Alaska -- A solid natural history documentary that explores the beauty and harsh realities of nature in an extreme environment, Alaska is deserving of its 1997 Oscar for best documentary short. Gorgeous cinematography shows Alaska through the seasons, from severe winter storms to the promise of spring. At the IMAX. (Randy Matin)

A Beautiful Mind -- Based on the life of mathematician John Nash, who claimed some fame in the '40s and '50s, the film also delves into his family life (Jennifer Connelly plays his wife), and -- here's what it's all about -- his longtime battles with inner demons. The movie achieves greatness in the way Howard has managed to let viewers see the world through Nash's eyes. (ES) RATED: PG-13

Beauty and the Beast

Disney's 1991 animated masterpiece more than stands the test of time in this new version, digitally remastered for the IMAX screen. The new format shows what an astonishing piece of art the original was. A song intended for the original makes its debut, complete with two new scenes. Most of all, Beauty and the Beast survives on the strength of its narrative. (Sheri Boggs) RATED: G

Big Trouble -- Wildly uneven and just too chock-full of storytelling, the tale of goofy people and a nuclear warhead all coming together in Miami is fast-paced and very funny, until you need to take a breath instead of laughing at yet another gag. Stanley Tucci as a nasty rich man and Dennis Farina as an assassin get most of the laughs, but the film is loaded with solid acting. There might be some wincing in the now unfunny airport security scenes (the film was finished before Sept. 11). (ES) Rated: PG-13

Blade 2 -- Wesley Snipes returns as a part-human, part-vampire Daywalker, who is forced to form an uneasy truce with the bad guys he set out to vanquish in the original Blade. A new race of zombie folk, the Reapers, are indiscriminate in their zeal to wipe out both vampires and humans, and it's up to Snipes to save the day in this stylish, violent horror pic. RATED: R

Changing Lanes -- Roger Michell, the director of Notting Hill, shows another side to his sensibility with this rich, masterful story of two men -- cocky lawyer Ben Affleck and weary insurance salesman and alcoholic Samuel L. Jackson -- who collide on a New York expressway and attempt to destroy each other over the course a day. While plotted and directed with the vitality of a Hollywood high-concept picture, the real concerns of Changing Lanes hark back to a more European kind of cinema. Each image, each scene, reinforces what chaos may come if we choose to violate our social covenants -- ranging from marriage to law to simple politeness. It comes within a whisper of greatness. (RP) RATED R

Clockstoppers -- A teenage boy (Jesse Bradford) gains access to his scientist dad's latest invention, a wristwatch device that stops time. Rad!! But just as he's trying to decide whether to use his new powers for good or evil, some bad guys come along and make the decision for him. RATED: PG

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial -- It's been 20 years, but the Spielberg blockbuster still both stands up and briefly falls down for the same reasons as back then. Elliot (Henry Thomas) brings home E.T., who has been stranded on Earth, and hides him from Mom (Dee Wallace Stone) and the authorities who are hunting him. Lots of great comic moments, believable family situations and adventure, but the film is marred by a pretentious, supposedly heart-tugging last reel. Unseen original footage has been reinserted, but nothing of major importance. It remains a really good family film. (ES) RATED: PG

The Fellowship of The Ring -- The world of Tolkien's Middle-earth comes vividly to life in Kiwi director Peter Jackson's adaptation of the story of little Frodo (Elijah Wood), big Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and the other hobbits, elves and humans. Together, they undertake a long trek, where they must conduct some business about a powerful magic ring. The film is of epic proportions, with great performances in front of and among stunning visuals. (ES) RATED: PG-13

High Crimes -- Ashley Judd plays a high-powered defense lawyer who faces her toughest case ever: defending her husband in a military courtroom. He's been charged with committing mass murder in Central America, and Judd has to find a way to prove his innocence, even while she's not entirely sure of it herself. Morgan Freeman comes to the rescue as a former judge and present-day advocate attorney. RATED: PG-13

Ice Age -- Cute and not-so-cute animals from long ago try to make their way to fertile grounds as things start freezing over. But a small group heads the other way, with a rescue mission in mind. Some good-looking computer animation accompanies flat dialogue and a grating voice characterization by John Leguizamo as an obnoxious sloth. (ES) RATED: PG

Italian for Beginners -- Lone Scherfig's romantic comedy fits nicely within Lars von Trier's Dogme 95 movement specifications (think The Celebration, The Idiots and Mifune) but stands well on its own. It's rude and prankish, but also smart as it partakes of romantic comedy expectations, challenging them and honoring them at the same time. A romance without music? Sherfig rises to the challenge in this tale of six thirtysomethings in a small Danish town looking for life with love. There are a couple of scenes that are so fragile, so right, I laughed and teared up at the same adorable moment. (RP) RATED R

Jason X -- Or, "In space, no one can hear you scream." It's now the year 2455 and a professor (David Cronenberg) takes his students on a space pod field trip of the abandoned Old Earth. While there, they discover a cryogenically frozen man wearing a hockey mask and -- as old Friday the 13th videos apparently don't last over time -- take him back to their spacecraft for further study. While there, Jason defrosts, finds a much cooler mask to wear, and spends the rest of the film stirring up trouble. RATED: R

Life or Something Like It -- Angelina Jolie cannot act, and her big, puffed-up lips are chapped all the way through this inane dramatic comedy about a TV reporter who finds out, during an interview with a homeless seer, that she only has a week or so to live. No one seems to care much about this except the cameraman (Edward Burns) with whom she once had a fling and with whom she now just trades unfunny barbs. Strained filmmaking, with loads of twists that make no sense, an embarrassing musical interlude and the sappiest of endings. (ES) Rated PG-13

Murder by Numbers -- Barbet Schroeder brings his substantial technical gifts to a Sandra Bullock police procedural: while not fully satisfying, it's still thrillingly smart and well-made. A 21st-century high school Leopold and Loeb are investigated by detective Bullock, who has more than a little darkness in her own past. While everyone involved is well aware they're not remaking the movies, they know they're making entertainment and work it at the height of their craft. With Ben Chaplin. (RP) Rated R

National Lampoon's Van Wilder -- A student at Coolidge College for seven years, leisure studies major Van Wilder may have to face the real world. But even though his rich father is tired of paying tuition, resourceful Van knows all sorts of other ways to extend his college experience. Starring Ryan Reynolds and Tara Reid. RATED: R

The Other Side of Heaven -- The Other Side of Heaven chronicles the real life story of John H. Groberg (Christopher Gorham), a young man from Idaho Falls who takes an assignment as a missionary to the remote Tongan Islands in the South Pacific. In doing so he leaves behind everything familiar, including his family and his childhood sweetheart (Anne Hathaway). RATED: PG

Panic Room -- One location, one night, one goal: a divorced mother (Jodie Foster) must protect her daughter (Kristen Stewart) against home invaders (Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, Dwight Yoakam). Her greatest weapon? A secret, cement-lined, steel-reinforced "panic room" hidden in the middle of the house. Panic Room works like the scare machine it's meant to be, calibrated for bursts of fear and kinetic beauty. Foster's portrayal of the emotional pain, the physical courage of the put-upon Mom may be one of her most meticulous performances. (RP) RATED: R

The Rookie -- Dennis Quaid is the high school baseball coach who coulda been a contender, if not for an injury. But after a decade away from trying for a baseball career, he tries again, bringing up questions not only about whether can he do it, but also about what it would do now to his family. Charming, funny, uplifting, emotional -- a solid family movie. (ES) RATED G

The Scorpion King -- WWF star The Rock gets his first major role as an assassin hired to take out a sorcerer who's aiding an evil warlord in this flashy, funny, action-packed prequel to The Mummy Returns. Lots of violence (all done off-screen), many cleverly-covered-but-still-scantily-clad women, and a great variety of fights with sharp objects. Wisely, the effects are kept to a minimum, and real people doing stunts are up front. The Rock rules. (ES) Rated PG-13

The Sweetest Thing -- Director Roger Kumble fumbles this one. After the amusing sleaze of Cruel Intentions, Kumble, a protege of the Farrelly Brothers, wades into their territory with this San Francisco-set bit of cynicism about the dating scene. This film manages to make Cameron Diaz unlikable, to waste Selma Blair and to find only a truly grown-up Christina Applegate emerging from the wreckage. (RP) RATED R

& lt;i & Capsule reviews are written by Ed Symkus (ES) and Ray Pride (RP), unless otherwise noted. & lt;/i &

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Northwest Winterfest @ Spokane County Fair & Expo Center

Thursdays, Fridays, 5-8 p.m., Saturdays, 4-8 p.m. and Sundays, 3-6 p.m. Continues through Dec. 31
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