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Film Listings, 9/20/18 – 9/27/18

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ASSASSINATION NATION

SERVED COLD A group of high school girls takes revenge into their own hands when an anonymous hacker starts posting details of their private lives online, in Assassination Nation. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BRON STUDIOS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Bron Studios
  • SERVED COLD A group of high school girls takes revenge into their own hands when an anonymous hacker starts posting details of their private lives online, in Assassination Nation.

What's it rated? R

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre

New

Writer-director Sam Levinson helms this comedic action-crime flick about how high school senior Lily (Odessa Young) and her besties fight back when an anonymous hacker starts posting details of their private lives online, sending their small town into violent madness. (110 min.)

—Glen Starkey

BLACKKKLANSMAN

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? The Palm

Pick

Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, Summer of Sam, Inside Man) directs this comedic crime biography about Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), a black rookie police office in Colorado who, with the help of a white undercover counterpart (Adam Driver), becomes a member of the local Ku Klux Klan chapter.

What starts like a comedic spoof of a '70s Blaxploitation flick ends with a real-world visceral gut punch in this affecting new film by Spike Lee. It's his most lucid and potent comment on U.S. race relations since Do the Right Thing and doesn't let its (most likely and largely) white liberal audience off the hook.(135 min.)

—Glen Starkey

THE BOOKSHOP

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Matinee

Where's it showing? The Palm

Pick

Writer-director Isabel Coixet (The Secret Life of Words, Learning to Drive) helms this story based on Penelope Fitzgerald's novel about a small town power struggle between two women.

Set in 1959 England in a conservative East Anglian coastal town, the story pits free spirit widow Florence Green (Emily Mortimer) against local matriarch Violet Gamart (Patricia Clarkson), whose polite but ruthless ire is raised when Green opens a bookstore and starts pushing novels by Ray Bradbury and Vladimir Nabokov. Reclusive book-loving widower Edmund Brundish (Bill Nighy) takes up Green's banner in the face of local opposition.

This is one of those based-on-a-novel films that feels entirely like it's based on a novel. From the broad archetypal characters to the omniscient narrator offering exposition, The Bookshop feels like a book and a somewhat slow one at that. The film seems more interested in clinging to its source material than constructing an effective film. If that doesn't put you off, what remains has its charms, chief among them Nighy, who's fantastic as small town recluse Edmund. Nighy can play quiet nobility like nobody's business.

His interactions with Florence breathe life into the otherwise stodgy proceedings. He plays Brundish, a man who's given up on humanity and prefers to spend his days in his manor house reading. In a note he sends to Florence asking her to send him books, he tells her he prefers to read autobiographies of good people but fiction about nasty people. Their May to December romance never moves beyond handholding, but it's very sweet.

Clarkson as Violet is all surface charm with underlying malevolence. She wields the men around her like her personal cudgels, from her husband General Gamart (Reg Wilson) to her personal minion, the effete and conniving dandy Milo North (a scenery-chewing James Lance). Violet makes it her mission to evict Florence and her bookshop from The Old House, a long-vacant stone building that Violet wants to use as a town art center. It's not clear why it must be this particular property, which adds to the story's forced contrivances.

The other element of the story that adds a bit of life to the goings-on is precocious tween Christine (Honor Kneafsey), who works for Florence in the afternoons when school gets out. Christine is a livewire and not the least bit interested in reading, but she's essential to the film's conclusion, which is less than triumphant but satisfying nonetheless.

Should you pony up the money to see this film in the theater? Yes, if you like mannered period films based on mannered period novels about people constrained by decorum. Florence is supposed to be a free spirit, and maybe by 1959 British standards she is, but this is more about how Florence inspires others than her overcoming convention. (113 min.)

—Glen Starkey

CRAZY RICH ASIANS

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Matinee

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

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

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

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

New

Writer-director and famed leftist polemicist Michael Moore takes aim at the Trump era, asking how we got here and how we get out. (125 min.)

—Glen Starkey

THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN IS 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

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

New

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. (104 min.)

—Glen Starkey

LIFE ITSELF

COMPLICATED LOVE Abby (Olivia Wilde) and Will (Oscar Isaac) move from college romance to their first child in the multi-generational saga, Life Itself. - PHOTO COURTESY OF FILMNATION ENTERTAINMENT
  • Photo Courtesy Of Filmnation Entertainment
  • COMPLICATED LOVE Abby (Olivia Wilde) and Will (Oscar Isaac) move from college romance to their first child in the multi-generational saga, Life Itself.

What's it rated? PG

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

New

Writer-director Dan Fogelman (writer of Cars and Crazy Stupid Love) helms this drama about young New York couple Abby (Olivia Wilde) and Will (Isaac Oscar) as they move from college romance to the birth of their child. The multi-generational saga also stars Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening, and Mandy Patinkin as it celebrates the complexities of life and relationships. (118 min.)

—Glen Starkey

THE WILD AND SCENIC FILM FESTIVAL

WILD AND SCENIC A Ghost in the Making: Rusty-patched Bumble Bee is one of more than 30 films screening at The Wild and Scenic Film Festival, Sept. 27 to 29, at three locations. - PHOTO COURTESY OF DAY'S EDGE PRODUCTIONS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Day's Edge Productions
  • WILD AND SCENIC A Ghost in the Making: Rusty-patched Bumble Bee is one of more than 30 films screening at The Wild and Scenic Film Festival, Sept. 27 to 29, at three locations.

What's it rated? Not rated

Where's it showing? Sept. 27 to 29 in Morro Bay's Museum of Natural History, Los Osos' Spooner Ranch House, and the Oceano Dunes Visitor Center

New

The Central Coast State Parks Association hosts this second annual festival featuring more than 30 films shown in three locations over three days. Sponsored by The Coastal Awakening, Central Coast Printing, Solstice Green Directory, and some local service organizations, businesses, and environmental groups, the family-friendly festival has ticket prices ranging from $5 to $15, with family-packs for Family Day at $20 and full festival passes for $40. Visit centralcoastparks.org/filmfest to see the schedule and buy tickets online.

—Glen Starkey

THE NUN

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Stream it

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

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

PEPPERMINT

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Stream it

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

Pierre Morel (District B13, Taken, The Gunman) directs Chad St. John's (London Has Fallen) action-thriller script about a young mother (Jennifer Garner) with nothing to lose, out to avenge the deaths of her husband and daughter who were killed in a drive-by shooting.

Welcome to the end-of-summer dumping ground, where terrible films go to try to squeeze the last few bucks out of the film-going public. Peppermint had potential. Pierre Morel directed the wildly successful 2008 Liam Neeson vehicle Taken, which injected effective emotion and real drama into the often-tired action genre. Sticking a strong female lead like Garner into a vigilante role usually reserved for a male star might have added a feminist twist to the proceedings. But alas, Morel's direction is pretty standard and wholly underwhelming, especially in close-quarter fight scenes that worked so well with Neeson in Taken. Instead of a female lead turning the action genre on its head, we basically get a woman in a man's role acting just like a man.

Sure, there's a little subplot with Garner's Riley North acting as guardian angel to the residents of Los Angeles' skid row, but nothing much is made of it. There's even less made of the 5-year backstory in which Riley, after the death of her family and being denied justice by a corrupt system, goes on a world tour where she supposedly learned all manner of combat techniques. The entire backstory is given mere minutes and one video clip of her cage fighting in some Asian country. This feels like fly-by-night, in-and-out, no-time-for-second-takes filmmaking.

Part of the story has to do with the two LAPD detectives working Riley's case—Stan Carmichael (John Gallagher Jr.) and Moises Beltran (John Ortiz)—who worked both her family's murders and the vigilante killings she commits upon her return five years later. There's a bit of intrigue concerning dirty cops within the LAPD, and to further convolute the proceedings, FBI Agents Lisa Inman (Annie Ilonzeh) and Agent Li (Eddie Shin) also join the investigation after Riley kills Judge Stevens (Jeff Harlan), who corruptly let the original killers go free.

As for those drug-dealing gangbangers who've become Riley's targets, it's hard to keep track of who's who or to even care. Aside from distinctive-looking character actor Richard Cabral, the bad guys are interchangeable Hispanic men. Even the drug kingpin Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba) is forgettable.

The gulf between the Rotten Tomatoes' critic and audience score is vast—14 percent critics to 82 percent audience—so clearly some viewers are liking Peppermint even if critics aren't. If you're a Jennifer Garner fan or you love revenge flicks, maybe this is worth a trip to the theater, but I'd have been fine waiting for it to show up on Netflix. It's wholly forgettable. (102 min.)

—Glen Starkey

THE PREDATOR

CUCKOO'S NEST A group of mentally disturbed soldiers—(right to left) Lynch (Alfie Allen), Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key), Baxley (Thomas Jane), Nettles (Augusto Aguilera), Quinn (Boyd Holbrook), and Nebraska (Trevante Rhodes)—take on an alien trophy hunter, in the illogical sequel, The Predator. - PHOTO COURTESY OF TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
  • Photo Courtesy Of Twentieth Century Fox
  • CUCKOO'S NEST A group of mentally disturbed soldiers—(right to left) Lynch (Alfie Allen), Coyle (Keegan-Michael Key), Baxley (Thomas Jane), Nettles (Augusto Aguilera), Quinn (Boyd Holbrook), and Nebraska (Trevante Rhodes)—take on an alien trophy hunter, in the illogical sequel, The Predator.

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Stream it

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

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—a ragtag group of irreverent and wisecracking soldiers, an attractive but tough woman who gets caught up in the violence, and a seriously badass and tech-equipped alien trophy hunter. To up the emotional ante, this film adds in a highly intelligent kid with a protective soldier father.

The setup is simple. Quinn is on an op in Mexico to take out drug cartel bad guys and rescue some hostages. Instead, a Predator craft crash-lands and Quinn is the only man to make it out alive. He takes a Predator helmet and forearm-mounted weapon as proof of his alien encounter, then mails it home, where it ends up in his son Rory's hands.

Quinn is picked up by the authorities led by Traeger (Sterling K. Brown), questioned, and then sent away with a group of psyche ward soldiers to keep him quiet. Meanwhile, science teacher Casey is brought to the same secret facility where Quinn was held, which also contains a captured Predator. A bigger and meaner Predator shows up, and things turn into a convoluted mess.

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.

The cuckoo's nest of crazy soldiers, their interaction with one another as well as Casey, breathes some life into the film. But it's not enough to overcome the illogical stupidity of it all, and the film has the audacity to tee up a sequel. I think I'd rather be eviscerated by a Predator than sit through another installment. (107 min.)

—Glen Starkey

SEARCHING

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Stadium 10

Pick

In his feature-length debut, co-writer/director Aneesh Chaganty helms this mystery about David Kim (John Cho), who's daughter Margot (Michelle La) goes missing, leading him to break into her laptop to search for clues.

This timely, taut, and effectively paced thriller takes plenty of unexpected turns, and its underlying message—that our digital footprint is like a trail of breadcrumbs—tantalizes. Plus, Cho, La, and Debra Messing as Detective Vick turn in effective performances. (102 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

UNBROKEN: PATH TO REDEMPTION

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Matinee (if you're a Christian)

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre, Park

Pick

Harold Cronk (God's Not Dead, God Bless the Broken Road) directs this sequel to Unbroken (2014), the story of Olympian Louis Zamperini (Samuel Hunt) who, after a World War II plane crash, spent 47 days on a life raft with two fellow crewmen before being caught by the Japanese and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp. Path to Redemption takes up where the first film left off, chronicling the next chapter of Zamperini's incredible life as chronicled in Laura Hillenbrand's bestselling book.

If you're a Christian, you'll love the message and find plenty of drama in Zamperini's struggles with alcoholism and a troubled marriage, which he overcomes through faith. If you're not a Christian, the film will feel dogmatic, overlong, and cloyingly earnest. (98 min.)

—Glen Starkey

WHITE BOY RICK

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Matinee

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

See Split Screen.

THE WIFE

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Bay, Fair Oaks, Galaxy, 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 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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