Outtakes

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MUNICH (R) Director Steven Spielberg focuses on the aftermath of the slaughter of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics — when a hit squad was dispatched to assassinate the Palestinian organizers of the massacre — but Munich is less concerned with creating a visceral thrill ride out of the often horrifying mechanics of revenge than with grinding our noses in the pointlessness of it all. Spielberg leans over so far backward in an effort to be evenhanded that there's really no one to root for or against, a problem exacerbated by too many forgettable characters saddled with flat-footed dialogue endlessly re-stating the movie's thesis that violence begetting violence can only be wrong. Stars Eric Bana, Geoffrey Rush, Daniel Craig, Ciaran Hinds, Mathieu Kassovitz, Hanns Zischler, Ayelet Zurer and Michael Lonsdale. Currently playing at Sunrise Cinemas in Tampa. Call to confirm. 3 stars

THE NEW WORLD (PG-13) Terrence Malick may be the unofficial poet laureate of American cinema, but his latest film often feels fluid to the point of formlessness, a series of gorgeous landscapes for its characters to wander through. The setting is 1607 Virginia, and what the filmmaker is showing us is that historical moment when Native American and European cultures first collide, a cataclysmic event filtered through the celebrated cross-cultural romance of John Smith (Colin Farrell) and Pocahontas (Q'Orianka Kilcher). The love story helps ground things, but The New World's naïve mythmaking and metaphysical meandering is still a touch-and-go proposition. Walking a fine line between mesmerizing and monotonous, the film revels in long, trance-like passages complete with whispering choruses of multiple voices layered over the fray. Malick is so consumed with poetizing the sublime tragedy of it all that he forgets about basic minimum requirements for engaging an audience, such as coherency, conciseness, and the little matter of that love story he promised to tell. Also stars Christian Bale and Christopher Plummer. 2.5 stars

THE PRODUCERS (PG13) A shrill and shambling attempt to bring Mel Brooks' much-loved Broadway production to the big screen, The Producers arrives feeling like a thing embalmed. The story concerns a second-rate Broadway producer (Nathan Lane) who, upon discovering he can make more money from a sure flop than he can from a sure hit, teams up with his accountant (Matthew Broderick) to stage the worst show ever seen. The movie now seems as dated as it is lifeless and, without the hugely magnetic presence of Zero Mostel (who starred in the original film version), Brooks' faux-Marx Brothers borscht-belt shtick sinks like a rock. Also stars Uma Thurman, Will Ferrell, Gary Beach and Richard Bart. 2 stars

SYRIANA (R) A film that attempts to be the last word on that scariest of unholy trinities — oil, money and blood — Syriana sometimes seems less like a political art-film and more like a thinking man's horror movie (think Land of the Dead with less cannibalism and where the zombies are rewritten as CIA agents). Writer-director Stephen Gaghan, screenwriter of Steven Soderbergh's similarly timely Traffic, throws together an almost unmanageable ensemble of some two dozen characters, from American politicians and oilmen to Arab sheiks and suicide bombers, in an ambitious attempt to offer up a mosaic of the enormously complicated forces (economic, religious, cultural, etc.) fueling immoral acts on both sides of the ongoing War on Terror. There's much that's thought-provoking and even important about Syriana, but the effect of the film is a bit like a jigsaw puzzle that disorients us so much in the beginning we begin to lose patience with seeing it through to completion. Stars George Clooney, Matt Damon, Jeffrey Wright, Chris Cooper, William Hurt, Mazhar Munir, Tim Blake Nelson, Amanda Peet and Christopher Plummer. 3.5 stars

UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION (R) Kate Beckinsale returns in the sequel to the 2003 horror-action epic about a world where a blood feud between werewolves and vampires rages. Also stars Scott Speedman and Bill Nighy. (Not Reviewed)

USHPIZIN (NR) A poor, ultra-Orthodox Jewish couple in Jerusalem discover the hard way to be careful what you wish for (or pray for) in this modern folk fable from Israel. Financially strapped Moshe and his wife Malli (real life couple Shuli Rand and Michal Bat Sheva Rand) consider the sly low-lifes that show up at their door as a "gift from God," but eventually find their saint-like patience taxed when the uninvited guests begin turning their world upside down. Ushpizin (literally Holy Guests) was made with the cooperation of Jerusalem's notoriously publicity-shy Hassidic community, and the film offers, beyond the modest charms of its story, a rare look at the inner workings of a rarely seen culture. Also stars Shaul Mizrahi and Ilan Ganani. Currently playing at Sunrise Cinemas in Tampa. Call to confirm. 3 stars

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