Movie Watch: Amarillo film options for July 13 to 20, plus reviews of 'Spider-Man,' 'Apes'
By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
In Amarillo theaters this week: Those "damned, dirty apes" and the most acclaimed romantic comedy of the year. Plus, check out my reviews of Spider-Man: Homecoming and the new Planet of the Apes film.
New in theaters
The Big Sick
Actor/comedian Kumail Najiani stars in and co-wrote this romantic comedy based on an episode from his own life — when his wife-to-be (Emily V. Gordon, played here by Zoe Kazan) was put into a medically induced coma early on in their relationship. In fact, Emily's illness came when the couple was working through problems stemming from Kumail's reluctance to tell his Pakistani family about his American girlfriend. Holly Hunter and Ray Romano play her parents. Critics have been gushing over the film since its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January. "(T)he movie works for the reason that all the best rom-coms do: you fall in love, a little bit, with Kumail and Emily, and want them to stay together. Love, this movie reminds us, is often inconvenient; but it does ultimately conquer all," writes The Seattle Times' Moira Macdonald. (R for language including some sexual references; click here for showtimes at United Artists Amarillo Star 14, 8275 W. Amarillo Blvd., and Cinemark Hollywood 16, 9100 Canyon Drive)
"The Big Sick" trailer
War for the Planet of the Apes
The battle for dominance between intelligent apes and the last shreds of humanity reaches its apex in the thoughtful, enthralling War for the Planet of the Apes.
The third chapter in a rebooted series that began in 2011, War finds Cesar (Andy Serkis, via motion capture) still struggling to find a way to peacefully coexist with humans hellbent on the apes' destruction. And, following a devastating sneak attack by the Colonel (Woody Harrelson), Cesar fights against his own urges for bloody revenge at the expense of his society's future.
And, in fact, he leaves his tribe behind — accompanied only by lieutenants Rocket (Terry Notary), Luca (Michael Adamthwaite) and Maurice (Karin Konoval) — to track down the Colonel at what turns out to be a compound with both a plethora of weapons and of cages. Along the way, they adopt a mute girl (Amiah Miller), who's among many humans who have begun to lose their speech in a mutated version of the virus that has already killed most of the population, and Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), a refugee from a zoo who adds a light touch to the movie despite the evidence of a tortured, lonely life.
Most of the film — between the explosive opening and the climactic finish, at least — unfolds quietly, with long wordless stretches filled with gorgeous wide shots and expressive close-ups. War doesn't unfold, in other words, like a typical summer blockbuster. Director Matt Reeves (working from a script he co-wrote with Mark Bomback) finds inspiration in the great Clint Eastwood Westerns, though the Colonel is assuredly an homage to Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. And, given Cesar's tortured hero status, there's certainly a lot borrowed from biblical epics, as well.
Though more intelligent and thoughful than most franchise installments, War isn't perfect. There are a few instances of narrative contrivance that nag, and the apes' society is disappointingly patriarchal; the only female character of note is a mute child, after all.
But the film's willingness to tackle hard and thorny ethical situations, not to mention the breathtaking use of technology that makes the apes so vividly lifelike, still put War at the top of the pack this summer.
(PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, thematic elements, and some disturbing images; click here for showtimes at Amarillo Star 14 and Hollywood 16, and here for showtimes at Tascosa Drive-In, 1999 Dumas Drive)
"War for the Planet of the Apes" trailer
A teen girl (Joey King) is given an old music box by her father (Ryan Phillippe), but when she follows the inscription's suggestion and begins making wishes, her new, perfect life quickly sours in the bloodiest of ways. The film hasn't been screened for critics.(PG-13 for violent and disturbing images, thematic elements and language; click here for showtimes at Amarillo Star 14 and Hollywood 16)
"Wish Upon" trailer
"Ferris Bueller's Day Off" trailer
Celebrate an '80s filmmaking legend during the sixth annual ALT Film Festival. Films for Voice of a Generation: John Hughes include Ferris Bueller's Day Off at 7:15 p.m. Friday, National Lampoon's Vacation at 1 p.m. Saturday and The Breakfast Club at 3:15 p.m. Saturday at the ALT Adventure Space, 2751 Civic Circle. A gala opening reception will begin at 6:30 p.m. Friday. Admission is $50 for the gala (including food and drink, plus preferred seating at all screenings) and free for screenings. Call 806-355-9991.
"How Far I'll Go," "Moana"
Watch Disney's Moana in an outdoor screening at 7 p.m. Friday in the northeast corner of the parking lot at The Shops at Wolflin Square, 1901 S. Georgia St. Seating is picnic-style, so attendees should bring their own outdoor chairs and blankets. Free popcorn will be available. Admission is free.
Summer Movie Express
"The Adventures of Tintin" trailer
Regal Cinemas — which operates the United Artists Amarillo Star 14, 8275 W. Amarillo Blvd. — continues its festival of kid-friendly movies with screenings of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie: Sponge Out of Water and The Adventures of Tintin at 10 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.
Discovery’s Shark Week at the Movies
"Shark Week at the Movies"
Immerse yourselves in a big-screen version of Discovery's popular shark-themed programming. The event — which screens at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at both Amarillo Star 14 and Hollywood 16 — features a favorite episode from Shark Week 2016, along with a special episode of Shark Week 2017 before it airs on television. (NR)
Talk about spectacular.
Spider-Man: Homecoming, the third franchise-starting film about the web-slinging wonder in 15 years, is a joyous, bouyant wonder of a film, the first in Spidey's cinematic history to really take advantage of its high-school setting. And, perhaps not coincidentally, it's the first Spider-Man film to be made under the auspices of Marvel (in a deal with Sony, which owns the movie rights to the character).
Whatever magic Marvel works — selection of directors, casting, quality control, what have you — comes through in spades here with director Jon Watts' energetic film, starring the sensational Tom Holland as a young Peter Parker.
Crucially, we don't get a retelling of the origin story and, in fact, Pete's Uncle Ben isn't mentioned directly; this allows us to get past the same storyline that has been done to death already and find new avenues of adventure. But Ben's words of wisdom — "with great power comes great responsibility" — loom large (but unspoken) over the proceedings, as Peter figures out how, largely on his own, to become a responsible superhero.
But, thanks to the Marvel-Sony deal, he's not entirely alone. Robert Downey Jr. co-stars as Tony Stark and Iron Man, with Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan, tasked to be Peter's contact at Stark International. Both Tony and Happy are too busy to pay much attention to Peter, though, and the ambitious, impulsive teen decides he must take on the bad guys on his own.
And what a bad guy! Michael Keaton is superbly chilling as Adrian Toomes, the high-flying Vulture, who scavenges the remains of alien attack sites to find futuristic technology for creating and selling weapons to crooks. Adrian, like all the best villains, is a bit sympathetic while also being a holy terror, and Keaton absolutely nails it.
Homecoming is as much a coming-of-age tale as it is a blockbuster action film, with Watts especially interested in Peter's civilian life and his time at Midtown School of Science and Technology. Peter's best friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon), and love interest, Liz (Laura Harrier), play crucial roles in the action, and Peter's interactions with all of the teens — also including the enigmatic Michelle (Zendaya) and bully Flash (Tony Revolori) — are highlights of the film. Also out there: Peter's (much hotter than usual) Aunt May, played by Marisa Tomei.
The light tone and teen focus don't stop the film from getting serious and tense when needed, particularly after one late-film twist. And though it drags for maybe a bit, Watts has a great handle on the material. Though most franchise films are bombing this summer, Spider-Man most definitely soars. (PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments; click here for showtimes at United Artists Amarillo Star 14, 8275 W. Amarillo Blvd., and Hollywood 16)
Baby Driver (AS-14, H-16); Baywatch (Premiere Cinemas Westgate Mall 6, 7701 W. Interstate 40); The Boss Baby (WM-6); Captain Underpants: The Epic First Movie (TDI, WM-6); Cars 3 (AS-14, H-16); Despicable Me 3 (AS-14, H-16); Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (WM-6); Everything, Everything (WM-6) The Fate of the Furious (WM-6); 47 Meters Down (H-16); The House (AS-14, H-16); Smurfs: The Lost Village (WM-6); Spider-Man: Homecoming (AS-14, H-16); Transformers: The Last Knight (AS-14, H-16); and Wonder Woman (AS-14, H-16). (Click on titles for my reviews and on theaters for showtimes.)