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A star ({sstar}) denotes a movie recommended by our critics.

{sstar} THE ARISTOCRATS (Unrated, 87 minutes) -- The joke whose punch line lends this documentary its title isn't especially funny. Filthy, yes, but not a laugh riot, except in the way its structure lends itself to extended riffs of jazz-like improvisation on the part of the 100 or so comedians who line up to tell it. What makes us laugh is the joke's sheer excess. Far more fascinating, however, than its many tellings and retellings, is the footage of comics like Bob Saget and Sarah Silverman talking about the joke, which has been a staple of backstage banter among comedians since vaudeville. Sometimes analyzing why something's funny is enough to kill it, but here it's what makes "The Aristocrats" most interesting. Contains numerous foul-mouthed interpretations of a single filthy joke. AFI Silver Theatre and Cineplex Odeon Dupont Circle.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

{sstar} BATMAN BEGINS (PG-13, 140 minutes) -- Director Christopher Nolan, who gave us the backward classic "Memento," and his co-writer David S. Goyer (the "Blade" creator) have taken the bubble gum out of those previous "Batman" movies and returned to the dark spirit of comic book creator Bob Kane's work. This prequel about the early days, is slow-moving in many respects, but it's more narratively entrancing than the Michael Keaton-type flicks. And Christian Bale makes a credible Bruce Wayne, who undergoes rigorous training under the tutelage of mystical warrior Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson). It's fun to watch how this Wayne creates Batman from scratch, complete with the power body armor, the bat cave and that awesome batmobile. Makes you want to see him take on the Joker next. Katie Holmes is respectable though not that memorable as the assistant district attorney who becomes fascinated with Batman. Contains intense action violence and some disturbing images. Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse.

-- Desson Thomson

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (PG, 115 minutes) -- People enamored with Gene Wilder's manic, sweet performance in the 1971 "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" may be disappointed in Johnny Depp's oddball eccentricity as this Wonka. Depp's version is an unsettling amalgam of Michael Jackson, Edward Scissorhands and Lisa Kudrow's Phoebe from the TV show "Friends." But there are other watchable delights: Director Tim Burton takes us on a ride of over-the-top proportions, entertaining us while tacitly scolding our mass consumptiveness. Wonka's factory is a wonderland of chocolate lakes and candy-grass banks. There are some hilarious routines performed by the diminutive Oompa Loompas (their songs created by Burton's regular collaborator, Danny Elfman). And Freddie Highmore is a charmer as Charlie, a poor kid who wins a ticket to tour Wonka's factory. Contains offbeat humor and situations, and some mild obscenity. Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse and University Mall Theatres.

-- D.T.

{sstar} THE CONSTANT GARDENER (R, 123 minutes) -- Vivid performances drive Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles's fine adaptation of the John Le Carre novel. Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes), a mild-mannered junior diplomat in Kenya, is shattered when his wife, Tessa (Rachel Weisz), is violently murdered on a "research trip" far up country. He learns quickly enough that Tessa, a social gadfly type, had acquired a "reputation" in the tight world of British diplomacy. The movie chronicles Justin's growth as he begins to understand what sort of a woman he had. Fiennes hasn't looked so good in years, playing a soft man become hard. Weisz is especially good. The quick evocations of diplomatic life, corporate dealings and even the world of anonymous travel off-passport are splendidly done. What is evoked best, though, is Africa, that maddening panorama of beauty, nobility, poverty and corruption. Contains sexuality, gore and violence. Area theaters.

-- Stephen Hunter

DOMINO (R, 128 minutes) -- It seems the only true thing about this movie, which begins with the disclaimer that it is based on a true story . . . "sort of," is the name of its title character, the daughter of actor Laurence Harvey who, after the death of her dad when she was young, embarked on a troubled girlhood and ended up as a bounty hunter. (The real Domino Harvey died in June of a suspected drug overdose.) The film pivots around an ill-fated gig that Domino (Keira Knightley) is explaining to an FBI psychologist (Lucy Liu), entailing lots of doubling and tripling back in time. The effect is edgy, tough and sneakily seductive, as the ultimate Girl Gone Wild plies her trade, using whatever it takes -- assault weapons or lap dances -- to get her man. The filmmakers have added a subplot involving a reality TV show that is following Domino and her crew. There's a manic kind of pleasure in all this, but it turns out to be a tiresome trip. Contains strong violence, pervasive profanity, sexual content, nudity and drug use. Area theaters.

-- Ann Hornaday

ELIZABETHTOWN (PG-13, 123 minutes) -- Cameron Crowe's misfired romance features Orlando Bloom as shoe designer Drew Baylor, whose latest creation has led to his firing, and Kristen Dunst as life-affirmative flight attendant Claire, who meets him on the plane he has to take to Elizabethtown, Ky. His father, while visiting his home town, just died there. It's Drew's duty to deal with the body and make nice with his estranged Southern relatives. Drew is mopey and despondent and contemplating suicide. Claire gives him driving directions to Elizabethtown and that other destination: her big, home-fried heart. But Drew has to deal with his father and family, as well as work out that, you know, shoe depression. There's not much specialness between Bloom and Dunst, other than the surface appeal of two attractive people making (or almost making) kissy face. Sweet delay before the inevitable coupling is a mainstay in every romance, but Crowe turns that delay into the waiting room from hell. Contains profanity and some sexual references. Area theaters.

-- D.T.

{sstar} EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED (PG-13, 100 Minutes) -- A better book or movie? In the case of Liev Schreiber's directorial debut, the answer is both: The film more than faithfully honors the trippy appeal of Jonathan Safran Foer's tale of a New Yorker's journey to Ukraine to "collect" objects or information about the shtetl where his grandfather lived before the Holocaust. As Foer's fictional rendering of himself, Elijah Wood is mostly flat. But just as the book was saved by the malapropped English narration of the faux-Foer's Odessan guide, the movie is more than illuminated by Eugene Hutz's comically endearing portrayal of Alexander Perchov -- a nightclubbin' mack daddy wannabe. But when they find the land where the shtetl stood, director Liev Schreiber (who also wrote the screenplay) and his cast take the book's original use of coincidental, emotional symmetry a notch too far; in its strict adherence to literary brilliance, "Everything Is Illuminated" is too precious by a stone's throw. Contains disturbing and violent images and profanity. Landmark's Bethesda Row and Cineplex Odeon Dupont Circle.

-- Hank Stuever

FLIGHTPLAN (PG-13, 88 minutes) -- The baby vanishes. Well, maybe not a baby, but a 6-year-old girl with a resemblance to Miss Froy, the lady who vanished in Alfred Hitchcock's 1938 thriller, "The Lady Vanishes." In that definitive film, the conveyance on which she disappeared was a train. In "Flightplan," it is a jumbo jet, with all sorts of compartments, bays and hidey-holes for a little kid to crawl into, and the movie gives viewers the impression of being on that plane as Jodie Foster -- playing the girl's desperate mother, who may or may not be mentally unhinged -- tries to lead her fellow passengers in a search. Foster, who projects strength and vulnerability in equal measure, is joined by Peter Sarsgaard and Sean Bean, both excellent. Striking just the right balance between claustrophobia and terrifying emptiness, the young German director Robert Schwentke ratchets up the tension with good taste and quiet, unfussy skill. It all falls apart with the Big Reveal. Contains violence and intense themes. Area theaters.

-- A.H.

THE FOG (PG-13, 100 MINUTES) -- There may be more narrative explanation and higher-priced special effects in this remake of horrormeister John Carpenter's 1980 ghost story, but there are far fewer chills, plenty of dead spots and some genuinely bad acting. A peaceful and prosperous island community off the Oregon coast plans to honor its founding fathers with the unveiling of a statue. Not so fast, though. A boatload of vengeful 19th-century spirits rises from the sea and moves upon the place in a roiling, spectral, insidious fog that picks and chooses where it will seep, engulf and kill. The local priest (Adrian Hough) starts drinking and looking, well, haunted. Tom Welling as a fisherman and Maggie Grace (who wins the expressionless acting award) as his sometime girlfriend play the pretty but pallid leads who eventually deduce why the town is so chosen. Only Selma Blair as the island's chatty radio DJ brings zip to the proceedings. Contains stabbings, drownings, people on fire, pierced by glass shards, or just plain disintegrating. It also includes an understated sexual situation and profanity.

-- Jane Horwitz

{sstar}THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN (R, 111 minutes) -- Filthy, funny and sweet in equal measure, the feature directorial debut of "Freaks and Geeks" writer-producer Judd Apatow (who co-wrote the script with star Steve Carell) is a Rob Schneider movie with the soul of a chick flick. Wait. That's not actually fair. While it's true that the comedy -- revolving around the efforts of three friends (Paul Rudd, Romany Malco and Seth Rogen) to get their geeky nice-guy co-worker (Carell) deflowered -- has a lot of smutty humor, it's also pretty smart. In the end, the organ it's really all about exercising is not the one you think, but the human heart. Contains raunchy sex humor, drug use, obscenity, partial nudity and glimpses of a porn film. Majestic Theatres and Universal Mall Theatres.

-- M.O.

FOUR BROTHERS (R, 108 minutes) -- Director John Singleton's Detroit-based Western-without- cowboy-hats pits four thuggish adopted brothers (Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, Garrett Hedlund and Andre Benjamin of the musical duo OutKast) against the gangsters who had their saintly mother killed. It's a diverting enough thriller but one that ultimately doesn't expect -- or even want -- its audience to participate in it, except as a passenger. It would be twice as engaging if it spent half as much energy making us care about the vengeance-seeking siblings as it does making us not care about their victims. Contains obscenity, sexual content and violence. Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse.

-- M.O.

G (R, 96 minutes) -- This contrived exercise in vanity and product placement is being billed as a modern-day, hip-hop version of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel "The Great Gatsby." Summer G (potentially wonderful Richard T. Jones) is a hip-hop producer who has amassed a fortune and moved into a seaside mansion. True to Fitzgerald's original story, G has moved there to win the affection of a social climber who is the love of his life, a woman named Sky Hightower (Chenoa Maxwell), wife of snobby scion Chip (Blair Underwood). Things go wrong, really wrong, meaning not that illusions are shattered or hearts are broken or people are killed -- although they are, they are and they are -- but that the plot is a shambles, the acting is atrocious and there is too much concern with getting Heineken and Ralph Lauren labels in the shot. ("G" was produced by and co-stars Andrew Lauren, son of the Gatsby-esque Ralph.) Contains language, sexuality and brief violence. Magic Johnson Theater and Marlow Theatres.

-- A.H.

{sstar} GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK (PG-13, 93 minutes) -- George Clooney, who directed (as well as co-wrote), retells the classic story of crusading journalist Ed Murrow, who stood up to braying political bully Joe McCarthy. The stylizations of '50s TV drama, including black-and-white cinematography, are terrific. Clooney casts himself as Murrow's producer, Fred W. Friendly, but hardly registers. Neither do any of the other CBS minions, even though they're played by such names as Jeff Daniels, Robert Downey Jr. and Patricia Clarkson. Only two people register, David Strathairn as Murrow and Joe McCarthy as Joe McCarthy. (The red-baiting senator from Wisconsin is shown in archival footage, as opposed to being performed by an actor. It's effective for chronicling his charisma and recklessness.) Strathairn's Murrow dominates the movie with furious intelligence, guts, will and nobility. It's a pleasure to sit through something this brisk and mesmerizing. Contains psychological intensity and mild profanity. Area theaters.

-- S.H.

GOSPEL (PG, 105 minutes) -- David Taylor (Boris Kodjoe), a successful, egotistical R&B star, returns to his estranged father, the Rev. Fred Taylor (Clifton Powell), to find him suffering from a terminal illness. Not only that, David's longtime enemy Frank (Idris Elba) is poised to assume the bishop's duties. Should David return to his music life or deal with more urgent matters? Intended for gospel- and faith-appreciating audiences, this is a movie about the struggles for virtuousness in a world of temptation and compromise. It's also filled with some gospel numbers that should uplift its intended audience. Unfortunately, Rob Hardy's writing and directing don't soar quite as high as his spiritual intentions. Contains suggestive themes of sexuality and mild profanity. Area theaters.

-- D.T.

THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED (PG, 120 minutes) -- The story was so strong, you wonder, why did the director, actor Bill Paxton, kill it to death and then wrap a four-iron around the corpse's neck with so many overwrought stratagems? Did we have to ride every putt into the hole courtesy of computer imagery in his re-creation of the 1913 U.S. Open? I felt like Slim Pickens at the end of "Dr. Strangelove"! Whether or not you agree that young amateur Francis Ouimet's playoff win in that event over two stalwart British pros, Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, was the greatest game ever played, you have to say it was extraordinary. But Paxton can't let the superb performances (by Shia LaBeouf as Ouimet and Stephen Dillane as Vardon) carry the story. Everything is teased, tricked and forced; then the music is pumped up until finally it's not a sporting event, it's a battle between God's squads, Valhalla vs. Heaven or Nirvana vs. Paradise. Golf, played well, is too elegant a sport for bombast. Contains some brief cursing. Area theaters.

-- S.H.

{sstar} A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (R, 95 minutes) -- Like a Trojan horse, David Cronenberg's film has a hidden and powerful purpose. Seemingly a mainstream shoot-'em-up flick, in which the soft-spoken Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) defends his family against a horde of hoodlums, the movie's really about our Pavlovian conditioning to violence. Life seems permanently asleep in a Midwestern hamlet until two men barge into Stall's diner one night. When Tom tells them it's closing time, he finds himself staring at a drawn gun. Tom emerges the victor, but then the questions begin: How did this unassuming diner owner dispatch the gunmen so effortlessly? Why do more gangsters, led by scar-faced Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris), keep coming for him? Ultimately, though, Cronenberg's drama isn't about western-style heroism; it's about why we're cheering when Tom plugs them dead. Contains extreme violence, sex scenes, nudity and profanity. Area theaters.

-- D.T.

IN HER SHOES (PG-13, 131 minutes) -- Curtis Hanson's movie about two sisters may be one better than "chick lit," but it's about two worse than drama. In a pedestrian display of opposites, Rose (Toni Colette) has a law firm career, money and smarts but few men. Party girl Maggie (Cameron Diaz) lands the guys but always ends up drunk, penniless and miserable on Rose's sofa. When Maggie casually steals Rose's smooth-operator boss, Jim (Richard Burgi), sisterly tension becomes official breakup. The women branch off into self-discovery subplots. Maggie buses to Florida to confront (and cadge money from) estranged grandmother Ella (Shirley MacLaine). Maggie discovers herself as a fashion consultant and, a closet dyslexic, learns to read. Rose quits her job, walks dogs and realizes former co-worker Simon (Mark Feuerstein) may be Mr. Right. When the sisters meet again, it's not a harmonic convergence. It's just the end of 131 minutes. Contains thematically disturbing material, language and some sexual content. Area theaters.

-- D.T.

{sstar} INNOCENT VOICES (R, 120 minutes) -- For most 11-year-olds, a 12th birthday is something to look forward to. For Chava, a boy growing up in rural El Salvador, it's a date with terror. In Luis Mandoki's tough and tender film, it's the 1980s and Chava's country is embroiled in a 12-year civil war. When boys turn 12, they're spirited away and pressed into the government army. If they return alive, they come back as hardened machines, their innocence lost. What makes the ordeal more acute for Chava (Carlos Padilla) is his natural empathy for the rebels, one of whom is his beloved uncle. Mandoki, director of such English-language movies as "Angel Eyes" and "Message in a Bottle," finds a satisfying blend of sentimentality and hard-core realism. You're so caught up in this story's cruelties and injustices -- he never lets the war become just a backdrop -- you crave sentimentality. Contains profanity and disturbing violence. In Spanish with subtitles. Landmark's Bethesda Row, Cineplex Odeon Shirlington and Landmark's E Street Cinema.

-- D.T.

INTO THE BLUE (PG-13, 110 minutes) -- Never get between a shark and his coke stash. That's the lesson from the climactic scene of this waterlogged thriller, whose chief purpose otherwise seems to be allowing viewers to ogle some of Hollywood's tannest, buffest young things undulating sexily through the water. Sure, there are sharks, and they're indeed circling around a crashed plane stuffed with the aforementioned substance, which is just down the coral reef from a 19th-century ship holding millions of dollars' worth of buried treasure. Paul Walker and Jessica Alba play two earnest, honest and hot treasure hunters living in the Bahamas; Scott Caan and Ashley Scott play two sleazy, avaricious and hot friends who arrive on the scene and set a risky scheme in motion involving midnight dives and drugs and ruby-encrusted scabbards. It's a cross between a bad episode of "Miami Vice" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" -- the creaky Disneyland ride, not the cool Johnny Depp movie. Contains intense violence, drug material, sexual content and profanity. Majestic Cinema and AMC Tysons Corner.

-- A.H.

JUST LIKE HEAVEN (PG-13, 101 minutes) -- All that some filmgoers need to know about this romance is that it features three shots of Mark Ruffalo getting out of the shower. Ruffalo, who has won a following for his roles in such smart movies as "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "Collateral," also has carved out a winning sideline as a scruffy, thoroughly charming romantic leading man, in this case the credible love interest for Reese Witherspoon. When David Abbott (Ruffalo) moves into a fantastic San Francisco apartment and is immediately told to move out by its former tenant -- Elizabeth Martinson (Witherspoon), who three months earlier was hit head-on by a truck -- their banter crackles with tart, unforced verve. In a bummer of a bait-and-switch, though, the whimsical romance undergoes a fatal shift in tone, raising troubling end-of-life issues more at home in the pronouncements of Tom DeLay than in a date movie. Contains some sexual content. Area theaters.

-- A.H.

LORD OF WAR (R, 122 minutes) -- Surface-to-air missiles, Kalashnikov rifles, hand grenades, bullets: These are the phallic treasures of Andrew Niccol's schizophrenic movie that revels lasciviously in the sins of arms dealing before declaring such activity bad, bad, bad. The weaponry is the stock and trade of Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage), a Ukrainian emigre who is bored and directionless in New York's Little Odessa and realizes that the world operates on bullets almost as much as food. (Warning: American Dream bashing on the way.) He sets himself up as an arms dealer and rises quickly to the top ranks of the international rogue circuit, trying to keep a step ahead of Interpol agent Jack Valentine (Ethan Hawke). Yuri has other problems: a trophy wife (Bridget Moynahan) who is in the dark about his job and a brother (Jared Leto, the best thing about the movie) who has discovered the joys of cocaine. Despite its jauntily satirical air, "Lord of War" is never better than dour and smug. Contains strong violence, scenes of drug use, profanity and sexuality. AMC Courthouse.

-- D.T.

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. Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse.

-- M.O.

{sstar} MAGNIFICENT DESOLATION: WALKING ON THE MOON 3D (Unrated, 41 minutes) -- The next best thing to going to the moon? Rocketing up there on the Imax screen sporting 3-D eyewear. Narrated by Tom Hanks (also a producer), this gee-wonderful, virtual visit to the arid orb uses ingenious technical sleight of hand to -- let's face it -- fake it beautifully. To create the sensation that we are bounding like gravity-free lambs on the lunar surface with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, director Mark Cowen and crew have culled authentic footage from various kinds of stock -- 16mm, 35 mm and TV Kinescope video -- and blown them up into the 70 mm Imax format. Then, using a combination of computer-generated imagery and live-action reenactments, they've created the illusion we're taking that giant leap for mankind. Contains nothing objectionable. National Air and Space Museum.

-- D.T.

{sstar} MARCH OF THE PENGUINS (G, 80 minutes) -- In this charmfest of a movie, narrator Morgan Freeman tells us about the habits and tremendous resilience of the emperor penguins, whose procreation quest takes them on an incredible journey on the frozen continent, where on a good day, the temperature is 58 degrees below zero. We're talking journeys of about 70 miles to the most frigid chunk of land on Earth. The film is full of wonderful moments and spectacles, including thousands of penguins huddled en masse, nursing their eggs. The wind moans (sometimes those gusts are 100 mph) and peppers them with snow. But they hold on to those eggs, which would crack and kill the baby inside if they touch the ground. But when those fluffies are born, you understand why the parents go to all that trouble. Contains penguin slapstick. AFI Silver Theatre, Cineplex Odeon Shirlington and University Mall Theatres.

-- D.T.

MIRRORMASK (Unrated, 101 minutes) -- Helena (Stephanie Leonidas) is a reluctant supporting act for her circus-performing parents and dreams of living in "the real world." When her mother (Gina McKee) takes ill, Helena finds herself lost in an alternative dream world full of strange beings. Accompanied by a masked juggler named Valentine (Jason Barry), Helena learns she must find a "mirror mask" to save her mother, the good queen of this shadow world. Dorothy -- excuse me, Helena -- also has to escape the clutches of the Queen of the Darkland (also played by McKee), who wants Helena as a surrogate for her missing daughter. The storyline is a monotonous spin-cycling of elements from "The Wizard of Oz," "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and other fairy tales in which an innocent girl faces up to an evil queen. Doppelganger dramas, too, are thrown in for bad measure. Contains mildly scary thematic elements. Landmark's E Street Cinema.

-- D.T.

{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. Contains some sexual innuendo. Arlington Cinema 'N' Drafthouse.

{sstar} THE PRIZE WINNER OF DEFIANCE, OHIO (PG-13, 90 minutes) -- In this movie, adapted from Terry Ryan's memoir of her mother, Julianne Moore is Evelyn, a woman of endless optimism who reared 10 children and supported an alcoholic and abusive husband by entering jingle-writing contests. As one of her kids observes in the film, were it not for the sexism of the era, Evelyn would have been running an ad agency or penning her own column for the Chicago Tribune. But it was the 1950s (and early 1960s), so Evelyn built her career in quips and squibs, each one a proto-feminist step on what would later become a far louder and longer march. "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio" isn't very cinematic, but it has its own subversive power, as it elevates one family's struggle for working-class survival and valorizes a woman of simple faith and inner strength. During a conversation with her husband (Woody Harrelson, looking suspiciously like Willem Dafoe in "Mississippi Burning"), Evelyn at one point insists that she's no saint. This warm, moving tribute suggests otherwise. Contains adult themes, some disturbing images and profanity. Avalon.

-- A.H.

PROOF (PG-13, 100 minutes) -- Where can movies go that theater can't? Close up, and that's where director John Madden parks his camera as Gwyneth Paltrow fights madness and grief in this adaptation of David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Catherine (Paltrow) is the daughter of a legendary math professor who lost his mind (Anthony Hopkins). Now he's dead, and Catherine is a mess: Does she have his gifts? Is she getting his disease? Is there proof? The story, adapted by Auburn and Rebecca Miller, retains the clever twists and entertaining, logic-driven dialogue of the original. For better and worse, "Proof" is now explicitly a star vehicle, and Paltrow will impress a lot of people. Yet by ruthlessly zooming in on Catherine's morbid obsessions, Madden makes Auburn's probing but lively stage material darker, more cloistered and less fun. Contains drug references, profanity and some sexual content. Area theaters.

-- Nelson Pressley

{sstar} RED EYE (PG-13, 85 minutes) -- Filmmaker Wes Craven's airplane-set thriller -- about a traveler (Rachel McAdams) held hostage by a smooth-talking criminal (Cillian Murphy) -- is taut and supple entertainment, especially when it has nowhere to go but inside the characters' heads. Although it doesn't exactly fall apart in the film's final reel, when the action leaves the plane's cabin for the larger world, it does lose some of the pressure-cooker intensity of the film's first hour. Still, like a venti coffee from the airport Starbucks, the movie's caffeinated enough to keep you awake and on the edge of your seat for pretty much the entire flight. Contains obscenity and violence. University Mall Theatres.

-- M.O.

ROLL BOUNCE (PG-13, 107 minutes) -- If you were a junior-higher back in the day, the '70s and early '80s, then your idea of a hot Saturday night was hanging out at the local roller rink, and director Malcolm Lee captures that time, with the insult-a-thons, the preening and posturing of polyester-clad lotharios and the angst of young love. And for the most part, he got the cast right, with rapper Bow Wow as X, a young Chicago teenager with a jones for skating, and the sturdy Chi McBride as his widowed father (though supporting players Khleo Thomas, Rick Gonzalez and Jurnee Smollett prove much stronger, more natural actors than Bow Wow). What Lee doesn't pull off is the story: The film can't get its rhythms right, fluctuating wildly between comedy and pathos. Contains profanity and crude humor. Area theaters.

-- Teresa Wiltz

SEPARATE LIES (R, 85 minutes) -- In this psycho-emotional thriller, three members of the English upper class behave terribly well when they find themselves in a spot of trouble involving adultery, manslaughter and obstruction of justice. In Hollywood's hands, this would also feature steamy sex scenes, Oscar-worthy histrionics and someone avenging his honor with a gun. But the directorial debut by Julian Fellowes is all about restraint, good taste and discretion. Mendacity and avarice may form the toxic heart of the story, but they're nearly obscured by a civilized polish. "No life is perfect," says James Manning (Tom Wilkinson) by way of introduction, and as James, a high-powered London lawyer, kisses his pretty wife, Anne (Emily Watson), goodbye on their posh doorstep, it's clear that only carnage can ensue. And it does, in the person of one William Bule (Rupert Everett), whom James and Anne meet that weekend at their country house. Some very bad things happen, which in terms of movie logic are entirely predictable. Contains profanity and some sexual references. Area theaters.

-- A.H.

{sstar} SERENITY (PG-13, 119 minutes) -- When Joss Whedon's imaginative sci-fi series, "Firefly," was canceled, fans went into deep mourning. But thanks to their enthusiastic snapping up of the show's DVDs, Universal ponied up $40 million for "Serenity," a movie version that brings back Capt. Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and his lovable, outer-space mercenaries. In the retelling, writer-director Whedon has boiled off a lot of the complexity and introduced a new character, the ruthless Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor), an agent for the evil Alliance, the Big-Brotherish federal government that runs Mal's galaxy. The result is a sort of amphetamine-fueled reprise, designed to give fans their sentimental jolt but also drum up new devotees. It's entertaining, especially because of Mal's colorful followers and Whedon's snappy, witty and often poignant pen. Contains sci-fi violence, sexual situations and profanity. Area theaters.

-- D.T.

SKY HIGH (PG, 99 minutes) -- "Sky High" is a slight but sure-footed, live-action comic fantasy from Disney. Director Mike Mitchell deftly blends two genres -- the high school romance and the special-effects-laden superhero comic book adaptation -- and manages to spoof yet salute both with a refreshing lack of pretension. Will Stronghold (Michael Angarano), son of Captain Stronghold (former Disney kid star Kurt Russell in blustering, eye-crinkling form) and Josie Jetstream (Kelly Preston), knows his parents expect him to follow in their world-saving path. Will arrives at Sky High, a school for superheroes' kids, without powers, but that begins to change. The younger actors all avoid ham-acting, and their more seasoned colleagues have fun with the witty material. Contains action violence and some mild language. University Mall Theatres.

-- J.H.

TIM BURTON'S CORPSE BRIDE (PG, 76 MINUTES) -- The Corpse Bride is indeed dead. Sure, she's cute, but she has a wayward eye that pops out at inopportune moments, thanks to the talking maggot renting space in its socket. Not exactly marriage material, as Victor, voiced by Johnny Depp, discovers when he's dragged from the Land of the Living by the Corpse Bride (voiced by Helena Bonham Carter). Will true love -- with a living lass (voiced by Emily Watson) -- prevail over the Corpse Bride's ferocious determination? The movie is breathtaking viewing, shot in sumptuous shades of blacks, whites and grays, using not computerized means but older-school stop-motion animation. The film is tongue-in-cheek and wry, with kitschy musical numbers. But we can't quite figure out whom the film is intended for: Animated talking maggots does not a kiddie movie make. Contains scary images. Area theaters.

-- T.W.

TWO FOR THE MONEY (R, 132 minutes) -- Al Pacino has played the dark mentor so many times, he ought to get a kingmaker's award. So when you see Pacino playing betting-firm capo Walter Abrams and leading ex-football player Brandon Lang (Matthew McConaughey) into the greedy underworld of high-stakes sports gambling, well, you know to expect certain things. Walter introduces Brandon to his factory of speed-dial score gurus and expounds loquaciously about this hidden world of ecstatic highs and suicidal lows, where fortunes are won or lost over the quirky bounce of the pigskin on "Monday Night Football." Unfortunately, "Two for the Money," directed by D.J. Caruso, hedges on its lurid promise. Sure, it takes us to the dark side, but it does so with such a fat dose of equivocation, the fight between good and evil feels fixed in favor of Hollywood redemption. Contains perverse profanity, a sexual scene and some violence. Area theaters.

-- D.T.

THE UNTOLD STORY OF EMMETT LOUIS TILL (Unrated, 70 minutes) -- In this documentary about the notorious killing in Mississippi in 1955, we see how a grieving mother created a landmark moment in American history. The sheriff in the Delta county where Till was murdered, for supposedly whistling at a white woman at a country store, ordered the boy's mutilated corpse to be buried almost immediately, relatives recount in this fast-paced retelling. But then the call came from Chicago: Mamie Till Mobley, the 14-year-old's mother, ordered the pine box containing her son to be sent home. She then had it pried open and displayed what was inside to all and sundry. The two killers were acquitted by an all-white jury in nothing flat. This is powerful, and often-told, material. But for a documentary that bills itself as "untold," director Kevin Beauchamp never makes clear what he's telling that is new. You leave the theater feeling moved by a mother's courage, sickened by the crime and a little frustrated. Contains some disturbing images, racially offensive terms (in older footage) and explicit discussions of violence. Landmark's E Street Cinema.

-- Neely Tucker

WAITING (R, 93 minutes) -- This teen gross-out comedy is a puerile, pointless piece of work in which a group of young waiters and waitresses engages in a collective obsession with genitalia, bodily excretions, sexual put-downs and free-floating misanthropy. Recycling humor from "American Pie" and the Farrelly brothers' oeuvre to derivative excess, "Waiting" is a proud member of the rank and vile, a sex comedy for people who found "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" too philosophically arcane to comprehend. The movie follows a day in the life of Shenanigan's, a strip-mall family franchise. A waiter named Monty (Ryan Reynolds, epitomizing unctuous insincerity) trains a newcomer named Mitch (John Francis Daley) and along the way introduces the newbie to the dirty secrets of restaurant culture. Set pieces include a nightmare scenario of what vindictive waiters do with food that is sent back. Contains strong, crude and sexual humor; pervasive profanity and some drug use. Area theaters.

-- A.H.

{sstar} WALLACE & GROMIT: THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT (G, 85 minutes) -- Directed by animators Nick Park and Steve Box, the feature film debut of Wallace and Gromit opens with the dotty English inventor and his quietly superior dog working at yet another ingenious business called Anti-Pesto, which humanely removes four-legged creatures from their town's vegetable gardens. The stakes are unusually high, as the villagers -- including canine Gromit -- are lovingly preparing their produce to compete in the annual vegetable growing contest. Things are just swell until one of Wallace's schemes -- involving a gizmo that "extracts unlovely thoughts and desires" -- goes awry, and the gardens are soon being vandalized by the King Kong of rabbits. Yes, the clay duo have gone a bit high-tech -- Park and Box reportedly used hundreds of computerized effects in this film -- but they're still the same old W&G, right down to the barely discernable thumbprints on their faces. Gromit, who might be the most expressive silent movie star since Buster Keaton, is pure magic. Contains nothing objectionable. Area theaters.

-- A.H.

{sstar} THE WAR WITHIN (Unrated, 90 minutes) -- Toward the end of this unsettling film, a brown man with a Muslim name sits in a car, contemplating a bridge leading to a city where twin towers once pierced the sky. In a nasty bit of racial profiling, he's quickly arrested, but they've got nothing on him, so they let him go. The irony: Hassan, the man in the car, really is up to no good. Therein lies the power of this taut tale of terrorism and the fundamentalist ties that bind. Hassan believes he is doing God's work. He didn't start out this way. As a student in Paris, Hassan (Ayad Akhtar) is kidnapped by American intelligence officials for suspected terrorist activities. After being tortured, Hassan, an avowed secularist, becomes radicalized. Soon, he's heading to America, ready to make jihad. But he is forced to reconsider his commitment as he bonds with a childhood friend and his family, who are enjoying the good life New Jersey. The film teases out complex and uncomfortable questions about faith and the impact of American actions on the rest of the world. Contains images of violence and torture, and adult themes. Landmark's E Street Cinema.

-- T.W.

{sstar} WEDDING CRASHERS (R, 119 minutes) -- Jeremy (Vince Vaughn) and John (Owen Wilson) are scoundrels who crash weddings so they can score with women in this often-funny caper. But when they attend a big-time Washington wedding party for the daughter of Secretary of the Treasury William Cleary (Christopher Walken), things change. John falls a little too sincerely for Claire (Rachel McAdams), one of the secretary's daughters. And Jeremy gets in a little over his head with another Cleary daughter, Gloria (Isla Fisher), who soon declares her undying, bunny-boilingly permanent love for Jeremy. Vaughn is definitely the best man in this wedding comedy. As Jeremy, he's a cad and a half who can motormouth like a machine gun, spraying men, women and children with manic, rat-a-tat outbursts of toxic insincerity. It's often dirty, yes. But it's also manic and inspired. Contains nudity, sexual scenes, obscenity and slapstick violence. University Mall Theatres.

-- D.T.

WILD SAFARI 3D (Unrated, 45 minutes) -- Untrue to its name, this Imax tour of some of the most beautiful parks and game preserves in South Africa is pretty tame, harmless but surprisingly thrill-free. It takes viewers on a photographic hunt for Africa's "Big Five." And filmmaker Ben Stassen bags his elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos and cape buffalo, along with a few zebras, giraffes and sundry antelopes thrown in for good measure. Still, the 3D that "Wild Safari" was filmed in proves to be more of a distraction than a benefit in a movie that, while photographed with the same amazing detail and intimacy that has made "March of the Penguins" such a hit, never reaches out to grab viewers, literally or figuratively. Contains a very brief shot of animals doing what comes natural and brief carcass eating. National Museum of Natural History.

-- A.H.


AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM/DOWNTOWN -- At the Lockheed Martin Imax Theater: "Fighter Pilot," daily at 11:25, 1:25 and 4. "Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon (3D)," daily at 10:25, 12:25, 3 and 5. "To Fly!," daily at 2:25. At the Albert Einstein Planetarium: "Infinity Express," Friday, Sunday, Monday and Wednesday at 10:30, 11, 11:30, 12, 12:30, 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30, 3, 3:30, 4, 4:30 and 5; Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday at 10:30, 11, 11:30, 12, 12:30, 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30, 3, 3:30, 4 and 4:30. "The Stars Tonight," Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday at 5. Seventh and Independence SW. 202-357-1686.

AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM/DULLES -- "Fighter Pilot," daily at 11, 1 and 4. "Space Station," daily at noon, 3 and 5. "To Fly!," daily at 2. 14390 Air and Space Museum Pkwy., Chantilly. 202-357-2700.

AMERICAN CITY DINER -- "Cape Fear," Friday at 8. "The Graduate," Saturday at 8. "In The Heat of the Night," Sunday at 8. "The Philadelphia Story," Monday at 8. "Casablanca," Tuesday at 8. "The Birds," Wednesday at 8. "The Stepford Wives," Thursday at 8. 5532 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-244-1949.

ARLINGTON PLANETARIUM -- "Our Place in Space," Friday and Saturday at 7:30; Sunday at 1:30 and 3. 1426 N. Quincy St., Arlington. 703-228-6070.

BALTIMORE MUSEUM OF ART -- "The Servant," Friday at 8. BMA Auditorium, 10 Art Museum Dr., Baltimore. 410-396-7100.

CHARLES THEATRE -- "Eyes Without a Face," Saturday at noon, Monday at 7 and Thursday at 9. 1711 N. Charles St., Baltimore. 410-727-3456.

CINEMA FRANCAIS A MOUNT VERNON -- "Les Triplettes de Belleville," Sunday at 4:30. Free. George Washington University's Mount Vernon Campus, Eckles Library Auditorium, 2100 Foxhall Rd. NW. 202-242-6673.

CREATIVE ALLIANCE -- "Cruel and Unusual," Thursday at 8. 3134 Eastern Ave., Baltimore. 410-276-1651.

FILMS ON THE HILL -- "The Merry Go Round," Saturday at 7. Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, 545 Seventh St. SE. 202-547-6839.

FREER -- "Dry Summer," Sunday at 1:30. "Hope," Sunday at 3:30. Free, but tickets required. Meyer Auditorium, 12th Street and Jefferson Drive SW. 202-633-1000.

GOETHE INSTITUT -- "Rome: Open City," Monday at 6:30. 812 Seventh St. NW. 202-289-1200.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS -- "Coquette," Friday at 7. "The Connection," Monday at 7. "A Thousand Clowns," Tuesday at 7. "Secrets," Thursday at 7. Free. Mary Pickford Theater, 101 Independence Ave. SE. 202-707-5677.

MARYLAND SCIENCE CENTER -- Imax Theater: "Bugs! (3D)," Friday and Tuesday-Thursday at 12:10; Saturday-Sunday at 11 and 4:30. "Fighter Pilot" and "Hubble," Friday and Tuesday-Thursday at 3:20; Saturday-Sunday at noon, 2:10 and 5:30. "Cirque du Soleil," Friday and Tuesday-Thursday at 2:10 and 4:30; Saturday at 1:10, 3:20 and 6:40; Sunday at 1:10 and 3:20. Davis Planetarium: "Entertaining Einstein," Friday and Tuesday-Thursday at 1 and 4; Saturday-Sunday at 2 and 4. "Live From the Sun," Saturday at noon. "The Sky: Live!" Friday and Tuesday-Thursday at 3; Saturday at 3 and 5; Sunday at noon and 3. "The Sky Above Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," Saturday-Sunday at 1. 601 Light St., Baltimore. 410-685-5225.

MICA AND MARYLAND FILM FESTIVAL -- "The Kidnapping of Ingrid Betancourt," Monday at 7:30. Maryland Institute College of Art's Falvey Hall, 1301 Mount Royal Ave., Baltimore. 410-752-8083.

NATIONAL ARCHIVES -- "Destination America With David Grubin," Friday at 7. Free; reservations required. William G. McGowan Theater, Constitution Avenue between Seventh and Ninth streets NW. 202-501-5000.

NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART -- "Not Fair," Saturday at 2. "Sailing Home," Saturday at 4. "I'm Not Scared," Sunday at 4:30. Free. East Building, Fourth and Constitution NW. 202-737-4215.

NATIONAL LIBRARY OF MEDICINE -- "Island of Lost Souls," Thursday at 6 p.m. Lisner Hill Center Auditorium, Building 38A, 8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda. 301-496-5389.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN -- "The Return of the Sacred Pole," Friday at noon. Free. Rasmuson Theater, Fourth Street and Independence Avenue SW. 202-633-1000.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY -- Johnson Imax Theater: "Into the Deep (3D)," Friday-Saturday at 10:20, 12:10, 2, 3:50 and 6:40; Sunday-Thursday at 10:20, 12:10, 2 and 3:50. "Wild Safari: A South African Adventure (3D)," Friday-Saturday at 11:10, 1, 2:50, 4:40, 5:40 and 7:30; Sunday-Thursday at 11:10, 1, 2:50 and 4:40. 10th and Constitution NW. 202-633-7400.

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

REEL AFFIRMATIONS FILM FESTIVAL -- At Lincoln Theatre (1215 U St. NW; 202-328-6000): "The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green," Friday at 7. "Freshman Orientation," Friday at 9:15. "Scab," Friday at 11:15. "The Lady in Question Is Charles Busch," Saturday at noon. "50 Ways of Saying Fabulous," Saturday at 2. "15 Minutes for 15 Years," Saturday at 4. "The D Word," Saturday at 6. "Loggerheads," Saturday at 8.

At Goldman Theater (D.C. Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th St. NW; 202-518-9400): "Floored by Love," Friday at 6. "Sevigne," Friday at 7. "Butterfly (Hu Die)," Friday at 9.

TOWSON UNIVERSITY -- "Oleanna," Monday at 7:30. Van Bokkelen Hall Auditorium, 8000 York Rd., Towson. 410-704-2787.

VILLAGE AT SHIRLINGTON -- "The Sixth Sense," Wednesday at 7:30. Free. South 28th St. and South Quincy St., Shirlington. Free. 703-413-6691.

Maggie Grace, Cole Heppell and Tom Welling can't escape the dismal horror remake "The Fog."