At The Movies
Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez pay bloody tribute to the low-budget exploitation flicks that they were weaned on with their own double-feature bill of cinematic mayhem, filled with horror, action and kick-butt babes. Review on Page 26. (R)
Richard Gere plays the writer Clifford Irving, who nearly pulled off one of the most audacious media scams in history when his bogus autobiography of reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes was published in 1972. Review on Page 28. (R)
A middle-class Indian family moves from Calcutta to New York to start a new life, but it's a lifelong balancing act to meld into a new world without forgetting the old, as the college-age son particularly finds out. Mira Nair directs a cast that includes Kal Penn as the conflicted son. Review on Page 17. (PG-13)
Meet the Robinsons
In this Disney animated movie, a boy genius creates a machine to recover the past and embarks on an amazing adventure with his future family. While the script is strictly two-dimensional, the digital 3-D effects are pretty spectacular. The movie has a beautifully retro art deco aesthetic, a sci-fi vision of the future as it might have been imagined during the 1950s.
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.
Are We Done Yet? 1/2
Ice Cube and Nia Long return in the sequel to the popular "Are We There Yet?" Nick and his ever-growing family move out to the Oregon countryside and have an adventure rebuilding their dream Victorian house. No cleverness was exerted on this one, as the movie is more of an endurance test than a comedy.
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 in his barn. Billy Bob Thornton and Virginia Madsen star in this charming and gorgeous-looking movie that touches a strain of modern American mythology.
Rex, Hollywood's top-grossing canine, gets lost during a commercial shoot, only to end up as the mascot of a rundown, inner-city fire station. Review on Page 16.
The Last Mimzy
Two young siblings exhibit remarkably high intelligence and abilities when they discover a mysterious box filled with sophisticated toys that come from the future. The heart and the core of the movie is rooted in 1940s science-fiction values -- like being smart is good for you -- so this makes for a good and thoughtful family-oriented outing.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are back on the big screen, this time in CGI animation. The team reunites when tech-industrialist Max Winters amasses an army of ancient monsters to apparently take over the world. Even though the plot's subtext of the need of family is hammered throughout, the movie is consistently entertaining to look at and listen to, albeit on the level of a well-crafted video game.
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.
Blades of Glory
Will Ferrell and Jon Heder star as rival figure skaters, banned and disgraced from competition, who, in an attempt to make their return years later, team up to perform as the first male-male pair in the sport. There's enough material here for a great little "Saturday Night Live" sketch, but the trouble is there's an extra 80 minutes or so of downtime in which the cast has to repeat their characters' shallow schtick again and again.
Based on the real-life story of Robert Hanssen, 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 cantakerous agent and his young counterpart. The screenplay, unfortunately, is filled with dead-end tangents and unanswered questions.
Jennifer Hudson, winner of the best supporting actress Oscar, walks away with this big, splashy dazzler of a movie, based on the 1981 Broadway musical about the rise of a Supremes-style vocal trio called the Dreamettes. Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy and Beyoncé Knowles co-star.
Starring Sandra Bullock as a woman whose husband is killed in a car wreck one day but turns up alive and well the next, this movie plays out too tranquilly in the early going to build much suspense. It teases viewers with the promise of great twists or revelations, making the unsatisfying conclusion and epilogue all the more annoying. It's a shame, because Bullock breathes far more soul into the role than her superficially written character merits.
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.
Stomp the Yard
A troubled street dancer from Los Angeles attends a historical black 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.
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.
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 gimmick wears off quickly and ultimately becomes overbearing, including the pounding music score and profuse use of voiceover narrative.
Children of Men 1/2
Director Alfonso Cuarón helped adapt this tale set in the near-future when a flu pandemic results in complete infertility in women. A former activist is recruited by an old flame -- now the leader of a terrorist group -- into smuggling a young pregnant woman out of Britain. The thriller, a thoughtful study of humankind's resilience, is carried by the performances of Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine and Clare-Hope Ashitey.
Dead Silence 1/2
The killer ventriloquist dummy is back in this horror film that reunites the creators of "Saw." While a more credible, less grisly act of filmmaking than its grimy predecessor, it's also a less compelling exercise. The revenge story is told through rushed montages that cheapen the sensation of discovery and leave the craving for shock unfulfilled.
The Hills Have Eyes 2
A unit of National Guard soldiers is attacked by cannibalistic mutants during a training mission in the New Mexico desert. Much of the bloody carnage is filmed in caverns so dark that you can't tell a severed foot from a severed head, and because the good guys are incredibly dumb, they're almost impossible to root for.
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 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.
A former high school hockey star outwits a group of criminals who plan to rob the small-town bank where he works as a janitor. This film might look like just another bank heist caper, but it's actually a beautifully drawn character drama -- the rare film that manages to balance subtlety with suspense -- and filled with strong performances, especially from Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
The Reaping 1/2
Hilary Swank stars as a debunker of religious phenomena who investigates what looks like biblical plagues befalling a small Louisiana town. Review on Page 18.
Reign Over Me 1/2
Two former college teammates rekindle their friendship after one of them loses his family in the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center. Adam Sandler has his meatiest -- and most maudlin -- screen role to date, and Don Cheadle brings his typical intelligence and nuance to what might have been a dry, straight-man role. He can elevate anyone's game, and here, he and Sandler share a buoyant chemistry.
Mark Wahlberg stars as a former Marine Corps sniper who is lured out of retirement only to be double-crossed in a government conspiracy. Antoine Fuqua's silly action flick revels in masculine clichés and over-the-top braggadocio. It's like two hours of watching a man hit himself in the face while yelling how tough he is.
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. It's all attitude and firepower.
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):
Air Guitar Nation
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. Feature on Page 27. (R)
3566 Harding Ave.; $5, $4 members; reservations recommended due to limited seating (735-8771):
Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont
At 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m. Friday and Sunday.
The Mystery of the Yellow Room (Le Mystère de la Chambre Jaune)
Hawaii premiere. At 12:30, 3, 5:30 and 8 p.m. Saturday.
The Silent Partner
At 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m. Monday.
At 12:30, 3, 5:30 and 8 p.m. April 12.