Film Capsules

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

Openings

GOING UPRIVER: THE LONG WAR OF JOHN KERRY (PG-13) -- See review on Page 34.

LADDER 49 (PG-13) -- See review on Page 34.

THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES (R) -- See review on Page 33.

RECONSTRUCTION (Unrated) -- See capsule review on Page 35.

SHARK TALE (PG) -- See review on Page 33.

TYING THE KNOT (Unrated) -- See capsule review on Page 35.

UNCONSTITUTIONAL: THE WAR ON OUR CIVIL LIBERTIES (Unrated) -- See capsule review on Page 35.

UNPRECEDENTED: THE 200O PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION (Unrated) -- See capsule review on Page 35.

WOMAN THOU ART LOOSED (R) -- See capsule review on Page 35.

THE YES MEN (R) -- See capsule review on Page 35.

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. 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.

{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. 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.

{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. 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} A DIRTY SHAME (NC-17, minutes) -- Baltimore filmmaker John Waters's newest film, a raucous celebration of all things smutty, might be called sex-positive, in the same way that Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" might be called anti-war. Waters, of course, in this comedy about an uptight woman (Tracey Ullman) who becomes a nymphomaniac after getting bumped on the head, doesn't just make the point that lust is natural. Oh no, he hammers that message home with all the subtlety of someone who once asked his leading man, the late drag queen Divine, to eat dog excrement on camera. Cerebral comedy it ain't. Gleeful, tasteless, life-affirming, hypocrisy-puncturing satire it is. Contains nudity, obscenity and pervasive sexual humor. Landmark's Bethesda Row, N.E. Theatres Fairfax Corner and Cineplex Odeon Dupont Circle.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY (PG-13, 91 minutes) -- Ben Stiller's wickedly funny as the wonderfully repulsive White Goodman, the '70s-coiffed, spandex-attired owner of an exclusive fitness center called Globo Gym. (He suggests the lovechild of Eric Roberts in "Star 80.") Vince Vaughn is also funny as Peter La Fleur, the lackadaisical owner of Average Joe's, a gym for the lumpy, tubby, meek and generally anti-Adonis crowd. When they field opposing teams to compete in a dodgeball contest for $50,000, the movie turns into a spirited spoof on every misfit-team caper from "The Longest Yard" to "The Mighty Ducks." The movie's full of down-and-dirty (but funny) gags and one-liners, and memorable scenes, especially between laid-back Peter and almost psychotically intense White. 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. Landmark's E Street Cinema.

-- Richard Harrington

{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. Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse and Foxchase.

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 the raw film disappeared until some music archivists found footage 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). Contains adult language. AFI Silver Theatre.

-- Richard Harrington

FIRST DAUGHTER (PG, 104 minutes) -- Those who sat through "Chasing Liberty" and hated it may suddenly gain newfound appreciation for that comedy about the romantic travails of the U.S. president's daughter. That's because this comedy about the romantic travails of the U.S. president's daughter is so much worse. And not just because it feels like a retread. As the title character, a college freshman discovering love while under the watchful eye of the Secret Service, Katie Holmes makes less than no impression. She's like a black hole at the center of the joyless, leaden affair, absorbing all light and matter -- not to mention the energy of her fellow performers, who come across as zombies at their first script read-through. Contains a relatively mild vulgarity, underage drinking and brief sexual allusions. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

THE FORGOTTEN (PG-13, 96 minutes) -- Julianne Moore plays Telly Paretta, whose 8-year-old son is suddenly missing, after embarking on a flight. But her psychiatrist (Gary Sinise) and even her husband (Anthony Edwards) insist no such son ever existed. Sound the "Twilight Zone" theme and the death knell for the movie. The scenario, which consists mostly of Telly running away from men in dark suits, gets worse and worse. It has its share of visceral surprises, slightly predictable and dumb when all is said and done. And best forgotten. Contains some violence and scary effects. Area theaters.

{sstar} GARDEN STATE ( R, 102 minutes) -- New Jersey native Zach Braff wrote, directed and stars in this smart, funny story about a TV actor named Andrew (Braff), who returns to his Jersey home town. Everyone from his high school days, it seems, lives in the Twilight 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. Majestic Cinema.

-- 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. "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.

-- 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} 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. Contains frank sexual conversation and sexual situations. In French with subtitles. Landmark's Bethesda Row and Foxchase.

THE LAST SHOT (R, 94 minutes) -- Matthew Broderick plays aspiring screenwriter Steven Schats, who thinks a "film producer" (Alec Baldwin) has just agreed to produce his screenplay. But the "producer" is Joe Devine, an undercover FBI agent trying to lure mobsters working in the film business.This uneven comedy movie shows director and cowriter Jeff Nathanson's comedic talents in fits and starts. Steven's two-bit ambition is not exactly winning. And Joe's agenda isn't much more compelling. As for the movie's "knowing" commentary about Hollywood, it's neither inspired nor original. An uncredited Joan Cusack is the only bright spot, as a frustrated Hollywood player with colorful language. Contains nudity, obscenity and some violence. Landmark's Bethesda Row, Cineplex Odeon Shirlington and Loews Georgetown.

{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. Regal Countryside Stadium.

{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.

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." 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. University Mall Theatres.

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. Majestic Cinema, University Mall Theatres and N.E. Theatre Lee Highway.

-- 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. 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. P&G Old Greenbelt and 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 oversize 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. AFI SIlver Theatre, Cinema Arts Theatre and Landmark's E Street Cinema.

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 persuaded 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. 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. Contains a joke or two about diapers and gas and lame martial-arts violence. AMC Rivertowne and Muvico Egyptian Theatres.

-- 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. N.E. Theatre Fairfax Corner.

-- 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.

UNCOVERED: THE WAR ON IRAQ (Unrated, 83 minutes) -- If you still haven't read or heard anything about the accusations some are making that George W. Bush and company may have misrepresented a few facts while making their case for war against Iraq, you might want to check out Robert Greenwald's muck-racking and cogent documentary, originally made before his latest, "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism," but recently updated with new footage. If, on the other hand, you've already made a point of seeing every left-wing documentary to come down the pike so far this year (and there have been plenty), this one may feel a tad redundant. There could be such a thing as outrage fatigue, after all. Contains political deception. Alexandria Old Town Theater.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

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

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, Cineplex Odeon Shirlington and Loews Georgetown.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

WHEN WILL I BE LOVED (R, minutes) -- This foul-mouthed, foul-minded excuse for an art film should be called "A Dirty Shame," and not John Waters's sweetly smutty satire. The drama, from director James Toback, concerns a trust-fund-bratty New York painter (Neve Campbell) who turns the tables on her sleazy boyfriend (Frederick Weller) when he tries to pimp her out to a creepy, white-haired mogul (Dominic Chianese). But, in the end, it's less a tale of female empowerment than the panting, misogynistic fantasy of a dirty old man. Contains nudity, obscenity, plentiful sexual content and brief violence. At the Cineplex Odeon Wisconsin Avenue.

-- 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. Cineplex Odeon St. Charles Towne Center, Laurel Cinema and Muvico Egyptian Theatres.

-- 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." Contains combat and monster images. 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 -- "Casablanca," Friday at 8. "Cool Hand Luke," Saturday at 8. "Grease," Sunday at 8. "Dog Day Afternoon," Monday at 8. "The Getaway," Tuesday at 8. "The Postman Always Rings Twice," Wednesday at 8. "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" Thursday at 8. 5532 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-244-1949.

AMERICAN UNIVERSITY -- "Discovering Dominga," Monday at 6 at Washington College of Law (4801 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Room 602), Wednesday at 5:30 at main campus (Weschler Theatre, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW). Free. 202-274-4180.

BABIES AND MOVIES -- "Broadway: The Golden Age," Monday at 1:30. Old Town Theater, 815 1/2 King St., Alexandria. 703-683-8487.

FREER -- "Camel(s)," Friday at 8. "A Hometown in Heart," Sunday at 2. Free, but tickets required. Meyer Auditorium, 12th Street and Jefferson Drive SW. 202-633-1000.

HIRSHHORN -- "Take Out," Thursday at 8, followed by a reception. Free. Ring Auditorium, Seventh and Independence SW. 202-633-4674.

LATIN AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL --

At the AFI Theater at the Kennedy Center (2700 F St. NW; 202-833-2348): "Love in Concrete," Friday at 6:30 and Sunday at 1. "Sex With Love," Friday at 8:30 and Saturday at 8:45. "Hotels," Saturday at 1. "Sin Amparo," Saturday at 2:45. "Subterra," Saturday at 5. "The Southern Cross," Saturday at 7. "Dark Cities," Sunday at 3. "Durval Records," Sunday at 5:15. "Margarette's Feast," Sunday at 7. Best Director selection, Sunday at 8:45.

At the AFI Silver Theatre (8633 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring; 202-885-5950): "The Mystery of the Trinidad," Friday and Sunday at 6:30. "Yotama Flies Away," Saturday at 1:30. "B-Happy," Saturday at 4. "The Xango of Baker Street/A Sambo for Sherlock," Saturday at 6 and 9. Short films, Sunday at 1:30. "Man of the Year," Sunday at 3:30. Best Film selection, Sunday at 8:45.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS -- "The Tami Show," Friday at 7. "Bridget Loves Bernie: Pilot" and "American Matchmaker," Monday at 7. "Hair," Tuesday at 7. "Liberty Heights," Wednesday at 7. "A Place in the Sun," 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: "Live From the Sun," Saturday at noon. "The Sky Above Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," Saturday and Sunday at 1. "Ring World," Saturday at 2 and 5, Sunday at 2, Tuesday-Thursday at 1. "The Sky Live!" Saturday-Sunday and Tuesday-Thursday at 3. "Hubble Heritage: Poetic Pictures," Saturday-Sunday and Tuesday-Thursday at 4. 601 Light St., Baltimore. 410-685-5225.

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

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

NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART -- "Sunrise," Saturday at 1 and Sunday at 5:30. "Tabu: A Story of the South Seas," Saturday at 3:30. 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.

PSYCHOTRONIC FILM SOCIETY -- "May," Tuesday at 8. Dr. Dremo's Taphouse, 2001 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington. 202-736-1732 or 202-707-2540.

REEL MOMS/Georgetown -- "Shark Tale," Tuesday at 11. Loews Georgetown, 3111 K St. NW. 202-342-6033.

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

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

TOWSON UNIVERSITY -- "Sound and Fury" and "Right Here, Right Now," Monday at 7:30. Van Bokkelen Hall Auditorium, 8000 York Rd., Towson. Free. 410-704-2787.

WEINBERG CENTER -- "Alien," Saturday at 8. 20 W. Patrick St., Frederick. 301-228-2828.

New on Video

{sstar} THE ALAMO

(PG-13, 2004, 90 MINUTES, BUENA VISTA PICTURES)

Heroes are in short supply in filmmaker John Lee Hancock's dry-eyed retelling of the famous 1836 stand by Texan patriots against Mexican Gen. Santa Anna (Emilio Echevarria). At least heroes who are saintly paragons of virtue, that is. Hancock's heroes here -- Jason Patric as a dissolute Jim Bowie, Patrick Wilson as a priggish William Travis, Dennis Quaid as an inebriated Sam Houston and Billy Bob Thornton as a self-deprecating, coonskin cap-less Davy Crockett -- are more flawed, hence more believable than previous versions. Oddly enough, they feel even more heroic for their imperfect humanity. Contains obscenity, warfare and death by bayonet, cannon and gun.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

ENVY

(PG-13, 2004, 99 MINUTES, DREAMWORKS)

The risk of making a movie whose theme would fall apart were it not for fecal matter is that people may be compelled to draw comparisons to the very poop, to put it nicely, that drives the plot. With all the dog dung in "Envy," it's almost too easy to generalize that it stinks. But it does, unfortunately, despite the big-name actors in its cast. Tim Dingman (Ben Stiller) and Nick Vanderpark (Jack Black) are best friends who live across the street from each other with their respective families in generic suburbia. Their lives are tedious until Nick comes up with a successful get-rich-quick scheme, Vapoorizer, a spray that makes pet poop evaporate into thin air. Tim covets his neighbors' newfound wealth, and his envy causes him to get fired from his job. To deal with it, he uncharacteristically goes to drink at a bar, where he meets a weird vagabond, J-Man (Christopher Walken), who plants an idea in Tim's head that causes him to fire an arrow that accidentally hits Nick's beloved white horse. The fiasco with the horse sends the film into a downward spiral of annoying dialogue and even more annoying situations. Contains profanity, a dead horse and many references to fecal matter.

-- Sara Gebhardt

{sstar} ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND

(R, 200, 110 MINUTES, FOCUS FEATURES)

Charlie Kaufman's most intelligent, thought-provoking and touching script yet is brought to antic life by director Michel Gondry, who unfolds like a slowly opening flower the tale of two lovers (Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet) who have elected to erase each other from their memories. By turns intoxicating and perplexing, Gondry and Kaufman's film is a philosophical love story about the nature of memory and emotion. Serious and silly at the same time, it's a film with both mainstream appeal and an abundance of grown-up ideas. Contains obscenity, drug use and sexual content.

-- M.O.

{sstar} THE HUNTING OF THE PRESIDENT: THE TEN-YEAR CAMPAIGN TO DESTROY BILL CLINTON

(UNRATED, 2004, 89 MINUTES, REGENT RELEASING)

Based on the book by investigative reporters Joe Conason and Gene Lyons, Harry Thomason and Nickolas Perry's documentary reexamination of the events leading up to President Clinton's impeachment hearings lends a whole lot of credence to the theory that there was, as Hillary Rodham Clinton once said, a "vast right-wing conspiracy" against her husband. Replete with villains minor and major (with former chief independent counsel Ken Starr leading the howling pack), "Hunting" has almost everything one expects from an old-fashioned drama, including a damsel in distress in the person of Susan McDougal, who went to jail rather than, as she tells it, lie about her friend the president. What it doesn't have is a clear-cut hero, just a powerful but flawed man at its center, whose apparent hounding by the far right is the stuff of righteous outrage. Contains snippets of testimony about sexual relations, a four-letter word, a glimpse of a woman in a wet T-shirt and old news footage of an execution.

-- M.O.

{sstar} SUPER SIZE ME

(NOT RATED, 2004, 98 MINUTES, HART SHARP VIDEO)

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.

-- M.O.

WALKING TALL

(PG-13, 2004, 85 MINUTES, METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER)

Wrestler-turned-actor the Rock makes a suitable substitute for Joe Don Baker's Buford Pusser in this remake of the 1973 fact-based revenge drama about a man who takes justice into his own big hands when thugs take over his home town. Here, rural Tennessee becomes bucolic Washington state and Pusser becomes the more euphonious-sounding Chris Vaughn, a military veteran who gets elected sheriff and brings WWE-style justice to a gang of crystal-meth-dealing crooks with a little help from deputy Johnny Knoxville and a very big stick. It's all as fun -- and as dumb -- as any "Smackdown" match. Contains obscenity, violence, drug use and sensuality.

-- M.O.