Short reviews of movies playing throughout the Tampa Bay area



ALFIE (R) Jude Law stars in this slick but pointless remake of the 1966 Michael Caine star-maker about a womanizing, commitment-phobic cad. Behavior that seemed shocking and provocative on a movie screen nearly four decades ago, however, now simply seems a bit inane and even creepy, and this new version of Alfie can't quite figure out what to do with its eponymous hero or how to feel about him. Law's character spends most of the movie yakking directly to the camera, endlessly re-stating versions of his personal philosophy ("It's all about FBB — face, boobs, buns)" and flitting from one woman to the next. Similarly, the movie flits from one Big Emotion to the next, starting out as a zippy and gleefully superficial ode to a superficial sex addict, and then executing some wild mood swings into unreservedly maudlin territory before swinging back again. The action's been transplanted from swinging '60s London to contemporary Manhattan, but otherwise the movie acts as if feminism, AIDS or even the notion of political correctness had never happened. Even during those moments when Law's character begins expressing something resembling remorse or the rudimentary stirrings of a conscience, the movie's not sharp enough to point out the multiple ironies implicit in the sadness. Marisa Tomei is very good here as one of Alfie's conquests, and there's a nice scene involving Susan Sarandon (another conquest) and some absinthe, but otherwise don't waste your time. Also stars Omar Epps, Nia Long and Sienna Miller. Opens Nov 5 at local theaters.

AROUND THE BEND (R) Just in time for Halloween comes the inaugural film from writer/director Jordan Roberts. It's about spooky skeletons — no, not the ambulatory remains of the dead — the kind that reside in proverbial closets. This type of skeleton waits for a prime opportunity to emerge and reveal discomforting, fundamental truths about its owner, spawning films with pathos-invoking plots and soul-searching characters. That Christopher Walken fills a primary role in this movie should make it just a smidge creepier. Also stars Michael Caine and Josh Lucas. Opens Nov. 5 at local theaters. Call to confirm. (Not Reviewed)

BONJOUR MONSIEUR SHLOMI (NR) A quirky, colorful and charming coming-of-age tale from Israel that manages to amuse despite an occasional penchant for over-sentimentalizing its characters. Oshri Cohen stars as Shlomi, a doe-eyed teen who serves as principal caregiver to his wacky and barely functional Moroccan-Jewish family. Shlomi stoically accepts his lot in life, plugging ahead with a dreamy stare and zipped lips that lead most people to assume he's borderline retarded. In actuality, the boy turns out to be gifted in all sorts of surprising ways, and although that turn of events is handled in a fairly interesting and entertaining way, the movie's message (warning of the dangers of judging books by covers) is a bit too predictable to have much impact. Also stars Esti Zakhelm, Yigal Naor and Arie Ellias. Opens Nov. 5 at Sunrise Cinemas. Call to confirm. 1/2

BROADWAY: THE GOLDEN AGE Director Rich McKay traveled across five continents during the production of this documentary that is both a celebration of and tribute to Broadway stars and productions past and present. Opens Nov. 5 at Burns Court Cinemas. Call to confirm. (Not Reviewed)

STAGE BEAUTY (R) Billy Crudup stars in this adaptation of the play Compleat Female Stage Beauty, a true tale of two actors in 17th-century London whose careers are forever changed when women are finally accepted as actors on the British stage. Also stars Rupert Everett, Tom Wilkinson, Ben Chaplin and Claire Danes. Opens Nov. 5 at local theaters. Call to confirm. (Not Reviewed)


BIRTH (R) Ponderously artsy and turgid almost beyond belief, Birth is a very beautiful and very boring movie that can't make up its mind whether it's a psychological thriller, a bizarre love story or some big, fat, metaphysical statement on the nature of the universe. Nicole Kidman stars as an upper-crusty Manhattanite whose seams begin cracking when a 10-year-old boy (Cameron Bright) shows up at her door claiming to be the reincarnation of her dead husband. The mood is heavy and the pensive characters speak in terse, dense, oddly balanced cadences that seem lifted from a mid-'60s Ingmar Bergman film — or, more specifically, from Woody Allen doing Bergman. The whole thing frequently borders on unintentional parody, an investigation of spiritual dread on the Upper West Side a la Allen's Interiors, where every character's request to pass the salt is supposed to be charged with enigma. Birth is elegantly shot and lushly scored, but the movie doesn't seem half as meaningful as it wants us to believe, and could certainly have benefited by allowing a glimmer of humor to poke through on occasion. The film is a radical and not particularly satisfying change of pace and direction from Jonathan Glazer, director of the ferociously energetic Sexy Beast. Also stars Danny Huston, Anne Heche and Lauren Bacall.


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