By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
In Amarillo theaters this week: A hometown tragedy, the last major Oscar nominee, a hopping-mad bunny, the Fifty Shades climax and more.
New to theaters
La Boda de Valentina
Valentina (Marimar Vega) has built a life for herself in New York City, leaving behind an ex-fiance (Omar Chaparro) and a scandal-ridden family in Mexico City. But her new American fiance (Ryan Carnes) insists on meeting her family, and chaos erupts in this bilingual romantic comedy. No reviews are out yet. (R for language; click here for showtimes at United Artists Amarillo Star 14, 8275 W. Amarillo Blvd.)
In its opening moments, Bomb City cuts between the adrenaline-fueled smashes in a mosh pit at a punk concert and the crunching tackles under Friday night lights at Dick Bivins Stadium.
Right away, director/co-writer Jameson Brooks is placing the punk subculture — so vilified when its native son Brian Deneke was killed in a parking-lot brawl in Amarillo in 1997 — on equal footing with the dominant football culture. That's a courtesy it didn't get when Deneke died, and the battle between the punks and the preps moved from Western Plaza to the courthouse and, eventually, became another embarrassment for Amarillo on the national stage.
In case the point isn't clear, Brooks cuts again from the football players dutifully reciting the Lord's Prayer and its exhortation to "forgive those who trespass against us" back to the punks.
Deneke's death was a seminal moment in our history, and it's heartening to see Amarillo natives like Brooks and co-writer Sheldon Chick find the heart of the story — not the apparently unrepentant, Daddy's-Cadillac-driving prep, whose name here is Cody Camp (played by Luke Shelton), but in the sensitive punk Brian (Dave Davis).
If you've been around town long enough (or if you read my story when the film got its Amarillo premiere in January), you know what happened on that December night 20 years ago. Brooks and Chick take on the story from Brian's point of view, fleshing him out and revealing him to be loving, funny and kind, but with a temper of his own. His punk buddies, too, are shown in a sympathetic light. This is a film with a definite soft spot for the underdogs.
Not so much for the alpha dogs, the football players and hangers-on who can throw a beer bust and unauthorized bonfire, only to get a mild scolding from the cops. The same cops have absolutely no patience for the punks' habit of tagging abandoned buildings, culminating in a tense raid.
Again and again, Brooks and Chick show us that these teen boys are different sides to the same coin. One's outlet for his aggression is socially acceptable, the other's is much less so. One boy conforms; another refuses and pays the price.
Davis gives a magnetic performance as Brian, and Shelton finds a little bit of humanity in Camp. Other actors are solid across the board, particularly Glenn Morshower (24) as an especially hateful defense attorney. Cinematographer Jake Wilganowski, who surely does love lens flair, does a fine job shooting both the tense fight scenes and the quieter scenes of unassuming Amarillo beauty (though audiences here will surely recognize all the times that Dallas doesn't quite work as a stand-in for our streets).
The film is Brooks and Chick's feature debut, though you wouldn't guess that at all. It's a confident bit of filmmaking, both a fitting epitaph for Deneke's life and a promising harbinger for the Amarillo natives' burgeoning film careers. (NR; click here for showtimes at Premiere Cinemas Westgate Mall 6, 7701 W. Interstate 40)
The 15:17 to Paris
A 2015 terrorist attack on a high-speed train into Paris was foiled by a trio of American tourists and is now the subject of director Clint Eastwood's latest film. The twist is that the three heroes — Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler and Spencer Stone — play themselves in this stripped-down recounting. The film shows how the three guys met as kids and remained lifelong friends, then picks up when they meet up in Europe as adults for a vacation. "There is not a lot of suspense, and not much psychological exploration, either. A certain blunt power is guaranteed by the facts of the story, and Mr. Eastwood doesn’t obviously try for anything more than that. But his workmanlike absorption in the task at hand is precisely what makes this movie fascinating as well as moving. Its radical plainness is tinged with mystery," writes The New York Times' A.O. Scott. (PG-13 for bloody images, violence, some suggestive material, drug references and language; click here for showtimes at Amarillo Star 14 and Cinemark Hollywood 16, 9100 Canyon Drive.
Fifty Shades Freed
The Fifty Shades trilogy, based on the inexplicably popular romantic novels, finally wraps up with one last bang. Ana and Christian (Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan) are now wed, but still face challenges both domestic (will they have kids?) and external (will Ana's former boss Jack destroy them?). "(F)or the third time the film fails to capitalize on what made the books such runaway successes in the first place: the sex," writes The Wrap's Anna Hartley. "For the studio bosses and the franchise owners alike, the only people that matter at this point are the breathless fans, patiently waiting for their favorite softcore erotic narrative to transform into a fairytale happily-ever-after. Which is perhaps the least subversive story line imaginable." (R for strong sexual content, nudity, and language; click here for showtimes at Amarillo Star 14 and Hollywood 16)
Set several years after the original Peter Rabbit tales by Beatrix Potter, this new live-action/CGI hybrid film finds the mischievous rabbit still causing trouble. After the death of grumpy Mr. McGregor (Sam O'Neill), the rabbit, his sisters and their friends think they have the run of the farm, but the old man's great-nephew (Domhnall Gleeson) arrives, and he's no fan of critters, either. But he is a fan of Bea (Rose Byrne), his artistic, good-natured neighbor who has great affection for the animals. So as Thomas and Bea start exploring their feelings, Thomas must hide his detestment of the animals, who are doing their darnedest to make him leave. Reviews are mixed. According to The A.V. Club's Jesse Hassenger, "Peter Rabbit’s troublemaking from the book, at once animalistic and innocent, has been refashioned by director-cowriter Will Gluck into a motormouthed, self-regarding clone of Alvin, of caterwauling-rodent fame." But The Boston Globe's Tom Russo is more favorable: "Even though this thoroughly contemporary adaptation frequently tramples the gentle whimsy of Potter’s creation like so many bunnies overrunning a vegetable garden, it’s also irresistibly entertaining." (PG for some rude humor and action; click here for showtimes at Amarillo Star 14 and Hollywood 16)
A six-time Oscar nominee, including for best picture and best actor, Phantom Thread is set in 1950s England, focusing on fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), wo's known for his elegant, restrained couture. One day, he spies a young waitress (Vicky Krieps), who soon becomes his muse and his lover over the wishes of his unapproving sister Cyril (Lesley Manville, also Oscar nominated). Reviews are almost uniformly glowing: “Phantom Thread won’t suit everyone; it goes to some undeniably weird places, and its deliberate pace will be off-putting for some. ... But I hung on every minute, for the visual beauty, the celebration of clothing as artistic creation and the master-class in acting given by the three (leads)," writes The Seattle Times' Moira Macdonald. (R for language; click here for showtimes at Amarillo Star 14)
Including Phantom Thread, we're down to only five Oscar nominees still screening in Amarillo:
- Darkest Hour — nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor (Gary Oldman) — continues with two screenings a day at Amarillo Star 14. Here's my review.
- The Greatest Showman — nominated for Best Song ("This Is Me") — continues screening several times a day at both Amarillo Star 14 and Hollywood 16. Here's my review.
- I, Tonya — nominated for three Oscars, including Best Actress (Margot Robbie) — continues at Amarillo Star 14. Here's my review.
- The Post — nominated for two Oscars: Best Picture and Best Actress (Meryl Streep) — continues screening at Hollywood 16. Here's my review.
- And, looking ahead, all nine Best Picture nominees will screen in marathons from Feb. 23 to March 4 at Amarillo Star 14 and from Feb. 25 to March 4 at Hollywood 16 (which also will screen the 10 live-action and animated short films nominated this year).
The Met: Live in HD series screens Bartlett Sher's production of this classic Donizetti opera starring Pretty Yende and Matthew Polezani at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Hollywood 16.
Mazinger Z: Infinity
The super-robot (from a popular '70s series) is called back into action to face a threat against mankind in this English-subtitled anime film. It'll screen at 12:55 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Monday at the Amarillo Star 14.
Feb. 18 and 21: TCM's Big Screen Classics series will continue with The Philadelphia Story, a sparkling comedy starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart team for this sparkling comedy. It'll screen at 2 and 7 p.m. both days at both Amarillo Star 14 and Hollywood 16.
Feb. 22: Hollywood 16 has advance tickets on sale for sci-fi thriller Annihilation starring Natalie Portman. Plus, Fathom Events will screen Is Genesis History?, a biblically-based documentary exploring Christian creationism, at both multiplexes. Teen romantic fantasy Every Day and raunchy comedy Game Night also are scheduled to open, but advance tickets aren't yet on sale.
Feb. 23 to March 4: For the first time, the United Artists Amarillo Star 14 will take part in the 10-day Regal Best Picture Film Festival, which will offer several screenings of each of the nine films nominated for Best Picture in the 90th Academy Awards. Click here for the full schedule.
Feb. 24: The Met: Live in HD series screens Franco Zeffirelli's production of La Boheme, the classic Puccini opera starring Sonya Yoncheva and Michael Fabiano.
Feb. 26 to March 4: The Cinemark Hollywood 16 will bring back Oscar Movie Week and screen each of the nine films nominated for Best Picture in the 90th Academy Awards in this week-long festival, culminating in block screenings of the Oscar-nominated live-action and animated short films on March 3 and 4. Click here for the full schedule.
Listings at a glance
Click on titles for my reviews and on theaters for showtimes.
La Boda de Valentina (AS-14); Bomb City (WM-6); The Commuter (H-16); Darkest Hour (AS-14); Daddy's Home 2 (WM-6); Den of Thieves (H-16); The 15:17 to Paris (AS-14, H-16); Fifty Shades Freed (AS-14, H-16); Forever My Girl (AS-14, H-16); The Greatest Showman (AS-14, H-16); Hostiles (AS-14, H-16); I, Tonya (AS-14); Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (AS-14, H-16); Justice League (WM-6); Maze Runner: The Death Cure (AS-14, H-16); Murder on the Orient Express (WM-6); Paddington 2 (H-16); Peter Rabbit (AS-14, H-16); Phantom Thread (AS-14); The Post (H-16); Thor: Ragnarok (WM-6); 12 Strong (AS-14, H-16) and Winchester (AS-14, H-16).