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November 13, 2001

Hollywood's Great Escape
Kenneth Turan

Anthrax. Hijackings. Terrorism. Israelis and Palestinians at each other's throats. Destruction and loss of life on a staggering scale.

Had enough? Eager to flee to another world, a place far removed from our terribly troubled one, a parallel universe, if you will, where evil exists but the forces of good are powerful and can be counted on to know exactly what they're doing? Who wouldn't be ready for that trip right now?

In a coincidence remarkable even by Hollywood standards, at a moment when Americans are understandably enthusiastic about psychological escape, two widely popular epics of 20th century fantasy literature are coming to the screen to anchor the holiday movie schedule.

Out first, on Friday, is the relatively recent "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," published in 1998, the opening work in J.K. Rowling's multi-volume series about a young boy who, all unknowing, has in him the makings of a great wizard. The Potter books have been the publishing phenomenon of the last decade, and Warner Bros. has taken care that the film, directed by Chris Columbus from a script by Steve Kloves, has been appropriately cast. Among the performers to be seen roaming the halls of Hogwarts are Richard Harris, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane and Maggie Smith.

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