Short reviews of movies playing throughout the Tampa Bay area.

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OUT OF TIME (PG-13) Carl Franklin's slick, moderately engaging thriller stars Denzel Washington as a small-town police chief racing against the clock to vindicate himself when he becomes the primary suspect in a murder investigation. The convoluted plot twists fall thick and fast, beginning with the fact that the female detective hot on Washington's trail is none other than his soon-to-be ex-wife. Everything falls into place a little too neatly, though, and most of the characters don't exactly display much depth, but the whole thing's entertaining enough, in its way, and the Florida locations are nicely photographed. Also stars Eva Mendes and Dean Cain.

PIECES OF APRIL (PG-13) The setup is simple and oft-told — black sheep daughter invites the family over for Thanksgiving dinner, mayhem ensues — but the specialized indie treatment allows the movie to transcend (or at least sidestep) the more obvious trappings of formula. The film's DV-shot look is intimate, and its humor is gently effective, mostly revolving around the absurdity of people trying to be what they aren't or doing what doesn't come naturally. Punkette April (Katie Holmes) tries to be domestic, her crackpot family tries to act "normal," and the potential for disaster is immense and frequently very funny. Writer-director Peter Hedges displays much of the same quirky charm he did in his scripts for About a Boy and What's Eating Gilbert Grape, resulting in a small story that manages to find something sweetly amusing in what might otherwise have been predictable or cloying. Also stars Patricia Clarkson, Derek Luke, and Oliver Platt. 1/2

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN (PG-13) The story here isn't much more than you'd expect from a theme park ride turned big screen blockbuster, but so what? The real reason to see Pirates of the Caribbean is Johnny Depp, who's a total gas-gas-gas as the Keith Richards-inspired rock "n' roll pirate Jack Sparrow. Geoffrey Rush is no slouch either as the scenery-chewing leader of a pack of zombie pirates straight out of an old Scooby Doo cartoon. The rest of the movie basically amounts to a skillful and modestly engaging blend of battle scenes and comedy (with just a sprinkling of romance and horror thrown in), all given a nice spit-and-polish thanks to director Gore Verbinski's usual high production values. Also stars Keira Knightley. 1/2

RADIO (PG) Apparently pitched very much in the same territory as The Rookie, this feel-good tale combines sports, soap opera and nostalgia for the kinder, gentler ways of small-town America, circa anytime but now. The same guy who wrote The Rookie supplied the story, in fact, which is based on the actual life of a mentally challenged man whose eternal optimism inspires the local high school football team. Stars Cuba Gooding, Ed Harris and Debra Winger. (Not Reviewed)

RUNAWAY JURY (PG-13) If Runaway Jury is remembered at all, it will be as the movie where longtime screen icons Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman finally appeared on screen together for the first time. Other than that, the film is competent and reasonably entertaining fare, but a far cry from remarkable. Hackman is the movie's heavy, an all-seeing but utterly amoral analyst (polite code for jury tamperer), for hire to the highest bidder — which in the case of the high-profile trial he's currently trying to sway, happens to be the gun industry. Hackman's counterpart is Dustin Hoffman, who plays a highly principled and incorruptible (no laughing now) lawyer trying to make the gun industry pay for years of getting away with murder. Hoffman must really believe in the movie's anti-gun message or must have received a truly staggering paycheck for his performance here (possibly both), because it's hard to fathom otherwise why he took on such a bland, underwritten role. The story — a series of trial-related double and triple crosses — is engaging enough and sometimes even modestly exciting, but almost never particularly memorable. Another classic empty-calorie thriller based on a John Grisham book. Also stars John Cusack and Rachel Weisz.

THE RUNDOWN (PG-13) A mission to rescue a wacky rich kid plops a "retrieval expert" (celebrity beefcake The Rock) in the middle of a mess involving a jungle dictator (Christopher Walken), a nefarious master plan, a bunch of sex-crazed monkeys and a very hot local (Rosario Dawson). Also stars Sean William Scott. (Not Reviewed)

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