Short reviews of movies playing throughout the Tampa Bay area.

click to enlarge BEFORE SUNSET - Emilie de la Hosseraye
Emilie de la Hosseraye

THE ADVENTURES OF OCIEE NASH (G) A family-friendly period drama set in 1898, focusing on a 9-year-old tomboy sent to live with her refined relatives in North Carolina. Stars Skyler Day, Keith Carradine and Mare Winningham. (Not Reviewed)

ANCHORMAN (PG-13) While it's not as smoothly, consistently entertaining as Elf, Will Ferrell's breakout movie, Anchorman specializes in an aggressively odd brand of humor that showcases the edgier side of Ferrell's comedic talents and takes more risks. The results are mixed: there's a noticeable amount of dead air and jokes that go nowhere, for sure — but the highs, when they come, are substantially higher, too. The movie is set in a San Diego TV newsroom in the 1970s, where popular but clueless anchor Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) becomes drawn into the war of the sexes when pretty but uncommonly capable Christina Applegate enters the picture. There's a solid running commentary bubbling under the surface about what happened when feminism first began creeping into the American workplace, but the movie is really anything but serious. Most of Anchorman plays out like a series of Ferrell's stranger skits from his Saturday Night Live years, with the scattershot non sequiturs eventually giving way to a crescendo of fabulously over-the-top (and gratuitous) parodies of fight scenes. Lots of amusing cameos here too, including Vince Vaughan, Tim Robbins and Jack Black, who is given the honor of lethally punting a pooch. Also stars Paul Rudd, David Koechner and Fred Willard. 1/2

BEFORE SUNSET (NR) Richard Linklater's wonderful sequel to his 1995 Before Sunrise is basically just two people talking to each other, presented in something very close to real-time. But what's said and what happens in the course of that 80-minute conversation should be of interest to almost anyone who is remotely curious about human beings and how they relate to each other, especially in matters of the heart. Before Sunrise was a film about a boy and a girl meeting and making a connection one night in a beautiful, faraway city. Celene (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) were strangers on a train who came together for a one-night stand of conversation, confessions and romance, then parted ways with a vow to meet again six months hence. Before Sunset catches up with those same two people, nine years later, as they meet, more or less by chance, in a bookstore in Paris. What ensues is a veritable talkfest between two hyper-articulate individuals who have a lot to say to one another, as well as a walking tour of Paris in the fall (and it doesn't get much better than that). The verbal dance between the characters is beautifully played by Hawke and Delpy (who helped write their own dialogue), and the movie manages to thrill us by throwing into our faces most of our expectations about what we think a film should be.

THE BOURNE SUPREMACY (PG-13) Matt Damon, who's beginning to resemble a younger, buffer Al Franken, returns as the memory-challenged assassin from The Bourne Identity. The plot here is fairly standard stuff — Damon's character is framed, resulting in a movie-length series of chases in assorted cities around the world — but the material is directed by Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday) with frenetic energy and a taut precision that maximizes suspense. Cinematographer Oliver Wood applies an almost exclusively handheld technique, his camera nearly always in motion, lending the proceedings a tougher, edgier momentum than is usually found in action thrillers like this. The film has loads of texture and almost no flab, not to mention some of the best chase scenes (specifically car chases) that you'll ever see on a movie screen. Also stars Joan Allen, Brian Cox and Julia Stiles. Opens July 30 at local theaters. 1/2

CATWOMAN (PG-13) Halle Berry risks career suicide, donning a strategically ripped full-leather outfit and slinking around in what might well be the worst movie of the summer. Before putting on the stupid duds, Berry's character learns of a dastardly cover-up at a cosmetics company, and then becomes transformed (by a mystical Egyptian cat — don't ask) into the super-powered titular hero. Or is it villain? Catwoman is such a confused mess that it's hard to tell. The movie looks good, in a slick, gratuitously showy way, but the script, while utterly formulaic, is full of disjointed and downright jarring elements that don't mesh, with a cumulative effect that's shallow, silly and too annoying to really qualify as fun. Also stars Benjamin Bratt, Alex Borstein and Sharon Stone. Opens July 30 at local theaters.

THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK (PG-13) A sequel of sorts to Pitch Black, in which Vin Diesel's self-serving, intergalactic bad-ass Riddick returns to find himself pitted against the Negromongers, a group of death-worshiping religious warriors going from planet to planet demanding "Convert or Die." Director David Twohy (The Arrival) might be offering up some thinly veiled allusion to the ongoing Islamist problem (or maybe he's just riffing on the Borg), but the movie has New Testament connections too, with Diesel's character eventually being set up as some sort of reluctant Messianic figure. All of this is just window dressing, however, for the movie's incessant action scenes, fights, chases and explosions, not to mention the non-stop digital effects, and sets and costumes directly lifted from David Lynch's Dune. Also stars Colm Feore, Judi Dench, Thandie Newton and Alexa Davalos.

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