Capsule reviews by Desson Howe unless noted.


AKIRA KUROSAWA'S DREAMS (PG) -- See review at right.

DEATH WARRANT (R) -- Jean-Claude Van Damme -- man of martial arts, man of pidgin English -- is back. This time, he's an undercover cop who masquerades as a prison inmate to investigate a series of bizarre deaths. Also features Robert Guillaume. Area theaters.

HARDWARE (R) -- This film is amazing. It's incredible. It manages to make a drama about the searing, toxic, dangerous, post-apocalyptic future excruciatingly boring. That takes a certain, singleminded tenacity. Writer/director Richard Stanley pulls off this remarkable feat with an arsenal of low-budget, special-effect hardware and a script that doesn't get going for 45 minutes. When it finally does get going, the going gets disgustingly gory -- yet not suspenseful. The story's about a futuristic regular guy called Mo (Dylan McDermott), who buys some interesting android parts for his artsy, acetylene-toting girlfriend Jill (Stacey Davis). But wait -- and that's the 45 minutes I'm talking about -- these parts turn out to be little nasty bits of a secret government killer robot called the M.A.R.K.-13. (The name, sci-fi friends, refers to a quotation from the biblical Mark 13, "No flesh shall be spared." Whoa.) Those parts repair and rebuild themselves into the killer robot, and M.A.R.K.-13 goes on the rampage. The trouble is, so does director Stanley. Area theaters.

METROPOLITAN (PG-13) -- See review on page 49.

MICHELAGNIOLO: SELF-PORTRAIT (Unrated) -- Robert Snyder's thoughtful, thorough documentary about this 15th-century sculptor, architect, poet and painter fills you with inspiring -- and dwarfing -- awe. Something between a remake and an updating of his 1950 Oscar winner, "The Titan: Story of Michelangelo," the film outlines the Tuscany-born artist's life and works, using Michelangelo's own commentary (narrated by Snyder) from journals, poems and letters. (The title comes from the Tuscan version of the artist's name, which he used as his signature.) And what glorious words they are, either because of historical context, Michangelo's ironic modesty or his heartfelt utterances. "I may be a sculptor, even a bit of a poet," he wrote before commencing what would become the wondrous Sistine Chapel ceiling murals. "I am no painter and this place is cramped." After he completed the paintings, a feat comprising some 400 figures, he wrote: "I felt as old and weary as Jeremiah. I was 37." A "19-foot block of marble -- damaged to boot," he said of the oversized paperweight that would soon become the statue of David. In addition to capturing all of Michelangelo's significant works, from the Moses to the Medici tomb in Florence, Snyder obtained some rare footage of the St. Peter's Pieta, now heavily guarded after an infamous act of vandalism. With scriptwriter Michael Sonnabend, Snyder also gives an evocative feel for the people who influenced Michelangelo, from his disapproving father, who wondered why his son could not be something more respectable, like a money-changer, to the Medici family, which nurtured the young artist. Snyder, who has also written about or produced documentaries on Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Buckminster Fuller, Willem de Kooning, Pablo Casals and other artists, is in full command of his subject here. For those seriously or partially interested in Michelangelo, this is not to be missed. Biograph.

POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE (R) -- See review on page 47.