Film clips / May 3-9

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AMAZING GRACE

After many dangers, toils and snares, the long-lost Aretha Franklin concert film "Amazing Grace" has finally seen the light, and good Lord is it good. Filmed over two sessions in January 1972 at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in the Watts section of Los Angeles, it captures Franklin at the absolute apex of her power. The colossal accompanying double LP, which didn't suffer the same fate as the footage, is already justly revered and remains the best-selling gospel record of all time. But to see it is to believe. This is gospel ecstasy. Franklin says virtually nothing throughout, appearing preternaturally calm in between songs. Is that simply out of respect for the setting? Was she somehow not at ease during the film's making, at least when the music wasn't playing? Or is it more like what John Updike said about Ted Williams not doffing his cap to fans after a home run? Just as gods do not answer letters, queens don't curtsy. (Coyle, The Associated Press— 4/19). 1 hour, 27 minutes. TM

ASK DR. RUTH

A documentary portrait chronicling the incredible life of Dr. Ruth Westheimer, a Holocaust survivor who became America's most famous sex therapist. As her 90th birthday approaches, Dr. Ruth revisits her painful past and her career at the forefront of the sexual revolution. 1 hour, 40 minutes. TC

AVENGERS: ENDGAME (PG-13)

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. BC / BM / CT / NAM / TC / TM

BEFORE STONEWALL: THE MAKING OF A GAY AND LESBIAN COMMUNITY

The riots that followed the arrests at New York City's Stonewall Inn in 1969 are widely considered to be a major development in the history of gay and lesbian rights in America. This documentary investigates national cultural perceptions of homosexuality before the event, looking back on previous decades, particularly in regard to conflicts with police and censorship. In addition to interviews with activists and scholars, the film includes the reflections of renowned writer Allen Ginsberg. "Before Stonewall" has been newly restored for the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. 1 hour, 28 minutes. LC

BE NATURAL: THE UNTOLD STORY OF ALICE GUY-BLACHE

Alice Guy-Blache was a true pioneer who got into the movie business at the very beginning — in 1894, at the age of 21. Two years later, she was made Head of Production at Gaumont and started directing films. She and her husband moved to the United States, and she founded her own company, Solax, in 1910 — they started in Flushing and moved to a bigger facility in Fort Lee, N.J. But by 1919, Guy-Blache's career came to an abrupt end and she and the 1000 films that bore her name were largely forgotten. Pamela B. Green's film is both a tribute and a detective story. Narrated by Jodie Foster. TM

BREAKTHROUGH (PG)

In January 2015, 14-year-old John Smith fell through the frozen surface of a lake in St. Charles, Mo., and remained submerged for 15 minutes. He had no pulse when emergency workers pulled him from the freezing water, or for nearly 45 minutes after. It was reportedly only after audible prayers by his mother, Joyce, that his heart finally started up again. And over the next several days, as his community vigorously prayed for him, the young man made a full, seemingly impossible recovery. Roxann Dawson's faith-based film tells the story of John's miraculous ordeal with an unassuming simplicity, focusing on the harrowing details of the case without an overreliance on proselytization. Though faith is ever-present — particularly through the devotion of Joyce (Chrissy Metz) and the town's struggling young pastor (Topher Grace), who remain with John (Marcel Ruiz) every step of the way — the film also wisely dedicates plenty of screen time to the emergency workers and doctors struggling to bring the boy back to life. Here, religion is not in contention with medicine, but seems to work in tandem with it. You don't have to believe in divine intervention to be moved by this story. (Ebiri, New York Times — 4/19). 1 hour, 56 minutes. BM / NAM

CAPTAIN MARVEL (PG-13)

"Captain Marvel" follows Carol Danvers as she becomes one of the universe's most powerful heroes when Earth is caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races. Set in the 1990s, this is an all-new adventure from a previously unseen period in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I spent over two hours with Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers and I still have no idea what her personality is. Sure, there's a lot more going on in "Captain Marvel," but it's a pretty egregious failing considering that the creative bigwigs at Marvel had 10 years and 20 films to work it out. All-in-all it's fine, but nothing to get too excited about. And it could have and should have been so much better. The first female-led movie of the MCU deserves more. With Brie Larson, Jude Law, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Gemma Chan, Mckenna Grace. (Bahr, The Associated Press — 3/7). 2 hours, 4 minutes. NAM

DIANE

For Diane (Mary Kay Place), everyone else comes first. Generous but with little patience for self-pity, she spends her days checking in on sick friends, volunteering at her local soup kitchen, and trying valiantly to save her troubled, drug-addicted adult son from himself. But beneath her relentless routine of self-sacrifice, Diane is fighting a desperate internal battle, haunted by past mistakes which threaten to tear her increasingly chaotic world apart. 1 hour, 35 minutes. TC

DUMBO (PG)

The original "Dumbo" was released in the summer of 1941 while Germany was spreading across Europe and war was breaking out in the Pacific. Crafted as a simpler Disney fable after the more extravagant "Fantasia" disappointed at the box office, "Dumbo" — only 64 minutes in length — took flight just as far more chilling creations were taking to the air. Almost eight decades later, "Dumbo" is alight again in Tim Burton's somber and sincere live-action remake of the animated classic. Burton has refashioned "Dumbo" as a sepia-toned show-business parable tailored to more animal rights-sensitive times. He steers "Dumbo," from a script by Ehren Kruger, toward a grand corporate satire as the big-city conglomerate tries to co-opt the genuine wonder of Dumbo and Medici's traveling band. Greed and exploitation close in on them as the big-tent gets bigger. But it is wondrous when Dumbo takes flight. Burton's camera feels genuinely mesmerized at his elephant's magic act. The filmmaker's recent films have been well outside his best work; it was his woeful "Alice in Wonderful" that kick-started much of the Disney live-action remakes. But when Dumbo soars, it's clear that Burton is a believer, still, in the ability of a beautiful oddity to transcend. (Coyle, The Associated Press — 3/29). 2 hours, 10 minutes. BM / NAM

HIGH LIFE (R)

Monte and his baby daughter are the last survivors of a damned and dangerous mission to the outer reaches of the solar system. They must now rely on each other to survive as they hurtle toward the oblivion of a black hole. With Robert Pattinson, Scarlett Lindsey, Juliette Binoche. 1 hour, 53 minutes. IC

LONG SHOT (R)

Fred Flarsky is a gifted and free-spirited journalist who has a knack for getting into trouble. Charlotte Field is one of the most influential women in the world — a smart, sophisticated and accomplished politician. When Fred unexpectedly runs into Charlotte, he soon realizes that she was his former baby sitter and childhood crush. When Charlotte decides to make a run for the presidency, she impulsively hires Fred as her speechwriter — much to the dismay of her trusted advisers. With Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen. 2 hours, 5 minutes. BC / BM

MISSING LINK (PG)

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The charismatic Sir Lionel Frost considers himself to be the world's foremost investigator of myths and monsters. Trouble is, none of his small-minded, high-society peers seems to recognize this. Hoping to finally gain acceptance from these fellow adventurers, Sir Lionel travels to the Pacific Northwest to prove the existence of a legendary creature known as the missing link. With Zach Galafianakis, Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson, Timothy Olyphant. 1 hour, 35 minutes. NAM

RED JOAN (R)

Joan Stanley is a widow living out a quiet retirement in the suburbs when, shockingly, the British Secret Service places her under arrest. The charge: providing classified scientific information — including details on the building of the atomic bomb — to the Soviet government for decades. As the interrogation gets underway, Joan relives the dramatic events that shaped her life and her beliefs. With Judi Dench, Sophie Cookson, Tom Hughes (Victoria), Ben Miles, Stephen Campbell Moore. 1 hour, 50 minutes. TM

SHAZAM! (PG-13)

An origin story about a jaded 14-year-old Philadelphia foster kid, Billy Batson (Asher Angel), who's bestowed with superpowers by Djimon Hounsou. As Shazam, he's physically altered into an adult and takes the form of Zachary Levi. But of course, even with his height, his muscles, his voice and even his powers, he's still very much a kid and has a lot to learn. Those are the basics, but the spirit really comes from the smart writing, the pitch-perfect casting and the supporting world around Billy and Shazam. it's basically "Big" with superheroes and villains instead of business people and girlfriends, but director David F. Sandberg has infused his film with so much heart and charm that it hardly matters. Even the deficiencies, like the sluggish beginning and the random, ridiculous villains, fade away under a haze of goodwill because unlike so many big spectacle action pics with sequels in mind, "Shazam!" actually sticks the landing. It's just a lightning bolt of unexpected joy that is certainly worth your time and money. (Bahr, The Associated Press — 4/5). 2 hours, 12 minutes. BM

THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA (PG-13)

In 1970s Los Angeles, La Llorona is stalking the night and the children. Ignoring the eerie warning of a troubled mother suspected of child endangerment, a social worker and her own small kids are soon drawn into a frightening supernatural realm. Their only hope to survive La Llorona's deadly wrath may be a disillusioned priest and the mysticism he practices to keep evil at bay, on the fringes where fear and faith collide. The film feels both long and rushed. Plotlines are abandoned at will, there are set ups for things that never come back and some suspiciously malleable "monster-logic" that makes the whole endeavor seem a little lazy and half-baked. The legend of La Llorona could inspire a whole universe of films on its own, but not with a kick-off like this. With Linda Cardellini, Patricia Velasquez, Madeleine McGraw, Sean Patrick Thomas, John Marshall Jones. (Bahr, The Associated Press — 4/20). 1 hour, 33 minutes. BM / NAM

THE INTRUDER (PG-13)

Scott and Annie Russell couldn't be happier after buying their dream home from a mysterious and lonely widower named Charlie in Napa Valley, Calif. Their newfound paradise soon turns into a living nightmare when Charlie — still strangely attached to the house — begins to show up and interfere in their daily lives. With Meagan Good, Dennis Quaid, Michael Ealy. 1 hour, 42 minutes. BM

UGLYDOLLS (PG)

In the adorably different town of Uglyville, weirdness is celebrated, strangeness is special and beauty is embraced as more than meets the eye. After traveling to the other side of a mountain, Moxy and her UglyDoll friends discover Perfection — a town where more conventional dolls receive training before entering the real world to find the love of a child. Soon, the UglyDolls learn what it means to be different — ultimately realizing that they don't have to be perfect to be amazing. 1 hour, 24 minutes. BC / BM / NAM

WILD NIGHTS WITH EMILY (PG-13)

The poet Emily Dickinson's persona, popularized since her death, has been that of a reclusive spinster — a delicate wallflower, too sensitive for this world. In this humorous drama, Molly Shannon captures the vivacious, irreverent side of Emily Dickinson that was covered up for years — most notably Emily's lifelong romantic relationship with another woman (Susan Ziegler). After Emily's death, a rivalry emerges when her brother's mistress (Amy Seimetz) along with editor T.W. Higginson (Brett Gelman) publishes a book of Emily's poems. 1 hour, 24 minutes. IC

Legend

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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