At The Movies
Blood and Chocolate
An American teenager on the run has the power of the loup garoux -- shapeshifters who can change from human to wolf. Living in Bucharest, Romania, she must choose between her love for a human outsider and betraying the vows of her family's secret society. (PG-13)
Catch and Release
Jennifer Garner stars as a woman who must deal with the untimely death of her fiancé, then learns he had a secret life he never shared with her. Review on Page 27. (PG-13)
A comedy in the spirit of "Scary Movie" spoofs recent big-budget blockbuster movies. (PG-13)
Notes on a Scandal
Oscar nominees Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett star as two British public school teachers -- one a self-professed "old battle-ax," the other a fresh-faced art instructor -- who share the secret of an illicit affair with a student. Review on Page 26. (R)
Smokin' Aces 1/2
A rogues' gallery of characters collides with the FBI when a Vegas mob boss takes out a hefty contract on a magician's head. Review on Page 28. (R)
Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar's latest film is a generational story of three women -- a good mother, a young mother and an illegal hairdresser whose shop is the meeting point for neighborhood gossips. Penélope Cruz, who plays the young mother, is a best actress Oscar nominee. Review on Page 18. (R)
Arthur and the Invisibles
To save his grandma's home, a 10-year-old (Freddie Highmore) sets off to find his grandpa's treasure hidden somewhere on the "other side" in the land of the Miniroys, a race of creatures that are just a 10th of an inch tall and live in perfect harmony with their environment. The movie bing-bing-bings all over the place like a Gallic pinball machine, repurposing fantasy novels, video games and Arthurian legends. The digital animation is sleek, luxuriant and artfully done without quite making it over the hump to art.
Based on the best-selling book series about a young man thrust into an incredible world of magic and power through which he and his hatchling dragon must navigate. The movie works as an unintended comedy, filled with awful acting and long-winded exposition.
Flushed Away 1/2
A pampered British rat (voiced by Hugh Jackman) finds himself in an elaborate sewer-city re-creation of a miniature London filled with rats, toads and slugs of varying castes. 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 (done with the help of the Aardman studio of "Wallace and Gromit" fame) is only hampered by a constant hyperkinetic pace.
Happily N'Ever After
When the wizard in charge of Fairy Tale World goes on holiday, Cinderella's wicked stepmother takes over the land. A riff on Cinderella with a gimmick could have worked in deft hands, but this unengaging animated fantasy for the most part comes off as derivative and diluted.
Night at the Museum 1/2
Ben Stiller stars in the story of a night watchman dealing with dinosaur skeletons, statues and wax figures that come to life at a museum. Stretched to greater length than its thin idea merits, the movie mainly is a collection of slapstick vignettes and, despite some occasionally inventive visual effects, comes off as unimaginative and annoying.
Daniel Craig takes over the iconic role of James Bond in a movie about the secret agent's very first mission. While a bit lighter in action scenes compared to its predecessors, what the movie has in those regards is riveting, clever and well-choreographed. Craig delivers one of the finest performances ever in a 007 flick.
Code Name: The Cleaner
Cedric the Entertainer plays an amnesiac janitor who is duped into thinking he's an undercover agent and is subconsciously carrying a dangerous secret that can link the FBI with an arms scandal. Cedric, unfortunately, doesn't have a big enough persona to fill a film, and the one-note character cramps his style. He's not particularly helped by the stale script that listlessly recycles action-comedy clichés.
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.
Former "American Idol" contestant Jennifer Hudson absolutely walks away with this big, splashy dazzler of a picture, based on the 1981 Broadway musical about the rise of a Supremes-style vocal trio called the Dreamettes. The movie is a multiple Oscar nominee, including for best supporting actor and actress (Eddie Murphy and Hudson) and best original song three times over.
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?
An unashamed heart-tugger, this movie is based on the true story of an idealistic Southern California teacher who inspires her poor and ethnically diverse high school students. She's so full of gee-whiz decency that she can only be played by Hilary Swank. Swank holds the movie together, even when all its disparate elements -- tolerance lessons, gang violence, the Holocaust, spousal abuse -- threaten to take it in different directions.
The Painted Veil
Based on the W. Somerset Maugham novel set in the 1920s, a young English couple -- a conservative doctor (Edward Norton) and a restless society girl (Naomi Watts) -- marry hastily and relocate to Hong Kong. There they betray each other easily, and find an unexpected chance at redemption and happiness while on a journey into the heart of ancient China. Excellent performances all around in this beautifully designed film entirely shot in China.
The Pursuit of Happyness 1/2
Oscar nominee Will Smith stars in the true story of a homeless single father (Smith) who raised himself up to become a successful stock broker. Italian director Gabriele Muccino does fine work here as well, knowing the difference between sentimentality and sentiment.
The Queen 1/2
Oscar nominee Helen Mirren gives a strong performance as Queen Elizabeth II, here shown during the time of the tragic death of Princess Diana. Mirren gives the role a restrained soulfulness and sense of duty that reinvents the monarch.
Stomp the Yard
A troubled street dancer from Los Angeles attends a historical African-American university in Atlanta where he joins a struggling fraternity and learns the true meaning of brotherhood when he tries to help the school's step team win the national championship. The rhythmic step dancing is infectious in this otherwise formulaic underdog flick.
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 a sweetly engaging concoction, refreshing for its ability to create tension by keeping the audience guessing whether it's going to wind up as tragedy or comedy. And Ferrell gives his best performance on screen yet.
A drama based on the life of Jesse James Hollywood, the youngest man to ever be on the FBI's most wanted list. It's a tumble into a world of drugs, depravity and murder in Southern California, and the movie carries a strikingly easygoing vibe as it plunges into an underworld. Emile Hirsch and Justin Timberlake star.
Alejandro González Iñárritu's multiple Oscar-nominated film is a global testament to the curiously incommunicative species that is man, as four separate stories reveal their interconnectedness. But the film struggles to be as true as it is portentous. (Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi, as a Mexican nanny and a rebellious deaf Japanese teenager, are best supporting actress Oscar nominees.)
Oscar nominee Leonardo DiCaprio stars a South African mercenary who joins a Mende fisherman (fellow Oscar nominee Djimon Housou) on a quest to recover a rare pink diamond that can transform their lives, all amid the chaos of 1990s Sierra Leone. Edward Zwick's movie tries to mix raw violence with displays of social conscience. It's hard-core moviemaking with a tortured soul.
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, confrontational and stunningly sick -- as Cohen stays in character while he interacts with real people.
Children of Men 1/2
Director Alfonso Cuarón helped adapt this heavy, provocative tale for the screen. In the near future, a flu pandemic results in complete infertility in women. A former English activist is recruited by an old flame -- now the leader of a terrorist group -- into smuggling a young immigrant, who may be fertile, out of the country. Nominated for three Oscars, including best adapted screenplay.
The Curse of the Golden Flower
Director Zhang Yimou reunites with actress Gong Li in this opulent costume drama of intrigue concerning the volatile balance of power between a king, his queen and their three sons. The film -- an Oscar nominee for best costume design -- is cursed by its own excesses, the rich humanity evident in earlier Zhang epics lost amid a turgid glut of bad computer-generated effects and the characters' self-absorbed blood feuds.
Leonardo DiCaprio and director Martin Scorsese team up again in this multiple Oscar-nominated remake of a Hong Kong police thriller. A Boston undercover cop infiltrates a mob syndicate while, at the same time, a criminal (Matt Damon) has infiltrated the police department as an informer. When it becomes clear to both sides that there's a mole in their midst, each informant must race to uncover the other's identity.
Flags of Our Fathers
Clint Eastwood directs this astounding ensemble drama about the six soldiers who planted a U.S. flag atop the island of Iwo Jima in the midst of World War II's bloodiest Pacific campaign. The inspiring photo capturing that moment became a symbol of victory to the nation and made instant celebrities of the soldiers. This is a powerful, harrowing and disturbing film.
The Good Shepherd
Robert De Niro directs the story of the covert beginnings of the Central Intelligence Agency as seen through the eyes of its co-founder, agent Edward Wilson (Matt Damon). A story like this needs sweep and scope and the operatic melodrama of betrayal, but instead the movie's pace is too slow, too measured and too cold.
The Hitcher 1/2
Yet another remake, this time from a horror favorite from 1986. A young college couple, driving across country en route to spring break, becomes the prey of a cunning serial killer, who blames all his murders on the young man. What starts as a taut little chase thriller relies more and more on boring gore as it goes along.
The Last King of Scotland
A Scottish doctor on a medical mission becomes irreversibly entangled with one of the world's most barbaric figures, Ugandan President Idi Amin, who picks the doctor as his personal physician and closest confidante. Forest Whitaker portrays the mad dictator in an Oscar-nominated performance, an inspired study in commotion.
Letters from Iwo Jima
The bookend to Clint Eastwood's masterful "Flags of Our Fathers." This time the story of the battle of Iwo Jima is told from the perspective of the Japanese. Compared to "Flags," this smaller, meditative film is more elegiac and Eastwood's real triumph is that the incipient mawkishness that could've been found in the voices of the dead is tamped down in favor of ruefully observed realism. (Eastwood is a best director Oscar nominee for this film, itself nominated for best picture and original screenplay.)
Little Children 1/2
In a suburban town full of "perfect" parents devoted to rearing their children for Ivy League futures, Sarah, a stay-at-home mom, has an affair with Brad, an ex-jock stay-at-home dad who rebels against his wife's wishes that he become a big-bucks lawyer. The film boasts two Oscar-nominated performances, one by Kate Winslet as Sarah, the other by Jackie Earle Haley as a sex offender just released from prison and now living in town with his mother.
Guillermo del Toro's multiple Oscar-nominated film is set against the postwar repression of Franco's Spain. It's a fairy tale that centers on a lonely and dreamy child, who creates a world filled with fantastical creatures and secret destinies. Del Toro has crafted a terrifying and visually wondrous masterpiece, blending fantasy and gloomy drama into one of the most magical films in recent memory.
Running with Scissors
Director Ryan Murphy's adaptation of Augusten Burroughs' dark if charming memoir is a black comedy riddled with problems. While it's funny in spots and the 1970s period is well-rendered, the movie amounts to a series of increasingly bizarre episodes featuring the teen protagonist and the unstable people that surround him.
National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj
Kal Penn's character arrives at a prestigious British university, not only to become the new resident advisor, but to show the uptight student body how to have a good time. The plot, which recalls a less inspired "Old School," is merely a forum for an endless parade of puns on the male anatomy, shots of women's chests and parodies of the prudish elites of the college.
Originally titled "Sione's Wedding," the movie is 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 members 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):
Tears of the Black Tiger
See review on Page 29. (NR) At 1, 4 and 7:30 p.m. Friday and Sunday; 1 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30 and 31; and 7:30 p.m. Jan. 29.
3566 Harding Ave.; $5, $4 members; reservations recommended due to limited seating (735-8771):
Sólo Con Tu Pareja
At 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m. Friday and Monday.
At 12:30, 3, 5:30 and 8 p.m. Saturday.
(Oscar nominee for best documentary feature) At 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m. Sunday.
At 1, 4 and 7 p.m. Feb. 1.
UH OCEAN PLANET FILM SERIES
Spalding Hall Auditorium, University of Hawaii-Manoa; $5 general and $3 UH students, faculty and staff:
The Ocean Blue: The Healing Sea / Ocean Origins
At 5 p.m. Sunday.
Oasis of the Pacific: Time is Running Out / Oceans for the Future: The Making of Marine Protected Areas
At 7 p.m. Feb. 1.