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 Wednesday, 1 January, 2003, 09:40 GMT
Movies to watch in 2003
Leonardo DiCaprio
DiCaprio returns in Catch Me if You Can

With the films of 2002 fast becoming a distant memory, it is time to look ahead and find out what will be entertaining cinemagoers over the next 12 months.

The good news is that 2003 looks set to be another exciting year in film, with some hugely anticipated blockbuster sequels, high-quality Oscar favourites and new films from the likes of Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese and The Coen Brothers.

In fact Scorsese's latest, Gangs Of New York, is one of the first big films of the new year, released on 10 January.

The film focuses on the conflicts between Italian and Irish immigrants in the Big Apple in the mid-19th Century, which ultimately led to the formation of the Mafia, and has been a long-time coming.

Gangs of New York
Gangs of New York stars Daniel Day-Lewis and Leonardo DiCaprio

Con artist

Scorsese first had the idea for the film in 1978 and planned to make it in 1981, but it was shelved after the historical epic Heaven's Gate became one of the biggest flops of all time and studios became wary of tackling similar projects.

Gangs Of New York has already been tipped for Oscar success, notably for Daniel Day-Lewis who came out of retirement to star in the film.

It also sees Leonardo DiCaprio back on screen for the first time since he starred in The Beach in 2000.

DiCaprio also features in the latest film from Steven Spielberg, Catch Me If You Can, which opens on 31 January.

Based on a true story, it sees him playing charismatic con artist Frank Abagnale Jr, who made millions in the 1960s by posing as an airline pilot, a top surgeon and a lawyer despite still being in high school and having no formal training in any of the above.

Nicole Kidman in The Hours
Nicole Kidman stars alongside Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore in The Hours
Tom Hanks co-stars as an FBI agent hot on his trail.

Stellar cast

Another film attracting a lot of attention is The Hours, UK director Stephen Daldry's follow-up to Billy Elliot.

Due for release in February, it is based on the novel by Michael Cunningham and centres on three women living in different eras whose lives are profoundly affected by the works of Virginia Woolf.

The stellar cast has Julianne Moore as a housewife compulsively reading Mrs Dalloway in 1949 while preparing a party, Meryl Streep as a modern-day woman throwing a party for an AIDS-stricken friend (Ed Harris), and Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf herself, looking unrecognisable under make-up.

Of course, speculation as to what will be in the running come Oscar time is rife.

Gangs Of New York and The Hours are early front-runners, as is Chicago, the screen version of the hit musical, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger and Richard Gere.

Chicago
Chicago has been transformed once again for the big screen
Other contenders include Far From Heaven, a 50s-set drama which is almost certain to land its star Julianne Moore a best actress nomination, Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can and Roman Polanski's Holocaust drama The Pianist.

Denzel Washington, who won best actor Oscar in 2002, could do well with his directorial debut Antwone Fisher, as could Adaptation, Spike Jonze's offbeat follow-up to Being John Malkovich, in which Nicolas Cage plays screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (who, just to confuse matters, actually did write the screenplay).

Blockbuster sequels

In the acting categories, expect the casts of The Hours (Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman) and Chicago to register, along with Michael Caine for The Quiet American and Oscar perennial Jack Nicholson for his turn as a world-weary retired businessman in About Schmidt.

And on the directing front, Scorsese could be in line for his first ever Oscar for Gangs Of New York.

Julianne Moore in Far From Heaven
Julianne Moore is tipped for an Oscar nod for Far From Heaven
Naturally 2003 will bring its share of blockbuster sequels to screens, with the likes of X-Men 2, Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines, Charlie's Angels 2 and Tomb Raider 2 all due in cinemas before the end of the year.

But perhaps the most highly anticipated of the pack is The Matrix Reloaded, which is set for release in May 2003.

It has been almost four years since this ground-breaking film series made its debut. But the wait will be worth it as two sequels are due to be released in the same year.

Keanu Reeves returns as the rebel leader Neo, along with cast members Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne and Hugo Weaving and newcomers Monica Bellucci and Jada Pinkett Smith.

A second sequel, The Matrix Revolutions, which was filmed at the same time, is also on the way next year, and is currently due for release in November.

Golddigger's plot

For those seeking respite from the blockbusters, there is always the latest film from the Coen Brothers. Intolerable Cruelty, once tipped as a reunion project for Pretty Woman stars Richard Gere and Julia Roberts.

Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt
Jack Nicholson plays a retiring businessman in About Schmidt
The film, about a golddigger's plot to marry a rich lawyer and bag his millions in a divorce settlement, instead features Catherine Zeta-Jones along with Coen regulars George Clooney and Billy Bob Thornton.

And in a year when seemingly every big Hollywood director has something to offer, let's not forget Quentin Tarantino.

He has not done a film since Jackie Brown in 1997, which makes the arrival of his latest project, Kill Bill, all the more exciting.

The film was shot in China in 2002, and stars Uma Thurman as an assassin who is gunned down at her wedding (along with the rest of her guests) and emerges from a coma five years later hungry for revenge.

It is reportedly heavily inspired by martial arts films, so expect some terrific kung-fu fighting and lots of violence, all bound together with Tarantino's trademark wit. It is expected to hit screens in October.


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