OPENING THIS WEEK
Harrison Ford narrates this documentary about Neil Armstrong, which is released just in time for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Using interviews and never-before-seen footage, the film tells Armstrong’s life story, from his childhood in Ohio to his career as a pilot and astronaut, and beyond. Not rated. 100 minutes. Jean Cocteau Cinema. (Not reviewed)
THE ART OF SELF-DEFENSE
In this dark comedy about toxic masculinity, Jesse Eisenberg plays Casey, a mild-mannered accountant who is attacked on the street one night and decides to enroll in a local dojo to learn karate. The sensei (Alessandro Nivola) is a charming, cult-like figure, and Casey falls under his spell. Soon, Casey is acting out his more aggressive side, emulating his sensei and falling deeper into a dark, violent world, while alienating those close to him. Rated R. 104 minutes. Violet Crown. (Not reviewed)
THE LION KING
Disney has enjoyed considerable success in adapting movies from its animated library into live-action films. In the case of The Lion King, the adaptation replaces the cartoony visuals of the 1994 original with ultra-realistic CGI animation. Director Jon Favreau tackles the story of 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. Beyoncé, John Oliver, Seth Rogen, Amy Sedaris, 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. (Not reviewed)
2.5 chiles - THE OTHER STORY
Not rated. 112 minutes. In Hebrew with subtitles. The Screen. 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 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)
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)
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)
3.5 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. 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 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)
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. 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)
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)
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, her friends, and her literary legacy. It’s always interesting to learn the background story of a major cultural icon – how, from where she started, did she reach where she is today? 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 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)
3 chiles - WILD ROSE
When we first meet Rose-Lynn (Jessie Buckley), she’s just getting out of prison on a drug conviction in her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland. She barely knows her two little kids, whom she’s left in the care of her mother. Marion (the great Julie Walters) thinks it’s time her daughter grew up, accepted responsibility, and gave up her dream of going to Nashville and making a splash as a country singer. But a dream in the heart of a person with the talent to back it up is a tough flame to quench. And Buckley sells that dream, and possesses that talent in abundance. Will Rose-Lynn make it to Nashville? Will she become a star? Will she grow up? Director Tom Harper and screenwriter Nicole Taylor have a few tricks up their sleeves, some of them familiar and some surprising, in what looks at first to be a straightforward star-is-born fable. Rated R. 101 minutes. Center for Contemporary Arts. (Jonathan Richards)
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, but 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 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
Center for Contemporary Arts
▼ 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, July 24: Moon Fiesta presents The Wonder of It All (2007). No charge.
Jean Cocteau Cinema
▼ 6 p.m. Friday, July 19: Chernobyl episodes 1 and 2.
▼ 6 p.m. Saturday, July 20: Chernobyl episodes 3 and 4.
▼ 6 p.m. Sunday, July 21: Chernobyl episode 5.
▼ 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 24: the Immigrants’ Series presents Gran Torino (2008).
▼ 7 p.m. Thursday, July 25: Artifishal.
Lensic Performing Arts Center
▼ 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 23: the National Theatre Live in HD presents Hamlet.
▼ 9:30 a.m. Saturday, July 20: Southside “Around the World” Summer Film Series presents Hugo (2011). Preceded by a slideshow and show-and-tell by animatronic mechanic
▼ 7 p.m. Saturday, July 20: Moon Fiesta presents First Man (2018). No charge.
▼ 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 24: National Organization for Women presents Maiden.
▼ Murillo’s Last Journey.
▼ 2 p.m. Saturday, July 20: Apollo 11.
▼ 11 a.m. Sunday, July 21: La Gioconda from the Gran Teatre del Liceu de Barcelona.
▼ 7 p.m. Sunday, July 21: Say Anything (1989).
▼ 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 23: Arthouse Monthly presents Band of Outsiders (1964).
▼ 6:45 p.m. Wednesday, July 24: Little Giants (1994).
▼ 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 24: His Girl Friday (1940).