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
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 -- 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.
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
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
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure -- To be in your late teens/early twenties when Pee-Wee's Big Adventure was first released was to feel like you were in on a magnificent cinematic joke. Aside from the central premise: bizarrely-dressed child man goes on cross-country search for stolen bike, there were all the hilarious, soon-to-be in-jokes, including talking breakfast food, "Large Marge," the Alamo's non-existent basement and Twisted Sister's Dee Snider. Tim Burton's manic direction, Paul Reubens' weirdly lovable character and Danny Elfman's loopy/zippy score make Pee-Wee's Big Adventure a thing of joy. Pure joy. (Sheri Boggs) Midnight Friday and Saturday at the Garland. Rated: PG
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
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.
Publication date: 07/01/04