Film Capsules

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

Openings

BRIGHT LEAVES (Unrated) -- See review on Page 45.

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS (PG-13) -- See review on Page 45.

I {heart} HUCKABEES (R) -- See review on Page 45.

INCANTATO (Unrated) -- See review on Page 46.

RAISE YOUR VOICE (PG) -- See capsule review on Page 48.

RED LIGHTS (Unrated) -- See capsule review on Page 48.

TAXI (PG-13) -- See review on Page 46.

ZELARY (R) -- See capsule review on Page 48.

First Runs & Revivals

{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.

{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} 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. AMC Hoffman Center.

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. AMC Rivertowne and Muvico Egyptian Theatres.

-- 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 antiwar. 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, 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} 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 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.

-- 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 and Alexandria Old Town Theater.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} GOING UPRIVER: THE LONG WAR OF JOHN KERRY (PG-13, 92 minutes) -- George Butler's movie shows us a rare spectacle: a presidential candidate performing military service. We can see from the footage and the testimony that Kerry, as a Swift boat commander, wasn't ducking from danger. He killed the enemy and he saved lives. We also see, in detail, how Kerry and hundreds of comrades established Vietnam Veterans Against the War, marched on Washington and camped in front of Congress. And there is also the 29-year-old Kerry testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. There's no doubt about this movie's political agenda -- Butler and Kerry are lifelong friends. But "Upriver" puts together a composite, fuller picture of Kerry than the fragmentary sketches and less-flattering renderings offered by the media and his opponents. Turns out, the guy is gallant, honorable and thoughtful. Contains footage of wartime atrocities. Area theaters.

{sstar} HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN (PG, 142 minutes) -- It's not just the child actors who look all grown up in "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban." The filmmaking does, too. Alfonso Cuaron -- director of the Oscar-nominated "A Little Princess" and "Y Tu Mama Tambien" -- has made a grim, atmospheric movie that is so much more sophisticated than its predecessors, both visually and in terms of storytelling, that it's hard to believe the source material is the same. The movie is not perfect, or even close, but it delivers on the promise of J.K. Rowling's novels to a far greater extent. At the start of his third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry learns that Sirius Black, the wizard whose betrayal of his parents resulted in their deaths, has escaped from Azkaban, the wizarding equivalent of a maximum-security penitentiary -- and he's coming after Harry. Aside from Cuaron's complete disavowal of cuddliness, the most notable difference in "Azkaban" is the burgeoning maturity of the film's three lead actors. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) look older, old enough for there to be -- ewww -- sexual tension between Ron and Hermione. "Azkaban" excels at capturing -- and elaborating on -- the details that make the books such a delight. Contains fisticuffs, an implied beheading and a sad-sack werewolf. 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} 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. University Mall Theatres.

{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. Foxchase.

LADDER 49 (PG-13, 115 minutes) -- A tribute to firefighters disguised as a drama, this movie shows bravery in the visual Esperanto of Budweiser commercials and Hollywood action films, using the five-alarm star power of John Travolta and Joaquin Phoenix. We meet Jack Morrison (Phoenix), who has it in mind to be a hero all along and who just can't wait to start saving people. His genial captain (Travolta) becomes his Obi-Wan Kenobi, who follows his meteoric career. Although "Ladder" tries to show firefighters as vulnerable and human, it mostly turns them into salt-of-the-earth heroes who know how to party hard and save lives. It's adulatory rather than realistic. It comes across as the firefighting equivalent of an Army recruitment commercial and doesn't engage you deeper than its heart-on-the-sleeve emotions. Contains burn injuries, overall emotional intensity and mild profanity. Area theaters.

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

{sstar}THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES (R, 126 minutes) -- A good-hearted young Argentine from Cordoba named Ernesto (Gael Garcia Bernal) decides it is time to put aside his medical school education, get on a motorbike with his pal Alberto Granados (Rodrigo de la Serna) and hit the road. He wants to discover South America. This man will grow up to be Ernesto "Che" Guevara, a Marxist revolutionary in the Cuban revolution. But Walter Salles's movie, adapted from Guevara's memoir, "The Motorcycle Diaries," and Granados's "Traveling With Che Guevara," isn't about the politics. It's a lyrical, warmhearted road movie about two men coming of age. Bernal, the star of "Y Tu Mama Tambien," is the movie's guiding star. He beams brightly, charming men and women, rich and poor, healthy and leprous, wherever he goes. Contains obscenity. In Spanish 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.

{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. 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. University Mall Theatres.

-- 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

SHARK TALE (PG, 92 minutes) -- Through a comedy of errors, the jive-talking fish called Oscar Oscar (Will Smith) gets credited for the killing of a mean shark. This puts him in real hot water with the shark's father, a mafioso fish named Don Lino (Robert De Niro). Oscar's only hope is his newfound friend, Don's nicer, pacifist son, Lenny (Jack Black). The movie probably won't register as anything but fun to most kids. But that vapor of mediocrity might penetrate more discerning nostrils. Many of us have grown accustomed to extremely high quality in the computer-animated genre, thanks to such great films as "Toy Story" and "Shrek." This movie just doesn't match its predecessors, and those inevitable comparisons to Pixar's "Finding Nemo" will leave "Shark Tale" foundering. Contains mild obscenity and crude humor. Area theaters.

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. Alexandria Old Town Theater.

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

{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

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 Cineplex Odeon Dupont Circle.

-- 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

WOMAN THOU ART LOOSED (R, 99 minutes) -- This grim tale, adapted from a novel by Bishop T.D. Jakes, is about the troubled life of Michelle (Kimberly Elise), who was raped at age 12 by her mother's boyfriend, Reggie (Clifton Powell). Michelle's mother, Cassie (Loretta Devine), refuses to believe what happened because she doesn't want to lose a man; and Michelle grows up bitter and angry. Michael Schultz's movie hinges almost diagrammatically on that act of child abuse, like a made-for-TV melodrama. Despite some strong performances, particularly from Elise, and all manner of stylistic flourishes by Schultz and screenwriter Stan Foster, the movie feels stage-like and a little too self-conscious. There are good scenes and less-assured moments, rich characters and cliched ones. Ultimately, the movie's too uneven to be totally satisfying. Contains obscenity, rape and other violence. Area theaters.

{sstar} THE YES MEN (R, minutes) -- Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno -- the film's titular Yes Men, two members of a loose-knit collective of anti-globalization performance art activists -- are the first faces we see on camera in Dan Ollman, Sarah Price and Chris Smith's wry and pointy-elbowed documentary. The second belongs to Michael Moore, whose appearance serves as fair warning to anyone who might have wandered into the movie by mistake, thinking it was a profile of President Bush's cabinet. Over the course of the film, we see Bichlbaum and Bonanno pass themselves off as pseudonymous representatives of the World Trade Organization, appearing at conferences and lectures to advocate, tongue firmly in cheek, slave labor, vote selling and the recycling of human excrement into hamburger for impoverished Third World countries. It's hilarious all right, but the lengths to which Bichlbaum and Bonanno have to go before someone actually sits up and takes umbrage also make for one scary movie. Contains obscenity and the satirical use of excretory and phallic humor. Landmark's Bethesda Row and Landmark's E Street Cinema.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

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 -- "Mildred Pierce," Friday at 8. "Dr. Strangelove," Saturday at 8. "Raiders of the Lost Ark," Sunday at 8. "East of Eden," Monday at 8. "Strangers on a Train," Tuesday at 8. "Scent of a Woman," Wednesday at 8. "To Kill a Mockingbird," Thursday at 8. 5532 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-244-1949.

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

ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL --

At the Freer (Meyer Auditorium, 12th Street and Jefferson Drive SW. Free, but tickets are required. 202-633-1000): "Imperfect Strangers," Sunday at 2. "Daughters of Everest," Sunday at 4. "Indian Cowboy," Sunday at 6.

At the Hirshhorn (Ring Auditorium, Seventh and Independence SW. 202-633-4674): "Cosmopolitan," Friday at 7. New shorts, Friday at 8:15.

At the National Museum of American History (Carmichael Auditorium, 14th and Constitution NW. Free. 202-633-1000): "Families on the Edge: Other Visions of Asian Americans," Saturday at 12:30. "Communities: Mix Tape: Voices of Asian Youth," Saturday at 2. "Civil Rights Legacies: Internments Then and Now," Saturday at 3:30. "Journey: Filipino American Identity," Saturday at 6.

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

FREER -- "Aimless Bullet," Friday at 7. "Imperfect Strangers," Sunday at 2. "Daughters of Everest," Sunday at 4. "Indian Cowboy," Sunday at 6. Meyer Auditorium Free, but tickets required. Meyer Auditorium, 12th Street and Jefferson Drive SW. 202-633-1000.

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

HIRSHHORN -- "Cosmopolitan," Friday at 7. New shorts, Friday at 8:15. "Tarnation," Thursday at 8. Free. Ring Auditorium, Seventh and Independence SW. 202-633-4674.

ITALIAN FILM FEST -- "Roma Ore 11," Tuesday at 11 a.m. "Another Life," Tuesday at 5. "My Father," Tuesday at 7. "Doppo Mezzanotte (After Midnight)," Tuesday at 11 p.m. "Un Americano A Roma (An American in Rome)," Wednesday at 11 a.m. "Ma Che Colpa Abbiomo Noi (What Fault Is It of Ours)," Wednesday at 3. "La Rivincita de Natale (Christmas Rematch)," Wednesday at 5. "Hollywood Flies," Wednesday at 7. "Prima Dammi un Baccio (Kiss Me First)," Wednesday at 11 p.m. "Pasqualino Settebellezze (Seven Beauties)," Thursday at 11 a.m. "Radio West," Thursday at 5. "L'Avventura (The Adventure)," Thursday at 9. "Pontormo," Thursday at 11 p.m. Loews Georgetown, 3111 K St. NW. 202-342-6033.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS -- "Thelonious Monk -- Straight, No Chaser," Friday at 7. "CBS Reports: The Harlem Temper" and "The American Experience: Race Relations in Crisis," Tuesday at 7. "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg," Wednesday at 7. "Hollywood Hotel," Thursday at 7. Free, but reservations required. Mary Pickford Theater, 101 Independence Ave. SE. 202-707-5677.

MARYLAND SCIENCE CENTER -- Imax Theater: "Amazon," Friday-Saturday at 12:10 and 7:40, Sunday-Thursday at 12:10. "Special Effects," Friday-Sunday at 2:10 and 5:30; Monday-Thursday at 1:10. "Space Station 3D," Friday and Tuesday-Thursday at 3:10; Saturday- Monday at 11 and 3:10. "Sacred Planet" and "Hubble: Galaxies Across Space & Time," Friday-Sunday at 4:20 and 6:30; Monday-Thursday at 4:20. "Dolphins," Monday at 1:10. Davis Planetarium: "Ring World," Friday and Tuesday-Thursday at 1, Saturday at 2 and 5, Sunday at 2. "The Sky Live!" Friday-Sunday and Tuesday-Thursday at 3. "Hubble Heritage: Poetic Pictures," Friday-Sunday and Tuesday-Thursday at 4. "Live From the Sun," Saturday at noon. "The Sky Above Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," Saturday and Sunday at 1. 601 Light St., Baltimore. 410-685-5225.

MICA AND MARYLAND FILM FESTIVAL -- "Four More Years" and "Primary," Monday at 7:30. Maryland Institute College of Art's Hall at Brown Center, 1301 Mount Royal Ave., Baltimore. 410-752-8083.

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

MIDNIGHTS ON E -- "This Is Spinal Tap," Friday and Saturday at midnight. Landmark's E Street Cinema, 555 11th St. NW. 202-452-7672.

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

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AMERICAN HISTORY -- "Families on the Edge: Other Visions of Asian Americans," Saturday at 12:30. "Communities: Mix Tape: Voices of Asian Youth," Saturday at 2. "Civil Rights Legacies: Internments Then and Now," Saturday at 3:30. "Journey: Filipino American Identity," Saturday at 6. Free. Carmichael Auditorium, 14th and Constitution NW.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN -- "Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance," Thursday at 6:30. Free. Fourth Street and Independence Avenue SW. 202-633-1000.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY -- Johnson Imax Theater: "Dolphins," Friday and Saturday at 10:20, 12:10, 2, 4 and 7; Sunday-Thursday at 10:20, 12:10, 2 and 4. "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. Baird Auditorium: "American Aloha: Hula Beyond Hawai'i," Friday at noon. 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 -- "Lady Terminator," Tuesday at 8. Dr. Dremo's Taphouse, 2001 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington. 202-736-1732 or 202-707-2540.

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

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

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

SHEPHERDSTOWN FILM SOCIETY -- "Moderato Cantabile," Friday at 7. Shepherdstown University's Reynolds Hall, King Street, Shepherdstown, WVa. 304-876-1837.

TOWSON UNIVERSITY -- "All the President's Men," Monday at 7:30. Van Bokkelen Hall Auditorium, 8000 York Rd., Towson. Free. 410-704-2787.

New on Video

{sstar} FAHRENHEIT 9/11

(R, 2004, 122 MINUTES, COLUMBIA TRISTAR)

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.

-- Desson Thomson

THE FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS

(NOT RATED, 2003, 90 MINUTES, KOCH LORBER FILMS)

In a collaboration that will fascinate film buffs but perplex everyone else, Danish bad boy Lars von Trier commands documentarian Jorgen Leth to remake his short 1967 nonfiction film, "The Perfect Human." Von Trier proposes that Leth direct five new versions of the short, each one to be made under different arbitrary strictures. After Leth, to von Trier's disappointment, makes a film that looks surprisingly elegant, the obstructionist gets four more chances to subvert what he calls the older director's "perverse perfection." We see all five shorts, as well as footage of Leth at work and of the two directors' summits, where they screen the latest effort and von Trier announces the rules for the next one. Contains a few brief sexually explicit scenes and much film-theory perversity.

-- Mark Jenkins

SAVED!

(PG-13, 2004, 92 MINUTES, MGM HOME ENTERTAINMENT)

Lord knows I wanted to love this religious satire about holier-than-thou hypocrites. Unfortunately, the comedy, which centers around the reaction at a Christian high school when a former good girl (Jena Malone) gets pregnant, is guilty of the same black-and-white, aren't-we-better-than-you smugness that it accuses its fundamentalist Christian victims of. In the end, despite some great laugh moments, the comedy gets as stridently preachy as the God Squad phonies (led by Mandy Moore's finger-wagging Hilary Faye) whom it mocks with all too easy condescension. Contains obscenity, sexual humor and slapstick violence.

-- Michael O'Sullivan