Film Capsules

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

Openings

FINDING NEVERLAND (PG) -- See review on Page 32.

KINSEY (R) -- See review on Page 32.

NATIONAL TREASURE (PG) -- See review on Page 32.

POSTMEN IN THE MOUNTAINS (Unrated) -- See capsule review on Page 34.

SEX IS COMEDY (R) -- See review on Page 34.

THE SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS MOVIE (PG) -- See review on Page 33.

First Runs & Revivals

ALFIE (R, 103 minutes) -- In this dumb remake of the 1966 British movie, Jude Law plays a eurotrashy lady-killer, living in a low-rent corner of the Big Apple, dressing in retro '60s chic. And going full tilt for the "birds." His big moral issue occurs when he finds himself in a compromising position with sultry Lonette (Nia Long), who's still involved with Alfie's good friend Marlon (Omar Epps). The updating of the Michael Caine classic into the post-feminist age doesn't work well. It feels forced and empty. You don't believe Law's act or his language for a minute. There's nothing authentic about this London lad. Even songs written for the movie by famous musical Brits Mick Jagger and Dave Stewart sound bland and counterfeit. Contains sexual situations, nudity, drug use. Area theaters.

{sstar} BEING JULIA (R, 104 minutes) -- In 1930s Britain, Julia Lambert (Annette Bening) is the reigning stage actress of the West End. But her life takes a sudden turn when she falls for a young American fan (Shaun Evans) with a shady agenda. When she learns the truth, Julia takes the kind of revenge only an actress can. Bening's a treat, digging into a pagoda-size heap of roles and roles-within-roles and pulling them all out, one by one, deftly. You feel the fun of the thing, as well as the appropriate heartache. She also has the smarts not to Paltrow around with an English accent but simply speak in a neutral New England/mid-Atlantic voice. Instead of being a tiresome diva, she's surprisingly affecting and fragile. And when it does come to vamping it up, her final act is a treat worth waiting for. Contains nudity, sexual situations and some obscenity. Area theaters.

{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 cold, 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. Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse.

BRIDGET JONES: THE EDGE OF REASON (R, 110 minutes) -- Imagine the comic-strip character Cathy -- but with a British accent, potty mouth and overactive libido -- and you'll have a fair idea of what Renee Zellweger's character, based on "Bridget Jones's Diary" author Helen Fielding's fictional heroine, is like, and how quickly it grows tiresome. In this sequel to "Diary," Bridget is still obsessed with her weight and marital status, still medicates her neuroses with nicotine and alcohol, but unlike the earlier book and movie, she finally has a real boyfriend (Colin Firth, essentially playing Irving to Zellweger's Cathy) to project her insecurities on. If you like the comic strip, or the original Fielding books, you'll probably get a kick out of this. Otherwise, avoid it like the plague. Contains obscenity, drug use and sexual content. 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. University Mall Theatres.

{sstar} FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS (PG-13, 110 minutes) -- Based on the acclaimed nonfiction book by H.G. Bissinger about a small, west Texas town's affection for its winning-against-the-odds high-school football team, director Peter Berg's warts-and-all examination of the Permian Panthers isn't conventional in any way. For one thing, its grainy, washed-out look and shaky-camera style make football fandom feel more like an addiction than a glorious obsession. For another, the plot, which follows the 1988 season under stoic coach Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton), has an unexpected trajectory, especially considering that, at least initially, the story seems to conform to the it-all-comes-down-to- one-game formula. In other words, it's more sociology than hagiography. Even if you don't generally like sports movies, you might like this one. That's because its subject isn't really the game of football, but the game of life. Contains obscenity, sexual content, underage drinking, emotionally abusive parenting, often brutal gridiron action and occasional Texans so twangy you may wish there were subtitles. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{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. Foxchase, Avalon and Landmark's E Street Cinema.

THE GRUDGE (PG-13, 88 minutes) -- Sure, it's scary, but this lightly Americanized remake of the Japanese ghost story "Ju-on" doesn't exactly break new ground in horror. Heck, the original on which it's based -- itself merely one of four films in a series by director Takashi Shimizu, who also made the new one -- didn't even break new ground when it was new. There are lots of "boo!" moments, to be sure, as American transfer student Sarah Michelle Gellar gets spooked by the powerfully evil spirits lurking at the site of a three-year Tokyo murder, but there are lots of cheesy ones, too, as when several of the dead people show up to reenact their untimely demises, expressly for the edification of us stupid Western audiences, for whom everything, apparently, needs to be s-p-e-l-l-e-d o-u-t. Contains disturbing, occasionally violent imagery and mild sensuality. In English and some Japanese with subtitles. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

I {heart} HUCKABEES (R, 104 minutes) -- In David O. Russell's too-precious- for-its-own-good comedy, Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman) recruits "existential" detectives Bernard and Vivian Jaffe (Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin) to help him solve the strange coincidences and troubles of his life. They uncover all kinds of things, including environmentalist Albert's tussle with a sleazy Huckabees store chain executive Brad Stand (Jude Law), who wants to build more stores. The convoluted story, which includes Huckabees spokesmodel Dawn (Naomi Watts); Tommy Corn (Mark Wahlberg), a firefighter who has become radicalized by the world's consumerism and dependence on oil ever since "the big September thing"; and French philosopher Caterine Vauban (Isabelle Huppert), who sees randomness where the Jaffes see connectedness, is all pie-in-the-sky conceit but not quite funny enough. Contains nudity, sex scenes and obscenity. Loews Georgetown and Landmark's E Stree Cinema.

{sstar}THE INCREDIBLES (PG, 115 minutes) -- This Pixar computer animated family comedy is, well, incredible. And very funny. It's about a family of superheroes, led by big-chinned, red-suited Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson); his wife, Elastigirl (Holly Hunter); and their precocious, superhero kids. When Mr. Incredible's over the top heroics start causing damage and too many lawsuits, the family is forced to hide out as "normal people" under the Superhero Relocation Program. But you can't keep a superheroic family down. Brad Bird, an executive consultant for "The Simpsons," "The Critic" and "King of the Hill," who also made the rather wonderful "Iron Giant," has aced himself. The film brims over with hilarious sight gags and witticisms. Beyond the sophisticated humor, there's something for almost every conceivable viewer. Mom, Dad, daughter and son all get a major bite of the action. What could be more appealing than an entire family not only empowered but super-empowered? Contains some intense action fare. Area theaters.

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, and it doesn't engage you deeper than its heart-on-the-sleeve emotions. Contains burn injuries, overall emotional intensity and mild profanity. University Mall Theatres.

{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. Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse.

{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. Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse and Avalon.

{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.

{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. Contains some sexual innuendo. Foxchase.

{sstar} THE POLAR EXPRESS (G, 93 minutes) -- Chris Allsburg's storybook is brought to an eerie sort of life, or perhaps surreal artificiality, by director Robert Zemeckis in this digitally animated movie. Thanks to "performance capture," movements of the live actors (including Tom Hanks in five roles) are regenerated into digital versions. It's as if the book itself became animated, started talking to you, its characters sitting up from the flat page. On Christmas Eve a young boy (voiced by Daryl Sabara) who has his doubts about Santa hears a large train bound for the North Pole outside his house. He hops aboard and joins a carriage full of children and a mysterious conductor (Hanks), all on their way to see the big bearded guy. It's a compelling adventure with some breathtaking scenes, including one in which a girl's lost ticket flies out of the train, then takes a fluttery, serendipitous route that includes getting stuck under the wheels, swooping down an arctic ravine and even landing temporarily in a bird's nest before getting sucked back into the train. Contains nothing objectionable. Area theaters.

{sstar} P.S. (R, 105 minutes) -- Dylan Kidd, whose sensational debut was the dark romantic comedy "Roger Dodger," proves his qualities again. The movie, adapted from the Helen Schulman novel, is remarkably assured. It's about the mystical attraction between the divorced, 39-year-old Louise Harrington (Laura Linney), director of admissions at Columbia University, and an art student named F. Scott Feinstadt (Topher Grace), who has eerie connections with an ex-boyfriend of hers who died. It's a romance of sometimes breathtakingly intimate moments between two very interesting characters. Linney's terrific, memorably capturing the mercurial ups and downs of a divorcee, hardly daring to hope for happiness. And Grace is a force of nature. He creates a thrilling, funny and potentially alarming counterbalance. Contains sexual scenes and obscenity. Landmark's E Street Cinema.

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

{sstar} RAY (PG-13, 135 minutes) -- Assuming the persona of Ray Charles as if it were always his, Jamie Foxx becomes the singer in such an evocative way, you're not sure which one's the real Ray anymore. Taylor Hackford's well-wrought, touching movie shows many significant moments of the blind singer's life, good and bad: His need for women and the comfort of heroin on the bad side; his wit, charm, courage, financial savvy and his musical talent on the other. Kerry Washington is strong as Della Bea Robinson, whom Ray marries; so is Regina King as his passionate, on-the-road lover, Margie Hendricks. But Foxx steals his own show, not exaggerated but subtle. His verbal performance is remarkable, perfectly capturing Ray's inflections and directness, yet making them his own. And he's never far away from a humorous aside. He lights up his own darkness and the movie. Contains extensive drug use and sexual situations. Area theaters.

SAW (R, 100 minutes) -- This grotesque, uneven and kinda dumb mystery-thriller took some minor snipping to avoid an NC-17 rating. It isn't half as cool and clever as it would like you to think it is. Two men (Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannell, also the scriptwriter) find themselves ankle-chained to wall pipes in opposite corners of a dilapidated bathroom. Both find tapes and other clues, concocted by the mysterious "Jigsaw Man," which lead them to the bottom line: They can free themselves by cutting through an ankle with hacksaws. The movie's ratio of nastiness to suspense writing is too high. This film's highest priority is the blood and the sawing of leg bones; as for teasing the viewer's brain, that's lower on the list. As a police detective who's involved in a subplot, Danny Glover gets a silly supporting role, especially in the movie's over-the-top (even for a flick like this) finale. Contains gruesome violence and carnage, bad acting and obscenity. Area theaters.

SEED OF CHUCKY (R, 87 minutes) -- If there are moments of camp in this fifth installment of the Don Mancini's "Chucky" franchise, they are momentary interruptions to a shoddy, low-budget and pointlessly grisly show. It seems, Chucky (as always, the voice of Brad Dourif) and his malignant, blonde girlfriend, Tiffany (Meg Tilly), have somehow begotten a child, a gender-unspecified Chucky doll who sounds and looks like his real dad may be David Bowie. Their plan is to transfer the soul of their doll-child into the real body of a desperate B-movie actress (Tilly again) who will do almost anything to get roles. Most of the movie is taken up with self-referential gags and Tilly's excruciating performance. This is for really, really diehard fans of the Chucky films who just want to see this for the record. Contains gore, violence, obscenity and sexual scenes. Area theaters.

SHALL WE DANCE? (PG-13, 106 minutes) -- No one needs a session at Arthur Murray to keep up with the moves in "Shall We Dance?" In this Hollywoodized version of the 1996 Japanese film of the same name, Richard Gere plays a repressed lawyer and family man who, captivated by the sight of a mysterious woman's face gazing out of a dance studio window, signs up for ballroom dance lessons. To his surprise (but not the audience's), he discovers the thrill of dance, all the while forming a friendship with the elusive instructor Paulina (Jennifer Lopez). Meanwhile, his wife (Susan Sarandon) hires a private investigator to find out whether an extramarital affair is what's keeping hubby away from home. While Gere brings a salt-and-pepper-haired sexiness to his role, he and Lopez fail to generate any sparks. Most of the high points come from supporting players such as Stanley Tucci, who brings his usual energy to his part as a balding lawyer and gifted dancer who dons a Fabio-esque wig whenever he hits the floor. What's most disappointing about "Shall We Dance?" isn't its predictability or cliche dialogue. It's the lack of a knock-'em-dead dance scene, clearly a violation of Rule No. 1 in the Dance Movie Handbook. We get a few lovely waltzes but nothing that razzle-dazzles. For a film that stars "Chicago's" Billy Flynn and a former "In Living Color" Fly Girl Dancer, that's not only a violation, it's a sin. Contains some sexual references and brief obscenity. Area theaters.

-- Jen Chaney

SHARK TALE (PG, 92 minutes) -- Through a comedy of errors, the jive-talking fish called 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.

{sstar} SIDEWAYS (R, 124 minutes) -- In Alexander ("About Schmidt") Payne's terrific comedy, Miles (Paul Giamatti) takes his old college friend Jack (Thomas Haden Church) on a road trip through California wine country before Jack gets married. It becomes a comedy of errors, as Jack chases after a woman (Sandra Oh) who steals his heart. Payne and co-writer Jim Taylor have made the funniest, most assured film of their partnership so far. The characters are so enjoyably matched, you'd follow their endless squabblings anywhere. Add the scenic wonders of Santa Ynez, and two fiercely independent women (including Virginia Madsen) who enter both men's lives, and you've got an irresistibly potent combination."Sideways" isn't just a road comedy, it's a great film about men and women. Contains some violence, obscenity, sexual scenes, nudity and pot smoking. Area theaters.

{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.

{sstar} TARNATION (Unrated, 88 minutes) -- A haunting pastiche of old family photos, Super 8 movie clips, home video, period songs, snippets of audio tape and on-screen titles cobbled together in iMovie computer software tells the story of documentarian Jonathan Caouette's strange Texas childhood and the relationship with his mentally ill mother in "Tarnation." Caouette's lovely and frightening little film is really about the power and unreliability of memory, and his frequent use of mirror images to distort his own face underscores not just the fact that he is both filmmaker and subject, but that, ultimately, our ability to make sense of our own personal narratives is as uncertain as our own minds. Contains obscenity, brief nudity and disturbing thematic elements. Landmark's E Street Cinema.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

TAXI (PG-13, 97 minutes) -- I liked Jimmy Fallon on "Saturday Night Live." The ex-"Weekend Update" co-anchor always came across like one of those genial, smart-alecky Everydudes who live to crack up their friends in the group house next door. But the ability to make light of such celebs as Bobby Brown at a desk week after week does not a movie star make, and "Taxi" -- a buddy flick in which Fallon's bumbling New York cop teams up with Queen Latifah's speed-demon cabbie to pursue Brazilian supermodel bank robbers -- is proof of that. Even the closing-credit outtakes, in which Fallon is seen making himself and his castmates laugh, are way funnier than anything scripted in this stalled comedic vehicle. Contains violence and obscenity. Majestic Cinema.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE (R, 98 minutes) -- This puppet comedy, by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of "South Park," is wickedly funny and devilishly subversive. It's riddled with obscenity and extremely low-rent humor that will curl almost anyone's hair. When one puppet gets sick from a night of partying, he pukes. And pukes. And pukes. And as for the movie's flashpoint scene -- a lovemaking session between two marionettes that had to be trimmed to avoid an NC-17 rating -- well, I didn't know puppets could do that. If it's raunchy the movie is also some sort of low-rent satire that targets plain old couch-potato us and our perception of the post-9/11 world, informed by a composite prism of fear, cultural ignorance and government spin. Contains puppet sex, puppet violence and extremely graphic language. Oh yeah, and major pukeage. Area theaters.

{sstar} VERA DRAKE (R, 120 minutes) -- In postwar England, young women who find themselves in "a spot of trouble" would do well to be rich. Daughters of the leisured classes can solve such problems with a discreet visit to a doctor. But poorer girls, they can only hope for someone as gentle and safe as Vera Drake (Imelda Staunton). She's a devoted wife, mother and neighbor who seems to find time for everybody. And she is about to learn that no good deed goes unpunished, especially in the working classes. Written and directed by Mike Leigh, the British filmmaker who made "Secrets & Lies" and "Topsy-Turvy," "Vera Drake" is a carefully calibrated parable that quietly sneaks into your heart and prods it sharply. Staunton is the heart and guts of this drama. And you cannot accompany her on this journey without feeling the intense highs and lows of her oddly fated life. Contains intense thematic material. Landmark's Bethesda Row.

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. Landmark's Bethesda Row and Cineplex Odeon Dupont Circle.

-- 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 stagelike 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. AMC Rivertowne.

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 -- "Annie Hall," Friday at 8. "The Manchurian Candidate," Saturday at 7:30. "Sleepless in Seattle," Sunday at 8. "The Graduate," Monday at 8. "In the Heat of the Night," Tuesday at 8. "The Philadelphia Story," Wednesday at 8. 5532 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-244-1949.

FILMS ON THE HILL -- "Girl Shy" and "Dog Shy," Friday at 7, with musical accompaniment by Ray Brubacher. Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, 545 Seventh St. SE. 202-547-6839.

FREER -- "Nine Souls," Friday at 7. "Millenium Mambo," Sunday at 2. Free, but tickets required. Meyer Auditorium, 12th Street and Jefferson Drive SW. 202-633-1000.

GRIOT CINEMA -- "Only the Strong Survive," Sunday at 3:15. City Museum, 801 K St. NW. 202-232-3400.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS -- "I Walk the Line," Friday at 7. "Cissy Houston, Ronny Dyson, Al Green and the Isaac Douglas Singers: Soul," Monday at 7. "Surprise Night 2," Tuesday at 7. Free, but reservations required. Mary Pickford Theater, 101 Independence Ave. SE. 202-707-5677.

MARYLAND SCIENCE CENTER -- Imax Theater: "Forces of Nature" and "Hubble: Galaxies Across Space & Time," Friday-Sunday at 12:10, 2:10, 4:20 and 6:30; Tuesday-Wednesday at 12:10, 2:10 and 4:20. "NASCAR 3D," Friday at 3:10 and 7:40, Saturday at 11, 3:10 and 7:40, Sunday at 11 and 3:10, Tuesday-Wednesday at 3:10. "Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees," Friday at 5:30, Saturday and Sunday at 1:10 and 5:30. 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 -- "Bulworth," Monday at 7:30. Maryland Institute College of Art's Falvey Hall, 1301 Mount Royal Ave., Baltimore. 410-752-8083.

NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART -- 12:30 Art Film: "The English Garden, parts 5 and 6," Friday at 12:30. "Band of Outsiders," Friday at 2 and Sunday at 5:45. "Breathless," Sunday at 4. Free. East Building, Fourth and Constitution NW. 202-737-4215.

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: "Native Sea Peoples of Ancient Northeastern America," 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 -- "Blood Freak," Tuesday at 8. Dr. Dremo's Taphouse, 2001 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington. 202-736-1732 or 202-707-2540.

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

WEINBERG CENTER -- "The General," Saturday at 8, with live accompaniment on the Wurlitzer by Ray Brubacher. 20 W. Patrick St., Frederick. 301-228-2828.

New on Video

THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK

(PG-13, 2004, 119 MINUTES, UNIVERSAL PICTURES)

In this convoluted follow-up to "Pitch Black," Vin Diesel reprises his role as the space adventurer Richard P. Riddick. Five years after the events of the first film, Riddick -- a big, strapping dude with ice-blue eyes for night vision and a vocal cadence that suggests Elmer Fudd on steroids -- finds himself captured by Lord Marshal (Colm Feore) and his nasty army of Necromongers. Stuck in a hard-core underground prison on the volcanic planet of Crematoria, he reencounters Kyra (Alexa Davalos), a woman he has some history with; and gets a little help from Aereon (Dame Judi Dench), an ambassador of the Elemental race, who's able to transform herself, float in the air and move through objects. The muddy story essentially revolves around the star's cool-guy poses and one-liners. For Diesel fans only, at best. Contains sci-fi violence, noise and some obscenity.

-- Desson Thomson

ELF

(PG, 2003, 95 MINUTES, NEW LINE CINEMA)

As a human mistakenly raised by Santa's elves, Will Ferrell is about the only reason to see this movie. When Buddy (Ferrell) learns of his human origins, he makes the journey to Manhattan in search of his birth father (James Caan), an insensitive children's book publisher who's out of touch with wife Emily (Mary Steenburgen) and son Michael (Daniel Tay). Ferrell's wild-eyed goofiness, his seemingly impenetrable naivete and the fact that he's a 6-foot-plus man in a green costume give the movie a moderate share of funny moments. But it's way, way short of hilarious. Contains mild rude humor and language.

-- D.T.

{sstar} I'LL SLEEP WHEN I'M DEAD

(R, 2003, 103 MINUTES, PARAMOUNT CLASSICS)

The title of this deliciously dark, psychological thriller from director Mike Hodges ("Croupier") suggests both denial and acceptance. On the one hand, the words might be taken as the motto of its brooding antihero, Will Graham (Clive Owen), a former gangster who comes out of retirement to doggedly get to the bottom of, and punish those responsible for, the death of his younger brother (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) -- even though Will discovers, in the course of his investigation, that the kid died by suicide. On the other hand, "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" could be read as a sigh of resignation, if not outright yearning, for the slumber afforded by the grave, which, in a way, offers more relief from torment than the cold satisfactions of revenge do. Contains obscenity, violence and drug use.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

THE SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD

(NOT RATED, 2003, 99 MINUTES, IFC FILMS)

Playing like a celluloid dream directed by, say, David Lynch and starring the Marx Brothers, Guy Maddin's story of a legless beer baron (Isabella Rossellini) offering a cash prize for the discovery of the world's saddest music boasts wall-to-wall weirdness, which should surprise no one familiar with the Canadian filmmaker's "Dracula: Pages From a Virgin's Diary." Sure, there's a narrative, but it's so stylized, arcane and satirical, it's going to take the most committed of art-house audiences to follow it. As with certain vivid dreams, you're left with memorable images, but not completely able to account for what you just experienced. Contains bizarre themes, some obscenity and some violence.

-- D.T.

Jude Law is the womanizing title character and Susan Sarandon is Liz in "Alfie," an inferior remake of the 1966 movie starring Michael Caine.Tom Hanks is the voice of the conductor in the computer-animated holiday film "The Polar Express."Jamie Foxx, as Ray Charles, and Regina King are lovers in the biopic "Ray."