Monday, May 04, 2015         

Features Stories

An elegant and captivating piece of corporate promotion in the guise of a documentary, Frederic Tcheng's "Dior and I" unfolds like an episode of "Project Runway" with better clothes and bigger budgets, or perhaps a Christopher Guest movie without a sense of humor.

It would be silly to pretend that "Avengers: Age of Ultron" isn't good at what it does, that it's not proficient at delivering superhero thrills for those who crave them most.

I’ll be back,” the line Arnold Schwarzenegger first uttered more than 30 years ago in that indelible manly monotone, belongs to the Terminator, of course. But it also might as well be the official slogan of the summer movie season.

Here are this summer's biggest movies, plus a few limited releases that may break through the noise. (Note: These are national release dates; Hawaii release dates may vary.)

The movie site Fandango recently checked in with its massive audience base to see what the summer's most anticipated film might be. It probably won't be a surprise that the winner was "Avengers: Age of Ultron," coming to thousands of theaters this week.

The official state china of President Barack Obama's administration is a modern-inspired service trimmed in a blue that recalls the waters of his native state of Hawaii.

Although she works in one of the most popular vacation spots on the planet, "Hawaii Five-0" star Grace Park sees Hawaii as less of a paradise and just the place where she works through numerous pages of the script — often loaded with big stunts and special effects — before the sun goes down.

Faith-based films have had an uneven record at the box office. The latest movie attempting to tap this market, "Little Boy," is an often appealing, sometimes cloying nostalgic drama set during World War II.

The century-old open wound of Gallipoli, Australia's ill-fated entry into World War I, makes a vivid and grim backdrop for Russell Crowe's "The Water Diviner," a sensitive and sentimental story about a grieving father looking for the bodies of the three sons he lost there.

The two main characters in Dave Boyle's labyrinthine neo-noir, "Man From Reno," make an oddball pair of sleuths. Aki Akahori (Ayako Fujitani) is a renowned Japanese mystery writer, hiding out from the paparazzi in San Francisco.

Donnie Yen has been a star for more than 20 years, but he was never a superstar — until "Ip Man" in 2008 made him the top action star in Asia — and, at 51, he still is.

Hollywood long ago ceded "love that stands the test of time" to the realm of science fiction and fantasy, so "The Age of Adaline" falls neatly into a genre that includes "The Time Traveler's Wife," "About Time," and even "Somewhere in Time."

The perfect 21st-century female looks like a million bucks but costs a great deal more. In "Ex Machina," Alex Garland's slyly spooky futuristic shocker about old and new desires, the female in question is a robot called Ava, a name suggestive of both Adam and Eve.

The best-selling novel "Child 44," by Tom Rob Smith, runs well over 400 pages, and that's perhaps the first hint as to why the movie based on it seems to veer in 40 different directions.

Not since "The Blair Witch Project" in 1999 has a horror film taken such a creative approach to conjure scares as "Unfriended." It's a cautionary tale of a group of friends who become the target of an unseen cyber-entity starving for revenge.

Michael Finkel's journalism career, torpedoed by a partly fabricated story, had just bottomed out when a phone call came asking why a man accused of murdering his wife and three children in Oregon was identifying himself "Mike Finkel, New York Times."

"Monkey Kingdom," Disneynature's latest Earth Day offering, is an intriguing peek inside the social structure of macaque monkey society in Sri Lanka.

Jack White looked like he could use a break. Throughout his Wednesday night show in Honolulu, though he occasionally cracked a smile and appeared completely absorbed in his music and bandleading, he also seemed to have a hellhound on his trail — some anxious thought pushing him to put his Honolulu show together in an antic, unpredictable, partially improvised fashion.

It may be the most scrutinized typographical matter in music: how large each act's name appears on the poster announcing the lineup for the annual Coa­chella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

In 2001, a stranger-than-fiction "true story" emerged in local papers about a 28-year-old Japanese woman who flew from Japan to Minnesota and bussed to North Dakota to search for the buried money from Joel and Ethan Coen's 1996 film "Fargo."

Sharp, funny and dead-on accurate about the way we live now, "While We're Young" is not a film about eternal youth but, rather, about coming to terms with growing older.

From Don Draper's Old Fashioneds to Roger Sterling's smuggled-in Stoli, cocktails have played a deliciously major role on AMC's "Mad Men." But was it really that great an era to drink?

She just turned 21. So perhaps the cruel truth can be at last be said about Dakota Fanning without fear of being called a child abuser.

Don’t underestimate Robert Kenner’s “Merchants of Doubt.” It may sound like a standard-issue advocacy documentary concerned, as so many are, with the perils of global warming, but it’s a lot more than that.

Fast-moving fight scenes, outrageous auto antics and a sprinkling of ridiculous one-liners make "Furious 7" a campy, crowd-pleasing escape.

The 11th-annual Kawaii Kon animation convention wrapped up its three-day run on Sunday night at the Hawaii Convention Center.

Home" is an energetic, obvious animated comedy packed with the sort of low humor and silly laughs that drive very small children wild.

"Get Hard," the prepping-for-prison would-be comedy from Will Ferrell and comedian-of-the-moment Kevin Hart, is about as funny as life imprisonment without the possibility of parole — or laughter.

The nameless, shape-shifting horror that stalks the blond, 19-year-old Jay (Maika Monroe) in David Robert Mitchell's cool, controlled horror film, "It Follows," might be described as the very incarnation of paranoia.

The zombie movie “Dead Rising: Watchtower” might hold rewards for people who have spent hours immersed in the video game series on which it’s based. Judged as a free-standing film, though, it’s a time waster devoid of the wit and depth of other walking-dead fare currently available — see, for instance, the new CW series “iZombie.”

As high-spirited as its title suggests, "Wild Tales" opens on a savage note and ends, well, that's for you to find out. In between its shocker start and equally startling windup, this Argentine anthology offers up a scabrous, often unsettlingly funny look at human behavior in extremis.

At one point in "The Gunman," the new Sean Penn geopolitical thriller, our star goes surfing. It's supposed to show he has a reckless side, since he's surfing in unsafe territory, but it seems to have a larger, much more obvious purpose: To show us that Penn, at 54, is ripped.

The intriguingly unorthodox, foreign-language Oscar nominee "Timbuktu" is a provocative, sometimes satiric drama about the sort of Islamic extremists who make life, especially in the outer reaches, so treacherous these days.

"Insurgent" doesn't seriously diverge from the "Divergent/Hunger Games/Maze Runner" formula until its final act. Up until then, this "Divergent" sequel is Young Adults Save the World generic.

Jack O'Connell seems to love playing guys who get the snot kicked out of them.

Generally, the purpose of a faith-based film is to reach out to those looking for spiritual guidance. "Do You Believe?," the latest movie from the company that produced "God Is Not Dead" last year, takes a different approach, targeting those whose faith is more an act of deceleration than dedication.

It's possible to tell a sci-fi story about the coming age of sentient machines without a "Chappie"-size budget, or turning "Chappie" insipid.

Run All Night” is a first-person shooter thriller for the Grecian Formula generation. Old men — cops and mobsters — sit in bars, drink their Scotch on the rocks and talk about the “old neighborhood,” their long history and the blood they’ve spilled.

In this age of revisionist, modernized Disney fairy tales, where we've learned that some of our favorite characters really aren't what they seemed, the striking thing about the studio's sumptuous new live-action "Cinderella" may not be what it is, but what it isn't.

Gabe Polsky, director of the documentary "Red Army," likes to say that his film is a hockey movie for people who don't care about hockey, and its reception has proved him right.

If you're going to do a movie sequel that doesn't quite measure up to the original and seems rather hurriedly cobbled together, well, OK. Many filmmakers have done the same.

"This is the not-so-true story of four vampires, picked to live in a house, work together, and have their lives taped. Find out what happens when bloodsuckers stop being polite and start getting real. ‘The Real World'!"

In the years since he strutted onto the scene — lean, handsome, mouth running a mile a minute — in Doug Liman's "Swingers" (1996), Vince Vaughn has become one of the poster boys for the mainstream American comedy: from romantic ("The Break-Up") to bromantic ("Old School"), pretty good ("Wedding Crashers") to very bad ("Fred Claus") to frankly unnecessary ("Delivery Man").

Wrongheaded in conception, eye-rolling in execution, "Chappie" is a childish blend of the cute robot goofiness of "Short Circuit" and the bloody-minded mayhem of "RoboCop." It never finds its sweet spot and never, for one moment, works.

If the mark of a good con artist is that he or she makes you think you know exactly what's going on — when of course you haven't a clue — that's also the mark of a good con-artist movie, isn't it?

As its imposing title suggests, the Russian drama "Leviathan" is something of a monster movie. It turns on a modern-day Job who endures trials and tribulations in an Arctic town in northern Russia.

"The Lazarus Effect" is not the usual mindless thriller, but it's as flat as an open soda can from last week, with dull characters and virtually every scene taking place in a single location. It looks like it cost about twelve bucks to make — and somebody got robbed.

High collars replaced sexy cutouts, and Classic Hollywood in blacks and whites took hold of the Oscars red carpet Sunday night with help from a smoking Saint Laurent worn by Margot Robbie and a heavily pearled look for fashion It girl Lupita Nyong'o.

Much of the chatter going into the Oscars was about the lack of diversity in the Academy's choices, specifically the dearth of nominations for "Selma."

The Edmund Pettus Bridge stood center stage in both the performance and acceptance speeches by John Legend and Common for their Oscar-winning song "Glory" from the film "Selma".

The Edward Snowden documentary "Citizenfour" has won the Oscar for best documentary. Laura Poitras' film documents her initial meeting in Hong Kong with Snowden, as well as journalist Glenn Greenwald.

"Big Hero 6" has won the Academy Award for best animated feature. The Disney film — based on a Marvel comic about a team of superheroes — tells the story of a tech nerd named Hiro and a lovable roly-poly robot, Baymax.

Patricia Arquette advocated for wage equality after accepting the Oscar for best supporting actress in "Boyhood" during an emotional outburst at the end of her carefully scripted speech Sunday.

J.K. Simmons has won the Academy Award for best supporting actor for "Whiplash." Simmons plays a cruel jazz band instructor who berates and humiliates his students, including Miles Teller, who co-stars as an aspiring jazz drummer in Damien Chazelle's film.

The black-and-white Polish film "Ida" has won the Academy Award for best foreign language film. The win marks the first foreign language Oscar for Poland despite nine previous nominations and a rich history of filmmaking.

The princess laughs and floats in sumi-e-brush sketches of faint pastel, a lush landscape that animated film director Isao Takahata has painstakingly depicted to relay his gentle message of faith in this world.

John Cusack has been reduced to Z-grade action comedies, shot in Australia and co-starring Thomas Jane, at this stage of his career. And he STILL turned down the payday that "Hot Tub Time Machine 2" promised, which tells you all you need to know about this half-baked sequel.

Mae Whitman sasses, sashays and sparkles in "The DUFF," a snappy, sweet-spirited teen comedy about a smart girl who tries to fight high school labeling with wit and words. And the occasional punch.

"McFarland, USA" could so easily have been yet another mushy, feel-good, by-the-numbers sports underdog movie. And in beginning, it seems like it's heading there.

It was a year ago that Lupita Nyong'o, shortly before winning the Academy Award for best supporting actress in "12 Years a Slave," gave a speech about what she called "dark beauty."

Three days into New York Fashion Week, and it was starting to feel as if we had taken a wrong turn on the way to the catwalks and ended up on the basketball court at Madison Square Garden instead.

And so, the GoPro camera Abraham Williams set up to document the moment he proposed to Tulsi Gabbard had sputtered. Timing and GoPro glitch aside, Gabbard still described the occasion as "a perfect, magical moment."

Curious? The posters for "Fifty Shades of Grey" coyly ask. Whether or not you're one of the 100 million who bought, and presumably read, E L James' kinky book, the buzz surrounding this "Twilight"-fan-fiction-turned-international-pheno­­menon is enough to pique the interest of a rock.

A woman losing her mind is a terrible thing to watch, but the splendid acting in "Still Alice" makes it worth the pain. Scarier than any Elm Street nightmare, a horror film for the rest of us, it succeeds despite itself — not because of one strong performance but two.

The faith-based romance "Old Fashioned" is a slow, preachy romantic comedy opening Valentine's Day week opposite "Fifty Shades of Grey," counter-programming "love" that's kinky with love from Corinthians.

The opening of Metropolitan Opera's new production of Tchaikovsky's "Iolanta" — receiving its first performance at the house — and Bartok's "Bluebeard's Castle," was delayed a few days due to a blizzard warning — it opened on Jan. 29.

Kingsman: The Secret Service" makes up its own rules as it goes along. It asks to be taken seriously, then turns ridiculous, then brings out the horn section to indicate the hope for triumph of good, then shows people's heads exploding in a CGI sequence intended to be funny.

Sam Smith's soulful sound and heartbreaking songs resonated with fans -- and his breakthrough was solidified when he took home three of the top four Grammy Awards on Sunday, though Beck earned a surprise win for album of the year.

Kanye West almost pulled another Kanye at the Grammy Awards. West briefly popped up on stage as Beck accepted the album of the year award on Sunday for "Morning Phase," beating out expected victor Beyonc?.

The woman who spoke movingly from the Grammy stage about her experiences with domestic violence says the segment was inspired by a visit to the White House by Grammy show producer Ken Ehrlich.

Sam Smith's songs have brought fans to tears, but he was choked up when he earned his first Grammy Award for best new artist. "Oh my gosh. I have to try to stay something without crying," the singer said onstage.

Record of the Year: "Stay With Me (Darkchild Version)," Sam Smith; Album of the Year: "Morning Phase," Beck; Song of the Year: James Napier, William Phillips and Sam Smith, "Stay With Me (Darkchild Version)," Sam Smith; New Artist: Sam Smith

Are video games good for you? New research suggests the answer is yes • Designing a Tween bedroom is a balancing act

SpongeBob SquarePants goes where Homer Simpson and others have gone before, an animated character who steps out of his colorful 2-D world and into our 3-D one, in "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge out of Water."

There's a fine line between charm and cheese in fantasy epics, and movies as silly and overwrought as "Seventh Son" only help to illustrate just how hard it is to hit the right tone when balancing action, romance, (attempted) wit, and the creation of the world.

There's a painstaking perfectionism in the stunning landscapes of England's J.M.W. Turner, and in "Mr. Turner," England's greatest filmmaker in the field of grumpy eccentrics, Mike Leigh, gives us a portrait of the artist as a misanthropic genius.

The world of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne — a zone of factories, housing projects and modest suburban developments in and around the industrial Belgian cities of Seraing and Liege — is no place for a movie star.

Within the warped wardrobe of the Wachowskis’ latest sci-fi extravaganza, “Jupiter Ascending,” there are some fantastical feasts of intergalactic ridiculousness. Channing Tatum as a combination elf and speedskater.

Dusk masked the approaching waves at Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu as they climbed to 15 feet before pounding the shallow, jagged reef below. Adrift in the rapid current and foamy sea was a photographer, exhausted from battling the relentless waves and fighting for his life.

Super plays keep kids in their zone • Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl • Hear Katy ‘Roar' • Shirtless ­fans? Bingo! • The icing on the football • Calling all cheerleaders and more

"Black or White" may be the title, but there are plenty of gray areas tackled in this good ol' fashioned family dramedy from standup comic turned filmmaker Mike Binder ("Reign Over Me," "The Upside of Anger").

What have we done to deserve another found-footage movie? The tired hand-held technique that seemed so fresh in 1999 with "The Blair Witch Project" long ago wore out its welcome.

While the transformation of Matthew McConaughey from rom-com joke to serious actor got lots of attention a few years ago, the ongoing transformation of Jude Law from highbrow eye candy to virtuoso character actor has largely escaped notice.

More brooding than brutal, "A Most Violent Year" finds Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac), the upwardly mobile owner of a heating-oil business, in a time of difficulty.

The 2015 theatrical release of Oscar-nominated short films has some unusually strong offerings this year, at least in the live-action category. There's a tie, in my opinion, for the best of the category, and they are the first two movies listed below.

Every scene is magical, every image a work of art in "Song of the Sea," the latest Oscar-nominated feature from the folks who gave us "The Secret of Kells."

When I was growing up, beans and rice were an end-of-month staple. As money got tight, my mom would whip up a beans and rice casserole, a healthful, budget-friendly choice.

The new year is still young, so let's continue to welcome it — with some lucky bamboo. At this time of year, this plant appears in supermarkets and plant stores across the country. It may or may not be lucky, but bamboo it ain't.

Pilot program debuts new set of children's shows • Neighborhood diversity sways kids

Any film credited with its own "mustache wrangler" really should have been much more fun than Johnny Depp's latest misfiring action-comedy.

There are good things in the animated musical fantasy "Strange Magic": the ultra-detailed, photorealistic animation; the name-that-tune pleasures of a mashup-jukebox soundtrack; fine vocal performances from the cast's actor-singers; and a transcendent sequence featuring the 1975 title song.

Ah, to de-glam. It's one of the surest shortcuts to newfound artistic appreciation: a bedraggled deviation into dowdy drama by a beautiful star. Acclaim by way of sweatpants.

Jennifer Lopez's new movie, "The Boy Next Door," is cheesier than a Chicago double-topping, deep-dish pizza. From the profoundly absurd idea that anyone married to a woman who looks like Lopez would cheat on her to the teenage Lothario who looks older than Lopez, this movie is the culmination of a cluster of idiotic ideas.

The documentary "Manny" chronicles Manny Pacquiao's rise from a starving kid in the Philippines to a multimillionaire and internationally famous fighter, but it touches on everything without getting too deep into anything.

Homemade pizza tastes better than anything you can buy, and it takes much less time and effort than you would think. Making the dough takes just 10 minutes. Then, during the next hour, you have plenty of time to prepare whichever toppings you and your guests are hankering for.

Netflix taps voice actor's imitation prowess for its new 'Puss in Boots' • Cooking experiments make science fun for kids

The announcement of this season's Oscar nominations from Beverly Hills on Thursday offered its share of expected honorees ("Boyhood," "Birdman," "The Grand Budapest Hotel") and plenty of other unexpected ones. Who was "in" that observers thought would be "out," and vice versa? Here are a half-dozen of the most notable snubs and surprises.

Arriving in theaters just over 22 months after Chris Kyle's untimely death at a shooting range near Glen Rose, Texas, "American Sniper" often has a sorrowful immediacy.

I can see casting Chris Hemsworth as Thor. After all, he's 6 foot 3, and Hollywood's physique trainers have bulked him up to Marvel superhero quality. And he was acceptable as Formula 1 racer James Hunt in "Rush." His male-model looks explained Hunt's legion of lady fans.

"Please look after this bear, thank you." Those are the words on a label around the neck of a small ursine creature newly arrived in London and looking for a home. They also get at the heart of "Paddington," a highly enjoyable film adaptation of Michael Bond's children's book series first published in 1958.


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