Movie News & Reviews

Movies playing at Valley theaters April 17-23

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

Child 44: Serial killer thriller set in 1953 Soviet Union. Tom Hardy stars.

Monkey Kingdom: Nature documentary that follows a newborn monkey and its mother.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2: Paul Blart (Kevin James) doesn’t stop his concerns about safety even while on vacation.

True Story: Jonah Hill and James Franco star in this film based on the story of a man arrested for murder who claims to be someone else.

Unfriended: A computer hacker threatens people online to find the truth about a suicide.

While We’re Young: Older couple make friends with younger couple. Ben Stiller stars.

ONGOING

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.

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. 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)

Focus (B): High-stakes con man (Will Smith) breaks a major rule when he falls in love. It would have made for a tighter tale of sneaky larceny had the story been one long scam. In this case, two cons don't equal one major flim flam. The good thing is that it's not quite so noticeable because Smith and Margot Robbie bring so much to the film. Rated R (violence, language, sexual content). 105 minutes.

Furious 7 (B+): The fast-driving series starring Vin Diesel continues. The only fair way to judge the latest sequel in the fast-driving franchise is to look at the action scenes. The emotional moments are just speed bumps in the fast lane that is the “Fast and Furious” films. Using that guideline, “Furious 7” is the best one yet. Director James Wan (“Saw”) shows he can create more than just horror films by staging huge stunts that pull the viewer into the seat for the ride. He accomplishes this through clever filming, where the camera often tumbles and turns with the action. Rated PG-13 (violence, language). 140 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.

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 (violence, 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.

The Lazarus Effect (D+): Efforts to bring back the dead lead to an evil result. Mark Duplass stars. First-time feature director David Gelb tries to create lively scares out of the bringing-back-the-dead film genre. The best he gets are a few nervous twitches. Rated PG-13 (violence, sexual references). 83 minutes.

The Longest Ride (B-): Story of star-crossed lovers based on the book by Nicholas Sparks. “The Longest Ride” features one of the most emotionally connected couples since Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams starred in “The Notebook.” Scott Eastwood’s good ol’ boy Southern gentleman is sweetly charming. He’s perfectly matched with Britt Robertson, who has grown since the under-appreciated CW Network series “Life Unexpected.” Rated PG-13 (some thematic material, sports action, partial nudity). 128 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. Rated R (violence, language, sexual content). 114 minutes.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (B+): SpongeBob and the gang go on a quest to find a stolen formula. Rated PG (mild action). 100 minutes.

Woman in Gold (C): Jewish survivor (Helen Mirren) sues the Austrian government for the return of artwork stolen by the Nazis. A great story doesn’t always translate into a great movie. Rated PG-13 (thematic elements, language). 110 minutes. (Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times)

NEXT WEEK’S OPENINGS

Age of Adaline: Woman (Blake Lively) who has stopped aging faces a new and old love.

Little Boy: An 8-year-old boy will try anything to bring his father back home from the war.

The Water Diviner: Australian man travels to the site of a battle to retrieve the remains of his three sons. Russell Crowe stars.

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