Film Capsules

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

Openings

APRES VOUS (R) -- See review on Page 34.

BATMAN BEGINS (PG-13) -- See review on Page 33.

THE DEAL (R) -- See capsule review on this page.

DEEP BLUE (G) -- See capsule review on this page.

HAPPILY EVER AFTER (Unrated) -- See review on Page 33.

MY SUMMER OF LOVE (R) -- See review on Page 34.

THE PERFECT MAN (PG) -- See capsule review on this page.

SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL: The Journey of Romeo dallaire (Unrated) -- See review on Page 35.

First Runs & Revivals

THE ADVENTURES OF SHARKBOY & LAVAGIRL IN 3-D (PG, 94 minutes) -- Robert Rodriguez's 3-D movie for children, based on the writings of his preteen son, is astoundingly boring and, frankly, tedious to sit through. It's about a 10-year-old kid named Max (Cayden Boyd) who daydreams so intensely about his imagined superheroes, Sharkboy (Taylor Lautner) and Lavagirl (Taylor Dooley), the fictional creations come alive. Max and his superpals find themselves (put on your 3-D glasses here) on Planet Drool, where Max must help them battle the nefarious Mr. Electric (George Lopez), a cheaply superimposed head inside a metallic holder, which fizzes with electricity. The dreamscape planet, with its cookie mountains and a milky "stream of consciousness," is disappointingly mediocre. And the 3-D effects are unimaginative and eventually too obnoxious for the eyes. Contains mildly crude humor. Area theaters.

{sstar} BORN INTO BROTHELS (Unrated, 85 minutes) -- British photographer Zana Briski comes to Sonagachi, Calcutta's red light district, and teaches photography to the children of prostitutes. As these boys and girls, who range in age from 10 to 14, learn how to frame pictures, load film and accept Briski's critiques, they also start to see their world differently. And Briski never loses her soft-spoken determination, whether she's teaching the children or trying to steer them through India's unwieldy bureaucracy to get them an education and to a photographic exhibition abroad. The movie, which Briski directed with Ross Kauffman, is really about changing the perspectives of eight children in a hopeless world, and Briski's moral involvement in her subjects' lives. Contains obscenity and footage of a sex trade district. AMC Courthouse.

THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY (PG, 120 minutes) -- Thornton Wilder's novel about the mystical connections among five characters who fall to their death from a bridge in Lima, Peru, is incredibly moving. Not so this movie, which stars Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Kathy Bates and Gabriel Byrne. Director-adaptor Mary McGuckian tries to pump original spirit into the characters but never brings them to life. The casting is distracting. There's De Niro trying not to sound like a GoodFella as he plays a Peruvian archbishop. The same problem happens with Keitel, who should be banned from playing any character from another time. Bates and F. Murray Abraham are the strongest players here. She's the wealthy marquesa, whose saintly, unrequited devotion to her snooty daughter is treated with ridicule in Peruvian society, and Abraham is the slightly vainglorious viceroy of Peru. But their efforts are ultimately pointless. Contains some disturbing images and some sensuality. Landmark's Bethesda Row.

{sstar} CINDERELLA MAN (PG-13, 144 minutes) -- Forced to work as a longshoreman to feed his family (including his wife, played by Renee Zellweger) during the Depression, down-and-out boxer Jim Braddock (Russell Crowe) jumps at the chance to take on a heavyweight boxer. When he wins, he faces world champion Max Baer (Craig Bierko). In a way, "Cinderella Man," based on a true story, is "Seabiscuit" in boxing gloves. But there's more to it than that: a Runyonesque glow, thanks to director Ron Howard and scriptwriters Cliff Hollingsworth and Akiva Goldsman. Crowe's burly poignancy hits you foursquare in the ribs, right above the ticker. The abstract dance between his softness and physical power is the heartbeat of the movie, and it takes you through financial hardship, terrible times and some bloody battles with special grace. Contains boxing violence. Area theaters.

{sstar} CRASH (R, 100 minutes) -- The aftermath of Rodney King and 9/11 seems to sear the nostrils of every Los Angeleno in Paul Haggis's white-knuckle hatefest among characters of almost every ideological, cultural or religious stripe. Asians, Latinos, whites, blacks, rich and poor, Muslim and Christian all clash in this multi-character story that features Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, Matt Dillon, Ryan Phillippe, Jennifer Esposito and Chris "Ludacris" Bridges. If "Crash" only showed the dark side of humanity, it would barely be worth the viewing. But the movie is also about the best in people. As soon as we think we have some characters' number they turn around and do something quite astonishing. We're all so hopelessly human, and writer-director Haggis, who wrote the screenplay for "Million Dollar Baby," gives this truism a deeply lyrical dimension. Contains sexual scenes, obscenity and violence. Area theaters.

{sstar} ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM (Unrated, 120 minutes) -- Based on Fortune reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind's "The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron," Alex Gibney's blow-by-blow documentary retelling of what was, at the time, the largest corporate bankruptcy in history is by turns harrowing and hilarious. And nauseating, too. When you're not aghast in horror at the allegations of misdeeds by Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling and Andy Fastow, three of Enron's highest executives, or laughing at the sheer chutzpah of what they've been accused of, you might be sickened by the reminders that this wasn't a victimless crime, but that thousands of employees and investors in the company lost far more than their shirts. Contains obscenity, a non-graphic reenactment of a suicide and strip club footage. Landmark's Bethesda Row and Landmark's E Street Cinema.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} FRANK MILLER'S SIN CITY (R, 124 minutes) -- Comprising three edge-of-your-seat sagas, this brilliant adaptation of Miller's cult graphic novel series is co-directed by Miller and Robert Rodriguez. (Quentin Tarantino guest-directs one scene.) Miller and Rodriguez have achieved the near-impossible: reproducing the pictorial reality of those comic book stories onto the screen with digital enhancement, darkly perfected sets and masterful makeup. The performers look part cartoon and part human and thoroughly convincing. But all the visual fandango in the world means nothing without effective performers. Everyone is terrific here, including tough guys Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Clive Owen and Benicio Del Toro. And those are just the guys. The women are equally formidable, including Jessica Alba, Brittany Murphy and Rosario Dawson as an Uzi-packing hooker. Contains obscenity, violence, nudity and sexual scenes. Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse and University Mall Theatres.

HIGH TENSION (R, 85 minutes) -- Director and co-writer Alexandre Aja's horror film is a prolonged, strangely plotted bloodbath in which a terrifying man (Philippe Nahon) rips, tears and shreds his way through a family in southern France. When he chains the family's oldest daughter, Alex (Maiwenn Le Besco), and takes her away in his van, house guest Marie (Cecile De France) jumps aboard to save her. A terrifying ride begins. Aja doesn't have a gift for horror suspense so much as a compleat geek knowledge of all the superior scare flicks that have preceded "High Tension," or "Haute Tension," its French title. There is a twist that doesn't help matters, but it helps make a so-so gorefest somewhat intriguing. Contains very twisted violence, obscenity and sexual content. In some French with subtitles and off-kilter dubbing. Area theaters.

{sstar} HITCH (PG-13, 114 minutes) -- Will Smith is his usual peppy self as Alex "Hitch" Hitchens, an undercover love consultant in New York who takes on a new client: the fire-hydrant- shaped Albert (Kevin James), an accountant who is desperate to get romantic with his glamorous celebrity client Allegra Cole (Amber Valletta). Hitch's secret life and his heart are threatened by Sara Melas (Eva Mendes), a gossip writer on the trail of this secret love doctor and quite taken with Hitch. Smith and Mendes are funny and engaging, but it's James who steals the movie. Watch him on the dance floor and you'll see what I mean. He's bullishly elegant and very funny. Contains some obscenity and sexual situations. Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse.

{sstar} THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY (PG, 110 minutes) -- It was a wonderful television miniseries, radio series and a five-book "trilogy," all created by Douglas Adams. Now comes this respectably amusing movie, which has Martin Freeman of the BBC series "The Office" as Arthur Dent. The hapless earthling, with an alien pal Ford Prefect (Mos Def), embarks on a massively epic and wonderfully improbable trip that includes visits to other spaceships and planets. The companions meet a bevy of oddballs, including the two-headed president of the galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell); the eternally depressed robot Marvin (voiced by a hilariously misanthropic Alan Rickman); an extremely bizarre quasi-spiritual leader named Humma Kavula (John Malkovich); and a sort of planet construction engineer known as Slartibartfast (Bill Nighy). Given the fact that a quintessentially British show-book-franchise has been peopled with Brits and Americans and spearheaded by a Hollywood studio, this is more than a pleasant surprise. Contains some sophisticated thematic elements and minor strong language. AMC Courthouse, Regal Fairfax and AMC Mazza Gallerie.

THE HONEYMOONERS (PG-13, 89 minutes) -- This African-American-

ization of the classic Jackie Gleason-Art Carney TV show "The Honeymooners" is a really bad idea that turned out even worse. In the Gleason and Carney roles, Cedric the Entertainer and Mike Epps are such hapless characters, it's a wonder the screen itself doesn't curl up in disgust. C the E plays central character Ralph Kramden as nothing more than a tubby schemer who drives a bus and who is married, beyond logic, to Gabrielle Union (as Alice.) As Ralph's sidekick Ed Norton, Epps's idea of comic grace is to walk through the movie with a fixed grin and perform pratfalls that wouldn't get a "C" grade in clown school. The less said about the story, in which Ralph attempts several harebrained schemes (entering a dog in a greyhound race, buying an old-time trolley), the better. In memory of Gleason's oft-repeated line, "To the moon, Alice," I'd like to suggest the same lunar destination to the studio geniuses who thought up this project. Contains crude humor and about as much comedy as "Hamlet." Area theaters.

HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE (PG, 110 minutes) -- Fans of Japanimation icon Hayao Miyazaki ("Spirited Away") are more likely to be wowed by his feature-length, "Yu-Gi-Oh!"-flavored cartoon than are fans of British author Diana Wynne Jones's dark and oh-so-tweedy book, on which it is ostensibly based. While not without its visual charms (particularly as regards the castle of the title, which walks around on four spindly legs), the movie -- about a young girl (voice of Emily Mortimer) who seeks refuge in the mobile home of a misunderstood wizard (Christian Bale) after she's been turned into an old woman (Jean Simmons) by a witch (Lauren Bacall) -- bears no more relation to the novel than gummy bears do to grizzlies. Catering to kids and anime fan boys, this Disney-safe "Howl" is anything but moving. Contains some mildly scary images and a brief glimpse of Howl's naked rear end. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

THE INTERPRETER (PG-13, 135 minutes) -- Sydney Pollack's thriller rides for a long time on a compelling premise: the possibility of an assassination in the United Nations' General Assembly. U.N. interpreter Silvia Broome (Nicole Kidman) gets wind of a plan to kill an African leader. But when she contacts the U.S. Secret Service, Silvia is surprised to find herself the target of suspicion by agent Tobin Keller (Sean Penn), the man in charge of investigating her report. As a straight-ahead thriller, the movie is enjoyable and stirring much of the time. But Kidman's character is schematically conceived: a native of (fictional) Matobo and a sophisticate with radical connections to (and formulaically traumatic memories of) Matobo's revolutionary days. And Penn's Tobin, who also carries around his own formulaic mental baggage, makes an interesting but not emotionally involving foil. Contains violence, some sexual content and brief obscenity. Majestic Cinema, Cineplex Odeon Shirlington and University Mall Theatres.

KICKING & SCREAMING (PG, 87 minutes) -- Never one to let weak material stand in the way of getting laughs, Will Ferrell manages to come up with a few great comic bits playing the inept coach of a youth soccer team. Ultimately, though, his anarchic genius is wasted in a kiddie comedy in which everybody learns something in the end -- about teamwork, about how having fun is more important than winning and about the kind of movie not to put someone with Ferrell's slyly subversive humor in. Contains crude humor and language. Regal Fairfax.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

KINGDOM OF HEAVEN (PG-13, 138 minutes) -- Ridley Scott's epic, about the battle of wills between Balian of Ibelin (Orlando Bloom), a 12th-century French crusader charged with protecting Jerusalem from Muslim leader Saladin (Ghassan Massoud), is a powerful visual experience. But at the same time, it's just another digitalized, live-action cartoon that suggests "Lord of the Rings IV: Legolas Defends Jerusalem." Scott and screenwriter William Monahan have assembled a thoughtful (if flawed) antiwar scenario about the religious divisions that pit one great people against another. But the movie's reduced to a backdrop for a boy toy with good hair and excellent backlighting. The real star is Massoud as Saladin, an Islamic hero of deep integrity. To introduce an archetype like this to western audiences may have been worth this whole flawed movie. Contains graphic battle violence. Majestic Cinema and AMC Courthouse and Regal Fairfax.

{sstar} KUNG FU HUSTLE (R, 95 minutes) -- Stephen Chow's martial arts comedy snaps and crackles like nuclear popcorn on a scorching griddle. Filmmaker Chow, who made the hyper-cartoonish comedy "Shaolin Soccer," has out-brillianted himself. He plays Sing, an impoverished opportunist who manages to antagonize a small slummers' community and the Axe Gang oppressing them. The whole thing's a glorious excuse for amazing computer-generated imagery and jaw-dropping visual effects. Characters defy gravity in the manner of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." They withstand amazing physical punishment, as if they're the fleshy residents of a Hong Kong-style Warner Bros. cartoon. And their protracted, balletic fights are great as kung fu spectacle and for their comic genius. Contains stylized violence and some obscenity. In Cantonese with subtitles. AMC Hoffman Center.

{sstar} LADIES IN LAVENDER (PG-13, 104 minutes) -- Maggie Smith and Judi Dench give outstanding performances as lonely sisters who nurse an injured young man (Daniel Bruhl) back to health after he washes up on the shore of their Cornish village in this restrained British melodrama about love and letting go. Directed with a sure hand by actor Charles Dance, who clearly knows that the best way to play a scene is often to underplay it, the film never strays into mawkishness, even as it makes palpable the sisters' pain at the memories of love the stranger's presence dredges up and the dignity with which they must ultimately accept what they cannot have. Contains brief crude language. In English, German, Polish and French with some subtitles. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} LAYER CAKE (R, 104 minutes) -- Smooth businessman X (Daniel Craig) from London thinks he's got the perfect scheme. A rental agent by day and a cocaine and ecstasy manufacturer by night, he believes he can make the illegal drug trade work for him and not the other way around. But he has underestimated the will and orneriness of the gangsters around him. Debuting director Matthew Vaughn, who produced such Guy Ritchie movies as "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels," has made a coolly detached, classic gangster saga about the clashing of rival empires, where the only thing worse than the killer before you is the killer waiting behind him. There's no escape in this world, only moments of personal courage, grace and luck. Ultimately, X realizes, luck is the most precious element of all. As X, Craig is a compelling presence, a brilliant, slick opportunist who is rapidly learning that drug dealing, murder, treachery and blackmail are simply occupational hazards in this world. The principal sin is yuppie arrogance. And he's going to be a very lucky man indeed to get out of this thing alive. Contains graphic violence, obscenity and sexual scenes. Area theaters.

THE LONGEST YARD (PG-13, 114 minutes) -- This remake of the 1974 comedy-drama about a high-stakes football game between vicious prison guards and a ragtag team of out-matched inmates benefits most from the smart-alecky wit of Chris Rock and the smirking slacker humor of Adam Sandler as genial convicts, even as it adds little to the original film. Still, the playing out of its predictable formula -- is there anyone alive who doubts the outcome of the game? -- is not without its rote pleasures. It's like setting up dominoes and watching them fall. There are no surprises, but a certain satisfaction to sticking it to the man -- again. Contains violence, sexual and drug humor and obscenity. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} LOOK AT ME (PG 13, 110 minutes) -- This French seriocomedy from Agnes Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri (once married to each other, they're a sort of Gallic Nichols and May team) is a movie of biting social observation. Lolita Cassard (Marilou Berry), the slightly chubby daughter of Etienne (Jean-Pierre Bacri), a successful, self-absorbed writer, has a desperate need for Etienne's approval. Her resentment and heartbreak over this permeates the trenchant film like a mournful song. The characters exude moral three-dimensionality; they're not built to behave or please us. And because of this rampant freedom, we watch with a sort of bemused anxiety, not sure what the next moment will bring. But this uncertainty attunes us to the small, passing graces. As the movie's official bad guy, Bacri is something of a rascally pleasure. Contains some obscenity and a sexual reference. In French with subtitles. Landmark's Bethesda Row.

LORDS OF DOGTOWN (PG-13, 105 minutes) -- Written by former skateboarder Stacy Peralta and directed by Catherine Hardwicke of "Thirteen" fame, this fictionalized account of skateboarding's rise in mid-1970s Venice, Calif., is rude, aggressive and disrespectful of authority. It's dirty, loud, randy, obnoxious, destructive and at times clinically insane. In other words, it's true to its subject matter. But hey, so was the superior 2001 documentary (also by Peralta), "Dogtown and Z-Boys," with the added bonus that the earlier film didn't feel the need to beef up the already inspiring story of gonzo athletic innovation with such melodramatic plot elements as a love triangle, professional rivalries and the bathos of a dying kid. Contains sexual material, drug use, obscenity, brief violence and reckless skateboarding. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

MADAGASCAR (PG, 86 minutes) -- The latest offering from DreamWorks Animation SKG, a tale of citified zoo animals who escape to the wilds of Madagascar from the Central Park Zoo, is high in antic energy but low in charm. Voiced with mostly perfunctory delivery by Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer and Jada Pinkett Smith, the quartet of, respectively, Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe and Gloria the hippo experience a rude awakening when Alex's carnivorous nature puts their friendships at stake. But the story, which attempts to laugh its way out the fact that some animals eat one another, never really resolves its central conflict, which arises from the inescapable fact that it's a dog-eat-dog world. Contains cartoon violence, some humor centered on excretory functions, a bit of mild vulgar language and thematic material related to the fact that animals eat one another. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} MAD HOT BALLROOM (PG, 95 minutes) -- Marilyn Agrelo's at times stirring documentary follows groups of young participants in American Ballroom Theater's "Dancing Classrooms" program as they prepare for a climactic dance-off with student ballroom dancers from New York City public schools. It's a lot like "Spellbound," the spelling bee documentary, in that it has as much to say about the contestants -- their lives and aspirations -- as it does about the contest. In the end, it isn't only about the dancing (though there's plenty of that, and it's pretty darn good) as it is about living and growing up. Contains some mild references to sex and violence. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} MILLION DOLLAR BABY (PG-13, 137 minutes) -- You can almost smell the ringside sweat and old leather punching bags in Clint Eastwood's tribute to the "sweet science" of boxing, and the old-time movies and fiction devoted to it. Based on two short stories in "Rope Burns," by F.X. Toole (the pseudonym of former cut-man Jerry Boyd), it's a gut-stirring tall tale about a boxer (one buff Hilary Swank), her crusty trainer (Eastwood) and the wily old boxing gym proprietor (Morgan Freeman) who narrates the story. As Maggie, Swank is a package of dynamite, a determined soul with too much to prove and too little time to do it in. And Eastwood is so good in this movie, it almost feels like cheating. Contains some brutal boxing violence, emotional intensity and obscenity. Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse.

MONSTER-IN-LAW (PG-13, 101 minutes) -- It doesn't seem right that Jane Fonda, playing the titular harridan, Viola Fields, allows her character, a woman bent on sabotaging the impending nuptials of her doctor son (Michael Vartan) to an impoverished artist (Jennifer Lopez), to be consistently upstaged by her own wisecracking personal assistant (Wanda Sykes). Shouldn't the character of Viola be a scenery-chewing comic shrew? She's not. Just a tiresome and unpleasant woman who could take some tips on how to diss the competition from her smart-mouthed secretary. Contains some obscenity, sexual humor and comic violence. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} MR. & MRS. SMITH (PG-13, 112 minutes) -- The premise is admittedly slight: Husband-and-wife hit men (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) are hired to kill each other as bullets and romantic sparks fly. Nevertheless, Pitt and Jolie's monumental charisma, coupled with director Doug Liman's stylishly jaundiced staging, makes this allegory of modern love and marriage a summer diversion that's fast-paced, fun and sexy enough for the multiplex crowd and blackhearted enough for those with a taste for something more acidic. It's a grown-up popcorn movie. Contains obscenity, violence and sexual content. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} OFF THE MAP (PG-13, 111 minutes) -- Campbell Scott's uplifting, witty movie, based on a Joan Ackermann play, doesn't just glow because of New Mexico's achingly gorgeous sunsets. There's a collective scintillation about its rich, distinctive characters, narrative serendipity and ineffable magic. It's about a family (including Joan Allen, Sam Elliott and newcomer Valentina De Angelis) that lives in the desert without a telephone, plumbing or money. And yet they lack for nothing. They are living, it seems, on life itself. Their world is threatened when an IRS agent (Jim True-Frost) comes to collect back taxes. De Angelis is a mischievous charm. Allen is her own subtle force. And it's a sensual treat to watch the rugged Elliott at work. Contains nudity, obscenity and one impromptu wrestling match. Avalon.

THE PACIFIER (PG, 94 minutes) -- Vin Diesel gets domestic as a Navy SEAL who must protect a fatherless family from ninja forces bent on finding a special disk in the home. This means -- cue canned laughter here -- Vin dealing with baby vomit, screaming kids and petulant teenagers. Diesel, whose acting wouldn't merit a nonspeaking, walk-on role in a dinner theater production, is supposed to be a muscular fish out of water. But unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger, Vin is not endearing for his woodenness. He's all splinters. Contains slapstick violence and Vin Diesel. University Mall Theatres.

{sstar} ROBOTS (PG, 91 minutes) -- A young robot named Rodney (voice of Crawford Wilson and, later, Ewan McGregor) grows up to be a resourceful inventor with aspirations to put together new robots out of old parts. But in this ever-modernizing world, reconditioned robots -- known as outmodes -- are rapidly obsolete. Rodney's dream puts him at odds with the dastardly industrialist Phineas T. Ratchet (Greg Kinnear), who plans to turn everyone into a revamped, expensive model. "Robots," directed by Chris Wedge and Carlos Saldanha, moves along at an entertaining, if increasingly familiar clip. It isn't superior to such computer-animated hits as "Shrek" and "The Incredibles," but it's still visually inventive; and Robin Williams is amusing as a quippy robot named Fender. Contains slightly risque sexual humor and bathroom gags. University Mall Theatres.

SAHARA (PG-13, 124 minutes) -- Master explorer Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) is determined to unearth an ironclad battleship from the Civil War era that somehow wound up near Africa's Niger river. With his quippy sidekick, Al Giordino (Steve Zahn), and a sultry Spanish doctor (Penelope Cruz), he goes after it, with the army of a corrupt military leader and Tuareg tribesmen on his trail. The movie, based on a novel from the Dirk Pitt series by Clive Cussler, "Sahara" is pretty much an excuse for McConaughey (one of several executive producers) to flex his gym-toned assets and play tough on boats, trains and camels. But despite a plethora of high-action chases, gun battles, boat battles and the various exotic locales, the movie is a lame Indiana Jones episode. Contains action violence. Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse.

THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS (PG, 120 minutes) -- Four teenage girls. One pair of secondhand jeans that clearly could not possibly fit -- but somehow, miraculously, does -- four very differently sized derrieres. What might have worked on the pages of Ann Brashares's best-selling novel, about the life-changing experiences of four friends who share a single pair of pants as an emblem of their friendship, emphatically does not in living color. While America Ferrera, Amber Tamblyn, Alexis Bledel and Blake Lively are fine actresses, I never bought the fact that they could all squeeze into the same trousers, let alone that they would even be friends with each other. Consisting of the sporty blonde sexpot (Lively), antisocial punk (Tamblyn), volatile Latina (Ferrera) and mousy artist (Bledel), the quartet is more like a group of underage Spice Girls, archetypes rather than real people. Contains thematic material related to teen sexuality and the death of loved ones. Area theaters.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

STAR WARS: EPISODE III -- REVENGE OF THE SITH (PG-13, 140 minutes) -- In this final installment of the "Star Wars" mega-ology, we learn about the circumstances that led to the creation of Darth Vader. But this most potentially compelling episode of all is marred by the disappointingly ordinary Hayden Christensen, whose evolution from Anakin Skywalker to the baddest, heavy-breathing villain in sci-fi popular culture, amounts to a sort of tizzy fit. It seems he just can't get invited to the inner circle of Jedi knights, run by Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) and all, so he joins forces with Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), who doubles as the hissable Sith Vicious, uh, Darth Sidious. There are some enjoyable spectacles involving lightsaber battles between Obi-Wan and Anakin. But the whole subplot between Anakin and his wife, Padme (Natalie Portman), is dramatically flat, and the story shows us nothing that we didn't expect. Contains sci-fi violence. Area theaters.

{sstar} TORREMOLINOS 73 (Unrated, 91 minutes) -- It's hard to say whether Javier Camara is funnier as the nebbishy encyclopedia-salesman-turned-filmmaker behind the camera or as his own leading man in the series of Super-8 sex films that are at the heart of this charming serio-comic film from Spanish writer-director Pablo Berger. Camara's character, who is forced to make sexually explicit "documentaries" starring himself and his wife (Candela Pena) when his boss (Juan Diego) phases out his sales job, is disconcerted to discover that his little science films are huge hits in Scandinavia's adult entertainment world. But that's not his biggest surprise, as Berger's film takes a sharp turn toward more serious subject matter, choosing a bittersweet conclusion over easy laughs. Contains sex scenes, nudity and some obscenity. In Spanish and Danish with subtitles. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

UNLEASHED (R, 103 minutes) -- Martial arts star Jet Li plays Danny, a kind of human pit bull belonging to Bob Hoskins's vicious loan shark in a drama that, despite some spectacularly intense fight sequences, has more conversation than action. Li, who finally took some acting lessons for this film, plays a man who seems, by turns, a short-fused lethal weapon and a vulnerable child. Interestingly, though, it isn't Li's character who saves people here, but who is saved by people, in this case a blind, old piano turner (Morgan Freeman) and his stepdaughter (Kerry Condon), who take him Danny and reshape him into a thoughtful human being. Contains strong violent content, language, some sexuality and nudity. Majestic Cinema.

-- Richard Harrington

{sstar} WALK ON WATER (Unrated, 94 minutes) -- The black-and-white moral world of an assassin (Lior Ashkenazi) working for Israel's Mossad intelligence agency starts to look mighty gray when his assignment to track down and terminate a fugitive Nazi leads him to befriend the old man's grandchildren, a pretty young German woman living on a kibbutz (Caroline Peters) and her gay brother (Knut Berger). Eytan Fox's film is rich with ideas about what ethical living means, making connections between homophobia, Nazism and the desire for -- and spiritual costs of -- revenge. It's a beautiful, complex film about friendship, letting go of the past and embracing forgiveness. Contains obscenity, some violence (both actual and theoretical), nudity and discussion of sexuality. Landmark's Bethesda Row.

Repertory

AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM/DOWNTOWN -- At the Lockheed Martin Imax Theater: "Fighter Pilot," daily at 11:25, 2, 4 and 6. "Space Station (3D)," daily at 10:25, 12:25, 3 and 5. "To Fly!" daily at 1:25. 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 -- "Fighter Pilot," daily at 11:30, 1:30, 3:30 and 5:30. "Straight Up: Helicopters in Action," daily at 2:30. "Magic of Flight," daily at 12:30 and 4:30. 14390 Air and Space Museum Pkwy., Chantilly. 202-357-2700.

AMERICAN CITY DINER -- "Psycho," Friday at 8. "Mystic River," Saturday at 8. "Vertigo," Sunday at 8. "The Shawshank Redemption," Monday at 8. "American Beauty," Tuesday at 8. "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," Wednesday at 8. "The Sting," Thursday at 8. 5532 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-244-1949.

BOWIE BAYSOX DRIVE-IN MOVIES -- "Lady and the Tramp" and "The Love Bug," Friday at 7. "Snow White" and "Bed Knobs and Broom Sticks," Saturday at 7. 4101 NE Crain Hwy., Bowie. 301-464-4865 or 301-464-4806.

FREER -- "Eternal Thirst (Pyaasa)," Friday at 7. "Full Moon (Chaudhvin Ka Chand)," Sunday at 2. Free, but tickets required. Meyer Auditorium, 12th Street and Jefferson Drive SW. 202-633-1000.

HOWARD UNIVERSITY -- "Sankofa," Saturday at 10. "I Shall Moulder Before I Shall Be Taken," Saturday at noon. "Quilombo," Saturday at 1:30. Films followed by panel discussions and presentations as part of the African Diaspora Ancestral Commemoration Institute's film festival. Blackburn Center, Digital Auditorium, 2397 Sixth St. NW. 202-581-4337.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS -- "The Crimson Pirate," Friday at 7. "The Music Man," Tuesday at 6:30. "The Cat From Outer Space," Thursday at 7. Free. Mary Pickford Theater, 101 Independence Ave. SE. 202-707-5677.

MARYLAND SCIENCE CENTER -- Imax Theater: "Titanica" and "Hubble: Galaxies Across Space & Time," Friday at 12:10; Sunday-Thursday at 11:35, 1:45, 3:55 and 7:10. "Bugs! (3D)," Friday at 2:10; Sunday-Thursday at 10:30, 12:40, 2:55 and 5. "Antarctica," Sunday-Thursday at 6:05. Davis Planetarium: "Live From the Sun," Sunday at noon. "The Sky Above Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," Sunday-Thursday at 1. "Entertaining Einstein," Sunday-Wednesday at 2 and 4; Thursday at 2, 4 and 6. "The Sky: Live!" Sunday at 3 and 5; Monday-Thursday at noon, 3 and 5. 601 Light St., Baltimore. 410-685-5225.

NATIONAL ARCHIVES -- "Preserving the Charters of Freedom," daily at 10:30, 11, 11:30, noon, 12:30, 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30, 3, 3:30 and 4. Free. William G. McGowan Theater, Constitution Avenue between Seventh and Ninth streets NW. 202-501-5000.

NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART -- "Rockwell Kent," Friday at 2. "The Big Parade," Sunday at 4, with live accompaniment by organist Robert Israel. "Open a Door," children's film, Wednesday at 10:30 and 11:30. Free. East Building, Fourth and Constitution NW. 202-737-4215.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN ART -- Lecture Hall: "Living Memory," Sunday at 1. Free. Ripley Center, 1100 Jefferson Dr. SW. 202-357-4600.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AMERICAN HISTORY -- "Labor's Troubadour," Saturday at 2:30, followed by a discussion with the film's subject, Joe Glazer, and director-producer Hope Moskowitz (free). "Solomon a Gaenor (Solomon and Gaenor)," Thursday at 7. Carmichael Auditorium, 14th and Constitution NW. 202-252-0012.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY -- Johnson Imax Theater: "Into the Deep (3D)," Friday-Saturday at 10:20, 12:10, 2, 3:50, 5:40 and 7:30; Sunday-Thursday at 10:20, 12:10, 2 and 3:50. "T-Rex: Back to the Cretaceous (3D)," Friday-Saturday at 11:10, 1, 2:50, 4:40 and 6:30; Sunday-Thursday at 11:10, 1, 2:50 and 4:40. Baird Auditorium: "Endangered Species," Friday at noon. 10th and Constitution NW. 202-633-7400.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF WOMEN IN THE ARTS -- "Wild Women Don't Have the Blues," "St. Louis Blues," "Blues & Boogie" and "Jammin' the Blues," Wednesday at 7. 1250 New York Ave. NW. 202-783-7370.

NATIONAL THEATRE -- "Cobb," Monday at 6:30. Free. Helen Hayes Gallery, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Free. 202-783-3372.

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

ST. ELMO'S COFFEE PUB -- "Resistance at Home," Tuesday at 8. Free. 2300 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. 703-739-9268.

SHEPHERDSTOWN FILM SOCIETY -- "To Skate or Not to Skate . . . and Other Existential Questions," Friday at 7. Free. Shepherd University's Reynolds Hall, King Street, Shepherdstown, W.Va. 304-876-1837.

New on Video

{sstar} A DIRTY SHAME

(NC-17, 2004, 89 MINUTES, FINE LINE FEATURES)

Baltimore filmmaker John Waters's latest 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.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} HITCH

(PG-13, 2004, 118 MINUTES, SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT)

Will Smith is his usual peppy self as Alex "Hitch" Hitchens, an undercover love consultant in New York who takes on a new client: the fire-hydrant-shaped Albert (Kevin James), an accountant who is desperate to get romantic with his glamorous celebrity-client Allegra Cole (Amber Valletta). Hitch's secret life and his heart are threatened by Sara Melas (Eva Mendes), a gossip writer on the trail of this secret love doctor and quite taken with Hitch. Smith and Mendes are funny and engaging, but it's James who steals the movie. Watch him on the dance floor and you'll see what I mean. He's bullishly elegant and very funny. Contains some obscenity and sexual situations.

-- Desson Thomson

Gabrielle Union, left, Cedric the Entertainer, Mike Epps and Regina Hall in "The Honeymooners."Jane Smith (Angelina Jolie) narrowly avoids a cleaver in "Mr. & Mrs. Smith."