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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Elvis & Nixon: The untold story of the meeting between the president and the King of Rock ‘n Roll. Michael Shannon stars.
Hologram for the King: Tom Hanks stars in this story of a failed businessman who travels to Saudi Arabia to save his company.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War: The war between rival queen sisters intensifies.
Miles Ahead: Don Cheadle stars in this look at the life of Miles Davis.
The 5th Wave: Young girl fights back from an alien invasion. Not reviewed.
10 Cloverfield Lane: Group goes underground to escape a major disaster. John Goodman stars. Not reviewed.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip: A misunderstanding leaves the Chipmunks worried about their future. Not reviewed.
Barbershop: The Next Cut (☆☆☆): Workers at the shop arrange a weekend ceasefire among local gangs. The script by Tracy Oliver and Kenya Barris is a strong balance of serious and funny that is accented by all of the comedians who love to improvise. It’s not a matter of the comedians trying to save the story, it’s just adding comedy accents along the way. Cedric the Entertainer continues to shine as the shop’s veteran employee, Eddie. Rated PG-13 (language, sexual situations). 112 minutes.
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (☆☆): Batman takes on Superman. Holy bloated muddled mess! The first 45 minutes of director Zack Snyder’s film is such a confusing menagerie of worn-out and worthless story points that only a well-staged battle and the appearance of a female savior keep this latest comic-book-inspired film from being the biggest failure in the genre. Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill and Gal Gadot star. Rated PG-13 (language, violence). 151 minutes.
The Boss ( 1/2 ): Business leader (Melissa McCarthy) is not greeted with open arms after a stint in prison. The film is about as funny as getting fired on your birthday. Not only is this movie devoid of any humor, it promotes both the forced labor and physical abuse of children. Try laughing at that. McCarthy has not shown the acting ability to pull off a role where she starts as an unlikable character but wins over the audience by the finale. All she manages to do is create an unlikable character who just gets more unlikable until the final credits mercifully roll. Rated R (language, sexual content, drug use). 99 minutes.
Criminal (☆1/2): Killer (Kevin Costner) gets the memories of a government agent. Costner ventures into “Silence of the Lambs” territory playing Jericho Stewart, a criminal with no moral compass. His violent ways are the aftermath of a childhood injury that affected the part of his brain that understands right from wrong. Costner’s portrayal of both the psychopath and the pseudo-psychopath is the most interesting thing in the movie. Rated R (violence, language). 113 minutes.
Daddy’s Home (☆ 1/2 ): Stepfather (Will Ferrell) battles with biological father (Mark Wahlberg) for the attention of two children. Will Ferrell again resorts to his over-the-top style. But there is no counterbalance from Wahlberg, who looks bored with the project. The result is a film that has a good heart but no strong humor. Rated PG (thematic elements). 96 minutes.
Deadpool (☆☆☆): Superhero with an attitude starring Ryan Reynolds. Deadpool is a foul-mouthed jerk who would rather put a bullet in a bad guy’s head than take him off to jail. He loves to talk about sex, violence, sex, sex, sex and more sex. And, just like he does in the comics, Deadpool has no problem breaking the fourth wall. Rated R (violence, sexual content, language, drug use). 117 minutes.
Demolition (☆☆ 1/2 ): Man (Jake Gyllenhaal) tries to deal with life after the death of his wife. The contrived and corny ending is so overly sweet it would have been a mistake even in a Katherine Heigl romantic comedy. The movie’s dark heart deserved a much more biting and abrasive ending. Rated R (language, drug use, disturbing behavior). 100 minutes.
The Divergent Series: Allegiant (☆☆): Tris and Four face a new world, far more dangerous than ever before. Even the big finale comes across as the best of a long list of bad ideas. All of this is a product of the decision to extend this franchise into a fourth film. That can work if the material is strong enough, such as in the “Harry Potter” series. But “Allegiant” suffers the same problems as the expanded “Twilight” and “Hunger Games” movies: Stretching thin material only exposes the flaws. Rated PG-13 (violence, partial nudity). 139 minutes.
Eye in the Sky (☆☆☆): Military officer in command of drone operation must stop a suicide mission. Helen Mirren stars as does Alan Rickman in one of his two final roles. The film is disturbing, but it’s also balanced. Rated R (violent images, language). 102 minutes. (Molly Eichel, Philadelphia Inquirer)
Fan: All fans has a deep connection to their hero. Not reviewed.
God’s Not Dead 2: Teacher (Melissa Joan Hart) faces court battle after answering a question about Jesus in class. Not reviewed.
Gods of Egypt ( 1/2 ): “Gods of Egypt” looks at the battle between Set (Gerard Butler) and Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) to be the king of Egypt. Their battle is staged with such clunky special effects, hackneyed dialogue and amateurish acting that instead of being a battle royal, it’s purely “Ra”-tten. Rated PG-13 (violence, language). 127 minutes.
Hardcore Henry (☆☆): Action story as seen through the point of view of the hero. This movie is so much like a first-person shooter video game that a joystick should come with every ticket. The entire movie was shot using a GoPro camera fastened in front of the face of the actor. That means every scene is from the hero’s point of view, whether it be a gun battle in the streets, a fight with a tank in the woods, a bloody conflict in a brothel or one of the other countless excessive scenes of death and destruction. Rated R (violence, language, nudity, drug use). 90 minutes.
Hello, My Name Is Doris (☆☆☆): An older woman (Sally Field) falls for a younger man. In less talented hands, “Hello, My Name Is Doris” could have ended up badly. But the combination of Field’s acting skills and her natural charm elevates this production to a sweet, quirky and endearing tale. Rated R (language). 95 minutes.
How To Be Single (☆☆☆): Four women deal with life in the dating world. Dakota Johnson stars. “How To Be Single” actually is a smart, fun and sweet movie. Despite an all-female starring cast, it delivers its comments about relationships in such a full and inclusive manner that men will be pulled into the intertwined stories. Rated R (sexual content, language).
The Jungle Book (☆☆☆1/2): Young boy survives in the jungle with a little help from his animal friends. Director Jon Favreau, who showed with “Iron Man” his skill at handling movies with heavy special effects, uses a blend of the original writings with the whimsy of the Disney 1967 animated classic and the realism of the 1994 version starring Jason Scott Lee. It’s the way all of these bits and pieces are presented that makes this movie the new king of the jungle movies. Rated PG (scary images). 111 minutes.
London Has Fallen (☆☆☆ 1/2 ): Plot to kill world leaders leaves London in ruins. Gerard Butler stars. If there were a hall of fame for action movie heroes, Butler would make a strong case with “London Has Fallen.” He has the wicked wit of Bruce Willis, the grit of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the mumbled dialogue delivery of Sylvester Stallone. Aaron Eckhardt reprises his role as the president. Rated R (violence, language). 100 minutes.
Meet the Blacks: Family leaves Chicago in search of better life. Mike Epps stars. Not reviewed.
Midnight Special: Father discovers his son has special powers. Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton and Kirsten Dunst star. Not reviewed.
Miracles From Heaven (☆☆☆): 10-year-old is cured of a chronic illness after surviving an accident. The approach for “Miracles From Heaven” leaves the movie less a sermon and more a deeply moving story about family and faith. This gives the production a potentially broader appeal that should get it more attention than just from the choir. Rated PG (thematic material). 109 minutes.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (☆): It’s wedding bells again in the sequel to the romantic comedy hit. The film is an excruciating grind, just scene after scene of people creating disturbance over tiny matters. Rated PG-13. 94 minutes. (Nick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle)
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (☆☆☆ 1/2 ): Father trains his daughters to be able to fight the undead. It sounds as potentially appealing as caramel-covered sauerkraut or a bikini made of sandpaper. Yet, they do in “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” Not only do the genres co-exist, they manage to pump up each other to the point the film is both a sweet and endearing romance while also being a thoroughly entertaining action movie. Rated PG-13 (action scenes). 108 minutes.
The Revenant (☆☆☆): A foundation story of the American West starring Golden Globes winner Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Globes winner Alejandro Inarritu. The film features stunning performances by DiCaprio and Tom Hardy and fabulous visuals. It only begins to miss when Inarritu moves from the material to the mystical and tries to elevate an ugly story into a spiritual one. Rated R (intense, at times graphic, violence, including scenes involving animals). 156 minutes. (Manohla Dargis, New York Times).
Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens (☆☆☆☆): Han Solo and Gen. Leia are pulled into a new battle between light and dark forces. The strengths George Lucas brought to his films were the examination of family, the importance of friendship, the fight between good and evil, and the necessity of finding your own place in the galaxy. Abrams took those elements and presented them through a structure that combined characters from the 1977 offering with an entertaining and engaging group of new players. Rated PG-13 (peril, action scenes). 136 minutes.
Zootopia (☆☆☆): Fox and rabbit must work together to uncover a kidnapping conspiracy. When the new animated movie focuses on the critters, it’s a funny trip through the animal kingdom. What slows the ark (oops, make that arc) of the film is a crime story that’s in need of a few more monkeyshines. Rated PG (rude humor, scary images). 108 minutes.
NEXT WEEK’S OPENINGS
The Green Room: Punk rockers must face depraved club owner. Patrick Stewart stars.
Ratchet & Clank: Space hero and his robot companion must stop an evil force. Based on the popular video game.