At The Movies
The Good German
Steven Soderbergh directs a romantic period drama that's faithful to the way Hollywood movies were made in the 1940s. An American reporter (George Clooney), sent to cover the final Allied summit meeting of World War II, secretly searches for a lost love (Cate Blanchett) and ends up getting tangled up in a murder mystery when a body washes ashore. Tobey Maguire co-stars. Review on Page 27. (R)
The chilling story of how a young Hannibal Lecter (Gaspar Ulliel) became one of the most notorious serial killers in history. The back story includes his fleeing to Paris to find his uncle has died, then finding acceptance with his uncle's Japanese widow, played by Gong Li. But even her kindness cannot soothe the nightmares he's had since witnessing the violent deaths of his parents in Eastern Europe. Review on Page 26. (R)
Eddie Murphy stars as Norbit, a meek man forced into marrying a mean, junk food-chugging woman named Rasputia, also played by Murphy. Just when Norbit's hanging by his last thread, his childhood sweetheart (Thandie Newton) moves back to town. (PG-13)
Music and Lyrics
Hugh Grant plays a washed-up '80s pop singer who collaborates with a lyricist (Drew Barrymore) when he gets a chance at a comeback. (PG-13)
Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls
The popular black moviemaker is back with the story of two worlds colliding when a successful attorney falls in love with a struggling garage mechanic, the single father of three daughters. (PG-13)
Arthur and the Invisibles
In order to save his grandma's home, a 10-year-old (Freddie Highmore) sets off to find his grandpa's treasure hidden in the land of the Miniroys, a race of tiny creatures that inhabit this world and live in perfect harmony with their environment. The movie bing-bing-bings all over the place like a Gallic pinball machine. The digital animation is sleek, luxuriant and artfully done without quite making it over the hump to art.
Based on the bestselling book series about a young man thrust into a 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 caste. His attempt to return to the surface world is blocked by a royalist toad and his hench-rats. This great-looking CGI movie is hampered only 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, this unengaging animated fantasy for the most part comes off as derivative.
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. 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.
A rascally gang of kids, traveling alone, run wild while stranded at an airport during a Christmas Eve blizzard. The movie swipes the formulas from every holiday-grouch story ever written, from "A Christmas Carol" to "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."
Because I Said So
Diane Keaton's acting talents are wasted in this shrill romantic comedy about an overbearing mother who secretly places an Internet personal ad for her daughter (Mandy Moore). The movie isn't awful, just pandering and generic.
Casino Royale 1/2
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 that regard is riveting. The appeal this time lays much heavier on Bond as a person, and 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.
Catch and Release
Jennifer Garner stars as a woman who must deal with the untimely death of her fiancé, then learn that he had a secret life he never shared with her -- all while falling in love with his best friend (Timothy Olyphant). The movie's construction defines it as a chick flick, yet it has a number of strong male roles that are interesting.
Code Name: The Cleaner
Cedric the Entertainer plays an amnesiac janitor who is duped into thinking he's an undercover agent . Cedric, unfortunately, doesn't have a persona big enough to fill a film, and the one-note character cramps his style. He's not particularly helped by the stale script.
Former "American Idol" contestant Jennifer Hudson walks away with this splashy dazzler of a picture, based on the 1981 Broadway musical about the rise of a Supremes-style vocal trio. 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.
Epic Movie 1/2
Attempting to compensate for its own lack of originality and humor, this flick spoofs recent summer movies, a few MTV shows and, of course, Paris Hilton. With the flimsiest of story lines, the movie is more spliced-together mimicry.
An unashamed heart-tugger, this movie is based on the true story of an idealistic teacher, played by Hilary Swank, who inspires her poor and ethnically diverse high school students. Swank holds the movie together, even when all its disparate elements -- tolerance lessons, gang violence, spousal abuse -- threaten to take it in different directions.
The Holiday 1/2
Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet star as women with similar man troubles who meet online and impulsively switch homes for the holiday. Jude Law and Jack Black co-star. Director Nancy Meyers has cultivated her own genre of comedy with a mix of laughs, romance and feminism.
The American debut of Hong Kong horror directors the Pang brothers is a stylish but almost completely generic thriller. A family moves into an old, run-down farm only to encounter ominous signs that something is very wrong with their new home, especially after they hire a farmhand (a ridiculous performance by John Corbett).
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. Excellent performances all around in this beautifully designed film shot in China.
The Pursuit of Happyness 1/2
Oscar nominee Will Smith stars in the true story of a homeless single father who raised himself up to become a successful stock broker. Smith's young son Jaden plays his on-screen child. Italian director Gabriele Muccino does fine work, knowing the difference between sentimentality and sentiment.
The Queen 1/2
Oscar nominee Helen Mirren gives a strong performance as Queen Elizabeth II during the time of the tragic death of Princess Diana. Mirren gives the role a restrained soulfulness that reinvents the monarch.
Stomp the Yard
A troubled street dancer attends a historical African American university 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.
A drama based on the life of Jesse James Hollywood, the youngest man to ever be on the FBI's most wanted list. Emile Hirsch and Justin Timberlake star.
Mel Gibson applies the same breathtaking production values and attention to detail of his previous films with this epic adventure set 600 years ago during the decline of the Mayan civilization. The extreme blood and gore undermine a simple, stirring story of family devotion.
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. (Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi, as a Mexican nanny and a rebellious deaf Japanese teenager, are best supporting actress Oscar nominees.)
The Curse of the Golden Flower
Director Zhang Yimou reunites with actress Gong Li in this opulent costume drama depicting the volatile balance of power between a king, his queen and their sons. The film -- an Oscar nominee for best costume design -- is cursed by its own excesses.
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. The movie is two-thirds vintage Scorsese, with the last third lolling around in much soul-searching and pill-popping before reaching its climactic conclusion.
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 campaigns.This is a powerful, harrowing and disturbing film.
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.
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 elegaic. (Eastwood is a best director Oscar nominee for this film, itself nominated for best picture and original screenplay.)
National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The RIse of Taj H
Kal Penn's character arrives at a prestigious British univerity, not only to become the new resident advisor, but also to show the uptight student body how to have a good time. It's an endless parade of puns on the male anatomy, shots of women's chests and parodies of the prudish elites of the college.
Notes on a Scandal
Oscar nominees Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett star as two British 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. It's a perfectly executed movie.
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 dreamy child, who creates a world filled with fantastical creatures. Del Toro has crafted a terrifying and visual masterpiece, blending fantasy and gloomy drama into one of the most magical films in recent memory.
Smokin' Aces 1/2
A rogues' gallery of characters collide with the FBI when a Vegas mob boss takes out a hefty contract on a magician's head. The movie's utterly absurd and weirdly boring.
Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar's latest film is a generational story of three women -- a good mother who is desperately in love with a man who is far from being a saint, a young mother carrying a hard life upon her shoulders and an illegal hairdresser whose shop is the meeting point for all the neighborhood gossips. Star Penélope Cruz is a best actress Oscar nominee.
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):
Off the Black 1/2
See review on Friday's Entertainment page. (R) At 1, 4 and 7:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday; 7:30 p.m. Feb. 5; and 1 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 6.
At 7:30 p.m. Feb. 12, and 1 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 13 to 15.
3566 Harding Ave.; $5, $4 members; reservations recommended due to limited seating (735-8771):
The Devil's Backbone
At 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m. Friday and Sunday.
At 12:30, 3, 5:30 and 8 p.m. Saturday.
The T.A.M.I. Show
At 12:30, 3, 5:30 and 8 p.m. Feb. 12.
The Cave of the Yellow Dog
Hawaii premiere. At 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m. Feb. 15.
UH OCEAN PLANET
Spalding Hall Auditorium, University of Hawaii-Manoa; $5 general and $3 UH students, faculty and staff:
A Life Among Whales
At 5 p.m. Sunday.