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Film Listings, 10/25/18 - 11/1/18 

BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Matinee

Where's it showing? Galaxy

PickWriter-director Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods) helms this mystery thriller about a group of secret-keeping strangers—fake priest Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges), nightclub singer Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), criminal Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson), vacuum cleaner salesman Seymour "Laramie" Sullivan (Jon Hamm), and cult leader Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth)—who converge at Lake Tahoe's seedy California/Nevada-straddling novelty hotel, the El Royale, hoping for a shot at redemption. Things get weird.

This is one of those films I was glad not to know too much about. It's better to let its surprises unfold around you, and man was I surprised. The whole "seven strangers in a hotel" set-up sounded like an Agatha Christie bit, but this film goes wildly and surprisingly off the rails. If you need some touchstones, think the Coen Brothers (Blood Simple, Barton Fink), Joe Carnahan (Smokin' Aces), and Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight).

The hero of the story is Darlene Sweet, a living-paycheck-to-paycheck lounge singer, who we learn in backstory almost made it big. Of all the characters, she's the most sympathetic, though Father Flynn is a close second. He's losing his memory, and Bridges delivers a very effective performance. Erivo as Sweet gets to show off her amazing voice, and the film's soundtrack is filled with great Motown sounds. It's a stylish, clever thriller with a wallop of an ending.

This is definitely a film I'd watch again, and I also won't soon forget Lewis Pullman's performance as the hotel manager. He hasn't been in a lot of films, but he sure is good in this one. He plays Miles as a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and when his backstory hits, it all makes sense. Yes, the film's pacing it a bit uneven, its story is a bit too unbelievable, but this is pure entertainment. You just have to go with it. (141 min.)

—Glen Starkey

COLETTE

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? The Palm

PickWash Westmoreland (Still Alice) directs Keira Knightly as Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, a tenacious former country girl fighting gender norms and sexism in the early 1820s. The film is based on the French novelist Colette, who was nominated for a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948.

This film does more than just showcase a writer on screen hunched over a desk with a burrowed brow scribbling on paper. It does an impressive job of keeping the audience captivated by the novelist's metamorphosis from a wife kept in the dark to someone challenging her husband for the rights to her writing and freedom.

A year before Gabrielle turned 20 years old, she lived at home in the countryside with her mother and father. Her parents found themselves in financial disarray and worried about Gabrielle's future. They wanted her to marry a prominent literary figure—Henry Gauthier-Villars (Dominic West)—who also happens to be a family friend.

Sexism, constant betrayal, and Willy's money-driven schemes put a strong wedge between the couple. And while Willy believes that he's making a change in the literary scene, he forgets his mantra: "The hand that holds the pen holds history." Colette has a firm grasp on hers as she begins to explore herself, with the help of her lover Mathilde de Morny or "Missy" (Denise Gough), in a grossly sexist and male-dominated world.

Colette does more than demonstrate the novelist's successes; Westmoreland and his late husband Richard Glatzer depict the metamorphosis of a woman's sexuality and overcoming sexism. Knightly impressively depicts Colette's abrasive fights, relationships, lavish lifestyle, and internal battles that lead her to reclaim what's hers—her life as a writer and artist. Colette's fight for creative ownership of her work and gender roles pushes her to overcome societal constraints and sexual oppression, and revolutionize literature. (111 min.)

—Karen Garcia

FIRST MAN

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Full price

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

PickDamien Chazelle (Whiplash, La La Land) helms this historical drama and biopic about astronaut Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling), who became the first man to set foot on the moon in 1969. Exploring both the space race and Armstrong's life on the ground with his wife, Janet (Clair Foy), the film is a reminder of the danger and daring of a trip into space during the analog era.

The film opens in the cockpit with Armstrong in an experimental plane designed to pierce Earth's atmosphere, reach zero gravity in near space, and then descend back to the ground. It's noisy, shaky, and chaotic, and it gives you a sense of both the wonder and sheer terror of early space travel. The space race between the Soviets and the U.S. had an existentialist undercurrent—the Cold War was in full force—and the Russians were beating us at every step. It was essential that we reach the moon first.

Back on the ground, Armstrong was wrestling with his own demons. With the death of his young daughter Karen (Lucy Stafford) to cancer, Armstrong harbored a secret fatalism. He knew the danger of space travel was real. He had lost colleagues, but stoicism was paramount. Gosling manages to convey all these complications within a man of few words. His Armstrong is intensely focused, and the loss of his daughter drives him deeper into his work.

Armstrong's wife, Janet, is a big part of the story, and Foy is amazing in the role. Janet, too, has to be stoic—she knows her husband might not come back. There's an amazing scene in which she forces her husband to sit down with their two boys and explain to them the very real dangers. It really is miraculous that the mission was successful.

Even though viewers should know the outcome, there's plenty of tension throughout the film. The spacecraft are rickety, the technology antiquated, but the heroics are timeless. At the end of the film, the three returning astronauts are quarantined. It's fascinating to think that three men spent eight days in space, that two of them walked on the moon, and that when they returned they were locked in a glass box with very pedestrian-looking hotel furnishings. What a dichotomy! Of course, there was nothing glamorous about early space travel. (141 min.)

—Glen Starkey

FREE SOLO

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Full Price

Where's it showing? The Palm, Galaxy

PickI don't think I've ever sweated so much in a movie theater in my life. Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin helm this raw and gripping National Geographic documentary, Free Solo, which chronicles 33-year-old rock climber Alex Honnold's incredible 2017 ascent up the face of El Capitan, a 3,000-foot-tall rock formation in Yosemite, without protective gear—the first in human history to accomplish the feat.

Honnold is already a renowned free solo climber, conqueror of some of the world's gnarliest climbs (think Yosemite's Half Dome), before he decides to tackle El Capitan, the mother of all faces. The documentary drops into Honnold's life as he sets his sights on the climb. We learn about him as a person, what draws him to free solo climbing, and the issues he's grappling with (like trying to maintain a romantic relationship despite his climbing obsession).

The doc is as much about Honnold and his psyche as it is about the miraculous climb at the end. What makes someone so intent on doing something given the risks? It's a question that Honnold must grapple with and answer for his girlfriend, Sanni McCandless, as he prepares to face certain death with one tiny slip of the hand, foot, or mind. It's not just the sheer height of El Capitan's face that's terrifying; it's the technicalities of the climb, which the film crew does an incredible job of demonstrating and explaining as Honnold practices on the various sections of the face beforehand.

My favorite aspect of this film is just how raw and authentic it is. There's no need to overproduce or dramatize this story, and Chin, who seems to lead the cinematography, does a tremendous job at letting the tale tell itself. It's a very, very real and transparent chronicle of a man driven to do the impossible, but also struggling with the potential consequences. For example, during his first attempt at the climb, Honnold gets cold feet, and the next thing we see is Honnold buying a house with Sanni in Las Vegas. Is he actually going to do it? The story seesaws with Honnold as he takes a non-linear path to the climb.

The film crew appears as shaken as anybody by what they're doing. They wrestle with the ethical question of whether they're participating in, or even encouraging, someone's suicide. Doubts are had and tears are shed as they prepare for the worst-case scenario while trying not to rattle Honnold.

It's a journey you don't want to miss. The climb itself is some of the most riveting and horrifying, yet inspiring, footage you'll ever see. And yes, it helps that you know the outcome beforehand. (100 min.)

Peter Johnson

GOOSEBUMPS 2: HAUNTED HALLOWEEN

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Rent it

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

Ari Sandel (The Duff) directs this next installment based on R.L. Stine's best-selling children's horror book series. If you're a young kid, you'll find some fun scares here, but your parents are going to be very annoyed having to sit through this. It definitely doesn't live up to its 2015 progenitor. (90 min.)

—Glen Starkey

HALLOWEEN

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Matinee

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

PickDavid Gordon Green (Snow Angels, Pineapple Express, Joe) co-writes and directs this sequel to John Carpenter's Halloween (1978). Completely erasing the continuity of the original film's seven sequels, serial killer Michael Myers has been locked up for 40 years. Meanwhile, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), the sole survivor of the Haddonfield Halloween murders, has been preparing for the day he should ever escape and inevitably come after her.

And whadda ya know, he does escape, and just in time for Halloween, too. Just a day before the 40th anniversary of the murders, Myers is set to be transferred to a different prison (what a terrible coincidence). There's a bus crash and yada yada yada he's out! Laurie convinces her daughter's family to join her Halloween night at her house, where she's devised a bomb shelter of sorts. To withstand the apocalypse? Nope, just Michael. It's all for Michael.

"He's waited for this night, and I've waited for him," Laurie says at one point. This is where the overthinking on my part begins. I just don't buy this theme at all. Where did this obsession come from? As far as the first film is concerned, the murders were completely random. The original never implies that Myers chose Laurie, only that she happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was Halloween II that made Myers' choice to pursue Laurie deliberate (the big reveal that they are biological siblings). Imagine a direct sequel to A New Hope that doesn't acknowledge the events of The Empire Strikes Back. Would they really expect us to simply forget that Vader is Luke's father?

Yet, Curtis's livid performance suggests a symbiotic relationship between Strode and Myers of Harry Potter/Voldemort proportions. If we're only given the events of the first film to fall back on, this notion makes absolutely zero sense. It's as if Green and co-writers Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride couldn't help but write Strode as the product of the franchise as a whole. Oops!

Sloppy writing and inconsistent retconning aside, Halloween is worth watching for the things it does right. The performances, score, and overall atmosphere are on par with the original, making it a worthy homage. But the best homages still leave room for originality. This one leaves a tiny bit. It's obvious how much Green and company love the material, but they cross the line between reverence and flat-out plagiarism too often. Still, the predator-becomes-the-prey motif pays off quite well and Curtis wielding a shotgun hunting down Myers is worth the price of admission alone. (106 min.)

—Caleb Wiseblood

THE HATE U GIVE

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Galaxy, Stadium 10

PickGeorge Tillman Jr. (Soul Food, Notorious, Faster) directs this crime drama about Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg), a young student who lives in an impoverished black community but spends her days at a wealthy, mostly white prep school. When she sees her childhood friend Khalil (Algee Smith) slain by a police officer, Starr must navigate the pressure between both of her communities as she tries to do the right thing. Based on Angie Thomas' novel, the story was written for the screen by Audrey Wells (A Dog's Purpose, Shall We Dance, Under the Tuscan Sun).

Open and earnest without overt preachiness and treacle, The Hate U Give explores an all-too-common story in the Black Lives Matter era. Yet, instead of being ham-fisted, it's thoughtful and nuanced and definitely topical. The police officer who shoots Khalil isn't demonized, and the news-style footage of marches and protests are deftly executed. The film's real strength comes from Amandla Stenberg's breakout performance—she's amazing! This is a film that will resonate long after you've left the theater. (132 min.)

—Glen Starkey

click to enlarge SEARCH AND RESCUE American submarine Capt. Joe Glass (Gerard Butler, left) and a group of US Navy SEALs must find and retrieve the kidnapped Russian president, in Hunter Killer. - PHOTO COURTESY OF HUNTER KILLER PRODUCTIONS
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF HUNTER KILLER PRODUCTIONS
  • SEARCH AND RESCUE American submarine Capt. Joe Glass (Gerard Butler, left) and a group of US Navy SEALs must find and retrieve the kidnapped Russian president, in Hunter Killer.

HUNTER KILLER

What's it rated? R

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

NewDonovan Marsh (Spud, Spud 2: The Madness Continues, Avenged) directs this action thriller about American submarine Capt. Joe Glass (Gerard Butler) and a group of US Navy SEALs on a mission to rescue Russian President Zakarin (Alexander Diachenko), who's been kidnapped by his own Defense Minister Dmitri Durov (Mikhail Gorevoy). (121 min.)

—Glen Starkey

INDIVISIBLE

What's it rated? PG-13

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre

NewCo-writer/director David G. Evans (The Grace Card) helms this Christian-themed film based on the true story of Army Chaplain Darren Turner (Justin Bruening) and his wife, Heather (Sarah Drew), who must overcome the trauma of war to wage their own battle to save their marriage. (119 min.)

—Glen Starkey

click to enlarge ENGLISH, JOHNNY ENGLISH Rowan Atkinson reprises his role as a bumbling British secret agent in the spy spoof Johnny English Strikes Again. - PHOTO COURTESY OF PERFECT WORLD PICTURES
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PERFECT WORLD PICTURES
  • ENGLISH, JOHNNY ENGLISH Rowan Atkinson reprises his role as a bumbling British secret agent in the spy spoof Johnny English Strikes Again.

JOHNNY ENGLISH STRIKES AGAIN

What's it rated? PG

Where's it showing? Park

NewDavid Kerr directs William Davies' (Johnny English, Johnny English Reborn) spy spoof screenplay—the third installment in the Johnny English franchise. After a cyber attack releases the names of all Britain's operating secret agents, Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) is forced to come out of retirement to save the day. (88 min.)

—Glen Starkey

click to enlarge KID STUFF Sunny Suljic stars as Stevie, a 13-year-old from a troubled home who makes new friends at a skate shop, in Mid90s. - PHOTO COURTESY OF A24
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF A24
  • KID STUFF Sunny Suljic stars as Stevie, a 13-year-old from a troubled home who makes new friends at a skate shop, in Mid90s.

MID90S

What's it rated? R

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre

NewIn his feature-length debut, actor Jonah Hill (Knocked Up, Superbad, Get Him to the Greek) gets behind the camera as writer-director in this film about Stevie (Sunny Suljic), a 13-year-old navigating mid-'90s LA as he moves between his troubled home life and new friends he meets at a skate shop. (84 min.)

—Glen Starkey

NIGHT SCHOOL

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Stream it

Where's it showing? Stadium 10

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.

If you like sophomoric silliness, you might find something here, but this one-note film doesn't give its two gifted comedians—Hart and Tiffany Haddish—much to work with. (111 min.)

—Glen Starkey

THE OLD MAN & THE GUN

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Matinee

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

PickWriter-director David Lowery (Ain't Them Bodies Saints, A Ghost Story) helms this true story based on David Grann's article about Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford), a 70-year-old criminal who escapes San Quentin Prison and embarks on a string of robberies that confounds law enforcement and makes Tucker into a folk hero with the public. Tucker is pursued by Detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck) and—despite his "profession"—loved by Jewel (Sissy Spacek).

In what's reportedly Redford's final onscreen role, we're handed the true account of Forrest Tucker, a man whose tale seems taller and trickier than anything that could be true yet whose earnest zeal for life makes the man more than a myth.

While he sees the world as his oyster, Tucker's life has been microscoped and compartmentalized with every car chase, prison escape, and con gone wrong. He's got to blend in, be nice, and look the part of a normal man.

He's part of a group of over-the-hill ex-cons who haven't quite scratched their itch for the next great heist. Teddy (Daniel Glover) and Waller (Tom Waits) bring an interesting relationship into the story, and the veteran actors are spot-on in their performances.

Robert Redford is one of the greats and this role is no exception, but the most brilliant performance here comes from Sissy Spacek, a beautiful widower who doesn't mind a bit of nonsense as long as you aren't trying to pull one over on her. She's Oscar worthy in this role, and it was so great to see her on screen again. She falls for Forrest immediately—it would be hard not to with his charm—and soon the film becomes just as much the story of their relationship as it is about his sorted past.

Affleck is clearly well loved by director Lowery, and their body of work together holds its own. He's a driven but wounded detective and family man, and as the game of cat and mouse goes on, you can't help but wonder how much he really wants to catch the elusive and charming old man.

The pure charm and light that bounces off of Tucker leaves even the very bank tellers he's robbed wondering if it may have been their idea to hand over stacks of bills. He even tries to get Jewel in on the fun by leading her out of a jewelry store without paying for a bracelet she tried on, but his hopes of a Bonnie and Clyde life are quickly squashed when Jewel returns to the store under the guise of forgetfulness and makes him pay for the bangle.

Eventually Forrest is caught again, and instead of escaping he listens to Jewel and waits out his sentence, finally getting released and going home with her. Once in the day-to-day mundane of life though, he can't help but wish for the next big chase, the next mark, and the next escape.

Tucker was a man with a larger-than-life tale to tell, and luckily Lowrey's rendition of it holds up, and the character is brought into the stratosphere to once again win us over and walk away with our wallets. Superb performances and subtle nods to Redford and Spacek's film history just add to the fun of this one—definitely worth a trip to the theater. (93 min.)

—Anna Starkey

click to enlarge REJECT THIS! Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution screens on Oct. 26, at The Palm Theatre, documenting Homo- and Queercore, the LGBTQ-offshoot of punk rock, including bands like Bikini Kill (pictured). - PHOTO COURTESY OF DESIRE PRODUCTIONS
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF DESIRE PRODUCTIONS
  • REJECT THIS! Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution screens on Oct. 26, at The Palm Theatre, documenting Homo- and Queercore, the LGBTQ-offshoot of punk rock, including bands like Bikini Kill (pictured).

QUEERCORE: HOW TO PUNK A REVOLUTION

What's it rated? Not rated

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Friday, Oct. 26, at 7 p.m., in The Palm Theatre

New/PickWriter-director Yoni Leyser (William S. Burroughs: A Man Within) helms this documentary about Queercore, the cultural movement that began as an offshoot of the punk scene but focused on society's rejection of LGBTQ communities. It features appearances by filmmaker John Waters, Sonic Youth member Kim Gordon, Gossip vocalist Beth Ditto, and many other notables.

This is a must-see for anyone interested in the punk movement, LGBTQ issues, underground zines, or social history. Much of the film is focused on GB Jones and Bruce LaBruce, who in many ways invented the Homo- and Queercore scenes in Toronto where they made experimental films and put out the underground zine J.D.s. There really was no scene, but their zine made it look like there was, and then bands rose up to fill the void. It's a pretty remarkable tale of conjuring what you wish for.

The burgeoning movement this film chronicles was truly revolutionary—no rules, no symbols, no dress codes ... just pure expression. As one interviewee noted, "We didn't want a church; we wanted a circus." High on shock value, Jones and LaBruce's zine inspired other scenes in San Francisco, LA, and Chicago, where proud misfits did their own conjuring to create the scene they wanted to live.

Queercore is filled with little revelations I hadn't heard before. LaBruce, for instance, claims the term "punk" came from passive boys in jail that got "fucked up the ass," explaining that punk rock music was inherently sexual and inherently queer. We also learn, however, that as punk became more popular, it became homophobic, attracting angry young men and violent behavior. The Queercore movement sprang up to counteract this homophobia just as punk rock itself sprang up to reject and subvert the dominant cultural paradigm.

Along the way we meet bands such as The Germs, Catholic Discipline, Nervous Gender, Phranc, Bikini Kill, Pansy Division, and many others. The music's great and the archival footage is amazing, and the critique of "straight" society is insightful and necessary. As another interviewee noted, "straight" didn't mean heterosexual—it meant narrow-minded.

I should warn you that the film is unrated and there are scenes of fellatio as well as a fair bit of nudity. It's not gratuitous—it's all part and parcel to the history of this fascinating slice of American culture—but if you're going to freak out watching a guy blowing another trans guy, don't go. Of course, you'll be missing an entertaining and edifying documentary. (83 min.)

—Glen Starkey

click to enlarge SWEET TRANSVESTITE! Tim Curry (center) stars as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, in the 1975 cult classick The Rocky Horror Picture Show, screening on Oct. 31, at the SLO Brew Rock Event Center. - PHOTO COURTESY OF TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
  • SWEET TRANSVESTITE! Tim Curry (center) stars as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, in the 1975 cult classick The Rocky Horror Picture Show, screening on Oct. 31, at the SLO Brew Rock Event Center.

THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Wednesday, Oct. 31, at SLO Brew Rock, at 6 and 9 p.m.; 18-and-older; $15 at sloqueerdos.com

New/PickIt's Halloween, so naturally the 1975 cult classick musical comedy The Rocky Horror Picture Show is back! You know the story! Newly engaged pure-as-the-driven-snow couple Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon) and Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) have car trouble but happen upon a spooky estate owned by "scientist" Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry), who invites the couple to stay ... and then things get real weird real fast!

The SLOQueerdos will lead the audience participation tradition by re-enacting the musical numbers in front of a 19-by-9-foot movie screen at the SLO Brew Rock Event Center.

"Audience participation is strictly MANDATORY," according to the organizers, which means bust out your fishnet stockings, lipstick, corset, and all the props (confetti, a newspaper, a squirt gun, a flashlight, rubber gloves, a noise maker, toilet paper, toast, a party hat, a bell, and playing cards).

There are two shows, so make sure you buy tickets (at sloqueerdos.com) to the correct screening!

—Glen Starkey

click to enlarge COMEDY ADVENTURE WESTERN? Charlie (Joaquin Phoenix, left) and Eli Sisters (John C. Reilly) are notorious assassins out to kill a gold prospector in 1850s Oregon, in The Sisters Brothers. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ANNAPURNA PICTURES
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF ANNAPURNA PICTURES
  • COMEDY ADVENTURE WESTERN? Charlie (Joaquin Phoenix, left) and Eli Sisters (John C. Reilly) are notorious assassins out to kill a gold prospector in 1850s Oregon, in The Sisters Brothers.

THE SISTERS BROTHERS

What's it rated? R

Where's it showing? The Palm

NewCo-writer/director Jacques Audiard (Dheepan, Rust and Bone, A Prophet) helms this adventure-comedy-crime story set in 1850s Oregon, and based on Patrick DeWitt's novel. John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix star as Eli and Charles Sisters, two notorious assassins in pursuit of gold prospector Hermann Kermit Warn (Riz Ahmed). Unfortunately, Eli begins to question his "profession," while Hermann hopes to offer an alternative to his death. (121 min.)

—Glen Starkey

SMALLFOOT

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Stream it

Where's it showing? Park, Stadium 10

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

—Glen Starkey

A STAR IS BORN

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

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

PickCo-writer, director, and co-star Bradley Cooper helms this remake of A Star Is Born (first released in 1937, and later remade in 1954 and 1976). In this iteration, Cooper stars as Jackson Maine, a famous musician whose star is waning as he discovers talented but insecure singer Ally (Lady Gaga). As Jack battles alcoholism and his own decline, he helps Ally find the strength to let her talent shine.

You'd think on the fourth retelling things would be getting stale, but Bradley Cooper takes a sweeping look at the rise and fall of stardom, the shallowness of the entertainment industry, creativity, substance abuse, family dynamics, and romance.

It's a stunning achievement, and I was most surprised by Lady Gaga, whose acting chops were impressive. I've never been a big fan of her music, but her voice is undeniably stunning. Almost every time she sang, the tears welled up. To see the fashion icon with her natural hair color and little to no makeup made her more vulnerable and sympathetic.

It's been driven into Ally that despite her talent, she doesn't have the looks for stardom. There's an amazing scene where she overhears her father (a terrific Andrew Dice Clay) explaining to his friends that her looks prevent her from success. When Jack wanders into a bar after a gig looking for a much-needed drink, he happens upon Ally singing "La Vie En Rose" and is immediately smitten by her looks and talent. Later that night, she surprises him by making up a song about him on the spot. Jack gives her the confidence to believe in herself, to feel love, to feel good enough.

His most important lesson to Ally is to be authentic, so when he sees her manager Rez (Rafi Gavron) changing her appearance, adding dancers and choreography to her show, he's artistically offended, though Ally perceives it as jealousy. They're disconnecting just when they need each other most.

Like all substance abusers, Jack's behavior is unforgivable—he says terrible things to Ally and embarrasses her with his loutish actions. Their love, however, is real, and she struggles between being supportive and enabling.

There's so much going on in this film, and the fact that Cooper is able to weave all of these emotionally potent threads into such a heartrendingly beautiful tapestry is a triumph. I predict some Oscar nods for this one. See it in the theater; bring your own tissues—this one's a tearjerker. (135 min.)

—Glen Starkey

VENOM

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Matinee

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

PickRuben Fleischer (Zombieland, Gangster Squad) directs Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock, a former investigative journalist whose TV show is dedicated to taking down evil corporations and, later, becomes the host for an alien symbiote named Venom. The film is an adaptation of the Marvel Comics series featuring the anti-hero Venom.

The overall connection between Venom and Brock is interesting as Venom takes over Brock's body and the two realize the extent of their superpower. They have their humorous moments when Brock tries to fight the transformation. It feels similar to that of Jim Carry's struggle in The Mask, but the two find a deeper understanding in each other, as both are losers on their respected planets.

The film lacks a cohesive and strong storyline for the first introduction of the Marvel character, but I will admit I'll be watching for the sequel as the clip at the end of the movie lays the groundwork for someone all too familiar to Venom. (112 min.) Δ

—Karen Garcia

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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