A Beautiful Mind (PG-13)

Director Ron Howard's bio of Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr. is the darkest and most complex material the former Opie has yet tackled. Though he makes an effort to mine the inspiration vein whenever possible, he meets the challenge of the tougher stuff with enough success to make the film worth seeing. Alternately gripping and simplistic, it benefits greatly from solid performances. Russell Crowe does not attempt to ingratiate the difficult Nash and is given admirable support by Jennifer Connelly as his spirited but tested wife. The invaluable Ed Harris (who probably would have made a good Nash, too) lends menace as a CIA spook who recruits and haunts Nash. All in all, the best bits lift the film higher than its weaknesses can pull it down. (Pat Holmes)

In the Bedroom (R)

Actor-director (and Portland native) Todd Field has created an angst-ridden, exquisitely agonizing film about middle-class passions, familial love, guilt and repression that's as depressing as it is impressive. Sissy Spacek and Brit actor Tom Wilkinson are flawless as a midlife couple wrestling with grief, and Marisa Tomei shines as their son's older, single-mom lover. The movie's a feast for those who love great acting Ñ but it's a downer that lingers long after the lights come back up. (Dawn Taylor)

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (PG-13)

The first installment in the screen adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic fantasy trilogy is a true epic that seems to have thrilled its makers as much as it should thrill its viewers. The film's distributor would love to have it make tons of money, of course, but director Peter Jackson was clearly in it for love rather than lucre. The passion he brings to the tale is rare enough for any film these days; for a special effects-heavy production such as this, it's nearly unheard-of. (PH)

The Royal Tenenbaums (R)

There's no better actor in the movies than Gene Hackman, and this drolly eccentric family saga gives him his best role in years as the pater unfamilias of a family of former prodigies. The children (Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson) of Hackman's ne'er-do-well Royal Tenenbaum all had promising futures thwarted by the departure of their father. Now he is back to try to reclaim the love of those children and the wife (Anjelica Huston) who had to raise them alone. As directed by Wes Anderson ('Rushmore,' 'Bottle Rocket'), this is a wonderfully off-kilter comedy that slowly and almost imperceptibly reveals a surprising depth and poignancy. Hackman's performance is a triumph, and Anderson's style is curiously compelling (like his deadpan use of widescreen imagery). The film is one of the year's best Ñ a perfect Christmas gift to give yourself. (PH)

The Shipping News (R)

Kevin Spacey eschews his usual firecracker performance style to play a mopey sad sack, battered by love, who moves to a small Newfoundland fishing village. Surrounded by quirky townsfolk, he meets an improbably gorgeous single mom (Julianne Moore), gets life lessons from his crusty aunt (Judi Dench) and starts to grow a spine. Uplifting Oscar material for fans of Lasse Hallstršm ('What's Eating Gilbert Grape,' 'The Cider House Rules'). (DT)

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