Tuesday, October 6, 2015         

Features Stories

The decidedly retro World War II-era melodrama "Shanghai" is a throwback in every sense of the word. Not only is its aesthetic firmly placed in the 1940s, it almost feels like it could have been made in 1990s Hollywood, when "Greatest Generation"-type nostalgic films like "The Rocketeer" were made.

Plenty of directors make violent movies. Denis Villeneuve makes movies about violence, which is not quite the same thing.

A highly enjoyable, zestfully acted team-building exercise, with Matt Damon playing the team of one, director Ridley Scott's "The Martian" throws a series of life-or-death scenarios at its resourceful botanist-astronaut, stranded on Mars but making the most of it. It's one of the most comforting science fiction films in years.

It’s not often that a master’s thesis has the makings of a best-seller, but after Leanne Brown’s student project appeared on the social networking site Reddit, traffic to her own website jumped to 50,000 from 80 people per day.

Somehow, director Roland Emmerich has made a movie even less historically accurate than "10,000 BC," the one depicting Egyptian-style pyramids being constructed with the help of woolly mammoths.

It was a challenge to play Bobby Fischer in chess, and it's a challenge for an actor to play him on the screen. Anyone taking on the task needs to be careful not to get carried away with the man's eccentricities, to make sure to retain the pathos beneath the sideshow.

The world of Nancy Meyers sure is beautiful. But her studied production design and dreamy interiors have become such a focal point that they've almost eclipsed her storytelling.

There's an embarrassment of riches when it comes to movies for kids. This summer has seen the likes of the emotional "Inside Out" and the brilliant claymation film "Shaun the Sheep."

What's the point of watching horror movies? An often argued reason is catharsis. Horror movies have a unique way of dredging up cultural anxieties and playing them to their worst ends on screen, so when the lights come up, we can say, "it's only a movie," and dismiss those fears away.

Because I find myself with overripe bananas regularly, our family eats a lot of banana bread. The freezer also has become sort of a halfway house for wayward overripe bananas.

There's plenty of running in "Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials," as the movie's teen heroes, survivors of last year's surprise hit "The Maze Runner," hurtle from one spectacular crisis to another and another and ... If you can lose yourself in the eye-popping set pieces, and don't expect much in the way of character development (or dialogue), you may conclude that it's OK as a sci-fi action sequel.

"Everest" is not an easy movie to watch. No entertainment that contains such tragedy should be. The truly breathtaking spectacle and technical achievements can make you feel like you too are on a vertical slope at 29,000 feet.

David Oyelowo, the picture of principled honor as Dr. Martin Luther King in "Selma," delivers unmitigated evil as the murderer at the heart of "Captive."

In need of cash -- we'll get to why in a minute -- Elle Reid, a poet and sometime professor in her 70s, decides to sell some precious old books.

Johnny Depp chose a high degree of difficulty in the James "Whitey" Bulger biopic "Black Mass."

Despite a week of monsoon rains and a weather forecast that included thunderstorms, the skies cleared and the stars came out for the "Hawaii Five-0" Sunset on the Beach season six premiere Saturday.

It was a dark and stormy night. No, wait, that's what we've been having here in Honolulu for the past few days. The premiere of the sixth season of "Hawaii Five-0" merely looks that way, opening with a gloomy moon glowing over the ocean.

Spin your most haunting tale of horror and the supernatural in the Honolulu Star-dvertiser Today section's annual Halloween Fiction Contest. Entries are limited to 650 words and must be original work never before published.

Kuakini Auxiliary’s annual bazaar: 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Kuakini Health System’s Hale Pulama Mau Auditorium. Features clothing, jewelry, handmade crafts, household items, potted plants, baked goods, sushi, waffle dogs, andagi and more. Proceeds to benefit Kuakini Foundation. Call 547-9184.

It's an intimate but basic question. What size are his tighty whiteys? "I'm not sure," Dav Pilkey says. "Probably in the L category with a few X's in front."

Not all stories are created equal. Amazing true stories can be remarkable for their sheer wonder and seemingly unbelievable qualities -- but those details might not translate into an amazing movie

Among the charms of "Learning to Drive," a small, observant dual portrait of a New York book critic and her Indian-American driving instructor, are the detailed, lived-in performances of its stars, Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley.

Somewhere between "Planet Earth" and a historical drama lies "Wolf Totem," a sweeping Chinese epic from French director Jean-Jacques Annaud.

The South Korean romantic drama "The Beauty Inside" has both an intriguing back story and a fantastical plot. Based on a series of early American shorts from 2012, in which a man goes to sleep and wakes up every day in a new body, it's an often charming, magical-realist illustration of the old maxim that beauty is only skin deep.

"Jimmy's Hall," Ken Loach's loving dramatization of the life and times of the Irish communist James "Jimmy" Gralton, begins with jumpy black-and-white archival footage of Depression-era New York. The buildings going up, the teeming crowds, the soup kitchen lines.

The Hollywood Reporter family get-together starts out strange and quickly enters nightmare territory in "The Visit," a horror-thriller that turns soiled adult diapers into a motif.

All fighting, all grimacing -- though sometimes all smiling, weeping and singing -- "Dragon Blade" is the kind of nutsy entertainment that isn't content merely to tap a handful of influences.

"Meru" will open your eyes, and more than once. Not just visually, as you might expect from a documentary on the obsessive quest to be the first to climb the most difficult peak in the Himalayas, but psychologically as well.

"The Transporter Refueled" is another "Who was asking for this, again?" reboot -- the original trilogy wasn't particularly well received and only made $238 million, total.

In Christian Petzold's new film, Phoenix is the name of a Berlin nightclub where Nelly Lenz goes searching for her husband, a piano player she calls Johnny.

On a sultry afternoon, in his basement office lair tucked beneath a sports car dealership and private jet showroom, Jackie Chan is flipping gleefully through photos on his MacBook. The martial arts master and multimillionaire is eager to show off not his latest stunts, exotic automobiles or private plane, but his prized stuffed animals.

Somewhere amid the chaos of wedding planning, a couple might find themselves imagining how much easier it would be to drop everything and head down to the courthouse to say "I do."

It really is time for all of us to get over our hesitation about turkey burgers. Though cooks get nervous about the patties coming up dry and flavorless, there really is no reason to worry.

Anne Marie Price taught herself mosaic art, creating intricate designs and portraits with cut pieces of stained glass. Recently she began balancing her usual large projects with smaller ones: She turns her mosaic touch to smooth stones that she picks up on beachcombing and mountain hikes near her Huntington Beach, Calif., home.

Ah, late August — that most beautiful time of the year for parents: School is back in session. Emphasis on the word "back."

"The task of understanding the past is never-ending," Susanna Moore observes late in "Paradise of the Pacific: Approaching Hawaii," her fascinating account of the "short 120 years from the arrival of Captain Cook in 1777 to the annexation of the Islands in 1898 by the United States."

Noah Baumbach's "Mistress America" advertises itself as a screwball comedy. But this smart, fast-paced film is not really the zany, lighter-than-air divertissement that the term usually conjures.

The plot in the South Korean martial-arts period piece "Memories of the Sword" may verge on the incomprehensible but, boy, is it gorgeous.

Even for freewheeling 1970s San Francisco, Minnie Goetze isn't your typical 15-year-old. An aspiring cartoonist, Minnie (the magnetic Bel Powley in what is rightly being lauded as the breakout performance of the year) roams the city with minimal supervision from her party-girl mother (Kristen Wiig), drinking, doing drugs and failing at school.

Part electronic dance music tutorial and part love letter to Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley, "We Are Your Friends" is a surprisingly accessible and sweet story of a group of friends standing on the cusp of adulthood with big ambition and little direction.

Long before Laverne Cox made the cover of Time magazine as a “transgender tipping point,” and long before Caitlyn Jenner made global headlines as a former Olympian transitioning from male to female at age 65, there was Candis Cayne.

A difficult-to-quantify but quite vocal group of people can't fathom how a woman could willingly go home with a man and then not engage in consensual sex with that man.

Wild weather has become more common with climate change, the experts say, and homeowners can prepare for natural disasters by making home inventories — detailed lists of household belongings and their approximate value.

The idea of the high-tech, emotionless super-soldier is so popular in movies, it's practically a convention. The "Terminator" and "Bourne" franchises, and even last year's animated "Big Hero 6," imagine characters programmed to kill and the would-be world destroyers who want to control them.

Horror sequel "Sinister 2" is a very strange movie. Of course, it's a horror film, so strange, ghostly and sinister events are expected. Yet this is a horror film that doesn't quite know what it is.

"There's an unhappy paradox about literary biographies," David Foster Wallace observed in the New York Times Book Review in 2004, in reference to "Borges: A Life."

The likably awkward chemistry of Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg remains intact in “American Ultra,” a violent stoner action-comedy that’s half “Pineapple Express,” half “The Bourne Identity,” and not as good as either.

Usually, there are two big problems with stuffed peppers: the peppers and the stuffing. Bland, bland, bland.

Samuel Kim’s mother often spiked the family’s white rice with amaranth, barley, quinoa and other whole grains to boost its nutritional value.

Though some might find it hard to conceptualize “Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet” as a cartoon, animation turns out to be a nifty way to visualize this collection of world-famous poems about spiritual enlightenment.

The shotgun blast of fury that first emanated from South Central Los Angeles in 1988 still packs a punch.

The latest cinematic Rube Goldberg machine from Guy Ritchie, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” sure is pretty to look at.

It’s summer and your grill is in overdrive. At the start of the season, you were probably content to cook up perfectly seared but otherwise unadorned steaks, chops and portobello mushrooms. But at this point you may be feeling like dressing them up a bit. Flavored butters do the trick beautifully.

If you’ve been out to eat at any trendy restaurant during the past five years or watched any food competition, you’ve heard of umami, a pleasant savory flavor resulting from the interaction of certain amino acids with receptors on the tongue.

Sloppy, fatty, savory, starchy and delicious. Do you really need any other reasons to make this utterly satisfying and summery grilled sausage and potato dish?

TV watchers, meet the five channels you selected to add to the Today section’s prime-time program grid: NHK World, Smithsonian, Nat Geo Wild, Science and History 2. As a bonus, we found room to add a sixth favorite: Ovation.

For many parents, back-to-school time means back to packing lunch for the kids. And that means it's time to revisit that old lunchbox mainstay, the peanut butter sandwich.

Using children's books as inspiration for bedrooms and playrooms is one way to introduce a child to literature. It also can be just a fun, imaginative way to decorate.

“Fantastic” is a strange name to claim for oneself. Pretty egomaniacal, really. It implies a certain level of pizzazz, of genius, of flash-bang razzle dazzle.

Woody Allen, apparently, has something to confide. Year after year, movie after movie, he comes back to a select few themes and ideas over and over again.

"The Gift" is old-fashioned in the way it conjures up scares. It's filled with creepy characters who are one emotional jolt from going over the edge, scares that come more through psychological twists and more plot curves than in a Major League Baseball game.

Early on in “Ricki and the Flash,” Ricki (Meryl Streep) gets a call that disarms her before she’s even decided to pick it up.

For many years I was hooked on Thai red curry paste, a thick, unctuous seasoning that packs a little heat and a lot of savory deliciousness. It’s great whisked into vinaigrettes and marinades, smeared straight up onto steaks and chicken, blended into meatloaf and burgers, even pureed into hummus.

After more than 16 years and nearly 2,600 telecasts, Jon Stewart can feel proud of his scads of Emmys and his pair of Peabody Awards, his cultural gravitas (he hung with the Prez, both on and off the air!), even his reprobate status at Fox News. • 10 highlights of "The Daily Show" • 'The Daily show' alums

"A LEGO Brickumentary" is exactly what the title suggests, a documentary about the LEGO company and the little brick building toys that have been in the world since the late 1950s.

The force of will — not nature, but human will — that we call Tom Cruise gets a serious workout in “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation,” and it’s an impressive thing to witness.

There was a time when a lunchbox was just that, a box into which your parents packed your lunch. For many years they were metal and came emblazoned with your favorite cartoon or movie characters, as well as a matching thermos.

Not long after the panicky protagonist of “A Hard Day” avoids hitting a dog with his car on a dark highway — only to run over some guy, stuff the guy’s corpse into the trunk and be comically waylaid at a sobriety checkpoint by some Keystone clowns — you may wonder how long writer-director Kim Seong-hun can keep this Rube Goldberg machine going.

There’s something incredibly satisfying about a well-executed high school film that hits all the right John Hughes-inspired sweet spots

Claude Chabrol is dead, but there’s Anne Fontaine to take his place, as a French director who is prolific, reliable and always accessible, and whose work is like an ideal hybrid between French and American influences.

A flurry of haymakers in the form of boxing movie cliches, “Southpaw” was conceived as a loose remake of “The Champ” — Wallace Beery in 1931, Jon Voight in 1979 — tailored for Marshall Mathers, also known as Eminem.

“Pixels” had promise. The combination of director Chris Columbus — whose credits include the high-energy comedy “Mrs. Doubtfire” and the action-heavy “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” — with classic 1980s video games seemed like a match made in arcade heaven.

For kids of all ages, one big thing helps soften the blow of summer turning into fall: fresh and fun back-to-school gear.

The best thing about "Ant-Man" is that, for much of its running time, it doesn't seem like a Marvel Comics superhero movie. The worst thing about it is that it eventually does. Sooner or later, men in skintight suits are shown doing battle, probably to save humanity or something like that.

If you've seen "Spy" with Melissa McCarthy, you're already aware that the movie nails its first big laugh — the sneezing-assassin joke — within moments of the opening credits.

Over the past decade, Bill Condon has been directing big, splashy movies such as "Dreamgirls," not to mention two entries in the "Twilight" series. Yet "Mr. Holmes" feels more like the real Bill Condon, the one who gave us "Gods and Monsters" and "Kinsey."

"Northern Limit Line" is a throwback to the days of Hollywood's heroic and patriotic World War II films — except that it takes place in 2002.

In movies, true-life family stories tend to come so drenched in despair or smothered in treacle that it's a surprise anyone gets out intact.

More than 100 vintage surfboards and memorabilia representing 50 years of surfing history will be up for bid Saturday in the first major surf-related auction in Hawaii in four years.

Sidekicks rarely shine when thrust into the spotlight, but what about a few hundred of them? The Minions, having been the best part of the two previous "Despicable Me" movies, have swarmed the screen in "Minions."

In June 2011, Amy Winehouse performed in Serbia for what would be her final concert. By then Winehouse's struggles with drugs and alcohol had made her a punch line for late-night hosts and a choice target for gossip rags and relentless paparazzi.

"Self/less," if you couldn't tell from the preposterous title, is a deeply silly movie that takes itself very, very seriously. The premise is interesting enough: A dying man (Ben Kingsley) undergoes a procedure to save his mind by ditching his failing body for a shiny new model (Ryan Reynolds).

The bar for modern horror has been set so low that by now any movie better than terrible seems worthy of praise. Such is the case of "The Gallows," a movie that has two good ideas. It needed three.

"Testament of Youth," James Kent's stately screen adaptation of British author Vera Brittain's 1933 World War I memoir, evokes the march of history with a balance and restraint exhibited by few movies with such grand ambitions.

Bland meets bold in "The Overnight," a comedy that coyly dips its toe and a few other body parts in the new sexual revolution.

There’s an early scene in “Magic Mike XXL” that hints at what this much-ballyhooed sequel woulda, coulda, shoulda been. Mike Lane, played by the well nigh irresistible Channing Tatum, is alone in his furniture workshop.

Touching and wise, cute and occasionally cloying, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” is a dramedy that taps into both real teen angst and behavior, and our fantasies of what we hope teens are thinking and feeling and doing.

"Aloft" sets up a compelling mystery — how could a loving mother abandon her son? — and then, frustratingly, refuses to solve it.

"Semper fidelis," the Romans used to purr into their dogs' ears, long before the Marine Corps adopted the Latin for "Always faithful" as their motto.

"Ted 2” asks a question that we never needed, or particularly wanted, to know the answer to: Is Ted, the magical, foul-mouthed, pot-smoking teddy bear, a person in the eyes of the law?

A critic enjoys celebrating great theater. Just as a playwright, the actors and everyone else involved with producing a show want it to be a magical and memorable experience for the audience, a critic simply wants a play to do something peculiar, something worth writing about.

"Dope" is the most daring comedy of the summer, a funny film that hunts for laughs in the everyday menaces that face black teens growing up in the corner of Los Angeles named Inglewood, in the neighborhood its residents call "The Bottom."

There are few better ways right now to spend 80 movie minutes than to see "Iris," a delightful eye-opener about life, love, statement eyeglasses, bracelets the size of tricycle tires and the art of making the grandest of entrances.

French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent earns a "Gandhi" length, disjointed and arty film biography in "Saint Laurent," a patience-testing period piece that skips through the designer's glory years, catches up with him near the addled end and fails to deliver details of his greatest trauma.

"Inside Out," the latest Pixar punch to the heart, navigates the labyrinth of a young girl's mind in an antic, candy-colored romp through childhood memory to arrive, finally, gloriously, at epiphany.

To the lengthening list of well-mannered films aimed at moviegoers who have reached an age when, to quote Shakespeare, "the heyday in the blood is tame," add "I'll See You in My Dreams," a modest, quietly touching portrait of an older woman radiantly embodied by Blythe Danner.

"When Marnie Was There," the delicate, evocative new Japanese animated film from Studio Ghibli, does not fall neatly into any conventional narrative category. But that doesn't get in the way of it being visually spectacular.

To those who weren't around at the time, it's hard to convey the excitement of the first "Jurassic Park" in 1993.

The novelty alone makes "Beyond the Mask," a rare faith-based film pitched as a swashbuckling action picture set during the American Revolution, worth a look.

The best advice to those who choose to spend 97 minutes of their lives on "Insidious: Chapter 3": Bring earplugs. And maybe make better choices.

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