OPENING THIS WEEK
THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN
In the latest feel-good dog movie to hit the multiplex, Kevin Costner voices the internal monologue of Enzo, a canine who dreams of becoming a human race-car driver in his next life. Enzo absorbs considerable knowledge about driving from his caregiver, Denny (Milo Ventimiglia), a budding Formula One pro. In return, he serves as Denny’s loyal companion through thick and thin, including his courtship and marriage to Eve (Amanda Seyfried). Based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Garth Stein. Rated PG. 109 minutes. Regal Stadium 14 and Violet Crown. (Not reviewed)
In 2013, linebacker Brian Banks signed with the Atlanta Falcons. It was the final step in a long comeback for Banks; while he was a star player in high school in 2002, he was falsely accused of rape and spent the next decade in prison or on strict parole. Aldis Hodge plays Banks in this film adaptation of his ordeal, and Greg Kinnear plays his lawyer, Justin Brooks. Rated PG-13.
99 minutes. Regal Stadium 14. (Not reviewed)
DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD
The beloved Nickelodeon cartoon, in which a globe-trotting seven-year-old girl solves puzzles with the aid of a monkey sidekick named Boots, finally gets a live-action adaptation. In it, Nora is aged up to her tween years and played by Isabela Moner, and must try to fit in at high school after such a unique early childhood. When her parents disappear, however, she and Boots (voiced by Danny Trejo) must embark on a quest to find them — and discover a lost Inca civilization along the way. Rated PG. 102 minutes. Regal Santa Fe 6, Regal Stadium 14, and Violet Crown. (Not reviewed)
“I DO NOT CARE IF WE GO DOWN IN HISTORY AS BARBARIANS”
The words of this film’s title were taken from a speech delivered to the Romanian Council of Ministers in 1941, when Romania began the ethnic cleansing of the Jewish population of Odessa and surrounding towns (now known as the Odessa massacre). This metatextual black comedy by Romanian filmmaker Radu Jude uses a docudrama format to reflect on the statement, examine how we view history, and imagine how a present-day theater director might reenact the atrocities. Not rated. 140 minutes. In Romanian with subtitles. Jean Cocteau Cinema. (Not reviewed)
In this adaptation of the comic-book series, Tiffany Haddish, Melissa McCarthy, and Elisabeth Moss play wives of gangsters in 1970s New York City. When their husbands are all sent to prison, the women take up the family business. They find they have a knack for the violent side of the racket, and continue to grow the crime operations until they run the town. Domhnall Gleeson and Common also star. Rated R. 102 minutes. Regal Santa Fe 6, Regal Stadium 14. (Not reviewed)
LIGHT OF MY LIFE
Casey Affleck is the director-writer-star of this piece of speculative fiction about a pandemic that wipes out most of the world’s population of women. Affleck’s nameless hero, a single father in a rural area, must disguise his daughter (Anna Pniowsky) as a boy to help protect her, and the meat of the story concerns the bond between father and daughter. His wife (Elisabeth Moss) died in the plague and is seen in flashback. Rated R. 119 minutes. Center for Contemporary Arts. (Not reviewed)
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 with the town. 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. Rated PG-13. 111 minutes. Regal Stadium 14. (Not reviewed)
3 chiles - THE SPY BEHIND HOME PLATE
Not rated. 101 minutes. Center for Contemporary Arts. See review.
NOW IN THEATERS
Lulu Wang wrote and directed this dramedy about a young Chinese-American woman named Billi (Awkwafina) who learns that her grandmother (Zhao Shuzhen) is dying of cancer and only has a few months to live. In accordance with her family’s Chinese cultural beliefs, her whole family refuses to inform the matriarch of this diagnosis, instead flying everyone to Changchun, China, to stage a fake wedding for Billi’s cousin (Chen Han), with the understanding that it’s one last gathering around grandma — provided a conflicted Billi doesn’t spill the beans. Rated PG. 100 minutes. Violet Crown. (Not reviewed)
2.5 chiles - 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, yet more often than not, it hits that summer sweet spot between the silly and the satisfying. 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” code-named Snowflake. This is complicated by the fact that a cybernetically enhanced supervillain named Brixton (Idris Elba) also wants the weapon. But really, Hobbs & Shaw is about the action, which takes place in the context of constant trash-talking between its mismatched heroes as they go about their globe-trotting business. It works best if you don’t just come in blind, but if you lower all your expectations. Rated PG-13. 135 minutes. Regal Santa Fe 6, Regal Stadium 14, and Violet Crown. (Michael O’Sullivan/The Washington Post)
2 chiles - 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 sad moments completely miss, as does much of the humor (only Seth Rogen’s Pumbaa, of “Hakuna Matata” fame, ekes out laughs). 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. Beyoncé, John Oliver, and Alfre Woodard also lend their voices. Rated PG. 118 minutes. Screens in 3D and 2D at Regal Stadium 14, and Violet Crown. Screens in 2D only at Regal Santa Fe 6. (Robert Ker)
In 1985, sailor Tracy Edwards left behind a role as cook on charter boats to compete in the Whitbread Round the World Race. Noting the lack of women onboard her boat and those of her competitors, she put together an all-female crew to compete in 1989, hurdling gender bias in sailing culture and becoming the first woman to receive the Yachtsman of the Year trophy in the process. This documentary by Alex Holmes utilizes footage of the event and invites Edwards and much of her crew to tell their stories. Rated PG. 97 minutes. The Screen and Violet Crown. (Not reviewed)
3.5 chiles - ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD
The most nuanced and arguably the most accomplished 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, alcoholic actor who once starred in a TV Western and 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 her husband Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) move in next door to Dalton, drawing the cult led by Charles Manson (Damon Herriman) near. The movie doesn’t serve this particular story so much as evoke an evolving Hollywood, which is shifting slowly from its Golden Era to something more shaggy and wild, while losing little of its allure to dreamers and grifters alike. 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. Rated R. 161 minutes. Regal Santa Fe 6, 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)
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. They filled it 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. 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. Screens in 2D only at Regal Stadium 14, and Violet Crown. (Robert Ker)
3 chiles - SWORD OF TRUST
A Civil War-era sword sets this story in motion. Inherited from her grandfather by Cynthia (Jillian Bell) and her partner Mary (Michaela Watkins), it has a backstory: it was the sword presented by a Union general to Robert E. Lee when the North surrendered at the end of the War of Northern Aggression. The Confederacy won. The misguided impression to the contrary is the product of an evil Deep State conspiracy. The ladies and Mel (Mark Maron), the Alabama pawnbroker to whom they bring the weapon, discover via the internet that there’s a dedicated group of true believers willing to pay top dollar for a “prove rite” confirming the South’s victory. Directed by Lynn Shelton with a nimble cast improvising the scenes laid out in Shelton’s story structure, the result is a very funny probing of the madness of the internet, white supremacy, and wacko conspiracy theories, with a layer of serious ideas lurking beneath the fun. You don’t need a certificate of authenticity to see how the craziness that Shelton slyly delivers here reflects the condition of the world we live in. Rated R. 88 minutes. Center for Contemporary Arts. (Jonathan Richards)
3 chiles - THAT PÄRT FEELING
Most of what we learn from Paul Hegeman’s sweet, understated documentary comes from the music itself. The music is the work of the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. If you’re familiar with his music, you know you’re in for a treat. But chances are you’re not familiar with the reclusive Mr. Pärt himself. And on that front, this film has very little to offer. When we’re not hearing the music (and sometimes when we are) we’re listening to an assortment of conductors, soloists, choreographers, and other admirers as they try to describe what Pärt’s music means to them. But music is the language in which Pärt is comfortable explaining himself, it’s the world he lives in, it’s the faith he follows. And as far as this film is concerned, if you want to know about the world’s most performed living composer, his music is where you’ll find it. Not rated. 75 minutes. In English, Dutch, German, and French with subtitles. The Screen. (Jonathan Richards)
3.5 chiles - TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM
The appeal of this stirring documentary is the pleasure it affords in the spending of a couple of hours in the world of the great Toni Morrison, who died earlier this week. It’s always interesting to learn the background story of a major cultural icon — how, from where she started, did she reach such lofty heights in the literary world? Director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders takes us on that journey. Morrison’s vision originates determinedly and unapologetically from the black experience. It’s informed by her perspective as a woman battling sexism in society and literature, and it’s driven by her love of language and the power of words. The Pieces I Am features extensive interviews with a number of Morrison’s friends and colleagues. But by far the most commanding presence here is the 88-year-old Nobel Prize-winner herself, an imposing figure who sits comfortably and forthrightly facing the camera, recalling the circumstances and trajectory of her career, and laughing a lot. Sometimes the laughter comes from pure enjoyment, and sometimes it’s driven by her wry reflection on what fools we mortals be. Rated PG-13. 120 minutes. Center for Contemporary Arts. (Jonathan Richards)
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 screen time, 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)
PERFORMANCE AND OTHER SCREENINGS
Jean Cocteau Cinema
▼ 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 9: Beauty and the Beast (1946). No charge.
▼ 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 11: Noir Series presents Body Heat (1981).
Regal Stadium 14
▼ 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 15: Woodstock (1970).
▼ 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 14: Two-Lane Blacktop (1971).
▼ 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 15: The Landlord (1970). Presented as part of the Auteurs Film Series spotlighting director Hal Ashby in the month of August.