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Film Listings, 6/6/19 – 6/13/19 

ALADDIN

click to enlarge BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR Street urchin Aladdin (Mena Massoud, left) discovers a magic genie (Will Smith) in a lamp, in a new-live action remake of Disney's animated classic, Aladdin. - PHOTO COURTESY OF WALT DISNEY PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Walt Disney Pictures
  • BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR Street urchin Aladdin (Mena Massoud, left) discovers a magic genie (Will Smith) in a lamp, in a new-live action remake of Disney's animated classic, Aladdin.

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Full price

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

Pick

Co-writer and director Guy Richie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword) helms this live-action remake of Disney's animated 1992 film of the same name. Mena Massoud takes on the title role as a kindhearted street urchin who dreams of winning the heart of Jasmine (Naomi Scott), a princess living a constricted life. Aladdin is ordered by Grand Vizier Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) to bring him a magical lamp, but Aladdin soon discovers the lamp, when rubbed, releases a genie (Will Smith), who grants the lamp bearer's wishes. Can Aladdin use the genie to stop Jafar's evil intentions and win the heart of his love?

I would be very interested to see this version of Aladdin one more time (probably an understatement) with someone who has never seen the original. This year's remake is by no means better than the 1992 film, but it's still a gem in its own right—or should I say a diamond in the rough? But I'm curious if there are any huge faults I'm ignoring because my brain is subconsciously filling in those blanks with plot details from the original film. I need an outsider's perspective! Who out there hasn't seen the animated film? Putting a Craigslist ad out tonight: Seeking someone who had a terrible childhood.

If you peek at the film's reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, you'll notice how polarizing reactions to Aladdin have been—with a critics' score of 58 percent versus an audience score of 94 percent. I'm happy (and darn proud) to say I'm with the latter crowd. There's nothing glaringly bad about Aladdin I can think of—and believe me, I've tried. But please, don't go in expecting Will Smith's take as the genie to top Robin Williams' unmatchable performance. Smith does his own thing. It's nowhere near Williams' level, but it's enjoyable enough. The overall vibe reminded me a lot of Hitch, where Smith played a dating coach who mentors a bumbling client (Kevin James) into winning someone's heart.

Massoud has great chemistry with both Smith and Scott, but now I can't help imagining James in the Aladdin role. Aladdin Blart: Mall Cop? Quick, I need a lamp. I have a wish. (128 min.)

—Caleb Wiseblood

ALL IS TRUE

click to enlarge REUNION When Shakespeare (Kenneth Branagh, right) returns to his wife, Anne (Judi Dench), after The Globe Theatre burns, he finds his retirement is complicated by family drama, in All Is True, opening this week at Galaxy Theater. - PHOTO COURTESY OF TKBC
  • Photo Courtesy Of TKBC
  • REUNION When Shakespeare (Kenneth Branagh, right) returns to his wife, Anne (Judi Dench), after The Globe Theatre burns, he finds his retirement is complicated by family drama, in All Is True, opening this week at Galaxy Theater.

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Galaxy

Pick

Kenneth Branagh (Henry V, Hamlet, Murder on the Orient Express) directs and stars as William Shakespeare stumbling into retirement and the last years of his life.

Ben Elton's screenplay is a witty and fictional take on a world-renowned poet and playwright whose private life was and is still a mystery.

The story begins at what seems like an end for Shakespeare. In June of 1613, London's Globe Theater burns down to the ground and, with it, Shakespeare's creativity. The loss resulted in Shakespeare's writer's block and his hasty decision to move back home to Stratford-upon-Avon to retire, vowing never to write again. But of course the peaceful retirement that Shakespeare is hoping for isn't what he gets when he returns to a family—a wife and two daughters—he'd basically abandoned for his career.

However, the story lines go far beyond the family that awaited his return and longed for his affection. While Shakespeare was away living his best life, his son Hamnet (Sam Ellis) died suddenly at a young age, leaving behind his twin, Judith (Kathryn Wilder), and sister, Susanna (Lydia Wilson). Lord only knows that Shakespeare is suffering, as daughters are only good for marrying off to be another man's property.

It's a hard truth that Judith throws in her father's face because she's single and nowhere near ready to mingle. In fact, she's pretty pissed off for a majority of the film because she believes Shakespeare is upset that the wrong twin died. His son should have lived and become a poet just like his father, but why can't Judith be a poet like her father?

There's also the weird dynamic with his wife, Anne (Judi Dench), whom he married when he was 18 and she was 26—scandalous. He's been away so long that Anne almost treats him like a guest who's overstayed his welcome. She also pushes him to grapple with how selfish he's been over the years by only thinking of his reputation and never about how his actions affected hers.

Then there's Susanna, who's married to some Puritan jerk who treats her poorly and doesn't really show her any affection. So what does Susanna do? Finds affection in the arms of another man.

The Shakespeare household is anything but boring as the family finds its way to making amends for all the resentment and secrets they've kept over the years.

Elton's tale of a man's last years on Earth dives into the dynamics of a family dealing with loss and regret, with a whole lot of wit. It's much more enjoyable than a straight biopic, as Elton and Branagh have respectfully imagined what their Shakespeare would have been like.

I'm usually not a huge fan of the director giving himself the leading role, but Branagh walks the fine line of balancing his character's screen time with everyone else's. In fact, I'd argue that Judith is a more powerful character than Shakespeare himself and has a bigger story to tell. In most of the scenes, Shakespeare seems a little small compared to his female counterparts. (101 min.)

—Karen Garcia

AVENGERS: ENDGAME

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre

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 11th film in the connected Marvel Universe series. (181 min.)

—Glen Starkey

THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM

click to enlarge SUSTAINABLE In the documentary, The Biggest Little Farm, we witness a couple attempt to farm a 200-acre plot of depleted land—planting orchards and crops and raising animals, like Emma the pig and her best friend, Greasy the rooster—screening exclusively at The Palm. - PHOTO COURTESY OF FARMLORE FILMS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Farmlore Films
  • SUSTAINABLE In the documentary, The Biggest Little Farm, we witness a couple attempt to farm a 200-acre plot of depleted land—planting orchards and crops and raising animals, like Emma the pig and her best friend, Greasy the rooster—screening exclusively at The Palm.

What's it rated? PG

Where's it showing? The Palm

New

Directed by John Chester, this documentary follows Chester, his wife Molly Chester, and the dog that got them evicted from their LA apartment—for excessive barking—over eight years as they attempt to create a sustainable farm on a 200-acre patch of depleted ground in Ventura County. They work to rehabilitate the soil, plant orchards and row crops, and raise a variety of animals including Emma the pig and her best friend, Greasy the rooster. Hoping to live in harmony with nature, they discover that nature isn't always interested in living in harmony with them. (91 min.)

—Glen

BOOKSMART

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Downtown Centre

Pick

In her feature-length directorial debut, actress Olivia Wilde helms this comedy about teenage besties Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein), who on the eve of their high school graduation realize they squandered their chance at fun by concentrating too much on being academic superstars. Can they cram four years of missed shenanigans into one night?

Think of Booksmart as a female version of Superbad, but with even more heart. Like Superbad's Evan (Michael Cera) and Seth (Jonah Hill), Amy and Molly (played by Hill's real-life sister Beanie Feldstein) are codependent high schoolers desperate for a good time before they move on to the next stage of their lives.

While Amy is leaving for a summer trip to Africa to teach Botswana women how to make tampons—yes, a lot of the comedy is lowbrow—Molly is heading to Yale, a goal she sought her entire high school career. When she discovers all the students around her who partied their way through school also got into good schools, she realizes Amy and she could have done both—had fun and studied.

The film is naturally filled with stereotypes that our heroines feel superior to, from popular jock Nick (Mason Gooding), who Molly has a secret crush on, to possibly-lesbian skater chick Ryan (Victoria Ruesga), who out-since-the-10th-grade Amy definitely has a crush on. There's also pretentious theater geek George (Noah Galvin); desperate-for-attention rich goofball Jared (Skyler Gisondo) and the rich girl he fawns over, Gigi (Billie Lorde); the girl with a slut reputation known as Triple A (for her roadside assistance, get it?); smoldering hot outsider Hope (Diana Silvers); and a few other high school tropes.

We see them trade jabs in class, snowplow over each other's feelings, and eventually culminate in an outrageous house party. If you aren't bothered by potty humor and a series of cringe-worthy interactions, there's a lot of fun to be had here, not to mention poignant moments illustrating the meaning of friendship and the ways we pigeonhole and make judgments about one another.

While the interaction between the kids is definitely the film's highlight, the "adults" in the film also up the humor. Amy's fawning parents, Charmaine (Lisa Kudrow) and Doug (Will Forte), are open to Amy's sexuality and vaguely think she and Molly are an item. They're even dorkier than their daughter in their lame attempts to be "cool."

Jessica Williams stars as Miss Fine, the girls' hot teacher who respects their studiousness even though the girls' peers see it as a mark of their loser status. Principle Brown (Jason Sudeikis) is clearly exasperated by Amy and Molly's relentless earnestness and just wants to get them out of school. He later serendipitously turns up as their Lyft driver, much to his shame, which was a nice little side comment on the substandard pay for teachers.

The film certainly gets better as it goes along, and its climax—at valedictorian Molly's graduation speech—and the film's denouement as the besties must finally go their separate ways, are both pure gold.

Yes, this is a dumb, low-brow comedy, but it's also a smart coming-of-age story, an insightful examination of high school dynamics, and a heartfelt story of friendship. It's worth a trip to the theater. Of course, you do have to witness a girl getting barfed on, so prepare yourself. (102 min.)

—Glen

BRIGHTBURN

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Rent it

Where's it showing? Stadium 10

Think of this as a sinister Superman. David Yarovesky (The Hive) directs this sci-fi horror thriller by screenwriters Brian and Mark Gunn (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island) about an alien child (Jackson A. Dunn), who crash lands on Earth, is taken in by a human couple—Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle Breyer (David Denman)—and grows up not to be the savior of mankind but its nemesis.

The subversive superhero premise doesn't quite live up to its potential, but the film has some interesting moments as it mixes slasher/horror tropes with sci-fi, coming of age, and villain origin story. Perhaps the most interesting element is the maternal desperation Tori has to believe her adopted son, who she named Brandon, is inherently good. After all, she raised him from an infant.

When he turns 12, things turn darker as he develops an interest in nude females and human organs. Kyle is much quicker than his wife to tune into Brandon's dark side. Add to Brandon's mood swings the fact that he's apparently invulnerable, and you have a set-up for a gory showdown.

If you're a fan of inky black sci-fi and realistic gore, this may be worth a trip to the theater, but otherwise, wait for Redbox. (91 min.)

—Glen

A DOG'S JOURNEY

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Matinee

Where's it showing? Sunset Drive-In

Gail Mancuso directs W. Bruce Cameron's adventure dramedy about a dog (voiced by Josh Gad) who finds his life's meaning through the humans he meets, such as Ethan (Dennis Quaid), CJ (Kathryn Prescott), and Hannah (Marg Helgenberger).

Yes, this is sentimental and manipulative as heck, but it's also sweet as can be. It's not going to win any awards or curry much favor with haughty film critics, but for openhearted audiences, this film will fill those hearts with all the feels. (108 min.)

—Glen

DARK PHOENIX

click to enlarge BURN, BABY, BURN In the new X-Men film, Dark Phoenix, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) develops overwhelming powers that threaten humanity. - PHOTO COURTESY OF 20TH CENTURY FOX FILM CORPORATION
  • Photo Courtesy Of 20th Century Fox Film Corporation
  • BURN, BABY, BURN In the new X-Men film, Dark Phoenix, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) develops overwhelming powers that threaten humanity.

What's it rated? PG-13

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

New

Simon Kinberg directs this X-men sci-fi adventure about Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), who develops overwhelming powers that threaten humanity. Where do her fellow X-Men's allegiances lie, with Jean or mankind? (113 min.)

—Glen

GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS

click to enlarge MONSTER MESS A whole slew of monsters—Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah—battles for supremacy on Earth, in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which has some amazing battle scenes but a silly story. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF WARNER BROS.
  • Photos Courtesy Of Warner Bros.
  • MONSTER MESS A whole slew of monsters—Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah—battles for supremacy on Earth, in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which has some amazing battle scenes but a silly story.

What's it rated? PG-13

What's it worth? Stream it

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

Monarch, a cryptozoological agency, tries to deal with the emergence of monsters—Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah—who are battling for supremacy on Earth. The sequel to 2014's Godzilla is co-written and directed by Michael Dougherty (Krampus, Trick 'r Treat).

If all you want out of a movie is some awesome CGI Kaiju battles, King of the Monsters might do the trick, but all the "story" surrounding the said battles is a mess. Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) is a paleobiologist working for Monarch. She and her daughter, Madison (Millie Bobby Brown), witness the birth of Mothra and are promptly kidnapped by eco-terrorists led by Colonel Alan Jonah (Charles Dance).

In a page torn from every wannabe blockbuster ever written, Monarch and doctors Ishiro¯ Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) approach Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler), Emma's ex-husband, to track down his family. What follows is Jonah trying to release more monsters and Mark trying to stop them.

There are a few switcheroos about who's a good guy and who isn't, but it's mostly a semi-coherent mess and an excuse for giant monsters to wages epic battles. Secret underwater cities, mythological texts, outer space aliens, a plan to revive Godzilla by letting him feed off of radiation from a nuclear bomb—you name it, this film's thrown it into the mix.

If you like this kind of stuff, you're in luck—the film tees up a sequel. Will Godzilla battle King Kong? Keep spending money on these films and it's guaranteed. (131 min.)

—Glen

HEAVY WATER—THE ACID DROP

click to enlarge EYE OF THE STORM The surf documentary, Heavy Water– The Acid Drop, screening June 13 in Downtown Centre Cinemas, chronicles the surf and skate lifestyle, and those who push the boundaries of what's possible. - PHOTO COURTESY OF FATHOM EVENTS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Fathom Events
  • EYE OF THE STORM The surf documentary, Heavy Water– The Acid Drop, screening June 13 in Downtown Centre Cinemas, chronicles the surf and skate lifestyle, and those who push the boundaries of what's possible.

What's it rated? Not rated

Where's it showing? Thursday, June 13, 7 p.m., in Downtown Centre Cinemas

New

Big wave surfer Nathan Fletcher traces his lineage back to his grandfather, one of the pioneers of Oahu's North Shore. Fletcher and other fellow surf and skateboard legends share insights from the pursuit of their passion—a voyage through the eyes of the surfing community that delves deep into the mindset of the board sports culture and its roots, culminating in a spectacular, never-before-performed stunt, which once again raises the bar of what is possible. This one-night-only event features a behind-the-scenes look at the making of The Acid Drop. (95 min.)

—Fathom Events

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3—PARABELLUM

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

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

Pick

Directed by Chad Stahelski (John Wick, John Wick: Chapter 2) and picking up mere hours after the second installment, this third in the series follows Wick's (Keanu Reeves) attempt to escape after a $14 million bounty is placed on his head for breaking an international assassins' guild rule and killing a member of the guild's upper order inside the off-limits Continental Hotel. Now every hit man and woman is after him. About the only killer tentatively on his side is Sofia (Halle Berry), who owes him a debt.

For sheer mayhem, it's hard to top the John Wick franchise. Sure, films like Smokin' Aces (2006) and Shoot 'Em Up (2007) have over-the-top gun violence, but compared to the John Wick films, they come off as cartoonish. And yes, films like Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior (2003) and The Raid: Redemption (2011) have comparable hand-to-hand combat scenes, but the fight choreography in the John Wick films is crazy good and features premiere Hollywood actors trained in the martial arts rather than martial artists trained as actors.

This third installment in the series has everything you've come to expect—amazing martial arts, knife, and sword fight scenes; close-quarters gunplay; vehicle (even horse) chases; and people who love their dogs more than anything.

Director Chad Stahelski was a martial artist first, martial arts instructor second, Hollywood stuntman third, and came to direction in 2014 with the first John Wick film. He knows how to create believable yet dazzling violence, and he ups the ante with some amazing settings, like a fight in what appears to be a knife museum, a horse stable using horses as weapons, an all-glass room, and a Casablanca compound with Berry's character Sofia and her two fierce Belgian Malinois dogs.

The story is a bit thin. It's basically an escape film followed by an attack film, but if you like fantasy violence, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better franchise, and this may be the best film of the three.

Perhaps the hardest element for my disbelief to overcome is the crazy-kooky world of the international assassins' guild with exclusive assassin-friendly Continental Hotels in major cities and elaborate rules set by the High Table regarding blood pacts and markers and who's allowed to kill whom and where. It's an attempt to bring some semblance of honor to the proceedings. Even after Wick is made excommunicado, he's still able to call in his marker with The Director (Angelica Huston), who runs a Belarusian ballet and wrestling school, where Wick was apparently trained.

There are also questions of loyalty between New York Continental Hotel manager Winston (Ian McShane) and his concierge Charon (Lance Reddick), who allowed Wick an hour's head start and are now under scrutiny by The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon), who the High Table sent to mete out justice.

The Adjudicator also visits The Director and the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), the latter of whom runs a group of "homeless" street thugs and whom she also deems guilty of helping Wick by not killing him on sight when he had the chance.

The High Table's assassin is Zero (Mark Dacascos), a samurai-esque martial arts master with a legion of ninja-like students. Part of the story's humor is Zero's fawning flattery of Wick, who's regarded as the best assassin. Zero desperately wants Wick's approval, even though he's trying to kill him.

All these competing factions are set-ups for the inevitable fourth installment, where director Stahelski will have to take another crack at topping the over-the-top action of the first three films. Can he do it? I, for one, will be in the audience to find out. (130 min.)

—Glen

MA

click to enlarge GET WEIRD A lonely woman (Octavia Spencer, seated center) meets some teens and lets them party in her basement, but she's soon taking advantage of them, in the horror-thriller, Ma. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BLUMHOUSE PRODUCTIONS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Blumhouse Productions
  • GET WEIRD A lonely woman (Octavia Spencer, seated center) meets some teens and lets them party in her basement, but she's soon taking advantage of them, in the horror-thriller, Ma.

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

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

Pick

Director Tate Taylor (The Help, Get on Up, The Girl on the Train) helms this psychological horror-thriller about a lonely veterinary technician, Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer), who befriends a group of teens outside a liquor store. She agrees to buy the group some booze, and later invites them over to party in her basement. Access to alcohol and a safe place to party seem like a dream come true for the kids at first, but the group begins to question Sue Ann's motivations after dark secrets of her past and present come to light.

The first teen we meet in the film is Maggie (Diana Silvers), a new girl in town. Maggie has just moved with her recently divorced mother, Erica (Juliette Lewis), back to the city where Erica grew up and went to high school. Maggie almost immediately meets new friends, including Andy (Corey Fogelmanis), who just happens to be the son of Ben (Luke Evans), one of her mother's former schoolmates (and best friends as flashbacks start to reveal). The coincidences don't stop there though, as further flashbacks reveal Sue Ellen was "friends" with their parents as well.

It sounds like I'm giving away too much already, but my rule of thumb is this: Anything in the trailer is up for grabs to talk about. I feel like Ma is being marketed two different ways, but neither angle is dishonest to the final product. On one hand, many aspects of Ma resemble a standard slasher where dumb kids get punished simply for being ... dumb kids. The film is of course much grayer than that, but overall, yeah, characters make some extremely poor decisions that inevitably lead to their dire predicaments. On the other hand, Ma is also a revenge thriller. Even if these characters weren't dumb, that wouldn't stop Sue Ellen from seeking retribution for ... well, the trailer doesn't spill the beans, so neither will I.

If there's one person to thank for why Ma works so well, it's Spencer. The writing has its ups and downs, but Spencer's unhinged performance as Sue Ann is engrossing from beginning to end. There isn't a dull moment when she's on screen, even when it's just a shot of her looking stuff up on her phone. What makes those scenes all the more terrifying is the fact that social media is the only tool Sue Ann needs to stalk her prey. The information she gathers on each teen and their parents was given away freely by these characters themselves, through Facebook and other apps. Move over Big Brother, Ma is watching. (99 min.)

—Caleb

POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU

What's it rated? PG

What's it worth? Stream it

Where's it showing? Galaxy, Stadium 10

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

ROCKETMAN

What's it rated? R

What's it worth? Full price

Where's it showing? Bay, Fair Oaks, Galaxy, The Palm, Park, Stadium 10

See Split Screen.

THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2

click to enlarge PET SOUNDS Max (voiced by Patton Oswalt) has a whole other life his owners don't know about, in The Secret Life of Pets 2. - PHOTO COURTESY OF UNIVERSAL PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Universal Pictures
  • PET SOUNDS Max (voiced by Patton Oswalt) has a whole other life his owners don't know about, in The Secret Life of Pets 2.

What's it rated? PG

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

New

Co-directors Chris Renaud (Despicable Me) and Jonathan del Val helm this continuation of Max (voiced by Patton Oswalt) and his pet friends' stories of what they're lives are like after their humans leave the house. (86 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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