At The Movies
A whip-smart teen, confronted with an unplanned pregnancy by her classmate, tries to find a "perfect" set of parents for her unborn child in an affluent suburban couple. Review on Page 18. (R)
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, except for those few moments when it treads awkwardly toward the topic of death.
Alvin and the Chipmunks
Brothers Alvin, Simon and Theodore are back, making music and mischief in this CGI/live-action adventure. The movie engages for about a half-hour, or about 10 minutes longer than you might expect. Still, the animated chipmunks are quite cute.
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 him. 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 animation 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 sale 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.
The Game Plan
A pro quarterback (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) must learn to juggle his party-and-practice lifestyle with ballet, bedtime stories and dolls when the 7-year-old daughter he never knew existed shows up at his door. The movie is the cinematic equivalent of a family-friendly halftime show.
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.
National Treasure: Book of Secrets 1/2
Producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Nicolas Cage team up again for this sequel. This time, treasure hunter Benjamin Franklin Gates, in order to exonerate his great-great grandfather, must track down a top-secret tome passed down from president to president -- plus kidnap the current commander in chief. It's more mediocre action spiced with American lore.
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. Despite the presence of actors like Gabrielle Union, Morris Chestnut, Queen Latifah, Terrence Howard and Charlie Murphy, director Lance Rivera's disastrous combination of black woman-exhalation, show-biz farce, romantic comedy and family TV-movie drama is accidentally entertaining until it's demoralizing for its waste of talent.
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.
The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep
An extremely sweet tale about loyalty and unexpected friendship as a lonely Scottish boy discovers an enchanted egg on a beach which eventually hatches and grows up to be the Loch Ness monster.
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.
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.
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 Great Debaters 1/2
Inspired by a true story, the movie chronicles the journey of Melvin Tolson (Denzel Washington), a brilliant but volatile debate team coach who uses the power of words to shape a group of underdog students from a small black college in East Texas into an elite debate team, all during the Jim Crow era of the 1930s. While a formulaic movie, it does bring light on a story we might never have heard, and introduces us to exciting new talent we might never have seen.
I Am Legend 1/2
Will Smith conjures both pathos and absurd laughs as a military scientist whose immunity to a deadly virus leaves him stranded in Manhattan with only his trusted German shepherd for companionship. Set up by the dazzling and haunting visuals of a post-apocalyptic New York City, the movie, unfortunately, turns from a quiet meditation on the nature of humanity into a B-movie schlockfest when the infected crazies show up.
P.S. I Love You
Hilary Swank stars in this poignant comedy as a young widow who gets over her grief with the help of motivational letters left behind by her dead husband to help her transition into a new life. Swank and director Richard LaGravenese have taken a sentimental story and given it just the right bit of sass.
Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married?
Perry's latest African-American melodrama is about a group of married college friends who, when they reunite for their annual retreat in the snowcapped mountains of Colorado, find themselves instead re-examining their marriages. The characters don't make consistent sense, and the camera work and editing could be better, yet there's no denying Perry continues to make movies audiences love.
Aliens vs. Predator -- Requiem
The iconic killer monsters from the two sci-fi/horror film franchises return to wage a brutal battle in an unsuspecting Colorado town.
Adapted from Ian McEwen's book, a servant's son falls in love with a young, upper-class woman in 1935 Britain, just as her teenage sister falsely accuses him of sexually assaulting their cousin. It's a gripping film, with fine performances by Keira Knightley, James McAvoy and Saoirse Ronan, and even occasional artiness can't detract from the painful events at this story's heart-rending core.
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 New York 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, even as it peels Lumet's narrative skills back to the bone.
Charlie Wilson's War 1/2
Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman star in this comedy, based on a true story, about an alcoholic womanizer of a congressman who teams up with a semirogue CIA spook and a Houston socialite in the 1980s to arm the Afghan mujahadeen against Soviet invaders. It's an often smart, frequently entertaining and uncommonly annoying re-imagining of a largely unknown caper in American political history.
Gone Baby Gone
In Ben Affleck's directorial debut, two private investigators search Boston's seedy underbelly for a missing 4-year-old girl. The film presents a place oozing with atmosphere and rich, complicated characters.
A 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.
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.
The Kite Runner
Based on the best-selling novel, two Afghan friends from different social classes are separated during the Soviet invasion of the '70s. They are reunited two decades later as the Taliban takes hold of Afghanistan. For once, sensitively directed by Marc Forster, Muslim culture is not treated as a joke in this great Hollywood film.
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.
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.
Übervillain Jigsaw and his apprentice Amanda are dead, Still, SWAT commander Rigg, the last officer untouched by Jigsaw, finds himself suddenly abducted and thrust into the madman's harrowing and grizzly game. This latest sequel is more disturbing than compelling, with material already seen in the prior installments.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Tim Burton adapts Stephen Sondheim's classic musical about a homicidal barber (Johnny Depp) out for grisly revenge, with the help of a pie-making partner (Helena Bonham Carter). It's a strangely beautiful movie, with horrific subject matter that produces plenty of wicked humor and characters who initially seem ghoulish but ultimately reveal themselves as sympathetic and deeply sad.
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story 1/2
With a script co-written by the hot Judd Apatow, John C. Reilly stars in a satirical biopic about a fictional music legend that spans more than six decades, countless musical genres and tons of sex and every drug known to man. The idea behind this movie is to collect every cliché there is and then exaggerate them to the point of absurdity. But it ends up being a bit of a sloppy, shambling mess.
We Own the Night
Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Wahlberg star as brothers on opposite sides of the law in this great gangster movie, full of loathsome criminals and proudly profane police officers, and possessing a coked-up energy that captures the drug-fueled world in which it's set.
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):
Global Film Initiative presents Global Lens 2007: Kilometre Zero
At 1 and 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday.
Of Love and Eggs
At 1 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
On Each Side
At 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and 1 p.m. Jan. 3.
The Sacred Family
At 7:30 p.m. Jan. 3.
3566 Harding Ave.; $5, $4 members; reservations recommended due to limited seating (735-8771):
C'est La Vie, Mon Chéri (aka Xin Buliao Qing)
At 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m. Friday.
Whisper of the Heart (Mimi wo Sumaseba)
At 12:30, 3, 5:30 and 8 p.m. Saturday.
At 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m. Sunday.
Manual of Love (Manuale d'Amore)
At 12:30, 3 and 5:30 p.m. Monday.
University of Laughs (Warai no Daigaku)
At 12:30, 3, 5:30 and 8 p.m. Jan. 3.