Michelle Kung
April 02, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen Dyan Sheldon (Candlewick, $5.99) Watering down an already simplistic plot (girl moves to New Jersey; girl attends concert; girl one-ups rival in school play), director Sara Sugarman and screenwriter Gail Parent underestimate the tween audience’s intelligence. They substitute Sheldon’s snappy dialogue with garish animated sequences and PSA-style morality lessons (alcohol is bad!). The Last Word Although Lindsay Lohan rocks as Lola, Sheldon’s 1999 novel is way cooler and wittier.

Secret Window (from Four Past Midnight) Stephen King (Signet, $7.99) Besides tacking on a more enigmatic ending, writer-director David Koepp offers a faithful, if tepid, adaptation of King’s 1990 entry in his Writers Gone Mad oeuvre. Fleshing out a one-note character, Johnny Depp gives an especially tic-happy performance as Mort Rainey, a plagiarizing novelist being stalked by a crazed Amish hick. The Last Word Avoid King’s more predictable novella and take a peek at Depp’s typically stellar turn.

Taking Lives Michael Pye (Vintage, $13) Jarring and derivative, director D.J. Caruso and writer Jon Bokenkamp’s loose adaptation of Pye’s 1999 novel keeps only the central conceit of an identity-stealing murderer. The movie pulls its own identity theft, switching Pye’s villain. But the worst blunder? Adding Angelina Jolie as a stereotypically career-driven FBI agent. The Last Word Forget Caruso’s ”Gotcha!” scare tactics; Pye’s frank tone and realistic episodes of violence are far more chilling.

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