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
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 -- Based ever so loosely on the classic 1872 novel by Jules Verne, Around the World in 80 Days finds none other than Jackie Chan in the role of Passepartout, a thief and martial arts expert (big surprise) who seeks refuge from the law by teaming up with eccentric inventor Phileas Fogg (Steve Coogan) for his ambitious trans-global journey. It's a collision course for wackiness featuring a truly odd mix of supporting actors including Kathy Bates, Arnold Schwarzenegger (!), John Cleese, Rob Schneider, and, get this, Luke and Owen Wilson as the Wright Brothers. 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 -- This looks pretty damn funny. Vince Vaughn (Swingers) and Ben Stiller -- he's certainly made a lot of movies lately -- star in this comedy that elevates the humiliating schoolyard game of dodgeball to mythic heights. When a corporate fitness center moves to town, threatening to put the local gym out of business, the desperate crew from Average Joe's enters a high stakes Las Vegas dodgeball tournament in the hopes of saving their honor and their livelihoods. Stiller (as the fanatical leader of the team from evil fitness chain, Globo Gym) looks like Ted Nugent in black and purple spandex and kneepads. Tagline: "Grab life by the ball." Heh. Rated: PG-13
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind -- 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. Complications follow. 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
Garfield -- Did we really need a live-action version of the comic strip that appears in more than 2,500 newspapers? Apparently guest stars like Bill Murray (Bill Murray!), Debra Messing, Brad Garrett and Jennifer Love Hewitt think so. As in the recent Scooby Doo films, Garfield appears as a computer-generated creature. 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.
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
Looney Tunes: Back in Action -- Director Joe Dante (Gremlins) saves the Looney Tunes and delivers a movie that updates Bugs, Daffy and everyone else. What this movie really is - for adults, at least - is a satire of Hollywood and of corporate mentality in general. But the kid in everyone will love the classic Looney Tunes timing and wit that's been brought to live-action levels. It's that rare gem of a movie - it's smart without being snotty, and playful without being stupid. Steve Martin, as the bad guy, is priceless; and, yes, at times it's as cool as Roger Rabbit. (MD) Rated: PG
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
Peter Pan -- The boy who won't grow up (Jeremy Sumpter) opens up a new world to young Wendy (Rachel Hurd-Wood) and her younger brothers when they all fly off to Neverland to get away from their parents. But unlike any cartoons or musicals before this one, the tale, sticking to the original play, turns dark: Mermaids become deadly, and Captain Hook (Jason Isaacs) kills off those he doesn't like. There's plenty of colorful magic, along with a subtle sexuality that will go over the heads of the very young. A visual treat, even if the film is rather intense. (ES) 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
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
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
The Virgin Suicides -- Before she made Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppola adapted Pulitzer Prize winner Jeffrey Eugenides' novel of adolescence and identity into a dreamy, intoxicating film. As group of neighborhood boys watch, a house full of girls gradually loses contact with life after their parents isolate them. Coppola is completely in charge of what she brings to the screen, and at times the film achieves a potent combination of sexual tension and nostalgia, all wrapped up in Air's hazy soundtrack. (MD) Rated: R
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.
Capsule reviews are written by Ed Symkus (ES), Ray Pride (RP) and Marty Demarest (MD) unless otherwise noted.