By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
In theaters this week: A flying dragon, the world's worst singer and some foul-mouthed hot dogs. Plus, news on why the number of Amarillo movie screens will be reduced for a while.
Let's touch on that first: Cinemark Hollywood 16, 9100 Canyon Drive, announced in May that it would be remodeling its auditoriums, adding in "luxury lounger" recliners with footrests, and construction has begun in force now. Half of the screens will be out of commission this weekend, then the other eight auditoriums will be closed when the first half is finished. That limits the number of movies on view to seven, all the major box office players — no room, for now, for indies or the Cinemark Classics series or Fathom Events. Hopefully, they'll return when the theater is operating at full capacity.
Florence Foster Jenkins
Meryl Streep — as she proved in Into the Woods (not so much in Mamma Mia!) — can sing, but here, she stars as a real-life New York heiress in 1940s-era New York who becomes a sensation for precisely the opposite reason: Her horrible singing voice. She's unaware, it seems, that her voice is better described as caterwauling than comforting, that her fan base is laughing at her, not swept away by her. And, thanks to her great wealth and philanthropic connections, she manages to book a concert at Carnegie Hall. Reviews are warm, for the most part. "Florence is hilarious, and sadly fragile, and Streep makes her pain both funny and poignant," writes Roger Moore. "Frears presents Jenkins as lovingly as Tim Burton presented his title character in Ed Wood, the real-life Z-movie maestro played to perfection by Johnny Depp," writes Slate's Dana Stevens. "This Florence is a beautiful dreamer, an artist by virtue of her sheer passion for her art and the doggedness with which she pursues her creative vision—feathered fans, clanking beads, piercing shriek and all." But others, like Tribune News Service's Katie Walsh, don't see the humor: "It invites you to giggle at Florence's horrible singing and then promptly scolds you for laughing, creating a contradictory double standard that goes unreconciled -- to laugh or not to laugh at Florence's tortured caterwauling?" (Rated PG-13 for brief suggestive material; United Artists Amarillo Star 14, 8275 W. Amarillo Blvd.)
And, for giggles, the real Florence Foster Jenkins:
Confession time: The original Pete's Dragon from 1977 ranks highly for me among that era's live-action output from Disney, if for no other reason than sheer repetition. I watched the heck out of it as a kid. No, it's not great, but Helen Reddy's warbling "Candle on the Water" still makes me tear up, and the goofy voice of Charlie Callas as the titular dragon made up for the so-so animation efforts. So it's with some trepidation that I consider this remake, starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Karl Urban and newcomer Oakes Fegley as the orphan boy Pete, who finds a (furry, this time, and digitally animated) green dragon named Elliot while living on his own in the forest. However, reviews have been quite good for the film, directed by David Lowery, whose melancholy 2013 crime drama Ain't Them Bodies Saints didn't indicate, to me, a future for him in family films. "He has made a larger, very different movie without losing his instincts, directorial stealth or ability to finesse his actors' performances, in this case in the vicinity of an achingly expressive and unexpectedly furry dragon with a little bit of bulldog in him," writes Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune in a glowing review. "Here is a movie," writes Indiewire's David Ehrlich, "that says we never lose our imagination so long as we believe in each other, a movie that was only made possible because a huge corporation dared to put that same idea into practice." (PG for action, peril and brief language; AS-14, H-16)
A Toy Story without the toys and thoroughly unsuitable for children, to boot, Sausage Party imagines what life is like for food stuffs in the aisles of a grocery store — and the horrifying truth that dawns on them when they see what happens when they are bought and taken to someone's home. The original red-band trailer (warning: totally NSFW) made me snort with laughter a few months ago (the second one, somewhat less so), but reviews pretty solid. As bizarre as the movie sounds, its creators (Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg of This Is the End, etc.) have a good track record, and the stars (Kristen Wiig, Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, et. al.) are great. "It’s terrible. It’s demented. It’s unforgivable. I laughed, and thankfully, I wasn’t laughing alone," writes MTV's Amy Nicholson. "Sausage Party is ballsy and dumb and brilliant all in one bite." "Depending on your tastes, there are definitely moments that are going to go too far," writes Steven Whitty of the Newark Star-Ledger. "But even if you're offended – and perhaps rightfully so – there's another joke coming around the corner to change the subject." (R for strong crude sexual content, pervasive language, and drug use; AS-14, H-16)
TCM Big Screen Classics brings back the iconic 1978 frat party movie for screenings at 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday and Wednesday at the Amarillo Star 14. (R)
Rifftrax Live: Mothra
The Rifftrax guys take on this Japanese monster classic about a giant moth and its two tiny, tiny human companions in a live screening at 7 p.m. Aug. 18 and in a rebroadcast at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 23. If you've never seen a Rifftrax (they're the guys who largely originated Mystery Science Theatre 3000), you're in for a treat — even if you're a fan of Japanese monster movies. (Or not, I suppose.) (NR; AS-14)
The Angry Bids Movie (Premiere Cinemas Westgate Mall 6, 7701 W. Interstate 40); Bad Moms (AS-14, H-16); Capain America: Civil War (WM-6); Central Intelligence (WM-6); Ice Age: Collision Course (AS-14); Jason Bourne (AS-14, H-16); The Jungle Book (WM-6); Lights Out (AS-14); Nine Lives (AS-14); The Purge: Election Year (H-16); The Secret Lives of Pets (AS-14, H-16); The Shallows (WM-6); Star Trek Beyond (AS-14, Tascosa Drive-In, 1999 Dumas Drive); Suicide Squad (AS-14, H-16, TDI); and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (WM-6).