Film Capsules

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

Openings

END OF THE CENTURY: THE STORY OF THE RAMONES (Unrated) -- See review on Page 44.

FASTER (PG-13) -- See capsule review on Page 46.

GHOST IN THE SHELL 2: INNOCENCE (PG-13) -- See capsule review on Page 46.

MR. 3000 (PG-13) -- See review on Page 45.

NATIONAL LAMPOON'S GOLD DIGGERS (PG-13) -- See capsule review on Page 46.

SILVER CITY (R) -- See review on Page 45.

SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW (PG) -- See review on Page 44.

WIMBLEDON (PG-13) -- See review on Page 44.

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. Here, a team of scientists (led by Sanaa Lathan) investigating a pyramid buried beneath the South Pole 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. Majestic Theaters and Regal Ballston Common.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

ANACONDAS: THE SEARCH FOR THE BLOOD ORCHID (PG-13, 93 minutes) -- With a cast of attractive nobodies and a flat-out preposterous plot, "Anacondas: The Search 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, so it figures it may as well have some fun before making the quick trip to DVD. Morris Chestnut 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. 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. Contains action violence, scary images and some language. Area theaters.

-- Jen Chaney

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

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. Those more charitable than I might say this cliffhanger ends with a note of deliciously ambiguous romantic tension. I say it's coitus interruptus, and I say the heck with it. Contains obscenity and sex talk. Regal Ballston Common and AMC Mazza Gallerie.

-- 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 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. In this movie, you're a candidate to be toe-tagged if you don't pay attention. Contains obscenity and violence. Area theaters.

{sstar} BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS (R, 105 minutes) -- Stephen Fry's engaging, energetic film, based loosely on Evelyn Waugh's 1930 "Vile Bodies," follows Adam Fenwick-Symes (Stephen Campbell Moore), an ambitious English writer who needs to make money so he can marry fiancee Nina Blount (Emily Mortimer). He gets caught up in her bratty uppercrust world, where the rich, young and restless of the 1930s dance and party as London looks on in appalled dismay. And while their champagne-sipping debauchery soaks up the society pages of Fleet Street, the world teeters at the edge of world war. The film fairly whizzes along its own zany surface. Contains drug use. Area theaters.

THE BROWN BUNNY (Unrated, 92 minutes) -- Vincent Gallo is Bud Clay, a gloomy American loner whose gaunt facial angles, ice-blue eyes, eternally tousled hair and somber expression speak of a deep haunting. His cross-country trip to Los Angeles to come to terms with a devastating emotional loss, is the way-stretched subject of this weird road movie. The movie's already a cult classic for its inane storyline and infamous sexual act between Gallo and costar Chloe Sevigny. The movie's been recut since its Cannes festival launching, so it goes by faster than before. But it's still an oddity, whose deeper mysteries are known only to Gallo, who wrote, directed, edited, produced and even co-filmed the indie film. Contains a graphic sexual act and obscenity. Visions Bar Noir.

{sstar} BUSH'S BRAIN (PG-13, minutes) -- This well-researched documentary portrait of longtime political operative and current White House adviser Karl Rove -- in which the man some call George W. Bush's "co-president" himself was too smart to participate -- is alternately funny and scary. Some of the old stories of Rove's shady dealings, such as one about planting a listening device in his own office in order to discredit his candidate's opponent, may make those used to Lee Atwater-style political shenanigans shake their head in amusement. Other newer allegations, including the one that Rove actively hoped for a calamity like 9/11 to come along as a means of gaining political leverage, are just plain chilling. Contains some obscenity. Landmark's E Street Cinema.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} CELLULAR (PG-13, 89 minutes ) -- In this dumb-fun suspense flick, Jessica Martin (Kim Basinger) finds herself kidnapped. In desperation she pieces together a broken phone and reaches Ryan (Chris Evans), a lughead with six-pack abs who could morally use a mission. The story may be silly, but the suspense factor is surprisingly engaging: Ryan has to perform a complex rescue operation while maintaining cellphone contact with her flimsy phone. "Cellular" is always charged, and its adroit suspense makes you overlook the silliness. Contains violence and obscenity. Area theaters.

{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. Contains violence and obscenity. Area theaters.

THE COOKOUT (PG-13, 85 minutes) -- "Cookout's" slender excuse for a plot involves the supposed hijinks that ensue when the NBA's No. 1 college draft pick, Todd Anderson (Storm P), throws a barbecue to celebrate his success and all sorts of colorful characters show up. And by colorful characters, I mean such broad racial and sexual stereotypes as the 'Bama cousin, the poofy chef, the skanky 'ho, the thug, the sexually voracious white woman married to a black man, etc. Not only is this comedy not funny, but it has so many amateurish continuity problems -- dusk one minute, bright sunshine the next -- that it makes "Plan 9 From Outer Space" look like it was made by Steven Spielberg. Contains sexual, excretory and drug humor. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} CRIMINAL (R, 87 minutes ) -- An American remake of "Nine Queens," a superb Argentine movie about scam artists, this is about a veteran con artist (John C. Reilly) who recruits young Rodrigo (Diego Luna) to work with him on a couple of get-rich schemes. Like "Nine Queens," this movie exults in the hypnotic appeal of the con game. It's vicariously thrilling to experience a scam from the predator's point of view. We feel a new sense of power -- in a world divided into the takers and the taken. No guilt, no crime. We just get to watch.Watch closely. Contains obscenity and sexual situations. Muvico Egyptian Theatres, the Avalon and 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. 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. Olney Cinemas and Cineplex Odeon Shirlington.

-- 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. Contains obscenity and lewd, crude humor. Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse.

{sstar} DONNIE DARKO -- THE DIRECTOR'S CUT (R, 133 minutes) -- Detached, disaffected Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) is hostile toward his parents (Mary McDonnell and Holmes Osborne) and is always in trouble. He also believes that a six-foot-plus rabbit is ordering him to perform evil deeds. His only allies are a new student named Gretchen (Jena Malone) with a shadowy home life, a couple of sensitive teachers (Drew Barrymore and Noah Wyle) and a mysterious former schoolteacher, nicknamed Grandma Death (Joan M. Blair), who has written a book about time travel. The movie, written and directed by Richard Kelly, flutters, like a mischievous butterfly, above the despairing hands of easy description. And that's what's so good about it. Contains drug use, obscenity and some violence. Visions Bar Noir.

EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING (R, 120 minutes) -- For more than an hour, Stellan Skarsgard wrestles with something foul in this prequel to the 1973 thriller, and I'm not talking about the demon, Pazuzu. The actor is fighting a losing battle to keep the movie from becoming an utter heap of garbage, and though he never prevails, for a long time it's a draw. Then, precisely 80 minutes in -- I know, because I looked at my watch, which is never a good sign in a horror movie -- the garbage gets the upper hand and the movie, set in a Kenyan architectural dig during lapsed priest Merrin's (Skarsgard) first encounter with the devil, becomes a complete, albeit very bloody, joke. Contains blood, gore, violence, obscenity and sexual content. Area theaters.

-- 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. 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. Landmark's Bethesda Row, Foxchase and Cineplex Odeon Dupont Circle.

FESTIVAL EXPRESS (R, 90 minutes) -- Lost for 35 years, "Festival Express" finally arrives in theaters and joins "Woodstock" and "Gimme Shelter" as a classic documentary about late '60s and early '70s rock festivals. This long-forgotten 1970 was Woostock-on-wheels, as a private train carried the Grateful Dead, the Band, Janis Joplin, Buddy Guy, Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, the Flying Burrito Brothers and others on a five day jaunt through Canada, three whistle-stop concerts amplified by a round-the-clock jam session/party aboard the train. Film crews recorded it all, but the raw film disappeared until some music archivists found it in Canada's National Archives. Bob Smeaton ("The Beatles Anthology") reenvisions the event, adding some contemporary interviews with surviving musicians, promoters, journalists and fans, but the heart of the film is in the performances The revelation is Janis Joplin, whose ferocious, full-throated, rhythm-and mostly-blues renderings of "Tell Mama" and "Cry Baby" may well be her most powerful filmed performances. Contains adult language. AFI Silver Theatre, Cinema Arts Theatre and Cineplex Odeon Dupont Circle.

-- Richard Harrington

{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 bland Breckin Meyer), takes in a new puppy to impress vet Liz (Jennifer Love Hewitt). When the pup is kidnapped by a nefarious TV personality (Stephen Tobolowsky), 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. Contains nothing particularly objectionable, except wan humor. Olney Cinemas.

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

-- Nicole Arthur

{sstar} HERO ( PG-13, 99 minutes) -- Zhang Yimou, the Chinese filmmaker who gave us such classics as "Red Sorghum" and "Ju Dou," has created a breathtaking, 3rd century B.C. epic about almost supernatural martial artists who walk on water, hang in the air, and slice and dice their opponent into a thousand slivers with breathtaking elegance. This wuxia (martial arts) film, in which an unnamed warrior (Jet Li) remembers (or misremembers, that's the intriguing mystery), his battles with the likes of Broken Sword (Tony Leung), Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung) and Sky (Donnie Yen) is a graceful, stunning dream. Siu-Tung Ching's choreography is amazing. You're so caught up in these ancient times, you're loath to return to present-day normalcy. Contains stylized martial arts violence and a scene of sensuality. In Chinese with subtitles. Area theaters.

{sstar} HIJACKING CATASTROPHE: 9/11, FEAR AND THE SELLING OF AMERICAN EMPIRE (Unrated, 64 minutes) -- A more sober presentation of some of the facts mustered in "Fahrenheit 9/11" as an indictment of the Bush administration's rush to war, "Hijacking Catastrophe" is no less sobering than Michael Moore's film. Opening with some now-familiar quotes by government officials about our (now largely debunked) reasons for invading Iraq, the documentary quickly segues to another, even more disturbing quote by Nazi Hermann Goering: "The people can always be brought to the bidding of their leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger." The passage is a neat summation of "Hijacking's" thesis, which is that we -- and the world -- have been sold a bill of goods. Contains images of violence and war casualties. Visions Bar Noir.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{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, Spooner begins to uncover, well, what detectives always do in these films. The movie's a fabulous mental escape: playful rather than dark and foreboding. 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. Contains frank sexual conversation and sexual situations. In French with subtitles. Landmark's Bethesda Row and Cineplex Odeon Shirlington.

{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. Contains overall intensity, obscenity and bloodshed. In Spanish and English with subtitles. Area theaters.

{sstar} MEAN CREEK (R, 87 minutes) -- Nothing good can come of the plot hatched by the teen protagonists of "Mean Creek," who aim to humiliate a fat, schoolyard bully (Josh Peck) who has been beating up another boy (Rory Culkin) by stripping him of his clothes during a river outing and dumping him in the water. Nothing good, that is, except a richly nuanced little film about morality and tragedy. Sure, it'll give you a sick, sour feeling in the pit of your stomach, but isn't that what we go to the movies for? It's not? Oh well, there's always "The Princess Diaries 2." Contains obscenity, violence, teen drinking, drug use and sexual content. Cineplex Odeon Dupont Circle.

-- 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." You ain't seen nothing, by the way, till you've seen Napoleon attack that tether ball. 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. As Allie Hamilton, whose passionate heart becomes the movie's powerful fulcrum, she almost makes you forget what you're swallowing. Contains sexual situations. AMC Hoffman Center.

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. Annapolis Mall and Reeegal Ballston Common.

{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. Alexandria Old Town Theater.

PAPARAZZI (PG-13, 85 minutes) -- Vigilante justice for the famous! That seems to be the rallying cry for this bizarre rabble rouser, in which we are asked to get behind the rich and famous in the face of our common enemy: those dirty tabloid photographers. An action movie star Bo Laramie (Cole Hauser) has had it with obnoxious celebrity photographers. But when he takes a swing at psychotic snapper Rex Harper (Tom Sizemore), his problems only get worse. Rex and his band of fellow sleazes make it their business to harass Bo, even indirectly causing the actor to have a serious car accident, which leaves his wife injured and their young son in a coma. Now, the gloves are off and Bo takes his methodical, murderous revenge. Investigating detective Burton (Dennis Farina), who's convinced Bo's behind these revenge killings, is torn between arresting Bo and letting him perform what this movie clearly considers to be a public service. The fact that Mel Gibson produced this, and appears in a joke cameo as another angry celebrity, seems to indicate just whose real-life frustrations are being aired here. Contains intense violence, sexual content and obscenity. Area theaters.

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. Contains kissing and mild sensuality. Area theaters.

-- Sara Gebhardt

RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE (R, 93 minutes) -- Less a sequel to 2002's $100 million-grossing "prequel" to the wildly popular video game than a next game level, "Resident Evil: Apocalypse" returns everyone's favorite biochemical warrior Alice (buff Milla Jovovich) to Raccoon City to battle persistent-though-undead corpses and the evil Umbrella Corps. This time, a biogenetically enhanced Alice gets help from two popular "Resident Evil 2" and "3" characters -- tough cop Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) and S.T.A.R.S. leader Carlos Oliveira (Oded Fehr) -- and confronts the hulking, over-armed genetic freak Nemesis, as well as nasty Lickers and those funky Dobermans from Hell. Plot and narrative? Minimal. Confrontations? Endless. Surprises? None. Contains nonstop violence, obscenity and nudity. Area theaters.

-- Richard Harrington

{sstar} ROSENSTRASSE (PG-13, 136 minutes) -- Based on fact, Margarethe von Trotta's World War II-era flashback drama, about a group of Aryan German women who quietly but insistently fought their husbands' detention by the Nazis, is told in layered, time-skipping fashion, not because it's fashionable, but because it works. The story is as much about the heroism of the women, embodied by Lena (radiant Katja Riemann), as it is about the legacy of their actions, good and bad. That legacy reverberates across oceans and generations, touching the life of the young New York woman (Maria Shrader). Contains ugly anti-Semitism and the ever-present threat of violence. In German with English subtitles. Cineplex Odeon Wisconsin Avenue.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{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 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 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. University Mall Theatres.

-- 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. Regal Ballston Common and N.E. Theatre Fairfax Corner.

SUPERBABIES: BABY GENIUSES 2 (PG, 90 minutes) -- It's hard to imagine that the people who saw the execrable first "Baby Geniuses" were such gluttons for punishment that they would want a second helping. This one, revolving around a fugitive Nazi (Jon Voight) bent on world domination and an ageless, Fonzie-like superhero trapped in the body of a 7-year-old, is even dumber than the original. If there's a "Superbabies 3," I'm quitting my job and opening a bed-and-breakfast in Siberia. Contains a joke or two about diapers and gas and lame martial-arts violence. Area theaters.

-- 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. Contains obscenity, vomiting, a glimpse of a rectal exam, discussion of sex and sexual dysfunction, shots of gastric bypass surgery and other unappetizing things. Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

SUSPECT ZERO (R, 100 minutes) -- The plot may sound familiar, and it is: Disgraced FBI agent (Aaron Eckhart) teams up with colleague and former love interest (Carrie-Anne Moss) to hunt down suspected serial killer (Ben Kingsley), who for some reason is baiting his pursuers with buckets of clues. What's different (and good) about this thriller is the real sense of creepy foreboding that director E. Elias Merhige creates, with help from "Pi" composer Clint Mansell and from Kingsley, who brings an intensity and bone-deep desperation to his portrayal of a bad guy who, in a strange way, is kind of a good guy too. Contains violence, gore, obscenity, rape and brief nudity. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} TAE GUK GI: THE BROTHERHOOD OF WAR (PG-13, 100 minutes) -- Set during the Korean War, "Ta Guk Gi" follows two South Korean brothers (Won Bin and Jang Dong-gun) whose bond is tested by -- and ultimately survives -- the stress of battle. With "Saving Private Ryan"-caliber violence, it doesn't flinch from the horrors of war, but more importantly, it doesn't flinch from an honest portrayal of combat can turn a hero into a monster and how love can turn to hate, and back again. Contains obscenity and hyper-realistic war scenes. In Korean with subtitles. Loews Rio and United Artists Fairfax Town Center.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar}THX 1138: THE GEORGE LUCAS DIRECTOR'S CUT (R, 88 minutes) -- In this debut feature by George Lucas, a science fiction fantasy, Robert Duvall plays a factory worker named THX 1138 who becomes emotionally attached to fellow worker LUH 3417 (Maggie McOmie). This amounts to revolution in a world where people are required to sublimate their urges with government-issued drugs. THX and LUH opt to live like free spirits. But they must run from a state that soothes and silences its citizens with hologram entertainment and a Muzak-lobotomizing barrage of feel-good messages and bland announcements. If the plot is meandering and hardly novel, the movie's very watchable. It's testament to the emergence of a visually masterful filmmaker, capable of ingenious, low-tech special effects. Contains some sexuality and nudity. AFI Silver Theatre.

VANITY FAIR (PG-13, 100 minutes) -- It's quite possible that Reese Witherspoon, who brilliantly plays social-climbing heroine Becky Sharp in director Mira Nair's version of the William Makepeace Thackeray's novel, is too brilliant. That's because Witherspoon's Becky is hugely likable, which leads us to hope for a redemption for the character that ultimately never comes on the page or on the screen. Yes, she schemes her way from poverty into high society, breaking hearts and ignoring her family in the process, but Witherspoon's charisma makes us yearn for some lesson to be learned. That's not the fault of Thackeray, but of the actress, who raises expectations that the film only dashes. Contains brief partial nudity, a mild boudoir scene, scuffling and images of war dead. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} WE DON'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE (R, 104 minutes) -- Grounded by the remarkable ensemble acting of Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern, Naomi Watts and Peter Krause as married couples who cheat on each other with each other, "We Don't Live Here Anymore" feels less like a movie than the experience of being a fly on the wall during some very awkward conversations. If you like that sort of thing -- and I do -- you'll have a field day. In addition to the performances, the script (adapted by Larry Gross from a pair of stories by Andre Dubus) and direction (by John Curran) underscore the reality that making marriages work can be, well, work, and unpleasant work at that. Contains obscenity, talk of sex and scenes involving sex and nudity. Landmark's Bethesda Row.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

WHAT THE #$*! DO WE KNOW!? (Unrated, minutes) -- It's hard to believe it took three directors (Mark Vicente, William Arntz and Batty Chasse) to make this mish-mash of a movie about the nature of consciousness, time, matter, psychiatry, emotions and religion. I guess the trio must have divided up the work, which includes documentary-style talking-head footage by a parade of New Age experts unidentified until the end; a fictional narrative starring Marlee Matlin as a depressive photographer; and CGI animations of the human sex drive that look like Mr. Potato Head crossed with flubber. What the #$*! do they know? Not much, apparently, about making movies. Contains obscenity and sexual content. Loews Georgetown.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

WICKER PARK (PG-13, 100 minutes) -- The story of a young man (Josh Hartnett) who thinks he has rediscovered his long-lost love (Diane Kruger), only to find himself the victim of a creepy stalker (Rose Byrne), "Wicker Park" wouldn't exist if its characters -- and I'm talking about the sane ones -- simply behaved as you or I do. From balky cell phones to nonexistent answering machines to best friends who don't deliver messages in a timely fashion, the film is a litany of miscommunication. The film lets us in on the twist halfway through the tale, at which point "Wicker Park" becomes a soggy love triangle. Contains obscenity and sensuality. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

WITHOUT A PADDLE (PG-13, 99 minutes) -- "Without a Paddle" tries very hard to be a sincere, pseudo coming-of-age story about 30-year-old men finally discovering who they are and what they want out of life. But because of over-the-top plot elements, mediocre acting and lack of chemistry between the three main actors, it fails in the attempt. Where it succeeds, however, is in outrageously stupid, silly and sometimes crude moments that color the narrative about three childhood friends (played by Seth Green, Dax Shepard and Matthew Lillard) lost in the Oregon woods. Contains sexual material, some profanity, some violence, crude humor and drug references. Area theaters.

-- Sara Gebhardt

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 teenager who is the champion Duel Monsters! player. When mean teen Seto Kaiba sets out to topple Yugi's 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." Contains combat and monster images. AMC City Place and N.E. Theatre Fairfax Corner.

-- Sara Gebhardt

Repertory

AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM/DOWNTOWN -- At the Lockheed Martin Imax Theater: "Space Station (3D)," daily at 10:30, 11:30, 1, 2 and 4. "To Fly!," daily at 12:30 and 5. "Straight Up: Helicopters in Action," daily at 3. 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 11:30, 2:30 and 5:30. "Adrenaline Rush: The Science of Risk," daily at 12:30 and 3:30. "Magic of Flight," daily at 1:30 and 4:30. 14390 Air and Space Museum Pkwy., Chantilly. 202-357-2700.

AMERICAN CITY DINER -- "Rocky," Friday at 8. "Tootsie," Saturday at 8. "Dial M for Murder," Sunday at 8. "The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit," Monday at 8. "On the Waterfront," Tuesday at 8. "The Wild One," Wednesday at 8. "Witness for the Prosecution," Thursday at 8. 5532 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-244-1949.

ANNE ARUNDEL COMMUNITY COLLEGE -- ""Shrek 2," Friday at 7:30. Siegert Field (in Jenkins Auditorium in case of rain), 101 College Pkwy., Arnold. 410-777-2218.

COLUMBIA ASSOCIATION LAKEFRONT Film Festival -- "The Secret of NIMH," Friday at dusk. "Babe: The Gallant Pig," Saturday at dusk. Town Center lakefront, Columbia. 877-713-9674, Ext. 9010.

FILMS ON THE HILL -- "Lancer Spy," Wednesday at 7. Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, 545 Seventh St. SE. 202-547-6839.

FREER -- "Woman Is the Future of Man," Friday at 7. "A Flower in Hell," Sunday at 2. Free, but tickets required. Meyer Auditorium, 12th Street and Jefferson Drive SW. 202-633-1000.

GRIOT CINEMA -- "The Buena Vista Social Club," Sunday at 3:15. City Museum, 801 K St. NW. 202-232-3400.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS -- "Pretty Baby," Friday at 7. "Hester Street," Saturday at 7. "Close Up: The Children Are Watching" and "Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment," Tuesday at 7. "Marjorie Morningstar," Wednesday at 7. "Crisis at Central High," Thursday at 7. Free, but reservations required. Mary Pickford Theater, 101 Independence Ave. SE. 202-707-5677.

MARYLAND SCIENCE CENTER -- Imax Theater: "NASCAR 3D: The Imax Experience," Friday-Sunday at noon, 2:10 and 6:30; Tuesday-Thursday at noon and 2:10. "Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees" and "Hubble: Galaxies Across Space & Time," Friday at 3:20 and 5:30; Saturday-Sunday 11, 1:10, 3:20 and 5:30; Tuesday-Thursday at 3:20. "Sacred Planet," Friday-Saturday at 4:20 and 7:40; Sunday and Tuesday-Thursday at 4:20. Davis Planetarium: "Ring World," Friday at 1, Saturday at 2 and 5; Sunday at 2. "The Sky Live!" Friday-Sunday at 3. "Hubble Heritage: Poetic Pictures," Friday-Sunday at 4. "Live From the Sun," Saturday at noon. "The Sky Above Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," Saturday and Sunday at 1. 601 Light St., Baltimore. 410-685-5225.

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

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

NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART -- "Okraina," Saturday at 2:30. "By the Bluest of Seas" and "Dark Is the Night," Sunday at 4:30. Free. East Building, Fourth and Constitution NW. 202-737-4215.

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

REEL MOMS/Georgetown -- "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow," Tuesday at 11. Loews Georgetown, 3111 K St. NW. 202-342-6033.

REEL MOMS/Vienna -- "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow," Tuesday at 11. Loews Fairfax Square, 8065 Leesburg Pike, Vienna. 703-506-9857.

REEL MOMS/Gaithersburg -- "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow," Saturday at 10 and Tuesday at 11. Loews Rio, 9811 Washingtonian Center, Gaithersburg. 301-948-6673.

TOWSON UNIVERSITY -- "Sweet Smell of Success," Monday at 7:30. Van Bokkelen Hall Auditorium, 8000 York Rd., Towson. Free. 410-704-2787.

VISIONS BAR NOIR -- "Donnie Darko," Friday-Saturday at midnight. 1927 Florida Ave. NW. 202-667-0090.

New on Video

BAADASSSSS!

(R, 2003, 108 MINUTES, SONY PICTURES CLASSICS)

Mario Van Peebles' on-screen impersonation of his father, filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles, would like to be seen as an homage to the man who made the critically polarizing but historically important 1971 film "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song." Despite its ambitions, the film, which Mario Van Peebles also directed and co-wrote, is a by-the-numbers making-of movie. While it captures the period well enough and gives us all the little film-history details -- Melvin Van Peebles' money troubles, union hassles, harassment by the law -- it never bothers to tell us why the elder Van Peebles' efforts to get this mediocre film made mattered. In other words, it's got looks and brains but no real soul. Contains violent carnage, streams of obscenity, partial nudity, and strong sexual and drug content.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

HOME ON THE RANGE

(PG, 2004, 76 MINUTES, BUENA VISTA PICTURES)

Roseanne Barr's vocal performance as an assertive bovine in this animated feature gives new meaning to the phrase "Bossy the Cow." Otherwise, the film, which follows the efforts of three head of cartoon cattle (Judi Dench, Jennifer Tilly and Barr) to save their farm from a dastardly rustler and land grabber (Randy Quaid) is needlessly confusing, not to mention flat and dull-looking. The country songs by the likes of k.d. lang and Tim McGraw are cute, but there's not enough of them to lift this slapdash effort out of the doldrums. Contains jokes about belching and cow udders and some slapstick violence.

-- M.O.

JERSEY GIRL

(PG-13, 2004, 102 MINUTES, MIRAMAX FILMS)

Kevin Smith's self-professed "most personal film," about a widowed father (Ben Affleck) who discovers that his love for his daughter (Raquel Castro) outweighs his need to be a music-biz hotshot, feels oddly impersonal, with its canned sentiment repackaged from dozens of other gooey films about parental affection. It's also his most mature film -- or, I should say, most successful attempt at maturity. There are still smutty jokes about masturbation, "knockers" and therapeutic sex with Liv Tyler, but the director attempts to inoculate himself against criticism that he hasn't grown up by injecting the film with a large dose of sickeningly sweet sugar. Contains obscenity and crude humor.

-- M.O.

THE LADYKILLERS

(R, 2004, 104 MINUTES, BUENA VISTA PICTURES)

Writer-directors Joel and Ethan Coen's motley remake of the 1955 British comedy should appeal most strongly to viewers who think that Tom Hanks, who plays a thief and a potential murderer, can do no wrong. Hanks is the oddly accented ringleader of a gang that plans to empty a Mississippi River casino boat's vault. His new landlady is Mrs. Munson (Irma P. Hall), who eventually learns what the plotters are really doing, and thus must be eliminated. The script contains glimmers of character-driven comedy from a gentler time, but also indulges some broadly stereotypical African American farce. As the tone wavers and the pace stumbles, the movie ultimately comes down to Hanks's gratingly artificial performance. Contains much slapstick violence and some hippity-hop vulgarities.

-- Mark Jenkins

MAN ON FIRE

(R, 2004, 146 MINUTES, 20TH CENTURY FOX)

Like "I'm Not Scared," "Man on Fire" has to do with a kidnapping, but in this movie the behavior of the hero (Denzel Washington) is almost as disturbing as that of the bad guys. Playing a vengeful bodyguard who goes after the abductors of his young charge (Dakota Fanning), Washington is like "The Punisher's" Punisher, but without the comic-book sensibility; like "Kill Bill's" Bride, but without the murderous glee; and like "Walking Tall's" Chris Vaughn, but without the Rock's WWE-inspired tongue-in cheek elan. The mayhem of "Man on Fire" is dead serious, with the emphasis on the "dead." Contains obscenity, generic gun violence, torture and a creative assortment of execution-style slayings.

-- M.O.

{sstar} SCOOBY-DOO 2: MONSTERS UNLEASHED

(PG, 2004, 88 MINUTES, WARNER BROS.)

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) casts doubt on Mystery Inc.'s 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.

-- Christina Talcott

YOUNG ADAM

(NC-17, 2003, 93 MINUTES, SONY PICTURES CLASSICS)

From a filmmaking standpoint, there's lots to admire in this gritty, pessimistic morality tale about a Scottish bargeman (Ewan McGregor) who first finds a woman's corpse floating in the river and then, as he proceeds to copulate with everything in sight, is revealed to have hidden connections to the dead woman. There's just not a lot to like. It's smart, all right, with the sooty look and barge-like pacing of an art-house film, but its moral center is as sour and heartless as they come. Romantics beware: There's loads of sex here, but the love making feels less than joyless. In "Young Adam's" jaundiced view, compulsive rutting is mainly a way of staving off death. Contains nudity, obscenity, physical abuse, images of a corpse and plentiful sex.

-- M.O.