Music, Arts & Culture » Movies

Film Listings, 9/27/18 – 10/4/18

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Editor's note: Listings for Arroyo Grande's Stadium 10 (805-481-7556) were incomplete at press time.

ALPHA

MAN'S BEST FRIEND When Keda (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is separated from his clan after a hunting mishap, he befriends a wolf, forging an alliance. - PHOTO COURTESY OF STUDIO 8
  • Photo Courtesy Of Studio 8
  • MAN'S BEST FRIEND When Keda (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is separated from his clan after a hunting mishap, he befriends a wolf, forging an alliance.

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Rent it

Where's it showing? Sunset Drive-In

Albert Hughes (Menace II Society, From Hell, The Book of Eli) helms this adventure story set 20,000 years ago in the last Ice Age, about a young man named Keda (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who, after a Steppe bison hunting expedition with his clan goes awry, finds himself alone and struggling to survive. After he encounters a lone wolf, he begins to forge the bond that will develop canines into man's best friend.

This mostly charming fantasy adventure that imagines the first human-canine partnership will definitely appeal to adolescents. Its protagonist, 22-year-old Australian actor Kodi Smit-McPhee, looks about 15 or 16 years old, and it's a coming of age story about the transition from boy to man.

There's some beautiful cinematography, but there's also a lot of computer-generated graphics, mostly of the prehistoric wildlife, which sadly is pretty clunky and pulled me out of the story. The tale itself is saccharine sweet and too sappy overall. Finally, having read some about the theoretical roots of the human-canine alliance, the story feels contrived. I'm usually a sap for films like these, but in this case it never suspended my disbelief. (96 min.)

—Glen Starkey

ASSASSINATION NATION

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre

Pick

Writer-director Sam Levinson helms this 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. It's being billed as a comedy, and if it is, it's as inky-black as comedy comes.

I can almost picture the pitch meeting for this film: "Imagine a teen exploitation film that's a mash-up of Thirteen (2003) or Kids (1995) with The Purge: Anarchy (2014), served with a side dish of rape culture and patriarchy criticism, and an exploration of social media and the loss of privacy. Oh yeah, and throw in a little I Spit on Your Grave (1978) and Rape Me (2000)."

Sounds crazy, and it is! Lily, Sarah (Suki Waterhouse), Em (Abra), and Bex (transgender actress Hari Nef) live their lives in the fast lane, going to high school parties, drinking, and engaging in unprotected sex. Their behavior can be tough to watch, and overall the film makes for uncomfortable viewing.

Things get weird when a hacker posts photos of the anti-LGBTQ town mayor wearing women's clothes and engaging in gay sex. Next the school principal has his online information leaked, including his internet porn search history, which includes high school girl fantasies. Part of the film's central conceit asks viewers to imagine if their own private details became public—are any of us so squeaky clean that we wouldn't be embarrassed or worse? The film also explores people's hypocrisy, calling out those who harshly judge others for the same transgression they're guilty of in private.

Soon the entire town has been hacked and outted, and everyone goes batshit crazy as they search for the anonymous hacker. There's certainly a streak of feminism here as well. As Lily narrates, she lays out the ways patriarchal culture judges, objectifies, and vilifies women. There's also an interesting side plot about gender fluidity. Bex is a brave and out transgender woman, and a football player named Diamond (Danny Ramirez) finds her attractive, which leads to chaos in the machismo world of high school football.

Lily and her three friends dress provocatively, setting up the "she was asking for it" argument. Lily also has an ongoing sexting exchange with Nick (Joel McHale), a middle-aged family man whose daughter she used to babysit and whose marriage will be ruined if their virtual relationship is revealed. The point the film is making is that these girls are not angels, but they certainly don't deserve the town's male population going after them, raping and killing them for being "sluts." Blame the victim at your own peril, boys.

There's a lot of cultural critique going on, and it's delivered in a stylish, bloody, and graphic package. That said, this isn't a film for everybody. But if you like a well-made exploitation/revenge flick that will probably make you uncomfortable to watch, this film will be your huckleberry. (110 min.)

—Glen Starkey

BLACKKKLANSMAN

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Fair Oaks, 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 officer 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

CRAZY RICH ASIANS

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Matinee

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

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

THE CHILDREN ACT

CAN I GET A WITNESS? Judge Fiona Maye (Emma Thompson) presides over the case of a teenage boy who's refusing a life-saving blood transfusion based on his religion, in The Children Act. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BBC FILMS
  • Photo Courtesy Of BBC Films
  • CAN I GET A WITNESS? Judge Fiona Maye (Emma Thompson) presides over the case of a teenage boy who's refusing a life-saving blood transfusion based on his religion, in The Children Act.

What's it rated? R

Where's it showing? The Palm

New

Richard Eyre (Notes on a Scandal) directs Ian McEwan's story about Judge Fiona Maye (Emma Thompson), who's presiding over the case of Adam Henry (Fionn Whitehead), a teenage boy who's refusing a life-saving blood transfusion based on his religion. Meanwhile, Fiona's marriage to Jack Maye (Stanley Tucci) is crumbling. (105 min.)

—Glen Starkey

FAHRENHEIT 11/9

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Matinee

Where's it showing? Galaxy, The Palm

See Split Screen.

HELL FEST

ALL PART OF THE SHOW? A masked killer torments a theme park, leaving attendees to question whether it's all part of the show, in Hell Fest. - PHOTO COURTESY OF TUCKER TOOLEY ENTERTAINMENT
  • Photo Courtesy Of Tucker Tooley Entertainment
  • ALL PART OF THE SHOW? A masked killer torments a theme park, leaving attendees to question whether it's all part of the show, in Hell Fest.

What's it rated? R

Where's it showing? Galaxy, Park

New

Gregory Plotkin (Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension) directs this horror film about a masked killer tormenting a themed amusement park. Is it all part of the show, or are people really dying? (89 min.)

—Glen Starkey

THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Matinee

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

Pick

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.

Delivering a well balance dose of laughs and scares, the film also manages to offer an anti-war allegory and inject the entire affair with a Spielberg-esque sense of adolescent wonder. (104 min.)

—Glen Starkey

LIFE ITSELF

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Nothing

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre, Park

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.

Overly melodramatic and self-important, Life Itself feels less like a life lesson and more like a lecture from a blathering know-it-all. If you're into pretentious and sappy forced drama, see it. But 1980s after school specials are less trite. (118 min.)

—Glen Starkey

LITTLE WOMEN

What's it rated? PG-13

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre

New

Marking the 150-year anniversary of the release of Louisa May Alcott's classic 1868 novel, Clair Niederpruem directs this contemporary retelling of Little Women, which follows the March sisters—Meg (Melanie Stone), Jo (Sarah Davenport), Beth (Allie Jennings), and Amy (Elise Jones)—as they grow into adulthood, under the watchful eye of their mother Marmee (Lea Thompson). (112 min.)

—Glen Starkey

THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST

What's it rated? Not rated

Where's it showing? The Palm

New

Co-writer/director Desiree Akhavan (Appropriate Behaviour) helms this story about a teenage girl forced into gay conversion therapy by her conservative guardians. (91 min.)

—Glen Starkey

NIGHT SCHOOL

GET IT TOGETHER Carrie (Tiffany Haddish, left) tries to motivate adult students like Teddy (Kevin Hart) to finish their high school degrees, in Night School. - PHOTO COURTESY OF UNIVERSAL PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Universal Pictures
  • GET IT TOGETHER Carrie (Tiffany Haddish, left) tries to motivate adult students like Teddy (Kevin Hart) to finish their high school degrees, in Night School.

What's it rated? PG-13

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

New

Malcolm D. Lee (Undercover Brother, Girls Trip) directs Kevin Hart in this comedy about former high school delinquents, now adults, forced to attend night school in order to get their diplomas. (111 min.)

—Glen Starkey

THE NUN

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Stream it

Where's it showing? Galaxy, Park

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? Bay, Galaxy

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. 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 five-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 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

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Stream it

Where's it showing? Galaxy, Park

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 set-up 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

A SIMPLE FAVOR

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

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

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

SMALLFOOT

MYTHICAL CREATURE Migo (voiced by Channing Tatum) is a Yeti who believes the mythical creatures known as "humans" really do exist, in Smallfoot. - PHOTO COURTESY OF WARNER BROS.
  • Photo Courtesy Of Warner Bros.
  • MYTHICAL CREATURE Migo (voiced by Channing Tatum) is a Yeti who believes the mythical creatures known as "humans" really do exist, in Smallfoot.

What's it rated? PG

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

New

Karey Kirkpatrick (Over the Hedge) and Jason Reisig co-direct this animated adventure comedy about Migo (Channing Tatum), a Yeti who believes the mythical creatures known as "humans" really do exist. When he encounters a human named Percy Patterson (James Corden), the legend becomes real. (96 min.)

—Glen Starkey

THE WIFE

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? 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.)

—Glen Starkey

THE WILD AND SCENIC FILM FESTIVAL

WILD AND SCENIC A researcher releases a golden eagle in the short film Sky Migrations, one of 30 films screening at The Wild and Scenic Film Festival, Sept. 27 to 29, in various locations. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CHARLES POST
  • Photo Courtesy Of Charles Post
  • WILD AND SCENIC A researcher releases a golden eagle in the short film Sky Migrations, one of 30 films screening at The Wild and Scenic Film Festival, Sept. 27 to 29, in various 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. 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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