Dark Phoenix

Splintered reality: Evan Peters and Sophie Turner in Dark Phoenix, at Regal Santa Fe 6, Regal Stadium 14, and Violet Crown

OPENING THIS WEEK

ALL IS TRUE

Kenneth Branagh has starred in and directed many of William Shakespeare’s plays; in this film, which he also directs, he plays the Bard himself. It’s 1613, and the Globe Theatre has just burned down. Shakespeare retreats to Stratford-upon-Avon with his wife, Anne Hathaway (Judi Dench), with his sights on retirement. As he faces down this final chapter in his life, he comes to terms with how he’s treated the women around him. Ian McKellen plays Shakespeare’s patron, the Earl of Southampton. Rated PG-13. 101 minutes. Center for Contemporary Arts. (Not reviewed)

 

ASAKO I & II

This Japanese romance centers on Asako (Erika Karata), a young woman in Osaka, who falls in love with a man named Baku (Masahiro Higashide). One day, Baku disappears without a trace. Years later, Asako moves to Tokyo and gets a job in a coffee shop. She meets a young man named Ryohei (also Higashide), who looks exactly like Baku but is much more mild mannered. When Baku returns to her life, now a famous heartthrob, she must choose between the two men. Not rated. 119 minutes. In Japanese with subtitles. Jean Cocteau Cinema. (Not reviewed)

 

DARK PHOENIX

This final installment of 20th Century Fox’s take on the X-Men film franchise — before Disney, the property’s new owners, presumably scraps everything and folds it into the Marvel Cinematic Universe — adapts one of the comic book’s most-iconic stories. In it, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) is possessed by a cosmic force that gives her incredible powers, but she also has an evil side. Heroes and villains including Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) realize the threat she poses and try to prevent her dark potential from being realized. Rated PG-13. 113 minutes. Screens in 3D and 2D at Regal Stadium 14. Screens in 2D at Santa Fe 6 and Violet Crown. (Not reviewed)  

 

2.5 chiles - THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2

Rated PG. 86 minutes. Screens in 3D and 2D at Regal Stadium 14. Screens in 2D at Santa Fe 6 and Violet Crown. See review.

 

THE SERENGETI RULES

This documentary traverses the globe and introduces viewers to a small group of scientists who, beginning in the 1960s, explored far corners of the Earth to discover links in the way that nature works in disparate environments and ecosystems. Now in the twilight of their careers, they share details of their lives and describe what they’ve learned along the way. Not rated. 84 minutes. The Screen. (Not reviewed)

 

3.5 chiles -VAN GOGH & JAPAN 

Not rated. 85 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 — with an almost entirely non-white cast to boot. What it doesn’t seem to have is 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 (a blue-skinned 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. The cast members are likeable (particularly Scott), yet they struggle to elevate the material beyond a mechanical shift through the paces. Director Guy Ritchie applies little of the hip, kinetic action that earned him his reputation and 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 3D and 2D at Regal Stadium 14 and Violet Crown. Screens in 2D only at Regal Santa Fe 6. (Robert Ker)

 

3 chiles - AVENGERS: ENDGAME

Less a movie and more a victory lap combined with a curtain call, this epic adventure serves as a sequel to 2018’s superior Avengers: Infinity War and a capper to more than 10 years of Marvel movies. In this climactic installment, an array of superheroes — but primarily Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) — square off against the villain Thanos (Josh Brolin), who wiped out half of all living creatures in Infinity War. The final hour delivers all that fans could ask for, but any non-fans remaining in the universe are better off watching literally anything else. Unfortunately, the film’s first hour is rather dreary and meanders for too long, and the middle third is weighed down by a time-travel subplot — never a good sign — that only works in fits and starts. The plot is a whole bunch of nonsense, but that’s beside the point. Laughs will be shared, tears will be shed, and box office records will be broken. Your favorite characters will get a moment or two in the spotlight, and you’ll feel satisfied, if perhaps a bit befuddled and overwhelmed. Rated PG-13. 181 minutes. Screens in 2D only at Regal Stadium 14 and Violet Crown. (Robert Ker)

 

4 chiles - BE NATURAL: THE UNTOLD STORY OF ALICE GUY-BLACHÉ

Alice Guy-Blaché was a pioneer of cinema, the first female filmmaker, the first filmmaker to recognize the potential of the technology to accomplish more than simply recording daily life. She was the first to make a narrative film (The Cabbage Fairy, 1896) and one of the early innovators in sync sound and color, long before Al Jolsen declared “You ain’t heard nothin’ yet!” That she is largely unknown today is a scandal. She began as a secretary to French inventor Léon Gaumont, quickly seized the opportunity to direct, and ultimately made over 1,000 films in France and America. Director Pamela B. Green has created a visually lively presentation and has done a thrilling job of research and detective work, tracking down family members; unearthing lost troves of celluloid, letters, and other memorabilia; and putting together a fascinating portrait of a true giant of the cinema. If you’re a movie buff, this may be one of the most exciting movies you’ll see this year. And it should do its part to ensure that Alice Guy-Blaché is, in the words of the current New York Times revisionist obituary series, overlooked no more. 103 minutes. In English and some French with subtitles. Jean Cocteau Cinema. (Jonathan Richards)

 

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 over-long promotional video. The Chesters left their lives in Los Angeles behind to found Apricot Lane Farms in Moorpark, California, with the help of farm expert Alan York. Using an experimental biodiversity model based on biomimicry, they successfully rejuvenated 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 of 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; Violet Crown. (Michael Abatemarco)

 

3.5 chiles - BOOKSMART

In this twist on the Superbad formula, Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein play two intelligent feminist besties who, on the eve of their high school graduation, realize that they should have studied less and partied more. The pair attempt to make up for four years of lost time with one big blowout, which finds them on the unforgettable trail of raunchy adventures at numerous parties. Along the way, they cross paths with a number of friends, enemies, and frenemies, with romantic potential coming and going without ever lingering too long in the foreground. Actress Olivia Wilde, in her directorial debut, takes her time in getting the film’s momentum going, but once familiarity and affection for the characters settle in, the ride becomes breezy, charming, and often funny. Like many of the best high school films, it conjures a time when you didn’t know anything but thought you knew everything, when you faced a vibrant future while also bidding farewell to friends and acquaintances that you didn’t realize you cared so much about. Rated R. 102 minutes. Regal Stadium 14 and Violet Crown. (Robert Ker)

 

2 chiles - GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS

Despite featuring two of cinema’s biggest stars (literally), Warner Bros.’ budding MonsterVerse — a franchise built around the characters of Godzilla and King Kong — hasn’t gotten a lot of fanfare. This, despite the fact that 2014’s Godzilla, a reboot of the classic monster story, earned nearly $530 million at the box office and was generally well received, save for some quibbles about the human story. Five years later, you might expect the sequel, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, to have addressed those concerns. Does it come out roaring — a balanced mix of fire-breathing action and story that moves you, efficiently, from one kaiju bout to the next? Unfortunately, Monsters tries a little too hard to correct course from what some saw as its predecessor’s flaws. The movie does not roar, but rather emits only a serviceable yelp. Rated PG-13. 131 minutes. Screens in 3D and 2D at Regal Stadium 14. Screens in 2D only at Regal Santa Fe 6 and Violet Crown. (Hau Chu/The Washington Post)

 

THE HUSTLE

This loose remake of the 1988 comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels flips the gender of the two leads, casting Rebel Wilson as Lonnie, a small-time grifter who meets Josephine (Anne Hathaway), a high-class con artist. Josephine takes the uncouth Lonnie under her wing and attempts to refine her tastes and teach her skills. As Lonnie grows more savvy, if not more suave, the two form a partnership to take down the men who did them wrong. Rated PG-13. 94 minutes. Regal Stadium 14. (Not reviewed)

 

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. The John Wick movies are a vibe, and series director Chad Stahelski coats it with a visual veneer that’s far more sumptuous and stylish than the material requires. Rated R. 130 minutes. Regal Santa Fe 6, Regal Stadium 14, and Violet Crown. (Robert Ker)

 

MA

Octavia Spencer plays the villain in this horror movie about a lonely, socially awkward woman (Spencer) who finds a modicum of acceptance when a group of teenagers befriend her. Initially, they use her to buy them beer and let them party at her house, but they eventually accept her into their circle, even giving her the nickname “Ma.” The attention flatters the unhinged Ma, who soon develops an unhealthy, and eventually murderous, attachment to the kids. Rated R. 99 minutes. Regal Stadium 14 and Violet Crown. (Not reviewed)

 

chile - POKÉMON: DETECTIVE PIKACHU

A video game is what Detective Pikachu, directed by Rob Letterman, is based on, but its sense of cinematic history extends at least to 1988 and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, to which it owes a debt. Tim (Justice Smith) has a deep-seated dislike for Pokémon creatures, just as Bob Hoskins’ private eye did for ‘toons in Roger Rabbit. That aversion is tested when he teams up with Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), his father’s detecting partner, after the father appears to have been killed in an accident. The narrative seems designed to be followed by even those with the shortest attention spans; plot points get repeated in case you’ve decided to look down to send a text message; and the imagery lacks weight and texture. This is 1 hour and 44 minutes of Pikachu short-circuiting your brain. Rated PG. 104 minutes. Screens in 2D only at Regal Stadium 14. (Ben Kenigsberg/The New York Times)

 

3 chiles - ROCKETMAN

This biopic of Elton John (played by Taron Egerton) follows shortly on the heels of 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody, of which it has been extensively compared, and for good reason. Whether centering on Elton John or Freddie Mercury, both movies are directed by Dexter Fletcher (who stepped in for Bryan Singer on Rhapsody) and are winsome crowd pleasers that follow very 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. Despite the Xeroxed plot, an extended time in the protagonist’s dark period, and a strangely conservative depiction of monogamy as the only true path to happiness, the movies are actually quite different. Bohemian Rhapsody was a clunky movie elevated by Rami Malek’s portrayal of Freddie 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 very literally, but Rocketman leans into the fiction more, embracing the camp and blossoming into an outright musical, with characters often breaking into joyous 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 Santa Fe 6, Regal Stadium 14, and Violet Crown. (Robert Ker)

 

2 chiles - THE WHITE CROW

The third feature from director Ralph Fiennes follows famed dancer Rudolf Nureyev from his birth on a trans-Siberian train, through his youth in the poverty-stricken city of Ufa and his ballet training in Leningrad, to his defection from the Soviet Union at a Paris airport in 1961. But Fiennes biopic, while occasionally reaching high notes, particularly in its too few dance sequences, suffers from a narrative structure in which the events in the life of Nureyev (convincingly portrayed by first-time actor Oleg Ivenko) are told out of sequence. The structure undermines a sense of growing tension leading up to the fateful day when he risked never seeing his family again for a newfound freedom. In the last few moments the tension becomes visceral and the stakes feel high, but it’s too little, too late. And that’s too bad considering the enlivening dance sequences, which are marked by gorgeous, enchanting color photography that stands in stark contrast to the near-monochromatic tones depicting the young dancer’s early life in Ufa. Rated R. 127 minutes. in English, Russian, and French with subtitles. The Screen. (Michael Abatemarco)

 

PERFORMANCE AND OTHER SCREENINGS

Jean Cocteau Cinema

▼  6 p.m. Friday, June 7: Bite Me.

▼  10:30 p.m. Saturday, June 8: Ghost in the Shell (1995).

▼  7 p.m. Sunday, June 9: Jackie Brown (1997).

▼  7 p.m. Tuesday, June 11: New Mexico Film Foundation

Indie Screenings.

 

Lensic Performing Arts Center

▼  7:30 p.m. Friday, June 7: St. Vincent Hospital Foundation presents 2 Hearts movie premiere. Director-producers Lance and Conrad Hool, writer Veronica Hool, and actor Adan Canto host a Q&A after the screening.

▼  7 p.m. Tuesday, June 11: National Theatre Live in HD presents The Audience

 

The Screen

▼  Okko’s Inn.

 

Violet Crown

▼  Souvenir.

▼  11 a.m. Sunday, June 9: Carmen Suite/Petrushka from Bolshoi Ballet.

▼  11 a.m. Wednesday, June 12: The Wizard of Oz (1939). Presented as part of the 2019 Free Family Film Series.

▼  7 p.m. Wednesday, June 12: Dave Chappelle’s Block Party (2004). Presented as part of the Auteurs Film Series, featuring films from Michel Gondry in June.