how they would have found the time.
Oscar-bait and fashion-plate Kidman dons an iron dog-collar in Lars von Trier's minimalist allegory "Dogville," and meets the reincarnation of her dead husband in the supernatural drama "Birth," before switching gears to star opposite Matthew Broderick in Frank Oz's darkly comic re-imagining of "The Stepford Wives."
Meanwhile, the industrious Law pops up in a host of new films, including a brief turn as Errol Flynn in Martin Scorsese's eagerly anticipated Howard Hughes biopic, "The Aviator," and a reprise of Michael Caine's lady-killer role in "Alfie."
It's going to take a truckload of fine kid-friendly flicks to erase the lingering stench of "Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat" — but putting our faith in the good folks at Pixar looks like a good place to start.
The ingenious animation team that brought us the 2003 smash "Finding Nemo" follow up with "The Incredibles," about a family of superheroes.
Jim Carrey will star as the dastardly Count Olaf in "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events," based on the series of popular, darkly humorous children's books about three young orphans raised by a series of odd relatives.
Bikini Bottom's sunny sea sponge gets his own feature-length animated movie with "SpongeBob SquarePants," and look to Bill Murray to (please!) restore the good name of film furballs by voicing the titular cat in "Garfield: The Movie."
Upcoming movies which pique our interest (for a variety of reasons) include:
"Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" is a 1930s-set genre-bender which mixes sci-fi fantasy with kitschy pulp fiction and takes its name from the motto for the 1939 World's Fair.
First-time writer-director Kerry Conran used state-of-the art special effects, shooting the entire New York-set film on blue screen and digitally filling in the backgrounds in post-production. Jude Law stars as the flying ace of the title, Gwyneth Paltrow is a glamour-puss reporter and an eyepatch-wearing Angelina Jolie plays the commander of an all-girl amphibious squadron.
"Starsky and Hutch" features the genius casting of Owen Wilson as Ken "Hutch" Hutchinson and Ben Stiller as Dave Starsky, as well as — sweet! — Snoop Dogg as street informer Huggy Bear.
"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" — which takes its mouthful of a title from a poem by Alexander Pope — is another head-trip from the warped mind of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman ("Being John Malkovich," "Adaptation") and stars Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet.
"The Brothers Grimm" unleashes the creative genius of director Terry Gilliam ("Brazil," "Twelve Monkeys") on the life story of the 19th century fairy tale authors, played by Matt Damon and Heath Ledger.
"Jersey Girl," starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, will show whether auteur Kevin Smith can reverse the curse of Bennifer.
"The Passion of the Christ," Mel Gibson's controversial look at Jesus' final hours, will finally be put before the ultimate critics — the movie-going public.
And remember "The Alamo"? The big-budget historical epic — starring Dennis Quaid, Jason Patric and Billy Bob Thornton as Davy Crockett — was originally scheduled for release this past holiday season, but now appears on the 2004 slate.