Short reviews of movies playing throughout the Tampa Bay area.

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TEARS OF THE SUN (R) Antoine Fuqua directs the carnage in a thriller that attacks with careful timing and impeccable pacing. From its tense beginning to gung-ho ending, Tears of the Sun promises much and nearly delivers. Bruce Willis stars as a career soldier sent into Central Africa to retrieve an American care worker in the middle of a bloody civil war. Inevitably reluctant to abandon her charges, Dr. Kendricks (Monica Bellucci) manages to convince Willis to hike for three days through the jungle, all the while pursued by a gang of heavily armed but expendable extras. Watching Willis go from hard-nosed soldier to humanitarian takes some doing, but thereafter Willis and his band of men deliver one of the most suspenseful war flicks in recent memory. Cinematographer Mauro Fiore delivers lovingly shot panoramas of the would-be victims, but the script is lacking. Fuqua fastidiously avoids the question of U.S. involvement in wars with humanitarian repercussions. Tears of the Sun is considerably more concerned about the horror of war than its bombastic and far less interesting cinematic contemporaries, but nonetheless still falls short of being the sensitive and shocking tour de force that it threatens to be. —DAVE STEVENSON

TILL HUMAN VOICES WAKE US (R) Guy Pearce stars in a man who returns to his hometown and finds he just can't get a childhood sweetheart out of his head. Only problem is she's dead. Also stars Helena Bonham Carter. (Not Reviewed)

VIEW FROM THE TOP (PG-13) Part Miss Congeniality, part Bring It On, View From the Top is Bruno Barreto's tale of a small-town girl who works her way up the flight attendant ladder. Mike Myers does his cross-eyed best to haul this average movie out of the quagmire but doesn't, and the upward mobility of Donna (Gwyneth Paltrow) is rarely matched by the movie itself. More a collection of passe stewardess jokes than an entirely self-supporting movie, A View From the Top is bighearted enough to transcend its slapdash approach to structure and script. Unfortunately, the bad casting, silly jokes and laughably improbable ending prove more difficult to transcend, leaving us with a frustrating misfire.

—Dave StevensonWHAT A GIRL WANTS (PG) Stuffy English stereotypes galore in this excruciating Romantic Comedy Writing 101 exercise from Dennie Gordon, who inflicts intelligence-insulting and blindingly obvious father-daughter humor by way of Daphne (Amanda Bynes), the illegitimate child of a New York hippy and her dad (Colin Firth), a distinguished MP. The British stereotypes fly thick and fast, from the crusty old grandmother to the rather charming British stuttering so perfected by Hugh Grant, but offered here by Firth. I laughed. I cried. I tried to fashion a crude noose from the threads of the theater seat. Firth does his level best with what little script and cooperation from the surrounding cast he gets and lends credibility and comic timing to an exercise that would barely even raise an eyebrow without him. What a Girl Wants isn't a bad idea for a film; it's tremendously warmhearted and well intended. The script is workable, and if some of the more heavy-handed Brit-stereotypes were ripped from the screenplay (and preferably stuffed down the throats of the writers), this would be the bubblegum-chewing crowd pleaser that it has the potential to be. —Dave Stevenson

WILLARD (PG-13) OK, let's see: Crispin Glover in full-blown fruitcake mode and a whole bunch of nasty rats. So how bad could it be? Unfortunately, a more appropriate question here is how good could it be? Glover stars in this remake of the 1971 oddity about a put-upon loner who cultivates rodents as friends. The movie's sufficiently pop-culture-savvy to toss around allusions not to the original Willard only but to everything from Psycho, The X-Files and Glover's own heavily baggaged on-screen persona, while retaining the grubby emotional essence of the original movie. Glover's well cast (although he often seems to think he's in a David Lynch film) and plays up his character's seething mass of pent-up rage to the hilt. The movie drags badly after its initial setup, though, largely because nothing much really happens. Also stars Laura Elena Herring, R. Lee Ermey and Jackie Burroughs. 1/2

—Reviewed entries by Lance Goldenberg unless otherwise noted

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