Maui theaters are saying happy Thanksgiving to audiences with Wednesday openings of new movies this week. 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
"Arthur Christmas" PG, 1:55, Maui Mall Megaplex (3-D and 2-D), Kukui Mall 4 and Lahaina Wharf Cinemas.
Asa Butterfield and Chloë Grace Moretz go to the movies in Martin Scorsese’s 'Hugo.'
Paramount Pictures photo via AP
James McAvoy heads a terrific vocal cast in this animated fantasy that reimagines Santa Claus' Herculean task of delivering gifts to 600 kids worldwide -in a single night! -as more a matter of high-tech production and rocket science delivery methods. There are also some family dynamics with Santa himself (Jim Broadbent) little more than a figurehead, favored son Steve (Hugh Laurie) losing the true spirit of the holiday and only Arthur left to deliver that cherished bike to the last girl on the list. Sarah Smith directs with folks including Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Laura Linney, Eva Longoria, Michael Palin, Robbie Coltrane and Joan Cusack lending their voices.
"Hugo" PG, 2:07, Maui Mall Megaplex (3-D and 2-D).
Oscar-winning master filmmaker Martin Scorsese tones down his fondness for gangster violence and rock icons to make this lavish PG-rated fantasy for his young daughter - and the young at heart everywhere. In this first foray into 3-D, he embraces the medium to adapt Brian Selznick's children's book "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" to the screen. It is set in a train station in 1930s Paris, which assumes magical dimensions thanks to the title character, a wide-eyed orphan played by Asa Butterfield, who secretly lives in the walls and keeps all the clocks running on time. Chloe Grace Moretz plays the young girl who becomes his ally in unlocking the mystery of the mean old man who runs the train station toy shop (Ben Kingsley). For all its fantastical elements, it is, in fact, based on a true character who went on to become a seminal figure in the history of cinema.
"The Muppets" PG, 1:38, Maui Mall Megaplex, Kukui Mall 4 and Front Street Theaters.
Like a wholesome, kid-friendly version of an MTV-style "Where are they now?" show about faded rock stars, this good-hearted resurrection of Jim Henson's beloved franchise reunites the old gang to stop a tycoon (Chris Cooper) from drilling for oil under the Muppets' old theater. Jason Segel and Amy Adams are the humans joining the funny furry friends, most of whom have to be brought back to their senses after their 15 minutes of fame have left them adrift in celebrity ennui. The return of Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie and the rest of the crew is intended to be welcome news for three generations, adding topical references both for Generation-Xers, who grew up on The Muppets, and their parents, who were glad they did. James Bobin directs.
"Innersection 2011" screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Tickets are $20 for those 13 and older, $10 for those 12 and younger. Presented by Maui Film Festival, it's a fundraiser for the relocation of Kuau Mart.
Legendary surf auteur Taylor Steele presents the second installment of this unique project, featuring 20 short films inspired by the ocean and created by actual surfers, who vie for a helfy cash prize selected by the audience. Maui's Matt Meola walked away with the $100,000 check last year, and he'll be defending his title against competition from around the world including freesurfing legends like Pipe Master Jamie O'Brien and South American champ Gabriel Villaran, underground dazzlers like Maui's Albee Layer and New York's Leif Engstrom, and outsider icons like Santa Cruz's Josh Mulcoy, Canadian Pete Devries and Maui's Hank Gaskell. For more information and to vote, visit www.inner section.tv
"Immortals" R, 2:05, Maui Mall Megaplex (3-D and 2-D), and Front Street Theaters.
The gods may have won their mythic struggle against the Titans eons ago, but King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) has still declared war against humanity in this mythical Greek epic from the production team behind "300." It falls to the mortal Theseus (Henry Cavill) to try to beat Hyperion to the legendary Epirus Bow, a weapon of unimaginable power forged in the heavens, to unleash the Titans and put the cosmos in order again. Tarsem Singh directs, the grand-scale action co-starring Stephen Dorff, Freida Pinto, Luke Evans and John Hurt. Striking to look at, the film's blend of architectural angles and oiled bodies barely hides the gratuitous violence and mean spirit at its core.
"Happy Feet Two" PG, 1:58, Kaahumanu 6, Kukui Mall 4 and Front Street Theaters.
As though the dancing, singing penguins weren't adorable enough, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon -their voices, at least) -join the fun in this animated musical. They play krill, trying to figure out where they fit into the circle of life. Elijah Wood and Robin Williams return at the head of the vocal cast, with Wood's penguin having grown up to be a dad dealing with a misfit, runaway son embarrassed over his own lack of rhythm. Director and co-writer George Miller, who helmed the 2006 Academy Award-winning first film, once again directs, balancing the singing and dancing with an environmental message. Absolutely wiggy and whimsical, the script is full of witty delights for parents in the audience, to go along with all the cute critters onscreen. Recommended. (See review on Page 2.)
"Jack and Jill" PG, 1:46, Maui Mall Megaplex and Lahaina Wharf Cinemas.
Adam Sandler plays both characters in the title of this family-friendly comedy. Jack is the normal, successful family guy Jill is his needy, passive-aggressive twin sister who makes her annual appearance for Thanksgiving dinner, then decides not to leave. Dennis Dugan, who directed Sandler and company when they filmed "Just Go With It" on Maui, once again directs a cast featuring Katie Holmes, Al Pacino and Regis Philbin as themselves with Sandler's buds David Spade, Nick Swardson, Norm MacDonald and Dana Carvey sprinkled among the supporting cast.
"J. Edgar" R, 2:17, Kaahumanu 6.
Leonardo DiCaprio's portayal of controversial FBI icon J. Edgar Hoover achieves Shakespearean dimensions under the impeccable direction of Clint Eastwood. Surrounded by superb supporting performances by Armie Hammer, Judi Dench and Naomi Watts, DiCaprio's Oscar-worthy portrayal casts Hoover as a stuttering mama's boy and closeted homosexual with an encyclopedic memory and a powerful, if twisted, sense of patriotism and order. His arrival in government service coincided with new advances in criminology, ultimately making him a figure who inspired fear in the most powerful leaders of our land for decades. He is a perfect storm of twisted psychology, paranoia and political power-mongering in this haunting work that continues Eastwood's remarkable career, still going strong at 81. Recommended.
"Margin Call" R, 1:49, Kaahumanu 6.
Right out of yesterday's headlines, and providing background history for the Occupy Wall Street protests, this star-laden drama is set against the collapse of an unnamed (read Lehman Brothers) investment firm. Kevin Space, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley, Simon Baker, Mary McDonnell, Demi Moore and Stanley Tucci star in this fascinating study of some very smart men making very wrong decisions as they realized their holdings were worthless unless they could find clueless clients to foist them upon. J.C. Chandor writes and makes his directoral debut, making all the financial stuff understandable and even fascinating but still inexcusable. Recommended. (See review on Page 2.)
"Puss in Boots" PG, 1:45, Maui Mall Megaplex (2-D and 3-D).
After Shrek and Donkey, it's time for the greatest scene stealer of them all, Antonio Banderas' Puss, to tell his story. This prequel reboots the series with energy, creativity and Banderas' charisma, flashing back from the kitty's life as a Spanish outlaw to his days growing up in an orphanage with his best friend, Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis). Joining forces with Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), Puss deals with everyone from trailer-trash Jack and Jill to the goose that laid the golden egg. While Banderas' Puss is at the top of his game, the production is full of derivative refences that will fly right over the kids' heads, and not quite land in their parents' memories, either.
"Real Steel" PG-13, 207, Kaahumanu 6.
Hugh Jackman co-stars with a bunch of hardware as a former fighter who has turned manager now that robots have climbed into the ring to do the actual boxing. Learning to be a good dad to his troubled son (Dakota Goyo) proves as challenging as getting his pile-of-junk 'bot transformed into a title contender. Evangeline Lilly, Anthony Mackie, Hope Davis and Kevin Durand co-star in this box office hit directed by Shawn Levy. Its formulaic script relies on the bots for the action, despite the fact that they've got neither brains nor hearts to make any of it make much sense.
"Tower Heist" PG-13, 2:08, Maui Mall Megaplex and Front Street Theaters.
Failing financial fortunes provide the starting point for this comedy featuring Ben Stiller leading an all-star cast trumped by Eddie Murphy returning to "48 Hrs" form. Stiller plays the manager of an upscale Manhattan high-rise where penthouse-dwelling Alan Alda bears a striking resemblance to Bernie Madoff. The victims of his ponzi scheme include the staff of the building -until Stiller hatches a plan to get their money back. Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck and Tea Leoni co-star. Brett Ratner directs.
"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1" PG-13, 2:12, Maui Mall Megaplex, Kukui Mall 4 and Lahaina Wharf Cinemas.
As any teenage fan can tell you, Bella (Kristin Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattison) are now married and expecting trouble, between the wolf pack and vampire coven. Taylor Lautner is also back to round out the triangle the romantic mix of vampires and young love that has found a place in the hearts of young women and their mothers everywhere. Bill Condon directs; Billy Burke, Sarah Clarke, Ty Olsson and Ashley Greene co-star in this really big box office hit.
* Times in the movie ads are subject to change on the weekend. Visit www.mauigateway.com/ ~rw/movie/ for more details.