Film clips / June14-20

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Guy Ritchie — that lover of gritty gangsters and violent action — was always an odd choice to helm a big Disney romantic musical and proves utterly the wrong guy here. "Aladdin," in his hands, is more like "The Mummy" than "Frozen." Ritchie, who also is a co-screenwriter alongside John August, has basically taken the 1992 film's structure, added elements from the Broadway musical and made some nice script tweaks, most impressively by adding a second love story and updating Princess Jasmine from pretty eyewitness to fierce participant. The script also doubles down on the notion that everyone seems trapped in roles they are born into. Mena Massoud gamely plays the title character, a street urchin with good hair who falls for the free-spirited princess and has his life changed with one rub of a magic lamp. Naomi Scott is the princess and she is a worthy Disney heroine for 2019 — funny, strong, brave and with a sinfully good voice. Will Smith's Genie is a martini-drinking, yoga-posing, needy showoff with a top knot and an armful of popular culture references. When he's blue, he's purely a visual effect and trying too hard to be the late Robin Williams. When he's normal, he's Smith — and better. A scene in which the Genie tries to help the tongue-tied Aladdin at court is Smith at his funniest in years.With Marwan Kenzari, Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen. (Kennedy, The Associated Press — 5/24). 2 hours, 9 minutes. BC / BM / NAM


Kenneth Branagh directed and stars in this sedately paced fondly poignant look at William Shakespeare's final years. Not much is known about that time, after the playwright's beloved Globe Theatre burned to the ground in 1613 and he returned to his family home in Stratford-upon-Avon. It's not a peaceful retirement. Reconnecting with his neglected wife (Judi Dench, brilliantly huffy) and two variously troubled daughters (Kathryn Wilder and Lydia Wilson) is challenging, to say the least. Yet while "All Is True" is a little soppy and a tad dull, it's beautifully acted, richly photographed and blessedly free of histrionics. (Catsoulis, New York Times — 6/7). 1 hour, 41 minutes. TC


Generous in humor, spirit and sentimentality, Anthony and Joe Russo's "Endgame" is a surprisingly full feast of blockbuster-making that, through some time-traveling magic, looks back nostalgically at Marvel's decade of world domination. This is the Marvel machine working at high gear, in full control of its myth-making powers and uncovering more emotion in its fictional cosmos than ever before. Providing even the most basic of plot points in "Endgame" is a fool's errand, but it's fair to say that it takes place some time after the rapture caused by the megalomaniac boulder Thanos (Josh Brolin). Having obtained all six of the "infinity stones," he wiped away 50 percent of Earth's creatures (and superheroes) at the end of "Infinity War" with the snap of his fingers. "Endgame," at its best moments, carries the thrill of classic comic-book twists and reversals. But the main difference is that a dose of finality has finally crept in to a universe where death is seldom visited on anyone but the bad guys. "Endgame" will likely be most remembered for its teary goodbyes. To say who would, of course, invite my own demise. But the send-offs, tender and sincere, capture something about the "Avengers" films. At their root, they are about family. Never has that been more apparent than in the daughters, fathers, sons, mothers, sisters, brothers and spouses that populate "Endgame," making up the connections that bind this fantasy realm — one that, for all its turmoil, is far more unified than ours. The conclusion of this chapter in the MCU, of course, won't last long; Marvel's assembly lines are already humming. And I suspect it will be some time before we understand just what Marvel has wrought with these movies. At their worst, they are colossal, inhuman products built for a supersized form of binge-watching. At their best, they are grand, mega-sized Hollywood spectacles. It's not a spoiler to say that "Endgame" verges more on the latter. At least I don't think so. (Coyle, The Associated Press — 4/25). 3 hours, 2 minutes. BM


During a life-threatening rescue mission in space, the X-Men's Jean Grey is hit by a cosmic force that transforms her into one of the most powerful mutants of all. Wrestling with this increasingly unstable power as well as her own personal demons, Jean spirals out of control, tearing the X-Men family apart and threatening to destroy the very fabric of our planet. The good news is "Dark Phoenix " is neither an apocalypse nor is it "X-Men: Apocalypse," but this latest installment is not exactly a solid step forward or a satisfying ending for anyone. It's supposed to be the culmination of 20 years of X-Men movies, and yet it feels more like a rushed and inconsequential spinoff than something that we've been building toward for two decades. With James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Evan Peters, Jessica Chastain. (Bahr, The Associated Press — 6/8). 1 hour, 53 minutes. BC / BM / NAM


This documentary celebrates the explosion of popular music that came out of LA's Laurel Canyon in the mid-60s as folk went electric and The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, and The Mamas and the Papas gave birth to the California Sound. It was a moment (1965 to 1967) when bands came to LA to emulate The Beatles and Laurel Canyon emerged as a hotbed of creativity and collaboration for a new generation of musicians who would soon put an indelible stamp on the history of American popular music. Jakob Dylan uncovers never-before-heard personal details behind the bands and their songs and how that music continues to inspire today. The film contains candid conversations and performances with Brian Wilson, Ringo Starr, Michelle Phillips, Eric Clapton, Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Roger McGuinn and Jackson Browne as well as contemporary musicians they influenced such as Tom Petty (in his very last film interview), Beck, Fiona Apple, Cat Power, Regina Spektor, and Norah Jones. 1 hour, 32 minutes. TM


A sequel in the loosest possible sense that requires minimal recall from the audience. Godzilla is here to provide some old-fashioned summer spectacle, no CliffsNotes required. It's a low bar, sure, but at least Godzilla is comfortable with its place in the blockbuster ecosystem. Michael Dougherty has taken the directing reins this time, from Gareth Edwards, and has done a fine job capturing the grandness of the titans, keeping the action coherent and balancing the human element thanks to a terrific cast. His script is also pleasingly light and often funny, although Bradley Whitford's Dr. Stanton goes a little overboard trying to be the comic relief. But even that is easy to give a pass to. "Godzilla: King of the Monsters" is turn-your-brain-off summer fun, and doesn't need to be anything more than that. With Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, O'Shea Jackson Jr, Ken Watanabe, Ziyi Zhang. (Bahr, The Associated Press — 5/31). 2 hours, 11 minutes. BM / NAM


Emma Thompson plays Katherine Newbury, who is a legendary late-night talk show host, whose world is turned upside down when she hires her only female staff writer played by Mindy Kaling. Originally intended to smooth over diversity concerns, her decision has unexpected consequences as two women separated by culture and generation are united by their love of a biting punchline. With John Lithgow, Hugh Dancy, Denis O'Hare, Amy Ryan, Max Casella, Reid Scott, Ike Barinholtz. 1 hour, 45 minutes. BC / BM / IC / TM

MA (R)

A lonely middle-aged woman befriends some teenagers and decides to let them party in the basement of her home. But there are some house rules: One of the kids has to stay sober, don't curse, and never go upstairs. They must also refer to her as Ma. But as Ma's hospitality starts to curdle into obsession, what began as a teenage dream turns into a terrorizing nightmare, and Ma's place goes from the best place in town to the worst place on Earth. With Octavia Spencer, Juliette Lewis, Diana Silvers, McKaley Miller, Corey Fogelmanis, Luke Evans, Dante Brown, Missi Pyle, Gianni Paolo. 1 hour, 39 minutes. NAM


The Men in Black have always protected the Earth from the scum of the universe. In this new adventure, they tackle their biggest, most global threat to date: a mole in the Men in Black organization. With Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Liam Neeson, Rebecca Ferguson, Emma Thompson, Rafe Spall. 1 hour, 55 minutes. BC / BM / NAM


Almost slavishly sealed within the hermetic bubble of the rock biopic, "Rocketman" will, justifiably, draw plenty of comparisons to its opening act: last year's Freddie Mercury tale "Bohemian Rhapsody." They're both about larger-than-life figures, each gay icons, with a preternatural talent for hooks and spectacle. The two movies even share a villain in music manager John Reid (Aiden Gillen in "Bohemian Rhapsody," Richard Madden here). And Elton, like Freddie, churned out unassailable, everlasting earworms sung round the world. Favoring melody over meaning, the uplifting music of both comes big-screen ready. Their songs were movies, in Technicolor. Just as "Bohemian Rhapsody" can glide over the origins of "Scaramouche," we need no investigations into "Rocketman" deviates in its rating (R), its less hesitant depiction of its star's homosexuality and, most dramatically, in casting John's life across a fantastical musical tapestry. It's also quite definitely a better movie — although one still stuffed to the gills with clich s and heavily dependent on the sheer toe-tap-ability of its star's extensive back catalog and its lead performer. Here, that's Taron Egerton, who doesn't especially look like John or sound like John, but he gives a star-making performance built on charisma and will. Egerton gives it his all, and if there's one quality that's most essential in an Elton John movie, it's spiritedness. Like its flamboyant subject, it's a movie outfitted to the nines in dazzle and verve, even if it's gotten all dressed up with nowhere to go but the most conventional places. With Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard, Gemma Jones. (Coyle, The Associated Press — 6/1). 2 hours, 1 minute. BC / BM / NAM / TC / TM

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JJ, aka John Shaft Jr. (Jessie Usher), may be a cyber security expert with a degree from MIT, but to uncover the truth behind his best friend's untimely death, he needs an education only his dad can provide. Absent throughout JJ's youth, the legendary locked-and-loaded John Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson) agrees to help his progeny navigate Harlem's heroin-infested underbelly. And while JJ's own FBI analyst's badge may clash with his dad's trademark leather duster, there's no denying family. Besides, Shaft's got an agenda of his own, and a score to settle that's professional and personal. With Richard Roundtree, Alexandra Shipp, Regina Hall. 1 hour, 51 minutes. BM / NAM


Zombies suddenly rise to terrorize a small peaceful town. Now three bespectacled police officers and a strange Scottish morgue expert must band together to defeat the undead. With Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloe Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover. 1 hour, 43 minutes. TC


Max the terrier must cope with some major life changes when his owner gets married and has a baby. When the family takes a trip to the countryside, nervous Max has numerous run-ins with canine-intolerant cows, hostile foxes and a scary turkey. Luckily for Max, he soon catches a break when he meets Rooster, a gruff farm dog who tries to cure the lovable pooch of his neuroses. A solid piece of entertainment for all ages, if not a terribly revelatory one. With Patton Oswalt, Kevin Hart, Lake Bell, Hannibal Buress, Dana Carvey, Harrison Ford, Tiffany Haddish, Garth Jennings, Ellie Kemper, Nick Kroll, Bobby Moynihan, Jenny Slate, Eric Stonestreet, Pete Holmes. (Kennedy, The Associated Press — 6/7). 1 hour, 26 minutes. BC / BM / CT / NAM / TC / TM


A shy but ambitious film student (Honor Swinton Byrne) begins to find her voice as an artist while navigating a turbulent courtship with a charismatic but untrustworthy man (Tom Burke). She defies her protective mother (Tilda Swinton) and concerned friends as she slips deeper and deeper into an intense, emotionally fraught relationship that comes dangerously close to destroying her dreams. Tilda Swinton's then 21-year-old daughter, Honor Swinton Byrne, who'd appeared in one film as a child and had no plans to be an actress. The result is a fairly smashing debut, a performance so genuine, detailed and lived-in that Swinton Byrne may have the film world begging her to reconsider her plans to study psychology and neuroscience at university. (Noveck, The Associated Press — 6/8). 1 hour, 59 minutes. TC / TM

VAN GOGH AND JAPAN (no rating)

Visiting the new galleries of Japanese art in Paris and then creating his own image of Japan — through in-depth research, print collecting and detailed discussions with other artists — Vincent Van Gogh's encounter with Japanese artworks gave his own work a new and exciting direction. After leaving Paris for the south of France — to what he thought of as near to a kind of Japan as he could find — the productive and yet troubled years that followed must all be seen in the context of Van Gogh bending Japanese influences to his will and defining himself as a modern artist with clear Asian precursors. 1 hour, 25 minutes. LC


The theaters at which the movies listed in Film Clips are playing are:

BC: Beacon Cinema (57 North St., Pittsfield)

BM: Berkshire Mall 10 (Route 8, Lanesborough)

CT: Crandell Theatre (48 Main St., Chatham, N.Y.)

IC: Images Cinema (50 Spring St.,Williamstown)

LC: Little Cinema (Berkshire Museum, 39 South St., Pittsfield)

NAM: North Adams Movieplex 8 (86 Main St., North Adams)

TC: Triplex Cinema (70 Railroad St., Great Barrington)

TM: The Moviehouse (48 Main St., Millerton, N.Y.)


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