ABOUT SCHMIDT (R) Jack Nicholson is resplendently bland in this skewed character study of an ordinary retired insurance salesman with penchant for crankiness and a bad comb-over (is there such a thing as a good comb-over?). After his wife suddenly dies, Nicholson's Schmidt hops in his 30-foot Winnebago and embarks on a mini-road trip revisiting his past — only to find he doesn't really seem to have a past, or a future. Also stars Hope Davis, Dermot Mulroney, Kathy Bates and Howard Hesseman. 1/2
ADAPTATION (PG) Like their previous film, Being John Malkovich, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze's latest is a nearly indescribable meta-adventure that grabs real life by the short-and-curlies and uses it as a jumping-off point for some of the most fiercely imaginative filmmaking around. Kaufman makes himself the movie's central character and gets Nicolas Cage to play him, turning the bulk of the film into Cage/Kaufman obsessing about himself, about his constantly morphing new script (also called Adaptation), and about the creative process in general. Also stars Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper and Brian Cox.
BIKER BOYZ (PG-13) Laurence Fishburne and Derek Luke star in a father-and-son tale that revolves around a drag race and a mythic motorcycle club made up of African-American men. Also stars Kid Rock. (Not Reviewed)
THE BREAD, MY SWEET (PG) Director Melissa Martin's low-budget romantic comedy about Italian-Americans has all the depth, originality and ethnic authenticity of a commercial for canned spaghetti sauce. Scott Baio stars as a corporate ax man with a heart of gold (he really just wants to bake bread), who decides to marry the wildcat daughter of his terminally ill surrogate mother. Baio is surprisingly good, but most of the other performances are amateurish (complete with bad Old Country accents), the direction is pedestrian and the script hopelessly lame. The movie features just about every cultural cliche in the book — its Italian-Americans are almost always either singing, squabbling, screaming, kissing or crying — and it's fairly bursting with quaint old curmudgeons, big sweet dimwits and an entire stable of recycled food-as-life metaphors. The indisputable highlight of the film is actress Rosemary Prinz, who, though not given much to work with, lights up the screen like Giulietta Masina every time she smiles. Also stars Kristin Minter and John Seitz. Held over at Channelside Cinemas. Call theater to confirm. 1/2
BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE (PG-13) Steve Martin and Queen Latifah star in what the previews reveal to be the standard Hollywood comedy, replete with formulaic devices such as silly musical interludes and urban/middle class clashes. It all starts with a wacky Internet match-up but winds up with Ms. Latifah as helper-to-the-rescue a la Mrs. Doubtfire. (Not Reviewed)
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (PG) Steven Spielberg's movie about the world's most successful con man is glossy Fun with a Capital F, a snappy old-school caper that never takes itself too seriously. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Frank Abagnale, a high school dropout who in the 1960s successfully impersonated a doctor, a lawyer and an airline pilot, and who passed some $4-million worth of forged checks, all before his 21st birthday. Also stars Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen and Nathalie Baye. 1/2
CHICAGO (PG-13) Rob Marshall pulls out all the stops in this lavish, big-screen adaptation of the hit Broadway musical about a 1920s chorus girl who shoots her lover, goes to jail and becomes a big celebrity. Taking place simultaneously in gritty reality and in the projected fantasies of its characters, the movie cleverly folds its story into a series of show-stopping musical numbers. Stars Rene Zelwegger, Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta-Jones, John C. Reilly and Taye Diggs.
CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND (R) The latest script from Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation) is based on the "unauthorized autobiography" of gonzo Gong Show host Chuck Barris. That's only a jumping-off place, however, for a feature-length fever dream as personal, edgy and just plain odd as anything we've seen from Kaufman, and directed in surprisingly surefooted style by hunk-turned-auteur George Clooney. There's an actual life-story skittering about somewhere within the decidedly nonlinear narrative of Clooney's movie, but this darkly comic vision is far closer to metafiction than it is to anything remotely resembling a standard bio-pic. Also stars Drew Barrymore, Julia Roberts, George Clooney and Rutger Hauer. 1/2
CORAL REEF ADVENTURE (G) Another quality IMAX production from the acclaimed team of MacGillivray Freeman (who seem to be able to do this IMAX thing in their sleep), Coral Reef Adventure is a fascinating and somewhat frightening look at an exotic and rapidly disappearing underwater world. Music by flag-waving hippie diehards Crosby, Stills and Nash brings home the environmental message concerning the destruction of the reefs (from a deadly combo of over-fishing and global warming), but the movie has its moments of fun as well. The effect of spending 45 minutes gazing at sensuously shaped, multicolor corals might sound a little like spending quality time with a lava lamp, but the film's also full of important information for any child or adult. Beyond that, we get yet another nicely crafted variation on the tried and true IMAX mantra extolling the diversity and interdependency of all species in our living world. Playing at MOSI's IMAX Dome Theater in Tampa. Call to confirm. 1/2