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Film Listings 11/23/17 – 11/30/17

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A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS

What's it rated? R

Where's it showing? Galaxy

A Bad Moms Christmas follows our three under-appreciated and over-burdened women as they rebel against the challenges and expectations of the Super Bowl for moms: Christmas. And if creating a more perfect holiday for their families wasn't hard enough, they have to do all of that while hosting and entertaining their own mothers. By the end of the journey, our moms will redefine how to make the holidays special for all and discover a closer relationship with their mothers. (104 min.)

—STX Films

DADDY'S HOME

What's it rated? PG-13

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

Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) and Brad (Will Ferrell) have joined forces to provide their kids with the perfect Christmas. Their newfound partnership is put to the test when Dusty's old-school, macho dad (Mel Gibson) and Brad's ultra-affectionate and emotional dad (John Lithgow) arrive just in time to throw the holiday into complete chaos. (98 min.)

—Paramount Pictures

COCO

LOS MUERTOS In the animated film Coco, young Miguel journeys to the land of the dead to discover his family's long-held ban on music. - PHOTO COURTESY OF DISNEY/PIXAR
  • Photo Courtesy Of Disney/pixar
  • LOS MUERTOS In the animated film Coco, young Miguel journeys to the land of the dead to discover his family's long-held ban on music.

What's it rated? PG

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

New

Despite his family's baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel (voice of newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt). Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector (voice of Gael García Bernal), and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel's family history. (109 min.)

—Disney/Pixar

JUSTICE LEAGUE

UNITED A group of superheroes led by Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) unite to defeat a common enemy in Justice League. - PHOTO COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Warner Bros. Pictures
  • UNITED A group of superheroes led by Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) unite to defeat a common enemy in Justice League.

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Rental

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

Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch, Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) directs this ensemble super hero flick featuring Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Batman (Ben Affleck), The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher), who must save the world from Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) and his army of Parademons, all while humanity ponders the death of Superman (Henry Cavill).

Recently, a few superhero flicks have taken to self-deprecation, winking slyly at their own absurdity. Thor: Ragnarok, Deadpool, and Guardians of the Galaxy proved that a little humorous self-awareness can lighten the proceedings, but that's not a lesson Justice League has learned. Instead we've got another strident, overly serious romp into the fantastical. The closest the film comes to having a sense of humor is how the various characters role their eyes at Batman's relentless brooding, as well as The Flash's social awkwardness.

As far as the action and the special effects, this is a big money film with a lot of big money set pieces, and if you love superhero films, you'll want to see it in the theater, but the film is missing the wide-eyed joy that Wonder Woman generated, instead returning to the insufferable seriousness of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Maybe instead of letting Snyder take control again they should have given director's duties to Patty Jenkins, who made Gal Gadot such a winning Diana Prince.

Momoa's Aquaman was as one-dimensional as Batman, who should perhaps change his superhero name to "Flatman" since he has the personality of a sheet of lined notebook paper. Likewise, Cyborg is all brooding bitterness. Aside from Gadot, Miller's The Flash was the most memorable character—he did have all the best one-liners and reaction shots—but even he's too thinly developed.

And as an arch villain, Steppenwolf—a CGI character that never seems real—is kind of a bore. The entire film feels flat, like it's missing the dynamics of real drama and replaced it with, well ... cardboard cutouts.

Justice League isn't a terrible movie, but in an age when superhero stories are finding new and fun ways of telling their stories, this feels like a step backwards. When even Gadot's luminescence can't save your dour proceedings, you've done something terribly wrong. (120 min.)

—Glen Starkey

LOVING VINCENT

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Full Price

Where's it showing? The Palm

Pick

Writers-directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman helm this story about impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh (Robert Gulaczyk), exploring his complicated life and mysterious death. Shot with live actors, the film was then transformed into animation. A team of 115 painters working in Van Gogh's style painted each of the film's 65,000 individual frames. The results are a spectacular and mesmerizing achievement! This film is a glory to behold, with paintings coming to life before your eyes.

The story—written by the co-directors and Jacek Dehnel—takes place a couple years after Van Gogh's death. When an undelivered letter is discovered from Vincent Van Gogh to his brother Theo, Vincent's friend and frequent subject Postman Roulin (Chris O'Dowd) enlists his son Armand (Douglas Booth) to carry the letter to Paris and search for Theo, since the forwarded letter had already been returned "undeliverable." Armand sets out on the train, and soon his task turns into a mystery story as he tries to find Theo, and barring him, his widow or someone else who should appropriately receive what was perhaps Van Gogh's last epistle.

The film is certainly not the definitive version or Van Gogh's death—it raises questions but doesn't offer certain answers, just more conjecture—but it's entertaining, poignant, and visually arresting. See this one in the theater! (94 min.)

—Glen Starkey

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Rental

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

Kenneth Branagh (Dead Again, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Thor, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) directs himself as famed Belgium detective Hercule Poirot, who on a lavish train trip with 13 strangers must solve a murder that could only have been committed by one of his fellow travelers.

Written by Michael Green (Logan, Alien: Covenant, Blade Runner 2049) and based on the classic mystery novel by Agatha Christie, the film also features Daisy Ridley as Miss Mary Debenham, Leslie Odom Jr. as Dr. Arbuthnot, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Biniamino Marquez, Penélope Cruz as Pilar Estravados, Josh Gad as Hector MacQueen, Johnny Depp as Edward Ratchett, Derek Jacobi as Edward Henry Masterman, Sergei Polunin as Count Rudolph Andrenyi, Lucy Boynton as Countess Elena Andrenyi, Marwan Kenzari as Pierre Michel, Michelle Pfeiffer as Caroline Hubbard, Judi Dench as Princess Dragomiroff, Olivia Colman as Hildegarde Schmidt, and Willem Dafoe as Gerhard Hardman.

If right about now you're thinking, "Wow, that's a lot of characters to keep track of," you're correct. In a novel, a cast of this size is certainly doable, but in a two-hour film, it can be tough to keep track of who's who and what their relationships are. Worse still, one of the great joys of watching a murder mystery is playing armchair detective and trying to figure out whodunit. Well, good luck. Between the size of the cast and the lack of clues, it's hard to guess and even harder to care.

Of course, it's a beautiful looking film that opens in Jerusalem before moving on to Istanbul, and the train itself is a work of art. The costumes, the details, the steam engine moving through snow-covered mountains—all quite lovely.

Likewise, the acting is generally excellent. For his part, Branagh plays Poirot with relish. He's a man obsessed with symmetry, and that very obsessive-compulsiveness and his attention to the smallest details generates his detection skills. It's fun to see his blunt and judgmental behavior as he interacts with those he finds beneath him. Other standouts include Defoe as the Austrian scholar (or is he?), Cruz as the pious Spanish missionary, and Dench as the pretentious princess. As for Depp, he's sort of phoning in his John Dillinger impression.

If you're familiar with the story, that may work in your favor. If not, the grand reveal may seem like a cop-out, and it certainly will frustrate the armchair detectives who think they're solving the case. If you like period mystery dramas, this latest iteration of this oft told tale isn't terrible, but I didn't need to see it in the theater. (114 min.)

—Glen Starkey

THE STAR

BRIGHTLY SHINING Explore a retelling of the first Christmas in the animated film The Star. - PHOTO COURTESY OF A24
  • Photo Courtesy Of A24
  • BRIGHTLY SHINING Explore a retelling of the first Christmas in the animated film The Star.

What's it rated? PG

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

A small but brave donkey named Bo (Steven Yeun) yearns for a life beyond his daily grind at the village mill. One day he finds the courage to break free, and finally goes on the adventure of his dreams. On his journey, he teams up with Ruth (Aidy Bryant), a lovable sheep who has lost her flock, and Dave (Keegan-Michael Key), a dove with lofty aspirations. Along with three wisecracking camels and some eccentric stable animals, Bo and his new friends follow the star and become unlikely heroes in the greatest story ever told—the first Christmas. (86 min.)

—Sony Pictures Animation

THOR: RAGNAROK

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Full Price

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

Pick

Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) directs Chris Hemsworth as Thor, the God of Thunder, who loses his hammer, is imprisoned on the other end of the universe, and finds himself pitted against his former ally The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in a gladiatorial battle. Meanwhile, Hela (Cate Blanchett), the Goddess of Death, is threatening to destroy Thor's home, Asgard, so he must escape and race against time to protect everything he holds dear.

The film also stars Tom Hiddleston as Thor's estranged brother Loki, Idris Elba as Heimdall, Jeff Goldblum as Grandmaster, Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, Karl Urban as Skurge, Anthony Hopkins as Odin, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange.

Comic book movies are inherently silly and absurd, and nothing kills one quicker than over earnestness and taking itself too seriously. After the rousing success of the R-rated Deadpool and its self-deprecating humor, it seems like these films' producers have clued into the idea that comic book films should be fun and funny.

The producers of Thor: Ragnarok had the good sense to hire New Zealand Director Taika Waititi, who was responsible for the quirky indie gem Eagle vs Shark as well as some episodes of the brilliant TV series Flight of the Conchords. Last year Waititi hit a home run with the poignant, charming, and hilarious Hunt for the Wilderpeople, but as a director, Waititi was still a risk for taking over a big franchise film. Judging from the way he's handled this Thor installment, he'll be back.

This film is a riot! Thor may be the God of Thunder, but he also has some insecurities, and the heart of the film is about him finding the true source of his power and channeling it. If you've seen the theatrical trailer, you've already got a taste of the film's tone.

"I don't hang with The Avengers anymore. It all got too corporate," Thor laments, perfectly encapsulating how eager this film is to make fun of itself and the entire idea of a comic book franchise.

When Thor tries to gather a new team to save Asgard from Hela, Valkyrie asks, "This team of yours, it got a name?"

"Yeah," Thor replies, clearly trying to think up a name on the spot, "it's called the ... uh ... Revengers."

Yep, this is a comic book movie I can get behind. Plus, all the characters are entertaining as heck. You've got a giant green rage monster, a jaded last-of-her-kind Norse warrior, a naïve and somewhat bumbling thunder god, and his homicidal half-brother who all have to join forces to kill Thor and Loki's older sister, the Goddess of Death, who's bent on destroying their world. I'm not sure there's any way to play this other than for laughs.

Being a big, loud comic book movie, the film naturally has over-the-top special effects, amazing set-pieces, tons of action, and a ripping soundtrack—and all those elements are firing at high speed. When Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" starts playing over a pitched battle, it's pretty much a perfect cinematic moment of high-level campiness. This is a cosmic adventure with a similar feel to the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise.

Between Blanchett as Hela and Goldblum as Grandmaster, you've got two really entertaining scenery chewing bad guys. Hemsworth's Thor has an everyman charm. If you were merely to delineate the plot, this film would sound pretty boring, but as a sustained joke about the preposterousness of the Marvel Universe, it's amazing! (130 min.)

—Glen Starkey

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

OUT IN THE OPEN Frustrated at the lack of investigation into her daughter's murder, a mother puts up several large billboards outside her small town in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. - PHOTO COURTESY OF FOX SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Fox Searchlight Pictures
  • OUT IN THE OPEN Frustrated at the lack of investigation into her daughter's murder, a mother puts up several large billboards outside her small town in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

What's it rated? R

Where's it showing? The Palm

New

After months have passed without a culprit in her daughter's murder case, Mildred Hayes (Academy Award winner Frances McDormand) makes a bold move, painting three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at William Willoughby (Academy Award nominee Woody Harrelson), the town's revered chief of police. When his second-in-command Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), an immature mother's boy with a penchant for violence, gets involved, the battle between Mildred and Ebbing's law enforcement is only exacerbated. (115 min.)

—Fox Searchlight Pictures

WONDER

DIFFERENT In Wonder, a young boy born with facial differences bravely starts public school for the first time. - PHOTO COURTESY OF LIONSGATE
  • Photo Courtesy Of Lionsgate
  • DIFFERENT In Wonder, a young boy born with facial differences bravely starts public school for the first time.

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Full Price

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

Pick

If you're the type of person who enjoys those inspirational, feel-good, make-you-laugh-and-cry kind of movies, then you'll love Wonder. However, if you're that type of person but also a bit of a nerd, you will love Wonder even more.

Wonder is about Auggie Pullman (Jacob Temblay), a 10-year-old science enthusiast who was born with facial deformities. The main storyline focuses on Auggie trying to adjust to attending school for the first time after being homeschooled his entire life, but there are also plots centered around the other characters, such as Auggie's mother (Julia Roberts) trying to finish her dissertation that she put off after Auggie was born.

On the surface, this film seems like your typical Oscar bait, with its underdog story and big name actors, (in addition to Roberts, it also features Owen Wilson as Auggie's father), but there are little details that make Wonder special. For example, there are a lot of references to Auggie's interests, and while I'm sure anyone would like this movie, I don't think that one can fully appreciate it if they don't watch Star Wars or have at least minimal knowledge of what Minecraft is. Unlike most movies of this genre that try to appeal to as wide of an audience as possible, Wonder doesn't shy away from pandering to a slightly more niche crowd.

That being said, even if you aren't a geek like Auggie, chances are there will still be at least one character in this film that you'll identify with. Auggie's older sister, Via (Izabela Vidovic), is particularly phenomenal, always loving and supporting Auggie despite the fact that she is dealing with problems of her own, and often feeling alone in those problems since her parents tend to put Auggie's needs before hers. Even the antagonists in this movie are given depth—for a second there, I actually felt sorry for cruel, rich boy Julian (Bryce Gheisar) once the audience meets his parents.

Even if cheesy underdog stories aren't your usual cup of tea, I still strongly encourage you to give Wonder a chance. It has more personality to it than most other films of this type, and Auggie isn't even the character in the spotlight 100 percent of the time. It has certain humor and charm that gives it just a touch of uniqueness, and I have a hard time coming up with reasons why anyone wouldn't like this movie. (113 min.) Δ

—Katrina Borges

New Times movie reviews were compiled by Arts Editor Ryah Cooley and others. You can contact her at rcooley@newtimesslo.com.


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