Movie News & Reviews

Movies playing at Valley theaters April 3-9

Movie list

The rating system: A, excellent; B, good; C, so-so; D, poor; F, terrible. Unless noted otherwise, reviews are by Bee critic Rick Bentley.

OPENING

Furious 7: The fast-driving series starring Vin Diesel continues.

ONGOING

American Sniper (A-): Navy SEAL finds he can’t leave the war behind when he returns home. Rated R (war violence, language). 134 minutes.

Big Hero Six (A-): In the Oscar winner, 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 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

Chappie: A robot with artificial intelligence becomes a new life form. This film has not been reviewed. Rated R (violence, language, brief nudity). 120 minutes.

Cinderella (A): A young woman gets help from her Fairy Godmother to attend a royal ball. Lily James stars. The new version is an enchanting take on the familiar story of a young beauty, friendly mice and a slightly wacky Fairy Godmother. Staying loyal to the 1950 Disney animated production makes this new version bibbidi-bobbidi-beautiful. This film finds its strength in its tales of love. Rated PG (thematic material). 112 minutes.

Do You Believe? (B): A series of events bring a group of people together and test their faith. Mia Sorvino stars. In a spiritual version of “Crash,” 12 people come together — each with a different level of belief. The only common bond for them is a small wooden cross handed out to a congregation by a pastor (Ted McGinley) who realizes even he might not be living his life as a true believer. Rated PG-13 (thematic material, violence). 115 minutes.

The Divergent Series: Insurgent (C-): Tris continues to search for allies while being hunted. Shailene Woodley stars. Director Robert Schwentke (replacing Neil Burger who guided the first film) mounts a couple of big action scenes. Computer technology allows for visuals that are staggeringly amazing. There’s just nothing left when all the dust clears. The action scenes aren’t enough to distract from a script that is full of holes, illogical actions and a story that takes almost two hours to complete yet only moves things forward a few baby steps. When the big finale comes, it’s no more exciting than a well-made commercial for a cola. Rated PG-13 (violence, language). 119 minutes.

The DUFF (B): High school senior is crushed to learn she is the Designated Ugly Fat Friend. Mae Whitman stars. Rated PG-13 (crude and sexual material). 101 minutes. (David Lewis, San Francisco Chronicle)

Fifty Shades of Grey (F): Young woman (Dakota Johnson) turns over control to a mysterious man (Jamie Dornan). No one said the masochism part of the story in “Fifty Shades of Grey” had to do with what the audience would be put through. There has never been a film so painful to watch, both because of how poorly it’s written, acted and shot and for its disgustingly vulgar treatment of women. The movie would be painfully laughable if it wasn’t so horribly offensive. Rated R (strong sexual content, unusual behavior, graphic nudity, language). 110 minutes.

Get Hard (F): Millionaire (Will Ferrell) looks for help in getting ready to serve time in prison. Kevin Hart co-stars. “Get Hard’ isn’t merely a major disaster, it’s the Titanic of comedy movies. Weighed down by endless jokes about prison rape, relentless homophobia and a bevy of absurd stereotypes, this Ferrell and Hart film sinks into an abyss of failure. Rated R (language, graphic nudity, drug use). 100 minutes.

The Gunman (C): Former military contractor (Sean Penn) tries to reconnect with a longtime love while fighting to stay alive. “The Gunman” is well-meaning, but it lacks the spark that made “Taken” such a compelling tale. The key problem is the core of Penn’s character. Rated R (violence, language). 115 minutes.

Home (D): Young girl and alien go on a quest to find her mother. Jim Parsons stars. The combination of a feeble script, unnecessary music montages, unlikable characters and so-so animation leave “Home” a close encounter of the dull kind. E.T. would use his call to phone the theater to get his money back. Even those who put the advertising together for this movie don’t have a clear idea of what is happening. Rated PG (mild thematic elements). 93 minutes.

It Follows (B+): Young woman is followed by evil force passed to her through a sexual encounter. “It Follows” is a smart, disturbing and haunting tale that is truly, deeply scary. Director robert Mitchell’s film follows no traditional horror film rules. The director lures you into a world where anyone and everyone can be the killer. A moody visual approach coupled with a chilling musical score creates a sense of paranoia in the viewer that builds with each moment. Rated R (violnce, graphic sexual content, language). 94 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. None of it works. Even in space it’s easy to smell a stinker. Rated PG-13 (violence, partial nudity). 125 minutes.

Kingsman: The Secret Service (B-): A young man is recruited to be part of an elite spy force. Colin Firth stars. Matthew Vaughn, writer and director of “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” has created a spy thriller that falls somewhere between James Bond and Austin Powers. The source material, Mark Millar’s snarky comic book “Secret Service,” calls for a degree of fun and frivolity with the story. It’s when Vaughn overindulges that the film struggles. Rated R (violence, nudity, language) 100 minutes.

McFarland, USA (B+): Coach (Kevin Costner) builds a winning cross country team of farmworkers. The real strength comes from the film’s deep look at the beauty of diverse cultures and the importance of family and following a dream. Then “McFarland, USA” becomes a story of the determination, devotion and desire of seven young men to rise above the back-breaking lives of field hands and the man who helps them accomplish what always seemed like a pipe dream. Rated PG (mild action). 129 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. Rated PG (mild action, rude humor, language). 98 minutes.

Paddington: Young bear makes his way to England to find a new home. It’s as sweet as orange marmalade. Rated PG (mild action, rude humor). 94 minutes. (Roger Moore, Tribune)

Run All Night (B): Former hit man (Liam Neeson) must go to extreme measures to protect his son. Director Jaume Collet-Serra (who helmed Neeson’s “Non-Stop”) shows great skill at both staging eye-bending action sequences and heart-tugging emotional moments. From a very realistic-looking car chase to a fog-covered showdown in the woods, Collet-Serra keeps layering on the tension. He loses a few points for a scene at the start of the film that eliminates some of the tautness from the story. But it’s only a cinematic version of a flesh wound. Rated R (violence, language, sexual content). 114 minutes.

Selma (A-): David Oyelowo plays Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in this chronicle of the leader’s campaign to secure equal voting rights. “Selma“ is a movie that should be mandatory viewing for future generations as a reminder that behind every big historical moment are some very human stories. Rated PG-13 (violence, language). 2 hours, 7 minutes.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (B+): SpongeBob and the gang go on a quest to find a 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.

Strange Magic (D): An animated musical fairy tale inspired by “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and centered around goblin, elf, fairy and imp characters. Rated PG (scary images). 99 minutes. (Michael Ordona, San Francisco Chronicle)

Taken 3: Ex-government operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is accused of a ruthless murder. This film has not been reviewed. Rated PG-13 (violence, action, language). 112 minutes.

Unfinished Business (D): Routine business trip goes comically bad. Vince Vaughn stars. Rated R (violence, language). 91 minutes. (Jon Frosch, AP)

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)

NEXT WEEK’S OPENINGS

The Longest Ride: Story of star-crossed lovers based on the book by Nicholas Sparks.

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter: A Japanese woman travels to Fargo to find a treasure. This month’s presentation by Fresno Filmworks.

While We’re Young: Fortysomething couple begin to question their lives after meeting two twentysomethings. Ben Stiller stars.

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