Reel-View Ratings: The Bigger The Beard, The Better The Movie



The rise and fall of Tower Records is the focus of this sharply made documentary by Colin Hanks. The once-ubiquitous music retailer enjoyed phenomenal success as a cultural hub of music and community, selling records, tapes and CDs — until it was felled suddenly and completely in the MP3 era. It’s a story of hubris and paradise lost (in predictable ways, as greed overcomes the purity of music), but the reverence and love with which its talking heads — including founder Russ Solomon, Elton John, Dave Grohl and many others — speak ultimately fuel a feel-good, nostalgic vibe for the days before digital downloads took over the music world.

Opens Dec. 4 at Kahala Theatre

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War films are always a politicized genre. But this Japan-made film is for a Japanese audience — one that struggles with the memory of the kamikaze suicide pilots that marked Japan’s last, desperate stand in World War II. Takashi Yamazaki balances political extremes with a humanist, even-keeled take on a kamikaze named Kyuzo Miyabe, who wants to live at all costs. (His story is cleverly told through the framing device of his grandchildren trying to learn about his controversial legacy.) The movie offers excellent aerial action and tearful drama, but it cannot escape the specter of its subject matter. The controversy may mask how solid the film itself is.

Plays at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 6 at UH-Manoa’s Art Building, Room 132



Filmmaker Hanna Polak uses the Boyhood formula and takes it to a new extreme in this affecting documentary in the Svalka junkyard outside of Moscow, Russia. The decade-long project focuses on a 10-year-old girl named Yula, growing up amidst stifling poverty, drug use and abuse. Polak refrains from offering much overt political condemnation — for the better, since her subject speaks entirely for herself. Viewers watch Yula endure hardship after hardship, but the film never takes advantage of her trials for spectacle. It is simply a reminder that base human suffering is never far from the comforts of our civilization.

Plays at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7 at Doris Duke Theatre