Adrenaline Rush -- Adrenaline Rush follows two young skydivers, offering a look at both the physical sensations and the psychological challenges of risk-taking. At IMAX. Not rated.
Anchorman -- Anchorman isn't so much a satire of TV news and 1970s sexism as it is an excuse for Will Ferrell to improvise for two hours in polyester. And much of his dimwitted rambling reveals something like a genuine comic character. But director Adam McKay (Saturday Night Live) stages everything like a TV show, and the result is more like a series of sketches than a movie. (MD) Rated: PG-13
Before Sunset -- A sequel to 1995's Before Sunrise (written with co-stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) has, among its many modest yet grand virtues, that flabbergastingly rare thing -- a generous and (I'll dare to say it) perfect ending. The camera follows 75 minutes of simulated real time, in extended, gliding takes as the pair walk through falling afternoon light on the roundabout back streets of the Latin Quarter. Richard Linklater knows there's grandeur in the smallest of shared, skittery moments. Sharp, funny, and hopeful, Before Sunset is a romantic masterpiece. (RP) Rated: R
The Bourne Supremacy -- Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) still doesn't know who he is or where he's come from, but as he suggested at the end of The Bourne Identity, he and his lover Marie (Franka Potente) just want to be left alone. Of course, they're not, and there will be hell to pay. This is a story of an innocent man being framed, and of his trying to find out why while trying to stay alive. Damon is definitely up to action star status, Joan Allen is terrific as a determined CIA agent on the hunt and the film is blessed with wild, fast-paced, but never offensive editing, and an accompanying soundtrack that makes everything click. (ES) Rated PG-13
Catwoman -- Catwoman fearlessly adds to the tradition of shrieking, scratching female rivalries in film, and should give drag queens and dominatrixes work for a few more years. Berry amps up the diva-power as the bipolar Catwoman; her Halle-Cat is a confident physical performance. Just as good is Sharon Stone, as her Botox-frozen ice queen nemesis. What Catwoman does best is have fun. We don't need another comic book movie. We need something like this -- a chick ninja flick that cuts past the kicking and jumping and gets right to the posing. (MD) Rated: PG-13
A Cinderella Story -- This war-horse fairytale gets dragged out one time too many so Hillary Duff (Lizzie McGuire) can pout around as a San Fernando Valley high school student, persecuted by her cruel step-mom Fiona (Jennifer Coolidge of American Pie) and jealous step-sisters, while she prances closer to the romantic flame of jock king Austin (Chad Michael Murphy). The movie will wash over adolescent female audiences, but for the rest of us, it's a grueling waste of time. (Cole Smithey) Rated: PG
The Day After Tomorrow -- Roland Emmerich's newest film is his best, despite the fact that the 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. Even though this is the end of the world as we know it, you'll feel fine. (ES) Rated: PG-13
De-Lovely -- De-sastrous. The woebegone De-Lovely is homely stodge throughout, with not a single bubble of the "champagne" of Porter's life's work. Director Irwin Winkler alternates between Porter's affairs with young men and his dramatically undeveloped love for wife Linda Lee, played with alarming vapidity by Ashley Judd. The idea that Porter's in love with love is affecting, believable, and lovely, but it's not dramatized. (RP) 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 randomly hilarious, and even when the jokes don't work, they 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
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle -- From the makers of Dude, Where's My Car?, an intermittently inspired and often just gross job of making the first munchies road movie. John Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg's politically incorrect, homosexual-panic-embracing screenplay is an equal opportunity offender in its pursuit of twentysomething comic touchstones, Sliders, and the perfect rabid raccoon joke. John Cho plays a Korean-American investment banker, and Kal Penn his roommate, an Indian-American slacker. One smoked-out night gets longer and longer as they prowl the wilds of the Garden State for the one perfect food, meeting all manner of weirdoes along the way, including Neil Patrick Harris on X. (RP) Rated: R
Harry Potter and the Prisoner Of Azkaban -- The kids are all back at Hogwarts, but so is the presence of 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 the possibility that something's going on between Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson). (ES) 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.
I, Robot -- For once the special effects are done right: computer-generated robots instead of computer generated-creatures. And could it be that Will Smith is growing as an actor? Possibly, but it's hard to tell much of the time in this well-polished but noisy thriller. Anyone looking for a meditation on the implications of artificial intelligence will be disappointed. But if you want this year's baddest Converse ad, plug yourself in. (MD) Rated: PG-13
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.
King Arthur -- There's nothing like approaching a familiar story, and taking liberties with it to the extent that you come up with something brand-new. That's what's happened with the tale of future king Arthur, his knights and his Lady Guinevere (here she's a vicious fighter as well as a hot lover). And the result is a surprisingly refreshing movie. Is this the way it really happened? Better yet, did Arthur really exist? (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
The Manchurian Candidate -- Like the original film from four decades ago, this looks at war (Korean then, Desert Storm now), a returning war hero with political aspirations, bad dreams, a governmental conspiracy, a problematic relationship between a weak man and his strong mother, and a great deal of paranoia. It all revolves around the possibility of terrorism from within, and it's well played by Denzel Washington (nervously) and Liev Schrieber (creepily). Meryl Streep's domineering mom gives Angela Lansbury (who played the original) a run for her money. (ES) Rated R
Metallica: Some Kind of Monster -- This doc's makers, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, spent two years of their lives and $4.5 million of Metallica's money following the veteran heavy-metal band through recording an album and preparing to tour, capturing much bickering, many meltdowns and a couple of regroupings along the way. (The drama includes the near-year lead guitarist James Hetfield spent in rehab.) In 140 graceful, gratifying minutes, the filmmakers manage to transform the comical doings of sheltered millionaires -- something of a miracle. It's patiently observed, lovingly patient, and beautifully structured. (RP) Not Rated
Monty Python and the Holy Grail -- For every glossy, sexed-up version of the Middle Ages/King Arthur that hits the big screen, there ought to be a requisite showing of Monty Python and the Holy Grail to balance things out. Some of the Pythons' funniest material shows up here, from the inspired silliness of men prancing like horses (clop clop!) to killer bunnies with their nasty, big pointed teeth. Bring out your dead! Playing at midnight Friday and Saturday night at the Garland (SB) Rated: PG
Napoleon Dynamite -- One person's geek is another person's superhero. Such is the appeal of indie effort Napoleon Dynamite, starring John Heder as the titular hero, who lives with his grandmother and brother in rural Idaho. Frizzy red hair, a strong overbite and pathological skinniness + confidence to burn = Napoleon Dynamite's charms. 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
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. A visit by Fiona and Shrek to her parents' kingdom leads to marital strife, as well as new characters, like Puss in Boots. 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 an 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 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. A warm, funny film that looks at many sides of the human condition. (ES) Rated PG-13
Thunderbirds -- The old TV show from the '60s featured a family of marionettes who flew around in clunky machines, rescuing people from all kinds of disasters. But they wouldn't be able to save this pile of hooey. The first mistake was focusing the story on kids instead of adults (who are trapped in space). The second was hiring kids whose entire repertoire of acting skill is presenting a big, wide smile. The third was accepting a dull, poorly written script. The whole ordeal is more wooden than the original puppets. (ES) Rated PG
Van Helsing -- Hugh Jackman plays 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). 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 Village -- Even if my expectations weren't low, I think I would have been happily shocked by the rude alchemy of M. Night Shyamalan's latest puzzle-box. Some early viewers have felt cheated, but I was pleased with how the strands of the story resolved neatly -- though not without great resonance about the dangers of fear and isolationism. (RP) Rated: PG-13
Capsule reviews are written by Ed Symkus (ES), Ray Pride (RP) and Marty Demarest (MD) unless otherwise noted.
Publication date: 08/05/04