By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
From the latest Transformers to some much smaller movies making big waves, here's your Amarillo movie options through June 29. Plus, my reviews of Rough Night and Cars 3.
New in theaters
Beatriz at Dinner
Salma Hayek stars as an outsider at the eponymous meal in Beatriz at Dinner, the latest from writer Mike White and director Miguel Arteta (who previously teamed for Chuck & Buck). Beatriz is a Mexican immigrant working as a masseuse and physical therapist for wealthy Southern Californians, and when her car breaks down while making a house call for one client (Connie Britton), she ends up staying for a meal with an obscenely wealthy guest (John Lithgow). Their privilege butts up against her otherness in a film critics have received quite well since its debut at Sundance. RogerEbert.com's Nick Allen says the movie "gets some fascinating, acute moments out of white one-percenters being confronted with the reality of their capitalist selfishness, and watching them squirm. The movie would be too preachy were it not so cathartic, or if it didn't feel so fully thought-out." (R for language and a scene of violence; click here for showtimes at United Artists Amarillo Star 14, 8275 W. Amarillo Blvd.)
The Book of Henry
Oh, this movie, y'all. I can't think of the last time I've read such deliriously vicious reviews proclaiming a film not only awful, but the kind of see-it-for-yourself awful that makes me giddy with anticipation. Henry (Jaeden Lieberher) is a super-smart 11-year-old boy who's essentially running the house for his single mom (Naomi Watts) and younger brother (Jacob Tremblay). He discovers that their neighbor (Dean Norris) is abusing his stepdaughter (Maddie Ziegler) and launches an elaborate plan to stop him. Only ... well, then we get into spoiler territory. Suffice it to say, things get nuts. "The Book of Henry is such a good bad movie because all involved really want to do something meaningful but haven’t really thought about how to guide the audience to that point. It’s a movie that wants to dance but settles for flailing. Then the end arrives — and I just can’t spoil it. The last emotional beat of this movie is so stupid it made me howl with laughter," writes Vox's Todd VanDerWerff. The director is Colin Trevorrow, who made a good first impression with Safety Not Guaranteed and a not-so-great impression with Jurassic World, and is in the midst of making Star Wars: Episode XIV, so while the possibility of Henry being a howler is fun and all, it's a little discombobulating to think Trevorrow's in charge of an upcoming installment of my favorite film franchise. (PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language; click here for showtimes at Cinemark Hollywood 16, 9100 Canyon Drive)
Transformers: The Last Knight
Something something King Arthur, something something Optimus Prime, something something explosions, something something Fidel Castro, something something Merlin, something something Megatron. Sorry, folks, the trailers are painfully unclear, and reviews indicate the movie is even worse. "Transformers: The Last Knight is an incomprehensible pile of scrap. Luckily, there’s an upside — you’ll forget every single stupid frame of this thing the moment you walk out of the theatre," writes the Toronto Sun's Liz Braun. (PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of sci-fi action, language, and some innuendo; click here for showtimes at Amarillo Star 14 and Hollywood 16, and here for showtimes at Tascosa Drive-In, 1999 Dumas Drive)
Indian star Salman Khan headlines this Hindi-language remake of 2015's Little Boy. Here, Khan stars as Laxman, whose brother Bharat (Sohail Khan) goes to fight in the India-China War in 1962. When Bharat is believed to be killed in action, Laxman doesn't believe it and heads to the war zone to look for him. (NR; click here for showtimes at Hollywood 16)
Writer-director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) returns with a high-concept action flick about a getaway driver (Ansel Elgort) who pulls off amazing driving stunts while listening to a killer soundtrack. Keeping to the beat helps him time his crazy turns, and the music also drowns out a persistent ringing in his ears caused by a tragic childhood accident. He's trying to pull off one last job for the gang (which includes Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm and bossman Kevin Spacey), but they're reluctant to lose a man with such skills. Wright "takes a ludicrous concept and turns it into a brilliant exercise in high style and a rush of big ideas," writes IndieWire's Eric Kohn. "The director’s most ambitious work to date is a wildly successful romantic heist comedy, propelled from scene to scene with a lively soundtrack that elevates its slick chase scenes into a realm that develops its own satisfying beat." (R for violence and language throughout; click here for showtimes at Amarillo Star 14 and Hollywood 16)
In Part 1 of this year's Panhandle Pride Film Festival (which, full disclosure, I helped organize), the Independent Lens documentary Real Boy will screen in an Indie Lens Pop-Up at 7 p.m. Friday at Amarillo Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 4901 Cornell St. The film, a coming-of-age story about a trans teenage boy who wants to become a music star, can be viewed online, as well. Following the screening, Jenny Gunn, a leader of the Amarillo Area Transgender Support Group; Sandra Dunn, a leader within the transgender community; and Bekki McQuay, LPC, who works with people in transition; will discuss the issues in the documentary. The screening is free; donations will be accepted. (NR)
Bellator NYC: Sonnen vs. Silva
The anticipated MMA bout between Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva will stream live at 9 p.m. Saturday at the Amarillo Star 14. The evening, streamed from Madison Square Garden, also will feature fights between Fedor Emelianenko and Matt Mitrione, Douglas Lima and Lorenz Larkin, and Michael Chandler and Brent Primus. (NR)
My Neighbor Totoro
Studio Ghibli Fest, presented by Fathom Events and GKids, kicks off with a screening of this anime classic from Hiyao Miyazaki about two young girls who discover magical creatures, including bear-like spirits, in the woods near their home. An English-dubbed version will screen at 12:55 p.m. Sunday, followed by a subtitled version at 7 p.m. Monday, both at the Amarillo Star 14. The series will feature a new film monthly through November. (G)
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
The latest installment in the Cinemark's Classics Series is the camp classic starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford (also, the subject of the recent FX hit Feud: Bette and Joan). It'll screen at 2 p.m. Sunday and 2 and 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Hollywood 16. (NR)
Henry Gamble's Birthday Party
In Part 2 of this year's Panhandle Pride Film Festival (which, again, I helped organize), writer/director Stephen Cone's indie drama about a preacher's teen son's struggle to navigate sexual identity will screen at 7 p.m. Monday at the Amarillo College downtown campus, 1314 S. Polk St. Co-star Patrick Andrews, an Amarillo native who's now a professional actor in Chicago and New York, will take part in a post-screening Q&A. Admission is free, and donations are accepted. (NR)
Summer Movie Express
Regal Cinemas' kids movie club continues with screenings of Rio 2 and The Boxtrolls at 10 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesdays at Amarillo Star 14. Admission is $1. (G and PG, respectively)
Still in theaters
You don't normally expect a children's animated film — especially in a fairly dumb franchise like Cars — to contain a cogent interrogation of white male privilege, but I see you Cars 3, and I see what you're doing.
I'm not saying that the film is great, though it's better than serviceable for the kids, but I did find its central conflict to be quite intriguing. Well, at least its central conflict as I interpreted it.
Lightning McQueen has always been coded as a good ol' boy, probably from Texas, and with Owen Wilson's voice and the character's career choice as what amounts to a NASCAR racer, most definitely a white guy. And in this film, he's dealing with the fact that he's aging out of his field. Younger cars are faster than him, and there's only so much he can do about that. But he tries a new training regimen under the auspices of Cruz Ramirez (Christela Alonzo), who always wanted to be a racer but lacked the confidence to truly go for it.
In a pivotal scene in the movie, Cruz asks Lightning how he found the wherewithal to pursue his dream. As much as a car can, he shrugs and says he just did — and that's his privilege talking. Cruz, who pins her difficulty on the fact that she's a woman and looks different (code for the fact that she's Hispanic, presumably), doesn't have the same kind of confidence that Lightning has in an innate way. I won't reveal how this plays out, but Lightning eventually checks his privilege and Cruz, given another shot, runs with it.
Maybe that's a bit of a stretch, but while watching Cars 3, I would much rather ponder that sort of theme than think too hard about how this world full of cars is supposed to work. Like, Lightning accidentally breaks something precious of Cruz's, and when he later gives it back to her, it's patched up with electric tape. How's a car without opposable thumbs supposed to do that?
Also, where do young cars come from? Think about that.
The animation here is frequently gorgeous (especially a race scene along a misty old moonshine run) and even a bit thrilling. The cars still all feel like they're conceived of as toys first, characters second, but within that confine, there's still a little interesting work being done (see above). Cars is never going to be Pixar's strongest franchise, but even Pixar's worst can still surprise and entertain. (G; click here for showtimes at Amarillo Star 14 and Hollywood 16, and here for showtimes at Tascosa Drive-In)
My expectations were low for Rough Night, despite its killer cast and despite the work that co-writer and director Lucia Aniello does on Broad City.
I couldn't quite square the idea that it was a raunchy, empowering comedy with the fact that the bachelorette party is responsible for a man's death, leading the women to go all Weekend at Bernie's with the corpse. The tonal mismatch never fully resolved in any of the trailers, so I didn't expect it to in the film, either.
My worries were a little overblown, though, and Rough Night worked far better than I'd expected. It's not perfect by any means, but it's got plenty of laughs, mostly entertaining characters and the woman-handling of the corpse isn't nearly as off-putting as I'd feared. That's a win, right?
Aniello, who wrote the movie with co-star Paul W. Downs, doesn't succeed here as well as she has on Broad City primarily and ironically because the characters here are more broad than those she works with on the TV show. There's a specificity to the humor on Broad City that isn't replicated here nearly enough, despite the fact that the cast does really strong work almost all the way across the board.
Scarlett Johansson is the center of the movie, and though she has shown comedy chops before (primarily in some great Saturday Night Live sketches), she doesn't quite nail the mix between being the movie's straight person, around whom the plot revolves, and cutting up like her costars. Johansson is Jess, who's running for state senate while also planning a wedding to Peter (Downs). Her college friends — led by the insistent Alice (Jillian Bell) — convince her to attend a bachelorette party in Miami, where copious alcohol is consumed, mounds of cocaine is snorted, penis glasses are worn and, oh yeah, a stripper dies in a freak accident. Zoë Kravitz, Ilana Glazer and Kate McKinnon all give great support as Jess's other friends — the divorcing, rich realtor, the liberal activist and the Australian oddball, respectively.
The film is coarse and episodic, to good and bad effect, and it's ironically funniest when it cuts back to Peter's tame bachelor party and then to his attempt to find Jess in Miami. But the women provide plenty of laughs too, even though they aren't quite big enough to make the film really soar. (R for crude sexual content, language throughout, drug use and brief bloody images; click here for showtimes at Amarillo Star 14 and Hollywood 16)
Alien: Covenant (Premiere Cinemas Westgate Mall 6, 7701 W. Interstate 40); All Eyez on Me (AS-14, H-16); The Boss Baby (WM-6); Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (AS-14, H-16); Cars 3 (AS-14, H-16 and TDI); The Fate of the Furious (WM-6); 47 Meters Down (AS-14, H-16); Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (H-16); How to Be a Latin Lover (WM-6); Megan Leavey (AS-14); The Mummy (AS-14, H-16); Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (AS-14, H-16); Rough Night (AS-14, H-16); Smurfs: The Lost Village (WM-6); Snatched (WM-6); and Wonder Woman (AS-14, H-16). (Click on titles for my reviews and on theaters for showtimes.)