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Film Listings, 2/20/20 – 2/27/20 

All theater listings are as of Friday, Feb. 21.

THE ASSISTANT

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Matinee

Where's it showing? The Palm

Pick

click to enlarge EYES EVERYWHERE 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
  • EYES EVERYWHERE Jane (Julia Garner), assistant to a powerful film company executive, slowly begins to understand the insidious abuse she faces, in The Assistant.

Kitty Green writes and directs Julia Garner as Jane, a recent college grad who lands an assistant position at a prestigious New York film production company. She soon experiences the company's purposeful ignorance of the questionable actions of the man in charge.

While the message of the film is powerful and important—we as a society are more aware of companies that keep quiet or hide individuals in power who harass subordinate colleagues, especially in the area of the #MeToo movement—the film overall is slow. Green deliberately has the camera in front of Garner so the audience can see the small mannerisms and reactions to the atmosphere that her boss creates. Because of this, the film moves at a snail's pace, but thank goodness it's less than two hours.

The story takes places in the span of a very (extremely) long day for Jane, a relatively new assistant at a film production company in New York. Being the newbie in the office, Jane is given the crap assignments: bringing in the Danish pastries for a conference, cleaning up the crumbs after the meetings, washing the dishes in the kitchen area, bringing her colleagues and boss lunch, and making it to the second floor to deliver new manuscripts after edits.

Throughout the film, there's an eerie and uncomfortable air surrounding the office—it's an atmosphere created by Jane's boss. The boss, who the audience never sees, is referred to as "He." We vaguely see Jane's boss as an unfocused figure walking in and out of his office, we hear him talking in mumbles through his office walls, and he heatedly berates Jane over the phone when she's done something wrong.

It's an interesting display of power that Green has presented in her story by showing without telling. Although we never see Jane's boss, there's this overwhelming sense of agitation and unease whenever he's even slightly mentioned.

Discomfort is one thing, but Jane starts to realize there's something off about him. It's the small details of picking up an earring left behind in his office or cleaning off a questionable stain from his office couch. Not to mention having to field calls from his angry wife who phones more than once to ask where her husband is or why her credit card is no longer working. When Jane tries her best to mitigate the issue, she gets an angry call from her boss, which then leads to her two male colleagues—who have probably been in the same position—to help her formulate an apology email.

When I'm starting to wonder what the point of the film is other than to highlight workplace harassment, Jane goes to a human resources officer to talk about what she's seeing. It's the conversation that follows that's seriously revolting.

My only issue with The Assistant is how long this 87-minute film feels, but it's definitely a sensory and visual film that will leave you cringing. (87 min.)

—Karen Garcia

BAD BOYS FOR LIFE

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Matinee

Where's it showing? Park, 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 Starkey

BANFF MOUNTAIN FILM FESTIVAL

What's it rated? Not rated

Where's it showing? Fremont Theater on Tuesday, Feb. 25

New

click to enlarge THE GREAT OUTDOORS Circle of the Sun is one of a dozen films to be screened at the Banff Mountain Film Fest at the Fremont Theater in Feb. 25. - PHOTO COURTESY OF INIGO GRASSET
  • Photo Courtesy Of Inigo Grasset
  • THE GREAT OUTDOORS Circle of the Sun is one of a dozen films to be screened at the Banff Mountain Film Fest at the Fremont Theater in Feb. 25.

The Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour comes to the Fremont Theater on Tuesday, Feb. 25, to screen a series of outdoor adventure films, including Danny Daycare, Circle of the Sun, Bayandalai—Lord of the Taiga, eli, Into the Canyon, Good Morning by Richard Permin, Camel Finds Water, The Ladakh Project, The Flip, REEL ROCK 13: Up To Speed, Life of Pie, and Hors Piste. The doors open at 6 p.m. for this all-ages event. Tickets are $27.31 at Boo Boo's and fremontslo.com.

—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, Park, Stadium 10

Pick

Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs) directs this comic book action-packed crime adventure featuring Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), who joins forces with Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), and Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) to save Cass (Ella Jay Basco) from Gotham's arch villain Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) and his henchman Zsasz (Chris Messina).

Harley Quinn was definitely the highlight of the mostly mediocre Suicide Squad (2016), so it stands to reason she'd wind up in a film of her own. Thankfully, Birds of Prey is the better film—a bonkers, confetti blast of grrrl power. It's loud, violent, colorful fun, but also silly, thin, and mostly superficial.

Told from Harley's perspective, and with the sort of unreliable narration expected from a psychotic narcissist, the film moves back and forth through time as Harley periodically realizes she's gotten ahead of her story and has to go back in time on a side plot to set up what's to come. This fractured chronology makes the goings-on a lot more interesting and chaotic, and the overall theme—women taking control in a man's world and creating their own path forward—is a welcome cultural artifact of the #MeToo era.

Birds of Prey has been getting great reviews, but don't expect too much. It's fun but forgettable. If you're in the mood for an obnoxious distraction with a few good laughs and some over-the-top action, check it out. (109 min.)

—Glen

BRAHMS: THE BOY II

What's it rated? PG-13

Where's it showing? Park, Stadium 10

New

click to enlarge FRIENDS? Jude (Christopher Convery, left) befriends a lifelike doll, in the horror mystery Brahms: The Boy II. - PHOTO COURTESY OF STX ENTERTAINMENT
  • Photo Courtesy Of STX Entertainment
  • FRIENDS? Jude (Christopher Convery, left) befriends a lifelike doll, in the horror mystery Brahms: The Boy II.

William Brent Bell (The Devil Inside) directs this horror mystery about a little boy named Jude (Christopher Convery) who moves with his family to a guest house on the Heelshire Mansion grounds. There he makes friends with a lifelike doll he calls Brahms. It's a sequel to Bell's 2016 film, The Boy. (86 min.)

—Glen

THE CALL OF THE WILD

What's it rated? PG

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

New

click to enlarge LOYALTY Jack London's story of Buck and his companion John Thornton (Harrison Ford) comes to the big screen, in The Call of the Wild. - PHOTO COURTESY OF TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
  • Photo Courtesy Of Twentieth Century Fox
  • LOYALTY Jack London's story of Buck and his companion John Thornton (Harrison Ford) comes to the big screen, in The Call of the Wild.

Chris Sanders (Lilo & Stitch, How to Train Your Dragon, The Croods) directs screenwriter Michael Green's adaptation of Jack London's classic novel about Buck, a St. Bernard and Scotch shepherd mix that's stolen and sent north to Canada's Klondike during the gold rush, where he's forced to become a sled dog. After many adventures and terrible masters, Buck eventually teams up with John Thornton (Harrison Ford), to whom he develops a fierce loyalty. (100 min.)

—Glen

THE COLOR PURPLE

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre on Sunday, Feb. 23

New/Pick

click to enlarge FINDING HERSELF After suffering years of horrible abuse, Celie Johnson (Whoopi Goldberg) slowly rediscovers her identity in director Steven Spielberg's 1985 adaptation of Alice Walker's stunning novel, The Color Purple, screening on Feb. 23, at Downtown Centre. - PHOTO COURTESY OF AMBLIN ENTERTAINMENT
  • Photo Courtesy Of Amblin Entertainment
  • FINDING HERSELF After suffering years of horrible abuse, Celie Johnson (Whoopi Goldberg) slowly rediscovers her identity in director Steven Spielberg's 1985 adaptation of Alice Walker's stunning novel, The Color Purple, screening on Feb. 23, at Downtown Centre.

Steven Spielberg directs this 1985 adaptation of Alice Walker's stunning novel about Celie Johnson (Whoopi Goldberg), a Southern black woman who slowly rediscovers her identity after suffering years of horrible abuse. (85 min.)

—Glen

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 its rated G or R. What make 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

What's it worth? Stream it

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

click to enlarge FROSTY This middling 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
  • FROSTY This middling 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 (The Descendants)—examines married couple Billie (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Pete (Will Ferrell), who are forced to rethink their relationship after the very different ways they reacted to an avalanche.

This is a strange Hollywood remake—and not in a good way. While I applaud Louis-Dreyfus and Ferrell for stepping out of their comfort zones to play characters that will challenge audiences' preconceived ideas about them, Downhill fails to live up to its quirky potential from the first scene. A movie about how small fissures in relationships can prove existentially threatening under the right circumstances, directors Faxon and Rash just don't do enough for us to truly buy-in to Billie, Pete, and their family's nightmarish vacation in the Austrian Alps.

Hoping for a little R and R following a tough few months due to the death of Pete's father, Pete, Billie, and their two kids check in to a fancy European ski resort for a much-needed vacation. Right away it's clear that Billie and Pete are carrying some (seemingly) garden-variety marital baggage, but it will soon get gravely aggravated. While the family is eating lunch on the patio of the ski lodge, a "controlled" avalanche comes scarily close to burying them, as it barrels right up to the edge of the lodge. Billie's reaction is to hunker down with her children, putting one arm around each boy. Pete's is to simply run away. When the snow dust settles and Pete returns, he's met with feelings of disgust and betrayal from his family. Though he tries to downplay the whole thing, the incident haunts him for the rest of the trip.

Admittedly, I have not seen Force Majeure, the Swedish original that this remake is based on (and that's supposedly excellent), but I can imagine how this story could be brilliantly told. Unfortunately, Downhill does not hit that stellar mark. There are a few glaring issues: One is that Pete and Billie's relationship never truly feels real, which is a big deficiency given that the entire movie depends on us getting absorbed in their dynamic. The vital elements of their marriage are just not well established from the start. Another is that Louis-Dreyfus and Ferrell have made so many comedies by now that it's simply hard to watch their work from a serious point of view. For instance, I kept seeing weird parallels between Ferrell's Pete and his character in Old School, Frank, the tamed, beaten-down husband whose beer-chugging frat boy alter ego ("Frank the Tank") is always a drink away. Pete is a completely different character in a completely different context, but Ferrell's mannerisms and approach gave off similarities that were hard for me to shake.

That said, Downhill isn't a terrible movie. Louis-Dreyfus, especially, gives a compelling performance as Billie, who's trying to come to grips with having a half-vacant husband who will run when danger approaches. The supporting cast delivers good moments as well. Zach Woods (The Office, Silicon Valley) is quite funny as Pete's younger friend who visits them during his and his adventurous girlfriend's (Zoë Chao) own escapade through Europe. The couples are in opposite emotional places, and the juxtaposition makes for some quality awkward comedy. Another positive: The film's breezy less-than-90-minute run time means you won't be in agony for too long. (86 min.)

—Peter Johnson

FANTASY ISLAND

What's it rated? PG-13

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

See Split Screen.

HAI TANG HONG

What's it rated? Not rated

Where's it showing? Galaxy

New

Wen Yi directs this 1955 Chinese film about the oppression and bullying of opera artists. (136 min.)

—Glen

JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Matinee

Where's it showing? Galaxy

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

MY HERO ACADEMIA: HEROES RISING

What's it rated? Not rated

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre on Wednesday, Feb. 26

New

A group of kids aspires to become superheroes in this animated adventure directed by Kenji Nagasaki. (104 min.)

—Glen

1917

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

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

Pick

click to enlarge ESSENTIAL MISSION Lance Cpl. Schofield (George MacKay, center) traverses a hellscape in his effort to deliver a message to stop a regiment of his fellow soldiers from charging into a trap. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF DREAMWORKS
  • Photos Courtesy Of Dreamworks
  • ESSENTIAL MISSION Lance Cpl. Schofield (George MacKay, center) traverses a hellscape in his effort to deliver a message to stop a regiment of his fellow soldiers from charging into a trap.

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.

1917 won Oscars for Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects, and Best Sound Mixing. This film is a must-see 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? Galaxy, The Palm

Pick

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.

click to enlarge HAVES AND HAVE-NOTS Co-writer/director Joon-ho Bong helms Parasite, a Korean-language story of class warfare screening exclusively at The Palm Theatre. - PHOTO COURTESY OF GOYANG AQUA STUDIO
  • Photo Courtesy Of Goyang Aqua Studio
  • HAVES AND HAVE-NOTS Co-writer/director Joon-ho Bong helms Parasite, a Korean-language story of class warfare screening exclusively at The Palm Theatre.

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

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Full price

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

Pick

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. This gorgeous-looking film delivers an affecting love story driven by the chemistry of its two leads. (103 min.)

—Glen

PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE

What's it rated? R

Where's it showing? The Palm

New

click to enlarge HIDDEN LOVE Marianne (Noémie Merlant, right) is commissioned to paint Héloïse's (Adele Haenel) wedding portrait without her knowing, which is complicated as the women become closer, in Portrait of a Lady on Fire. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ARTE FRANCE CINEMA
  • Photo Courtesy Of Arte France Cinema
  • HIDDEN LOVE Marianne (Noémie Merlant, right) is commissioned to paint Héloïse's (Adele Haenel) wedding portrait without her knowing, which is complicated as the women become closer, in Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

Céline Sciamma (Tomboy, Girlhood) directs this French-language romantic drama—set on an isolated island in Brittany near the end of the 18th century—about Marianne (Noémie Merlant), who's commissioned to paint Héloïse's (Adele Haenel) wedding portrait without her knowing, which is complicated as the women become closer. The film was nominated for Best Motion Picture—Foreign Language at the 2020 Golden Globes. (121 min.)

—Glen

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Matinee

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

Pick

click to enlarge THE BLUE BLUR Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) is being pursued by an evil genius that wants to steal his powers, in the family adventure Sonic the Hedgehog. - PHOTO COURTESY OF PARAMOUNT PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Paramount Pictures
  • THE BLUE BLUR Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) is being pursued by an evil genius that wants to steal his powers, in the family adventure Sonic the Hedgehog.

Jeff Fowler directs this action adventure based on the Sega video game franchise about a super fast blue hedgehog from outer space. Settling into his life on Earth, our titular character (voiced by Ben Schwartz) must evade an evil genius, Dr. Ivo "Eggman" Robotnik (Jim Carrey), a government-hired baddie who wants to experiment on Sonic and steal his powers.

Growing up with Nintendo consoles, my brief encounters with Sega's tent pole creation were always either over at a friend's or neighbor's house or in the lobby of my dentist's office—nothing like a little platforming before plaque reforming, am I right? Still, I felt a bit nostalgic watching Sonic the Hedgehog, not so much toward the games but 1990s video gaming in general. What the film has in common with its source material is a sense of careless fun. The cartoonish plot might feel like an extended Tom and Jerry episode, but it knows what it is, and doesn't pretend not to be anything deeper than that. It's a game of cat-and-mouse, with Robotnik hunting down Sonic across the country—did I mention it's technically a road trip comedy too?

The adventure begins in Green Hills, Montana, where Sonic has been living in seclusion for the last 10 years (trained on his home planet to hide his powers). But he just can't help himself, and a Big Foot-esque myth spreads among the locals who catch tiny glimpses of him speeding around town: The Blue Blur, they call him. One evening, Sonic's super speed reaches an unprecedented level and causes an electromagnetic pulse that blacks out the entire Pacific Northwest. This of course attracts the government's attention, and Robotnik is brought in as a bounty hunter of sorts.

Using drones and other gadgets, the mad scientist is able to track down the source of the blackout (or should I say "blue-out?"). Usually, in situations like this, Sonic would be able to use his "rings," which can open portals to other planets, to escape. Unfortunately his bag of McGuffins—I mean, rings—becomes misplaced after the local sheriff, Tom Wachowski (James Marsden), mistakes Sonic for the notorious raccoon raiding his garbage and shoots him with a bear tranquilizer—courtesy of his veterinarian wife, Maddie (Tika Sumpter).

Thus begins Sonic's journey, joined by Tom, who he's convinced to help him to recover the rings, all while evading Robotnik, who he nicknames "Eggman" based on his egg-shaped drones. And speaking of which, Carrey is absolutely egg-cellent in the role, and is sure to please fans of his more manic characters earlier in his career, like Ace Ventura and The Mask. Just hit me with another dose of '90s nostalgia why don't ya? (99 min.)

—Caleb

UNDERWATER

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Rent it

Where's it showing? Sunset Drive-In

William Eubank (Love, The Signal) directs this sci-fi horror drama about an aquatic research crew—including Norah Price (Kristen Stewart), Captain (Vincent Cassel), Paul (T.J. Miller), and others—trying to escape the ramifications of an earthquake on their subterranean laboratory.

Stylish direction and good acting helps, but this claustrophobic story is so derivative that you'll feel like you've seen it all before. Of course, if you don't mind the familiarity, you might think this lean bit of sci-fi horror is worth a matinee. (95 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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