The Great Escape

Chain Gangs! Cast Aways! Kung Fu! Chocolate! ... It's Time for the Holiday Film Previews

It's no coincidence that the holiday season -- with its stubborn insistence on family time -- remains the best season of the year for film. In between the months' hectic blaze of shopping, eating, and, well, arguing, we all need some quality time in a dark, quiet theatre. Now, we'll be the first to admit that this year's crop of films has been downright mediocre so far. But we're optimists here at the Chronicle, and we have faith that better days lie ahead for filmgoers. We've selected 13 upcoming movies (out of the fiftysomething being released) to highlight in this holiday film preview: the latest from a few of our favorite directors, like the Coen Brothers (O Brother, Where Art Thou?) and Steven Soderbergh (Traffic); modest, likable comedies (Lasse Hallström's Chocolat, David Mamet's State and Main); and high-profile epics, like Billy Bob Thornton's adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses. Of course, December and January are "Oscar season," and some of the following films -- Cast Away, Quills, and Finding Forrester -- boast the kind of shining pedigree usually favored by the Academy. But who knows? Maybe Ang Lee will kick everyone's ass with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Maybe Johnny Depp will finally win an Oscar. Maybe Johnny Depp will finally realize I'm his one true love. It's doubtful. But the important thing is this: When the holiday blues get you down, you'll know there's something you can do to escape.

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