OPENING THIS WEEK
BETHANY HAMILTON: UNSTOPPABLE
This documentary tells the story of professional surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost her arm to a tiger shark bite at age 13 but was back on the waves in four weeks and never lost sight of her goals. Not only did she become a professional surfer with one arm, but she became one of the best in the world. And she kept surfing even through pregnancy and motherhood. Rated PG. 98 minutes. Regal Stadium 14. (Not reviewed)
In 1976, Les Blank’s documentary Chulas Fronteras/Del Mero Corazón offered viewers an introduction to Norteño music and culture along the Texas-Mexico border. He traced the musical genre from its roots in Mexican harmonies and German dance hall rhythms, among other influences, and followed its evolution as a musical form and an instrument of social justice, touching on the strong family bonds of Tejanos and the plight of migrant workers. The film returns to theaters with a new 4k (ultra-high definition) restoration. Not rated. 58 minutes. In English and Spanish with subtitles. Violet Crown. (Not reviewed)
When a Category 5 hurricane hits a Florida town in this horror picture, a young woman named Haley (Kaya Scodelario) ventures back into her evacuated neighborhood to search for her father, Dave (Barry Pepper). She finds him injured in their basement, and soon discovers the cause of his wounds: vicious alligators, which are roving the rising waters and hungry for flesh. The daughter and father must then survive both the reptiles and the storm. Rated R. 87 minutes. Regal Stadium 14 and Violet Crown. (Not reviewed)
THE FALL OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE
This crime movie centers on a delivery truck driver (Alexandre Landry) who stumbles upon two bags of cash at a crime scene and decides to keep them. He then must figure out what to do with the loot, and solicits advice from his sex-worker love interest Camille (Maripier Morin), a surly ex-con biker (Remy Girard), and a shady stock broker (Pierre Curzi), while avoiding the criminals who want their money back. The movie is the third in Canadian filmmaker Denys Arcand’s trilogy of films, after The Decline of the American Empire (1986) and The Barbarian Invasions (2003). Rated R. 127 minutes. In French with subtitles. The Screen. (Not reviewed)
THE QUIET ONE
What do we really know about Bill Wyman, bass guitarist and founding member of the Rolling Stones, a band he played in until 1993? Perhaps not much, which is why he was referred to as the “quiet one.” This documentary gives the reserved musician the chance to tell audiences about his life and career, offering an insider glimpse of the Stones in their heyday. Not rated. 98 minutes. Jean Cocteau Cinema. (Not reviewed)
Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick) and Dave Bautista (Drax in the Guardians of the Galaxy films) star in this odd-couple comedy about a rugged detective (Bautista) who, for some reason, hails an Uber manned by a nebbish driver (Nanjiani) for a night-long adventure into the criminal underworld of Los Angeles. They form a friendship as they combine their wits and various strengths to get out of an array of dangerous jams. Rated R. 93 minutes. Regal Santa Fe 6, Regal Stadium 14, and Violet Crown. (Not reviewed)
In 2002, Indian mathematician Anand Kumar, frustrated by the lack of opportunity for poor people in his country, founded the Super 30 program, which coaches underprivileged students for the entrance examination for the Indian Institutes of Technology. Hrithik Roshan plays Kumar in this India-produced biopic by director Vikas Bahl. Not rated. 162 minutes. In Hindi with subtitles. Regal Stadium 14. (Not reviewed)
3.5 chiles - TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM
Rated PG-13. 120 minutes. Center for Contemporary Arts. See review.
3 chiles - WILD ROSE
Rated R. 101 minutes. Center for Contemporary Arts. See review.
NOW IN THEATERS
2 chiles - ALADDIN
Disney’s live-action take on its own 1992 cartoon has a bit of everything — music, romance, adventure, and comedy — except a genuine spark of life, perhaps by nature of being a close remake of a well-known film. The story centers on Aladdin (Mena Massoud), a street urchin who finds a magic lamp containing a genie (Will Smith) and meets the princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott). They fall for each other, but Jasmine must marry a prince by law; meanwhile, Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), the royal vizier, schemes to land Jasmine and the kingdom for himself. Director Guy Ritchie seems to struggle with the musical scenes, but the film’s biggest problem is that it looks cheap for something so expensive, resembling a Disneyland attraction based on a movie more than it does an actual movie. Rated PG. 128 minutes. Screens in 2D only at Regal Santa Fe 6 and Regal Stadium 14. (Robert Ker)
ANNABELLE COMES HOME
This new film in the Conjuring franchise — the third to center on the haunted doll named Annabelle — harks back to elements hinted about in the franchise’s debut. Demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) bring the doll back to their home and lock it up in a room full of spooky artifacts, as seen in the first Conjuring film. What isn’t seen in that movie but revealed here, however, is that one night, Annabelle unleashes all the evil spirits in the room, with her sights set on the Warrens’ daughter (Mckenna Grace). Rated R. 106 minutes. Regal Santa Fe 6 and Regal Stadium 14. (Not reviewed)
2.5 chiles - THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM
Despite its gorgeous nature photography, director John Chester’s autobiographical account of his and his wife Molly’s life-changing move from city to country life, to make a go at sustainable farming, feels a bit like an overlong promotional video. The Chesters leave their lives in Los Angeles behind to found Apricot Lane Farms in Moorpark, California, with the help of a farm expert. Using an experimental biodiversity model based on biomimicry, they successfully rejuvenate land not suited to farming. The film hits its stride when it explores the hardships they encounter, and in its tender treatment of human and animal relationships. But trying to sell audiences on the methods that worked for them undercuts the value of their message about sustainability and reduced carbon footprints. A director not so close to the project could have given the film a more balanced treatment. Rated PG. 91 minutes. Center for Contemporary Arts. (Michael Abatemarco)
3.5 chiles -JOHN WICK 3: CHAPTER 3 — PARABELLUM
Those who are tired of resorting to superhero movies for their cinematic action have found refuge in the R-rated violence of Keanu Reeves’ fitted-suit-wearing hitman John Wick — even if Wick himself disposes of enemies with ease and seems as indestructible as a superhero. While these films’ action scenes are expertly staged, inventive, and sprinkled with humor and gore, their pleasures also involve watching the world’s mythology gradually expand. In this installment, Wick finds himself with a $14 million bounty on his head after killing a member of a powerful assassin’s guild in the last film, and he must fight his way out of New York City as chaos rains down around him. Cast members Halle Berry, Ian McShane, Anjelica Huston, and Laurence Fishburne all take juicy bites out of their supporting roles, while Asia Kate Dillon emerges as an enticing new villain. Rated R. 130 minutes. Regal Stadium 14. (Robert Ker)
3.5 chiles -THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO
The house is a Victorian gingerbread fantasy, tall and narrow, with a rickety elegance and the aura of another time and perhaps another reality. We learn that it’s the ancestral San Francisco home of Jimmie Fails (played by Jimmie Fails, who also gets story credit), a displaced young man whose grandfather, he tells us, built it. Jimmie grew up there, but the Fails family lost it, and now he dreams of reclaiming his family birthright. And when the people living there suddenly leave it empty, he and his best friend Mont (Jonathan Majors) move in. The movie is about yearning, about wanting something so badly that it takes on a reality of its own, and about the transition of a city rapidly losing its middle class and in danger of losing its fabled heart. Jimmie and Mont are sweet souls who don’t really fit in anywhere. It’s a remarkable second feature for director Joe Talbot. There are a few awkward moments, but by and large it all works. The deeply satisfying performances by Fails and Majors keep the story finely tuned, and that wonderful house looms up to represent an idea worth saving. Rated R. 121 minutes. Violet Crown. (Jonathan Richards)
3 chiles - LATE NIGHT
Katherine Newberry (Emma Thompson) has been hosting a late night TV show since about the time Johnny Carson’s retirement launched the talk show wars in 1992. The late night slot has never been a welcoming ground for women. No wonder Newberry is a bit prickly. And maybe a bit tired of the whole thing. But when her new network boss (Amy Ryan) tells her this season will be her last, Katherine digs in. One of her show’s problems is lack of diversity, with no female writers. So she orders her producer (Dennis O’Hare) to find one. The hire turns out to be Indian American Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling, who wrote the screenplay), thus breaking the gender and color barrier in one stroke. The story is predictable, but also sharp and witty; director Nisha Ganatra keeps it rolling.
Rated R. 102 minutes. Violet Crown. (Jonathan Richards)
3.5 chiles - MIDSOMMAR
In what will likely be the strangest film to pull in a box-office haul this year, writer and director (and former College of Santa Fe film student) Ari Aster follows 2018’s Hereditary with this pagan horror fable. It centers on a young couple (Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor) who, along with a handful of friends, travel to Sweden to take part in a commune’s summer solstice festival, which happens every 90 years. Once there, they slowly learn that the festival involves rituals that are bizarre and violent — and that they are part of the ceremony. Aster’s script runs long, and the themes of grief and trauma hew too close to his work in Hereditary, but his gifts as a visual stylist and storyteller are exceptional. Ushered along by a haunting score by The Haxan Cloak, Midsommar unfurls slowly and stretches in surreal directions, evoking the psychedelic drugs that the characters take throughout. It’s a trip. Rated R. 140 minutes. Regal Stadium 14 and Violet Crown. (Robert Ker)
3 chiles - PAVAROTTI
When Luciano Pavarotti died of pancreatic cancer in 2007, many opera lovers had mixed feelings. The tenor was only 71 and it hadn’t been so long since he was the reigning star of his generation, still giving magnificent performances of his core repertoire into the 1990s. And he had always seemed to have a great lust for life, happy to indulge his love of food and, when he wanted to, his love of people, crowds, and all the adulation that came with being the most celebrated tenor since Caruso. The best thing about Ron Howard’s polished new documentary is its compassion for the man, who emerges frail but not hollow, merely human and not the pathetic clown he so often seemed in his last decade. Using previously unseen video clips made by Pavarotti’s second wife, Nicoletta, and interviews with his first wife and their adult daughters, Howard encourages viewers to give Pavarotti the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his love life. It was always messy, as his first wife knew, and yet she seems to have forgiven him. Despite omissions, Pavarotti is still an occasion for reflection, and the picture it presents of the tenor is sufficiently rounded that those new to his artistry will likely be beguiled. Rated PG-13. 114 minutes. Center for Contemporary Arts. (Philip Kennicott/The Washington Post)
THE PRICE OF EVERYTHING
Featuring a wide array of artists — including Amy Cappellazzo, Gerhard Richter, Jeff Koons, and Santa Fe’s Dennis Yares — this documentary explores the art market in modern times. Director Nathaniel Kahn takes viewers through the contemporary art world, where everything can be sold for the right price, and examines how we put a dollar amount on human expression. Not rated. 98 minutes. The Screen. (Not reviewed)
3 chiles - ROCKETMAN
This biopic of Elton John (played by Taron Egerton) follows shortly on the heels of 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody, to which it has been extensively compared. Whether centering on Elton John or Freddie Mercury, both movies are crowd-pleasers that follow similar arcs: a musical genius rises to global popularity, attaches himself to a predatory manager, struggles with homosexuality in the public eye, isolates himself at the peak of fame, and finds redemption in part through realizing the importance of his writing partners. Bohemian Rhapsody was a clunky movie elevated by Rami Malek’s portrayal of Mercury, while Rocketman is a lively film that succeeds in spite of Egerton’s unconvincing take on Sir Elton. Neither film follows their subject’s biographies literally, but Rocketman leans into the fiction more, embracing the camp and blossoming into an outright musical, with characters often breaking into song and dance. If you love these songs, then you’ll adore those moments — and who doesn’t love these songs? Rated R. 121 minutes. Regal Stadium 14 and Violet Crown. (Robert Ker)
2.5 chiles - THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2
Picking up where the original 2016 film left off, this sequel centers on a terrier named Max (Patton Oswalt, doing replacement voice duty after Louis C.K. was dropped). Max is still living happily in New York City with his owner, Katie (Ellie Kemper). But suddenly, everything changes: Katie gets married and has a baby. The baby becomes a toddler, and Max feels he must protect the child from everything. On a trip to the country, Max meets Rooster (Harrison Ford), a cattle dog who disdains him. Oswalt’s voice work is outstanding and most of the movie’s jokes land solidly, but it feels less like a compelling, full-length feature than like three decent short films, each of which is only vaguely related to the other, and all of which exist merely to get from one joke to the next. Rated PG. 86 minutes. Screens in 2D at Regal Santa Fe 6 and Regal Stadium 14. (Kristen Page-Kirby/The Washington Post)
2.5 chiles - SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME
After Iron Man (spoiler alert!) died at the end of Avengers: Endgame, Marvel Studios had a massive void to fill, and did so by making Spider-Man (Tom Holland) into Iron Man, with all of the technology, global threats, and relationships with Stark Industries’ Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson) that such a distinction implies. In the process, the film strays too far from the web-slinging, New York-living, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, ending up in a mess of half-baked ideas and excessive CGI effects. Peter Parker (Spidey’s alter-ego) is sent on a school trip to Europe, where the villain Mysterio (a note-perfect Jake Gyllenhaal) shows up among a series of grandiose illusions — some of which are great fun. The jokes are hit and (mostly) miss, but the subplot with Parker and Mary Jane (Zendaya) offers the sweetest romantic core of any Marvel movie. They should have focused on these basic elements — cramming everything into a massive, multi-movie Marvel universe is starting to feel more like a curse than a blessing. Rated PG-13. 129 minutes. Rated PG-13. 129 minutes. Screens in 2D only at Regal Santa Fe 6, Regal Stadium 14, and Violet Crown. (Robert Ker)
THE THIRD WIFE
This debut feature by Ash Mayfair is a story about female
subjugation, set in 19th-century Vietnam, centering on a teenage girl named May (Nguyen Phuong Tra My) who becomes the third wife of a wealthy landowner (Le Vu Long) in a rural area. She navigates her relationships with the other two wives (Tran Nu Yên-Khê and Mai Thu Huong Maya), knowing that the one to provide him with sons will be the one he favors. Rated R. 96 minutes. In Vietnamese with subtitles. Jean Cocteau Cinema. (Not reviewed)
3 chiles -TOY STORY 4
The latest chapter in the Toy Story franchise centers on the cowboy Woody (Tom Hanks), who is feeling less needed under the care of his new owner, a child named Bonnie (voiced by Madeleine McGraw). When Bonnie crafts a beloved homemade toy named Forky (Tony Hale), Woody feels obligated to protect poor Forky at all costs. This is tested when, on a family trip, Forky winds up trapped in an antique store lorded over by a vintage doll named Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) and her delightfully creepy ventriloquist-dummy henchmen. The plan is on to spring Forky, but will this give Woody the contentment he craves? Pixar Animation once more offers a movie that is gorgeous to look at, but the plot lacks the weight of earlier installments, which is especially glaring in light of the perfect send-off the characters received in 2010’s Toy Story 3. Fans of Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) may be disappointed by lack of screentime, but new characters voiced by Keanu Reeves and comedy duo Key and Peele steal the show. This is the least involving of the Toy Story films, but only because their benchmark is so high. Rated G. 100 minutes. Screens in 2D at Regal Santa Fe 6, Regal Stadium 14, and Violet Crown. (Robert Ker)
2 chiles - YESTERDAY
This truly strange picture by director Danny Boyle tells the story of Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), a struggling songwriter who gets a big break when a strange phenomenon causes the entire world (aside from him) to forget that The Beatles existed. With all traces of the band gone, Jack passes the Fab Four’s songs off as his own — first unwittingly, and gradually with more purpose. The premise could have gone in any number of interesting directions (foremost among them: can you separate Beatles’ songs from the band’s era, and would the tunes be rapturously received by a person of Asian-African descent in 2019?). Instead, the story follows a formulaic rom-com path — as Jack’s renown as the world’s greatest songwriter grows, he risks losing the one woman (Lily James) who believed in him back when he was trying to write his own material. Fortunately, the music is superb, several of the jokes land, a surprise scene near the end delights, and the supporting acting is winsome — Kate McKinnon steals the show as an aggressive manager and Ed Sheeran is on hand to make fun of himself. It’s just a very bizarre use of Beatles’ license, and a wasted opportunity. Rated PG-13. 116 minutes. Regal Stadium 14 and Violet Crown. (Robert Ker)
PERFORMANCE AND OTHER SCREENINGS
Jean Cocteau Cinema
▼ The Cure—Anniversary 1978-2018: Live in Hyde Park.
▼ 7 p.m. Sunday, July 14: the Noir Series presents Double Indemnity (1944).
▼ 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 17: the Immigration Series presents Brooklyn (2015).
▼ 9:30 a.m. Saturday, July 13: the Southside “Around the World” Summer Series presents Whale Rider (2002). No charge.
▼ Echo in the Canyon.
▼ 7:10 p.m. and 7:40 p.m. Wednesday, July 17: Between Me and My Mind.