This holiday season, audiences will see Saoirse Ronan – the Northern Irish wunderkind actress – in the intense drama The Lovely Bones, also starring Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon and Mark Wahlberg. Ronan plays a girl who is brutally murdered and, afterwards, watches from beyond the grave as her friends and family try to come to terms with this horrific turn of events.

Next spring, however, Ronan will be taking a trip to merry Sherwood Forest. She is set to star alongside Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett in a new movie version of the Robin Hood saga. Directed by blockbuster veteran Ridley Scott (American Gangster, Black Hawk Down, Gladiator, Alien), this is just the latest big screen version of the Robin Hood tale. Past films have featured a wide range of males in the lead role, from Kevin Costner to Errol Flynn (who often touted himself as an Irishman, though his parents were Australian).

Blanchett and Crowe played historic Irish characters in previous films. Cate Blanchett portrayed crusading journalist Veronica Guerin, while Crowe was legendary Irish-American boxer Jim Braddock in Cinderella Man.
Expect to see Ronan, Crowe and Blanchett in Robin Hood in May 2010.
Later in 2010, Scott will be directing Liam Neeson in the movie version of the campy TV classic The A-Team. More on Liam Neeson later.

Aside from Saoirse Ronan, Irish movie buffs will also be spending the Christmas season with Daniel Day-Lewis and Jim Sheridan.
Day-Lewis, not seen since his screen-chewing, Oscar-winning turn in 2007’s There Will Be Blood, is among those in the star-studded cast of Nine. Also featuring Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench and Kate Hudson, Nine is loosely based on Federico Fellini’s head-tripping 1963 film 8 1/2. The film explores a movie director beset on all sides by demanding women, including lovers, would-be lovers and even his deceased mother. Nine is set to be released Christmas Day.

In early December, director Jim Sheridan’s next film Brothers will also be released. Featuring Jake Gyllenhall and Tobey Maguire as the titular siblings, Sheridan (In America, In the Name of the Father) is aiming for another Oscar in this drama about an Afghan War veteran (Maguire) who returns home to a wife (Natalie Portman) who may have fallen in love with Gyllenhall’s character.

Anjelica Huston – daughter of Irish-American Hollywood legend John Huston, whose last film was James Joyce’s The Dead – will ring in the new year co-starring in a romantic comedy entitled When in Rome. Also starring Kristen Bell and Jon Heder (forever known as Napoleon Dynamite), When in Rome is about an ambitious New York woman (Bell) who runs off to Rome in search of love. She comes across a seemingly magic fountain, which sends an odd assortment of potential lovers her way. When a nosy reporter (Josh Duhamel) begins sniffing around the story of the magic fountain, it could be that true love has been found.
Stephen Rea (The Crying Game) and Irish-American thespian Martin Sheen have signed on to star in an Irish movie project, which will actually be shooting in the Tipperary town where Sheen’s mother was born. The film, entitled Stella Days, features Sheen as a movie-loving priest, and is based on the life of an Irish priest by the name of Father Dean Cahill, who set up a movie theater in the tiny town of Borrisokane in the 1950s and 1960s. In Stella Days, Sheen’s character fears he has lost his passion for the priesthood. That is, until the locals – and the movies – light a new fire inside of him. Thaddeus O’Sullivan (Ordinary Decent Criminal) is among those who have been mentioned to serve as director of Stella Days. The film is based on a book by Michael Dorley Dubhairle entitled Stella Days: The Life and Times of a Rural Irish Cinema.

Ridley Scott’s The A-Team is just one of several movies Liam Neeson has coming out soon. In 2011, you’ll see Neeson with the aforementioned Russell Crowe and Irish-American actress Olivia Wilde (best known for TV roles in House and the Irish New York drama The Black Donnellys) in The Next Three Days. Based on a French film entitled Anything for Her, The Next Three Days also features Irish-American veteran Brian Dennehy, as well as Elizabeth Banks (W). The film will be directed by Paul Haggis, who won an Oscar for 2004’s Crash.
Neeson will also be seen in an upcoming film about Irish showbands in America entitled The Virgin of Las Vegas. U2 frontman Bono is among the producers.

Pierce Brosnan, meanwhile, is as busy as Liam Neeson.
Brosnan and Susan Sarandon will soon be seen in The Greatest, written and directed by Shana Feste. The film, which was a favorite at The Hamptons International Film Festival in October, looks at a family in the wake of a tragedy involving their son. The Greatest also features Carey Mulligan, the British actress who recently earned raves in The Education.
Brosnan has at least three additional movies set for release in the next year or so. There’s Vanilla Gorilla, a comedy-drama about an albino ape directed by Irishman Terry Loane.
Then there’s Remember Me, due out in February 2010. Finally there’s Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief, which also features Steve Coogan (whose parents were Irish immigrants to England), Uma Thurman and Sean Bean.
Speaking of the Hamptons Film Fest, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus closed the festival. Directed by Terry Gilliam, the film has gotten tremendous attention because it was the movie Heath Ledger was working on when he unexpectedly died. Dubliner Colin Farrell, Johnny Depp and Jude Law take turns playing Ledger’s character.

You’ll also see Farrell in an upcoming film from director  Neil Jordan entitled Ondine and set in the west of Ireland.
Incidentally, Jordan’s long-gestating TV series about the infamous Borgia family may turn up on Showtime next spring. Show biz insiders are saying the Borgia series could replace the heavily Irish Showtime hit The Tudors, which is ending its run. Though The Tudors dramatizes the trials and tribulations of British royalty, the series is filmed in Ireland and its cast includes Irish talent such as Jonathan Rhys Myers and Peter O’Toole. Jordan’s series about the Borgias will look at the trials and tribulations of another prominent family, an Italian one during the Renaissance which produced a pope as well as many accusations of corruption and murder.

In other Irish TV news, Gabriel Byrne’s HBO series In Treatment will be back for a third season. Byrne plays Dr. Weston in the critically acclaimed show. Each episode takes a close look at Dr. Weston’s session with a particular patient. In Treatment also stars Oscar winner Dianne Wiest. Production on the third season should begin early in 2010.

On to DVD news. Director Troy Duffy’s sequel to his notorious first flick Boondock Saints was released in October and should be available soon on DVD. The first film was a cheesy gore fest about Boston Irish gangsters which became a cult classic—mainly after the release of a documentary about Duffy’s rise to fame, which depicted the bartender-turned-director as self-destructive and spoiled.
Speaking of which, in a world of temperamental artists and super-rich celebrities, it’s refreshing to hear about a film such as Into Temptation.
Starring Kristen Chenoweth and directed by Patrick Coyle, the movie was an homage to the 50-year-old director’s Irish Catholic father, who was once a seminarian but eventually raised eight kids in Omaha, Nebraska.
Available on DVD, Into Temptation is about a prostitute and a flawed but dedicated priest. According to the Omaha World-Herald, Coyle showed his dad the film in a hospice, where the 91-year-old was slowly dying. “He loved it,” Coyle said. “He felt it resonated very truthfully, that it was powerful.”
The elder Coyle died just weeks later.