Outtakes

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TRANSAMERICA (R) Felicity Huffman, who just snagged a well-deserved Golden Globe for her performance here, is the main reason to see Transamerica, but the rest of the film isn't too shabby either. Huffman stars as a woman trapped in the body of a man, and whose long-awaited sex change surgery is put on hold when a troubled teenaged son (Kevin Zegers) appears out of the blue and demands rescuing. Father/mother and son pack up their belongings into a beat-up car and head for the coast, as Transamerica becomes an episodic and pleasantly eccentric road movie (is there any other kind?) in which the characters eventually reveal themselves to each other. The film strains a bit to work out the correct balance of sweet and sour, and nothing in the movie even begins to measure up to Huffman's tour-de-force performance, but Transamerica is a trip well worth taking, filled with moments both whimsical and penetrating. Also stars Graham Greene and Fionnula Flanagan. 3.5 stars

TRISTRAM SHANDY: A COCK AND BULL STORY (R) From the politically charged noir of Welcome to Sarajevo to the pop culture craziness of 24 Hour Party People to the pornographic mood swings of 9 Songs, director Michael Winterbottom is a prolific artist who never seems to be in the same place twice. His latest celluloid experiment, Tristram Shandy, sounds audacious even by Winterbottom's standards — a meta-adaptation/deconstruction of a landmark 18th-century novel that's been declared unfilmable by almost everyone who's bothered to read it. Steve Coogan stars (reportedly in numerous roles), along with Elizabeth Berrington, Gillian Anderson and Rob Brydon. Showing at Burns Court Cinemas in Sarasota. Call to confirm. (Not Reviewed)

V FOR VENDETTA (PG-13) Taking the political flirtations of movies like Syriana and The War Within one giant leap forward (or backward, depending on your perspective), V For Vendetta gives us a bona fide hero who is also a bona fide terrorist. His cause is a just one (overthrowing a tyrannical dictatorship), and he's one of us (freedom-loving Westerners) as opposed to one of them (dogma-toting jihadists), but V For Vendetta still means to have us pumping our fists in support of the symbolic power of blowing up landmark buildings. There are some marvelous bits and pieces here, but what you're more likely to remember are the swathes of poorly paced storytelling and pompous speeches replete with simple-minded politics. By the time V's final credits roll to the tune of the Stones' Street Fighting Man, the whole thing may seem about as convincing as the notion of Sir Mick the revolutionary. The film moves forward and backwards simultaneously, chronicling the rise of a fascist, post-apocalyptic Britain, the armed struggle of the masked insurrectionist V (Hugo Weaving), and the gradual consciousness-raising of V's young cohort Evey (Natalie Portman). Portman's performance here isn't one of her best (the English accent is iffy) while Weaving struggles to engage the audience while wearing a mask the entire time, and the chemistry between the two is minimal. Still, the couple's peculiar love connection does have a certain kitschy appeal, if only in a Phantom of the Opera/English Patient sort of way. It's not much, but it's enough to keep us interested while we're waiting for the next building to explode. Also stars Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry and John Hurt. 3 stars

WALK THE LINE (PG-13) Walk the Line is an engaging, star-studded production that gives us a more or less accurate accounting of Johnny Cash's life. The movie follows Cash's rise to stardom in the '50s and his subsequent fall, duly noting the marital problems, the drug problems, the inevitable cold turkey turn-around and the eventual comeback. The film is a little too concerned, though, with creating an overly tidy arc out of the events of Cash's life, and there's little here of the epic scope of Ray, no real sense of why Cash was important. Joaquin Phoenix does a serviceable job evoking Cash's physical presence, and Reese Witherspoon's perky Carter is a lot of fun to watch (and fun to listen to; she's a surprisingly strong country singer) — but, frankly, this couple could be almost any pair of innocuously attractive lovebirds. 3 stars

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