Film
Amanda Seyfried, Shirley MacLaine, and AnnJewel Lee Dixon in The Last Word.
Amanda Seyfried, Shirley MacLaine, and AnnJewel Lee Dixon in The Last Word.

At the Movies

by / Mar. 14, 2017 1pm EST

 OPENING THIS WEEK 

CHIPS—Comic remake of a 1980s TV series that no one took seriously in the first place. Starring Dax Shepard (who also wrote and directed), Michael Peña, Jessica McNamee, Adam Brody, Ryan Hansen, and Vincent D’Onofrio. Dipson Flix, Regal Elmwood, Regal Niagara Falls, Regal Quaker, Regal Transit, Regal Walden Galleria

THE LAST WORD—Shirley MacLaine as a retired businesswoman who, having alienated everyone she knows, decides to take steps to make sure her obituary will be up to her standards. With Amanda Seyfried and Anne Heche. Directed by Mark Pellington (The Mothman Prophecies). Reviewed this issue. Dipson Eastern Hills

LIFE—Astronauts discover life on Mars. Apparently, it is not happy to meet them. Starring Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Hiroyuki Sanada. Directed by Daniel Espinosa (Child 44). Dipson Flix, Regal Elmwood, Regal Quaker, Regal Transit, Regal Walden Galleria

WILSON—Daniel Clowes (Ghost World) scripted this adaption of his graphic novel starring Woody Harrelson as a curmudgeon trying to come to terms with the modern world. Co-starring Laura Dern, Judy Greer, Cheryl Hines, and Isabella Amara. Directed by Craig Johnson (The Skeleton Twins). Reviewed this issue. Dipson Amherst

 

 ALTERNATIVE CINEMA 

BLACK CELEBRATION (1988) and IN COMPLETE WORLD (2008)—Two short films that question common political assumptions and their reverberations. Tony Cokes’s Black Celebration examines urban riots of the 1960s (scored to 1980s pop music) as a rebellion against capitalism. In Complete World is  a series of interviews with ordinary people conducted by filmmaker Shelly Silver at a time of disillusionment with life in the US. Wed 7pm. Squeaky Wheel

THE DARK BELOW—Suspense thriller starring Lauren Mae Shafer as a woman trying to evade a killer while trapped under the surface of a frozen lake. With David G. B. Brown and Veronica Cartwright. Directed by Douglas Schulze (Mimesis).  Wed-Thu 7:30pm. Screening Room

FREE FALLERS—Given the number of microbudgeted movies that are produced every year by local filmmakers, it was only a matter of time until one of them decided to do a comedy about the making of one. You can be the first to see it at this premiere screening, though numerous clips and trailers of it on YouTube look pretty funny. Starring Yvette L. Leli-Aragon, Daniel Keith Barone, Michael O’Hear, and Steven Didas. Directed by Rick Masi (On the Level). Sat 7pm. Dipson Amherst

JEWISH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL—The 32nd edition of the long-lived film festival. For information visit bijff.com. Dipson Amherst ENDS THURSDAY

MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL (Great Britain, 1975)—Restored version of the classic about pornographic moose dentistry. Directed by 40 specially trained Ecuadorian mountain llamas, six Venezuelan red llamas, 142 Mexican whooping llamas, 14 North Chilean guanacos (closely related to the llama), Reg Llama of Brixton, 76,000 battery llamas from “llama-fresh” farms ltd. near Paraguay, and Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones. Presented by the Buffalo Film Seminars. Tue 7pm. Dipson Amherst

THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965)—Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer in the 1965 Academy Award winner for Best Picture. It beat out Darling, Doctor Zhivago, Ship of Fools, and A Thousand Clowns. Go figure. Fri, Sat, Tue 7:30pm. Screening Room

 

 CONTINUING 

BEFORE I FALL—Groundhog Day in high school. Starring Zoey Deutch, Liv Hewson, Logan Miller, and Jennifer Beals. Directed by Ry Russo-Young. Regal Quaker, Regal Transit

DOCTOR STRANGE—Benedict Cumberbatch grabs for one of those fat Marvel paychecks, as do Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Benedict Wong. Directed by Scott Derrickson (Deliver Us From Evil).  Dipson McKinley ENDS THURSDAY

A DOG’S PURPOSE—Director Lasse Hallström could have reused the title of his first international hit, My Life as a Dog, for this fantasy about a dog who learns the meaning of his existence over several lifetimes and owners. Starring Britt Robertson, Dennis Quaid, and Peggy Lipton. Four Seasons, Regal Quaker, Regal Transit

FIST FIGHT—Newly appointed Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin is one of the executive producers of this borderline racist comedy starring Charlie Day as a teacher who spends a day fretting after being challenged to a fist fight by scary fellow teacher Ice Cube. The movie expects to get laughs from the antics of undisciplined students at a “rough” high school, but also wants you to believe that it is making a serious statement about education. Inconsistent and crude, it’s worst fault is how often director Richie Keen, who worked with his star on episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, encourages Day to explore the higher range of a voice that is like fingernails on a blackboard to begin with. With Tracy Morgan and Christina Hendricks. —MF Regal Walden Galleria

GET OUT—Key & Peele’s Jordan Peele wrote and directed this horror film about a young black man whose discomfort when he goes to the home of his white girlfriend’s family proves to be all too well justified. It’s better written than it is directed, and you can’t help but wish that Peele had turned the script over to someone who had a better idea of how to balance the absurdity of the premise with the very real racial tensions with which it is combined. Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, and Bradley Whitford. –MF Dipson Flix, Regal Elmwood, Regal Niagara Falls, Regal Quaker, Regal Transit, Regal Walden Galleria

THE GREAT WALL—This Chinese-American co-production passed through a number of hands since it was first proposed in 2011, which is probably why the end result is such spoiled broth. The big battle scene in the first act has its moments: The seemingly infinite horde of CGI monsters attacking the wall is generic, but director Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern, Curse of the Golden Flower) gets to display his talent with color and costumes to good effect. The color-coded acrobatic fight squads are amazing to watch, and the production design incorporates a steampunk element. But the rest of the film feels exhausted, with neither the setting nor the era (medieval China) used to very good effect. Starring Matt Damon, Tian Jing, Willem Dafoe, and Andy Lau. —MF  Dipson McKinley, Four Seasons

HACKSAW RIDGE—The story of World War II American Army medic Desmond T. Doss, a Virginia farmboy and conscientious objector who saved the lives of 75 men at the Battle of Okinawa, is so compelling that you wonder why it wasn’t filmed long ago. As directed by Mel Gibson, whose approach to violence in his previous films can perhaps best be described as hysterical, the result is better than you might expect, if not quite as good as it might have been. The faults are in the script: though the dialogue is strong (and all of the major cast excellent), it lacks too many seemingly important details. Doss’s personal development is confined to a few scenes that reveal little, and his military career (after a near court martial that doesn’t make any sense) takes him right from boot camp to Okinawa three years later. But while the battle sequence is gruesome, Gibson’s presentation is surprisingly controlled and the film is genuinely moving. Starring Andrew Garfield, Teresa Palmer, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Rachel Griffith and Hugo Weaving. –MF Dipson McKinley ENDS THURSDAY

HIDDEN FIGURES—Given that so many people are finding inspiration in this drama about the experiences of three women who confronted both sexism and racism while working for NASA in West Virginia in the early 1960s, it seems churlish to complain about the movie’s lack of historical authenticity (hardly an unusual problem in movies “based on” or “inspired by” true events). It’s worth showing modern audiences the workings of day-to-day segregation: separate bathrooms, unequal educational opportunities, inane dress codes. But the accomplishments of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson could have been celebrated without putting them through so many hurdles that they didn’t actually face for the sake of a feel-good story. Starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, and Mahershala Ali. Directed by Theodore Melfi (St. Vincent). MF Dipson Amherst, Four Seasons, Regal Quaker, Regal Transit

JACKIE is not a biography but a portrait of the First Lady at what was presumably the worst week of her life, between the murder of John Kennedy, shot in the head by a rifle as he sat next to her in an open convertible in Dallas, to his funeral. Directed by Pablo Larraín, the Chilean whose last two features No and The Club were both Oscar contenders, Jackie is an intimate, chiseled look at a woman in crisis. It is blunt without being disrespectful. Shot on 16 mm, it is almost wholly contained in Natalie Portman’s performance: after opening on a close up of her face, it puts her in every scene, practically every shot, and she proves equal to the challenge. And present circumstances give the film more power than its makers could ever have expected, or wanted. As Jackie, who was so concerned with restoring the history of the White House and the inspiration her husband’s office gave to so many people, watches all of that slip away, taken from her and from the country by an injustice that we know was never satisfactorily addressed, the office taken over by a famous vulgarian, we can’t help but rue how history repeats itself. With Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, John Hurt and Richard E. Grant. —MF Dipson McKinley

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2Sequel. Starring Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Peter Stormare, Laurence Fishburne, John Leguizamo, Peter Serafinowicz, Common, and Franco Nero. Directed by former stunt coordinator Chad Stahelski. Regal  Walden Galleria

JULIETA—Alfred Hitchcock fans will be the best audience for the new film by Pedro Almodovar: though adapted from a trio of stories by Alice Munro, it plays more like an exercise in seeing how many Hitchcock references Almodovar can indulge, mostly to Vertigo and Rebecca, without actually remaking either of those stories. Emma Suárez stars as a middle-aged woman recalling her past, specifically her relationship with the daughter she hasn’t heard from in years. As always Almodovar works well with actresses, but in the end the veteran filmmaker’s considerable skills are brought to play on a film that is both allusive and elusive. Especially by the rules of the game he has set up, the truncated ending will frustrate many viewers. With Adriana Ugarte and Daniel Grao. MF Dipson Amherst  ENDS THURSDAY

KONG: SKULL ISLAND—The best King Kong since the 1933 original owes much to wrestling. It operates much like a theme park ride, with dazzling special effects delivered at a breathless pace and high decibel level. Set near the end of the Viet Nam war, the action is confined to the titular island, when survivors of a fleet of US Army helicopters who made the bad decision to invade Kong home turf battle the island’s other monstrosities in a bid to reunite and escape. The motion capture effects are top-notch, superior to those in Peter Jackson’s more ambitious 2005 remake. Starring Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, and John Goodman. Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer).Gregory Lamberson AMC Maple Ridge, Dipson Flix, Regal Elmwood, Regal Niagara Falls, Regal Quaker, Regal Transit, Regal Walden Galleria

LA LA LAND—Heralded by some as a tribute to classic Hollywood movie musicals, the new film by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) has more in common with Fame than anything starring Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly. Its story of an actress (Emma Stone, Oscar winner for Best Actress) and a jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) looking for love and success in modern Los Angeles is more reliant on drama, character, and emotion than traditional musicals. It has its contrivances and arbitrary plotting, but the tone is more intimate (at least after the razzle-dazzle of the opening number, set on a freeway ramp where stymied motorists burst from their cars to sing and dance). Neither Stone nor Gosling is experienced at song and dance work, but it hardly matters. The movie doesn’t make outsized demands on their proficiency, and the result seems integral to their performances, which aren’t stylized or mannered. Their musical numbers are really subsidiary to the film’s poignant, but charming and (mostly) hopeful mood-making. With John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt, and J. K. Simmons. —GS Four Seasons, Regal Transit

LION—The true story of Saroo Brierley, who as a five-year-old boy was separated from his family in a small Indian village and spent several years living on the streets before being adopted by an Australian couple. That could well be an unbearable story to watch, but it only takes up the first half of the movie, and is handled with attention to what n audience can tolerate. The remainder of the story follows the adult Saroo (Dev Patel, oozing movie star charisma) as he comes to grips with his dimly remembered past and decides to find his birth place. That he accomplishes this online gives the film an odd dramatic shape after its almost Dickensian opening; the finale is satisfying, but it feels rushed. Co-starring Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, and David Wenham. Directed by Garth Davis. —MF  Dipson Eastern Hills ENDS THURS

LOGANOnce more for Hugh Jackman as the comic book hero Wolverine. With Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, and Richard E. Grant. Directed by James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma). AMC Maple Ridge, Dipson Flix, Regal Elmwood, Regal Niagara Falls, Regal Quaker, Regal Transit, Regal Walden Galleria

MOONLIGHT is by an overwhelming critical consensus one of the best films of the year, which might be a bad thing to tell you; that kind of high expectation can blind audiences to the accomplishments of this deliberately paced, delicate film about a boy’s growth to adulthood. And please don’t consider those adjectives synonyms for “boring”: Audiences react as strongly to the film as have critics. If you can’t see a film without knowing in advance what it’s about, look it up. Otherwise, take a leap of faith and go see it. Starring Trevante Rhodes, Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, and Janelle Monáe. Directed by Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy). -MF Dipson Eastern Hills  ENDS THURS

MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI—From France, an Oscar-nominated feature film about a boy adjusting to life in an orphanage. Directed by Claude Barras. Dipson Amherst ENDS THURSDAY

THE SENSE OF AN ENDING—British drama based on Julian Barnes’s prize-winning short novel starring Jim Broadbent as a man seeking to interpret his life through a troubling event from his past. The movie may work on its own terms, but these are a considerable distance from the novel’s investigation of unexamined memories and saddening realizations: It’s rather limp compared to Barnes’s tale of psychological obscurity and personally tragic misunderstanding. With Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter, Michelle Dockery, Matthew Goode, Emily Mortimer, and James Wilby. Directed by Ritesh Batra (The Lunchbox).GS Dipson Eastern Hills

SPLIT—Despite looking an awful lot like the very unscary Tony Hale, James McAvoy acts up a storm as a man with 23 separate personalities who kidnaps three young women in order to—well, that would be giving it away. Not that you find out everything you want to know by the end of the movie, which seems clearly intended as the first in a series, and therefore leaves an awful lot of unanswered questions. You’re more likely to get something out of it if you remember writer/director M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable, from 17 years ago, but if a movie isn’t going to be self-contained there should be a warning to audiences before they buy their tickets. With Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, and Betty Buckley. —MF Dipson McKinley


 Links to theater websites for current showtimes: 

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