Several films have gone on release in the US in a last-minute bid for Oscars consideration.

'Chicago', starring Renee Zellwegger and Catherine Zeta Jones, is seen as a leading contender.

This big screen version of the successful musical has already received eight Golden Globe nominations.

Other new releases tipped for Oscar glory include, Nicole Kidman's portrayal of novelist Virginia Woolf in 'The Hours' and Polish-born director Roman Polanski's Palme d'Or winner 'The Pianist'.

Also on release is a new version of Charles Dickens' 'Nicholas Nickleby' with Christopher Plummer and Jim Broadbent.

Films are often released as close to the 31 December Oscar deadline as possible to keep them fresh in the minds of Academy voters ahead of the 11 February nominations.

'Chicago' is set for release in Ireland on 17 January. 'The Pianist' is due out here on 24 January.