Excess Hollywood

In the season of sequels and Happy Meal toys, '05 may be a pleasant surprise.

Why it will be dreadful: This promises to be a plot-heavy romp that could easily fire blanks.

The Pink Panther
With: Steve Martin, Kevin Kline, Beyonce Knowles and Jean Reno

Directed by: Shawn Levy

Written by: Len Blum, Steve Martin, Michael Saltzman and Glen Bloomberg

What it's about: A new take on Peter Sellers' surpassingly incompetent French detective in which Jacques Clouseau (Martin) tackles a case combining a murdered soccer coach, a priceless diamond, and the usual selection of beautiful women.

Why it will be fabulous: It takes les grandes balles for Martin to assail the rich life and high art of Inspector Clouseau.

Why it will be dreadful: Can The Jerk outbumble Peter the Great? The smart money says non.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
With: Amber Tamblyn, Blake Lively, Alexis Bledel and America Ferrera

Directed by: Ken Kwapis (Dunston Checks In)

Written by: Delia Ephron and Elizabeth Chandler

What it's about: Based on a popular novel by Ann Brashares, this teen-girl flick is the story of four friends whose lives go in separate directions. To keep in touch, they pass around a pair of pants that happens to be a perfect fit for all four of them.

Why it will be fabulous: It has the coolest title of the year by far.

Why it will be dreadful: One pair of pants that fits four different adolescent girls equally well?

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
With: Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor, Ian McDiarmid, Natalie Portman and Chewbacca

Directed by: George Lucas

Written by: Lucas, though word is that Tom Stoppard did some ghost writing too.

What it's about: Anakin Skywalker (Christensen) finally turns into Darth Vader and kills a lot of people. Chewbacca shows up. Yoda fights a lightsaber duel with the Emperor (who's also known as Darth Sidious, just for confusion's sake). New baddie General Grievous fights with four lightsabers at once, thereby owning Darth Maul's dead, cut-in-half ass.

Why it will be fabulous: Darth Vader and Chewbacca, people! Plus Jar Jar apparently only shows up in the background and doesn't speak.

Why it will be dreadful: If there's any way to screw up a good story, George Lucas can find it. Also, Jar Jar doesn't die.

War of the Worlds
With: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning and Tim Robbins

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Written by: David Koepp and Josh Friedman, based on the novel by H.G. Wells

What it's about: A family fights for survival amid an invasion of "alien tripod fighting machines."

Why it will be fabulous: Expect lots of special-effects dazzle in the Close Encounters/Jurassic Park style, and more of Spielberg's characteristic empathy for the little guy.

Why it will be dreadful: Tom Cruise.

Zu Warriors
With: Sammo Hung and Zhang Ziyi

Directed by: Tsui Hark

Written by: Choi Lee Man and Tsui Hark

What it's about: Yet another highly acclaimed Hong Kong action epic that Miramax has been holding onto for years. It's the sequel to 1983's Zu: Warriors of the Magic Mountain, but don't sweat it if you never saw that one -- the plot's a minor detail. Something about a mystical realm and forces of good and evil, with lots of fights choreographed by the master, Yuen Wo Ping.

Why it will be fabulous: It's been out internationally for four years, and HK fanatics have been yelling its praises ever since.

Why it will be dreadful: Miramax (or whoever's left in its place these days) still has time to screw things up with bad editing and a lousy dub.

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