At the Movies
An American Haunting
Sissy Spacek and Donald Sutherland star in this horror-chiller based on the legend of the Bell Witch, an unrelenting demon that has plagued a Tennessee family since the early 1800s. The family's descendants uncover the mystery and realize old ghost stories can come back to haunt them. Review on Page 10. (PG-13)
Carl Hiaasen's award-winning children's book is adapted for the big screen. It's the story of an eighth-grader and his campaign to save a family of endangered owls. Luke Wilson and Logan Lerman star, along with co-producer Jimmy Buffett, who also did the music soundtrack. Review on Page 22. (PG)
Mission: Impossible III
Tom Cruise's super-spy series continues, this time helmed by "Lost" co-creator J.J. Abrams. Cruise's character Ethan Hunt goes against a dangerous international weapons and information dealer (Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman) who places his girlfriend (Michelle Monaghan) in peril. Review on Thursday's Entertainment page. (PG-13)
A box-office hit in China, Chen Kaige's ambitious fantasy is a tale of passion, love and honor. A beautiful princess becomes the object of affection for three very different men: a powerful duke, a brave general and a lowly slave. Review on Page 23. (PG-13)
G - General audiences.
Based on the popular children's books, the animated film follows an inquisitive monkey as he travels to the big city to find his human friend. The movie remains very much within its own candy-colored universe and stays true to the light-hearted spirit of the beloved books. It's ideal for kids ages 4 to 8, with a soundtrack filled with original songs by Jack Johnson.
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 the enchanted land forever. The animation is ugly, unfortunately, 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 escape and search for his cub, which was mistakenly shipped to the wild. Because the two movies are so similar structurally and thematically, and because they've been released so close to each other, "The Wild" comes off as a toothless retread.
PG - Parental guidance suggested.
Akeelah and the Bee
The innate talent of an 11-year-old inner-city black girl makes her a surprise contender for the national spelling bee. Keke Palmer steps into a lead role with poise, panache, a headstrong spirit and hearty humor. The movie manages to uplift without drowning in its own contrived sweetness. Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett are part of the sturdy supporting cast.
Paul Walker plays a researcher in Antarctica who takes his small scientific expedition to recover the pack of sled dogs they left behind more than six months before, when they 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.
Detectives try to unravel the mystery at Granny's house in a new 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.
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 femme fatale pop star (Beyoncé Knowles). The movie is sporadically funny, and Martin engages in his silliest screen behavior since "The Jerk."
Robin Williams stars as a dad who rents a gigantic recreational vehicle to take his family on an adventure-filled vacation to Colorado. Lame jokes and sight gags are repeated so often you feel you're driving in circles. "RV" amounts to four flat tires and a busted radiator hose.
PG-13 - Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate from children under age 13.
A troubled New York cop (Bruce Willis) must escort a squirrely convict (Mos Def) from jail to court, but dangerous forces are out to stop them. This routine movie pushes Willis and Def through a ceaselessly exciting, though often outrageous, gauntlet of grit and grime.
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. Like the catchiest pop song, the movie is exuberantly fun but provides zero substance. It is, however, joyfully cynical. Hugh Grant, Dennis Quaid and Mandy Moore star.
A baseball buffoonery 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.
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.
"24's" Kiefer Sutherland is protecting the president again, this time hunting down a suspected Secret Service mole (Michael Douglas), who claims he is being framed. The movie delivers modest action at best and the plot is silly. A decent episode of "24" packs more and better action sequences in less than half the movie's running time.
It's a retread of 2000's "Bring It On," only with gymnastics in place of cheerleading. While the movie trots out a cornucopia of sports-movie clichés, it's watchable for the performance of Missy Peregrym as the rebellious lead character. The Canadian actress is a perfect mix of beauty and tomboyish strength.
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.
Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion
The writer/director/actor reprises his grandmother character from last year's surprise hit "Diary of a Mad Black Woman." This time, Perry's Southern matriarch tries to organize a family reunion while caring for a runaway and counseling her nieces through their relationship troubles. It's another helping of earnest but amateurish entertainment, an unwieldy hodgepodge of prayer, punch lines and "Mommie Dearest" histrionics.
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, deafening and incoherent.
R - Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
Basic Instinct 2
Sharon Stone reprises her career-making role of Catherine Trammell. The best-selling crime novelist is brought in by a Scotland Yard detective following the death of a sports star. The sequel to 1992's overheated sex thriller shows plenty of skin and erotic exercise, but little else to arouse viewers, either physically or intellectually. And Stone seems campy and shrill instead of fun and alluring this time 'round.
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.
Friends With Money
Writer-director Nicole Holofcener returns with another female-centric feature. 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. The film is filled with Holofcener's typically observant dialogue and wry humor, and leaves you wanting more. Jennifer Aniston, Frances McDormand, Catherine Keener and Joan Cusack star.
Ellen Page gives a riveting performance in this provocative and tense psychological thriller about a teenage girl's exacting revenge on a smooth-operating pedophile she first meets on the Internet. Sandra Oh ("Sideways," "Grey's Anatomy") has a small role in the film.
A tough detective matches wits with a bank robber as a dangerous cat-and-mouse game unfolds during a perfectly planned bank robbery. A power broker with a hidden 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 pair of New York's rival crime bosses (Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley). It's an engaging crime romp, and its convolutions will keep audiences guessing. The movie's biggest flaw is that in the end it makes things too easy and too pat for viewers.
Yet another video game adaptation, this one features a woman (Radha Mitchell) looking for her missing daughter in an abandoned town inhabited by strange creatures from an alternate dimension. While the movie is compelling in a nightmarish way, at a little over two hours, it's way too long.
Residents of a small town are terrorized by an alien plague in the form of bloodthirsty slugs whose bite transforms people into zombies and all forms of mutant monsters. Director James Gunn recycles parts of different horror movies to make a whole new one with lots of goo, lots of gore and quite a few intentional laughs. It's a B-movie delight.
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.
A real-time drama about the fourth plane hijacked on 9/11. The story of the passengers who fought back is told with devastating realism, stirring up a fresh sense of horror and erasing five years' distance from the attacks. British writer-director Paul Greengrass ("The Bourne Supremacy") handles volatile material with tact, his detail-laced screenplay based on interviews with family members and reports from the 9/11 commission. Seeing the events play out on a big screen could be therapeutic, as long as one is prepared to deal with the emotions the film evokes.
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):
L'Enfant (The Child)
At 4 and 7:30 p.m. Friday to Sunday.
Review in Thursday's Today section. (NR) At 1 p.m. Friday to Sunday.
The Devil and Daniel Johnston
At 7:30 p.m. Monday, and 1 and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday to May 11.
3566 Harding Ave.; $5, $4 members; reservations recommended due to limited seating (735-8771):
Out of the Past
At 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m. Friday and 3, 5:30 and 8 p.m. Saturday.
At 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m. Sunday.
Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser
At 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m. Monday.
At 12:30, 3, 5:30 and 8 p.m. May 11.
"THE HEALING WORLD" FILM SERIES
Spalding Hall Auditorium, University of Hawaii-Manoa; $5 general and $3 for UH students, faculty and staff (223-0130):
Alternative Medicine: An Overview / Holistic Health From Hawaii / World Healing in Hawaii
At 5 p.m. Sunday.