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2012 Florida Film Festival

The 2012 Florida Film Festival's brightest star is Central Florida itself. Are we ready for our close-up?

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Think of Me (5 Stars)Just like Mars, the underside of Las Vegas is no place to raise a kid – particularly when your only means of support is a call-center job, your deadbeat ex isn't giving up the support payments and your own skill at planning is limited to responding impulsively to the crisis of the moment. Lauren Ambrose, who went from Six Feet Under to wowing New York theater critics as Shakespeare's Juliet, gives a simply flawless performance as Angela, a woman ill-equipped for single parenthood. The movie is a minefield of potential calamities that will have every audience member with an ounce of a protective instinct on the edge of his or her seat; frequently, Angela is the only one in the theater who can't see the potential consequences of her latest rash move. Yet the film refuses to point a finger at her, and won't let us do it, either. Instead, we find ourselves clinging desperately to the increasingly slim odds that she'll be able to hold onto her 7-year-old Sunny (Audrey Scott, in a heartbreaking turn that more than holds its own with Ambrose's Independent Spirit-nominated portrayal). Likewise, Mark Schwartzbard's cinematography is flat-out gorgeous yet never romanticizes the often squalid goings-on in writer-director Bryan Wizemann's deeply knowing script. I can't remember the last time I was so truly and totally captivated by an FFF feature – and maybe by a movie in general. – SS (6 p.m. at Regal Winter Park)

Give Up Tomorrow (4 Stars) Following, with remarkable depth, clarity and conviction, the 14-year saga of Paco Larrañaga and six other seemingly innocent men who were convicted and sentenced to death for the kidnapping, rape and murder of two teen sisters in 1997 in the Philippines, filmmaker Michael Collins assembles a crack team of journalists and others involved in the case and deconstructs the case against them until it appears to be completely fabricated. The fallout, as portrayed by Collins, is nothing short of jaw-dropping; it's a media circus that pulls in the likes of presidents, kings, Congress, the U.N. Human Rights Commission, drug lords and their puppets (some of whom may be the victims' overzealous, spirit-channeling parents), newsmagazines and TV hosts, and a judge at least as cartoonish as Belvin Perry. The tone is solemn but thorough, finding a natural balance somewhere between the metaphysical obsessions of Werner Herzog and the reactionary zest of Errol Morris. – JS (7:15 p.m. at Regal Winter Park)

Dreamworld (3 Stars) Co-writer and star Whit Hertford's bugged-out eyes, short stature and bedraggled demeanor has kept him working since he was a kid – from The Twilight Zone when he was 8 years old to preteen appearances in The Addams Family and Jurassic Park. So it's extra impressive that he conveys such relatable optimism, fear and panic at the prospect of “breaking in” to Hollywood as Oliver, a cartoonist who dreams of working at Pixar. When a Manic Pixie Dream Girl named (naturally) Lily Blush (Mary Kate Wiles) falls into his lap one night, says she knows a guy at the animation studio and begs Oliver to leave his newly acquired day job to go on a sexy dreamers' road trip, Oliver knows he's done for. As Lily reveals her inner red-flag crazy chick, Oliver has nowhere to go but inward, where he finds a surprisingly emotional conflict that lies at the heart of everything he's done or will do. Directed with artfulness and an easygoing affectation by newcomer Ryan Darst, the road show grows tiresome at points but finds its way when it needs to. I feel as though the third act is a cheat, but even so, it's done with such charm that it's tough to fault. – JS (9 p.m. at Enzian Theater)

Monday 16

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