At The Movies
The Golden Compass
Based on Philip Pullman's novel, this fantasy adventure is set in an alternative world where people's souls manifest themselves as animals, talking bears fight wars, and Gyptians and witches co-exist. At the center of the story is a 12-year-old girl who starts out trying to rescue a friend who's been kidnapped by a mysterious organization known as the Gobblers -- and winds up on an epic quest to save not only her world, but ours as well. Review on Page 8 . (PG-13)
A cold and impatient Catholic priest tries to shut down a dying parish in a tiny fishing village, but things take an unexpected turn as he becomes entangled in the lives of the village's eccentric characters. (PG)
Mr. Magorium'sWonder Emporium
Dustin Hoffman stars as the iconoclastic owner of a magic toy store in search of a successor. You'd have to be a really
little kid to want to hang out at this toy store. With wild hair and an annoying accent, Hoffman looks completely uncomfortable as the childlike eccentric. The movie is totally one-note in its incessant whimsy, except for those few moments when it treads awkwardly toward the topic of death.
This is an obviously manipulative, corny, contrived movie, and you'd have to have a heart of stone not to be seduced by its string-pulling charms. Freddie Highmore plays Evan, a musical prodigy who has grown up in orphanages but holds fast to the belief that his parents are alive and will find them. The movie manages to rise above the clichés and take on the magical realism that springs from Evan's mind.
Bee Movie 1/2
Jerry Seinfeld's project has some pretty pictures and a few good jokes, but not nearly enough. And the story -- about a restless honeybee who sues the human race for making money off of the sweet stuff -- suffers from sitcom attention-deficit disorder. It picks up whenever there's a chase scene, but the rest of the time, it just bumbles along.
Disney shows a sense of humor and makes fun of itself in this infectious and energetic movie that sends up fairy tales with obvious affection, impeccable craftsmanship and zero snark. A wide-eyed, would-be animated princess becomes human when she is banished by a wicked queen from the magical land of Andalasia to present-day New York City. Amy Adams is absolutely adorable as the princess -- she gets the innate humor within the character's innocence, yet remains respectfully faithful to it.
Fred Claus 1/2
Vince Vaughn and Paul Giamatti star in the family movie about the sibling rivalry between Old St. Nick and his fast-talking slacker of a brother. The comedy veers awkwardly from shrill, slapsticky humor to diabolical meanness to reheated, snuggly sentiments about the importance of love and family.
Secrets are revealed and bonds tested when the Whitfield family comes together for Christmas for the first time in years. A feel-good movie that feels like forever, the whole thing feels like a basic-cable reject, filled with weak humor and a plot that holds no surprises.
Across the Universe
A romantic musical set in the tumultuous 1960s told mainly through "reimagined" Beatles songs performed by the characters. Director Julie Taymor brings a blinding combination of artistic ambition, excess and plain old bad taste, making her latest extravaganza a potential camp masterpiece.
A Mexican restaurant chef becomes the sole confidant of a young, unmarried waitress who finds herself pregnant. It's a tearjerker that earns its sobs with heartfelt emotions, and the co-stars, Eduardo Verástegui and Tammy Blanchard, bring a spark to the relationship between these confused souls.
Robert Zemeckis ("The Polar Express") presents another motion-capture animated film, this time the epic fantasy about the legendary Viking warrior and his battle with the demon Grendel. This movie is more akin to "300," only with more violence, if that's possible, and lots and lots of nudity. The technology still hasn't improved much, though, as the characters still look distractingly fake and stiff.
The Bourne Ultimatum 1/2
Matt Damon returns as the amnesiac secret agent in this kinetic action sequel filled with political resonance. Director Paul Greengrass builds on the first two chapters with a story that is darker and more cynical, as Jason Bourne confronts the truth about who he was before the government brainwashed him into being an assassin.
The Comebacks 1/2
This slapdash and ultimately tedious parody follows a football coach (David Koechner), with the worst losing record in the history of the sport, as he goes for redemption with a ragtag college team. The movie's low aspirations are depressing because its best gags are agreeably demented.
Dan in Real Life
A strait-laced advice columnist and widower's strict rules for behavior are tested when he falls for the girlfriend of his younger brother. Considering all the talent behind and in front of the camera (a strong cast led by Steve Carell and Juliette Binoche), this is a surprisingly plain, sappy, even insipid comedy.
Feel the Noise
After a run-in with local thugs, a talented Harlem rapper is forced to hide in Puerto Rico, but finds his salvation in reggaetón beats. Produced by Jennifer Lopez, the movie huffs and puffs to work up dramatic steam, and ends up being an acceptable if resolutely average low-budget drama.
The formidable trio of director Ridley Scott and Oscar winners Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe combine to present an exceptionally crafted and superbly directed movie about the true story of Frank Lucas, a powerful Harlem drug kingpin-turned informant of the 1970s.
A man (Hayden Christensen) experiences the terror of "anesthetical awareness" -- being conscious yet totally paralyzed -- during heart surgery. Meanwhile, his wife (Jessica Alba) has to deal with her own demons as the drama unfolds around them. This tedious thriller's sentimentality gums up the viciousness. Viciousness gums up the metaphysics. And way too much time is spent in the operating room, where nothing dramatic or cinematic ever occurs.
Feast of Love 1/2
Morgan Freeman, Greg Kinnear and Radha Mitchell star in this overstuffed melodrama about the intertwining life, love and attraction that take place in and around a Portland, Ore., coffee house.
Good Luck Chuck
Jessica Alba and Dane Cook star in this obnoxious and ugly-looking movie about a guy stuck in a pattern of cursed relationships -- all the women he sleeps with end up marrying the next guy they date. He develops a reputation as a good luck charm, as women line up for a quickie. But he tries to change things when he meets the girl of his dreams, a beautiful if accident-prone penguin specialist.
The Heartbreak Kid 1/2
Ben Stiller and the Farrelly brothers combine forces again for this knockout with wall-to-wall laughs. A middle-aged bachelor succumbs to pressure from friends and family and rushes into marriage, only to fall in love with another woman while on his Mexican honeymoon. The movie carries a wily edge and boldness, trampling on good taste and political correctness in the chase for laughs.
In this spinoff of the hit video game series, a genetically engineered elite assassin finds unexpected stirrings of his conscience and unfamiliar emotions aroused in him by a mysterious Russian woman. The movie is almost completely generic and predictable, moving fast with plenty of blam-blam, but offered without any reason for the audience to care.
No Country for Old Men
The Coen brothers' latest film is set in West Texas, as a man on the run with a suitcase full of money is pursued by a number of individuals. In adapting Cormac McCarthy's novel about crime and carnage along the Rio Grande, the Coens stay mostly faithful to its structure while maintaining much of the book's rhythmically clipped, colorful dialogue. It's vintage stuff for the writing-directing team and their best work in a while.
A businesswoman working late on Christmas Eve finds herself trapped and alone, pursued by a psychotic security guard, inside a parking garage. A back-to-basics thriller that's well-executed with surprising restraint.
Reese Witherspoon stars as the wife of an Egyptian-born chemical engineer being held by the CIA as a terrorist. This movie has been made with an awful lot of volume and outrage, but it should've had some intellect and artistry as well. Witherspoon is typically plucky, but the movie has a contrived tone of bravery to it.
Stephen King's The Mist
A small town community fights to survive when they come under vicious attack from creatures prowling in a thick, unnatural mist. This movie is a reflection of King's and writer-director Frank Darabont horror roots, and a welcome return to the kind of subtle, slowly building scares we don't see anymore in this overly graphic age of torture porn.
Co-stars Jonah Hill and Michael Cera are pretty irresistible together as high school best friends on a quest for alcohol, which they hope will help them hook up with girls at a big party before they graduate. The sweetness and awkwardness of their co-dependent relationship is totally believable, and their comic styles complement each other beautifully.
Things We Lost in the Fire 1/2
Halle Berry stars as a widow trying to rebuild her life, forging an unlikely relationship with her husband's childhood best friend, a heroin addict played by Benicio Del Toro. While we applaud the colorblind casting and fine performances, the characters themselves are unrealized, and the movie itself is a noble attempt that never soars.
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 Rape of Europa 1/2
Review on Page 28. At 1 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Dec. 13 to 15; also 7:30 p.m. Monday.
3566 Harding Ave.; $5, $4 members; reservations recommended due to limited seating (735-8771):
The Royal Tenenbaums
At 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m. Friday.
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
At 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m. Saturday.
Paris, je t'aime
At 12:30, 3, 5:30 and 8 p.m. Sunday and Dec. 13.
At 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m. Monday.
World Music Film Series
Spalding Hall Auditorium, University of Hawaii-Manoa; $5 general and $3 UH students, staff and faculty (223-0130):
Music from the Inside Out
At 3 p.m. Sunday
This is Bossa Nova: The History and Stories
At 5 p.m. Sunday.