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  1. Arts & Entertainment

Movie Planner: 'The Last Word,' 'Life,' 'CHiPs' and 'Power Rangers'

From left, Amanda Seyfried, Shirley MacLaine and AnnJewel Lee Dixon star in The Last Word.
Published Mar. 22, 2017

INDIE FLICKS: THE LAST WORD

Shirley MacLaine joins a gratifying trend of aging legends finding work in independent films like The Last Word (R). MacLaine's vehicle lands somewhere between Sally Field's smartly oddball Hello, My Name Is Doris and the maudlin egotism of Jerry Lewis as Max Rose. It's an okay movie, nothing more, and sometimes less.

MacLaine, though, often delights as Harriet Lauler, a woman radiating displeasure with everything around her. Harriet once directed a successful business, married and raised a daughter. Now she lives alone in luxury except for servants perpetually kept on their toes.

Harriet is also bored, leading to one failed suicide attempt and another started until a revelation: How will she be remembered in a life-defining obituary? Harriet steamrolls an introduction to the local newspaper's obit writer Anne Sherman (Amanda Seyfried), offering the job of writing her obit in advance.

Anne discovers nobody has anything nice to say about Harriet, not even her priest, gynecologist or the daughter she hasn't seen in decades. For a while, The Last Word cruises on MacLaine and Seyfried's generation gap banter. Then screenwriter Stuart Ross Fink begins contriving warm fuzzies. Harriet mentors an at-risk child (annoying screen kid AnnJewel Lee Dixon) to pad her obituary. She commandeers a DJ gig at a community radio station, proving she's hip. Anne becomes a soul reclamation project. Someone gets bad news from a doctor. Each move is a telegraphed step away from the movie we started out liking.

MacLaine keeps things interesting, snapping off one-liners with precision that comes only through experience. She'll turn 83 next month, still vibrant and commanding attention effortlessly, a vestige of Hollywood's old guard. The Last Word isn't what MacLaine deserves as an actor but in life it's what she'll doubtlessly get. C

OPENING THURSDAY:

LIFE

Ryan Reynolds, left, and Jake Gyllenhaal, right, are astronauts discovering Life (R) before death on a space station orbiting Mars. They're collecting samples near Matt Damon's old neighborhood when a living organism is collected and brought aboard, proving beyond all doubt that Alien is still being copied by filmmakers.

A review will be published at tampabay.com/movies.

POWER RANGERS

Honestly, I figured the go, go Power Rangers (PG-13) would be long gone, gone by now. The kiddie sci-fi fantasy's original fans are old enough now to take their children to this reboot ditching cheesy special effects for Transformers-style bombast.

Five teenage actors likely to remain unknown discover a downed spacecraft bestowing super powers. They're recruited by floating-head Zordon (Bryan Cranston) to defeat alien villain Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks).

CHiPS

Among Dax Shepard's dumber career moves is remaking a 1980s network TV touchstone as a groin-centric comedy. CHIPS (R) packs more package gags into its two-minute trailer than any self-respecting movie would. Shepard plays California Highway Patrol motorcycle cop Jon Baker, now a reckless rule breaker instead of Larry Wilcox's straight arrow. Frank "Ponch" Poncherello is now an alias for an undercover FBI agent (Michael Peña) who can't ride a bike.

A review will be published at tampabay.com/movies.

ALL THAT JAZZ: THE BANFF PROJECT

Jack Wilkins' experiment in saxophone cinema The Banff Project gets its world premiere tonight, blending a live concert with footage captured in the Canadian Rockies. The University of South Florida's director of jazz studies composed music matching visual themes in the wilderness, to be performed by USF's jazz faculty and special guests. Wilkins created the project as a visiting Fulbright scholar at the Banff Center for creative innovation. The multimedia event will be performed later this year in Edmonton, Alberta, where a soundtrack CD was recorded. Show time is 7:30 p.m. at the Tampa campus' Concert Hall. $20; discounts for Tampa Jazz Club members, seniors and students with IDs

in theaters: our Top 5

Current movies recommended by the Tampa Bay Times:

1 Logan: Requiem for a Marvel mutant (Hugh Jackman, above). Best comic book flick since The Dark Knight.

2 Get Out: Jordan Peele makes race relations scarier than ever with bold horror satire.

3 The LEGO Batman Movie: Taking apart the Caped Crusader's legacy, interlocking piece by piece.

4 John Wick Chapter 2: Keanu Reeves is a 21st century Chuck Norris.

5 Moonlight: Taking a post-Oscars victory lap in theaters. Don't miss it this time around.

UPCOMING RELEASES

(Dates subject to change)

March 31: Ghost in the Shell; The Boss Baby; The Zookeeper's Wife; Step Sisters

April 7: Going in Style; Smurfs: The Lost Village

April 14: The Fate of the Furious

April 21: Free Fire; The Lost City of Z; Unforgettable

April 28: The Circle; How to Be a Latin Lover

May 5: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

May 12: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword; Snatched; Lowriders

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