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Film Listings, 5/9/19 – 5/16/19 

APOLLO 11

click to enlarge TRIGONOMETRY FOR THE WIN The new documentary, Apollo 11, transports viewers back to those heady days in 1969 when NASA sent men, including Buzz Aldrin (left), to the moon for the first time, screening exclusively at The Palm. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CNN FILMS
  • Photo Courtesy Of CNN Films
  • TRIGONOMETRY FOR THE WIN The new documentary, Apollo 11, transports viewers back to those heady days in 1969 when NASA sent men, including Buzz Aldrin (left), to the moon for the first time, screening exclusively at The Palm.

What's it rated? G

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre

Pick

Todd Douglas Miller (Dinosaur 13) directs this documentary about the historic 1969 mission to land on the moon. Using archival footage, you'll witness Cmdr. Neil Armstrong and pilots Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins on their amazing eight-day mission to the moon and back.

I remember as a 7-year-old what a momentous occasion this was, and some of the footage herein was material I saw broadcast live on TV, but what's really amazing is the restored film footage captured by NASA cameramen. And yeah, they were mostly men ... women were few and far between, though we see astronauts' wives and kids, not to mention lots of bystanders camped out to watch the launch live. For '60s fashion fans, the film is a cornucopia of mock turtlenecks under V-neck sweaters, floral frocks, and crazy hairdos.

The film opens hours before countdown, and we see the astronauts being fitted in their suits, technicians working on a leaking valve, and monitors lined with men—and a couple women—keeping track of the various systems. Putting a man on the moon was a monumental undertaking, which First Man (2018), starring Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, did a terrific job of fictionalizing. In Apollo 11, we're watching the real thing, and it's just as gripping.

Director Miller allows the archival footage and newscaster narration to tell the story, but when the voiceover alludes to the psychological baggage each astronaut takes into a dangerous space mission with him, we see photos and home movies of their families and test flights that led up to penetrating space—all that came before and all that could be lost.

The documentary reminds viewers that the Vietnam War was raging and the Chappaquiddick incident occurred during the mission—two things competing for news time in an era of three networks. We were in the midst of the Cold War, and there's no overstating the sense of pride that flooded the nation. The display of elation from both the NASA workers and the throngs of onlookers, for instance a J.C. Penney parking lot full of campers watching the launch and touchdown, is astounding. It's also fun to see some of the celebrities who attended the launch, such as Johnny Carson and George C. Scott.

President Nixon and Secretary of State Kissinger are both on the U.S.S. Hornet when the astronauts are recovered from the ocean. It was a big deal, and Apollo 11 delivers a gripping chronicle of this incredible American achievement.

It's rated G, but I should warn parents that young children may find the film boring. We had a loud 4-year-old behind us who wouldn't be quiet and thought the best part of the film was anytime there was a countdown so he could show off his counting skills. I know you want your kids to see this, and they should, but wait for the DVD and show it to them at home when you can answer their questions without having to annoy an entire theater. This is too good to be distracted from. (93 min.)

—Glen Starkey

ARETHA FRANKLIN: AMAZING GRACE

What's it rated? G

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? The Palm

Pick

A

click to enlarge CALL AND RESPONSE Aretha Franklin teams up with the Southern California Community Choir to record Amazing Grace, her 1972 gospel album. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF 40 ACRES & A MULE FILMWORKS
  • Photos Courtesy Of 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks
  • CALL AND RESPONSE Aretha Franklin teams up with the Southern California Community Choir to record Amazing Grace, her 1972 gospel album.

lan Elliott and Sydney Pollack co-direct this documentary about soul singer Aretha Franklin with the choir at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles, in January of 1972.

There are a lot of amazing elements to this documentary. The fact that Sydney Pollack (This Property Is Condemned, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, Jeremiah Johnson, Three Days of the Condor, Tootsie, Out of Africa, The Firm) directed the 1972 filming and is now given co-direction credit 11 years after his death is pretty amazing. The fact that this footage languished for 47 years before seeing the light of day is pretty amazing. I should also mention it's a pretty rough edit, and there are a lot of moments where the camera operators struggle to get into focus.

None of that matters because the most amazing element of all is Aretha's voice. She was 29 years old, and she'd had a string of popular R&B hits such as "I Say a Little Prayer," "A Natural Woman," "Respect," Chain of Fools," "Think," "Do Right Woman—Do Right Man," and many more, but she decided to return to her gospel roots in performances filmed over two days. The concerts' live recordings yielded Amazing Grace, the best selling gospel album of all time.

Watching her work with Rev. James Cleveland, a great gospel singer in his own right, the incredible music director Alexander Hamilton, the Southern California Community Choir, and members of her own band is mind-blowing. The concerts had an improvised, organic feel to them, similar to the call and response gospel sounds of black churches all over America. The difference is Aretha's supple, nuanced, thrilling voice. It doesn't matter if you're religious or not, watching this film will fill you with the spirit.

The close-ups on Aretha's perspiring face, her eyes closed in solemn prayer, a serene Buddha-like glow of the divine all around her—you know you're witnessing a kind of magic, a kind of mass hysteria, a kind of miracle. It's also fun when the camera catches The Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger in the back of the room on the second night. Obviously word got out after the first night, and Jagger had to see for himself.

Everyone in that room hung on every note.

I watched the film the day before Easter, and it's all the church I need. Simply amazing! (89 min.)

—Glen

AVENGERS: ENDGAME

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Full price

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

Pick

Anthony and Joe Russo (Captain America: Civil War) co-direct this follow-up to their 2018 film Avengers: Infinity War, which resulted in Thanos turning half the universe's population into dust. The remaining Avengers reassemble and work to undo Thanos' destructive act and restore the universe. It's the eleventh film in the connected Marvel Universe series.

This direct sequel to the events of Infinity War opens with Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), aka Hawkeye, enjoying a picnic with his family on their rural property. He helps his daughter with her archery skills, and as he turns back from responding to his wife's call of lunchtime, the girl is gone ... vanished. When he turns back to his wife and sons, they too have disappeared. It's an emotionally resonant reminder of the stunning loss the survivors of Thanos' act experienced.

This scene is followed by other scenes introducing the various main characters and reminding viewers of their loss. This turns out to be both the film's strength and weakness. It's got a surprising emotion heft for a superhero flick but it's also overlong and repetitive as we explore in detail the dozens of characters, their relationships and connections, their losses and reaction to those losses, and their eventual reunification and renewed fight to reverse what Thanos wrought.

As I wrote in my review of Infinity War, Thanos' act felt like a stunt. Too many of the characters who disappeared had already scheduled films and sequels coming up. It didn't feel final, and of course it wasn't because ... wait for it ... time travel! If that's a spoiler to you, you're obviously not a fan of the Marvel Universe because those who are know that Thanos' destructive act cannot stand.

Lucky for everybody, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), aka Iron Man, is wicked smart and figures out how to go back in time. The film unfolds as Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), aka Captain America; Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), aka The Hulk; Thor (Chris Hemsworth); Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), aka Black Widow; Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper); and Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), aka Ant Man, all team up to get the Infinity Stones before Thanos has time to wipe out half the universe with them.

Even though I think the filmmakers could have cut 30 minutes and had a better film, this is still kickass!

Historically, the comic book realm has always been a boys' world. In the past, even the female superheroes seemed more designed to appeal to boys rather than girls—have you noticed, for instance, that most female superheroes dress like a PG-13-rated pole dancer or dominatrix? However, both Marvel and DC seem to be trying to evolve, not just on gender issues but other social issues. For instance, when Steve Rogers attends a survivors group therapy session, one of the male members casually mentions his gay relationship and nothing's made of it. It's accepted as normal. During the pitched final battle, it's a group of female superheroes who convene to take a stand while their male co-parts wage individual battles. Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), aka Captain Marvel, is the desperately needed tiebreaker in the final fight to the death. These moments are signs that the times they are a-changin', and it's a welcome change.

That said, don't leave reading this review with the idea that everything's going to turn out perfectly for our heroes. The film has the good sense to make at least some of its stakes real, so prepare yourself for some losses. Also keep in mind, prequels are a thing, so I have no doubt that if your favorite hero meets her (or his) final demise, Marvel will find a way toward resurrection. This film is proof positive that anything, even time travel, is possible. Taking in consideration the spectacle on screen, this film is worth paying full price! (181 min.)

—Glen

BREAKTHROUGH

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Matinee

Where's it showing? Stadium 10

Pick

Roxann Dawson directs this biographical drama about Guatemalan teenager John Smith (Marcel Ruiz), who in early 2015, while playing with friends, fell through the ice on Lake St. Louis, drowned, and was rescued by first responder Tommy Shine (Mike Colter), and CPR was performed for 27 minutes. On the brink of death and in a coma, John's religiously devout parents, Joyce (Chrissy Metz) and Brian (Josh Lucas), along with local pastor Jason Noble (Topher Grace), pray for the boy's recovery.

Essentially a sermon, the film will absolutely thrill the faithful, but unlike a lot of faith-based films, it also features a compelling true story and terrific performances that even non-Christians can enjoy. (116 min.)

—Glen

THE HUSTLE

click to enlarge TEAMWORK Mismatched female scam artists—classy Josephine (Anne Hathaway, left) and low-rent Lonnie (Rebel Wilson)—team up to take down the men who wronged them, in The Hustle. - PHOTO COURTESY OF METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER
  • Photo Courtesy Of Metro-goldwyn-mayer
  • TEAMWORK Mismatched female scam artists—classy Josephine (Anne Hathaway, left) and low-rent Lonnie (Rebel Wilson)—team up to take down the men who wronged them, in The Hustle.

What's it rated? PG-13

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

New

Chris Addison (Veep) directs this comedy about two mismatched female scam artists—classy Josephine (Anne Hathaway) and low-rent Lonnie (Rebel Wilson)—who team up to take down the men who wronged them. (94 min.)

—Glen

THE INTRUDER

click to enlarge UNHINGED Dennis Quaid turns in a lively performance as Charlie Peck, a man who menaces the new owners of his property, in the otherwise derivative thriller The Intruder. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SCREEN GEMS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Screen Gems
  • UNHINGED Dennis Quaid turns in a lively performance as Charlie Peck, a man who menaces the new owners of his property, in the otherwise derivative thriller The Intruder.

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Stream it

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

Deon Taylor (The Hustle, Chain Letter, Traffik) directs this thriller about a young couple—Annie (Meagan Good) and Scott Russell (Michael Ealy)—who buy a house with acreage from Charlie Peck (Dennis Quaid), only to discover he refuses to leave them and his former property alone.

Quaid's unhinged performance is a bit of fun, but the ridiculous and contrived plot is derivative and predictable, and the Russells are so clueless they almost deserve what they get. Stream it if you're a fan of retreaded thrillers; ignore it if not. (102 min.)

—Glen

LONG SHOT

click to enlarge PARTY Frumpy journalist Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen, left), reunites with his first crush—beautiful, ambitious, but lonely presidential hopeful Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron)—who hires him as her speechwriter, in Long Shot. - PHOTO COURTESY OF DENVER AND DELILAH PRODUCTIONS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Denver And Delilah Productions
  • PARTY Frumpy journalist Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen, left), reunites with his first crush—beautiful, ambitious, but lonely presidential hopeful Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron)—who hires him as her speechwriter, in Long Shot.

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Matinee

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

Pick

Jonathan Levine (The Night Before, Warm Bodies, The Wackness) directs this rom-com about stubborn, downtrodden journalist Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen), who reunites his first crush, beautiful, ambitious, but lonely presidential hopeful, Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron). Full of good laughs throughout, with fun chemistry between our unlikely pairing of Rogen and Theron, Long Shot is definitely worth a watch but doesn't rise to any levels of elite comedy or filmmaking.

Flarsky has just quit his job as a muckraker for a Brooklyn news outfit out of moral principle, after a media conglomerate buys it out. In his better-off buddy Lance's (O'Shea Jackson Jr.) attempt to cheer him up at a schmoozy concert, Fred runs into Charlotte, who's the U.S. secretary of state, a 2020 presidential hopeful, and, of course, Fred's babysitter when he was little. Charlotte, both elegant and "presidential" but at heart laid back and unpretentious, recognizes Fred and the two meet.

As Charlotte plans her run for president, she decides, against everyone's better advice, to hire the brash and unemployed Fred as a speechwriter. A romantic rollercoaster ride ensues as Secretary Field takes off with Fred and the team on an international tour to gain support for her ambitious global climate legislation.

Levin tries to walk a fine line of mixing silly comedy with political story and so often veers into the land of the absurd. At one point, Theron is literally high on ecstasy while she tries to resolve a sudden international hostage crisis. To Long Shot's credit, Rogen and Theron convince us with good writing and chemistry that they're right for each other, to the dismay of her key campaign staffer, Maggie (a funny June Diane Raphael), who tries (and usually fails) to keep Charlotte focused on her presidential bid.

Can Charlotte and Fred make it against all odds? That's the tension throughout the film and what keeps us in our seats. What nearly got me out of mine was Theron's character, whose political ambitions I found pretty unconvincing. Still, if you just go for the laughs and to see how the hell Rogen could pair with Theron, Long Shot will thoroughly entertain. Underlying the action are timely themes of sexism, media degradation, and whether authenticity can win in politics. (125 min.)

—Peter Johnson

THE MUSTANG

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? The Palm

Pick

Co-writer/director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre helms this drama about violent convict Roman Coleman (Matthias Schoenaerts), who's given a shot at rehabilitation via a therapy program involving wild mustangs.

Twelve years ago, Roman left his domestic partner brain damaged in an attack. He's well aware of his shortcomings and doesn't believe he's fit for reintegration into society, but that changes when he's placed in a rehabilitation program run by Myles (Bruce Dern), a rancher who assigns prisoners a specific wild mustang to train.

Predictably, things don't go well initially, but soon, another inmate with a way with horses, Henry (Jason Mitchell ), helps Roman, who learns as much from his horse as the horse learns from him.

There are some unexpected twists in turns in this well-worn redemption genre, and terrific performances by Schoenaerts and Dern breathe fresh life into it. It also features an ending you won't see coming and won't soon forget. (96 min.)

—Glen

POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU

click to enlarge ADORABLE DETECTIVE Detective Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) searches for his old Pokémon partner after he goes missing, in Pokémon Detective Pikachu. - PHOTO COURTESY OF LEGENDARY ENTERTAINMENT
  • Photo Courtesy Of Legendary Entertainment
  • ADORABLE DETECTIVE Detective Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) searches for his old Pokémon partner after he goes missing, in Pokémon Detective Pikachu.

What's it rated? PG

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

New

Rob Letterman (Shark Tale, Monsters vs. Aliens, Gulliver's Travels) directs this adventure comedy about Detective Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), who comes to the aid of 21-year-old Tim Goodman (Justice Smith), whose detective dad, Harry, goes missing. It turns out Pikachu and Harry were former Pokémon partners, and even more amazing, only Tim can understand what Pikachu is saying. (104 min.)

—Glen

POMS

click to enlarge BRING IT! Diane Keaton stars as Martha, who recruits women from her retirement community to mount a cheerleading team, in Poms. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ROSE PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Rose Pictures
  • BRING IT! Diane Keaton stars as Martha, who recruits women from her retirement community to mount a cheerleading team, in Poms.

What's it rated? PG-13

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

New

Zara Hayes (The Legend of Billy Jean: Battle of the Sexes) directs this comedy starring Diane Keaton, Jacki Weaver, Pam Grier, and Rhea Perlman as a quartet of women who start a cheerleading squad at their retirement community. (91 min.)

—Glen

TOLKIEN

click to enlarge BECOMING J.R.R. Nicholas Hoult stars as the fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien in Tolkien, a biographical drama about his formative years, when the orphan finds fellowship with other outcasts at school. - PHOTO COURTESY OF FOX SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Fox Searchlight Pictures
  • BECOMING J.R.R. Nicholas Hoult stars as the fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien in Tolkien, a biographical drama about his formative years, when the orphan finds fellowship with other outcasts at school.

What's it rated? PG-13

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

New

Dome Karukoski (Tom of Finland, Lapland Odyssey) directs this biographical drama about author J.R.R. Tolkien's (Nicholas Hoult) formative years, when the orphan finds fellowship with other outcasts at school, in particular Edith Bratt (Lily Collins) and R.Q. Gilson (Patrick Gibson). (112 min.)

—Glen

UGLYDOLLS

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Stream it

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

Kelly Asbury (Shrek 2, Gnomeo & Juliet) directs this animated adventure comedy about a group of free-spirited UglyDolls, who struggle with being different and their desire for affection and self-acceptance.

If you're 7 years old and haven't seen many movies, you might be fooled into thinking there's something original going on in UglyDolls. Everyone else is going to smell the formulaic, derivative, hucksterism of a film trying to sell plushy toys. (87 min.)

—Glen

WILD NIGHTS WITH EMILY

click to enlarge HOPE IS THE THING WITH FEATHERS Molly Shannon (foreground) stars as poet Emily Dickenson in Wild Nights with Emily, which explores her irreverent side and lifelong lesbian relationship with her sister-in-law, Susan Dickinson (Susan Ziegler). - PHOTO COURTESY OF P2 FILMS
  • Photo Courtesy Of P2 Films
  • HOPE IS THE THING WITH FEATHERS Molly Shannon (foreground) stars as poet Emily Dickenson in Wild Nights with Emily, which explores her irreverent side and lifelong lesbian relationship with her sister-in-law, Susan Dickinson (Susan Ziegler).

What's it rated? Not rated

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? The Palm

Pick

Writer-director Madeleine Olnek (Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same, The Foxy Merkins) helms this historical comedy about poet Emily Dickinson (Molly Shannon), her irreverent side, and her romantic relationship with sister-in-law Susan Dickinson (Susan Ziegler), dispelling the common understanding that she was an unloved recluse.

The film manages to be both silly and respectful, and it's clear that Olnek loves Dickinson's work but not the way she's been historically depicted. Here Shannon shines as a quirky incarnation of a supposedly reclusive poet. It's an entertaining reimagining. (84 min.) Δ

—Glen

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

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