OPENING THIS WEEK THE DEATH OF LOUIS XIV
Not rated. 115 minutes. In French with subtitles. The Screen. See review, Page 51.
106 minutes. Rated PG-13. Screens in 35mm at Jean Cocteau Cinema. Screens in digital at Regal Stadium 14, Violet Crown, Dream Catcher. See review, Page 53.
Ever since 2011’s Bridesmaids showed that there was a market for gross-out comedies with mainly female leads, there’s been a fairly steady stream of raunchy caper films told from a woman’s perspective. The second one this summer (after Rough Night) stars Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Tiffany Haddish as friends who travel to New Orleans for the Essence Festival, where they chase men, get into hijinks, and cringe at one another’s embarrassing moments. Rated R. 122 minutes. Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown; Dream Catcher. (Not reviewed)
THE LITTLE HOURS
Rated R. 90 minutes. Center for Contemporary Arts. See review, Page 49.
VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS
Director Luc Besson (Lucy) has spent most of his career dreaming about making the French graphic novel Valerian and Laureline into a movie, and finally, voilà. An ambitious, colorful science-fiction movie akin to his 1997 cult favorite The Fifth Element, this film details the adventures of Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne), special agents who must save the universe — in particular, Alpha, a city filled with thousands of alien species — from mysterious attackers. Rated PG-13. 137 minutes. Screens in 2-D and 3-D at Regal Stadium 14. In 2-D only at Violet Crown; Dream Catcher. (Not reviewed)
Not rated. 98 minutes. The Screen. See review, Page 55.
These three short films from the Wisdom Archive each showcase one figure from New Mexico art and music. Monica Sosaya: Maestra de Tradición looks at the titular artist, who since 1979 has been an integral participant in the Spanish Market, where she is called the “Grand Dame” for her 65 years of creating santos. Recuerdo spends time with artist and santero Nicholas Herrera of El Rito, winner of the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. Cipriano Vigil: Música de la Gente tells the story of Vigil, a musician who has taken his mastery of Northern New Mexico music from El Rito to the Smithsonian. Director Scott Andrews and the documentary subjects appear in person. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 25, only. Not rated. 68 minutes total. Center for Contemporary Arts. (Not reviewed)
NOW IN THEATERS BABY DRIVER
From the moment Baby (Ansel Elgort), the getaway driver of the film’s title, executes a jawdropping chase sequence choreographed to the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s propulsive “Bellbottoms,” it’s clear the doors of cinematic possibility have been kicked wide open for this fast-paced, rhythmic action movie. Writer-director Edgar Wright marries classic Hollywood musicals to The Fast and the Furious with electric verve. At its core is a sweet romance between Baby and a diner waitress named Debora (Lily James), which is put in jeopardy because of Baby’s debt to a crime lord (Kevin Spacey) and his entanglements with the eccentric sociopaths in that circle (Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx). Though the editing might be the movie’s star, the script isn’t too shabby, and the cast is strong enough across the board that you won’t feel the movie is simply a stylistic exercise. Rather, it’s the kind of exhilarating, startling romp that betrays how conservative most blockbuster movies are. Rated R. 113 minutes. Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown. (Robert Ker)
BEATRIZ AT DINNER
Salma Hayek stars as the title character, a bodyworker who winds up as an impromptu dinner guest in the home of wealthy clients, where she encounters and then stands up to the obnoxious race and class biases of real estate mogul Doug Strutt (John Lithgow). Performances are uniformly superb in this complicated, often uncomfortable literary character study that concludes in ambiguity so startling it is bound to leave viewers divided. As the story moves beyond hostile comments about Beatriz’s immigration status and into deeper waters of personal ideology and themes of mortality and ecology, the guests do not know what to make of someone who is not beholden to their status as important businesspeople — and their mockery drives Beatriz to desperation. Rated R. 83 minutes. Violet Crown. (Jennifer Levin)
Sofia Coppola’s latest, which won her the Best Director award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, is a moody period piece reconfigured from the 1971 film, which starred Clint Eastwood and was based on a novel by Thomas P. Cullinan. In Civil War-torn Virginia, a wounded Union corporal (Colin Farrell) is brought to convalesce at a nearby girls’ boarding school presided over by Miss Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman). Though the sheltered pupils and their teacher (an understated Kirsten Dunst) are at first suspicious of the enemy soldier, they come to dote on him, fascinated by his masculine energy, which threatens to upend the order of the school. Coppola’s mission to invert director Don Siegel’s lurid, male-dominated perspective from the original infuses the remake with her trademark thoughtful female gaze. The decisions she makes in the service of this goal are subtle and engrossing, though her choice to cut a key slave character from the original narrative stands out as a missed opportunity for further complexity. Bolstered by the performances of Kidman, Dunst, Farrell, and a delightfully oversexed Elle Fanning, the update is a tour-de-force of gauzy, cloistered femininity — as with Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides and Marie Antoinette, the dresses are not to be missed — combined with the candlelit black magic of a Southern gothic psychological thriller. Rated R. 93 minutes. Violet Crown. (Molly Boyle)
THE BIG SICK
This warm romantic comedy is drawn from the real life story of its screenwriters, Emily V. Gordon (played by the delightful Zoe Kazan) and her husband Kumail
Nanjiani, an actor and comedian (Silicon Valley) of Pakistani origin who portrays a version of himself in this tale of love, laughs, and culture clash. They meet at a Chicago club where he’s doing stand-up and she’s in the audience, and a feisty and fitful relationship ensues. Kamail’s culture is one of arranged marriage, and when Emily discovers he has never told his parents about her, she breaks off the relationship. Shortly thereafter she suffers a medical emergency that dominates most of the rest of the picture. The cast, which includes a smattering of comics and terrific input from Ray Romano and Holly Hunter as Emily’s parents, is uniformly good. The Big Sick is a smart romantic comedy with a richness of cultural insights, a beating heart, and genuine laughs. Rated R. 119 minutes. Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown. (Jonathan Richards)
Race car Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson), now with his odometer getting up there in numbers, hits the track once more and sets out for a comeback against a new breed of racecar that is capable of going much faster than he can. This plot is old hat for Pixar Animation, which has featured characters being made obsolete by new technology since 1995’s Toy Story. As McQueen gradually shifts gears from denial to anger to acceptance with the help of a younger trainer voiced by Cristela Alonzo, his whole arc isn’t unpleasant — it’s just boring and about 20 minutes too long. Larry the Cable Guy’s tow truck Mater remains an acquired taste, the look of the characters still feels off, and the world itself remains weird — why do these talking cars live in a world designed for humans? For the tykes who wear Lightning McQueen pajamas to bed, this installment will probably be a passable new addition to their DVD shelf. For the rest of us, the movie offers an action-packed scene in a demolition derby and not much else. Rated G. 109 minutes. Screens in 2-D only at Regal Stadium 14. (Robert Ker)
DESPICABLE ME 3
With two movies and a Minions spinoff now under its belt, this animated comedy series has its hero, Gru — the dastardly mastermind with a heart of gold — meeting his long-lost brother, Dru. In voicing both characters, Steve Carell manages once more to convey a surprising amount of personality for someone shouting in a weird Eastern European accent, but the real stars are once more the yellow, one-eyed Minions, as well as the villain — a 1980s-obsessed rogue voiced by South Park’s Trey Parker. The story unfurls in a lively enough fashion, but the movie has too many unrelated subplots for a relatively scant running time, suggesting that the franchise is running low on ideas and simply cobbling together whatever they’ve got. Rated PG. 90 minutes. Screens in 2-D only at Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown; Dream Catcher. (Robert Ker)
47 METERS DOWN
The latest shark-attack movie stars Mandy Moore and Claire Holt as two sisters vacationing and adventure-seeking in Mexico. While on a boat, they are talked into getting into a metal cage that is then lowered into the ocean, where they can experience what it’s like to swim with the great whites. It’s good, scary fun at first, but then the cable snaps, sending the cage and their limited oxygen supply down to the ocean floor. Rated PG-13. 89 minutes. Dream Catcher. (Not reviewed)
This movie rides the lean shoulders, the droopy mustache, and the deep, drawling baritone of Sam Elliott with a loping gait, as writer-director Brett Haley steers us through a collection of clichés so familiar they could have sprung from a software program. Lee Hayden (Elliott) is a grizzled old actor down on his luck, estranged from his family with a terminal diagnosis, a last lusty fling with a younger woman, and endless melancholy walks along the California coastline as the surf rolls in. The bet is that Elliott’s charm will hold it all together, and the bet pays off. The good supporting cast includes Lee’s ex-wife (Katharine Ross), his daughter (Krysten Ritter), his pothead friend (Nick Offerman), and the beautiful woman half his age (Laura Prepon) who finds him irresistible.
The Hero is an unabashedly self-referential movie, and a nice tribute to a veteran character actor getting his turn in the spotlight. Rated R. 96 minutes. Center for Contemporary Arts. (Jonathan Richards)
LETTERS FROM BAGHDAD
A spectacular trove of archival footage from early 20th-century Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and other Middle Eastern locales provides the visual backdrop for the remarkable story of Gertrude Bell, an English archaeologist, author, and diplomat who worked fervently to establish an independent Arab state (which became Iraq) after the First World War. The words are Bell’s own, taken directly from her correspondence with her family and friends and spoken by Tilda Swinton (who also served as an executive producer). Testimonies from those who knew Bell are woven in as “interviews” with actors who address the camera (their words, too, are lifted from surviving letters and other sources). A few title cards represent the solitary intrusion of the filmmakers, who need not editorialize — the conflict that has plagued the region and the persistence of dilemmas that kept Bell up at night speak for themselves. This is a beautiful elegy for a world that seems long gone. Not rated. 95 minutes. In English and Arabic with subtitles. The Screen. (Jeff Acker)
Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky) is one of those British actors who is so good most people here don’t even know who she is. In this film, inspired by the life of Maud Lewis (1903-1970), she gives an Oscar-caliber performance as the Nova Scotia folk artist whose hand-painted cards sell for nickels and dimes, mostly to the clients of her fish-peddler husband (a very good Ethan Hawke). Eventually she moves on to paintings, and her price rockets to $5, and then $10. Local television does a story on her, and everyone, including Lewis, begins to show her a little respect. Gnarled and scrunched from childhood rheumatoid arthritis, Maudie maintains a cheerful demeanor. As much as it is the story of her painting, director Aisling Walsh’s biopic is about survival and positivity in the face of crippling adversity. The real Maud Lewis died in poverty, but her paintings now sell for tens of thousands of dollars. Not rated. 115 minutes. Center for Contemporary Arts. (Jonathan Richards)
This 1968 counterculture classic from D.A. Pennebaker, shot in his trademark vérité style, tells an episodic and nonlinear tale of the Monterey Pop Festival. Held 50 years ago on a sunny weekend in June, the music fest featured the formidable lineup of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, the Mamas and the Papas (Papa John Phillips organized the festival with Lou Adler), the Who, Hugh Masekela, and Ravi Shankar. It’s the yang to Gimme Shelter’s yin, showcasing the Summer of Love at its most carefree, idealistic, and fashionable (come for the music, stay for the outfits). But considering that the immediate future held in store the tragic deaths of the concert’s standout performers (Redding, Hendrix, Joplin, and Mama Cass), viewers may not be able to escape a vague sense of foreboding, watching these stars burning at their brightest and hottest. 79 minutes. Not rated. Center for Contemporary Arts. (Molly Boyle)
After facing diminishing returns with the Amazing Spider-Man films, Sony Pictures Studio finally collaborated with Marvel Studios to reunite Spidey with Captain America, the Hulk, and all of his other buddies from Marvel’s comics. In this first solo film for the new Spider-Man (after a brief appearance in Captain America: Civil War, the character is a high-school student (played with exuberance by Tom Holland), hanging with his pals and waiting for the call to officially join the Avengers. Meanwhile, a local crook called the Vulture (a magnificent Michael Keaton) is scooping up alien tech and selling it on the black market, prompting Spidey to investigate. Marvel Studios’ marquee draw, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), also elbows his way in as a mentor figure. Moving Spider-Man into the Marvel Studios stable should have propelled the character to greater stories, but the movie feels confined by this transition: The Avengers tie-in bogs the movie down, and Spidey’s adventures — once visually thrilling as directed by the singular Sam Raimi — now look and feel like every other Marvel movie. A delightfully diverse cast and a lively spirit help lift this new web-slinger’s inaugural adventure, but hopefully the real goods are yet to come. Rated PG-13. 133 minutes. Screens in 3-D and 2-D at Regal Stadium 14. Screens in 2-D only at Violet Crown; Dream Catcher. (Robert Ker)
TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT
The new entry in the Transformers franchise inexplicably features King Arthur (Liam Garrigan) and the Knights of the Round Table, who are among the first to come into a Transformers-made talisman that now spells doom for planet Earth — unless Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) can save the day. The supporting cast is a veritable Sundance Film Festival of talent, including Anthony Hopkins, Stanley Tucci, and John Turturro as well as the voices of Steve Buscemi, John Goodman, and Ken Watanabe — none of whom seem to be enjoying themselves all that much. By the time the credits roll, exhausted audiences might feel the same way. Rated PG-13. 149 minutes. Screens in 2-D only at Regal Stadium 14; Dream Catcher. (Robert Ker)
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
In one scene near the end of this third prequel to 1968’s Planet of the Apes, characters traverse abandoned tunnels where one bit of graffiti reads “Apepocalypse Now!” This tag spells out the obvious — this saga’s chapter is a clear nod to the 1979 film Apocalypse Now . In a world in which humans have been wiped out by the simian flu and monkeys are evolving at a rapid rate, ape leader Caesar (performed once more by a motion-captured Andy Serkis) travels north on a revenge mission to find a crazed Army colonel gone rogue (Woody Harrelson). Director Matt Reeves tackles the story with a commitment to excellence across the audio and visual components of the film, including some of the best special effects you’ll ever see, wonderful sound effects (particularly when all the apes start chattering at once), a compelling score, and an eye for memorable images. The script balances heavy drama with smaller moments, offering nice nods to the 1960s and ’70s films.
Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, at Regal Stadium 14, Violet Crown, and DreamCatcher