Spring Arts 2006

What to Watch For

click to enlarge Topdog/Underdog, TBPAC - David Jenkins
David Jenkins
Topdog/Underdog, TBPAC

The Boys in the Band: Mart Crowley's groundbreaking play put a group of gay men at a birthday party in front of a mainstream theater audience, and the revolution was on. The year was 1968, and the play's bitterness, corrosive humor and vicious party games held the Off Broadway stage for a thousand performances, before moving on to London and the Continent. "The power of the play is the way in which it remorselessly peels away the pretensions of its characters," said the New York Times. Prepare for a bumpy ride. Through Feb. 5. Suncoast Theatre, St. Petersburg, 727-456-0500.

Wicked: The Broadway blockbuster musical is about what happened in the Land of Oz before Dorothy dropped in from Kansas. It seems there were two girls: one with emerald-green skin, smart, fiery and misunderstood; and one who was beautiful, ambitious and exceedingly popular. Eventually they met in Oz — and went on to become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch. Just how it all unfolded is the subject of Steven Schwartz and Winnie Holzman's Tony award-winning extravaganza. Through Jan. 30. Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Tampa, 813-229-STAR.

Topdog/Underdog: Suzan-Lori Parks' 2002 Pulitzer Prize-winning play is about two African-American brothers, Lincoln and Booth, who, abandoned by their parents, have depended upon each other for survival since they were teenagers. Now in their 30s, the brothers struggle to find a way out of poverty. Lincoln has a respectable job impersonating Abraham Lincoln at an arcade, while Booth earns his living as a petty thief. Their world is chaotic, filled with dangers and illusions and swift shifts of power. A Jobsite Theater production. Jan. 26-Feb. 12. Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Tampa, 813-229-STAR.

I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change: What's so impressive about this surprising musical is its honesty about love and its discontents. In sketch after sketch, lovers are beset by anxiety, impatience, wishful thinking, ennui, egotism, neediness, indecision, skepticism and panic — and that's just Act One. Joe Dipietro's book and lyrics are witty; Jimmy Roberts' music is catchy; and the outlook is decidedly modern and knowing. This isn't love out of a Disney movie — this is the real thing with all its vicissitudes. Feb. 17-May 7, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Tampa, 813-229-STAR.

Christopher Durang One-Acts: Durang is one of the few writers of satire who actually matter in American theater, and his views on religion, psychology, human relations and human pretensions are often scorching. In this Hat Trick Theatre outing, you'll see the controversial Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You, 'dentity Crisis, Business Lunch at the Russian Tea Room and two five-minute plays. The anger in Sister Mary Ignatius is particularly notable: Durang is incensed, it would seem, at his religious upbringing, and he's not gonna take it anymore. March 3-19, Silver Meteor Gallery, Ybor City, 813-833-6368.

The Goat or, Who is Sylvia? So there's this architect, Martin Gray, and he's a normal enough guy until he meets this goat Sylvia and falls in love and does the deed. And then his best friend finds out, and his wife and his son, and no, they don't understand, no, they're not the least bit tolerant, but he tries to explain anyway. Behind it all is moral gadfly Edward Albee, challenging our assumptions, testing our beliefs and daring to suggest that the intolerable is merely unfamiliar. Or is it? March 23-April 9, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Tampa, 813-229-STAR.

Crowns: American Stage's Shakespeare in the Park is moving indoors, while moving out to Demens Landing is the first of many modern musicals to come. This one is by Regina Taylor, and celebrates African-American women and their church hats. It tells the story of Yolanda, a streetwise kid from Brooklyn sent to live with her grandmother in South Carolina. Through gospel music and storytelling, Yolanda learns about inner strength — and how to find her own voice. Will it play as well as Hamlet? Come see. April 5-May 7, Demens Landing, St. Petersburg, 727-823-PLAY.

The Memory of Water: Stageworks presents Shelagh Stephenson's dark comedy about three sisters who reunite in Northern England for their mother's funeral. They play dress-up, they bicker, they discuss their unsatisfactory men and they argue over memories of ultra-feminine Mom. What interests Stephenson is how different persons remember and interpret the past differently, and how some shared memories form a kind of collective mythology. Don't be put off by the funeral setting — the play is ultimately joyful and life-affirming. April 20-May 7, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Tampa, 813-229-STAR.

When You Comin' Back Red Ryder? At an all-night diner in a sleepy Southwestern town, Stephen "Red" Ryder is just finishing up his turn at the night shift when Teddy, a drug runner whose car has broken down, arrives to stir up events. Teddy taunts and bullies the other diners, and utilizing black, sardonic humor, gets at each one in turn, stripping away their pretensions and exposing their innermost secrets and fears. But has he hurt them or helped them? Another nearly forgotten American play presented by Hat Trick Theatre. April 28-May 14, Silver Meteor Gallery, Ybor City, 813-833-6368.

Emigrants: We in the Bay area don't get many chances to see work by Slawomir Mrozek, the Polish playwright best known for his absurdist classic Tango, about the triumph of ruthless power in a world of decayed values. Emigrants (1974) is a much different play, about the interdependence of a left-wing intellectual and a worker. Does this production portend further stagings of little-known European plays by the new Acorn Theatre? If it does, local theater may be in for an infusion of energy. May 4-21, Acorn Theatre, Centro Ybor, 813-728-5324.

Mark E. Leib

Ink & Blood: The Florida International Museum hosts an extraordinary collection of biblical artifacts: fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, pages from the 1455 Gutenberg Bible, the letters of St. Jerome, Sumerian cuneiform tablets and others. These are the objects that helped unleash a tide of faith that, for better or worse, holds sway today. Until May 14, Florida International Museum, St. Petersburg, 244 Second Ave. N. —Travis Wilds

Middle Passage: The late African-American artist Tom Feelings left a powerful legacy in the 1995 picture book Middle Passage: White Ships/ Black Cargo. His black and white illustrations are both beautifully rendered and horrific: Using tempera, pen and tissue, he graphically represented the inhuman conditions suffered by enslaved Africans on the brutally long ship journey to the Americas. This show at the Holocaust Museum offers a rare chance to see the original version of the mixed-media works that were reproduced for the book. Opening Sun. Jan. 29, 3 p.m., Florida Holocaust Museum, 55 Fifth St. S., St. Petersburg. 727-820-0100.

Maurice Sendak at TMA: Where the Wild Things Are, Sendak's 1964 children's epic about a boy who journeys to a savage island, is just one product of a 50-year career that's encompassed not only illustrating and writing but also designing sets for operas. TMA's exhibit boasts original illustrations, costumes and sets, and you can become a wild thing yourself in a savagely decorated reading room. Jan. 29-April 23, Tampa Museum of Art, 600 N. Ashley Drive. 813-274-8130. —TW

Aperture at 50: Since the early 1950s, the journal Aperture has been a premier showcase for the world's greatest photographers, and this show at the MFA gathers nearly 150 of their signature works. You name 'em, they're here: Minor White, Cartier-Bresson, Nan Goldin, Mary Ellen Mark — it's the photography All-Star Team! Feb. 4-April 30, Museum of Fine Arts, 255 Beach Drive N.E., 727-896-2667.

Cities And Stillness: The Gulf Coast Museum offers a complementary mix of shows in February. Tampa expatriate Josette Urso has lived in NYC for 18 years, and the works on view here include both landscapes and city scenes. Bianca Pratorius trains her eye on a city sight that's increasingly common in these parts: buildings under construction. And Richard Currier's large, evocative still lifes capture a quality which is increasingly rare: peace and quiet. Feb. 25-April 23, Gulf Coast Museum of Art, 12211 Walsingham Road, Largo, 727-518-6833.

Keith Haring: Art & Commerce: A timely show from independent curator Jade Dellinger that pays tribute to the unique mix of art, heart and industry that thrived until last September in The Pop Shop, the NYC emporium created by the late Keith Haring to showcase and sell his artworks to the masses. The masses responded: In the space of his tragically short life (he died of AIDS at 31), his exuberant iconography showed up everywhere from subway walls to the Whitney Biennial, from T-shirts to stamps to murals all over the world. March 19-June 11, Tampa Museum of Art.

Renee Stout: Admired by one critic for her "dense, nostalgic, subtly political tableaux," D.C.-based Stout is a big enough deal to warrant two shows in St. Petersburg this spring. At the Arts Center, you can experience her intriguingly titled Readers, Advisors and Storefront Churches beginning in April, and at the same time there'll be another show of Stout's work at Studio@620. April 7-May 26, Arts Center of St. Petersburg, 719 Central Ave., 727-822-7872; April 7-28, Studio@620, 620 First Ave. S., 727-895-6620.

David Warner

St. Petersburg Chamber Music Festival: A chamber music lover could starve between live concerts here, but the St. Petersburg Chamber Music Festival, in its very first year, has come to the rescue with a rich and varied feast. The coup is an all-Mozart concert by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, one of the world's most distinguished ensembles. Feb. 3, Palladium Theater, St. Petersburg, 727-822-3590.

Van Cliburn, the Next Generation: This spring, our region will be the stomping ground of several piano virtuosi — some mega-celebrities, others newly hatched. First up is Alexander Kobrin, the newly minted Van Cliburn Competition gold medalist, in an all Brahms & Rachmaninoff program. Like the pianist-hero whose imprimatur he's received, Kobrin espouses a splashy Romanticism. Will Kobrin reach Van Cliburn's heights? You be the judge. Feb. 4, Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, 727-791-7400.

The Turnage of the Screw? The Florida Orchestra programs the work of a composer who is not only still living but was probably born after your parents. Mark-Anthony Turnage's "Three Screaming Popes" takes fellow Brit Francis Bacon's series of disappearing-reappearing painted Popes as the departure for a restless, anguished work. The 1989 piece joins American composer William Shuman's 1956 "New England Triptych" and Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony on a program conducted by Stefan Sanderling. Feb. 18, Pasadena Community Church, St. Petersburg, 813-286-2403; Feb. 19, Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, 727-791-7400; Feb. 20, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Tampa, 813-229-STAR.

The Old Man and the Sea: When Benjamin Britten wrote Peter Grimes in the early 1940s, he set the standard for a new psychology-driven opera. Caught between sea and society, the misfit fisherman Peter Grimes finally goes off the deep end. Because Britten's depictions of the sea here are too good to be bottled up in the opera house, they've since been extracted for the concert hall. The "Four Sea Interludes" from Peter Grimes appear at a Florida West Coast Symphony Concert conducted by Leif Bjaland, along with the Sibelius 5th Symphony and 23-year-old violinist Karen Gomyo's take on Prokofiev's first violin concerto. March 9-12, Van Wezel Hall, Sarasota, 941-953-3368.

Bronfman plays Tchaikovsky: Yefim Bronfman is the second of the rampaging piano virtuosi this season. He appears with the Russian National Orchestra in the Van Wezel's Great Orchestras series, which features some astonishing "gets" in old-fashioned repertoire. Bronfman, an Uzbekistan-born pianist known for prodigious technique and thoughtful musicianship, takes on the first Tchaikovsky piano concerto in a program that also includes Tchaikovsky's "Manfred" Symphony, a tone painting of Lord Byron's romantic wanderer. March 13, Van Wezel Hall, Sarasota, 941-953-3368.

Cliburn in the flesh: Van Cliburn looms in the American imagination as the 23-year-old who won the First International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in the depths of the Cold War. He had a ticker-tape parade in New York and appeared on the cover of Time as "The Texan Who Conquered Russia." Now an old-timer, he returns to play Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto, the work he rode to greatness. March 16, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Tampa, 813-229-STAR.

Still More Ivory Magic: The Florida West Coast Symphony and conductor Leif Bjaland appear with André Watts, another mega-pianist who rode the Romantic repertory to celebrity, then had nowhere else to go. At 16, he performed the Liszt first piano concerto with Leonard Bernstein on a nationally broadcast concert. In Sarasota, he'll plays Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto, a work of amazing majesty. Afterward, the orchestra takes over with a performance of Anton Bruckner's Symphony #7. March 30 and April 1-2, Van Wezel Hall, Sarasota, 941-953-3368.

Obscure Dvorák, Part Deux: In November, the Florida Orchestra and Master Chorale brought us the Dvorák "Requiem," one of the Czech master's few rarely performed major works. In April, the orchestra unveils another, the piano concerto. If the concerto needs an advocate, it has an unbeatable one here in Garrick Ohlsson, mega-pianist No. 5. April 29, Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg, 727-892-5767; April 30, Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, 727-791-7400; May 1, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Tampa, 813-229-STAR.

Brought to You by the Number 5: Maestro Stefan and the Florida Orchestra appear in four works with little in common but the numeral 5: Webern's "5 Pieces for Orchestra," Beethoven's Symphony #5, Prokofiev's Piano Concerto #5, and the very rarely performed Symphony #5 by Arthur Honegger, member of Les Six. The burgeoning 26-year-old pianist Stewart Goodyear takes on the Prokofiev, a fantastic and difficult divertimento. May 25, Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, 727-791-7400; May 26, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Tampa 813-229-STAR; May 27, Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg, 727-892-5767.

Travis Wilds

Blueground Undergrass: The popular, heavily Aquarium Rescue Unit-indebted (leader Rev. Jeff Mosier actually played briefly with ARU) bluegrass/newgrass/jam combo stops by the Skipperdome. Go buy your tickets now, before you get stoned and forget until the day of the show. Feb. 3, Skipper's Smokehouse, Tampa, 813-971-0666.

The Hold Steady: The innovative mix of swaggering, infectious bar-rock and imaginative lyrical storytelling on this New York act's sophomore release, Separation Sunday, helped land it on nearly every hip rock critic's Top 10 for '05. The band rarely makes it this far south, so expect dedicated scenesters to hit the road and try to take in as many of The Hold Steady's Florida shows as possible. Feb. 9, Masquerade, Ybor City, 813-247-3319.

Disturbed: While many of its nü-metal peers have fallen by the wayside, groove-saturated combo Disturbed continues to enjoy platinum success thanks to a lot of ambition and more melody than most of its ilk can muster. It wouldn't be surprising to find both shows in this two-night Jannus Landing stand sold out in short order. Feb. 10-11, Jannus Landing, St. Petersburg, 727-896-1244.

Karrin Allyson: On her ninth CD for vaunted jazz indie Concord Records, Allyson uncorks interpretations of such '70s pop standards as "It's Too Late," "Feel Like Making Love" and "Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word." She's a versatile singer with a particular sensuality, who can also handle the more standard jazz repertory. Feb. 14, Palladium Theatre, St. Petersburg, 727-822-3590. —ERIC SNIDER

Aimee Mann: The evocative, critically hailed independent singer-songwriter enlisted soulful production guru Joe Henry to helm last year's marvelous The Forgotten Arm. Here, she makes good on a previous Tampa Theatre date cancelled during the height of hurricane season. Feb. 18, Tampa Theatre, Tampa, 813-274-8981.

Wu-Tang Clan: ODB may be gone, but there's still a hell of a lot of talent (if a little less craziness) left in this seminal Staten Island hip-hop crew. All the promotional efforts for this gig are touting the fact that all remaining Wu-Tang members will be on hand. Of course, nothing's guaranteed in the world of live hip-hop, but we've got our fingers crossed that everyone from RZA to U-God is accounted for, and in top form. Feb. 18, Jannus Landing, St. Petersburg, 727-896-1244.

Flogging Molly: Founded in L.A., the Celt-rock unit Flogging Molly ably imbues the elements of Irish folk and pub-rock sounds with plenty of punk energy. Yeah, there are a lot of bands doing that, but FM does it extremely well, and the group's live sets are never disappointing. Feb. 25, Masquerade, Ybor City, 813-247-3319.

INXS: Late INXS singer Michael Hutchence couldn't be resuscitated, but a reality-show search for a new vocalist did the trick quite nicely for his band's dying career. Now the band's taking winner J.D. Fortune on a victory lap of the country and plying all the favorites, as well as new material like the single "Pretty Vegas." Feb. 25, Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, 727-791-7400.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: One of the best and most woefully underexposed American rock 'n' roll bands of the last decade, San Francisco's Black Rebel Motorcycle Club weathered drug addiction, label apathy and several near-breakups to rally with its third album, last year's Americana-tinged Howl. This is another act that almost never gigs within driving distance of the Bay area, and deserves to play to a packed house. March 1, State Theatre, St. Petersburg, 727-895-3045.

Coldplay w/Fiona Apple: The phenomenally huge Britpoppers finally make it to the Ford Amp, after having to cancel last fall's hugely anticipated show. Along for the ride is back-from-the-dead songstress Apple, whose worked and re-worked third album, Extraordinary Machine, finally saw the light of day last October, and continues to garner rave reviews. March 5, Ford Amphitheatre, Tampa, 813-740-2446.

Dropkick Murphys/Sick of It Tall/The Horrorpops/The Tossers: It's an open-minded punk fan's dream — a four-band bill where each band has its own unique sound, and is great in its own way. Boston legends Dropkick Murphys put the punk in Celt-punk; Sick of It All plies old-school metallic hardcore; The Horrorpops mix pop and shockabilly to an infectious result; and the most excellent Tossers work a more earthy, Pogues- and Clash-inspired Celt-rock vein. March 7, Jannus Landing, St. Petersburg, 727-896-1244.

Bela Fleck & The Flecktones: Legendary jazz/bluegrass banjo player Fleck brings his own genre-smashing style — and a crew of equally adept players — to Tampa Theatre's stately environs. March 22, Tampa Theatre, Tampa, 813-274-8981.

Every Time I Die: Sandwiched between a few comparatively more generic metalcore acts — Bleeding Through, Haste the Day, Between the Buried and Me — on a four-band touring bill is the outrageous, schizoid Every Time I Die, one of the most interesting metal acts to come down the pike in a while. The combo injects raw rock attitude into frenetic, tempo-shifting material, and we're willing to bet it can bring the goods live, and then some. March 23, Masquerade, Ybor City, 727-247-3319.

Centro-Matic: Texas singer-songwriter Will Johnson's full-band project Centro-Matic makes sweet and beautifully ragged indie pop-rock with its own distinct identity. He and his cohorts will be hitting town in support of the upcoming sixth Centro album, Fort Recovery. March 26, New World Brewery, Ybor City, 813-248-4969.

Jimbo Mathus' Knockdown South: One of Planet senior editor and music writer Eric Snider's favorite artists and interview subjects, former Squirrel Nut Zippers principal Mathus has carved out his solo niche as a purveyor of swampy, stomping, fuzz- and attitude-laden mutant blues. March 31, Skipper's Smokehouse, Tampa, 813-971-0666.

Will Hoge: Pop/rock/Americana singer-songwriter Hoge has been kicking around the edges of mainstream acknowledgement since 2000. His straightforward, resonant sound has inspired comparisons to the likes of Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen. April 1, State Theatre, St. Petersburg, 727-895-3045.

WMNF Presents the 25th Annual Tropical Heatwave: The community station's biggest annual event (and arguably the best and most eclectic yearly Bay area music fest going) turns the corner on a quarter-century of quality entertainment. You know the deal — umpteen stages all over the Cuban Club and surrounding area, featuring umpteen bands running the gamut from jam to folk to punk to hip-hop. Acts confirmed so far for this year's installment include Chuck Prophet, The Mammals, The Ike Reilly Assassination, Papa Grows Funk and Grupo Fantasma, but expect a plethora of national and local talent. May 20, Cuban Club, Ybor City, 813-238-8001.

Scott Harrell

Tap Dogs: This troupe of work-booted working-class heroes from Australia puts on a show that combines the sweaty bravado of a rugby match, the pile-driving din of a construction site and the percussive inventiveness of Stomp. Jan. 31, 8 p.m., Van Wezel.

Two to Tango: If you're an aficionado of Argentina's national dance, you've got two opportunities to enjoy it this season. At the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Julio Bocca leads his troupe Ballet Argentino in the balleticized BoccaTango, while the Van Wezel brings us the real thing with Forever Tango, under the direction of Luis Bravo. Both troupes use live orchestras. BoccaTango, Feb. 9, 7:30 p.m., Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, 813-229-STAR; Forever Tango, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, 941-953-3368. Call for date.

Dundu Dole: St. Pete's own "Urban African Ballet" troupe brings the drums, drama and pageantry of West African dance to the stage of the Palladium. Fri. Feb. 10, The Palladium, 253 Fifth Ave. N., 727-822-3590.

Bellydance Superstars: Want more jingle in your jiggles? More jelly in your belly rolls? Then maybe you need to check out these undulating wonders, a troupe whose founder hopes to make his belly-dancing revue as popular as Riverdance. If that conjures up images of Michael Flatley in harem pants, we are so very sorry. Feb. 22, Royalty Theatre, 405 Cleveland St., Clearwater. www.bellydancesuperstars.tickets.musictoday.com.

Sleeping Beauties: It was reputedly Tchaikovsky's favorite among his ballets (take that, Nutcracker!), and you have two chances to find out why when two, count 'em, two Russian ballet companies bring productions of Sleeping Beauty to the region. The Tchaikovsky Ballet brings its version to Clearwater's Ruth Eckerd Hall in February; the Russian National Ballet comes to Tampa in March. Sleeping Beauty, Feb. 23, 8 p.m., Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N. McMullen Booth Road, Clearwater, 727-791-7400 or 800-875-8682; Russian National Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty, TBPAC, March 5, 4 p.m., 813-229-STAR.

Brazilian Rhythms: Two quite different brands of Brazilian dance come to the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center this spring. First up is the five-man dance theater ensemble Omstrab, who take inspiration from the "street dance" of urban workers in Northeast Brazil. Then comes DanceBrazil, acclaimed purveyors of traditional and contemporary Afro-Brazilian dance. Omstrab, 8 p.m. March 3-4, 4 p.m. March. 5, TBPAC, Shimberg Playhouse; DanceBrazil, March 22, 8 p.m., TBPAC, Ferguson Hall, 813-229-STAR.

Martha Graham Dance Company: For years, the rights to the work of 20th-century modern dance pioneer Martha Graham were tangled up in legal battles between her company and Graham's heir. The company won. Now the troupe is on tour, bringing a program of seminal works like Appalachian Spring, plus lesser-known works and new pieces by kindred-spirit choreographers. March 10, 8 p.m., Van Wezel.

Visions of Peace: USF dance professor Jeanne Travers could have a second career at the U.N., judging by her skill at forging international collaboration. Consider this partial list of the elements in her choreographic project Visions of Peace: dancers from Paris and Tampa; musicians from Algeria, France, Iran and Tunisia; narration in French, English and Arabic; chants in Judeo-Spanish and Hebrew. Inspired by The International Book of Peace, a compilation of peace messages from artists and world leaders, this multi-disciplinary extravaganza premiered in Paris last year and makes its debut hereabouts in both Tampa and Sarasota. March 8, 8 p.m., Theatre 1, USF, Tampa, 813-287-8844; March 13, Players Theatre, Sarasota. 813-974-2021.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: A program of new work and old favorites, including the glorious "Revelations," under the leadership of the ever-regal artistic director Judith Jamison. These are some of the most spectacularly talented dancers in the world, and now that they have the security of a beautiful new headquarters in NYC, they're soaring higher than ever. 8 p.m. Wed., 2 and 8 p.m. Fri., March 29-31, Ruth Eckerd Hall, 727-791-7400.

Nrityagram Dance Ensemble: The intricate, exquisite patterns of classical Indian dance, performed by a troupe so devoted to perfecting the rituals of this venerable art form that they live and practice together in a communal dance village. April 15, 7:30 p.m., TBPAC, Ferguson Hall, 813-229-STAR.

David Warner

Apocalypse Now: We're all going back to the future this season whether we like it or not, with a couple of high-profile movies hoping to make the most of the end of the world as we know it. First up, on March 1, is the long-awaited V for Vendetta, a big budget, big buzz project starring Natalie Portman as a budding revolutionary in a totalitarian society of the not-too-distant future. Next up is A Scanner Darkly (March 28), also set in a decimated near-future, in which director Richard Linklater imagines a world of rampant drug use and bad behavior. This one boasts a strong, bankable cast (Robert Downey Jr., Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves), some intriguing ideas (sourced from a Philip K. Dick novel) and a continuation of that blending of live action and animation that Linklater pioneered in Waking Life.

The Good Stuff: All of those movies that haven't opened yet but that you keep hearing such amazing things about — the ones that have wracked up award after award at Cannes and the other big festivals — well, they're all going to start rolling into local theaters over the next few months. Be on the lookout for Tommy Lee Jones' magnificent Three Burials of Mequiades Estrada (tentatively opening Feb. 24 at Sunrise Cinemas in Tampa); Manderlay (Lars von Trier's love-it-or-hate-it follow-up to Dogville); Thank You for Smoking (the quirky little indie comedy that generated an ugly bidding war at the most recent Toronto Film Festival); Dave Chappelle's much admired Block Party; the minimalist high-art masterpieces L'Enfant and Cache; and the broody Russian sci-fi epic Night Watch. And all you gluttons for punishment take note: Guy Ritchie's new film Revolver should be showing up sometime soon too.

Festival Fever: Film festival season in Florida starts any second now, beginning with the buffet of foreign films served up by the Tampa International Film Festival. From Feb. 2-11, TIFF will present films from Argentina, France, Peru, Spain and Hungary, highlighted by a retrospective of acclaimed Indian director Buddhadeb Dasgupta (who'll be flying in for the event). Then, before you can even catch your breath, the season's second cinematic shindig will be upon us when the 10th Annual Tampa Jewish Film Festival rolls into town from Feb 8-20. Orlando gets in on the action with its long-running Florida Film Festival, March 24-April 2, and Sarasota weighs in with, you guessed it, the Sarasota Film Festival, March 30-April 9. The season ends with a bang on April 5-12, when Tampa's always unpredictable Ybor Festival of the Moving Image kicks off, complete with a personal appearance by legendary filmmaker Les Blank. www.sarasotafilmfestival.com, www.jewishtampa.com, www.floridafilmfestival.com, www.yborfilmfestival.com, www.tampafilmfest.com.

Idlewild: OK, I'll believe this one when I actually see it with my own eyes. Still, the studio suits are claiming that Outkast's long-delayed big screen project is almost certain to show up in theaters sometime very soon, which could be good news for viewers who like their movies and their music large, loopy and full of peculiar hooks. Idlewild stars Outkast's Andre 3000 and Big Boi as 1930s nightclub musicians dealing with gangsters trying to muscle in on their turf, and early reports are calling the film a lavish wink at old-school Hollywood spectacles. Sounds like this could be great stuff. Then again, I'm one of those suckers who couldn't wait to see Under the Cherry Moon.

Filmy Fun for the Whole Family: Hollywood tends to fill its winter and fall months with serious dramas, and we all know what summer is for. But spring is time for recharging the old batteries and lightening up with film fare that goes down smooth and easy. The wee ones will have plenty to keep them busy over the coming months, beginning with this week's Nanny McPhee and continuing on through the season with a live action Curious George (Feb. 10) and a trio of animated takes on our fine, furry friends: Over the Hedge (March 17), The Wild (April 14) and Ice Age 2 (March 31). Meanwhile, adults can enjoy low-cal entertainment with non-threatening comedies like Robin Williams' R.V. (March 17), the long postponed remake of The Pink Panther (Feb. 10), the Scary Movie-esque spoof of romantic comedies Date Movie (Feb. 17), and, speaking of the devil, Scary Movie 4 (April 14).

Endless Summer: Spring is in the air, but summer (that most lucrative of cine-seasons) is never far from Hollywood's heart. Old farts like Harrison Ford and Bruce Willis will be racing about the screen trying to convince us they've still got what it takes in Firewall (Ford vs. kidnappers) and 16 Blocks (Willis under siege as a New York City detective), opening Feb. 7 and March 3 respectively. Kiefer Sutherland will be doing a modified version of his 24 shtick when he races against time to foil a catastrophic plot in The Sentinel on April 24. Multiplexes will play host to the ghosts of 9/11 on April 28 with the arrival of the long-awaited Flight 93, the story of the one terrorist-hijacked plane that didn't hit its target. And summer's celluloid harbinger shows up on May 5 when Tom Cruise struts into town with MI3, the latest installment of the popular Mission Impossible franchise. Summer officially begins the week after (with a remake of The Poseidon Adventure) and it's all downhill from there, so enjoy while you can.

Lance Goldenberg

Sensory Overload/Booty Art Expo/Gasparilla Festival of the Arts: Too much is never enough, and that will never be truer for area arts aficionados than on Mar. 4-5. As usual, the Gasparilla festival will draw crowds downtown, but this year the smorgasbord is even richer because of two new arts events taking place the same weekend: the Booty Art Expo, a by-invitation show of regional artists and arts collectives curated by Carrie Mackin and sponsored by the City of Tampa (location TBA); and Sensory Overload. The latter, on Saturday night Mar. 4 at the Cuban Club, is a multi-disciplinary arts extravaganza being put together by the Planet. We'll literally have something for everybody (and the following is just a partial list): rock (Tribal Style, Soulfound); DJs (Scott Imrich, Slopfunkdust); visual art (The ARTillery, Wendy Babcox's USF all-stars); dance (Moving Current); theater (Jobsite); plus all kinds of other appeals to the senses, including taste (culinary artists), touch (massage), smell (aromatherapy) and even the sixth sense. A portion of Sensory Overload's proceeds will go toward scholarships for students at arts magnet schools and other arts-related causes; we think it's going to be a blast.

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