Film
Don Scime in The David Dance.
Don Scime in The David Dance.

At the Movies

by / Jul. 17, 2017 12pm EST

 OPENING THIS WEEK

BIRTH OF THE DRAGONDrama loosely (very loosely) based on the early days of martial arts star Bruce Lee in San Francisco. Starring Billy Magnussen, Philip Ng, and Terry Chen. Directed by George Nolfi (The Adjustment Bureau). Reviewed this issue. Regal Quaker, Regal Transit, Regal Walden Galleria

CITY OF GHOSTS—Documentary set in the ISIS-held city of Raqqa, where citizen journalists try to alert the world to what’s happening to them. Directed by Matthew Heineman (Cartel Land). Dipson Eastern Hills

A DIAMOND IN THE BUFF—Documentary tracing the career of Buffalo’s one and only Lance Diamond. Directed by Kevin Polowy and Brandon Rae. Reviewed this issue. North Park

GOOD TIMETwilight fans won’t recognize Robert Pattinson in this change-of-pace role as a Queens small-time crook who spends a desperate night trying to dig himself out of a hole that opens when he breaks his mentally troubled brother out of a local institution. Co-starring Taliah Lennice Webster, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Barkhad Abdi, and Benny Safdie, who co-directed the film with his brother Josh. Reviewed this issue. Regal Transit, Regal Walden Galleria.

INGRID GOES WEST—In what sounds like a millennial update of The King of Comedy, a social media addict moves to Los Angeles to work her way into the life of the Instagram personality she has become obsessed with. Starring Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, and O’Shea Jackson Jr. Directed by Matt Spicer. Dipson Amherst

LEAP!From France, an animated film about a rural orphan who flees to Paris to pursue her ream of becoming a ballerina. Directed by Eric Summer and Éric Warin. Dipson Flix, Regal Niagara Falls, Regal Quaker, Regal Transit, Regal Walden Galleria, Transit Drive-In

THE ONLY LIVING BOY IN NEW YORKRecent college graduate gets involved with his dad’s mistress. Coming so soon after Baby Driver, does this mean we should expect films titled Cecilia, Song for the Asking, and So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright? Starring Callum Turner, Jeff Bridges, Kate Beckinsale, and Pierce Brosnan. Directed by Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer). Dipson Amherst

 

 ALTERNATIVE CINEMA

BATMAN: THE MOVIE (1966)—The late Adam West as the first and, let’s face it, only Batman in a feature film derived from the 1960’s TV series. Featuring With Lee Meriwether as Catwoman, Cesar Romero as the Joker, Burgess Meredith as the Penguin, and Frank Gorshin as the Riddler. Directed by Leslie H. Martinson. Thu 7:30pm. Screening Room

THE DAVID DANCE (2015)—A return engagement for one of the best dramas to have been filmed in Western New York. Buffalo native Don Scime wrote and stars in this adaptation of his play about a late-night DJ who only comes alive when he’s on the air. When his sister asks for his help in adopting a child from Brazil, the scene is set for both of them to confront issues from their past that have produced the self-doubts that are impeding their futures. The 9:30pm screening time may be late for some audiences, but it’s perfect for the movie’s mood. Directed by Aprill Winney. Wed-Thu Aug 30-31, 9:30pm. North Park

48-HOUR FILM PROJECT BUFFALO—The best of the entries in the local competition in which teams are filmmakers are given 48 hours to devise, film, and edit a short film, for which they are assigned a random genre, a character, and a line of dialogue. Sat-Sun 11:30am. North Park

LAST MEN IN ALEPPO—Cultivate Cinema Circle presents the premiere of the Sundance Grand Jury prize-winning documentary following the work of the White Helmets, a group that tries to help its neighbors in Syria deal with the effects of the protracted Civil War under which that country’s president has spent five years committing genocide on his own populace. Directed by Firas Fayyad and six collaborators. Free and open to the public. Wed Aug 30. Burning Books, 420 Connecticut St.

THE RED HOUSE (1947)—Mystery with a typically fine performance by Edward G. Robinson as a farmer who buries a secret from his past in a shed on his property. With Judith Anderson, Lon McCallister, Rory Calhoun, and Julie London. Directed by Delmer Daves (3:10 to Yuma).  Wed Aug 30 7:30pm. Screening Room

RENT—Stephen Sondheim protégé Jonathan Larson, who died shortly before his updated musical adaptation of La Boheme debuted on Broadway, was a talented composer but hardly the theatrical insurgent his fans proclaimed, as this film of his show demonstrates. Its heartfelt enthusiasms can be a little hard to fight, particularly during some of its abundant musical performances. Most of the leading players are from the original cast and it’s difficult to imagine a more vivacious and gifted crew. Larson’s large-spirited, generous sensibility renders the story both questionably sentimental and engaging. (Director Chris Columbus (Home Alone), a man who has never exhibited a real dark side on screen, hasn’t modulated Larson’s more lightheaded tendencies.) Rent is often vibrant and winning, but it’s also kind of bubble-headed. Starring Anthony Rapp, Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal, Rosario Dawson, Taye Diggs, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, and Jesse L. Martin. —George Sax Thu 8/24 7pm. Riviera

SCARLET STREET (1945)—Fritz Lang’s prototypical film noir starring Edward G. Robinson as an unhappily married bank teller whose artistic abilities are exploited by a young woman (Joan Bennett) and her lover (Dan Duryea). Tue 7:30pm. Screening Room

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. Thurs Aug. 31 7 pm. Riviera

SUNRISE (1927)—An Oscar winner for best picture, actress, and cinematography, F. W. Murnau’s classic about a man struggling between good and evil unfolds almost entirely in visual terms, proving that dialogue is not a necessity in cinema. As is traditional for the opening film of the Buffalo Film Seminars, this silent masterpiece will be accompanied on the electronic piano by Philip Carli. Tue 7pm. Dipson Amherst

THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991) and SOMETHING WILD (1986)—Two of the best features by the late Jonathan Demme conclude these summer’s Retro Drive-In Tuesday night series. Tue dusk. Transit Drive-In

SUSPIRIA (Italy, 1976)—Italian horror maestro Dario Argento’s masterpiece: If you’ve never seen any of his films, this is the one to judge him on. Jessica Harper is the new student at a ballet school housed in the one-time residence of an infamous witch. Argento’s use of color and music (by his house band Goblin) grab you by the throat and don’t let go. This print is a newly restored 4K update, so it will look even better than ever. With Udo Kier, Alida Valli, and Joan Bennett. Fri-Mon 9:30pm. North Park

A TAXI DRIVER (TAEKSI WOONJUNSA)—Not to be confused with the Martin Scorsese classic, this docudrama mixes a fictional story with news footage to delve into the 1980 Gwangju Uprising in South Korea, in which military reaction to protests of the coup that removed the government led to the deaths of as many as 600 people. Tue 9:30pm. North Park

ZOMBIE (Italy, 1979)—George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead was a bigger box office hit in Europe than in America, spawning a decades’ worth of ripoffs beginning with this one that was marketed as a sequel to Romero’s film. You’re either a fan of this stuff or you’re not, but if you are, the chance to see it in a theater (as part of the monthly Thursday Night Terrors series) comes along once in a lifetime. Starring Tisa Farrow, Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson, and Al Cliver. Directed by Lucio Fulci (The Beyond). Thu Aug 24, 7:30pm. Dipson Amherst

 CONTINUING

ANNABELLE: CREATIONA killer doll is at the center of this new horror movie from the makers of The Conjuring. Starring Stephanie Sigman, Miranda Otto, Lulu Wilson, and Anthony LaPaglia. Directed by David F. Sandberg (Lights Out). AMC Maple Ridge, Dipson Flix, Regal Elmwood, Regal Niagara Falls, Regal Quaker, Regal Transit, Regal Walden Galleria, Transit Drive-In

ATOMIC BLONDE is a terrible title for a serviceable spy tale that could have used more plot and less action, though there’s an extended fight scene in the last half hour that is as impressively staged to look like it’s happening in real time as anything in Birdman. Set in Berlin just before the Berlin Wall came down, it stars Charlize Theron as a British agent sent to retrieve a sensitive dossier. Her contact is an agent gone rogue (James McAvoy), who, coupled with a frame device that can’t help but remind you of The Usual Suspects, cues you not to take anything in the story at face value. Stuntman turned director David Leitch did uncredited work on John Wick, and once again shows that his skills don’t include squeezing any emotions out of his star players. With Eddie Marsan, John Goodman, and Toby Jones. —MF Regal Niagara Falls, Regal Quaker, Regal Transit

BABY DRIVER—In films like Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz ,and The World’s End, writer-director Edgar Wright used parodying his favorite trash film genres as an excuse to make the same thing he was supposed to be kidding. Working entirely outside of England for this action movie about a hotshot young crime driver trying to get away from the gangster who controls him, he uses Michael Bay-ish photography and editing to enliven a script that is cut-and-pasted from the early years of Quentin Tarantino—Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, True Romance. In other words, it’s a retread of a retread. It might have worked if it wasn’t all built around Ansel Elgort, a young actor so blandly callow that he makes you long for the days of Fabian and Frankie Avalon. With Jon Bernthal, Lily James, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey, and a small army of celebrity cameos. —MF Four Seasons, Regal Transit, Regal Walden Galleria, Transit Drive-In

THE BIG SICK—Believe the hype for this gentle, good-natured culture clash rom-com produced by Judd Apatow. Stand-up comic Kumail Nanjiani (TV’s Silicon Valley), whose family moved to the US from Pakistan when he was a child, and North Carolina-born Emily Gordon wrote the script based on their own relationship. Their romance is impeded first by her reticence to be distracted from her studies, then by his inability to stand up to his parents who are trying to set him up in an arranged marriage, and then by an illness that would be hard to believe if it weren’t a true story. Holly Hunter and Ray Romano nearly steal the film as her parents, who first meet Kumail in the waiting room of the hospital where their daughter is in a coma. Directed by Michael Showalter (Hello, My Name Is Doris). —MF Regal Quaker, Regal Transit

BRIGSBY BEAR—Saturday Night Live’s Kyle Mooney co-wrote and stars in this fanciful comedy as a young man who has been kept hidden form the world until the age of 25. His captors invented a TV show, about the adventures of a magical bear, as a teaching tool and to keep his mind occupied, and when he finds it hard to adjust to the much bigger new world around him he decides to make his own movie about Brigsby. Any humor arising from James’ circumstance is gentle and wry. But the film, co-written and directed by Mooney’s childhood friends Kevin Costello and Dave McCary, is in love with its own preciousness: it’s a poster child for the infantilization of popular culture. With Mark Hamill, Jane Adams, Greg Kinnear, and Matt Walsh. –MF Dipson Eastern Hills ENDS THURSDAY, Regal Quaker, Regal Transit

THE DARK TOWER—Stephen King’s enormous fantasy saga, totaling 4,250 pages and 1.335 million words over eight books (thanks, Wikipedia), has long been considered unfilmable, a charge this piffle of a movie tends to prove. Actually a sequel to the books incorporating parts of them, it centers on a Manhattan boy whose troubled dreams contain images that lead him into an alternate world where a “gunslinger” (Idris Elba) stalks a demonic fellow (Matthew McConaughey) who wants to—oh, I’m not going to try to lay it all out. At barely more than 90 minutes, it never attains the kind of gravitas that a tent pole film like this needs: it’s supposed to lay the basis for sequels in both film and TV, but it’s hard to see it gaining much of a fan base. Starring Katheryn Winnick, Matthew McConaughey, Idris Elba, and Jackie Earle Haley. Directed by Nikolaj Arcel (A Royal Affair). MF AMC Maple Ridge, Dipson Flix, Regal Elmwood, Regal Niagara Falls, Regal Quaker, Regal Transit, Regal Walden Galleria, Transit Drive-In

DETROITDirector Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) recreates an incident during the Detroit uprising of 1967 potting three young African-American men against the police at a motel. Starring John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith, and Jacob Latimore. Regal Elmwood, Regal Quaker, Regal Transit, Regal Walden Galleria

DUNKIRK—You wouldn’t expect a typical war movie from Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Inception), and he hasn’t provided one with his depiction of the famous campaign to rescue more than 400,000 British and Allied soldiers from their entrapment by German forces on the French coast in May and June of 1940.  The most extraordinary part of the story was the participation of British civilians, who piloted 900 ragtag boats across the channel to pick up the trapped soldiers. Cutting among three stories, Nolan captures immediacy and intimacy in a hellish, if beautiful setting. If you don’t like war movies, this one may be an exception for you. Starring Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, and Tom Hardy. —GS AMC Maple Ridge, Dipson Flix, North Park, Regal Elmwood, Regal Niagara Falls Regal Quaker, Regal Transit, Regal Walden Galleria

THE EMOJI MOVIE—No, seriously, I wouldn’t make up something like this. Featuring Patrick Stewart as the voice of Poop. Honest to god, I’m not making this up. Directed by Tony Leondis (Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch). AMC Maple Ridge, Dipson Flix, Regal Elmwood, Regal Niagara Falls, Regal Quaker, Regal Transit, Regal Walden Galleria, Transit Drive-In

47 METERS DOWN provides a new variation on the ever-popular shark summer thriller. Mandy Moore and Claire Holt play two sisters vacationing Mexico (really the Dominican Republic) coaxed by local romantic interests to descend into shark infested waters in a protective cage just like the one that failed Richard Dreyfuss in Jaws. The women spend the rest of the film on the ocean floor, trapped in the cage and surrounded by a school of Great Whites as their oxygen runs out. It’s primarily a two-character thriller, a souped-up version of Open Water that manages to be claustrophobic even in the expansive ocean. The dialogue lacks the bite of Spielberg’s classic, and is so shallow that whenever Matthew Modine (collecting a paycheck and a vacation) warns of some hypothetical danger, that scenario becomes fait accompli, but the direction and cinematography yield stunning visuals and the promised scares. Visual effects have come a long way since an uncooperative Bruce the shark forced Spielberg to fashion a more Hitchcockian thriller than he had planned, and these sharks are entirely convincing. A film like this succeeds only if its audience is willing to go along with the increasingly preposterous situations the heroes face, and director Johannes Roberts, who co-wrote the screenplay with Ernest Riera, pushes all the right buttons. —Greg Lamberson Dipson McKinley ENDS THURSDAY

THE GLASS CASTLE The trailers for this adaptation of Jeannette Walls’ best-selling memoir, about growing up in a dysfunctional family with parents who couldn’t adequately care for their children, seem to be trying to make it look like another Captain Fantastic. But Rex Walls (Woody Harrelson, adroitly cast) is a wholly different kind of character, a smart guy with a drinking problem and an inability to hold a job. Frustratingly short on important details of how the family survived once the children took charge of their lives, the film holds your attention but is generally a disappointing follow-up from Destin Daniel Cretton, after his striking 2013 debut Short Term 12. With Brie Larson, Naomi Watts, and Ella Anderson. —MF  AMC Maple Ridge, Dipson Amherst ENDS THURSDAY, Dipson Eastern Hills OPENS FRIDAY, Regal Niagara Falls, Regal Quaker, Regal Transit, Regal Walden Galleria

THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD—In what sounds an awful lot like the plot of the classic Midnight Run, Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson play a bodyguard for hire and a captured assassin on the run across Europe. In classic buddy movie tradition, this is fueled by the chemistry between the two leads, and Reynolds and Jackson are sufficiently disparate to spark interest. But director Patrick Hughes (The Expendables 3) puts all his trust in the big action set pieces, which consume the final (and dullest) half-hour of the movie. With Gary Oldman, Salma Hayek, Elodie Yung, and Richard E. Grant in a fun cameo as a coke-addled businessman. –MF AMC Maple Ridge, Dipson Flix, Regal Elmwood, Regal Niagara Falls, Regal Quaker, Regal Transit, Regal Walden Galleria, Transit Drive-In

THE HOUSE—As if Hollywood’s summer fixation on comic books and children’s movies wasn’t complete enough, of late the industry seems incapable of producing a decent comedy for adults. Snatched and Rough Night were bad enough, but this vehicle for Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler plays like it was written by a 14-year-old, or someone who assumed that all he had to do was give the stars a situation (suburbanites open a casino in order to pay for their daughter’s college tuition) and they could improvise their way through it. Andrew Jay Cohen presumably graduated to the director’s chair on the basis of having written Neighbors and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, but he shows a shocking lack of talent for the job: the result is implausible, incoherent, and hugely unfunny. With Jason Mantzoukas, Andrea Savage, Nick Kroll, and Jeremy Renner. —MF Dipson McKinley

AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL: TRUTH TO POWER— This sequel to the Oscar-winning 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth finds Al Gore like most of us, struggling to remain optimistic in the face of our government’s failure to address the issue of man-made climate change. The focus here is on alternative energy and the battle to promote it, fighting not only the economic forces that enjoy the status quo but the complicated political realities around the world that obstruct change. There are no easy answers, but as hopeless as the fight sometimes seems, this film offers a shot in the arm to those who want to believe that we can stop digging our own grave. Directed by Bonni Cohen (The Rape of Europa) and Jon Shenk (Lost Boys of Sudan). –MF Dipson Amherst ENDS THURSDAY, Regal Quaker

KIDNAP—When single mom Halle Berry sees a dimly glimpsed figure hustling her son into a car, she jumps in her own to give chase. That simple premise covers the bulk of this surprisingly focused thriller, which only starts to lose plausibility toward the end when her adversaries have to become evil enough to provide a bloodthirsty finale (hence the “R” rating). Its only flaw is director Luis Prieto’s fixation on the face of his star, shown so often in tight close-ups that you become distracted by her movie-starishness. Co-starring Sage Correa and Chris McGinn. Directed by Luis Prieto. —MF Dipson Flix, Regal Elmwood, Regal Niagara Falls, Regal Quaker, Regal Transit, Regal Walden Galleria, Transit Drive-In

LOGAN LUCKY—Steven Soderbergh came out of retirement to helm this lightweight caper movie starring Channing Tatum and Adam Driver as brothers plotting to rob the box office at a NASCAR race in North Carolina. Not that anyone took that retirement very seriously (Soderbergh is only 54), but it’s hard to see what about this genial but slight material got his juices going. It plays like a lazy Southern knock-off of his Oceans movies, with vague plotting and characters that aren’t as strong as the actors were probably expecting. Still, it makes for a perfectly entertaining evening at the movies if you keep your expectations low. Co-starring Daniel Craig, Riley Keough, Hilary Swank, and Katie Holmes. –MF AMC Maple Ridge, Dipson Flix, Regal Elmwood, Regal Niagara Falls, Regal Quaker, Regal Transit, Regal Walden Galleria, Transit Drive-In

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING—Reboot or remake or sequel, who can keep track anymore? Tom Holland takes over the title role, joined by Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr. and in what I can only assume is a dreadful bit of miscasting, Marisa Tomei as the usually elderly Aunt May. Directed by Jon Watts (Cop Car). AMC Maple Ridge, Aurora, Dipson Flix, Regal Elmwood, Regal Niagara Falls, Regal Quaker, Regal Transit, Regal Walden Galleria, Transit Drive-In

STEP—Acclaimed documentary follows high school seniors at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women preparing for a step dance competition. Directed by Amanda Lipitz. Dipson Eastern Hills

VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS—A comic book epic with a difference: It’s from France. Of course, given that the director is Luc Besson, whose has made a career out of imitating Hollywood excesses, that may not be all that much of a difference Starring Cara Delevingne, Dane DeHaan, Elizabeth Debicki, Ethan Hawke, Clive Owen, and Rihanna. Dipson McKinley

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES— Fifteen years after the events of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, in which “simian virus” wiped out most of mankind, the intelligent apes led by Caesar (Andy Serkis) live in secret, hunted by a Colonel Kurtz-like commander (Woody Harrelson) who sees himself as mankind’s savior. It’s hard to believe special effects can still dazzle an audience spoiled by technology that makes anything possible, but the motion-capture technology that turns human actors into chimpanzees deliverers powerhouse entertainment with rare emotional resonance. This may be conclude the trilogy, but don’t expect this thrilling, emotionally satisfying, and meticulously crafted installment to be the end of this new saga. Action-fantasy films this good can fuel a decade’s worth of spinoffs. Directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield). —Greg Lamberson Four Seasons, Regal Quaker, Regal Transit, Regal Walden Galleria

WIND RIVER—For his mainstream directorial debut, Taylor Sheridan mines territory similar to his script for last year’s Hell or High Water: both are about crimes committed in territory where the residents’ lives are stressed and constrained by social and economic conditions. In this case it’s a Native American reservation, where federal agent Jeremy Renner investigates the murder of a young girl. The movie is saturated in mood—sorrow, fear and anger—but it doesn’t feel very well thought through: We too often get atmospherics rather than narrative or character, despite some fine actors. Co-starring Kelsey Asbille, Julia Jones, Apesanahkwat, Elizabeth Olsen, and Graham Greene. —GS

WONDER WOMAN—Following Zack Snyder’s dreary Man of Steel and dreadful Batman v. Superman, Patty Jenkins, who has been directing episodic TV since Monster, delivers a true crowd pleaser from the DC universe. The film traces the comic book heroine’s origin as an Amazon princess on Themyscira Island to her mission to slay Ares, the god of war, whom she believes is orchestrating World War I. Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot is perfectly cast as the feminist icon, and Chris Pine is charming as her love interest, American spy Steve Trevor. The first half of the film is true to the original comic, and may be the most romantic superhero adaptation since Richard Donner’s Superman. Diana is a relentless warrior, winningly embodying the phrase “Nevertheless, she persisted.” The film only goes awry in its last act, when Jenkins employs the same bleak color scheme as Snyder, and when a poorly cast actor assumes the role of Ares. You are forgiven if you’re unaware that a number of male comic book fans have been decrying “women only” screenings of the film. I saw it with my 11-year-old daughter, who could barely contain her excitement throughout. That’s the perfect antidote to Trumper chauvinism. Co-starring David Thewlis, Robin Wright, and Ewan Bremmer. —Greg Lamberson Four Seasons, Regal Quaker, Regal Transit

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