Movie News & Reviews

Movies playing at Valley theaters Aug. 28 - Sept. 3

Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart in “American Ultra.”
Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart in “American Ultra.” Lionsgate

Movie list

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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OPENING

The Diary of a Teenage Girl: Teen goes on a sexual journey in 1970s San Francisco.

The Love Affair: Husband in a married couple on verge of annulment turns to a lawyer who has just left her boyfreind.

No Escape: An American family living in Southeast Asia is caught in the middle of a coup. Opened Wednesday.

War Room: Couple looks for a way to save their crumbling marriage.

We Are Your Friends: Aspiring DJ gets mentored by older DJ. Zac Efron stars.

ONGOING

American Ultra: (1/2) Director Nima Nourizadeh and writer Max Landis came very close to making a first-rate action-comedy-drama with “American Ultra.” Sadly, close will only get you a couple of weeks of attention in theaters, and then it’s off to DVD land. The reason they fell short is that the drama gets in the way of the action, while the comedy disrupts the drama. Rated R (language, violence).

89 minutes.

Ant-Man: (1/2) Ex-con is pushed into slipping on super suit to become tiny hero. Paul Rudd stars. Rudd has neither the cutting wit nor cut physique others bring to such roles. He is a milquetoast romantic comedy escapee who ends up being the biggest thing wrong with “Ant-Man.” When Rudd slips on the suit, the movie settles into a thrill ride through a massive miniature world. Rated PG-13 (sci-fi action violence).

115 minutes.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (): The heroes reunite to stop a creation with artificial intelligence out to destroy the world. All of this makes for a good summer action movie. It just falls short of the first “Avengers” movie. Rated PG-13 (sci-fi action, suggestive comments, violence). 150 minutes.

The Fantastic Four: Story of how four people gain super powers. Latest big-screen version of the Marvel comic. Not reviewed.

The Gallows (1/2): High school students run into strange occurrences when they try to stop a school play. Filmed in Fresno. "The Gallows," a very low-budget movie made by Fresno filmmakers Travis Cluff and Chris Loring, manages to score enough points on the creativity side to balance out the negatives of the recycled format. Rated R (brief language, intense scares). 86 minutes.

The Gift (): A couple’s new life is disrupted by a mysterious person from their past. “The Gift” is old-fashioned in the way it conjures up scares. It’s filled with creepy characters who are one emotional jolt from going over the edge, scares that come more through psychological twists and more curveballs than in a Major League Baseball game.

Hitman: Agent 47: Assassin is genetically engineered to be the perfect killing machine. Not reviewed.

Home (): 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. Rated PG (mild thematic elements). 93 minutes.

Inside Out (1/2) The emotions that run an 11-year-old come to life. Lewis Black stars. The Pixar team has created amazing worlds for the characters. Smart writing and deeper elements fill “Inside Out” with numerous emotional moments. Rated PG (mild language). 102 minutes.

Jurassic World (1/2): The new dinosaur park soon runs into familiar problems. “Jurassic World” serves as a reminder that it wasn’t just the dazzling CGI work in “Jurassic Park” that made it such a masterpiece. It was also the combination of that imagery with a solid story, interesting characters and pacing that bounces between terror and humor with ease. Rated PG-13 (violence, language).

123 minutes.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (): An American and Russian spy must work together. As a spy movie, there is some solid action and the ’60s fashions look sharp. If you are a fan of the TV series, avoid the movie like the plague. The connection between the TV show and film are so thin you will almost miss it. Rated PG-13 (action, violence, partial nudity). 116 minutes.

Max (1/2): Military dog returns to the United States where he’s adopted by his handler’s family. The combination of the bond between a boy and his dog, the salute to the military, a grieving family and the emotional upheavals of a father and son are the cornerstones of this tearjerker. Rated PG (language, violence).

111 minutes.

Minions (1/2): Animated story of the yellow characters that is charted from the start of time. The pill-shaped, yellow characters introduced in the “Despicable Me” movie, as the subordinates to the villainous Gru, have now taken center stage. The charm and humor they brought in tiny doses in the previous films now comes in a massive blast that wears thin quickly. Rated PG (rude humor, action).

91 minutes.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (1/2): Tom Cruise wants to have it both ways, feeding the Hollywood blockbuster machine while trying to squeeze in respectability. A better, bolder choice would have been to see this sleek, often thrilling entertainment through to a crazy, overblown finale. Instead, “Rogue Nation” becomes flat and self-important, demanding that we take it at face value. It’s like trying to treat a Road Runner cartoon as a nature documentary: Mission impossible, indeed. Rated PG-13 (bloodless but intense action violence). 131 minutes. (Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald)

Paper Towns: A young woman loves mysteries so much, she becomes one. Based on the novel by John Green. Not reviewed.

Pixels (): An alien race uses ’80s video games to attack Earth. Adam Sandler stars. Sloppy writing, bad performances and uneven pacing mean it’s “game over” for the film before it gets started. You probably will get a cramp in your arm trying to hit the reset button to get this movie back on track.

Ricki and the Flash: () Meryl Streep sings an all-too-familiar tune in this story of a rocker looking to make up for mistakes in her life. This high-pedigree project plays out like an impressive Lifetime movie. Rated PG-13 (thematic material, brief drug content, sexuality and language). 101 minutes. (Preston Jones, Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

San Andreas (1/2): Helicopter pilot races to save his daughter after a massive earthquake. Dwayne Johnson stars. You will believe the ground is rippling under Los Angeles. Rated PG-13 (action, mayhem, language).

114 minutes.

Shaun the Sheep: (1/2): Animated tale of what happens when a flock tries to take the day off. A shear delight. Rated PG (rude humor). 85 minutes.

Sinister 2: Mother and twin sons are marked for death by an evil spirit. Not reviewed.

Southpaw (1/2): Jake Gyllenhaal stars in the story of Billy “The Great” Hope. Does it succeed? Sort of. Rated R (language, violence). 124 minutes. (Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune)

Spy (1/2): Desk-bound CIA analyst volunteers for an undercover mission. Melissa McCarthy stars. Director Paul Feig demonstrates with “Spy,” his latest collaboration with McCarthy, that “Heat” wasn’t a fluke. McCarthy turns in one of the funniest performances of her career in this espionage spoof. It’s one of the funniest films of the year. Rated R (language, violence, nudity).

120 minutes.

Straight Outta Compton: (): Five young men escape from Compton through their music. The film’s vibe is closer to “The Social Network” than “Menace II Society.” Rated R (language, nudity, violence). 157 minutes. (Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle).

Terminator Genisys (1/2): Another attempt is made to stop Sarah Connor. The Terminator – as promised – is back and it is a fun, exciting thrill ride that makes it one of the best action movies of the year. All you have to do is forget trying to decipher the time-traveling elements because, as always, the very familiar sci-fi gimmick always creates more questions than answers. Rated PG-13 (violence, brief nudity, language). 119 minutes.

Tomorrowland (): Teen and former boy genius look for a place that exists somewhere in time and space. George Clooney stars. Rated PG (action scenes, language). 130 minutes.

Trainwreck (): Amy Schumer plays a young woman who lives life at its fullest. The biggest surprise is how conventional Amy’s arc actually is. Rated R (strong sexual content, nudity, language, drug use). 125 minutes. (Lindsey Bahr, AP)

Vacation (1/2): Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) tries to give his family a fun trip to Wally World. If there was a 10th circle in Dante’s vision of Hell, it would be reserved for movies like “Vacation.” Not only does the film feature a script that has less life than roadkill, a pacing that makes Los Angeles traffic look like the Indy 500 and as much humor as the mass funeral of orphans, nuns and kittens, it smears the good name of the 1983 Chevy Chase comedy, “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” Rated R (language, graphic nudity, drug use). 99 minutes.

NEXT WEEK’S OPENINGS

Mistress America: Lonely college freshman is introduced to a fast-paced life.

The Transporter Refueled: Relaunch of the film series about the man you call when you need a delivery made.

A Walk in the Woods: Travel writer hikes the Appalachian Trail. Opens Wednesday.

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