Movie Capsules: Now showing

Clint Eastwood as lovable curmudgeon Walt Kowalski guards his lawn in 'Gran Torino.'

Photo by Anthony Michael Rivetti/Warner Bros. Pictures, Anthony Michael Rivetti/Warner Bros. Pictures

Clint Eastwood as lovable curmudgeon Walt Kowalski guards his lawn in "Gran Torino."

Capsule descriptions and starred mini-reviews by The Commercial Appeal movie writer John Beifuss.

OPENING TODAY

Coraline (PG, 100 min.)

Forest Hill 8, Stage Cinema, Majestic, Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, DeSoto Cinema 16 (in 3-D), Cordova Cinema, Paradiso (in 3-D), Palace Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16 (in 3-D).

Clint Eastwood as lovable curmudgeon Walt Kowalski guards his lawn in 'Gran Torino.'

Photo by Anthony Michael Rivetti/Warner Bros. Pictures

Clint Eastwood as lovable curmudgeon Walt Kowalski guards his lawn in "Gran Torino."

He's Just Not That Into You (PG-13, 129 min.) A romantic comedy with Memphis' own Ginnifer Goodwin in an ensemble cast that includes Jennifers Aniston and Connelly, as well as Ben Affleck and Justin Long.

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

I've Loved You So Long (PG-13, 115 min.).

Studio on the Square.

The Pink Panther 2 (PG, 92 min.)

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, Southaven Cinema, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

Push (PG-13, 112 min.) Blam-o! -- Dakota Fanning, Chris Evans and Djimon Hounsou have telekinetic powers.

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.

SPECIAL MOVIES

Days and Clouds (Not rated, 115 min.) Dedicated to non-mainstream cinema, the library's "Wider Angle Film Series" continues with this 2007 Italian production from director Silvio Soldino ("Bread and Tulips") about an upper-middle-class married couple in financial crisis.

7 p.m. Wednesday, Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library, 3030 Poplar. Admission is free; children under 17 admitted with parent or guardian. Visit filmmovement.com or call 415-2700.

In Search of a Midnight Kiss (Not rated, 90 min.) Screened in conjunction with Indie Memphis to kick off a new "Film Festival Favorites" series, writer-director Alex Holdridge's romantic comedy -- winner of the Grand Jury Award at the 2008 Florida Film Festival -- chronicles a New Year's Eve in Los Angeles. Shot in black and white, and produced by longtime Richard Linklater collaborator Anne Walker-McBay ("Dazed and Confused," "Before Sunset").

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. Admission: $7, or $5 for members. Visit brooksmuseum.org or call 544-6208.

The Memphis Pink Palace IMAX Film Festival: Weekends only in January and February, plus March 1. Festival films: "Hurricane on the Bayou," "The Living Sea," Everest," as well as "Mummies: Secrets of the Pharaohs," and "Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure."

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

Metropolitan Opera: Lucia di Lammermoor (Not rated, 200 min.) Anna Netrebko stars as Donizetti's fragile heroine in this ambitious adaptation, staged as a Victorian ghost story and transmitted live via satellite from New York.

Noon Saturday, Paradiso. Tickets: $22. Visit malco.com.

Mummies: Secrets of the Pharaohs: Follow researchers and explorers as they piece together the archaeological and genetic clues of Egyptian mummies. The IMAX film plays through Nov. 13. Tickets: $8, $7.25 senior citizens, $6.25 children ages 3-12; children under 3 are free. Call for show times.

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

Oxford Film Festival: The sixth annual Oxford, Miss., festival continues through Sunday, with a slate of panels and programs and close to 100 shorts, documentaries and narrative features, including the Morgan Freeman-produced documentary ''Prom Night in Mississippi," about the first racially integrated prom in Charleston; the critically acclaimed feature, "Ballast"; and a sneak preview of Craig Brewer's MTV Web series, "$5 Cover."

Malco Oxford Studio Cinema. Visit oxfordfilmfest.com.

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. Tickets: $8, $7.25 senior citizens, $6.25 children ages 3-12; children under 3 are free. Call for show times.

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

NOW SHOWING

Australia (PG-13, 163 min.) From musical to marsupial; or, "Gone with the 'Roo." Director Baz Luhrmann follows "Moulin Rouge!" with a continent-size salute to his homeland as a place "over the rainbow" where "dreams really do come true" (the Judy Garland song about that other Oz is a key motif). In a merger of "The African Queen" with "Red River," Hugh Jackman, known only as "the Drover," plays a rough man's man who helps widowed Lady Sarah (Nicole Kidman) drive her cattle to market just in time for the start of World War II. Kitsch and cliché drive the story, but the faces and locations are stunning -- when the movie's over, you feel like you've been somewhere and seen something.

Bartlett 10.

Bedtime Stories (PG, 95 min.) Adam Sandler, babysitter.

Majestic, Hollywood 20 Cinema.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua (PG, 97 min.) If celebrity purebred Tinkerbell sees this live-action Disney release, there could be a putsch in Paris Hilton's purse: This isn't the heel-biting reboot of "Clueless" one might expect but an almost epic canine consciousness-raising comedy-adventure in which a pampered pooch sheds her designer doggiewear and recovers her ethnic identity -- and her ancient bark -- after a dognapping plot leaves her stranded in Mexico. Drew Barrymore provides the voice of Chloe, the title dog, who learns Chihuahuas are "tiny but mighty" -- a theme kids in the audience will embrace.

Bartlett 10.

Bride Wars (PG, 94 min.) Catfight in white, as Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson throw down over conflicting wedding dates.

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

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (PG-13, 167 min.) Like "Forrest Gump" (also scripted by Eric Roth), this is a novelistic, picaresque fantasy about a kind-hearted man-child whose adventures span the globe and the decades -- but in this case, the hero (Brad Pitt) is born old and doomed to age in reverse, toward infancy. Forrest Gump told us life's like a box of chocolates, but Benjamin Button forecasts the melted, shriveled and petrified futures of those candies; Benjamin tells us: "Nothing lasts." Cate Blanchett is wonderful as the love of Benjamin's life, a ballet dancer who mourns: "Every day I have more wrinkles, not fewer." A curious film, indeed, but also very moving; credit director David Fincher ("Zodiac") for finding the balance between shadow and light.

Stage Cinema, Collierville Towne 16, Paradiso.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (PG-13, 104 min.) Keanu barada nikto: As Klaatu, emissary from another planet, Keanu Reeves is typically and appropriately inhuman, but his emotionless posturing seems to have infected the entire production, transforming director Scott Derrickson's big-budget remake of a beloved 1951 classic into a dull eco-fable. (Predictably, Klaatu is no longer an antiwar apostle but an extraterrestrial Al Gore, promising the extinction of humanity if we don't accept his inconvenient truth.) Even Gort -- the coolest robot in science-fiction cinema -- has been re-imagined as a cartoonish CG colossus who ironically resembles the Oscar statuette that otherwise will remain a universe away from this hammy misfire. With Jennifer Connelly as the world's hottest microbiologist, Jaden Smith as her bratty stepson and a Hillary-presaging Kathy Bates as the secretary of State.

Summer Quartet Drive-In.

Defiance (R, 137 min.) The new James Bond, Daniel Craig, plays Tuvia Bielski, a sort of Moses with a machine gun who leads hundreds of Jews to hard-fought freedom in the forests of Nazi-occupied Poland, where the refugees struggle to create and sustain a viable Jewish community in exile, despite the threats of starvation, disease and extermination. Beautifully photographed in the snowy woods of Lithuania, this fact-based story flips the typical Jews-as-victims Holocaust movie on its ears; unfortunately, the direction of Edward Zwick ("Glory") is as ponderous as it is earnest.

Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema.

Doubt (PG-13, 104 min.) The only thing an actress likes playing more than a whore is a nun. No wonder Meryl Streep all but smacks her lips in this prestige production, which gives Our Lady of the Oscar the chance to play what the impious might call a real mother (superior): Sister Aloysius, the justly feared principal of a Catholic school in the Bronx, the year after John F. Kennedy's death. Streep -- a dragon in a wimple -- is matched by Philip Seymour Hoffman as a priest suspected of making "advances" toward the school's first black student; the topliners' War of the Acting Gargantuas smackdown gives the movie its heat. Working from his Pulitzer Prize-winning play, director John Patrick Shanley wants us to consider such Big Issues as religion, sexuality, personal responsibility, community obligation and false witness, but he's perhaps more effectively delivered a movie about the allure of performance; both the nun and the priest are proud stars in their own spheres of influence, which makes the casting of consummate players Streep and Hoffman especially apt.

Ridgeway Four, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Frost/Nixon (R, 122 min.) Adapted by screenwriter Peter Morgan ("The Queen") from his stage play, director Ron Howard's film is entertaining, technically accomplished and undernourishing. Structured somewhat like a prizefighting movie, with British talk-show host David Frost (Michael Sheen) prepping to "duel" disgraced would-be comeback kid Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) in a national television interview, the movie unsurprisingly (given Langella's artistry) does exactly what Frost and his allies in the film work so hard not to do in the interviews: It transforms the wily ex-president into a lonely, troubled and sympathetic figure -- a familiarly "complicated" movie character, and hardly one of the darkest and most fascinating souls in 20th-century America. It also elevates the Frost/Nixon interviews to exaggerated historic significance.

Ridgeway Four, Hollywood 20 Cinema.

Gran Torino (R, 116 min.) With his voice the rasp of the handsaw that cut his cracked features from a stump of cedar and his pants as high as the front porch from which he surveys the supposed decline of "the old neighborhood," Clint Eastwood is a comic totem of American masculinity, stardom, intolerance and, ultimately, redemption in this old-fashioned piece of moviemaking about change we can believe in: the renewal of America's promise as a melting-pot land of opportunity. Eastwood (who also directed, with his customary no-nonsense artistry) plays Walt Kowalski, a racist Korean War veteran and retired Detroit auto worker who literally growls at the sight of the "swamp rat" Hmong immigrants who have moved in next door. But when his new neighbors are threatened by a Southeast Asian gang, he becomes not just a surrogate father to the teens but Dirty Harry with an AARP discount: "Get off my lawn," he snarls, pointing a rifle at a neighborhood gangbanger and transforming a cliched expression of codgerly irritation into a septuagenarian update of "Go ahead, make my day." The film is sometimes wincingly corny in its depiction of a "lovable" curmudgeon, but its bluntness and sincerity -- and the undistracted momentum of its storytelling -- are like splashes of cold water in a face gone slack from a surfeit of irony and sophistication.

Stage Cinema, Majestic, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Studio on the Square, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16.

High School Musical 3: Senior Year (G, 112 min.) Zac Efron sings and dances.

Bartlett 10.

Hotel for Dogs (PG, 100 min.) Director Thor Freudenthal's Nickelodeon adaptation of a 1971 novel by Lois Duncan offers an appealing wish-fulfillment fantasy for kids, with Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin as resourceful foster siblings who secretly transform an abandoned inner-city hotel into a luxury home for stray pooches that -- like the orphaned kids -- are unwanted because "they're not puppies any more." Young viewers will enjoy the hotel's makeshift Rube Goldberg contraptions, which include a "fetching machine," automatic poop-disposal toilets and a vending machine that dispenses shoes for chewing; parents, meanwhile, will appreciate the kindness-promoting message.

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

Inkheart (PG, 106 min.) Based on a 2003 young-adult novel by German author Cornelia Funke, this tale of a magical ''Silvertongue'' (Brendan Fraser) who brings characters ''out of books and into our world'' when he reads aloud is hardly spellbinding; but better an adventure movie for families that (however paradoxically) extols the value and wonder of books than yet another film that celebrates violent revenge or asinine behavior. Directed with a rather glum Euro sensibility by Iain Softley (who, judging from his adaptation of "The Wings of the Dove," is more comfortable dealing with Henry James than with flying monkeys), the movie benefits from the performances of Helen Mirren as an eccentric, book-loving aunt and, especially, Paul Bettany as a magical fire-juggler named Dustfinger.

Stage Cinema 12, Majestic, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso, Hollywood 20 Cinema.

Last Chance Harvey (PG-13, 99 min.) Young people who think old people are boring will have their prejudices reinforced by this determinedly sweet but draggy work from writer-director Joel Hopkins about a pair of lonely sad sacks who find unexpected romance after a chance encounter at Heathrow in London. (Before seeing this film, I never would have thought of Emma Thompson as an easy airport pickup.) Dustin Hoffman is a rumpled writer of commercial jingles; Thompson is an airport employee; their 22-year age difference is pretty much ignored, even though it's almost four times the gap between Hoffman and Anne Bancroft when they shot "The Graduate."

Cordova Cinema.

Lakeview Terrace (PG-13, 111 min.) Former "art film" specialist Neil LaBute apparently wanted to get back on the commercial horse after his disastrous remake of "The Wicker Man"; the result is this efficient, button-pushing thriller in which disturbed cop Samuel L. Jackson rolls out the unwelcome wagon for his new neighbors, a mixed-marriage couple played by Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington. A polished, self-conscious heir to such unapologetic grindhouse race-baiters as 1977's "Fight for Your Life," the movie asks viewers to examine their own attitudes about racial issues while they're also steeling their nerves for the next shock.

Bartlett 10.

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (PG, 89 min.) When the New York zoo refugees from the first film crash-land in the African veldt, new character Zuba the lion (voiced by Bernie Mac) is disappointed to discover that his long-lost son, Alex (Ben Stiller), has grown up to be a dancer, not a fighter. (In case you didn't understand this is a story about "coming out," Alex spends much of the film in a Carmen Miranda tutti-frutti hat.) Like its 2005 predecessor, also directed by Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath, this is among the Looney Tuniest of recent computer-animated features; the anatomy-distorting slapstick, wacky wordplay and surreal throwaway gags are nonstop. The wonderfully stylized returning characters include Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith), Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) and a scene-stealing platoon of penguins.

Bartlett 10.

Marley & Me (PG, 115 min.) The dog best-seller.

Stage Cinema.

Milk (R, 128 min.) "Politics is theater," says Sean Penn as Harvey Milk; it rarely makes for great movies, however. An exception is this work from director Gus Van Sant, which provides an object lesson for filmmakers who need proof that features with heavy themes about events of historic significance can be personal and accessible, intimate and entertaining. In 1977, Milk won the race for San Francisco supervisor, to become "the first openly gay man elected to major office in the U.S."; what makes this achievement tragically cinematic, however, is the fact that Milk was assassinated the next year by a fellow supervisor with a weirdly complementary name, Dan White (played here by Josh Brolin). A convincing period piece about a "culture war" that has lost little of its firepower, the movie -- beautifully scripted by Dustin Lance Black -- seems almost unthinkable without Penn, whose immersive mimicry combines Method commitment with Laurence Olivier-style disguise; the tension created when the actor's assertion of authenticity tugs against his embrace of performance is a key to Penn's fascination, as it apparently was to Milk's appeal.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

My Bloody Valentine 3D (R, 101 min.) "Nothing says 'date movie' like a 3-D ride to hell," promises the trailer. Sold! Like its 1981 inspiration, this unpretentious, ultraviolent slasher-film remake focuses on the gruesome depredations of a pickax-wielding maniac in a miner's suit (complete with helmet, goggles and Darth Vaderesque breathing apparatus); the whodunnit mystery plot adds to the "fun." In a packed auditorium in 3D, director Patrick Lussier's film is a true thrill ride -- a communal experience of shared screams and relieved laughter.

Majestic, DeSoto Cinema 16 (in 3-D), Paradiso (in 3-D), Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16 (in 3-D).

New in Town (PG, 96 min.) Utterly predictable if occasionally inexplicable (why is T. Rex's "20th Century Boy" used to score an ice-fishing scene?), this so-called romantic so-called comedy casts Renée Zellweger as a Miami corporate ladder-climber sent to snowy rural Minnesota, where the folk wisdom, sense of community and funny Frances McDormand-in-"Fargo" accents of the lovable and eccentric townspeople shame her hard-boiled citified pragmatism; plus, she falls for a hunky union rep (Harry Connick Jr.) who actually listens to country music and drinks beer! The lesson here is: City, bad; small town, good. Sophisticates: bad; scrapbookers: good. Vegeterianism: bad; meatloaf: good. And judging by the evidence onscreen, we might even say: White Christians: good; others: wellllll, maybe not bad -- but who needs 'em?

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

Not Easily Broken (PG-13, 100 min.) A bad car accident tests a husband and wife (Morris Chestnut and Taraji P. Henson) in this adaptation of a novel by Bishop T.D. Jakes.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Majestic, DeSoto Cinema 16, Paradiso, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Southaven Cinema.

Notorious (R, 123 min.) The life and death and Life After Death (to quote an album title) of Christopher Wallace -- better known as The Notorious B.I.G., the rapper murdered at the age of 24 in a still unsolved 1997 drive-by shooting in Los Angeles -- might have inspired a great tragic movie about art, media, self-invention and self- destruction; something like "The Public Enemy" or "Raging Bull," but set in the world of popular music. Unfortunately, this unimaginative, authorized biopic lacks the irresistible bump of Biggie's music and the flow of his rhymes. Rapper-turned-actor Jamal Woolard is impressive as Biggie, the former drug dealer who became an icon of up-from-the-streets success (and excess); Derek Luke is producer/label manager Sean "Puffy" Combs; Anthony Mackie is role model-turned-rival rapper Tupac Shakur. Unlike Wallace, however, director George Tillman Jr. doesn't create anything fresh from the elements "sampled" from past art (in this case, such musical movie biographies as "Ray" and "Walk the Line"). In the film, when Wallace begins to write his raps, he marvels: "Those rhymes told my story." They still do, a fact that makes this movie redundant.

Majestic, DeSoto Cinema 16, Paradiso, Palace Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop (PG, 91 min.) Kevin James ("The King of Queens") is the title bumbler in this surprise box-office hit.

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, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

Punisher: War Zone (R, 107 min.) "Oh God, now I've got brains splattered all over me." Those are the final words heard in this movie, and the cop who utters them likely will be the only person on record to accuse this ultraviolent sequel of an excess of brains. "War Zone" replaces Thomas Jane -- the star of 2004's "The Punisher" -- with the even lesser-known Ray Stevenson and the awful first film's delusions of quality with a tasteless, no-holds-barred blood mania that has become a hallmark of distributor Lionsgate, the modern safe harbor for exploitation also responsible for "Saw." This time, the Punisher, a "crazed vigilante," battles a maniac gangster named Jigsaw (Dominic West), whose reconstructed face (which includes "strategically placed alloy plates... and just a little bit of horsehide") has more stitches than the Quilts of Gee's Bend. Directed with verve by former World Karate and Kickboxing champion Lexi Alexander, this is a real throwback to the grindhouse, with a body count to rival the Black Plague and a shameless embrace of such cliché lines as "See you in hell."

Bartlett 10.

Quantum of Solace (PG-13, 107 min.) Opening immediately after the events of 2006's OO7 reboot, "Casino Royale," director Marc Forster's film reintroduces James Bond (Daniel Craig) as "a cold bastard," driven by "inconsolable rage" as he tries to destroy the multinational crime cartel that caused the death of his girlfriend. The action and globetrotting are almost nonstop; an early rooftop chase is influenced more by the legacy of Bourne than Bond, but a later murder offers a witty if gruesome nod to "Goldfinger" -- and a clever visual metaphor for the idea that dependence on oil could mean the death of the free world. The villain (Mathieu Almaric) is a faux environmentalist seeking to exploit the planet's most precious resources.

Bartlett 10.

The Reader (R, 123 min.) "Take off your cloze," says a beautiful, working-class older woman with a German accent (Kate Winslet) to a seemingly lucky 1950s teenage intellectual (David Kross) in this odd addition to the "Holocaust genre" that suggests -- what? That Nazis might have been nicer if they'd spent more time reading books instead of burning them? Adapted by scripter David Hare and director Stephen Daldry (the team responsible for "The Hours") from German author Bernard Schlink's well-regarded 1995 best-seller, the film examines the impact of the Nazi legacy on the postwar generation, as the teenage hero grows into a typically morose Ralph Fiennes, scarred by the revelation that the dream woman who taught him about sex while he taught her about Chekhov had been a death-camp guard. When Lena Olin tells Fiennes that "the camps weren't therapy" and he should "go to the theater if you want catharsis, go to literature," the scene seems a repudiation of the movie itself; however, the film does offer something the novel can't: Kate Winslet really does take off her cloze, a lot.

Ridgeway Four, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Hollywood 20 Cinema.

Revolutionary Road (R, 119 min.) Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet (the muse of seething suburban self-loathing -- see also "Little Children") star as Frank and April Wheeler, a seemingly "perfect" husband and wife who tear into each other with a mean-spirited, theatrical gusto that is comic, harrowing, tiresome and true to the tone of Richard Yates' brilliant source novel, published in 1961, when the notion that a home in suburbia wasn't so much a symbol of success as a doorway to hell was more daring. If the film seems obvious compared to the book, it correctly captures the idea that the young, even naive, Frank and April are play actors in their own lives; this also validates the sometimes stagey nature of director Sam Mendes' film, which takes place mostly indoors, on impeccably art-directed period sets (the furniture and clothing would make the cast of "Mad Men" envious). The knockout supporting cast includes native Memphian Kathy Bates as a realtor who uses words like "toodle-oo" and Michael Shannon as a mentally disturbed man who is more honest than the "sane" people he encounters.

Studio on the Square, Cordova Cinema.

Slumdog Millionaire (R, 120 min.) This almost fairytale "rags to rajah" saga of an impoverished underdog "slumdog" (Dev Patel) who achieves overnight fame (and a fortune in rupees) on India's version of "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire" is the rare crowd-pleaser that earns its feel-good denouement as well as our respect. Shot on location (the train station in the film was hit in the Nov. 26 terrorist attacks), the movie's brilliantly designed visual and sonic density seems as much a mandate of the chaos endemic to teeming Mumbai as of the nonlinear, flashback-filled storytelling strategy of British director Danny Boyle, aided by Bollywood veteran Loveleen Tandan, who is credited as "Co-Director (India)." The Dickensian early sequences focusing on the hero's childhood are especially vibrant and thrilling -- alternately comic (the boys scam tourists at the Taj Mahal) and harrowing (the children are recruited by an evil Fagin figure).

Ridgeway Four, Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16.

Taken (PG-13, 91 min.) Liam Neeson makes like Charles Bronson to rescue his kidnaped daughter.

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, Southaven Cinema, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

The Tale of Despereaux (G, 94 min.) Animated mice.

Bartlett 10.

Transporter 3 (PG-13, 100 min.) Jason Statham returns as super-driver Frank Martin, who this time is blackmailed into transporting a kidnapped and freckle-spattered Ukrainian redhead (Natalya Rudakova) across Europe. ("I want to feel sex one more time before I die," she tells Frank, in her broken English.) The plot makes absolutely no sense, and the stunts are so absurd -- Frank outraces a car on a bicycle; Frank drives off a bridge onto a speeding train; Frank floats his auto from the bottom of a lake by inflating a pair of garment bags with air from the car's tires -- that the only appropriate reaction is boredom.

Bartlett 10.

Twilight (PG-13, 122 min.) A possible boon to proponents of high-school abstinence pledges as well as a canny expression of the sexual fears and yearnings of the post-Miley Cyrus, presorority rush demographic, this adaptation of the first of Stephenie Meyer's phenomenally popular novels documents the love of the new girl in school, pretty Bella Swan, played by Kristen Stewart, for the even more beautiful Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), a 17-going-on-forever "vegetarian" vampire (he drinks only animal blood) with pale skin, red lips, sculpted features and moussed hair. Because Edward cannot allow his lust to give way to bloodlust, he is the embodiment of heroic chastity, sweet anticipation and hopeless sexual tension; when he gets his first close look at Bella in biology class, he covers his mouth with his hand -- the vampire equivalent of an excited adolescent hiding his lap with a schoolbook in a "Porky's" film. The movie is not too exciting, but it's effective, thanks in part to its lush Oregon forest locations and the empathy of director Catherine Hardwicke, a specialist in conflicted rebel youth.

Stage Cinema 12.

The Unborn (PG-13, 87 min.) Instead of the usual Catholicism, this horror movie taps into Jewish tradition, as a young woman (Odette Yustman) is haunted by a malevolent dybbuk; even the exorcist (Gary Oldman) is a rabbi rather than a priest, armed with a shofar instead of a crucifix. Laughable but interesting, the movie -- like some Stephen King rewrite of "The Reader" -- traces its characters' distress to the Holocaust. In other words, never forget: "Jumby wants to be born!"

Majestic, DeSoto Cinema 16, Raleigh Springs Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16.

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (R, 93 min.) Those who know British actor Michael Sheen as David Frost (in "Frost/Nixon") and Prime Minister Tony Blair (in "The Queen") may not know he already had a movie career as hunky, hairy Lucian, the vampire-battling "lycan" (werewolf, to you) in two "Underworld" movies. Directed by promoted special effects/makeup artist Patrick Tatopoulos, this trilogy capper, a prequel set in some unspecified "dark age," borrows from "Romeo and Juliet," "The Passion of the Christ" (there are two, count 'em, two gory scourging scenes) and, especially, "Spartacus," as Lucian leads a lycan slave revolt against vampire aristocrat Viktor (a typically campy Bill Nighy), father of Lucian's secret love (Rhona Mitra, in the skintight warrior-woman leathers worn in the previous films by Kate Beckinsale).

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 Uninvited (PG-13, 87 min.) This remake of the modern Korean classic "A Tale of Two Sisters" is the fifth horror movie of this young year.

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.

The Wrestler (R, 115 min.) The tale of a once celebrated, now down-and-out New Jersey professional wrestler (Mickey Rourke) eking out a living on the fringes of show business while dreaming of a return to greatness, director Darren Aronofsky's intimate, small-scale film (frequently shot with handheld cameras that trail the actor, so that the spectator becomes a tagalong participant in the protagonist's life) represents a perfect match of actor to character and back story to script: Audiences will see the film's alternately lovable and grotesque hero, Randy ''The Ram'' Robinson, as a stand-in for Rourke, the once beautiful, now battered fiftysomething comeback kid who earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination for this role. An equally uninhibited Marisa Tomei co-stars as an aging stripper known as "Cassidy," whose humiliating "entertainment" career and use of an onstage alias make her a sympathetic match for "the Ram." Gritty on the outside and sentimental inside, the film is most convincing -- and entertaining -- as a behind-the-scenes look at the seedy world of barely professional wrestling, an increasingly violent and ''punk'' milieu where staple guns and broomsticks wrapped in barbed wire have been added to the arsenal of brass knuckles and folding chairs.

Studio on the Square.

Yes Man (PG-13, 104 min.) When a girl who makes "life happen" meets a guy who needs to "embrace the possible" -- well, the result ought to be harder to swallow than this generally agreeable romantic comedy about a lovesick emotional miser (Jim Carrey) whose decision to say yes to every question and opportunity leads to love with a wacky free spirit (Zooey Deschanel, the weirdo's muse -- see also "Elf"). Peyton Reed ("The Break-Up") directs with more toughness than expected, and only missteps with a grotesque "comic" oral sex interlude involving Carrey and poor Fionnula Flanagan.

Bartlett 10.

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