Music, Arts & Culture » Movies

Film Listings 3/1/18 – 3/8/18

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ANNIHILATION

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Matinee

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

Pick

Writer-director Alex Garland (Ex Machina) helms this story based on Jeff VanderMeer's novel about a team of soldiers who enter into a mysterious and expanding energy curtain, from which nothing has yet returned, including drones and other soldiers. Only one soldier, Kane (Oscar Isaac), returns, but he's badly injured and near death. His wife, Lena (Natalie Portman), a biologist with a military background, agrees to go back in hoping to discover how to save Kane.

Riffing on sci-fi invasion films such as The Thing and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Annihilation's premise is the idea of aliens sending a phenomenon that has the ability to rearrange the very cells of the target world, changing it from the inside out. The aliens don't need a massive invasion force; they need a kind of virus and the time to let it work.

Kane's been gone a full year when he suddenly shows up at home, startling Lena, who believed he was dead. He's behaving strangely, and then he suddenly falls ill. On the way to the ER, their ambulance is pulled over and Kane and Lena are whisked away by soldiers. When Lena wakes up on a secret military base set-up on the perimeter of what's been named "The Shimmer," she learns of an all-female team heading into the phenomenon led by Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a psychologist.

Lena agrees to join the team, which includes Anya Thorensen (Gina Rodriguez), Cass Sheppard (Tuva Novotny), and Josie Radek (Tessa Thompson). What they discover inside the ever-expanding phenomenon is a world transformed, with monstrous chimera-like creatures, such as a crocodile with shark teeth and a hideous bear-like creature with exposed skull, that wander among strangely evolved flora.

This could easily be B-movie stuff, but Garland is more interested in the human emotions that drive this team of explorers, and they all have their secrets. Yes, there are moments of violence, gore, and horror, but this is a science-rich, thoughtfully constructed mind-bender of a story.

It's not as good as Ex Machina, and its conclusion doesn't live up to the film's fascinating first two-thirds, but it's deftly acted and slyly directed, and it does something that's become increasingly difficult: It's taken a genre overgrown by cliché and found a fresh approach. (115 min.)

—Glen Starkey

BLACK PANTHER

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Full Price

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

Pick

Co-writer/director Ryan Coogler (Creed) helms this story about T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman), a newly crowned king of the technologically advanced but isolationist country of Wakanda, who finds his new kinghood challenged by Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), a vengeful victim of T'Challa's father's past actions.

It's an empowering reimagining of African roots but also—remember—a fantasy. Ultimately, this is a super hero flick that refuses to stay in the genre's rut and that's interested in exploring complicated political and cultural ideas. Sure, other Marvel stories have looked at politics, from Iron Man and the arms trade to Captain America: Winter's Soldier and drones, PTSD, and warfare, but Black Panther goes deeper than any other Marvel storyline. I say, keep it coming. (134 min.)

—Glen Starkey

DARKEST HOUR

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Full Price

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre

Pick

Darkest Hour drops viewers into one of the tensest, grimmest periods of World War II to illustrate how British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Garry Oldman), orated Britain and its people out of surrendering to and into defiantly fighting Nazi Germany.

Set in May of 1940, British Parliament has just ousted Neville Chamberlain as its Prime Minister as Hitler prepares to invade Belgium and Holland. Churchill is begrudgingly appointed as his successor, but fear and doubt still consumes the nation.

It's Churchill's commitment to the principles of his country and disdain for the moral atrocities of Nazism that compel him to push back against the momentum of a surrender. That's what's thrilling about this movie: the emotional battle between the convenience of giving up versus the profound consequences of that concession. (125 min.)

—Peter Johnson

DEATH WISH

What's it rated? R

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

New

JUSTICE In Death Wish, a doctor turns vigilante, hunting down criminals, after his wife and daughter are brutally attacked in their suburban home. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MGM
  • Photo Courtesy Of MGM
  • JUSTICE In Death Wish, a doctor turns vigilante, hunting down criminals, after his wife and daughter are brutally attacked in their suburban home.

Dr. Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) is a surgeon who only sees the aftermath of his city's violence when it is rushed into his ER—until his wife (Elisabeth Shue) and college-age daughter (Camila Morrone) are viciously attacked in their suburban home. With the police overloaded with crimes, Paul, burning for revenge, hunts his family's assailants to deliver justice. As the anonymous slayings of criminals grabs the media's attention, the city wonders if this deadly avenger is a guardian angel or a grim reaper. (108 min.)

—MGM

EVERY DAY

What's it rated? PG-13

Where's it showing? Galaxy, Park

Based on David Levithan's acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Every Day tells the story of Rhiannon (Angourie Rice), a 16-year-old girl who falls in love with a mysterious soul named "A" who inhabits a different body every day. Feeling an unmatched connection, Rhiannon and A work each day to find each other, not knowing what or who the next day will bring. (95 min.)

—Orion Pictures

FERDINAND

What's it rated? PG

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre

Ferdinand tells the story of a giant bull with a big heart. After being mistaken for a dangerous beast, Ferdinand (John Cena) is captured and torn from his home. Determined to return to his family, he rallies a misfit team on the ultimate adventure. (107 min.)

—Blue Sky Studio/20th Century Fox

THE 15:17 TO PARIS

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Streaming

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

Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven, Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino) directs this true account of how three American friends on vacation in Europe disrupted a terrorist attack on a train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris. In a bold move, Eastwood cast the actual heroes of the event—Spencer Stone, Alex Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler—as themselves.

Does the gamble pay off? The quick answer is no. Stone, Skarlatos, and Sadler are not professional actors, and even though they lived the events depicted, their performances largely come off as wooden. At the end of the film, Eastwood mixes archival footage from the French ceremony honoring the three men, which adds a nice touch of realism, but it's not enough to warrant casting these three non-actors. If you like the idea of using the real heroes in the roles, it may be worth a trip to the big screen for you, but I think most viewers will leave the theater underwhelmed. (94 min.)

—Glen Starkey

FIFTY SHADES FREED

What's it rated? R

Where's it showing? Galaxy

Believing they have left behind shadowy figures from their past, newlyweds Christian (Jamie Dornan) and Ana (Dakota Johnson) fully embrace an inextricable connection and shared life of luxury. But just as she steps into her role as Mrs. Grey and he relaxes into an unfamiliar stability, new threats could jeopardize their happy ending before it even begins. (120 min.)

—Universal Pictures

FILM STARS DON'T DIE IN LIVERPOOL

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Matinee

Where's it showing? The Palm

Pick

Paul McGuigan (Lucky Number Slevin, Victor Frankenstein) isn't particularly known for romance (unless you count Wicker Park, in which case, I have some questions for you) but his lack of experience in the genre doesn't keep him from crafting a compelling tale that is both romantic drama and biopic, in Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool.

Based on the memoir, Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool: A True Love Story, by Peter Turner, the film adaptation follows Turner (played by Jamie Bell) and the aging Hollywood star Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening) as the two navigate their friendship, love, and the realities of stardom in the final two years of Grahame's life.

In the first scene, Grahame collapses on the floor due to health complications in her late 50s. She then calls her former lover, (and 20-plus years her junior) Turner, and requests that she stays with his family, ostensibly for the final days of her life. The two then spend the majority of the film navigating Grahame's deteriorating health while reminiscing on their brief but powerful relationship.

On its own, the plot is somewhat generic and will be all too familiar for seasoned viewers, but the performances in Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool, particularly Bening's, are worth the price of admission alone. Her portrayal of Grahame dips and rises like a high-speed roller coaster: She is cool enough to know Disco hits in the late 1970s (despite being born more than five decades before it came popular), oozes with such confidence that she remarks at one point during the film that a whole room of people want to sleep with her, but is still able to show pieces of fragility, such as clear moments of insecurity about her age and appearance.

McGuigan take special care to progress his plot slowly in the present (where Grahame's health takes a turn for the worse) while peppering his narrative with flashback sequences of the two lovers falling for one another. The transportation of the audience back to the brief period the two shared together is wonderfully conveyed via surreal match cuts that blend the moment in time and past together seamlessly. Repeatedly throughout the film the protagonists step through doorways that break the laws of space and time—allowing them to dwell on vivid memories of their past romance.

Bell is excellent in his role as the young aspiring actor who falls for Grahame: capable of conveying confusion, longing, and unabashed infatuation with his on-screen counterpart. It is Bening though, much like her character, who steals the hearts and attention of all who happen to gaze upon her, however. (106 min.)

—Spencer Cole

THE GREATEST SHOWMAN

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Rental

Where's it showing? Stadium 10

First-time director Michael Gracey helms The Greatest Showman, an original, straight-to-screen musical inspired by the life of P.T. Barnum (played here by Hugh Jackman) and the formation of the Barnum and Bailey Circus. The film never claims to be wholly factual and only uses the aspects of Barnum's life that fit into its desired rags-to-riches structure.

Overall, The Greatest Showman is a mixed bag full of flawed and fun moments alike. It's hard to tell how serious it takes itself at times, but the best parts are the unashamedly cheesy ones. And I really wish it embraced that cheesiness moreit could have been grater. (139 min.)

—Caleb Wiseblood

HOSTILES

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Bay

Pick

Writer-director Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace) helms this Western set in 1892. Army Capt. Joseph J. Blocker (Christian Bale) is tasked with one final, unsavory assignment before retirement: He and a detail must escort Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) and his family from a New Mexican military prison—where they've languished for seven years—through hostile territory and back to their Montana homeland.

Hostiles doesn't quite rise to the level of the greatest Western films. It's no Unforgiven (1992), Red River (1948), or Shane (1953), but it's a worthy offering that approaches its subject with a lot more subtly and sensitivity that many recent period Westerns. If you're a fan of Old West tales, this is worth a trip to the theater. (134 min.)

—Glen Starkey

IN THE FADE

TERROR A woman struggles to make sense of life after her husband and young son are killed in a bomb attack in In The Fade. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MAGNOLIA PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Magnolia Pictures
  • TERROR A woman struggles to make sense of life after her husband and young son are killed in a bomb attack in In The Fade.

What's it rated? R

Where's it showing? The Palm

New

Out of nowhere, Katja's (Diane Kruger) life falls apart when her husband, Nuri (Numan Acar), and little son, Rocco (Rafael Santana), are killed in a bomb attack. Her friends and family try to give her the support she needs, and Katja somehow manages to make it through the funeral. But the mind numbing search for the perpetrators and reasons behind the senseless killing complicate Katja's painful mourning, opening wounds and doubts. (106 min.)

—Magnolia Pictures

I, TONYA

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full Price

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre, Fair Oaks

Pick

From director Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl, The Finest Hours) and writer Steven Rogers (P.S. I love You, Friday Night Lights) comes I, Tonya, based on unbelievable, but true events. This mock-u-mentary style film is a darkly comedic tale of American figure skater, Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie), and one of the most sensational scandals in sports history. Though Harding was the first American woman to complete a triple axel in competition, her legacy was forever defined by her association with an infamous, ill conceived, and even more poorly executed attack on fellow Olympic competitor Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver). The cast is rounded out with a mustachioed Sebastian Stan as Harding's impetuous ex-husband Jeff Gillooly and Allison Janney as her acid-tongued mother, LaVona Golden.

I, Tonya takes someone from popular culture we thought we had the measure of, and throws all of our ideas out the window. (119 min.)

—Ryah Cooley

JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Full Price

Where's it showing? Stadium 10

Pick

With Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, we see an old game through new lenses. In present day, we have a group of four archetypal teenagers. You know, similar to The Breakfast Club. You've got the nerd Spencer (Alex Wolff), his former best friend turned jock Fridge (Ser' Darius Blain), a self-absorbed popular Bethany (Madison Iseman), and smart girl Martha (Morgan Turner) who's a little salty about her peers. The crew gets detention and that's where the unlikely group finds Jumanji (this time in video game form). They decide to ditch their task to play it. Once the game is plugged in and rebooting, the kids are sucked into the console, entering into the Jumanji world. But there's a catch: They have assumed the bodies of their avatars.

This is where the fun really starts; Spencer turns into Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson). His weakness: he has none. Fridge turns into Franklin "Mouse" Finbar (Kevin Hart). You can only guess where the nickname comes from. Notorious hottie Bethany turns into the nerdy, male Professor "Shelly" Oberon (Jack Black), a cartographer, cryptographer, archaeologist, and paleontologist. Shy Martha turns into Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan). She's a martial artist and dance fighter with very short and tight clothing. With their new personas, the group must learn to work together and trust one another so they can return the jewel known as the Jaguar's Eye to the jaguar statue.

This film does what many remakes fail to do, which is successfully entertain its audience. I wasn't quite sure how this would go walking into the theater. But these actors did a hilarious job delivering as prepubescent teenagers in way over their heads. I was laughing nonstop throughout the film. (112 min.)

—Karen Garcia

LADY BIRD

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full Price

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre

Pick

Writer-director Greta Gerwig helms this coming of age story about high schooler Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) over the 2002-03 school year in Sacramento, exploring her difficult relationship with her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) and others in her life.

One of the things the film does well is capture what a weird time high school is. It's like a bubble of unreality. Insecurities rule the day, and in general, high school students have no idea that most of the popular kids have peaked and will grow up to be unhappy losers while the misfits inherit the earth, but as viewers we can see the writing on the wall. (93 min.)

—Glen Starkey

LIVES WELL LIVED

What's it rated? NR

What's it worth? Full Price

Where's it showing? The Palm

Pick

First-time director Sky Bergman helms this documentary that asks older people their secret to a happy and fulfilling life. Mixing one-on-one interviews, her subjects' personal photos and home movies, as well as archival footage of seminal events in their lives, Bergman uncovers wisdom collected from 40 subjects with 3,000 years of collective life experience.

This film is a monument to lives of dignity and honor, of self-sacrifice and generosity. We younger generations could do well by these lessons. I absolutely loved this film. (72 min.)

—Glen Starkey

PHANTOM THREAD

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full Price

Where's it showing? The Palm

Pick

Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood, The Master, Inherent Vice) reteams with Daniel Day-Lewis in this story of dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock, who with his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) runs the posh fashion business the House of Woodcock. Set in 1950s London, Woodcock's fastidious life is turned upside down by Alma (Vicky Krieps), a willful young woman who becomes his lover and muse.

Like many of Anderson's stories, Phantom Thread is about big personalities with compromised morals. That can make it difficult to find anyone to root for; however, Anderson's sumptuous filmmaking, attention to detail, and unflinching gaze at his complicated characters is as gorgeous and elevated as one of Reynolds' haute couture designs. (130 min.)

—Glen Starkey

PETER RABBIT

What's it rated? PG

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

Peter Rabbit (James Corden), the mischievous and adventurous hero who has captivated generations of readers, now takes on the starring role of his own irreverent, contemporary comedy with attitude. In the film, Peter's feud with Mr. McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson) escalates to greater heights than ever before as they rival for the affections of the warm-hearted animal lover who lives next door (Rose Byrne). (100 min.)

—Columbia Pictures

RED SPARROW

ON POINTE In Red Sparrow, a prima ballerina (Jennifer Lawrence) undergoes training to become part of a deadly secret intelligence service. - PHOTO COURTESY OF 20TH CENTURY FOX
  • Photo Courtesy Of 20th Century Fox
  • ON POINTE In Red Sparrow, a prima ballerina (Jennifer Lawrence) undergoes training to become part of a deadly secret intelligence service.

What's it rated? R

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

New

When prima ballerina Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) suffers a career-ending injury, she and her mother face a bleak and uncertain future. That is why she finds herself manipulated into becoming the newest recruit for Sparrow School, a secret intelligence service that trains exceptional young people like her to use their bodies and minds as weapons. After enduring the perverse and sadistic training process, she emerges as the most dangerous Sparrow the program has ever produced. Dominika must now reconcile the person she was with the power she now commands, with her own life and everyone she cares about at risk, including an American CIA agent who tries to convince her he is the only person she can trust. (140 min.)

—20th Century Fox

THE SHAPE OF WATER

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full Price

Where's it showing? The Palm

Pick

Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is a lonely mute who works as a janitor in a high-security government laboratory in 1962 Baltimore. For 10 years she's walked and cleaned the halls of the facility with her friend Zelda (Octavia Spencer).

Every day Elisa sticks to her routine: take a shower, polish her shoes, make lunch as well as a meal for her neighbor and friend Giles (Richard Jenkins), and then catch the bus to work.

Her life takes a turn when she and Zelda are called into a room to clean up a bloody mess created by "the asset" (Doug Jones), at least that's what the scientists and government officials are calling it. The asset is a scaled creature from South Africa that now resides in a water tank against its will. Elisa is drawn to the creature, maybe because she too is an outsider in the world that she lives in. She forms a bond with the creature that feels more like love than friendship. But her days of sharing hard-boiled eggs for lunch and listening to her vinyl record player are numbered; the very fate of the creature is on the line.

Writer and director Guillermo Del Toro's (Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy, Pacific Rim) latest offering is visually intriguing as an everyday woman finds her fairy tale—with some bloody scenes mixed in, of course. (123 min.)

—Karen Garcia

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full Price

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre, Fair Oaks

Pick

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is one shape-shifter of a movie. Is it a comedy, tragedy, or quest for vengeance, redemption, and catharsis? Director/writer Martin McDonagh (The Guard) manages to convince you it's all of the above.

We're dropped late into the aftermath of mother Mildred Hayes' (Frances McDormand, Hail, Caesar!, Moonrise Kingdom) grief and pain. Months have gone by since her daughter Angela (Kathryn Newton) was viciously raped and murdered while walking home one night in their small town. Still, local law enforcement has made no arrests and doesn't even have any suspects. While driving down a forgotten road just outside Ebbing, Mildred gets and idea and proceeds to march into town and pay for three billboards in a row painted red with big black letters that say "Raped while dying," "And still no arrests?" and "How come, Chief Willoughby?"

The writing is impeccably sharp, with searing lines thrown in at the most emotionally potent moments, and yet, there are so many laugh-out-loud moments, too, in this film that deals rather heavily in anger and sorrow. The acting is superb, particularly performances from McDormand, who plays Mildred as hardened and determined to find justice, and Harrelson as the seemingly hick police chief creates so much nuance and depth for his character. And yet, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri requires being OK with swallowing a hefty dose of imaginative realism. (115 min.)

—Ryah Cooley

WINCHESTER

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Streaming

Where's it showing? Park

Purportedly inspired by true events, this ghost story suggests that Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren), heir to the Winchester rifle empire, constructed the famed San Jose Winchester Mystery House while guided by vengeful spirits killed by Winchester rifles. Under risk of being forced out of her 51 percent share of the company for being of unsound mind, Sarah agrees to allow San Francisco psychiatrist Dr. Eric Price (Jason Clarke) to visit the house and assess her mental fitness. The film is co-rewritten and directed by Michael and Peter Spierig (Undead, Daybreakers, Predestination) from a script by Tom Vaughan.

I'd love to see a real biopic of Sarah Winchester instead of this flappy piece of filmmaking. The acting is commendable and the house is fascinating, but save your money and take a trip up to San Jose to see the real thing live and in person. This forgettable and unnecessary film doesn't have a ghost of a chance being remembered. (99 min.) Δ

—Glen Starkey

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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