By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
Action comedies, an indie darling and a Western thriller hit Amarillo movie theaters this week. Plus, check out what special screenings are planned and read my review of The Glass Castle.
New in theaters
A young man named James (Kyle Mooney of those weird skits they save for the end of Saturday Night Live episodes) lives in a bunker with his parents (Jane Adams and Mark Hamill), blissfully and thoroughly obsessed with a children's show about a bear (you can guess its title). Only James' life is not at all what he thinks, and soon he is thrust into the real world and forced to grow up. I don't want to give too much away, but parallels to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt are easy to draw. (Hint, hint.) In general, the film is about fandom and the comfort we derive from pop culture favorites. But that's not all, writes Manohla Darvis of The New York Times: "(M)ostly it’s a sweet and sometimes delightful melancholic story of a lonely man saved by imagination and love. That sounds like a bushel of cornball and might have devolved into pure ick if the director, Dave McCary, didn’t lead from the heart and wasn’t adept at navigating seemingly clashing tones." (PG-13 for thematic elements, brief sexuality, drug material and teen partying; click here for showtimes at United Artists Amarillo Star 14, 8275 W. Amarillo Blvd.)
The Hitman's Bodyguard
A prominent protector-for-hire (Ryan Reynolds) is coerced into making sure a hired killer (Samuel L. Jackson) survives long enough to testify against a brutal dictator (Gary Oldman) in this throwback action comedy. Critics find it pretty generic and familiar to fans of '80s buddy comedies, but "(t)hat’s not to say (the film) is a total wash," writes The Wrap's Alonso Duralde. "(T)he cast seems game, and perhaps they realize it’s on them to elevate the material, so the scenes between Reynolds and Jackson have some genuine snap to them, even though the dialogue and characterization are barely memorable. The movie’s MVP at making the most out of the least is Salma Hayek, as Jackson’s incarcerated wife; her scenes wouldn’t be nearly as funny without her broadly fearless overplaying." (R for strong violence and language throughout; click here for showtimes at Amarillo Star 14 and Cinemark Hollywood 16, 9100 Canyon Drive)
Director Steven Soderbergh returns to the big screen with this caper comedy about a pair of slow siblings (Channing Tatum and Adam Driver) who plan the heist of a race track to reverse their family's fortunes. Daniel Craig is getting raves for his over-the-top portrayal of a demolitions expert; other cast members include Riley Keough, Katie Holmes and Sebastian Stan. "You’re always very keenly aware you’re watching movie stars who are just playing at being hillbillies. That’s not a bad thing — especially when you’ve got a batch of charismatic personalities hamming it up in trucker hats without condescending to their subjects. It’s a gimmick, however enjoyable, that goes on a little too long, with a few too many tangents. ... But, flaws aside, it is a darn good heist, and sure to leave you with a smile on your face. We should be glad Soderbergh is back, hopefully this time for good," writes The Associated Press' Lindsey Bahr. (PG-13 for language and some crude comments; click here for showtimes at Amarillo Star 14 and Hollywood 16)
Taylor Sheridan, nominated for an Oscar last year for the screenplay for Hell or High Water, writes and directs this procedural crime drama about the investigation into a young woman's death on a Native American reservation in Wyoming. Jeremy Renner plays the tracker who discovers the body and who lost a teen daughter of his own the year prior, and Elizabeth Olsen plays an FBI agent sent to investigate but ill-prepared to do so. "At times, Sheridan has his characters spell out a little too clearly what they’re thinking and feeling ... (b)ut the words are so beautiful and come from such a place of deep truth, it’s hard not to be moved, and they help give Wind River a simultaneous sense of timelessness and immediacy," writes RogerEbert.com's Christy Lemire. (R for strong violence, a rape, disturbing images, and language; click here for showtimes at Amarillo Star 14)
RiffTrax Live: The Five Doctors
Original Mystery Science Theater 3000 stars Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett bring their best snark to a new RiffTrax Live presentation in August. This time, they'll lovingly mock the 1983 Doctor Who film The Five Doctors, a 20th anniversary special that featured Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee and Peter Davis as the Second, Third and Fifth Doctors, respectively; Richard Hurndall as the First Doctor (filling in for the late William Hartnell); and, in archival footage only, Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor. It'll screen at 7 p.m. Thursday and 7:30 p.m. Aug. 24 at both the Amarillo Star 14 and Hollywood 16.
Felicie, an 11-year-old orphan (voiced by Elle Fanning), runs off to Paris with her best friend Victor (Nat Wolff) to become a dancer and an inventor, respectively, in this new animated film. It officially opens Aug. 25, but it'll get sneak preview screenings at 12:15 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Amarillo Star 14. (PG for some impolite humor, and action; click here for showtimes at Amarillo Star 14)
Fairy Tale: Dragon Cry
The manga and anime series Fairy Tail expands to a full-length feature film, Fairy Tail: Dragon Cry, which will get a handful of Amarillo screenings in August. The 2017 film, released in Japan in May, is set between the manga's penultimate and final story arcs, with the wizard guild trying to recover a stolen magical weapon. It'll screen at 5 p.m. Saturday (in dubbed form) at the Amarillo Star 14. (NR)
It Happened One Night
The classic screwball romance starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert as an out-of-work journalist hitchhiking across the country with a spoiled heiress is the latest installment in the Cinemark's Classics Series. It'll screen at 2 p.m. Sunday and 2 and 7 p.m Wednesday at the Hollywood 16.
Opening Aug. 24
Advance tickets are on sale now for All Saints, starring John Corbett as a new pastor who works with Burmese refugees to save his church, and Birth of the Dragon, a biopic about martial arts star Bruce Lee, as well as Leap! (see above).
Still in theaters
The Glass Castle
Reading Jeannette Walls' memoir (and interviewing the author before she spoke for the Amarillo Area Foundation Women's Philanthropy Fund in 2012) had a profound effect on me: The former gossip columnist's emotional honesty and utter openness really struck home for this fellow writer of what some view as unessential trash.
So I had more invested in the success of the book's film adaptation than I think I even realized before I sat down to watch it. I had reason to worry: The trailers made the film look like just another uninspired film of alleged inspirational uplift, more blather for a sedated audience.
I should have trusted the material more. I should have trusted director/co-writer Destin Daniel Cretten more after his brilliant breakthrough film Short Term 12. And I certainly should have trusted Oscar-winner Brie Larson, who stars as Walls, more.
Cretten's film, like Walls' book, is prickly and unsettling. It dares us to fall in love with Jeannette's exhausting parents and, when we inevitably do, especially for her father (played by Woody Harrelson), it pulls the rug out from under us time and time again, just as Jeannette felt for years. The film understands why we, like Jeannette, can't help but be drawn to Rex and Rose Mary (the effective, if not fully utilized Naomi Watts), despite their infuriating nonchalance about parenting and schooling and regular meals and basic civility.
Walls understands that, for all of her parents' myriad of faults, they did love her. Her upbringing was, at times, horrifying, but it was always filled with love, however dysfunctional it often was. At its best, Crettin's film walks that tightrope, too, from the opening moments when a gallingly inattentive Rose Mary lets a young Jeannette (Chandler Head) cook her own dinner, leading to a horrifying kitchen accident, to later confrontations between the teenage and adult Jeannette (Larson) with Rex.
The narrative is pared down considerably, and some of the story does suffer without that extra context. Crettin's finale steers too hard into a happy ending that's not exactly true to life, nor justified. And frankly, I just wanted more emotion, more heartbreak — for the film to feel less safe. Crettin and his cast mostly succeed, but the film would have been a true must-see if it had gotten as raw as Wells' book did.
Larson, one of her generation's finest actresses, gives another fine melancholy performance, though I think Walls had more fun in her work than Larson is given time to show here. And I think Walls perhaps wasn't as passive as the events sometimes makes Larson's version seem. Harrelson plays the self-destructive Rex with such open-hearted empathy that we understand, at least somewhat, when Rex inevitably screws up; it grows harder and harder for the audience to forgive him, just as it did for Walls, but there's a core of goodness that Harrelson never loses sight of.
That's a sometimes infinitesimally small core, mind you, and the film sometimes thinks too highly of it. Yet despite the fact that it plays a little safe, this is a fine film, hopefully inspiring audiences to find Walls' book for the unvarnished truth. (PG-13 for mature thematic content involving family dysfunction, and for some language and smoking; click here for showtimes at Amarillo Star 14)
Annabelle: Creation (AS-14, H-16); Atomic Blonde (H-16 and Tascosa Drive-In, 1999 Dumas Drive); Baby Driver (AS-14, H-16); Captain Underpants: The Epic First Movie (Premiere Cinemas Westgate Mall 6, 7701 W. Interstate 40); The Dark Tower (AS-14, H-16); Despicable Me 3 (H-16); Dunkirk (AS-14, H-16); The Emoji Movie (AS-14, H-16); 47 Meters Down (WM-6); Girls Trip (H-16); The Glass Castle (AS-14); Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (WM-6); The House (WM-6); Kidnap (AS-14, H-16); The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature (AS-14, H-16 and TDI); Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (WM-6); Rough Night (WM-6); Spider-Man: Homecoming (AS-14, H-16); Transformers: The Last Knight (WM-6); and War for the Planet of the Apes (AS-14, H-16). (Click on titles for my reviews and on theaters for showtimes.)