Aquarela

The staggering power of water and the impacts of climate change are on view in Aquarela, at Center for Contemporary Arts

OPENING THIS WEEK

 

ABOMINABLE

This animated adventure by writer and director Jill Culton centers on a teenager in Shanghai named Yi (voiced by Chloe Bennet) whose ho-hum life is shaken up when a Yeti with magic powers appears on her rooftop. She and her friends attempt to bring it back to its home on Mount Everest, with the aid of a zoologist (Sarah Paulson). In hot pursuit of them is a wealthy man (Eddie Izzard) who wishes to own a Yeti. Animated family film, 97 minutes, rated PG, screens in 3D and 2D at Regal Stadium 14, screens in 2D at Regal Santa Fe 6 and Violet Crown. (Not reviewed)

 

AQUARELA 

Water is the subject of this documentary by Russian filmmaker Viktor Kossakovsky, which attempts to show the element in all its power. In this nearly wordless film, he captures icebergs and waterfalls, hurricanes and floods, to convey how terrifying and dangerous water can be, even as it is also beautiful and majestic. The band Apocalyptica offers instrumental metal as the score. Documentary, 89 minutes, rated PG; in English, Russian, and Spanish with subtitles, Center for Contemporary Arts. (Not reviewed)

 

JUDY

Renée Zellweger stars as Judy Garland in director Rupert Goold’s adaptation of Peter Quilter’s play End of the Rainbow. The story focuses on Garland in the final months of her life, with her career on the wane as she attempts to restore her reputation and finances while battling for custody of her children (Bella Ramsey and Lewin Lloyd) with her ex-husband, Sidney Luft (Rufus Sewell). These depictions of dark times are shown in contrast to flashbacks that explore her childhood ascension to stardom. Biopic, 118 minutes, rated PG-13, Violet Crown. (Not reviewed)

 

ZEROVILLE 

Comedy/drama, 96 minutes, rated R, Jean Cocteau Cinema. See review.

NOW IN THEATERS

 

AD ASTRA

In a mesmerizing performance, Brad Pitt forms the gravitational center of a film that takes its place in the firmament of science fiction films by fearlessly quoting classics of the genre. Fans of First Man will appreciate its rattling opening sequence, when Space Command major Roy McBride (Pitt) hurtles through near-space while building the world’s largest antenna. Anyone familiar with Apocalypse Now will recognize the artistic DNA of Roy’s journey when he is assigned to travel to Neptune to retrieve a rogue astronaut (Tommy Lee Jones), who just happens to be his father. Admirers of such mournful meditations as Gravity will understand Roy’s somber reflections on grief and loss as he encounters feelings he has compartmentalized for most of his life. With so many references swirling around its atmosphere, Ad Astra skirts dangerously close to being derivative. But in the capable hands of writer-director James Gray, it becomes its own sturdy, unflashy example of speculative filmmaking that is less interested in whiz-bang special effects and otherworldly creatures than in enduring philosophical questions about what we take with us — or heedlessly throw away — on the technological and existential journeys we call progress. Science fiction, 122 minutes, rated PG-13, Regal Santa Fe 6, Regal Stadium 14, and Violet Crown. (Ann Hornaday/The Washington Post)

 

 

ANGEL HAS FALLEN

Those who stand to squeeze even more money from a franchise that has already earned nearly $376 million at the worldwide box office (for Olympus Has Fallen and London Has Fallen) surely thought a third movie was a good idea. That means we get to sit through another chapter in the adventures of Mike Banning, a Secret Service agent code-named Angel, and played by Gerard Butler as an indiscriminate macho man. As the film opens, Banning is suffering from PTSD and abusing pain pills. He’s on the verge of hanging up his earpiece, yet, predictably, he’s also about to earn a promotion to head up the Secret Service. During an assassination attempt that leaves the president (Morgan Freeman) in a coma, every member of the presidential security detail is killed — except Banning. Our hero is accused of planning the attack. What follows are perfunctory twists and turns that any attentive viewer will spot from a mile away. Here’s the real mystery: How does an $80 million movie end up looking so low-rent? Action, 120 minutes, rated R, Regal Stadium 14. (Hau Chu/The Washington Post)

 

 

BECOMING NOBODY

The former Harvard psychologist Richard Alpert, through a series of galvanizing influences beginning with the psilocybin he discovered with Timothy Leary in the early ‘60s, transformed himself into Baba Ram Dass (“Servant of God”): spiritual seeker, Eastern philosopher, and guru. Ram Dass describes our physical equipment as a “spacesuit” into which we’re stuffed at birth, something separate from the inner person that we really are. Toward the end of the film, as he focuses more on the end of life, Ram Dass uses a different metaphor: death, he suggests, is like “taking off a tight shoe.” From birth, he says, we’re subjected to “somebody training” to form our personalities, and it’s as a reaction against this that he is working on “becoming nobody.” It’s a concept that might seem a bit disingenuous from a celebrity lecturer and the subject of a documentary. You don’t have to believe all of his insights, and he probably wouldn’t want you to, but it’s engaging and sometimes inspiring to listen to them. Drama, 81 minutes, not rated, Center for Contemporary Arts. (Jonathan Richards)

 

BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON

Brittany (Jillian Bell) is joking her way through a rut. Her heart rate and blood pressure are high, and so her doctor recommends that she lose around 50 pounds. For Brittany, who sleeps until noon and drinks all night, this would require her to change her entire life. But she does, one step at a time, and soon she is training to run the New York City Marathon. Writer and director Paul Downs Colaizzo focuses less on the challenge of running than on the psychological barriers that impede physical achievement. As Brittany nears her goals, she lashes out more and more against those who seem to affirm her self-worth. Her knee-jerk self-deprecation often feels punishing not only to the character but also to the audience. Bell imbues Brittany with humanity and wit, but all too frequently she is working within the framework of a story that seems hellbent on robbing her character of joy. And while there are references to bodies being beautiful at all sizes, there’s no suggestion that Brittany’s mental health might benefit from the same attention given to her physical health. Comedy, 104 minutes, rated R, Regal Stadium 14 and Violet Crown (Teo Bugbee/The New York Times)

 

COLD CASE HAMMARSKJÖLD

In this unsettling, slippery documentary, viewers are led down a vertiginous path to the mercenary underside of global realpolitiks. The titular protagonist is Dag Hammarskjöld, the secretary-general of the United Nations who died in a plane crash in 1961, in what was then northern Rhodesia. Although it was ruled an accident, several observers noted the suspicious circumstances of his death, including how convenient it was for certain political and corporate factions. Filmmaker Mads Brügger reexamines the episode, returning to the place where the remains of Hammarskjöld’s plane were buried and following an investigator named Göran Björkdahl down a rabbit hole that ends with a pretty convincing case that the U.N. leader was murdered. But Brügger doesn’t stop there: The rabbit hole leads him into even more disturbing areas that have disquieting relevance to modern-day life, from medical epidemics to the equally fatal contagions of white supremacy and militarism. Funny, provocative, and chilling, Cold Case Hammarskjöld draws the viewer into that helix. It’s impossible to emerge from this film without being shaken to your core. Documentary, 128 minutes, not rated, Center for Contemporary Arts. (Ann Hornaday/Washington Post)

 

DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD

The animated TV series Dora the Explorer has, for eight seasons, been a bilingual cash cow for Nickelodeon. Spinning the adventures of an intrepid 6-year-old Latina girl into a movie could have been a way for Dora — known for going on quests and solving problems with little more than a monkey, a talking backpack, and a map — to seek out a new frontier. In the film, young Dora (Madelyn Miranda) lives in a jungle with her cousin Diego (Malachi Barton) and her parents (Michael Peña and Eva Longoria), two professors who have been searching for an Incan city. Ten years later, Dora’s parents are ready to head to Peru for the final push of their search, and the heroine (Isabela Moner) is sent to live with Diego in Los Angeles. Dora and Diego (Jeff Wahlberg) are kidnapped, and it seems that the bad guys want to use Dora to track down her parents, so it’s back to the jungle they go. Dora’s oblivious cheerfulness makes her wonderfully out of place in the big-city high school. But the movie’s tone is all over the map. Comedy, 102 minutes, rated PG, Regal Santa Fe 6 and Regal Stadium 14. (Kristen Page-Kirby/The Washington Post)

 

DOWNTON ABBEY

Set in the 1910s and 1920s at a fictional English estate, the TV show Downton Abbey centered on the esteemed Crawley family and their scores of domestic servants, as they all attempt to keep the massive estate afloat and shipshape in a rapidly modernizing England. Now, the movie arrives as a feature-length coda to the series. The extraordinary ensemble cast — along with the steady hand of creator and writer Julian Fellowes — almost entirely return for the film, which finds the characters in 1927, with the events of the series finale receding into the past. The quotidian life on the estate continues as usual, until the family receives a letter informing them that King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) are stopping in for an overnight visit. This news has everyone in a tizzy, although the staffers downstairs — including mainstays Thomas (Robert James-Collier), Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan), and Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) — are affected far more profoundly than the family upstairs, since they are the ones who must cook, clean, organize, and contend with the royal family’s traveling staff. That is the extent of the central plot, and the movie is well-served by its simplicity; Fellowes is allowed to devote himself to sprinkling the story with small moments that are delightful, letting each character warm the hearts of everyone who spent six years getting to know them. Drama, rated PG, 122 minutes, Regal Santa Fe 6, Regal Stadium 14, and Violet Crown. (Robert Ker)

 

FAST & FURIOUS PRESENTS: HOBBS & SHAW

A spin-off of the popular action franchise The Fast and the Furious featuring two of its recurring characters — Dwayne Johnson’s lawman Luke Hobbs and Jason Statham’s mercenary Deckard Shaw — this film is far from prestige fare. It’s also pretty funny and watchable, in just enough measure to counteract its unabashedly far-fetched plot, which pairs Hobbs, a straight-arrow agent on loan to the CIA, with Shaw, a disgraced former member of the British military, to apprehend an MI6 agent (Vanessa Kirby) who is believed to have absconded with a “programmable bioweapon.” This is complicated by the fact that a cybernetically enhanced supervillain (Idris Elba) also wants the weapon. Hobbs & Shaw works best if you don’t just come in blind, but if you lower all your expectations. Action, 135 minutes, rated PG-13, Regal Stadium 14. (Michael O’Sullivan/The Washington Post)

  

HUSTLERS

In a year of spectacular comebacks, none is as purely, sensationally pleasurable as Jennifer Lopez’s commanding lead performance in this sexually charged caper flick that bumps, grinds and pays giddy homage to sisterhood and shameless venality with equally admiring brio. She plays Ramona, a dancer at a Manhattan strip club who in 2007 takes a newbie named Destiny (Constance Wu) under her protective wing. Ramona not only tutors her charge in how to perform a proper pole dance but, eventually, in how to fleece privileged white guys whose impunity and vanity make them as vulnerable as the most naïve rubes from the sticks. Adapted by writer-director Lorene Scafaria from a New York magazine article about a similar scam perpetrated by a group of dancers at the New York club Scores, Hustlers is a funny, naughty, enormously entertaining kick in the pants, promising to be an East Coast Showgirls, only to wind up a girls-rule Goodfellas. Drama, 109 minutes, rated R, Regal Santa Fe 6, Regal Stadium 14, and Violet Crown. (Ann Hornaday/The Washington Post)

 

IT: CHAPTER TWO

Director Andy Muschietti attempts to honor everyone involved, including Stephen King, author of the 1986 novel It, so the movie is like a game of musical chairs that runs too long. And since Muschietti has few scare tactics at his disposal, the film loses its capacity to frighten. You will recall that in the first film, the Losers Club defeated Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), a demonic spirit that can take many forms but prefers that of a demented clown. Twenty-seven years later, in 2016, only Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) remembers what happened. Like a bad nightmare, the rest of the members barely recall that period in their young lives. But Pennywise is on the prowl again, hunting children and other vulnerable people, and Mike contacts the rest of the Losers and asks them to return to Derry, Maine. Now that they’re older, there are fewer lessons for them to learn, so Chapter Two takes them back to a childlike state. Romantic subplots are indelicate, and shared grief arrives with less gravitas. The cumulative effect is downright maudlin, which is not what you might expect from a film with gallons of blood and other bodily fluids. Horror, 169 minutes, rated R, Regal Santa Fe 6, Regal Stadium 14, and Violet Crown. (Alan Zilberman/The Washington Post)

 

LINDA RONSTADT: THE SOUND OF MY VOICE

With the recent announcement that Linda Ronstadt would be a 2019 Kennedy Center honoree, this affectionate documentary portrait makes for a timely opportunity to recall why the 73-year-old singer (who retired from performing in 2009 because of Parkinson’s disease) is getting the award, as evidenced by the many performance clips and the expected parade of laudatory reminiscences from the likes of Jackson Browne, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Bonnie Raitt, and J.D. Souther. The film also reminds us how outspoken Ronstadt was, and is, about her liberal views. If there’s one drawback to The Sound of My Voice, it’s that Ronstadt herself declined to sit down with the film’s directors, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, for interviews that might have showcased more of such frank talk. Instead, she merely narrates the film, delivering a somewhat unspontaneous sounding, disembodied voice-over that carries us from her childhood in Tucson to her stellar career in Los Angeles. Documentary, 95 minutes, rated PG-13, The Screen and Violet Crown. (Michael O’Sullivan/The Washington Post)

 

THE LION KING

There is considerable technical prowess at work in this remake of the 1994 animated film The Lion King, which replaces the cartoony visuals of the original with ultra-realistic CGI animation. The animals are so realistic, and the environments so stunning, that it often looks like a nature documentary. Unfortunately, the animals look so real that they struggle to convey any emotion or personality. The story centers on a young lion named Simba (voiced by JD McCrary as a cub and Donald Glover as an adult) who must face the evil Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) after Scar kills his father (James Earl Jones) and exiles him. Nearly every beat of this plot replicates the 1994 film, and many shots from the original movie are recreated exactly. Coupled with the less-evocative characters, this makes for a boring experience, if one that’s beautiful to look at. Family movie, 118 minutes, rated PG, screens in 2D only at Regal Stadium 14. (Robert Ker)

 

MILES DAVIS: BIRTH OF THE COOL

This documentary takes viewers through the life and career of jazz legend Miles Davis. It was a turbulent ride. On the one hand, he was one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century who recorded classic albums in a host of styles, from Steamin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet to Bitches Brew. On the other, he was by all accounts an unpleasant person, who struggled with drugs and treated women poorly. This film takes an honest look at both aspects of the man. Documentary, 115 minutes, not rated, The Screen. (Not reviewed)

 

OFFICIAL SECRETS

In 2003, Katherine Gun (Keira Knightley) was working as a translator for British intelligence when she became privy to correspondence indicating that the United States and the United Kingdom were conspiring to blackmail other countries in the U.N. Security Council into supporting an invasion of Iraq. The information made it into the press, Gun admitted that she was the leaker, and she was eventually tried under the country’s Official Secrets Act. Directed with workmanlike efficiency by Gavin Hood, Official Secrets revisits Gun’s story with an emphasis on the alternately clubby and labyrinthine institutions she came up against, as well as the emotional damage she incurred when she made a decision that some viewed as heroic and others saw as a betrayal. Although Knightley’s Gun often seems to be a passive figure, the film’s honesty about the enormous personal costs of whistleblowing is a welcome relief from more romanticized heroics, and it uses the recent past to invite viewers to interrogate our present and, more specifically, ask what they’re willing to risk to prevent a disastrous future. Drama, 111 minutes, rated R, Violet Crown. (Ann Hornaday/The Washington Post)

  

ONCE UPON A TIME … IN HOLLYWOOD

The most nuanced movie in Quentin Tarantino’s oeuvre, Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood finds the filmmaker utilizing exceptional art direction and sketching crisscrossing stories across 1969-era Tinseltown. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Rick Dalton, a past-his-prime actor who spirals through decreasingly attractive job opportunities in search of his mojo. The eternally cool Brad Pitt plays Cliff Booth, his stunt double, a man content as a sidekick close in orbit to Dalton’s stardom. This delightful depiction of male friendship finds minor conflict when Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and husband Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) move next door to Dalton, drawing the cult led by Charles Manson (Damon Herriman) near. Unlike many Tarantino films, there is no heist to score, no villain to vanquish, and the relaxed nature of the plot suits the director, who is allowed to invest himself deeply in the individual scenes and subvert expectations at every turn. Drama, 161 minutes, rated R, Violet Crown. (Robert Ker)

 

OVERCOMER

This faith-based drama centers on John Harrison (Alex Kendrick), a basketball coach in a small town who struggles when a local factory closes and many in the community are forced to move away. He reluctantly becomes the coach of the cross-country running team, and through prayer and hope, he puts his life back together and helps one of his athletes (Aryn Wright-Thompson) achieve heights that neither of them expected. Drama, 120 minutes, rated PG, Regal Stadium 14. (Not reviewed)

 

RAISE HELL: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MOLLY IVINS

This documentary takes a thorough, if traditional, look at the Texas-born, Smith College-educated writer Molly Ivins’ life and career and includes interviews with her siblings, colleagues, friends, and such media celebrities as Dan Rather and Rachel Maddow. But it is when Ivins herself opens her mouth that the film is at its best. Whenever the movie presents archival clips from old interviews and lectures, Ivins, who died in 2007 from breast cancer, comes alive. When she herself is on the screen, she makes for the best company for whom you could wish, and it’s easy to understand how the politicians she covered, on both sides of the aisle, liked to spend time with her. Of course, those times were often spent drinking, and the film doesn’t shy away from talking about Ivins’ well-known alcoholism, or her belief that there is no such thing as objectivity in journalism, as long as you let the reader know where you stand. It’s not hard to see why we might need to be reminded of a voice like Ivins’ again. With free speech under attack, and truth-telling seemingly in short supply, Raise Hell offers an entertaining and bracing look at one of journalism’s least punch-pulling practitioners. Documentary, 93 minutes, not rated, Center for Contemporary Arts. (Michael O’Sullivan/The Washington Post)

 

RAMBO: LAST BLOOD

Anyone familiar with any of the four previous films in this long-running franchise will barely recognize Rambo in this latest installment. Sylvester Stallone once again plays the Vietnam vet battling emotional, psychological, and political challenges as he maintains his warrior vestige, but this time as an Arizona cowboy who takes on a Mexican crime cartel after they kidnap his niece. (Who knew Rambo had a niece, or even a sibling?) Repulsive action sequences follow with a lot of bad things happening to both bad and good people. It’s grindhouse cinema at its worse, despite the occasional moment of humanity and dark humor. Action, 89 minutes, rated R, Regal Stadium 14 and Violet Crown. (Robert Nott)

 

SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK

This adaption of the children’s horror book series centers on a small town in 1968 and the kids who live there. One young girl in particular (Kathleen Pollard) has an axe to grind. She writes a book of scary stories that soon manifest themselves as creepy scarecrows, bloated hospital patients, and similarly sinister forces, which become unleashed on the locals. Horror, 111 minutes, rated PG-13, Regal Stadium 14. (Not reviewed)

 

TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID

This mix of social realism and magical realism by writer-director Issa López centers on a girl named Estrella (Paola Lara) who comes home one day to find her mother has disappeared. She quickly falls in with a survivalist group led by the small but tough-talking El Shine (Juan Ramón López), a boy who has come into possession of a pistol and a cell phone, the latter containing a video that incriminates a cartel thug (Ianis Guerrero) and a corrupt politician (Tenoch Huerta). But the contours of the story do not follow the path you might think. Yes, the children are pursued. There are ghosts, too, and a talking stuffed animal. And a trickle of blood follows them, quite literally, from one scene to the next. López elicits solid performances from the young actors, and her vision is clear and uncompromising. It isn’t always obvious, however, what the moral of this story is. Horror, 83 minutes, not rated, in Spanish with subtitles, Jean Cocteau Cinema. (Michael O’Sullivan/The Washington Post)

 

PERFORMANCE AND OTHER SCREENINGS

Lensic Performing Arts Center

▼  7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29: Great Art on Screen presents Tintoretto: A Rebel in Venice.

▼  7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 30: National Theatre Live in HD presents One Man, Two Guvnors.

 

Regal Stadium 14

▼  7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 28, and Wednesday, Oct. 2: Friends 25th: The One With the Anniversary.

▼  7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1: The Shining (1980).

 

The Screen

▼  3 p.m. Friday through Sunday, Sept. 27-29: Say Amen, Somebody (1982).

 

Violet Crown

▼  11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 28: Water Lilies by Monet.

▼  11 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 29: Cyrano de Bergerac.

▼  2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29: Snoopy, Come Home (1972).

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