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
50 First Dates -- Drew Barrymore has genuine sparks with a (surprisingly) sweet Adam Sandler. But neither of them brings any sense of character to this story about a relationship that must start anew each day due to Barrymore's short-term memory loss. (MD) Rated: PG-13
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. Some of Adrenaline Rush follows a scientific experiment based on designs made by Leonardo da Vinci in 1485; in other places it deals with the ordinary risks we take in our daily lives. Not rated.
Bride of Chucky -- "When Toys Attack": It's 89 minutes of animatronic mayhem, courtesy of Chucky and his new girlfriend Tiffany. Jennifer Tilly plays the real-life Tiffany, whose unfortunate bathtub demise transfers her soul into a green-eyed bride doll, who wants nothing more than to kill! Kill! Kill! John Ritter co-stars in this, the fourth in the Child's Play franchise. (Midnight Friday and Saturday at the Garland) Rated: R
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
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
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.
Laws Of Attraction -- There's screen chemistry (and alcohol imbibing and junk-food eating) galore in this cheery and winningly played romantic comedy about two top-notch New York divorce lawyers (Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore). At each other's throats in the courtroom, these opposites -- she's disciplined, he's loosey-goosey -- really attract at other times. A nasty case sends them both to romantic Ireland, where they get a little too close, then back home to straighten things out, maybe. Excellent comic timing from both leads, plenty of witty dialogue, and they're both so darn good-looking, this is impossible not to enjoy. (ES) Rated PG-13
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)
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, and when Cady gets thoughts of breaking up the horrid trio, things go so wrong, she starts acting like them. Tina Fey's script is both funny, edgy and dark, and the film is sprinkled with imaginative sight gags and fantasies. Lohan is maturing as an actress; McAdams is going to be a star. (ES) Rated PG-13
New York Minute -- Some films try to feel hip by being as smart and as funny as their audience. But only a genuine B-Movie can make you feel smarter -- much, much smarter, in this case -- than the film and anyone who made it. And while Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen's New York Minute isn't anywhere near the sleazy fun of Showgirls or Valley of the Dolls, it's still the sort of trash we can wallow in for years to come. (MD) Rated: PG
Raising Helen -- Kate Hudson is perky as a petunia in this happy-sappy story of a nice but self-centered Manhattanite who's given her older sister's three children after a tragedy. Helen, who knows only fashion shows and nightclubs, suddenly knows everything about motherhood, which is part of the problem of this wholly unbelievable story. Lots of side plots get in the way, even a possibly romantic one between Helen and a religious school principal (John Corbett). Hudson plays it well, but Joan Cusack, as another sister, overdoes the hamming to annoyance. (ES) 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
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
Soul Plane -- What starts out as an equal opportunity offender with a goofball premise (an Af-Am-Centric airline) turns into a series of stereotype jokes for people who like that sort of thing. Even Snoop Dogg seems ashamed. Not even worth catching at a 4:20 bargain matinee. (MD) Rated: R
Starsky and Hutch -- It's a smooth and hip translation from old TV show to new movie, with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson in the leads. The two "difficult" cops are teamed up to take on a murder case that turns out to be drug-related. Stiller gives us a terrific by-the-books uptight character, and Wilson is just as good going the laid-back route. (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
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. The scary stuff mixes nicely with some well-placed humor (most of it courtesy of David Wenham's Carl, very similar to James Bond's Q). There's much overkill in repetitive sight and blaring sound, but the relentless action and eye for detail is stunning. (ES) Rated PG-13
Capsule reviews are written by Ed Symkus (ES), Ray Pride (RP) and Marty Demarest (MD) unless otherwise noted.