APRES VOUS (R) Wispy but typically charming French romantic comedy about a well-meaning everyman (Daniel Auteuil) who literally stumbles upon a fellow trying to kill himself (Jose Garcia), takes him into his home to become his roommate, and eventually tries to get him back together with his ex-girlfriend (Sandrine Kiberlain), all to predictably zany results. Auteuil is a marvel of understated performance, but the movie lays on the odd couple shtick a little thick, and Garcia's hang-dog depressive act gets on the nerves rather quickly. There are a few unexpected twists along the way with the various romantic liaisons involved, but nothing that really adds up to much. Also stars Michele Moretta. Opens July 15 at Sunrise Cinemas in Tampa and Burns Court Cinemas in Sarasota.
CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (PG) Not at all the dream project we were hoping for, Tim Burton's re-imagining of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a curiously flat-footed affair that has a hard time connecting with either children or adults. To its credit, the movie avoids the long, dull opening stretch that marred the original, and there are a handful of brilliant, brightly colored sequences sprinkled throughout that recall Burton's best films, but Charlie and the Chocolate Factory seems so consumed with impressing us with its digitally-manufactured vision it frequently forgets about generating much fun. At the center of the picture is Johnny Depp as the ultra-eccentric candymaker Wonka, whose performance blends Emo Philips, Michael Jackson and Dana Carvey's Church Lady into a creepy, androgynous creation who seems to have imperfectly mastered the art of never growing up. It's not so much a bad performance as it is a seriously miscalculated one that's undoubtedly supposed to remind us of Gene Wilder's vaguely ominous but oddly endearing prototype, but Depp's version winds up too self-consciously weird and, more often than not, simply annoying. Burton tries to humanize Depp's Wonka by giving us periodic flashbacks to his unhappy childhood, but these only serve to further disrupt the flow of an already erratically paced movie, and the tone veers uncomfortably from the sticky sweet to the gratuitously surreal to the borderline sadistic. The movie is still worth seeing for all the outlandish visuals on display, but the quirks seem a little too calculated this time around, and there sometimes seems to be a vaguely perfunctory attitude to the whole project that suggests a movie made by someone who really doesn't even like candy. Also stars Freddie Highmore, David Kelly, Helena Bonham Carter and Deep Roy. Opens July 15 at local theaters.
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. Moviegoers who can deal with minimalist action, measured pacing and who like a little metaphysical sizzle in their cinema will be amply rewarded. Also stars Kwon Hyuk-ho.
THE ADVENTURES OF SHARKBOY AND LAVAGIRL IN 3D (PG) Much like the Spy Kids movies, Robert Rodriguez's new Sharkboy and Lavagirl has an awful lot of silly, sloppy, barely coherent fun tapping directly into something purely childlike. The plot, such as it is, amounts to bursts of frenetic, video-game-like activity in which our protagonists navigate various levels while propelling themselves to a finish line, and pacing and logic just fly out the window. For all its goofiness and clumsiness, Sharkboy feels like the real deal. I bet Bunuel and the original surrealists would have gone nuts over Sharkboy and Lavagirl, and you don't get a better endorsement than that - except maybe from your pre-schooler. Stars Taylor Dooley, Taylor Lautner, Cayden Boyd, George Lopez, David Arquette and Kristin Davis.
BATMAN BEGINS (PG-13) Less a re-invention and more a bare knuckled reaction to Batman - or at least to what the Dark Knight Franchise has become in its last few big screen incarnations - Batman Begins is good enough to almost make us forget the wretched excesses of those last two Joel Schumacher-helmed outings. Don't come expecting a knock-your-socks-off action/special effects love fest, but rest assured that Batman Begins is a damned good comic-book movie for grown ups, by far the best we've had since the last X-Men flick. There are no nippled bat-suits, few bad puns during the heat of battle and, blessedly, no Robin to be found here, with director Christopher Nolan (Memento) taking the high road in terms of mood, atmosphere and even narrative - all unsullied by the faintest whiff of camp, surprisingly literate (at least for a summer blockbuster) and, for the most part, dark, dark, dark. Nolan and scripter David S. Goyer contemporize the Caped Crusader (capably played by Christian Bale) by turning him into a sort of terrorist-battling vigilante ninja, while making him more mythic than ever by exploiting the psychological and emotional issues that lie at the heart of the Batman/Bruce Wayne persona. Gotham City is no longer the cool amusement park ride Tim Burton made it out to be, but the version here - a tasty blend of Lang's Metropolis and Fellini's Satyricon - will suffice; the supporting cast is mostly impeccable, and Liam Neeson even shows up spouting a mix of Zen riddles and Nietzsche by way of the Sith. Also stars Michael Caine, Cillian Murphy, Gary Oldman, Katie Holmes, Rutger Hauger and Morgan Freeman.