These are Maui Scene Editor Rick Chatenever's mini-reviews, excerpts of wire service reviews and previews provided by studios and other sources.
New this week
"The American" R, 1:45, opened Wednesday at Maui Mall Megaplex and Kukui Mall 4.
Focus Features photo via AP
George Clooney sets his sights on trouble as an assassin with secrets to conceal in “The American.”
Fresh from an honorary Emmy for his wide-ranging humanitarian work, George Clooney hits the big screen in this moody piece about an assassin on the lam in a picturesque Italian village. Hardly your typical action figure, Clooney brings "Michael Clayton" or "Up in the Air" resonance to the role of the man with secrets, even if he seems more articulate with weapons than with words. Anton Corbijn, continuing his evolution from famed photographer and music-video director to the big screen, surrounds Clooney's understated performance with all the trappings of an art film. Paulo Bonacelli and Violante Placido co-star.
"Going the Distance" R, 1:58, opening Friday at Kaahumanu 6, Kukui Mall 4 and Lahaina Wharf Cinemas.
Drew Barrymore and Justin Long translate their real-life on-again, off-again relationship to a romantic comedy, playing a long-distance couple trying to figure out how to maintain the passion from thousands of miles away. She plays a journalism student and he's a junior executive, and besides their geographical challenges, there are obstacles from friends and family (including Christina Applegate, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis) to overcome. Nanette Burstein directs.
"Machete" R, 2:00, opens Friday at Kaahumanu 6 and Front Street Theaters.
Writer-director Robert Rodriguez gets back into "Mexploitation" mode with this ultra-violent '70s-style action fest set against current anti-immigration tensions on the Texas border. Danny Trejo stars, incorporating an actual machete among the many sharp items in his arsenal. A former federale now on the other side of things, his nemeses include a drug kingpin (Steven Seagal), a bigoted state senator (Robert DeNiro), a sleazy businessman (Jeff Fahey) and a nutso vigilante (Don Johnson). Cheech Marin and Jessica Alba are the cast members on his side.
"Mao's Last Dancer" PG, 1:57, opens Friday at Kaahumanu 6.
Based on a true story, this biography blends "The Company" with "White Knights," telling of the son of a Chinese peasant picked by authorities to attend the Beijing Dance Academy. His dedication to his art is set against U.S.-Sino relations leading him to well, you'll have to see the movie to find out. Directed by Oscar nominee Bruce Beresford, this elegant award-winning meeting of dance and politics stars Chi Cao with "Center Stage's" Amanda Schull, Bruce Greenwood and Kyle MacLachlin co-starring.
"Avatar 3-D Special Edition" PG-13, 2:45, Maui Mall Megaplex (3-D surcharge added to ticket price.)
Writer-director-producer-cameraman James Cameron has added about nine minutes to the running time of this nouveau classic for audiences who need to get back to Pandora on the big screen before the special edition DVD release. Setting cinematic and box-office history, Cameron's brilliant sci-fi epic rewrote the book on how to tell a story on-screen and made other 3-D technology look amateurish in the process. Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Long and Giovanni Ribisi star but you already knew that.
"Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore" PG, 1:40, Maui Mall Megaplex (in 3-D with ticket surcharge).
Bette Midler gives voice to the villainous Kitty in this family-friendly animated comedy that has her masterminding a plan to enslave the canines and put the felines in charge. The satire in the script starts with a James Bond sendup, targeting other iconic images like "Silence of the Lambs" for the grownups, while distracting the kids with the cute talking critters. Neil Patrick Harris, Nick Nolte, James Marsden, Christina Applegate and Roger Moore provide voices; Brad Peyton directs.
"Eat Pray Love" PG-13, 2:35, Maui Mall Megaplex and Lahaina Wharf Cinemas; ends tonight at Kukui Mall 4.
Julia Roberts steps into the role of author Elizabeth Gilbert, whose chronicle of her round-the-world search for her soul became a huge best-seller. Director Ryan Murphy brings the odyssey to the screen with sumptuous visuals, both of the luminous Roberts and settings in Italy, India and Bali. The title explains the scope of her journey, mixing pleasures of the senses with deeper spiritual realizations and self-fulfillment. Richard Jenkins, Billy Crudup, James Franco and Javier Bardem co-star.
"The Expendables" R, 1:58, Kaahumanu 6 and Front Street Theaters.
Sylvester Stallone is an older, wiser "Rambo" on both sides of the camera, directing, co-writing and starring in this guerrilla-action thriller. Playing -what else? - the leader of a group of disenfranchised mercenaries, the story bounces from one battle to the next with other mercenaries who have a hard time keeping track of which side they're on. Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Robert, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, David Zayas, Giselle Itie, Charisma Carpenter, Gary Danields, Terry Crews and Mickey Rourke co-star in an endless series of tests to see who's got the most testosterone.
"Get Low" PG-13, 1:42, Maui Mall Megaplex and Kukui Mall 4.
Screen immortal Robert Duvall, boasting a shaggy beard out to here, plays rascal Felix Bush in this mystery-comedy-drama set in the 1930s. Also featuring the talents of Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek, the title refers to being buried, an idea that Felix realizes he will have to deal with after hearing about the death of a friend. How he goes about making his own funeral arrangements - Murray plays the undertaker -provides the heart, soul and laughs, under the direction of Aaron Schneider. A hillbilly parable nicely surrounded by '30s atmosphere and music, it doesn't break any new ground -but provides plenty of pleasure just watching Duvall, Spacek and Murray work together. Recommended. (See review on Page 2.)
"Highwater" NR, 1:30, Maui Mall Megaplex.
"Step Into Liquid" surf-movie auteur Dana Brown directs a crew of 90 shooting 15 cameras to capture the sights, sounds, drama and thrills of surfing's "Triple Crown" on Oahu's North Shore. Brown, who also provides the script and narration, brings an insider's view to this 55-day mix of big waves, surfing sociology and awesome competition for endorsements as well as trophies. Talent in front of the camera will be familiar locally and includes Jon-Jon Florence, Carissa Moore, Malik Joyeux, Bethany Hamilton, Mark Healy, Poncho Sullivan, Kalani Chapman, Sunny Garcia, Kelly Slater and Tom Curren Pat O'Connell. (See review on Page 2.)
"Inception" PG-13, 2:43, Maui Mall Megaplex.
Writer-director Christopher Nolan's blockbuster mind trip has scored box-office gold by speaking the language and revealing the architecture of dreams. Viewers have no choice but to strap in for the ride through this stunningly gorgeous, technically flawless symphony of images and ideas. Leonardo DiCaprio is Dom Cobb, a master thief of the subconscious who enters the minds of sleeping victims to steal their secrets. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is his right-hand man, Arthur, and Ken Watanabe is one of their clients named Saito. Watanabe hires Dom to sneak into the subconscious of a competitor (Cillian Murphy) and implant an idea that will ruin his empire. In return, Saito will help Dom clear his name for a crime he didn't commit that has torn him from his wife and two young children and forced him to go on the run. A heist movie with a "Memento"-like way of telling the story in reverse, the unique film's awesomeness, ambition and scope inspire viewers to return time and again. Recommended.
"The Last Exorcism" PG-13, 1:43, Maui Mall Megaplex and Front Street Theaters.
Prompted by his conscience to stop performing fake exorcisms, charismatic evangelical minister Patrick Fabian agrees to let a documentary film crew accompany his on his last one to reveal the tricks of the trade. The victim is the teenage daughter (Ashley Bell) of a remote farm family, but things don't quite go as planned in this cross between a Christopher Guest-style mockumentary and "The Blair Witch Project" directed by Daniel Stamm. Tops at the box office despite its hand-held camera swings and its self-destructing final reel, those going to see it should heed the warning: Bring Dramamine! (See review on Page 2.)
"Lottery Ticket" PG-13, 1:39, Maui Mall Megaplex.
The good news is that Kevin (a kid from the projects played by rapper-actor Bow Wow) just won the "Mondo Millions Lottery." The bad news is that it's the Fourth of July weekend, the lottery office is closed, and he's got to keep the ticket safe for four days. That's the recipe for this comedy-in-the-'hood co-starring Brandon T. Jackson, Naturi Naughton, Loretta Devine, Ice Cube, Keith David, Terry Crews and Mike Epps and directed by Erik White.
"Nanny McPhee Returns" PG, 2:04, Front Street Theaters; ends tonight at Kaahumanu 6; opens Friday at Kukui Mall 4.
Try as she might to make herself look hideous, everyone knows Emma Thompson's iron-willed English nanny is truly a saint under the snaggle tooth and moles. Scripting as well as starring in this sequel to the charming original, she plays the remedy for ill-behaved children everywhere. The movie is set in the English countryside in the 1940s, with the men away fighting World War II. Colin Firth, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Maggie Smith and Rhys Ifans co-star with a bunch of kids, and Susanna White directs, but it's the many talents and charms of Emma Thompson that will make audiences cheer this return visit.
"Piranha 3-D" R, 1:44, Maui Mall Megaplex (with 3-D ticket surcharge); ends tonight at Lahaina Wharf Cinemas.
Like "Jaws," only smaller, this tongue-in-cheek horror-thriller reruns the scary fish routine, right down to having Richard Dreyfuss in the cast. It's your basic spring-break-gone-bad plot, with the college kids looking for a wild weekend in Arizona's sleepy Lake Victoria, but encountering some very determined man-eating prehistoric fish instead. Elizabeth Shue heads the cast as the town's sheriff with Jessica Szohr, Steven R. McQueen, Jerry O'Connell, Ving Rhames and Christopher Lloyd co-starring. "The Hills Have Eyes' " Alexandre Aja directs the raunchy mix of girls gone wild and fish gone wild with reckless abandon, and not much else.
"The Other Guys" PG-13, 2:02, Kaahumanu 6.
Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg star in this offbeat, whimsical parody of the mismatched-cop-buddies formula. Wahlberg is the hot-headed one, like his Oscar-nominated role in "The Departed." The brilliant Ferrell is the earnest, goofy one. How they manage to outshine hotshot detectives Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson is one of the running gags, written and directed by Adam McKay. With the stars playing their roles deadpan and the film paying homage to great cop-action sequences, there are sly jokes everywhere you look. Co-stars include Michael Keaton, Rob Riggle and Eva Mendes. Recommended.
"Salt" PG-13, 1:55, Maui Mall Megaplex.
Angelina Jolie is the kind of action hero who can do stunts that would break a normal person's back without breaking a nail. Better still, she looks gorgeous when she does it. The role of Evelyn Salt, a crack CIA agent accused of being a Russian spy, is tailor-made for her in this action-thriller that cements her action-hero status, but doesn't go very deep to find the character underneath. Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Daniel Olbrychski co-star; Phillip Noyce directs.
"Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" PG-13, 2:07, ends tonight at Kaahumanu 6; opens Friday at Kukui Mall 4.
Michael Cera stars in this comic adaptation of Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novel as low-ambition bass player in a Toronto garage band called to action to battle the "seven evil exes" to win the heart of new love Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Borrowing heavily from comic-book culture, video games and music videos, the film is targeted at Cera's legions of fans and other 20-somethings. Anna Kendrick, Kieran Culkin, Mark Webber, Alison Pill and Ellen Wong co-star; "Shaun of the Dead's" Edgar Wright writes and directs.
"Step Up 3-D" PG-13, 1:47, Kaahumanu 6.
This latest addition to the street-dancing franchise brings 3-D to the equation and moves the action to New York. There NYU freshman Adam G. Sevani breaks his promise to his parents to study, getting drawn instead into hip-hop nirvana with the House of Pirates crew. Alyson Stoner plays his on-again, off-again best friend. Jon M. Chu directs with Rick Malambri and Sharni Vinson co-starring, but the real stars are the choreographers, providing great moves for the film's cast on the sidewalks of New York.
"The Switch" PG-13, 1:40, Maui Mall Megaplex; ends tonight at Kukui Mall 4.
Artificial insemination gives birth to laughs in this sitcom-y comedy starring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman. Following a now familiar Hollywood plotline, she plays a successful career woman whose biological clock tells her she doesn't have any more time to wait for Mr. Right. Instead she throws a turkey-baster party, but somehow winds up with the contribution of the wrong guy, her uptight stock-broker pal Jason Bateman. Wait - do you feel like you've seen this all before? Juliette Lewis, Patrick Wilson and Jeff Goldblum co-star; Josh Gordon and Will Speck direct.
"Takers" PG-13, 2:02, Maui Mall Megaplex and Lahaina Wharf Cinemas.
This latest crime-caper adventure casts Paul Walker, Idris Elba, Hayden Christensen, Michael Ealy and Chris Brown as highly effective bank robbers who set their sights on an armored car heist. Matt Dillon and Jay Hernandez are the dogged cops on their tail. Featuring a foot chase through Los Angeles amidst its other action sequences, it reportedly livens up its formulaic plot with clever plot twists and interesting performances. John Luessenhop directs.
"Vampires Suck" PG-13, 1:37, Maui Mall Megaplex; ends tonight at Front Street Theaters.
With "Twilight's" glow still lingering, it was only a matter of time before the Team Edward and Team Jacob encountered the "Scary Movie" writing-directing team of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then parody is the most insincere, as this spoof takes aim on every detail of the vampy formula -the sharp teeth, the pale skin, the big moody woods, the animal chromosomes in the family tree Jenn Proske, Matt Lanter, Chris Riggi, Diedrich Bader, Kelsey Ford and Anneliese van der Pol star.