Short reviews of movies playing throughout the Tampa Bay area

24 Hour Party People (NR) One of the better rock "n' roll movies of the last few decades, and certainly the definitive film about the Manchester music scene of the punk and post-punk era (actually, it's the only one). 24 Hour Party People is a sly, self-mocking ball of pomo energy that should be as much fun and as interesting for the uninitiated as it is for diehards who know everything there is to know about bands like the Buzzcocks and New Order. Mixing archival footage of seminal bands from the "70s and "80s with expertly shot "fake" scenes, the film depicts the rise and fall of a scene that bloomed with the likes of the great Joy Division and then exploded into the empty, self-destructive excess of Happy Mondays and their ilk. Our guide into the fray is real life rock impresario and journalist Tony Wilson (wonderfully played by Steve Coogan) a bastion of droll wit who rightfully tells us, "I'm a minor character in my own story." It's true, in that this isn't a movie about any one character, but rather about a city and the music that it spawned. Director Michael Winterbottom offers proof positive that, from Welcome to Sarajevo to Wonderland to The Claim, this is a man who has never made the same film twice. Also stars Andy Serkis, Shirley Henderson and Sean Harris as a monumentally tortured Ian Curtis. At Channelside. Call theater to confirm.

Austin Powers in Goldmember (PG-13) The least fabulous of all the Powers entries to date but still good, disposable fun. Goldmember is really just a loosely connected series of gags, routines and set pieces (not that the other two movies weren't) with much of the humor coming off as more raunchy and obsessively screwier than ever. Stars Mike Myers, Beyonce Knowles, Michael York and Seth Green.

Australia: Land Beyond Time (PG) The film takes us Down Under to the flattest, driest continent on earth, immerses us in parched, otherworldly landscapes and introduces us to tons of incredibly odd and supremely adaptable animals — from cute koalas and feisty dingoes, to an endless variety of bizarrely shaped lizards, to the amazing and little-understood kangaroo. Animal lovers will want to pounce on this one.

Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (R) What happens when an immovable object meets an unstoppable force? Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu square off as secret agents supremo. Also stars Ray Park.
(Not Reviewed)

The Banger Sisters (R) Susan Sarandon and Goldie Hawn star in this comedy/drama about two former rock groupies and best friends who reunite after 20 years. One has remained a wild woman; the other has turned conservative. Also stars Geoffrey Rush.
(Not reviewed)

Barbershop (PG-13) Ice Cube stars in this mediocre yarn about barbershop camaraderie. Cube (Calvin) is bequeathed the shop by his late father. His desperation leads to dubious means to pay past-due rent. Calvin's employees provide the bulk of amusement with their conflicting personalities. Also stars Cedric the Entertainer, Eve, Sean Patrick Thomas and Michael Ealy.
—Corey Myers

Blue Crush (PG-13) For all its faults, this is one surf movie that takes its cue more from Bruce Brown's Endless Summer than from Baywatch. Offering a glimpse into the lives of a group of young female surfers in Oahu, Blue Crush is a fairly interesting movie when it's just following its characters around. When the film attempts to tell us a story — something about finding love, regaining your confidence and becoming the best darned surfer in the word — it's predictable, shallow and not very good. Stars Kate Bosworth, Michelle Rodriguez, Matthew Davis and Sanoe Lake.

The Bourne Identity (PG-13) Matt Damon plays an amnesiac who also just happens to be a world-class fighter, linguist, escape artist — in fact, he pretty much possesses all the skills of a top-notch spy/sleuth/assassin. Complicating matters is the fact that, even as he tries to reclaim his memory, Damon's being hunted by the ultimate bad guys who appear to be his old bosses — our old pals, the CIA. The Bourne Identity is basically an action movie, but it's an overly murky one that lacks a real sense of urgency or purpose.

Carnival Knowledge (NR) Aspiring filmmakers might take a lesson or two from this self-described "unromantic comedy" from the local writer-director team of Peter Knight and Morgan Klein. Carnival Knowledge is an admirable and, for the most part, effective little film with a number of virtues that belie its less than spectacular budget. The film's somewhat rambling tale of a free-spirited woman (Colleen Porch) balancing simultaneous relationships with two very different types of males owes more than a little to the feature debut of another indie filmmaker you may have heard of — Spike Lee — but that's only a starting point here. Strong performances and some well-written dialogue put an interesting and believable spin on this three-sided affair, and the characters generally come off as appealing even when their behavior is not. Entirely shot on location in the Bay area, the film makes good use of Tampa's natural resources, and production values are surprisingly high. The movie suffers from some of the pitfalls typical of low-budget productions (a generic soundtrack, inconsistent audio) and it has its share of ham-fisted scenes (the last act verges on soap opera), but on the whole, the film satisfies. The title refers to the protagonist's carny roots, a history that provides a steady stream of flashbacks that, while interesting in themselves, wind up feeling contrived and intrusive in the context of the story being told here. Based on the promise of Carnival Knowledge, maybe Knight and Klein might consider giving us a story next time that concentrates exclusively on the carnival subculture, something they seem to know a thing or two about. Also stars David Gail and Bradley Cooper. Held over at Channelside Cinemas in Tampa. Call theater to confirm.

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