Short reviews of movies playing throughout the Tampa Bay area.

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A DIRTY SHAME (NC-17) Bolstered by the freedom of its NC-17 rating, A Dirty Shame wants to be a return to form for John Waters, but there's something a little tired, a little calculated and maybe even a little desperate in the director's attempt to recreate the rawness and outrageousness of his early films. Waters' new movie takes his old set-up of normal types vs. perverts (with the pervs getting all the glory), and reformats it as some sort of ode to sexual excess, with a Baltimore filled with adamantly old-fashioned townsfolk terrorized by bands of hyperactive sex fiends. Tracey Ullman doesn't quite fit into Divine's shoes as a repressed housewife who becomes the libidinous disciple of a messianic sexual healer named Ray-Ray (Johnny Knoxville, who's the best thing in the film). Waters does his best to shock us — there are flashes of full-frontal nudity and fairly explicit references to all manner of curious sex acts — but what might have seemed fresh, crude and astonishingly odd in one of the director's films from 30 years ago, seems a bit pointless now. The real problem here, however, is that, despite some choice moments, A Dirty Shame simply isn't all that funny, and that lack of comedy translates into the one thing a John Waters film should never be: boring. Also stars Selma Blair and Chris Isaak. Opens Sept. 24 at Channelside.

FIRST DAUGHTER (PG-13) The president's little girl is all grown up and spending her first year away from the first family as a college freshman. Katie Holmes stars in this romantic comedy, with Marc Blucas as the love interest. Opens Sept. 24 at local theaters. (Not Reviewed)

THE FORGOTTEN (PG-13) Julianne Moore stars as a grieving and possibly delusional woman who's told that her recently deceased son never in fact existed. Also stars Dominic West. Opens Sept. 24 at local theaters. (Not Reviewed)

SEDUCING DR. LEWIS (NR) The exceedingly sweet and moderately charming tale of a dirt-poor and not terribly interesting French Canadian village that concocts an elaborate ruse in order to entice a big city doctor to sign on as an official inhabitant. Fans of The Full Monty and its ilk will surely find much to their liking here, with gaggles of amusingly eccentric, mostly middle-aged folks generating sparks by pretending to be something they're not. The tale of the young urbanite's seduction by the ramshackle little community never strays far from the predictable, but some of the gags aren't too bad, and the colorful locals are the main draw here, anyway. Stars Raymond Bouchard, David Boutin and Lucie Laurier. Opens Sept. 24 at Tampa Theatre. Call theater to confirm.

SHAUN OF THE DEAD (R) Poor Shaun. He's 29, stuck in a dead-end job, has an obnoxious slob for a roommate, his girlfriend's just dumped him, he's hung-over, and everyone around him is turning into rampaging, flesh-munching zombies. Don't be fooled by the buckets of blood and unrepentant gore in Shaun of the Dead; a wittier, funnier horror spoof you're unlikely to find, at least for the film's first 45 minutes or so. The movie loses some stream in its second half, struggling a bit to sustain the energy and the joke, but the cumulative effect might just be the most monstrously funny and splendiferously gross homage to genre flicks since Peter Jackson's Brain-Dead. Shaun even one-up's Romero's Dawn of the Dead, with scads of perfectly observed blue collar characters who come off as such stupefied, shambling wrecks that it's difficult to tell the real zombies from the metaphorical ones (thus giving new meaning to the phrase working class stiff). Beyond all that, here is a movie that's not afraid to accompany a gruesome murder with a bit of chart-topping pop by Queen, follow that with a Bertrand Russell quote, and then cap it all with a fart joke. Stars Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Dylan Moran and Bill Nighy. Opens Sept. 24 at local theaters. 1/2


ALIEN VS. PREDATOR (R) Don't expect it to end with a kiss. The director is Paul W.S. Anderson, specialist in video game flicks like Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil, which is probably more than you need to know. (Not Reviewed)

ANACONDAS: HUNT FOR THE BLOOD ORCHID (PG-13) Big snakes. Really big snakes. Scared people. Really scared people. Any questions? Hollywood's summer of 2004 officially ends not with a bang, but with a whimper, as a scientific expedition in the jungles of Borneo encounter super-sized snakes in this sequel to 1997's best forgotten Anaconda. Is it fall yet? Stars Johnny Messner, Matthew Marsden, Morris Chestnut and Salli Richardson. (Not Reviewed)

THE BEST TWO YEARS (PG) The Best Two Years is, for the most part, unusually smart, funny and, occasionally, even self-mocking. Writer-director Scott S. Anderson, working from his own semi-autobiographical stage play, introduces us to a small group of young Mormon missionaries from America rooming together in a cramped apartment while fulfilling a mandatory service in Holland. Anderson supplies us with some surprisingly witty, fast-paced dialogue as well as characters who are considerably more believable and sympathetic than the stock types found in your average Hollywood offering. Stars KC Clyde, Kirby Heyborne, David Nibley, Scott Christopher and Michael Flynn.

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