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Film Listings, 3/29/18 – 4/5/18

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ACRIMONY

DONE A wife takes revenge against her unfaithful husband in the thriller Acrimony. - PHOTO COURTESY OF LIONSGATE
  • Photo Courtesy Of Lionsgate
  • DONE A wife takes revenge against her unfaithful husband in the thriller Acrimony.

What's it rated? R

Where's it showing? Stadium 10

New

A faithful wife (Taraji P. Henson) tired of standing by her devious husband (Lyriq Bent) is enraged when it becomes clear she has been betrayed. (120 min.)

—Lionsgate

ANNIHILATION

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Matinee

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre

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, 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.

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

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.

Every comic book hero needs a villain, and the obvious one here is white South African arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), who's working with Killmonger to steal vibranium, an alien metal that arrived as a meteorite and is responsible for the Wakandan technology. But that's only looking at the surface. Dig deeper into this Afro-centric and female-centric film and the real villain is colonialism and the African diaspora is caused that fuels competing ideologies within the larger black community.

Killmonger's father may have hailed from Wakanda, but Killmonger is a product of Oakland who as a kid had posters of rap group Public Enemy and African American political activist Huey Newton on his wall. T'Challa and his ancestors have always kept Wakanda safe by hiding it from the world. Killmonger wants to exploit Wakanda's technological power to start a worldwide revolution and upend the white power structure.

T'Challa surrounds himself with female warriors, who he treats as equals. Killmonger has adopted the patriarchy of his oppressors. This complexity of story and its focus on black heroes and an advanced but hidden black history upends the view that African is a continent devoid of its own history and only has a history as it entwines with European colonialism, which—if you were wondering—is what all the fuss is about. In that way, the film is truly groundbreaking.

It's certainly a beautiful looking film, with cinematography by Rachel Morrison who worked with Coogler on his excellent feature-length debut Fruitville Station (2013) as well as Mudbound (2017). Picking up on the colors of Africa—yellows, reds, greens, blacks, and purples—the film's palette and African iconography such as spears, masks, and stylized clothing—as well as Wakanda's own unique mix of tribal village and modern cityscape—makes for a visual feast that celebrates Africa but hints at what an African culture might have developed into without European interference.

Everything in the film is a constant reminder of European and Western patriarchy's corruption. In one funny moment that left the audience howling with laughter, CIA agent Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) surprises T'Challa's sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), a technology expert responsible for the many vibranium powered tools and weapons, who exclaims, "Don't scare me like that, colonizer!"

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

THE DEATH OF STALIN

What's it rated? R

Where's it showing? The Palm

New

POWER TRIPS Russian comrades volley and compete to take leadership of the country in The Death of Stalin. - PHOTO COURTESY OF IFC FILMS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Ifc Films
  • POWER TRIPS Russian comrades volley and compete to take leadership of the country in The Death of Stalin.

The one-liners fly as fast as political fortunes fall in this uproarious, wickedly irreverent satire from director Armando Iannucci (Veep, In the Loop). Moscow, 1953: When tyrannical dictator Joseph Stalin drops dead, his parasitic cronies square off in a frantic power struggle to be the next Soviet leader. Among the contenders are the dweeby Georgy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor), the wily Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi), and the sadistic secret police chief Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale). But as they bumble, brawl, and backstab their way to the top, just who is running the government? Combining palace intrigue with rapid-fire farce, this audacious comedy is a bitingly funny takedown of bureaucratic dysfunction performed to the hilt by a sparkling ensemble cast. (107 min.)

—IFC Films

GAME NIGHT

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Rental

Where's it showing? Stadium 10

Co-directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (Vacation, 2015) helm this Mark Perez (The Country Bears, 2002; Accepted, 2006) black comedy script about a group of friends who meet regularly for game night, but this time around, they encounter a real crime and unwittingly believe it's a murder mystery they're supposed to solve.

Game Night starts with the flashback meet-cute of Max and his now-wife Annie (Rachel McAdams, at her most charming). They gather weekly with their best friends, married couple Kevin (Lamorne Morris) and Michelle (Kylie Bunbury), and single lothario Ryan (Billy Magnussen) and his revolving bimbo du jour.

You certainly don't have to see it on the big screen to appreciate it. If you're a big comedy fan, maybe it's worth it. The costars are great, especially Morris's Denzel Washington impression, but I'd feel a lot better about renting this film for $1.62 at Redbox. (100 min.)

—Glen Starkey

GOD'S NOT DEAD: A LIGHT IN DARKNESS

What's it rated? PG

Where's it showing? Park

New

After a deadly fire rips through St. James Church, Hadleigh University leaders use the tragedy to push the congregation off campus, forcing the church to defend its rights and bringing together estranged brothers for a reunion that opens old wounds and forces them to address the issues that pulled them apart. (120 min.)

—Pure Flix Entertainment

I CAN ONLY IMAGINE

What's it rated? PG

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

The inspiring and unknown true story behind MercyMe's beloved, chart topping song that brings ultimate hope to so many is a gripping reminder of the power of true forgiveness. (110 min.)

—Lionsgate

THE LEISURE SEEKER

What's it rated? R

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre

See Split Screen.

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

LOVE, SIMON

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Full Price

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

Pick

Greg Berlanti (Life as We Know It) directs this coming of age story about Simon Spier (Nick Robinson), a closeted gay teenager who must face his sexual identity.

At first, Love, Simon came across as boilerplate coming of age story with the slight twist of Simon being a closeted gay. It set up warm relationships with his friends Leah (Katherine Langford), Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), and Abby (Alexandra Shipp); parents Emily (Jennifer Garner) and Jack (Josh Duhamel); and sister Nora (Talitha Bateman). He's just a regular guy with a big secret who likes to gaze out his window at the hunky gardener next door and dream of being accepted for who he is. The only out gay boy at his high school is Ethan (Clark Moore), who unlike Simon is exaggeratedly effete but sharp-witted enough to rebuff his peers who dare mock him.

It's 2018, so of course part of the story must play out online with a school gossip and online confession site, on which Simon begins an email correspondence with another gay young man named "Blue." Simon takes on his own pseudonym, "Jacques," and the two get to know each other, though neither knows the other's true identity. Throughout the story, Simon wonders which of his classmates it is: Bram (Keiynan Lonsdale), the soccer player; Cal (Miles Heizer), the brooding loner; or Lyle (Joey Pollari), the hunky wallflower.

The story's antagonist is star thespian and royal douche bag Martin (Logan Miller), who by accident is able to screenshot some of Simon and Blue's emails and thus extort Simon into setting Martin up with Simon's gorgeous friend Abby, who naturally Simon's other friend Nick is already in love with.

It's a tangled web, but all these complications help to elevate the film beyond standard coming of age. Throw in some comedy via obnoxious Vice Principal Mr. Worth (Tony Hale) and put-upon drama teacher Ms. Albright (Natasha Rothwell), and you've got an engaging, often poignant, frequently laugh-out-loud funny teen dramady.

Simon's betrayal of his closest friends in his effort to protect himself makes the film worth watching. Without that complication, Love, Simon would be an afterschool TV special, but instead it's a well-observed look at the travails and pitfalls of modern day high school.

Simon truly feels lost and abandoned when he's outed. That was supposed to be his decision, when and how, but that was taken away from him. In one of the film's most touching moments, Simon's little sister Nora comes to him and reveals that she saw him outed on the school gossip site, but he shuts her out, unready and unable to process it all.

Like John Hughes films such as Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, 16 Candles, and The Breakfast Club, Love, Simon gets right to the heart of what it means to be an awkward adolescent trying to find your place in the world. The screenplay by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger, which is based on the YA novel Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, delivers a big-hearted story that celebrates a changing culture that's trying to shake off its homophobic history. It's definitely worth a trip to the theater. (109 min.)

—Glen Starkey

MIDNIGHT SUN

What's it rated? PG-13

Where's it showing? Galaxy

Midnight Sun is a romantic tearjerker about 17-year-old Katie Price (Bella Thorne), sheltered at home since childhood with a rare genetic condition, a life-threatening sensitivity to sunlight. Having only her father, Jack (Rob Riggle), for company, Katie's world opens up after dark when she ventures outside to play her guitar. One night, her dreams come true when she's noticed and asked out by her longtime crush Charlie (Patrick Schwarzenegger), whom she's secretly watched from her bedroom window for years. As they embark on nightly summer excursions, Katie's risk to sunlight grows and she's presented with the gut-wrenching dilemma of whether she can live a normal life with her newfound soul mate. (109 min.)

—Open Road Films

PACIFIC RIM UPRISING

What's it rated?PG-13

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

John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) stars as the rebellious Jake Pentecost, a once-promising Jaeger pilot whose legendary father gave his life to secure humanity's victory against the monstrous "Kaiju." Jake has since abandoned his training only to become caught up in a criminal underworld. But when an even more unstoppable threat is unleashed to tear through our cities and bring the world to its knees, he is given one last chance to live up to his father's legacy by his estranged sister, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi)—who is leading a brave new generation of pilots that have grown up in the shadow of war. (111 min.)

—Universal Pictures

PAUL, APOSTLE OF CHRIST

What's it rated?PG-13

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

Paul, Apostle of Christ is the story of two men. Luke (Jim Caviezel), as a friend and physician, risks his life every time he ventures into the city of Rome to visit Paul (James Faulkner), who is held captive in the emperor's darkest, bleakest prison cell. Before Paul's death sentence can be enacted, Luke resolves to write another book, one that details the beginnings of "The Way" and the birth of what will come to be known as the church. But the emperor is determined to rid Rome of Christians and does not flinch from executing them in the grisliest ways possible. Two men struggle against a determined emperor and the frailties of the human spirit in order to bequeath the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. (108 min.)

—Affirm Films

READY PLAYER ONE

REAL LIFE In Ready Player One, Wade Watts and his friends go on a treasure hunt in a virtual world designed by its deceased creator. - PHOTO COURTESY OF WARNER BROS PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Warner Bros Pictures
  • REAL LIFE In Ready Player One, Wade Watts and his friends go on a treasure hunt in a virtual world designed by its deceased creator.

What's it rated? PG-13

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

In the year 2045, people can escape their harsh reality in the Oasis, an immersive virtual world where you can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone—the only limits are your own imagination. Oasis creator James Halliday left his immense fortune and control of the Oasis to the winner of a contest designed to find a worthy heir. When unlikely hero Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) conquers the first challenge of the reality-bending treasure hunt, he and his friends, known as the High Five, are hurled into a fantastical universe of discovery and danger to save the Oasis and their world. (140 min.)

—Warner Bros. Pictures

SHERLOCK GNOMES

What's it rated? PG

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

When Gnomeo (James McAvoy) and Juliet (Emily Blunt) first arrive in the city with their friends and family, their biggest concern is getting their new garden ready for spring. However, they soon discover that someone is kidnapping garden gnomes all over London. When Gnomeo and Juliet return home to find that everyone in their garden is missing there's only one gnome to call—Sherlock Gnomes (Johnny Depp). (86 min.)

—Paramount Pictures

TOMB RAIDER

What's it rated? PG-13

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

Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) is the fiercely independent daughter of an eccentric adventurer, Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West), who vanished when she was scarcely a teen. Now a young woman of 21 without any real focus or purpose, Lara navigates the chaotic streets of trendy East London as a bike courier, barely making the rent, and takes college courses, rarely making it to class. Determined to forge her own path, she refuses to take the reins of her father's global empire just as staunchly as she rejects the idea that he's truly gone. Advised to face the facts and move forward after seven years without him, even Lara can't understand what drives her to finally solve the puzzle of his mysterious death.(122 min.)

—Warner Bros. Pictures

A WRINKLE IN TIME

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Rental

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

From Director Ava DuVernay (Selma) and screenwriter Jennifer Lee (Frozen, Zootopia), comes the film adaptation of the novel A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. Meg Murry (Storm Reid, 12 Years a Slave) is a typical middle school student struggling with issues of self-worth who is desperate to fit in. As the daughter of two world-renowned physicists, she is intelligent and uniquely gifted, as is Meg's younger brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe, Stephanie), but she has yet to realize it for herself. Making matters even worse is the baffling disappearance of Mr. Murry (Chris Pine, Wonder Woman), which torments Meg and has left her mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Beauty and the Beast) heartbroken. Charles Wallace introduces Meg and her fellow classmate Calvin (Levi Miller, Pan) to three celestial guides—Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon, Wild) and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling, The Mindy Show)—who have journeyed to Earth to help search for their father, and together they set off on their formidable quest.

I was really, really excited for this film adaptation of A wrinkle in Time. I grew up reading and loving the novel by L'Engle and the diverse, star studded cast (Winfrey, Kaling, Witherspoon, and company) headed up by badass lady director DuVernay sounded oh so promising. And yet ... I left the theater feeling very underwhelmed. I think two things are to blame here: the script and the interpretation on the source material. Sure, a book is a book and a movie is a movie, so some things get lost in translation, or added in or taken out. But the movie had a ton of boring, banal dialogue that definitely wasn't in the book and didn't do much to further the plot along. While writer Lee has had much success with kiddie films like Frozen and Zootopia, I don't think her approach worked well here for what is at its core, a coming of age story. And unlike young adult fantasy novels like say, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, where you can imagine the world down to doorknobs on the castle, L'Engle writes with a much broader brush, forcing each reader to imagine the universe she creates a little differently.

That said, any director would need a strong aesthetic vision for this film and it's gorgeous and stunning to look at. However, it ends up feeling a bit more like an acid trip á la Alice in Wonderland than a sci-fi film where three kids and their alien-esque guides travel via a wrinkling of time and space known as tessering to try and combat a powerful evil and save Mr. Murry (Pine), who has been gone for four years due to an experiment gone wrong.

The book is fantastical, but definitely doesn't lend itself to an easy film adaptation. And diverse casting like this should be the norm in movies, I scratched my head a bit when it was revealed that Kaling's character was the Mrs. Who that could only quote others to get her message across, leaving Witherspoon with the most dialogue out of the trio, since Winfrey was in less scenes. Having a diverse cast is progress, but why did Witherspoon, the only white actress of the trio, get the most lines? I did, however, enjoy the standout performance of Reid as a struggling, angst-filled teen dealing with the unexplained absence of her dad. In one particularly moving scene, her younger brother Charles Wallace has been taken over by an evil force and she declares, "You should love me because I deserve to be loved!" It's a message that more young girls need to hear. While I wouldn't recommend forking over the cash to see it on the big screen, renting A Wrinkle in Time on a rainy day and curling up inside at home would make for a pleasant enough afternoon. (120 min.) Δ

—Ryah Cooley

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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