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TOP FIVE

Current movies recommended by the Times:

1 Apocalypto - Mel Gibson's ultraviolent historical epic establishes him as a filmmaker whose creative instincts are beyond question.

2 Stranger Than Fiction - An IRS auditor (Will Ferrell) discovers someone else is writing his life; one of 2006's best films.

3 Casino Royale - James Bond returns, meaner than ever thanks to a star-making turn by Daniel Craig as British secret agent 007.

4 The Nativity Story - The birth of Jesus of Nazareth is reverently dramatized, with Academy Award nominee Keisha Castle-Hughes (above) as Mary.

5 Blood Diamond - South African mercenary (Leonardo DiCaprio) seeks a priceless gem at the expense of an escaped slave (Djimon Hounsou).

UPCOMING RELEASES

All dates subject to change.

Dec. 15: The Pursuit of Happyness; Eragon; Charlotte's Web

Dec. 20: Rocky Balboa

Dec. 22: We Are Marshall; Night at the Museum; The Good Shepherd; The History Boys

Dec. 25: Dreamgirls; The Good German (limited); Black Christmas; Children of Men

Dec. 29: Miss Potter

Jan. 5: Home of the Brave; Hostel 2; The Cleaner

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