Thursday, December 18th
Wendy and Lucy
A woman (that’d be Wendy, played by Michelle Williams) drives to Alaska with her dog (that’d be Lucy, played by a dog) to work at a fish cannery (which she decided would stink less than the alternative, Sarah Palin’s office). Touching, quirky lessons are learned along the way.
A grade school teacher named Poppy gets her bike stolen and takes driving lessons from a dude named Scott. One is a caustic cynic and the other an eternal optimist (no points for guessing who’s who). Other colorful characters who test our heroin’s unflappability include a flamenco instructor, a homeless guy, a pregnant sister and the class bully.
Friday, December 19th
The Secret Life of Bees
Based on an Oprah’s Book Club-esque bestseller, this heartstring plucking drama follows a little white girl named Lily (yeah, we’re not dealing with subtlety here) who moves in with a group of sassy, wise beekeeping sisters in 1960s South Carolina.
Viggo Mortensen ditches his Lord of the Rings armor to play an unassuming German professor who gets caught up in a complex political storm involving euthanasia and other life and death matters.
What Just Happened?
Robert DeNiro stars in a comedy in which he plays neither a neurotic mobster nor an overprotective ex-CIA father. Rather, the old Raging Bull gets tamed as a middle-aged Hollywood executive dealing with the myriad stresses of La La Land.
Saturday, December 20th
Part 1, 2pm; part 2, 5pm
(NR/part 1, 132 min.; part 2, 131 min.)
Director Steven Soderberg dramatizes the life of the famed Argentine revolutionary, played, in a brilliant bit of casting, by the smoldering Benicio Del Toro. Plus—and for an American filmmaker this takes cajones—the four-hour biopic is shot in the native tongue of its central figure, subtitlephobes be damned.
A big sweeping epic about cattle rustling and other rugged pursuits in the land Down Under, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman (both of whom were probably super stoked to get to use their real accents for once). Baz Luhrmann directs, so trippy visuals and out-of-left field musical numbers are a given.
Sunday, December 21st
The latest animated romp from Disney (not to be confused with its Pixar arm) follows the exploits of a delusional TV superhero dog (voice of John Travolta) whose real world bark doesn’t have as much bite as he thought. As with the best cartoon features it’s got simple lessons and site gags for the kiddies and a few winks for the grownups.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, director David Fincher’s (Seven, Fight Club) latest mind-bender tells the tale of a man (Brad Pitt) whose life unfolds backwards; he’s born old and gets progressively younger as the years go by. A romance with a woman who ages in the normal fashion (Cate Blanchett) hits unavoidable snags.
Let the Right One In
Like this year’s big teenie bopper hit Twilight, Let the Right One In focuses on a relationship between two misunderstood young people, one of whom happens to be a vampire. Unlike its American counterpart, this acclaimed Swedish import is unafraid to follow its premise to the logical extremes of brutality and tenderness. In Swedish with English subtitles.
Monday, December 22nd
What Doesn’t Kill You
A tight-knit crew of South Bawstawn buddies (Mark Ruffalo, Ethan Hawke and, as mandated by Hollywood law, one of the Wahlberg brothers) deals with life on the mean streets, getting caught up in drugs, organized crime and a heist gone wrong. We’ve been here before, but writer/director Brian Goodman is drawing from his own life story, so the source at least is pure.
A passionate, sordid affair between a scarlet fever-ridden teenager and a kind older woman in post WWII Germany is the starting point for a decades-spanning drama involving Nazi war crimes. So yeah, not a comedy. Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes star.
Tuesday, December 23rd
Daniel Craig does the cold-eyed vengeance thing he perfected in the most recent James Bond film—but with a much more serious twist—in this based-on-a-true-story tale of three Jewish brothers who take up arms against the Nazis in Eastern Europe, circa 1940.
A cunning interviewer on the rise and a disgraced former president in freefall face off in director Ron Howard’s adaptation of the Tony award-winning play. The same actors who tackled the title characters on stage (Michael Sheen and Frank Langella) reprise their roles here, and the result is probably about as riveting as two guys sitting in chairs talking can get. A must-see both for those who were shaped by Watergate and, maybe even more so, those who missed it.
December 24th & 25th
Tickets: $8-$12; Four-film pass: $40. Festival runs through Jan. 3. For more info visit www.mauifilmfestival.com or call 572-3456. All films screen at the Castle Theater, located at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, One Cameron Way, Kahului. MTW