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Thursday, December 18, 2014         

Features Stories

Dwayne Johnson says it was impossible not to take his work home with him while shooting his new TNT reality series, "Wake Up Call." "By the end of the very first day of shooting I'm driving in my truck back home," the wrestler-turned-actor said.

Peter Jackson's "Just Give the People What They Want," aka "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies," sends this not-really-a-trilogy off in style. That means stuffing in everything the fans want out of these films made from the novel that came before "The Lord of the Rings."

It's a strange thing, the process of seducing an audience into accepting something. Just moments into "Exodus: Gods and Kings," we are confronted with the spectacle of John Turturro dressed as an ancient Egyptian pharaoh.

With all the timely cultural commentary Chris Rock has been making about Ferguson, Staten Island, police chokeholds and the like while doing interviews ostensibly promoting his new film, it's actually a relief that "Top Five" is pretty good.

Here's my holiday conundrum, and I bet you can relate: I am in charge of this year's holiday meal, which will feature a big standing rib roast. Everyone in my family wants their meat rare, but I want the outside to be nicely seared. How to have both?

It was a strange confession to make, but I felt I had to fess up. A friend who once ran a large recipe-based website was recently explaining to me that slow-cooker recipes are wildly more popular online than conventional recipes.

Plenty of words might describe Mary Bee Cuddy, the Nebraska farmer played by Hilary Swank in "The Homesman." A paragon of pioneer self-sufficiency, she is capable and conscientious, industrious and morally upright.

It's awards season in Hollywood, and all the "good stuff" they've held back all year is suddenly flooding forth. Hence the glad-handing of the great unwashed (film journalists) by the beautiful people at cocktail receptions to keep the perfume of this great performance or that fresh in the nostrils.

Is Mark Landis the only art forger who puts his paintings into Walmart frames? That may be the least of his eccentricities, as we learn in "Art and Craft," a droll documentary that may remind you of Errol Morris' work.

Whatever you think you know about pelicans, "Pelican Dreams" will surprise you. I like that filmmaker Judy Irving names one of the stars Gigi, short for Golden Gate Bridge, which the injured bird shut down for a while back in 2008.

From across the room, they appear to be gold and silver bracelets that fit snugly on a wrist or necklaces that rest against the collarbone. But up close, you realize you're looking at optical illusions: The jewelry is actually a stack of temporary metallic tattoos, one of the biggest accessory trends of the year.

Color bleed be damned. There's a red lipstick for everybody nowadays. You know how celebrity beauty guru Ted Gibson found that out?

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser is looking for a few true unsung heroes. Help us shine a light on their good works. Heroes Next Door can be of any age, involved in any type of charitable project.

Holiday decorations in the U.S. are often symmetrical: two candles on either side of the mantel, a round wreath in the center of the door, a centerpiece with matching sprigs of holly and pine on each side.

Looking to keep the kids entertained during long car rides or holiday dinners? Wrap up a book. Among this year's selections: Maisy's Christmas Tree • Dinosaur vs. Santa • Pete the Cat Saves Christmas • The Animals' Santa • CC Claus: A Baseball Christmas Story • Star Bright: A Christmas Story • A Little Women Christmas

The hot summer months are behind us, signaling the season when movie studios turn serious. As we draw nearer December, the cinematic hotbed of silliness and sci-fi shrinks as likely Oscar nominees arrive.

There are two ways to look at "Citizenfour," Laura Poitras' documentary about Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor whose revelations of widespread surveillance launched a hundred op-ed columns a year ago.

Clark Griswold would be thrilled. Thanks to advances in lighting technology, suburban dads (and moms) across the country have a lot to choose from when it comes to creative ways to deck their halls for the holidays this year.

For those who love to decorate, there's no time like the holidays for adding fun, festive touches to our living spaces. This year there's something to match most tastes and styles. These are some trends you'll see at stores.

Whether you're preparing a hearty Thanksgiving meal or getting ready to shop till you drop on Black Friday, here are some top-notch tracks to get you in the mood.

Kids, help us get in the holiday spirit and trim our pages with your holiday creations. Design an ornament for our annual Keiki Kalikimaka contest and you'll have a chance at prizes of $100, $75 and $50 cash.

Pet owners looking to launch the next Internet sensation or just longing for a new view of their dog's dashing and digging won't have to shop for long to find the perfect holiday gift. Wrap up a dog harness that holds GoPro's durable cameras and watch Frisbee fetch, lazy lap naps and every memory in between come alive.

The holiday catalogs and gift guides are starting to pour in, full of wonderful stuff to wrap for friends and family. But what about those who don't really want more stuff?

"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1," the first installment in the last chapter of the popular franchise, is all coil and no release. It's a taut, dark portrait of a universe upended by revolution.

The field that made scientist Stephen Hawking an international celebrity may be physics, but the reason "The Theory of Everything" is emotionally effective as an examination of his life and thought comes down to chemistry.

Not many people realize that before Black Friday comes Indecision Monday, Confusion Tuesday and Stumped Wednesday. It's all those the days before you head out shopping where you try to decide on the right gift for those on your shopping list.

A massive single-owner collection of vintage movie posters covering nearly the entire history of feature films — from 1907 to the present — is going on the auction block as one lot next month.

Artisanal or oozing with luxury, lip balms are having a moment. Joining cutesy offerings intended for kids and go-to standards around for years are newer lip scrubs, color tints and balms that ask buyers to put their money where their mouths are for good causes.

With more than enough horror stories coming out of Africa lately, you might have little appetite for revisiting a gruesome chapter of Liberian history from a quarter-century ago.

In his best-known films, such as "Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst" and "Oswald's Ghost," documentarian Robert Stone has focused on riveting bursts of violence in U.S. history.

Judging strictly from the title, it might seem safe to assume that "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies," the concluding installment in Peter Jackson's latest trilogy of films based on the writing of J.R.R. Tolkien, would arrive as something of a war film, Middle-earth style.

"Beyond the Lights" is so well-written, -cast and -played that we lose ourselves in the comfort food familiarity of it all. This hip-hop era "Bodyguard" has heart and soul, thanks to stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Minnie Driver and Nate Parker.

Twenty years after they permanently lowered the bar on broad and dumb character comedies, Lloyd and Harry are back, "Dumb and Dumber" than ever in "Dumb and Dumber To."

"Awake: The Life of Yogananda" wants to do two things: introduce Paramahansa Yogananda, who imported yoga and meditation to the United States, to a wider audience. And provide us with a mystical experience of sorts.

The world worships excellence and runs on mediocrity. Most of us are fated to dwell in the fat middle of the bell curve, admiring and envying those who stake out territory in the higher realms of achievement.

In sports and other walks of life, they call it your "game face," that serious expression that shows you're serious, focused on the game or job at hand. Soldiers might call it "mission face." It's what Maggie Swann, an Army medic, wears into battle.

"Rosewater" is based on the prison memoir of Maziar Bahari, an Iranian-Canadian journalist who got into trouble, not only for filming government murders on the streets of Tehran (which he did), but for something completely ridiculous.

Shot after shot, "Big Hero 6" is an intelligent and artful creation. There's a scene in which the filmmakers convey a funeral taking place with a medium shot of black umbrellas opening up. "Big Hero 6" makes full use of the animation medium.

Some people love their motorcycles. And people do crazy things when they're in love. "We're just a bunch of fools," says one speedway enthusiast, and it's tough to argue against that statement.

Ten years after senior prom, Megan (Keira Knightley) finds herself in limbo, no longer adolescent and not yet fully grown. It's a familiar place for the protagonist of a movie comedy to be and perhaps a further symptom of the shaky state of American adulthood.

Through her weekly "Ocean Watch" column, marine biologist Susan Scott has introduced Honolulu Star-Advertiser readers to all manner of undersea life, from nudibranchs to minke whales.

Since playing the lucky-unlucky lottery winner Hurley on "Lost," Jorge Garcia's career has moved along nicely from "Alcatraz" to "Hawaii Five-0" and upcoming big-screen movies.

In "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)," Michael Keaton is something of a cross between an aging Icarus and the emperor with no clothes — metaphorical until the tighty-whitey Times Square streak.

Three of the best actors in the business put on a master class in mystery thriller in "Before I Go to Sleep," a lean, twisty-turning tale in the "Memento" style. Christine (Nicole Kidman) wakes up each day confused.

"The Tale of the Princess Kaguya" is a marvel of Japanese animation, a hand-drawn, painterly epic that submerges us in a world of beauty. The delicacy and grace of its sublime imagery create an impact that couldn't be stronger.

With his timely new film "Nightcrawler," writer-director Dan Gilroy follows Louis Bloom into the darkest shadows of nocturnal Los Angeles, while balancing satire and grim horror in regards to the dirty business of creating must-see TV.

Man's best friend is taking a bite out of renters' wallets. Pet security deposits register in the hundreds of dollars and are getting steeper. Now a monthly rental payment ranging from $10 to $50 is quickly becoming the norm.

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.


We All Can Be ‘Cooking Hawaiian Style’
Just in time for Christmas gift giving, the cookbook features recipes from the well-known celebrities and chefs who have been on the show, along with their interesting and entertaining stories. Read More »
 
Whither Polygamy
Those of us who espoused same-gender marriage on the grounds that government should not control whom we marry find ourselves in a bit of a pickle about polygamy. Read More »
 

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