Movie Capsules: Now showing

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

OPENING TODAY

Black Swan (R, 108 min.) See review.

Ridgeway Four, Studio on the Square.

The Fighter (R, 116 min.) See review.

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.

How Do You Know (PG-13, 121 min.) Reese Witherspoon is romanced by Paul Rudd and Owen Wilson.

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.

Tron: Legacy (PG, 125 min.) See review.

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 (in 3-D), Hollywood 20 Cinema (in 3-D), CinePlanet 16 (in 3-D), Summer Quartet Drive-In.

Yogi Bear (PG, 83 min.) See review.

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 (in 3-D), Hollywood 20 Cinema (in 3-D), CinePlanet 16 (in 3-D), Summer Quartet Drive-In.

OPENING WEDNESDAY

Little Fockers (PG-13, 98 min.) More Fock for your movie buck.

Ridgeway Four, Forest Hill 8, Stage Cinema, Majestic, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso, CinePlanet 16.

True Grit (PG-13, 110 min.) The Coen Bros. remake the beloved 1969 Western, with Jeff Bridges replacing John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn.

Ridgeway Four, 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.

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.

Santa vs. The Snowman: This 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.

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

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (PG, 115 min.) Like the fierce (and welcome) sea serpent that emerges to battle a friendly dragon in the final act, the Christian message is hard to miss in this third film in the fantasy-adventure saga based on the novels of C.S. Lewis. This time, an obnoxious cousin (Will Poulter, of "Son of Rambow") joins series regulars Lucy (Georgie Henley), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), Caspian (Ben Barnes) and Reepicheep, the warrior mouse (voiced by Simon Pegg), on a Sinbad-style sea quest in search of lost lords and magic swords. Prolific veteran director Michael Apted ("Coal Miner's Daughter") isn't able to do much more than direct traffic here, considering the large cast, multiple locations and complicated but uninvolving storyline.

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 (in 3-D), Hollywood 20 Cinema (in 3-D), CinePlanet 16 (in 3-D), Summer Quartet Drive-In.

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

Bartlett 10.

Devil (PG-13, 80 min.) Bookeem Woodbine, Chris Messina.

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 first, 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, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16.

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), revealed 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, Hollywood 20 Cinema.

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.

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

For Colored Girls (R, 134 min.) Kimberly Elise, Janet Jackson.

Majestic.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (R, 147 min.) Noomi Rapace. 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. For this series, the sum (of Lisbeth's computer code) is greater than its (body) parts.

Ridgeway Four.

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, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso, Palace Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16.

Hereafter (PG-13, 129 min.) Director Clint Eastwood's globetrotting "Good Will Haunting" casts Matt Damon as a troubled San Francisco psychic whose ability to communicate with the dead eventually brings him into contact with a tsunami survivor (Cécile De France) and an almost Dickensian London orphan longing for his dead twin (the boys are played by Frankie and George McLaren).

Bartlett 10.

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.) Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

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

Stage Cinema, Collierville Towne 16, Studio on the Square, Paradiso, 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.

Stage Cinema, Majestic, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Palace Cinema (in 3-D), Hollywood 20 Cinema (in 3-D), Summer Quartet Drive-In.

My Soul to Take (R, 107 min.)

Bartlett 10.

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").

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

Paranormal Activity 2 (R, 89 min.)

Bartlett 10.

Red (PG-13, 111 min.) Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren.

Hollywood 20 Cinema.

Saw 3D (R, 90 min.)

Hollywood 20 Cinema.

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 rampant 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").

Majestic.

The Social Network (PG-13, 120 min.) Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

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

Bartlett 10.

Tamara Drewe (R, 100 min.) When the title head-turner (played by former Bond girl Gemma Arterton) shows up at a cozy rural British writers' retreat in a tight sleeveless red T-shirt and short-shorts that might have embarrassed Catherine Bach, it's no surprise her youthful, unabashed sexuality is not just a distraction but a disruption — a force that precipitates adultery, e-mail fraud and even a lethal cow stampede. What is a surprise is that Tamara — cheeky introduction notwithstanding — is perhaps the most tedious character in her own movie. Adapted from a well-regarded graphic novel by Posy Simmonds that was inspired in part by Thomas Hardy's "Far from the Madding Crowd," this mildly racy ensemble piece likely will please Anglophiles who prefer even lesser British comedies to their coarser American cousins. Unfortunately, the film's competing, meandering storylines — which involve prankish teens, an unfaithful crime novelist (Roger Allam), a rock drummer (Dominic Cooper) a Hardy scholar (Bill Camp) and others — rob the film of any real coherence, thwarting even the efforts of reliable director Stephen Frears ("The Queens").

Ridgeway Four.

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

The Tourist (PG-13, 104 min.) Johnny Depp is such a talented chameleon that when he portrays someone who is supposed to be boring, he actually is boring. Depp's low-wattage performance is one of several miscalculations that make this glossy, glacial travelogue hardly worth a visit, despite the appeal of its beautifully lensed Venice setting and the almost terrifying glamor of Angelina Jolie, a star as chilly and humorless and sculpted as one of Italy's classical marble statues. A remake of "Anthony Zimmer," a 2005 French film, this aspires to be the type of chic, frothy spy or heist romance that was common in the 1960s; but as a romantic couple, Jolie — playing an international mystery woman — and Depp — introduced as a widowed Wisconsin math teacher — fizzle rather than sizzle. Recruited to bring a touch of class and prestige to the project, Germany's Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (Oscar-winner for "The Lives of Others") directs with all the lightness of touch of a Stasi commandant.

Forest Hill 8, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, 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.

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

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, Raleigh Springs Cinema, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

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

Majestic, Hollywood 20 Cinema.

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (R, 98 min.) The title phrase typically signals romantic promise, but this is another angst-ridden all-star ensemble comedy of despair from writer-director Woody Allen, so the words are less than hopeful. In fact — and how's this for an invite? — Allen is asking us to patronize a movie with a title that translates to: "You Are Going To Die." As a struggling novelist (Josh Brolin) hostilely asserts after his mother-in-law (an Oscar-worthy Gemma Jones) reports that a fortune-teller has spied a new man in her future: "You will meet the same tall dark stranger that we all eventually meet." Shot in London (the caramel glaze of Vilmos Zsigmond's cinematography offers a tasty contrast to the sour proceedings), the film follows several fearful, resentful and angry characters as they struggle against the deadlines imposed by career (Naomi Watts needs money to start a new art gallery), romance (Freida Pinto is about to be married) and biology (afraid of dying, Anthony Hopkins marries a decades-younger nitwit call girl, played by Lucy Punch). Even the movie's incongruously jovial narrator apparently doesn't expect much; he describes the film as a "little tale of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Ridgeway Four.

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