The rating system: A, excellent; B, good; C, so-so; D, poor; F, terrible. Unless noted otherwise, reviews are by Bee critic Rick Bentley.
2015 Oscar-Nominated Short Films: This month’s presentation by Fresno Filmworks Friday, Feb. 13. Short films in contention for this year’s Oscars.
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50 Shades of Grey: Young woman (Dakota Johnson) turns over control to a mysterious man (Jamie Dornan).
Kingsman: The Secret Service: A young man is recruited to be part of an elite spy force. Colin Firth stars.
Old Fashioned: A man comes up with new rules of dating after a bad relationship.
Still Alice: Julianne Moore must deal with a medical condition that’s affecting her mind.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (C+): Birthday wish creates disasters for every member of a family. 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.
American Sniper (A-): Navy SEAL finds he can’t leave the war behind when he returns home. Directed by Clint Eastwood. What pushes Bradley Cooper to such heights is the role based on the true story of Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL who became the deadliest sniper in American history. Rated R (war violence, language). 134 minutes.
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 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.
Birdman (A): Aging action film actor tries to revive his career with a Broadway play. Michael Keaton stars. The stunningly unique visual style and sacrificial slaughter of stardom makes “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” a modern day “Sunset Boulevard” — where winning and losing recognition can be a maddening experience. Rated R (language, violence, sexual content). 119 minutes.
Black or White (B): Man fights to keep his granddaughter after his wife dies. Kevin Costner stars. Mike Binder, director and writer of “Black or White,” manages to find dead center with this story — based on real events — of two families who believe their world is the best place for a young girl. It’s a slight variation on the nature vs. nurture argument. Rated PG-13 (language, drug use, drinking). 121 minutes.
The Boy Next Door (F): Thriller starring Jennifer Lopez. A mature woman facing a divorce falls for a younger man. The affair takes an obsessive, dangerous turn. Lopez’s new movie is cheesier than a Chicago double-topping deep dish pizza. From the profoundly absurd idea that anyone married to a woman who looks like Lopez would cheat on her to the teenage Lothario who looks older than Lopez, this movie is the culmination of a cluster of idiotic ideas. Rated R (nudity, violence, language). 91 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)
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 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 were 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. The problem is that the story gets in the way with a blinding glare of sci-fi mumble jumble that is equal parts idiotic and gimmick. Rated PG-13 (violence, language). 169 minutes.
Jupiter Ascending (F): Mila Kunis plays a woman who discovers she was born to save the cosmos. Andy and Lana Wachowski have written and directed a space opera that wanders between painfully boring and hopelessly confusing. The siblings try to hide amateurish acting behind big set pieces and distract from the unintelligible plot with big explosions. None of it works. Even in space it’s easy to smell a stinker. Rated PG-13 (violence, partial nudity). 125 minutes.
The Loft: A secret hideaway ends up the scene of a crime. This movie has not been reviewed.
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.
Paddington: Young bear makes his way to England to find a new home. Is sweet as orange marmalade. Rated PG (mile action, rude humor). 94 minutes. (Roger Moore, Tribune)
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.
Project Almanac (C-): Time machine results in a group of teens changing the world. The first hour of the film is so relentlessly paced, it feels like it’s on fast-forward. Rated PG-13 (language, sexual content). 106 minutes. (Lindsay Bahr, AP).
The Seventh Son (C-): Hero born with incredible powers is sought to fight an impending evil. Jeff Bridges stars. Any potential “Seventh Son” had of being a fun sword and sorcery tale gets watered down by poor casting, an absurd performance by Jeff Bridges and 3-D special effects that make the entire movie look like it was shot inside a cave, at night while everyone wore sunglasses. Rated PG-13 (fantasy violence, language). 100 minutes.
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water B+: SpongeBob and the gang go on a quest to find stolen formula. Glenn Berger and Jonathan Aibel faced the challenge of writing a script for “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water” that was funny enough to captivate youngsters and their parents (or grandparents). They succeeded by using fun sight gags, corny puns and uninhibited joy. Rated PG (mild action). 100 minutes.
The Wedding Ringer (C+): Socially awkward groom turns to a professional best man. Kevin Hart stars. A
bromantic comedy that feels like a romantic comedy. Rated R (language). 101 minutes. (Roger Moore, Tribune)
Whiplash (A-): Young jazz drummer must endure a ferocious instructor (J.K. Simmons). Rarely has a movie shown so viscerally the utter pain that can accompany the bliss of creating good music. Rated R (language). 106 minutes. (Jocelyn Noveck, AP)
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
The DUFF: High school senior is crushed to learn she is the Designated Ugly Fat Friend. Mae Whitman stars.
Hot Tube Time Machine 2: Friends travel through time to save a buddy in trouble. Craig Robinson stars.
McFarland, USA: Coach (Kevin Costner) builds a winning cross-country team of farm workers.