Opening Friday, Feb. 8, is four-time Oscar-nominated The Diving Bell and the Butterfly(cinematography, directing, editing, adapted screenplay). Director Julian Schnabel (Basquiat; Before Night Falls) seems to specialize in biographical films and this one is no exception. Diving Bell, based on the best-selling book by the former editor of the fashion magazine Elle, Jean-Dominique Bauby, tells the story of how Bauby learned to communicate by blinking his left eye following a severe stroke at age 43 that left him with "locked-in syndrome." The result is a film that explores the process whereby Bauby's memories were imaginatively recreated. The film made the 2007 Top Ten list of a number of critics. In French with English subtitles. Rated PG-13 for nudity, sexual content and some language. 122 m. At the Broadway.
On the Hollywood front, the romantic action/comedy Fool's Gold stars Matthew McConaughey as booty hunter Finn Finnegan and Kate Hudson as his about-to-be ex who got fed up with playing second string when it came to a booty call. But wouldn't you know it? When Finn may be close to discovering sunken Spanish loot from the 1700s in the Caribbean, the dying flame is rekindled. The big suspense here is whether the film will have any comedy, romance or action. Co-starring Donald Sutherland, Fool's Gold is directed by Andy Tennant (Sweet Home Alabama; Hitch). Rated PG-13 for action violence, some sexual material, brief nudity and language. 123 m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins is a comedy starring Martin Lawrence as a hugely successful talk show host in Los Angeles who is engaged to a reality-TV star. His parents back in Georgia ask him to come home for their 50th wedding anniversary. With his son and fiancée in tow, he returns to his hometown only to discover his star status in California doesn't translate very well in the South. The film co-stars James Earl Jones and Cedric the Entertainer. Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language and some drug references. 124 m. At The Movies.
THE EYE: Every so often I get a craving for one of my favorite snacks — poppers — and I trudge off to a local store that sells them. I always seem to forget, though, that commercially made poppers, which amount to a deep-fried jalapeño pepper stuffed with cream cheese or cheddar and a cornmeal coating, are always made with most or all of the pepper seeds removed. What's left is the ghost of jalapeño pepper flavor without the bite. This unnecessarily bland snack is a perfect metaphor for The Eye, a horror film/ghost story where the producers forgot to add the horror. Add Jessica Alba in the lead and you have a film that virtually disappears as you're watching.
Alba is Sydney, a young woman who was blinded in an accident when she was five. She has carved out a career as a concert violinist and her life seems to be going along fine without sight. However, her sister Helen (Parker Posey, wasted in a role that amounts to little more than a cameo), who feels responsible for the accident, obsessively keeps up with the latest eye research. As a result, Helen convinces Sydney to undergo cornea transplants, an operation that takes place shortly into the film.
While the operation appears to be completely successful, Sydney begins to see things that no one else does, and the visions become increasingly violent. Initially, Dr. Paul Faulkner (Alessandro Nivola, The Clearing; Junebug) ascribes her difficulties to the fact that her brain is trying to adjust to her new sense, but, as usual, the viewer knows better.
The film actually does a good job of building the story slowly. Such a narrative strategy in a horror film, though, requires a payoff, and that is not forthcoming here. Sure, the cause of the visions is discovered, but it's a total non-surprise, as is Paul's change of heart toward Sydney. Furthermore, the ending is much too neatly tied up. Who wants a feel-good horror film? Probably the same people who remove the seeds from hot peppers before eating them.
To be fair to Alba, she is adequate to the task in the early part of the film, when little is required of her. But as the character starts to fall apart, the role quickly becomes too demanding for her meager acting skills. I'll give credit for one thing, though: She looks stunning in a concert dress. Nivola rounds out his character somewhat more effectively, but the script gives him little room for real development.
I haven't seen the original Pang Brothers film that provided the basis for The Eye, but I assume Asian viewers have more tangy taste. Rated PG-13 for violence/terror and disturbing content. 107 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
OVER HER DEAD BODY: Over Her Dead Body isn't the first romantic comedy where a ghost throws up barriers in the pathway to true love, but it's the first in a while. How much this conceit helps to make this latest addition to the genre interesting is a matter of taste. For the hardcore fans, innovation is hardly the point for a romantic comedy; they just want yet another iteration of the standard narrative.
Well, those fans can rejoice: Jeff Lowell's directorial debut provides the minimum requirements of romance and comedy with a decent cast thrown in for good measure. As the film opens, a micromanaging Kate (Eva Longoria Parker) is obsessing about every aspect of her imminent wedding to Henry (Paul Rudd), an attention to detail that results in her death by ice angel prior to the ceremony.
True to her nature, she is too imperious to listen to the instructions by her mentor angel in some sort of heavenly halfway house, a plot device that sets up the rest of the film. Meanwhile, a year later, Henry's sister Chloe (TV actress Lindsay Sloane in humorously kooky performance) convinces her skeptical brother to go to psychic Ashley (a very good Lake Bell from Boston Legal).
Even the tyro romantic comedy fan will immediately recognize that the appropriate couple has been introduced and the rest of the plot will consist of a series of barriers to their eventual coupling. The chief barrier, of course, since Longoria (sooner or later I'll get used to Parker, assuming divorce doesn't occur first) is the film's star, is the ghost of fiancées past.
Kate believes her mission on Earth before she can go to heaven proper is to keep Henry and Ashley apart. Throw in some lies and deception, and you've pretty much got the film. There are the usual stupid visual jokes (did I think squirting mustard on a nice outfit was funny when I was 9?), and a mostly superfluous "gay" best friend (an uninteresting Jason Biggs).
It's too bad the script wasn't smarter because while Longoria is fine in a role that hardly stretches her, Rudd and Bell are excellent. They handle the humor with ease and some subtlety, and they manage to make their lines genuinely witty. If you see the film, they are the tang to an otherwise forgettable experience. Rated PG-13 for sexual content and language. 105 m. At the Broadway.
27 DRESSES.Jane, an idealistic, romantic and selfless woman, re-examines her life when her little sister usurps her love interest. Rated PG-13. 111 m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS.Based on the 1950s cartoon series about chipmunks Alvin, Simon and Theodore, who sing in three-part harmony. Rated PG. 91 m. At The Movies.
ATONEMENT.Dramatic British tale, set in 1935, of deceit and love, of wealth and privilege, based on novel by Ian McEwan. Rated R. 123 m. At the Broadway.
BUCKET LIST.A corporate billionaire and a working class mechanic, who have developed a strong bond while sharing a hospital room, embark on the road trip of a lifetime. Rated PG-13. 97 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
CLOVERFIELD.Five young New Yorkers document their attempt to survive a huge monster attacking the city. Rated PG-13. At the Broadway and The Minor.
JUNO.An intelligent teen, Juno, deals with the consequences of an unplanned pregnancy by seeking out the perfect set of parents to adopt her unborn child. Rated PG-13. 96 m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
MEET THE SPARTANS.Spoof movie features the heroic Leonidas, armed with nothing but leather underwear and a cape, commanding a Spartan force. Rated PG-13. 84 m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
MICHAEL CLAYTON.Clayton, a corporate lawyer, deals with his biggest life challenge when he faces sabotage, divorce, debt and burn-out. Rated R. 120 m. At Fortuna.
NATIONAL TREASURE: BOOK OF SECRETS.A man follows an international chain of clues to prove his great-grandfather's innocence when a page from the diary of John Wilkes Booth surfaces implicating his ancestor in Abraham Lincoln's death. Rated PG. 124 m. At The Movies.
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN.Coen Brothers' adaptation of Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Cormac McCarthy touches on themes as varied as the Bible and this morning's headlines. Rated R. 123 m. At The Movies, Fortuna and the Minor.
PIRATES WHO DON't DO ANYTHING.Three moping misfits turn heroes in the battle to rescue a royal family from a tyrant and themselves from living the life of common couch potatoes. Rated G. 91 m. At Fortuna.
RAMBO.Rambo returns to the big screen in grisly, violent tale written, directed by and starring Sylvester Stallone. Rated R. 93 m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
SWEENEY TODD.Sweeney Todd, a man unjustly sent to prison, becomes the Demon Barber of Fleet Street when he seeks revenge on those who wronged him via his barbershop. Rated R. 117 m. At The Movies and the Minor.
THERE WILL BE BLOOD.Epic set in Cali's turn of the century oil boom chronicles a down-and-out silver miner's rise into a self-made oil tycoon. Rated R. 158 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and the Minor.
WATER HORSE: LEGEND OF THE DEEP.A young boy finds an enchanted egg, which holds the amazing, mythical creature of Scottish lore, the "water horse." Rated PG. 112 m. At The Movies.