Page 3 of 5

HOODWINKED (PG) A clever but overly convoluted kiddie flick that re-envisions the Red Riding Hood story as a Rashomon-like conundrum of competing and overlapping narratives. Everybody tells their side of the fairy tale — Red, the wolf, the woodsman, the grandma — as secrets are revealed, stories dovetail and cancel each other out, and, ultimately, some sort of paltry pay-off takes place. The film tries to balance physical comedy and other kid-friendly humor with elements aimed at older viewers, but there's not much middle ground here, and the movie winds up feeling compromised and more than a little confused. Featuring the voices of Anne Hathaway, Glenn Close, Jim Belushi and Andy Dick. 3 stars

HOSTEL (R) Cabin Fever writer/director Eli Roth enlisted executive producer Quentin Tarantino and a savvy Internet buildup to make Hostel one of the most anticipated horror flicks of the New Year. In it, three backpackers (Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson and Eythor Gudjonsson) leave the standard European student haunts in search of carnal pleasures, only to end up the object of others' infinitely darker desires. Hostel takes a little too long to build, and depends more upon tension and revulsion than outright scares, but once the blood starts to flow Roth gets a lot of mileage out of the idea (not to mention the visuals) of human torture. Also stars Barbara Nedeljakova, Jana Kaderabkova, and Jan Vlasak. 3.5 stars

Scott Harrell

KING KONG (PG-13) Director Peter Jackson goes back to the basics here, re-setting this classic tale in its original timeframe and remaining extremely faithful to the original story, while giving it lots of room to breathe. Besides the seriously hefty running time (nearly every minute of which deserves to be there), Jackson ups the ante in other significant ways, intensifying the action on all fronts and clarifying the beauty-and-the-beast bond that is key to the story. King Kong is basically beautifully realized old-school filmmaking with a 21st-century facelift, and Jackson segues skillfully from humor to horror to adventure to romance. Adrien Brody is well cast as the sensitive hero, as is Jack Black, and Naomi Watts exhibits star power to burn. But the real star here is Kong himself. Also stars Jamie Bell, Colin Hanks and Andy Serkis. 4.5 stars

LAST HOLIDAY (PG-13) Director Wayne Wang's well-meaning misfire is gentler and more appealing low key than you might imagine, but it's also lazily scripted and stocked with cardboard-cutout characters who are either saints or demons. Saintliest of all is Georgia (Queen Latifah), a humble, self-sacrificing everywoman who, upon discovering she has three weeks to live, flies to Prague with the express aim of throwing caution to the wind and living life to the fullest. Despite some early promise, the movie winds up as predictable and maudlin as the trailers make it out to be, and not even the normally nimble Wang (Chan is Missing) or the larger-than-life Latifah can turn that around. Also stars LL Cool J, Timothy Hutton, Alicia Witt and a slumming Gerard Depardieu — saddled with moronic speeches in which he compares Latifah to a humble, underappreciated turnip. 2.5 stars

MATCH POINT (R) Woody Allen's latest is a smart movie, but smart in ways we don't typically associate with this filmmaker. It's also filled with passion (!), murder (!!), sex (!!!), and there's not a single stammering neurotic in sight. Match Point is set in London, far from Allen's usual Manhattan haunts, and concerns a young working class stiff (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) who ingratiates himself with an upper crust families and then threatens to topple his own house of cards because of an uncontrollable urge for a husky-voiced American femme fatale (Scarlett Johansson). Match Point unfolds like film noir crossed with one of those tragic Verdi operas that its characters are constantly listening to, and although are a handful of lighter moments as well, one person's tragedy is another's comedy (as with all of Allen's films). Essentially, though, the glass is not only half-empty but decidedly smeary in Match Point, with a tough, engrossing, pretense-free story the likes of which we've really never seen before from this famous filmmaker. Also stars Brian Cox, Matthew Goode and Emily Mortimer. 4 stars

MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA (PG-13) Beautiful to look at and with barely a thought in its pretty little head, Memoirs of a Geisha takes place in Japan around the time of the Second World War, but it's a Hollywood fantasy-Japan, where everybody speaks English and acts like they're in an American movie. We're thrust headlong into the tale of Sayuri (Zhang Zyiyi), a penniless waif who is forced into service at a geisha establishment and eventually inducted into their ways. An overlong film that feels rushed at all the wrong moments, Memoirs turns out to be a visually impressive but hopelessly generic soap gussied up with a few superficial exotic flourishes. Also stars Ken Watanabe, Michelle Yeoh, Gong Li, Koji Yakusho and Kaori Momoi. 2.5 stars

Scroll to read more Events & Film articles


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.