Movie Watch: Amarillo film options for Nov. 23 and beyond

Last Updated by Chip Chandler on
"Moana" opens Tuesday.
Courtesy Disney

By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer

Thanksgiving weekend movie options include a Disneyfied tropical paradise, a spy drama with some off-screen intrigue, and a sequel to the blackest of Christmas comedies. Plus, I review several recent releases, including Doctor Strange, Fantastic Beasts and more. (Note: Titles are subject to change, and most of the new movies will preview Tuesday.)

 

Opening Wednesday

Allied

Marion Cotillard and Brad Pitt star in "Allied."Marion Cotillard and Brad Pitt star in "Allied."Courtesy Paramount Pictures

Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard star as a Canadian intelligence officer and a French resistance fighter, respectively, who team up to battle Nazis in Casablanca and wind up falling in love. (Yes, Pitt did a similar film, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, with soon-to-be-ex-wife Angelina Jolie, and when she filed for divorce, there was a flurry of rumors, strenuously denied, that Pitt and Cotillard had an on-set affair during the making of this film. Which is neither here nor there, but there you go.) After their return to wartorn London, though, Pitt's bosses inform him that they suspect that Cotillard is actually a double agent working in league with the Germans — and order him to kill her. "It’s the sort of twisty, romantic, smart-but-not-too-smart espionage film that Hollywood has all but given up on in recent years as it shamelessly chases after millennial hearts and minds," writes Entertainment Weekly's Chris Nashawaty. "You may know exactly where a movie like Allied is leading you, but its two smart, smoldering leads make you want to take the ride." Other critics, like IndieWire's Kate Erbland, are less enthusiastic: "(Pitt and Cotillard are) not enough to save an entire film, even one that starts with such snappy promise as “Allied,” and is wholly unable to keep its initial pizzazz and pleasure chugging along through a bloated 124-minute runtime." (R for violence, some sexuality/nudity, language and brief drug use; United Artists Amarillo Star 14, 8275 W. Amarillo Blvd.)

"Allied" trailer

 

Bad Santa 2

Brett Kelly and Billy Bob Thornton star in "Bad Santa 2."Brett Kelly and Billy Bob Thornton star in "Bad Santa 2."Courtesy Broad Green Pictures

The 2003 black comedy wasn't a major hit, but it soon achieved cult-classic status, and — full confession — is one of my favorite holiday traditions. But I'm not sure who, exactly, was calling for a 13-years-later sequel. Still, with Billy Bob Thornton and Tony Cox back as absolute reprobates Willie and Marcus (and even Brett Kelly returning as a grown-up Thurman Merman), it's definitely worth a look for me. Add to them Kathy Bates as Willie's equally awful mother and Christina Hendricks as the unlikely reciprocator of Willie's affections, and I'm certainly intrigued. The film opens with Willie, once more, at rock bottom and unable to shake Thurman (whether Willie's trying to shake Thurman's attention or his own inexplicable fondness for the guy is almost beside the point). Marcus, fresh out of jail after the events of the original film, once again reaches out to Willie, urging him to get past their mutual antipathy in service of a $2 million heist in Chicago — and without telling him that his mother is their new co-conspirator. Hendricks co-stars as the director of the charity they're trying to fleece. Reviews aren't too jolly. "Bad Santa 2 is the re-gift that stops with you, the kind that winds up in a landfill. It’s tedious and lifeless, a waste of precious time, and ultimately, an exhausting example of what people should really be talking about when they decide to annoy you with rants about the War on Christmas," writes The Wrap's Dave White. The Hollywood Reporter's Justin Lowe is more upbeat: "Raunchy, rude and politically incorrect, Bad Santa 2 arrives in time for the holidays like an outcast uncle making an impromptu visit. ... It's been more than a dozen years since the introduction of Bad Santa’s obnoxiously unrepentant brand of holiday humor, but if anything, the follow-up ... outdoes its predecessor’s penchant for free-fire insult comedy." (R for crude sexual content and language throughout, and some graphic nudity; AS-14, Cinemark Hollywood 16, 9100 Canyon Drive)

"Bad Santa 2" trailer

 

Moana

"Moana" features Dwayne Johnson as Maui and Auli'i Cravalho as the title character."Moana" features Dwayne Johnson as Maui and Auli'i Cravalho as the title character.Courtesy Disney

Disney's latest follows the adventures of a young Polynesian woman (voiced by Hawaiian teen Auli'i Cravalho) who feels the call of the ocean despite her father the chief's ban on travel past their island home. But, naturally, she sets sail anyway and meets a demigod, Maui (voiced by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), who embroils her in a series of adventures. Reviews are quite sunny. "Like AladdinMoana sees Disney broadening its worldview to sample the myths and musical traditions of a whole new world, in this case Polynesian and Pacific Islander culture. And just like boring Aladdin himself, Moana’s dull titular hero is overshadowed by a shape-shifting trickster played by a big, charismatic star. Kids, meet your generation’s Genie: Maui ... whose appearance in the film’s second act transforms Moana from dutiful (if beautiful) Disney adventure-by-numbers to something wilder, funnier, and way more entertaining," writes Slate's Dan Kois. The Village Voice's Bilge Ebiri found unexpected echoes to today's climate: "Moana feels like a movie about how easy it can be to give up, and how important it is not to. It’s funny, joyful, and sweet, and yet down below, running beneath everything, is a sad counter-narrative about how the world always throws obstacles in your way, and how you could just turn your back and retreat." (PG for peril, some scary images and brief thematic elements; AS-14, H-16)

"Moana" trailer

 

Rules Don't Apply

Warren Beatty co-stars in, directs and co-writes the old Hollywood comedy "Rules Don't Apply."`Warren Beatty co-stars in, directs and co-writes the old Hollywood comedy "Rules Don't Apply."

In his first film in 15 years, Warren Beatty co-writes, directs and co-stars in this look back on old Hollywood, playing billionaire director Howard Hughes. But, despite rumors of Beatty working on this project for years, Hughes isn't the primary focus. Instead, the film is a romantic comedy centered on Hughes' driver Frank (Alden Ehrenreich) and a wannabe starlet, Marla (Lily Collins). Reviews are decidedly mixed. The Boston Globe's Ty Burr notes the film's flaws but still enjoyed it: "Beatty is after something more ephemeral than biography. I think he wants to explore the comedy and tragedy of an American original as he was perceived (and misperceived) by everyone around him, including himself. That a man who was once the most major of movie stars might know something about this is not unthinkable. That he might spin it into a wobbly, funny, weird, and touching waltz in the sunset is serendipity." But other critics, like AV Club's Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, are less forgiving: "Once the initial sense of mystery dissipates, what’s left are the sketchy and contrived characterizations of Marla and Frank and a barrage of cornball humor and leaden slapstick bits that eventually betray the film’s lack of cohesion. " (R for language, sexuality/nudity and some accident images; AS-14) (NOTE: This film replaces Bleed for This on the schedule.)

"Rules Don't Apply" trailer

 

Chip's capsule reviews 

  • Arrival: I know I raved about this last week, but here's another pitch. As good as Amy Adams is (seriously, one of her best performances) and as impressively realistic as the effects work is, what has stuck with me about this film is the masterful control of tone and storytelling that director Denis Villenueve displays. By now, you may have heard that there's a twist ending, but that's a bit inaccurate. Villenueve builds to a revelation that makes you rethink the film in an entirely new context, but it's not a twist, per se. It's a logical progression and, really, the point of the whole story. I don't want to say any more than that, other than to encourage you to see for yourself. (PG-13 for brief strong language; AS-14, H-16)
  • Doctor Strange: New Marvel movies always suffer the same problem of origin-story-overload, but the basics of introducing Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his friends and foes is handled relatively artfully here. (Alas, though, that Rachel McAdams isn't given any more to do as Strange's estranged love interest, a far-too-typical problem in Marvel movies.) The film's real draw, though, is the mindwarping visual effects, which put this movie on a plane above most of Marvel's output, at least in terms of aesthetics. Buildings fold in upon themselves, strange planes of being open wide: It's all just magnificent to watch. And Tilda Swinton steals every scene she's in as the Ancient One, though Cumberbatch acquits himself nicely. (PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action throughout, and an intense crash sequence; AS-14, H-16)
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Entertaining, but ultimately disappointing, Fantastic Beasts never quite gets out of table-setting mode for its promised four (four!) sequels. J.K. Rowling can conjure an endlessly engaging, surprising imaginare world in novels, but she struggles a bit in her first time as a screenwriter, especially in crafting memorable, complicated characters (though I did have affection for the no-maj [non-magical] baker played by Dan Fogler and the witch [Alison Sudol] who falls for him). The film's a fun ride, sure, but it's more than a bit hollow, with only Eddie Redmayne's Newt Scamander getting any real development and actors like Katherine Waterston (as his romantic interest and crusading investigator) and Colin Farrell are left adrift. At least most of the beasts are fairly fantastic. (PG-13 for some fantasy action violence; AS-14, H-16)
  • Hacksaw Ridge: Mel Gibson's comeback film as a director is not subtle, but then again, neither Gibson nor war ever is subtle. Andrew Garfield stars as Desmond Doss, the first conscientious objector to be given the Medal of Honor. We meet him as a child who, in one of their many fights, beans his brother in the head with a brick; horrified at both his violent tendencies and his religious mother's (Rachel Griffiths) reaction, he starts down a path that will find him completely rejecting violence. But then, he feels called to volunteer for the Army during World War II, despite his personal vow to never use a gun and despite seeing how serving in World War I wrecked his abusive father (Hugo Weaving). The first half of the film lays out Desmond's beliefs, culminating in court-martial proceedings when his superior officers (including Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington) distrust his motivations (as do his fellow soldiers, who Gibson and screenwriters Robert Schnekkan and Andrew Knight sketch out just memorably enough). Doss is allowed to join his regiment, though, as they travel Okinawa — or, truly, into the bowels of Hell. Gibson, whose films consistently examine savagery and its toll on men's souls, pulls no punches in a horrific fight scene and its aftermath, when Doss picks his way through a carnage-strewn battleground to rescue survivors (notably, American and Japanese alike). The sequence is stomach-churning, most likely too much so, but effective. I wouldn't recommend the film for everyone, and I certainly am sympathetic to those no longer inclined to support Gibson's work, but it's an undeniably potent work, and Garfield gives an excellent performance. (R for intense prolonged realistically graphic sequences of war violence including grisly bloody images; AS-14, H-16)
  • Moonlight: I drove to Lubbock on Friday to catch this astounding film on its opening day there (don't ask me why Lubbock got it so soon since it only expanded to 650 screens last week), and it doesn't appear to be in for the long haul (it'll screen only once or twice a day beginning Friday). But while it's there, and just in case it doesn't actually screen here later on, I exhort film buffs to make a quick trip down over the weekend. Moonlight, based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, follows the life of Chion, a black, gay young man in Miami, in three segments focusing on pivotal moments of his life. In the first, 9-year-old "Little" (played by Alex Hibbert) finds an unexpected bond with Juan (Mahershala Ali), an Afro-Cuban drug dealer, and his girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monae), spending time with them rather than his drug-abusing, emotionally abusive mother (Naomi Harris). In the second, now 16-year-old Chiron (Ashton Sanders) tries to deal with some awful bullying at school and even more from his mother as his relationship with best friend Kevin (Jharrel Jerome) becomes more intense. And in the third, the adult "Black" (Trevante Rhodes) has hardened in his new life in Atlanta, dealing drugs like Juan did and trying to avoid having anything to do with his mother, when an unexpected phone call from Kevin (Andre Holland) sends him back to Miami. The three actors playing Chiron are equally wonderful, and Harris, Monae, Holland and, especially, Ali all give remarkable performances. Writer-director Barry Jenkins makes the film feel incredibly personal, exploring the thorny issue of masculinity among black males with empathy and grace. (R for some sexuality, drug use, brief violence, and language throughout; Premiere Cinema + IMAX — Lubbock, 6002 Slide Road)

 

Special engagements

Breakfast at Tiffany's

"Breakfast at Tiffany's" trailer

TCM Big Screen Classics brings back this beloved romantic drama starring Audrey Hepburn as the intoxicating Holly Golightly. It'll screen at 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday and Wednesday at Amarillo Star 14. (NR)

 

RiffTrax Holiday Special Double Feature

RiffTrax Holiday Special Double Feature trailer

"Weird Al" Yankovic joins the RiffTrax guys in this rebroadcast of a popular ripping of the 1964 turkey Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and some odd holiday shorts. They'll both screen at 7 p.m. Dec. 1 at the Amarillo Star 14. (NR)

 

She Loves Me

"She Loves Me" trailer

The recent Broadway revival of this classic musical gets a big-screen showing at 7 p.m. Dec. 1 at the Amarillo Star 14. Zachary Levi and Laura Benanti star as quarrelling co-workers who are unaware that they're falling in love through a series of anonymous pen-pal letters. It's an adaptation of Hungarian playwright Miklós László's Parfumerie, which you might have seen adapted for the movies The Shop Around the CornerIn the Good Old Summertime and You've Got Mail. (NR)

 

Still playing

Almost Christmas (AS-14); Arrival (AS-14, H-16); Doctor Strange (AS-14, H-16); Deepwater Horizon (Premiere Cinemas Westgate Mall 6, 7701 W. Interstate 40); Finding Dory (WM-6); Hacksaw Ridge (AS-14, H-16); The Magnificent Seven (WM-6); Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (WM-6); Pete's Dragon (WM-6); The Secret Lives of Pets (WM-6); Sully (WM-6) and Trolls (AS-14, H-16).

 

 

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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