13 Going on 30 -- Despite resemblances to many, many movies that have come before, this Big-like bite of bubble gum -- directed by Tadpole's Gary Winick -- is the kind of flawed but effervescent romantic comedy that soars on the chemistry of its central duo, Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo. (They're sublimely dorky together.) With Andy Serkis and Judy Greer. (RP) Rated: PG-13
The Alamo -- Forget the Alamo. Only the most devoted of Texas history buffs should bother to be irritated by this slashed-down epic that seems not to have any special reason for hanging around. With Billy Bob Thornton as Davey Crockett, Jason Patric as Jim Bowie and Dennis Quaid as General Sam Houston. (RP) Rated: PG-13
The Big Lebowski -- Jeff Bridges is all lanky underachievement as the other Mr. Lebowski in this hilarious Coen Brothers story of mistaken identity, kidnapping and "lines drawn in the sand, dude." Over-the-top dialogue and strong performances carry a sometimes sketchy narrative -- John Goodman, Steve Buscemi and Julianne Moore are all quite good, but Philip Seymour Hoffman is dead-on perfect as an obsequious, genuflecting assistant. The bowling alley opening credits are a dizzingly kitschy joy. (SB) Rated: R (Showing at the Garland on weekends at midnight)
Connie and Carla -- Connie and Carla stars two of our most hilarious screen brides: Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) and Toni Collette (Muriel's Wedding). Unfortunately, neither approaches the altar in this film, since they both spend most of the movie posing as unfunny gay men. What's worse (and unforgivable in a post-Priscilla, Queen of the Desert world) is that a few over-the-top, mobster-impaling headdresses might have saved this film or at least made it more fun to watch. Both Vardalos and Collette are at their best when they can display all the anxieties of love and relationships without a shred of self-consciousness. Neither gets the chance here. (MD) Rated: PG-13
Ella Enchanted -- Gail Carson Levine's retelling of Cinderella -- Ella Enchanted -- was one of the most compelling and delightful books for young adult readers to come out of the 1990s. Cursed by her fairy godmother's gift of "complete obedience" at birth, young Ella (Anne Hathaway) has more than the usual need for wreaking a little teenage rebellion. Deliverance comes in the form of Prince Charmont (Hugh Dancy), the promise of whose love drives Ella on a journey to break the spell of a lifetime. Also starring Cary Elwes and Eric Idle. Rated: PG
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind -- The newest film from writer Charlie Kaufman and director Michel Gondry (their last was Human Nature) is up the in the rare air of the Kaufman-Spike Jonze collaborations. Shy Joel (Jim Carrey) and extrovert Clementine (Kate Winslet) are an item until one tires of the other, and has a scientific procedure that can erase a person from another's mind. This is an often funny, often very sad, constantly startling look at relationships and the fragility of memory. Philosophical issues run right up against emotional ones. Solid acting, imaginative direction, brilliant writing. (ES) Rated R
The Girl Next Door -- Nope, this isn't one of those raunchy high school kid films with loudness and nudity as its highlights. It's a surprisingly witty twist on that kind of movie. There's Matt (Emile Hirsch), the boy next door to the house-sitting Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert), and this boy is amazed that the girl is taking an interest in him. His interest goes in a different direction when he finds out she's a porn star. And when her producer, Kelly (Timothy Olyphant), makes the scene, things get dangerous. (ES) Rated R
Hellboy -- A superb example of a comic book -- and the attitude and style that goes with it -- coming to life. Ron Perlman plays the title character, a friendly red demon who kills off monsters for a secret government agency. There are violent but bloodless battles galore, with horrid creatures and evil Nazis. There's fire and destruction everywhere. But accompanying all that is a wonderfully warped tongue-in-cheek sense of humor and even a little bit of romance. The sporadic comic book series has been around for a decade. This could easily be the start of a very successful film series. (ES) Rated PG-13
Home on the Range -- This short, sweet farewell to hand-drawn animation from Disney finds three cows (Roseanne Barr, Judi Dench and Jennifer Tilly) out to save the farm from foreclosure. The film's Americana look suits the slight story, but the songs fall flat. Still, Cuba Gooding Jr.'s spunky stallion, psychedelic marching bovines and the three leading ladies give the film charm even if it lacks polish. (MD) Rated: PG
The Human Body -- It's the human body, like you've never seen it before! Seriously, consider what it means to see the inner workings of the lungs via endoscope and then picture that five stories up on the IMAX screen. In addition to lots of fascinatingly "ewwww" footage, The Human Body also features "the fusing of a father and mother's DNA inside a newly fertilized human egg, a sequence which took nearly a year to capture." Yeah, we can imagine. Not rated.
IMAX Nascar -- For those of us who are always late to something, everyday is Nascar. For the rest of you, there's IMAX Nascar. Kiefer Sutherland is your personal pit boss on this up-close and personal look at life behind the wheel. With in-car footage reaching 180 miles an hour, a 12,000-watt sound system and five stories of heart-stopping racetrack action, you'll be sore from kicking the seat in front of you, trying to squeal on the brakes. Not Rated.
Johnson Family Vacation -- Family vacation... family vacation... where have we heard those words before? That's right, Cedric the Entertainer follows in the legendary steps of the Griswolds, except he's headed to Missouri from California, and there's no Grandma strapped to the roof of the car. Vanessa Williams plays his estranged wife; Bow Wow, Solange Knowles and Gabby Soleil play his three precocious kids. Rated: PG-13
Kill Bill: Vol. 2 -- Quentin Tarantino completes his masterpiece of a Kung Fu-spaghetti Western hybrid by backtracking through the first installment, then following Uma Thurman's character, the Bride, as she wreaks revenge on those who tried to kill her. Oddly, the second half is comparatively cerebral, with lots more chit-chat between characters (before one of them usually does the other in). But not to worry, there's plentiful sword, gun and flying fists action, an extra large dose of Tarantino's black humor, and a totally satisfying conclusion. Warning: Do not even think about seeing this one if you haven't seen Vol. 1. (ES) Rated R
The Ladykillers -- This misfire from the usually brilliant Coen Brothers is a fine example of not leaving well enough alone. The story is a good one: A smooth-talking con man (Tom Hanks) manages to move himself and his "musician friends" into the home of a na & iuml;ve, elderly woman (Irma P. Hall), but he is really setting up shop for a big heist. The problem is that it was done so much better and with so much more class and style in the 1955 British version. This film simply did not have to be remade. (ES) Rated R
Lewis & amp; Clark -- The IMAX folks have packed a lot into this vivid account of the two adventurers' travels across the American wilderness. (ES) Unrated
Man on Fire -- Denzel Washington does his usual excellent job as a bitter, washed-up man out for revenge when a girl he's supposed to protect is kidnapped. Director Tony Scott has great visual flair, but he messes with the movie's simple formula by making 10-year-old moppet Dakota Fanning the motivation for the film's killing spree. Even Denzel Washington can't survive the cheap sentimentality and wretched writing that drag this into the flames. (MD)
The Passion of the Christ -- A loud, thudding lockstep depiction of torture and murder with little about philosophy, goodness or celebration, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ is a protracted representation of the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ's life. Not for the faint of heart and especially not for children or even teenagers, Gibson's dark vision focuses on Christ (Jim Caviezel) having his flesh rent into tatters, shredding into gobs of viscera. In short, Gibson's Gospel is one of brutality and suffering. (RP) Rated: R
The Prince & amp; Me -- This is being referred to as a modern fairy tale, but fairy tale lite would be more accurate. A farm girl who wants to go to med school (Julia Stiles) meets up with the playboy Prince of Denmark (Luke Mably) when he comes to America looking for a good time, and who keeps his identity a secret. But the story is built on one coincidence after another (hey, the prince is good with cars, so he can rig an engine to win a lawnmower race!!), and the story loses its hold when the action switches to Denmark, where she must choose between royalty and reality. It all falls flat. (ES) Rated PG
The Punisher -- Well, they got it right this time, after the misstep of a Dolph Lundgren version 15 years ago. Now Thomas Jane (Boogie Nights) is playing the angst-ridden anti-hero who has lost his family to a murderous crime lord (John Travolta) and reinvents himself as someone who will avenge their death, no matter what the cost. The Marvel Comics flavor that permeates the film is spot on, and one of the best touches is that the filmmakers have also included some side stories about true friendship and put in some comic relief just where it belongs. One of cinema's best knockdown brawls is here, courtesy of Jane and his opponent, pro wrestler Kevin Nash, introduced only as "The Russian." (ES) Rated R
The Return of the King -- Peter Jackson is a maestro of ceaseless and varied visual raptures, including both awe-inspiring armies of the dead, insurgent in green vapor, and a daughter-avenges-father scene on the battlefield that might be the best thing onscreen all year. It's the best of the trilogy. (RP) Rated: PG-13
Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed -- The crime-solving gang leaps to the big screen again, taking on a foe who's bringing their past enemies to life. This time, the live-action Velma is as pitch-perfect as Shaggy. But director Raja Gosnell doesn't know how to take the cartoon premise and make it fill a movie. So he crudely crams fart and underwear jokes next to drug and gay humor. The result is bad in entirely new ways. (MD) Rated: PG
Walking Tall -- This is one mean-spirited movie, with no improvement over the not-so-good original. Pro wrestler the Rock plays a soldier returning home from war, only to find that the town has changed, for the worse, now that it's under the control of a greedy, sleazy and vicious old friend. Rock is OK in the part, as is Johnny Knoxville as a good guy. But the film is more of a weak rip-off of Road House than the first Walking Tall. (ES) Rated R
The Whole Ten Yards -- This superfluous sequel to Howard Deutsch's The Whole Nine Yards is riotously unfunny, and may be one of the most unnecessary follow-ups of all time. Bruce Willis' beefy hitman is now a hausfrau who seems to be a severe Atkins diet victim; the capable Amanda Peet is a study in compensatory overacting; the rest is just numb. Also starring Matthew Perry and Natasha Henstridge (RP) Rated: PG-13
Capsule reviews are written by Ed Symkus (ES), Ray Pride (RP) and Marty Demarest (MD) unless otherwise noted.