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Holiday film preview 

by Ed Symkus

Ah well, the Hollywood folks get one shot at doing things right, then go and blow it. Unless you're living and viewing movies in Los Angeles, San Francisco or Washington, D.C., you're just going to have to wait till 2002 to catch the big screen re-issue of 2001: A Space Odyssey. That's got to be some kind of cinematic sacrilege.

But nitpicking aside, there are still a dozen or so films opening throughout the rest of the year that offer plenty of options for movie fans of every ilk. The holiday season really kicks off this week with Harry Potter (see full review on page 35), but the rest of the season looks good, from a war thriller to a wiseguy escapade, from a silly spoof to a gigantic budget fantasy, from a heroic biography to something just for the kids. Here's a sample of what's coming.

As always, release dates may change.

November 21

Martin Lawrence takes a go at medieval mayhem (a la Knight's Tale) in Black Knight, where his lumpy football jersey and smart-ass ways don't exactly jive with 1328 court sensibilities.

Robert Redford and Brad Pitt, who worked together so well in A River Runs Through It, reunite for Spy Game, a CIA drama in which hell-bent-for-retirement Redford endeavors to free imprisoned-in-China Pitt.

Ed Burns treads through Woody Allen territory in Sidewalks of New York, opening now after its September postponement. Starring Burns, Heather Graham and Stanley Tucci, Sidewalks chronicles the messy-but-engaging love lives of six Manhattanites.

And it's been awhile since we've seen Lee Majors (yep, the Six Million Dollar Man). In Out Cold, he joins a cast of comely young unknowns in a comedic snowboard film.

November 21

In Behind Enemy Lines, Owen Wilson is the hapless pilot photographing Bosnia from above who is shot down, then hunted by the military. Commanding officer Gene Hackman tries to get him through a living hell while fierce explosions become a regular event all around him. Based on the book Return With Honor.

december 7

The year's biggest remake, under the guidance of Lewis Milestone 40 years ago and now directed by Steven Soderbergh, is Ocean's 11, featuring a whole new kind of Rat Pack. It's still about a big heist in Vegas, but now people named Clooney and Pitt and Roberts do what Sinatra and Martin and Dickinson did before.

An American gal and a Brit guy (Susie Porter and David Wenham) meet at a party, dig each other, go home together, and have a pretty wild night in Better Than Sex, each knowing that they'll shortly be parting ways when he heads back across the ocean. But of course, emotions get in the way. An ideal romantic comedy for twentysomethings.

december 14

Cruise and Cruz must be hoping to do better than Cruise and Kidman (both in real life and film) when they star in Vanilla Sky, Cameron Crowe's remake of the 1997 Spanish film Abres los Ojos, a very offbeat story of a womanizer who steals his best pal's girl, is disfigured in a car accident, then tries to reestablish his life.

Not Another Teen Movie sounds terribly familiar, as it's the story of a high school football star who bets he can turn a plain Jane into a prom queen. The only thing it might have going for it is that it doesn't take itself seriously and it features both Randy Quaid and Mr. T.

Things get all psychological in The Business of Strangers when rising business star Stockard Channing and her assistant Julia Stiles are stuck in a hotel and get to know too much about each other's ambitions. And let's face it, Ol' Stockard can be mighty scary.

december 19

Sales of the Lord of the Rings trilogy have picked up recently. I wonder why. The answer comes in this first installment (two more in the next two years) of the Tolkien extravaganza about Bilbo and Frodo and Gandalf (Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen) and friends and enemies in Middle Earth. Hey, until it opens, give another listen to Led Zep's "Ramble On."

december 21

Director Wes Anderson's first film since the amazing Rushmore is The Royal Tenenbaums. The Tenenbaum kids -- all prodigies -- have now grown up into Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow and Luke Wilson and are reunited with their nasty father (Gene Hackman) who was tossed out by mom years ago. We soon find out why.

Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius looks to be a dazzling blend of kids being kids (one of them pretty darn smart), a space invasion and wild ideas presented in state-of-the-art computer animation. It also has a healthy dose of slapstick.

In 1951, Hollywood writer Jim Carrey is blacklisted, then loses his memory in an accident, and settles down in another town where Martin Landau believes he's his long-lost son in The Majestic. Some humor, some tears, some drama. That's why the name Capra keeps popping up in descriptions of it.

The serio-light side of revenge is featured in Joe Somebody, in which office worker Tim Allen takes a beating from co-worker Patrick Warburton right in front of his daughter. The question rests on what type of revenge is appropriate since it will obviously affect the child.

And anyone who's ever wished for their own Jane Austen hero to step forward from the Age of Reason (Colin Firth as Pride and Prejudice's Mr. Darcy springs to mind) will appreciate Kate and Leopold. Meg Ryan is a 21st century career woman; Hugh Jackman is all sideburns-and-ruffles as a misplaced 19th century duke.

december 25

There are multiple meanings to the title In the Bedroom, a tense, heartbreaking tale of a family that's shattered by murder and its after-effects. It features a startling outcome. Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson star as a quietly desperate couple, backed by a superb, understated cast. The film is slow but enthralling.

Will Smith takes the title role in Ali, Michael Mann's new film about the champ and his physical and emotional battles in and out of the ring. Look forward to Ron Silver as Angelo Dundee and Jon Voight as Howard Cosell.

Can a film about a brilliant mathematician who develops schizophrenic tendencies sell? Here's why it could: A Beautiful Mind stars Russell Crowe (sans sword), Jennifer Connelly and Ed Harris. The true story is directed by Ron Howard.

And finally, early buzz is good for The Shipping News, the Lasse Hallstrom adaptation of E. Annie Proulx's award-winning novel. Kevin Spacey is a widowed writer still haunted by his drowned wife (Cate Blanchett), but shored up by new love Julianne Moore and long-lost aunt Judi Dench.

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