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Film Listings, 1/23/20 – 1/30/20 

All theater listings are as of Friday, Jan. 24

Editor's note: Two theaters have incomplete listings as of press time: Downtown Centre Cinemas ((805) 546-8600 or themovieexperience.com); and Park Cinemas ((805) 227-2172 or parkcinemas.com).

BAD BOYS FOR LIFE

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Matinee

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

See Split Screen.

BLACK CHRISTMAS

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Rent it

Where's it showing? Sunset Drive-In

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 tables on the murderer. The film stars Imogen Poots and Cary Elwes.

Its feminist ideas are laudable, but its stick-it-to-the-man concept feels like a missed opportunity. On the other hand, if you're looking for an over-the-top diversion, watching these gung-ho heroines claim their power is kind of fun. (92 min.)

—Glen Starkey

CLEMENCY

What's it rated? R

Where's it showing? The Palm

New

click to enlarge HER BURDEN Alfre Woodward stars as death row prison warden Bernadine Williams, who prepares to suffer the emotional toll of executing another inmate, in Clemency, screening exclusively at The Palm. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ACE PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT
  • Photo Courtesy Of Ace Pictures Entertainment
  • HER BURDEN Alfre Woodward stars as death row prison warden Bernadine Williams, who prepares to suffer the emotional toll of executing another inmate, in Clemency, screening exclusively at The Palm.

Writer-director Chinonye Chukwu (alaskaLand) helms this story about death row prison warden Bernadine Williams (Alfre Woodward), as she prepares to execute another inmate. She must again confront the psychological and emotional stress of her job. The film won the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. (112 min.)

—Glen

DOLITTLE

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Stream it

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

click to enlarge KID STUFF Robert Downey Jr. (left) stars as physician John Dolittle, in Dolittle, a film younger kids might like but adults won't. - PHOTO COURTESY OF UNIVERSAL PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Universal Pictures
  • KID STUFF Robert Downey Jr. (left) stars as physician John Dolittle, in Dolittle, a film younger kids might like but adults won't.

Co-writer and director Stephen Gaghan helms this new version of the Doctor Dolittle story about a physician, Dr. John Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.), who can talk to animals.

It's hard as an adult to critique a movie made for kids.

Am I too jaded a moviegoer to look past mediocre animation and just admire the huge feats we've made in computer technology? Am I so disconnected from my child self that I can't enjoy a movie absent drugs or sex or violence? Worst of all, am I too old (gasp) for fart jokes?

These are the weighty questions I painstakingly mulled over as I watched Robert Downey Jr. talk to computer generated animals in Dolittle, yet another restoration of the 1967 tale about a doctor who learns to talk to, and prefers the company of, animals of all species.

This year's rendition strays away from the plot of the 1998 Dr. Dolittle that stars Eddie Murphy and circles back to a storyline closer to that of the original. Like in the 1967 film, this one is set in 19th century England and follows Dr. John Dolittle, who, in the 2020 rendition, retreats after his wife dies to live holed up in his manor with the many animals he's rescued.

Dolittle lives in solitude for years until a royal messenger comes knocking on his door, informing him that the queen of England is gravely ill and has personally requested his renowned medical opinion. Despite his initial reluctance, Dolittle agrees to treat the queen, who he finds has been poisoned with a dose of deadly nightshade. He and his animals embark on an adventure to find the only known antidote: the fruit of the Eden Tree.

At a glance, Dolittle has everything I would've loved to see in a movie as a child—cute and funny animals, a dangerous sea adventure to a mysterious island, royalty, and lots of British accents. Dolittle's slapstick jokes got big laughs from the children in the inexplicably packed audience at my showing, and whenever something mildly sad happened to an animal, big "awes" followed.

But for me, Dolittle missed the mark.

As I watched the flat storyline and nonexistent character development play out before my eyes, I yearned for the deep ups and downs I once felt while watching movies like Finding Nemo (2003), Shrek (2001), and the Harry Potter installments (2001-2011) all those years ago: the desperation I endured when Nemo was taken from his father and the ocean and plopped into a tiny tank with strangers; or the way my friends and I copied Donkey and shouted, "And in the mornin', I'm makin' waffles!" at every sleepover for years after Shrek.

Momentarily I thought that maybe I just love those movies because I was still a child when I first saw them. Maybe it's nostalgia. But then I thought about Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005-2008) an animated show that aired on Nickelodeon and was made for children that I absolutely loved as an adult.

When all is said and done, it doesn't matter if something is made for kids or adults or if its rated G or R. What makes a movie good is a compelling story told through complex characters, and Dolittle simply didn't have that. (106 min.)

—Kasey Bubnash

THE GENTLEMEN

What's it rated? R

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

New

click to enlarge CRIME AND PUNISHMENT Raymond (Charlie Hunnam, left) and Coach (Colin Farrell) find themselves tangled in a criminal mess, in Guy Ritchie's The Gentlemen. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MIRAMAX
  • Photo Courtesy Of Miramax
  • CRIME AND PUNISHMENT Raymond (Charlie Hunnam, left) and Coach (Colin Farrell) find themselves tangled in a criminal mess, in Guy Ritchie's The Gentlemen.

Writer-director Guy Ritchie (Snatch, Sherlock Holmes, Aladdin) helms this crime-action film about cannabis drug lord Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey), who's trying to sell his profitable business to Oklahoma billionaire Matthew Berger (Jeremy Strong) with the help of his right-hand man Raymond (Charlie Hunnam). The simple plan is complicated by tabloid publisher Big Dave (Eddie Marsan), who hires private eye Fletcher (Hugh Grant) to dig up dirt on Pearson and his connection to minor royal family member Lord Pressfield (Samuel West). Things become further complicated by Chinese and Russian gangsters, as well as a gang of amateur boxers trained by Coach (Colin Farrell). (113 min.)

—Glen

JOJO RABBIT

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre, Stadium 10

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.

I was really looking forward to this one and, sure enough, it's 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

JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Matinee

Where's it showing? Galaxy, Stadium 10

Pick

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 as Ruby Roundhouse, Dwayne Johnson as Dr. Smolder Bravestone, Jack Black as Professor Sheldon "Shelly" Oberon, and Kevin Hart as Franklin "Mouse" Finbar. This time the gang returns to the world of Jumanji to rescue one of their own and must brave an arid desert and snowy mountain as they attempt to survive the deadly video game. (123 min.)

—Caleb Wiseblood

JUST MERCY

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Matinee

Where's it showing? Galaxy, Stadium 10

Pick

click to enlarge RACE AND JUSTICE Just Mercy tells the true story of attorney Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan, left) who works to free death row convict Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx, right), who in 1987 was sentenced to die for a murder he didn't commit. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ENDEAVOR CONTENT
  • Photo Courtesy Of Endeavor Content
  • RACE AND JUSTICE Just Mercy tells the true story of attorney Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan, left) who works to free death row convict Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx, right), who in 1987 was sentenced to die for a murder he didn't commit.

Destin Cretton (The Glass Castle) directs Michael B. Jordan as civil rights attorney and activist Bryan Stevenson, who works to free death row inmates who are wrongfully convicted based on racial bias. The film is an adaptation of Stevenson's memoir Just Mercy.

While the story and the message behind the film are powerful, the delivery falls somewhat short, as most biopics unfortunately do. I completely understand the director's desire to keep the characters as realistic as possible and leave out the dramatic overkill, but with a cast like Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson, and Rob Morgan, surely there could have been more of a punch packed into their scripts.

The film opens up in 1987 Alabama, when logger Walter McMillian (Foxx) is arrested for the murder of a young white woman, despite evidence proving his innocence. At the time of his arrest, McMillian is out in the woods working, and before police stop him—this being one of the most powerful scenes in the film—McMillian looks to the sky, a small freedom he never knew he would be deprived of. It's a memory that McMillian holds onto (and revisits through the film) as he awaits death row.

Scenes like this carry the film, as it would otherwise be just a mundane and straightforward story. Cretton closely follows how the inmates are wrongfully convicted but also the attorney Bryan Stevenson who is defending them.

Stevenson received a full scholarship to attend Harvard Law School; during his race and poverty litigation course, he worked for Stephen Bright's Southern Center for Human Rights. The center represented death row inmates throughout the South, and Stevenson found his calling. After earning his degree, he takes on the McMillian case, his first case, and several others amid pushback from the community that can't seem to reckon with the fact that an African American man was wrongfully convicted.

With each appeal that Stevenson files and McMillian's memories of life outside his lonely prison cell emerge, I just can't seem to get over how one-dimensional the characters are. Larson is also given a small role as Stevenson's coworker Eva Ansley, and (underrated) Rob Morgan is given the role of Herbert Richardson, another inmate awaiting his end and reliving the actions that led to his sentence.

Racial injustice is at the forefront of the film, but it also touches upon a veteran's PTSD that goes unchecked, corrupt law officials, and impoverished people who are victimized by law enforcement.

All of these points are extremely relevant today, and I wish the film had challenged viewers to open their eyes to that. (137 min.)

—Karen Garcia

THE LAST FULL MEASURE

What's it rated? R

Where's it showing? Galaxy

New

click to enlarge JUSTICE DELAYED The Last Full Measure chronicles the true story of the effort to get U.S. Air Force Pararescueman William H. "Pits" Pitsenbarger Jr. (Jeremy Irvine) recognition for his extraordinary valor in Vietnam. - PHOTO COURTESY OF FORESIGHT UNLIMITED
  • Photo Courtesy Of Foresight Unlimited
  • JUSTICE DELAYED The Last Full Measure chronicles the true story of the effort to get U.S. Air Force Pararescueman William H. "Pits" Pitsenbarger Jr. (Jeremy Irvine) recognition for his extraordinary valor in Vietnam.

Writer-director Todd Robinson (Angel Fire, Lonely Hearts, Phantom) helms this based-on-a-true-story war drama about U.S. Air Force Pararescueman William H. "Pits" Pitsenbarger Jr. (Jeremy Irvine), who 34 years after his death is awarded a Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award, for personally saving more than 60 men during a rescue mission in Vietnam on April 11, 1966. Switching between the present and the past, the film chronicles how Pentagon staffer Scott Huffman (Sebastian Stan) works—on the request of Pits' fellow airman Tulley (William Hurt) and Pits' parents Frank (Christopher Plummer) and Alice (Diane Ladd)—to interview those who witnessed Pits' extraordinary valor: Takoda (Samuel L. Jackson), Burr (Peter Fonda), and Mott (Ed Harris). Huffman's investigation leads to a conspiracy behind the long denial of the medal, leading him to endanger his own career as he seeks justice for Pits. (110 min.)

—Glen

LITTLE WOMEN

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Full price

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

Pick

click to enlarge ENDURING SISTERHOOD Little Women follows the lives of four sisters—(left to right) Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh), Jo (Saoirse Ronan), and Beth (Eliza Scanlen)—as they come of age in 1860s New England. - PHOTO COURTESY OF COLUMBIA PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Columbia Pictures
  • ENDURING SISTERHOOD Little Women follows the lives of four sisters—(left to right) Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh), Jo (Saoirse Ronan), and Beth (Eliza Scanlen)as they come of age in 1860s New England.

Greta Gerwig (Ladybird) helms this new version of the classic 1868-69 Louisa May Alcott novel, which follows the lives of the four March sistersMeg (Emma Watson), Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Amy (Florence Pugh), and Beth (Eliza Scanlen)as they come of age in 1860s New England, amid the aftermath of the Civil War. Though this is an oft-told tale, with now eight film adaptations, Gerwig's new version is a real standout, turning the story into a poioumenon, a work of art about its own creation.

The best thing about Gerwig's version is how she pays tribute to Alcott, who never married or had any children of her own, and who after the publication of her famed and incredibly popular novel, often complained how her publisher forced her to create the expected happy ending. Gerwig pulls off the neat trick of having it both ways—creating an ending that honors the book and its author. I really loved this film, but grab the tissues—it just may have you ugly-crying. (135 min.)

—Glen

1917

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

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

Pick

Co-writer and director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Jarhead, Spectre) helms this World War I epic about two young British soldiers—Lance Cpl. Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Lance Cpl. Schofield (George MacKay)—who are tasked with the impossibly dangerous mission of crossing German lines to warn the 2nd Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment that their planned impending attack against the Germans will be charging into a deadly ambush, and to make the perilous mission even more urgent, Blake's brother is among the 1,600 endangered soldiers in the regiment.

Holy heck! If this film doesn't result in a Best Cinematography win for director of photography Roger Deakins (Blade Runner 2049, Skyfall, No Country for Old Men, Fargo) then the Academy is broken. This is a remarkable technical achievement. The photography makes it appear as if the film is shot in one long and continuous take, which lends the picture an immediacy and an immersive quality that makes this terrific but simple story even more engaging.

Apparently, the basis for the story came from director Mendes' grandfather Alfred Mendes, a war hero who would enthrall his grandkids with stories that were eventually published in his posthumous memoir. I won't be a bit surprised if in addition to Best Cinematography, 1917 also wins Best Picture and Best Director (though Pedro Almadóvar is currently favored in the category) at the upcoming Feb. 8 Academy Awards. Mendes recently won the Best Director title from the Golden Globes, and 1917 also took home the Golden Globes' Best Motion Picture-Drama award. Of course Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood, The Irishman, Parasite, Ford v. Ferrari, Joker, Little Women, Jojo Rabbit, Marriage Story, The Farewell—there's some stiff competition this year! Win or not, 1917 is a must-see film on the big screen. Don't miss it! (119 min.)

—Glen

PARASITE

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? The Palm, Stadium 10

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

SLO BACKCOUNTRY FILM FESTIVAL

What's it rated? Not rated

Where's it showing? SLO Brew Rock Event Center, Thursday, Jan. 23

New

See the sixth annual SLO Backcountry Film Festival in the SLO Brew Rock Event Center on Thursday, Jan. 23 (6:30 p.m.; $25 at the door). Join fellow backcountry snow sports enthusiasts as they watch a series of short films, enjoy craft brews, hear live music by Pink + Purkle, and participate in a silent auction to raise money for Outside Now, a local outdoor youth education nonprofit. The doors open at 5 p.m.

—Glen

THE SONG OF NAMES

What's it rated? PG-13

Where's it showing? Galaxy

New

click to enlarge BOYS TO MEN Childhood friends Dovidl (Luke Doyle, left) and Martin (Misha Handley) are separated at 21 under mysterious circumstances but reunite decades later as men, on The Song of Names. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SERENDITY POINT FILMS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Serendity Point Films
  • BOYS TO MEN Childhood friends Dovidl (Luke Doyle, left) and Martin (Misha Handley) are separated at 21 under mysterious circumstances but reunite decades later as men, on The Song of Names.

François Girard (Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, The Red Violin) directs Jeffrey Caine's screenplay of Norman Lebrect's novel about two childhood friends—Martin (Misha Handley as a boy, Gerran Howell as a young adult, and Tim Roth as an adult) and Dovidl (Luke Doyle as a boy, Jonah Hauer-King as a young adult, and Clive Owen as an adult)—who are thrown together during World War II when the Dovidl, a Polish Jew and child violin prodigy, is taken in by Martin's parents in London. Right before he's schedule to give his first big concert at 21, a concert that Martin's father has poured all his money in to arrange, Dovidl disappears. Years later, Martin searches Europe for Dovidl. (113 min.)

—Glen

STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Matinee

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

Pick

J.J. Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Trek Into Darkness, Super 8) haphazardly directs the last chapter in the third and final trilogy in the Star Wars saga, in which Rey (Daisy Ridley) must channel her inner strength as a Jedi to lead the Resistance in the fight against the Sith. Without giving away (too many) spoilers, I think The Rise of Skywalker definitely feels like the end of an era for this saga (although give it a few years, and I'm sure we'll get spin-offs similar to Solo and Rogue One). It only makes sense, it being the finale and all, that director J.J. Abrams feels the need to throw every card he has into this film—a little too much nostalgia and new characters all at once for me. (142 min.)

—Karen

THE TURNING

What's it rated? PG-13

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

New

click to enlarge CREEPY The Turning, an update of Henry James' horror novella The Turn of the Screw, features (left to right) disturbed orphans Miles (Finn Wolfhard) and Flora (Brooklynn Prince), and their governess, Kate (Mackenzie Davis). - PHOTO COURTESY OF UNIVERSAL PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Universal Pictures
  • CREEPY The Turning, an update of Henry James' horror novella The Turn of the Screw, features (left to right) disturbed orphans Miles (Finn Wolfhard) and Flora (Brooklynn Prince), and their governess, Kate (Mackenzie Davis).

Floria Sigismondi (The Runaways) directs this supernatural mystery about Kate (Mackenzie Davis), a young governess charged with overseeing two disturbed orphans, Miles (Finn Wolfhard) and Flora (Brooklynn Prince). Based on Henry James' classic novella, The Turn of the Screw, the story is updated by writers Carey and Chad Hayes. (94 min.)

—Glen

UNCUT GEMS

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? The Palm

Pick

Co-directors Josh and Benny Safdie (Good Time) helm this crime-dramedy that follows charismatic jeweler Howard "Howie" Ratner (Adam Sandler), who finds himself balancing family, business, and increasingly threatening adversaries after making a high-stakes bet.

This film might make you feel uncomfortable watching it, but there's no denying its powerful energy. It's among 2019's best! I should mention, however, that the film has been praised by critics but not so much by audiences: The Rotten Tomatoes score is 93 percent critics to 54 percent audiences. I'm guessing a lot of attendees didn't like the way it made them feel, or they simply didn't connect with Ratner's humanity. Even though he's a horrible person, I couldn't help but root for him to win, perhaps because he's a classic underdog. It's a draining but brilliant piece of cinema. (135 min.) Δ

—Glen

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

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