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 Case for Christ: Journalist looks to disprove his wife’s newfound Christian faith.
Going in Style: Three senior citizens decide to rob a bank.
Raab Da Radio: Families of two brothers become divided.
Smurfs: The Lost Village: Mystery map sends the Smurfs on a trek through the Forbidden Forest.
Your Name: Two high school students begin to share memories.
Beauty and the Beast (☆☆): Emma Watson stars in this love story that is a tale as old as time. This tale again features Belle falling in love with a handsome prince (Dan Stevens) who has been cursed to live his life as a beast. Complicating the romance is the pompous Gaston (Luke Evans) and his loyal sidekick LeFou (Josh Gad). The problem with turning the Oscar-winning 1991 animated version of the story into a live-action production starts with the script by Stephen Chbosky (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”) and Evan Spiliotopoulos (“Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure”). Their story is so rushed that there’s no time for the romance to bloom, die and then be brought back to life. Rated PG (peril). 129 minutes.
The Boss Baby (☆1/2): Suit-wearing baby must work with his older brother to stop an evil plot by a CEO. “The Boss Baby” is like a diaper. It starts out fresh but it sure doesn’t take long for it to become a stinker. The idea of a baby (voiced by Alec Baldwin) who is more worried about the formula for a good stock market buy than the formula he drinks has potential. A genius baby hiding his abilities is the set-up for a lot of potential plot points. But Michael McCullers’ script, based on the book by Marla Frazee, takes the least interesting option. Even in the flexible world of animation, the idea behind “Boss Baby” is too convoluted and confusing to be interesting. Rated PG (rude humor). 97 minutes.
CHiPs (1/2): Jon Baker and Frank Poncherello take to the mean streets of Los Angeles as part of the California Highway Patrol. When you take a script that banks entirely on juvenile humor, mix it with the worst casting since John Wayne played Genghis Khan and top it off with the work of a director who is equally inept at staging humor and action, then all that can be said is sometimes “CHiPS” happens. Rated R (graphic nudity, crude humor, violence, drug use). 101 minutes.
Fist Fight (no stars): Two teachers are scheduled to settle a dispute after school. What the script for this loser of a comedy turns out to be is just a lazy approach by novice writers Van Robichaux and Evan Susser. This tale of two teachers scheduled for a fight in a school parking lot after school banks heavily on schoolyard humor to make up for any original writing. Rated R (nudity, language, sexual content, drug use). 91 minutes.
Get Out (☆☆☆): A weekend to meet the parents leaves a couple in a dangerous situation. Give first-rate comedian Jordan Peele extremely high marks for being able to enter into the world of making horror films via jump-out-of-your-chair scares and not gross-you-out slasher scenes. He has made in “Get Out” a production that’s creepy, spooky and at times a little bit kooky. Rated R (bloody images, violence, language). 93 minutes.
Ghost in the Shell (☆☆1/2): Cyborg policewoman fights computer hacker. The live-action “The Ghost in the Shell,” based on the manga series by Masamune Shirow, is a blend of extreme visual highs and writing lows. If you were to only watch the film for the art direction, it’s one of the most effective visually since the future world of “Blade Runner” was created in 1982. Rated PG-13 (sci-fi violence). 106 minutes.
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.
Kong: Skull Island (☆☆1/2): A group of scientists and soldiers travels to a mysterious island where they find a giant ape. The growing evidence that there are few good original ideas in Hollywood continues with “Kong: Skull Island.” The latest hairy tale lacks both the special effects awe that made the 1933 version so groundbreaking and the raw action that made Peter Jackson’s 2005 offering so exciting. “Kong: Skull Island” is like being served a dish of vanilla ice cream after eating fancy sundaes. There’s nothing that wrong with vanilla ice cream, but there’s little about it that’s exciting. Rated PG-13 (language, action). 118 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. Rated PG-13 (language). 128 minutes.
Life (☆☆☆):: Space crew faces a deadly threat from Mars. “Life” is entertaining enough to show that even in a weightless world there can be a heavy gravity to the story. Although familiar in concept, “Life” has strong performances, a willingness to take chances, a beautifully designed set and plenty of tension. The fate of the crew and mission is a series of smart direction changes that continues to the very end. Rated R (crude humor, graphic nudity, language, violence, drug use). 101 minutes.
Lion: After being separated from his family for 25 years, a young man searches for his home. Not reviewed.
Logan (☆☆☆1/2):: An aging Wolverine is pushed into another battle. “Logan” is a reminder there’s a serious reason comic books have such a big following. Comics aren’t just a place for flashy drawings of characters with bulging muscles. They often feature stories with multiple emotional ebbs and flows. The writers give the superheroes depth and purpose. Rated R (violence, language). 130 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.
Monster Trucks: High schooler builds a monster truck as a way of getting out of his hometown. Not reviewed.
Power Rangers (☆☆:: Five young people gain powers that they will need to save Earth. The latest incarnation in the ever-morphing “Power Rangers” franchise hits the big screen like a prize fighter who wins the first two and last two rounds of a 10-round fight. It’s the beating in the middle that causes all the pain. Rated PG-13 (sci-fi violence, language). 124 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.
The Shack (☆☆1/2):: Man gets a mysterious note inviting him to a meeting at a place that caused his faith to be shaken. There’s nothing subtle about “The Shack.” This is a faith-based movie that uses a heavy hand to pound viewers with its religious messages. That’s a shame because when the film isn’t preaching, the story of how someone deals with great loss is touching and moving. Rated PG-13 (thematic material). 132 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 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.
Trainspotting 2 (☆☆☆):: It’s been 20 years and the friends get back together for more highs and lows. Ewan McGregor stars. Just like the original “Trainspotting,” the sequel doesn’t rely as much on plot as it does on the charm of the four main characters. Both films are designed to make the audience a fifth member of this mismatched group, being allowed to listen in on inane conversations, be part of doomed plans and share a scant few tender moments. Rated R (drug use, language, graphic nudity, violence)
The Zookeeper’s Wife (☆☆☆):: Couple who run a zoo in Warsaw in the early ’40s help save Jews from the Nazis. The film is based on Diane Ackerman’s book, “The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story” that recounts the true story of Antonina and Jan Zabinski, owners of the Warsaw Zoo in 1939. After the occupation by the Germans, the couple manage to turn their zoo into a way station for Jews escaping the country. Rated PG-13 (violence, nudity, smoking). 126 minutes.
OPENING NEXT WEEK
The Fate of the Furious: Drivers face one more challenge to save the world.
The Lost City of Z: True-life drama on British explorer Col. Percival Fawcett, who disappeared while searching for a mysterious city in the Amazon.
The Salesman: A couple must deal with a personal tragedy while staging “Death of a Salesman.” This week’s presentation of Fresno Filmworks.