Movie Capsules: Now showing

In 'Warrior's Way, a martial artist (South Korean star Dong-gun Jang) hides from assassins in an 1880s American frontier town.

Photo by Rogue Pictures

In "Warrior's Way, a martial artist (South Korean star Dong-gun Jang) hides from assassins in an 1880s American frontier town.

Capsule descriptions by The Commercial Appeal movie writer John Beifuss.

OPENING TODAY

Tamara Drewe (R, 100 min.) See review on Page 13.

Ridgeway Four.

The Warrior's Way (R, 100 min.) A warrior-assassin (South Korean star Jang Dong-gun) battles foes in the American badlands.

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

SPECIAL MOVIES

Dolphins and Whales: Tribes of the Ocean: A new adventure from Jean-Michel Cousteau, narrated by Daryl Hannah. IMAX film runs through March 4. Tickets $8, $7.25 senior citizens, $6.25 children ages 3-12; children under 3 free.

IMAX Theater at Memphis Pink Palace Museum, 3050 Central. Call 320-6362 for show times, tickets and reservations.

Mesrine: Killer Instinct (R, 113 min.) Vincent Cassel stars as notorious celebrity bank robber Jacques Mesrine in this violent, award-winning French gangster epic, set in the 1960s and '70s, which made its U.S. theatrical debut this fall. (The followup film about the second half of Mesrine's life, "Mesrine: Public Enemy # 1," screens Dec. 11.)

2 p.m. Saturday, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. Tickets: $8, or $6 for museum members. Visit brooksmuseum.org.

Only When I Dance (Not rated, 78 min.) Devoted to international cinema, the 2010 edition of the "Wider Angle Film Series" concludes with this feel-good documentary about two teenagers from the violent favelas (slums) of Rio de Janeiro who pursue their dreams of becoming professional ballet dancers.

7 p.m. Wednesday, Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library , 3030 Poplar. Admission is free; children under 17 admitted with parent or guardian. Call 415-2726.

Santa vs. The Snowman: This heart-warming, animated holiday IMAX film is a family favorite. Runs through Dec. 31.

IMAX Theater at Memphis Pink Palace Museum, 3050 Central. Call 320-6362 for show times, tickets and reservations.

NOW SHOWING

Alpha and Omega (PG, 88 min.) A computer-animated film about young wolves.

Bartlett 10.

Burlesque (PG-13, 100 min.) Seeking fame and fortune, boom-voiced Iowa waitress Christina Aguilera hits the Sunset Strip and finds a mentor and surrogate mother in club impresario Cher, a rival in bitchy Kristen Bell and a boyfriend in hunky bartender Cam Gigandet. Writer-director Steven Antin has delivered, in essence, an update of an old Warner Bros. backstage musical, spiced with the ersatz-"Cabaret" naughtiness of its insular neo-burlesque club setting (complete with a barely utilized Alan Cumming as a Joel Grey-like eminence fey). Underwritten and ultimately underwhelming, the movie is elevated by a few strong musical numbers and the va-va-voom attractiveness of its tightly corseted young performers.

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

Despicable Me (PG, 95 min.) Voices of Steve Carell, Miranda Cosgrove.

Bartlett 10.

Due Date (R, 95 min.) Angry, high-strung Robert Downey Jr. travels cross-country with mincing, bizarro Zach Galifianakis and his masturbating French bulldog in the latest mean-spirited comedy of inappropriate behavior from director Todd Phillips ("The Hangover"). At the start, we assume we're supposed to laugh at the idiotic Galifianakis character -- a would-be actor who manages a "Two and a Half Men" fansite and thinks the Pilgrims built Boulder Dam -- and to identify with Downey's unfortunate father-to-be, trying to get to California in time for the birth of his first child; but Phillips frequently sucker-punches our expectations, most literally when the Downey character -- about as lovable as Mel Gibson -- slugs an annoying young boy in the gut. How do we react to this? Sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes depressing, "Due Date" may be more psych test than comedy.

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

Fair Game (PG-13, 108 min.) Arriving at a time when former President George W. Bush is putting a smiley face on his administration with his new memoir, this fact-based political drama is a welcome corrective, reminding us that the phony case for the invasion of Iraq was no accident. Naomi Watts stars as Valerie Plame, the CIA agent who was "outed" by the White House after her husband, career diplomat Joe Wilson (Sean Penn), wrote in the New York Times that Bush appointees had twisted or ignored the results of his CIA fact-finding mission to Africa in order to exaggerate the Iraqi threat and gin up the case for war. Unfortunately, in the cold hands of director Doug Liman (still enamored of the bleached, shaky-camera visuals he employed in "The Bourne Identity"), this material seems better suited for an episode of "Dateline NBC" than for a narrative feature, despite the presence of David Andrews as a particularly sinister "Scooter" Libby -- the film's equivalent of Martin Kosleck in a World War II-era thriller.

Ridgeway Four.

Faster (R, 98 min.) Violent, surprisingly smart and goofily pretentious (what's with the forgiveness-and-salvation mumbo-jumbo at the climax?), the first all-out bone-cruncher in five years for Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson represents a welcome return from Disney-land to a lethal landscape better suited for a man with "guns" for arms and a head shaped like a bullet. The Rock plays a left-for-dead ex-con on a track-them-and-kill-them vengeance trail; he is pursued, in turn, by a junkie homicide detective (a sly and skinny Billy Bob Thornton) and a movie-star-handsome self-made millionaire hit man (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) who kills for the challenge of the assignment (he says he's looking for "something more ultimate" than yoga). The movie borrows plenty from its betters (Spaghetti Westerns, "Point Blank," "The Driver," etc.), but George Tillman Jr. ("Soul Food") directs with style and a propulsive sense of story, even if the bleached palette of his images is a sad cliché. With Carla Gugino as a cop and Tom Berenger as a Khalil Gibran-quoting prison warden.

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, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

For Colored Girls (R, 134 min.) Tyler Perry leaves Madea behind but continues to costume his characters in the drag of histrionic melodrama and hysteric cliché in this earnest but muddled attempt at fashioning a film to be both a popular success and an important work of art. The truncated title sounds a warning: The movie is adapted from Ntozake Shange's acclaimed 1975 stage play, "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf," a key text of black feminist identity in which nameless women enact folk-poetic monologues about rape, abortion, domestic violence and other issues. To meet the challenge of this material, Perry adds multiple no-account male characters and constructs elaborate soap-operatic connecting stories; the movie ends with an empowering group hug, but it takes date rape, STD's, a "down-low" husband, teen pregnancy, girlfriend-beating, exorcism and even baby defenestration to get there. The ensemble cast elevates the new material, and the actresses -- including Janet Jackson as a fashion editor, Thandie Newton as a sexually promiscuous bartender, Kerry Washington as a social worker and an Oscar-worthy Kimberly Elise, to name a few -- mostly nail Shange's monologues, many of which are delivered in single-take close-ups. Almost in spite of itself, the movie accumulates a certain power and dignity; Perry doesn't disprove the notion that the original play is essentially unfilmable, but he does remind us that almost nobody else is making quality movies that speak directly to African-American women.

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

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (R, 147 min.) Directed (like its predecessor) by Daniel Alfredson, the final film in the Swedish trilogy inspired by the crime-conspiracy novels of the late Stieg Larsson (a writer who right now may be second only to J.K. Rowling in worldwide popularity) is the least exciting yet, thanks to a plot that keeps Larsson's distinctive young heroine, the dragon-tattooed computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), sidelined in a hospital room or jail cell for most of its running time. To compensate for this shortcoming, Lisbeth re-emerges during a climactic 45-minute courtroom sequence as a punk-rock peacock, resplendent in tight black duds, raccoon makeup, a looming mohawk, a spiked dog collar and elaborate multiple piercings -- a knight in leather armor, and the avenging embodiment of Larsson's apparently genuine anger over the exploitation of the powerless by the powerful. So why do I give this flawed film a three-star rating, after awarding 21/2 stars to each of its more intense predecessors? Because I'm now conceding that the series is quite satisfying as a whole, in the manner of the well-made, limited-episode dramas that appear on AMC and HBO. The sum (of Lisbeth's computer code) is greater than its (body) parts.

Ridgeway Four.

Grown Ups (PG-13, 102 min.) Back-in-the-day school buddies Adam Sandler (a successful Hollywood agent), Kevin James (unemployed family man), Chris Rock (house husband), David Spade (carefree bachelor) and Rob Schneider (weirdo) reunite for a weekend at a lake and rediscover the simple joys of rope-swinging, stone-skipping and friendship, or something like that. The expected middle-aged-boys-will-be-boys antics are amusing, but the shameless sentiment (a cute little girl wants to use the car GPS to locate heaven so she can visit her grieving dad's recently deceased friend, awww) and writer-producer-star Sandler's ego-tripping (not only is Adam married to Salma Hayek, he's a sure shot on the basketball court) interfere with the laughs. Directed by Dennis Dugan ("Happy Gilmore").

Bartlett 10.

Guzaarish (Not rated, 135 min.) A Hindi-language Bollywood film about a paraplegic modern-day magician (Hrithik Rosan) who falls for his nurse (former Miss World Aishwarya Rai).

Hollywood 20 Cinema.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (PG-13, 146 min.) Before the action of the movie even starts, the famous Warner Bros. logo is eaten away by rust and corruption. That's all, folks? Not quite. Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is in power, and Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his friends are in exile, but the "Part 1" qualifier promises that brighter days -- no doubt to be purchased at great cost -- are ahead. The first half of the extended film adaptation of the seventh and final volume in J.K. Rowling's stupendous series of so-called Young Adult novels is lethargic and self-indulgent at times, and it makes no concessions to anyone unfamiliar with Potter lore. But at its best -- which in this case means at its most menacing -- it's almost hypnotic, thanks to the villainies of Voldemort, Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) and the Death Eaters. The frightening context transforms "Deathly Hallows" into a sort of horror movie, set in the belly of the beast, almost literally: The film's not 10 minutes old before a giant constrictor opens its fanged jaws and slithers straight at the audience, essentially swallowing the camera lens -- and us -- whole, plunging the screen into darkness. Can you last until July 15, when director David Yates & Co. return with "Part 2"?

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, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

Inception (PG-13, 148 min.) Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page.

Bartlett 10.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (PG, 100 min.) Voices of Jim Sturgess, Helen Mirren.

Bartlett 10.

Life as We Know It (PG-13, 115 min.) This peculiarly ruthless romantic comedy kills off a perfectly nice set of parents and orphans an adorable infant so that the dead couple's best friends -- a respectable, somewhat uptight baker (Katherine Heigl) and a sloppy, irresponsible womanizer (Josh Duhamel) -- can realize their mutual loathing is just a cover-up for true love after they accept responsibility for the baby, as requested in the couple's unlikely will. The triplets who play the baby are cute, and the film may score some points with new parents, who will recognize the dangers of loaded diapers and the Wiggles; but the blood sacrifice demanded by director Greg Berlanti and the screenwriters seems like a pretty extreme set-up for a couple of hours of sitcom cuteness. And what to make of the terrible title, which is meaningless except that it's arrogantly predicated on the assumption that "we" are attractive white people who live in huge houses and have few economic worries?

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Lottery Ticket (PG-13, 99 min.) Bow Wow, Ice Cube.

Bartlett 10.

Love & Other Drugs (R, 112 min.) Can self-centered pharmaceutical salesman Jake Gyllenhaal find happiness with willful Anne Hathaway?

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

Megamind (PG, 96 min.) It's supervillain Megamind (voiced by Will Ferrell) vs. superhero Metro Man (Brad Pitt) in the latest from DreamWorks Animation.

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

Morning Glory (PG-13, 107 min.) Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton are feuding anchors on a morning news show.

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

N-Secure (R, 108 min.) If Tyler Perry had created an erotic thriller for Roger Corman's Concorde-New Horizon Pictures in the 1990s, the result might have been something like this made-in-Memphis independent feature, which almost begs the audience to talk back to the screen as a series of beautiful young women (including Essence Atkins and Denise Boutte) place themselves in jeopardy at the strong hands of a trigger-tempered, ex-Marine control freak (Cordell Moore) who lives in a suburban McMansion, drives a Hummer and even speaks Japanese. Directed by L.A. TV veteran David M. Matthews and financed and co-written by local music promoter Julius Lewis, the film is set within middle- and upper-class black Memphis and unambiguously aimed at African-American moviegoers; the cast includes Tempestt Bledsoe, who accusingly asks her unfaithful boyfriend (Lamman Rucker) "Why is your fly unzipped?" -- a line she never got to utter on "The Cosby Show." The movie won't win any Oscars or even BET Awards, but sympathetic audiences will get a kick out of its N-tertaining plot twists, unabashed dramatics and villainy -- if Moore's mustache were any longer, he might twirl it. Look for cameos by John Calipari and Willie Herenton.

Majestic.

Nanny McPhee Returns (PG, 109 min.) Emma Thompson is back as a Mary Poppins with a W.C. Fields nose.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

The Next Three Days (PG-13, 122 min.) Russell Crowe's life turns upside-down when wife Elizabeth Banks is convicted of murder. Directed by Oscar-winner Paul Haggis ("Crash").

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

The Other Guys (PG-13, 108 min.) Both homage and raspberry to the "Lethal Weapon"-style buddy-cop action-comedies of years past, the latest collaboration between star Will Ferrell and director/writer Adam McKay is (as usual) a stew of anything-for-a-laugh aggression, surreal plotting and non sequitur characterization. Ferrell plays a college pimp-turned-uptight police "forensics accountant" who is an embarrassment to his tough-guy partner, Mark Wahlberg; together, they stumble onto a corrupt investment scheme masterminded by greedy capitalist Steve Coogan that gives the film an overt if unpersuasive political slant. A bonus: the closing credits song, "Pimps Don't Cry." A big minus: the ugly, ugly cinematography.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Paranormal Activity 2 (R, 89 min.) Are bumps in the night scarier than blades in the gut? Audiences must think so: This prequel to the out-of-nowhere no-budget hit of 2007 earned $42 million on its opening weekend, surpassing the "Friday the 13th" remake to set a new record for horror films. Like its predecessor, this is a contemporary suburban "haunted house" story, ingeniously and economically constructed from supposedly "authentic" handheld home-video and surveillance-camera footage; blinking lights, swinging doors and unexplained off-camera noises provide most of the scares. The movie is effectively creepy, but it leads nowhere.

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

Red (PG-13, 111 min.) When retired CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is threatened with assassination, he reassembles his (literally) old team in this entertaining, relatively light-hearted (if bullet-riddled) DC Comics adaptation from director Robert Schwentke. Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman and John Malkovich are among Frank's colleagues; Mary-Louise Parker is the civilian love interest pulled into the comic chaos. The novel AARP-action vibe is loose and pleasant, even if the sensitive viewer can't help wishing gunplay and murder weren't so easy to accept as escapist entertainment. Also troubling: The realization that audiences are now so cynical about politics that they have no trouble believing the story's U.S. Vice President is so evil he deserves to be rubbed out .

Collierville Towne 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema.

Saw 3D (R, 90 min.) The seventh "Saw" opens with a man cauterizing the bloody stump of his severed leg against a steaming-hot pipe, followed by a massacre in a department store window in which a bisected young woman's entrails plop onto the floor. This public execution suggests director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI") plans to expand the scope of the series, but no such luck: The film quickly retreats to the usual claustrophobic and booby-trapped interiors, where the acting is as lethal as the contraptions. The presence of Sean Patrick Flanery as a "Jigsaw survivor" turned celebrity self-help guru provides some welcome satire of the series' pretentiousness, but the movie -- the bloodiest and most violent episode yet -- mostly offers a series of inventively shocking Chuck Jones-meets-Herschell Gordon Lewis set pieces. More proof that the MPAA's ratings system is useless: If this level of gore doesn't demand an NC-17 designation ("Patently Adult -- Children Are Not Admitted"), what does?

DeSoto Cinema 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema.

Secretariat (PG, 123 min.) The more-or-less true story of a steel-magnolia housewife who follows her heart and defies the odds to build an athletic champion, this inspirational film could be described as "The Blind Side" with a horse (a comparison that works only because of the earlier movie's reductionist presentation of football star Michael Oher). Diane Lane stars as Penny Chenery, who risks her marriage to take over her aging father's farm and transform the stallion, Secretariat, into a Triple Crown winner and probably the greatest racehorse that ever lived; John Malkovich is the horse's flamboyant trainer. Directed by Randall Wallace, this is good old-fashioned entertainment, marred only by the de rigueur motivational pronouncements ("You never know how far you can go unless you run") and the bizarre use of the gospel hit "Oh Happy Day" during the Belmont Stakes, as if the sound of the Edwin Hawkins Singers proclaiming that Jesus has washed their sins away really has much to do with the sight of one horse beating the hooves off several others.

Stage Cinema, Collierville Towne 16.

Skyline (PG-13, 107 min.) The story's brain-snatching aliens must have attacked the filmmakers before they invaded the rest of Los Angeles: The script is idiotic, the characters annoying, the behavior illogical, the science absurd -- it's like a laughably, enjoyably awful Syfy channel "War of the Worlds"/"District 9"/"Cloverfield" rip-off, with the saving grace of state-of-the-art special effects (the monsters and spaceships are cool). One character alludes to the Rapture, but the idea that this unexplained apocalypse is punishment for civilization's excessive materialism, promiscuity and substance abuse -- sins embraced by the dimwitted show-biz characters introduced during the first half hour -- goes nowhere. Directed by the Brothers Strause ("Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem").

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

Takers (PG-13, 107 min.) Chris Brown, Matt Dillon.

Bartlett 10.

Tangled (PG, 101 min.) Disney fairy-tale musicals once aspired to be special and distinctive -- to provide an alternative to what was commonplace in the popular culture. But the studio's first computer-animated "princess" cartoon doesn't want to surprise or innovate but to be a sort of wisecracking, DreamWorks-style "Shrek" spin-off; it lacks what a publicist might call "Disney magic," as well as its original title (not "Rapunzel," as God and Grimm intended, but "Tangled," in hopes that little boys won't refuse to accompany their sisters to the cinema). For all that, the film overcomes a clumsy setup and a glib script by Dan Fogelman to be very entertaining, as the naive but spunky Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore) escapes her inaccessible tower and her evil "mother" (Donna Murphy) with the aid of a twinkle-eyed thief (Zachary Levi) and her impossibly long and prehensile hair, which she uses as if it were a super-power. As in most CG cartoons, the human characters resemble big-eyed plastic dolls that are almost always guilty of "overacting," yet directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard manage a few grace notes: The royal steed, Maximus, seems a refugee from a more impressive animated feature, and a sequence involving floating, lighted lanterns is stunning.

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

The Town (R, 125 min.) Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall.

Bartlett 10.

Toy Story 3 (G, 109 min.) Voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen.

Bartlett 10.

Unstoppable (PG-13, 98 min.) Even the irritations of director Tony Scott's filmmaking -- the high-contrast cinematography, the habitual mini-zooms and camera "readjustments" -- can't derail this fun thriller about two railroad men -- wise veteran engineer Denzel Washington and cocky novice conductor Chris Pine -- who try to stop an unmanned runaway train loaded with toxic chemicals before it delivers a crashload of catastrophe. Scott and screenwriter Mark Bomback make great use of the railway culture and environment -- the train yards, the lingo, the old-fashioned mechanical grinding and chugging -- even as they exploit the most amusingly hoary and reliable of race-against-the-clock disaster-film clichés.

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, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

Waiting for 'Superman' (PG, 102 min.) A documentary cry for education reform that explores the role of teachers' unions, charter schools and aspects of education..

Ridgeway Four.

You Again (PG, 105 min.) Former pimply geek Kristen Bell confronts her old high-school nemesis in this "women's comedy."

Bartlett 10.

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