Movie Capsules: Now showing

Matt Damon stars in 'We Bought a Zoo.'

Matt Damon stars in "We Bought a Zoo."

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


Don 2 (Not rated, 145 min.) A "Bollywood" gangster epic about an Indian crime kingpin (Shah Rukh Khan).

Hollywood 20 Cinema (in 3-D).

We Bought a Zoo (PG, 124 min.) Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson take over a failing California menagerie.

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


The Darkest Hour (PG-13, 89 min.) Emile Hirsch and Olivia Thirlby are among the young people trapped in Moscow during an alien invasion.

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

War Horse (PG-13, 146 min.) See review.

CinePlanet 16, Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, DeSoto Cinema 16, Forest Hill 8, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic, Paradiso, Ridgeway Four, Stage Cinema, Summer Quartet Drive-In.


The Ultimate Wave Tahiti: Viewers will learn how waves influence and shape our planet while they ride alongside champion surfer Kelly Slater as he challenges Tahiti's toughest wave. Runs through March 2. Tickets $8.25, $7.50 senior citizens, $6.50 children ages 3-12 and children under 3 free.

IMAX Theater at Memphis Pink Palace Museum, 3050 Central. Call (901) 320-6362 for show times, tickets and reservations.

The White Meadows (Not rated, 93 min.) The encore presentation of the 2011 "Global Lens" series concludes with this beautifully shot 2009 fable from Iran about a boatman who collects tears. His "clients" include an artist buried up to his head on the beach, a beautiful virgin who is to be sacrificed to the sea, a stoning victim and other ill-fated figures.

6 p.m. Wednesday, Meeting Room C, Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library, 3030 Poplar. Admission is free; children under 17 admitted with parent or guardian. Call (901) 415-2726.


Abduction (PG-13, 106 min.) Taylor Lautner's on the run, and John Singleton's directing.

Bartlett 10.

The Adventures of Tintin (PG, 107 min.) As frenetic if hardly as entertaining as "Raiders of the Lost Ark," this "performance capture" animated film from director Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson ("the two greatest storytellers of our time," according to the immodest trailer) introduces us to its boyish newspaper reporter hero as he is being caricatured by a street artist. The resulting sketch is based on one of the signature drawings of Tintin by the young hero's creator, the late Belgian comic-book artist known as Hergé; unfortunately, the portrait calls our attention to the contrast between the wit, economy and charm of Hergé's original art and the expensive, labor-intensive kitsch of the performance-capture images. The action set pieces are spectacular, as Tintin (voiced/enacted by Jamie Bell), his fox terrier, Snowy, and new drunken ally, Captain Haddock (the performance-capture Man of a Thousand LED Faces, Andy Serkis), race against an evil adversary (Daniel Craig) to claim a sunken pirate treasure, but Tintin remains a dull if intrepid blank; we don't identify with him or fear for his safety, and so his aventures leave us more exhausted than breathless. The human characters here are less creepy than in such films as "The Polar Express," but the performance-capture process -- in which actors' movements and expressions are converted into animation -- remains inferior to live action and full-on digital or traditional animation. Technically impressive, yes; but the ultimate impression is: So what?

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

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (G, 90 min.) Another "squeakquel."

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

Arthur Christmas (PG, 100 min.) This digitally animated holiday bandwagon-jumper lacks the visual charm of the stop-motion Plasticine animation that is the signature of England's Aardman studios; otherwise, it's funny and clever and even moving, as might be expected from the company responsible for "Wallace & Gromit." James McAvoy lends his voice to the title character, Santa's youngest son, an earnest but clumsy lad whose "general aura of seasonal positivity" seems inadequate to the demands of a 21st century "North Pole Mission Control," operated with military efficiency by Santa's brawny No. 1 son, Steve (Hugh Laurie). But when Arthur goes AWOL to deliver a gift to an overlooked child, with the help of the retired reindeer, an old-school sleigh, his 136-year-old "Grandsanta" (Bill Nighy) and a gift-wrapping-obsessed elf (Ashley Jensen), he proves that his big heart is more valuable at Christmastime than Steve's high tech. A scene in which zebras, elephants and other African animals float like balloons in the air after an accidental dusting of Santa's magic glitter is close to surreal poetry. Directed by Sarah Smith.

Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, DeSoto Cinema 16 (in 3-D), Hollywood 20 Cinema, Palace Cinema, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Courageous (PG-13, 130 min.) The faith values of four police officers are challenged.

Bartlett 10.

The Descendants (R, 115 min.) A certain contender for most of the major Oscars, the first film in seven years from director Alexander Payne ("Sideways") casts George Clooney as Matt King, a haole (white person in Hawaii) lawyer with royal Hawaiian blood who is facing two terrible deadlines: As trustee, he must determine what to do with his family's "huge parcel of virgin land," worth millions; and as husband, he has to decide when to pull the plug on his comatose wife. Payne -- whose other films include "Election" and "About Schmidt" -- specializes in depictions of aging white males in crisis; he's a humanist director who favors people over style and confrontations and conversations over set pieces, but he relies too much on storytelling crutches (Matt's voiceover narration is annoying and redundant). Beautifully shot on location, the film becomes more enjoyable and somehow even looser as its plot tightens (Matt learns his wife was having an affair), and the focus expands to Matt's relationship with his two daughters, a troubled teenager (Oscar-worthy Shailene Woodley) and an eccentric youngster (Amara Miller).

Cordova Cinema, Ridgeway Four.

Dolphin Tale (PG, 113 min.) Winter the dolphin, Harry Connick Jr.

Bartlett 10.

Footloose (PG-13, 113 min.) Although this music-filled remake of the 1984 hit about a small town that has outlawed public dancing in the wake of a fatal teen car crash is extraordinarily faithful to its somewhat cornball source, writer-director Craig Brewer has made the "Don't Knock the Rock" premise relevant for a post-9/11 generation still struggling with its response to shocking trauma and injury: This time, the adults are not motivated so much by priggishness as by their genuine concern for their children, and the film becomes an examination of the dilemma faced by those in authority when they attempt to honor the dead and protect the living by inhibiting the rights and freedoms of those in their care.

Bartlett 10, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (R, 158 min.) Opened Tuesday. See review.

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

Happy Feet Two (PG, 103 min.) Director George Miller's sequel to his 2006 Best Animated Feature Oscar-winner is a rather pointless and plotless disappointment, though it's not entirely flightless: a puffin named Sven (voiced by Hank Azaria) who passes himself off as a flying penguin becomes the idol of the otherwise unhappy Erik (Ava Acres), insecure son of the earlier film's now grown emperor penguin hero, Mumble (Elijah Wood). The digitally animated patchwork story also includes a warning about global warming; comedy with a pair of krill (voiced by Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, one of whom proclaims: "Goodbye, krill world!"); elephant seal action; and the expected but no longer novel penguin song-and-dance numbers, which borrow from such musical sources as Queen, Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson. The movie gives a major role to Memphis kid rapper Lil P-Nut, who supplies the voice of a scene-stealing fat-and-fluffy kid penguin named Atticus, whose take on LL Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out" ("Don't call it a comeback!") was a major part of the ad campaign.

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

Hugo (PG, 127 min.) Advertised as a children's adventure, Martin Scorsese's first 3D feature might more accurately be described as a love letter to cinema, set in the city of storybook romance, Paris. Even the movie's clockwork automaton is motivated by a symbol of love: It is brought to life by a key shaped like a Valentine's heart. Asa Butterfield stars as Hugo, a young 1930s orphan who lives in hiding in a bustling train station, where he tends the great clocks; aided by a precocious, booksmart girl (Chloë Grace Moretz), he uncovers a mystery involving a toymaker (Ben Kingsley) and a real-life master of cinematic invention and special effects, Georges Méliès, a stage magician turned filmmaker who marvels that the movies represented "a new kind of magic" -- a statement that endorses Scorsese's decision to embrace the spirit of Méliès and explore the new magic of digital 3D. A plea for film preservation as well as a demonstration of smart 3D composition (Scorsese uses the illusion of depth to draw viewers into the image, rather than causing them to flinch from the screen by flinging objects at the camera), the movie is filled with references to silent cinema, including painstaking re-creations of scenes from Méliès shorts that represent a true expression of devotion, from one filmmaker to another. The cumulative impact of the movie is surprisingly powerful, and even uncanny. It's also something very rare: a celebration of past achievement that doesn't succumb to nostalgia. "Time hasn't been kind to old movies," one character laments; with this adaptation of Brian Selznick's illustrated novel, Scorsese does what he can to make amends, not only by paying his respects to cinema's innovators but by demonstrating that the artform Méliès loved continues to thrive.

Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16 (in 3-D), Cordova Cinema (in 3-D), Palace Cinema, Paradiso (in 3-D), Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

The Ides of March (R, 101 min.) Ryan Gosling, George Clooney. The fourth feature directed by George Clooney follows a bright young political strategist (Ryan Gosling) and his picture-perfect candidate (Clooney, who else?) on the primary campaign trail, where their idealism and integrity inevitably slough away, like snakeskins, to be replaced by the parasites of compromise and corruption. As one expects from Clooney, the performances are top-notch, and the craft and technical aspects of the film are impeccable, but this adaptation of Beau Willimon's stage play has nothing new to say about the political marketplace.

Bartlett 10.

Immortals (R, 110 min.) The most unpretentious -- or should that be ridiculous? -- film yet from style-drunk director Tarsem Singh ("The Cell," "The Fall") is also his most enjoyable, a Cuisinart-blended shot of Greek mythology and ultraviolent 3D digital effects that choke the viewer with unrelenting and impractical decor and design. (The gods of Olympus dress like extras from a silent Soviet science-fiction movie.) Mickey Rourke is evil King Hyperion; the next screen Superman, Henry Cavill, is heroic Theseus; Freida Pinto is a virgin oracle; and old-timer John Hurt and hunky Luke Evans are different aspects of Zeus.

Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

In Time (PG-13, 110 min.) Justin Timberlake.


Jack and Jill (PG, 91 min.) Not since Max Baer donned ringlets and petticoats to portray Jethrine Bodine on "The Beverly Hillbillies" has a drag act been as ghastly as the one perpetrated by Adam Sandler in this alternately tasteless and schmaltzy comedy about a privileged Hollywood adman (Sandler) who ultimately learns to love his obnoxious, awkward sister (also Sandler, wearing a long black wig, so he resembles a Bronx Cher worthy of a Bronx cheer).

DeSoto Cinema 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic, Stage Cinema, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

J. Edgar (R, 137 min.) Like the ultimately unknowable subject of this ambitious biopic, director Clint Eastwood has spent almost his entire adult like being regarded as an icon of law enforcement and often violent justice, and he understands the tension between private life and public image. Convincingly portraying a paranoid septuagenarian as well as an enthusiastic young champion of scientific crime investigation, Leonardo DiCaprio is impressive as longtime FBI director J. Edgar Hoover; Naomi Watts is his loyal secretary, Helen Gandy, while Armie Hammer is FBI associate director Clyde Tolson, who may have been Hoover's lover. (Eastwood and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, an Oscar-winner for "Milk," confront this issue without obsessing over it; even so, "Hoover" is, in part, an unusual love story.) Presented as Hoover's recollections of his career, the movie touches on such milestones as the Lindbergh kidnapping and the Kennedy assassination; the bleached, high-contrast cinematography by Tom Stern suggests the impenetrability of Hoover's shadow world, while the unreliability of Hoover's credibility as the narrator of his own story makes this yet another of Eastwood's confrontations with America's proud yet contradictory national history, as previously examined in such films as "Unforgiven" and "Flags of Our Fathers."

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

Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol (PG-13, 133 min.) Tom Cruise is back.

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

Moneyball (PG-13, 133 min.) Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill.

Bartlett 10.

The Muppets (PG, 109 min.) "As long as there are singing frogs and joking bears... the world can't be such a bad place after all." That's the hopeful philosophy of a pleasant felt-and-foam Muppet-sized individual named Walter (voiced and enacted by puppeteer Peter Linz) in this valiant and worthy Disney attempt to revive the late Jim Henson's distinctive creations for a generation of kids perhaps more familiar with Kim Kardashian and Snooki than with Kermit and Piggy. Co-scripter and über-Muppet fan Jason Segel stars as Walter's best friend and unlikely brother; the duo's physical differences aren't remarked upon except in a rather brilliant existential song, in which the brothers ask themselves: Am I a man? Or am I a Muppet?" The plot finds the brothers encouraging Kermit to round up the old gang -- Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo the Great, and so on -- to put on a fundraising show to save the dilapidated Muppet Theater from being torn down by a greedy oilman (Chris Cooper); the premise provides a framework for jokes, slapstick and musical numbers, which demonstrate that Henson's live-action puppetry ethos remains irresistible.

CinePlanet 16, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Ciname 16, Forest Hill 8, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Paradiso, Raleigh Springs Cinema, Stage Cinema.

My Week with Marilyn (R, 101 min.) Sort of like "Me and Orson Welles" but with a more curvaceous title celebrity, this impeccably produced and thoroughly entertaining backstage show-business yarn examines a few days in the presence of greatness through the eyes of a starstruck young man, Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), who parlays a job as gofer on the tense set of Laurence Olivier's 1957 production "The Prince and the Showgirl" into a short-term one-sided love affair with "the most famous woman in the world," Marilyn Monroe. Michelle Williams brings depth and compassion to her performance as Hollywood's tragic blond bombshell, and her sincerity invests the entire film with a sort of grandeur.

CinePlanet 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic, Ridgeway Four, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

New Year's Eve (PG-13, 119 min.) In the tradition of "Valentine's Day," an all-star romantic-comedy romp.

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

Paranormal Activity 3 (R, 84 min.) A prequel to a prequel, this third and least persuasive film in the low-budget faux found-footage fright franchise adds few new scares.

Bartlett 10.

Pregnant by the Pastor (Not rated, 90 min.) Little Rock-born debut filmmaker SaTonya L. Ford (author of the novel "A Player in the Pulpit") wrote and directed this provocatively titled, micro-budgeted, faith-inspired, made-in-Arkansas drama about marriage, religion, sin and salvation.


Puss in Boots (PG, 90 min.) The scene-stealing swashbuckling "Shrek" feline (voiced by Antonio Banderas) makes the most of this starring-role spin-off, teaming with rival/romantic interest Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) and treacherous Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) to steal the Goose That Lays the Golden Eggs. Unlike most digital cartoon features, this is an utterly unpretentious film devoted almost entirely to comedy and action, with little moralizing; as usual for a DreamWorks production, the animation is stunning. Directed by Chris Miller ("Shrek the Third").

Bartlett 10, Palace Cinema (in 3-D), Summer Quartet Drive-In.

Real Steel (PG-13, 127 min.) Hugh Jackman.

Bartlett 10.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (PG-13, 129 min.) You don't need a deerstalker and a magnifying glass to track the subtext in this fatiguing Arthur Conan Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell "bromance"-plus of a sequel, in which the master detective's pursuit of the evil Moriarty (Jared Harris) seems secondary to his badgering of his former longtime companion, the newlywed Dr. Watson (Jude Law). In one scene, Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) dresses in drag, tosses his sidekick's wife from a train, and commands: "Like down with me, Watson"; in another, he asks Watson to dance. At least these moments add interest to returning director Guy Ritchie's otherwise overwrought action-adventure, with its no longer novel Holmes-deduces-the-future slow-motion fight scenes and whiplash stylistic diversity. Noomi Rapace (the original "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo") is wasted as a gypsy fortune-teller, but Stephen Fry steals every scene as Holmes' epicene diplomat brother, Mycroft.

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

The Sitter (R, 82 min.) Smart-aleck college student Jonah Hill is unprepared for the challenges of babysitting.

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

The Smurfs (PG, 103 min.)

Bartlett 10.

The Three Musketeers (PG-13, 111 min.) The producer of the "Resident Evil" series puts the 3D into D'Artagnan.

Bartlett 10.

Tower Heist (PG-13, 104 min.) This snappy big-budget caper comedy from the much-reviled Brett Ratner ("Rush Hour") casts Ben Stiller as the leader of a motley crew of "clock punchers" who seek revenge on the "Wall Street kingpin" (Alan Alda) who stole their pension fund.


The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1 (PG-13, 118 min.) While certain political groups try to push through "Defense of Marriage" legislation and "personhood" amendments, moviegoers and readers vote by the millions in favor of a series that approves of marriage between human and nonhuman, and that suggests that a vampire or werewolf can be just as worthy of love as a conventional "person." Yet this first chapter of the conclusion of the "Twilight" series also conveys a "pro-life" message, as virgin-no-more Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) insists on carrying to term the bloodsucking, life-threatening half-vampire baby in her belly, the result of her bed-shredding honeymoon with hooded-eyed Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). The fourth film inspired by Stephenie Meyers' best-sellers and the first directed by Bill Condon ("Gods and Monsters," "Dreamgirls") is the dullest to date, spending its first hour on the wedding (with fetishistic attention to the lace of Bella's dress) and honeymoon, before introducing a bit of conflict via the shape-shifting clan of shirt-challenged Jacob (Taylor Lautner), who -- unlike Meyers and the series' swooning fans -- seems to understand the contradiction inherent in the insistence that cold-blooded undeath is just another lifestyle choice.

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

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas (R, 90 min.) Your seasonal stoner comedy.

Bartlett 10.

Young Adult (R, 94 min.) Charlize Theron's Mavis Gary is no serial killer, but she's another memorable Theron "Monster": an alcoholic and seriously depressed 37-year-old "psychotic prom queen bitch" and teen-novel ghost writer who returns to the smalltown Minnesota scene of her high-school triumphs to steal her now happily married ex-boyfriend (Patrick Wilson) from his special-needs teacher wife (Elizabeth Reaser) and infant daughter. A reunion of the "Juno" team of director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody, the film is darkly entertaining but sour: Its condescending attitude toward "unsophisticated" mainstream society, with its chain restaurants and sports bars, is not excused by its recognition of its heroine's unattractive (yet romanticized) self-pity and patheticness. Even so, it's an earwig of a movie: It doesn't want to leave your head, thanks in part to a superb supporting performance by Patton Oswalt as a geeky hate-crime victim who becomes Mavis' judgmental yet smitten sidekick.

Ridgeway Four.

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