By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
Summer movie season in Amarillo ends with a tearjerker drama, an offbeat road comedy, a sci-fi thriller and more.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
New Zealand film director Taita Waititi attracted loads of attention with his quirky vampire film What We Do in the Shadows — enough to land him a high-profile gig directing next year's Thor: Ragnarok. But before then comes this idiosyncratic road comedy with Sam Neill and newcomer Julian Dennison as a grumpy old man and a foster child he takes in. Though, in this case, the road that the duo travels is more of a barely beaten path through the bush, and it's not a fun vacation — they're actually on the lam after a devastating misunderstanding. That's only part of what sets this breezy but thoughtful comedy apart, which I watched via studio screener last night. Waititi's characters feel remarkably real, yet prompt huge laughs throughout. And he walks an extremely tight line: There are farcical elements throughout (particularly the child welfare agent in charge of young Ricky), but Waititi keeps the tone consistent and believable. Neill does marvelous work as the cranky Uncle Hec, and Dennison is an absolute revelation as Ricky — never cloyingly sweet or annoyingly precocious, just relatably quirky. Rima Te Wiata also delivers as the open-hearted Aunt Bella, who initially brings Ricky to the family in the first place. This is the start of Premiere Cinemas' fall indie series, so look for more small gems to come in weeks ahead; they generally arrive every other week and stay sometimes only one week, so catch them fast. This one, especially, is not to be missed. (PG-13 for thematic elements including violent content, and for some language; Premiere Cinemas Westgate Mall 6, 7701 W. Interstate 40)
The Light Between Oceans
Tom (Michael Fassbender), a World War I veteran, returns home and wants to recover by living a solitary life as a lighthouse keeper in this new drama from director Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine, The Place Beyond the Pines) based on the novel by M.L. Stedman. But he marries Hannah (Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl), a townswoman who lost two brothers in the war. She miscarries during her first pregnancy, then Tom discovers a dead man and a live infant washed up on shore in a boat. Hannah insists they claim the child as their own, leading to complications when the grieving mother (Oscar-winner Rachel Weisz) desperately seeking her baby. Critics are lauding the acting, but some feel Cianfrance overdoes the melodrama. "But for all the tragedy descending upon the characters of this film, it's difficult to muster adequate tears — not because the acting is lackluster (it's incredible, actually), but because the onslaught of melancholia is so relentless that it's nearly impossible to refill the reserves," writes The Village Voice's April Wolfe. Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly praises the film's visuals: "The whole thing is feverishly earnest and more than a little manipulative, but it’s also possibly the prettiest two hours of emotional masochism so far this year." (PG-13 for thematic material and some sexual content; AS-14)
Critics are mixed on this sci-fi thriller from new director Luke Scott, son of Ridley. In it, a risk-management consultant (Kate Mara) is called in to investigate flaws in a company's new creation, a humanoid created with synthetic DNA (and played by Anya Taylor-Joy). From the sound of it, it's similar to — though not as strong as — last year's Ex Machina. And the director is getting most of the blame for the films flaws. "Scott ... directs his first feature as if it’s a Father’s Day present, aided by a script that carries the DNA of both Alien and Blade Runner. When two characters with unclear agendas have a conversation, Luke Scott captures the feeling of young Ridley at his most magnetic and unsettling," writes San Francisco Gate's Peter Hartlaub. "But the film tries to split the difference between thoughtful science fiction and action-driven horror, and blows the chance to truly succeed at either." (R for brutal violence and some language; AS-14)
No Manches Frida
Zequi (Omar Chaparro) is a recently released bank robber who's distraught to learn that a new school has been built on the site where his girlfriend buried the loot from his last big score. So he goes undercover as a substitute teacher in the hectic classrooms to find the dough in this Mexican comedy, a remake of a German film. Surprisingly, this is the only new film of the weekend to open at Cinemark Hollywood 16, which is down to about half its screens because of remodeling.(PG-13 for crude sexual content, drug material, teen smoking and drinking, brief strong language and gestures, and thematic elements; Cinemark Hollywood 16, 9100 Canyon Drive)
Dungeons & Dragons
The best Dungeons & Dragons players in the country will face off in this special event streaming live from PAX West gaming convention in Seattle at 8 p.m. Sunday. The presentation also includes a behind-the-scenes look at the building of the D&D adventure and construction of set pieces. (NR; AS-14)
The NeverEnding Story
Since its release in 1984, this children's fantasy film has acquired quite the cult following, but here's a confession: Despite being a total nerd as a child and seeing this in the theater as age 11, I never quite got the whole deal. Let me tell you why: The summer this came out, my sister and I took a ceramics class in the basement of our ancient middle school. Radio reception in Canadian was generally rather sketchy anyway (Amarillo's Z-93 came in strongly only in our shared bathroom and only if we squinted just right at the radio), so the only reliable station was a soft-rock one out of nearby Perryton. And they played the theme song to this film every. single. day. Same time, without fail. So I suppose that by the time this film had arrived on VHS, I would rather have done anything but put the movie on at home and hear that godforsaken song even one more time. So yeah, you go enjoy this big-screen presentation at 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday and Wednesday. Just don't blame me when that atrocious theme song gets stuck in your head. (PG; AS-14)
Ben-Hur (AS-14, H-16); The BFG (WM-6); Central Intelligence (WM-6); Don't Breathe (AS-14, H-16); Hands of Stone (AS-14); Hell or High Water (AS-14); Ice Age: Collision Course (WM-6); Jason Bourne (AS-14); Kubo and the Two Strings (AS-14, Tascosa Drive-In, 1999 Dumas Drive); The Legend of Tarzan (WM-6); Lights Out (WM-6); Mechanic: Resurrection (AS-14, H-16); Nerve (AS-14); Now You See Me 2 (WM-6); Pete's Dragon (AS-14, H-16, TDI); The Secret Lives of Pets (AS-14); The Shallows (WM-6); Sausage Party (H-16); Suicide Squad (AS-14, H-16); and War Dogs (AS-14, H-16).