Movie Watch: Amarillo film options for Dec. 16 and beyond

Posted by Chip Chandler on
Vader's back in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story."
Courtesy Disney / Lucasfilm

By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer

Rogue One may be the biggest film opening in Amarillo this weekend, but it's not the only one that should catch your eye. Here's a roundup of all of your weekend movie options.

 

New in theaters

Collateral Beauty

Helen Mirren and Will Smith star in the new drama "Collateral Beauty."Helen Mirren and Will Smith star in the new drama "Collateral Beauty."Courtesy Warner Bros.

Will Smith leads an all-star cast (Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley, Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, Michael Peña and more) in this drama about an ad executive crippled by the loss of his young daughter. His coworkers — get this — hire actors to play the incarnations of Time, Love and Death (that's Jacob Latimore, Knightley and Mirren) and make him believe that he's the only one seeing them, all in order to get him declared mentally unsound so they can sell off the agency from under him. Remember, this is a feel-good Christmastime drama, folks. The fact that Time, Love and Death are fakers is elided in the trailers, but that fact both makes the film make a little more sense (in that it doesn't really feel like a supernatural-type film, at least on its face) and make absolutely no sense at all, because who would try to make their friend think he's going crazy in an effort to help him? Reviews are absolutely abysmal, as you might guess. "You'll still struggle to accept that what you saw on that screen actually played in theaters, was funded and approved by distributors, took a month or so of the lives of those extraordinary actors," writes The Village Voice's Alan Scherstuhl. The film works "on its own manipulative terms, spreading its trail of goopy sentiment and inspirational homilies with technical finesse and some decent acting against the picturesque backdrop of New York City during the holidays. Audiences unconcerned about their sugar levels might eat it up," writes The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney. And lest you think I've spoiled the entire movie, there's apparently not one, but two surprise twists still unrevealed. Yeesh. (PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language; United Artists Amarillo Star 14, 8275 W. Amarillo Blvd.; Cinemark Hollywood 16, 9100 Canyon Drive)

"Collateral Beauty" trailer

 

Denial

Rachel Weisz stars in the historical drama "Denial."Rachel Weisz stars in the historical drama "Denial."Courtesy Bleeker Street

A vile, hateful man with no apparent sense of shame nor hesitation to spout the most obvious, disgusting lies tries to derail the career of a responsible, hardworking woman in Denial. In the film, based on a true story, Rachel Weisz plays American historian Deborah Lipstadt, who called out British troll David Irving (Timothy Spall) for being a Holocaust denier. That inspires Irving to sue her in British court, where the burden of proof in such cases is on the defendant. Time's Stephanie Zacherek, in an especially insightful review, writes that the film "is methodically constructed, to the point that it’s sometimes dull. But here and there it sets off a mini charge, building up to a subtly satisfying conclusion. Most significant of all, it’s an adult drama that doesn’t talk down to its audience. And it’s one that forces us to reckon with the reality that some individuals have no shame about distorting the facts with bluster and bullying. How far we let these manipulative aggressors go is up to us." (PG-13 for thematic material and brief strong language; Premiere Cinemas Westgate Mall 6, 7701 W. Interstate 40) 

"Denial" trailer

 

A Man Called Ove

The Swedish comedy "A Man Called Ove," starring Rolf Lassgard, opens Friday.The Swedish comedy "A Man Called Ove," starring Rolf Lassgard, opens Friday.Courtesy Music Box Films

Movies about grumpy old men getting a new lease on life are nothing new, but the Swedish dramedy A Man Called Ove, based on the popular novel by Fredrik Backman, finds some pleasantly new notes to play. Rolf Lassgård stars as Ove, a widower who, at age 59, has been drummed out of his lifelong job with the railroad and unceremoniously dumped as the head of his neighborhood association. That doesn't prevent him from strolling through the 'hood every morning, yelling at neighbors for every minor infraction. We soon learn he's still in deep mourning for his wife, Sonja (Ida Engvoll), whose grave he visits daily with a new bunch of flowers and that he is seemingly irreversibly on the outs with his best friend Rune (Börje Lundberg). So Ove tries — over and over — to kill himself, first by hanging, then by carbon monoxide, then by shooting. Each attempt is thwarted, adding nice levels of black humor along the way, and each attempt offers the chance for more flashbacks to fill out Ove's life story and allow the audience to find sympathy for him. Writer-director Hannes Holm and Lassgård do really smart work in making the hard-to-like Ove something close to lovable by film's end without getting too maudlin or treacly. It helps that Ove is befriended by preternaturally happy new neighbor Parvaneh (Bahar Pars), an Iranian-born woman married to a Swede, whose determination to befriend Ove allows the audience to do the same. The film, subtitled in English, is Sweden's entry for Best Foreign Film in this year's Oscar race. (PG-13 for thematic content, some disturbing images, and language; WM-6)

"A Man Called Ove" trailer

 

Manchester by the Sea

Casey Affleck stars in the acclaimed new drama  "Manchester by the Sea."Casey Affleck stars in the acclaimed new drama "Manchester by the Sea."Courtesy Amazon / Roadside

One of the the most powerful films of the year and a frontrunner for several big Oscars, Manchester by the Sea is the latest from acclaimed writer/director Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on MeMargaret). Casey Affleck stars as Lee Chandler, a handyman in Boston who is summoned to his small hometown by news of the death of his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler). He soon learns that Joe has designated him as the guardian for his teen son Patrick (Lucas Hedges), forcing Lee to stick around a town where, as flashbacks reveal, he has no interested in staying. Lonergan handles the flashbacks with subtlety and grace, even as their cumulative weight press on Lee and, by extension, us. Affleck is stunning, thoroughly naturalistic and eschewing the chance to chomp down on the scenery. He doesn't need to: His utterly real performance, combined with the power of the story itself, are more than enough to move us to tears — many, many times. Watch, especially, for a powerhouse acting duet at the end between Affleck and Michelle Williams as Lee's ex-wife, Randi; it's one of the best things you'll see all year. But don't go expecting a total weepfest: Lonergan leavens the tragedy with lovely, believable moments of humor, particularly from Hedges in his first major role. All of the cast shines, though, including Chandler, Gretchen Mol as Patrick's estranged mother and others. The film is achingly felt but gloriously real. Don't miss it. (R for language throughout and some sexual content; AS-14)

"Manchester by the Sea" trailer

 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Diego Luna, left, and Felicity Jones star in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story."Diego Luna, left, and Felicity Jones star in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story."Courtesy Disney / Lucasfilm

Travel back to a galaxy in a time long, long ago — before the first Star Wars film, but not so far back as those prequels we're mostly trying to forget — for this new, standalone chapter in Lucasfilm's storytelling empire. As you recall, Luke Skywalker's one-in-a-million shot that destroyed the Death Star was made possible by a band of rebels who managed to liberate the plans for the mega-weapon and find that one tiny flaw that allowed the whole thing to be blown up. This is their story. The scrappy rebels are led by Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), whose father (Mads Mikkelsen) was taken from her years earlier by the Empire to design the Death Star. She's joined by a pleasantly diverse crop, including Forrest Whitaker as Saw Gerrera, who was created for the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series; Donny Yen as a kick-butt, blind fighter; Diego Luna as a conflicted Rebel; Riz Ahmed as a new recruit; and Alan Tudyk voicing the droid K-2SO. And yes, James Earl Jones returns to voice Darth Vader. Reviews are mostly positive. "Series fans will delight in many references and cameos — some small, some very large. Rogue One's great strength, though, is that it doesn't lean on nostalgia so much that it would fall over without it. You could conceivably watch this movie as an introduction to the series as a whole," writes Time Out London's Dave Calhoun. But others are less enthused: "The inherent problem in a story about the suicide mission to steal the Death Star plans used to blow up the space station at the end of A New Hope is that we already know how it ends," writes the Miami Herald's Rene Rodriguez. (PG-13 for extended sequences of sci-fi violence and action; AS-14, H-16)

"Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" trailer

 

 

Chip's Capsule Reviews

Miss Sloane: Most of Miss Sloane — an ill-advised love child of Aaron Sorkin and House of Cards that's not as witty as the former but is as self-important and sloppy as the latter — is merely awful, despite a mysteriously captivating and simultaneously off-putting performance by star Jessica Chastain. But then, a late twist is such an egregious groaner that I both laughed heartily out loud and almost rethought my whole reaction to the movie; I'm still not convinced that the twist works, either logically or even melodramatically, but it's ballsy enough that I kind of have to admire it. Miss Sloane, largely, is the kind of political drama that wants to be totally cynical and insider-y, but first-time screenwriter Jonathan Perera's script keeps putting the lamest of expository dialogue into the mouths of characters who should know better, like a lobbyist who's shocked — just shocked — that sitting senators often prioritize fundraising efforts to keep them in office rather than doing the job they were sent to D.C. to do. Or the kind of film where a character seriously says, "You're a piece of work, Elizabeth. ... You've been pulling the strings all along," and we're supposed to view it as a major dramatic beat instead of lamely inept dialogue work. Chastain stars as the titular Elizabeth Sloane — who, let's be real, would use "Ms." as a title, not "Miss" — and she earns kudos for being willing to make Elizabeth a terrifically awful human being without trying to win over the audience's sympathy. She quits her job at one of D.C.'s top lobbying firms, where she has earned a reputation as a shark of the highest order, to take on an uphill battle to lobby senators to pass a gun-control measure calling for universal background checks. Throughout the film, though, she's giving testimony to a senate committee and trying to defend her methods; the testimony takes place in flash-forwards that make it clear that the gun-control battle does not go smoothly. Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Beyond the Lights) does fine work as Elizabeth's underling at the new firm, whom she takes under her wing, and Sam Waterston has fun chewing into a meaty role as the film's heavy. Mark Strong does his best as Elizabeth's new boss, though he's the one who has to act surprised that Elizabeth is "a piece of work," and no one can deliver a stinky line like that and come out unscathed. And I enjoyed Jake Lacy as a male escort with whom Elizabeth forms the tiniest of human connections and Alison Pill as Elizabeth's mentee at her old firm. But the mostly solid cast can't do much to save a story that's nowhere near as smart as it thinks it is. (R for language and some sexuality; AS-14)

Nocturnal Animals: I'm not sure I love Tom Ford's sophomore effort Nocturnal Animals, but I do know I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. And in this case, I think that's a positive sign, as dark as those thoughts may be. In the film, Amy Adams stars as the ennui-laden owner of an art gallery, married to a financier (Armie Hammer) facing a crushing monetary future and who, no surprise, is stepping out on his wife on his many out-of-town business trips. One day, she receives the manuscript of a novel written by ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) and intriguingly dedicated to her. As she reads the neo-noir novel, it comes to life on the screen, with Gyllenhaal pulling double-duty as its protagonist, Tony, whose drive across Texas to Marfa with his family (including Amy Adams doppelgänger Isla Fisher as his wife) is interrupted by a trio of vicious rednecks led by Aaron Taylor-Johnson (newly nominated for a Golden Globe). After a remarkably tense encounter, Edward escapes and needs the assistance of a rules-bending detective played by Michael Shannon (who's outstanding) to find justice. The film — from its arresting opening scene to its final jaw-dropper — is unsettling in the extreme, verging at times on camp but never totally tipping over into ridiculousness. Ford keeps tight control over the tone, and his ability to paint deliciously lush visuals has improved even over his gorgeous debut, A Single Man. The sheer nastiness of the film, though, will likely turn off many, despite strong performances by Adams, Gyllenhall, Shannon and Taylor-Johnson. (R for violence, menace, graphic nudity, and language; AS-14)

 

 

Special engagements

Home Alone

"Home Alone" trailer

The 1990 Christmas classic Home Alone will screen at noon Saturday at United Artists Amarillo Star 14, 8275 W. Amarillo Blvd. Watch out for flying irons and cans of paint. (PG)

 

Still playing

Allied (AS-14); Boo! A Madea Halloween (WM-6); Doctor Strange (H-16)Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (AS-14, H-16)Hacksaw Ridge (AS-14)Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (WM-6); Miss Sloane (AS-14); Moana (AS-14, H-16); Nocturnal Animals (AS-14); Office Christmas Party (AS-14, H-16); Rules Don't Apply (WM-6)The Secret Lives of Pets (WM-6); Storks (WM-6); Shut In (WM-6); and Trolls (AS-14). (Click links for my reviews)

 

 

 

Chip Chandler is a digital content producer for Panhandle PBS. He can be contacted at Chip.Chandler@actx.edu, at @chipchandler1 on Twitter and at www.facebook.com/chipchandlerwriter on Facebook.

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