At The Movies
Akeelah and the Bee
A precocious 11-year-old black girl's gift for words takes her to compete in the National Spelling Bee, pushed on by a forthright, mysterious teacher. Laurence Fishburne, Angela Bassett and Keke Palmer star in this family drama. (PG)
Director Paul Weitz's satire is about a TV singing contest's popularity being so great that the president decides to sign up as a guest judge for the season finale. Hugh Grant, Dennis Quaid and Mandy Moore star. Review on Page 25. (PG-13)
Friends With Money
Director Nicole Holofcener returns with another femalecentric feature. This time, it's the story of a quartet of longtime friends from tony west Los Angeles. Three of them are in longtime marriages, while the remaining single one is going through life rather aimlessly. Jennifer Aniston, Frances McDormand, Catherine Keener and Joan Cusack star. Review on Page 24. (R)
"24's" Kiefer Sutherland is protecting the president again, this time by hunting down a suspected Secret Service mole (Michael Douglas), who claims he is being framed. Kim Basinger and Eva Longoria co-star. Review on Thursday's Entertainment page. (PG-13)
Yet another video game adaptation, this one featuring a woman (Radha Mitchell) looking for her missing daughter in an abandoned town inhabited by strange creatures from an alternate dimension. (R)
G - General audiences.
Originally a Franco-Anglo animated feature, and retitled, shortened and redubbed by American actor voices, a dog and his animal friends embark on a quest to find three magic diamonds in order to keep an evil sorcerer from deep-freezing their enchanted land forever. The animation is ugly and the incomprehensible American rewrite adds nothing.
It's not "Madagascar Part II," but rather a computer-animated film about a New York City zoo lion (voiced by Kiefer Sutherland) who enlists his animal friends to search for his cub, who was mistakenly shipped to the wild. Voices of Jim Belushi, Janeane Garofalo, Eddie Izzard and William Shatner are also featured.
PG - Parental guidance suggested.
Two friends try to help a mermaid capture the heart of a hunky lifeguard at their neighborhood beach club. Heartfelt but clunky, this mermaid-out-of-water story offers enough female-positive messages to make it worthwhile viewing for 'tween girls.
Paul Walker plays a researcher in Antarctica who takes his small scientific expedition to recover their pack of sled dogs, left behind more than six months before after being were caught in a storm. Charting the struggle for survival of the dogs, this movie will enthrall youngsters and warm the hearts of adult dog lovers.
The true story of the underdog Texas Western college basketball team, with history's first all-black starting lineup, and their surprising championship win in the 1966 NCAA tournament. Though the performances are understated, the inspirational story is amped up unecessarily with an overbearing score, hyperactive camerawork and jumpy edits that obscure the action at crucial spots.
Detectives try to unravel the mystery at Granny's house in a satirical, animated take on "Little Red Riding Hood." Kids might be entertained by the color and nonstop energy, but adults, the movie's real target, will see the film is really hackneyed and irrelevant.
Ice Age: The Meltdown
The cheery animated sequel might as well come with another subtitle: "Featuring Scrat!" The fanged little goof constantly upstages the top-billed talent with his manic antics to secure his precious acorn. The movie is right on par with the 2002 original: brisk, pleasant and loaded with slapstick that should keep young children giggling, though repetitive enough that parents at times may feel they're sitting through the first "Ice Age" all over again.
Emma Thompson stars as a magical but tough nanny who shapes up a family of seven badly behaved children. Thompson and director Kirk Jones' twisted, dryly British sense of humor often makes the movie surprisingly funny. The visual effects, unfortunately, look jarringly cheesy.
Neil Young: Heart of Gold
Filmmaker Jonathan Demme's latest musical documentary focuses on highlights from a two-night stint by the veteran rocker at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, performing music from his earliest years up to his latest album "Prairie Wind." This is a deep and touching piece of work, as Young's songs address matters of death, aging and remembrance.
The Pink Panther
Steve Martin plays a variation of Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau character in this remake of the 1960s original. The bumbling French detective takes on a mystery involving the death of a soccer coach, a missing diamond ring, and a femme fatale (Beyoncé Knowles). Martin engages in his silliest screen behavior since "The Jerk."
PG-13 - Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate from children under age 13.
A classic example of a music video director (Chris Robinson) making the leap to feature films and emphasizing style over substance. He could've made more of his coming-of-age story, and its complex issues of race, class, money and identity. Rapper Tip "T.I." Harris makes his film debut.
A baseball buffonery comedy, this latest project from producer Adam Sandler packs more pop than you'd expect from a film made up of former "Saturday Night Live" second-stringers (Rob Schneider, David Spade and Jon Lovitz, plus Jon Heder from "Napoleon Dynamite"). Three grown-up dweebs form a barnstorming team seeking to lay the smackdown on full-rostered youth squads. The movie takes this inherently funny concept and frontloads its best gags to get you in a good mood, then plays small ball the rest of the way to maintain its dwindling lead.
When his family is kidnapped by a ruthless criminal mastermind, a bank security specialist (Harrison Ford) is forced to find a flaw in his own system and steal $100 million. It's a great-looking movie, but this supposed thriller contains little suspense, and Ford, at age 63, is too old for his role.
A smart-mouthed, size-plus, aspiring fashion designer (Mo'Nique) tries to find love and acceptance in a world full of "hot-bodied" babes. This is a disarming and, in its own way, delightful vehicle for its star and executive producer. It's a touching demand for the empowerment of the "big-boned" woman who's disenfranchised by society.
Scary Movie 4
The latest sequel has sporadic flashes of comic greatness, but is separated by draggy repetitive sketches that make this movie feel longer than it should. It's basically a cross between parodies of "The Grudge" and "War of the Worlds." The details are done perfectly, but the gags are hit-and-miss, and regardless of their success, they categorically go on too long.
She's the Man
This movie takes a little bit of "Bend It Like Beckham" and a lot of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" and twists them into a cross-dressing teen farce with occasional forays onto the soccer field. Amanda Bynes pretends to be just one of the guys in this energetic but unspectacular comedy. While she's no Lindsay Lohan, Bynes has a natural spunkiness that serves her and the movie well.
Frankie Muniz and Samaire Armstrong are part of a group of teens who play a mysterious online video game -- and suddenly find themselves being murdered the same ways as their game characters. This is a cheesy, unintentionally funny and not at all scary movie.
Take the Lead
Antonio Banderas stars as a former professional ballroom dancer who volunteers at a New York public school to teach dance, even though the hip-hop instincts of his students clash, at first, with his methods. With his gentlemanly, romantic manner, Banderas makes a predictable movie more tolerable than it should be.
Milla Jovovich stars as a genetically altered woman with martial arts skills and chameleon-like abilities who's trying to protect a boy from a government out to kill him. The movie wants desperately to be a provocative, high-concept futuristic thriller, but it's overstyled and incoherent.
R - Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
Writer/director Michael Haneke delivers a masterpiece of unsettlement. The comfortable lives of a bourgeois Parisian couple (Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche) and their adolescent son starts spiraling out of control when an anonymous videotape turns up on their doorstep, showing their house under surveillance from across the street. It's a creepy psychological thriller that commands the audience's attention throughout.
Heath Ledger stars as the legendary Venetian lover who meets his match in the form of a feisty feminist writer, played by Sienna Miller. Director Lasse Hallstrom tries too hard to evoke the complex hilarity of a Shakespearan comedy with this giddy romp.
The Hills Have Eyes
A remake of Wes Craven's 1977 cult flick about a family stalked by a group of mutant killers. The script by director Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur makes this remake more like a GOP pro-gun platform plank than a horror thriller, and Aja aims to splatter, impale and eviscerate as many people as possible for as long as he thinks viewers can stand it.
A tough detective matches wits with a clever bank robber as a dangerous cat-and-mouse game unfolds during a perfectly planned bank robbery. A power broker with a 0hidden agenda emerges to inject even more instability into an already volatile situation. This latest "joint" from director Spike Lee is consistently engaging and boasts fine performances from stars Denzel Washington, Clive Owen and especially Jodie Foster, her best in years.
Lucky Number Slevin
Part mistaken-identity thriller, part flimflam game, this film stars Josh Hartnett as Slevin, a sap caught in the middle of a mob war being plotted by a paire of New York's rival crime bosses (Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley). Slevin is also under constant surveillance by a relentless detective (Stanley Tucci) and an infamous assassin (Bruce Willis). Lucy Liu is the perkily resourceful love interest who helps Hartnett play both sides against the middle.
Pierce Brosnan stars as a cynical, washed-up, irresistible cad of a hit man, who befriends an optimistic, straight-laced businessman (Greg Kinnear) in a Mexico City hotel bar while on a job. It's a breezy, stylish, darkly funny thriller that transcends the clichés of the mismatched-buddy movie genre.
Thank You For Smoking
This satirical comedy follows the machinations of Big Tobacco's chief spokesman, Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart), who spins on behalf of cigarettes while trying to remain a role model for his 12-year-old son. Perfectly pitched and genuinely funny, every cast member's performance clicks, and Eckhart's character stands as a memorable creation in contemporary cinema.
Set amidst the sprawling Johannesburg township of Soweto, the winner of this year's Best Foreign Film Oscar traces six days in the life of a ruthless young gang leader who ends up caring for a baby accidentally kidnapped during a car-jacking. It's a solid, earnest drama of moral redemption that places old clichés in an unfamiliar setting.
V for Vendetta
Natalie Portman stars as a British woman enlisted by a masked revolutionary to help fight against the totalitarian government in this thriller. The saga scores well enough in its first hour, but loses focus midway through. The Wachowski brothers wrote the screenplay based on Alan Moore's graphic novel, and the result lands somewhere between the neo-noir freshness of their original "The Matrix" and the indecipherable bombast of the two sequels.
Art House | Revival
THE DORIS DUKE THEATRE, HONOLULU ACADEMY OF ARTS
900 S. Beretania St.; $7 general; $6 seniors, students and military; $5 Academy members (532-8768):
Preceded by local short "A Team Like No Other." At 1, 4 and 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Sophie Scholl -- The Final Days
Review on Page 29. (NR) At 1, 4 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 7:30 p.m. Monday; and 1 and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday to April 27.
3566 Harding Ave.; $5, $4 members; reservations recommended due to limited seating (735-8771):
At 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m. Friday and April 24.
At 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m. Saturday.
At 12:30, 3, 5:30 and 8 p.m. Sunday.
Tristan + Isolde
At 12:30, 3, 5:30 and 8 p.m. April 27.
FILIPINO INDIE FILM FESTIVAL
University of Hawaii-Manoa, Hemenway Hall Auditorium; Free admission:
Santa Santita and Crying Ladies
At 5 and 7:30 p.m. Friday.
"THE HEALING WORLD" FILM SERIES
Spalding Hall Auditorium, University of Hawaii-Manoa; $5 general and $3 for UH students, faculty and staff (223-0130):
Shaman of the Andes / Kau Faito'o: Traditional Healers of Tonga
At 5 p.m. Sunday.
Selling Sickness / A Touch of Magic: Treating the Person Inside the Patient
At 7 p.m. April 27.