By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
Movies hitting Amarillo screens this weekend include a "Magnificent" (or not) remake, some animated high-flyers and an indie family drama.
Viggo Mortensen stars as a devoted father who's perhaps (OK, more than perhaps) too close to his children in this film from writer/director Matt Ross.
Mortensen is Ben Cash, who lives off the grid in the Pacific Northwest with his six children, ranging from about 6 to 18, teaching them how to hunt, skin and cook their own wild game, recycle rainwater and, in general, live a thoroughly hippie lifestyle with regular tutoring sessions about Noam Chomsky and sticking it to the man. It's like Swiss Family Robinson with lefties.
And the film, which I watched via a press screener, is generally quite good, with a stellar performance by Mortensen at its center. Ross, an actor who's known for roles on Big Love and Silicon Valley, probably doesn't mean for us to identify completely with Ben's worldview, but he's certainly sympathetic — and when we see how fiercely intelligent the kids are, we might be, too. (OK, perhaps not many Amarillo audience members will have much sympathy for a family of atheist socialists.)
Then, Ben and the kids are forced by a family tragedy to return to the real world. The oldest, Bodevan (George MacKay), soon realizes he has no idea how to interact with his peers, and middle son Rellian (Nicholas Hamilton) only wants out. These kids might be brilliant and fairly self-sufficient, but at what cost?
That's what the film explores once the family leaves their forested utopia, especially through the eyes of Ben's sister and brother-in-law (Kathryn Hahn and Steve Zahn) and his wife's parents (Frank Langella, modulating what might otherwise have been a straight-up villainous role, and Ann Dowd).
Ross doesn't answer most of the questions, despite a somewhat pat ending: We're supposed to grapple with the rights and wrongs of how Ben has raised his children, and Mortensen truly nails his character, who's utterly convinced about the righteousness of his mission, until he finally lets some doubt creep in.
Captain Fantastic will screen for at least one week at Premiere Cinemas Westgate Mall 6, 7701 W. Interstate 40. (R for language and brief graphic nudity)
The Magnificent Seven
Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) remakes the 1960 John Sturges classic (itself a remake of the 1954 Akira Kurosawa classic Seven Samurai) by adding more action to the traditional story of a band of misfits coming together to protect a small town. Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Vincent D'Onofrio, Ethan Hawke, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeier play our heroes, and Peter Sarsgaard goes all out as the tale's big villain. Reviews are mixed, but lean positive, such as Leah Greenblatt's for Entertainment Weekly: "(T)his Seven’s just silly, solid entertainment: multiplex fun by numbers." TimeOut's Joshua Rothkopf enjoyed it, too: "Like the best westerns, it's also timely: a tale about a black hero and his six men who clean up a besieged town from rapacious businessmen, it feels like an unambiguously fond farewell to the Obama years." But Brian Tallerico, writing for RogerEbert.com, is less forgiving: "(The film) too often registers as hollow, an exercise in genre that has echoes of the John Sturges and Akira Kurosawa versions, but little of the charm of the former and none of the depth of the latter." (PG-13 for extended and intense sequences of Western violence, and for historical smoking, some language and suggestive material; United Artists Amarillo Star 14, 8275 W. Amarillo Blvd.; Cinemark Hollywood 16, 9100 Canyon Drive)
In this animated comedy from writer/co-director Nicholas Stoller (The Muppets), the titular birds have been out of the baby delivering business for 18 years, since one stork accidentally was unable to deliver a child. When the teenage Tulip (voiced by comedian Katie Crown) is assigned to a new division at the storks' factory (they now deliver personal electronics), she opens a letter that produces the first baby at the factory in years. (Don't ask me how babies are made; ask your parents.) Kelsey Grammer and Andy Samberg voice two of the main birds. "(T)he script by Nicholas Stoller (“The Muppets,” “The Five-Year Engagement”) jabs at your funny bone and at your gooey sentimental center with equal agility, both by following the rules and knowing when to throw them out the window." The San Francisco Gate's Peter Hartlaub enjoyed it more than he expected to: "The action scenes are frenetic, barely giving audiences a chance to think before the next chase or explosion or dance party musical interlude. The editing happens at a pace normally reserved for commercials for highly caffeinated beverages. Given the choice between a gag or narrative flow, the filmmakers almost always choose the gag. But there is unexpected heart ... and an offbeat comic sensibility that justifies the chaos onscreen." (PG for mild action and some thematic elements; AS-14, H-16, Tascosa Drive-In, 1999 Dumas Drive)
Vanished — Left Behind: Next Generation
In addition to their popular apocalyptic book series, authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins wrote a teen version, too, adapted for this new film starring Amber Frank (Nickelodeon's Haunted Hathaways), Dylan Sprayberry (MTV's Teen Wolf, Man of Steel) and Mason Dye (MTV's Finding Carter, Lifetime's Flowers in the Attic). It gets a one-night-only screening in theaters at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Amarillo Star 14 theater. The screening also includes a Q&A session with cast and filmmakers. (PG-13 for thematic elements and some violence/peril)
Ben-Hur (WM-6); Blair Witch (AS-14, H-16); Bridget Jones's Baby (AS-14, H-16); Don't Breathe (AS-14, H-16, TDI); Hell or High Water (AS-14); HIllsong — let Hope Rise (AS-14); Ice Age: Collision Course (WM-6); The Legend of Tarzan (WM-6); Nerve (WM-6); No Manches Frida (H-16); Suicide Squad (AS-14, H-16); Snowden (AS-14); Sully (AS-14, H-16, TDI); and The Wild Life (AS-14).