CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN 2 (PG-13) So what is this, like the third movie in as many weeks about the trials and tribulations of families too big for their own good? This one's a sequel to the 2003 comedy, featuring Steve Martin as the head of a massive brood who find themselves squaring off against another family almost as large as theirs while on vacation. Also stars Bonnie Hunt, Hilary Duff, Eugene Levy, Piper Perabo and Tom Welling. Opens Dec. 21 at local theaters. (Not Reviewed)
FUN WITH DICK AND JANE (PG-13) A sad and pointless remake of the 1977 George Segal/Jane Fonda comedy about nice middle-class folks reduced to robbery when the economy crashes. The original was no great shakes itself, but the 2005 version is a chore to sit through, as well as a terrible waste of two good performers, Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni, neither of whom has ever been less funny (at least in a movie that's nominally a comedy). The first half of the film joylessly details the couple's descent into fiscal hell (culminating in scenes of self-mutilation played for laughs), while the second half features a series of painfully unfunny slapstick robberies and brazenly unsubtle satires of corporate greed. Unpleasant and depressing stuff recast as comedy for America's New Dark Ages. Also stars Alec Baldwin and Jeff Garlin. Opens Dec. 21 at local theaters. 1.5 stars.
RUMOR HAS IT (PG-13) Rob Reiner produces another romantic comedy with a moderately witty storyline. Jennifer Aniston stars as Sarah Huttinger, an obituary writer and emotionally distraught bride-to-be who learns that her family was the inspiration for the novel and film The Graduate. After certain parental possibilities come to light, she goes searching for Beau Burroughs, an ex-lover of her deceased mother and living grandmother (played by none other than Shirley MacLaine). After meeting Burroughs (Kevin Costner) and finding out he is not the man he could have been, Sarah's confusion grows while she finds herself lodged between an ironic attraction to this older man and engagement to her fiancé, Jeff (Mark Ruffalo). Despite a promising start and sporadically hilarious moments, a rushed conclusion makes Rumor Has It merely average. Opens Dec. 25 in local theaters. 2.5 stars.
AEON FLUX (PG-13) Based on the popular MTV animated series of the '90s, Aeon Flux takes us 400 years into the future to the last city on Earth. Charlize Theron, making her debut in the sci-fi action genre, stars as an underground operative leading the rebels against totalitarian rule of a seemingly perfect society. Also stars Martin Csokas, Jonny Lee Miller and Frances McDormand. (Not Reviewed)
BEE SEASON (PG-13) With a big tip of the hat to La Dolce Vita's famous opening of a Jesus statue flying over Rome, Bee Season begins with a helicopter transporting a huge letter "A" through the air. It's a perfect introduction to a movie about the power of letters and words, among other things, and about how individuals and families are transformed by the distances between words. Bee Season, which is the new film from Scott McGehee and David Siegel (Suture, The Deep End), is a very curious, vaguely cerebral drama about a household in crisis when sixth grader Eliza (Flora Cross) turns out to be a total savant in the area of spelling, causing her academically minded, control freak dad (Richard Gere), a religious studies professor, to begin instructing her in the ways of Kabbalah in order to maximize her gift. Meanwhile, Gere's son (Max Minghella) is getting cozy with the Hare Krishnas on the sly, and mom (Juliette Binoche) is slipping out at night to indulge in a few deep, dark secrets of her own. The basic form here is pure soap, but with flashes of oddly shaped substance and a sprinkling of mysticism that, while it doesn't quite mesh with the rest of the material, is fascinating all on its own. Buying Gere as a Jewish scholar, on the other hand, is a stretch no one should be required to attempt. Also stars Kate Bosworth. Currently at the Beach Theatre in St. Pete Beach. Call to confirm. 3 stars.
CAPOTE (R) Anyone who has read In Cold Blood or seen the 1967 movie version will be basically familiar with the raw material here — a pair of drifters reveal themselves to a reporter while awaiting execution for the senseless slaughter of a Kansas family — but Capote yanks the focus away from the killers and puts it squarely on the writer and his process. That writer is Truman Capote, portrayed by Philip Seymour Hoffman in a performance that gives us traces of all the Capotes that we think we know — the narcissistic dandy, the sensitive artist, the twee fop with the whiney baby voice, the literary powerhouse — and fuses them all into a character too complex and human to be pigeonholed by any of those descriptions. Also stars Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins Jr and Chris Cooper. 4.5 stars.