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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The Comedian: Robert De Niro plays an aging comic who connects with a young woman.
Rings: Watching a video can be deadly.
The Space Between Us: Young man born on Mars makes a trip to Earth.
Wayne’s World: The Mike Meyers film will be in theaters Feb. 7 and 8.
The Accountant (☆): Ben Affleck plays a math savant who gets involved with a criminal element. Rated R (language, violence). 128 minutes.
Almost Christmas (☆☆ 1/2 ): Estranged family must reunite for the holidays. Danny Glover stars. It’s truly only Mo’Nique who owns both the biggest laughs and truly heartfelt moments. Rated PG-13 (suggestive material, drug content, language). 112 minutes. (Katie Walsh, Tribune)
Arrival (☆☆☆): Scientists and military scramble to unravel mystery behind alien crafts. The film builds its mystery scene by scene. Rated PG-13 (language). 116 minutes. (Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune).
The Bye Bye Man Three friends discover the source of evil. Not reviewed.
Collateral Beauty (☆☆☆) Man seeks answers from the universe after a great tragedy. Nestled among all the holiday releases based on video games and big sci-fi adventures is the sweet “Collateral Beauty.” Although it continuously slips into being overly sentimental, it’s hard not to be pulled in by the film’s tale of love, loss and the time it takes to deal with both. Rated PG-13 (language, thematic elements). 94 minutes.
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.
The Founder Michael Keaton stars in this look at the man who started McDonald’s. Not reviewed.
Fences (☆☆☆☆) Father deals with race relations in the ’50s while trying to raise his family. Denzel Washington stars. August Wilson’s 1983 play “Fences” earned the author a Pulitzer Prize for drama and a Tony Award for best play. In other words, this is a superbly written story about a Pittsburgh family dealing with financial and social struggles in the late 1950s.Washington’s film looks like a stage production with one of the best ensemble cast of the past decade. Rated PG-13 (thematic elements, language). 133 minutes.
Gold: Failing businessman strikes it rich. Matthew McConaughey stars. Not reviewed.
Hidden Figures (☆☆☆☆) Three black woman prove to be valuable additions to America’s race for space. he 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.
Jackie (☆☆☆☆): Natalie Portman plays Jacqueline Kennedy in the days just after JFK’s assassination. "Jackie" is a career-defining role for Natalie Portman. The actress has bounced between serious work ("Black Swan") and more box-office-driven productions ("Thor"). Nothing compares to her performance as former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, which shows Portman has the skills to transform herself into a role so deeply that most evidence of the actress gets lost inside the skin of the part she's playing. Rated R (violence, language). 95 minutes.
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.
Manchester by the Sea A teenage boy moves in with his uncle after his father dies. Casey Affleck stars. Not reviewed.
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.
Monster Trucks High schooler builds a monster truck as a way of getting out of his hometown. Not reviewed.
Moonlight (☆☆☆☆): Young black man searches for his place in the world. The movie, written and directed by Barry Jenkins, is a slow journey through the pain-filled life of a young black man charted from his troubled childhood to his uncertain adulthood. The way Jenkins has structured his work isn't to give us a fully formed adult but to give the audience a ringside seat to see the outside influences that shaped this young man. Rated R (sexuality, violence, language, drug use). 110 minutes.
Office Christmas Party What happens at an office Christmas party doesn’t often stay at the party.
Passengers (☆☆) Two space travelers face 90 years alone in space. From a technical standpoint, the massive space adventure starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt is stunning. This is a film for which a four-story set 1,000 meters long and covered in 8 miles of LED lights was built. But while Lawrence and Pratt are always enjoyable to watch, the fact they have so little to do on this impressive set makes this a close encounter of the often boring kind. Rated PG-13 (sexuality, nudity, peril). 116 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.
Raees: A look at how Raees built an empire from scratch. Not reviewed.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter: Alice (Milla Jovovich) must return to where her nightmare began. Not reviewed.
The Resurrection of Gavin Stone (☆☆☆): Former child actor who has lived a wild adult life is sentenced to community service at a church. Brett Dalton stars. “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone” gets a boost from Dalton, who turns in a charming performance as the title character. He’s just enough of a rogue to make his bad boy history seem real, but he never gets to the point of being so obnoxious there is no room for redemption. Rated PG (thematic elements). 91 minutes.
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. His contribution is “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” a fast-paced adventure that takes place just before events of “Star Wars: A New Hope.” 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.
Sleepless: Undercover police officer is caught between mob and corrupt cops. Not reviewed.
Split: Man with multiple personalities kidnaps three young women. Not reviewed.
Storks (☆☆☆☆): After years of being out of the baby-delivery business, one stork must make a very important delivery. The film manages to deliver on many levels, from broad comedy to a sweet family story. There’s a lot going on in this tale of a world where storks have been made to deliver packages from a superstore. But directors Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland layer the elements in such a way that one just makes the other stronger. Rated PG (mild violence). 92 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. Not reviewed.
Un Padre No Tan Padre: New age collides with old age. 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 3: The Return of Xander Cage: A government agent comes out of retirement. Not reviewed.
OPENING NEXT WEEK
Fifty Shades Darker: Unique relationship between a man and women continues.
John Wick: Chapter 2 : Wick is forced to come out of retirement. Keanu Reeves stars.
The LEGO Batman Movie: Caped crimefighter saves the city one brick at a time.
Midnight Orchestra: The estranged son of a famous Jewish musician hopes to reunite with his father and understand his legacy. This month’s presentation in the Fresno Jewish Film Series on Feb. 11.
Oscar nominated Short Films: Animated, live action and documentary shorts are this month’s offering from Fresno Filmworks on Feb. 10 and 11.