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Film Listings, 10/18/18 - 10/25/18

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BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Matinee

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

See Split Screen.

AN ARTIST EMERGES Keira Knightley stars as French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, who had to reclaim her literary legacy from her husband, Henry Gauthier-Villars (Dominic West), in the biopic Colette. - PHOTO COURTESY OF NUMBER 9 FILMS
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF NUMBER 9 FILMS
  • AN ARTIST EMERGES Keira Knightley stars as French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, who had to reclaim her literary legacy from her husband, Henry Gauthier-Villars (Dominic West), in the biopic Colette.

COLETTE

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Galaxy, The Palm

PickWash Westmoreland (Still Alice) directs Keira Knightly as Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, a tenacious former country girl fighting gender norms and sexism in the early 1820s. The film is based on the French novelist Colette, who was nominated for a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948.

This film does more than just showcase a writer on screen hunched over a desk with a furrowed brow scribbling on paper. It does an impressive job of keeping the audience captivated by the novelist's metamorphosis from a wife kept in the dark to challenging her husband for the rights to her writing and freedom.

A year before Gabrielle turned 20 years old, she lived at home in the countryside with her mother and father. Her parents found themselves in financial disarray and worried about Gabrielle's future—they wanted her to marry a prominent literary figure who also happens to be a family friend.

In comes, on first encounter, what seems to be the irresistible and well-mannered Henry Gauthier-Villars (Dominic West). Gauthier-Villars goes by Willy, his pen name. Willy is a literary brand—as he would put it—and employs generous writers so, after his approval, Willy can put his name on their work.

Once Willy and Gabrielle wed, she's thrust into Willy's lavish Parisian world that's striving to be over-the-top but topples over as extremely dull. Gabrielle isn't into the city life or the constant infidelity that Willy charmingly explains is just something men do.

Of course Willy's lifestyle depletes the couple's funds, which also doesn't allow him to pay his writers, so he looks to the last person in front of him, Gabrielle, who writes a novel based on her experience in school, changing the main character's name to Claudine. Willy doesn't like it on first read because the writing is too feminine, but when he has nothing left to profit on, he decides to run with Gabrielle's story with a few edits and, of course, his name on the cover.

The Claudine story becomes a cultural sensation with the female population. The couple makes their financial success on Claudine and when Gabrielle doesn't want to write a sequel, Willy locks her up, demanding that she "write."

This is when Gabrielle changes her name to Colette and her overall being transforms. Although she was never one to shy away from asking questions or challenging her insufferable husband, Colette is not only doing what she wants, she's also exploring relationships with women. It's something that Willy is not opposed to because she's sleeping with women and not men. It's a concept that the film is constantly hitting on as Colette can't do certain things her husband does because she's a female.

Sexism, constant betrayal, and Willy's money-driven schemes put a strong wedge between the couple. And while Willy believes that he's making a change in the literary scene, he forgets his mantra: "The hand that holds the pen holds history." Colette has a firm grasp on hers as she begins to explore herself, with the help of her lover Mathilde de Morny or "Missy" (Denise Gough), in a grossly sexist and male dominated world.

Colette does more than demonstrate the novelist's successes; Westmoreland and his late husband Richard Glatzer depict the metamorphosis of a woman's sexuality and overcoming sexism. Knightly impressively depicts Colette's abrasive fights, relationships, lavish lifestyle, and internal battles that lead her to reclaim what's hers—her life as a writer and artist. Colette's fight for creative ownership of her work and gender roles pushes her to overcome societal constraints and sexual oppression, and revolutionize literature. (111 min.)

—Karen Garcia

SPACE MAN Ryan Gosling stars as Neil Armstrong and Clair Foy is his wife, Janet, in the remarkable historical drama and biopic First Man. - PHOTO COURTESY OF AMBLIN ENTERTAINMENT AND DREAMWORKS
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF AMBLIN ENTERTAINMENT AND DREAMWORKS
  • SPACE MAN Ryan Gosling stars as Neil Armstrong and Clair Foy is his wife, Janet, in the remarkable historical drama and biopic First Man.

FIRST MAN

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Full price

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

PickDamien Chazelle (Whiplash, La La Land) helms this historical drama and biopic about astronaut Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling), who became the first man to set foot on the Moon in 1969. Exploring both the space race and Armstrong's life on the ground with his wife, Janet (Clair Foy), the film is a reminder of the danger and daring of a trip into space during the analog era.

The film opens in the cockpit with Armstrong in an experimental plane designed to pierce Earth's atmosphere, reach zero gravity in near space, and then descend back to the ground. It's noisy, shaky, and chaotic, and it gives you a sense of both the wonder and sheer terror of early space travel. The space race between the Soviets and the U.S. had an existentialist undercurrent—the Cold War was in full force—and the Russians were beating us at every step. It was essential that we reach the moon first.

Back on the ground, Armstrong was wrestling with his own demons. With the death of his young daughter Karen (Lucy Stafford) to cancer, Armstrong harbored a secret fatalism. He knew the danger of space travel was real. He had lost colleagues, but stoicism was paramount. Gosling manages to convey all these complications within a man of few words. His Armstrong is intensely focused, and the loss of his daughter drives him deeper into his work.

Armstrong's wife, Janet, is a big part of the story, and Foy is amazing in the role. Janet, too, has to be stoic—she knows her husband might not come back. There's an amazing scene in which she forces her husband to sit down with their two boys and explain to them the very real dangers. It really is miraculous that the mission was successful.

Anyone with a passing interest in the history of the Apollo Mission will recognize the other players. Pablo Schreiber plays Jim Lovell, Corey Stoll is Buzz Aldrin, and Shea Whigham is Gus Grissom. Jason Clarke stars as Armstrong's closest friend and colleague Edward Higgins White, but Armstrong even keeps him at arm's length. He was very much an internal person.

Even though viewers should know the outcome, there's plenty of tension throughout the film. The spacecraft are rickety, the technology antiquated, but the heroics are timeless. At the end of the film, the three returning astronauts are quarantined. It's fascinating to think that three men spent eight days in space, that two of them walked on the moon, and that when they returned they were locked in a glass box with very pedestrian-looking hotel furnishings. What a dichotomy! Of course, there was nothing glamorous about early space travel.

As Ryan Gosling noted during filming, it was less a movie about a man going to the moon than it was about a man landing safely back on Earth. After his moon walk, Neil Armstrong never returned to space. (141 min.)

—Glen Starkey

NO ROPES, NO SAFETY Free Solo documents climber Alex Honnold’s solo ascent of Yosemite’s El Capitan Wall—the first such climb and perhaps the greatest feat in climbing history. - PHOTO COURTESY OF NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
  • NO ROPES, NO SAFETY Free Solo documents climber Alex Honnold’s solo ascent of Yosemite’s El Capitan Wall—the first such climb and perhaps the greatest feat in climbing history.

FREE SOLO

What's it rated? PG-13

Where's it showing? The Palm

NewJimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi co-direct this documentary about Alex Honnold, the first person to free solo climb—meaning no ropes or safety gear—Yosemite's El Capitan Wall. (100 min.)

—Glen Starkey

GOOSEBUMPS 2: HAUNTED HALLOWEEN

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Rent it

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

Ari Sandel (The Duff) directs this next installment based on R.L. Stine's best-selling children's horror book series. If you're a young kid, you'll find some fun scares here, but your parents are going to be very annoyed having to sit through this. It definitely doesn't live up to its 2015 progenitor. (90 min.)

—Glen Starkey

FORTY YEARS LATER Jamie Lee Curtis reprises her role as Laurie Strode, who 40 years ago escaped masked killer Michael Myers. When he returns in Halloween (2018), she’s ready for him. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MIRAMAX
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF MIRAMAX
  • FORTY YEARS LATER Jamie Lee Curtis reprises her role as Laurie Strode, who 40 years ago escaped masked killer Michael Myers. When he returns in Halloween (2018), she’s ready for him.

HALLOWEEN

What's it rated? R

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

NewCo-writer/director David Gordon Green (Snow Angels, Pineapple Express, Joe) helms this story about Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), who four decades ago narrowly escaped being murdered by the masked figure Michael Myers. When Myers returns, she's ready for him. (106 min.)

—Glen Starkey

THE HATE U GIVE

What's it rated? PG-13

Where's it showing? Galaxy, Stadium 10

NewGeorge Tillman Jr. (Soul Food, Notorious, Faster) directs this crime drama about Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg), a young student who lives in an impoverished black community but spends her days at a wealthy, mostly white prep school. When she sees her childhood friend Khalil (Algee Smith) slain by a police officer, Starr must navigate the pressure between both her communities as she tries to do the right thing. Based on Angie Thomas' novel, the story was written for the screen by Audrey Wells (A Dog's Purpose, Shall We Dance, Under the Tuscan Sun). (132 min.)

—Glen Starkey

NIGHT SCHOOL

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Stream it

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

Malcolm D. Lee (Undercover Brother, Girls Trip) directs Kevin Hart in this comedy about former high school delinquents, now adults, forced to attend night school in order to get their diplomas.

If you like sophomoric silliness, you might find something here, but this one-note film doesn't give its two gifted comedians—Hart and Tiffany Haddish—much to work with. (111 min.)

—Glen Starkey

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THE OLD MAN & THE GUN

What's it rated? PG-13

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

NewWriter-director David Lowery (Ain't Them Bodies Saints, A Ghost Story) helms this true story based on David Grann's article about Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford), a 70-year-old criminal who escapes San Quentin and embarks on a string of robberies that confounds law enforcement and makes Tucker into a folk hero with the public. Tucker is pursued by Detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck) and—despite his "profession"—loved by Jewel (Sissy Spacek). (93 min.)

—Glen Starkey

PICK OF THE LITTER

What's it rated? Not rated

What's it worth? Full Price

Where's it showing? The Palm

PickWriter/co-director Dana Nachman and co-director Don Hardy Jr. helm this documentary that follows a litter of puppies from birth, through their two-year training as Guide Dogs for the Blind, and into their careers. Not all of them make the cut, but we meet the people who train them for the ultimate responsibility—to keep the blind safe from harm.

Joyous, filled with heart, and suspenseful, Pick of the Litter will probably require a few tissues to get through as these dogs do their very best to be good enough to make the cut. (81 min.)

—Glen Starkey

SMALLFOOT

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Stream it

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

Karey Kirkpatrick (Over the Hedge) and Jason Reisig co-direct this animated adventure comedy about Migo (voiced by Channing Tatum), a Yeti who believes the mythical creatures known as "humans" really do exist. When he encounters a human named Percy Patterson (voiced by James Corden), the legend becomes real.

I probably shouldn't review animated films. Most of them seem silly to me, and Smallfoot is no different. Sure, the premise is 'cute,' but there's not much substance here, and what is here seems like a strange message for its targeted PG audience.

The film opens with a sweeping musical number about the happy Yeti village. Migo loves his ice- and rock-filled paradise, and he's training to replace his father, Dorgle (Danny DeVito), as the village gong ringer, a venerated position since the "Light Snail" (aka the Sun) won't cross the sky if the gong doesn't ring. Every morning, Dorgle is launched via a giant slingshot headfirst into the metal gong, then the Light Snail illuminates the Yeti world. It's one of dozens of primitive myths and laws that Yetis must follow.

The maker of the laws is the Stonekeeper (Common), the Yeti leader who settles all disputes by conferring with the stones, upon which hieroglyphs are written. They're the evidence that the Yeti village floats on clouds and that below them is nothingness. The stones also state that Smallfoot doesn't exist, so when Migo overshoots the gong on a practice try and far from the village sees a plane crash and a parachuting Smallfoot survivor, he rushes back to the village to tell everyone that Smallfoot exists and that the stone claiming they don't is—gasp!—wrong!

This is tantamount to heresy, and Migo is banished until he's ready to admit he didn't see a Smallfoot. Essentially, the film's a subtle indictment of religion, which controls the masses, demands ignorance, and condemns critical thinking.

A few of the Yetis are part of a secret Smallfoot-believing faction and soon Migo himself is part of the group headed up by the Stonekeeper's daughter Meechee (Zendaya) who's also Migo's potential love interest.

There's also a side message about how it's wrong to sensationalize and exploit—Percy Patterson is a nature filmmaker with rock-bottom ratings. He's willing to lie about finding a Yeti to generate more viewers. When he "discovers" Migo, he has to learn the hard lesson that it's better to protect than exploit him.

Will your 10-year-old "get" either message? Probably not, but there are a few cloying musical numbers to distract, and a lot of color and action throughout. I may not be the right audience, but your kids probably are, and that's the idea, right?

Eventually, Migo returns to the village with Percy, proving once and for all that Smallfoot exists. However, a lie repeated enough times can become truth, and to save the Yeti village from descending into stone-rejecting chaos, the Stonekeeper decides to show Migo "The Secret," taking him to a cave with wall paintings showing fighting and fear between Smallfoot and the Yetis that existed before the Yetis retreated to the top of the Himalayas. The stones keep the Yetis ignorant but also safe, warning them not to go down to Smallfoot territory.

Migo decides he'll go along with The Secret and goes before the village and claims Percy is a kind of yak and that Smallfoot doesn't exist after all. Meanwhile, Percy is suffering from altitude sickness, and Meechee and her Smallfoot-believing society aren't willing to continue living in ignorance, so she takes Percy below the clouds.

Now both humans and Yetis are forced to confront their coexistence, but that doesn't mean they can actually coexist. Mayhem ensues and fear runs rampant. Will violence return between the two species? Seeing as how this is a PG animated children's film, the answer is obvious.

The film's pat happy ending is that truth is good, that Yetis and people can be friends, and Percy learns his lesson and saves the day. If you've got young kids, maybe they'll be entertained for a couple hours. I was pretty bored, and the film still feels like it's pointing out the gullibility that organized religion requires and the judgmentalism it breeds. (96 min.)

—Glen Starkey

A STAR IS BORN

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

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

PickCo-writer, director, and co-star Bradley Cooper helms this remake of A Star Is Born (first released in 1937, and later remade in 1954 and 1976). In this iteration, Cooper stars as Jackson Maine, a famous musician whose star is waning as he discovers talented but insecure singer Ally (Lady Gaga). As Jack battles alcoholism and his own decline, he helps Ally find the strength to let her talent shine.

You'd think on the fourth retelling things would be getting stale, but Bradley Cooper takes a sweeping look at the rise and fall of stardom, the shallowness of the entertainment industry, creativity, substance abuse, family dynamics, and romance.

It's a stunning achievement, and I was most surprised by Lady Gaga, whose acting chops were impressive. I've never been a big fan of her music, but her voice is undeniably stunning. Almost every time she sang, the tears welled up. To see the fashion icon with her natural hair color and little to no makeup made her more vulnerable and sympathetic.

This film is certainly Bradley Cooper's baby, and for a directorial debut, it's beyond incredible. Perhaps he's been in front of the camera for so long that he simply understands what's needed behind it.

It's been driven into Ally that despite her talent, she doesn't have the looks for stardom. There's an amazing scene where she overhears her father (a terrific Andrew Dice Clay) explaining to his friends that her looks prevent her from success. When Jack wanders into a bar after a gig looking for a much-needed drink, he happens upon Ally singing "La Vie En Rose" and is immediately smitten by her looks and talent. Later that night, she surprises him by making up a song about him on the spot. Jack gives her the confidence to believe in herself, to feel love, to feel good enough.

That's what every good romantic relationship should do, and seeing that message so deftly brought to the big screen is in part why I love this film. It's got enough heart to make the heartbreak feel real. Yes, the film is definitely a tragedy, but it's also heartbreakingly beautiful.

Sam Elliott stars as Jackson's brother and manager, Bobby, who's lived in Jackson's shadow and does his best to staunch Jackson's self-inflicted wounds. Their relationship is tenuous at best. In addition to his substance abuse, Jack's hearing is going, and he's not interested in following his doctor's orders to wear earpieces when performing for fear it will disconnect him from his audience. He doesn't seem to realize his drug use already does that.

His most important lesson to Ally is to be authentic, so when he sees her manager Rez (Rafi Gavron) changing her appearance, adding dancers and choreography to her show, he's artistically offended, though Ally perceives it as jealousy. They're disconnecting just when they need each other most.

Like all substance abusers, Jack's behavior is unforgivable—he says terrible things to Ally and embarrasses her with his loutish actions. Their love, however, is real, and she struggles between being supportive and enabling.

There's so much going on in this film, and the fact that Cooper is able to weave all of these emotionally potent threads into such a heartrendingly beautiful tapestry is a triumph. I predict some Oscar nods for this one. See it in the theater; bring your own tissues—this one's a tearjerker. (135 min.)

—Glen Starkey

TEA WITH THE DAMES

What's it rated? Not rated

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? The Palm

PickRoger Mitchell helms this documentary about the more than half-century-long friendship between actresses and Dames Eileen Atkins, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, and Maggie Smith. The quartet of acting greats recalls their humble theatrical beginnings and long and eventful careers.

You'll feel like you were invited to tea as you sit in on this charming conversation between four amazing talents who are just as interesting being themselves as they were playing their juiciest characters. (84 min.)

—Glen Starkey

VENOM

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Matinee

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

PickRuben Fleischer (Zombieland, Gangster Squad) directs Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock, a former investigative journalist whose TV show is dedicated to taking down evil corporations and, later, becomes the host for an alien symbiote named Venom. The film is an adaptation of the Marvel Comics series featuring the anti-hero Venom.

The character and its origin story is a small step in the Marvel Universe but it's not part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe—superhero films independently produced by Marvel Studios. The film is also just a chip in what could be a greater origin story for Venom, the amorphous, liquid-like creature that requires a host, usually a human, to bond with for its survival. Oddly, Venom isn't tied to Spiderman ... yet.

Brock is an investigative journalist who rides his motorcycle around busy San Francisco to report on malicious corporations and expose them on his TV show. He's assigned a puff piece on Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), the founder of The Life Foundation, a research facility that engages in unethical experimentation with aspirations for world domination. Brock's boss basically tells him he can't expose Drake but, being the reporter he is, he tries to do the opposite of that.

Brock's fiancée, Anne Weying (Michelle Williams), is a lawyer whose firm represents The Life Foundation, so obviously Brock snoops through her files to dig up some dirt on Drake and his foundation. When it's time for the interview, Brock tries to expose Drake, which leads the reporter to lose his job, his apartment, and fiancée.

He's basically blacklisted from journalism throughout the city and is reduced to looking for dishwasher gigs. He's about to swear off reporting when whistleblower Dr. Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate) explains Drake is trying to mix humans with a number of alien forms called symbiotes. Skirth sneaks Brock into the facility and he becomes infected with the symbiote. Unlike many of Drake's trial runs, Brock's merge with the symbiote is successful as the alien-like parasite introduces himself as Venom.

The two decide to work together to stop Drake—who also gets infected by a symbiote—from bringing more of these creatures to earth with the intention to end the human race.

While we've seen Hardy really get into the role of his characters like Max Rockatamsky (Mad Max), Bane (The Dark Knight Rises), or Eames (Inception), he just isn't that convincing as washed-up-loser Eddie Brock. Maybe it's the weird accent or the match-up with Michelle Williams, which I wasn't buying either.

Despite that, the action scenes were full of intense in-your-face punches, cars smashing into each other, and people being flung into the air. While it doesn't reach a level of gory intensity as Deadpool does, people getting their heads bit off and eaten is pretty up there. There's also an incredible scene where Venom is fighting another symbiote and as the two duke it out you see the faces of the humans underneath the parasites' skin—wait, don't call Venom a parasite; he gets very offended.

The overall connection between Venom and Brock is interesting as Venom takes over Brock's body and the two realize the extent of their superpower. They have their humorous moments when Brock tries to fight the transformation. It feels similar to that of Jim Carry's struggle in The Mask, but the two find a deeper understanding in each other, as both are losers on their respected planets.

The film lacks a cohesive and strong storyline for the first introduction of the Marvel character, but I will admit I'll be watching for the sequel as the clip at the end of the movie lays the groundwork for someone all too familiar to Venom. (112 min.) Δ

—Karen Garcia

New Times movie reviews were compiled by Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey and others. You can contact him at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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