By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
Amarillo theaters will see five new films this weekend: A family favorite, a couple of action flicks and a pair of acclaimed dramas.
New in theaters
An insurance salesman and ex-cop (Liam Neeson, still in action mode and working again with his Non-Stop director Jaume Collet-Serra) gets embroiled in a criminal conspiracy when a stranger (Vera Farmiga) using bribes and threats forces him to uncover the identity of a hidden passenger on his train ride home. Critics so far have a fairly middling response to the movie, though they generally find it to be diverting. "The Commuter forfeits a good movie about why an everyman might get ensnared in some lite Hitchcockian mishegoss for a mediocre one about how he might weasel his way out of it," writes IndieWire's David Ehrlich. (PG-13 for some intense action/violence, and language; click here for showtimes at the United Artists Amarillo Star 14, 8275 W. Amarillo Blvd., and Cinemark Hollywood 16, 9100 Canyon Drive)
Last Flag Flying
Three Vietnam War veterans — Doc (Steve Carell), Sal (Bryan Cranston) and Richard (Laurence Fishburne) — reunite 30 years later when Doc asks for their help in bringing home the body of his son, killed in action in the Iraq War. It's from co-writer/director Richard Laurence and is essentially a sequel to The Last Detail, which starred Jack Nicholson, though the characters names in this one are different. Reviews have been fairly solid. "Unsurprisingly, Last Flag Flying engages with such timeless issues as honor, loyalty, the fecklessness of top brass and the futility of war. By the time the threesome pulls into their final stop, those bullet points have been replaced with real feeling, brought to a particularly moving climax in the film’s quietly shattering penultimate scene," writes The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday. (R for language throughout including some sexual references; click here for showtimes at Premiere Cinemas Westgate Mall 6, 7701 W. Interstate 40)
The charming little British bear is back for another adventure in London in this family-friendly sequel. This time, Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) is looking for the perfect gift for his aunt's 100th birthday and first visit to England. He finds a rare pop-up book and takes on all manners of odd jobs to raise the money, but a bad guy, Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), swoops in and steals the book first. The film scored a surprising three BAFTA nominations this week for supporting actor (Grant), adapted screenplay and Outstanding British Film, and reviews are superlative: "(A)s with the first film, Paddington 2 never feels like it’s speaking above the level of it intended primary audience, and thus the performances by the adult actors feel less like larks and more like tremendous acts of generosity," writes Vulture's Emily Yoshida. "Children deserve more movies like Paddington 2, and honestly, so do adults." (PG for some action and mild rude humor; click here for showtimes at Amarillo Star 14 and Hollywood 16)
Director Steven Spielberg rushed this film — which recounts the efforts of the Washington Post to print the Pentagon Papers in 1971 — into production last spring in response to the Trump campaign's and then administration's wholesale disparagement of the free press. In doing so, he found a project that finally brings Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks to the screen together, pairing them as Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee, the Post's new publisher and her hand-picked editor. (Others in the killer cast include Bradley Whitford, Bob Odenkirk, Matthew Rhys, Alison Brie, Sarah Paulson, Carrie Coon and Tracy Letts.) Reviews have been quite strong, though with a lack of wins at the Golden Globes and a snubbing in the BAFTA nominations, its Oscar chances have somewhat dimmed lately. "It’s a reflection of all we stand to lose if news reporting and the outlets that support it should vanish, especially in the face of a President who strives daily to crush it. It’s the story of a woman ... who had to fight for respect at a paper she actually owned. And even if its goals are lofty, the movie is so fleet and entertaining that you never feel you’re being lectured to. This is a superhero movie for real grownups," writes Time's Stephanie Zacharek. (PG-13 for language and brief war violence; click here for showtimes at Amarillo Star 14 and Hollywood 16.
Taraji P. Henson gets her own Foxy Brown-style starring vehicle as a hit woman, workin' for the man every night and day, who reevaluates her life after crossing paths with a young boy during a botched assignment. The trailer sparked quite a bit of buzz, but Sony hasn't screened the film for critics. (R for violence; click here for showtimes at Amarillo Star 14 and Hollywood 16)
The Opera House
Learn about the Metropolitan Opera's rich history in this new documentary from Susan Froemke, screening at 12:55 p.m. Saturday and 12:55 and 6:30 pm. Wednesday at the Hollywood 16. "Packed with fascinating archival footage ... and striking just the right mix of information and emotion, The Opera House should prove a cinematic staple for opera buffs," writes The Hollywood Reporter's Frank Scheck. (NR)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Bring your stinkin' badges for the 70th anniversary screenings of this Humphrey Bogart film for TCM's Big Screen Classics series. It'll screen at 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday and Tuesday at both the Amarillo Star 14 and Hollywood 16. (NR)
Mary and the Witch's Flower
Based on The Little Broomstick, this all-ages fantasy anime film features voice talents of Kate Winslet, Jim Broadbent and others. It's from Ponoc, a successor to the beloved Studio Ghibli that produced such classics as Spirited Away, and it's in contention for an Oscar nomination. It'll screen at 7 p.m. (English-dubbed) and 8 p.m. (subtitled) Jan. 18 at the Amarillo Star 14. (PG for some action and thematic elements)
Jan. 18: Advance tickets are on sale now for Call Me By Your Name, a gay romance starring Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer that's drawing rapturous reviews. It's scheduled (for now) to screen only at Amarillo Star 14. Plus, tickets are on sale for the crime drama Den of Thieves, starring Gerard Butler, Curtis "50 Cent" Johnson and Pablo Schreiber, also scheduled to screen at Amarillo Star 14.
Jan. 25: Advance tickets are on sale now for Maze Runner: The Death Cure at the Hollywood 16, the final chapter of the dystopian YA tale that was delayed by star Dylan O'Brien's serious on-set injuries.
Feb. 8: The BDSM-lite Fifty Shades franchise wraps up with Fifty Shades Freed, for which advance tickets are on sale now at both Amarillo Star 14 and Hollywood 16.
Feb. 15: Advance tickets are on sale now for the highly anticipated Black Panther, featuring the first black superhero carrying a major motion picture.
Still in theaters
All the Money in the World (AS-14, H-16); A Bad Moms Christmas (WM-6); Blade Runner 2049 (WM-6); Coco (AS-14, H-16); Darkest Hour (AS-14); Despicable Me 3 (WM-6); Ferdinand (AS-14, H-16); The Greatest Showman (AS-14, H-16); Insidious: The Last Key (AS-14, H-16); Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (AS-14, H-16); Molly's Game (H-16); Pitch Perfect 3 (AS-14, H-16); The Star (WM-6); Star Wars: The Last Jedi (AS-14, H-16); Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (AS-14, H-16); and Wonder (AS-14). (Click on titles for my reviews and on theaters for showtimes.)