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Sneak previews '04

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Posted: Sunday, January 11, 2004 4:06 am | Updated: 5:44 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

All the orcs have been killed, all the Matrices hacked, and 2003 — the year of the superfranchise — is but a fading memory.

Granted, 2004 doesn’t appear quite as well-stacked in the franchise department, but take heart: The year still holds substantial promise for moviegoers. Those who meet the following criteria will be particularly happy.

• Comic book fans — "Spider-Man 2" swings into theaters, not to mention "The Punisher," "Hellboy" and "Constantine."

• Ben Stiller fans — The hardworking funnyman will be everywhere this year, appearing in no fewer than five movies. Why can’t Monica Bellucci be so dedicated?

• Girls who harbor princess fantasies — Julia Stiles stars in "The Prince and Me," Anne Hathaway in "The Princess Diaries 2" and Katie Holmes in "First Daughter."

• Admirers of children’s books — "Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events" is a notable holiday offering, not to mention a new "Harry Potter" movie and two Newberry Award winners.

Remember, all dates are subject to change, and the list can’t account for factory rush jobs that haven’t gone into production yet . . .

WINTER/SPRING

Traditionally Hollywood’s slowest quasi-season, the months between Christmas and May feature the usual assortment of serial killer thrillers, dating comedies and mid-tier sequels.

Jan. 16 "Along Came Polly": A risk-averse risk analyst (Ben Stiller) gets involved in a risky romance (Jennifer Aniston) after his wife (Debra Messing) cheats on him. Life changes ensue.

"Teacher’s Pet": Curious to learn more, a hyperintelligent dog sneaks into elementary school with his master and poses as a human. Disney animation based on the Emmy-winning TV show.

"Torque": Oh, those incorrigible motorheads. Ice Cube and Martin Henderson mix it up in the dangerous, high-stakes world of motorcycle street racing.

Jan. 23

"The Butterfly Effect": Inhabiting his childhood body, Ashton Kutcher travels back in time to resolve psychological problems, only to find his trips have unintended consequences in the present. (Like dating Demi.) Sci-fi thriller from "Final Destination" team.

"Mindhunters": Trapped on a remote island, seven FBI psych-profile trainees and their instructor (Val Kilmer) discover that one of them is really a serial killer.

"Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!": A small-town checkout girl (Kate Bosworth) must decide between a TV hunk (Josh Duhamel) or her longtime friend (Topher Grace) after both profess their love for her. Call it "Sweet Home Clicheabama."

Jan. 30

"The Big Bounce": Surfer dude Owen Wilson meets a scheming lass (newcomer Sara Foster) who persuades him to help her fleece a real estate tycoon in this caper comedy from "Get Shorty" author Elmore Leonard.

"The Perfect Score": Seven disgruntled high school seniors conspire to break into the Princeton Testing Center so they can get perfect SAT scores. Scarlett Johansson ("Lost in Translation") stars.

"You Got Served": In the august tradition of "Breakin’ " and "Honey" comes this hip-hop dance odyssey about a pair of ambitious street dancers who dream of starting their own dance studio.

Feb. 6

"Barbershop 2: Back in Business": Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Eve and others are back to cut hair and make banter. Queen Latifah is also on board, playing a beauty shop owner.

"Catch That Kid": Kristen Stewart ("Panic Room") plays a preteen rock climbing prodigy who breaks into a high-tech bank vault to pay for her father’s spine operation.

"Miracle": A patriotic recounting of the U.S. Olympic hockey team’s 1980 "miracle on ice," filmed in Canada. Kurt Russell stars.

Feb. 13

"50 First Dates": When he falls in love with a woman (Drew Barrymore) incapable of forming long-term memories, marine biologist Adam Sandler has to win her heart anew every day. It’s "Memento" meets "Groundhog Day."

Feb. 20

"Against the Ropes": Based on a true story, Meg Ryan plays a plucky female boxing promoter who puts her skills behind a skeptical middleweight (Omar Epps).

"Eurotrip": Originally titled "The Ugly Americans" — which apparently hits too close to home nowadays — this backpacking comedy stars Scott Mechlowicz as a high school grad who embarks on an adventure-laden trip across Europe to meet a sexy German pen pal.

"Kill Bill Vol. 2": Uma Thurman returns to stylishly dispatch the rest of the people who murdered her unborn child and left her for dead. Quentin Tarantino directs.

"Welcome to Mooseport": Gene Hackman plays a retired twoterm U.S. president who runs for mayor of a small New England town against a combative hardware store owner.

Feb. 25

"The Passion of the Christ": Mel Gibson’s Vatican-approved, subtitled passion play finally arrives in theaters starring Jim Caviezel in the title role.

Feb. 27

"Club Dread": From Broken Lizard, the comedy collective behind "Supertroopers," comes this marijuana-addled farce about the world’s wackiest beach resort. Bill Paxton stars.

"Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights": Set in pre-Communist Cuba, this loosely affiliated prequel features a lonely 17-year-old American girl (Romola Garai) who falls in with a hot-blooded Latin dance teacher.

"Twisted": Ashley Judd trades frequent co-star Morgan Freeman ("Kiss the Girls") for Samuel L. Jackson in this thriller about the daughter of a serial killer who becomes a police officer and investigates a rash of killings involving her ex-boyfriends. Philip Kaufman ("Quills") directs.

March 5

"Hidalgo": "Lord of the Rings" hero Viggo Mortensen is back in the saddle in this historical epic about a rodeo trick rider who enters a cross-continental horse race in 1890 Saudi Arabia.

"Starsky and Hutch": Tongue-in-cheek adaptation of the popular TV buddy cop show, starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson as the hot-rod-driving detectives. Rap star Snoop Dogg plays Huggy Bear. Todd Phillips ("Old School") directs.

March 12

"Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London": Lil’ Frankie Muniz crosses the Atlantic to battle sinister forces in the land of 007. In the best Bond tradition, he leaves original love interest Hilary Duff at home.

"The Girl Next Door": A high school senior (Emile Hirsch) discovers that the love of his life (Elisha Cuthbert) used to be a porn star. So what’s the problem? He has political aspirations.

"The Prince and Me": Teenybopper fantasy about a college freshman (Julia Stiles) who starts dating a classmate (Luke Mably), never suspecting the truth: He’s really the prince of Denmark!

"Spartan": David Mamet ("Glengarry Glen Ross") wrote and directed this thriller about a plot in the White House that leads to the disappearance of the first daughter. Starring Val Kilmer and William H. Macy.

March 19

"Dawn of the Dead": Human survivors seek shelter in a shopping mall when the country is infected with a zombieproducing plague. Remake of the George A. Romero gore classic, starring Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames and Mekhi Phifer.

"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind": Originally groomed as a contender for next March’s Oscars, this Charlie Kaufman-scripted oddity stars Jim Carrey as a lovesick man who has the memories of his ex-girlfriend (Kate Winslet) surgically scrubbed from his mind. Halfway through the procedure, he has a change of heart.

"Jersey Girl": "Gigli" coculprits Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez reunite in this Kevin Smith-directed comedy/ drama about a music promoter (Affleck) whose life is turned upside down when he becomes a father. Take heart: Rumor has it that Lopez’s character gets killed off early.

"Never Die Alone": A gang leader (DMX) rises to the top of the heap, as seen through the eyes of a journalist (David Arquette).

"Taking Lives": FBI profiler Angelina Jolie is summoned to Canada to help Montreal police catch a serial killer who assumes the identities of his victims. Ethan Hawke also stars.

March 26

"The Ladykillers": Stepping into a role first occupied by Sir Alec Guinness, Tom Hanks plays an eccentric professorturned-criminal-mastermind who spearheads a scheme to rob a New Orleans riverboat casino. Remake of the 1955 British comedy, written and directed by the Coen brothers ("Fargo").

"Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed": Zoinks! Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard and a computer-generated Scoob return in the sequel to the surprisingly watchable 2002 original.

"Ned Kelly": Real-life sweethearts Heath Ledger and Naomi Watts star in this Down Under Western about a gunslinging outlaw who scandalized Australia in the 1800s.

April TBA

"Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen": Deprived of her beloved Big Apple, a histrionic teen (Lindsay Lohan) throws a hissy when her family moves to New Jersey. With Andy Garcia.

April 2

"Envy": When a dopey neighbor (Jack Black) invents a wildly profitable informercial gadget, ubiquitous Ben Stiller is overcome by the green-eyed monster.

"Hellboy": One-time TV beast Ron Perlman stars for director Guillermo del Toro ("Mimic"), playing the spawn of Satan, midwifed by the Nazis, who disowns his heritage and works for the U.S. government as an investigator of the supernatural.

"Home on the Range": Farm cows in the Old West band together to save the family ranch in this animated Disney offering. Dame Judi Dench, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Sarah Jessica Parker provide voices.

"Mean Girls": Lindsay Lohan ("Freaky Friday") becomes the victim of teen cliquery and snobbery when she dares date the ex-boyfriend of an A-list classmate. From a script by "Saturday Night Live" writer Tina Fey.

April 7

"Johnson Family Vacation":

Chevy Chase is supplanted by Cedric the Entertainer in this urbanized road comedy about a family that encounters cross-continental comic mishap on the way to visit their kin. Vanessa Williams and Bow Wow also star.

April 9

"The Alamo": Disney yanked this big-budget historical epic from its original December 2003 release date, reportedly because test audiences bristled at the depiction of Davy Crockett (Billy Bob Thornton) as an opportunistic coward. Dennis Quaid also stars.

"Ella Enchanted": Set in a fantasy world, Anne Hathaway ("The Princess Diaries") plays a lovesick girl cursed by a fairy. From the Newberry Award-winning book.

"Walking Tall": Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson stars in this remake of the "hicksploitation" classic starring Joe Don Baker. Johnson plays a Special Forces vet and lumber mill worker who fights corruption and drugs by swinging his big two-by-four.

"The Whole Ten Yards": Herewith, the sequel nobody asked for. Bruce Willis returns as a mobster to Matthew Perry’s suburban wimp.

April 16

"Connie and Carla": In this twist on "Some Like it Hot," two traveling female dinner theater singers (Nia Vardalos and Toni Collette) are forced to impersonate drag queens while performing in Los Angeles.

"The Punisher": Thomas Jane ("Deep Blue Sea") plays a vigilante superhero empowered by the cruel murder of his wife and child. From the Marvel comic.

April 23

"Man on Fire": When the modern condition pushes him to the brink, Denzel Washington pushes back — hard! — in this actioner from Tony Scott ("Top Gun"). Christopher Walken and Dakota Fanning also star.

"Secret Window": Sullen, divorced fiction writer Johnny Depp is stalked at his remote lake house by a psychotic stranger (John Turturro). Sounds like a Stephen King story? It is.

"Without a Paddle": Three Philly boys (Seth Green, Matthew Lillard and Dax Shepard) go on a backwater adventure to search for the lost loot of famed hijacker D.B. Cooper.

April 30

"Breakin’ All the Rules": When Bianca Lawson dumps his sorry butt, Jamie Foxx writes a bestseller on how to deal with the repercussions of a breakup.

"Godsend": Barren couple Greg Kinnear and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos decide to use the cloning process to have kids, with demonic results. Robert De Niro stars as the cloning doctor.

"Laws of Attraction": Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore play divorce lawyers in love, determined to avoid the marital pitfalls that sink their clients. Peter Howitt ("Sliding Doors") directs.

Spring TBA

"Prozac Nation": Elizabeth Wurtzel’s confessional tale of a pill-popping writer — starring Christina Ricci ("Monster") — has been rescehduled so many times that it has now appeared in four separate movie preview articles. Depressing.

SUMMER

Need further evidence of global warming? Hollywood’s summer push now begins in the first week of May, thanks in no small part to filmmaker Stephen Sommers and his inane but hideously lucrative "Mummy" movies.

May 7

"New York Minute": The Olsen twins spend a day in New York, getting chased by truant officers, looking for boys, all that ginchy teenage girl stuff.

"Van Helsing": "Mummy" director Stephen Sommers stakes out his usual corner of the summer movie schedule with this action-fantasy starring Hugh Jackman ("X-Men") as the literary vampire killer. Villains include the Wolf Man, Frankenstein and Mr. Hyde.

May 14

"Mr. 3000": When several of the games in which he played are declared null and void by Major League Baseball, a former Milwaukee Brewers slugger (Bernie Mac) comes out of retirement to eclipse the 3,000-hit mark. Again.

"Troy": The summer’s signature epic stars Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, Eric Bana, Julie Christie and German newcomer Diane Kruger as Helen, the Homeric hottie whose face launched 1,000 ships. Wolfgang Petersen ("In the Line of Fire") directs.

May 21

"Shrek 2": Shrek meets the inlaws in this sequel to the Oscar-winning CGI family flick, which reportedly netted Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy $5 million each for their vocal services.

May 28

"13 Going on 30": Think "Big" with bras. When an awkward and picked-upon girl makes a wish to become popular, she skips ahead 17 years to find herself in the body of a beautiful and successful advertising executive.

"The Day After Tomorrow": Global warming triggers catastrophic weather conditions in this disaster flick with a message from director Roland Emmerich ("Godzilla"). Dennis Quaid stars.

"Soul Plane": Things get seriously funny when a white family — led by Tom Arnold — gets re-routed on an all-black airline where Snoop Dogg is the pilot.

June 4

"Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban": Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is threatened by a rogue wizard (Gary Oldman) in the third and darkest of the "Harry Potter" movies. Alfonso Cuaron ("Y Tu Mama Tambien") directs.

June 11

"The Chronicles of Riddick": His box office "heat" considerably chilled, Vin Diesel ("The Fast and the Furious") returns as the photosensitive convict from the sci-fi hit "Pitch Black," this time to put the kibosh on an intergalactic tyrant.

"The Stepford Wives": Nicole Kidman stars in this remake of the 1975 suburban assimilation nightmare, about a community of robotic housewives. Matthew Broderick and Christopher Walken also star for director Frank Oz.

June 16

"Around the World in Eighty Days": Jackie Chan and Arnold Schwarzenegger chip in supporting roles in this Victorian hot air balloon adventure based on the novel by Jules Verne.

June 18

"Garfield": Bill Murray provides the voice for the lazy, lasagna-loving cat in this computer animation live-action hybrid, based on the popular comic strip by Jim Davis.

"The Terminal: Two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks teams up with director Steven Spielberg, playing an eastern European tourist who takes up permanent residence in a U.S. airport after his native country falls to hostile neighbors. Catherine Zeta-Jones plays his flight attendant love interest.

June 25

"Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story": Ben Stiller’s umpteenth movie in 2004 is about a group of friends who put together a dodgeball team to save their gym from developers.

"White Chicks": Leaving the "Scary Movie" franchise to lesser talents, Keenen Ivory Wayans directs this comedy about a pair of black undercover FBI agents who pose as a pair of white hotel heiresses to catch a villain.

July 2

"Spider-Man 2": Sufficiently recovered from his various "Seabiscuit" injuries, Tobey Maguire returns as the heroic web-slinger, this time to battle an eight-armed madman (Alfred Molina). Kirsten Dunst and James Franco also star in Sam Raimi’s $200 million blockbuster.

July 7

"King Arthur": Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day") trades urban grit for medieval gravitas, with Clive Owen, Stephen Dillain and Keira Knightley doing the whole Arthur-Guinevere-Lancelot triangle thing.

July 9

"Anchorman": Will Ferrell ("Elf ") plays an obnoxious 1970s newscaster in this comedy directed by "Saturday Night Live" writer Adam McKay.

"Two Brothers": Nonanimated wildlife epic about two adolescent tigers captured near the ruins of Angkor-Wat in Cambodia and separated, leading entirely different lives. From Jean-Jacques Annaud, director of "The Bear."

July 16

"A Cinderella Story": Hilary Duff stars in this fairy tale set in the San Fernando Valley, with Jennifer Coolidge ("Legally Blonde") playing the wicked stepmother.

"I, Robot": Sci-fi fans, your manna has arrived. In this futuristic mystery based on the story by genre legend Isaac Asimov, a human detective (Will Smith) investigates a murder in which the main suspect is a robot. The always cool Alex Proyas ("Dark City") directs.

July 23

"The Bourne Supremacy": In this sequel to "The Bourne Identity," Matt Damon returns as erstwhile amnesiac Jason Bourne, once again embroiled in international CIA intrigue. Franka Potente and Julia Stiles co-star.

July 30

"Catwoman": Halle Berry ("Gothika") is a purr-fect fit for the sexy feline heroine, here matched against a villainess played by Sharon Stone in an all-out estrogen death match.

"The Notebook": Latest groping drama from novelist Nicholas Sparks involves a retired salesman (James Garner) who recalls a torrid love triangle between two young men and a milk-fed country girl in 1946 Carolina. Gina Rowlands and Ryan Gosling also star.

"The Village": M. Night Shyamalan’s super-secret, supernatural follow-up to "Signs" involves a remote agrarian community under siege by forces unknown. Joaquin Phoenix, Ashton Kutcher and Sigourney Weaver star.

Aug. 6

"Alien vs Predator": Unbeknownst to humanity, Antarctica is being used as a training ground for adolescent predators to hunt vicious, acidblooded aliens. Directed by the dependably undependable Paul Anderson ("Soldier").

"Thunderbirds": The marionettes from the original British TV series have been replaced by Bill Paxton and others, playing a family of space-faring rescue specialists. Ben Kingsley plays the villain.

Aug. 11

"The Princess Diaries 2": Having solidified her grip on the throne, Anne Hathaway moves on to more pressing matter of state: Boys and paparazzi.

Aug. 13

"Because of Winn-Dixie": With the help of a stray dog she finds at the supermarket, a young girl (Anna Sophia Robb) makes friends with the eccentric locals in the small town of Naomi, Fla. Directed by Wayne Wang ("The Joy Luck Club"), from the Newberry Awardwinning novel.

"Blade: Trinity": Wesley Snipes returns for his third outing as the half-human, half-vampire vigilante Daywalker, this time hunted by human organizations who mistake him for a serial killer.

"Yu-Gi-Oh!": A secret Egyptian card game could trigger the end of the world unless a spikey-haired teen can save the day. Inspired by the popular WB daytime cartoon.

Aug. 20

"A Sound of Thunder": When a time-traveling safari tourist steps on a butterfly, the ramifications ripple forward in time, threatening to erase humanity from existence. Ray Bradbury wrote the source story. Ed Burns and cheesy sci-fi mainstay Ben Kingsley star.

Aug. 27

"Anacondas: The Hunt for the Black Orchid": Jon Voight, Ice Cube and Jennifer Lopez have moved on to greener pastures, leaving a new generation of luckless explorers to grapple with a supersized killer snake. Starring virtually nobody you’ve ever heard of.

"Man-Thing": Based on a fringe Marvel Comics character, this low-budget actioner is about a brainless mound of peripatetic plant matter that fights a ruthless developer who wants to drain the Everglades to build an airport.

Summer TBA

"Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow": Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow star in this retro-chic sci-fi thriller, set at the World’s Fair in New York City during the 1930s.

FALL/HOLIDAY

Still looking a bit scrawny as this article went to press, the holiday months should fill out once the studios finish jockeying for position. "The Aviator," "Cinderella Man" and "Alexander" look like early Oscar contenders.

Sept. 10

"Resident Evil: Apocalypse":

Milla Jovovich slaughters people zombified by tainted cosmetic products in this sequel to the 2002 splatter-fest.

Sept. 17

"Constantine": Freed of his "Matrix" obligations, Keanu Reeves plays a world-traveling mystery man who deals with emissaries from both heaven and hell in this supernatural thriller based on the Vertigo comic.

"Raising Helen": When her sister and brother-in-law die in a car accident, a young modeling agency assistant — probably an immature one, if the cliche holds — inherits custody of their three children. Kate Hudson stars.

Sept. 24

"The Forgotten": Told that her dead son is merely a figment of her imagination, a grieving mother (Julianne Moore) begins to suspect she’s been supernaturally hoodwinked. With Dominic West and Gary Sinise.

"Wimbledon": Paul Bettany ("A Beautiful Mind") and Kirsten Dunst ("Mona Lisa Smile") chart the previously unexplored waters of tennis cinema in this story of a fading champion trying to regain his winning form.

September TBA

"Boogeyman": Barry Watson plays a haunted man who returns to the bedroom of his youth to exorcise his demons. With Lucy Lawless.

"The Last Shot": Ensemble comedy about a Rhode Island filmmaker who begins to suspect that his new movie is being used as a beard for an FBI sting operation. Matthew Broderick and Alec Baldwin star.

Oct. 1

"Shark Tale": Dreamworks’ computer-generated underwater mob spoof — formerly titled "Sharkslayer" — includes voice work from Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Renee Zellweger, Jack Black and Martin Scorsese.

Oct. 8

"Ladder 49": Trapped in a fire, waiting for his mates to rescue him, a firefighter (Joaquin Phoenix) reflects on his life and career, a la "For Love of the Game." John Travolta plays his chief and mentor.

"Shadows": Growing up on a ranch in Kenya, a colonial boy (Alex Michaeletos) adopts an orphaned cheetah cub that becomes his pet, companion and, yes, teacher. It’s "Old Yeller in Africa." Also starring Campbell Scott and Hope Davis.

"Taxi": Single mom and ace taxi driver Queen Latifah is so good behind the wheel, a police detective (Jimmy Fallon) recruits her to help catch a gang of beautiful female bank robbers. Based on the hit French movie.

Oct. 15

"Son of the Mask": Not really a sequel so much as a reconception. Based on the 1994 comedy hit "The Mask," this one finds Jamie Kennedy trying to raise a baby with shapeshifting godlike powers.

Oct. 22

"House of Wax 3-D": Unfortunate young people en route to a college football game are waylaid in a town where the inhabitants have been murdered and coated in wax. From producer Joel Silver.

October TBA

"Collateral": The prestige project of the season stars Tom Cruise as a contract killer who uses an unsuspecting cabbie (Jamie Foxx) to ferry him from hit to hit. When Foxx catches on, he has to figure out a way to stop the last assassination while saving his own skin. Michael Mann ("The Insider") directs.

"Seed of Chucky": The killer doll with the angry shock of red hair returns for a fifth outing, along with his lady and their kids. Brad Dourif voices Chucky, with Jennifer Tilly doing his female counterpart.

"I Heart Huckabees": From his usual warped vantage, director David O. Russell ("Three Kings") tells the story of a husband-wife team (Jude Law and Naomi Watts) who help clients solve existential issues.

Nov. 5

"Alexander": Beating a rival Leonardo DiCaprio-Baz Luhrman project to the finish line, Oliver Stone ("Platoon") directs Colin Farrell as the continent-conquering Macedonian bisexual, with onlocation footage from Morocco and Thailand.

"The Incredibles": Muscling out "Shark Tale" from a choice piece of November real estate, this Pixar-produced story of a family of undercover superheroes was directed by Brad Bird ("The Iron Giant").

Nov. 10

"The Polar Express": Yet another computer-animated family movie, this one is a $150 million monster featuring voice work by Tom Hanks. Based on a popular yuletide children’s book about a North Pole-bound locomotive.

"The Ring 2": Naomi Watts reprises her role from the 2002 horror hit "The Ring," playing a journalist bedeviled by demonic video footage and one creepy little girl.

Nov. 12

"The Flight of the Phoenix": The "Behind Enemy Lines" director returns to familiar territory, helming this guy-targeted drama about a crew of oil workers who crash-land in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, then have to build a new airplane from the wreckage to escape. Dennis Quaid and Tyrese Gibson star.

Nov. 19

"The Interpreter": In this updated spin on Francis Ford Coppola’s "The Conversation," Nicole Kidman plays a United Nations interpreter who overhears details of an assassination plot. Sydney Pollack ("The Firm") directs.

"Last First Kiss": Fluff king Andy Tennant ("Sweet Home Alabama") directs Will Smith as a professional matchmaker who is investigated by Eva Mendes, again playing a law enforcement officer, again preposterously.

"The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie": Underground comic Tom Kenny voices the Nickelodeon cartoon hero, a friendly, optimistic coral reef sponge shaped like a kitchen sponge, not gnarled and twisty like most sponges. For kids and stoners only.

"Surviving Christmas": As "Paycheck" demonstrated, nothing quite says Christmas like Ben Affleck. Here, he plays a rich but lonely record executive who hires a family to take him in for the holidays, only to discover they’re nuttier than his real family.

Nov. 24

"National Treasure": Fortune hunters, led by Nicolas Cage, hunt for a chest of riches allegedly hidden by Ben Franklin, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson as funds for the Revolutionary War. Harvey Keitel also stars.

November TBA

"Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason": Renee Zellweger reprises her role as the love-starved, metabolically challenged (i.e., chubby) British working gal. Hugh Grant also returns for the sequel.

Dec. 10

"Ocean’s Twelve": George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon and

director Steven Soderbergh had so much fun the first time around,

they decided to make a second. The much indemand Bernie Mac climbs

on board.

"Skipping Christmas": Weary of the holiday hullabaloo, Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis decide to skip Christmas, suffering unforeseen consequences in the bargain.

Dec. 17

"The Aviator": L eonardo DiCaprio plays Howard Hughes in his most productive, pre-germaphobic years, when he built an aviation empire and romanced the likes of Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett), Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale) and Jean Harlow (Gwen Stefani). Martin Scorsese directs.

"Cinderella Man": Ron Howard reteams with "A Beautiful Mind" star Russell Crowe for this biopic of Depression-era boxer James J. Braddock. Renee Zellweger also stars.

"Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events": Starstudded family fare has Jim Carrey as an evil relative who conspires to swipe a humongous inheritance from three orphaned siblings.

Dec. 22

"Meet the Fockers": Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro continue their "boy meets goy" schtick, this time involving Stiller’s Jewish parents.

Dec. 24

"The Phantom of the Opera": Sorry, Michael Crawford fans — in the end, Andrew Lloyd Webber and director Joel Schumacher picked Scottish act or Gerard Butler ("Timeline") to play hideously disfigured tenor Erik the Phantom in the big-screen adaptation of Lloyd Webber’s gothic musical. Emmy Rossum ("Passionada") will play the haunted soprano, Christine.

Dec. 26

"An Unfinished Life": Reclaiming his usual Christmas cleanup spot in the Miramax batting order, director Lasse Hallstrom ("Chocolat," "The Cider House Rules") helms this drama about an abused wife and mother (Jennifer Lopez) who escapes to Wyoming to live with her estranged father-in-law (Robert Redford).

Fall/winter TBA

"First Daughter": The second of the year’s two presidentialdaughter comedies stars Katie Holmes as a rebellious political debutante who unwittingly falls in love with the young Secret Service agent assigned to protect her.

"Exorcist: The Beginning": Stellan Skarsgard and Gabriel Mann star in this supernatural prequel that recounts Father Merrin’s first encounter with the devil in pre-World War II Africa.

Five for 2005

A look ahead to some of the biggest titles a year from now.

"Indiana Jones 4": Steven Spielberg and Paramount have targeted a July 2005 release date for the latest "Raiders" sequel, with Harrison Ford as Indy and Sean Connery as his dad, signed and sealed. Nothing is known about the plot (or the title), though it presumably takes place in the ’50s or ’60s. "Indiana Jones and the Cuban Missile Crisis?"

"Star Wars: Episode III": Other than the full title, there isn’t much we don’t already know about this trilogy capper: Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) becomes Darth Vader, Chewbacca makes an appearance and the Old Republic gets the final shaft.

"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory": Tim Burton has agreed to put his lively visual talents to work in this Warner Bros.-financed remake, with Johnny Depp playing eccentric confectionaire Willy Wonka.

"King Kong": Peter Jackson’s first project since "The Lord of the Rings" will star Naomi Watts in the Fay Wray role and feature all the same technical talent as the Tolkien trilogy. Universal is shooting for a Christmas release.

"Batman: Intimidation": Welsh actor Christian Bale ("American Psycho") dons the batcowl for director Christopher Nolan ("Memento") in this $120 million resurrection of the batty franchise.

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