In the Aug. 20 Weekend section, the Cinema Arts Theatre in Fairfax was left off a list of theaters showing the film "Rosenstrasse." (Published 08/21/04).

Film Capsules

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

Openings

BENJI: OFF THE LEASH! (PG) -- See capsule review on Page 38.

BONJOUR MONSIEUR SHLOMI (Unrated) -- See review on Page 37.

DONNIE DARKO: THE DIRECTOR'S CUT (R) -- See Film Notes on Page 42.

EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING (R) -- See synopsis on Page 38.

ROSENSTRASSE (PG-13) -- See review on Page 39.

SHE HATE ME (R) -- See review on Page 39.

UNCOVERED: THE WAR ON IRAQ (Unrated) -- See capsule review on Page 38.

WE DON'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE (R) -- See review on Page 37.

WITHOUT A PADDLE (PG-13) -- See capsule review on this page.

First Runs & Revivals

ALIEN VS. PREDATOR (PG-13, 100 minutes) -- Here's what I want to know: How cold, exactly, does it have to get for saliva to freeze? I'm curious about this because, in "Alien vs. Predator," the famously drool-drenched beastie of the first half of the title is alive and wet as all get out -- despite now living 2,000 feet below the surface of Antarctica. Oh, well, that's only one little thing that doesn't add up in this update to the old monster showdown formula familiar to fans of "Godzilla vs. Mothra" and the like. Here, a team of scientists (led by Sanaa Lathan) investigating a pyramid buried beneath the South Pole -- look, I told you the premise was whack -- stumble on a bunch of H.R. Giger's "Alien" aliens, only to be caught between them and a trio of dreadlocked outer-space sport hunters made famous from the "Predator" films. I'd say that fur flies, but there's no fur here. Just buckets of spittle and nicely claustrophobic if under-lit claw-to-claw combat. Contains some bad language, sci-fi violence and goo. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{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 and (brace yourselves) an entire rendition of "Afternoon Delight." N.E. Theatre Fairfax Corner, Regal Ballston Common and AMC Mazza Gallerie.

{sstar} THE BLIND SWORDSMAN: ZATOICHI (R, 116 minutes) -- Ninjas come at this unassuming, gray-haired, blind masseur with everything: sticks, knives, swords, flying kicks, edge-of-the-hand chops. But Zatoichi leaves them in felled, blood-spouting piles. As the legendary blind hero of Kan Shimozawa's novels, Takeshi Kitano (also the writer-director) takes up where all those western gunslingers left off. The violence is cartoonish rather than realistic. Kitano has an impish sense of humor and surprise, alternating scenes of zen calm with outbursts of fighting. And let's not forget the "Riverdance"-style stick-and-dance ensemble number. While Kitano the performer fights with his seemingly endless array of enemies, Kitano the filmmaker makes sure that everything is beautiful, from the wonderful colors and passing tableaux to the intricate fighting choreography. Contains intense violence and some sexual content. In Japanese with subtitles. Cineplex Odeon Dupont Circle.

{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 a ruthless assailant, and possibly more. It's great to see an action movie that takes the international dirty business seriously: 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.

{sstar} BROADWAY: THE GOLDEN AGE, BY THE LEGENDS WHO WERE THERE (Unrated, 111 minutes) -- Rick McKay interviews nearly 100 of Broadway's greats and comes away with a jillion great anecdotes. The participants include such onetime Broadway stars as Carol Channing ("Hello Dolly!"), Angela Lansbury ("Mame" and "Sweeney Todd") and Robert Goulet ("Camelot"), songwriters like Betty Comden and Adolph Green, the team that gave us "On the Town" and "Bells Are Ringing." Their stories glow with reverence for that golden age before the time of over-the-top, megabudget spectacles like "The Lion King." By listening to those stories, you'll glow, too. And you can savor some powerful performances, too, from such stage greats as Kim Stanley, Laurette Taylor and Marlon Brando. Contains some risque comments, otherwise little that is objectionable. Landmark's Bethesda Row.

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. Austin and Sam have already struck up a mystery-friend e-mail relationship, unaware of each other's true identity. In one of the movie's dumbest conceits, both create romantic heat at the masquerade prom party, apparently unable to see through each other's flimsy disguise. No wonder they're destined for each other. Contains mild obscenity and sexual innuendo. Majestic Theatre.

{sstar} CODE 46 (R, 93 minutes) -- Michael Winterbottom's sci-fi romance noir is all eerie mood, grainy digital images and barren landscapes. Still it has a strange mystique, like a fever dream you can't dispel. Set in a post-global-warming world of walled cities and vast deserts, in which married insurance investigator Tim Robbins has an affair with the woman (Samantha Morton) he is investigating for creating fake visas, "Code 46" plays like a trippy, low-budget "Blade Runner." The movie's atmospherics -- the hazy images, a blighted world, the zoned-out luminosity of Morton's face -- give the movie an impact that transcends the actual story. You may soon forget the specifics of the plot, but you'll always remember the world it came from. Contains graphic sexual content. AFI Silver Theatre and Cineplex Odeon Dupont Circle.

{sstar} COLLATERAL (R, 120 minutes) -- Tom Cruise is Vincent, a slick contract killer who forces cabdriver Max (Jamie Foxx) to keep the motor running while he knocks off his targets. Both men, it turns out, are equally matched. Director Michael Mann, the riverboat captain of narrative flow, has a knack for making one moment lap into the next. The suspense in "Collateral" turns on desperation, character and situation, as opposed to firepower, muscle and engine torque. Cruise is wonderfully bad. And Foxx is entirely believable as the reserved, silent dreamer, who realizes he's not going to take this anymore. In Steve Beattie's adroit screenplay, Vincent is going to be his worst nightmare and, in a way, his greatest blessing. Contains violence and obscenity. Area theaters.

{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.

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. 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. Annapolis Harbour, Cineplex Odeon Shirlington and Cineplex Odeon Dupont Circle.

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

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. Loews White Flint and Annapolis Harbour.

{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.

{sstar} GARDEN STATE ( R, 102 minutes) -- New Jersey native Zach Braff wrote, directed and stars in this smart, funny story about a TV actor named Andrew, (Braff) who returns to his Jersey home town. Everyone from his high school days, it seems, lives in the Twlight Zone, including Mark (Peter Sarsgaard), a gravedigger who helps himself to jewelry in coffins. But then Andrew runs into Samantha (Natalie Portman), an eccentric free spirit who rejuvenates his sleeping spirit. This edgy quasi-comedy is amazingly assured for a directorial debut, even if it's a little uneven. Portman is immediately enchanting and irritating at the same time. But in concert with the morose Andrew, her Sam comes out as colorful relief. Contains obscenity, sexual scenes, and drug and alcohol use. 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. Basically, the cat's life is upended when his owner, Jon (a supremely bland Breckin Meyer), takes in a new puppy, this to impress the animal doctor Liz (Jennifer Love Hewitt) into going out with him. When Garfield kicks the dog out of the house and the pup is kidnapped by a nefarious TV personality (Stephen Tobolowsky) who needs an animal that performs stupid pet tricks, Garfield makes it his moral mission to rescue the dog and become his friend. There's nothing to recommend about this film except its sheer innocuousness. And Bill Murray's off-screen voicing as Garfield adds no "Robin Williams" element to the movie. Contains nothing particularly objectionable, except wan humor. University Mall Theatres.

{sstar} HAROLD & KUMAR GO TO WHITE CASTLE (R, 87 minutes) -- In this often crude but frequently hilarious twenty-something stoner comedy, Harold (John Cho), a Korean American investment banker, and his roommate-pal Kumar (Kal Penn), an Indian American med school student, develop a serious case of the munchies. They must eat the buy-'em-by-the-bag cheeseburgers of White Castle. Their trip becomes a Holy Grail mission on the Jersey Turnpike, full of unexpected mysteries, including encounters with scary animals, racist cops and a phantom redneck with oozy boils on his face. There's a lot of toilet humor, but as long as you're in the bathroom, you might as well be funny. Director Danny ("Dude, Where's My Car?") Leiner has made a peppy, satisfying comedy. Contains obscenity, nudity, drug use and crude 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. 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. N.E. Cinema West, Regal Ballston Common and Regal Countryside.

-- Nicole Arthur

{sstar} A HOME AT THE END OF THE WORLD (R, 95 minutes) -- People come and go through Bobby and Jonathan's lives: family members, neighbors, short-term lovers and one newborn. But Bobby (Colin Farrell) and Jonathan (Dallas Roberts) -- friends, onetime lovers and virtually brothers -- are rarely apart. They're family in the oddest way. Director Michael Mayer and scriptwriter Michael ("The Hours") Cunningham don't have the screen time to explore the main and subsidiary characters in Cunningham's novel. But they do well with the episodes, particularly in the first half. Farrell exudes a tremulous, shy quality. Roberts is memorable, too, as the complex Jonathan. But Robin Wright Penn coruscates as the life-affirmative Clare, whose determination to make sense of her relationships with Bobby and Jonathan is the movie's secret ingredient. Contains drug use, sexual scenes and obscenity. Cineplex Odeon Dupont Circle.

{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's 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}INTIMATE STRANGERS (R, 105 minutes) -- William Faber (Fabrice Luchini), a shy, primly dressed tax consultant, becomes infatuated with a troubled woman (Sandrine Bonnaire) who mistakes him for a psychiatrist. Soon enough, Faber has "sessions" with this new "client," and hears in detail about her sexually troubled personal life. Of course he falls in love with her. This is a French movie, after all. It's roundly entertaining, a well-done chamber piece between two fascinating characters. Luchini shows why he has been a lasting staple of modern French cinema. He has a glistening stare that tells you about vulnerability, pent-up desires and a frazzled intelligence. And Bonnaire justifies William's intensity with effortless grace. No one has smoked a cigarette like that in recent memory. Contains frank sexual conversation and sexual situations. In French with subtitles. Landmark's Bethesda Row, Landmark's E Street Cinema, Cineplex Odeon Shirlington and Cinema Arts Theatre.

{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. Regal Ballston Common and University Mall Theatres.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (R, 130 minutes) -- Director Jonathan Demme and screenwriters Daniel Pyne and Dean Georgaris clearly pored over John Frankenheimer's original 1962 cold war thriller and retrofitted everything. Now it's a post-Gulf War Halliburton-dunit, a movie about corporate evil, mind control and political maneuvering. It's an intriguing transmogrification which, ultimately, becomes too torturously labored to believe. But the performers are a hoot: Denzel Washington as the heroic Maj. Bennett Marco; Liev Schreiber as the disturbingly chilly loose cannon, Raymond Shaw, and Meryl Streep (reprising the role made legendary by Angela Lansbury) as a disconcerting ambition machine who'll stop at nothing to reach the White House. With characters like these squaring off, and a climactic finale set on the main stage of a political convention, you can't help thinking: Bring it on. Contains violence and obscenity. Area theaters.

{sstar} MARIA FULL OF GRACE (R, 101 minutes) -- As the title character, Catalina Sandino Moreno is a Colombian Mona Lisa, a delicate, 17-year-old soul who agrees to become a drug "mule." This means ingesting multiple capsules of rubber-sealed heroin and smuggling the stash into the United States. Writer-director Joshua Marston has made a powerful modern allegory that holds us tightly in its grip. This is a cold-fever ordeal, not only for Maria but us, as pressures worsen. We can almost feel the cold, clammy skin. We hear the heavy breathing of fear. It's a gripping drama, and many of its climactic scenes will rip holes through your heart. But it's a stunner of a film. And if there's anyone to help us go through this white-knuckle trip, it's Maria. Contains overall intensity, obscenity and bloodshed. In Spanish and English with subtitles. Area theaters.

{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.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} 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. 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. You ain't seen nothing, by the way, till you've seen Napoleon attack that tether ball. 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 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

{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. As Allie Hamilton, whose passionate heart becomes the movie's powerful fulcrum, she almost makes you forget what you're swallowing. Contains sexual situations. Area theaters.

OPEN WATER (R, 79 minutes) -- Tearing themselves away from the never-ending demands of yuppie life, Susan (Blanchard Ryan) and Daniel (Daniel Travis) book a scuba-diving vacation on a Caribbean island. They find themselves alone in a shark-infested sea. Treading water. This digitally shot low-budget indie is clearly filmmaker Chris Kentis's Blair Fish Project. It has its spooky moments, but mostly our ingrained fear of sharks is the movie's real emotional engine. The two actors (who spent 120 hours filming this in real, shark-infested waters in the Caribbean), the story, and the lurching, empty sea that becomes our lasting image are just the collective ignition key. The dialogue is often very stilted and their relationship is rather banal. In the end, Kentis's efforts to build our affection for Susan and Daniel are less successful than the fearful situation in which he dunks them. Contains nudity, obscenity and emotional intensity. Area theaters.

{sstar} OUTFOXED: RUPERT MURDOCH'S WAR ON JOURNALISM ( Unrated, 77 minutes) -- Even though Robert Greenwald's liberally sympathetic film has the knives out for Fox News and its blatantly conservative agenda, there's more than enough material here for politically independent thinkers and those who want to think of journalism as a profession of accuracy, fairness and ethics. This is a chance to savor megamedia owner Murdoch's exclamation-point news network at its finest, as well as Fox journalists Bill O'Reilly(including his contentious interview with Jeremy Glick, whose father was among those killed in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001), Brit Hume and Sean Hannity. Greenwald rolls out an army of left-leaning pundits, including the Nation columnist Eric Alterman, self-professed ex-conservative David Brock and comedian-commentator Al Franken. But there's more to this than liberal soapboxing. Many former members of Fox News speak candidly about the regular in-house edicts that told them how to politically portray their news broadcasts. Contains nothing objectionable. Cinema Arts Theatre and Visions Bar Noir.

THE PRINCESS DIARIES 2: ROYAL ENGAGEMENT (G, 115 minutes) -- Luckily, "Princess Diaries 2" doesn't promote the stereotype still prevalent in popular culture that a princess (read: woman) is weak or somehow broken without a male counterpart. Though it banks its plot on the quest of its main character, Mia (Anne Hathaway), to find a man within 30 days or risk giving up her throne, the film focuses on Mia's reluctance to do so and her grandmother's challenging of an old law that states princesses must be married before becoming queen. Sometimes charming, sometimes a tad too silly and all the time predictable, the film gives you what you'd expect and doesn't take many chances besides allowing for the possibility that a princess might be okay without a husband. But even giving a belated nod to women's lib might just be a sneaky way to open doors for movie No. 3. Contains kissing and mild sensuality. Area theaters.

-- Sara Gebhardt

{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. Contains rude language, some fighting and scary situations. Manassas Cinema.

-- 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} 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. "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. United Artists Snowden Square and University Mall Theatres.

{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, who knows how to make a great story out of relatively little. Contains mild sexual content. University Mall Theatres.

TOUCH OF PINK (R, 92 minutes) -- Kyle MacLachlan's boldly bulbous chin finally gets a deeper cleft in "Touch of Pink," a clumsy comedy in which MacLachlan stars as the spirit of Hollywood legend Cary Grant. Grant serves as a spectral surrogate father to Alim (Jimi Mistry), a Londoner of South Asian descent who attempts to hide his homosexual identity from his traditional mother, who wants him to get married as soon as possible. "Pink" borrows blatantly from other films, but elicits few laughs and is so heavy-handed that its themes barely resonate. As for MacLachlan's portrayal of Grant, it's occasionally entertaining, but ultimately this ghost comes across as exactly what he is: lifeless. Contains sexual content and brief profanity. Cineplex Odeon Dupont Circle.

-- Jen Chaney

{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. Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse.

THE VILLAGE (PG-13, 107 minutes) -- M. Night Shyamalan's mystery-thriller is about a fear-prone village that believes dangerous creatures lurk in the surrounding woods. When villager Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) suffers a stabbing and needs outside medicine, his blind fiancee, Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard), decides to venture into that scary beyond. It's an intriguing premise until we see the silly Twilight Zone punchline. The movie has its suspense-filled moments. But for the most part, the film's a bewildering disappointment, given the talents of Shyamalan, who gave us "The Sixth Sense." Even a great storyteller like M. Night, it seems, can lead himself into the woods. Contains overall intensity and violence. Area theaters.

YU-GI-OH! THE MOVIE (PG, 91 minutes) -- There's nothing new about a Japanese anime trading card and television series phenomenon that takes its characters to the big screen to capitalize on its popularity. The film is an obvious ploy to keep kids watching the animated series so that they continue to play the Duel Monsters! game and buy the merchandise. The producers don't waste time on subtlety or creative story lines in their quest for upholding their successful brand. They follow the winning formula of the television show, creating a supersize episode that centers its plot on Yugi Moto, a short, friendly, spiky-haired teenager who is the champion Duel Monsters! player. When mean teen Seto Kaiba sets out to topple Yugi's card-game reign, not only does Yugi have to defend himself but he also has to save the universe. Though there is a strong theme that promotes loyalty to friends throughout the movie, there's nothing inspiring about "Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie," unless you count the way it compels kids to continue to support the "Yu-Gi-Oh" franchise. Contains combat and monster images. Area theaters.

-- Sara Gebhardt

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 Verdict," Friday at 8:30. "All the President's Men," Saturday at 8:30. "The Stepford Wives," Sunday at 8:30. "City Slickers," Monday at 8:30. "The Shawshank Redemption," Tuesday at 8:30. "Sabrina," Wednesday at 8:30. "An Officer and a Gentleman," Thursday at 8:30. 5532 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-244-1949.

INGMAR BERGMAN RETROSPECTIVE -- "The Magic Flute," Friday-Saturday at 2:30, Sunday at 4. National Gallery of Art, East Building, Fourth and Constitution NW. 202-737-4215.

COLUMBIA ASSOCIATION LAKEFRONT Film Festival -- "As Good as It Gets," Friday at 8:30. "Space Jam," Monday at 8:30. Town Center lakefront, Columbia. 877-713-9674, Ext. 9010.

FILMS ON THE HILL -- "Dallas," Friday at 7. "Trailin'" and "The Fighting Legion," Wednesday at 7. Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, 545 Seventh St. SE. 202-547-6839.

FREER -- "Men Suddenly in Black," Friday at 7 and Sunday at 2. Free, but tickets required. Meyer Auditorium, 12th Street and Jefferson Drive SW. 202-633-1000.

GRIOT CINEMA -- "Tasuma," Sunday at 3:15. City Museum, 801 K St. NW. 202-232-3400.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS -- "Fantastic Voyage," Friday at 7. "Smile," Tuesday at 7. "The Naked Ape," 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.

NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART -- "The World War II Memorial: A Testament to Freedom," Friday-Saturday at 12:30, Sunday at noon. "The Magic Flute," Friday-Saturday at 2:30, Sunday at 4. Free. East Building, Fourth and Constitution NW. 202-737-4215.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN ART -- Lecture Hall: "Zan Boko," Sunday at 2. Free. Ripley Center, 1100 Jefferson Dr. SW. 202-357-4600 (TDD: 202-357-4814).

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY -- Johnson Imax Theater: "Bugs! (3-D)," daily at 10:20, 12:15, 3:10 and 6. "T-Rex: Back to the Cretaceous," daily at 11:15, 1:10, 2:10, 4:05, 5:05 and 7. "Cirque du Soleil: Journey of Man," Friday-Saturday at 8. 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.

OUTDOOR FILM FESTIVAL -- "Chicago," Friday at 8:30. "Back to the Future," Saturday at 8:30. "The Wizard of Oz," Sunday at 8:30. Strathmore, 10701 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda. 301-816-6958.

PSYCHOTRONIC FILM SOCIETY -- "Plan 9 From Outer Space," 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): "Without a Paddle," Tuesday at 11. At Loews Fairfax Square (8065 Leesburg Pike, Vienna. 703-506-9857): "Without a Paddle," Tuesday at 11. Loews Rio (9811 Washingtonian Center, Gaithersburg. 301-948-6673): "Without a Paddle," Saturday at 10 and Tuesday at 11.

TAKOMA THEATRE -- "Choices," Saturday at 8. 6833 4th St. NW. 301-567-4867.

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

BON VOYAGE

(PG-13, 2003, 115 MINUTES, COLUMBIA TRISTAR HOME VIDEO)

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

-- Michael O'Sullivan

CONNIE AND CARLA

(PG-13, 2004, 98 MINUTES, UNIVERSAL PICTURES)

It's a bit scary how little of a stretch it is to accept Nia Vardalos as a male drag queen in "Connie and Carla," an overly broad but fitfully crowd-pleasing twist on "Some Like It Hot" in which Vardalos and Toni Collette play women hiding out from mobsters in a West Hollywood gay bar. The humor of the script, which Vardalos also wrote, is sitcom caliber, but the film's message of inclusivity and acceptance is nice. Too bad the political correctness of the story doesn't quite fit with some of the caricatured performances. Contains an off-camera shooting, some drug content and mildly crude sexual humor.

-- M.O.

THE MAYOR OF SUNSET STRIP

(R, 2003, 94 MINUTES, FIRST LOOK PICTURES)

What's the difference between Rodney Bingenheimer, the subject of George Hickenlooper's documentary, and Leonard Zelig, the subject of Woody Allen's faux documentary, "Zelig"? Well, Zelig, the human chameleon, has the ability to transform himself into the people surrounding him, from celebrities to nobodies, confessing to his psychiatrist that he wants to fit in so badly he literally becomes whomever he's with. Outside of obvious aging, Bingenheimer never changes from the mousy, Dutch-boy-haircut-sporting character who has for four decades insinuated himself into the ranks of rock's most famous, happy to bask in the spillover glow of others' celebrity. Both Hickenlooper and Allen use a mosaic of celebrity snapshots, archival film footage, voice-over narration and interviews to tell their subjects' unusual stories. You'd be hard-pressed to tell which one's fiction and which one's fact. Contains sexual situations, nudity, drug references, explicit language and horrible haircuts.

-- Richard Harrington

NEW YORK MINUTE

(PG, 2004, 86 MINUTES, WARNER BROS.)

Although the twin-sister characters "played" -- and I use the term very loosely -- by real-life twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen only age one day during the action of this lackluster comedy, "New York Minute" seems to last weeks. Centering around estranged siblings who are forced to work together when they encounter numerous urban obstacles during a visit from their Long Island home to the Big Apple, the film plays off the Olsens' looks and not their acting ability. Contains mild sensuality.

-- Sara Gebhardt

TAKING LIVES

(R, 2004, 100 MINUTES, WARNER BROS.)

Is there anyone out there who still believes that when a character in a thriller says, "It's over," it's really over? Director D.J. Caruso and screenwriter John Bokenkamp must think so, because "Taking Lives" -- their clunky adaptation of Michael Pye's mystery about an FBI profiler's (Angelina Jolie) hunt for a serial killer -- includes that you're-not-fooling- anyone groaner, along with other cliches too numerous to mention. Everything about this film smells stale. Contains obscenity, violence, sensuality, partial nudity and grisly morgue imagery.

-- M.O.