Movie Capsules: Now showing

Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore) escapes her inaccessible tower  and her evil 'mother'  with the aid of a  thief,  Flynn (Zachary Levi), and  her  long  hair in   'Tangled.'

Disney

Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore) escapes her inaccessible tower and her evil "mother" with the aid of a thief, Flynn (Zachary Levi), and her long hair in "Tangled."

Capsule descriptions by The Commercial Appeal movie writer John Beifuss.

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.

Metropolitan Opera: Don Carlo (Not rated, 300 min.) An encore presentation of the recent New York production of Verdi's epic of royal intrigue in 16th-century Spain.

6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Paradiso. Tickets: $20. Visit malco.com.

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (R, 98 min.) Woody Allen's latest returns; it's a London-set comedy-drama with Naomi Watts, Anthony Hopkins and Josh Brolin.

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

NOW SHOWING

Black Swan (R, 108 min.) At 29, Natalie Portman may not be exactly a spring chicken. Nevertheless, the beautiful performer is throttled, plucked and skewered in director Darren Aronofsky's en pointe and over-the-top tour de force -- a passionate and absurd psychodrama about the mental breakdown of a virginal ballerina that offers a high-art-context corollary to the high-tech-context body-transformation horror movies of David Cronenberg. (This Grand Guignol fairy tale is very much a companion piece to Aronofsky's previous film, "The Wrestler," in which Mickey Rourke also endured abuse, torture and self-mutilation for the sake of his physically demanding art.) A film of döppelgangers and fractured identity (a theme literalized by the many mirrors and the use of "Swan Lake," a ballet that pits a White Swan against "her lustful twin, the Black Swan"), the focus on Portman never falters -- the sinous, handheld camera follows the dancer character for every nervous step, plié, jeté and pirouette, so we constantly feel as if we are confronting or pursuing her -- a vantage point that piggybacks the moviegoer to both the heroine and her demons.

Ridgeway Four, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Collierville Towne 16, Studio on the Square, Cordova Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (PG, 115 min.) Like the fierce (and welcome) sea serpent -- part cobra, part eel -- 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. Veteran helmer 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.) Bokeem Woodbine, Chris Messina.

Bartlett 10.

Fair Game (PG-13, 108 min.) 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, this material seems better suited for an episode of "Dateline NBC" than for a narrative feature.

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.

Majestic, Palace Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema.

The Fighter (R, 116 min.) Inspired by the true story of the 1990s comeback of welterweight boxer "Irish" Micky Ward, director David O. Russell's boisterous film actually contains two main fighters: Ward himself, played with characteristic honesty by Mark Wahlberg; and Ward's older half-brother, prizefighter turned crack addict Dicky Edlund, played by a hollow-cheeked, sickly looking yet energetic Christian Bale, whose goofy, loose-limbed exuberance suggests the young Jerry Lewis. This is appropriate, because the movie is as much a knockabout comedy about a close-knit but argumentative and loud-mouthed extended family (Melissa Leo is the bossy mother) as a traditional boxing film or inspirational drama of overcoming addiction. Perhaps not since the heyday of John Ford has a movie so celebrated -- and, arguably, caricatured -- the working-class Irish-Catholic penchant for raising a ruckus.

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.

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

Majestic.

Gulliver's Travels (PG, 87 min.) Lilliputian in wit and Brobdingnagian in wretchedness, this live-action debut from director Rob Letterman ("Monsters vs. Aliens") underperforms on every level, even considering the low expectations one brings to a film inspired by this so-called high concept: "Jack Black as Gulliver." Black is a slobby newspaper mailroom clerk who becomes a literal bigshot when a trip through the Bermuda Triangle lands him on the shores of the kingdom of Lilliput, where the people (including Emily Blunt and Jason Segel) are only inches tall. The moral message of Jonathan Swift's 18th-century satire is reduced to a singalong cover of Edwin Starr's "War"; when Gulliver urinates on the palace to extinguish a fire (an incident that occurs in the novel), the disgusting moment -- the motivation for the entire project? -- lacks all context and meaning, beyond a gross-out grab for laughs.

Forest Hill 8, Stage Cinema, Majestic, Collierville Towne 16, 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.

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"?

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Majestic, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Paradiso, 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.

I Love You Phillip Morris (R, 100 min.) Directed and scripted by debuting feature helmers John Requa and Glenn Ficara, working from Steve McVicker's nonfiction book, this burlesque "Catch Me If You Can" is the latest in a series of fact-inspired yet cartoonish films ("Ed Wood," "Shattered Glass," "Talk to Me") about crazed American strivers -- self-invented artists or achievers or weirdos driven to practical insanity as they simultaneously rebel against and desperately grasp at the American dream. Jim Carrey stars as real-life Steven Russell, an incorrigible con artist and frequent prison escapee whose love for a fellow inmate (Ewan McGregor) and desire to live "high on the gay hog" motivate a lifestyle of forged identities and criminal fraud.

Studio on the Square.

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

Bartlett 10.

Jackass 3 (R, 94 min.) Now, THIS is what 3D was made for...

Bartlett 10.

The King's Speech (R, 118 min.) Colin Firth is superb as reluctant King George VI in this crowd-pleasing, fact-based buddy picture -- a sort of reverse "Pygmalion" in which a working-class bloke (speech therapist Lionel Logue, played by Geoffrey Rush) helps a stammering royal learn how to speak in public without embarrassing himself -- a necessity, we are told, for a monarch girding his subjects for war with Hitler. The cast (which includes Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce and Michael Gambon) and clever writing (by David Seidler) make the film worth seeing, but director Tom Hooper is no slouch: He shoots much of the action with wide-angle lenses, creating the type of "fisheye" distortion associated with 1970s British horror movies and the films of Terry Gilliam. This might be intended to suggest that King "Bertie" feels alienated from his environment, but it more practically seems to be Hooper's way of adding a funhouse aspect to a story that could have been played entirely straight, as a saga of individual triumph and class reassurance. (Hooper's framing and queasy carnival color schemes also are unconventional.)

Ridgeway Four, Paradiso.

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.

Bartlett 10.

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, 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.

Majestic, Hollywood 20 Cinema (in 3-D).

Paranormal Activity 2 (R, 89 min.)

Bartlett 10.

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

Bartlett 10.

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?

Bartlett 10 (non-3D), Hollywood 20 Cinema.

Secretariat (PG, 123 min.) Diane Lane, John Malkovich.

Bartlett 10.

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

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

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.

Stage Cinema, Majestic, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso, Palace Cinema (in 3-D), Hollywood 20 Cinema (in 3-D), 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 glamour 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.

Tron: Legacy (PG, 125 min.) This 28-years-later sequel to Disney's "Tron" -- a 1982 box-office disappointment that has accrued a cult following for its groundbreaking computer animation, cutting-edge style and prophetic technological themes -- is striking and dull in equal measure. The distinctive special effects are stunning, as is the overall conjuration of the clean, shiny and entirely unnatural inner-computer world of "the grid," where the "light cycles" leave watery neon contrails and the costumes resemble wetsuits as decorated with reflective tape by Keith Haring. Unfortunately, what happens in this world isn't particularly interesting, as a 27-year-old computer whiz (Garrett Hedlund) reunites with his long-lost father, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges, hero of the first "Tron"), who is now a sort of hippie Obi-Wan Kenobi living inside a digital landscape of his own creation, assisted by an ultra-babe of an "isolated algorithm" (Olivia Wilde). Flynn's dream of "a digital frontier to reshape the human condition" may remind viewers of "The Social Network," but the character's comical zen shtick ("We were jamming, man -- bio-digital jazz, man") only underscores the inhumanity of the enterprise.

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.

True Grit (PG-13, 110 min.) Joel and Ethan Coen's most conventional film to date is terrific entertainment -- a funny, moving Western that demonstrates that the brothers' mastery of filmmaking is so complete they are able to jettison most of their fabled eccentricities and idiosyncrasies and beat Hollywood's straight shooters at their own game. Newcomer Hailee Steinfeld stars as 14-year-old Mattie Ross of Yell County, Ark., a smart, headstrong girl "no bigger'n a corn nubbin" who hires "double-tough" one-eyed federal marshal Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to track down the killer of her father; accompanying the odd duo is a vain Texas ranger (Matt Damon). Most of the colorful, quotable dialogue -- candy for the ear -- is lifted straight from Charles Portis' great 1968 novel, although Bridges' mumbled delivery of the words might sometimes benefit from subtitles: His mannered character actor's performance doesn't erase the memory of John Wayne, who won his only Oscar for his iconic portrayal of Cogburn in the 1969 version of "True Grit."

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.

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.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Majestic, DeSoto Cinema 16, 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.

Yogi Bear (PG, 83 min.) In the style of the "Alvin and the Chipmunks" movies, computer-animated characters are placed inside a live-action world in director Eric Brevig's update of the popular Hanna-Barbera TV cartoon about a "pic-a-nic" basket-stealing ursine who declares himself "smart than the av-e-rage bear." The digital effects are nice, and the voice characterizations of Dan Aykroyd (as Yogi) and Justin Timberlake (as nasally sidekick Boo Boo) are amusing; but the film is not so much dumber than the av-e-rage movie as lazier: The script -- in which Yogi must save Jellystone Park from being razed for timber -- seems to have been written over a short weekend after a screening of "Furry Vengeance." The best that can be said about the project is that it's a "cute" and "harmless" kids' movie, as long as you ignore the moment when Yogi tells the lovestruck Mr. Ranger (Tom Cavanagh) that the best way to woo a mate is to urinate on her.

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.

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