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.
Bobby Jones, Stroke of Genius -- This one pours the emotional sap on thick right at the beginning, then tries to flesh it out with slow-motion shots and ruddy nostalgia. Golf buffs probably won't care, and the photography is beautiful (so much so that they used several shots multiple times). But aside from the few moments in which every sports film succeeds (a man against a game), Bobby Jones has the dramatic scope of a Mentos commercial. (MD) Rated: PG
Breakin' All the Rules -- A man (Jamie Foxx) writes a breakup manual after being dumped by his fianc & eacute;e, then falls in love with his cousin's girlfriend (Gabrielle Union). The comedy half of this romantic comedy is a failure most of the time, but Jamie Foxx shows that he has the charisma to play a romantic lead, and Gabrielle Union proves once again that she's beautiful. There are at least genuine sparks, and that's becoming increasingly rare. (MD) 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
Envy -- Jack Black and Ben Stiller play two neighbors, one of whom (Black) makes a fortune while the other looks on. The actors have the good sense to keep things on a believable keel, but director Barry Levinson spoils the joke by enlarging the plot to the point of slapstick. What could have been a particularly smart black comedy ends up as a mildly funny farce. (MD) Rated: PG-13
Godsend -- Finally, a movie answers the important ethical question of what happens when you clone a human. You get a bad movie in which kids act out every demonic clich & eacute;, sketchy old black ladies "come to think of" important facts and Robert DeNiro earns a paycheck. (MD) 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, you'll be sore from kicking the seat in front of you, trying to squeal on the brakes. 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
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
The Punisher -- Well, they got it right this time, after the misstep of a Dolph Lundgren version 15 years ago. Now Thomas Jane (Boogie Nights) is playing the angst-ridden anti-hero who has lost his family to a murderous crime lord (John Travolta) and reinvents himself as someone who will avenge their death, no matter what the cost. The Marvel Comics flavor that permeates the film is spot on, and one of the best touches is that the filmmakers have also included some side stories about true friendship and put in some comic relief. One of cinema's best knockdown brawls is here, courtesy of Jane and his opponent, pro wrestler Kevin Nash, introduced only as "The Russian." (ES) Rated R
The Return of the King -- Peter Jackson is a maestro of ceaseless and varied visual raptures, including both awe-inspiring armies of the dead, insurgent in green vapor, and a daughter-avenges-father scene on the battlefield that might be the best thing onscreen all year. It's the best of the trilogy. (RP) 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
Taking Lives -- There's identity theft like the kind you see on those amusing Citibank commercials, and then there's identity theft like that in Taking Lives. Not content just to steal your information and maybe buy a new pickup, the identity thief of Taking Lives likes to take actual lives and then assume the identities of his hapless victims. Angelina Jolie plays the FBI profiler assigned to the case. Also starring Kiefer Sutherland, Gena Rowlands and Ethan Hawke. Rated: R
The Toxic Avenger -- This classic -- and fairly violent -- low-budget riot from the twisted folks at Troma Films is the story of Melvin, resident geek at a local fitness club who is constantly belittled and tormented by the jocks, cheerleaders and other beautiful people of Tromaville. When a locker room hazing session sends Melvin into a vat of searing toxic waste, he is transformed into the Toxic Avenger, a grossly deformed, muscle-bound, tutu-wearing, mop-toting killing machine with revenge on his mind. And boy does he get it -- in inventive, hilarious and often gory ways. And he gets the girl! The production is cheap, the action is cartoonish, and the acting is way over the top. Midnight movie defined.(Mike Corrigan) Not Rated
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.
Publication date: 05/20/04