Film Capsules

Capsule reviews by Desson Thomson unless noted. A star ({sstar}) denotes a movie recommended by our critics.


THE CLAY BIRD (Unrated) -- See capsule review on Page 38.

THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW (PG-13) -- See review on Page 33.

LOVE ME IF YOU DARE (R) -- See review on Page 34.

LOVE OBJECT (Unrated) -- See capsule review on Page 38.

MONTY PYTHON'S LIFE OF BRIAN (R) -- See Film Notes on Page 40.

RAISING HELEN (PG-13) -- See review on Page 33.

SAVED! (PG-13) -- See review on Page 34.

A SLIPPING-DOWN LIFE (R) -- See capsule review on Page 38.

SOUL PLANE (R) -- See review on Page 33.

TWENTYNINE PALMS (Unrated) -- See capsule review on Page 39.

First Runs & Revivals

{sstar} THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS (LES INVASIONS BARBARES) (Unrated, 99 minutes) -- A somber reunion of friends and family around the hospital bed of an unapologetic and dying philanderer (Remy Girard) evolves into a moving exploration of what it means to live and to die. Although Remy refuses to let loneliness or approaching death stop him from reveling in his sexual memories, his estranged son, Sebastien (Stephane Rousseau), makes sure his father retains dignity. Denys Arcand's film is admirable in its refusal to be politically correct. And like Sebastien, we can't help but find ourselves falling for an old crank whose spirit refuses to be broken, but who isn't too lost in himself to acknowledge the good things around him. Contains drug use, obscenity and mature sexual discussions. In French with subtitles. Eastport Art Cinemas.

BON VOYAGE (PG-13, 115 minutes) -- Although I'm told it was filmed in color, this World War II-set melodrama persists in my memory as black-and-white. That's partly a compliment -- it hearkens back to a bygone day of swirling, emotional storytelling -- but it's also an indication of just how washed out the tale ultimately feels, despite elements of espionage, heroism, madcap comedy, murder and a love triangle. French director Jean-Paul Rappeneau does a good job of orchestrating the carnival-like action, which folds a government minister (Gerard Depardieu), two-bit crook (Yvan Attal) and a spy (Peter Coyote) into what is essentially the story of one man (Gregori Derangere) deciding between two women (Isabelle Adjani and Virginie Ledoyen), but the movie never transports the audience very far from where it started. Contains some violence. In French, some German and a little English with subtitles. Eastport Art Cinemas.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

BREAKIN' ALL THE RULES (PG-13, 85 minutes) -- Perhaps if this farce about making and breaking love connections had actually violated a few rules itself -- instead off imitating conventional romantic comedies -- it might have been funnier. As it is, the story of a man (Jamie Foxx) who writes a best-seller about how to dump women, and then gets called upon by his cousin (Morris Chestnut) and his boss (Peter MacNicol) for assistance in ending their relationships, is pretty standard fare. Contains obscenity and sexual and bathroom humor. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

BUBBA HO-TEP (R, 92 minutes) -- The idea sounds good on paper: An aging Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell), who it turns out didn't die after all, teams up with up with fellow nursing-home resident Ossie Davis, playing a man who thinks he's JFK, to do battle with a murderous Egyptian mummy in a Stevie Ray Vaughan hat. On second thought, it doesn't sound that good after all. Campbell does give a touching, funny and grotesque performance as the King, though, in the end, this horror-comedy hybrid is neither particularly scary nor funny. Contains obscenity, partial nudity, brief violence, sexual discussion and gross bugs. Visions Bar Noir.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} CLIFFORD'S REALLY BIG MOVIE (G, 75 minutes) -- Chances are, if your toddler likes the PBS cartoon "Clifford the Big Red Dog" or its spin-off, "Clifford's Puppy Days," he or she will also like this sweet-natured feature-length movie. The drawing is a little jazzed up -- a little less flat, if you will, than the TV show -- and the adventure a little more, um, adventurous, as Clifford (voice of John Ritter) runs away from home and his mistress, the young Emily Elizabeth (Grey DeLisle), to join a traveling carnival. Sure, the excitement level is a little on the tame side. But the movie, like its house-size hero, is cuddlier than you might expect. Contains mild jeopardy only rarely exceeding the level of a lost balloon. N.E. Theatre Fairfax Corner.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} COFFEE AND CIGARETTES (R, 96 minutes) -- This is vintage Jim Jarmusch -- literally. Containing 11 absurdist vignettes, all of which incorporate caffeine, nicotine and often hilariously deadpan conversation, the black-and-white "Coffee and Cigarettes" has been a work in progress since way back in 1986, which is when filmmaker Jarmusch made the first installment, starring Steven Wright and Roberto Benigni. Others, featuring Bill Murray and the Wu-Tang Clan's RZA and GZA, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits and Cate Blanchett, were made over the intervening years (the latest installments were completed early last year). Most touch upon the theme of duality, underscoring a leitmotif in which two realities coexist. One feels like documentary, but is fake. The other is akin to a dream, but it's the dream in which we live. Heavy stuff for a lot of wickedly silly coffee talk. Contains obscenity and brief discussion of drug use. In English and some unsubtitled French. Landmark's E Street Cinema.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} ELLA ENCHANTED (PG, 95 minutes) -- There's something charmingly old-fashioned about this sly retelling of the Cinderella story, despite the fact that the girl (Anne Hathaway) doesn't really want the handsome prince (Hugh Dancy). At least not at first. She's more interested in saving the ogres, giants and elves of the kingdom from political oppression, not to mention saving herself from a curse that forces her to obey any command she is given (e.g., "Hold your tongue"). As the plucky heroine, Hathaway's no Meryl Streep, but she's so earnest and appealing an actress, and the film so unironic in its embrace of tolerance and self-reliance, that "Ella" may thoroughly enchant even the most cynical adults. Contains slapstick, humorous flatulence, the phrase "Bite me" and glimpses of an ogre's naked derriere. Majestic Theatres and University Mall Theatres.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

ENVY (PG-13, 99 minutes) -- The risk of making a movie whose theme would fall apart were it not for fecal matter is that people may be compelled to draw comparisons to the very poop, to put it nicely, that drives the plot. With all the dog dung in "Envy," it's almost too easy to generalize that it stinks. But it does, unfortunately, despite the big-name actors in its cast. Tim Dingman (Ben Stiller) and Nick Vanderpark (Jack Black) are best friends who live across the street from each other with their respective families in generic suburbia. Their lives are tedious until Nick comes up with a successful get-rich-quick scheme, Vapoorizer, a spray that makes pet poop evaporate into thin air. Tim covets his neighbors' newfound wealth, and his envy causes many supposedly funny complications to ensue. Contains profanity, a dead horse and many references to fecal matter. United Artists Fairfax Town Center.

-- Sara Gebhardt

{sstar} ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (R, 110 minutes) -- Charlie ("Being John Malkovich") Kaufman's most intelligent, thought-provoking and touching script yet is brought to antic life by director Michel Gondry, who unfolds like a slowly opening flower the tale of two lovers (Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet) who have elected to erase each other from their memories. By turns intoxicating and perplexing, Gondry and Kaufman's film is a philosophical love story about the nature of memory and emotion. Serious and silly at the same time, it's a film with both mainstream appeal and an abundance of grown-up ideas. Contains obscenity, drug use and sexual content. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} 50 FIRST DATES (PG-13, 96 minutes) -- Adam Sandler is more "Wedding Singer" than "Waterboy" in this partly charming, partly crass romantic comedy about a reformed womanizer (Sandler) courting a brain-damaged woman (Drew Barrymore) who can't remember her suitor from one day to the next. Sure, there's some gross-out humor here. How can there not be in a movie with Rob Schneider? But the film -- whose message is that love, like antiperspirant, must be re-applied every day -- is ultimately more sweet than sour. Call it a chick flick for guys. Contains discussion of sexual matters, some obscenity, drug use, slapstick violence and walrus vomit. Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

GODSEND (PG-13, 100 minutes) -- The silly thriller about a couple (Greg Kinnear and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) who enlist the aid of a rogue geneticist (Robert De Niro) to clone their dead 8-year-old son (Cameron Bright) is like a ride in an old car. There are bumps and scary moments aplenty when the boy turns evil, but there's the whiff of something stale in the air, too. That would be the smell of every horror movie about a demon child from "Rosemary's Baby" to "The Omen" to "Children of the Corn." Contains some violent imagery, mild obscenity, a scene of discreet lovemaking, thematic material related to the death of a child and lots of moments designed to make you jump in your seat. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} GODZILLA: THE UNCUT JAPANESE ORIGINAL (Unrated, 98 minutes) -- You may think you know "Godzilla," but what you probably saw is not the 1954 original, a sobering cautionary tale about the dangers of nuclear proliferation, but an American bowdlerization that cut some 40 minutes, changed the tone of the ending, inserted Raymond Burr into existing scenes and dubbed the resulting mess into English. Marking the film's 50th anniversary, a beautiful new print of the Japanese classic has been released. Seen as a metaphor for doomsday, the irradiated monster is far scarier here than the cheap thrill most of us got in the chopped-up version. Now, when a character almost casually remarks that she's a survivor of Nagasaki, it feels chillingly real. Contains emotionally intense material. In Japanese with subtitles. AFI Silver Theatre.

GOOD BYE, LENIN! (R, 118 minutes) -- Director and co-writer Wolfgang Becker's sweet family dramedy is set in East Berlin in 1989, when earnest schoolteacher Christiane (Katrin Sass) watches her twenty-something son Alex (Daniel Bruhl) get arrested at an anti-government demonstration. Shocked, she has a heart attack and falls into a coma. When she wakes up, the Berlin Wall no longer stands. The doctor warns Alex that the shock of discovering this new world could kill her, so he and a few accomplices set out to create a little East Germany in the tiny family apartment. Structurally, "Good Bye, Lenin!" is a sitcom, and it turns repetitive in the end. Yet beneath the family saga and easy digs at the tackiness of Western consumer culture, Becker presents a serious critique of authoritarianism and propaganda. Contains brief obscenity and sexuality. Cineplex Odeon Shirlington, Cineplex Odeon Dupont Circle and Cineplex Odeon Outer Circle.

-- Mark Jenkins

HOME ON THE RANGE (PG, 76 minutes) -- Roseanne Barr's vocal performance as an assertive bovine in this animated feature gives new meaning to the phrase, "Bossy the Cow." Otherwise, the film, which follows the efforts of three head of cartoon cattle (Judi Dench, Jennifer Tilly and Barr) to save their farm from a dastardly rustler and land grabber (Randy Quaid) is needlessly confusing, not to mention flat and dull looking. Contains jokes about belching and cow udders and some slapstick violence. United Artists Fairfax Town Center.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} IN AMERICA (PG-13, 100 minutes) -- Loosely drawn from Irish filmmaker Jim Sheridan's own experiences as a film student in Manhattan in the early 1980s, and co-written by Sheridan and his two daughters, the poignant, often poetic memoir is that rarest of breeds -- a film that doesn't exert pressure on your tear ducts so much as your heart. Slowly, gently, Sheridan uses slice-of-life humor and almost magical realism in his tale of a struggling actor/cab driver (Paddy Considine) and his family to seduce the viewer. Parceling out small but great truths about life, death and starting over, "In America" is a bittersweet gem, as uplifting as it is sad. Contains an artfully shot sex scene, some drug references, the threat of violence and a bit of coarse language. Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} INTERMISSION (R, 102 minutes) -- Thankfully, this lively and edgy Irish comedy about a bunch of contemporary Dubliners is a leprechaun-free zone. Connected more or less loosely to the central character of John (Cillian Murphy), a young man pining for the girlfriend he has just broken up with, the swirling cast includes Colin Farrell as a violent thug obsessed with kitchen utensils and John's horny best friend Oscar (David Wilmot), who briefly takes up with a much older woman (Dierdre O'Kane) whose husband (Michael McElhatton) has just left her for John's ex (Kelly Macdonald). You get the idea. Frequent appearances are also made by the f-word, along with something known as brown sauce, a ketchup-like condiment that acts as a sort of surreal running joke, adding extra flavor to this tastiest of stews. Contains pervasive crude language, some violence and sexuality. Cineplex Odeon Dupont Circle.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

JOHNSON FAMILY VACATION (PG-13, 95 minutes) -- His performance may not be up to the manic level of "Barbershop" and "Barbershop 2: Back in Business," but Cedric the Entertainer is at least mildly entertaining in this genial road movie about the comic indignities suffered by a put-upon insurance salesman and his irritating family during a cross-country trip. Since no new ground is covered here, your reaction to the formulaic script will likely depend on how much you like Cedric, who pretty much carries the weight of the entire movie on his stubby little legs. Contains some crude and risque humor and a drug reference. AMC Academy and AMC Rivertowne.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} KILL BILL VOL. 2 (R, 136 minutes) -- "Kill Bill Vol. 1's" vengeful antihero known as the Bride (Uma Thurman) is back to finish the job described in the two-part film's no-nonsense title, but there are still two more assassins (Michael Madsen and Daryl Hannah) standing in her way. Once she dispatches them, however -- in battles with lower body counts but upped gross-out quotient -- she has plenty of time to sit down and chat over old times with former lover-cum-employer, Bill (David Carradine). The gymnastics are only verbal for much of the second half of this twisted love story, but its no less fun than the first installment. Contains obscenity, drug content and plentiful violence. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

THE LADYKILLERS (R, 104 minutes) -- Writer-directors Joel and Ethan Coen's motley remake of the 1955 British comedy should appeal most strongly to viewers who think that Tom Hanks, who plays a thief and a potential murderer, can do no wrong. Hanks is the ringleader of a gang that plans to empty a Mississippi River casino boat's vault. His new landlady is Mrs. Munson (Irma P. Hall), who eventually learns what the plotters are really doing, and thus must be eliminated. The script contains glimmers of character-driven comedy from a gentler time, but also indulges some broadly stereotypical African American farce. As the tone wavers and the pace stumbles, the movie ultimately comes down to Hanks's gratingly artificial performance. Contains much slapstick violence and some hippity-hop vulgarities. Foxchase and University Mall Theatres.

-- Mark Jenkins

LAWS OF ATTRACTION (PG-13, 87 minutes) -- If "laws of attraction" were on the book, they should stipulate that two people's affinity for each other was natural, genuine and perhaps even a bit heartwarming. A judge evaluating the bond between opposing divorce lawyers Audrey Miller (Julianne Moore) and Daniel Rafferty (Pierce Brosnan) in "Laws of Attraction" would likely deem it in violation of such rules. The formulaic film falls flat early on, when Audrey and Daniel get intoxicated and go home together. They ignore what has happened and focus on their work until a mutual case takes them to Ireland, where once again, they have a few too many drinks. This time, they end up getting married as part of the country town's annual tradition. To save their careers, they must pretend they are a happy couple when they return to New York. Oh, the irony of divorce lawyers, who have seen the worst of marital dysfunction, accidentally taking the matrimonial plunge themselves and denying themselves the quick-fix divorce. Can they work it out? Will they learn to love each other because of the rings on their fingers? Who cares? The plot, the dialogue and the main characters' love connection are basically mind-numbing, and even Parker Posey (playing a weird client) can't save the show. Contains implied sexual situations. Annapolis Harbour and United Artists Fairfax Town Center.

-- Sara Gebhardt

{sstar} LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (PG-13, 201 minutes) -- Director and cowriter Peter Jackson's triumphant conclusion to his "Rings" trilogy brings it home for everyone. We enjoy the fulfillment of destinies for once-and-future monarch Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), his resolute love, Arwen (Liv Tyler), and his two warrior-allies, Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli (John Rhys-Davis). We also see what becomes of the honorable Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen), of Theoden (Bernard Hill), Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd), and the scores of others. The movie's good at big and small-scale stories. Contains intense battle sequences and some frightening images. Majestic Theatres and Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse.

MAN ON FIRE (R, 146 minutes) -- Like the film "I'm Not Scared," "Man on Fire" has to do with a kidnapping, but in this movie the behavior of the hero (Denzel Washington) is almost as disturbing as that of the bad guys. Playing a vengeful bodyguard who goes after the abductors of his young charge (Dakota Fanning), Washington is like "The Punisher's" Punisher, but without the comic-book sensibility; like "Kill Bill's" Bride, but without the murderous glee; and like "Walking Tall's" Chris Vaughn, but without the Rock's WWE-inspired tongue-in-cheek elan. The mayhem of "Man on Fire" is dead serious, with the emphasis on "dead." Contains obscenity, generic gun violence, torture and a creative assortment of execution-style slayings. In English and Spanish with subtitles. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} MEAN GIRLS (PG-13, 93 minutes) -- "Saturday Night Live" head writer Tina Fey based her script for this sharp, smart teen comedy on author Rosalind Wiseman's "Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter to Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends and Other Realities of Adolescence," and its roots in ethnography show. It's both a kind of anthropological document and an enormously satisfying entertainment, which means that it feels real, as well as really funny. Lindsay Lohan shines as the nice girl trying to retain her sanity -- and niceness -- in a sea of mini-skirted sharks. Contains some crude language, sexual humor, rioting high-school students and underage drinking. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} MONSIEUR IBRAHIM (R, 95 minutes) -- Omar Sharif sparkles in the title role of a wise and worldly Muslim shop owner who befriends -- and ultimately adopts -- a troubled Jewish teenager named Momo (Pierre Boulanger) in this gently moving drama set in 1960s Paris. Taking Momo under his wing when the boy's morbidly depressed father abandons him (this after his mother has run off, too), Ibrahim offers not just love but real insight into the mysteries of life. Contains thematic sexuality, a sex scene and partial nudity. In French and Turkish with subtitles. Landmark's Bethesda Row and Cineplex Odeon Shirlington.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

NASCAR: THE IMAX EXPERIENCE (PG, 47 minutes) -- If speed is what you're looking for, you may be better off playing a race car video game than watching the IMAX movie devoted to NASCAR. Though there are some adrenaline-pumping race scenes shot from the perspective of both driver and spectator, the majority of the short feature portrays what happens off the track. The revving of 800-horsepower engines and footage of cars traveling 200 mph around an oval speedway are merely short segments spliced in between a discussion of the intricate science and extensive preparation involved before big races and interviews with NASCAR bigwigs, tailgating fans, and race car drivers and their spouses, all of which makes for an interesting behind-the-scenes look at one of the world's most popular spectator sports. Contains a few crash scenes. National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center IMAX Theater.

-- Sara Gebhardt

NEW YORK MINUTE (PG, 86 minutes) -- Although the twin-sister characters "played" -- and I use the term very loosely -- by real-life twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen only age one day during the action of this lackluster comedy, "New York Minute" seems to last weeks. Centering around estranged siblings who are forced to work together when they encounter numerous urban obstacles during a visit from their Long Island home to the Big Apple, the film plays off the Olsens' looks and not their acting ability. The action sequences flow better than the dramatic ones, but the infrequency of real laughs makes for one long, hard sit for impatient viewers. Contains mild sensuality. N.E. Theatre Fairfax Corner.

-- Sara Gebhardt

THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST (R, 126 minutes) -- Mel Gibson's almost pornographically violent narrative of Jesus's last 12 hours feels like what I imagine it's like to watch a snuff film. Try as you might to remind yourself that what you're seeing is only a movie, the onslaught of savagery is rendered so realistically and with such unrelenting fury that it renders rationale faculties inert. Which is exactly Gibson's point, I'm sure, making "The Passion" less an episode of movie-going than, for many, something akin to a religious experience. It's just too bad that, for those viewers who don't come into the theater already knowing that they should care about Jesus's pain, Gibson's film, which gives short shrift to Jesus's lifetime of good words and deeds, doesn't really provide them with any reason to do so now. Contains numbingly graphic violence and emotional intensity. In Aramaic and Latin with subtitles. Loews Rio, Majestic Theatres and University Mall Theatres.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} THE RETURN (Unrated, 106 minutes) -- A haunting Russian art film with the economy of a thriller, "The Return" is a tale of two boys who suddenly encounter the father they haven't seen for 12 years. The day after he unexpectedly appears, the never-named father (Konstantin Lavronenko) sets out with obliging Andrey (Vladimir Garin) and willful Ivan (Ivan Dobronravov) for a two-day fishing trip. During a series of incidents, most of them involving conflict between Dad and Ivan, the boys prove insufficiently virile for their old man. After he makes a phone call and learns that he must mysteriously alter his itinerary, Dad takes the boys to an uninhabited island, where a showdown ensues. Director Andrey Zvyagintsev's style is poetic yet efficient, conjuring a powerful mood without indulging in brooding, overlong scenes. Contains violence, death and an ominous father-son relationship, In Russian with subtitles. Landmark's E Street Cinema.

-- Mark Jenkins

{sstar} SHREK 2 (PG, 93 minutes) -- Set in the Hollywood-like kingdom of Far Far Away, "Shrek 2" pokes fun at a host of movies and television conventions, along with the very idea of fairy tales. Hoping to get started on the "happy ever after" part of their marriage, Shrek (voice of Mike Myers) and new bride Fiona (Cameron Diaz) take a trip from Shrek's home in the swamp to meet her parents (John Cleese and Julie Andrews), who are none too pleased to see their daughter wedded to an ogre. Daddy hires a hit man (Antonio Banderas as a hilarious Puss in Boots), even as Shrek sets out to remake himself in an image more pleasing to his wife. The jokes come rapid-fire (so fast you'll have to see it twice or wait for the DVD to catch them all), and the resolution of the complications is heartwarming. Contains some edgy humor, mild jokes about body fluids and gasses, vaguely sexual references along the lines of "a roll in the hay" and slapstick violence. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} SINCE OTAR LEFT (Unrated, 103 minutes) -- Like its title, which alludes to a person we never actually see, "Since Otar Left" works obliquely. While the attention of the film, or rather the attention of the three female protagonists -- a young woman in post-Soviet Georgia, her mother and grandmother -- is mainly on the fate of an absent relative who has moved to Paris, the film's true subject is the relationship between the women left behind. Esther Gorintin shines as the pining matriarch, whose stoic nature suggests Madame Souza in "The Triplets of Belleville." But it is Dinara Drukarova, playing the granddaughter, who gives the quite drama its heart, not to mention its yearning, hopeful soul. Contains obscenity, sexual references and a brief glimpse of partial nudity. In Russian, Georgian and French with subtitles. Landmark's Bethesda Row.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER . . . AND SPRING (Unrated, 103 minutes) -- This delicate Korean fable by Kim Ki-duk, is about the slow boomerang trajectory of existence -- the way it curves away from you and yet ever toward you. With its heart-stopping setting, gorgeous images and a lovely little story, it's as fresh as woodland dew. It's about the lifelong relationship between a Buddhist monk (Oh Young-soo) and his novice (played by various actors in different stages of life), who live together in a small floating monastery in the center of a pond, nestled in a wooded mountain valley. This unsullied, bucolic corner of nature is going to be a spiritual workshop for the young boy, whose life will be an evolution through the straits of folly and sadness to dawning consciousness and rebirth. Told in virtually wordless sequences and with an inspired simplicity, the movie makes affecting epics of the smallest things. Contains sexual scenes and nudity. In Korean with subtitles. Area theaters.

STARSKY & HUTCH (PG-13, 97 minutes) -- This spoof of the 1970s buddy-cop TV show should be called "Stiller & Wilson" for all the similarity it bears to its namesake. Sure, the basic premise and the Ford Gran Torino are essentially the same, but the humor, such as it is, derives entirely from Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson's comfortably familiar public personae as slightly nebbishy and surfer-mellow halves of an odd couple. Many "That '70s Show"-style yuks are gotten through jokes about man-perms, disco, Tab, sweatbands, aviator-frame sunglasses and bad period music, but, after all, how hard is that? Contains obscenity, drug use, sexual humor and partial nudity. University Mall Theatres and Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

STATESIDE (R, 96 minutes) -- Relegated to the Marines by his tough-love father (Joe Mantegna) after causing an automobile accident, Mark (Jonathan Tucker) falls in love with the schizophrenic sanitarium roommate (Rachael Leigh Cook) of the woman (Agnes Bruckner) whose nervous breakdown was caused by his reckless driving. Got it? You think the plot synopsis is insane? You haven't met Dori, who says things like "How did you get all those transvestites on the monkey bars, anyhow, hmmm?," which is how mentally ill people talk in Hollywood. Yet another example of Kute Krazy Love, "Stateside" treats Dori's illness as something almost . . . fun. At least Mark does, acting like all she needs is a cup of hot black coffee -- or a roll in the hay -- to be cured. What he needs isn't boot camp, but a week caring for a girlfriend who's so unbalanced she slams her wrists through a glass window. That isn't sexy, that's scary. Contains obscenity, violence, self-destructive behavior, mild boot camp sadism, a strip club scene and sexy talk. Cineplex Odeon Dupont Circle.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} SUPER SIZE ME (Unrated, 98 minutes) -- I laughed, I cried, I threw up. Well, maybe I didn't throw up, but filmmaker Morgan Spurlock does, and on camera, in his funny, smart and important -- okay, gross, too -- documentary about the health effects of a 30-day, all-McDonald's diet. And it ain't pretty. "Super Size Me," however, is utterly engrossing, with its mix of statistics, cartoons featuring saggy-breasted chickens, man-on-the-street interviews, Michael Moore-style muckraking and diaristic gazing by the filmmaker at his own navel -- even as his midsection expands with all the fat and sugar he's putting away. Contains obscenity, vomiting, a glimpse of a rectal exam, discussion of sex and sexual dysfunction, shots of gastric bypass surgery and other unappetizing things. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} 13 GOING ON 30 (PG-13, 98 minutes) -- A simple worldview informs "13 Going on 30," a film whose far-fetched foundation is overshadowed by the endearing story of Jenna Rink, a 13-year-old who, teen angst in hand, visits adulthood in an attempt to escape her current outcast status. When Jenna is suddenly transported from the high-ponytail age of the '80s to 2004, we find that she has become a 30-year-old magazine editor who back-stabs fellow co-workers to get ahead, ignores her family and dates a vacuous, muscular, meathead hockey player. The older Jenna (Jennifer Garner) is mature in body, but not in mentality. She does not understand who she has become, so she finds grown-up Matt (Mark Ruffalo) -- who she had insulted before being thrust into the adult world to gain favor with the cool kids -- to help her sort through the parts of her life that she has missed. As Matt reluctantly helps Jenna evaluate the choices she apparently has made, feelings develop between them, and we wait to see if wishing dust can really alter the course of their lives. That Jenna's journey takes place in a fantasy world where everything ends up in neat little packages is expected, since it is the kind of place a 13-year-old might dream up. Contains some sexual content and a reference to drug use. Area theaters.

-- Sara Gebhardt

{sstar} TROY (R, 165 minutes) -- The only way to enjoy Wolfgang Petersen's nearly three-hour version of Homer's "Iliad" is as a Brad Pitt vehicle. Not that there's anything wrong with that. There's plenty of Pitt's muscle-bound Achilles to go around in this battle-rich epic. Just don't expect too much literal fidelity to the source material. For one thing, the gods are notably absent in this very human tale of love and revenge. Sure, there are no Olympians here, but the movie's godlike star probably comes the closest. Contains battlefield violence, extremely chaste nudity and some sexual content. Area theaters.

VAN HELSING (PG-13, 125 minutes) -- This big budget monster mash brings together Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, various wolfmen, Mr. Hyde and creature killer Van Helsing. But the real clash isn't between vampires and wolfmen, or man and beast. It's between a story and in-your-face computer-generated effects. The story, in which Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) and beautiful, battle-tested Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale) take on Dracula (Richard Roxburgh), loses big-time. Writer-director Stephen Sommers (creator of all those "Mummy" hits) uses the barest of excuses to bring these characters together. And the road to the Count is crowded with multiple, confusing subplots and earsplitting effects, with barely a breath in between. If computer-generated imagery is your pleasure, and your only one, consider yourself informed and warned, all in one. Contains action violence, frightening images and some sexual content. Area theaters.

YOUNG ADAM (NC-17, 97 minutes) -- From a filmmaking standpoint, there's lots to admire in this gritty, pessimistic morality tale about a Scottish bargeman (Ewan McGregor) who first finds a woman's corpse floating in the river and then, as he proceeds to copulate with everything in sight, is revealed to have hidden connections to the dead woman. There's just not a lot to like. It's smart, all right, with the sooty look and barge-like pacing of an art-house film, but its moral center is as sour and heartless as they come. Romantics beware: There's loads of sex here, but the lovemaking feels less than joyless. In "Young Adam's" jaundiced view, compulsive rutting is mainly a way of staving off death. Contains nudity, obscenity, physical abuse, images of a corpse and plentiful sex. Cineplex Odeon Dupont Circle.

-- Michael O'Sullivan


AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM/DOWNTOWN -- At the Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater: "Straight Up: Helicopters in Action," daily at 10:15 and 3. "Space Station 3D," daily at 11:10, 12:15, 1:55, 4, 5 and 6. "To Fly!" daily at 1:15. At the Albert Einstein Planetarium: "Infinity Express," daily at 10:30, 11, 11:30, 12:30, 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30, 3, 3:30, 4, 4:30 and 5. "The Stars Tonight," daily at noon. Seventh and Independence SW. 202-357-1686.

AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM/DULLES -- "Straight Up: Helicopters in Action," daily at 11, 2 and 5. "Adrenaline Rush: The Science of Risk," daily at noon and 3. "NASCAR 3D: The IMAX Experience," daily at 1, 4 and 6. 14390 Air and Space Museum Pkwy., Chantilly. 202-357-2700.

AMERICAN CITY DINER -- "The War of the Worlds," Friday at 8. "All About Eve," Saturday at 8. "Pretty Woman," Sunday at 8. "The Getaway," Monday at 8. "North by Northwest," Tuesday at 8:30. "The Man With the Golden Arm," Wednesday at 8. "The Defiant Ones," Thursday at 8:30. 5532 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-244-1949.

CHARLES THEATRE -- "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," Saturday at noon and Thursday at 9. 1711 N. Charles St., Baltimore. 410-727-3456.

MARYLAND SCIENCE CENTER -- IMAX Theater: "NASCAR 3D: The IMAX Experience," Friday-Saturday and Thursday at noon, 2:10, 4:20, 6:40 and 8:50, Sunday at noon, 2:10, 4:20 and 6:40, Monday-Wednesday at noon, 2:10, 4:20 and 6:40. "Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees" and "Hubble: Galaxies Across Space & Time," Friday and Thursday at 1:10, 3:20 and 7:50; Saturday-Sunday at 11, 1:10, 3:20 and 7:50; Monday at 11, 1:10 and 3:20; Tuesday-Wednesday at 3:20. "Sacred Planet," daily at 5:30. "The Living Sea," Tuesday-Wednesday at 1:10. Davis Planetarium: "Hubble Heritage: Poetic Pictures," Friday, Sunday, Tuesday-Thursday at 1, Saturday at 1 and 5. "The Sky: Live!" daily except Monday at 3:15. "Ring World," Friday and Tuesday-Thursday at 4, Saturday at noon, 2:30 and 4, Sunday at 2:30 and 4. "The Sky Above Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," Saturday-Sunday at 1:45. 601 Light St., Baltimore. 410-685-5225.

NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART -- "Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya," Friday and Sunday at 11:30. "Reed: Insurgent Mexico," Friday at 3 and Sunday at 4:30. "Juan Perez Jolote," Saturday at 2. "El Cambio," Saturday at 4:15. Free. East Building, Fourth and Constitution NW. 202-737-4215.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN ART -- Lecture Hall: "A Tradition of Honor," Friday at 2. "Art and Death in Africa: Yaaba Soore" and "Masked Spirits of Nyor Diaple," Thursday at 7. Free. Ripley Center, 1100 Jefferson Dr. SW. 202-357-4600 (TDD: 202-357-4814).

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY -- Johnson IMAX Theater: "Bugs! (3-D)," daily at 10:20, 12:15, 3:10 and 6. "T-Rex: Back to the Cretaceous," daily at 11:15, 1:10, 2:10, 4:05, 5:05 and 7. "Cirque du Soleil: Journey of Man," Friday-Saturday at 8. Baird Auditorium: "Sleeping Tigers: The Asahi Baseball Story," Friday at noon (free). 10th and Constitution NW. 202-633-7400.

NORTHEAST ANIME CLUB -- "GTO," "The Slayers" and "Ranma 1/2," Saturday at 2. Northeast Neighborhood Library, 330 Seventh St. NE. 202-698-3320.

OLD TOWN THEATER -- "North by Northwest," Friday at 7:30 and 10, Saturday at 7:30 and 10, Sunday at 2, 4:30 and 7:30, Monday-Wednesday at 7:30. 815 1/2 King St., Alexandria. 703-683-8888.

PSYCHOTRONIC FILM SOCIETY -- "The Evil Cat," Tuesday at 8. Dr. Dremo's Taphouse, 2001 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington. 202-736-1732 or 202-707-2540.

VISIONS BAR NOIR -- "Bubba Ho-Tep," Friday-Saturday at midnight. "The Sopranos," Sunday at 9. "Queer as Folk," Sunday at 10. 1927 Florida Ave. NW. 202-667-0090.

New on Video


(R, 2004, 103 MINUTES, 20TH CENTURY FOX)

The Broken Lizard writers' group has pulled off an intentional mixture of wit and horror, employing as much comedic relief as classic scary movie tactics in its latest venture. The murder mystery is set in a Costa Rican hedonistic vacation getaway that caters to scantily clad young spring breakers obsessed with sex and drugs, and resort owner Coconut Pete (Bill Paxton) and his staff do everything they can to hide the serial killer's presence from the tourists. The gory, often wildly unrealistic violence driving the plot manages to remain lighthearted. The film still may be too bloody and crass for some, and it's by no means hilarious, but all things considered, "Club Dread" lives up to expectations, which were never really that high to begin with. Contains violence, gore, nudity, sex and drug use.

-- Sara Gebhardt



The idea sounds good on paper: An aging Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell), who it turns out didn't die after all, teams up with fellow nursing-home resident Ossie Davis, playing a man who thinks he's JFK, to do battle with a murderous Egyptian mummy in a Stevie Ray Vaughan hat. On second thought, it doesn't sound that good after all. Campbell does give a touching, funny and grotesque performance as the King, though, in the end, this horror-comedy hybrid is neither particularly scary nor funny. Contains obscenity, partial nudity, brief violence, sexual discussion and gross bugs.

-- Michael O'Sullivan



Director and co-writer Peter Jackson's triumphant conclusion to his "Rings" trilogy brings it home for everyone. We enjoy the fulfillment of destinies for once-and-future monarch Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), his resolute love, Arwen (Liv Tyler), and his two warrior-allies, Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli (John Rhys-Davis). We also see what becomes of the honorable Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen), of Theoden (Bernard Hill), Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd), and the scores of others. The movie's good at big- and small-scale stories. Jackson takes us from the extended battles between the dark lord Sauron's forces and the allies of Middle Earth, led by Aragorn, Theoden, king of Rohan, and Gandalf, to the closer-in, more personal conflicts, such as the one between the scheming Gollum-Smeagol (Andy Serkis) and Frodo (Elijah Wood), who carries the all-important ring. Contains intense battle sequences and some frightening images.

-- Desson Thomson



Bernardine Dohrn, Bill Ayers and Mark Rudd have come a long way. What they did in their youth -- the terrible follies and short-lived glories as members of the leftist insurgent group, the Weathermen -- is the intriguing subject of this documentary. Filmmakers Sam Green and Bill Siegel give us a balanced sense of the atmosphere of the time, the Vietnam War era, to help us understand why this breakaway movement conducted guerrilla-style bombings around the country, targeting government and other establishment buildings. The film is a fascinating window into American political history. It's about the courage, foolishness, recklessness, absurdity, sincerity, pretentiousness, misplaced idealism and sanctimoniousness among the militant left and the right. And like the Weathermen and other contemporaries interviewed in the film, you can appreciate the bittersweet vision of hindsight. Contains intense thematic material, footage of real violence and obscenity.

-- D.T.


(PG-13, 2004, 115 MINUTES, 20TH CENTURY FOX)

Small-screen nice guy Ray Romano just doesn't have the oomph needed to carry off this comedic belly-flop about a small-town Maine hardware-store owner running for mayor against the ex-president of the United States. And Gene Hackman, as the former prez, can only bring so much edge to the game. The lovely and talented Maura Tierney is wasted as the woman both men are courting, but the film's real crime is the forced parade of quaint wackos and endearing oddballs meant to evoke the eccentric charm of "Northern Exposure's" Cicely, Alaska. Contains naked buttocks, a pair of amorous dogs, mild vulgarities and a bit of vague thematic sexuality.

-- M.O.