CELSIUS 41.11 (R, 72 minutes)
Look what Michael Moore hath wrought. Thanks to the unprecedented success of his Bush-bashing "Fahrenheit 9/11," the political right has mobilized into moviemaking cells of their own, rushing pro-Bush quickies into production. This one's produced by David N. Bossie, who is president of the conservative group Citizens United, a former Whitewater investigator, and author of "The Many Faces of John Kerry: Why This Massachusetts Liberal Is Wrong for America." He also wrote "Intelligence Failure: How Clinton's National Security Policy Set the Stage for 9/11." Not surprisingly, the film attempts to do to Moore and Sen. John Kerry what "Fahrenheit 9/11" did to the president. With pointed commentary from such right-wing figures as Charles Krauthammer, Fred Barnes, Bill Sammon and Michael Medved, it attacks Kerry's voting record and his "flip-flopping" positions on matters of national security and the war on Iraq. It also attempts to refute widespread belief that the Supreme Court gave the last election to Bush, that African Americans were disenfranchised in the Florida election and that Saddam Hussein had no plans to create weapons of mass destruction. Just like Moore's film, the spleen factor could poison small children, and the film (its full title: "Celsius 41.11 -- The Temperature at Which the Brain Begins to Die") obviously preaches to its own. But there are some very thought-provoking points, and the movie deserves a balanced listening-to. Contains footage of the 9/11 attacks and other acts of terrorism. At Loews Rio, Cineplex Odeon Shirlington and Cineplex Odeon Wisconsin Avenue.
-- Desson Thomson
HEAD IN THE CLOUDS (R, 121 minutes)
John Duigan's love-during-wartime affair is a snooze, despite all the sex and other gunplay. Gilda Besse (Charlize Theron), a free-spirited American, meets and hops into bed with Guy (Stuart Townsend), an Irish student at Cambridge University in 1933. It's the beginning of a series of similar rendezvous. She moves to Paris. He looks her up. This time, she's with a gallery owner and is doing suggestive things with Mia (Penelope Cruz), a refugee from Spain who's also an ex-dancer. Mia, incidentally, has a pronounced limp, which Cruz (hardly the world's greatest actress) can't even perform without looking fake. Guy and Mia say goodbye to Gilda, then take off for the Spanish Civil War to help the republicans. Guy returns to Paris after that to help the Resistance. He can't keep away from that sexy free spirit! He finds Gilda has taken up with a German officer. Where are these star-crossed lovers going to end up? By this point, you couldn't care less. And you're ready to throw this film as high into the clouds as your throwing arm permits. The international star packaging on this movie is leadenly obvious: Put Theron in a sexy World War II-era tale with an Irishman, a Spaniard and a smattering of Germans, French and Englishmen, then watch people rent the DVD all over the globe. Not. Contains nudity, sex scenes and violence. Some French and German with subtitles. At Cinema Arts Theatre and Landmark's E Street Cinema.
-- Desson Thomson
SURVIVING CHRISTMAS (PG-13, 92 minutes)
Benjamin Geza Affleck! I'm beginning to see your game, man. You are trying to beat out Pauly Shore and Cuba Gooding Jr. for worst movie posterboy of all time. Right? Has to be true. I mean: "Jersey Girl," "Paycheck," "Gigli," "Daredevil," "Pearl Harbor." Dude, you're on a roll. This latest movie is absolutely awesome in its relentless mediocrity. You must have thrown out scripts by the hundreds before you unearthed this Christmas turkey about a lonely rich yuppie (excellent choice: Someone no one can relate to!) who has no family and no friends (awwwwww!). And who pays money to the family living in his old childhood home to spend Christmas with him. A family, that is, of one-dimensional archetypes, including James Gandolfini as a bearded grump with a heart of gold; his frumpy, frustrated wife (Catherine O'Hara); and a teenager (Josh Zuckerman) who watches porn on his computer. And because you are Ben-the-playa, you're torn between two women: the rich, empty chick (Jennifer Morrison) and the grumpy, serious but ultimately genuine Alicia (Christina Applegate). I don't want to spoil the plot because, well, there isn't one. It's just a by-the-numbers romance-farce-whatever that stars you-you-you in doo-doo-doo. Merry Christmas, pal, even though it's not even Thanksgiving yet. Can't wait for your next one. Keep 'em coming! Contains sexual content, obscenity, a drug reference and, of course, Affleck. Area theaters.
-- Desson Thomson
WMD -- THE MURDEROUS REIGN OF SADDAM HUSSEIN (Unrated, 94 minutes)
From California businessman Brad Maaske comes a right-leaning documentary focusing on what Maaske believes are the underreported acts of atrocity committed by the now-deposed Iraqi leader, especially those against the Kurds. This film was not screened in time for review. In English and Kurdish with subtitles. At the Cineplex Odeon Wisconsin Avenue.
-- Michael O'Sullivan