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Film Listings, 10/4/18 – 10/11/18

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THE CHILDREN ACT

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? The Palm

Pick

FAITH OVER LIFE Adam Henry (Fionn Whitehead) is a teenage boy who's refusing a life-saving blood transfusion based on his religion, and a judge must decide whether or not to force him, in The Children Act. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BBC FILMS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Bbc Films
  • FAITH OVER LIFE Adam Henry (Fionn Whitehead) is a teenage boy who's refusing a life-saving blood transfusion based on his religion, and a judge must decide whether or not to force him, in The Children Act.

Richard Eyre (Notes on a Scandal) directs Ian McEwan's story about Judge Fiona Maye (Emma Thompson), who's presiding over the case of Adam Henry (Fionn Whitehead), a teenage boy refusing a life-saving blood transfusion based on his religion. Meanwhile, Fiona's marriage to Jack Maye (Stanley Tucci) is crumbling.

Emma Thompson turns in a potent and riveting performance, which overcomes some of the film's shortcomings. Urbane, adult, and thoughtful, this film is the chaser to wash out the adolescent taste of all the end-of-summer trash. (105 min.)

—Glen Starkey

CHRISTOPHER ROBIN

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Matinee

Where's it showing? Galaxy

Pick

From director Marc Forster (Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland, Stranger Than Fiction, The Kite Runner) comes this live-action adaptation of A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh characters that poses this question: What happens to Christopher Robin after he grows up? After decades of separation, everyone's favorite Pooh bear makes a trek from the mythical Hundred Acre Wood into the real world to find out what's become of his old, lost friend.

In a nutshell, it's Winnie-the-Pooh meets Hook. In fact, the two films' protagonists and their arcs are virtually identical. The adult Christopher (Ewan McGregor, Moulin Rouge!, Big Fish) is an overworked father who alienates himself from his wife (Hayley Atwell, Captain America: The First Avenger, Agent Carter) and daughter (Bronte Carmichael) by spending too much time at the office. In the same way Hook's adult Peter Pan had to return to Neverland to rediscover his long-lost inner child, so must Christopher to the Hundred Acre Wood. (120 min.)

—Caleb Wiseblood

CRAZY RICH ASIANS

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Matinee

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

Pick

Jon M. Chu directs this rom-com based on Kevin Kwan's best selling novel about native New Yorker and Chinese economics professor Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), who travels to Singapore to meet her boyfriend Nick Young's (Henry Golding) ridiculously wealthy family. Once there, Rachel realizes Nick's the most eligible bachelor in Asia, and all the single women are out to undermine her.

While it doesn't stray far from the usual rom-com antics, the glitz and gaudy world of Singapore's oldest and richest families adds just the right amount of zip and pop to this fun and fancy flick. (120 min.)

—Anna Starkey

FAHRENHEIT 11/9

TRUMPING TRUMP Leftist polemicist Michael Moore takes on the Trump era in his new documentary, Fahrenheit 11/9. - PHOTO COURTESY OF DOG EAT DOG FILMS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Dog Eat Dog Films
  • TRUMPING TRUMP Leftist polemicist Michael Moore takes on the Trump era in his new documentary, Fahrenheit 11/9.

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Matinee (for liberals)

Where's it showing? The Palm

Pick

Writer-director and controversial leftist polemicist Michael Moore (Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11, Sicko, Where to Invade Next) takes aim at the Trump era, asking how we got here and how we get out.

I think of Michael Moore as the left's Dinesh D'Souza, except Moore is not a convicted felon who was pardoned by Trump. Moore does, however, engage in similar tactics as D'Souza, cherry picking facts and examples to bolster his narrative.

In this case, Moore's story is that Trump never wanted to be president and his entire campaign was a stunt to get NBC to pay him more as the star of his former reality TV show The Apprentice. Moore also demonstrates that Bernie Sanders was robbed of his shot at the presidency, including making the case that the Electoral College electors of states such as Vermont completely ignored the will of voters, who overwhelmingly chose Sanders over Hillary Clinton.

Inside his explanation of how Trump inexplicably made it to the White House is also a scathing indictment of Michigan governor Rick Snyder and his woeful handling of the Flint water crisis, and just to make sure liberals aren't too smug, he skewers Obama for his lack of action in Flint and pillories the Democratic establishment for not staying true to its core values and for misreading the public.

Moore's claim is that the Democrats went wrong starting with Bill Clinton, whose centrist positions, mass incarceration of minorities, and dismantling of the social safety net turned Dems into de facto Republicans. It's all very depressing.

Yet, there are also many moments of levity and poignancy. True progressives will certainly be buoyed by the film, but mainstream Democrats may feel rebuked. A conservative, should one accidently attend the film by walking into the wrong theater, will also enjoy Obama, both Clintons, and the Democratic power structure being attacked by Moore.

He certainly makes an interesting case, but like D'Souza, I question Moore's ability to be fair. He's a one-sided filmmaker, and this time around he's both preaching to and attacking the choir.

Many of the film's most emotionally potent moments are thanks to Emma Gonzales, the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor who spoke so effectively and passionately at the March for Our Lives rally. Moore certainly capitalizes on her and other activists' supercharged spirits. He introduces us to pissed-off liberals running for various offices, suggesting that if progressives stop appeasing conservatives and meet them head on, liberalism can win control again.

Through polls and stats, Moore makes a convincing case that the majority of the U.S. supports progressive positions, and that conservatives' stranglehold on power is manufactured by manipulating the system. About this, I buy his argument completely. Between gerrymandering and voter suppression, the right has seized control. More troubling, Democrats are complicit, taking money from the same corrupting influences and propping up the same greed machine.

Moore has some important lessons to teach, but his heavy hand—such as yet another extended comparison between Trump and Hitler—acts like a cudgel and undercuts his ideas. As entertainment, Fahrenheit 11/9 delivers. As left wing propaganda, it's mostly successful. As a film that might actually change some minds and work toward fixing the divide between conservatives and liberals, it's an abject failure. The question I'm left with is which of these, if any, was his goal? I honestly don't know what he hoped this film would accomplish. (128 min.)

—Glen Starkey

HELL FEST

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Stream it

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

Gregory Plotkin (Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension) directs this horror film about a masked killer tormenting a themed amusement park. Is it all part of the show, or are people really dying?

There's a mildly intriguing concept trapped inside of the wildly un-intriguing snooze fest that is Hell Fest. A group of young adults visit a horror themed carnival and find themselves prey to a masked serial killer disguised as a staff actor. Whether or not you've been to events in the same vein—Mid-State Scare or Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights for example—the idea of a real killer masquerading as part of the show is terrifying. Unfortunately, the premise never lives up to its potential and the only thing I found myself dreading throughout the film was yawning to the point of cramps.

Amy Forsyth (Channel Zero: No-End House) plays Natalie, more of a place-card holder than a character. The only three things we ever learn about her are revealed through dialogue in the first ten minutes, and all three involve fellow place-card holders: She used to be roommates with Brooke (Regina Edwards, The Bold and the Beautiful), has a major beef with Brooke's new roommate Taylor (Bex Taylor-Klaus, The Killing, Arrow), and has a massive crush on Gavin (Roby Attal). The crush is mutual according to Brooke, who gossips about Gavin, who constantly pesters her about whether or not Natalie is joining them for Hell Fest.

Once the group gets inside the park, though, the introductory exposition has little to no effect whatsoever on the chain of events that follow. The characters' personalities are completely interchangeable. If Brooke and Taylor, the new roommate, had a Freaky Friday experience, the only alteration to the plot would be the order in which they dieor almost die and ultimately survive ... I'm not telling.

Treating the characters like indistinguishable cannon fodder (or should I say knife and axe fodder?) isn't what condemns Hell Fest though. Nothing about that choice could have stopped it from being an entertaining slasher. As much as the film wants to be a worthy callback to genre classics like Halloween, the masked killer (simply known as "The Other") is never as creepy as Michael Myers. But the longing for comparison is obvious. Both men never talk or show their face (at least to the audience anyway). And both are seemingly indestructible, no matter how many times they're stabbed, beaten, bruised, and shot at. Yet somehow, Michael's blank, empty stare speaks volumes compared to The Other's. In the end, Hell Fest just isn't hellish enough. Given the amount of plot holes, though, it's probable to assume at least one of them is a portal into actual Hell. (89 min.)

—Caleb Wiseblood

THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS

TICK-TOCK Warlock Jonathan Barnavelt (Jack Black) becomes guardian of his orphaned nephew, and together they search for a hidden clock that can destroy the world, in the family-friendly fantasy, The House with a Clock in its Walls. - PHOTO COURTESY OF DREAMWORKS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Dreamworks
  • TICK-TOCK Warlock Jonathan Barnavelt (Jack Black) becomes guardian of his orphaned nephew, and together they search for a hidden clock that can destroy the world, in the family-friendly fantasy, The House with a Clock in its Walls.

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Matinee

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

Pick

Horror-porn-meister director Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel, The Green Inferno) turns off the gore for this family-friendly fantasy based on John Bellair's novel about orphan Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro), who's sent to live with his warlock uncle Jonathan Barnavelt (Jack Black).

After learning the fundamentals of sorcery, and with the help of neighbor Mrs. Zimmerman (Cate Blanchette), the trio sets about locating and dismantling a clock built by evil warlock Isaac Izard (Kyle MacLachlan), which has the power to destroy the world. To further confound matters, Izard's wife Selena (Renée Elise Goldsberry) wants to find the clock first.

Delivering a well-balanced dose of laughs and scares, the film also manages to offer an anti-war allegory and inject the entire affair with a Spielberg-esque sense of adolescent wonder. (104 min.)

—Glen Starkey

LITTLE WOMEN

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Rent it

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre

Marking the 150-year anniversary of the release of Louisa May Alcott's classic 1868 novel, Clair Niederpruem directs this contemporary retelling of Little Women, which follows the March sisters—Meg (Melanie Stone), Jo (Sarah Davenport), Beth (Allie Jennings), and Amy (Elise Jones)—as they grow into adulthood, under the watchful eye of their mother Marmee (Lea Thompson).

The essence of the story is here, but the telling is overly earnest, the contemporary setting is largely unused to add anything new, and the characters are two-dimensional and share scant chemistry. (112 min.)

—Glen Starkey

THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST

GAY AWAY? Cameron Post (Chloë Grace Moretz, left) is a teen sent to gay conversion therapy by her conservative guardians, in The Miseducation of Cameron Post. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BEACHSIDE FILMS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Beachside Films
  • GAY AWAY? Cameron Post (Chloë Grace Moretz, left) is a teen sent to gay conversion therapy by her conservative guardians, in The Miseducation of Cameron Post.

What's it rated? Not rated

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? The Palm

Pick

Co-writer/director Desiree Akhavan (Appropriate Behaviour) helms this story about a teenage girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) forced into gay conversion therapy by her conservative guardians.

Timely, compassionate, and thoughtful, this film drips with openheartedness. Moretz turns in an excellent performance, and though the film is addressing an abhorrent practice, it manages to be funny as well. (91 min.)

—Glen Starkey

NIGHT SCHOOL

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Stream it

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

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

THE NUN

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Stream it

Where's it showing? Stadium 10

Corin Hardy (The Hallow) directs this horror thriller about a novice nun (Taissa Farmiga) and a priest (Demián Bichir) with a haunted past who are sent to Romania by the Vatican to investigate the suicide of a young nun, who may have been affected by a malevolent spirit.

Though there's some good acting and dark foreboding throughout, the story drags and there's an over-reliance on jump scares, not to mention logic problems and plot holes. (96 min.)

—Glen Starkey

PICK OF THE LITTER

GOOD DOG! Pick of the Litter follows a litter of puppies from birth, through training, and onto their work as Guide Dogs for the Blind. - PHOTO COURTESY OF KTF FILMS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Ktf Films
  • GOOD DOG! Pick of the Litter follows a litter of puppies from birth, through training, and onto their work as Guide Dogs for the Blind.

What's it rated? Not rated

What's it worth? Full Price

Where's it showing? The Palm

New/Pick

Writer/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

THE PREDATOR

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Stream it

Where's it showing? Galaxy

Co-writer and director Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3, The Nice Guys) helms this new installment in the Predator franchise. This time around, autistic youngster Rory McKenna (Jacob Tremblay) triggers a device lost by an alien predator and inadvertently calls a new breed of predator—one made deadlier via genetic upgrades from other species its hunted throughout the galaxy—to return to Earth to retrieve stolen technology. The only thing that stands between the predator and the end of humanity is a group of ex-soldiers, led by Rory's dad, Quinn (Boyd Holbrook), and surly biology teacher Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn), who joins the fight.

To answer the obvious question, no, this new installment is nowhere near as good as the 1987 original, though it tries for a similar formula, but the film quickly devolves into incoherent nonsense, where the logic of time and geography is ignored in favor of keeping the action flowing. Sure, the clever quips come fast and furious, and there's plenty of action and violence, but taken as a whole, it's utter inanity. (107 min.)

—Glen Starkey

A SIMPLE FAVOR

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

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

Pick

Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy) directs Jessica Sharzer's (Nerve) screenplay based on Darcey Bell's crime-drama novel about mommy blogger Stephanie's (Anna Kendrick) best friend Emily's (Blake Lively) sudden disappearance.

With lots of delicious twists and turns and strong performances by the two leads, the film delivers what female-centric mystery fans yearn for—an intelligent whodunit that will keep viewers guessing right up until the big reveal. Think of it as a humorous send-up of Gone Girl or Girl on a Train. (117 min.)

—Glen Starkey

SMALLFOOT

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Stream it

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

See Split Screen.

A STAR IS BORN

STAR POWER A seasoned performer near the end of his career (Bradley Cooper, left) discovers, nurtures, and falls in love with a talented newcomer (Lady Gaga), in A Star Is Born. - PHOTO COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Warner Bros. Pictures
  • STAR POWER A seasoned performer near the end of his career (Bradley Cooper, left) discovers, nurtures, and falls in love with a talented newcomer (Lady Gaga), in A Star Is Born.

What's it rated? R

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

New

Co-writer, director, and co-star Bradley Cooper helms this remake of A Star is Born (originally 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. (135 min.)

—Glen Starkey

VENOM

SMILE FOR THE CAMERA When a journalist bonds with an alien symbiote, the result is Venom, a powerful hybrid creature played by Tom Hardy in Venom. - PHOTO COURTESY OF COLUMBIA PICTURE CORP.
  • Photo Courtesy Of Columbia Picture Corp.
  • SMILE FOR THE CAMERA When a journalist bonds with an alien symbiote, the result is Venom, a powerful hybrid creature played by Tom Hardy in Venom.

What's it rated? PG-13

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

New

Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland, Gangster Squad) directs this action horror film based on the Marvel Comics character Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), a scandal-ridden journalist who attempts to revive his career by investigating the Life Foundation, where he comes in contact with an alien symbiote. It bonds with him, taking over his body and personality, giving him superhuman powers, and manifesting his alter ego, Venom. (112 min.)

—Glen Starkey

WHITE BOY RICK

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Matinee

Where's it showing? Stadium 10

Pick

Yann Demange ('71, 2014) directs this film based on the true story of teenager Richard Wershe Jr., who became an undercover informant for the FBI during the height of the crack epidemic in 1980s Detroit. When the feds threaten to throw his father in jail for illegally selling guns, Rick will do whatever he can for his family.

Hollywood has a flair for dramatizing stories based on real life—leaving out important details, glossing over others, and adding in spurts of half-truths to help with plot points. White Boy Rick is no exception. It's entertaining with engaging actors, a sweet 1980s wardrobe, and down and dirty scenes of Detroit that include a roller rink! But, it sort of always feels like something's missing, or as an audience member, I was always missing something.

The film rushes what could be some of the best parts, choosing to showcase too much glitz and glam of the gangster lifestyle and not enough on the corrupt law enforcement officers and political bigwigs (such as Detroit's mayor Coleman Young), who Rick is supposedly helping the FBI catch. What the film does a good job of showing are the family dynamics. Tension and tender moments between Wershe Sr., his son, and his daughter pepper the movie, where the actors get to show off their acting chops. (116 min.)

—Camillia Lanham

THE WIFE

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? The Palm

Pick

Björn Runge (Daybreak, Mouth to Mouth, Happy End) directs Jane Anderson's (How to Make an American Quilt) screenplay based on Meg Wolitzer's novel about Joan Castleman (Glenn Close), wife of famed author Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce), who's awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. During their trip to Stockholm to claim his prize, she begins to ruminate on her life choices.

The film's secret weapon is Glenn Close, whose riveting performance is worth the price of admission. It's also a wonderful meditation of the power of talent, and who is allowed to wield it. This lays bare the pain of domestic drama. (100 min.) Δ

—Glen Starkey

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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