Outtakes

Short reviews of movies playing throughout the Tampa Bay area.

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FAR FROM HEAVEN (PG-13) Todd Haynes' loving and exquisitely crafted homage to the 1950s melodramas of Douglas Sirk is set in white suburban American circa 1957, an easy target if ever there was one. The heroine of this remarkable neo-tearjerker is Cathy Whitaker (beautifully played by Julianne Moore), a model housewife whose world crumbles when her marriage to local businessman Frank (Dennis Quaid) turns out to be not nearly as perfect as she imagined. Style reigns supreme in this drop-dead gorgeous, designer's dream of a movie, which emulates the Technicolor look of 1950s films so perfectly that its saturated hues take on an intensity bordering on the psychedelic. Haynes' movie is clearly a film buff's dream, but it's no mere exercise in style. There's a real story here, and Haynes uses the movie's formidable style to make connections between what was going on in America in the middle of the last century (but couldn't always be talked about) and what's happening here and now. Haynes isn't interested in poking fun at the classic form of melodrama so much as he wants to honor it and then massage it into some extended version of itself, one capable of addressing uniquely modern concerns. Also stars Dennis Haysbert. 1/2

FINAL DESTINATION 2 (R) In this sequel to the psychological thriller that attempts to dispel the myth of accidental death, the premise remains the same. Death, shrouded in mystique, determines everyone's expiration date. When the timeline of fate is disrupted, reverberations of wanton tragedy follow. The plot flows well but obviously cannot be taken too seriously. The film relies on death's cruel and gory manifestations to yield cheap thrills. Stars Ali Larter, A.J. Cook, Michael Landes. 1/2 —Corey Myers

FRIDA (R) A long-gestating dream project of many (including its star, Salma Hayek), Frida is a competently made but not particularly remarkable film that falls victim to many of the problems commonly associated with bio-pics. The film is true to its life of its subject — the great mono-browed Mexican painter Frida Kahlo — and director Julie Taymor (Titus) makes herself subservient to the material, often to the point of invisibility. The result isn't bad so much as it's an overly restrained and disappointingly conventional affair. The main focus is on Frida's long, passionate and extremely complicated relationship with the painter Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina). Both were fascinating people, but the script's handling of their relationship becomes predictable. Also stars Geoffrey Rush, Ashley Judd and Ed Norton. Now playing at Burns Court Cinema, Sarasota. Call theater to confirm.

GANGS OF NEW YORK (R) Martin Scorsese's enormously ambitious new film about mid-1800s blood feuds and power struggles is a huge, magnificently sprawling thing that manifests all the power and resonance of classical myth. The movie's focus is the love-hate relationship between the characters played by Daniel Day-Lewis and Leonardo DiCaprio, but Scorsese constantly layers his cinematic mural with additional characters, historical nuances and stories-within-stories. Gangs of New York is certainly History Writ Large, but the bulk of it is as accessible as anything this director's ever done. The movie is big, bloody, ornate, passionate and full of over-the-top emotions, like a grand opera reimagined as a really cool comic book. Also stars Cameron Diaz.

THE GURU (R) Party Girl director Daisy Von Scherler Mayer has removed any sliver of her previous offbeat charm from this trite story of trendy New Yorkers who glom onto a struggling Indian actor (Jimi Mistry) masquerading as a spiritual leader and "Guru of Sex." Heather Graham returns to familiar territory as a sweet porn star who advises the New Age swami in this fluffy romantic comedy with a rank center. —Felicia Feaster

A GUY THING (PG-13) Paul (Jason Lee) is slated to get married in a week when he wakes up after his bachelor party to find a strange girl named Becky (Julia Stiles) in his bed. Desperate to make sure that his fiancee, Karen, played by Selma Blair, doesn't find out, Paul begins telling fib upon fib to save his impending nuptials. The film's main problem is that it's difficult to see Jason Lee as anyone other than himself on screen. Blair, on the other hand, slips easily into the role of the perfect if dispassionate bride-to-be, while Stiles plays the cool and quirky Becky well enough. Also stars James Brolin. —Ana Lopez

HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS (PG-13) Julia Roberts had her Pretty Woman. Sandra Bullock had her While You Were Sleeping. If her film becomes a box office hit, Kate Hudson will have her How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days to turn her into America's latest A-list sweetheart. Yes, she received an Oscar nomination for Almost Famous, but there's always been something a little unformed about Hudson, who has repeatedly failed to locate the same sort of sparkle that propelled mom Goldie Hawn to stardom back in the late '60s. But this one marks the first time that Hudson has been able to truly command the screen: She's utterly winning as a women's magazine columnist who, for the sake of a story on what females shouldn't do when dating, hooks up with a guy with the intent of driving him away within ... well, check the film's title. She settles on a slick ad man (Matthew McConaughey, easier to take than usual), unaware that he's made a bet that he can get any woman to fall in love with him within the same time period. For a film that wallows in the usual male-female stereotypes, this one's surprisingly light on its feet, thanks in no small part to its well-matched leads. Alas, the third act follows the exact pattern as almost every other romantic comedy made today (most recently Two Weeks Notice and Maid In Manhattan): The deceptions become unearthed, the pair break up, some soul searching takes place, and bliss arrives after a madcap chase. Leave before this excruciating finale and you should have an OK time. 1/2

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