OPENING THIS WEEK
With Dumbo behind us and The Lion King due in July, the parade of live-action adaptations of beloved animated Disney films continues with this take on the 1992 cartoon. Director Guy Ritchie retells the story of Aladdin (Mena Massoud), a street urchin who meets the princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott). She develops an interest in him but must marry a prince by law, while Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), the royal vizier, schemes to land Jasmine and the kingdom for himself. When Aladdin finds a magic lamp containing a genie (a blue-skinned Will Smith), it helps the young lad win the princess and defeat Jafar. Rated PG. 128 minutes. Screens in 3D and 2D at Regal Stadium 14, Violet Crown. Screens in 2D only at Regal Santa Fe 6. (Not reviewed)
In this feminine twist on the Superbad formula, Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein play two best friends who, on the eve of their high school graduation, realize that they should have studied less and partied more. They attempt to make up for four years of industriousness with one big blowout, which finds them on an unforgettable evening of raunchy adventures. Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow, and Jason Sudeikis play the adults in the room. Actress Olivia Wilde makes her directorial debut. Rated R. 102 minutes. Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown. (Not reviewed)
This sci-fi movie blends the superhero genre with horror, telling the story of an alien kid (Jackson A. Dunn) who crashes down near a small town in America. He is adopted by a couple (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman), who realize, as he grows, that he possesses superpowers. It is there, however, that this bad seed departs from the Superman mythology, as his impulses are murderous, and with his powers, he’s seemingly unstoppable. James Gunn (director of Guardians of the Galaxy) co-produced this film, which was written by his brother Brian and cousin Mark, and directed by David Yarovesky. Rated R. 91 minutes. Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown. (Not reviewed)
Germany and the Soviet Union gather for this miniature summit, which finds Mikhail Gorbachev, the final Soviet president, sitting down with German filmmaker Werner Herzog (who co-directs along with Andre Singer). In this conversation, which is interspersed with archival footage, Herzog guides Gorbachev through a telling of his life and career, complete with the high points and the regrets. Not rated. 90 minutes. Center for Contemporary Arts. (Not reviewed)
WALKING ON WATER
This documentary introduces viewers to Christo, the Bulgarian artist famous for making large-scale environmental installations along with his wife, Jeanne-Claude, and then solo after her 2009 death. The film focuses on Floating Piers, his first project without Jeanne-Claude (although they conceived it together in 1970). The work involves floating walkways installed at Lake Iseo in Italy, and this film follows him on the journey as he brings the project to life, through complicated logistics and potential danger. Not rated. 105 minutes. The Screen. (Not reviewed)
2 chiles - THE WHITE CROW
Rated R. 127 minutes. Center for Contemporary Arts. See review.
NOW IN THEATERS
3 chiles - AMAZING GRACE
In 1972, Aretha Franklin had a string of 11 straight number-one pop and R&B singles, a slew of Grammys, and more than 20 albums under her belt. This film documents the twenty-nine-year-old’s return to her gospel roots in live concerts over two nights. The result is platinum history, Amazing Grace, the biggest-selling gospel record of all time. But the accompanying documentary, directed by Sydney Pollack, was never released due to “technical problems.” With modern technology, the sound and picture issues have been overcome. There are no great revelations about the singer: It’s just Aretha, with gospel legend the Rev. James Cleveland presiding; a brief address by Aretha’s father, the Rev. James Franklin (who tenderly mops the sweat from his daughter’s face); a congregation of mostly young, hip black worshippers sporting early ’70s fashions and towering Afros; the choir singing and testifying; and people dancing in the aisles and sometimes getting literally carried away. It’s the Queen of Soul, singing her soul out with amazing grace and unearthly talent. That’s enough. Not rated. 87 minutes. Violet Crown. (Jonathan Richards)
3 chiles - ASK DR. RUTH
Dr. Ruth Westheimer is a bundle of irrepressible joy and positivity wrapped around a core of impenetrable sadness. She began life in 1928 as a Jewish girl in Hitler’s Germany. Her parents sent her off to safety in an orphanage in Switzerland, and she never saw them again.
Dr. Ruth is the diminutive German-accented therapist who rose to fame in the 1980s by breaking down taboos about sex. She began on New York radio and then branched out into television shows, guest appearances, books, and even a board game on her way to becoming a household name. It’s infectious to listen to this legend from the front lines of the sexual revolution as she cackles and twinkles and dispenses no-nonsense advice. Many people emerging from the darkness of sexual repression and gay shaming credit her for literally saving their lives. Director Ryan White follows his subject around in the weeks leading up to her 90th birthday, as she bustles out from her Washington Heights apartment and heads to public and private engagements. The movie runs a little long, and has some unfortunate animation sequences, but it’s a rewarding visit with a true original. Not rated. 100 minutes. The Screen. (Jonathan Richards)
ASK FOR JANE
The issue of reproductive rights is back in the news thanks to new legislation in several states, most notably in Alabama, and this drama arrives to take viewers back to a time before the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. The story centers on the Jane Collective, an underground network in Chicago that, at great risk of prison time, helped thousands of women obtain illegal abortions. Cait Cortelyou, Cody Horn, and Alison Wright star. Not rated. 108 minutes. Jean Cocteau Cinema. (Not reviewed)
3 chiles - AVENGERS: ENDGAME
Less a movie and more of 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 had wiped out half of all living creatures in the universe in Infinity War. The final hour delivers all that fans could ask, 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 Santa Fe 6; Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown. (Robert Ker)
4 chiles - BE NATURAL: THE UNTOLD STORY OF ALICE GUY-BLACHÉ
Alice Guy-Blaché was a pioneer of the cinema, the first female filmmaker, the first filmmaker to recognize the potential of the technology to accomplish more than simply record daily life. She was the first to make a story film (The Cabbage Fairy, 1896), and one of the innovators in sync sound and color in the early days, 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 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 is 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. Not reviewed. 103 minutes. In English and some French with subtitles. Jean Cocteau Cinema. (Jonathan Richards)
Boasting the creator (Julian Fellowes), a director (Michael Engler), and a prominent actress (Elizabeth McGovern) from the BBC’s Downton Abbey, this film centers on a young dancer (Haley Lu Richardson) in the 1920s who travels from Kansas to New York City to pursue her dreams of becoming famous. She is only allowed to do so if accompanied by a chaperone (McGovern). Far from their conservative home in America’s heartland, the two women experience separate journeys of self-discovery. Miranda Otto and Blythe Danner also star. Not rated. 103 minutes. Jean Cocteau Cinema. (Not reviewed)
2 chiles - THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA
In Mexican and borderland folklore, La Llorona is the ghost of a woman who once drowned her children. She haunts everyone she encounters, wailing for her lost babies as she searches for them. That myth is very loosely adapted for this film, which is tenuously connected to The Conjuring franchise — a cameo by series regular Father Perez (Tony Amendola) and a two-second shot of the haunted doll Annabelle about covers it. In this installment, a social worker named Anna (Linda Cardellini) realizes that La Llorona has attached itself to her in an attempt to get to her children. She turns to a disgruntled priest (Raymond Cruz) to help get rid of the ghost. The scene-setting is well done, but the film is over-reliant on jump scares, which become predictable once you have a feel for their beats. The 1970s domestic setting and fine acting by the charming Cardellini gives it a warmth that last year’s dismal The Nun lacked. A little more meat on its bones would have elevated it beyond a mere vehicle for incessant date-night frights and into the upper tier of Conjuring films. Rated R. 93 minutes. Regal Stadium 14. (Robert Ker)
A DOG’S JOURNEY
This sequel to 2017’s A Dog’s Purpose serves up another tale based on the dog-themed books by W. Bruce Cameron. The stories center on the notion that dogs possess a soul that is passed from one to the next through reincarnation, and in this film, Josh Gad once more provides the voice for that soul. At the start of the film Gad voices Bailey, the beloved pooch owned by Ethan Montgomery (Dennis Quaid). Bailey forms a bond with Ethan’s baby granddaughter CJ, but when Ethan’s daughter Gloria (Betty Gilpin) moves away, Bailey must embark on a journey through several bodies until he can reunite with her. Rated PG. 108 minutes. Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown. (Not reviewed)
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; Violet Crown. (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 the action scenes are expertly staged, inventive, and sprinkled with humor and gore, the pleasures of these films also involves 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 must fight his way out of New York City as chaos reigns 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, as all of these elements merge in exciting ways, 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; Violet Crown. (Robert Ker)
4 chiles - LONG SHOT
In this smart romantic comedy, foxy over-achiever Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) used to babysit for nerdy weirdo Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen), who clearly had a big crush on her back in the day. The two reconnect as adults when Charlotte, now the U.S. secretary of state, hires Fred, now an unemployed journalist, to personalize her speeches while she mounts a run for the presidency. The unlikely pair fly all over the globe while he crafts a new, relatable image for her. He humanizes her ice-queen persona, and she finds him to be cuddly, insightful, and loyal. But the optics of their budding love are all wrong, and the public seems to want her to consummate a flirtation with the prime minister of Canada (Alexander Skarsgård). Jonathan Levine directs a savvy script by Liz Hannah and Dan Sterling, shaping Long Shot into a spirited, absorbing farce that’s full of heart — and subversive, hilarious jokes about feminism, racial inequality, and politics. The strange chemistry between Rogen and Theron actually works, and despite a few crude trappings, an irresistible sweetness pervades. The rom-com is not dead; long live the rom-com. Rated R. 125 minutes. Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown. (Molly Boyle)
1 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 Santa Fe 6, Regal Stadium 14, Violet Crown. (Ben Kenigsberg/The New York Times)
In the 20th century, Melita Norwood was a British secretary who supplied the Soviet Union with nuclear secrets that helped the Soviets build the nuclear bomb. Author Jennie Rooney wrote a novel based on Norwood’s life in 2013, changing her name to Joan Stanley. Judi Dench stars as Stanley in this adaptation of the novel; Sophie Cookson plays her as a younger woman. The film shows how the young Stanley became radicalized and what her motivations were. Rated R. 101 minutes. Center for Contemporary Arts. (Not reviewed)
THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR
Based on the best-selling young adult novel by Nicola Yoon, this Ry Russo-Young film centers on a student of quantum physics in New York City named Natasha (Yara Shahidi), who falls for a fellow student named Daniel (Charles Melton) on the day her family faces deportation from America. With just one day together, the two must cherish every moment. Rated PG-13. 100 minutes. Regal Stadium 14. (Not reviewed)
We’ve recently had animated movies based on Troll dolls, LEGO figures, and emojis, and now here comes an animated musical featuring UglyDolls, the colorful plush toys with misshapen monster-like features. This film takes place in Uglyville, where abnormalities are celebrated. The UglyDoll Moxy (voiced by Kelly Clarkson) and her friends travel to the town of Perfection, a place where everyone is — you guessed it — perfect, and where they meet Lou (Nick Jonas), a perfection trainer, and Mandy (Janelle Monáe), a doll who is sad, despite her perfection. Together, they learn that it’s what’s inside that counts. Rated PG. 87 minutes. Regal Santa Fe 6; Regal Stadium 14. (Not reviewed)
PERFORMANCE AND OTHER SCREENINGS
Center for Contemporary Arts
▼ 7 p.m. Thursday, May 30: the Quivira Coalition presents The Biggest Little Farm.
Jean Cocteau Cinema
▼ 7 p.m. Friday, May 24: Good Omens.
▼ 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 26: The Gate: Dawn of the Baha’i Faith.
▼ 11 a.m. Sunday, May 26: La Traviata from Teatro Real in Madrid.
▼ 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 29: Dead Man (1995). Presented as part of the Auteurs Film Series, featuring films from Jim Jarmusch in May.