Film Capsules

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

Openings

BAADASSSSS! (R) -- See review on Page 44.

THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK (PG-13) -- See review on Page 42.

GARFIELD: THE MOVIE (PG) -- See capsule review on Page 44.

THE STEPFORD WIVES (PG-13) -- See review on Page 41.

S21: THE KHMER ROUGE KILLING MACHINE (Unrated) -- See review on Page 42.

on the run (Unrated) -- See review on Page 41.

First Runs & Revivals

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} CARANDIRU (R, 145 minutes) -- Based on the memoir of a Brazilian doctor who worked in the notoriously overcrowded Sao Paolo House of Detention (known as Carandiru after a nearby subway stop), Hector Babenco's searing drama takes us inside the hellish society of murderers, junkies, male prostitutes and thieves who live there. Most of the film is devoted to humanizing its bestial protagonists, who regale the good doctor (Luiz Carlos Vasconselos) with tales of their previous lives, seen in frequent flashback, with only the last quarter-hour or so devoted to the shocking 1992 massacre that occurred there when cops in riot gear suppressed a brief uprising. Babenco clearly believes that his antiheroes are martyrs, but, more importantly, he also believes that they're people too. Contains violent carnage, streams of obscenity, partial nudity, and strong sexual and drug content. In Portuguese with English subtitles. Landmark's Bethesda Row and Landmark's E Street Cinema.

-- 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. AMC Courthouse and Landmark's E Street Cinema.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW (PG-13, 123 minutes) -- If you can manage to just lean back and let the spectacular silliness of this disaster flick about sudden, catastrophic climate change -- Hail in Tokyo! Tornadoes in Los Angeles! -- wash over you, you might have a pretty good time. After all, Manhattan looks mighty pretty in the snow (50 feet of special-effects snow, in this case). If, however, you're one of those nitpickers who wants films to make sense, include character development and be well written, I'm afraid you're out luck. Not even Dennis Quaid, as a heroic paleoclimatologist Jack Hall, and his fossil-fuel guzzling, ozone-destroying, four-wheel-drive SUV can rescue this snow job. Contains death, destruction of personal property and one mild obscenity. Area theaters.

-- 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 enchant even the most cynical adults. Contains slapstick, humorous flatulence, the phrase "Bite me" and glimpses of an ogre's naked derriere. University Mall Theatres.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{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

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. Foxchase, Cineplex Odeon Dupont Circle and Cineplex Odeon Outer Circle.

-- Mark Jenkins

{sstar} HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN (PG, 142 minutes) -- It's not just the child actors who look all grown up in "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban." The filmmaking does, too. Alfonso Cuaron -- director of the Oscar-nominated "A Little Princess" and "Y Tu Mama Tambien" -- has made a grim, atmospheric movie that is so much more sophisticated than its predecessors, both visually and in terms of storytelling, that it's hard to believe the source material is the same. The movie is not perfect, or even close, but it delivers on the promise of J.K. Rowling's novels to a far greater extent. At the start of his third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry learns that Sirius Black, the wizard whose betrayal of his parents resulted in their deaths, has escaped from Azkaban, the wizarding equivalent of a maximum-security penitentiary -- and he's coming after Harry. Aside from Cuaron's complete disavowal of cuddliness, the most notable difference in "Azkaban" is the burgeoning maturity of the film's three lead actors. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) look older, old enough for there to be -- ewww -- sexual tension between Ron and Hermione. "Azkaban" excels at capturing -- and elaborating on -- the details that make the books such a delight. While Rowling introduced the hippogriff -- half griffin, half horse -- it's Cuaron who answers the question, "What do hippogriff droppings look like?" Contains fisticuffs, an implied beheading and a sad sack werewolf. Area theaters.

-- Nicole Arthur

{sstar} HELLBOY (PG-13, 112 minutes) -- Director Guillermo Del Toro's live-action feature about a demonic-looking superhero (Ron Perlman) who fights evil is a faithful yet imaginative expansion of Mike Mignola's Dark Horse Comics series. Although some of the conflicts are mundanely familiar, Del Toro moves the action along with energy and wit. Perlman is perfect for the role, illuminating what he calls "the whole 'lonely hero' thing" from within -- not to mention from under a ton of makeup and prosthetics. Contains the requisite comic book violence. University Mall Theatres.

-- Richard Harrington

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. University Mall Theatres.

-- 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. Contains pervasive crude language, some violence and sexuality. Cineplex Odeon Dupont Circle.

-- 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 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

{sstar} KIRIKOU AND THE SORCERESS (Unrated, 74 minutes) -- With an animation style inspired by the landscapes of painter Henri Rousseau and figures from ancient Egyptian art, the African-set "Kirikou and the Sorceress" is about as far from the plastic-looking "The Lion King" as could be. Based on a traditional West African folk tale about a boy who comes out his mother's womb speaking (not to mention itching for a fight with an evil witch), "Kirikou" doesn't just present an unusual protagonist and a series of good-vs.-evil confrontations, although that's part of it. Its pint-size hero, you see, isn't merely content to vanquish the titular enchantress. He wants to discover what makes her wicked, and fix that, too. This makes "Kirikou" all the more extraordinary. Contains unerotic female toplessness, a pantless, preternaturally resourceful toddler and a couple of threatening animals. AFI Silver Theatre through Sunday.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{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. Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse.

LOVE ME IF YOU DARE (R, 94 minutes) -- Writer-director Yann Samuell's sugarcoated yet black-hearted tale of an obsessive relationship is a nasty piece of work about two nasty pieces of work. French tykes Sophie and Julien bond over their shared sense of aggrievement: Julien's mother has terminal cancer, and Sophie is regularly tormented for being Polish and poor. The two begin a game of dares that continues into their college days (when they're played by Marion Cotillard and Guillaume Canet) and beyond. The tale concludes with two possible scenarios for the couple's eternal connection. One is sentimental and the other sensationalistic -- which just happen to be the two poles of the movie's sensibility. Although not quite so nostalgic as "Amelie,'' the film aspires to a similar sort of vision of France as a fairy-tale universe: never-never land, but with sex. Contains sexual situations, profane language, comical depictions of urination and risky business. In French with subtitles. Landmark's E Street Cinema.

-- Mark Jenkins

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.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

MONTY PYTHON'S LIFE OF BRIAN (R, 93 minutes) -- I'm not sure if "Monty Python's Life of Brian" -- which is being rereleased both to celebrate its 25th anniversary and to tweak "The Passion of the Christ" -- qualifies as religious satire, since many of the jokes have more to do with big noses (and other big body parts) than with faith. The good news is that the film, which centers around a man named Brian Cohen (Graham Chapman), who was born in the manger one door down from Jesus, is still funny. The bad news, at least to those who remember it fondly as quasi-blasphemous, is that its humor nowadays seems pretty tame, especially in comparison to a religious comedy like "Saved!," which is far nastier in its God-bashing than this quaintly old-fashioned yuk-fest. Contains naughty humor involving sex and religion. Landmark's E Street Cinema.

-- 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

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. Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse and University Mall Theatres.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

RAISING HELEN (PG-13, 119 minutes) -- I can't really blame "About a Boy" for starting the trend of movies about shallow people who find themselves by looking after children. That was actually a good movie. I do, however, blame bad movies like "Uptown Girls" and "Jersey Girl" for perpetuating the myth -- exemplified in "Raising Helen" -- that kids are mainly useful as self-improvement tools. When Manhattan go-getter Helen (Kate Hudson) inherits three minor children from her late sister and brother-in-law, she thinks her life is over. But it has really just begun! Unfortunately, yours is about to take a turn for the worse, thanks to two hours of smarmy, lightweight dramedy. Contains some bad language and thematic material related to the death of parents and teenage sexuality. Area theaters.

-- 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. Visions Bar Noir.

-- Mark Jenkins

SAVED! (PG-13, 92 minutes) -- Lord knows I wanted to love this religious satire about holier-than-thou hypocrites. Unfortunately, the comedy, which centers around the reaction at a Christian high school when a former good girl (Jena Malone) gets pregnant, is guilty of the same black-and-white, aren't we-better-than-you smugness that it accuses its fundamentalist Christian victims of. In the end, despite some great laugh moments, the comedy gets as stridently preachy as the God Squad phonies (led by Mandy Moore's finger-wagging Hilary Faye) whom it mocks with all too easy condescension. Contains obscenity, sexual humor and slapstick violence. At Loews Georgetown, Landmark's Bethesda Row and Cineplex Odeon Shirlington.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} SCOOBY-DOO 2: MONSTERS UNLEASHED (PG, 85 minutes) -- After reuniting in the first live-action "Scooby-Doo," the members of Mystery Inc. -- Fred (Freddie Prinze Jr.), Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Velma (Linda Cardellini), Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) and Scooby-Doo (voiced by Neil Fanning) -- find themselves successful and universally adored. But at the opening of the Coolsonian Criminology Museum's new exhibit -- a collection of costumes worn by criminals they've unmasked -- the Pterodactyl Ghost comes to life and goes on a rampage, and a masked villain threatens to destroy Coolsville. When newscaster Heather Jasper-Howe (Alicia Silverstone) blames Mystery Inc. for the disaster and casts doubt on its ability to solve the mystery, the sleuths begin to question their own weaknesses and roles in the group. The monsters are still the highlight of the film, and if history is any guide, there will be more ghosts and evildoers for our wholesome heroes to battle in "Scooby-Doo 3." Contains rude language, some fighting and scary situations. United Artists Snowden Square.

-- Christina Talcott

{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, 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 quiet 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

SOUL PLANE (R, 86 minutes) -- If only the National Transportation Safety Board had license to stop "Soul Plane" from taking off, we could have saved ourselves from yet another African American film that thrives on stereotypes. By letting it fly, viewers have a chance to take a crash course in tastelessness by watching another piece of nouveau blaxploitation, in which black people decked out in their bling-bling sing and dance to raunchy hip-hop music and eat fried chicken while sipping Alize. After main character Nashawn (Kevin Hart) gets stuck on an airplane toilet, he wins a miraculous settlement of $100 million for his suffering (they also killed his dog), and then decides to start his own airline. Before the inaugural flight, Captain Mack (Snoop Dogg) shows up without real pilot credentials, making the inaugural flight from Los Angeles to New York a shaky one. An hour and a half of real airplane turbulence is better than sitting through the bad, offensive material that makes up the film. Fo' shizzle. Contains strong sexual content, much profanity and drug use. Area theaters.

-- Sara Gebhardt

{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. Landmark's Bethesda Row, Cinema Arts Theatre and Landmark's E Street Cinema.

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. Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse.

-- 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, 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. N.E. Theatre Fairfax Corner.

-- 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.

{sstar}THE TWILIGHT SAMURAI (Unrated, 129 minutes) -- Swordplay is the not the point of this complex, moving domestic drama, although venerable writer-director Yoji Yamada's Oscar-nominated film eventually supplies a couple of battles. Widower Seibei (Hiroyuki Sanada) is of inherited samurai rank, but he's merely a poorly paid clerk in 1860s Japan, an age with little need of warriors. When he sees his childhood sweetheart (Rie Miyazawa) struck by her ex-husband, Seibei challenges the cad to a duel. Private battles are forbidden by the local clan, so the bout is kept quiet. Word of Seibei's victory gets around, nonetheless, and soon the newly esteemed swordsman is ordered to battle a more formidable opponent. Seibei reluctantly accepts the assignment, but the most important part of the climactic encounter is not the fight but the frank conversation that precedes it. Contains several glimpses of corpses and brief outbursts of violence. In Japanese with English subtitles. Landmark's E Street Cinema.

-- Mark Jenkins

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 love making 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

Repertory

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: The IMAX Experience," daily at 1, 4 and 6. 14390 Air and Space Museum Pkwy., Chantilly. 202-357-2700.

AMERICAN CITY DINER -- "A Streetcar Named Desire," Friday at 8:30. "Spellbound," Saturday at 8. "American Graffiti," Sunday at 8:30. "Hud," Monday at 8:30. "Blackboard Jungle," Tuesday at 8:30. "Days of Wine & Roses," Wednesday at 8:30. "From Here to Eternity," Thursday at 8:30. 5532 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-244-1949.

CHARLES THEATRE -- "The Misfits," Saturday at noon and Thursday at 9. 1711 N. Charles St., Baltimore. 410-727-3456.

DCJCC -- "Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi," Monday at 8. Goldman Theater, 1529 16th St. NW. 202-777-3269.

FREER -- "Anything Can Happen," Friday at 7. "The Lady of the House," Sunday at 2. Free, but tickets required. Meyer Auditorium, 12th Street and Jefferson Drive SW. 202-633-4880.

GREATEST GENERATION FILM FESTIVAL -- "Au revoir les enfants," Saturday at 2:45. Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, 3900 Harewood Rd. NE. 202-635-5400.

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

NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART -- "Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya," Friday at 11:30. "Frida, naturaleza viva," Friday at 12:30. "Nazarin," Friday at 3 and Sunday at 2. "Danzon," Saturday at 2 and 4. "Popol Vuh," Sunday at 12:30. "Herod's Law," Sunday at 4. Free. East Building, Fourth and Constitution NW. 202-737-4215.

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. 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.

PSYCHOTRONIC FILM SOCIETY -- "Come Get Some," 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. "Breaking Away," Wednesday at 7:30, in a benefit for Food & Friends. 1927 Florida Ave. NW. 202-667-0090.

WEINBERG CENTER -- "Under Western Stars," Friday at 7:30. 20 W. Patrick St., Frederick. 301-228-2828.

New on Video

{sstar} ALONG CAME POLLY

(PG-13, 2004, 90 MINUTES, UNIVERSAL PICTURES)

As a tightly wrapped insurance-industry risk analyst rebounding from a brief, bad marriage by embarking on a fling with a free-spirit waitress, Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston head a cast of talented clowns, including Debra Messing, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Hank Azaria and Alec Baldwin. Yes, filmmaker John Hamburg's humor is at times preoccupied with bodily functions, but it's also grounded in real life and in the real behavior of people confronted by life absurdities. It's also a sweet love story whose message about enjoying life's ride applies equally well to the diverting film. Contains some obscenity, comic sex scenes, glimpses of a couple of naked buttocks and a fair amount of humor related to bodily functions.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} CITY OF GOD

(R, 2002, 130 MINUTES, MIRAMAX FILMS)

Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles, co-director Katia Lund and screenwriter Braulio Mantovani have created an extraordinary film about Cidade de Deus (City of God), where drug-dealing teenagers kill one another with mesmerizing abandon. Left alone by the police and completely ignored by Brazilian society, the City of God lives by its own rules, trading on marijuana, cocaine, murder and bloody legend. Meirelles and Lund spent months casting, training and rehearsing mostly amateur teenagers who came from Cidade de Deus and other slums. The result: amazingly authentic, fluid performances, particularly from Leandro Firmino da Hora as a chilling teen gangster named Li'l Ze. Contains disturbing violence, drug content, obscene language, nudity and sexual scenes.

-- Desson Thomson

{sstar} MYSTIC RIVER

(R, 2003, 137 MINUTES, WARNER BROS.)

Assured, unhurried and steady, "Mystic River" takes director Clint Eastwood to an even higher watermark than "Bird," "The Bridges of Madison County" and "Unforgiven." Adapted by screenwriter Brian ("L.A. Confidential") Helgeland from Dennis Lehane's novel, the deeply textured drama in which the sins of the past weigh heavily on the present centers around three childhood friends, played in adulthood by Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon, and what happens to them when one of the group's daughter is killed. As the murdered girl's raging father, Penn, like his co-stars, is terrific, but it is Robbins, as a man harboring childhood ghosts, who is the film's linchpin. Contains sexual content, violence, a gruesome murder scene and emotional intensity.

-- D.T.