With a cast of attractive nobodies and a flat-out preposterous plot, "Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid" still manages to one-up its predecessor, 1997's unintentionally campy "Anaconda." That's because "Anacondas" embraces its identity. It knows it's nothing more than an instantly forgettable thriller destined to be dumped into Hollywood's late August compost heap, so it figures it may as well have some fun before making the quick trip to DVD. The stars of "Anaconda" -- Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube and Jon Voight, who was clearly busy working on the much meatier sequel "Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2" -- are notably absent from this follow-up. The only instantly recognizable face is Morris Chestnut's ("The Best Man"). He plays one member of a scientific group that heads to Borneo in search of an extremely rare orchid that blooms for just one week. If retrieved and brought back to the United States, the orchid could be used to create the pharmaceutical equivalent of the fountain of youth. But before our scientists can feel the flower's power, they'll have to confront massive, human-consuming anacondas. That's how you know this movie is scarier than the original. This time, the title's plural. You don't have to be Paula Abdul to know these are coldhearted snakes, and they don't play by rules. But the reptiles aren't the only objects of terror; "Anacondas" also features crocodiles, bloodsucking leeches and spiders that can paralyze humans with a single bite. Once this movie's momentum gets going, watching it is like experiencing a schlocky monster movie, "Lord of the Flies" and Peter Gabriel's "Shock the Monkey" video all at once. But unlike the J. Lo version, "Anacondas" uses more convincing special effects, doesn't take itself too seriously and provides much-needed comic relief in the form of Eugene Byrd, who plays the perpetually freaked-out Cole. "So you're telling me there's some snake orgy out in the jungle?" he screams at one point. That's right, Cole. Welcome to the "Anacondas" jungle. It's got fun and games. And on a hot afternoon the week before Labor Day, that may be enough for some moviegoers. Contains action violence, scary images and some language. Area theaters.

-- Jen Chaney

LET'S GET FRANK (Unrated, 75 minutes)

I'm not sure how many right-wingers are going to want to watch "Let's Get Frank" -- a documentary about Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) filmed mostly in the late 1990s as the House wrestled with the issue of impeaching Bill Clinton -- but those who do might surprise themselves, coming away with the view that the outspoken congressman is just as entertaining as his liberal fans already know him to be. Even his former nemesis, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, seems to take great delight in Frank's often off-color wit in Bart Everly's affectionate yet slight film. Hyde chuckles with evident delight when the openly gay Frank thanks the white-haired Republican chairman for "swinging my way" when Hyde yields the floor to him for yet another of Frank's rapid-fire denunciations of the proceedings, which the film's subject viewed as a right-wing witch hunt. Republican Bob Barr, on the other hand, comes across as a brick here, staring ahead with a pinched poker face as Frank again and again cracks up the hearing room like a stand-up comic, pointing out the many absurdities and hypocrisies of the situation. And who should know about absurdities better than Frank, who suffered through his own sex scandal -- and official rebuke -- when it was revealed that a friend of his had been conducting a prostitution business from the Democratic congressman's home? Frank, who has been told he should do talk radio, is a natural in front of a camera and microphone, and his ease comes across in Everly's film. That, and his genial nature, which tempers his often caustic barbs, along with a quick wit that never sacrifices substance for the sound bite. Contains discussion of sexual matters and some vulgarisms. At Visions Bar Noir. Frank will make an appearance at Sunday's 6:15 screening. Tickets are $15.

-- Michael O'Sullivan


How bad is "Superbabies," a sequel to a 1999 film so bad it made several critics' "Ten Worst" lists that year? So bad that I predict there will be drinking games set around viewing it someday. Whenever Jon Voight (the apparently embarrassment-proof actor who here plays a fugitive Nazi) looks like his two-dollar mustache is about to fall off, you have to drink a shot of peach schnapps. Or whenever Skyler Shaye (the actress you never heard of who plays the teen heroine) says "Oh, my God" or "Wow," you have to chug a Schlitz. But seriously, folks, alcohol is the only thing that would have helped numb the pain I felt watching this stinking pile of failure -- which if there were any justice, would have gone straight to video and DVD. Lazily scripted by Gregory Poppen, the story this time concerns the adventures, and I use the term loosely, of a quartet of diapered toddlers (they're not even true babies, ferchrissakes), who team up with a 7-year-old crime-fighter called the Kahuna to defeat the fiendish plans of Bill Biscane (Voight), a media mogul who aims to take over the world through TV-based mind control. The action sequences are phony-looking; the dialogue sounds largely improvised on the fly; the laughs are few and far between; and the acting (featuring Voight's rival in shamelessness, Scott Baio, and a host of badly dubbed children whose names I won't mention out of charity for their future careers) is, to put it kindly, wooden. "Playtime is over," says Biscane at one point, in an accent that makes Col. Klink seem subtle. That's right, kids. Let the suffering begin. Contains a joke or two about diapers and gas and lame martial-arts violence. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan