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Film Listings, 1/10/19 – 1/17/19

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AQUAMAN

DON'T MESS WITH THE WET ONE! Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) claims his title as heir to Atlantis and saves the world, in Aquaman. - PHOTO COURTESY OF DC ENTERTAINMENT
  • Photo Courtesy Of Dc Entertainment
  • DON'T MESS WITH THE WET ONE! Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) claims his title as heir to Atlantis and saves the world, in Aquaman.

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre, Galaxy, Park, Stadium 10, Sunset Drive-In

Pick

James Wan (Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring) directs this latest entry in the DC Extended Universe, Aquaman. The story centers on land dweller Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), aka Aquaman, the rightful heir to the throne of the underwater kingdom Atlantis. After his Atlantean half-brother, King Orm (Patrick Wilson), declares war on the surface, Arthur must claim his birthright in order to stop genocide. With help from allies Mera (Amber Heard) and Vulko (Willem Dafoe), Arthur travels the world in search of an ancient weapon: a trident that legend says can only be wielded by the one true king of Atlantis.

On a cliff's edge in 1985 Maine lives lighthouse keeper Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison). During a storm, Thomas spots an unconscious woman (Nicole Kidman) washed up on the rocks. Of course he couldn't leave a catch like her out in the rain, so he takes her in. It turns out she's Atlanna, the princess of the underwater kingdom, Atlantis, escaping from her arranged marriage.

It's very Little Mermaid-esque, as she doesn't know what half the items in his home are but alas the two fall in love and have a son named Arthur (Jason Momoa). But the happily-ever-after story doesn't last as Atlantean soldiers go after the family with an order to take Atlanna back to her husband. Atlanna willingly goes back to the sea to save Thomas and Arthur, promising to return when it's safe.

Arthur goes through his toddler years, teens, and most of his adulthood without his mother but with the knowledge of his royal status. Although his bloodline and seniority over his younger half-brother, Orm, secures a claim to the throne, Arthur has never found a reason to take Atlantis for himself—that is until Orm plans on uniting the seven sea kingdoms in order to wage war on the surface world and all who inhabit it. The union would also grant Orm a new, dictatorial title much higher than kingOcean Master!

The vibrant colors and the overall lighthearted tone of the film make Aquaman such an intriguing 180 for director James Wan, primarily known for his horror films. I always love seeing filmmakers step out of their comfort zones, whether it ends up working or not. The good news is Aquaman does work. There's a lot to geek out about. I'd hate to spend too much time gushing about the special effects and design over the performances and story, but boy oh boy does this movie look freakin' cool! My only real complaint is the scenes on land occasionally pale in comparison to everything happening underwater, and that's purely due to the visuals.

The city of Atlantis itself is especially arresting, but it isn't the only oceanic kingdom we get to visit. Wan even gets to show off some of his horror chops when Arthur and Mera (Amber Heard) journey into the Trench, the most barbaric of the seven sea kingdoms. There are plenty of jump scares to spare when the duo is ambushed by a tribe of amphibious demons. But the most beautifully designed creature in the entire film is Karathen, the mythical sea monster that guards the legendary trident Arthur seeks. If a Godzilla-sized leviathan with a devilish sense of humor voiced by Julie Andrews doesn't get your butt to the theater, nothing will. (143 min.)

—Caleb Wiseblood

BUMBLEBEE

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Matinee

Where's it showing? Galaxy, Park, Stadium 10

Pick

Director Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) helms this Transformers prequel that follows Bumblebee on the run from Decepticons in 1987. After a deadly brawl, the damaged Autobot becomes dormant in a junkyard in a California beach town, disguised as a VW Beetle. He's soon discovered by Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld, The Edge of Seventeen, True Grit), an 18-year-old outsider determined to fix him up and help defend against further attacks. Meanwhile, two Decepticon assassins are already on their way to earth to destroy the planet and Bumblebee once and for all.

The best thing about Bumblebee, compared to other entries in the Transformers series, is how small-scale the story is. Sure, the fate of the world is at stake as always, but the narrative itself still feels extremely intimate. That's largely due to Steinfeld's character, who I wish was the audience's perspective in. The film should have been completely from her point of view in my opinion; it would have been much more intriguing to see the events unfold through her eyes rather than jump back and forth from her to the military. I don't mind a little expositional dialogue here and there, but must the discussion take place in an indiscriminate military control room like every other alien invasion movie?

John Cena's character, Agent Burns, is engaging and delivers some of the funniest lines in the movie. But at the end of the day, his side of the story is pretty unnecessary. We already have the Decepticons hunting Bumblebee down, we don't need to see earthling helicopters and tanks following suit. Were the filmmakers afraid there wouldn't be enough action scenes without military intervention? Well it certainly isn't the case here, and I doubt it would have been had the Decepticons been our only antagonists. Call me old-fashioned, but giant robots duking it out and destroying public property in the process is all the action I need.

It's really Charlie's world and the characters she interacts with that give Bumblebee a boost over previous Transformers movies. Steinfeld is just as candid, vulnerable, and likeable as she was in The Edge of Seventeen. Her relationship with Bumblebee, which starts out as a great homage to Stephen King's Christine with her fixing him up, is reminiscent of Elliott and E.T. And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to '80s callbacks laced throughout the film. The soundtrack, sprawling with Tears For Fears, A-ha, and the Smiths, is especially well integrated, and that's extremely important when your titular character communicates solely through song lyrics. (114 min.)

—Caleb

A DOG'S WAY HOME

FOLLOW YOUR NOSE Bella (voiced by Bryce Dallas Howard) is a dog who travels 400 miles to find her owner, in the family adventure A Dog's Way Home. - PHOTO COURTESY OF COLUMBIA PICTURES CORPORATION
  • Photo Courtesy Of Columbia Pictures Corporation
  • FOLLOW YOUR NOSE Bella (voiced by Bryce Dallas Howard) is a dog who travels 400 miles to find her owner, in the family adventure A Dog's Way Home.

What's it rated? PG

When's it showing? Downtown Centre, Galaxy, Park, Stadium 10

New

Charles Martin Smith (Air Bud, Dolphin Tale) directs this family adventure about Bella (voiced by Bryce Dallas Howard), a dog who travels 400 miles to find her owner. (96 min.)

—Glen Starkey

ESCAPE ROOM

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Rent it

When's it showing? Downtown Centre, Galaxy, Park, Stadium 10

Director Adam Robitel (Insidious: The Last Key, The Taking of Deborah Logan) helms this thriller about six strangers who find themselves in circumstances beyond their control after entering a mysterious escape room. The group must use their wits and work together if they're to survive.

There's enough tension and suspense to thrill fans of the genre, but for many viewers the film won't warrant a trip to the theaters. (109 min.)

—Caleb

THE FAVOURITE

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? The Palm

MEN TROUBLE As Mary Stuart (Saoise Ronan, center right), Queen of Scots, seeks to overthrow England's Queen Elizabeth I, she must be wary of male treachery, in Mary Queen of Scots. - PHOTO COURTESY OF FOCUS FEATURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Focus Features
  • MEN TROUBLE As Mary Stuart (Saoise Ronan, center right), Queen of Scots, seeks to overthrow England's Queen Elizabeth I, she must be wary of male treachery, in Mary Queen of Scots.

Pick

Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth, The Lobster, The Killing of a Scared Deer) directs this early 18th century period piece about two warring women seeking favor from ailing, prickly Queen Anne (Olivia Colman).

Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) is the queen's longtime companion who essentially runs the country during a time of war. Newcomer Abigail (Emma Stone), a new servant to the queen, uses her charms to gain power of her own as she attempts to return to her aristocratic roots.

Featuring excellent performances coupled with a rich and timely subtext that connects beyond its period setting, The Favourite revels in its skewering of royal aloofness and power gluttony and delivers a sardonic treat. (119 min.)

—Glen

GREEN BOOK

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre, Fair Oaks

Pick

Co-writer Peter Farrelly (Dumb and Dumber, There's Something About Mary) directs this biopic about African-American pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), who hires working-class Italian-American bouncer Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) as his driver on a music tour of the 1960s American South. Though they're very different people, they develop a warm and enduring friendship. This is one of those classic feel-good movies only a true cynic could reject. Both lead characters come out of the other side of the story improved. (130 min.)

—Glen

MARY POPPINS RETURNS

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre, Galaxy, Park, Stadium 10

Pick

Rob Marshall (Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha, Pirates of the Caribbean: One Stranger Tides, Into the Woods) directs this sequel to the 1964 classic about a magical nanny who helps two neglected children reconnect with their father. This time around, Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) returns to the Banks family children who are now adults. Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) lives with his three children—Anabel (Pixie Davies), John (Nathanael Saleh), Georgie (Joel Dawson)—and their housekeeper, Ellen (Julie Walters), in the same house on Cherry Tree Lane. With encouragement from Michael's sister, Jane (Emily Mortimer), and the help of lamplighter, Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), Mary helps the new set of Banks children find the joy in life.

I'm happy to report that this sequel—54 years after the original!—is just as wonderful and magical as the first one. Rob Marshall and company have truly done the original justice. The story, the music, the acting, the cinematography, the special effects, and the direction are all superb!

This film is a nostalgia-fest for parents and an introduction to a new world of wonder for kids. If I had some little ones, I'd take them straight to the theater to see this film and then straight to the record store to buy the soundtrack. Mary Poppins Returns is an instant classic! (130 min.)

—Glen

MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS

THE NOTORIUS R.B.G. Felicity Jones (center) stars as Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who fights for equality and eventually becomes a Supreme Court Justice, in On the Basis of Sex. - PHOTO COURTESY OF AMBLIN PARTNERS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Amblin Partners
  • THE NOTORIUS R.B.G. Felicity Jones (center) stars as Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who fights for equality and eventually becomes a Supreme Court Justice, in On the Basis of Sex.

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Matinee

Where's it showing? The Palm, Galaxy

Pick

Josie Rourke makes her directorial debut with her film Mary Queen of Scots, starring Saoirse Ronan as Mary and Margot Robbie as Queen Elizabeth l. The story focuses on Mary's attempts at overthrowing her cousin, Elizabeth, for England's throne. It's a period piece that shows the limits of what a woman could do—even a woman in power.

The film opens with Mary's arrival to Scotland after spending most of her life in France. Widowed, she takes her place as Queen of Scotland, which immediately displeases her half-brother who was temporarily ruling in her absence. Her brother, James (Luke Kidd), and a Protestant cleric, John Knox (David Tennant), disapprove of her Catholicism, her prominent absence in Scotland, and her defiance when a man tells her what to do.

Her homecoming also sparks major concern to the west with Elizabeth in England. Elizabeth lives an isolated life by choice because she fears that someone is after her throne. She even lives a life of celibacy to avoid a man taking advantage of her power.

The two "sisters," as they call each other, marvel and envy one another from a distance. In fear of losing her crown, Elizabeth tries to push one of the men from her council—her supposed lover (hold your horses; they only kiss)—into the arms of Mary to control her from a far. Of course Mary doesn't fall for that trick and instead marries Lord Darnley (Jack Lowden), whose father has a huge interest in the royal power. As it turns out, Darnley doesn't have the same interest, or any interest, in Mary as he drunkenly has an affair with Mary's male musician on their wedding night—scandalous. The only good thing that came out of that marriage was a child that could be the next heir to England's throne.

Throughout the film, the two women fight over who is the rightful Queen of England, but the main issue is the men that surround them—the men on their councils, the men they had relationships with (sexual or not), and the men who are their subjects. There wasn't a single man the women could trust. In one way or another, men were tired of listening to and being commanded by women. While their two reigns were fiercely driven apart, the only mutual understanding they had was taking a stand against men.

Mary Queen of Scots is an interesting watch, from the gowns and garish orange hair to the intense scenes of power from both women. Rourke even had an interesting explanation for Elizabeth's transition to wearing heavy white makeup in her portraits.

For history buffs, there are a lot of accurate moments in the film but there's still a lot to pick at. For instance, Mary was only an infant when she inherited the Scottish throne and was able to rule it when she became an adult. And it wasn't mentioned that her husband, Darnley, was her first cousin! But at the same time, it's nothing new—women pitted against each other and men being disgusting and only caring about power. (124 min.)

—Karen Garcia

THE MULE

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Matinee

Where's it showing? Galaxy, Park, Stadium 10

Pick

Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino) directs this crime thriller screenplay by Sam Dolnick, based on The New York Times Magazine article "The Sinaloa Cartel's 90-Year-Old Drug Mule" by Nick Schenk. Eastwood takes on the role of Earl Stone, a horticulturist and World War II vet who's caught in Michigan running $3 million worth of Mexican cartel cocaine.

After a quick read of The New York Times Magazine article upon which this film is based, it's pretty clear that instead of focusing—as the article does—on whether or not the Earl Stone was a crafty insider or a doddering old man taken advantage of by the cartel, this film is more interested in inventing Stone's estrangement from his family. Earl wants to be the center of attention, and he's seen as a star of the daylily growers association and well liked at the local VFW hall, rather than feeling like a failure as a husband and father at home. He misses anniversaries, birthdays, weddings—you name it—and his ex-wife Mary (Dianne Wiest) and daughter Iris (real life daughter Alison Eastwood) hate him for it.

About the only family member who's not yet fed up with his selfishness is soon-to-be-married granddaughter Ginny (Taissa Farmiga). His horticulture operation, having fallen on hard times thanks to the Internet, is out of business, so when he's recruited to drive a route for the cartel, he accepts, thinking it'll be a one-time easy money scheme that will help him pay for his granddaughter's wedding. It is easy money ... too easy, and the one-time trip turns into another and another, with increasingly larger loads and fatter paydays.

Earl's a charming, selfish prick, and the film explores—maybe a little too easily and conveniently—how he comes to realize what's really important in life. It's not nearly as good as Gran Torino (2008), a similarly themed film, but it certainly washes the bad taste of his last failure—The 15:17 to Paris (2018)—out of my mouth.

So, yes, Eastwood has pulled it off again, but it's a little repetitive of his past work. Like Gran Torino's cranky, racist, veteran Walt Kowalski, Earl Stone is mostly blind to his own shortcomings. Hispanics are "beaners," blacks are "negroes," and women are gleefully objectified. Stone gets away with it all because he's old, but also because he's not malignant or malicious about it. He just doesn't seem to know any better.

His law enforcement counterpart is new Chicago bureau DEA Special Agent Colin Bates (Bradley Cooper), who with his DEA partner (Michael Peña) is zeroing in on the cartel operation because they flipped low-level cartel worker Luis Rocha (Eugene Cordero), who tells them all about this successful new mule, Tata, who's now driving a new black pickup truck. Yet, even when Tata—aka Earl Stone—is right under the DEA's noses, his age and amiable nature rules him out as a suspect.

Overall, this is an ambling film that occasionally delivers moments of emotional resonance. Eastwood is 88 years old, and the former hunky lead is comfortable in his skin, gifted behind and in front of the camera, and still capable of crafting an entertaining story.

The Mule will be remembered as an effective late-career effort from a masterful filmmaker who's given us classics such as The Outlaw Josey Wales, Pale Rider, Mystic River, Flags of Our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima, and American Sniper. For me, his amazing oeuvre is enough to erase his 2012 RNC speech to an empty chair. (117 min.)

—Glen

ON THE BASIS OF SEX

What's it rated? PG-13

Where's it showing? Bay, Galaxy, The Palm, Park, Stadium 10

New

Mimi Leder (Pay It Forward) directs this biopic about Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Felicity Jones), her fight for equality, and her eventual rise to the Supreme Court of the United States. (120 min.)

—Glen

REPLICAS

LOVE AND LOSS Keanu Reeves stars as a synthetic biologist determined to clone his dead family members, in Replicas. - PHOTO COURTESY OF RIVERSTONE PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Riverstone Pictures
  • LOVE AND LOSS Keanu Reeves stars as a synthetic biologist determined to clone his dead family members, in Replicas.

What's it rated? PG-13

When's it showing? Downtown Centre, Park

New

Jeffrey Nachmanoff (Traitor) directs this sci-fi mystery about a scientist obsessed with replicating his dead family members. (107 min.)

—Glen

SHOPLIFTERS

HEARTBREAKER A family of petty thieves helps a child (Miyu Sasaki, left) after finding her outside in the cold and exhibiting signs of abuse, in Shoplifters. - PHOTO COURTESY OF GAGA PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Gaga Pictures
  • HEARTBREAKER A family of petty thieves helps a child (Miyu Sasaki, left) after finding her outside in the cold and exhibiting signs of abuse, in Shoplifters.

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

When's it showing? The Palm

Pick

Hirokazu Kore-eda (Like Father, Like Son, After The Storm) directs this drama about a destitute family relying on shoplifting to cope with a life of poverty. One very cold night, the family comes across a child left alone, locked outside of her home. They take her into their home for dinner, but decide not to return her after noticing symptoms of abuse.

An affecting and humanistic drama, Shoplifters gracefully explores family love and how being a good person is not necessarily being a law abiding one. (121 min.)

—Caleb

SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Sunset Drive-In, Downtown Centre, Galaxy, Stadium 10, Sunset Drive-In

Pick

Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman co-direct this animated action adventure co-written by Phil Lord and co-produced by Christopher Miller (the duo best known for directing The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street). Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) becomes the Spider-Man of his version of reality, then crosses into a parallel universe where he teams with other realities' Spider-Men and a Spider-Woman to stop a an evil that threatens all realities.

Superhero team-ups are most satisfying when the juggling of characters is completely undetectable. The audience shouldn't be thinking about which character's turn it is in the spotlight, rather why the characters work so well together. For example, what is it that makes Nicolas Cage's Spider-Noir (a gritty, 1940s private investigator version of Spider-Man) and John Mulaney's Spider-Ham (an anthropomorphic pig whose secret identity is Peter Porker) such a perfect pair?

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse pulls this off but also picks the right point of view to watch the story unfold through: Miles Morales, a teenager who gets spidey powers after being bit by a genetically altered spider while tagging an abandoned subway station. Morales returns to the station later to investigate, only to uncover a plot concocted by crime lord Wilson Fisk—aka Kingpin (voiced by Liev Schreiber)—to collide dimensions in order to access parallel universes, but at a deadly cost.

What a time it is to be alive for superhero fans. Live action comic book adaptations have been inarguably dominating the box office for the last decade, so where can we go from there? Animated adaptations of costumed crime fighters aren't new, in home video and television at least. But the big screen treatment for these 'cartoons' (a term that Peter Porker considers derogatory) was a rarity ... until this year, if the trend catches on.

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse does for Marvel what Teen Titans Go! To The Movies did for DC earlier this year: It takes these characters places that live action couldn't possibly allow (I could be eating these words in a year or so). Despite the comparison to a quite sillier film, Spider-Verse is surprisingly just as earnest as it is humorous. No matter how many one-liners, knee-slappers, and instances of breaking the fourth wall there are, the stakes feel real. Morales is a full-fledged character we root for and sympathize with all the way through. I'm starting to understand why Spider-Ham found the term 'cartoon' so demeaning. (117 min.)

—Caleb

THE UPSIDE

BRIGHT-SIDER Phillip (Bryan Cranston, center), a wealthy quadriplegic with a bad attitude, hires Dell (Kevin Hart, right), a man with a criminal record who helps him find the joy in life, in The Upside. - PHOTO COURTESY OF LANTERN ENTERTAINMENT
  • Photo Courtesy Of Lantern Entertainment
  • BRIGHT-SIDER Phillip (Bryan Cranston, center), a wealthy quadriplegic with a bad attitude, hires Dell (Kevin Hart, right), a man with a criminal record who helps him find the joy in life, in The Upside.

What's it rated? PG-13

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre, Galaxy, Park, Stadium 10

New

Neil Burger (The Illusionist, Limitless, Divergent) directs this American remake of the wonderful 2011 film, Les Intouchables, about Phillip (Bryan Cranston), a wealthy quadriplegic who hires Dell (Kevin Hart), a man with a criminal record, to help him with his day-to-day needs. (125 min.)

—Glen

VICE

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre, Stadium 10

See Split Screen. Δ

—Glen

New Times movie reviews are compiled by Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey. Contact him at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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