Movie Capsules: Now showing

James Marsden and Cameron Diaz star in 'The Box,' opening today.

James Marsden and Cameron Diaz star in "The Box," opening today.

OPENING TODAY

The Box (PG-13, 116 min.) Cameron Diaz and James Marsden star in an adaptation of Richard Matheson's scary short story, previously dramatized as an episode of "The Twilight Zone."

James Marsden and Cameron Diaz star in 'The Box,' opening today.

James Marsden and Cameron Diaz star in "The Box," opening today.

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

A Christmas Carol (PG, 96 min.) See review on Page 16.

Forest Hill 8, Stage Cinema (in 3-D), Majestic, Collierville Towne 16 (in 3-D), DeSoto Cinema 16 (in 3-D), Studio on the Square, Raleigh Springs Cinema, Cordova Cinema (in 3-D), Pardiso (in 3-D), Palace Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema (in 3-D), CinePlanet 16 (in 3-D), Summer Quartet Drive-In.

Coco Before Chanel (PG-13, 105 min.) See review on Page 14.

Ridgeway Four.

The Fourth Kind (PG-13, 98) Beyond the third kind: Milla Jovovich has a spooky alien encounter.

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

Men Who Stare at Goats (R, 93 min.) George Clooney and Jeff Bridges are soldiers participating in paranormal training for the Army in this fact-based film.

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

Motherhood (PG-13, 90 min.) Uma Thurman goes from Kill Bill to Change Diapers.

Ridgeway Four.

Play the Game (PG-13, 105 min.) As "Grandpa Joe," Andy Griffith learns dating tricks from his ladies' man grandson.

Ridgeway Four.

SPECIAL MOVIES

Brothers at War (R, 110 min.) See story on Page 19.

7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Stage Cinema. Tickets: $7, or $5 with military I.D. Visit onlocationmemphis.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 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 320-6362 for tickets and reservations.

Metropolitan Opera: Turandot (Not rated, 205 min.) Franco Zeffirelli directs Puccini's famous fairy tale, set in ancient China and presented in a live-from-New York satellite transmission.

Noon 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.

Crew Training International IMAX Theater at Memphis Pink Palace Museum, 3050 Central. Call 320-6362 for reservations and tickets.

Rashomon (PG-13, 88 min.) Akira Kurosawa's 1950 masterpiece -- regarded as essential viewing for film buffs -- screens in a newly restored 35-millimeter print.

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Studio on the Square. $7, or $5 for Indie Memphis or Brooks Museum of Art members.

Under the Sea: This new IMAX adventure transports you to some of the most exotic and isolated undersea locations on Earth, including South Australia, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Coral Triangle islands of Papua, New Guinea, and Indonesia. Runs through March 5, 2010. 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 320-6362 for reservations and tickets.

NOW SHOWING

All About Steve (PG-13, 99 min.) Sandra Bullock stalks Bradley Cooper.

Bartlett 10.

Amelia (PG, 110 min.) If good intentions could counteract the force of gravity, director Mira Nair's biopic would soar. Unfortunately, this handsome but somewhat leaden production burns a lot of fuel as it repeatedly buzzes its theme: That Amelia Earhart, the pioneering "aviatrix" of the 1920s and '30s, was not just a hero of the air but one of the original feminists -- an iconoclast in jodhpurs and a necktie whose addiction to the "freedom" of flight was representative of progressive womankind's yearning for independence from the drag of money-driven, male-dominated, conventional society. The role must have seemed irresistible to Hilary Swank, already rewarded with two Best Actress Oscars for playing women who infiltrate the worlds of men.

Studio on the Square, Paradiso.

Astro Boy (PG, 94 min.) Because this computer-generated feature from director David Bowers and Imagi Animation Studios is faithful in some respects to its key Japanese sources, the 1950s comic book and 1960s TV cartoon created by the so-called "God of Manga," Osamu Tezuka, it may creep some people out -- parents more than children, no doubt. The title hero (voiced here by Freddie Highmore) is, in fact, a robotic replica of a dead child; kids will love identifying with his superstrength and flying ability, but his weird origin contributes to the film's schizophrenic tone, as rousing action set pieces alternate with grim ecological and anti-military messages (a robotic weapon of mass destruction is dubbed "The Peacemaker").

Forest Hill 8, Stage Cinema, Majestic, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Cordova Cinema, CinePlanet 16, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant (PG-13, 109 min.) The first of Darren Shan's Young Adult vampire novels comes to the screen in a fun, energetic adventure with plenty of inoffensive ghoulish touches that should please kid and adult horror buffs alike. Chris Massoglia and Josh Hutcherson are teenage best friends whose arachnophilia and adolescent rebelliousness, respectively, lure them into the ancient rivalry between a traveling carnival of Tod Browning/Ray Bradbury oddities (including non-murderous vampire John C. Reilly) and a corps of evil bloodsuckers known as "the vampinese." After the sequel-squelching failure of "The Golden Compass," however, you'd think director Paul Weitz would know better than to end a movie with a lot of loose ends.

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

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (PG, 90 min.) Part Jerry Bruckheimer, part Betty Crocker, this Sony Pictures Animation feature begins as a jokey, slapstick, computer-generated cartoon for kids and expands into a clever and even thrilling disaster-movie spoof that should delight fans of all ages -- it's "Apocalypse Chow," with super-sized extra toppings of everything. Borrowing the title and premise and little else from a 1978 children's picture book by Judi and Ron Barrett, directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller have a field day imagining the blizzards of ice cream, the tornados of spaghetti and the Vesuvial fountains of nacho cheese cooked up a nerdy young inventor (voiced by Bill Hader) who seeds the clouds with foodstuff; "What if we've bitten off more than we can chew?" someone asks, in a foodie update of the famous warning against meddling in things man was not meant to know that was heard in "The Invisible Man" and almost every other vintage science-fiction film. "Cloudy" could be interpreted as a commentary on the potential perils of genetically engineered "Frankenfood," but it doesn't sweat the message. If it lacks the grandeur of "Wall-E," it's also utterly unpretentious; unlike the Pixar films, it's an unheralded surprise.

Stage Cinema (in 3-D).

Couples Retreat (PG-13, 114 min.) Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau in embarrassing hijinks.

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

The Final Destination (R, 81 min.) Forget such fusty sources as Poe, Stoker and Shelley: this fourth "Final Destination" film demonstrates that the only inspiration needed for a hit horror franchise is one of those cornball "Today is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life" posters, as yet another clique of attractive teenagers learns that life is just a short circuit, a spilled hair gel or a cracked swimming pool drain cover away from extinguishment. James Cameron and the folks at Pixar may disagree, but this is what 3D was made for: To make audiences scream and duck as Death hurls lethal objects from the screen.

Bartlett 10.

G-Force (PG, 88 min.) Have you ever wondered what a Jerry Bruckheimer-produced talking-animal movie would be like? Me, neither. But here's the answer: The Disney/Bruckheimer collaboration "G-Force," in which the car chases, explosions, transforming robot battles and "Mission: Impossible" suspense sequences are as intense as in an "adult" movie, except instead of Tom Cruise and Will Smith, the heroes are members of an elite squad of commando guinea pigs and insects, plus one star-nosed mole (nerdily voiced by Nicolas Cage). I would have been happier if the "black" guinea pig (Tracy Morgan) didn't get all the stereotypical comic-relief lines ("Pimp my ride," "That was off the huh-zook"), and if the female guinea pig (Penélope Cruz) wasn't obsessed with romantic mind games. Even so, longtime special effects supervisor-turned-debuting director Hoyt Yeatman has delivered a fairly amusing spoof of James Bond/comic-book superteam conventions. With Memphis' Chris Ellis as "the director of the FBI."

Bartlett 10.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (PG-13, 120 min.) The cartoon inspired by the Hasbro "action figures" inspired this chuckleheaded but coherently staged action movie that overcomes the burden of its reported $170-million budget to be surprisingly fun. With its massive sets, lack of "Transformers"-style bathroom humor, comic-book heroes ("Heavy Duty" and "Snake-Eyes," to name two), male and female eye candy (when Rachel Nichols suits up for action, you notice that large breasts have been premolded onto her body armor), ninja duels and scenery-chewing villains (the juiciest is a mad doctor with a horribly burned face), the film harks back to the pulpy spirit of "Doc Savage" adventures and Roger Moore-era James Bond movies. The result is director Stephen Sommers' first likable film since "The Mummy" in 1999.

Bartlett 10.

Good Hair (PG-13, 95 min.) Unlike most documentaries with a message, director Jeff Stilson's amusing examination of African-American hair culture invites moviegoers to a conversation, not a lecture. The film warns against what host Chris Rock calls "the creamy crack" (hair relaxer); chides working women for spending thousands of dollars on weaves; and charges that "hands off the hair" mandates have decreased intimacy between black men and black women. Then it lets its target audience off the hook by concluding that, hey, it's not what's on the skull but what's inside it that counts; so if you want to spend the rent money on a knitted net of human hair culled from a temple floor after a Hindu shaving ritual in India, spend away, ladies, spend away. One wishes for less accomodation from the typically truth-telling Rock, but the film's generosity may be its secret weapon in the slow battle to raise the consciousness of those who think straight European hair is more attractive than "nappy" African hair.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Majestic, DeSoto Cinema 16.

Halloween II (R, 101 min.) Brutal and redundant but not without a certain ugly integrity, this gruesome sequel allows director Rob Zombie to continue to explore his idea that murderous maniac Michael Myers is not the near-supernatural bogeyman of the original John Carpenter film but a pathetic and tragically irredeemable product of childhood abuse who suffers from multiple personality disorder: In the film's only interesting twist, Myers is accompanied on his rampages by his childhood self and his dead mother, an angel in white played by Sheri Moon Zombie.

Palace Cinema, CinePlanet 16.

The Hangover (R, 100 min.) Or: Dude, Where's My Bachelor? Sometimes tasteless, frequently hilarious, this "Superbad" with grown-ups (the dentist played by Ed Helms even resembles an adult "McLovin") chronicles several hours of irresponsible, occasionally criminal male conduct, as three best buds (Helms, Bradley Cooper and Justin Bartha) and a tagalong demented future brother-in-law (Zach Galifianakis) road-trip to Vegas for an overnight bachelor party; director Todd Phillips ("Old School") cuts from the pals' Jägermeister toast to the painful morning after in a destroyed hotel suite, where the evidence of debauchery includes a live chicken, a missing tooth, loss of memory, an Elvis jumpsuit, Mike Tyson's Bengal tiger, an unidentified baby and the absence of the bachelor himself. The talented cast and the mystery structure of the plot keep the film fresh and funny; but as the title suggests, you might regret your good time the next day, as you contemplate the at best ambivalent, at worst hostile relationship to women that motivates the narrative.

Bartlett 10.

I Can Do Bad All By Myself (PG-13, 113 min. ) Taraji P. Henson meets Madea.

Majestic, Hollywood 20 Cinema.

Inglourious Basterds (R, 151 min.) The cameo by Rod Taylor and the references to Yvette Mimieux (the stars of 1960's "The Time Machine") are the tip-offs: This is Quentin Tarantino's celebration of cinema as time machine -- a device that not only can erase the years (where can you see the young and beautiful Marilyn Monroe walk and talk but in a movie?) but, on an imaginative level, can change the past, as in this World War II fantasy in which the tragic flammability of old nitrate film stock provides the spark for what is presented as a righteous, Nazi-exterminating holocaust. (Says supreme cinephile Tarantino: If our film heritage must perish in flames, as has happened so often through the decades, at least yet the fires serve a purpose -- let the movies mean as much to the world as they have meant to me.) Talky and gory, outrageous and exhilarating, and awash in movie references, this "kosher porn" revenge film (to use co-star Eli Roth's term) stars Brad Pitt as the leader of the bloodthirsty title commandos, who adopt "Apache" tactics to not just kill but terrorize Nazis: They use monstrous violence against a Reich that rules with monstrous violence. Is this approach -- by Tarantino and by the "Basterds" -- defensible or merely grotesque? Perhaps anticipating the reaction of some critics, Tarantino has himself (or at least a dummy cast in his likeness) scalped in an early scene; among those with more memorable roles are Diane Kruger as a glamorous German actress; Christoph Waltz as an urbane SS officer and Mélanie Laurent as a cinema owner with a secret.

Bartlett 10.

Jennifer's Body (R, 102 min.) Oscar-winning "Juno" scribe Diablo Cody penned this smartypants chiller with Megan Fox as a high-school hottie possessed by a boy-slaying demon after an encounter with a satanic indie-rock band; Amanda Seyfried is the long-suffering and somewhat nerdy best friend who suspects the truth. Tonally inconsistent and perverse, with a forced glibness and a reliance on pop-culture references that often fall flat (Jennifer's assailants break into a chorus of Tommy Tutone's "Jenny" as they stab her), the movie -- unlike most of its horror peers -- at least errs on the side of ambition and cleverness; its box-office failure suggests that male genre fans don't want to be asked to identify with the victims instead of the menace. Directed by Karyn Kusama ("Girlfight").

Bartlett 10.

Law Abiding Citizen (R, 122 min.) Its title heavy with irony if light one hyphen, director F. Gary Gray's implausible and morally confused revenge thriller casts Gerard Butler as a grieving yet bloodthirsty antihero who might have been produced by gene-splicing the Charles Bronson of "Death Wish" with Jigsaw, the mastermind of the "Saw" franchise: His first victim, the murderer of his wife and child, is injected with paralyzing serum "from the liver of a Caribbean puffer fish," then dissected with a scalpel (for the eyelids), a circular saw (for the extremities) and an X-Acto knife (for the -- well, never mind). "It's gonna be biblical," promises the self-righteous Clyde about his vengeance, although moviegoers familiar with the Good Book may wonder how they missed the chapter in which the Philistines were smote with a booby-trapped cell phone. Jamie Foxx co-stars as a career-first assistant district attorney who represents the flawed justice system that the film half-heartedly defends.

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

Love Happens (PG-13, 109 min.) Can Seattle florist Jennifer Aniston and self-help guru Aaron Eckhart find love? Probably.

Cordova Cinema.

Michael Jackson's This Is It (PG, 112 min.) Contrary to a cynic's expectations, this hastily assembled documentary suggests the late superstar's "comeback" concerts in London would have been a triumph; even better (for MJ fans), the film -- culled by director Kenny Ortega from March and June tour rehearsals in Los Angeles -- reveals a "King of Pop" whose talent was undiminished by whatever private demons contributed to his shocking death on June 25 at the age of 50. Many of the numbers are knockouts, for all their Vegas/ Disneyland/Cirque du Soleil/Cecil B. DeMille Kong-sized kitsch (during "Thriller," the singer emerges from a giant mechanical black widow spider), and Jackson -- running the show with an iron if glitter glove -- appears healthy, enthusiastic and even likable.

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

Paranormal Activity (R, 86 min.) With the help of the marketing geniuses at Paramount, director Oren Peli's spooky, creepy, genuinely dread-inducing film -- shot in one location in a week for about $15,000 -- has become an Internet and box-office phenomenon, and the most fan-hyped horror hit since the similarly camcorded and micro-budgeted "The Blair Witch Project." As in "Blair Witch," the movie is presented as a "found" work of art: a documentary constructed from the artless videos recorded by a young couple (Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat) who believe that a ghost may be haunting their split-level San Diego starter home, an Everyplace of 21st-century generic drabness, with sectional sofa, black pleather couch, big-screen TV and -- maybe -- one demon. An exercise in anticipation and anxiety with few visual shocks (the scariest moments involve creaking doors and literal bumps in the night), the movie requires the collaboration of the viewer, and an investment of imagination; it's a campfire ghost story, with the light flickering from the screen instead of from a pile of burning kindling. "Maybe we shouldn't have the camera?" Katie asks, raising the interesting if undeveloped notion that the plugged-in generation's endless self-regard and intentional surrender of privacy invites discontent, disruption and even disaster.

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

The Proposal (PG-13, 108 min.) Tailored to fit Sandra Bullock more snugly than the antique wedding gown altered for the star during the final act, this romantic comedy begins to fall apart at the seams after director Anne Fletcher ("27 Dresses") stops concentrating on her promising screwball premise -- hated New York book editor Bullock forces subordinate Ryan Reynolds into marrying her so she won't be deported back to Canada -- and becomes distracted by forced comic interludes involving a male stripper, morning arousal and Bullock's ghastly interpretation of Lil' Jon's "Get Low." As Bullock's future in-laws, Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson and Betty White do their best; the movie also is elevated by its beautiful seaside locations (Massachusetts, subbing for Alaska).

Bartlett 10.

Saw VI (R, 93 min.) This latest slice of ultraviolence would make a good co-feature with Michael Moore's "Sicko,"as self-righteous maniac Jigsaw -- apparently a fan of the public option -- plays his bloody, lethal "games" with health insurance professionals who deny coverage to the needy. Director Kevin Greutert's not-so-grand guignol is gruesome in the extreme, but also clever; and as usual, Tobin Bell elevates the grimy material with his sensitive-beyond-the- call-of-duty work as Jigsaw.

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

Secrets of Jonathan Sperry (PG, 96 min.) A Christian-themed film with the TV Land cast of Gavin MacLeod and Robert Guillaume.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Collierville Towne 16.

A Serious Man (R, 105 min.) "No Jews were harmed in the making of this motion picture." Those words appear near the end of the final credits, but they may not provide much reassurance to those grappling with this fascinating, disturbing film about the silence -- the absence? -- of God. Possibly already a bootleg favorite in Osama bin Laden's cave, this dark comedy may be the most revealing and personal project yet from writers-directors- editors Joel and Ethan Coen, who transplant the story of Job to a 1967 Minnesota suburb where almost every character except physics professor Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) is unattractive and awful enough to qualify as an anti-Semitic caricature. The film seems to be the Coens' attempt to revisit the roots of their estrangement from traditional Judaism and religious faith; maybe their reaction to this alienation was to become among the most "godlike" of film creators -- purveyors of the cinematic equivalent of Intelligent Design, in which every element and gesture springs entirely from their minds, while their characters rush toward a preordained dead end that makes a mockery of their best efforts.

Ridgeway Four.

Shorts (PG, 89 min.) Writer-director-producer-editor- cinematographer-special effects supervisor Robert Rodriguez abandons the gore of "Grindhouse" and "Sin City" for a return to the tyke-friendly fantasy-adventure of his "Spy Kids" movies in this essentially homemade (in Austin) "Little Rascals" update in which youngsters wreak accidental havoc (and create upright crocodiles, a giant dung beetle, a "big bad booger" monster and an intellectual telepathic baby) with a magical "wishing rock." A fun trifle, with Leslie Mann, Jon Cryer, William H. Macy and James Spader in its adult cast.

Bartlett 10.

The Stepfather (PG-13, 102 min.) Dylan Walsh does his best, but trying to top Terry O'Quinn's witty performance in the original 1987 cult-classic version of "The Stepfather" would be like trying to replace Anthony Perkins in a "Psycho" sequel. The premise -- a kid suspects mom's new boyfriend is a family-slaying serial killer -- is sure-fire, but director Nelson McCormick substitutes an Oedipus complex for sexual menace by replacing the teenage daughter heroine of the earlier film with a hunky military school bad boy (Penn Badgley), then compounds the mistake with a bad pop/rock soundtrack, a silly action climax and the last resort of desperate horror filmmakers, a fake cat scare.

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

Surrogates (PG-13, 89 min.) Science-fiction chillers of the past that warned about dehumanization -- "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," for example, or "I Married a Monster from Outer Space" -- posited an outside threat; now, in a 21st-century world of plastic surgery and online avatars, the danger comes from within: The dehumanization is voluntary, as seen in "Gamers" and this graphic-novel adaptation from efficient director Jonathan Mostow ("Terminator 3"). Bruce Willis stars as a police detective in the near future, when most people "live" through attractive robotic "surrogates" that enable them to experience virtual sex and violence from the safety of their homes; the premise is utterly implausible, but the movie is surprisingly sober.

Stage Cinema, Majestic, Palace Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema.

The Time Traveler's Wife (PG-13, 108 min.) Rachel McAdams learns it's hard to be married to a guy (Eric Bana) who hops around in time.

Bartlett 10.

Where the Wild Things Are (PG, 94 min.) Destined to be a favorite of artists, folkies, hipsters, cultists, therapists, film theorists and depressives, if not necessarily children, this distinctive, perhaps unprecedented project uses its 1963 picture-book inspiration like some sort of combination medical instrument and painter's brush, to probe and illuminate the themes of loneliness, insecurity and problematic love embedded within the crosshatch patterns of original author Maurice Sendak's drawings of furry monsters, magical trees and cozy bedrooms. Directed with an extreme indie/artsy sensibility by Spike Jonze, the movie is not so much an adaptation as an expansion of the book; the faithfully recreated monsters (played by actors in large suits) are given the mundane names (Alexander, Judith) and kvetching personalities of the adults in the "real" life of sensitive, emotional young Max (beautifully played by Max Records), the boy in the dirty terrycloth wolf suit who runs away from home to become the self-proclaimed king of the "wild things." Like its source, the movie -- which eschews digital effects for a handcrafted, woodsy look, as if it were manufactured from twigs and spit, like a bird's nest -- ends on a note of hope and comfort; even so, the scariness and despair are hard to shake off.

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

Zombieland (R, 88 min.) According to movie tradition, a bullet to the brain can drop a zombie; the typically less-lethal presence of Bill Murray, however, is all that is needed to stop "Zombieland" dead in its tracks. Director Ruben Fleischer's slapstick splatterfest begins on an up if bloody note, as brainy virgin Jesse Eisenberg (basically repeating his role from "Adventureland"), gunslinger Woody Harrelson and sisters Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin unite to bust undead caps as they travel through a post-plague America overrun by the ravenous living dead. But when Murray shows up as himself halfway through the film, for an interlude that must have seemed like cheeky fun on the page but is smug and winky on the screen, consistency is tossed aside for the sake of an elaborate in-joke with a cruel punchline that exposes the film as a hollow exercise in cheap laughs and sensationalism.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Majestic, Raleigh Springs Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

© 2009 Go Memphis. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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