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Film Listings, 12/12/19 – 12/19/19

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All theater listings are as of Friday, Dec. 13.

DEFYING DEATH In 1862, Amelia Wren (Felicity Jones) took flight in a gas balloon to attempt to fly higher than anyone in history, in The Aeronauts. - PHOTO COURTESY OF AMAZON STUDIOS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Amazon Studios
  • DEFYING DEATH In 1862, Amelia Wren (Felicity Jones) took flight in a gas balloon to attempt to fly higher than anyone in history, in The Aeronauts.

THE AERONAUTS

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre

Pick

Tom Harper (Wild Rose) directs this loosely based biopic action adventure about pilot Amelia Wren (Felicity Jones) and scientist James Glaisher (Eddie Redmayne), who in 1862 take flight in a gas balloon to attempt to fly higher than anyone in history and advance human knowledge about weather and the atmosphere.

If you have a fear of heights, as I do, this will be an uncomfortable watch. I kept thinking, "Why didn't they make the sides of the basket higher?!?" I'm sure most of it is green-screen CGI, but that didn't stop that sickening feeling I get from staring down from great heights!

That said, this is a really engaging adventure and survival story about human achievement. Think the Wright Brothers' first flight in 1903, Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier in 1947, Yuri Gagarin as the first person in space in 1961, or Neil Armstrong as the first man on the moon in 1969. What Glaisher and his actual balloon pilot, Henry Tracey Coxwell, did was nothing short of amazing, traveling on Sept. 5, 1862, somewhere between 31,000 and 36,000 feet, though Glaisher passed out in the thin air at 29,000 feet, so he was never able to get a true reading.

For the sake of a more gripping story, Coxwell is replaced with the fictional Wren, a character also inspired by French female aeronaut Sophie Blanchard, a favorite of Napoleon Bonaparte and Louie XVIII. Wren is depicted as a daredevil, a woman who sees ballooning as a spectacle for the masses. She's a show woman who understands how to wow the crowd, and indeed, when she and the much more serious and stoic Glaisher take off on the flight before a large crowd in a carnival-like setting, she is all show. He thinks she's frivolous and doesn't understand the seriousness of his experiments, but she knows only too well they're embarking on a dangerous endeavor—one that he's ill-prepared for.

Through flashbacks, we learn of Wren's previous marriage and the tragedy that took her husband, we see Glaisher's crackpot status in the Royal Academy, his long attempt to secure a pilot, and both his and Wren's relationships with their families. The heart of the story, however, is their amazing adventure, much of which is based on actual events.

Their entire flight was only about two hours, but in that two hours they experienced so much. They also both developed a grudging respect for one another despite being very different kinds of people. When I saw the film the second week of December, I was one of only two people in the theater, which is a shame. The epic adventure deserves to be seen on the big screen. It's a gripping reminder of humanity's thirst for knowledge. (100 min.)

—Glen Starkey

A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Full price

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

Pick

Marielle Heller (The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Can You Ever Forgive Me?) directs this biopic drama that's based on the real-life friendship between beloved children's television host Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) and journalist Tom Junod, renamed Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) in the film.

Fred Rogers may not think of himself as a hero, but the majority of the millions of children who grew up watching him still hold him to hero status today. He was the adult who understood the difficulties of being a child, who comforted you when you were sad—even wrote a song for you to sing about those feelings—and took you on all sorts of adventures when you visited his neighborhood.

Lloyd is a man in need of a little Mr. Rogers magic. He has a bitter relationship with his father who he refuses to see, a new baby he can't quite figure out how to connect with, and a job he both jumps into and hides behind. His reputation precedes him, no one wants to be interviewed by the guy who turns around and writes scathing portrayals of his subjects. Yet, when tasked with writing a short piece on heroes, Lloyd is assigned Fred Rogers, who happily agrees to meet with him.

The storyline here is really Lloyd's—his journey to forgiveness with his father and closeness with his new son. Mr. Rogers is the guiding light that gets him there. This film has magic sprinkled all over it, and Tom Hanks captures the calm realness of Fred Rogers to a T. (108 min.)

—Anna Starkey

BLACK CHRISTMAS

DECK THE HALLS Imogen Poots stars as Riley, a college co-ed stalked by a killer over Christmas break, in Black Christmas, screening exclusively at Park Cinemas. - PHOTO COURTESY OF UNIVERSAL PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Universal Pictures
  • DECK THE HALLS Imogen Poots stars as Riley, a college co-ed stalked by a killer over Christmas break, in Black Christmas, screening exclusively at Park Cinemas.

What's it rated? PG-13

Where's it showing? Park

New

Sophia Takal (Green, Always Shine) directs this mystery-horror film about a group of female students stalked over their Christmas break. As they're picked off one by one, they eventually join forces to turn the table on the murderer. The film stars Imogen Poots and Cary Elwes. (92 min.)

—Glen

CHARLIE'S ANGELS

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Matinee

Where's it showing? Sunset Drive-In

Pick

Writer-director Elizabeth Banks (Pitch Perfect 2) takes on the classic TV series (1976-1981) about a trio of crime-fighting women—Sabina Wilson (Kristen Stewart), Elena Houghlin (Naomi Scott), and Jane Kano (Ella Balinska)—who this time around must save humankind from a dangerous new technology.

Banks is up to the task and delivers an earnest and upbeat new installation with three winning leads who are giving it their all. The film clearly has respect for its source material but stops short of retrograde homage, instead injecting some freshness into the characters, who are a lot of fun, especially Stewart's Sabina. It also adds some feminist elements that help it transcend its "jiggle TV" origins, and as a simple action film, it does the job. (118 min.)

—Glen

DARK WATERS

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Full price

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

See Split Screen.

ELF

SPIRIT OVERLOAD! Will Ferrell stars as Buddy, a human raised as an elf at the North Pole, who decides to travel to NYC to find his real dad, in the beloved Christmas classic, Elf, screening for free on Dec. 14 in the Fremont Theater. - PHOTO COURTESY OF NEW LINE CINEMA
  • Photo Courtesy Of New Line Cinema
  • SPIRIT OVERLOAD! Will Ferrell stars as Buddy, a human raised as an elf at the North Pole, who decides to travel to NYC to find his real dad, in the beloved Christmas classic, Elf, screening for free on Dec. 14 in the Fremont Theater.

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Saturday, Dec. 14, 7 p.m., in the Fremont Theater

New/Pick

Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Chef, Jungle Book, The Lion King) directs this Christmas classic about human man Buddy (Will Ferrell), who was raised as an elf at the North Pole. When buddy discovers the truth, he heads to New York City to find his real father, Walter (James Caan), a gruff businessman disinterested in Buddy and Christmas. Can Buddy's unending good cheer overcome Walter's scrooginess, or vice versa? (97 min.)

—Glen

FORD V FERRARI

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Full price

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

Pick

James Mangold (Logan, 3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line) directs this biopic about car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and race car driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale), who in 1966 team up to try to beat a car designed by Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone) in the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans race. Tracy Letts stars as Henry Ford II and Jon Bernthal stars as Lee Iacocca. What an amazing story! Even if you're not a motorhead, you'll find this tale of determination wholly engaging, largely due to the larger-than-life characters and their complicated relationships. (152 min.)

—Glen

FROZEN II

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Full price

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

Pick

Co-directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee (Frozen, 2013) return to helm this animated sequel about Anna (Kristen Bell), Elsa (Idena 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

BREAK A LEG Noah Jupe stars as Otis, a young actor with a troubled childhood, in Honey Boy. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF AUTOMATIK
  • Photos Courtesy Of Automatik
  • BREAK A LEG Noah Jupe stars as Otis, a young actor with a troubled childhood, in Honey Boy.

HONEY BOY

What's it rated? R

Where's it showing? Galaxy, The Palm

New

Directed by Alma Har'el, this drama was written by actor Shia LaBeouf and based on his own life as a young actor with a storied childhood. As he moves into adulthood, he must reconcile with his father and his own mental health. (94 min.)

—Glen

JOJO RABBIT

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? The Palm

Pick

Writer-director Tailka Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople, What We Do in the Shadows) helms this adaptation of Christine Leunens' satirical novel about a young boy (Roman Griffin Davis) in Hitler's (Waititi) army who discovers his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their home. Hilarious and heartbreaking—Waititi seems to have copied a page out of the Wes Anderson's (The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom) director's handbook, creating a colorful, comical, absurdist world and a look at one young fanatic's coming-of-age story. (108 min.)

—Glen

GAME ON (Left to right) Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, and Jack Black return for Jumanji: The Next Level. - PHOTO COURTESY OF HARTBEAT PRODUCTIONS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Hartbeat Productions
  • GAME ON (Left to right) Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, and Jack Black return for Jumanji: The Next Level.

JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL

What's it rated? PG-13

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

New

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, Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, and Kevin Hart. This time the gang returns to rescue one of their own and must brave an arid desert and snowy mountain as they attempt to survive the deadly game. (123 min.)

—Glen

KNIVES OUT

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Full price

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

Pick

Writer-director Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper, Star Wars: Episode VIII—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?

Knives Out starts with a classic Agatha Christie whodunit set-up: Wealthy crime novelist Harlan Thrombey invites his extended—and deeply dysfunctional—family to his remote estate to celebrate his 85th birthday, but he's discovered dead the next morning by his housekeeper, Fran (Edi Patterson). Da-dun-dun!

Police Lieutenant Elliott (LaKeith Stanfield) is summoned to investigate, along with dapper and astute detective Benoit Blanc, who begins to question the various family members and staff, all of whom have deep dark secrets and hidden motives. Viewers quickly become armchair detectives as we work alongside Blanc to discover the culprit in our midst!

Who could it be? Son Walt Thrombey (Michael Shannon), who runs his father's lucrative publishing empire; or Walt's Nazi son Jacob Thrombey (Jaeden Martell); or wife, Donna Thrombey (Riki Lindhome)? Or Harlan's daughter, Linda Drysdale (Jamie Lee Curtis), who parlayed her father's million-dollar loan into a house-of-cards real estate empire? Or maybe it's Linda's husband, Richard Drysdale (Don Johnson), who's under his wife's thumb? Or their lazy son, Ransom Drysdale (Chris Evans), who's at risk of being cut off from his grandfather's good graces? Or Harlan's daughter-in-law, Joni Thrombey (Toni Collette), the widow of his deceased son; or her daughter, Meg Thrombey (Katherine Langford), whose tuition to an elite university is at risk? At the center of it all is Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas), Harlan's nurse and friend.

Despite the large ensemble cast, keeping track of who's who is never a problem in Johnson's slick screenplay. He's a terrific director, and his 2005 high school film noir crime drama, Brick, remains a favorite, as does his 2012 sci-fi thriller Looper. Knives Out is an excellent addition to Johnson's impressive oeuvre. We think we know what's going on, but as the story plays out, we discover layers upon layers of intrigue.

There's also a bit of commentary on contemporary politics, some centered on Marta, who the Thrombeys know comes from somewhere south of the U.S. but where: Paraguay? Ecuador? Nicaragua? Honduras? They like to pretend they're high-minded, but it's clear they think of Marta as "the help." When things grow more complicated, Marta's undocumented mother becomes a pawn in the family's game to secure Harlan's fortune. It's also comical that they all consider themselves "self-made," though without Harlan's largesse, they'd have nothing.

Each actor delivers deft and engaging performances, but Craig and de Armas really stand out. Craig's southern drawl transcends affectation, and de Armas, a Cuban, is supremely likable as the sweet-natured Marta. The interaction between them is devilishly fun, especially when they trade barbs. They both have well-set moral compasses, which put them at odds with those around them.

Evans is clearly having a lot of fun as the irreverent scion of the family, driving around in his classic BMW and living in his stylish modernist house. Unlike the rest of his family, he's not interested in putting on airs of morality. He likes money and doesn't want to work for it.

Speaking of houses, Harlan's gothic mansion is a character in its own right, with its hidden entrances and odd furnishing—macabre sculptures, dark corners, and of course the signature throne backed by a semi-circle of knives. The film skirts abject campiness but keeps the proceedings just serious enough to stop from falling into farce. It's a heck of a lot of fun and proof that murder mysteries need not fall out of favor as outdated. Knives Out pays homage to its forebears while creating a fresh and contemporary take on an old genre.(130 min.)

—Glen

MIDWAY

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Matinee

Where's it showing? Stadium 10

Pick

Roland Emmerich (Stargate, Independence Day, The Patriot, White House Down) directs this historical action-drama about World War II's Battle of Midway, told by those who fought it: Lt. Richard "Dick" Best (Ed Skrein), Edwin Layton (Patrick Wilson), Lt. Cmdr. Wade McClusky (Luke Evans), Adm. Chester Nimitz (Woody Harrelson), and Vice Adm. William "Bull" Halsey (Dennis Quaid). This pivotal June 4 through 7, 1942, battle between the American fleet and the Imperial Japanese Navy was the Pacific Theater's turning point. (138 min.)

—Glen

GRISWALD STYLE! Clark Griswald (Chevy Chase) is determined to have the best Christmas ever, in the 1989 comedy classic, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, screening Dec. 13 at the Fremont and Dec. 15 at the Galaxy. - PHOTO COURTESY OF WARNER BROS.
  • Photo Courtesy Of Warner Bros.
  • GRISWALD STYLE! Clark Griswald (Chevy Chase) is determined to have the best Christmas ever, in the 1989 comedy classic, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, screening Dec. 13 at the Fremont and Dec. 15 at the Galaxy.

NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Friday, Dec. 13, 7 p.m., in the Fremont Theater; Sunday, Dec. 15, 1 and 6 p.m., in Galaxy

New/Pick

Jeremiah S. Chechik directs this script by John Hughes staring Chevy Chase as Clark Griswald, who with his wife, Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo), and kids Audrey (Juliette Lewis) and Rusty (Johnny Galecki) must suffer through the holidays with his parents, in-laws, and cousin Eddie Johnson (Randy Quaid) and family. The 1989 comedy has become a staple and dishes up irreverent holiday fun. (97 min.)

—Glen

PARASITE

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 Bubnash

PLAYING WITH FIRE

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Stream it

Where's it showing? Stadium 10

Andy Fickman (She's the Man, Race to Witch Mountain (2009)) directs this family comedy about a crew of firefighters who rescue three rambunctious kids. The film stars Judy Greer, Keegan-Michael Key, and John Cena. Very young kids might enjoy some of the film's antics, but parents will find nothing to recommend it. (96 min.)

—Glen

PLAYMOBIL: THE MOVIE

What's it rated? G

What's it worth? Nothing

Where's it showing? Park

Lino DiSalvo directs this animated adventure comedy based on Playmobil brand toys. Anya Taylor-Joy is Marla, Gabriel Bateman is Charlie, Jim Gaffigan is Del, and Daniel Radcliffe is Rex Dasher.

Maybe the filmmakers figured that if Lego could successfully make a film version of plastic toys, why not Playmobil? Let me count the ways: not funny; too dull to endure; too loud to nap through; too obviously a product placement; incoherent; tedious; rambling. (99 min.)

—Glen

QUEEN & SLIM

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre

Pick

Melina Matsoukas directs this drama about a black couple's first date that goes terribly wrong when a police officer pulls them over for a minor traffic infraction. Daniel Kaluuya is Slim and Jodie Turner-Smith is Queen, who become symbols of the minority oppression. This one's ripped out of the Black Lives Matter headlines, delivering a gripping fugitive story wrapped in a timely subtext.

Slim's a retail worker, and Queen's a defense lawyer—both upstanding citizens, except they're black, which makes them suspicious in the eyes of a racist cop. During the traffic stop, things escalate rapidly and in a quick moment of violence, Slim kills the cop in self-defense. Queen knows the judicial system and knows they won't get a fair shake, so off they run, becoming heroes to a black community that knows all too well about police injustice.

Slick and stylishly made, this is a film that has a lot to say about race relations in America. It's worth a watch for both its story and political subtext. (132 min.)

—Glen

RICHARD JEWELL

FROM VICTOR TO VICTIM Security guard Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser) saved thousands from a bomb at the 1996 Olympics only to be pilloried by the media who falsely reported he was a terrorist, in director Clint Eastwood's Richard Jewell. - PHOTO COURTESY OF 75 YEAR PLAN PRODUCTIONS
  • Photo Courtesy Of 75 Year Plan Productions
  • FROM VICTOR TO VICTIM Security guard Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser) saved thousands from a bomb at the 1996 Olympics only to be pilloried by the media who falsely reported he was a terrorist, in director Clint Eastwood's Richard Jewell.

What's it rated? R

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

New

Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven, Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino, American Sniper) directs this drama about security guard Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser), who saved thousands from a bomb at the 1996 Olympics only to be pilloried by the media who falsely reported he was a terrorist. (129 min.)

—Glen

THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Matinee

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre on Dec. 18 (at 4 and 7 p.m.)

Pick

Peter Jackson directs this documentary about World War I with some formerly black-and-white archival footage colorized, and in some cases with sound and dialogue added, commemorating the centennial of the war's end. Technically, this film is a remarkable achievement: The colorized and sound/dialogue-added segments are truly unique and interesting. The film is also laudable thanks to its depth of research and the worthiness of its archival elements: In addition to the film footage, there are period posters, photographs, illustrations, and newspaper materials; and instead of a single narrator to explain things, the entire narration is made up of voice recordings of World War I veterans who talk candidly about the war, the battles, the deplorable conditions, and the death. The title seems to refer as much to the actual war dead as the young men captured in these films and pictures, remaining forever young on celluloid. (99 min.)

—Glen

WAVES

ONE MISTAKE Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and his girlfriend, Alexis (Alexa Demie), find their lives turned upside down in the excellent family drama Waves, screening exclusively at The Palm Theater. - PHOTO COURTESY OF A24
  • Photo Courtesy Of A24
  • ONE MISTAKE Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and his girlfriend, Alexis (Alexa Demie), find their lives turned upside down in the excellent family drama Waves, screening exclusively at The Palm Theater.

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? The Palm

Pick

Making his third feature length film, Trey Edward Shults (It Comes At Night, Krisha) directs Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Tyler, a promising athletic teen from Florida that makes one mistake, shattering the complexities of his family.

This film is far from your average family melodrama that focuses on a single protagonist. Just as you feel the highs and turbulent lows of being a teenager on the verge of adulthood through Tyler's perspective, a tragic incident completely shifts the story to his almost forgotten sister, Emily (Taylor Russell). Similar to a novel, Waves feels like one story and halfway through seamlessly feels like another story entirely.

Through the effects of a 360-degree camera lens and close-up shots on the wrestling mat, we're introduced to Tyler—a high school teenager with a promising future through athletics, a girlfriend, and supportive family. The scenes feel energetic and fast, but things start to wind down when Tyler goes home.

He has a caring stepmother; an overbearing father, Ronald (Sterling K. Brown); and a quiet sister, Emily. Tyler and his father are close but their relationship borders on abuse as Ronald pushes his son to be what he feels is the best African American man he can be—because there isn't room in this world to be African American and average. This is one of the few scenes that touch on racism.

A nudging pain in Tyler's shoulder turns out to be severe muscle damage that could possibly be the end of his career. As Tyler grapples with his fate, he learns that his girlfriend, Alexis (Alexa Demie), is pregnant and wants to keep the baby.

Under pressure, Tyler begins popping pain pills, drinking, and angrily projecting his feelings onto others. His young life is spiraling, and Shults directs the camera in a way that the audience feels like they're going through the emotions right alongside Tyler. A moment of weakness and anger dramatically changes everything for not only Tyler but his family.

That's about as much as I can say without giving away too much of the film. At this point, the scenes don't feel as energetic as the camera shifts to Emily's life that was almost nonexistent before. It also points to a now fractured family that is trying to hold itself together.

Waves embodies the fragility of a family going through the ebb and flow of life. Harrison and Russell beautifully carry the weight of emotion without being overly dramatic in a story that feels very real. (135 min.) Δ

—Karen Garcia

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

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