Upcoming Releases

HOUSE OF SAND (R) Told over a span of nearly six decades, this curiously dreamlike, unabashedly poetic import obliquely chronicles the survival strategies of three generations of mothers and daughters navigating the hostile deserts of Northern Brazil. Real life mother and daughter Fernanda Montenegro and Fernanda Torres assume those roles on screen and then trade those positions back and forth as the film progresses across the years, positing an oddly mesmerizing meditation on aging, the relationship between humankind and nature, and the cycles of life. Inspired by the legendary arthouse classic Woman in the Dunes, House of Sand tackles some monumental, enormously complex themes in a manner that is starkly minimalist and often nearly wordless. The film is long and very slow and sometimes seems to flirt with pretentiousness, but director Andrucha Waddington also supplies us with a steady stream of passages of terrifying beauty. This is tough stuff, by which I mean to say it's the sort of uncompromised artistic vision that's all too rarely seen on screen these days. Also stars Ray Guerra, Seu Jorge and Luiz Melodia. Opens Oct. 20 at Tampa Theatre. Call theater to confirm. 4 stars

THE PRESTIGE (PG-13) The story sounds a bit dopey but with credentials like these, who cares? Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Begins) directs Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman as rival magicians engaged in a battle to see who's top dog in turn-of-the-century London. Also stars Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson and David Bowie. Opens Oct. 20 at local theaters. (Not Reviewed)


ALL THE KING'S MEN (PG-13) Sean Penn is phenomenal, but just about everything else is wrong in All the Kings Men. Penn stars as Willie Stark (a thinly veiled stand-in for legendary Louisiana Governor Huey P. Long), a well-meaning but shrewd populist who connects with his fellow "redneck hicks," largely through the power of passionate oratory, to the point where he achieves something approaching absolute power and is in turn corrupted absolutely. The film's problems begin and end with its actors, an ensemble that looks great on paper, but that is, almost to an individual, horribly miscast. Three of the movie's prime roles go to Brits (Jude Law, Kate Winslet and Anthony Hopkins) and their attempts at Southern American accents are dubious at best, abominable at worst (Hopkins doesn't even appear to be going through the motions). Stars Sean Penn, Jude Law, James Gandolfini, Kate Winslet, Anthony Hopkins, Patricia Clarkson and Mark Ruffalo. 2 stars

THE BLACK DAHLIA (R) A lush homage to all things noir, De Palma's film takes as its springboard James Ellroy's fictionalized account of one of L.A.'s most famous unsolved crimes — the grisly 1947 murder of aspiring actress Elizabeth "Betty" Short — and then proceeds to pump up the darkness to nearly operatic proportions. The Black Dahlia unfolds in an opulently decadent, morally cracked L.A. At the center of the movie is a triangle consisting of the two investigating homicide detectives — a pair of former boxers nicknamed "Fire" and "Ice" (Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart) — and the beautiful hooker-turned-homemaker (Scarlett Johansson) who is their mutual object of desire. The movie practically disappears in its own frantic convolutions by the end, but it hardly matters. De Palma is in top form here, with several brilliantly choreographed set pieces establishing the tone, and a monochromatic palette (by master cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond) that's about as close as a color film can get to black-and-white. Stars Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank and Mia Kirshner. 3.5 stars

CLERKS II (R) While it doesn't pack the fresh creative punch Kevin Smith's original low-budget classic, Clerks II is still a reasonably funny follow-up to a movie that was pretty darn good standing all on its own. Picking up more than a decade after Clerks, the movie opens with sardonic store clerk Dante Hicks (Brian O'Halloran) discovering that the Quick Stop where he works has met a most unfortunate end. All this is punctuated by the wall-leaning antics of Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith), who are still dealing drugs but loving Jesus and practicing sobriety in the midst of various entertaining dance sequences, the best being a Silence of the Lambs homage that you really have to see to appreciate. Also stars Rosario Dawson and Trever Fehrmann. 3.5 stars —Leilani Polk

EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH (PG-13) A slacker (Dane Cook) barely working at a Wal-Mart-like megastore has the hots for the cute new employee who looks a lot like Jessica Simpson (Jessica Simpson). The catch is that he's been told she'll only date guys who win the store's coveted "Employee of the Month" award, causing radical changes in slacker-boy's behavior. Also stars Andy Dick, Dax Shepard and Efren Ramirez. Opens Oct. 6 at local theaters. (Not Reviewed)

EVERYONE'S HERO (G) Although it's mostly significant for being the final project of the late Christopher Reeve, Everyone's Hero offers amusing, non-threatening fun that will primarily be appreciated by kids young enough to think Home Alone is the funniest thing on the planet. The titular hero is none other than Babe Ruth himself (voiced by Brian Dennehy), and the film recounts the efforts of a plucky young 10-year-old (Jake T. Austin) to recover and return the Babe's beloved, recently stolen bat. This being an animated children's movie, it turns out that the famous bat can talk, as can a stray baseball the kid finds along the way, and the threesome (boy, bat and ball) soon become fast friends and teach one other valuable life lessons — in between shenanigans. The movie gets away with its anachronistically wholesome, ultra-idealistic feel by setting itself in a kinder, gentler America of the 1930s (where even the bums are apparently cute, clean and well-fed), and the humor here, though frequently physical in nature, is similarly less aggressive and irreverent than what we're used to in our kids' movies these days. You could do worse. Also featuring the voices of William H. Macy, Rob Reiner, Raven-Symone and Whoopi Goldberg. 3 stars

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