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Laurie Sparham, New Line Cinemas
Nicole Kidman and Dakota Blue Richards star in the fantasy adventure "The Golden Compass," which opens Dec. 7.

Variety. It certainly spices up the holidays, and it's what makes each holiday movie season so intriguing.

The list of upcoming movie releases could fill a cinematic cornucopia.

New Line Cinema is hoping to launch the next "Lord of the Rings"-type movie sensation with its adaptation of "The Golden Compass," a fantasy based on the first of a trilogy of novels by Philip Pullman.

Oddball filmmaker Tim Burton is unveiling another nightmare before Christmas. This time, it's his version of the musical "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," with Johnny Depp playing the title character.

And there's no shortage of serious Academy Award contenders. Among those expected to catch Oscar's eye — and perhaps the trophy itself — are "Atonement" and "Charlie Wilson's War," which star Keira Knightley and Tom Hanks, respectively.

Also in the mix are acclaimed filmmakers the Coen brothers and P.T. Anderson, who, respectively, return with "No Country for Old Men" and "There Will Be Blood."

Joining those movies in theaters this holiday season are several ...

FAMILY FILMS

The popular cartoon "Alvin and the Chipmunks" gets the live-action treatment; "August Rush" is a musical fantasy; Natalie Portman inherits "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium;" and the title character of "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep" just happens to live near Loch Ness.

SEQUELS

Follow-ups to past hits include "Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem" and "National Treasure: Book of Secrets."

TEARJERKERS

"The Bucket List" teams Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, while widower John Cusack tries to raise two daughters and come to terms with loss in "Grace is Gone."

THRILLERS

Will Smith may be all alone in "I am Legend," a remake of both "The Omega Man" and "The Last Man on Earth." And "The Shawshank Redemption" filmmaker Frank Darabont returns with another Stephen King adaptation, "The Mist."

A few late-arriving Oscar contenders and other post-holiday films will be covered in our Early 2008 Movie Preview in January.

Coming soon to a theater near you


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