Short reviews of movies playing throughout the Tampa Bay area

new releases
3-IRON (R) This latest offering from South Korean auteur Kim Ki-duk (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter) is the enigmatic tale of a young man (Jae Hee) who, while breaking into a supposedly vacant home for a little inscrutable but harmless pranksterism, encounters and hooks up with a curiously likeminded woman (Lee Seung-yeon). The film unfolds in dreamlike fashion, told through images and the silences between actions, and with a minimum of dialogue. The cumulative effect is often just short of hypnotic. The tone here is considerably less nasty than in Kim's previous Bad Guy and The Isle, but that won't save the film from the scorn of viewers with little patience for connecting the dots of a deliberately open-ended (some might say ambiguous) narrative puzzle. Moviegoers who can deal with minimalist action, measured pacing and who like a little metaphysical sizzle in their cinema - and you know who I'm talking to - will be amply rewarded. Also stars Kwon Hyuk-ho. Opens June 3 at Sunrise Cinemas in Tampa. Call to confirm.

LAYER CAKE (R) More fun with London's crime underworld from first-time director Matthew Vaughan, a man whose producer credits on Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch betray his obvious affection for this sort of material. The story here isn't particularly new - a smooth criminal (Daniel Craig) seeking retirement gets sucked back into the biz for a last big score - but there's more than enough colorful characters, smart and nasty, slang-ish dialogue and twists to make it all worth our time. The cast is consistently strong too, particularly Craig and co-stars Colm Meaney and Michael Gambon. Vaughan's direction is remarkably assured for a first-timer, ominously insinuating and un-flashy in a way that his colleague, Ritchie, could only dream of. Also stars George Harris and Sienna Miller. Opens June 3 at Tampa Theater in downtown Tampa. Call to confirm.

THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (R) A remake of the much-loved but not very good haunted house flick from 1979, this new Amityville hails from the team responsible for the recent revisiting of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which undoubtedly accounts for the copious amounts of gore, grisly sadism and generally messed-up atmosphere. The remake begins with creepy noises and quickly escalates into squabbles and open rifts between the various family members inhabiting a malignant house that's clearly seeking to possess and destroy them. Shortly thereafter, Amityville '05 tips its hand and then peaks way too early - less than half an hour in, the house is dripping blood all over the place and ghostly, ghoulish visions are leering over every shoulder - all but deflating the movie's more subtle, psychological side, particularly its Shining-lite proposition that true horror is what lurks beneath the surface of the All-American Happy Family.

THE BALLAD OF JACK AND ROSE (R) Daniel Day-Lewis was coaxed out of semi-retirement to act in this new project by his director-wife Rebecca Miller (Personal Velocity), making it all the more disappointing that the film turns out to be not particularly good. Basically shapeless and heavy-handed at all the wrong moments, The Ballad of Jack and Rose is about, among other things, the fading dreams and perhaps too-intimate relationship of a terminally ill, hippie-dippie dad and his precocious, nearly-grown daughter. Day-Lewis plays the dad, Jack, a chain-smoking environmentalist living in something approaching total isolation with his beautiful, budding daughter, Rose (Camilla Belle). It all feels rather airless; the characters' "lively" quirks are supposed to keep us engaged, but even the good performances here can't disguise the rambling self-consciousness of what amounts to a seriously flawed script. The film opens up, briefly, when Jack brings a woman into the house to act as a surrogate wife-mother (a pair of teenaged boys are attached, providing some amusing interactions), but Day-Lewis' central character remains too vaguely drawn and unsympathetic, and the movie's core father-daughter dynamic is a mess. Also stars Catherine Keener and Jena Malone.

CITIZEN VERDICT (NR) Reality TV and the American legal system are the primary targets in this bungled project, set in Tampa but shot mostly in South Africa and Canada, from South Florida filmmaker Phillippe Martinez. Jerry Springer references himself, playing a sensationalistic TV personality who hooks up with a tough-on-crime Florida governor (a sleepwalking Roy Scheider) to produce a new show where viewers put someone on trial, vote on the verdict, and then get to witness a pay-per-view execution. Citizen Verdict's themes are undeniably important but they've all been tackled many times before, usually with significantly more skill and imagination. Ill-considered scenes designed to assure us of the movie's patriotism pop up every so often for no apparent reason other than to atone for the film's periodic jabs at America's bad habits. It's hard to say whether Citizen Verdict lacks the courage of its convictions or if it simply lacks vision, but the movie seems to be working overtime to please all the people all the time, and, as is usually the case with something so transparently desperate, fails. Also stars Armand Assante and Justine Mitchell.

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