For now, at least, get ahead of the crowd with this first look at the 2005 movies that should have everyone talking:
KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, May 6
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Orlando Bloom, Liam Neeson, Eva Green
Story: Set near the end of the Crusades, a Christian Knight leads the defense of Jerusalem against a Muslim siege while dallying with the king’s daughter.
Buzz: Though it’s a conventional sword-and-sandal epic, the violence between Christians and Muslims will push some hot buttons – with images of Muslims attacking churches and tearing down the cross and mocking it.
MR. AND MRS. SMITH, June 10
Director: Doug Liman
Cast: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie
Story: A happily married suburban couple is tested when each learns that the other is a professional assassin and that they have competing bosses.
Buzz: At what moment did Angelina come between Brad and Jennifer? Will closeups tell? Curious heads will be spinning.
WAR OF THE WORLDS, June 29
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Tim Robbins
Story: Adapted from H.G. Wells’ 1889 novella about the invasion of Earth by smart, well-equipped and very evil Martians.
Buzz: With life on Mars now more likely than ever, and the story updated to the present, it’s sure to cause a spike in the number of reported UFO abductions.
SYRIANA, Sept. 16
Director: Stephen Gaghan
Cast: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Amanda Peet
Story: With terrorism on the increase, a veteran CIA field agent finds that politics at home is draining his resources and serving the enemy in the Middle East.
Buzz: Besides its critical look at the beleaguered CIA, Clooney fans will be trying to guess how many dishes of pasta and Krispy Kreme doughnuts he ate while gaining 30 pounds for the part.
BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, Oct. 7
Director: Ang Lee
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Heath Ledger
Story: Adapted from E. Annie Proulx’s short story about a ranch hand and a rodeo cowboy who fall in love while sheepherding in 1963 Wyoming (much to the relief of the sheep).
Buzz: Can Lee redeem himself for The Hulk, and will red-staters turn out for movie about gay cowboys on their own turf?
THE NEW WORLD, Nov. 9
Director: Terrence Malick
Cast: Colin Farrell, Christian Bale
Story: Malick’s script is said to stick closely to the historical record in reenacting the tenuous relationship between British colonists and Native Americans in 1607 Jamestown.
Buzz: Lawyers fearing a run-in with child pornography laws compelled Malick to reshoot a love scene between Farrell’s John Smith and 14-year-old Q’Orianka Kilcher’s Pocahontas, who was, in fact, 12 at the time.
JARHEAD, Nov. 11
Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jamie Foxx, Peter Sarsgaard
Story: Adapted from Anthony Swofford’s autobiographical novel about his experiences in a scout/sniper platoon during the Gulf War.
Buzz: Comparisons to the current predicament of soldiers in Iraq are inevitable.
KING KONG, Dec. 14
Director: Peter Jackson
Cast: Naomi Watts, Adrien Brody, Jack Black
Story: A filmmaker and two fellow adventurers follow a map to a South Pacific island whose natives and an assortment of dinosaurs are ruled by a 25-foot-tall gorilla with an eye for blonds.
Buzz: Watts’ Ann Darrow is said to be tougher ape-bait than Fay Wray or Jessica Lange, but with Jackson’s tech credits on The Lord of the Rings, the film special effects will be all the rage.
THE PRODUCERS, Dec. 21
Director: Susan Stroman
Cast: Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Uma Thurman, Will Ferrell
Story: A shady Broadway producer and a timid accountant conspire to raise money for a play they expect to close after opening night. Whoops.
Buzz: Creator Mel Brooks swears that Uma Thurman has a great singing voice and will give Ula, the boys’ Swedish secretary, extra sizzle. Plus, he’ll be filming all over New York this spring.
VENGEANCE, Dec. 23
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Eric Bana, Daniel Craig
Story: Dramatizes the raid of the Israeli athletes’ quarters by PLO terrorists during the 1972 Olympics in Munich.
Buzz: The last time Spielberg followed a summer popcorn movie with a heartfelt drama about Jews in peril, he made his masterpiece, Schindler’s List.
© 2005, New York Daily News. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.