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Film Listings, 2/13/20 – 2/20/20 

All theater listings are as of Friday, Feb. 14.

Editor's note: Listings for Rodkey Theaters—Fair Oaks of Arroyo Grande (805) 489-2364 and Sunset Drive-In of SLO (805) 544-4475—were not available at press time; nor were Park Cinemas ((805) 227-2172 or parkcinemas.com).

THE ASSISTANT

What's it rated? R

Where's it showing? The Palm

New

click to enlarge DUTIES Jane (Julia Garner), assistant to a powerful film company executive, slowly begins to understand the insidious abuse she faces, in The Assistant. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CINEREACH
  • Photo Courtesy Of Cinereach
  • DUTIES Jane (Julia Garner), assistant to a powerful film company executive, slowly begins to understand the insidious abuse she faces, in The Assistant.
Writer-director Kitty Green helms #MeToo-era story about Jane (Julia Garner), assistant to a powerful film company executive. As she navigates her new job, she slowly begins to understand the insidious abuse she faces. (85 min.)

—Glen Starkey

BAD BOYS FOR LIFE

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Matinee

Where's it showing? Stadium 10

Pick

Detectives Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) team up one more time in this third installment of the popular Jerry Bruckheimer-produced action spectacle, this time co-directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilail Fallah (Black, Gangsta). Confronting career changes and midlife crises, the two old partners join Miami PD's elite AMMO team to take down cartel kingpin Armando Armas (Jacob Scipio). (123 min.)

—Glen

BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN)

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Matinee

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

See Split Screen.

DOLITTLE

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Stream it

Where's it showing? Galaxy

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. When all is said and done, it doesn't matter if something is made for kids or adults or if it's 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

DOWNHILL

What's it rated? R

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre, Galaxy

New

click to enlarge SNOW JOB The comedy-drama Downhill follows married couple Billie (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Pete (Will Ferrell), who are forced to re-examine their relationship after the very different ways they reacted to an avalanche. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Searchlight Pictures
  • SNOW JOB The comedy-drama Downhill follows married couple Billie (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Pete (Will Ferrell), who are forced to re-examine their relationship after the very different ways they reacted to an avalanche.
Based on the 2014 European comedy-drama Force Majeure, this English-language version—co-directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash—follows married couple Billie (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Pete (Will Ferrell), who are forced to re-examine their relationship after the very different ways they reacted to an avalanche. (86 min.)

—Glen

FANTASY ISLAND

What's it rated? PG-13

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

New

click to enlarge SURVIVOR? The popular '70s TV show about a magical island where guests' dreams come true gets the horror-comedy treatment, in Fantasy Island, starring Portia Doubleday (left) and Lucy Hale (right). - PHOTO COURTESY OF COLUMBIA PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Columbia Pictures
  • SURVIVOR? The popular '70s TV show about a magical island where guests' dreams come true gets the horror-comedy treatment, in Fantasy Island, starring Portia Doubleday (left) and Lucy Hale (right).
Jeff Wadlow (Truth or Dare, Kick-Ass 2, Never Back Down) directs this horror-comedy about a magical island run by Mr. Roark (Michael Peña), who makes his resort guests' dreams come true ... until those dreams turn into nightmares from which his guests must escape. Based on the popular 1970s TV show, the film also stars Lucy Hale, Maggie Q, Portia Doubleday, and Charlotte McKinney. (110 min.)

—Glen

THE GENTLEMEN

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Matinee

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre

Pick

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 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

GRETEL AND HANSEL

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Matinee

Where's it showing? Stadium 10

Pick

Oz Perkins (I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House) directs Rob Hayes' retelling of the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale about two young children kidnapped by a cannibalistic witch. Sophia Lillis stars as Gretel, a 16-year-old who leads her 8-year-old brother, Hansel (Sam Leakey), into the woods in search of food and work, only to stumble upon Holda (Alice Kride), a powerful and evil witch.

If I were starving to death in a super creepy forest, I have to admit I'd probably take my chances and eat dinner at the local old hag's house despite the blatantly obvious signs of her participation in witchcraft.

And that's what we've watched Hansel and Gretel do time and time again for more than two centuries since the original Brothers Grimm story was first published in 1812. But in this year's latest horror film rendition of the classic fairy tale, Gretel comes before Hansel, style comes before story, and villains come with a little much-needed complexity—though not enough to make a big difference.

In Gretel and Hansel, we find our familiar leading children again struggling to survive in a medieval village during an economic downturn. Since their father's death, the children's mother has failed at providing for the family and spiraled into insanity. She abruptly and violently kicks them out of the house after Gretel refuses to take a job as a "housekeeper" in a brothel.

Once out facing the cold, hard world alone, Gretel leads her younger brother through a forest riddled with slow moving fog, monsters, and ghoulish shadows, but absent any edible plants or animals.

The kids are famished when they finally stumble upon a dark A-frame cabin that smells of sizzling bacon and baking cakes, and although the woman living there has a scary witchy face, an actual witch hat, and entirely black fingertips reminiscent of Lorde's during her 2014 Grammy performance, Hansel and Gretel decide to stay awhile for the food and shelter.

Eventually—after finding pentagrams carved into nearby trees and children's clothes and toys hidden within the forest's foliage—Hansel and Gretel become suspicious of their hostess's real reasons for letting them stay.

Gretel and Hansel follows the same basic plot as the original Hansel and Gretel story, but its male director and writer adds in some attempts at feminist twists.

While in the original tale Hansel and Gretel are thrown out by their evil stepmother despite their loving father's protests, in the 2020 revival, the children's own mother eighty-sixes them after succumbing to the pressures of the broken and misogynistic society around her. And the witch in the most recent version isn't all bad. Sure, she eats children and hails Satan, but she also teaches the kids useful life skills and helps Gretel realize the magical powers bubbling up within herself—powers Gretel is determined to use for good, unlike her many cannibalistic predecessors.

And did you notice that the movie is called Gretel and Hansel? Because, like, then the girl's name is first?

Gee! Thanks, boys! I feel so empowered.

Still, the cinematography in Gretel and Hansel is not to be ignored. Galo Olivares (Roma) brings a haunting, dreamlike quality to the movie that perfectly accents its spooky fairy tale roots. Even the bloodiest of moments become beautiful when viewed through Olivares' lens, and his abilities save Gretel and Hansel from being just another lame attempt to modernize a classic. (87 min.)

—Kasey

JOJO RABBIT

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Bay, Downtown Centre, Fair Oaks

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. Waititi won Best Adapted Screenplay at this year's Oscars.

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.

Jojo wants desperately to fit in, and we meet him on the day he's going to begin his Hitler Youth training. His father is away "fighting the war," so he lives alone with his loving mother, Rosie. His only real friend is pudgy Yorki (Archie Yates), who's also beginning his training.

To work things out in his head, lonely Jojo has created an imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler, who appears whenever Jojo needs him to help psyche him up and meet the challenges of his life. The film's interested in how someone can become a Nazi, and in Jojo's case it was easy—he's been indoctrinated by anti-Semitic rhetoric his whole life, buying into the dehumanization and scapegoating of "the other."

If you're wondering if Waititi is drawing parallels to the present with this look at the past, it seems certain. The Nazis are depicted as supercilious buffoons for the most part—cruel, petty, and mean. Jojo wants to be a good Nazi, but he's cursed with a conscience. He gets his nickname Jojo Rabbit when he can't bring himself to wring a rabbit's neck as part of his training.

When he eventually discovers Elsa, the Jewish girl his mother is hiding, his black and white Nazi world is suddenly complicated with shades of gray. What follows is his slow—painfully slow!—awakening. It's a very tender and sweet film that will have you howling with laughter and wiping away tears. I loved it!

Sam Rockwell's character, Captain Klenzendorf, is a real standout. He's a very complicated Nazi, one who dreams of glory on the frontlines but who through his own lazy ineptitude keeps finding himself demoted to more and more embarrassing positions. He's a closeted gay, uncommitted to anti-Semitism, but a loyal and brave Nazi all the same. Klenzendorf is the kind of morally compromised but generally good-hearted character Rockwell is great at playing.

I also thought Archie Yates as Yorki was wonderful. His character, like Jojo, is earnest and loyal but also too sweet to be an effective Nazi. Rebel Wilson as Fraulein Rahm also delivered a lot of comic gold. It's both funny and horrifying to see how Waititi depicts Hitler's Army during its death knell, willing to clothe children in paper uniforms, arm them, and expect them to fight to the death as the allied invasion tightened its noose around Germany.

Sorry to inject some politics in this, but I couldn't help but think about the White House Halloween celebration, where children were invited to write their names on construction paper "bricks" and stick them to a wall decorated with the words, "BUILD THE WALL." Regimes indoctrinate children through play, just like Jojo and Yorki have fun playing at soldiers in the Hitler Youth dressed in their spiffy Boy Scout-like uniforms and their special Nazi knives.

Jojo Rabbit and its irreverent examination of Nazi Germany has a lot to say about our world today, but Waititi is such a hopeful filmmaker, and the film's ultimate message is that good will triumph over evil. Let's hope so! (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

LIKE A BOSS

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Nothing

Where's it showing? Sunset Drive-In

Miguel Arteta (Youth in Revolt, Beatriz at Dinner) directs this comedy about two friends—Mia Carter (Tiffany Haddish) and Mel Paige (Rose Byrne)—who start a cosmetics company but have different ideas about running it, which is further complicated when cosmetics mogul Clair Luna (Salma Hayek) obtains a controlling share.

Its female empowerment message is shoved unconvincingly into a paper-thin plot, and the talented cast can do nothing to enliven the unfunny goings on. (83 min.)

—Glen

LITTLE WOMEN

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre

Pick

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. (135 min.)

—Glen

1917

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre, 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! This film totally deserved its Best Cinematography win for director of photography Roger Deakins (Blade Runner 2049, Skyfall, No Country for Old Men, Fargo) at the recent Academy Awards. 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.

There are, of course, some breaks in the filming, for instance when everything goes black after an explosion or when the two characters move from daylight into an inky black tunnel. I'm guessing, too, some CGI was employed in service to the one-long-take illusion, but there are a lot of long extended takes as the camera moves around the actors, goes in and out of various lighting situations, makes some rack focus changes to draw viewers' attention, and follows Lance Cpls. Blake and Schofield on their death defying mission. The camera work is simply stunning.

The two men must traverse about 8 miles through enemy territory, which had reportedly been evacuated, but along the way the men encounter booby-trapped German trenches and tunnels, an aerial dogfight, a sniper, and more. They're in a race to deliver their message and save 1,600 soldiers from slaughter, but they're not superhuman heroes: They're scared boys traveling through a battlefield littered with bodies, and they know only too well that they could easily join the rotting dead.

The film boasts some great actors in small but essential roles. Colin Firth is Gen. Erinmore, the man who gives Blake and Schofield their impossible orders. Mark Strong is Capt. Smith, who they meet along the way as he's trying to lead his own squad through enemy territory on another mission. He warns them that when they deliver the order to stand down, to do it in front of witnesses because some commanders just want the fight. Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Col. MacKenzie, who indeed seems hell-bent on charging his men into battle. Each of these actors brings gravitas to their roles, but the story belongs to the two young men, and relatively unknown actors Chapman and MacKay deliver compelling performances.

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.

1917 also won Oscars for Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Mixing, though it was nominated for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Makeup, Best Director, Best Original Score, Best Production Design, and Best Sound Editing. Win and lose, this film is a must-see on the big screen. Don't miss it! (119 min.)

—Glen

OSCAR NOMINATED SHORTS

What's it rated? Not rated

Where's it showing? The Palm

See the contenders for the Academy Awards short films in the Live Action, Animated, and Documentary categories.

—Glen

PARASITE

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Galaxy, The Palm

Pick

click to enlarge BEST PICTURE! The impoverished Kim family infiltrates a wealthy family, replacing their longtime employees, in the four-time Oscar winner Parasite. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BARUNSON E&A
  • Photo Courtesy Of Barunson E&a
  • BEST PICTURE! The impoverished Kim family infiltrates a wealthy family, replacing their longtime employees, in the four-time Oscar winner Parasite.
In this four-Oscar winner, 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. The film won Best Picture and Best International Feature, Best Director, and Best Screenplay at this year's Oscars.

The Kims, a technically unemployed family of four, are living in a tiny semi-basement apartment when we first meet them. It's cramped, dirty, dingy, infested with stinkbugs, and worst of all, it lacks Wi-Fi.

But things slowly start to turn around for the Kims when the son, Ki-woo (Choi Woo-sik), lands a high-paying job tutoring the daughter of an extremely wealthy businessman, Dong-ik Park. In the Parks' household, everything is completely opposite from the Kims': spacious, sparkling clean, and modern.

It quickly becomes clear, however, that exceeding wealth has made the Park family inept at most average daily tasks, and thus totally reliant upon the help for meals, housework, and transportation. In that way the Parks are parasitic, and they're gullible, too. They're easily fooled when, one by one, members of the Kim family manage to push out longtime employees of the Park household and fill their vacated places, pretending to be more than qualified hires.

The scheme eventually goes horribly wrong for the Kims when a leech of another kind is uncovered. It's a violent ending both families face that feels on one hand tragic and on the other well deserved.

The Kims, though facing certain hardships that come with the cycle of poverty, are never portrayed as needing much sympathy. They face their situation with humor, and although it's satisfying to see them take advantage of the ultra-rich using nothing more than condescending wit, its clear that they're experienced manipulators. They're confident con artists, and you never really feel bad for the Kims.

The Parks have their own less than desirable qualities, as well—a drug addiction and an obvious hostility toward lower income individuals, to name a few—which slowly trickle out behind closed doors. But, in general, they're nice. They're well-mannered, they pay their employees well, and you don't really want to see them scammed.

It's these complexities behind the Park and Kim families and the characters within them make navigating Parasite almost as difficult as real life.

Who is the good guy when everyone makes mistakes? Who is the bad guy when everyone has redeeming qualities? Who is the parasite when everyone is feeding off of each other? When everyone is using someone to gain something, and giving nothing in return?

You can never really be sure who to root for or who to trust, and that quality of reality is what makes Parasite so very unsettling. (132 min.)

—Kasey

THE PHOTOGRAPH

click to enlarge VALENTINES The Photograph weaves two love stories set in the past and present, including between Michael (LaKeith Stanfield) and Mae (Issa Rae). - PHOTO COURTESY OF PERFECT WORLD PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Perfect World Pictures
  • VALENTINES The Photograph weaves two love stories set in the past and present, including between Michael (LaKeith Stanfield) and Mae (Issa Rae).

What's it rated? PG-13

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

New

Writer-director Stella Meghie (Jean of the Joneses, The Weekend) helms this romantic drama about Mae (Issa Rae), who falls for journalist Michael (LaKeith Stanfield), who's assigned to write about Mae's late famous photographer mother. As Mae pores through her mother's archives, she discovers her mother's own romantic past. (103 min.)

—Glen

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG

What's it rated? PG

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

New

click to enlarge THE FASTEST Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) is being pursued by an evil genius who wants to steal his powers, in the family adventure Sonic the Hedgehog. - PHOTO COURTESY OF PARAMOUNT PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Paramount Pictures
  • THE FASTEST Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) is being pursued by an evil genius who wants to steal his powers, in the family adventure Sonic the Hedgehog.
Jeff Fowler directs this action adventure based on the SEGA videogame franchise about a super fast blue hedgehog from outer space. Settling into his new life on Earth, Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) befriends small town cop Tom Wachowski (James Marsden), and together they work to defeat evil genius Dr. Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey), who wants to experiment on Sonic, steal his powers, and take over the world. (99 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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