Movie Capsules: Now showing

No mummies here: Brendan Fraser stars as Mortimer, a bookbinder  on a years-long search for a rare novel titled 'Inkheart.' Along the way he encounters flying monkeys and a ticking crocodile.

Photo by Murray Close/New Line Cinema, Murray Close/New Line Cinema

No mummies here: Brendan Fraser stars as Mortimer, a bookbinder on a years-long search for a rare novel titled "Inkheart." Along the way he encounters flying monkeys and a ticking crocodile.

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

OPENING TODAY

Confessions of a Shopaholic (PG, 105 min.) Isla Fisher is a fashionable New York journalist with a yen for shopping in this adaptation of Sophie Kinsella's best-seller.

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

No mummies here: Brendan Fraser stars as Mortimer, a bookbinder  on a years-long search for a rare novel titled 'Inkheart.' Along the way he encounters flying monkeys and a ticking crocodile.

Photo by Murray Close/New Line Cinema

No mummies here: Brendan Fraser stars as Mortimer, a bookbinder on a years-long search for a rare novel titled "Inkheart." Along the way he encounters flying monkeys and a ticking crocodile.

Friday the 13th (R, 95 min.) See review on Page 16.

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.

The International (R, 122 min.) See review on Page 20.

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

Let the Right One In (R, 110 min.) See review on Page 16.

Studio on the Square.

SPECIAL MOVIES

Annie Hall (PG, 93 min.) Woody Allen romances la-dee-da Diane Keaton in the writer-director's most celebrated film, winner of the 1977 Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. Part of the Dixon Gallery and Gardens "Art After Dark" series; museum director Kevin Sharp will introduce the film.

7 p.m. Thursday at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, 4339 Park Ave. Free with paid museum admission. Call 761-5250 or visit dixon.org.

International Folk Alliance Conference films: Documentaries screening at the folk-music convention this week include Sascha Paladino's 2008 "Throw Down Your Heart" (1 p.m. Wednesday), which follows banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck on a musical journey through Africa, and Todd Kwait's 2007 "Chasin' Gus Ghost" (3 p.m. Wednesday and 2 p.m. Thursday), which traces the history and impact of jug band music. Kwait and musician John Sebastian will introduce the Thursday screening, and answer questions after the movie.

Marriott Memphis Hotel. Visit folkalliance.org.

The Memphis Pink Palace IMAX Film Festival: Weekends in 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.

Momma's Man (Not rated, 94 min.) Screened in conjunction with Indie Memphis as part of a new "Film Festival Favorites" series, writer-director Azazel Jacobs' acclaimed micro-budget Sundance debut is a "bittersweet" (the Village Voice) and wryly comic semi- autobiographical portrait of an anxious young man who can't bring himself to leave his parents' Tribeca loft. From the producers of "Half Nelson" and "Maria Full of Grace."

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

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.

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.

The Tribute to Pavarotti (Not rated, 115 min.) This charity concert film honoring the late Luciano Pavarotti was shot on the tenor's birthday on Oct. 12, 2008, in Petra, Jordan, and features appearances by such artists as Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras, Zucchero and Sting.

2 p.m. Sunday, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. Admission: $8, or $5 for members. Visit brooksmuseum.org or call 544-6208

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.

Bolt (PG, 96 min.) "Lassie Come Home" for kids raised on superhero movies and "Hannah Montana," this charming and thoroughly family-friendly computer-animated tale of canine/human loyalty and companionship marks an auspicious first feature for new Walt Disney Animation Studios chief John Lasseter. Directed by Byron Howard and Chris Williams, the film cannily taps into several irresistible-to-kids fantasies. Bolt himself (voiced by John Travolta) is an American white shepherd puppy who stars as a superdog on a popular TV series; this double identity allows young viewers to imagine the fun of owning a cuter version of Krypto while it also affirms Charles M. Schulz's assertion that happiness is a warm puppy. Similarly, Bolt's "person," Penny (voiced by Miley Cyrus), is a TV star whose obligations are intended to reassure young moviegoers that "normal" life is preferable to celebrity. Bolt himself is lovable, but he essentially plays straight mutt to his beautifully voiced, scene-stealing animal companions: Mittens (Susie Essman), a sardonic alley cat, and Rhino (Mark Walton), a hamster who travels in a clear plastic exercise bubble.

Bartlett 10.

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

Stage Cinema, CinePlanet 16.

Coraline (PG, 100 min.) If 3-D is going to survive in cinemas as more than a carnivalesque gimmick, filmmakers will have to deliver more movies like this macabre and wonderful "Pan's Labyrinth"-like fantasy, in which the stereoscopic "dimensionality" becomes part of the story when a feisty young girl (voiced by Dakota Fanning) crawls through an esophageal passage to reach a mirror world ruled by her spooky "other mother" (Teri Hatcher), whose eyes have been replaced by shiny buttons. The theme is suited to the method of production: "Coraline" was created by director Henry Selick (working from a slim novel by Neil Gaiman) through the painstaking process of three-dimensional stop-motion animation, in which doll-like models are posed, a frame at a time, on miniature sets. Even children who enjoy the supernatural and monster action of "Harry Potter" and "Jurassic Park" movies may be unsettled by this film's creepy premise.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

High School Musical 3: Senior Year (G, 112 min.) Zac Efron and his fellow Wildcats (Vanessa Hudgens, Corbin Bleu and Ashley Tisdale, among others) stage another musical, and Disney execs light another victory cigar: This low-budget sequel -- the first in the series to get a theatrical release -- earned $42 million its opening weekend. Director Kenny Ortega's generous, upbeat film provides lively, unthreatening entertainment for young viewers thinking about first love, jealous friends, home-versus-travel choices and other issues that may confront them as they mature.

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, Collierville Towne 16.

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.

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

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, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16, Southaven Cinema, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

The Pink Panther 2 (PG, 92 min.) A redundant followup to an unnecessary remake, director Harald Zwart's film is nothing more than another slapstick showcase for Steve Martin's impressive yet dead-end mimicry of the late Peter Sellers, who will forever own the role of the clumsy and ridiculous French police detective, Inspector Clouseau. No movie is produced to lose money, but the new "Pink Panther" films have no apparent reason to exist except to wring more dollars from an already throttled franchise. The impressive supporting cast includes Alfred Molina, Andy Garcia, Lily Tomlin, John Cleese and Emily Mortimer.

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 and Chris Evans 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.

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.

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, Hollywood 20 Cinema.

Seven Pounds (PG-13, 124 min.) Put your faith in Will Smith and by his sacrifice ye will be reborn. That's the message of this messianic ego trip, as it was of Smith's 2007 Christmas season gift-of-self, "I Am Legend," the title of which seems increasingly revealing: Not content with being America's box office savior (he's the only actor to star in eight consecutive films that have grossed more than $100 million in the U.S.), Smith wants to be admired as a heroic and transformative cultural figure, like the uniter-of-races whose popularity he presaged, Barack Obama. As Ben Thomas, a charmer with a dark secret who audits the goodness as well as the finances of the needy people he visits, the noble Smith will save you from an abusive relationship, pull your weeds, repair your antique printing press, appreciate your eggplant Parmesan, comically imitate Minnie Riperton and sign over to you his seaside estate, complete with terraced gardens. He'll even give you his heart -- literally, if that's what's required.

Bartlett 10.

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.

The Spirit (PG-13, 108 min.) Comic-book movies got good once filmmakers began to respect the source material, the original creators and the fans. Yet here's a movie by a man considered to be one of the great modern comic-book creators (Frank Miller), a movie motivated by a desire to pay homage to its revered source material (Will Eisner's "The Spirit," which debuted as a newspaper strip in 1940) -- and it stinks. Arch, witless dialogue, unreal green-screen production design (the stylized look of "Sin City" and "300" -- both adapted from Miller comics -- already has lost its novelty), inhumanly cardboard characters and an alternately campy and pretentious approach to the material doom the project to irrelevance. Gabriel Macht is the dull title hero, a murdered cop who returns from the dead to fight crime; Samuel L. Jackson chews the nonexistent scenery as the villainous Octopus; Eva Mendes and Scarlett Johansson -- women so curvy even their lips cast shadows -- provide the requisite Eisnerian pulchritude.

Bartlett 10.

Taken (PG-13, 91 min.) Liam Neeson makes like Charles Bronson to rescue his kidnapped 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.) Matthew Broderick gives voice to an animated mouse.

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, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

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

The Uninvited (PG-13, 87 min.) The 2003 Korean film "A Tale of Two Sisters" is a modern masterpiece of psychological horror, and perhaps the best of the many Asian "ghost girl" films. Directed by a British pair of feature newcomers who call themselves "the Guard Brothers," this less subtle DreamWorks remake is a horror update of an "evil stepmother" fairy tale, with a troubled teen (Emily Browning) returning home to her sarcastic older sister (Arielle Kebbel) and her recently widowed father (David Strathairn), who has taken up with her late mother's young nurse (Elizabeth Banks). Preteen girls looking for slumber-party DVD rentals probably represent the film's ideal audience.

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 story 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 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.

Ridgeway Four, 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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