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Saturday, October 25, 2014         

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A big, sloppy wet kiss of a movie about an old grouch, a sweet kid and their odd-couple friendship, "St. Vincent" has a couple of things going for it — mostly Bill Murray. For some time now, Murray has been burnishing his cult in Wes Anderson films.

"Dear White People" is the name of Justin Simien's first feature film, and I'll say right away that it is as smart and fearless a debut as I have seen from an American filmmaker in quite some time: open to influence and confident in its own originality.

Universal's effort to reclaim its place as the Home for Horror takes a step backward with this duller-than-dull 89 minutes of your life you'll never get back. Frankly, the board game is scarier, but only if you break the rules.

There are some performers you just enjoy watching kick butt. Denzel Washington, Liam Neeson, Gina Carano — they each bring an authenticity, even a meanness, to what they do that puts you in the moment with them. Then there's Keanu Reeves.

"The Book of Life" is a Mexican-accented kids' cartoon so colorful and unconventionally dazzling it almost reinvents the art form. As pretty as a just-punctured pinata, endlessly inventive, warm and traditional, it serves up Mexican culture in a riot of colors and mariachi-flavored music.

For an hour or so, Michelle Monaghan and James Marsden gamely swim against the current, fighting the torpid tide of tripe that romance novelist Nicholas Sparks sends their way in his latest.

Nearly 70 years after World War II, Brad Pitt returns to combat in "Fury," playing the leader of an American tank crew fighting its way across Germany in the spring of 1945.

Be warned: There is barely a glimmer of hope or affirmation in "The Notebook," an unnerving Hungarian drama about the dreadful experiences of a pair of twins at the end of World War II. It's a nightmare fairy tale that can be very difficult to watch.

"Men, Women & Children," an existential hand-wringing masquerading as an ensemble drama, suggests it's going to have some Deep Thoughts about The Way We Live Now.

It's hard to know what to think about "Kill the Messenger," and this makes it frustrating to watch. It tells the real-life story of Gary Webb, the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News reporter whose series on a "dark alliance" between the CIA and drug dealers made him seem on track to win a Pulitzer Prize.

Just put Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall in a room together and you'll have a movie, a truism that "The Judge" does its damnedest to disprove. David Dobkin's film doesn't leave a melodramatic stone unturned.

If you think unions are the scourge of the working world, you will not be happy at "Pride," which begins with the unmistakable sound of Pete Seeger singing "Solidarity Forever" and goes on from there.

Before Susan Boyle there was Paul Potts, a schlubby car-phone salesman from Wales who blew Simon Cowell and his fellow judges away on the first episode of "Britain's Got Talent" with his rendition of Puccini's aria "Nessun Dorma."

Although he was floundering at the University of Washington with a 1.84 GPA in March 1962, Bruce Lee was teeming with confidence and ambition, as if he knew success was around the corner.

Twisty and twisted, "Gone Girl" is the anti-date movie. Couples attending it will likely spend the rest of their evening in uneasy consideration of each other, wondering what exactly each is like, and where the sharp edges are in their relationship.

"Annabelle" is another tale of a doll possessed, a horror movie of such hoary conventions that we meet the "knowing priest" in the first scene and we're introduced to the helpful, occult-curious bookstore owner before the first act is through.

"Left Behind" is rapture-fiction as a dull zombie movie where the living dead are nonbelievers. The Christian faithful have disappeared, all over the world. That moment, 32 minutes into director Vic Armstrong's film, is this remake's lone grabber.

Lines of animated Hallmark text even appear on the screen from time to time. "Happiness is answering your calling." "Happiness is being loved for who you are." "Happiness is going to a feel-good movie, and getting no more or less than what you paid for."

"Selfie" is a modern spin on "Pygmalion," where a self-centered young woman tries to learn how to deal with people without using social media. There's nothing about Karen Gillan's character, Eliza Dooley, in "Selfie" that's hidden from the world.

The new CBS suspense series "Stalker" is like a PSA for the paranoid. The show was created by Kevin Williamson and stars Maggie Q and Dylan McDermott as detectives attached to the LAPD's Threat Assessment Unit.

Between now and the holidays, publishers will push out a significant chunk of the books they publish for the entire year. The following month-by-month list of titles being released now through November is alphabetized by author.

There's something about stop-motion 3D animation — the not-quite-real textures of skin and hair, the quite real cloth and metal, the subtle gloomy lighting effects — that says "spooky."

"The Equalizer" is a mediocre thriller that tries to establish the 59-year-old Denzel Washington as a middle-aged action hero, a la Liam Neeson. Here, we get to see Washington kill a lot of people. Yawn.

As "The Skeleton Twins" deftly glides between drama and comedy, it peels away layers of personal history in the lives of its troubled main characters, twin siblings estranged for a decade who share an eerie emotional synchronicity.

Cable's fall lineup boasts some big-time drama returns, led by ratings champ "The Walking Dead" and awards winner "Homeland." But after their jam-packed summer season, these channels appear content to cede the fall spotlight to the broadcast networks.

Under-the-sea themes are a constant of coastal design. But one marine motif especially transcends styles as a rich boost to almost any kind of decor, and that is coral.

Fine performances from two stage and screen veterans, and a keen sense of balance between humor and poignancy, elevates "Love Is Strange" above what it might have been in lesser hands: contrived and sentimental.

It's not for nothing that the names of Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe are reverentially referenced in writer-director Scott Frank's adaptation of the tenth novel in Lawrence Block's best-selling series featuring private eye Matthew Scudder.

Serenely melancholy but unfailingly melodramatic, "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby" is a tone poem to love and loss that goes on too long and is more intent on creating a sad mood than with breaking your heart.

Smith's iconic foul-mouthed characters demonstrates just how far the director has stretched (or strayed) from his days as the purveyor of smart gross-out humor in comedies like "Clerks" and "Chasing Amy."

"This is Where I Leave You" is a big, broad dysfunctional family comedy, sort of a "Parenthood" pushed into R-rated "Adulthood" territory. Jonathan Tropper has turned his novel into a script that becomes the quintessential Shawn Levy comedy.

One of the problems with movies based on young adult fiction — "Divergent," "Ender's Game" and "The Giver" — is that they tend to take a long time trying to explain the complicated world where the action unfolds.

Only a few feet beyond the outstretched glove of Giants centerfielder Angel Pagan, over the outfield fence at AT&T Park, is a hidden gem unlike any other in big-league baseball.

As summer eases into the school year — and into a new season of birthdays, class parties and holiday gatherings — now's a good time to make a few eye-catching pinatas.

Best Fall Fair: 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Ewa Community Church, 91-1258 Renton Road, with crafts, baked goods, food, rummage sale, collectibles and more. Call 681-3471 or email ewacommchurch@gmail.com.

Warning: Your television is about to be slammed with a mind-boggling array of new shows featuring everything from comic book titans and political power players to kooky sitcom families, to one really bad judge.

More zombies, more comic book shows, more cynical takes on modern romance, more socially inept geeks solving crimes and, of course, more creatively bankrupt reality and competition shows: That pretty much sums up what's left of television's vestigial organ known as "the fall season."

You might have thought "Dolphin Tale," the sleeper hit kids' film of a few falls back, was a complete, compact and uplifting story that didn't really need a second act. And if so, you were on the money.

Bob Saginowski is bartender-for-life at Cousin Marv's on the cruel side of Brooklyn, a 30-something loner living in the house his late parents bought and, from the looks of it, furnished in the 1970s.

Does Michel Gondry dream of being a toymaker, a watchmaker or the master of his own private circus? That certainly seems likely, given the ingenious contraptions, live-action and animated, that motor and hum through his latest, "Mood Indigo."

"The Pirates" is the latest in the line of swashbuckling period epics from South Korea, hot on the heels of "The Admiral: Roaring Currents" and "Kundo: Age of the Rampant." All of them have been huge hits at home.

The question to ask about the SyFy Channel's new series "Z Nation" isn't whether it's human or zombie, but rather, why does SyFy Channel waste so much time and money making junk like this?

"The Identical" is based on a "what if" that straddles the line between ingenious and loopy: Suppose Elvis Presley's stillborn twin had lived, been raised separately and unaware that he had a brother, and eventually turned into a world-class Elvis impersonator?

"Code Black" opens in chaos, settles into systemic calm and ends with young doctors struggling against "the failure of the system" to get back some of that chaos at L.A. County Hospital's "legendary" emergency room.

Make your own scary movie in the annual Halloween Video Contest sponsored by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Hawaii News Now; or spin your most haunting tale of horror and the supernatural in the our annual Halloween Fiction Contest.

As far as Hollywood is concerned, summer is in the rearview mirror. Fall movie season has arrived and will stretch into November when it gives way to holiday films including "Into the Woods" from director Rob Marshall.

Dr. Kim Williams thought he followed a heart-healthy diet: He avoided red meat and fried foods. He ate his chicken breast without the skin. Then in 2003, he realized his level of LDL, the so-called "bad" cholesterol, was too high.

Get "Lost" in our photo scavenger hunt celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 22, 2004, premiere of the ABC series that became an obsession for millions of fans around the globe.

"Kundo: Age of the Rampant" may be unknown to the broader American public, but for fans of South Korean cinema, it's already legendary. The film debuted in its home country this year with an opening-day box-office record.

Though it takes place in Poland in 1962 — a weary, disenchanted country grinding along under gray, post-Stalinist skies — Pawel Pawlikowski's "Ida" has some of the structure and feeling of an ancient folk tale.

"Frank" feels like a "festival film" aimed squarely at one festival. Here's an eccentric tragicomedy with music, built to play like gangbusters at Austin's South by Southwest music-movie fanboy/fangirl festival.

"Abandon all hope, ye who enter here," is the inscription uncovered by a gang of 20-something treasure hunters in the catacomb-hopping horror flick "As Above, So Below."

Two Hawaii students are among 30 international finalists selected to compete at the Toyota Dream Car Art World Contest. Teah Arlene Laupapa, 12, of Kapolei Middle School, and Emma Hiilani Thain, 11, a home-schooled student from Koloa, Kauai, were among 30 selected from a total of 628 international finalists and 660,000 entrants worldwide.

Bright-red gowns were well represented at the Emmy Awards Monday night, seen on Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Christina Hendricks, January Jones, Octavia Spencer, Claire Danes, Minnie Driver, Uzo Aduba and Kaley Cuoco, among many.

The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards was a win for broadcast and cable television, which earned numerous awards as the digital gate-crasher Netflix was nearly shut out. AMC's "Breaking Bad" scored big on Monday night.

Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez, who collaborated in 2005 on the serialized, stylish and brutally satisfying "Sin City," should have stopped there. "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" is based on the graphic novel series by Miller.

"When the Game Stands Tall" is a solid if unsurprising and uninspiring melodrama built around high school football, faith-based but "Friday Night Lite." It's the latest of that peculiar sub-genre of sports films.

Every so often, a movie comes along and reminds us of the primacy of the pretty picture. "Island of Lemurs: Madagascar" is so gorgeously photographed that it's very much like visiting that exotic island off the coast of Southern Africa.

Chloe Grace Moretz takes on her first real star-vehicle romance in this adaptation of Gayle Forman's novel. Moretz is Mia, a Portland, Ore., high school cello prodigy who, 12 minutes into the movie, is in a car crash.

John Michael McDonagh's 2011 debut, "The Guard," provided the wonderful Brendan Gleeson with a vehicle for some of his best screen work, playing an Irish West Country cop unencumbered by diplomacy skills.

Aside from setting the movie in Iceland, the makers of "Land Ho!" don't stray too far from this formula except in the most unfortunate ways: There is no personal growth and certainly no epiphanies. Instead of character arc, we get a plodding straight line.

The 12th Doctor will see you now. That would be the latest actor to portray the time-traveling fixer, Doctor Who — Peter Capaldi — who officially assumes the TARDIS with the eighth season premiere of the cult hit Saturday night.

As the much-anticipated, new "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movie rolled into theaters last week, young fans are clamoring for plastic swords, blue bandannas and (foam) throwing stars. Some, perhaps many, also will want a turtle as a pet.

For college kids who move off-campus, learning to accommodate the styles and needs of housemates is good practice for life after school. Here are some typical problem areas, with advice from two designers on how to solve them:

Lois Lowry's 1993 novel that won the Newbery award has been substantially altered here, mostly in ways that nudge it toward other chosen-one teen fantasies set in restrictive futuristic worlds.

There are three elements that could make a cartoon of an action film like "The Expendables 3" work: some cool, kinetic action slam-o-rama; witty one-liners; and a really good bad guy.

"What If" is a healthy serving of great "obstacles to romance," generous helpings of cute, alluring leads, a dash of funny-sexy "best friends," an enticing location filmed at its best and topped with bright, witty (but not precious) banter.

"Magic in the Moonlight," Woody Allen's new film, stages a debate that will be familiar to anyone who has seen more than a couple of the previous 43. If the idea of a universe of unmotivated chaos seems scary, rest assured that the reality of 98 minutes of unmotivated order is worse.

He is 86 years old, his eyesight is failing and much of his recent work reads like a man saying goodbye. But W.S. Merwin continues to write poems; he cannot help himself.

The steroidal title characters in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" look as if they're going to end up on a cartoon version of the Mitchell Report. Come to think of it, the whole "TMNT" movie is overinflated.

Disaster movies are by design not long on character development. Instead they bank on our love of being virtually, vicariously in fear for lives. Still, they need to establish personalities deep enough to care about, or at least halfheartedly root for.

The one thing many first remark about Richard Linklater's "Boyhood," the Austin director's joyous and life-affirming love letter to adolescence and family, is how he filmed it over the course of 12 years with the same cast.

What is it about recent food movies that, despite their virtues, they have to be so darned corny, so dewy-eyed, with everything tied up in a feel-good bow at the end? It's as if all that great food on set had this tranquilizing effect.

"Guardians of the Galaxy" is the film that moviegoers have been waiting for all summer. "Godzilla" and "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" featured action, but they just didn't have the energy that makes summer popcorn movies pop.

There's a delicious moment in "Get On Up," Tate Taylor's new James Brown biopic, when Brown — played by Chadwick Boseman, in a thrillingly magnetic performance — is about to appear on the T.A.M.I. Show, a multi-act concert filmed in 1964.

"The Killing" returns Friday for one last somber season, a six-episode coda on Netflix. Based on the Danish drama "Forbrydelsen," "The Killing" will always be best known for something that had nothing to do with whether it was a good show.

The eyes are windows to the soul. That fuzzy bit of wisdom is repeated several times, with both reverence and skepticism, in "I Origins," Mike Cahill's new film.

Like some demented combination of "Taken" and Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life," "Lucy," the latest from Luc Besson, is a full-out action movie — and a sober rumination on the nature of existence. It is both things, effectively and sincerely.

You can sense a John le Carre spy novel adaptation, often before his name turns up in the credits. The hero's cynicism at war with his skepticism, the professionalism at war with personal demons — in the spy master's gloomy, overcast world they're all spies "Who Came in from the Cold."

Two old pros show the kids how chemistry works in the romantic comedy "And So It Goes," a love-the-last-time-around romp that'll give its target audience the warm fuzzies.

At Zazzle and Cafepress you can upload favorite images and decorate custom journals and notebooks with different fonts and colors. There are also fun backgrounds like chevrons, animal prints, sports themes and nature motifs that can be jazzed up with monograms or catchphrases. (www.zazzle.com, www.cafepress.com)

The clever conceit behind James DeMonaco's 2013 sleeper hit "The Purge" was not that American society had resolved its crime, inequality and population problems with an annual free-pass-for-murder "purge."

The unholy bond between religion and politics is the background for "Persecuted," a confused and confusing thriller about a TV preacher ruined by a sinister government plot.

Zach Braff's "Wish I Was Here" is a sweet and jokey feature film that is so at home in the punch line rhythms of TV sitcoms that you may think to yourself, "When's his best friend former 'Scrubs' co-star Donald Faison showing up?"

Small, remote town pulls every trick in the book to land itself a much-needed town doctor. The locals are always colorful and quirky; the new doc, a Big Medicine cynic.

Judd Apatow's landmark film rightfully ushered in a new era in comedy, but it has also inspired a now sizable cottage industry of thin movies ("The Hangover," "The Five-Year Engagement," "Bad Teacher," "Horrible Bosses," "The Other Woman") with concepts boasting good titles but shallow stories.

There's a cheerful simplicity about the animated "Planes: Fire & Rescue." Contrast it with the chaotic, clanging "Transformers" movie, made for a slightly older preteen audience.

"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" is an action-packed epic, a moving sci-fi allegory rendered in broad, lush strokes by the latest state of the computer animator's art. Yes, you will believe a chimp can talk, ride a horse and fire a machine gun.

It's not just television — it's everything that's good on video, as far as the Emmys are concerned, a point driven home emphatically as the nominations for this year's awards were announced Thursday.

Sebastian Junger's "Korengal" is a kind of sequel to 2010's "Restrepo," but also stands on its own as an intense and affecting report on the experiences of U.S. troops in one of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan.

In Paul Haggis' film "Third Person," Liam Neeson plays Michael, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist who has lost his creative mojo and is holed up in a Paris hotel, completing his latest opus.

He has been referred to as Korea's version of Quentin Tarantino, with Quentin Tarantino himself recently likening him to Steven Spielberg. Now, with "Snowpiercer," Bong Joon-ho makes his English-language debut.

It takes 90 minutes for Dinesh D'Souza's rambling, mistitled "America: Imagine the World Without Her" to get to its real point. There's D'Souza, arch-conservative Ivy League immigrant, creator of the popular anti-Obama screed "2016: Obama's America," in handcuffs.

Even though she sailed with the Polynesian Voyaging Society three times before, Heidi Kai Guth knew that earning a spot on the worldwide voyage of Hokule‘a and Hikianalia was not going to be easy.

There's only one thing anyone really needs to know about "Transformers: Age of Extinction," Michael Bay's fourth exercise in robot-on-robot violence and aggressive product placement: At nearly three hours, it's the longest "Transformers" movie yet.

"Ilo Ilo" is writer-director Anthony Chen's first film, but breathtaking intimacy in storytelling is already second nature to him. It quietly demonstrates that in the right hands even the familiar stuff of everyday life can move us deeply.

In a breezy and seemingly effortless way "Obvious Child" accomplishes something difficult. It's a comedy with abortion at its center that doesn't fall into about a dozen traps that might have swallowed it up.

The acting world's treating Spencer Boldman pretty good these days. Not only does he star in the new Disney Channel original movie "Zapped," but his Disney XD series "Lab Rats" has been ordered for a fourth season.

It's '90s teenage-show nostalgia week on Walt Disney Co. networks, where two new shows are built on memories of series that went off the air just as the current century was starting.

It's little wonder that the stage musical "Jersey Boys" has become one of the most successful shows in Broadway history on the strength of sublimely catchy tunes like "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry" and "Walk Like a Man."


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