Here are a few short reviews of movies opening Friday, September 13 at San Antonio theaters.
Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles
Broadway buffs and theater geeks will likely find plenty to love in Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles, a documentary on the history and impact that the stage play Fiddler on the Roof has had across the globe for the last 55 years. Through talking-head interviews with individuals who have been a part of one of the countless versions of the show, director Max Lewkowicz (Underfire) does a fine job sifting through the decades of music and drama to fashion together an interesting doc that has universal appeal, despite it being on a niche subject. Of course, with a story of immigrants at the center of Fiddler on the Roof, Miracle of Miracles also becomes a timely tale about families who come to the U.S. as refugees and how the American Dream is still alive today, although it is threatened every day by the current U.S. administration. With a half-century worth of Fiddler content out there, Lewkowicz has some trouble swerving in and out of narratives and misses a few opportunities to expand on some of the most fascinating stories (for example, New York high school theater teacher Richard Piro’s 1969 version of the play starring his black and Latino students). Still, Miracle of Miracles feeds the soul and explains in depth why a play like Fiddler on the Roof will always be a theatrical treasure. Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles opens exclusively at the Santikos Bijou Cinema Bistro September 13.3 out of 5 stars (recommended)
Movies take inspiration from other movies all the time, but with Hustlers, there’s something about writer/director Lorene Scafaria’s imitation of a Martin Scorsese picture that feels shameless and lazy. Hustlers is not as epic as it would like audiences to believe. It wants to be Goodfellas dressed in Gucci, but it’s not – although during the third act when each character is receiving their comeuppance, it’s hard not to think Scafaria might go full gangster and hang a dead stripper in a freezer truck. The film stars Constance Wu (Crazy Rich Asians) as Destiny, a young and naïve exotic dancer in New York City who teams up with her co-workers to steal money from the greedy Wall Street clients who caused the financial crisis of 2008. Leading the crew is Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), the elder stateswoman of the club who takes Destiny and the other women under her wing and shows them how easy it is to scam inebriated men. The actual hustle in Hustlers, unfortunately, doesn’t play out in a very compelling way. Scafaria’s script tries to sell the idea that these dancers are a “family,” but nothing that comes before the criminal activity is strong enough to convince us that these friendships are authentic. So, when things start to spiral downward, the emotion is nonexistent. What we’re left with is a toothless crime drama that doesn’t take advantage of its shady plot. Hustlers opens at theaters nationwide September 13.2.5 out of 5 stars (not recommended)
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice
Oscar-winner Rob Epstein (The Times of Harvey Milk) and Oscar nominee Jeffrey Friedman (End Game) take audiences through the life and career of country rock star Linda Ronstadt, who topped the charts with her renditions of songs like “You’re No Good” and “When Will I Be Loved?” The touching tribute is narrated by Ronstadt herself, although she doesn’t make an appearance until the final scene of the movie. Ronstadt was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2013, but the disease took her singing voice a few years earlier. The documentary features interviews with Ronstadt’s longtime friends and colleagues like Bonnie Raitt, Karla Bonoff, Jackson Browne and Kevin Kline. Epstein and Friedman are good conventional storytellers, but this is the kind of music doc where the music can simply speak for itself. It’s especially true in the aforementioned final scene where Ronstandt softly sings a Mexican corrido with her family. Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice opens exclusively at the Santikos Bijou Cinema Bistro September 13.3 out of 5 stars (recommended)
Director Gavin Hood (Eye in the Sky) turns whistleblowing into an artform in Official Secrets, a taut political thriller that doesn’t need actual spies repelling off skyscrapers to keep the suspense dialed up. In one of the lesser-known stories that took place during the George W. Bush presidency post-9/11, Official Secrets follows Katharine Gun (Keira Knightley), a British intelligence specialist who leaks top-secret information to an anti-war activist friend when she discovers that the U.S. government is asking Britain to help them unlawfully influence the United Nations to support an invasion of Iraq. When the classified memo gets into the hands of a journalist, there is little Katharine can do to stop British authorities from finding and charging her for breaking the Official Secrets Act of 1989. Knightley is top-notch in the lead role and humanizes Katharine in a way that is natural and enlightening. Hood doesn’t present both sides of the argument with the same amount of vigor like he does in Eye in the Sky, but living in an era where politicians are rarely held accountable for their deplorable actions, it’s refreshing to see that a filmmaker can be bold enough to choose to serve the greater good when the narrative calls for it. Official Secrets opens at the Santikos Bijou Cinema Bistro and the Santikos Embassy September 13.3.5 out of 5 stars (recommended)
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