At The Movies
From the makers of "Saw" comes this tale of a man who returns to his hometown in search of answers to his wife's mysterious murder. He discovers a deadly ancient curse that involves the vengeful spirit of a mad ventriloquist and the collection of vaudeville dolls that were buried with her after she was killed by townspeople. (R)
I Think I Love My Wife
Chris Rock directs, co-writes and stars in this movie about a bored, married businessman who fantasizes about other women until an ex-mistress of friend actually tries to seduce him. Kerry Washington and Gina Torres co-star. Review on Page 28. (R)
Sandra Bullock plays a housewife in a race against time and fate when she sees a premonition of her husband dying in a car crash. Review on Page 18. (PG-13)
G - General audiences.
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.
PG - Parental guidance suggested.
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.
Winner of the 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
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.
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.
PG-13 - Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under age 13.
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. Perhaps it's the tween-friendly MPAA rating, which means the story downplays physical details of all kinds, or the rather obvious, arty touches its European cast and crew have embraced, but there's no real meat here in this movie.
Based on the real-life Robert Hanssen story. A young FBI analyst (Ryan Phillippe) 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. There are several nail-biting set pieces, but the movie doesn't leave you feeling like you understand the villain, the script being filled with dead-end tangents and unanswered questions.
Catch and Release
Jennifer Garner stars as a woman who must deal with the untimely death of her fiancé, then learning he had a secret life he never shared with her -- all the 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 interesting and add up to more than their superficial stereotypes.
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 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.
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 a particularly stirring genre entry. Cage, however, does put in an inspired and goofy performance here.
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 seeing 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, heroes and antagonists alike, is either overplayed or underwritten.
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
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.
Best actress Oscar winner Helen Mirren gives a strong performance as Queen Elizabeth II, 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 historic 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 -- so much so you'll want to see more of it and less of a plot.
Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls
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 real 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 and, more important, not all that funny, as the humor and hijinks in this road romp are tame and tranquil.
R - Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
Director Zack Snyder painstakingly re-creates the panels from Frank Miller's graphic novel about the ancient Battle of Thermopylae, in which 300 Spartans fought off a much larger Persian army. But the movie is so over-the-top it's laughable -- so self-serious, it's hard to take seriously. The CGI effects and inventive violence are extremely cool at first, but the gimmicks wear off quickly and ultimately become overbearing, including the pounding music score and profuse use of voiceover narrative.
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.
Oscar nominee Leonardo DiCaprio stars as a South African mercenary who joins a native fisherman (fellow nominee Djimon Housou) on a quest to recover a rare pink diamond 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.
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. 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.
Yet another remake, this time from 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 hit South Korean film about a horrifying behemoth of a monster that emerges from the polluted waters of the Han River to wreak havoc on the populace of Seoul. Writer-director Bong Joon-Ho has crafted a film that just kicks butt from start to finish, even though its anti-American sentiment (the pollution is caused by a thoughtless U.S. scientist) feels a bit half-baked.
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 that the incipient mawkishness that could've been found in the voices of the dead is tamped down in favor of ruefully observed realism.
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 that digit. It has a lot of visual flair but little suspense and a prolonged series of predictable plot twists.
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.
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):
Close to Home
See review on Page 27. (NR) At 1, 4 and 7:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday; 7:30 p.m. Monday; and 1 and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.
Army of Shadows
At 1 and 7:30 p.m. March 22.
3566 Harding Ave.; $5, $4 members; reservations recommended due to limited seating (735-8771):
Casino Royale (2006)
At 2, 5 and 8 p.m. Friday and Monday.
The Disappearance of Finbar
At 12:30, 3, 5:30 and 8 p.m. Saturday.
At 3, 5:30 and 8 p.m. Sunday.
At 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m. March 22.
UH OCEAN PLANET FILM SERIES
Spalding Hall Auditorium, University of Hawaii-Manoa; $5 general and $3 UH students, faculty and staff:
Silent Sentinels / Reefs: Rainforests of the Ocean
At 5 p.m. Sunday.
Of Penguins and Men / Ice Island
At 7 p.m. March 22.