Movie Capsules: Now showing

Through young eyes, Chilean director Andrés Brown's ''Machuca'' views bloody 1973.

Through young eyes, Chilean director Andrés Brown's ''Machuca'' views bloody 1973.

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

OPENING TODAY

Next Day Air (R, 84 min.)

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.

Through young eyes, Chilean director Andrés Brown's ''Machuca'' views bloody 1973.

Through young eyes, Chilean director Andrés Brown's ''Machuca'' views bloody 1973.

Paris 36 (PG-13, 120 min.)

Ridgeway Four.

Star Trek (PG-13, 127 min.)

Forest Hill 8, Stage Cinema 12, Majestic, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Studio on the Square, Raleigh Springs Cinema, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso, Palace Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16, Southaven Cinema.

Valentino: The Last Emperor (Not rated, 96 min.) A documentary about Italian designer Valentino Garavani, who created the black dresses worn by Jackie Kennedy during her year of mourning for John F. Kennedy, among other fashion achievements.

Ridgeway Four.

SPECIAL MOVIES

Esther (Not rated, 100 min.) Director Carolyn Yancy-Gunn stars as a maid who averts a mass murder in this locally produced modern update of the famous Bible story.

3 p.m. Sunday, Ground Zero Blues Club, 158 Lt. George W. Lee St. Admission: $15. Visit cfaproductions.org.

Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk: The latest IMAX documentary follows two environmentalists on a daring rafting ride down the Colorado river. Narrated by Robert Redford; music by the Dave Matthews Band. Runs 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.

Indie Memphis Micro Cinema Club No. 51: Shorts from Chile, in honor of the Memphis in May International Festival.

7:30 p.m. Wednesday at The Power House, 45 G.E. Patterson. Admission is free; popcorn and beverages are available. Donations are appreciated.

Machuca (Not rated, 121 min.) Regarded as one of the great films of modern Chile, director Andrés Brown's 2004 production looks at the bloody year of 1973 -- when the socialist government of Salvador Allende was overthrown by the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet -- through the eyes of two young friends, one a child of the slums, the other a child of privilege.

7 p.m. Thursday and 7 p.m. May 21, Studio on the Square. Admission: $5, or free for Indie Memphis members. Presented by Indie Memphis and the Memphis in May International Festival.

Metropolitan Opera: La Cenerentola (Not rated, 180 min.) A Cinderella-esque tale by Rossini, presented live via satellite from New York.

11:30 a.m. Saturday, Paradiso. Tickets: $20. Visit malco.com.

Mummies: Secrets of the Pharaohs: Follow researchers and explorers as they piece together 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.

Under the Bombs (Not rated, 98 min.) Dedicated to international cinema, the library's "Wider Angle Film Series" continues with this acclaimed Lebanese drama about a Shiite woman searching for her missing son with the aid of a Christian cab driver. The film was shot on location in war-torn Lebanon during the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel.

7 p.m. Wednesday, Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library, 3030 Poplar. Admission is free; children under 17 admitted with parent or guardian.

NOW SHOWING

Battle for Terra (PG, 84 min.) A computer-animated science fiction film about a peaceful alien planet that faces destruction when it is colonized by humans.

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

Bedtime Stories (PG, 95 min.) A lovable loser (Adam Sandler) discovers the wacky stories he makes up while babysitting his niece and nephew magically come true, so he begins including such details as "the uncle gets a Ferrari"; the kids counter by adding, "and then he's kicked by a dwarf." This phony mix of inspirational family drama and pandering humor (one story involves a "booger monster") marks a big step backward for director Adam Shankman ("Hairspray").

Bartlett 10.

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

Bartlett 10.

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 creepy notion of an evil mother whose "love" is a form of possession and parasitism.

Bartlett 10.

Crank: High Voltage (R, 85 min.) Jason Statham goes on the hunt for his heart after a Chinese mobster replaces it with a battery-powered ticker. Really.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Majestic, Palace Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Southaven Cinema.

Dragonball Evolution (PG, 86 min.) The Japanese manga turned anime becomes a live-action film.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Earth (G, 90 min.) Created by the team responsible for the acclaimed BBC series "Planet Earth" and distributed in the U.S. by Disney's new division for "green" documentaries, Disneynature, this moving and stunningly photographed film travels from pole to pole to look in on polar bears, elephants, humpback whales, birds of paradise and other species of arctic, forest, jungle, desert and ocean mammals and birds as they struggle to survive and raise their young over the course of a year on a planet that -- as narrator James Earl Jones reminds us -- is the only one in the vastness of space that "we know... can support life." It's hard to imagine a parent or child who won't experience a sense of awe and an appreciation for the diversity of life while watching this worthy heir to the Oscar-winning "True-Life Adventures" produced by Disney from 1948 to 1960.

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

Fast & Furious (PG-13, 107 min.) The definite articles are gone but the stars are back: Vin Diesel and Paul Walker reunite, eight years after "The Fast and the Furious."

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

Fighting (PG-13, 105 min.) Terrence Howard introduces Channing Tatum to the profitable world of organized bare-knuckle street-brawling.

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

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (PG-13, 100 min.) Arrogant womanizer Matthew McConaughey learns a supernatural lesson in this Dickens-inspired romcom.

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

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.

Bartlett 10.

Hannah Montana: The Movie (G, 102 min.) Drawing from the traditions of Cinderella (the scullery maid who is really a princess) and Superman (the superbeing who pretends to be a "normal" person), the push-and-pull tension of the Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana dichotomy provides the premise for this feature-length expansion of the hit TV show about a teen girl (Miley Cyrus) who enjoys the "Best of Both Worlds" through her secret life as a pop sensation. Deciding that his increasingly spoiled daughter needs a time-out for "Hannah detox," Miley's onscreen and real-life daddy, Billy Ray Cyrus, takes "the most popular teenager in the world" back to the family farm, where Miley regains her appreciation for Minnie Pearl collector's plates while also introducing the locals to a new "hip-hop" dance craze, "The Hoedown Throwdown." Shot in Middle Tennessee, this hit musical diversion for training-bra initiates should do wonders for the Volunteer State's film industry, if not for its reputation for worldliness. Says Billy Ray, after a waiter places a lobster in front of him: "That's a heck of a crawdad, isn't it?"

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

The Haunting in Connecticut (PG-13, 92 min.) Never play hide-and-seek in a haunted house, unless you want to discover you're sharing your dumbwaiter hidey-hole with a ghostly charred corpse. That's what happens to one of the unfortunate kids in director Peter Cornwell's lukewarm chiller, perfectly timed for the current housing crisis. Virginia Madsen stars as a mother-I'd-like- to-(haunt) who relocates her family to unfortunately named Goats Woods, Conn., so her teenage son, Matt (Robert Pattinson-lookalike Kyle Gallner), can be closer to the hospital treating his cancer. Mom picks out a rambling old house that is "spacious and affordable... I'm just wondering, what's the catch?" The catch: The house was formerly a funeral home-cum-crematorium where seances were conducted by a boy medium who spit ectoplasm from his orifices like supernatural toothpaste from a squashed tube while also opening a gateway to our world for the disgruntled dead. "Based on the true story," according to the credits -- not a true story, but the true story, as if this post-Amityville boofest has been vetted for authenticity by some sort of paranormal accreditation agency.

Majestic, DeSoto Cinema 16, 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 Jennifer Aniston and Connelly, as well as Ben Affleck and Justin Long.

Bartlett 10, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

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.

Bartlett 10.

Knowing (PG-13, 122 min.) A preposterous meld of in-your-screaming-face end-times anxiety, special-effects cataclysm and booga-booga M. Night Shenanigans, this wacked-out, quasi-religious "Donnie Darko" for dummies earns my endorsement not because it's coherent but because it's so over the top that it's engrossing, even when director Alex Proyas (the intriguing "Dark City," the rusty "I, Robot") is focusing on the emoting of Nicolas Cage rather than on an scary plane crash, a shocking subway disaster or (in what may be a movie first) a burning moose. Cage plays a widowed M.I.T. professor whose belief that life is a result of "chemical accidents" with "no grand meaning" is shaken when he discovers that a 50-year-old note contains details about five decades of disasters, including 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and several tragedies yet to come. The film exploits fears of ecological and infrastructural collapse while also providing a distressing yet reassuring parable (you know, like the Flood) for an increasingly skeptical nation.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16.

The Last House on the Left (R, 109 min.) Unlike its grungy inspiration, director Dennis Iliadis' remake of Wes Craven's infamous 1972 shocker is shot and scored with such delicacy and technical professionalism it might as well be, say, the life story of Gandhi rather than a wallow in rape, murder and sadistic, audience-rousing vengeance (true to the domestic associations of the title, the evildoers are dispatched with garbage disposal and microwave oven). The varnish of "art" applied to the story's ugly content is supposed to serve as a defense against the movie's critics; instead, it's evidence of the film's cowardice and cynicism.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Palace Cinema.

Monsters vs. Aliens (PG, 94 min.) Like all DreamWorks Animation features, this colorful homage to the science-fiction B-movies of the 1950s relies overmuch on nonsequitur pop-culture jokes, worn-out comedy crutches (TV weathermen sure are vapid!) and celebrity voices; but the central "monster" and heroine, Susan (voiced by Reese Witherspoon), who's hit by a meteorite on her wedding day and grows to be a friendly update of Allison Hayes in 1958's "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman," is a character with real, um, weight. The action set pieces -- especially a battle with a giant egg-like alien robot on the Golden Gate Bridge -- are spectacular. Susan's co-stars include a Black Lagoon refugee, the Missing Link (Will Arnett); a "Fly" guy, Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie); the gargantuan (and inarticulate) Insectosaurus; and -- best of all -- B.O.B. (Seth Rogen), a dimwitted blob. Directed by Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon.

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

Observe and Report (R, 86 min.) Writer-director Jody Hill's second feature (after the word-of-mouth cult comedy "The Foot Fist Way") has been described -- not inaccurately -- as a combination of "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" and Martin Scorsese's "Taxi Driver." The bipolar suburban rent-a-cop played here by Seth Rogen also recalls another Scorsese malcontent, Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro), the demented would-be stand-up jokester in "The King of Comedy." But if Hill's ambitious, aggressive and confused film reveals the telegony of movies past, it's also very much -- and this may be the most disturbing thing about it -- a child of its time. Arriving after a string of deadly mass shootings in America, this tale of a deluded, frustrated, gun-obsessed wannabe hero (imagine Barney Fife as reimagined by Jim Thompson) is a comedy with a foot on the neck of the Zeitgeist, and it's this pressure on the trachea that crushes the laughter in our throats. With Ray Liotta as a police detective and Anna Faris as a sexy but crass cosmetics clerk.

Palace Cinema.

Obsessed (PG-13, 109 min.) Beyoncé gets mad when white skank Ali Larter goes after her man, Idris Elba.

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.

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

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Bartlett 10.

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

Bartlett 10.

17 Again (PG-13, 102 min.) Matthew Perry wishes he could be young again and wakes up to find himself transformed into high school senior Zac Efron.

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

The Soloist (PG-13, 117 min.) Robert Downey Jr. is Los Angeles Times reporter Steven Lopez and Jamie Foxx is homeless, schizophrenic, classically trained street musician Nathaniel Ayers in this based-on-a-true-story inspirational drama -- and American movie debut -- from British director Joe Wright (the ampersand version of "Pride & Prejudice"), who resists tugging at the heartstrings even as Ayers coaxes the melodies of his beloved Beethoven from the catgut of his violin and cello. Emphasizing wry humor and gritty "realism" over in-your-face uplift, Wright has created a sort of mainstream art film; but even in what is essentially a two-man drama, he seems a man born to make epics: The colorfully choreographed, impeccably composed Bedlam of bedbug-infested bedhead insanity found in the homeless shelter depicted here is a rival for the organized chaos of Wright's already famous Dunkirk beach sequence in "Atonement."

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

State of Play (PG-13, 117 min.) Wisecracking reporter Russell Crowe connects the dots between mysterious deaths.

Forest Hill 8, Collierville Towne 16, Studio on the Square, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso.

Sunshine Cleaning (R, 99 min.) Scrubbing splattered brains from a shower stall is a character-building bonding activity for the malfunctional Lorkowski sisters in New Zealand director Christine Jeffs' New Mexico-set film, which might clot from the pressure of too much unlikely, writerly detail if not for the elbow grease applied by its charming stars, Amy Adams and Emily Blunt. The subject matter (the sisters form a crime-and-trauma-scene cleanup company) seems ripe for dark slapstick, but the movie contains only one pratfall, when Blunt falls onto a foul mattress that she and Adams are toting to a trash bin; Megan Holley's script has some stenchy spots, too, but Blunt and Adams each emerge from this self-consciously oddball comedy-drama smelling like a rose.

Ridgeway Four.

Taken (PG-13, 91 min.) Liam Neeson makes like Charles Bronson to rescue his kidnapped 17-year-old virgin daughter from the swarthy threat of white-slaver Albanians and their Arab patrons in this morally specious but undeniably efficient brainstem-tickler from director Pierre Morel (the superior futuristic actioner "District B13") and indefatigable producer-writer Luc Besson ("The Transporter," "Unleashed"). The combination of Neeson's gravitas and Morel's coherent staging of the violence makes this the most effective action/revenge film in years.

Ridgeway Four, Bartlett 10.

Watchmen (R, 162 min.) The world of "Watchmen" is not for the faint of heart. Set in an alternate-history version of the 1940s to the 1980s, this is a comic book-inspired superhero movie with scenes of jailhouse dismemberment, meat-cleaver murder, "lesbian whores," the assassination of John F. Kennedy, attempted rape, a naked blue giant and -- scariest of all -- Richard Nixon, serving his fifth term as president. Slavishly faithful at times to its ambitious, celebrated source, the movie -- directed by Zack Snyder ("300") -- is worth seeing for a few showstopping sequences and some stellar performances (Jackie Earle Haley steals every scene as the psychopathic Rorschach), but it contributes nothing new to the ideas developed by author Alan Moore and illustrator Dave Gibbons in their 12-issue DC Comics series, originally published in 1986 and 1987. Comic books and movies both tell stories with pictures, but "Watchmen" demonstrates that the animating spirit of a rich, fully realized graphic novel may be as hard to transfer to the screen as that of any other type of successful literary work.

Bartlett 10.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (PG-13, 109 min.) It's no suprise the pirated, incomplete version leaked to the Internet didn't dent this Marvel Comics adaptation's muscular box office: "Wolverine" without special effects is like "King Kong" without the ape. Reprising his scene-stealing (scene-slashing?) role from three previous films, Hugh Jackman is the title mutton-chopped mutant, a surly Canadian with retractable adamantium claws and an intractable personality who -- even in his pre-"X-Men" days -- attracts trouble the way Magneto attracts metal: Among the "freaks" he battles and befriends are Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), John Wraith (will.i.am), the Blob (Kevin Durand) and his bloodthirsty brother, Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber). As staged by director Gavin Hood ("Tsotsi"), the almost nonstop action in this sometimes callous tale of revenge is poised halfway between the ADD whiplash of "Crank" and the more elegant spectacle of "Spider-Man"; as pure pulp entertainment, it works.

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

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