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Looking Forward: Films, books and music to look out for in 2010

Try for a minute to forget how miserable January has been so far. The weather may have put a damper on everything for the first two weeks of 2010 but the rest of the year -- at least in cultural terms -- looks to be an absolute scorcher.

From huge albums, blockbusting movie and massive novels, this year is the one for those with an interest in the arts. Our correspondents in the know -- George Byrne (film), Sinéad Gleeson (music) and Declan Burke (books) -- predict the hottest tickets of the year ...

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION

HQ's movie critic George Byrne gazes into his crystal ball to see what the highlights of the movie calendar will offer

>>BIG BOX OFFICE Now that James Cameron's Avatar has stolen the worldwide box office crown for 2009, we can expect profit-obsessed studios to retro-fit several current projects to accommodate 3-D, given that Avatar's figures were artificially inflated due to ticket prices being higher in the updated format.

It's rumoured that Ridley Scott's Robin Hood, starring Russell Crowe and due in May, is to undergo a 3-D makeover in post-production.

There'll be two movies this year about the Ninth Roman Legion which headed into Scotland in 120AD to sort out the locals and promptly disappeared. Neil Marshall's Centurion, with Dominic West and Michael Fassbender, will most likely be the gorier of the two and hits screens on May 21st, with Kevin Macdonald's Eagle of the Ninth following later.

>>OSCAR FRIENDLY The earlier part of the year is usually when we get to see the major Oscar candidates for ourselves, and thus it's a case of Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela in Clint Eastwood's Invictus (Feb 5th), although I'm not sure Matt Damon can bulk up sufficiently to play South Africa rugby captain Francois Pienaar. He also portrays a US soldier in Paul Greengrass's hotly anticipated Iraq movie Green Zone (March 12th). In fact, you'll want to have plenty of spare time on your hands that weekend as it also sees the release of Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island which stars Leonardo DiCaprio, fantasy remake Clash of the Titans (Sam Worthington and Liam Neeson star). Neil Jordan's mermaid yarn Ondine (with Colin Farrell) is out a week earlier.

>>Sequels As ever, there'll be a rash of sequels and follow-ons heading our way. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the Swedish adaptation of Stieg Larsson's massive best-seller which will be followed in September by The Girl Who Played with Fire and in November by The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.

Oliver Stone updates the great Wall Street with Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps (April 23rd), with Michael Douglas's Gordon Gekko apparently having seen the error of his ways, Robert Downey Jr will certainly be made feel welcome in Iron Man 2 (April 30th), while one wonders if Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro can carry the gags for a third time in Little Fockers (July 9th). Franchise fodder beckons with Sex and the City 2 (May 28th), Twilight: Eclipse (July 9th), the first part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (November) and the third instalment of the Narnia saga (late autumn).

>>Animation It looks like there'll be sure-fire commercial winners in The Princess and the Frog (Jan 29th), Shrek Forever After (July 9th) and Toy Story 3 (July 23rd) which will come to us in glorious 3-D.

>>grown-up movies Jim Sheridan's Brothers arrives on January 22nd, the same day as Jacques Audiard's crime drama A Prophet, while the great Jeff Bridges should get at least an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of a country singer in Crazy Heart (Feb 19th).

>>Turkey ahoy! Leap Year (Feb 19th), an Oirish-set rom-com with Amy Adams, sounds so full of begorrah-me-bollox that it makes P.S. I Love You look like Hunger. I can't wait to see it.

THE WRITE STUFF

Last year, it was all about the Millennium trilogy and, of course, the return of Dan Brown that had registers ringing. If you're in the market for something a little different, Declan Burke puts you on the right page

>>Books to Watch For in 2010

The Whisperers by John Connolly (Hodder & Stoughton) Connolly's annual offering finds bedevilled private eye Charlie Parker forging uneasy alliances in order to combat smugglers operating across the Maine-Canadian border -- smugglers who deal in dark and terrifying contraband. (May)

The Skating Rink by Roberto Bolaño (New Directions) The latest of the Chilean author's novels (2666, The Savage Detectives, Nazi Literature in the Americas) to be published posthumously revitalises the crime novel by staying true to the conventions yet offering a dazzling freshness. An apparent 'whodunnit', this police procedural is a superb exercise in narrative voice, and an addictively twisty tale. (October)

Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani (HarperCollins) The sequel to the bestselling Very Valentine finds our intrepid heroine moving between Tuscany, New York and Buenos Aires, and juggling love with the essential business of creating the perfect wedding shoe. (January)

The Pregnant Widow by Martin Amis (Jonathan Cape) Set in an Italian castle in 1970, and featuring an ambitious young English writer intoxicated by lust, this may well be an autobiographical account from Amis, whose hero struggles to bend the new rules of feminism to his own benefit. (February)

Faithful Place by Tana French (Viking Books) Irish author Tana French combines the rare gifts of compelling storytelling with an elegant style. Faithful Place is a spin-off from The Likeness, itself a sequel of sorts to In the Woods, which delves deep into the psyche of an undercover cop's handler and gets under the skin of Ireland's post-boom landscape. (July)

>>One to Watch

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman (Canongate) The bestselling author of the His Dark Materials trilogy turns his sights on the founding tale of Western civilisation in the ongoing Myths series, offering a "part novel, part history, part fairytale" that is certain to create controversy. The proposed trio of movies to be made from Pullman's Dark Materials was spiked in part by an energetic campaign by fundamentalist Christian naysayers; will Pullman have the last laugh? (April)

The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris (Viking Books) The follow-up to Then We Came to the End introduces a man with a compelling urge to walk despite physical degradation, in the process exploring the very essence of compulsion. (January)

Solar by Ian McEwan (Jonathan Cape) McEwan's latest blends physics, comedy and lashings of sex in a timely tale of climate change, in which a burnt-out scientist grasps at one last chance to save the planet from itself. (March)

>>One to Watch

The Tree of Seasons by Stephen Gately (Hodder & Stoughton) It may not bode well that Boyzone singer Gately, left, was still working on his fantasy novel when he died, but the end result should be a fascinating one for many reasons. With a foreword by Elton John. (April)

If I Never See You Again by Niamh O'Connor (Transworld) Crime journalist O'Connor has published non-fiction books in the past, but her fiction debut, which introduces hard-nosed Dublin detective Jo Birmingham, has been compared with Lynda La Plante, and her inside knowledge of Dublin's crime world should give it a cutting edge. (February)

MUSIC TO LISTEN OUT FOR

Want to know the hippest bands of 2010 but don't have time to identify them yourself? Sinéad Gleeson does all the hard work for you ...

>>Ellie Goulding The Welsh singer has just won the BBC Sound of 2010 competition. Her debut album, Lights, will be released in March. www.elliegoulding.co.uk

>>beach house Everyone has declared that Teen Dream (released next week) the album of 2010. The Baltimore duo, Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand, made it in a church in New York. www.myspace.com/beachhousemusic

>>two door cinema club Hailing from Bangor, Co Antrim, the trio favours hook-heavy, infectious tunes that landed them a spot on the BBC's Sound of 2010 longlist. Their debut album, Tourist History, is set for release at the end of February. www.myspace.com/twodoorcinemaclub

>>i blame coco Daughter of Sting, Coco Sumner has landed a multiple-album record deal. www.iblamecoco.co.uk

>>frankie & the heartstrings In December they launched a double A-side single, but had previously caught the ear of Florence (her of The Machine), who brought them on tour. www.myspace.com/frankietheheartstrings

>>Villagers Ex-member of The Immediate, Conor O'Brien released a stunning solo EP last year as Villagers. He is currently working on his debut album. www.myspace.com/wearevillagers

>>the drums One of the catchiest songs of 2009 was Let's Go Surfing. This is upbeat indie pop at its finest. They released two singles and an EP and a debut album is on its way. www.myspace.com/thedrumsforever

>>Rox Half-Iranian, half-Jamaican and just 21, Roxanne Tania Tataei's voice on her debut album Memoirs is being compared to Amy Winehouse's. www.myspace.com/roxmusik

>>Freelance Whales Their Weathervanes debut album in the US towards the end of 2009 is a really sharp, diverse collection of tempos and melodies. www.freelancewhales.com

>>Stornoway Yet another band that made it on to the BBC's Sound of 2010 poll, but sadly didn't make the top five. Surprising, given that their single, Zorbing, was one of the most captivating tunes of last year. www.myspace.com/stornoway

ALBUMS TO LOOK OUT FOR

Already 2010 is shaping up to be a stellar year for releases. January is straight out of the traps with albums from Laura Veirs, Beach House and Owen Pallet. In February, Marina and the Diamonds release their debut after coming second in the BBC's Sound of 2010 poll. The same month, albums are due from Massive Attack and Hot Chip, and there are some big indie names returning with albums this year, including The Strokes, The National, Fleet Foxes, Arcade Fire and Joanna Newsom. Sade is back next month with Soldier of Love. R.E.M. are currently in the studio recording their 15th album. Crowded House are due to release a new album, and Scissor Sisters are working on their third record. Noel Gallagher is preparing to release his first solo album. Eminem is out of rehab and gearing up to start work on new material. And Amy Winehouse's follow-up to Back To Black is (lightly) pencilled in for a release in 2010. HQ


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