Recently reviewed movies

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FAILURE TO LAUNCH (PG-13) Surprisingly quirky, this flick rides the wave of your basic romantic comedy, but with exciting and unexpected twists. While Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker play familiar roles — Matthew as the hot, laid-back leading man content with living at home forever, Sarah as the sexy leading lady hired on by his folks to get him out — the supporting actors, namely Zooey Deschanel, Terry Bradshaw and Kathy Bates, are luminous. There are a few Ben Stiller-esque moments of physical comedy and one too many shots of middle-aged male ass, but overall, it's a fun movie. Opens in local theaters March 10. 3 stars Erin Rashbaum

THE HILLS HAVE EYES (R) Alexander Aja, the French filmmaker who some would argue deconstructed the slasher flick with High Tension, takes a stab at remaking the granddaddy of the genre, Wes Craven's 1977 love letter to inbred mutant cannibalistic families. The big questions here are how straight Aja will play things this time, and whether the French-speaking director is up to dealing with a cast of English-speaking actors. Stars Aaron Stanford, Vinessa Shaw, Kathleen Quinlan and Emilie de Ravin. Opens March 10 at local theaters. (Not Reviewed)

THE LIBERTINE (R) There's less shagging and more bragging about shagging going on in the not-nearly-as-naughty-as-it-wants-to-be The Libertine, but there's still plenty of bad behavior to go around. Johnny Depp stars as the defiantly degenerate title character, a jaded aristocrat prancing about 17th-century London in wig and frilly clothes, drinking, whoring, blaspheming and generally just indulging in excess of every form. There's far too little life in the characters' mannered actions and silver-tongued soliloquies, however, so the film basically winds up feeling like a freak show in fancy dress, much of it photographed in a nervous, Dogme-esque style that's too contrived to hold our interest. Depp is worth watching, as usual, but the story's flaws get the better of him, particularly when his character undergoes an utterly unconvincing transformation and falls in love with an aspiring actress (Samantha Morton). From there it's a short, predictable trip to heartbreak, disillusionment and syphilitic madness. Michael Nyman contributes another lovely, minimalist score that strives to give an air of significance to the film's seedy doings, but can't quite manage. Also stars John Malkovich and Rosamund Pike. Opens March 10 at Sunrise Cinemas in Tampa. Call to confirm. 2.5 stars

THE SHAGGY DOG (PG) A lot of people will tell you that Tim Allen has been going to the dogs for some time now, so it's only fitting that he finally gets a chance to prove it in style. Allen stars as a canine-phobic family man who morphs into a big shaggy sheepdog in this remake of Disney's much-admired 1959 comedy-adventure. The movie's copious special effects seem ripe for a CGI updating, and the remake may have another secret weapon in the form of the reliably manic Robert Downey Jr. as the resident evil genius. Also stars Kristen Davis, Zena Grey and Danny Glover. Opens March 10 at local theaters. (Not Reviewed)


16 BLOCKS (PG-13) Bruce Willis plays a cynical NYPD vet with a bum leg, a drinking problem and a hairline that's receded back beyond the outer rings of Saturn. Mos Def's character, Eddie, is a somewhat simple-minded guy whose disposition is every bit as sunny as Willis' is terminally sour. Naturally, the two wind up on the run together, learning valuable life lessons from one another as they try to avoid legions of dirty cops trying to keep Eddie from testifying against one of their ranks. Willis isn't acting so much as retreading a slightly older, gloomier version of his stock type, and his performance is mainly defined by an ability to appear paunchy and shriveled simultaneously. Def affects a nasal, nerdy persona that makes us occasionally feel like we're watching Forrest Gump stuck in a Bruce Willis shoot-'em-up. Both actors remain curiously watchable, though — that's the eternal mystery of star power for you, folks — and even when the movie tests our patience with leaps in logic and lack of originality, 16 Blocks works fairly well as a tautly crafted feature-length chase, with just enough human drama to ground things in the end. Also stars David Morse, Conrad Pla and Cylk Cozart. HH 1/2

ANNAPOLIS (PG-13) This predictable drama chronicles the tale of a working-class kid (pretty boy Spiderman star James Franco) who just barely makes it into the United States Naval Academy. Defiant but determined, he proves himself by boxing his way to respect. There aren't too many surprises here: the comic relief is handled by the fat guy (played by Vicellous Reon Shannon), the hero gets the girl (a too-tan Jordana Brewster) and every student at the Naval Academy could moonlight as a model. Perfectly timed to inspire young bucks to trade in their baggy jeans for starched white sailor suits, this family-friendly film is Rumsfeld-approved. Justin Lin directs; also stars Tyrese Gibson and Donnie Wahlberg. 2 stars ­­Erin Rashbaum


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