The rating system: ☆☆☆☆, excellent; ☆☆☆, good; ☆☆, so-so; ☆, poor; zero stars, terrible. Unless noted otherwise, reviews are by Bee critic Rick Bentley. Check movie times: http://calendar.fresnobee.com/
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15th Annual Armenian Film Festival: The Armenia Studies Program and Armenian Students Organization will host this free event at the Industrial Technology Building, Room 101, Fresno State. It runs 7-9:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17. “SaroyanLand” will be screened.
A Cure for Wellness: A wellness center is using treatments that are not what they seem to be.
Everybody Loves Somebody: Woman who seems to have it all struggles with her love life. Karla Souza stars.
Fist Fight: Two teachers are scheduled to settle a dispute after school.
The Great Wall: Mystery behind the building of the Great Wall of China is revealed. Matt Damon stars. See the review at fresnobee.com.
Assassin’s Creed: Search for meaning in memories of ancestors leads to special skills. Based on the popular video game. Not reviewed.
Doctor Strange (☆☆☆☆): Egotistical surgeon finds new mystical powers. Benedict Cumberbatch stars. Cumberbatch brings a seriousness to the role that helps bridge the skepticism gap created with any feature film based on a comic book. His reverent approach to playing the role makes it easy to accept the character, both as a self-centered man of medicine and as a manipulator of magic. Rated PG-13 (comic book violence). 130 minutes.
A Dog’s Purpose (☆ 1/2): Dog brings joy to numerous families through his multiple existences. The purpose of a dog, according to “A Dog’s Purpose,” is to be a tool for manipulating emotional responses through repeated cloying death scenes. What starts out as a celebration of canines ends up being one of the saddest and most contrived movies in decades. Rated PG (thematic elements). 100 minutes.
Fifty Shades Darker: Unique relationship between a man and woman continues. Not reviewed.
Hidden Figures (☆☆☆☆) Three black woman prove to be valuable additions to America’s race for space. The film continues the hot Hollywood trend of basing feature films on real stories. It’s a tale of incredible courage and determination that has such a powerful message about the pure absurdity of racism that this movie should be mandatory viewing for every man, woman and child. Rated PG (thematic elements, language). 127 minutes.
John Wick: Chapter 2 (☆☆☆): Wick is forced to come out of retirement. Keanu Reeves stars. “John Wick: Chapter 2” would make a perfect video game. The sequel to the 2014 action film starring Reeves has a plot that can be written on a fortune cookie: Former killer forced out of retirement becomes a target. There are a few mentions of Wick’s pain over losing the love of his life, his car and dog. None of that is important. Director Chad Stahelski, whose first directing job was “John Wick,” has opted to once again forgo plot and character development to leave more room for murder and mayhem. Rated R (violence, language, brief nudity). 122 minutes.
Jolly LLB 2: Struggling lawyer moves to the big city. Akshay Kumar stars. Not reviewed.
La La Land (☆☆☆) Actress and jazz musician find music in their lives. Emma Stone stars. The first three quarters of the film constitute a light romantic musical movie that’s slightly off the mark. As soon as Stone sings the showstopper “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” that’s when the movie becomes a brilliant mix of musical performance and visual storytelling. Stone delivers the tune – that summarizes the themes of the film brilliantly – with a power and passion that is nowhere to be found in the earlier numbers. Rated PG-13 (language). 128 minutes.
The Lego Batman Movie (☆☆☆): Caped crime fighter saves the city one brick at a time. The Lego people are back at work and have bricked together “The Lego Batman Movie.” That’s not a shock since Batman (voiced with gravely distinction by Will Arnett) was a scene stealer in the 2014 production. But stealing scenes and being in every frame are different. While “The Lego Batman Movie” is fun, visually stunning and a memory trip for Batman fans, it is less awesome because it doesn’t have the same sweet core. Rated PG (rude humor, action). 105 minutes.
Moana (☆☆ 1/2 ) Future island queen goes on a quest across the ocean to save her people. The problem is the story is nowhere near as interesting as the animation. It’s slow-paced and the multiple attempts to explain the Polynesian tales that serve as the fabric of the story never make the plot clear. Rated PG (peril). 103 minutes.
Patriots Day (☆☆1/2): Events of the Boston Marathon bombings are followed. Director Peter Berg, who wrote the screenplay with Matt Cook and Joshua Zeturner, has meticulously recreated everything from the morning of the attack to the moments after the investigation wrapped. It's a very detailed telling of the story. But because the events were covered so thoroughly in the news media, this retelling offers nothing new. Yet, there was plenty new that could have been explored. Rated R (language, violence, drug use) 130 minutes.
Rings: Watching a video can be deadly. Not reviewed.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (☆☆☆ 1/2 ) A ragtag team goes on a mission to steal the plans for the Death Star. Felicity Jones stars. A task as big as building a Death Star fell to director Gareth Edwards to create the first of what is intended to be a series of standalone tales based on events in the “Star Wars” universe. If you ever wondered how Princess Leia got the plans to the Death Star and loaded them into R2-D2, this film fills in the backstory. PG-13 (peril. violence). 133 minutes.
Sing (☆☆☆) Musical competition held to save a theater. “Sing,” a toe-tapping film that’s “Zootopia” meets “American Idol,” is charming and entertaining as long as the music is playing. The quieter bits between the songs come across as being slightly out of rhythm. The good thing is that there are barely any moments when a gorilla, porcupine, pig or camel isn’t belting out a tune. Rated PG (rude humor, peril). 108 minutes.
Split: Man with multiple personalities kidnaps three young women. Not reviewed.
Trolls (☆☆ 1/2 ) Two trolls go on an adventure into new lands. The juvenile humor and dazzling use of color in “Trolls” makes it fancifully designed to entertain the young. There are a few elements – from the trippy psychedelic look to retro selection of music – that may lure adults, but those are not plentiful enough to give the film a broad, all-ages appeal. Rated PG (rude humor). 85 minutes.
Underworld: Blood Wars: Selene fights to end the eternal war. Not reviewed.
Why Him? (no stars): Father is upset his daughter wants to marry an outlandish billionaire. The name of the new film starring Bryan Cranston and James Franco is “Why Him?” A better question is “Why Us?” What horrific thing did members of the moviegoing public do to deserve such an unimaginative, excruciatingly vile and worthless comedy? Rated R (nudity, language, sexual material). 111 minutes.
xXx: The Return of Xander Cage: A government agent comes out of retirement. Not reviewed.
OPENING NEXT WEEK
Get Out: A weekend to meet the parents leaves a couple in a dangerous situation.
Rock Dog: Dog leaves home to fulfill dream of becoming a musician.
You’re Killing Me Susana: Narcissistic soap opera actor must deal with his wife leaving him. Gael Garcia Bernal stars.