OPENING THIS WEEK
ALMOST FRIENDS Samir, a secular Arab Muslim, lives in the mixed Arab and Israeli city of Lod, about nine miles from Tel Aviv. She attends public school with Jewish, Muslim, and Christian students. Forty miles away in the Jewish settlement of Tlamim, Linor attends religious school, where her teacher impresses upon her class the importance of never showing her body to a boy. The twelve-year-old girls become friendly through a pen-pal program between their schools, but it remains to be seen whether or not they can transcend the hatred between their cultures and find true ease with one another. With no voice-over or filmmaker’s shadow steering the documentary, Almost Friends plainly shows that there is no unified outlook on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Neighbors of the same faith disagree on the wisdom of letting their daughters communicate with outsiders, and even the most loving adults are capable of perpetuating harmful, divisive lies to the next generation. Screens as part of the Santa Fe Film Festival on Thursday, Dec. 3, 4:30 p.m., only. Not rated. 60 minutes. In Hebrew and Arabic with subtitles. El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe, 555 Camino de la Familia. (Jennifer Levin)
ANOMALISA The Santa Fe Film Festival opens with screenwriter and director Charlie Kaufman’s adult-themed stopmotion animation. Anomalisa takes place over the course of a single day and tells the story of Michael Stone (David Thewlis), author of a book on customer service, and the brief affair he has with Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a shy, self-deprecating fan he meets at a hotel the night before delivering a conference talk. The rest of the characters are voiced by Tom Noonan. The title is cross between “anomaly” and “Lisa” and the film is itself an anomaly, an understated, funny, and ultimately tragic emotional drama that’s in line with the themes of Kaufman’s earlier films (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; Synecdoche, New York) but not their mind-bending story lines. Screens as part of the Santa Fe Film Festival at 6 and 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 2. The short film
Low/Fi also screens. Rated R. 90 minutes. Jean Cocteau Cinema. (Michael Abatemarco)
IN JACKSON HEIGHTS The documentaries of Frederick Wiseman invite viewers into specific communities or organizations and allow them to simply look — in some cases, for quite a long time. His latest picture gives us more than three hours in the Queens, New York, neighborhood of Jackson Heights, one of the most multicultural neighborhoods in the world (according to the film). We spend time looking at the area’s variety of food, listening to the range of music and spoken languages, and observing the streets. Gentrification and rising rents are inevitably creeping into the neighborhood — a poster for a new Gap Factory Store stands in contrast to the small businesses, which feel well-worn and teeming with life. We also get to drop into community meetings as a multitude of local issues are addressed. Perhaps because of the presence of Wiseman’s camera, some people stay on their soapbox a little too long, which can make these scenes feel tiresome. Still,
In Jackson Heights is an important and sometimes poetic look at a part of New York City. Not rated. 190 minutes. In English and various languages with subtitles. Center for Contemporary Arts. (Robert Ker)
THE PEARL BUTTON Not rated. 82 minutes. In Spanish and Kawésqar, with subtitles. The Screen. See review, Page 54.
PERFORMANCE AT THE SCREEN The series of high-definition screenings continues with a showing of Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying
Dutchman) from the Zürich Opera House. Bryn Terfel, Matti Salminen, and Anja Kampe star. 11:15 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 29, only.
Not rated. 139 minutes. The Screen, Santa Fe. (Not reviewed) SANTA FE FILM FESTIVAL The “original” Santa Fe Film Festival begins Wednesday, Dec. 2, and continues with screenings, panels, and parties through Sunday, Dec. 6. A great many of this year’s films deal with themes of war, memory, and prospects for peace, and there are several exciting features, including Anomalisa, a stopmotion love story by Charlie Kaufman, and Amy, a documentary about the late Amy Winehouse using previously unseen footage and unreleased tracks. Legendary American director Peter Bogdanovich receives a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Scottish Rite Center at 7 p.m. on Dec. 6. All-access passes are $275 before Dec. 1, and $300 after. Individual movies are $12-$15, with special pricing for some screenings and events. Tickets for screenings are available at each venue. Call 505-988-7414 or visit www.santafefilmfestival.com for a full schedule.
THE ASSASSIN The pleasure in this quiet epic seems almost hidden at first, and its unfolding fills the viewer with awe at director Hsiao-Hsien Hou’s subtlety and daring. The experience is like walking down a gallery of magnificent paintings and suddenly becoming aware that something is moving in each of them. The pace can appear glacially slow, but things are constantly happening. Hou wraps action in stillness and infuses stillness with movement. Candles flicker in a still room. Steam drifts off a cup of tea. As for the story, set in the ninth-century Tang Dynasty, it borders on the undecipherable. A young woman named Nie Yinniang (Qi Shu) has been groomed by a mysterious nun since childhood to be an assassin. She is sent to her home province of Weibo to kill the governor, to whom she was betrothed as a child. There are isolated bursts of action, but the drama is in the morality and aesthetics of the moment, not the hiss of the blade. Not rated. 107 minutes. In Mandarin with subtitles. The Screen. (Jonathan Richards)
BRIDGE OF SPIES Steven Spielberg resurrects the fascinating tale of the Cold War prisoner exchange of Soviet spy Rudolf Abel and Francis Gary Powers, the U-2 pilot shot down over the Soviet Union. The story centers on James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks), a Brooklyn insurance lawyer and former Nuremberg prosecutor who is drafted to represent Abel and uphold the image of the American justice system. As he works with Abel (Mark Rylance), a bond of admiration forms between the two. The first half of the movie hums along nicely, despite an occasional Spielbergian weakness for movie cliché. The second half, which sets Donovan to work arranging the swap, has too many threads to follow and loses focus. Both Hanks and Rylance are terrific. The movie reaches a powerful dramatic climax with the exchange on a West Berlin bridge and then sputters on a little further, reaching for a feel-good ending. Rated PG-13.
141 minutes. Violet Crown. (Jonathan Richards) BROOKLYN Rated PG-13. 111 minutes. Violet Crown. See review, Page 56.
BY THE SEA Angelina Jolie wrote and directed this low-key story of a crumbling marriage, and even finagled her husband (Brad Pitt) to star in it with her. She plays a former dancer, and he is an author — the two are traveling in France in the mid-1970s. They stop for a while at a seaside castle and develop relationships with some of the locals. Rated R. 132 minutes. Violet Crown. (Not reviewed)
CREED This Rocky sequel takes the spotlight off Rocky Balboa and puts it on Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), a young man in Philadelphia who doesn’t appear to have much of a shot in life, with only a vague hope to follow in his deceased father’s footsteps. His father, however, is Apollo Creed, so Adonis does the sensible thing and finds his dad’s old buddy Rocky (Sylvester Stallone, of course) to train him for his first major fight. Rated PG-13. 132 minutes. Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown; DreamCatcher. (Not reviewed) THE GOOD DINOSAUR In 2015, Pixar Animation Studios releases two films in one year for the first time ever. The first film was this summer’s
Inside Out, a relatively complex story of the inner workings of a young girl’s brain. The second film is this one, which appears to be aimed at a slightly younger set. It tells a gentle tale of a boy and a dinosaur who form a friendship and embark on a journey together. Rated PG. 100 minutes. Screens in 3-D and 2-D at Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown. Screens in 2-D only at DreamCatcher. (Not reviewed)
GOOSEBUMPS R.L. Stine’s popular young-adult horror books get a film adaptation — but it’s not the kind you might expect. A young boy named Zach (Dylan Minnette) moves to a new neighborhood, where he meets Hannah (Odeya Rush), whose father is the author Stine (Jack Black). When they and another boy (Ryan Lee) open up one of Stine’s manuscripts, all of the monsters are set free. Rated PG. 103 minutes. Screens in 2-D only at Regal Stadium 14. (Not reviewed) THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 2 Putting the “stall” in “installment,” this bleak final film in the Hunger Games juggernaut juggles too many characters and gets bogged down in military tactics and personal drama. It picks up where the first Mockingjay film left off — Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and the rebels have just rescued Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) — but it quickly sputters. Once Katniss sets out to assassinate the villainous President Snow (Donald Sutherland), it kicks into high gear with some exciting action sequences, but the script is overloaded with clunky dialogue and ham-handed reminders that real war isn’t all that different from those Hunger Games arenas. Splitting Suzanne Collins’ book into two films certainly made financial sense for the studio, but couldn’t they have given us one exceptional 150-minute movie instead of two mediocre ones? Rated PG-13. 137 minutes. Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown; DreamCatcher. (Laurel Gladden)
LOVE THE COOPERS The first Christmas movie of 2015 is this ensemble dramedy about a family that gets together for a holiday reunion that nearly goes off the rails — despite the mother and father (Diane Keaton and John Goodman) wanting everything to go perfectly. These kinds of movies are typically only as good as the cast, and this one includes Alan Arkin, Marisa Tomei, Amanda Seyfried, Ed Helms, Olivia Wilde, and some cute kids.
Rated PG-13. 118 minutes. Regal Stadium 14. (Not reviewed)
THE MARTIAN Mark Watney (Matt Damon) may have been stranded on the Red Planet too early to get the memo about water on Mars, but he makes do with ingenuity and a cocky wit. Left behind for dead by his beleaguered crewmates after a Martian storm, he has to rely on can-do American spirit and science smarts (he’s the team’s botanist) to grow enough food to last him until a rescue mission can be mounted. Director Ridley Scott is back in space, and he keeps things lively in the thin atmosphere forty million miles from home. The movie is much more than a one-man show. Jessica Chastain heads a strong team aboard the spacecraft, Jeff Daniels and Chiwetel Ejiofor run things at NASA, battling over humanitarian, scientific, and political considerations as they work to bring their man back home. Damon gives a star performance. The great thing about this film is that it makes intelligence cool. Rated PG-13. 141 minutes. Screens in 2-D only at Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown. (Jonathan Richards)
THE NIGHT BEFORE
After enraging North Korea with 2014’s Christmas release The
Interview, Seth Rogen plays it safe this holiday season, and sticks to the kind of comedy he knows best: that of goofy hijinks, grumbling bromance, and a thick cloud of marijuana smoke. He, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Anthony Mackie play three friends who party each Christmas Eve and this year seek the mythical soirée called the Nutcracka Ball. Rated R. 101 minutes. Regal Stadium 14; Regal DeVargas; DreamCatcher. (Not reviewed)
THE PEANUTS MOVIE Charles Schulz’s classic creation gets a 21st-century makeover with this feature film, which boasts beautiful computer animation in a Sunday-strip style. The gist hasn’t changed much over the decades: Charlie Brown (voiced by Noah Schnapp) is trying to be the cool kid to impress the Little Red-Haired Girl (Francesca Capaldi). Otherwise, the movie dutifully if somewhat mechanically checks off nearly every famous trope and quirk of the property. But the sentiment is sweet and the jokes offer up chuckles, particularly for little ones. Rated G. 93 minutes. Screens in 2-D only at Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown; DreamCatcher. (Robert Ker) PEGGY GUGGENHEIM: ART ADDICT Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s bio-documentary provides a clearly plotted, chronological account of a complicated life. Peggy Guggenheim’s fortune was smaller than many people supposed, but she used it both wisely and opportunistically to advance the cause of modern art through her collecting, her gallery exposure, and ultimately her famous museum in Venice. Guggenheim’s own voice infuses the film, thanks to uncovered recordings of late-in-life interviews. The presentation is further enriched by documentary footage, much of it unfamiliar, of the many artists with whom she enjoyed professional and personal liaisons — a who’s who of mid-20th-century art that includes Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Paul Bowles, and John Cage. Not rated. 96 minutes. Center for Contemporary Arts. (James M. Keller)
ROOM This adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s 2010 novel (with a screenplay by the author) from director Lenny Abrahamson is both suspenseful and deeply moving. It’s the harrowing tale of a young woman (Brie Larson) and her son (Jacob Tremblay) who are being held captive in a grungy 11-by-11-foot garden shed. It’s no one’s idea of a feel-good story, and in less capable hands, it could easily have been dark, melodramatic, or sensationalist. Instead, Abrahamson has created a gripping tale of survival and a tender depiction of a mother and son who save each other. Rated R. 118 minutes.
Regal DeVargas. (Laurel Gladden)
SECRET IN THEIR EYES Julia Roberts goes to grittier territory than audiences may be accustomed to from her, playing an FBI agent who investigates a case in which a young woman’s body is found in a dumpster, only to discover that it is her own daughter. The culprit walks free from what should have been an open-and-shut case, so she and a colleague (Chiwetel Ejiofor) devote their lives to bringing him
continued from Page 59 to justice, even if that “justice” is off the books. Nicole Kidman plays their supervisor. Rated PG-13. 111 minutes. Jean Cocteau Cinema; Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown; DreamCatcher. (Not reviewed) SPECTRE Bond, James Bond, is back, in boilerplate. To be fair, it’s rousing boilerplate: there’s the humdinger of an opening action sequence that destroys urban real estate and civilian life on a mind-boggling scale; the return to London for a severe reprimand; the discovery of a diabolical conspiracy that will end the world as we know it; the car chases, careening helicopter rides, international settings, alpine vistas, subterranean lagoons worthy of Phantom of the Opera; the beautiful women, who strip to reveal a chaste shoulder (the only real nudity is in the credits); the jumbo-sized villain for muscle, and the compact one (Christoph Waltz) for silky menace. Bomb-rigged LED screens count down the minutes and seconds to disaster. For relevance there are echoes of 9/11 and NSA information harvesting. The explosions are deafening, dwarfed only by the score. Bond is remarkable — he can go for hours without sex, is roused to it by life-threatening danger, and delivers smooth one-liners in the face of death. Sam Mendes (Skyfall) directs, and Daniel Craig bids goodbye to the franchise with dour aplomb. Rated PG-13. 148 minutes. Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown; DreamCatcher. (Jonathan Richards)
SPOTLIGHT It’s not a religion that comes under the glare of
Spotlight, but an institution. In Tom McCarthy’s (The Station Agent) splendid, crackling ode to journalism, the “Spotlight” investigative team at The Boston Globe tackles pedophilia and its coverup within the Church. The series won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003. McCarthy is careful not to glamorize his reporters. They’re played as hardworking stiffs by a superb cast that includes Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Stanley Tucci, and Liev Schreiber, and it will be hard to overlook any of them come Oscar time. This movie will evoke comparison to All the President’s Men. There’s a lot of the same shoe-leather approach, conducted here in an even lower key, which in a perverse way gives it even more drama. McCarthy keeps nibbling at the question of how this story could have remained buried for so long. Part of it has to do with the power of the Church, and the shame of the victims. And some of it has to do with the cozy relationships among the city’s power institutions. At the end of the film, the truly staggering extent and reach of this scandal is revealed. Rated R. 128 minutes. Regal DeVargas.
SUFFRAGETTE This telling of the feminist movement’s battle to gain the right to vote in the 1910s comes with some powerful women of its own. Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady) wrote the script, and director Sarah Gavron (Brick Lane) brought it to life. Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, and Meryl Streep star. Rated PG-13.
106 minutes. Violet Crown. (Not reviewed)
THEEB Theeb (Jacir Eid Al-Hwietat) lives with his Bedouin tribe in the wilds of the Ottoman Empire in 1916. His father has died, so Theeb is learning life skills — how to shoot a gun, how to water the camels — from his older brother Hussein (Hussein Salameh Al-Sweilhiyeen). When Hussein is sent to guide a British officer to a secret location, Theeb follows them. This gorgeous film is told entirely from Theeb’s point of view and is at heart a little boy’s adventure tale — but this tale is tied to how progress has changed the countryside and the livelihoods of the tribes that inhabit it. Plot and character details are finely wrought, with Al-Hwietat turning in a subtle, entrancing performance in which he conveys intimate comfort with heat and sand, the visceral relief of slaked thirst, and a fierce determination not to allow a mysterious stranger to further betray him. Not rated. 100 minutes. In Arabic with subtitles. The Screen. (Jennifer Levin)
THE 33 In 2010, the attention of the world’s media turned to a group of 33 miners, who were trapped inside Chile’s San José Mine for more than two months. This film dramatizes their plight, with Antonio Banderas starring as Mario Sepúlveda, the man who became the face of the miners through the videos he sent to the rescue operation. Juliette Binoche, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Gabriel Byrne also star. Rated PG-13. 120 minutes. Regal Stadium 14; Regal DeVargas; DreamCatcher. (Not reviewed)
TRUMBO In his years on the blacklist, Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) eked out a living writing quickie schlock for indie producers Frank and Hymie King (John Goodman and Stephen Root), so there’s some context at least for this disappointing biopic of one of Hollywood’s great writers and important figures. Jailed in 1947 for contempt of Congress for refusing to discuss his personal beliefs and associations, Trumbo, once the movie industry’s highest paid screenwriter, struggled for years, writing through fronts and aliases. In that time he wrote two Oscar-winning scripts (Roman Holiday and
The Brave One), and his relentlessness finally broke the back of the blacklist with his credited screenplay for Kirk Douglas’s
Spartacus. Jay Roach’s movie hits its marks with heavy boots. In supporting roles, Louis C.K. is outstanding, and Helen Mirren caricatures the odious gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. Cranston proves that fine acting is not enough, if the script isn’t right. Trumbo could have used a pass or two through Dalton Trumbo’s typewriter. Rated R. 124 minutes. Violet Crown.
UNBRANDED Four college buddies. A dozen barely trained wild horses. Gorgeous scenery across America’s Western public lands from Mexico to Canada. Combine these with excellent cinematography and one gets Unbranded ,a documentary that is part coming of age, part celebration of public land, and part even-handed commentary on a difficult dilemma for people managing the country’s ever-growing wild-horse herds. The opening scene sets the tone for this alternately hilarious and heartbreaking film. It suffices to say that wild horses and prickly cholla didn’t mix well on the ride’s first day in 2013, and the cowboys paid the price. Still, “there’s not enough quit in any of us not to make it,” says Ben Thamer in the film, one of the four Texas A& M University buddies on the ride along with Ben Masters, Jonny Fitzsimons, and Thomas Glover. By the end, the friends and two filmmakers have ridden the wild horses across Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, through the Grand Canyon and across Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. Rated PG-13. 105 minutes. Center for Contemporary Arts. (Staci Matlock)
VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN There have been several recent films that attempt to explain the origins of a longstanding fictional character. Some have been hits (Maleficent), while others have not (Pan). This one gives audiences the secret history of Victor von Frankenstein (James McAvoy) that they never knew, told from the perspective of Igor (Daniel Radcliffe). Rated PG-13. 109 minutes. Regal DeVargas; Regal Stadium 14; DreamCatcher. (Not reviewed)
Subway to heaven: In Jackson Heights, at the Center for Contemporary Arts
Almost Friends, at El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe, part of the Santa Fe Film Festival