Film Capsules

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

Openings

A CINDERELLA STORY (PG) -- See capsule review on Page 49.

THE CORPORATION (Unrated) -- See review on Page 39.

FACING WINDOWS (R) -- See review on Page 42.

I, ROBOT (PG-13) -- See review on Page 39.

IMELDA (Unrated) -- See review on Page 41.

RIDING GIANTS (PG-13) -- See review on Page 41.

First Runs & Revivals

{sstar} ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY (PG-13, 91 minutes) -- This Will Ferrell comedy is wonderfully silly all the time. Its premise has irresistible mileage: Ferrell as a '70s telegenic newsman-stud named Ron Burgundy, a clueless womanizer who hobnobs with a trio of moronic colleagues, sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner), news reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) and weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell). Ron's world gets a rough shakedown when he falls in love with the talented Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), who possesses actual journalistic skills, as opposed to the ability to read from a teleprompter. Written by Ferrell and director Andy McKay (a former "Saturday Night Live" writer), "Anchorman" rests on the likable funniness of Ferrell and his bag of unexpected tricks. Contains cartoonish violence to an animal, some obscenity, sexual situations, banter and an entire rendition of "Afternoon Delight." Area theaters.

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS (PG, 125 minutes) -- Jackie Chan continues to strain himself to the point of bursting major blood vessels to be rubbery fun. It's cringe-inducing to watch. In this zestless remake of the 1956 movie, he's Lau Xing, a Chinese villager along for the ride, caught up in a globe-traveling stunt. Phileas Fogg (Steve Coogan), a 19th-century inventor, bets the imperious Lord Kelvin (Jim Broadbent), head of the Royal Academy of Science, that he can traverse the globe in 80 days; and Lau (whom Phileas dubs Passepartout), who is trying to smuggle a jade Buddha home to his Chinese village, joins him. Coogan, one of England's funniest comedians, is made into an unconvincing leading man. And in the worst cameo of anyone's career, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Prince Hapi, a royal Turkish womanizer who temporarily interrupts Phileas's journey. Contains action violence, some crude humor and mild obscenity. N.E. Theatre Fairfax corner.

BEFORE SUNSET (R, 80 minutes) -- I can't say that I was losing any sleep wondering whatever happened to Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy), the lovers whose one-night stand in Vienna formed the subject of Richard Linklater's "Before Sunrise." Still, even I felt ripped off by the 1995 film's sequel, which reveals that the pair, reunited in Paris, still care for each other. What it does not reveal is what Jesse, who is now married with a kid, and Celine, who is seriously involved with a photojournalist, intend to do about it. Those more charitable than I might say this cliffhanger ends with a note of deliciously ambiguous romantic tension. I say it's coitus interruptus, and I say the heck with it. Contains obscenity and sex talk. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK (PG-13, 115 minutes) -- In this convoluted follow-up to "Pitch Black," Vin Diesel reprises his role as the space adventurer Richard P. Riddick. Five years after the events of the first film, Riddick -- a big, strapping dude with ice-blue eyes for night vision and a vocal cadence that suggests Elmer Fudd on steroids -- finds himself captured by Lord Marshal (Colm Feore) and his nasty army of Necromongers. Stuck in a hard-core underground prison on the volcanic planet of Crematoria, he reencounters Kyra (Alexa Davalos), a woman he has some history with; and gets a little help from Aereon (Dame Judi Dench), an ambassador of the Elemental race, who's able to transform herself, float in the air and move through objects. The muddy story essentially revolves around the star's cool-guy poses and one-liners. For Diesel fans only, at best. Contains sci-fi violence, noise and some obscenity. Majestic Theatres and Muvico Egyptian Theatres.

THE CLEARING (R, 91 minutes) -- This thriller, by producer-turned-director Pieter Jan Brugge, does a workmanlike job of creating menace, but gradually loses its way. Wayne Hayes (Robert Redford) has built himself a small American empire: a fine home in a wealthy Pittsburgh suburb with his wife, Eileen (Helen Mirren). But a stranger (Willem Dafoe), who has been stalking him, kidnaps Wayne. Eileen must endure emotional upheaval and cooperate with an FBI agent (Matt Craven) who uncovers inconvenient revelations about Wayne. Redford's performance is strong and assured. He projects the right balance of confidence and moral malaise. But neither he nor the filmmakers justify our initial investment in the movie. We find ourselves looking for the wrong sort of clearing: a way out. Contains some obscenity. Area theaters.

COLD MOUNTAIN (R, 154 minutes) -- In a North Carolina mountain community in the 1860s, pampered city girl Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman) falls in love with good-with-his-hands Inman (Jude Law). But as soon as their mutual attraction becomes obvious, the Civil War intervenes. Kidman and Law are walking, talking cadavers in love in this adaptation of Charles Frazier's celebrated novel. But writer-director Anthony Minghella has assembled a visually impressive production that gives us a sense of the Civil War that took so many lives and left a whole culture devastated. Renee Zellweger steals the movie as Ruby, a hardscrabble drifter who helps Ada survive the war. Contains sex scenes, violence and scenes of emotional intensity. Arlington Cinema 'N Drafthouse.

{sstar} CONTROL ROOM (Unrated, 86 minutes) -- The cultural and religious fault lines between Western and Eastern news coverage of the Iraq invasion are made all too clear in Jehane Noujaim's enlightening, if structurally wandering documentary. The Egyptian American filmmaker attended news briefings by Centcom (the abbreviation for the American military's U.S. Central Command), witnessed candid conversations between foreign journalists and Centcom press officer Lt. Josh Rushing, and spent virtually unlimited time in the al-Jazeera newsroom. She also conducted many interviews with, and followed around, al-Jazeera journalists. The documentary covers the main highlights of the war's media coverage, including al-Jazeera's highly controversial decision to show footage of captured American troops, and the eventual fall of Baghdad. It shows a resistance to truth on both sides of the ideological news divide. Many members of the American media may have been embedded prisoners of the Pentagon's propaganda machine, but al-Jazeera has its own agenda, too, using hyperbole and slanted coverage to show the U.S. forces in as poor a light as possible. Contains disturbing carnage of soldiers and civilians, including children. In English and some Arabic with subtitles. Landmark's Bethesda Row and Landmark's E Street Cinema.

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 of luck. Contains death, destruction of personal property and one mild obscenity. Annapolis Mall and University Mall Theatres.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

DE-LOVELY (PG-13, 125 minutes) -- An aged Cole Porter (Kevin Kline) and a friendly stranger called Gabe (Jonathan Pryce) look at Cole's personal and artistic life, as if it were a stage play. It would take a powerful movie to transcend this conceit, and "De-Lovely" isn't that movie. The story-within-the-story focuses on Cole's relationship with his wife, Linda Porter (Ashley Judd), who championed his music and ignored (as much as she could) the songwriter's homosexuality. But despite a subject of immense potential, the film is inert and uninvolving. The flashback scenes, which cover 40 years of Porter's life, never rise above the canned poignancy of a bio-film. Porter's songs, interpreted by a wide variety of singers from Natalie Cole to Elvis Costello, are the movie's only good thing. Contains post-coital canoodling and sexual references. Landmark's Bethesda Row and Loews Georgetown.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY (PG-13, 91 minutes) -- Ben Stiller's wickedly funny as the wonderfully repulsive White Goodman, the '70s-coiffed, spandex-attired owner of an exclusive fitness center called Globo Gym. (He suggests the lovechild of Eric Roberts in "Star 80.") Vince Vaughn is also funny as Peter La Fleur, the lackadaisical owner of Average Joe's, a gym for the lumpy, tubby, meek and generally anti-Adonis crowd. When they field opposing teams to compete in a dodgeball contest for $50,000, the movie turns into a spirited spoof on every misfit-team caper from "The Longest Yard" to "The Mighty Ducks." The movie's full of down-and-dirty (but funny) gags and one-liners, and memorable scenes, especially between laid-back Peter and almost psychotically intense White, who refuses to let his complete incompetence with vocabulary or the English language interfere with his self-adoration or misfired sarcasm. Contains obscenity and lewd, crude humor. Area theaters.

{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. Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} FAHRENHEIT 9/11 (R, 112 minutes) -- A guided political missile aimed directly at the presidency of George W. Bush, Michael Moore's sharply ironic narrative takes us from the Florida debacle that decided the 2000 presidential election to the political nettling aftermath of war in Iraq. He also accuses the president of being so financially and personally connected to friends in high Saudi Arabian places, he was too compromised to take decisive action against Osama bin Laden. Sure, the movie skews facts to its own advantage and makes fun of the president's goofier moments. But what counts is the emotional power of Moore's persuasion. There are startling scenes during the American invasion of Iraq that include the visceral terror of a household in Baghdad, as young American soldiers break in to arrest someone; and the candid testimony of U.S. troops who express their disgust at the situation there. And perhaps most persuasive is the dramatic turnaround experienced by Lila Lipscomb, a Michigan mother. She changes from patriotic support for the Bush administration to heartbroken despair after she loses a son to the war. Contains footage of war dead and wounded, including children. Area theaters.

GARFIELD: THE MOVIE (PG, 85 minutes) -- Kids may be satisfied with this movie version of the famous comic strip, simply because it has a fuzzy cat. And a fuzzy dog. "Garfield" is essentially harmless, unless your child finds obviously computer-generated, bug-eyed rodents who quip with incessant smugness kinda scary. There's nothing to recommend about this film except its sheer innocuousness. Contains nothing particularly objectionable, except wan humor. Area theaters.

{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. "Azkaban" excels at capturing -- and elaborating on -- the details that make the books such a delight. Contains fisticuffs, an implied beheading and a sad-sack werewolf. Area theaters.

-- Nicole Arthur

{sstar} THE HUNTING OF THE PRESIDENT: THE TEN-YEAR CAMPAIGN TO DESTROY BILL CLINTON (Unrated, 89 minutes) -- Based on the book by investigative reporters Joe Conason and Gene Lyons, Harry Thomason and Nickolas Perry's documentary reexamination of the events leading up to President Clinton's impeachment hearings lends a whole lot of credence to the theory that there was, as Hillary Rodham Clinton once said, a "vast right-wing conspiracy" against her husband. Replete with villains minor and major (with former chief independent counsel Ken Starr leading the howling pack), "Hunting" has almost everything one expects from an old-fashioned drama, including a damsel in distress in the person of Susan McDougal, who went to jail rather than, as she tells it, lie about her friend the president. What it doesn't have is a clear-cut hero, just a powerful but flawed man at its center, whose apparent hounding by the far right is the stuff of righteous outrage. Contains snippets of testimony about sexual relations, a four-letter word, a glimpse of a woman in a wet T-shirt and old news footage of an execution. Visions Bar Noir.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} I'LL SLEEP WHEN I'M DEAD (R, 102 minutes) -- The title of this deliciously dark, psychological thriller from director Mike Hodges ("Croupier") suggests both denial and acceptance. On the one hand, the words might be taken as the motto of its brooding antihero, Will Graham (Clive Owen), a former gangster who comes out of retirement to doggedly get to the bottom of, and punish those responsible for, the death of his younger brother (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) -- even though Will discovers, in the course of his investigation, that the kid died by suicide. On the other hand, "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" could be read as a sigh of resignation, if not outright yearning, for the slumber afforded by the grave, which, in a way, offers more relief from torment than the cold satisfactions of revenge do. Contains obscenity, violence and drug use. 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 it's no less fun than the first installment. Contains obscenity, drug content and plentiful violence. Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} KING ARTHUR (PG-13, 130 minutes) -- This revisionist version of the Arthurian legend, which traces the origins of the well-known saga of knights and derring-do to the 5th century is a bracing tonic to all that "Camelot"-style, Holy Grail hoo-ha that many of us grew up with. In the film by director Antoine Fuqua (written by David "Gladiator" Franzoni and produced by Jerry "Pirates of the Caribbean" Bruckheimer), Arthur (Clive Owen) is the half-Roman, half-British commander of a troop of reluctant foreign conscripts guarding the Roman territory south of Hadrian's Wall against incursions by Picts and Saxons. Guinevere (Keira Knightley) is a ferocious Pict warrior, while the only sorcery that her father, Merlin (Stephen Dillane), knows is the magic of guerrilla warfare. The story may owe as much to the "Lord of the Rings" cycle as to history, but the whole thing still feels like a breath of fresh air blowing the dust off a very old tale. Contains intense but generally gore-free battle scenes, some bawdy talk and sensuality. In English and a bit of Pictish with subtitles. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

MAN ON FIRE (R, 146 minutes) -- 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, 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. University Mall Theatres.

-- 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. Regal Countryside Stadium and University Mall Theatres.

-- 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. Contains naughty humor involving sex and religion. Visions Bar Noir. Shown with "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} NAPOLEON DYNAMITE (PG, 86 minutes) -- In Jared Hess's deadpan-funny indie comedy, Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder) is a scrawny nerd from Preston, Idaho, whose eyes are lost behind the semi-opaque haze of his glasses and who packs some wicked comments for his tormentors. As he weathers his oppressive worlds at home and school, he seems to exist in a live-action version of Mike Judge's TV cartoons ("Beavis and Butt-head," "King of the Hill") or Todd Solondz's suburban geek epic "Welcome to the Dollhouse." Jon Gries is hilariously out-there as Napoleon's incredibly narcissistic Uncle Rico. So is Aaron Ruell as his reclusive, thirty-something brother, Kip. And as Napoleon's withdrawn friend Pedro, Efren Ramirez is almost too odd to chuckle at. Contains some sexual innuendo. Area theaters.

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 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

{sstar} THE NOTEBOOK (PG-13, 121 minutes) -- A genial visitor (the ever-dignified James Garner) named Duke insists on reading a romantic story to an aged woman (Gena Rowlands) despite her struggles with Alzheimer's disease. What Duke reads becomes the main body of the film: a 1940s romance in Seabrook, N.C., between 17-year-old Allie and gutsy 19-year-old Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling), who courts her with the relentlessness of a catbird. The film may be one hundred percent sap, but its spirit is anything but cloying, thanks to persuasive performances, most notably from Rachel McAdams. Contains sexual situations. Area theaters.

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.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

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. Foxchase.

-- 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. 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. University Mall Theatres.

-- 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

SLEEPOVER (PG, 90 minutes) -- "Sleepover" lives up to the Hollywood cliche of the out-crowd winning against the in-crowd, and does it without some of the more lewd elements that show up in teen flicks these days. Geared toward tweens, the movie follows four graduating eighth-graders who want to improve their social status before their freshman year. Julie (Alexa Vega of "Spy Kids" fame) has three friends over for a birthday sleepover on the last day of junior high school. When one of the popular-girls-in-training unexpectedly shows up at Julie's sleepover and challenges the girls to a scavenger hunt against her crew to play for the coveted lunch table at their future high school, they accept the dare. They break parental rules and sneak out of the house to complete the tasks. Moviegoers can take what they want from it, whether that be a sense of empowerment, that girls get more attention when they dress a certain way or just that there's a cute new hunk to chat about on message boards. Contains kissing and a tame nightclub scene. Area theaters.

-- Sara Gebhardt

{sstar} SPIDER-MAN 2 (PG-13, 120 minutes) -- This follow-up film to "Spider-Man" is as fine a repeat experience as our foolish, creativity-challenged tradition of sequelizing allows. You can't ask for more than that. The movie, directed with precision and an appreciation for (relatively) rich character texture by Sam Raimi, remembers all the fine elements of the original film (and the comic book story), including wonderfully choreographed, skyscraper-hanging fights and that achy-breaky relationship between Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire) and Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). It also reprises the charmingly hokey affection between Peter and his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) and introduces a memorable villain: Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), a scientist who is fused with the evil he has wrought, a man caught and forever connected to four metallic pincered arms. The film's touching, fun and alert. Contains comic book violence. Area theaters.

{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. Cineplex Odeon Outer Circle.

THE STEPFORD WIVES (PG-13, 93 minutes) -- In this over-the-top remake of the 1975 film (a better, more ominous version), TV producer Joanna Eberhart (Nicole Kidman) is fired and takes a break in the genteel Connecticut suburb of Stepford. But she soon learns she's in the land of Betty Crocker gone insane, where rich, geeky husbands have turned their wives into psychotically enthusiastic homemakers and sex-on-demand nymphos. Screenwriter Paul Rudnick goes for jokes by the bagful. But he and director Frank Oz come up hackneyed when it comes to making fun of making fun of WASP snobbery, mass consumption and male insecurity. "The Stepford Wives" provides funny but mutely safe giggles about former frat boys and nerds who have turned their wives into robots. It's only Rudnick's humor that helps you get through any of it. Contains sexual content and some obscenity. Area theaters.

{sstar} THE STORY OF THE WEEPING CAMEL (PG, 90 minutes) -- A "narrative documentary" in the tradition of "Nanook of the North," "Weeping Camel" follows a family of Mongolian herders in the Gobi desert as one of their 60 camels gives birth to -- and then rejects -- its albino baby. As is customary in this culture, the nomads trek to a nearby settlement to recruit the services of a musician, who then sings and plays a traditional song meant to coax the estranged mother and child together. Yes, it's a delightful animal story, but it's so much more than that, too. It's not only a story about a way of life that will be unfamiliar to many of us, but about how love is something that transcends geographic boundaries -- and species. Contains scenes of nude bathing and a birthing camel. In Mongolian with English subtitles. Landmark's Bethesda Row and 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. Alexandria Old Town Theater, Cineplex Odeon Dupont and Cineplex Odeon Outer Circle.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} THE TERMINAL (PG-13, 128 minutes) -- Foreign visitor Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks) lands in New York's JFK airport, only to find himself stateless, since his (fictional) country of Krakozhia is undergoing a military coup. The airport supervisor (Stanley Tucci) informs Victor he must accordingly wait for maybe weeks in the terminal. So begins a physically claustrophobic yet highly entertaining caper set in a mini-universe of Starbucks, Borders, escalators and pushcarts. Viktor joins a funny community that includes food-services grunt (Diego Luna), a friendly customs officer (Zoe Saldana), an eccentric Indian floor cleaner (Kumar Pallana), and romantically needy flight attendant Amelia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who's forever coming and going. The movie's delicately funny and inventive, thanks to writers Andrew ("The Truman Show") Niccol, Sacha Gervasi and Jeff Nathanson (who wrote "Catch Me if You Can"), and Steven Spielberg. Contains mild sexual content. Area theaters.

{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. Cineplex Odeon Wisconsin Ave.

TWO BROTHERS (PG, 120 minutes) -- In French director Jean-Jacques Annaud's story, two real tigers are separated when young and taken into captivity, only to face each other years later as adult tigers who are goaded into fighting each other. Of course, they "recognize" each other. The tigers are adorable and fuzzy. And the film's sentiments -- the immorality of stealing or hunting rare species, such as the tiger -- are spot-on. But the story, which features an apparently lobotomized Guy Pearce as an opportunistic explorer and hunter who learns the errors of his ways, is deeply dull. For fans of wild beauty only. Contains implied, off-screen violence. P&G Montgomery Mall, N.E. Theatre Fairfax Corner and AMC Mazza Gallerie.

WHITE CHICKS (PG-13, 105 minutes) -- In this awful caper, tiresomely drawn from a few dozen other bad cross-dressing films of the forgettable past, Marlon and Shawn Wayans (the untalented end of the family) are two disgraced FBI agents. Determined to show they have the right stuff, they volunteer to pose as doubles for two white, pampered heiresses, Brittany and Tiffany (Maitland Ward and Anne Dudek), who are in danger of being kidnapped. Cue the latex breasts, the blond wigs and both Wayans speaking in "knee-slapping" mall-princess falsetto. Laugh? I thought I'd never start. Contains crude and sexual humor, obscenity and drug use. Area theaters.

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 -- "The Thomas Crown Affair," Friday at 8. "Some Like It Hot," Saturday at 8. "Sleeper," Sunday at 8:15. "Nurse Betty," Monday at 8:30. "Rear Window," Tuesday at 8. "The Birds," Wednesday at 8:30. "Frankenstein," Thursday at 8. 5532 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-244-1949.

INGMAR BERGMAN CITY-WIDE RETROSPECTIVE --

AFI Silver Theatre (8633 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring; 202-885-5950): "Fanny and Alexander," Friday at 7:30, Saturday-Sunday at 1 and 7:30. "Through a Glass Darkly," Monday at 5:05 and 7, Wednesday at 9:10. "Winter Light," Monday at 9:10, Tuesday at 5:05 and 7. "The Rite," Tuesday at 9:10. "The Silence," Wednesday at 7, Thursday at 9:25.

National Gallery of Art (East Building, Fourth and Constitution NW; 202-737-4215): "Smiles of a Summer Night," Friday at 2:30 and Saturday at 4:30. "Wild Strawberries," Saturday at 2:30. "The Magician," Sunday at 4:30.

BETHESDA ROW MOVIE SERIES -- "Vertigo," Tuesday at 9. Bethesda and Wisconsin avenues, Bethesda. Free. 301-998-8181.

BRAZILIAN-AMERICAN CULTURAL Institute -- "Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus)," Tuesday at 7. "Bicho de Sete Cabecas," Thursday at 7. 4719 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-362-8334.

COLLEGE PARK AVIAITON MUSEUM -- "Battle of Britain," Friday at 2. 1985 Cpl. Frank Scott Dr., College Park. 301-864-6029.

COLUMBIA ASSOCIATION LAKEFRONT Film Festival -- "50 First Dates," Friday at 8:30. Cartoons, Monday at 8:30. Town Center lakefront, Columbia. 877-713-9674, Ext. 9010.

DOCS IN PROGRESS -- "Voices From the Movement" and "War and Peacemakers," Tuesday at 7:30. Warehouse Theater, 1021 Seventh St. NW. 240-505-8696.

FILMS ON THE HILL -- "Scaramouche," Friday at 7. "The Iron Mask," Wednesday at 7. Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, 545 Seventh St. SE. 202-547-6839.

FREER -- "Inner Senses," Friday at 7 and Sunday at 2. Free, but tickets required. Meyer Auditorium, 12th Street and Jefferson Drive SW. 202-633-4880.

GRIOT CINEMA -- "A Place of Our Own," Sunday at 3:15. Erico Cafe, 1334 U St. NW. 202-518-9742.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS -- "Up the Junction," Friday at 7. "The Big Issue: Segregation in the Public Schools," "American Forum of the Air: The Supreme Court's Desegregation Decision" and "The Road to Brown," Monday at 7. "The Court Jester" and "An Hour with Danny Kaye," Tuesday at 7. "99 44/100% Dead," Wednesday at 7. "Eyewitness: The U.S. v. Mississippi," "Meet the Press: James Meredith" and "Eyewitness: Color Line on Campus," Thursday at 7. Free, but reservations required. Mary Pickford Theater, 101 Independence Ave. SE 202-707-5677.

MARYLAND SCIENCE CENTER -- IMAX Theater: "Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees" and "Hubble: Galaxies Across Space & Time," Friday daily at 10:30, 12:45, 3 and 7:45. "NASCAR 3D: The IMAX Experience," Friday, Saturday and Thursday at 11:30, 1:45, 4, 6:30 and 8:45; Sunday-Wednesday at 11:30, 1:45, 4 and 6:30. "Sacred Planet," daily at 5:15. Davis Planetarium: "The Sky Live!" Friday, Saturday and Thursday at noon, 3 and 6; Sunday at 3; Monday-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. "Live From the Sun," Sunday at noon. 601 Light St., Baltimore. 410-685-5225.

MIDNIGHTS BENEATH BETHESDA -- "Forbidden Zone," Friday and Saturday at midnight. 7235 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda. 301-652-7273.

MIDNIGHTS ON E -- "Princess Mononoke," Friday and Saturday at midnight. Landmark's E Street Cinema, 555 11th St. NW. 202-452-7672.

MOVIES UNDER THE MOON -- "Spy Kids 3D: Game Over," Friday at 8:30. "Seabiscuit," Saturday at 8:30. "Jurassic Park," Sunday at 8:30. "Casablanca," Monday at 8:30. "Men in Black," Tuesday at 8:30. "The Wizard of Oz," Wednesday at 8:30. "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King," Thursday at 8:30. Robinson football field, George Mason University, 4400 University Dr., Fairfax. Free. 703-993-1000.

NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART -- "Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya," Friday, Sunday and Tuesday at 11:30. "Jim Dine: Self-Portrait on the Walls," Friday-Saturday at 12:30. "Smiles of a Summer Night," Friday at 2:30 and Saturday at 4:30. "Wild Strawberries," Saturday at 2:30. "The Magician," Sunday at 4:30. "Dog Tales," film for children, Wednesday at 10:30 and 11:30. "Jim Dine: Childhood Stories," Wednesday-Thursday at 12:30. Free. East Building, Fourth and Constitution NW. 202-737-4215.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN ART -- Lecture Hall: "Hunters of Evil Spirits: Senufo Masks" and "A Celebration of Ancestors: Guro Masks," Sunday at 2. "Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters" and "Koi & the Kola Nuts," films for children, Wednesday at 10:30. Free. Ripley Center, 1100 Jefferson Dr. SW. 202-357-4600 (TDD: 202-357-4814).

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AMERICAN HISTORY -- "A Most Unlikely Hero," Saturday at 2. Free. Carmichael Auditorium, 14th and Constitution NW.

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.

NATIONAL THEATRE -- "Above Suspicion," Monday at 6:30. Helen Hayes Gallery, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Free. 202-783-3372.

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 -- "Rat Pfink a Boo Boo," Tuesday at 8. Dr. Dremo's Taphouse, 2001 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington. 202-736-1732 or 202-707-2540.

REEL MOMS -- At Loews Georgetown (3111 K St. NW. 202-342-6033): "I, Robot," Tuesday at 11. At Loews Fairfax Square (8065 Leesburg Pike, Vienna. 703-506-9857): "I, Robot," Tuesday at 11. Loews Rio (9811 Washingtonian Center, Gaithersburg. 301-948-6673): "I, Robot," Saturday and Tuesday at 11.

SCREEN ON THE GREEN -- "All the President's Men," Monday at 8:30. On the National Mall between Fourth and Seventh streets. Free. 877-262-5866.

URBAN DRIVE-IN -- "The Lost Boys," Tuesday at 8:30. DCJCC parking lot, 1529 16th St. NW. 202-777-3208.

VISIONS BAR NOIR -- "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," Friday-Saturday at midnight. "Monty Python's Life of Brian," Friday-Saturday at midnight. "Unprecedented: the 2000 Presidential Election," Tuesday at 7. 1927 Florida Ave. NW. 202-667-0090.

New on Video

AGAINST THE ROPES

(PG-13, 2004, 111 MINUTES, PARAMOUNT PICTURES)

This formulaic boxing picture, based on the life of successful female boxing manager Jackie Kallen (spunky Meg Ryan), hits all the predictable marks. Naturally, Kallen has to overcome sexism and the underdog status of her chief fighter (Omar Epps) to achieve the kind of victory we have been conditioned to expect. After all, they don't make many boxing movies about losers. It's not giving anything away that you don't already know to tell you that, following tracks that have been well worn since the days of the first "Rocky," Kallen emerges from adversity triumphant -- and with all her spunkiness intact. Contains obscenity, some drug references, a strip-club scene and violence inside and outside the ring.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

AGENT CODY BANKS 2: DESTINATION LONDON

(PG, 2004, 100 MINUTES, MGM)

Thanks mainly to the likable Frankie Muniz, reprising his role as a teenage 007, this sequel is a reasonable diversion. But the story's action sequences are so abbreviated that they hardly register, and the undercooked comedy gives away the fact that the film was rushed into production to accommodate the star's hiatus between "Malcolm in the Middle" seasons. Young viewers may find it genial enough, but odds are they'll have forgotten the whole thing by the next morning. Contains violence (mostly unconvincing hand-to-hand combat) and some unnecessarily crude language.

-- M.O.

{sstar} THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS

(NOT RATED, 2003, 99 MINUTES, MIRAMAX FILMS)

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.

-- Desson Thomson

{sstar} THE DREAMERS

(NC-17, 2003, 115 MINUTES, 20TH CENTURY FOX HOME ENTERTAINMENT)

There's so much frank sex and frontal nudity in Bernardo Bertolucci's latest -- a tale of friendship and more between an American student and an unusually close Parisian brother and sister -- that some people might not even notice that it's also a movie about ideas. Themes having to do with the conflict between idealism and reality and the power of art (especially cinema) to feed our souls percolate up through the steam, giving audiences not just something to look at, but something to think about, too. Contains obscenity, drug use, an attempted suicide and graphic nudity and sex.

-- M.O.

NEVER DIE ALONE

(R, 2004, 82 MINUTES, FOX SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES)

A bumbling adaptation of the novel by Donald Goines, the career criminal/heroin addict turned hard-boiled, ghetto pulp-fiction cult author who died in 1974. Goines's unvarnished, hard-as-nails writing and "keepin' it real" aesthetic have influenced myriad hip-hop lyricists, including DMX, here cast as King David, a ruthless, seemingly unredeemable drug dealer. Director Ernest Dickerson, scriptwriter James Gibson and cinematographer Matthew Libatique evoke film noir, but DMX is one-dimensional and his apparent conversion from heartless thug to karma-conscious penitent is unconvincing. As is the film. Contains strong violence, drug use, sexuality and language.

-- Richard Harrington