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/
Never miss a local story.
Almost Christmas Estranged family must reunite for the holidays. Danny Glover stars.
Arrival Scientists and military scramble to unravel mystery behind alien crafts.
2016 Fresno Film Festival: Three-day event will include eight feature-length films.
Shut In Young boy a woman was treating goes missing. Naomi Watts stars.
The Accountant (☆)Ben Affleck plays a math savant who gets involved with a criminal element. Take a lifeless performance by Ben Affleck. Add an unimaginative script and confusing direction by Gavin O’Connor. The result for “The Accountant” is a movie where the math just doesn’t work. Rated R (language, violence). 128 minutes.
Bad Moms Mothers decide to put themselves first. Mila Kunis stars. The problem with “Bad Moms” isn’t the concept, or the message about the struggle to raise good people in the world – it’s the execution. (Katie Walsh, TNS)
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. It takes a confident actor to be able to slip into a superhero costume and make it look serious. Cumberbatch embraces the look as if he were starring in “Hamlet.” Rated PG-13 (comic book violence).130 minutes.
Finding Dory (☆☆☆1/2) The blue fish who helped Nemo goes on a trek to find her parents. The long-awaited follow-up to the 2003 release “Finding Nemo” has all the fun and charm of the original movie. In some ways – especially dealing with themes of friends and family –the sequel trumps the original. Rated PG (mild thematic elements).
Ghostbusters (1/2) Team is formed to stop the host of ghosts in the city. There’s something strange in the neighborhood, and it’s the way director-writer Paul Feig handled the reboot. Instead of taking the classic franchise and making it a unique product, he settles for a story that lacks originality. The only sparks of interest are the endless cameo appearances and references to the original film. Rated PG-13 (crude humor, action scenes). 105 minutes.
The Girl on the Train (☆☆): Woman who watches an ideal family during her commute becomes involved in a murder investigation. The film version of the popular book by Paula Hawkins doesn’t maintain any level of suspense. What is suppose to be a complicated murder mystery takes a rather linear approach. Emily Blunt does her best to give the movie an edge, but the thrill is never there. Rated R (violence, sexual content, language, nudity). 112 minutes. (Katie Walsh, TNS)
Hacksaw Ridge (☆☆☆1/2): Man who refuses to carry a gun into one of the bloodiest battles of World War II becomes a hero. Andrew Garfield stars. Playing a pacifist in such a deadly war zone is a tricky proposition. Garfield shows just the right of commitment to make the hardline stand feel real while allowing his emotions to occasionally bubble to the surface. Playing the role with too little commitment would have turned the character into a World War II version of Gomer Pyle. Rated R (violence, language). 139 minutes.
Hell or High Water (☆☆☆☆): Two men rob Texas banks to pay their mortgage. Chris Pine stars. The film, a modern-day twist on the Robin Hood approach to economic equality, rides superb writing, Oscar-caliber performances and a serious social message to such grandeur as to make it one of the best pictures of 2016. Although the theme could have been preachy, it manages to make a monumental statement with quiet reserve and compassion. Rated R (violence, language, brief sexuality). 102 minutes.
Inferno (☆☆) Only one man can figure out the clues to stop an event that could wipe out half the population. Tom Hanks stars. It would be easier to plot your way through Dante’s nine circles of hell than keep track of all the twists, tangles and tumbles in the plot of “Inferno.” The first two films based on Dan Brown’s creative writing were brilliant puzzles that took the viewer on an adventure. This third production is more of a misadventure. Rated PG-13 (disturbing images, violence, language). 121 minutes.
Jason Bourne (☆☆) The CIA’s most dangerous weapon is pulled back into the line of fire. Matt Damon stars. After the misfire that was “The Bourne Legacy, “ a misguided attempt to pass off the franchise to Jeremy Renner, Damon and director Paul Greengrass ably right the ship, delivering a Bourne film that looks and feels like the kind that we’ve always loved. (Katie Walsh, TNS)
Kubu and the Two Strings (☆☆☆) A young boy must use magic to save himself and his village. The latest visual feast served up by Laika is a blend of action and emotion set in a fantasy world of the Far East. Told through stunning backdrops and fanciful stop-motion animation, the film looks at Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson), a young boy who lives a spartan life surviving on the stories he tells to those living in a seaside town. Rated PG (scary inages, action scenes). 101 minutes.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (☆☆) Young boy discovers a refuge for children with special abilities. The first half of the film is fun because of director Tim Burton’s whimsical style of making movies. Once the story begins, the plot gets more peculiar than any of the children. The casting seems slightly off and Samuel L. Jackson goes so far over the top he needs a parachute. Rated PG-13 (intense scenes of fantasy). 127 minutes. (Katie Walsh, TNS)
Ouija: Origin of Evil (no stars) Just like in the original film, a Ouija leads to supernatural events. The title of “Ouija: Origin of Evil” should be changed to the more appropriate “Ouija: Bored.” This lackluster follow-up to the incredibly bad “Ouija” of two years ago is more likely to put you to sleep than keep you awake. Rated PG-13 (scary images). 99 minutes.
Pete’s Dragon (☆☆): A young boy who has been living alone in the woods is separated from his pet dragon. The biggest blunder is the design of Elliott. The creature didn’t have to look like he had just left the set of “Game of Thrones” - but making the dragon look like a huge cat does little to sell this story. the new “Pete’s Dragon” is left with a central character who looks more likely to cough up a furball than a ball of fire. It’s not a good look. Rated PG (action, peril, mild language). 90 minutes.
The Secret Life of Pets (☆☆): The way your pet acts when you are away is very different than when you are home. “The Secret Life of Pets” comes from the same team that produced the sweet, funny and memorable “Despicable Me.” That film is almost impossible to follow, especially when there are no breakout characters like the Minions. Rated PG (rude humor, action). 95 minutes.
Suicide Squad (☆☆) A group of villains that include the Joker (Jared Leto) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) go on a mission. “Suicide Squad,” the latest fumbled movie offering based on a DC Comics franchise, has only two things going for it. The most noteworthy is Robbie, who brings a wonderful crazy energy to her role. The character has been immensely popular since debuting in “Batman: The Animated Series” in 1992, and Robbie is flawless. Rated PG-13 (violence, sexual situations) 126 minutes.
Sully (☆☆☆) Pilot becomes a hero when he is forced to make a water landing in the Hudson River. Tom Hanks stars. You would have had to be living in a cave not to know how this story ends. But the film delivers a compelling story of what it means to make monumental decisions without time to think, the real difference between a hero and someone doing his or her job and how even the strongest people in a crisis can eventually doubt themselves. Rated PG-13 (language, peril). 96 minutes.
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.
Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween Madea spends the holiday battling killers and ghosts.
When the Bough Breaks Surrogate mom becomes overly attached to the father. Not reviewed.
Opening next week
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk Young soldier is given a hero’s welcome. Kristen Stewart stars.
Bleed for This Boxer Vinny Pazlenza battles back after a car crash. Miles Teller stars.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Eddie Redmayne stars in this story based on the Hogwarts textbook.
Moonlight Young black man searches for his place in the world.