At The Movies
The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause
Suiting up again as the title character, Tim Allen seems bored with his own franchise. This new sequel centers mainly on St. Nick's rivalry with Jack Frost (Martin Short), who plans to turn the North Pole into a tacky theme park. The movie panders to every demographic with a fail-safe yuletide mix of puns, slapstick and platitudes.
Deck the Halls
A well-organized Christmas enthusiast is challenged by a new neighbor who wants to create the biggest holiday display in the world. Matthew Broderick and Danny DeVito star. Review on Page 26.
Facing the Giants
A failing high school football coach finds that, in order to succeed, he must convince his team that there's more to sports than fame and glory, in this religious tale of courage. The low-budget movie is the brainchild of Georgia Baptist ministers Alex and Stephen Kendrick and the cast is made up of church members. It's an inspiring film made with humor and heart.
Flushed Away 1/2
A pampered British rat (voiced by Hugh Jackman) finds himself in a sewer-city recreation of a miniature London. His attempt to return to the surface world with a self-sufficient lady rat (Kate Winslet) is blocked by a royalist toad and his hench-rats. This great-looking CGI movie (with the help of the Aardman studio of "Wallace and Gromit" fame) is only hampered by a constant hyperkinetic pace.
Happy Feet 1/2
The best animated film of the year. A young penguin named Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood), searches for his mate. Unfortunately, he's incapable of belting out his own song to attract one ... but, boy, can he dance! The movie follows Mumble on a journey of discovery both harrowing and thrilling. The visuals are both intimate and breathtakingly grand, and they support a story that can be deeply poignant.
A rebel in trouble with the law becomes the dance partner of a beautiful ballet student at a prestigious performing arts school in Baltimore. It's a thoroughly formulaic but mildly enjoyable dance movie.
Daniel Craig takes over the iconic role of James Bond, in a movie about the secret agent's very first mission. While a bit light in action scenes, what the movie has is riveting, clever and well-choreographed. The appeal this time lays much heavier on Bond as a person, on his development as one of cinema's deadliest killers and most heartless womanizers. Craig delivers one of the finest performances ever in a 007 flick.
Déjà Vu 1/2
Denzel Washington and director Tony Scott have made a smart and complex movie with powerful emotions and riveting suspense. Washington is superb as a battle-weary federal agent who suspects foul play behind a fatal accident in New Orleans.
For Your Consideration
Christopher Guest and his masterful cast of comedic improvisers mock Hollywood's Oscar mania, and while the results are funny as expected, it's surprisingly sad, too. An insecure actress starring in a 1940s Jewish melodrama is rumored on the Internet to have given an award-calibre performance. Catherine O'Hara's portrayal of Marilyn Hack is at once touching and bravely unpleasant, transcending satire to illustrate vanity's awful downside.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson stars as a true-life probation officer who coaches a football team made up of gangbangers in a youth detention camp. Director Phil Joanou is relentless in his attempts to inspire the audience. Instead, the result is just overbearing.
The Grudge 2 1/2
In this sequel to the popular remake of the Japanese horror hit, the curse of the haunted travels worldwide. There are a couple of good scares, but we've seen this all before. Amber Tamblyn takes over as the plucky heroine in distress.
Kevin Costner plays a Coast Guard rescue swimmer who's struggling with life on the water after losing his squad in an accident. He ends up mentoring a hotshot swimmer (Ashton Kutcher) training for his elite military unit. Though the movie has its potent action moments, it basically drags.
While fine technical wizardry went into this period film set in early 20th-century Austria, it lacks the magic of romance, drama, longing and faith you think would be generated in a tale about a love triangle involving a magician (Edward Norton), a noblewoman (Jessica Biel) and the heir to the throne (Rufus Sewell).
Man of the Year 1/2
Robin Williams plays a political comedian who decides to run for president as a joke, but the gag gets out of hand when he ends up winning due to a voting-machine error. Director Barry Levinson and his cast deliver well enough to keep the movie in the race.
The Marine 1/2
WWE star John Cena plays a former jarhead back from Iraq who finds himself returning to action stateside when his wife is kidnapped by a murderous gang led by a merciless criminal. In keeping with the orchestrated mayhem of pro wrestling, there is much noise and violence, and little else.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom reprise their roles in this swashbuckling sequel. This time, Capt. Jack Sparrow discovers he owes a debt to the legendary Davy Jones. A darker tale than the first, it's still a rollicking, well-paced yarn.
The Queen 1/2
Helen Mirren gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Queen Elizabeth II during the tragic death of Princess Diana. Mirren gives the queen a restrained soulfulness and sense of duty that reinvents her.
The Return 1/2
Stronger on spooky atmosphere than narrative sense, this ghost story stars Sarah Michelle Gellar as a troubled woman traveling across the Midwest who discovers she may be reincarnated and that super-natural forces are helping her avenge her murder in a past life.
School for Scoundrels 1/2
A beleaguered New York City meter maid tries to overcome his feeling of inadequacy by enrolling in an unorthodox and top-secret confidence-building class. Billy Bob Thornton and Jon Heder basically play weaker versions of their "Bad Santa" and "Napoleon Dynamite" characters. The clash of those two opposing forces generate only a few laughs in this overlong movie.
Stranger Than Fiction
Will Ferrell plays a confused man who discovers that an unseen female narrator is chronicling the events of his life in a voice only he can hear. A literature professor (Dustin Hoffman) helps him figure out that he's gotten caught up in the latest work-in-progress of a British novelist (Emma Thompson). This movie is refreshing for its ability to keep the audience guessing whether it's going to wind up as tragedy or comedy. Ferrell gives his best performance yet.
Alejandro González Iñárritu's latest film, with a cast featuring Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and Gael García Bernal, tells four separate stories from around the world and slowly reveals their interconnectedness. But the film struggles to be as true as it is portentous. The sight of so many different characters bursting into tears brings on your own catharsis or leaves you feeling as if the movie's doing the weeping for you.
In telling the story of the tragic assassination of Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 at Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel, writer-director Emilio Estevez has created a large group of disparate fictional characters who populate the hotel that fateful evening. It's an innovative approach with lofty ambitions, but that's the film's downfall. So many people come and go that their separate stories feel rushed and superficial. While the all-star cast can be distracting, strong performances emerge.
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan 1/2
British satirist Sacha Baron Cohen portrays an absurdly clueless Eastern European "journalist" on a real-life, culture-clashing cross-country trip across the United States. The transgressive comedy is an instant classic -- crude and confrontational -- as Cohen stays in character as he interacts with real people. He has inflammatory fun with hypocrites and zealots on both sides of the political spectrum.
Fast Food Nation
Richard Linklater directs a fictionalized thriller inspired by Eric Schlosser's bestselling nonfiction exposé of fast food corporations. Unlike the book, however, this film is just indigestible. Besides Schlosser's stories of bullied ranchers and overworked slaughterhouse workers, there are details about meth labs, the Patriot Act, sexual harassment, eco-terrorism and corporate surveillance. The result is a multiple-storyline fiction that can't decide what it wants to be.
Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz star in Darren Aronofsky's densely garish fever dream on the subject of immortality. The visuals are dreamlike and textured, because the story is seemingly fractured and skips about in time and space. Or is this thinking person's film all but a dream?
Jackass Number Two 1/2
Johnny Knoxville and his crew of reprobates return for another round of pointlessly dangerous and disgusting stunts. But because of the gleeful attitude of the guys, the puerile humor is shamelessly entertaining.
Let's Go to Prison
The title of this movie aptly sums up the experience of watching it: 84 minutes of hard time. A criminal (Dax Shepard) finds himself sharing a cell with the son (Will Arnett) of the judge who sentenced him. He tries to make sure that his new buddy gets the full in-prison treatment, but his plans of revenge don't go as planned.It's a dopey movie made by smart people who should know better.
Little Miss Sunshine
This hit indie film follows an oddball clan as they race across three states to get their 7-year-old daughter to a beauty pageant. It's a sunny, prefabricated charmer of a comedy, looking at the all-American obsession with winning and chortles darkly.
This latest installment in the horror franchise, compared to its more resourceful predecessors, is just a hodgepodge of gruesome moments and a weird love story that's worse than the gory death scenes. The original concept of a serial killer targeting people who are self-destructive is lost amid the new movie's messy storytelling.
Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny 1/2
Only the equally tenacious and die-hard fan of the self-proclaimed "greatest band on Earth" could love this. The playful rambles of Jack Black and Kyle Gass' songs occasionally enliven the movie, but their characters are so cartoonishly dumb and boorish, they're little more than flat characters in a mediocre bit of sketch comedy.
This movie's about a group of Samoan emigre buddies in Auckland, New Zealand, who are challenged to find proper girlfriends to bring as dates to a wedding. What ensues is remarkably funny, thanks to the first-rate comedy of the comic troupe Naked Samoans.
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):
Global Lens Film Festival: In the Battlefields
At 1, 4 and 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The Night of Truth
At 1, 4 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday.
Max and Mona
At 7:30 p.m. Nov. 27, and 1 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 28.
Cinema, Aspirins and Vultures
At 1 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 29 and 30.
3566 Harding Ave.; $5; reservations recommended due to limited seating (735-8771):
Mongolian Ping Pong
At 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m. Friday and Nov. 27.
At 12:30, 4 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
At 12:30 and 8 p.m. Sunday.
At 3 and 5:30 p.m. Sunday.
Hawaii, Oslo (Hawaii Premiere)
At 12:30, 3, 5:30 and 8 p.m. Nov. 30.