The rating system: A, excellent; B, good; C, so-so; D, poor; F, terrible. Unless noted otherwise, reviews are by Bee critic Rick Bentley.
Inherent Vice: A drug-fueled L.A. detective investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend. Joaquin Phoenix stars.
Force Majeure: Swedish drama about a family shaken by an avalanche. This month’s presentation by Fresno Filmworks.
Taken 3: Ex-government operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is accused of a ruthless murder.
Selma: David Oyelowo plays Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in this chronicle of the leader’s campaign to secure equal voting rights.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (C+): Movie banks heavily on the natural charms of Steve Carell and the motherly ways of Jennifer Garner to win over an audience. Rated PG (crude humor, language). 80 minutes. Birthday wish creates disasters for every member of a family. Steve Carell stars.
Annie (D): Jamie Foxx stars in this latest big-screen adaptation of the musical about an orphan with an optimistic way of looking at life. Someone should call child services over the way “Annie” has been so mistreated in the new, updated adaptation. This is an example of filmmaking abuse. PG (mild humor). 118 minutes.
Big Eyes (A): Margaret Keane (Amy Adams) became an artistic success in the ’50s with her paintings of children with huge eyes. Opened Dec. 24. Adams’ big eyes invite us into the hurt she feels when her husband starts taking credit for her waifs, the sad resignation that sets in as she goes along with the lies and the soul-crushing pain that comes with the withering reactions of the art establishment — critics included. Adams is great in a role she was born to play. (By Roger Moore, Tribune News Service)
Big Hero Six (A-): Young genius uses a robot to solve a mystery in this animated tale. Never has East met West in such a visually stunning way as in the new animated feature film “Big Hero 6.” From the blending of the architecture of Tokyo and San Francisco (to create San Fransokyo) to the collision of traditional animation with anime, the film is “manga-nificent.” Rated PG (violence). 108 minutes
The Book of Life (A-): A young man embarks on an adventure that spans three fantastic worlds where he must face his greatest fears. A visually stunning effort. Rated PG (mild action, rude humor). 95 minutes. (Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter)
Dumb and Dumber To (D-): Pair reunite to look for one of their lost children. Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels star. Rated PG-13 (crude humor, language). 109 minutes.
Exodus: Gods and Kings (C): Moses (Christian Bale) rises up against Ramses who must deal with deadly plagues. For an epic, there are, at best, only two clearly seen characters in “Exodus.” Rated PG-13 (violence). 142 minutes. (Jake Coyle, AP)
Fury (A-): It takes amazing skill to make a war film like this that is so bravely honest in its depiction of the horrors and heroics of war. These are no gallant warriors meeting on the field of battle for a chivalrous conflict. The movie shows that war is brutal in the way it strips away the human spirit and leaves the participants reacting with a kind of prehistoric instinct for survival. Rated R (violence, language). 135 minutes
The Gambler (C): College professor ends up in big trouble because of his gambling and infidelity. Mark Wahlberg stars. As Jim Bennett, a professor with a dangerous addiction to gambling, Wahlberg’s cool, slick, handsome – and that’s pretty much it. (By Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press)
Gone Girl (B): A man (Ben Affleck) becomes the main suspect in the case of his missing wife. The film is a great thriller until it stops being one, about 20 minutes before the finish. Rated R (violence, nudity, strong sexual content, language). 148 minutes. (Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle)
Guardians of the Galaxy (A): Group of thieves comes together to save the universe. Chris Pratt stars. Rated PG-13 (action scenes, language). 121 minutes.
“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” (B-): Forces come together to claim the riches that had been guarded by Smaug. Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit” trilogy — noteworthy for the way Jackson has transformed the book into a visual feast and delivers the tent pole moments — ends with uninspired battles and muddled characters. Personal moments are overshadowed by endless battles with characters poorly defined. Rated PG-13 (fantasy violence). 144 minutes.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (B): Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) struggles to find her place in the revolution that is brewing. In a film that cranks up the action even more than the first two movies, Lawrence’s work grows even stronger as she commands attention with each word, phrase and breath. Rated PG-13 (violence, disturbing images). 125 minutes.
The Interview: Seth Rogen and James Franco play the makers of a TV celebrity interview show who are given the chance to interview North Korea leader Kim Jong-un. This film has not been reviewed.
The Imitation Game (B): Group of Brits rush to defeat German code machine during World War II. Benedict Cumberbatch stars. At the core, this is a story about how one man can be both a hero and an outcast. It is depicted through the mesmerizing performance by Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, the genius who helped bring World War II to an end two years early.
Interstellar (D+): A group of astronauts makes a long journey to find a planet that could be the next home for Earth’s population. If it was possible to park our brains outside the theater, then director Christopher Nolan’s latest cinematic venture into time and space, “Interstellar,” could be enjoyed as a visual feast. Rated PG-13 (violence, language). 169 minutes.
Into the Woods (B+): Fairytale characters come together in this musical from Stephen Sondheim. Meryl Streep stars. “Into the Woods” is a musical journey full of strong performances, a beautiful fairytale landscape and a story that is emotionally haunting. Climb up a beanstalk to see this movie musical.
The Maze Runner (B-): Group of young captives must find a way out of a giant maze. In film — based on the James Dashner young-adult dystopian science fiction novels — director Wes Ball gets off to a faster start, in part by the way the movie is put together and because the story is so thin there is no need to spend time explaining why things happen. Rated PG-13 (science fiction violence). 113 minutes
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (D+): This time the weird antics in the museum take place outside the United States. Ben Stiller stars. Going to see “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” is like a visit to a museum you’ve been to countless times. You go in knowing you’ve seen most of the exhibits before, but you hope there’s some new material to add a little spark. Rated PG (mild humor, action). 90 minutes.
Ouija (F): The scariest thing about the new horror film is that you might get crushed under its pile of clichés or fall out of your seat from boredom. Should you go see this movie? Do whatever you have to do to move the planchette to say "NO." Rated PG-13 (scary images, violent content). 83 minutes.
Penguins of Madagascar (A): Secrets of the world’s best spy team are revealed. From their first appearance in “Madagascar,” Skipper, Kowalski, Private and Rico have been committing grand-theft scene stealing. It’s a winner. Rated PG (mild action, rude humor). 85 minutes.
Unbroken: Olympic athlete must face the ordeal of being held in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during World War II. Suspense and pathos evade Director Angelina Jolie as she turns an admittedly unwieldy biography into a dull, perfunctory and truncated film.
Wild (A-): A woman goes on a journey of more than 1,000 miles to find herself. Reese Witherspoon stars. Every journey does start with a single step and the trek to transform Cheryl Strayed’s memoir into the feature film “Wild” began with the inspired casting of Reese Witherspoon. The Oscar-winning actress brings an acting purity to the film that makes us feel the pain and the progress of each step her character takes. Rated R (nudity, sexual content, drug use, language). 115 minutes.
The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death: Eel Marsh House is awakened when a group of children evacuated from WWII London arrive. This film has not been reviewed.
NEXT WEEK’S OPENINGS
American Sniper: Navy SEAL finds he can’t leave the war behind when he returns home. Directed by Clint Eastwood.
Blackhat: Computer hacker is freed from prison to help stop an attack. Chris Hemsworth stars.
Paddington: Young bear makes his way to England to find a new home.
The Wedding Ringer: Socially awkward groom turns to a professional best man. Kevin Hart stars.