In theaters now

War is heck: Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller, left) and Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.) are shooting an epic war movie and wind up in a real battle in 'Tropic Thunder.'

War is heck: Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller, left) and Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.) are shooting an epic war movie and wind up in a real battle in "Tropic Thunder."

OPENING TODAY

Babylon A.D. (PG-13, 91 min.) Nightclub bouncer-turned-action hero Vin Diesel is a future mercenary hired to protect a young woman with apparent superpowers.

Forest Hill 8, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Majestic, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Raleigh Springs Cinema, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso, Palace Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16, Southaven Cinema, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

College (R, 95 min.) To quote the reasons for the film’s Restricted rating, “Pervasive crude and sexual content, nudity, language, drug and alcohol abuse” ensue when three high-school seniors visit a wacky college campus.

Stage Cinema, Majestic, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso, Palace Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16.

Disaster Movie (PG-13, 90 min.) “Juno,” Amy Winehouse, Indiana Jones and “Hancock” are among the targets in the latest quickie spoof from the creators of “Date Movie,” “Epic Movie” and “Meet the Spartans.”

Forest Hill 8, Stage Cinema, Majestic, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso, Palace Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16, Southaven Cinema.

Elegy (R, 113 min.)

Ridgeway Four.

Frozen River (R, 97 min.) Memphis-born Courtney Hunt wrote and directed this Sundance award-winning film about two women smuggling illegal immigrants across the Canadian border. Hunt will introduce the film and answer questions after a screening at 7:35 tonight. See review and interview with Hunt in Saturday’s M section.

Studio on the Square.

SPECIAL MOVIES

An Evening with Crispin Hellion Glover: The eccentric actor comes to Memphis for three nights. See story on Page 20.

Palace Cinema. Visit crispinglover.com or call Black Lodge Video at 272-7744.

Roving Mars: The in-depth IMAX adventure follows the “careers” of Spirit and Opportunity, NASA’s robotic Exploration Rovers, from their development to their manufacture to their six-month, , 10,000-mile-per-hour flight through cold space to their landing and deployment on the surface of Mars, where they gathered information to help pave the way for future visits by man. Runs through Nov. 14. Tickets are $8, $7.25 senior citizens, $6.25 children 3-12; children under 3 are free. Call for show times.

Crew Training International IMAX Theater at Memphis Pink Palace Museum, 3050 Central. Call 763-IMAX for general information or 320-6362 for reservations.

Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure: Narrated by Liev Schreiber, National Geographic’s film takes audiences on a journey into the relatively unexplored world of the “other dinosaurs,” those reptiles that lived beneath the water. The film plays through March 6, 2009. Tickets: $8, $7.25 senior citizens, $6.25 children ages 3-12; children under 3 are free. Call for show times.

Crew Training International IMAX Theater at Memphis Pink Palace Museum, 3050 Central. Call 763-IMAX for general information or 320-6362 for reservations.

NOW SHOWING

War is heck: Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller, left) and Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.) are shooting an epic war movie and wind up in a real battle in 'Tropic Thunder.'

War is heck: Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller, left) and Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.) are shooting an epic war movie and wind up in a real battle in "Tropic Thunder."

Bottle Shock (PG-13, 110 min) Randall Miller co-wrote and directed this cheer-for-the-underdog- and-the-good-old-U.S.A. would-be crowd-pleaser inspired by the real-life "Judgment of Paris" wine-tasting of 1976, in which upstart chardonnays and cabernets from California bested the favored wines of France, bringing worldwide attention respect to American vintners. The milieu is fresh, but the subplots are dustier than the bottles on the bottom rack in an oeniphile's cellar: “Hick” winemaker Bill Pullman is frustrated by the aimlessness of hippy son Chris Pine; vineyard worker Freddy Rodriguez has to cope with anti-Hispanic racism; wine snob Alan Rickman is surprised by the toothsomeness of American grapes (and fried chicken); and everyone is shocked when new intern “Sam” shows up and is not just a woman but a babe (Rachael Taylor). “I detect bacon fat, laced with honey melon,” says a wine lover played by Dennis Farina; moviegoers are more likely to detect corn, with a bit of ham.

Studio on the Square.

Brideshead Revisited (PG-13, 135 min.) Fans of Evelyn Waugh’s 1945 novel and the famous 659-minute 1981 British miniseries it inspired won’t be pleased with the compromises of this feature-length condensation; Anglophiles, however, may be willing to accept director Julian Jarrold’s adaptation for the Merchant-Ivory-style pleasures it offers., including period English decor; the precise diction of classically trained actors (Emma Thompson is tyrannical Lady Marchmain); the imposing presence of Yorkshire’s 400-year-old Castle Howard as the title manor; and such sights as steam locomotives, cloche hats, a frock decorated with the stylized silhouettes of golden swallows and a tortoise with a jewel-encrusted shell. Matthew Goode is the young Oxford student who learns about class envy and Catholic guilt when he is befriended by the “sodomite” Sebastian (Ben Whishaw), a fey aristocrat with a striking sister (Hayley Atwell); unfortunately, when the increasingly dissolute Sebastian exits the film, he takes much of our interest with him.

Forest Hill 8.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (PG, 144 min.) The second film adapted from C.S. Lewis’ popular fantasy book series is darker than its predecessor (“The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe”), but returning director Andrew Adamson’s emphasis on swordplay and political intrigue doesn’t make up for the dull performance of the movie’s pinup-ready title swashbuckler (Ben Barnes) and the relative charmlessness of the English schoolchildren who are the film’s heroes (the Hogwarts Sorting Hat would have kicked these kids to the curb). More entertaining are the underutilized CGI animals, including Reepicheep the warrior mouse (voiced by Eddie Izzard) and Trufflehunter the badger (Ken Stott).

Bartlett 10

The Dark Knight (PG-13, 152 min.) A lavishly produced drama about hard moral choices, “The Dark Knight” is “The Godfather” of superhero movies — or, at least, “The Departed.” Director Christopher Nolan’s ambitious, superior follow-up to “Batman Begins” makes a grim joke out of the idea that it was inspired by a series of so-called “comic” books. The only laughter in the film is the halting, psychopathic chuckle of the Joker, and our pleasurable reaction to his histrionic, terroristic glee is tempered by our awareness that we are watching the last complete screen performance of the late Heath Ledger, who spends at least one moment in the film in a body bag. Occupied by gangsters, thugs, cops, politicians, lawyers and two opposed, outrageous obsessives (“You complete me,” the Joker tells Batman, in a parody of romantic confession), this is an epic crime film that has more in common with the gangster movies, noirs and gritty police thrillers of decades past than with the typical DC or Marvel adaptation of today. The ambiguous, Batman-less title reflects the movie’s divided loyalties; the Caped Crusader (Christian Bale) seems no more key to the story than Ledger's riveting Joker or the ill-fated district attorney, Harvey Dent (played by Aaron Eckhart, who is as deserving of a Best Supporting Actor nomination as his late co-star).

Stage Cinema, Majestic, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso, Palace Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16, Southaven Cinema, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

Death Race (R, 105 min.) Released in 1975, the Roger Corman-produced drive-in cheapie “Death Race 2000” remains a satirical sci-fi cult classic; this big-budget semi-remake is both more lavish and more simplistic: It’s a rabble-rousing gas guzzler, directed with the pedal to the metal and a surprising minimum of visual incoherence by Paul W.S. Anderson (“Resident Evil”). Set in 2012, after the collapse of the U.S. economy, the film casts Jason Statham as an ex-race car driver framed for his wife’s murder so he can be forced to participate in America’s top reality show, “Death Race,” in which convicted violent offenders engage in “three days of the ultimate in auto carnage” on the prison stronghold of Terminal Island. Three-time Oscar nominee Joan Allen is the prison warden; her most memorable line is: “Release the Dreadnaught.”

Stage Cinema, Majestic, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

Fly Me to the Moon (G, 81 min.) A 3D animated feature about three young houseflies who stow away aboard the Apollo 11 flight to the moon.

Paradiso, CinePlanet 16.

Get Smart (PG-13, 110 min.) Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway are perfectly cast as CONTROL agent Maxwell Smart and his love-interest colleague, Agent 99, but this update of the classic Mel Brooks-Buck Henry 1960s spy-spoof sitcom is a movie without a context — as useless as a shoe phone in an iPhone era. The tired jokes emphasize the project’s irrelevance in an age when the Cold War has been replaced by a “War on Terror”; worse, director Peter Segal eschews the snappy Pop design of the original series, delivering a murky, unattractive film that’s as gray as the post-Soviet Russian setting of much of its action.

Bartlett 10.

Hamlet 2 (R, 92 min.) Talented British comic Steve Coogan plays failed actor Dana Marschz, a deluded Tucson high-school drama teacher (“My life is a parody of a tragedy,” he says) with a low sperm count and an alcohol problem who stirs community outrage when he stages an inspirational musical sequel to Shakespeare in which the melancholy Dane uses a time machine to rewrite history and meet Jesus Christ; as the Son of Man, Coogan dons tight jeans and a wife-beater T-shirt for a show-stopping number called "Rock Me Sexy Jesus.” Written by director Andrew Fleming and “South Park” veteran Pam Brady, the movie seems constructed from bits pulled from such films as “Waiting for Guffman” and “Rushmore,” with the hyped Jesus jokes a failed attempt to bait conservatives into generating the type of controversy that results in free publicity. The worthy supporting cast includes Catherine Keener, Amy Poehler, David Arquette and Elisabeth Shue, as herself.

Ridgeway Four, Stage Cinema, Studio on the Square, Stage Cinema, Cordova Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16.

Hancock (PG-13, 93 min.) Will Smith is the reluctant title “superhero,” a surly and seemingly homeless drunken amnesiac whose destructive heroics make him a pariah until an eager-beaver public relations professional (Jason Bateman) tries to rehab his image. Ambitious, clever and peculiar, the film is compromised by low comedy, a pandering soundtrack and the understandable timidity of a studio unwilling to transform the most reliably bankable star in movies into a morally bankrupt character; further sabotaging the story’s potential is Peter Berg’s annoying shaky-camera, faux-documentary direction. As food for thought, however, “Hancock” is a banquet: Is the movie a narcissistic celebrity makeover metaphor? A dissection of the humiliating mistrust with which majority America treats even those black men who have “earned” admiration for their athletic ability and other talents? Or a saga about America itself, alone and unloved despite its sometimes clumsily exercised great power?

Stage Cinema, Majestic, DeSoto Cinema 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema.

The Happening (R, 91 min.) After the diminishing returns of “Signs” and “The Village” and the loony, self-indulgent misfire of “Lady in the Water,” former “Next Spielberg” (per a 2002 Newsweek cover story) M. Night Shyamalan retrenches, to demonstrate he still can write and direct a relatively low-cost chiller in the manner of his breakout success, “The Sixth Sense” (1999). The result is a 1970s-style eco-thriller in the tradition of “Frogs” and “Day of the Animals” that undercuts its would-be Val Lewtonesque moments of suggestive horror (a menacing wind blows spookily through the tall grass) by revealing the source of its title disaster way too early, leaving audiences poised for a trademark Shyamalan twist that never arrives. Marc Mark Wahlberg stars as a high-school science teacher; bug-eyed Zooey Deschanel is miscast as his wife.; the human behavior throughout the film is so unnatural we’re uncertain whether the writing is clumsy or stylized. What the movie demonstrates yet again is that the talented Shyamalan is more Rod Serling than Spielberg; he’s an artist whose story ideas might have more impact in half-hour “Twilight Zone” episodes, where they would be shorn of some of the pretensions that seem to be mandatory in the feature-length work of a one-time Best Director Oscar nominee.

Bartlett 10.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (PG-13, 120 min.) Adapted from the comic books by Mike Mignola, the first “Hellboy” barely broke even at the box office in 2004. But thanks to that film’s growing cult and the success of the acclaimed “Pan’s Labyrinth,” Guillermo del Toro — probably the most imaginative popular director in movies today — is Satan-hot, and he was able to use his clout to revisit the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense and create what may be the most entertaining movie of the summer. This time, the cigar-chomping heroic title demon (Ron Perlman) — irreverent, rough-and-ready, and as red as a King Cotton hot dog — has to save humanity from a planned invasion of mythological beings. Hellboy’s colleagues include inflammable love interest Liz (Selma Blair), aquatic empath Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) and Teutonic newcomer Johann Krauss (voiced by Seth MacFarlane), a being of gaseous ectoplasm contained within a deep-sea-diver’s suit.; his adversaries include enough distinctly del Toroesque goblins, fairies, elves and giants to grace a century of Fangoria covers. Del Toro’s compositions are dense with effects and background creatures, and he clearly sympathizes with the misfits and monsters who are weary of humankind’s greed and ecological destructiveness; yet the movie is light on its feet and generous of spirit, as demonstrated in a scene in which Hellboy and Abe drunkenly harmonize to Barry Manilow’s “Can’t Smile without You.”

Majestic, Hollywood 20 Cinema.

The House Bunny (PG-13, 98 min.) Anna Faris is a fired Playboy bunny who helps a group of misfit sorority girls find their inner Wonder Woman, or at least their outer Wonderbra.

Forest Hill 8, Stage Cinema, Majestic, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Raleigh Springs Cinema, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso, Palace Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16.

The Incredible Hulk (PG-13, 114 min.) A sort of CGI “War of the Gargantuas,” this reboot of Ang Lee’s thoughtful but underwhelming “Hulk” (2003) delivers enough monster mayhem and Marvel Universe insider info to satisfy the fanboys who rejected the earlier film. Edward Norton replaces Eric Bana as Bruce Banner, the gamma ray-infected scientist who morphs into an unjolly green giant when he becomes angry or excited. (In other words, no sex for Banner, as girlfriend Liv Tyler learns in one of the few scenes that realistically dramatizes the cost of Banner’s curse.) William Hurt co-stars as Banner’s human nemesis, Gen. “Thunderbolt” Ross, the worst military tactician since Donald Rumsfeld (twice, his teams attack Banner with guns blazing, when a stealth approach easily would have succeeded); Tim Roth is the evil mercenary whose transformation into “The Abomination” enables director Louis Leterrier (“Transporter 2”) to stage a property-damaging clash-of-the-titans free-for-all of such intensity that in the precomputer effects era it could have been visualized only in a cartoon or a comic book. To sum up: Hulk smash good.

Bartlett 10.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (PG-13, 122 min.) If previous Indiana Jones movies were tributes to the serials, war films, colonial adventure epics (“Gunga Din”) and even Hollywood musicals that were popular during the years in which the films take place, “Crystal Skull” — set almost 20 years after “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” — takes much of its inspiration from the science-fiction cycle of the 1950s. Those movies exorcised Red Scare paranoia through metaphorical stories about body-snatching aliens and high-tech extraterrestrial invaders; “Skull” replacesliteralizes this conceit by replacing the Nazis of the earlier Indy movies with Communists who really do want to conquer the U.S. with the aid of alien technology. This time, the bullwhip-wielding archeologist (an older and grumpier Harrison Ford) is searching for a lost city in the Amazon, aided by a “Wild One”-aping youth (Shia LaBeouf) and old flame Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen, in what proves to be a thankless role); he is opposed by Cate Blanchett, as a scene-stealing psychic “Communatrix” in jodhpurs and leather boots. The long, go-for-broke opening sequence in the Nevada desert is a triumph; it announces that director Steven Spielberg and Indiana Jones are not just an explosive combination, they're positively atomic.

Bartlett 10, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Iron Man (PG-13, 126 min.) Zillionaire playboy arms manufacturer Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) — dubbed “the merchant of death” by haters — experiences an almost literal change of heart after he’s wounded by one of his own bombs in Afghanistan. Giving up on munitions, he uses “repulsor technology” to create a stylish, high-tech “gold titanium alloy” suit, and the superhero Iron Man is born. Jon Favreau (“Swingers,” “Elf”) remains an indifferent director (the most dynamic sequences here are the ones that probably were story-boarded by the special-effects teams), but “Iron Man” ranks with the best “X-Men” films and just below the first two “Spider-Man” movies as the most successful translation of a Marvel comic book to the screen. The message is mixed, however: The reborn Stark is supposed to be a warrior for peace and justice, but his creation of Iron Man affirms rather than repudiates his arms-race-exploiting past — it proves once again that the side with the best weapons wins. The real hero here is the insouciant Downey, who delivers the script’s many witty lines with ease; he’s almost matched by Gwyneth Paltrow as his loyal Girl Friday, Pepper Potts.

Bartlett 10.

Journey to the Center of the Earth (PG, 93 min.) As a traditional “flat” film, this Jules Verne-inspired spelunkfest is an implausible, amusing and somewhat old-fashioned Saturday matinee-style, kid-friendly adventure. But in 3D, even a sink drain’s point-of-view shot of Brendan Fraser brushing his teeth is a knockout. Fraser plays a volcanologist who — accompanied by his teen nephew (Josh Hutcherson) and a pretty mountain guide (Anita Briem) — discovers that Verne’s 1864 novel isn’t science fiction but a fact-based guide to a subterranean world-within-a-world of carnivorous plants, prehistoric monsters, bioluminescent birds, giant mushrooms and other objects that look cool when they’re made to appear three-dimensional onscreen. The movie is projected in 3-D at the Paradiso, the DeSoto Cinema 16 and the CinePlanet 16.; yes, you have to wear those glasses, but they’re much larger and more comfortable than in the days of “House of Wax.”

Stage Cinema, DeSoto Cinema 16, Paradiso, CinePlanet 16.

Kung Fu Panda (PG, 88 min.) From its stylized opening dream sequence to its beautifully rendered if more familiar-looking CGI animal characters, this parable about a dream-chasing panda named Po (voiced by Jack Black) is the most visually stunning cartoon yet from DreamWorks Animation (home of the “Shrek” franchise). It’s also the studio’s most consistently entertaining release, functioning as an affectionate homage to classic Hong Kong martial-arts cinema as well as a fuzzy-wuzzy comedy-with-uplift for small fry. The Zoo’s Who supporting cast of warriors includes Tigress (Angelina Jolie); Mantis (Seth Rogen); Viper (Lucy Liu); and Monkey (Jackie Chan). Opposing these warriors is a snow leopard named Tai Lung (Ian McShane), who may be the scariest cartoon villain since the George Sanders-voiced Shere Khan in Disney’s “The Jungle Book.”

Bartlett 10, Majestic.

The Longshots (PG, 86 min.) Keke Palmer is an 11-year-old girl who joins a peewee football team (coached by Ice Cube) in this inspirational story for young women, which at least sounds less problematic than “The House Bunny.” Directed by Fred Durst, of the band Limp Bizkit.

Forest Hill 8, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Majestic, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Raleigh Springs Cinema, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso, Palace Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16, Southaven Cinema.

Mamma Mia! (PG-13, 109 min.) Director Phyllida Lloyd’s frenetic adaptation of the ABBA-inspired stage musical was shot on location in Greece, but the way Meryl Streep tears through the scenery, you’d think she was in a giant reptile suit on the back lot at Toho Studios. Pulling wacky faces to match her oh-so-adorable overalls, Streep plays air guitar, bounces on a bed, jumps cannonball-style off a dock and otherwise acts like a person yet to recover from a juvenile head injury; at least she can sing, which is more than can be said for male co-stars Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård and Pierce Brosnan, (whose croaked crooning might as well be emanating from the throat of Christian Bale’s Batman). As Streep’s ingenue daughter, Amanda Seyfried is easy on the eyes; Christine Baranski steals the show with the only number worthy of a pre-1970 musical (“Does Your Mother Know?”); the love/marriage/old-flames plot is slight but agreeable; and the ABBA songs remain insidiously catchy. But the cast apparently was instructed to maintain a pitch of hysterical frenzy whenever on camera; the squealing loss of control suggests the behavior of preteen girls who have encountered a spider during a slumber party.

Stage Cinema, Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso, Hollywood 20 Cinema.

Meet Dave (PG, 91 min.) A crew of miniature aliens on Earth operate a spaceship shaped like Eddie Murphy. Really.

Majestic.

Mirrors (R, 112 min.) Thanks to talented director Alexandre Aja (“High Tension”; the 2006 “The Hills Have Eyes”), this supernatural mystery about an ex-cop (Kiefer Sutherland) threatened by sinister forces that travel through the looking glass is more stylish and spooky than it has any right to be. (It’s yet another remake of an Asian horror movie — in this case, 2003’s “Into the Mirror,” from Korea.) Instead of a typical haunted house, the ground zero for ghosts here is a burned-out luxury New York department store, making this yet another thriller with post-9/11 associations.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Majestic, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Raleigh Springs Cinema, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso, Palace Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16, Southaven Cinema, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (PG-13, 112 min.) Like its predecessors (1999’s “The Mummy” and 2001’s “The Mummy Returns”), this noisy Brendan Fraser fantasy adventure owes more to Indiana Jones than to Boris Karloff, while failing to be a credit to either inspiration. Rob Cohen (“Dragonheart,” “The Fast and the Furious”) replaces Stephen Sommers as director and Maria Bello replaces Rachel Weisz as Fraser’s wife, but the crazy-quilt comic-book formula remains the same., as explorer Rick O’Connell (Fraser) — now saddled with a grown son who appears to be as old as he is (in fact, actor Luke Ford is barely 12 years younger than Fraser) — finds himself battling a 2,000-year-old shape-shifting emperor (Jet Li) and his army of living terracotta warriors. Kids should love it. With Michelle Yeoh as a sorceress, a tribe of Abominable Snowmen, an attack of skeletons, a visit to Shangri-La, a three-headed dragon, and Hong Kong’s most honored actor, Anthony Wong, as a nutcase general. Kids should love it.

Stage Cinema, Majestic, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso, Palace Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16, Southaven Cinema, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

Pineapple Express (R, 112 min.) Not since “Pulp Fiction” plunged a needle into the heart of an overdose victim has drug comedy met drug violence with the pop of this surprising stoner saga, which manages the neat trick of being simultaneously laidback and over the top. The script rejiggers the worst-day-ever/best-day-ever formula of “Superbad” (also written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg), but what elevates “Pineapple” above other recent Judd Apatow joints is the patient direction of David Gordon Green, a darling of regional independent cinema whose long takes and widescreen compositions give his wonderful ensemble cast plenty of breathing room, even when the actors are choking on smoke or coughing up blood. Rogen and James Franco portray potheads on the run from the mob; the action finale is efficiently staged, but the script betrays the affability of its own heroes by requiring them to participate with — increasing macho enthusiasm — in the bloodshed.

Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Paradiso, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

The Rocker (PG-13, 102 min.) A former 1980s “hair band” drummer (Rainn Wilson) tries to recapture past glory by joining his nephew’s high school rock group.

Forest Hill 8, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Majestic, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso, Palace Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16, Southaven Cinema.

Sex and the City (R, 145 min.) Fans get to see their old friends — Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha — back on the big screen, which makes it easier to ogle their outfits.

Bartlett 10.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (PG-13, 120 min.) A nonthreatening date movie for mothers and daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters and BFF’s who enjoy a group smile and cry. This sequel reunites the four young women of the 2005 magical-britches opus for what narrator Carmen (America Ferrara) describes as another round of “stories, secrets, laughter (and) broken hearts.” — plus, ethnically diverse hunks; the mandatory sound of Cyndi Lauper singing “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”; a trip to the Greek island of Santorini; and plugs for FedEx that begin less than one minute into the run time. (The movie is the latest from FedEx founder Fred Smith’s Alcon Entertainment company.) Designed for women by women (the director is Sanaa Hamri, the screenwriter is Elizabeth Chandler), the movie celebrates friendship and responsible behavior — it offers the cinematic equivalent of comfort food, for “Facts of Life” fans of all ages. Native Memphian Lucy Hale co-stars as “Effie,” the beautiful younger sister of the Alexis Bledel character.

Forest Hill 8, Stage Cinema 12, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16.

Space Chimps (G, 81 min.) Monkeyshines and NASA heroics go hand-in-foot in this CG film from Vanguard Animation.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Majestic, Collierville Towne 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (PG, 98 min.) Not for the unconverted, this computer-animated film, directed by Dave Filoni, drops viewers smack dab into not just another wearyingly epic battle but into the buzzing hive of the inbred Lucasverse itself, where rigorous adherence to increasingly byzantine “Star Wars” dogma seems to clash with the old idea that intuitive improvisation is what enables a Jedi Knight to transform disaster into triumph. Considering that most of the impressive imagery in the three most recent live-action “Star Wars” movies was not live but literally unreal, George Lucas’ failure to deliver a visually stunning animated feature is a shocker; the graphics here are as unattractive as those in a videogam as wooden characters interact within dull and surprisingly dim CG environments that, perversely, seem just a few mouse clicks away from full “Revenge of the Sith” realization. Instead of making a splash in the summer of Batman, WALL-E and ABBA, this film — intended as an introduction to a Cartoon Network series about young Anakin Skywalker — is Just the latest drop of anemic blood squeezed from the petrifying husk of a once innovative science-fiction franchise.

Forest Hill 8, Stage Cinema, Majestic, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16, Southaven Cinema.

Step Brothers (R, 98 min.) Will Ferrell isn't yet as irrelevant as Mike “The Love Guru” Myers or Eddie “Meet Dave” Murphy, but it's telling that when Seth Rogen makes a brief cameo appearance here, the "Knocked Up" actor seems to be doing the much more famous Ferrell a favor. The premise is promising: Perennial man-child Ferrell and “serious” actor-turned-Pete Puma human stand-in John C. Reilly star as a pair of jobless, still-living-at-home 40-year-olds whose self-centered, arrested-adolescent existences are threatened when they're forced to move in together after Reilly's dad (Richard Jenkins) marries Ferrell's mom (Mary Steenburgen). Unfortunately, uninspired slapstick (destructive “sleepwalking” scenes) and exceedingly coarse, ugly language result in a mirthless, even ugly noncomedy. The movie was directed by frequent Ferrell collaborator Adam McKay, from an underdeveloped script credited to Ferrell and McKay.

DeSoto Cinema 16, Paradiso, Hollywood 20 Cinema.

The Strangers (R, 85 min.) (zero stars) If your loving boyfriend asks you to marry him, you’d better say yes before the cosmos sends a trio of masked psychos to your house to punish you for being a threat to the social order. That’s the lesson driven home with blunt-force trauma in this pointless and pretentious home-invasion horror thriller, apparently aimed at Crate & Barrel shoppers rather than the teen demographic that turned “Saw” and “Hostel”into hits. With its burnished photography, handsome production design and presentation of lead characters (Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman) who listen to tasteful recordings by Wilco and Joanna Newsom on vinyl, director Bryan Bertino’s film is determined to be recognized as a more refined exercise in sadism: It seems to be the product of someone who grew up euthanizing butterflies rather than pulling the legs off ants with his coarser classmates. In any case, the movie offers no more enlightenment or catharsis than a drugged insect could expect in the moment before it is skewered by the lepidopterist’s pin.

Bartlett 10.

Tell No One (Not rated, 125 min.) Franois Cluzet (who resembles a Gallic and more handsome Dustin Hoffman) plays a pediatrician suspected of murder when new corpses are discovered near the site of his wife’s mysterious murder eight years earlier. Director Guillaume Canet’s French-language adaptation of a novel by Harlan Coben has drawn flattering comparisons to Hitchcock from many critics; they must be responding to the top-notch mystery plot rather than to the conventional staging of the action. The movie is constructed like a calling card for Hollywood employment, as when a montage of funeral and wedding memories is underscored with “Lilac Wine” by Jeff Buckley.

Ridgeway Four.

Traitor (PG-13, 110 min.) Is U.S. special operations officer Don Cheadle a terrorist? FBI agent Guy Pearce wants to know.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Majestic, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Raleigh Springs Cinema, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso, Palace Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16, Southaven Cinema.

Tropic Thunder (R, 107 min.) To peg “Tropic Thunder” as a satire of moviemaking is to limit its anarchic, outlandish appeal; it’s like saying “South Park” is about elementary school. This is a comedy about pampered actors (played by Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr., among others) making a Vietnam War movie on location in what proves to be an actual combat zone. But it’s also about clueless Americans blowing stuff up, then being celebrated back home for their “triumph.” It’s a movie that ends with the devil — in the person of a bald, fat, Wookiee-hairy Tom Cruise — in command, dancing to Ludacris atop, in essence, the graves of the dead and piles of filthy lucre. (Cruise plays a studio executive, but he could be any warmonger, energy magnate or political opportunist.) Fast and witty and almost as gargantuan as some of the movies it spoofs (including “Apocalypse Now”), “Tropic Thunder” benefits from a brilliant ensemble cast (Downey, in blackface, is a “method” actor who remains in character as an African-American soldier even off camera) and director Stiller’s carpet-bomb approach to comedy, which hits more targets than it misses.

Forest Hill 8, Stage Cinema, Majestic, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Studio on the Square, Raleigh Springs Cinema, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16, Southaven Cinema.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (PG-13, 97 min.) Two American girlfriends on vacation in Spain — one a free spirit (Scarlett Johansson), the other (Rebecca Hall) engaged to be married — find themselves attracted to a brazen and sexy Spanish artist (Javier Bardem) who’s apparently still in love with his fiery ex-wife (Penelope Cruz). As usual, Woody Allen delivers a predictably schematic film (America: conventional; Europe: sensual) about people who seem to float on invisible clouds of money (even the artists and poets here seem to have no worries about funding), but this may be the writer-director’s most purely entertaining film since the 1980s. Allen’s camera seems liberated by the sunny locations; the editing and compositions are uncharacteristically fluid and elegant, with an unusual (for Allen) number of closeups. As the title indicates, the city is essentially a third lead character; Allen seems to enjoy Gaudi’s architecture almost as much as Johansson’s.

Ridgeway Four, Studio on the Square, Cordova Cinema.

WALL-E (G, 103 min.) WALL-E the robot may be battered and obsolete, but “WALL-E” the movie is a marvel of state-of-the-art technology — perhaps the most brilliantly designed, beautifully executed and technically accomplished feature yet from Pixar Animation Studios. The company’s boldness has advanced with its achievements in special effects: Director Andrew Stanton’s film asks viewers to find enjoyment in a story that spends its first half hour on an all but dead and silent future Earth that apparently is inhabited only by a cockroach and the lonely 700-year-old title robot, who continues to perform programmed duties that are futile and pointless. The first act of “WALL-E” is as melancholy as a Ray Bradbury short story or an eco-disaster science-fiction film from the 1970s; although the robot’s Chaplinesque pantomime continues, the noisier second half of the film is a more traditional Pixar action-comedy, as WALL-E returns with a “female” space probe robot, EVE, to a mothership of blobby, consumption-obsessed Earth refugees in need of inspiration.

Stage Cinema, Majestic, Collierville Towne 16.

Wanted (R, 110 min.) Criticizing Russian director Timur Bekmambetov (“Night Watch”) for overkill is like dismissing Alfred Hitchcock for being fat. In fact, overkill is an understatement when applied to this outrageously stylish and utterly implausible comic-book adaptation about a secret society of assassins whose members blithely refuse to recognize not just the legal niceties of Miranda and habeas corpus but the less arguable laws of gravity, motion and the conservation of energy. James McAvoy is the milquetoast account manager whose transformation from, essentially, Jerry Lewis to James Bond provides a morally specious wish-fulfillment fantasy that should have fanboys drooling; so should the presence of Angelina Jolie, cast as a killer named (what else?) Fox.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

You Don’t Mess with the Zohan (PG-13, 113 min.) Adam Sandler: commando hairdresser.

Bartlett 10.

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