At The Movies
The Last Mimzy
A brother and sister discover a mysterious box that contains some strange devices they think are toys. But as they play with them, the children begin to display higher and higher intelligence levels. And the girl tells her confused mother that one of the toys, a beat-up stuffed rabbit named Mimzy, has a most serious message from the future. (PG)
Another of "Sin City" creator Frank Miller's comic books is adapted for the big screen, this time by Zack Snyder, who did the remake of "Dawn of the Dead." The ancient battle of Thermopylae is depicted in all its CGI glory as King Leonidas and 300 Spartan soldiers fight to the death against Xerxes and his massive Persian army. Review on Page 27. (R)
The hit South Korean film which screened at last year's Louis Vuitton Hawaii International Film Festival makes its U.S. theatrical debut. A horrifying behemoth of a monster emerges from the polluted waters of the Han River to wreak havoc on the populace of Seoul. Review on Page 28. (R)
E.B. White's beloved children's book hits the big screen. It's a tale about a farm pig, the runt of the litter, who is destined for the smokehouse but is saved by the friendships of an idealistic girl (Dakota Fanning) and an erudite spider (voiced by Julia Roberts). While handsomely produced, the movie, unfortunately, is an unremarkable collection of cute kids, talking animals and syrupy sentiment.
Ioan Gruffudd portrays William Wilberforce, who led efforts as a member of Parliament in 18th century England to end slavery and the slave trade in the British empire. It's a heartfelt if occasionally stodgy tribute to the man.
The Astronaut Farmer
An astronaut is forced to leave NASA to save his family farm, but he continues to dream of space travel and sets out to build a rocket inside his barn. Billy Bob Thornton and Virginia Madsen star in this charming and gorgeous-looking movie that clearly touches a strain of modern American mythology.
Bridge to Terabithia
An 11-year old boy has his life changed forever when he befriends the tomboy class outsider. Together, they create an imaginary kingdom filled with ghosts, trolls and other magical beings. This is a perfect family-friendly movie and even a bit of a tear-jerker.
Happy Feet 1/2
Winner of best animated film Oscar. A young penguin named Mumble searches for his mate. Unfortunately, he's incapable of belting out his own unique song to attract one ... but, boy, can he tap dance! The movie follows Mumble on a journey of discovery, of himself and the world, which can be both harrowing and thrilling. The visuals can be both intimate and breathtakingly grand, and they support a story that has real meaning and can be deeply poignant.
Night at the Museum 1/2
Ben Stiller stars as 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 is mainly a collection of slapstick vignettes and, despite some occasionally inventive visual effects, comes off as unimaginative and annoying.
Rocky Balboa 1/2
Sylvester Stallone's iconic boxer steps out of retirement, pitting himself against a new rival, played by real-life boxer Antonio Tarver. The movie is a tired retread padded out with flashbacks of the previous "Rocky" movies.
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.
Based on the real-life Robert Hanssen story, the film is about a young FBI analyst (Ryan Phillippe) who must find proof that his boss (Chris Cooper) has been selling secrets to the Soviet Union. The movie is less a biopic than a psychological thriller framed around the volatile relationship between the cantankerous agent and his young counterpart. It holds your attention, with several nail-biting set pieces, but it doesn't leave you feeling like you understand the villain, the script being filled with dead-end tangents and unanswered questions.
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 who inspires her poor and ethnically diverse Southern California high school students. She's so full of gee-whiz decency that she could have only been 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.
Ghost Rider 1/2
Nicolas Cage stars in this Marvel Comics film adaptation about a motorcycle stuntman, Johnny Blaze, who sells his soul to save his girlfriend. When the bargain goes sour and the girl isn't saved, Blaze is transformed into a supernatural agent of vengeance. The movie is just different enough from other superhero fare to be worth a look, but it's not particularly stirring. Cage, however, does put in an inspired performance.
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. While it has its moments -- and the lead actors try their best with what they're given -- this is a formulaic romantic comedy.
After his strong and nuanced acting in "Dreamgirls," Eddie Murphy regresses to "Nutty Professor" latex, slathering himself in makeup to play a nebbish, his morbidly obese bride and a cartoonish Chinese man. The mutant romantic comedy is filled with fat-bashing and ethnic stereotypes. Every character is either overplayed or underwritten.
The Painted Veil
Based on the W. Somerset Maugham novel set in the 1920s, the film concerns a young couple -- a conservative doctor (Edward Norton) and a restless society girl (Naomi Watts) -- who marry hastily and relocate to Hong Kong. There they betray each other easily, and find an unexpected chance at redemption while on a journey into the heart of ancient China. Excellent performances all around in this beautifully designed film shot in China.
The Pursuit of Happyness 1/2
Will Smith stars in the true story of a homeless single father who becomes a successful stock broker. Smith plays a real-life hero, as his character's persistence and faith pays off in making a better life for himself and his boy, played by Smith's young son Jaden. Italian director Gabriele Muccino does fine work here as well, knowing the difference between sentimentality and sentiment.
The Queen 1/2
Best actress Oscar winner 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 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 -- so much so you'll want to see more of it and less of a plot.
Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls 1/2
The popular black filmmaker 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. While leads Idris Elba and Gabrielle Union have chemistry on screen, what they don't have is a filmmaker who knows yet how to use either to make movie magic.
Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy play a group of middle-aged friends who decide to rev up their routine suburban lives with a freewheeling motorcycle trip. Too bad that the guys are not all that wild nor, more importantly, all that funny, as the humor and hijinks are tame and tranquil.
Black Snake Moan
Samuel L. Jackson is a God-fearing blues guitarist in a rural Tennessee town who tries to redeem the soul of the troubled town tramp (Christina Ricci) by chaining her to his radiator, justifying his unorthodox methods with quoted Scripture. Craig Brewer's Southern-fried Gothic tale is filled with such incendiary topics as nymphomania, interracial sex and the iconography of black male sexual power, but the film never catches fire.
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 sons. This film 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.
The Hitcher 1/2
Yet another remake, this time of a horror favorite from 1986. A college-age 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 a best actor Oscar-winning 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 elegaic and Eastwood's real triumph is a ruefully observed realism instead of mawkish sentimentality.
The Lives of Others
Winner of the best foreign film Oscar, the German film takes place five years before the fall of the East German government. A surveillance agent, in hopes of boosting his career, finds his own life changing when he takes on a job collecting evidence against a playwright and his actress girlfriend. This is a miracle of a film that manages to be both subtle and intense at the same time. It's a political thriller but also a portrait of unexpected humanity -- a marvel of controlled storytelling and mood, with brilliant performances.
The Number 23
Jim Carrey stars as a man whose life unravels when he becomes obsessed with a pulp murder mystery that's all about a number. The thriller is a one-note -- or one-number -- affair, straining to build an engaging story around a man's conviction in the mystically diabolical power of 23. It has a lot of visual flair but little suspense.
Guillermo del Toro's Oscar-winning film (for best art direction, cinematography and makeup) 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.
Reno 911!: Miami
Based on the popular Comedy Central show, the film has Reno's "finest" called in to protect and serve when a terrorist attack disrupts a national police convention they're attending. The end result is a formulaic, unfunny farce that will leave you nostalgic for "Police Academy."
Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar's latest film is a generational story of three women: a good mother who is desperately in love with a flawed man, a young mother carrying a hard life upon her shoulders and an illegal hairdresser whose shop is the meeting point for the neighborhood gossips. The practically all-female cast, led by Oscar nominee Penélope Cruz, is superb.
Jake Gyllenhaal stars in the true story of a serial killer who terrorized San Francisco and taunted police during the 1960s and '70s. Director David Fincher has been known for his visual flair, but he tones things down here and also drags out the movie to close to three hours. "Zodiac" certainly has its moments but it's no masterpiece.
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):
The Italian (Italianetz)
See review on Page 29. (PG-13) At 1, 4 and 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 4 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday; and 1 and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.
Close to Home
At 1 p.m. March 15.
3566 Harding Ave.; $5, $4 members; reservations recommended due to limited seating (735-8771):
My Country, My Country
Hawaii premiere. At 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m. Friday and Sunday.
At 12:30, 3, 5:30 and 8 p.m. Saturday.
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
At 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m. Monday.
At 12:30, 3, 5:30 and 8 p.m. March 15.
UH OCEAN PLANET
Spalding Hall Auditorium, University of Hawaii-Manoa; $5 general and $3 UH students, faculty and staff:
Lords of the Arctic / In Hot Water
At 5 p.m. Sunday.
Silent Sentinels / Reefs: Rainforests of the Ocean
At 7 p.m. March 15.