Short reviews of movies playing throughout the Tampa Bay area.

ABOUT SCHMIDT (R) Jack Nicholson is resplendently bland in this skewed character study of an ordinary retired insurance salesman with a penchant for crankiness and a bad comb-over (is there such a thing as a good comb-over?). After his wife suddenly dies, Nicholson's Schmidt hops in his 30-foot Winnebago and embarks on a mini road-trip revisiting his past — only to find he doesn't really seem to have a past or a future. Also stars Hope Davis, Dermot Mulroney, Kathy Bates and Howard Hesseman.

A MAN APART (R) Sean Vetter (Vin Diesel) and his partner work together as DEA agents fighting in the drug wars that rage along the US/Mexican border. Drama from director F. Gary Gray. Also stars Larenz Tate and Timothy Olyphant. (Not Reviewed)

ANGER MANAGEMENT (PG-13) Another drab installment of recycled humor starring Adam Sandler, the most typecast comic actor of our time. Sandler plays Dave Buznik, a neurotic who struggles to masquerade his angst by being non-confrontational. This method of containment adversely affects both his personal and business relationships. And after an altercation with a flight attendant, Dave is court ordered to participate in an anger management program. His therapist, Dr. Buddy Rydell (Jack Nicholson), takes an unconventional approach in treating him. Throughout the program, Dave is witness to dubious practices by Dr. Rydell and questions his sanity. Their interactions are slightly amusing at times but not enduring. Jack Nicholson is the only new element in this formulaic Sandler flick. The plot relies on the same mold as his other films. Reoccurring characters and gags are aplenty. The title should have been saved for a Sandler anthology, it best describes what to expect from this actor. Also stars Marisa Tomei, John Turturro, Kevin Nealon and Woody Harrelson. —Corey Myers

AUSTRALIA: LAND BEYOND TIME (PG) The film takes us Down Under to the flattest, driest continent on earth, immerses us in parched, otherworldly landscapes and introduces us to tons of incredibly odd and supremely adaptable animals. 1/2

BASIC (R) John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson team up again in a thriller with the multiple layers of truths. Military drama from director John McTiernan (Die Hard). Also stars Tim Daly, Connie Nielson and Brian Van Holt. (Not Reviewed)

BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM (PG-13) A far more satisfying spin on modern gals grappling with Old World cultural values (and cliches) than My Big Fat Greek Wedding. At the center of the story is Jess (Jesminder to her parents), a nice Indian girl who just wants to follow her dream to play soccer, much to the dismay of dear old mum and dad. Much of what follows is fairly predictable but ultimately winning stuff. Director Gurinder Chadha (Bhaji on the Beach) toys with scores of cliches and conventions, but manages to transcend them all by keeping a firm grip on the bottom line: creating appealing and believable characters, and giving them an interesting and convincing world to live in. The movie gives us a little bit of everything, crossing smoothly from genre to genre and packing all of its elements tightly together in one groovy little package: romantic comedy, coming-of-age drama, sports movie. Stars Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Anupam Kher.

BETTER LUCK TOMORROW (R) Finally, a teen flick that provides a satisfying answer to the burning question "What happens when model students go bad?" Better Luck Tomorrow is an engaging look at a group of smart, successful Asian-American high school kids who, mostly out of boredom, get involved in a series of lucrative scams that become increasingly bigger and more dangerous. The movie tackles racial stereotyping, but only in a roundabout way, which is as it should be; these kids could be anybody. There's no real soapbox here, just some genuinely intriguing characters and an authentic-feeling scenario about nice suburban kids having fun doing bad things. Director Justin Lin shoots and edits the film in a fast, flashy way that drives home the youthful energy. Stars Parry Sheh, Jason J. Tobin and Roger Fan. 1/2

BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE (PG-13) Steve Martin and Queen Latifah star in what the previews reveal to be the standard Hollywood comedy that starts with a wacky Internet match-up but winds up with Ms. Latifah as helper-to-the-rescue a la Mrs. Doubtfire. (Not Reviewed)

BULLETPROOF MONK (PG-13) Bland, action movie nonsense featuring Chow Yun Fat as a nameless monk entrusted with the protection of a mystical scroll that can bring about the end of the world. In what's clearly calculated as a "break-out role," Seann William Scott (Stifler from American Pie) does his best Harrison Ford impersonation as the charming petty thief who teams up with the monk and helps save the universe. Scott's not as annoying as you might imagine, but he's not particularly memorable or appealing either. Ditto for the movie. Most of what ensues amounts to a series of clumsily choreographed fights and chases, with a few exotic flourishes from the Mysterious East to pad things out. Chow, Asia's once and former prime candidate for East-West crossover stardom, mostly looks a little bored here. Also stars Jaime King. 1/2

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