Film Capsules

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

Openings

HAROLD & KUMAR GO TO WHITE CASTLE (R) -- See review on Page 34.

A HOME AT THE END OF THE WORLD (R) -- See review on Page 34.

THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (R) -- See review on Page 33.

MARIA FULL OF GRACE (R) -- See review on Page 33.

METALLICA: SOME KIND OF MONSTER (Unrated) -- See review on Page 33.

ORWELL ROLLS IN HIS GRAVE (Unrated) -- See capsule review on Page 37.

SEDUCING DR. LEWIS (Unrated) -- See review on Page 37.

A THOUSAND CLOUDS OF PEACE (Unrated) -- See capsule review on Page 37.

THUNDERBIRDS (PG) -- See capsule review on Page 40.

TWIST (Unrated) -- See capsule review on Page 40.

THE VILLAGE (PG-13) -- See review on Page 34.

First Runs & Revivals

{sstar} AMERICA'S HEART & SOUL (PG, 86 minutes) -- For this debut documentary, director Louis Schwartzberg took a 35mm camera on his shoulder and traversed the country, making short films about people from all corners. From horse wrangler Roudy Roudebush, who has the run of Colorado's natural beauty to Amelia Rudolph, who heads the Bandaloop Cliff Dancers, a group of nimble, graceful performers who perform beautiful routines on cliffsides, this is about people who carve their own paths. What's powerful about this movie is what's powerful about America. You could do worse than watch this and walk away with an ebullient spirit. Contains nothing objectionable. Annapolis Harbour.

{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 and banter. Area theaters.

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 quite 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. Contains obscenity and sex talk. Annapolis Harbour and Landmark's E Street Cinema.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar}THE BOURNE SUPREMACY (PG-13, 110 minutes) -- Matt Damon, reprising his role as Jason Bourne, is outwardly chilly and ruthless but passionately engaged. He has one simple mission. It needs no memorandums, no briefings, no contact with spy handlers. The former CIA assassin has to keep one step away from an assailant, and possibly more. It's great to see an action movie that takes the dirty business seriously: ruthless agents with questionable allegiance, contract killers who can't be stopped, shady doublespeak in Langley backrooms and such evocative post-Cold War locales as Berlin and Moscow. If Bourne seems like a cold being, that's because he's an instrument of survival. In this movie, you're a candidate to be toe-tagged if you don't pay attention. Contains obscenity and violence. Area theaters.

CATWOMAN (PG-13, 104 minutes) -- Halle Berry isn't Catwoman so much as a feline Janet Jackson in a series of bad glamour videos. Dressed in dominatrix leather, she performs vampy catwalks along high city ledges while the fake moon looms large in the night sky. The music rocks. That cat tail swings east and west. And special effects specialist-turned-director Pitof goes crazy with fragmentary editing and slanted camera angles. As for the story, which details how meek, gentle Patience Philips (Berry) came to be Catwoman, met a sexy detective (Benjamin Bratt) and defeated a skin cream empire, it goes down (and comes back up) like a hairball. Berry is a physical treat for many sets of eyes. But her assets aren't enough to carry this hilariously bad superhero saga. Contains cartoon violence and some sensuality. Area theaters.

A CINDERELLA STORY (PG, 97 minutes) -- In this short-order cook version of the fairy tale, Hilary Duff plays Sam, a contemporary Cinderella dreaming about finding her prince. Disinherited from her departed father's house, money and possessions thanks to her wicked stepmother (Jennifer Coolidge), she has to work in the family diner while stepmom and her two daughters from another marriage live off the riches. Turns out, that prince-to-be is the school's star quarterback, Austin (Chad Michael Murray), who's the envy of everyone but is consumed with shyness. Contains mild obscenity and sexual innuendo. Area theaters.

THE CLEARING (R, 91 minutes) -- This thriller, by longtime-producer-turned-director Pieter Jan Brugge, does a workmanlike job of creating menace. But it 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 and turns his life upside down. 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. Contains some obscenity. Landmark's Bethesda Row and Cineplex Odeon Shirlingon.

{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. Contains obscenity and brief discussion of drug use. In English and some unsubtitled French. Alexandria Old Time Theater.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{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 E Street Cinema.

{sstar} THE CORPORATION (Unrated, 145 minutes) -- One of the best in what seems to be a veritable cavalcade of recent documentaries with a left-leaning political stance, "The Corporation" paints a picture of the titular institution that isn't flattering. With ample examples drawn from the business pages, the film makes the point that, if today's companies are to be considered "persons" (a legalistic notion that arose during the 19th century), then they're persons who would be considered, by medical standards, psychopathic. Citing everything from the all-too-common layoffs ("incapacity to maintain enduring relationships") to recidivist lawbreaking ("incapacity to experience guilt"), the film's portrait of the modern corporation isn't pretty, but it sounds accurate. Contains images of violence and rioting, land mine injuries, animals with birth defects and one or two spoken vulgarities. Landmark's Bethesda Row 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. 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. Contains death, destruction of personal property and one mild obscenity. 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 stagy 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 homosexual persuasions. But despite a subject of immense potential, the film's inert and uninvolving. Contains post-coital canoodling and sexual references. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} DISTANT (UZAK) (Unrated, 110 minutes) -- This moving character piece from Nuri Bilge Ceylan, clearly derives some of its sensibilities from the hallowed cinematic churches of Andrei Tarkovsky and Yasujiro Ozu (and there's a little Chekhov, too, in his approach). Following the protracted tension between two lonely Turkish men, it at first seems to be about nothing, a minute-to-minute observation of two uneventful, frustrating lives. But "Distant," which won the grand jury prize at Cannes in 2003 for its cinematography and the acting prize for the two principal performances, works subtly on the senses and the brain. A story that observes silent behavior as much as talk, that looks down streets and sees things we normally wouldn't notice, it's a movie of powerful accumulation. Ultimately, it's about the feeling of being alive, the sensation of existence. It's a movie, in a way, about everything. Contains sexual situations, nudity and some obscenity. In Turkish with subtitles (though there is little dialogue). Landmark's E Street Cinema.

{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. Contains obscenity and lewd, crude humor. Area theaters.

A DOOR IN THE FLOOR (R, 111 minutes) -- Based on the first section of John Irving's novel "A Widow for One Year," this highfalutin drama about East Hamptons angst, lost children and "Summer of '42" sexual fantasy, splashes around in shallow tidal pools of cliche and familiarity. But it's almost worth it to watch Jeff Bridges as Ted Cole, a children's book writer and illustrator whose marriage has gone to hell with Marion (Kim Basinger). Lately, Ted's been dabbling with the emotionally suggestible Mrs. Vaughn (a bravely naked Mimi Rogers) for nude poses and passionate quickies. His troubles are exacerbated when aspiring writer Eddie O'Hare (Jon Foster) offers himself to Ted as a gushingly eager intern and becomes attracted to Marion. Now two men find themselves caught in hot water, and at odds with each other. Contains obscenity, sexual content and graphic images. Landmark's Bethesda Row, Cinema Arts Theatre and Cineplex Odeon Shirlington.

{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. Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse and 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. N.E. Theatre Fairfax Corner.

{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. 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} I, ROBOT (PG-13, 114 minutes) -- This Will Smith sci-fi fantasy, based in part on Isaac Asimov's "I, Robot" collection of short stories, intercuts live action and computer-generated imagery with breathtaking seamlessness. It's about a detective (Smith) who has to investigate the possibility that society's latest line of friendly robots, created by the benevolent Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell), could be contemplating a violent revolution. With the slow-moving help of Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan), a psychologist with an expertise in robots (or something), Spooner begins to uncover, well, what detectives always do in these films. The movie is a fabulous mental escape: playful rather than dark and foreboding. The effects are wonderful, Smith's highly likable, and Alex ("The Crow") Proyas's direction is punchy. Contains computer digital violence and maybe a mild flash of nudity. Area theaters.

{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

{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. Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse 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 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.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} NAPOLEON DYNAMITE (PG, 86 minutes) -- In Jared Hess's deadpan-funny 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 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.

{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.

{sstar} RIDING GIANTS (PG-13, 101 minutes) -- The "giants" referred to in the title of surfer and professional skateboarder-turned-filmmaker Stacy Peralta's loving documentary history of big-wave surfing are not just the awesome breaks of Hawaii's Waimea Bay, Northern California's Maverick's and Tahiti's Teapuhoo ("cho-pu," to the cognoscenti). They're also the men who rode them. Correction: Make that ride them. Balancing his film between thrilling surf footage and talking-head interviews, Peralta takes us all the way from surfing's recreational Polynesian origins to such state-of-the-art practitioners as Laird Hamilton, who is to surfing what Tiger Woods is to golf. Contains obscenity, footage of dangerous surf and discussion of surfers who have died in rough water. Area theaters. Landmark's Bethesda Row and Cineplex Odeon Shirlington.

-- 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. 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 roles in the group. 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 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} 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.

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 (who wrote both "Addams Family" movies and "In & Out") 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. Contains sexual content and some obscenity. Regal Bethesda.

{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. Alexandria Old Town Theater.

-- 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. P&G Old Greenbelt, Foxchase and Cineplex Odeon Dupont 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. 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, who knows how to make a great story out of relatively little. 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. University Mall Theatres.

WHITE CHICKS (PG-13, 105 minutes) -- In this banshee-howlingly 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. 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 -- "Dr. Strangelove," Friday at 8:30. "Breakfast at Tiffany's," Saturday at 8:30. "Pretty Woman," Sunday at 8:30. "Bananas," Monday at 8:30. "The Graduate," Tuesday at 8:30. "Citizen Kane," Wednesday at 8:30. "In the Heat of the Night," Thursday at 8. 5532 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-244-1949.

INGMAR BERGMAN CITY-WIDE RETROSPECTIVE --

National Gallery of Art (East Building, Fourth and Constitution NW; 202-737-4215): "A Lesson in Love," Friday at 2:30 and Sunday at 4. "Summer Interlude" and "Summer With Monika," Saturday at 2:30.

BRAZILIAN-AMERICAN CULTURAL Institute -- "Toda Nudez Sera Castigada (All Nudity Will Be Punished)," Tuesday at 7. "Hans Staden," Thursday at 7. 4719 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-362-8334.

COLUMBIA ASSOCIATION LAKEFRONT Film Festival -- "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," Friday at 8:30. "The Circus," Monday at 8:30. Town Center lakefront, Columbia. 877-713-9674, Ext. 9010.

FILMS ON THE HILL -- "The Master of Ballantrae" and "Culloden," Saturday at 6. Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, 545 Seventh St. SE. 202-547-6839.

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

GRIOT CINEMA -- "Sophie's Homecoming," "So Be It," "The Gaze of the Stars" and "Sabriya," Sunday at 3:15. Erico Cafe, 1334 U St. NW. 202-518-9742.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS -- "The Last Seduction," Friday at 7. "Surprise Night 1," Tuesday at 7. "The Big Issue: Civil Rights" and "Eyewitness: The Rights Bill -- A Battle Joined," 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 ON E -- "Pulp Fiction," Friday and Saturday at midnight. Landmark's E Street Cinema, 555 11th St. NW. 202-452-7672.

NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART -- "Jim Dine: Self-Portrait on the Walls," Friday and Saturday at 12:30. "A Lesson in Love," Friday at 2:30 and Sunday at 4. "Summer Interlude" and "Summer With Monika," Saturday at 2:30. 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.

NATIONAL THEATRE -- "Lifeboat," Monday at 6:30. Free. 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 -- "The Return of the Demon," 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): "The Manchurian Candidate," Tuesday at 11. At Loews Fairfax Square (8065 Leesburg Pike, Vienna. 703-506-9857): "The Manchurian Candidate," Tuesday at 11. Loews Rio (9811 Washingtonian Center, Gaithersburg. 301-948-6673): "The Manchurian Candidate," Saturday at 10 and Tuesday at 11.

SCREEN ON THE GREEN -- "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" Monday at dusk. On the National Mall betweem Fourth and Seventh streets. Free. 877-262-5866.

URBAN DRIVE-IN -- "Raising Arizona," 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. 1927 Florida Ave. NW. 202-667-0090.

New on Video

{sstar} GREENDALE

(NOT RATED, 2003, 87 MINUTES, SHAKEY PICTURES)

The film version of "Greendale" -- shot, edited and directed by Neil Young, whose 2003 concept album provides the soundtrack -- brings focus to that often confusing and convoluted project. It uses a cast of friends and family acting as mouthpieces for their creator, lip-syncing songs addressing issues that have long interested Young: environmentalism, intrusive media, Big Brother government, corporate evil, artistic integrity, family and the power of youthful idealism. Contains nothing offensive.

-- Richard Harrington

{sstar} HELLBOY

(PG-13, 2004, 122 MINUTES, SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT)

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 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.

-- R.H.

THE WHOLE TEN YARDS

(PG-13, 2004, 98 MINUTES, WARNER BROS.)

It's hard to imagine that anyone missed them, but the principals of "The Whole Nine Yards" are back: retired hitman Jimmy "The Tulip" Tudeski (Bruce Willis) and his wife, wannabe assassin Jill (Amanda Peet); paranoid dentist "Oz" Oseransky (Matthew Perry) and wife Cynthia (Natasha Henstridge), Jimmy's ex; and Hungarian-born, English-mangling mobster Lazlo Gogolak (Kevin Pollak). The first part of this utterly formulaic movie turns on the frantic juxtaposition of the romantic-comedy and bungling-gangster genres. Then halfway through, it becomes clear that this is a sting picture, and things become even less interesting. Contains farcical but bloody violence and facetious sexual situations.

-- Mark Jenkins