Adrenaline Rush -- Adrenaline Rush is not only for those who turn to the IMAX for a bit of stomach-twisting, nausea-inducing, gravity-defying armchair extreme sport action; it's also for those who get all the adrenaline they need from approaching strangers. Following two young skydivers, the film offers a look at both the physical sensations and the psychological challenges of risk-taking. Not rated.
Around the World in 80 Days -- Disney brings a high gloss to this escapade about an inventor and his impostor-valet (Jackie Chan), who try to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days. Despite some flamboyant touches, the movie rarely gets beyond television-grade hamminess, and there's not quite enough celebrity power to make it an event. (After Arnold Schwarzenegger's cameo, all we're left with are the likes of Kathy Bates and Rob Schneider.) (MD) Rated: PG
Chronicles of Riddick -- 2000's Pitch Black was a great science-fiction film: It was dark, funny, occasionally creepy and came out of nowhere. Because we had no expectations for this tale of a ragtag group of intergalactic travelers, we weren't disappointed by its occasional cheesy effects and uneven pacing. Unfortunately, the stakes are higher for Chronicles of Riddick, which tries to encompass a universe in which threatening races populate under-explored planets and star systems. The struggle is epic, involving armies and civilizations instead of individuals. While one of its stars -- Vin Diesel -- is a genuine celebrity, the problem is that nothing else in Chronicles of Riddick is entirely believable. Director Kevin Twohy makes quite a few leaps here; the audience is just unable to follow. (MD)
The Day After Tomorrow -- Roland Emmerich's newest film is his best, despite the fact that the dramatic premise of a father (Dennis Quaid) trying to rescue his son (Jake Gyllenhaal) is more preposterous than the special effects. Yes, you get to see the mother of all global-warming generated storms, and the visual effects are fantastic. Even though this is the end of the world as we know it, you'll feel fine. (ES) Rated: PG-13
Dodgeball -- Ben Stiller, again. This time he's the vain, shallow owner of Globo Gym, which is trying to drive away competitor Average Joe's Gym across the street. Vince Vaughan and the guys at Joe's decide to enter a dodgeball tournament and win the money they need. It's often randomly hilarious, and even when the jokes don't work, they at least keep coming. Plus, it's got Shatner and Chuck Norris. (MD) Rated: PG-13
Fahrenheit 9/11-- Michael Moore's powerful, wrenching, drenching, heartfelt, ultimately patriotic polemic is a rapid-fire assemblage of what he finds awry in our nation's government over the past four years. It may be the electoral season's most controversial Rohrschach test. It's not a campaign commercial, but a hushed, mocking voice of outrage. (RP) Rated: R
Garfield -- The genius of the Garfield comic strip is in its brevity: It accomplishes nothing in just a few drawings. The movie adaptation does almost the same thing, but it requires an hour-and-a-half, a computer-generated cat and the voice of Bill Murray. (MD) Rated: PG
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban -- The kids are all back at Hogwarts, but so is the presence of escaped convict and wizard Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) who is said to be gunning for Harry. The darkest of the three films to date, the story has Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and pals getting mixed up with teachers who may be good or bad -- or both. There's much slapstick, and a brilliantly realized creature called Buckbeak, and the possibility that something's going on between Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson). Lots of fun, but ultimately convoluted storytelling. (ES) Rated PG
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. Not Rated.
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
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
Mallrats -- A wild, upgraded, but still happily scruffy follow-up to Clerks, Kevin Smith focuses on two heartbroken guys (their girlfriends have dumped them) who head out to the mall to get their heads together. But everyone there is either crazy or out to harm them. Some very witty dialogue, delivered at breakneck pace, is accompanied by good performances from the guys (Jason Lee and Jeremy London) and Shannen Doherty as one of the jilters. Midnight Friday and Saturday at the Garland. (ES) Rated: R
Mean Girls -- The new girl in town, Cady (Lindsay Lohan), has been home-schooled and now faces her first day as a junior in high school. And it's a whole new world. She finds a couple of friends, but is invited into the exclusive clique of three known as the Plastics, headed up by rich and vicious Regina (Rachel McAdams). Things get catty concerning old boyfriends and jealousy. (ES) Rated PG-13
The Notebook -- Get out the Kleenex, but be prepared to smile, too. Gentle James Garner spends his days reading a love story to Alzheimer's patient Gena Rowlands, and that 1940s story is played out with Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams as the young lovers. With terrific performances by Joan Allen as a bitchy, self-centered, controlling mom, and by Sam Shepard as a thoughtful, free-spirited dad. Directed, with a great twist, by Rowlands' son, Nick Cassavetes. (ES) Rated: PG-13
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
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
Shrek 2 -- The story picks up right where the first one left off, with a little extra twist: Prince Charming arrives to rescue Princess Fiona, but it's too late; she's on her honeymoon with Shrek. And Charming's mom -- the Fairy Godmother -- is not happy about it. A visit by Fiona and Shrek to her parents' kingdom leads to marital strife and misadventures with magic potions, as well as introductions to new characters -- Puss in Boots is an expert swordsman, but when a hairball strikes, he's weak as a kitten. Lots of goofy product placement, and a skewering of many fairy tales. This may not be as fresh as the original, but it's just as hip and funny, and the advances in computer technology are mind-blowing. (ES) Rated PG
Spider-Man 2 -- Just as X2 outdid everything in X-Men, so too does this sequel outshine its predecessor. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is beset with problems -- no money, no personal life, many emotional demons and the fact that Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) has another fella. Enter Doc Ock, a well-meaning scientist who has gone wacko after a devastating accident, and has become Spidey's new nemesis. He's a fantastic villain, and their fight on an elevated train is astounding. Lots of humor, action, angst and effects make this one of the most entertaining films of the year. (ES) Rated PG-13
The Stepford Wives -- While by no means the disaster it was rumored to be, The Stepford Wives (directed by Frank Oz) is still lumbering even at a trim 90 minutes or so. While an attempt to satirize consumerism and misogyny lingers in Paul Rudnick's script, it's too scattershot to be more than just plain boring. With a surprisingly colorless Nicole Kidman, Bette Midler and Christopher Walken. (RP) Rated: PG-13
The Terminal -- A quick visit to New York from the fictional Krakozhia turns into a long-term ordeal for non-English-speaking Viktor (Tom Hanks), who has his passport taken when his country is overthrown in a coup. Airport official Stanley Tucci can't let him leave but doesn't want him there. Viktor cunningly manages to survive within the big International Transit Lounge, and builds up entertaining relationships with workers and regular passersby, including flight attendant Catherine Zeta-Jones, who's having tons of man trouble. A warm, funny film that looks at many sides of the human condition. (ES) Rated PG-13
Troy -- If Brad Pitt falters a bit due to his pretty looks at the beginning of this epic telling of the Trojan War, he sure owns the part by the end. And Eric Bana, as Hector, one of his main foes, is strong throughout. Director Wolfgang Petersen goes the gigantic-scale route, with huge, bloody battles, yet tells a great story of the futility of war -- and accompanying shades of honor and dishonor -- in quiet, well-acted sequences. There's some miscasting in the role of Helen (German actress Diane Kruger looks and acts like a bored model), but the scope of the film, including a certain big wooden horse, and some nicely blustery performances, make it all work. (ES) Rated R
Two Brothers -- Two tiger cubs, one gentle, one feisty, are separated and brought up under very different circumstances by very different people. When they're reunited, they're not who they used to be, as one is somewhat domesticated and the other has been turned into a killer. An excellent family film with a strong performance by Guy Pearce, playing someone who's more complex than he at first appears. No CGI effects here. They're real tigers. The most common question is "How on earth did they make this film?" (ES) Rated: PG
Van Helsing -- Rugged Hugh Jackman plays the rugged lead character, a hunter of monsters who is on the Vatican's payroll. He meets up with fearless vampire killer Anna (Kate Beckinsale) and the two of them take on Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh). But there are many other monsters waiting to attack, and the filmmakers have spared no expense in the visual effects department. There's much overkill in repetitive sight and blaring sound, but the relentless action and eye for detail is stunning. (ES) Rated PG-13
What the #$! Do We Know? -- Recently featured at the 2004 Body Mind Spirit Expo here in Spokane, What the #$! Do We Know? purports to examine the interplay between spirituality, science and good ol' quantum physics. Not Rated.
White Chicks -- White Chicks is, according to the credits, a Wayans brothers project, but you'd never guess that from watching it. Not only are the two onscreen brothers made-up like hideous-looking white girls through most of the movie, but there's hardly any of the edgy humor that made the Scary Movie films and In Living Color so hilarious. Unfortunately, what could have been a wicked, gleeful satire is a bland, white comedy that delivers neither entertainment nor insult. (MD) Rated: PG-13
Capsule reviews are written by Ed Symkus (ES), Ray Pride (RP) and Marty Demarest (MD) unless otherwise noted.