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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Believe Man’s approach to life is tested by boy who believes in miracles.
Incarnate Exorcism touches mind of young boy.
Man Down Man searches for his son in a post-apocalyptic world.
Allied (☆☆☆) Love affair between World War II spies becomes complicated. Brad Pitt stars. “Allied” has a beautiful look, with director Robert Zemeckis using modern technology to make the war period look stunningly real. He doesn’t miss a visual cue, from the quiet moments between his stars to a dazzling bombing attack. The script has problems. Rated R (sexuality, violence, language, drug use). 121 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).
Bad Santa 2 (☆☆☆1/2) The team gets back together to rob a charity. The script by Johnny Rosenthal and Shauna Cross will make you uncomfortable and embarrassed at your laughter. It’s OK. Think of it as just being pulled into the impressive acting abilities that are getting better and better for Billy Bob Thornton. Rated (language, sexual situations, drug use). 92 minutes.
Bleed for This (☆☆1/2) Boxer Vinny Pazlenza battles back after a car crash. Miles Teller stars. “Bleed for This,” the latest in a recent swarm of movies based on true stories, not only has to overcome the need to build drama despite the audience knowing the ending but also has to do that while working with a very familiar sports movie trope. This is another drama that looks for sweet ratings from the boxing movie genre that has already gone into extra rounds. Rated R (language, sexuality, nudity).
Dear Zindagi A cinematographer is in search of a perfect life. Not reviewed. 116 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. 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.
The Edge of Seventeen Life is hard in high school for an awkward teen. Hailee Steinfeld stars. Not reviewed.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (☆☆☆☆) Eddie Redmayne stars in this story based on the Hogwarts textbook. If you are looking for a fantastic movie and don’t know where to find one, look no further than “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” This new offering from the creative mind of J.K. Rowling is as fun and entertaining as it is visually stunning. Rated PG-13 (fantasy action and violence). 132 minutes.
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.
Loving (☆☆☆1/2) Mixed race couple must overcome the law to be together. While the court battle is historic, the real truth and passion in the production comes out of the relationship between Mildred (Ruth Negga) and Richard (Joel Edgerton). The way the actors honestly bring this couple to life gives the movie heart. Rated PG-13 (thematic elements) 123 minutes.
The Magnificent Seven (☆☆☆): Seven gunmen come to the aid of a small village. Denzel Washington stars in this remake. Living up to the original is an almost impossible task. The remake tries to match the star power with Washington and Chris Pratt, but the overall lineup eventually pales in comparison. Rated PG-13 (violence, language, smoking). 132 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.
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 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)
Rules Don’t Apply (☆☆☆) Warren Beatty film about Howard Hughes and the people around him. It’s possible to be blinded by passion. That’s exactly what happened with Warren Beatty as he finally got his Howard Hughes project made with “Rules Don’t Apply.” Just like the Spruce Goose, the Beatty film is beautiful when it lifts off, but it fails to soar. Rated PG-13 (sexuality, language, drug use). 152 minutes.
The Secret Life of Pets (☆☆): The way your pet acts when you are away is very different than when you are home. 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.
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.
Opening next week
Borrowed Identity A young Palestinian who attends a prestigious Jewish school is caught in conflicts between Israelis and Arabs. Presentation in Jewish Film Series on Dec. 10.
Manchester by the Sea A teenage boy moves in with his uncle after his father dies. Casey Affleck stars.
Miss Sloane Powerful lobbyist shakes up Washington, D.C. Jessica Chastain stars.
Nocturnal Animals Novel is seen as a threat. Amy Adams stars.
Office Christmas Party What happens at an office Christmas party doesn’t often stay at the party.
Truman Man faces death in the best way he can. This month’s presentation by Fresno Filmworks.