Welcome to February, folks. Also known as the Sargasso Sea of Cinema. Fog. Stillness. Not a breath of wind. This is the watery hell where Hollywood traditionally sends its multimillion-dollar shipwrecks to die, letting the overwritten, the overacted, the over-budgeted and the overwrought sink to the murky depths.
It's hell on earth for a movie reviewer.
In terms of this week's foray into La Cinema, this presented something of a problem. I think Matthew McConaughey might be the antichrist, so “Fool's Gold” was out. Ditto on “Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins” — an ensemble film full of comedians whose acts you'd have to pay ME to sit through. Likewise, I ain't going to the new Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana movie unless there's some way I can bundle up the experience and scalp it to some child-whipped parental dupe on eBay.
Which left only one viable option for this week: the Jessica Alba blind-chick-sees-ghosts vehicle “The Eye.” The good news is, if you go into the theater already disappointed, you're always ready to be pleasantly surprised. Didn't happen in this case, mind you. But sometimes.
Here, Alba plays Sydney Wells, a virtuoso concert violinist who was blinded at age five by a childhood accident — one that her sister Helen (Parker Posey, who traded in her indie-film cred a couple years back to become the Gabby Hayes of earnest female sidekicks) has always felt responsible for. Though Sydney has rejected at least one cornea transplant in the past, this time — through the miracle of stem cell research — she gets a new pair of peepers and they take.
The problem is, almost from the moment the bandages come off, Sydney starts seeing weird, dark figures that don't seem to be part of the real world. Soon, she comes to believe that she (gasp) sees dead people. As her vision slowly clears over the next few weeks, the figures get clearer and more terrifying — including periodic visits from cloaked black wraiths, who just might be harbingers of death. Together with the psychologist who was tasked with helping her integrate back into the sighted world (Alessandro Nivola), Sydney sets off for Mexico to find the story of the young woman who was her cornea donor, and why she can see what others can't.
Though Alba is absolutely lovely to look at, the illusion that she's anything more than eye candy evaporates pretty much as soon as she opens her mouth. All her lines seem to be delivered with either a Mouseketeer chipperness, or in a blood-curling shriek. That's too bad, because in terms of plot “The Eye” is kind of a cool premise, with solid subplots and an ending that ties up a lot of the film's loose ends.
— David Koon
‘Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show'
Comedy combo shows seem to be the way we're getting our stand-up these days, ever since Spike Lee brought the concept to the big screen eight years ago with “The Original Kings of Comedy.” Surprisingly, even though many have copied the “four comics with a theme” idea ad nauseam, no one has ever tried to duplicate Lee's format in a major release, coupling stand-up comedy with pseudo-documentary.
It took Vince Vaughan, of all people, to give it a shot. Vaughan, known neither as a filmmaker nor a comedian, put together a filmed four-man comedy tour across America's heartland that cribs directly from Lee's movie. The result, “Vince Vaughan's Wild West Comedy Show,” is an entertaining but uneven road movie.
Vaughan's plan here is to take relatively unknown comics and put them on a tour bus, doing 30 shows in 30 cities in 30 days. Cameras follow them everywhere, documenting everything that happens on and off stage, and you'll find yourself waiting for them to either capture something interesting behind the scenes or else just stick to the comedy routines.
This never happens. Instead we get a short bio of each comedian and then some assorted grab-assery punctuated by The Serious Moment. It's sort of charming, but nothing really film-worthy, more an advertisement for each performer. You'd figure that a month of travel would include serious problems, breakdowns, fights, anything of real interest, but either that never happened or else they left it on the cutting room floor.
As to the comedy, it's mostly pretty good, but not quite as good as I wanted it to be, not good enough to merit a feature film. There are very funny moments, most of them courtesy of the endearingly churlish John Caparulo, who occasionally had me howling, but those moments are more the exception than the rule. Even more counter-productive to the comedy is the constant interruption by the behind-the-scenes “action,” which keeps us from watching the routines build a head of steam. Seeing the guys interacting backstage is sometimes funny too, but it mostly leaves the actual comedy, the thing we dropped nine bucks to see, as an afterthought to mundane footage.
Overall, it's not bad, but it's not good enough for the big screen and wouldn't have made it there without Vaughan's name attached. If only he'd just focused on the jokes or ... I don't know, something resembling a Wild West variety show with comedy.