Saturday, April 19, 2014         

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The directorial debut for ace cinematographer Wally Pfister is very watchable, but the narrative flaws and logical leaps sabotage sustained enjoyment. "Transcendence" looks and sounds like a Christopher Nolan film that got attacked by malware.

"Bears" is exactly the sort of nature documentary we've come to expect from Disneynature, the film division of the company that rolls out a new nature documentary every year at Earth Day.

Imagine a Venn diagram charting three qualities: silly, gross and dumb. At the point where they overlap you will find the fright film spoof "A Haunted House 2."

Scarlett Johansson as an extraterrestrial femme fatale cruising the streets of Glasgow in Jonathan Glazer's cerebral sci-fi horror fantasy "Under the Skin" is an indelible personification of predatory allure.

The current cultural directive to give the people what they want explains the existence of the "Veronica Mars" movie, a likable, unmemorable, feature-length footnote to the admired television series that was canceled in 2007.

LOS ANGELES » During its heyday in the 1940s, the Forbidden City in San Francisco billed itself as "the world's most famous Chinese nightclub."

AMC's "Mad Men" returns Sunday for the beginning of its swan song: The first seven episodes of season seven start airing this month (AMC calls it "The Beginning"), and the final seven episodes (aka "The End") will air in 2015.

When Ethan Coen finished watching the first episode of "Fargo," the TV version, he mumbled his initial reaction: Yeah, good. The Coens have every reason to be ecstatic.

A vivid and delightful animated spectacle, "Rio 2" is chock-full of colorful 3-D wonder and jubilant musical numbers set against a tale of family dynamics and environmental dilemmas.

The delicate and lovingly handmade "Ernest & Celestine" captures the whimsy and warmth of a dearly felt children's picture book like few movies before.

"Draft Day" is a "ticking-clock" thriller built around the NFL draft, a movie that counts down to the fateful decision that one embattled general manager (Kevin Costner) makes with his team's first-round pick.

Let's get right to the heart of the matter: "The Raid 2," the sequel to the 2011 international cult hit "The Raid," is the most violent nonhorror movie to hit theaters in a long time.

"Oculus" is about one adjustment away from being a superior thriller. The screenwriters spend most of the movie painting themselves into a corner, and the audience waits to see how they will get out … except they never do.

Donald Rumsfeld smiles, spins and passes the buck as he spars with Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Errol Morris in "The Unknown Known." Rumsfeld has the certitude of a man who figures this film guy won't lay a glove on him.

Many people have a bonsai story: a first bonsai, a struggling bonsai. And many of these stories do not end happily, at least for the bonsai.

After Hollywood studios did pretty good with Spider-Man and then failed miserably with every other character in the Marvel Universe canon, Marvel bit the bullet and created its own production studio.

LOS ANGELES » A South Korean company aiming to transform the way Americans experience movies at the multiplex is bringing its "4-D" theater technology to Los Angeles.

With all of the fine grown-up acting on television these days, it's easy to overlook the excellent work being done by the younger set and, in some cases, the considerably younger set.

"Unforgettable" is a well-made cop show on CBS that could have easily been a distant memory by now. Instead, it begins the second half of its second season on Friday night, a case study in how to give more chances to a decent show that didn't find its natural home immediately.

"Noah" is no silly action blockbuster with a Biblical pretext. Rather, it's the product of writer-director Darren Aronofsky's vigorous engagement with the biblical story and what it might mean in our time.

Sarcastic, sanctimonious, salacious, sly, slight and surprisingly sweet, the black comedy "Bad Words," starring and directed by Jason Bateman, is high-minded, foul-mouthed good nonsense.

Diego Luna's heartfelt biographical drama, "Cesar Chavez," chronicles the five-year struggle of the United Farm Workers co-founder in the 1960s to get California grape growers to the negotiating table to hammer out agreements on fair wages and better conditions for exploited field laborers.

Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn't strut through action films these days. And no amount of editing can hide that, no, grandpa can't kick doors down any more. Or fake it. Even his line-readings have a fatigue that suggests he's kind of over it.

Practicing yoga for at least three hours a week for three months reduced the fatigue and inflammation in breast cancer survivors, compared with survivors who did no yoga, researchers reported.

For a film predicated on the principle that being different — or "divergent" — is what makes you special, "Divergent" just doesn't diverge enough from the pack.

It's a tough choice, but if I had to pick the most Wes Anderson moment in "The Grand Budapest Hotel," it would be the part when inmates escape from a prison using tiny sledgehammers and pickaxes that have been smuggled past the guards inside fancy frosted pastries.

Though Dr. Bunsen Honeydew (still the greatest name in showbiz, sorry Sidney Poitier) notes this is technically the Muppets' seventh sequel, they nevertheless sing: "And everyone knows the sequel's not quite as good."

"Need for Speed," inspired by the video game of the same name, runs 130 minutes, which is crazy long for an action movie — especially a formula entry in which every bend in the road can be seen from miles away. Here's a movie about fast cars, and yet the audience is ahead of it the whole time.

Realistic painting reached its golden age with the 17th-century Dutch Masters, painters whose mastery of detail and re-creation of faces and light were unmatched until the advent of photography hundreds of years later.

A story of attraction and repulsion evocative of Cain and Abel, it pivots on intimate antagonists who, in another world and geopolitical time, might have been brothers.

The boyishly handsome 63-year-old Kurt Russell stars in the con caper comedy "The Art of the Steal," which is on video on demand and opens in theaters Friday. The film also stars Matt Dillon and Jay Baruchel.

LONDON » Watching Elizabeth McGorian and Thomas Whitehead performing the Queen and Cattalabutte in "The Sleeping Beauty" at the Royal Opera House, it's easy to think, "Only with the Royal Ballet."

For "The Single Moms Club," Perry trades the over-the-top antics of Madea for a sometimes serious — and often funny — look at what it means to be a single mom as seen through the perspective of a variety of women.

Wouldn't Eva Green look awesome kissing the severed head of an insolent captive? "300: Rise of an Empire" puts the issue to rest (the answer: yes, but it'll never last) and strives to uphold the rah-rah style of visuals and rhetoric established by its popular predecessor, "300."

Created by George Lucas and directed by Dave Filoni, the 3-D CGI animated series was launched on the Cartoon Network in 2008 and, like the earlier 2-D series of the same name, "Clone Wars" is set in the years between the saga's prequel feature films, "Revenge of the Sith" and "Attack of the Clones."

The first and final images in Godfrey Reggio's brooding, wordless film "Visitors" are of a gorilla staring into the camera. You can read anything you want into the beast's inscrutable gaze.

More than many of Jay Ward's animation productions, the early 1960s cartoons present a high degree of difficulty to stretch into a full-length movie. They were just five minutes long. The wordplay-heavy humor was geared toward adults.

Out for the beads, a New Orleans tradition, or the scantily clad dancers, as championed in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and London's Notting Hill district? Mardi Gras Carnaval has something for all in Honolulu's Chinatown tonight.

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer is the second-most deadly cancer, but the majority of cases are preventable with the use of a common screening procedure called a colonoscopy.

Hollywood's "it" fashion darling of the year, Lupita Nyong'o, showed up to claim the supporting actress Oscar Sunday night in a goddess look of ice-blue silk.

LOS ANGELES » Perhaps atoning for past sins, Hollywood named the brutal, unshrinking historical drama "12 Years a Slave" best picture at the 86th annual Academy Awards.

Alexander Borodin's "Prince Igor" is the opera everyone can hum but few have seen. In part, that's because when the composer died in 1887, he had completed only fragments of his projected four-act epic.

OK, Liam Neeson, we get it. You're a 61-year-old guy who can bust heads and snap arms with the best of them. And, yes, it worked like a charm in "Taken" — which packed the punch of surprise because who knew the guy from "Schindler's List" was such a brawler?

Blame Mel Gibson for it if you like, but no Jesus movie these days is worth its salt without an utterly unflinching treatment of his torture and crucifixion. And "Son of God" has stretches where the agony we watch this poor man endure is avert-your-eyes awful.

A fit, energetic young man climbs a knotted rope to the top of Israel's 25-foot separation wall, the concrete curtain isolating West Bank Palestinians from Israelis. Hand over hand he makes his way to the top of the looming barrier. The long shot shows there's nothing to break his descent if he slips.

Such traumas produce a different kind of war movie, and so we get "Stalingrad," a huge hit in Russia and the first Russian film ever made in 3-D Imax. This film constitutes an Imax breakthrough, in that it's the first to use 3-D Imax for serious artistic ends.

"Pompeii" is half sword-and-sandal epic, half disaster movie and all guilty pleasure. Director Paul W.S. Anderson has a strong command of CGI technology and 3-D effects, and the movie is so grand in scale that you can't help but surrender to the spectacle.

Japan's Hayao Miyazaki has announced his retirement. If he holds to that, it's fitting that this final film, inspired by but not limited to the life of brilliant aircraft designer Jiro Horikoshi, is quintessentially his: stunningly beautiful and completely idiosyncratic.

Kevin Costner and the director McG are plunged into the madcap mayhem of Monsieur Luc Besson in "3 Days to Kill," a serio-comic thriller about mortality, murder for hire and fatherhood.

The modest, run-down home at the center of "The Past" is filled with rooms that — much like the characters who are busily, sometimes leisurely passing through them — somehow feel cut off from one another.

Think of "Therese Ra­quin," the Emile Zola novel that is the inspiration for "In Secret," as the original film noir. It has an illicit love affair, a murder and the guilt and fear of discovery that comes with it.

There can never be too many tales about a one-night stand turned long-term love affair. Perhaps the allure comes from the hope that anyone can fall hard, despite the lack of a courtship.

At the very least, "Winter's Tale" is something different. It's a romance with fantastic elements, utterly lacking in cynicism, heading straight for the grandest emotions and deepest issues in life — love, death, time — without anybody worrying that the audience won't buy it or, worse, start laughing.

"Endless Love" is a remake of a passionate but horribly executed 1981 movie, best remembered for the ubiquitous wedding song that it spawned. The update is a different kind of failure, too much endless and not enough love.

WASHINGTON » Hawaii surfer Bethany Hamilton got a standing ovation and President Barack Obama reaffirmed that freedom of religion is a central tenet of U.S. diplomacy at the annual National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday.

It's easy to walk in with low expectations for "The Lego Movie," a film so saturated with product placement that every single scene doubles as a toy commercial.

A roughly true/fictionally embellished account of the efforts of American arts scholars to preserve the artistic patrimony of Europe from the scourge of combat and theft by the Germans, it is a cute but clunky ensemble piece that director George Clooney rarely bestows with the gravitas and jauntiness this material demanded.

From the poster and the first half-hour, the film gives the impression that it's going to be a rather light tale of an up-by-his-bootstraps, money-hungry lawyer, Song Woo-seok (Song Kang-ho, "The Face Reader"), at odds with his more refined, elite legal colleagues.

ATLANTA » Target. Neiman Marcus. And now three other national retailers have reportedly lost customers' personal data. The Target breach alone compromised the data of as many as 110 million Americans (including as many as 121,000 Hawaii shoppers).

EVEN WHEN short films nominated for Academy Awards are accomplished on their own, they can be a strange buffet when bunched together. Like eating sushi, veal parmigiana and a bag of Oreos in one sitting.

In "Labor Day," a woman falls in love with the man who takes her hostage, but the movie goes out of its way to make that journey easy for her. He's an escaped convict, but wouldn't you want to escape prison, too?

"That Awkward Moment" gets off to an unpromising start, when Zac Efron, talking in voiceover, tells us that he has been sitting on a park bench for two hours, that it's February and he's freezing.

LOS ANGELES » Daft Punk's electronic-funk grooves have won big at the Grammys. The French electronic duo's "Random Access Memories" won album of the year and their infectious hit, "Get Lucky," won record of the year at the awards show. The song features Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers.

TWO YEARS after he made his directorial debut with "Coriolanus," the terrific actor Ralph Fiennes arrives with his second effort, an exploration of an illicit liaison that Charles Dickens had with a young actress.

ORLANDO, Fla. » Aaron Eckhart has some advice for monster movie and Mary Shelley purists who might quibble with "I, Frankenstein," his futuristic movie version of the creature that features Eckhart as the monster almost 100 years in the future.

Vanessa Hudgens is running away from her G-rated, "High School Musical" past so quickly she might have Usain Bolt asking "What's the hurry?" But the problem with speed is that you always don't look where you're going.

PARK CITY, Utah >> Don’t worry, Anne Hathaway is OK. Recently paparazzi photos circulated of the Oscar winner on vacation in Hawaii with her husband and looking like she was having an emergency while in the ocean.

The Academy Awards nominations were announced Thursday morning, and usually there's something mind-boggling and horrible to talk about, but not this time.

NEW YORK » Hollywood may be hoping for a little less drama in 2014. 2013 was a tale of two cinemas. Blockbusters like "The Lone Ranger" and "After Earth" flopped spectacularly while many in the industry (including Steven Spielberg) bemoaned the increasingly commercial trajectory of the studios.

On the face of it, Lifetime's "Flowers in the Attic" should have been a slam dunk. What doesn't V.C. Andrews' 1979 best-selling book have? It contains family strife, a wicked grandmother, plucky kids imprisoned in a mansion, whippings, a tarring, killer intentions, a greedy mom bent on getting herself written back into her wealthy father's will …

Having clung to the Russians as go-to villains long after the Cold War thawed, the movies find themselves current again with their favorite archenemy.

As always, the Oscar nominations are significant not only for who gets the nod, but for who misses out.

Not all rats look exactly alike, even animated ones. But there's a real resemblance between Buddy the rat (pictured) in "The Nut Job," the new film by Peter Lepeniotis, and Remy, the main character in "Ratatouille," that wonderful 2007 Pixar film.

"Ride Along" is such a formula effort that you might be able to get the same effect imagining it as watching it. Just lower the lights, get into a comfortable chair and contemplate Kevin Hart and Ice Cube riding together in a police car.

LOS ANGELES » As its name promises, "The Great Beauty" is drop-dead gorgeous, a film that is luxuriously, seductively, stunningly cinematic. But more than intoxicating imagery is on director Paolo Sorrentino's mind, a lot more.

Amy Poehler made out with Bono, Tina Fey mocked George Clooney's taste in women. But at the end of a madcap Golden Globes (Fey toasted it as "the beautiful mess we hoped it would be"), the major honors soberly ended up with the favorites.

Lena Dunham showed up Sunday night in form-fitting canary yellow — tattoos out — for the Golden Globes, one of Hollywood's biggest fashion fests.

"HER," directed by Spike Jonze, centers on a lonely soul who is drawn out by the female voice of his computer operating system. She sounds like the girl next door — young, friendly, eager.

"Breaking Bad" fans will get a kick of out of seeing Bryan Cranston in beard and sunglasses, slinging a Slavic accent. As a hit man/courier in "Cold Comes the Night," he sets the film's quiet, menacing tone with long silences broken by the occasional blood-curdling threat, delivered in venomous Vladi­mir Putin-ese.

A grim chapter in Navy SEALs history earns a heroic, no-punches-pulled accounting in "Lone Survivor," an above-average action outing for Mark Wahlberg & Co. Based on the true story of the ill-fated SEAL Team 10 and a mission that went messy in 2005, it is still very much a movie.

Another week, another South Korean thriller about a rogue North Korean agent on the run. "The Suspect" follows in the footsteps of the similarly plotted "Committee," which was released in the U.S. just a few weeks ago.

Sam Shepard kicks off the screen adaptation of "August: Osage County" with a foggy reference to T.S. Eliot and a succinct account of some of the family pathology that will occupy his kin (and the audience) for the next couple of hours.

LOS ANGELES » Where movie studios see trouble, Red Granite Pictures sees opportunities. The new finance and distribution company's business plan is both contrary and simple: Make the films the studios don't.

Hollywood studios are squeezing more into their weekend box office reports this year, adding ticket sales from Thursday shows and making big movie openings look even more lucrative.

In surveying the year at the movies, the topography is rich. From the dusty, dying towns of "Nebraska" to the rooftop Roman parties in "The Great Beauty" to the sleek future Los Angeles of "Her," 2013 has been a trip. But has it been a great year?

Is there a Hans Gruber in the house? Can Hannibal Lecter come out and play? Darth Vader, please report to the principal's office. You know where I'm heading with this: It's our annual list of the most memorable movie villains of the year.

There are no apologies in Hollywood. There are no excuses in Hollywood. And there certainly are no refunds in Hollywood. They charge you the same ticket price for a bad movie as they do for a good movie.

NEW YORK » It was a year for pixie haircuts, chunky flat shoes, bangs on our first lady and bare skin … lots of it, on movie actresses and pop stars. Fashion always has its royalty, and this year Kerry Washington was a queen.

This year, Hollywood reminded us of one long Kanye West rant — somewhat intelligible yet completely nonsensical; intriguing but annoying; and something you wanted to ignore but just could not look away from.

Hard moral decisions weigh heavily. And in "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom," Justin Chadwick's stately screen biography of the late Nelson Mandela, British actor Idris Elba conveys the agony as well as the nobility of Mandela's quest for South African racial equality.

'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" shouldn't be any good at all. It's a remake of a 1947 film that wasn't screaming to be remade, even if the idea of doing just that has been kicking around Hollywood since the mid-'90s.

Leonardo DiCaprio's most charismatic performance ever anchors Martin Scorsese's robust and raunchy lowlifes-of-high-finance comedy "The Wolf of Wall Street."

'Grudge Match" is a sort of "Punchy Old Men," a slow-footed high-concept comedy that pairs up the screen's greatest pugilists, circa 1981, for a few slaps and a few laughs.

Japanese legend with roots in reality, the tale of the 47 ronin has been adapted into just about every medium imaginable, from ballet to movies to graphic novels.

The first thing we see in "American Hustle" is Christian Bale putting together his hair. He plays someone completely bald on top but with long hair on the sides, and with the aid of some glue, a forlorn hair piece and a comb-over, he arranges himself in the mirror and goes out to face the world.

A creative dispute between a writer and a studio head about the direction of a prospective motion picture sounds like the kind of movie scenario only a lawyer could love.

Talking dinosaurs are almost never a good idea. Even the makers of "The Flintstones" figured that one out. The Cretaceous-period inhabitants never shut up in "Walking With Dino­saurs," a misguided 3-D dinosaur romp created by BBC Earth.

"If it was never new, and it never gets old, then it's a folk song," Llewyn Davis says, brandishing his guitar during a set at the Gaslight. That's a pretty good definition, one that certainly applies to "Hang Me, Oh Hang Me," the chestnut that opens "Inside Llewyn Davis," Joel and Ethan Coen's intoxicating ramble through Greenwich Village in 1961, before the neighborhood was annexed by New York University and Starbucks.

The blow-dried hair, the polyester suits and '70s-style political incorrectness and facial hair are back in "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues."

BOISE, Idaho » A local illustrator's chalk portraits of workers hang inside the store, where the same artist's murals decorate the wall behind the cheese case.

Should a minimum-wage increase, to about $10 hourly, be delayed for small businesses until 2019?
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UH Senior Fashion Show
The 48th annual University of Hawaii Senior Fashion Show is set for April 27 at Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, featuring the designs of seven senior and seven junior designers. Read More »
BRUNO MARS AND traveling party are in town, here after their final night in Japan and ready for three nights in Hawaii at the Blaisdell beginning Friday. Welcome home, Bruno! Read More »