Short reviews of movies playing throughout the Tampa Bay area


THE BOYS AND GIRL OF COUNTY CLARE (NR) Colm Meaney and Bernard Hill deliver strong performances as a pair of estranged Irish brothers who meet after 20 years to face off in a national music competition. Fans of Irish ceili music will find much of interest here, and there are more than a few moments of grand local color and fine Irish charm. The film itself is a mixed bag, though, with a steady infusion of foul language and some graphic gross-out humor (notably, a scene involving vomit and dentures), making it a little difficult to take the sweet-natured whimsy all that seriously. The movie begins in fine style, with some amusingly drawn characters engaging in various bits of drollery and borderline slapstick, but The Boys and Girl of County Clare eventually bogs down in soap, as the film's various familial tensions, secrets and lies boil over into the predictable. Also stars Andrea Corr and Charlotte Bradley. Opens April 8 Channelside Cinemas in Tampa.

DOWNFALL (R) It's the last days of World War II, and Hitler and his inner circle of madmen, mistresses and visionary monsters are holed up in a vast underground bunker, waiting as the Russians take Berlin and the entire universe seems to collapse in a deluge of chaos and blood. This two-and-a-half-hour German import is one of the most highly acclaimed films of the past few years, making it doubly shameful that Downfall's distributors wound up sneaking the film into a handful of Bay area theaters with virtually no advance notice, thereby effectively preventing local critics from seeing the movie in time to review it. Hopefully, it will still be playing by the time you read this. Stars Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara and Juliane Kohler. Playing at AMC Veterans and Sunrise Cinemas in Tampa, and Burns Court Cinemas in Sarasota. Call theaters to confirm. (Not Reviewed)

RORY O' SHEA WAS HERE (R) You can see the wheels spinning on this one. It's a given that Oscar voters love a movie about a guy in a wheelchair, so just imagine how nuts they'll go for a movie about - wait for it - two guys in wheelchairs. Then again, the only thing worse than a bad Holocaust movie is a bad movie about a guy in a wheelchair, and Rory O'Shea Was Here is one of the worst. Good intentions aside, this is a notch or two down from your run-of-the-mill feel-good movie about disabled individuals, a clumsy, confused and heavy-handed attempt to cloak rampant corniness and PC messages in an air of irony and hipness. James McAvoy stars as Rory, a dashing young Irish punk whose struggle with muscular dystrophy can't dampen his Indomitable Spirit (TM - All Rights Reserved). The first half of the movie puts Rory through his paces in a home for the disabled, following our pierced and punked-out provocateur as he rages against institutional authority. It's My Left Foot meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (with Rory as the Nicholson martyr figure), although the movie's cloyingly sentimental second half becomes more like a riff on a standard buddy picture, with Rory and a pal with cerebral palsy moving into a flat together and helping each other in and out of trouble. Director Damien O'Donnell doesn't seem to know what sort of movie he's trying to make, and although there are one or two very strong moments here, you have to wait until the film's nearly over to get to them. Also stars James Robertson and Romola Garal. Opens April 8 at Tampa Theatre. Call theater to confirm.

SAHARA (PG-13) A bland, by-the-numbers action-adventure project mostly notable for being the directorial debut of someone named Breck Eisner, who just happens to be the son of former Disney CEO Michael Eisner. Sahara is based on one of Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt books, with an artificially tanned and carefully rumpled Matthew McConaughey playing Pitt as a cocky, carefree Indiana Jones-lite. The plot is a mishmash that brings together a search for a lost civil war battleship, a deadly virus, corrupt Euro-industrialists and African warlords, with some faux-007 music slapped on the ostensibly suspenseful parts, and classic rock chestnuts by Lynyrd Skynyrd and Steppenwolf liberally and gratuitously applied elsewhere. On the upside, there's nothing too terribly awful or pretentious here, but everyone seems to be sleepwalking through their non-demanding roles, from Steve Zahn as the obligatory comic relief sidekick to Penelope Cruz as the love interest. You might just find yourself dosing off, too. Also stars William H. Macy. Opens April 8 at local theaters. 1/2


BAD EDUCATION (NR) Pedro Almodovar's intricately convoluted noir fantasy is dark, dense, maybe even dangerous stuff, but the film candy-coats its Big Ideas in the outrageous kink of the director's earliest movies as well as the eloquent symmetries of his more recent melodramas, presenting its story-within-a-story as a sort of greatest-hits package from this remarkable Spanish filmmaker. The movie spirals in multiple directions as we watch an autobiographical account of schooldays filled with forbidden passion mutate into a many-headed hydra as it passes through the memories of the film's various narrators. The tale that's spun becomes a sordid but surprisingly poignant web of intrigue, abuse and revenge, of sex, drugs, love and betrayal, and each time the story unfolds, another angle is presented, revealing new information that calls into question everything that's come before. Stars Gael Garcia Bernal, Fele Martinez, and Daniel Gimenez-Cacho. Currently playing at Beach Theatre, St. Pete Beach.

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