BIG FISH
Director Tim Burton applies his, uh, unique visual style to the story of William Bloom and his attempt to reconstruct the life of his dying father, Edward. A traveling salesman, Edward’s journeys were way more interesting than, say, giving a slide presentation in some client’s conference room. Edward, you see, talked with animals and rode giant fish. Wacky. Billy Crudup portrays William; Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney split time as Edward, young and old. An excellent exercise in escapism. December 10

MONA LISA SMILE
Come Oscar time, this movie’s cast and crew will be smiling. A 1950s-era teacher (Julia Roberts) hates that her students at an all-girls’ college (Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, and other top talent) are more interested in an MRS degree than a BA, because that’s what society dictates. Roberts pushes them to fight the powers that be. December 19
— JOE GUINTO