Short reviews of movies playing throughout the Tampa Bay area

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BORN INTO BROTHELS (NR) Academy Award-winning documentary about the children of Calcutta prostitutes and the efforts of filmmaker Zana Briski to get the kids out of their Red Light Hell and into some better place. Briski, a photojournalist by trade, equips the children with simple point-and-shoot cameras, teaches them the basics of photography, and we watch as the budding young artists use their newfound ability to document their world as a means of rising above it. It's a fascinating process, all captured in this film, and even though it's a foregone conclusion that not all of the kids will be somehow magically empowered (their environment is simply too overwhelming and too awful for that to happen), there's a substantial amount of hopefulness to be found in Born Into Brothels. Briski is nothing if not a dedicated humanitarian, so much so that the film suffers a bit by having the filmmaker inject so much of herself into the proceedings (by necessity, some might argue), but there's no denying that this is finally the kids' show all the way. It's also, at root, a moving testimony to the transformative power of art. Co-directed by Ross Kauffman. 1/2

THE BOYS AND GIRL OF COUNTY CLARE (NR) Colm Meaney and Bernard Hill deliver strong performances as a pair of estranged Irish brothers who meet after 20 years to face off in a national music competition. Fans of Irish ceili music will find much of interest here, and there are more than a few moments of grand local color and fine Irish charm. The film itself is a mixed bag, though, with a steady infusion of foul language and some graphic gross-out humor (notably, a scene involving vomit and dentures), making it a little difficult to take the sweet-natured whimsy all that seriously. The movie begins in fine style, with some amusingly drawn characters engaging in various bits of drollery and borderline slapstick, but The Boys and Girl of County Clare eventually bogs down in soap, as the film's various familial tensions, secrets and lies boil over into the predictable. Also stars Andrea Corr and Charlotte Bradley.

DEAR FRANKIE (PG-13) Emily Mortimer stars as a young Scottish woman on the run from an abusive husband and distraught over having to pretend to her deaf 9-year-old son, Frankie (Jack McElhone), that his M.I.A. dad's a heroic naval officer perpetually away at sea. When Frankie notices that dad's ship has docked in their town, Mortimer resorts to hiring a handsome stranger to play the paternal part, and, from there, sparks fly in all the expected directions. Dear Frankie boasts some strong performances (particularly from Mortimer) and handsome cinematography, but that doesn't quite compensate for the predictable plotting, sappy soundtrack or general air of shameless sentimentality. Also stars Gerald Butler, Sharon Small and Mary Riggans.

DUST TO GLORY (NR) With his acclaimed surfing documentary Step into Liquid, and now this look at off-track racing, filmmaker Dana Brown seems to be positioning himself as the American cinema's resident chronicler of extreme sports, if not its poet laureate. Dust To Glory introduces us to the Baja 1000, an annual competition in which dune buggies, dirt bikes, monster trucks and anything else that moves take it to the limit along a long, treacherous desert track. The movie was reportedly shot with small, lightweight digital cameras in order to get right in there with the drivers and really pump up the sense of speed and danger. For anyone suffering from motion sickness: Caveat Emptor. Featuring Mario Andretti, Rick Johnson and Mike McCoy. (Not Reviewed)

FEVER PITCH (PG-13) Without looking at the credits of Fever Pitch, you'd probably never know this was directed by gross-out kings Bobby and Peter Farrelly (There's Something about Mary, Kingpin, et al). There are a handful of gags involving Farrellian fave topics like vomit and testicles, but this is otherwise a surprisingly conventional and sweet-natured romantic comedy, all but devoid of the shock tactics, low humor and high concepts of most of the brothers' output. Former SNL funnyman Jimmy Fallon stars as a mild-mannered Boston schoolteacher, whose seasonal transformation into a rabid Red Sox fan threatens his budding relationship with a pretty young professional (Drew Barrymore). It's all fairly predictable stuff but it goes down fairly easy, thanks largely to some brisk direction by the Farrellys, who imbue the proceedings with their typical respect for working class authenticity and pepper the script with just enough clever dialogue and amusing jokes. The main problem here is Fallon, who's far better than he was in Taxi but still looks like someone who simply can't carry a movie. Fallon is both funny and likeable in Fever Pitch, but with such a limited emotional range and so lacking in depth that it's hard to believe anything we watch him going through. Also stars Jason Spevack, Jack Kehler and Ione Skye. 1/2

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