Film Capsules

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

Openings

A DIRTY SHAME (NC-17) -- See review on Page 45.

THE FORGOTTEN (PG-13) -- See review on Page 45.

FIRST DAUGHTER (PG) -- See review on this page.

THE LAST SHOT (R) -- See capsule review on Page 47.

NICOTINA (R) -- See capsule review on Page 47.

SHAUN OF THE DEAD (R) -- See review on Page 45.

WHEN WILL I BE LOVED (R) -- See capsule review on Page 47.

First Runs & Revivals

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. But unlike the J. Lo version, this one 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. 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, 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." 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. 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. 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} 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. Peter O'Toole has a great cameo as Nina's bizarre father. And Fenella Woolgar makes an amusing party girl who finds herself, one hung-over morning, trying to breakfast with a disdainful prime minister. Contains drug use. Area theaters.

{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 cell phone contact with her flimsy phone. "Cellular" is always charged, and its adroit suspense makes you overlook the silliness. And if nothing else, Washingtonians can appreciate the spectacle of drivers using handheld cell phones legally. 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. 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.

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. Cookouts, according to Todd's mother (Jenifer Lewis), are all about fun, food and family, or "the three F's." If you count the grade I'm giving this movie, that makes four. 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 as Rodrigo proves to Richard he can persuade a woman to part voluntarily with her handbag in two minutes. Watch closely. Contains obscenity and sexual situations. Annapolis Harbour, Regal Ballston Common and the Avalon.

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. Olney Cinemas.

-- 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.

{sstar} END OF THE CENTURY: THE STORY OF THE RAMONES (Unrated, 110 minutes) -- Documentarians Michael Gramaglia and Jim Fields' fond remembrance of the shock treatment the four Queens-bred musical non-brothers known as the Ramones visited upon rock 'n' roll beginning in the mid- 1970s and continuing into the 1990s reminds us just how lovable (despite the squabbling) and how influential these punk progenitors were. On the one hand, the film might as well have been titled "Dysfunctional Family Ties" for all the footage of the band arguing -- on stage, no less, at an early concert, about what song to play next -- but the great historical footage and insightful interviews with band members, managers, friends and fans is also a loving tribute to the band whose inspiration can be felt in groups like Good Charlotte and the Offspring, but which always got more critical than commercial respect. Contains a few explicit phrases. Cinema Arts Theatre and Landmark's E Street Cinema.

-- Richard Harrington

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, who does his damnedest to bring a measure of class to the proceedings, is fighting a losing battle to keep the movie from becoming an utter heap of garbage, and while 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. The worst thing isn't the cheapness of the very cheap thrills (and yes, you will probably jump out of your skin a time or two). It's that the devil gets demoted to a bad guy on the order of Freddy Krueger, and that's far less scary than the Ultimate Evil One deserves. Contains blood, gore, violence, obscenity and sexual content. AMC City Place and AMC Rivertowne.

-- 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. 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 tour 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 when the tour lost a bundle after "free music" agitators protested the $14 ticket, the raw film disappeared until some music archivists found 60 hours of beautifully shot but unedited 16mm footage and 90 hours of unmixed audio 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 official and spontaneous performances, all brought to crystalline clarity by engineer and remix master Eddie Kramer. The Band and the Dead are in peak form, but 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 (less than three months later, she was dead of a drug overdose). The jams are also great fun -- Jerry Garcia, who clearly loved the all-music-all-the-time focus of this short, strange trip, would call the Festival Express "the best time I ever had in rock 'n' roll." Contains adult language. AFI Silver Theatre and Alexandria Old Town Theater.

-- 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.

GHOST IN THE SHELL 2: INNOCENCE (PG-13, 100 minutes) -- I didn't see the first film, but I can only hope that the 1995 "Ghost in the Shell" wasn't as pretentious as this sequel to Japanese anime director Mamoru Oshii's cult classic. With dialogue that alternates betweens such Confucianisms as "No matter how far a jackass travels, it won't come back a horse" and exclamatory technobabble like "Rebuild the logic firewall!," this stylish but stupid detective cartoon concerns a cop (voice of Akio Ohtsuka) with the soul of a human trapped inside a cyborg body who is investigating the murder of a man by his "gynoid" sex robot. It's awful talky for a sci-fi thriller, yet it doesn't even have the decency to obey its own advice, as dispensed by one character who wryly notes that, "When dialogue fails, it's time for violence." Contains violence (but not nearly enough) and some obscenity. In Japanese with subtitles. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{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. 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. And you can feel the movie's sensibility and its powerful emotions in every aching image. 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} 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 a fabulous mental escape: playful rather than dark and foreboding. The effects are wonderful, Smith's highly likable, and Alex ("The Crow") Proyas's direction is punchy. Contains computer digital violence and maybe a mild flash of nudity. AMC City Place and AMC Rivertowne.

{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, Cineplex Odeon Shirlington and United Artists Fairfax Town Center.

{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. AMC City Place.

{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.

MR. 3000 (PG-13, 104 minutes) -- In "Mr. 3000," Bernie Mac never inspires you to root for him, which is a problem in a sports film. Unfortunately, you cannot chalk up Mac's status quo performance to the fact that he is being so funny that you can't take him seriously. His comedy does shine through, but not as prominently as his admirers might hope. Nine years after Stan Ross, a former baseball superstar who quit the game as soon as he tallied 3,000 hits (thus meeting the informal eligibility requirements for the Baseball Hall of Fame), his hopes of legendary status are dashed when someone discovers that he was actually three hits short of the record. Driven by his ego and desperate in his hubris-inspired desire to maintain his place in baseball history, the over-the-hill, out-of-shape Stan stages a comeback. It plays out like a nine-inning sitcom that uses an obvious formula to tell a familiar story while garnering cheap laughs. Contains profanity and sexual situations. Area theaters.

-- Sara Gebhardt

{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.

NATIONAL LAMPOON'S GOLD DIGGERS (PG-13, 87 minutes) -- Just how repellent is "National Lampoon's Gold Diggers"? So stupefyingly hideous that after watching it, you'll need to bathe in 10 gallons of disinfectant, get a full-body scrub and shampoo with vinegar to remove the scummy residue that remains. Will Friedle and Chris Owen ("American Pie") star as a pair of penniless and parentless criminals who, desperate for cash, hold up a pair of senior-citizen sisters at gunpoint. Coincidentally, the victims of the crime (Louise Lasser and Renee Taylor) are equally desperate for money because their crazy uncle is hording the inheritance from their father's lucrative condom business. The ladies decide to break the boys out of jail so they can marry them, murder them and collect on their insurance policies. Meanwhile, the boys figure it's only a matter of time before the geezer gals drop dead, allowing them to cash in on the inheritance they assume will be theirs. It's hard to say what's most offensive about "Gold Diggers." Is it the tastelessness of seeing Lasser -- that's "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" to you -- and Taylor flaunting their ageing bodies for cheap laughs? Certainly that's a major factor. But what's even more egregious about this alleged comedy is the fact that it was released in theaters at all. Clearly this should have been a straight-to-DVD affair. Then again, that's unfair to the many mediocre movies that come out solely on DVD. Even they don't deserve to be lumped in with this sub-sub-sub-par waste of 87 minutes' worth of celluloid. Contains crude and sexual humor, some drug-related material and dialogue that will reduce a viewer's IQ by at least 40 points. Muvico Egyptian Theatres.

-- Jen Chaney

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. Regal Ballston Common.

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. 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

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-who-looks-like-a- hooker 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. If only something could reanimate the dead brain cells of scripter Paul W.S. Anderson, who leaves the directing to first-time helmer Alexander Witt. Contains nonstop violence, obscenity and nudity. Area theaters.

-- Richard Harrington

{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. University Mall Theatres.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

SILVER CITY (R, 124 minutes) -- Writer-director John Sayles's quasi-political satire about evil political machinations in the state of Colorado is meant to be deceptively lighthearted and rich in moral dimension. It's none of the above. A goofy right-wing gubernatorial candidate (Chris Cooper), whose name is Richard "Dickie" Pilager, is oblivious to the special interests in his power circle. It takes an investigator (Danny Huston), ostensibly hired to help root out some of Dickie's enemies, to expose them all. The film, whose oversized cast includes Maria Bello, Kris Kristofferson, Tim Roth and Billy Zane, tries unsuccessfully to make a wry gumshoe noir out of an overarching, cross-sectional political diagram. It's a painfully forced affair with unamusing shtick from Cooper as the cloddish Dickie; Richard Dreyfuss as Dickie's neurotic, calculating right-hand man; and Darryl Hannah as Dickie's drug-addled, eccentric nympho sister. Contains obscenity and drug content. Area theaters.

SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW (PG, 107 minutes) -- Less about the world of tomorrow than the world of yesterday, this technically innovative film (shot with live actors against an empty blue screen, with antique-looking, pulp-fiction-style details filled in later by computer animators) will be of less interest to fans of cutting-edge science fiction than to old-movie buffs. Set in the 1930s, the in-jokey story of crack reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) and mercenary flying ace Joe Sullivan (Jude Law), who are investigating a series of attacks by flying robots, is neat-o, in a film-geek kind of way. Still, first-time director Kerry Conran, who convinced Hollywood to let him make "Sky Captain" by shopping around a six-minute demo he made on his home laptop, isn't so much in love with dusty old black-and-white serials as he is with his own film, and that cold self-satisfaction shows. Contains some sci-fi/action 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. Regal Ballston Common and University Mall Theatres.

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, but, then again, as H.L. Mencken said, "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people." 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 (played by brothers Gerry, Leo and Myles Fitzgerald), is even dumber than the original, with an improvised-sounding script and acting so bad that to call it wooden is insulting to marionettes. 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 -- even as his midsection expands with all the fat and sugar he's putting away. Contains obscenity, vomiting, a glimpse of a rectal exam, discussion of sex and sexual dysfunction, shots of gastric bypass surgery and other unappetizing things. 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. AMC City Place.

-- 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. Lavishly shot, this most expensive of all Korean films is also the highest-grossing Korean movie ever, which is more a testament to the film's big heart than to its spectacle. 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 (including Rodney King-style cop beatings) 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, more so even than the character in the book, 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, for a reward tempered by a kind of comeuppance. 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

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. United Artists Snowden Square.

{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. Those looking for escapism would do well to consider the fact that "We Don't Live Here Anymore" will make you feel like you've moved in, if only for a short while, with the sad and sometimes bilious people who reside there. Contains obscenity, talk of sex and scenes involving sex and nudity. Alexandria Old Town Theater.

-- 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. Cinema Arts Theatre and 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, "Fatal Attraction"-style stalker (Rose Byrne), "Wicker Park" wouldn't exist as a movie 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. Sure, crossed wires of this kind happen all the time in real life, but when they do, normal people usually resolve them with calls to directory assistance or a quick Google search. It's not even much of a mystery, since the film lets us in on the twist halfway through the tale, at which point "Wicker Park" becomes a soggy love triangle where the unhinged other woman doesn't even have the campy sensibility to boil her victim's pet rabbit. Contains obscenity and sensuality. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

WIMBLEDON (PG-13, 100 minutes) -- Set during the famed tennis tournament known as Wimbledon that takes place annually at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, "Wimbledon" is really two movies in one. The first, and lesser of the two, is a trite love story about a rising American hotshot player (Kirsten Dunst) and the has-been Brit athlete (Paul Bettany) who falls for her (and, not incidentally, re-ignites his career, thanks to their apparently hot sex). The second film, which is the more interesting of the two, concerns the psychological game all world-class athletes must play. This takes place mostly inside the head of Bettany's character, Peter, whose film "Wimbledon" really is. It is far more engaging than that foreground romance, and director Richard Loncraine makes Peter's sweaty self-doubt and surge of confidence feel, at times, viscerally, visibly real. Contains obscenity, sexual content and a couple of smacks to the face. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

WITHOUT A PADDLE (PG-13, 99 minutes) -- There's apparently not enough room in the deep woods for both crazy antics and epiphanies. "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 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. 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 -- "The Way We Were," Friday at 8. "Moonstruck," Saturday at 8. "Double Indemnity," Sunday at 8. "The Maltese Falcon," Monday at 8. "The Defiant Ones," Tuesday at 8. "The Asphalt Jungle," Wednesday at 8. "Anatomy of a Murder," Thursday at 8. 5532 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-244-1949.

BABIES AND MOVIES -- "We Don't Live Here Anymore," Monday at 1:30. Old Town Theater, 815 1/2 King St., Alexandria. 703-683-8487.

CINEMA ART BETHESDA -- "Osama," Sunday at 10 a.m. Landmark's Bethesda Row Theatre, 7235 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda. 301-365-3679.

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

FREER -- "The Resurrection of the Little Match Girl," Friday at 7. "Cinema on the Road: A Personal Essay on Cinema in Korea" and "My Korean Cinema," Saturday at 2:30. 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 -- "Ruby Bridges," Friday at 7. "Pop Gear," Tuesday at 7. "Gentleman's Agreement," Wednesday at 7. "The Big TNT Show," 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: "The Sky Live!" Saturday at noon, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5; Sunday at noon, 1, 2, 3 and 4. 601 Light St., Baltimore. 410-685-5225.

MICA AND MARYLAND FILM FESTIVAL -- "Wag the Dog," Monday at 6. Maryland Institute College of Art, Hall at Brown Center, 1301 Mount Royal Ave., Baltimore. 410-752-8083.

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

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

NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART -- "Bountiful Summer" and "Alenka," Saturday at 2. "The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo," Sunday at 4:30. Free. East Building, Fourth and Constitution NW. 202-737-4215.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN ART -- Lecture Hall: "Zimbabwe: Talking Stones," 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: "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. "Whales: A Giant Screen Adventure," Tuesday at 7, followed by discussion. 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 -- "Wimbledon," Tuesday at 11. Loews Georgetown, 3111 K St. NW. 202-342-6033.

REEL MOMS/Vienna -- "Wimbledon," Tuesday at 11. Loews Fairfax Square, 8065 Leesburg Pike, Vienna. 703-506-9857.

REEL MOMS/Gaithersburg -- "Wimbledon," Saturday at 10 and Tuesday at 11. Loews Rio, 9811 Washingtonian Center, Gaithersburg. 301-948-6673.

TOWSON UNIVERSITY -- "His Girl Friday," Monday at 7:30. Van Bokkelen Hall Auditorium, 8000 York Rd., Towson. Free. 410-704-2787.

WEINBERG CENTER -- "Raiders of the Lost Ark," Friday at 8. 20 W. Patrick St., Frederick. 301-228-2828.

New on Video

{sstar} COFFEE AND CIGARETTES

(R, 2003, 95 MINUTES, UNITED ARTISTS)

This is vintage Jim Jarmusch -- literally. Containing 11 absurdist vignettes, all of which incorporate caffeine, nicotine and often hilariously deadpan conversation, the black-and-white "Coffee and Cigarettes" has been a work in progress since way back in 1986, which is when filmmaker Jarmusch made the first installment, starring Steven Wright and Roberto Benigni. Others, featuring Bill Murray and the Wu-Tang Clan's RZA and GZA, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits and Cate Blanchett, were made over the intervening years. Most touch upon the theme of duality, underscoring a leitmotif in which two realities coexist. One feels like documentary, but is fake. The other is akin to a dream, but it's the dream in which we live. Heavy stuff for a lot of wickedly silly coffee talk. Contains obscenity and brief discussion of drug use.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} MEAN GIRLS

(PG-13, 2004, 97 MINUTES, PARAMOUNT PICTURES)

"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.

-- M.O.