At The Movies
Alvin and the Chipmunks
Brothers Alvin, Simon and Theodore are back, making music and mischief in this CGI/live-action adventure. Review on Page 18. (PG)
I Am Legend 1/2
Will Smith stars in a post-apocalyptic thriller as the last human survivor on Earth after a terrible virus wipes out humanity. But he finds out he's surrounded by "the Infected," victims of the plague who have mutated into carnivorous beings who can only exist in the dark and who will devour or infect anyone or anything in their path. Review on Page 17. (PG-13)
Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium
Dustin Hoffman stars as the iconoclastic owner of a magic toy store in search for 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.
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.
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 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.
John Cusack plays a recently widowed science fiction writer who forms an unlikely family with a close friend and a boy he adopts who claims to be from Mars. While the melodramatic movie can squeeze out Hollywood sniffles, it's the gooey sort that'll be forgotten by the time you reach the parking lot.
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.
The Perfect Holiday
A young girl asks a department store Santa Claus for just one Christmas wish: the perfect new husband for her divorced mother. Gabrielle Union, Morris Chestnut, Queen Latifah, Terrence Howard and Charlie Murphy star. Review in Thursday's Today section.
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.
Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under age 13.
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 more cynical, as Jason Bourne confronts the truth about who he was before the government brainwashed him into being an assassin.
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 Golden Compass 1/2
A girl finds herself on an epic quest to save an alternative world where people's souls manifest themselves as animals. Based on Philip Pullman's first novel of the "His Dark Materials" trilogy, this fantasy adventure has some fanciful moments but never achieves the sense of awe-inspiring wonder of the "Lord of the Rings" films, to which comparisons will be inevitable. It's a CGI-filled spectacle, but the whole thing is a bit of a drag.
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. This tedious thriller's sentimentality gums up the viciousness. Viciousness gums up the metaphysics. And too much time is spent in the operating room, where nothing cinematic ever occurs.
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead 1/2
Veteran director Sidney Lumet's latest digitally-shot film is compact, nasty and altogether wonderful, a tale of brotherly greed and comeuppance. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke play siblings who hope a small robbery will take care of their financial problems. This film pares urban existence down to pure survival instincts.
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. coffeehouse.
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,.
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.
A spinoff of the hit video game series, a genetically engineered elite assassin finds unexpected stirrings of his conscience \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.
Into the Wild 1/2
In Sean Penn's adaptation of the best-seller, Emile Hirsch plays to perfection the doomed young man whose restless wanderings in search of nature, beauty and truth left him dead in the unforgiving Alaskan terrain. Penn presents this flawed figure in both his selflessness and selfishness without judging him or turning him into a martyr.
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.
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.
Resident Evil: Extinction 1/2
Milla Jovovich returns as the superhuman Alice who, along with old allies and new survivors, goes on a mission to eliminate the deadly virus that threatens to make every human being a zombie. Not exactly dull but never interesting either, the movie has no weight because there's no characterization or emotion, just slick mayhem.
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.
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.
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
At 1 and 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Global Film Initiative presents Global Lens 2007: Another Man's Garden
At 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Monday, and 1 p.m. Tuesday.
At 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, 1 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, and 1 p.m. Dec. 20.
3566 Harding Ave.; $5, $4 members; reservations recommended due to limited seating (735-8771):
At 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m. Friday and Sunday. Review on Page 25.
At 12:30, 3, 5:30 and 8 p.m. Saturday.
At 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m. Monday.
At 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m. Dec. 20.
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 7 p.m. Saturday
(special $10 admission).