A CINDERELLA STORY (PG) With her own convertible, a personal computer and a fancy cell phone, Sam Martin (Hilary Duff) doesn't exactly strike one as the Cinderella type. On the other hand, her father has been killed in an earthquake, and she is forced to serve her evil stepmother and her wicked stepsisters (while also working seven days a week to finance her college tuition). This curiously compromised Cinderella momentarily escapes her troubles via the cyberworld, where she connects with an Internet crush whose mysterious identity leaves her enchanted until she comes to find that her prince isn't as he seems. Tailored in this way to a post-millennium high school setting, A Cinderella Story neglects the fantasy components of the original tale, and Duff's character becomes the stereotype of a not-so-cool girl played upon too many times in recent years. Overtly predictable and dreadfully bland, this movie would be better as an after-school television special than a full-length feature film. Also stars Jennifer Coolidge and Chad Michael Murray.
THE CLEARING (PG-13) A more grownup role for Robert Redford (complete with semi-grownup haircut and an on-screen wife who's roughly his own age), but nothing much else to write home about. Redford plays a successful businessman who's kidnapped by a disgruntled former employee (Willem Dafoe), while Redford's wife and family sit at home trying to keep it together. While not as flashy as something like Memento, the film eventually reveals that its dual his-and-her storylines aren't actually taking place at the same time, a device that provides a few interesting moments but isn't really crucial to what's happening in The Clearing. Redford and Dafoe's characters do a lot of talking out in the woods, and the movie is ultimately more interested in functioning as an engaging character study than in offering up the expected payload of suspense or mystery. The film is carefully crafted and atmospheric, with strong performances from Redford and Helen Mirren, but it's not quite the human drama it wants to be, nor does it really add anything new to the thriller genre. Also stars Matt Craven and Melissa Sagemiller.
COFFEE AND CIGARETTES (R) Filmed over the course of 17 years in between various "real" feature films, Jim Jarmusch's latest project has an even slighter, sketchier feel than most of the director's work. As the title more or less spells out, Coffee and Cigarettes revolves around the finer points of those grand old twin addictions, as seen through a series of minimalist vignettes in which small groups of characters sit around smoking, drinking joe and talking. Even for a Jarmusch film, there's not much going on here, but diehard fans will find some moments of pleasure, and even non-diehards are likely to be impressed by Cate Blanchette's dual performance as a pair of very different cousins. Other highlights include tête-à-têtes between Iggy Pop and Tom Waits, and RZA, GZA and Bill Murray. On the other hand, far too many of the scenes, including the droll interactions between Jack and Meg White (of the White Stripes) and Roberto Benigni and Steven Wright, are real letdowns. Opens July 30 at Tampa Theatre. Call theater to confirm.
THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW (PG-13) Having built a career on destroying the world (by, among other things, aliens in Independence Day and giant lizards in Godzilla), Roland Emmerich is up to his old tricks again. This time, however, we've only got ourselves to blame, as global warming and an out-of-control greenhouse effect create a new Ice Age, making life very difficult for a courageous scientist (Dennis Quaid) and his dreamboat son (Jake Gyllenhaal), not to mention a couple billion bit players. The movie's first hour is a straightforward eco-disaster movie featuring scads of massively proportioned, apocalyptic imagery. The movie's second half prompts more than its share of unintentional laughter, though, with bland heroics, wooden dialogue and every cliche in the book taking center stage. Also stars Ian Holm, Emmy Rossum and Sela Ward.