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Film Listings, 1/9/20 – 1/16/20

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All theater listings are as of Friday, Jan. 10.

BOMBSHELL

What's it rated? R

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

See Split Screen.

FROZEN II

WINTER MAGIC Anna (Kristen Bell) and Olaf (Josh Gad) go on another adventure, this time to find the source of Anna's sister's power, in Frozen II. - PHOTO COURTESY OF WALT DISNEY ANIMATION STUDIOS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • WINTER MAGIC Anna (Kristen Bell) and Olaf (Josh Gad) go on another adventure, this time to find the source of Anna's sister's power, in Frozen II.

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Full price

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

Pick

Co-directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee (Frozen) return to helm this animated sequel about Anna (Kristen Bell), Elsa (Idina Menzel), Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), Olaf (Josh Gad), and Sven the reindeer as they leave Arendelle and travel to an enchanted forest, where they hope to discover the origins of Elsa's power. This worthy sequel is a charmer filled with eye-popping animation, catchy songs, and a sweet story about how sometimes change is good even though it's scary; friendship and protecting your friends from danger; and the power of love. (103 min.)

—Glen Starkey

THE GRUDGE

GRUMPY GHOST In The Grudge, Junko Bailey stars as Kayako Ghost, in the so-so reboot of this long-running franchise that started in 2002 with the Japanese film Ju-on, about a vengeful spirit that dooms those it encounters. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SCREEN GEMS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Screen Gems
  • GRUMPY GHOST In The Grudge, Junko Bailey stars as Kayako Ghost, in the so-so reboot of this long-running franchise that started in 2002 with the Japanese film Ju-on, about a vengeful spirit that dooms those it encounters.

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Stream it

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

Director Nicolas Pesce (The Eyes of My Mother, Piercing) attempts to put a fresh but still disgustingly rotten face on this J-horror classic about a curse that's not easy to shake.

I was 9 years old when the first American version of The Grudge came out in 2004, and I still remember the terror I felt every time I walked past the DVD case at the movie rental store—that bulging black eyeball peeking out at me from behind stringy wet hair.

My best friend at the time was a year older than me, much tougher, and for months after The Grudge was released on DVD, I was plagued by the thought that she'd force me to watch it with her. We'd secretly watched The Ring (2002) when it came out two years earlier, and I'd panicked every time the phone rang for God only knows how long after.

I don't even remember watching The Grudge now, but I do recall all the hype around it and other Japanese-inspired horror movies—that wave of flicks with undead, long-haired girls coming out of forests, bathtubs, wells, and TVs. They were the stimulus for many of the early 2000s horror movies I grew up fearing, the movies that helped shape my generation into the sadists we are today.

Director Pesce, being only 29, must have had a similar experience because outside of sheer nostalgia, I can't think of a single good reason to resuscitate this story.

The Grudge was never good. It's just another haunted house story, except these unfortunate hauntees can't move away from the nightmare: a curse that's conjured whenever someone dies in a rage, hangs out where said angry person died, and then attaches itself to anyone who enters the place where the rage death occurred forever thereafter.

This most recent version of the film stays within those simple and frighteningly vague rules. All you have to do is step foot in a house where someone else died mad, and BOOM, you'll be stalked by bathtub-dwelling ghouls for the rest of your life? Surely this curse is killing people in epidemic proportions.

In the 2020 version, we're following Detective Muldoon (Andrea Riseborough), a recently widowed cop who's investigating a dead body she happened upon inside a house at 44 Rayburn Drive.

Muldoon finds that first on the death roster was Fiona (Tara Westwood), who picked up the curse while in Tokyo and then promptly killed her husband, daughter, and herself upon her return. Welcome home, mom! Then there's the real-estate agent couple tasked with selling the house, and since they had to go inside for work, I don't really think it's fair that they end up brutally murdered too. Do most employers give out workers' comp for possessions?

Then there's Muldoon herself, who, after launching her investigation, starts seeing and hearing dead people a little too frequently for comfort.

To be fair, I think the 17 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes is a little uncalled for. My usual issue with horror movies—piss-poor acting and even worse writing—isn't a problem here. The actors can act, the jump scares are jumpy, and the gore is gory. And yet, The Grudge 2020 falls oh so flat.

There aren't any groundbreaking scares, the story's updated perspective (a cynical cop who doesn't believe in ghosts UNTIL ... ) isn't fresh, and it seems like the filmmakers forgot to include a climax altogether.

It's been about 16 years since I first watched The Grudge, and nothing really changed. I'll probably forget watching this one, too. (94 min.)

—Kasey Bubnash

A HIDDEN LIFE

FACING FASCISM August Diehl stars as Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter, a conscientious objector who faces execution for refusing to fight for the Nazis in World War II, in auteur Terrance Malick's A Hidden Life. - PHOTO COURTESY OF STUDIO BABELSBERG
  • Photo Courtesy Of Studio Babelsberg
  • FACING FASCISM August Diehl stars as Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter, a conscientious objector who faces execution for refusing to fight for the Nazis in World War II, in auteur Terrance Malick's A Hidden Life.

What's it rated? PG-13

Where's it showing? The Palm

New

Auteur Terrance Malick (The Tree of Life, The Thin Red Line) helms this biographical period drama about Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl), a conscientious objector who faces execution for refusing to fight for the Nazis in World War II. (173 min.)

—Glen

JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Matinee

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

Pick

Jake Kasdan (Orange County, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) directs this next installment in the Jumanji franchise, with returning stars Karen Gillan as Ruby Roundhouse, Dwayne Johnson as Dr. Smolder Bravestone, Jack Black as Professor Sheldon "Shelly" Oberon, and Kevin Hart as Franklin "Mouse" Finbar. This time the gang returns to the world of Jumanji to rescue one of their own and must brave an arid desert and snowy mountain as they attempt to survive the deadly video game. (123 min.)

—Caleb Wiseblood

JUST MERCY

RACE AND JUSTICE Just Mercy tells the true story of attorney Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan, left) who works to free death row convict Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx, right), who in 1987 was sentenced to die for a murder he didn't commit. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ENDEAVOR CONTENT
  • Photo Courtesy Of Endeavor Content
  • RACE AND JUSTICE Just Mercy tells the true story of attorney Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan, left) who works to free death row convict Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx, right), who in 1987 was sentenced to die for a murder he didn't commit.

What's it rated? PG-13

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

New

Co-writer and director Destin Daniel Cretton (The Glass Castle) helms this true story about attorney Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan). With the help of local advocate, Eva Ansley (Brie Larson), Stevenson works to free death row convict Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), who in 1987 was sentence to die for a murder he didn't commit. (136 min.)

—Glen

KNIVES OUT

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre

Pick

Writer-director Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper, Star Wars: The Last Jedi) helms this whodunit about Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), who's investigating the death of renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). Did he commit suicide, or was he murdered by one of his eccentric family members? (130 min.)

—Glen

LIKE A BOSS

BEAUTY CONTEST Two friends—Mia Carter (Tiffany Haddish, left) and Mel Paige (Rose Byrne)—start Mel & Mia's, a cosmetics company, but they have very different ideas about how to run it, in Like a Boss. - PHOTO COURTESY OF PARAMOUNT PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Paramount Pictures
  • BEAUTY CONTEST Two friends—Mia Carter (Tiffany Haddish, left) and Mel Paige (Rose Byrne)—start Mel & Mia's, a cosmetics company, but they have very different ideas about how to run it, in Like a Boss.

What's it rated? R

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

New

Miguel Arteta (Youth in Revolt, Beatriz at Dinner) directs this comedy about two friends—Mia Carter (Tiffany Haddish) and Mel Paige (Rose Byrne)—who start Mel & Mia's, a cosmetics company, but have very different ideas about how to run it. Things are further complicated when cosmetics mogul Clair Luna (Salma Hayek) obtains a controlling share of Mel & Mia's. (83 min.)

—Glen

LITTLE WOMEN

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Full price

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

Pick

Greta Gerwig (Ladybird) helms this new version of the classic 1868-69 Louisa May Alcott novel, which follows the lives of the four March sistersMeg (Emma Watson), Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Amy (Florence Pugh), and Beth (Eliza Scanlen)as they come of age in 1860s New England, amid the aftermath of the Civil War. Though this is an oft-told tale, with now eight film adaptations, Gerwig's new version is a real standout, turning the story into a poioumenon, a work of art about its own creation.

Though all four March sisters are given some screen time, the main character is Jo, the tomboyish writer who's ostensibly a stand-in for Alcott herself in this semi-autobiographical tale that was based on the author's and her sisters' lives. Gerwig's film version deviates from Alcott's two-volume novel in various ways, perhaps most significantly by traveling back and forth between the two volumes, the first being the girls' younger years and the second being their early adulthood. Gerwig breaks chronology by moving back and forth through time, showing how earlier events informed the sisters' present circumstances.

If you're familiar with the tale, the main events are all there: the family giving their Christmas breakfast to a poor neighboring family, Beth contracting scarlet fever, Amy falling through the ice, Meg attending a debutantes ball, and Jo selling her short stories. Likewise, most of the characters appear, like their handsome neighbor, Theodore "Laurie" Laurence (Timothée Chalamet), and his wealthy grandfather, Mr. Laurence (Chris Cooper); Laurie's tutor and Meg's future love interest, John Brooke (James Norton); and of course the sisters' amazing mother, Marmee (Laura Dern); and their housekeeper, Hannah (Jayne Houdyshell); and of course the sisters' Aunt March (a typically wonderful Meryl Streep). There's also Jo's love interest, the German professor Friedrich Bhaer (Louis Garrel, an actor much more handsome than how his character is described in Alcott's novel).

The best thing about Gerwig's version is how she pays tribute to Alcott, who never married or had any children of her own, and who after the publication of her famed and incredibly popular novel, often complained how her publisher forced her to create the expected happy ending. Gerwig pulls off the neat trick of having it both ways—creating an ending that honors the book and its author. I really loved this film, but grab the tissues—it just may have you ugly-crying. (135 min.)

—Glen

1917

DEADLY MISSION Two young British soldiers—Lance Cpl. Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman. left) and Lance Cpl. Schofield (George MacKay)—are tasked with crossing German lines to warn fellow soldiers of an ambush, in director Sam Mendes' World War I epic 1917. - PHOTO COURTESY OF DREAMWORKS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Dreamworks
  • DEADLY MISSION Two young British soldiers—Lance Cpl. Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman. left) and Lance Cpl. Schofield (George MacKay)—are tasked with crossing German lines to warn fellow soldiers of an ambush, in director Sam Mendes' World War I epic 1917.

What's it rated? R

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

New

Co-writer and director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Jarhead, Spectre) helms this World War I epic about two young British soldiers—Lance Cpl. Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Lance Cpl. Schofield (George MacKay)—who are tasked with the impossibly dangerous mission of crossing German lines to warn the 2nd Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment that their planned impending attack against the Germans will be charging into a deadly ambush. To make the perilous mission even more urgent, Blake's brother is among the 1,600 endangered soldiers in the regiment. (119 min.)

—Glen

PARASITE

HAVES AND HAVE-NOTS Co-writer/director Joon-ho Bong helms Parasite, a Korean-language story of class warfare screening exclusively at The Palm Theatre. - PHOTO COURTESY OF GOYANG AQUA STUDIO
  • Photo Courtesy Of Goyang Aqua Studio
  • HAVES AND HAVE-NOTS Co-writer/director Joon-ho Bong helms Parasite, a Korean-language story of class warfare screening exclusively at The Palm Theatre.

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? The Palm

Pick

South Korean director Bong Joon Ho plays with genre and societal commentary in this dark comedy thriller about a penniless family's unsavory but satisfying infiltration into a wealthy family's household. We're all capable of being both the heroes and antagonists of our own stories from time to time—able to make healthy and rational decisions in some situations while at the same time perfectly adept at self-destruction in others. And in one way or another, we're all parasites too. That's the running theme in Parasite, the most recent foreign-language film brought to us by director Bong Joon Ho (Snowpiercer, The Host), which centers on Ki-taek Kim (Song Kang Ho) and his destitute family's scrappy struggle for easy money. (132 min.)

—Kasey

SPIES IN DISGUISE

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Matinee

Where's it showing? Galaxy, Park

Pick

This animated family action-comedy, adapted from Pigeon: Impossible by Lucas Martell, follows suave super spy Lance Sterling (voiced by Will Smith) and socially awkward gadgets inventor Walter Beckett (voiced by Tom Holland), who team up to save the world from peril. It delivers fast-paced fun that will appeal to kids and even keep adults interested, with messages about teamwork and avoiding violence. Yes, it's all a bit too treacly, but it's a kids' movie! (102 min.)

—Glen

STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Matinee

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

Pick

J.J. Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Trek Into Darkness, Super 8) haphazardly directs the last chapter in the third and final trilogy in the Star Wars saga, in which Rey (Daisy Ridley) must channel her inner strength as a Jedi to lead the Resistance in the fight against the Sith. Without giving away (too many) spoilers, I think The Rise of Skywalker definitely feels like the end of an era for this saga (although give it a few years, and I'm sure we'll get spin-offs similar to Solo and Rogue One). It only makes sense, it being the finale and all, that director J.J. Abrams feels the need to throw every card he has into this film—a little too much nostalgia and new characters all at once for me. (142 min.)

—Karen Garcia

3-2-1 STUDENT FILM COMPETITION

What's it rated? Not rated

Where's it showing? SLO Library Community Room on Jan. 11

New

The Central Coast Film Society hosts its first 3-2-1 Student Film Competition on Jan. 11 from 1 to 3 p.m. in the SLO Library Community Room. Finalists' films will show from 1 to 2:30 p.m., followed by a 30-minute break for judges to decide the overall winner. The winner will receive a grand prize of $400 at 3 p.m. during the Grand Prize Ceremony.

"These films were made by Central Coast area students from several high schools including Righetti, Santa Maria High, Nipomo, San Luis, and more," Central Coast Film Society Executive Director Daniel Lahr said.

Judges include Lahr, entertainment production and project manager Chris Manigault, independent filmmaker Kyle Plummer, and Cal Poly professor and Films of Influence host Doug Keesey.

Learn more at centralcoastfilmsociety.org.

—Glen

UNCUT GEMS

DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH Reckless jeweler Howard "Howie" Ratner (Adam Sandler) makes a series of high-stakes bets that could lead to the windfall of a lifetime or threaten to disrupt his business, family life, and well-being. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF A24
  • Photos Courtesy Of A24
  • DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH Reckless jeweler Howard "Howie" Ratner (Adam Sandler) makes a series of high-stakes bets that could lead to the windfall of a lifetime or threaten to disrupt his business, family life, and well-being.

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? The Palm, Stadium 10

Pick

Co-directors Josh and Benny Safdie (Good Time) helm this crime-dramedy that follows charismatic jeweler Howard "Howie" Ratner (Adam Sandler), who finds himself balancing family, business, and increasingly threatening adversaries after making a high-stakes bet.

Are you feeling too calm and relaxed, or is your blood pressure too low? Go see Uncut Gems! It will snap you right out of your tranquility and bathe you in frenetic anxiety!

Sandler is terrific as the manic Howard Ratner, a degenerate gambler whose professional and family life is a house of cards. He's a jeweler who specializes in gaudy high-end pieces for black sports stars and entertainers who are guided to his hole-in-the-wall store by Demany (LaKeith Stanfield), who brings in Celtics basketball star Kevin Garnett (playing a fictionalized version of himself).

Part of the story surrounds Garnett's obsession with a chunk of uncut black opal that Ratner has smuggled into the country for an auction. He "loans" the piece to Garnett and holds his championship ring as collateral, but later pawns it for money to place a bet on the Celtics.

Meanwhile he's being threatened by Phil (Keith Williams Richards) and Nico (Tommy Kominik), who work for Ratner's brother-in-law Arno (Eric Bogosian), to whom Rayner owes $100,000. Ratner keeps believing that if he can make one giant score, either through his bets or the black opal auction, he'll settle his debts and everything will work out.

Then there's his wife, Dinah (Idina Menzel), who's fed up with his behavior—inattentive parenting to their three kids, not to mention a girlfriend on the side (Julia Fox).

Ratner's clearly got a lot of balls in the air, and Sandler plays him as a fast-talking shyster who lies to everyone. Following Ratner through the chaos of his life is exhausting but entertaining as hell. Once again, Sandler proves that when given the right material (Punch-Drunk Love, Funny People, Reign Over Me), he's a formidable actor.

Newcomer Julia Fox is excellent as Ratner's vapid girlfriend. She's also his employee at his jewelry store because he's absolutely addicted to risk! He's always living life right on the edge, going full tilt. At first, it seems like Julia's just in it for Howie's free apartment and his free-spending ways, but she's actually in love with the lout and seems attracted to his recklessness. It's definitely a character trait I don't get, but Ratner comes off as a real person rather than a caricature. It's clear that Julia is much better suited to him than his wife, who's divorcing him as soon as possible.

Some of the best moments are Howard and Dinah's bitter and exacerbated interactions and Ratner's interactions with his Jewish family and its patriarch, Gooey (Judd Hirsch). By all accounts, it's an insightful look into an extended New York Jewish family.

A lot of these actors are first-timers. This is Fox's first feature-length film, and it's also Keith Williams Richards' first credit. He's great as Phil, Arno's strongman who develops an angry fixation on Howard. I've also got to give a nod to Kevin Garnett. Usually when you get a sports star to play himself, he comes off as wooden and he's more interested in making himself look good than being an authentic character. Not Garnett. After the NBA, he could have a credible career as an actor.

This film might make you feel uncomfortable watching it, but there's no denying its powerful energy. It's among 2019's best! I should mention, however, that the film has been praised by critics but not so much with audiences: Rotten Tomatoes score is 93 percent critics to 54 percent audiences. I'm guessing a lot of attendees didn't like the way it made them feel, or they simply didn't connect with Ratner's humanity. Even though he's a horrible person, I couldn't help but root for him to win, perhaps because he's a classic underdog. It's a draining but brilliant piece of cinema. (135 min.)

—Glen

UNDERWATER

SINKING FEELING Aquatic researcher Norah Price (Kristen Stewart) and her colleagues work to escape their subterranean laboratory after an earthquake, in the sci-fi horror film, Underwater. - PHOTO COURTESY OF 20TH CENTURY FOX FILM CORPORATION
  • Photo Courtesy Of 20th Century Fox Film Corporation
  • SINKING FEELING Aquatic researcher Norah Price (Kristen Stewart) and her colleagues work to escape their subterranean laboratory after an earthquake, in the sci-fi horror film, Underwater.

What's it rated? PG-13

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

New

William Eubank (Love, The Signal) directs this sci-fi horror drama about an aquatic research crew—including Norah Price (Kristen Stewart), Captain (Vincent Cassel), Paul (T.J. Miller), and others—trying to escape the ramifications of an earthquake on their subterranean laboratory. (95 min.) Δ

—Glen

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

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