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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 January 2005, 01:24 GMT
Sequels boost 2005's cinema
By Tom Brook
BBC News, New York

Hayden Christensen plays Anakin Skywalker
Hayden Christensen plays Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars

With new instalments of Star Wars, Batman and Harry Potter in the pipeline, the stage is set for 2005 to be another year of high profile sequels.

It is a trend that begins modestly with the release of Be Cool, a follow-up to the 1995 hit comic crime drama Get Shorty, starring John Travolta in the role of Chili Palmer.

Be Cool opens in the US in March, and April in the UK, and if it lives up to the positive word of mouth it has been receiving then it could add some lustre to Travolta's career which has taken a bit of a zig-zag course in recent times.

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of The Sith is the final film in the prequel and arrives in May.

Uma Thurman and John Travolta in Be Cool
Uma Thurman and John Travolta get back on the dance floor for Be Cool

It will involve Anakin Skywalker and the dark side of the Force, but little is known of the plot because George Lucas develops his projects in near total secrecy.

But the new Star Wars will have to perform strongly to overcome the last two films which were seen as a disappointment.

British director Chris Nolan will be attempting to breathe some life into the Batman franchise with the June release of Batman Begins.

The last two sequels were camp and many fans felt the films were heading in the wrong direction.

Summer epics

This new Batman, which stars Christian Bale as the caped crusader, has a decidedly British cast.

In addition to Bale there are several other prominent UK actors in the sequel including Michael Caine, Liam Neeson and Gary Oldman.

Bales emphasises that the new picture will assert the primacy of Batman over supporting characters: "I think Batman very definitely is more interesting than the villains surrounding him and hopefully this will be the first movie to show that."

Batman Begins
The new Batman movie is more sinister

One of the big event movies planned for the summer months will be the epic War of The Worlds starring Tom Cruise and directed by Steven Spielberg.

The film is an adaptation of HG Wells' famous sci-fi novel in which Martians invade the earth.

A notorious 1938 Orson Welles radio play based on the novel created widespread panic among thousands of Americans who thought they were listening to an authentic news broadcast of a Martian invasion.

The resultant press coverage helped boost interest in the novel. Spielberg will definitely need all the help he can get to promote his picture which has a gigantic budget estimated to be more than $200m (104m).

Children's fantasy

Looking towards the end of 2005, the fourth Harry Potter film The Goblet of Fire will be eagerly welcomed by the boy wizard's millions of fans.

And in December, a few releases are already set in place. Among them, a romantic drama, an adaptation of the international bestseller Memoirs of a Geisha, which is yet to get a UK release date.

Harry Potter
Harry Potter is back for more magic in November

It is another Spielberg production directed by Rob Marshall and it will feature the Chinese star Ziyi Zhang.

Zhang has built up a formidable reputation in recent times from her martial arts roles in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero and House of Flying Daggers.

December will also bring The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the long-awaited adaptation of one of CS Lewis' classic children's novels.

The film, which is being shot in New Zealand, makes use of the talents of British actors Rupert Everett, Tilda Swinton, Dawn French, Jim Broadbent, Ray Winstone and Brian Cox.

Naomi Watts
Naomi Watts is taking on the role originally played by Fay Wray

Also in production in New Zealand is Peter Jackson's King Kong, another planned December release.

Fay Wray, who died just five months ago, was made famous by the original 1933 film as the screaming damsel in Kong's grip as he scaled the Empire State Building.

It is a classic image of 20th century cinema so Naomi Watts will face quite a hurdle in re-creating Wray's role in the new picture.

Kong is also estimated to cost $200m (104m). It will have a mammoth premiere in New York where the original King Kong was set - and many industry players see it as the film to beat in 2005.


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