Capsule descriptions by The Commercial Appeal movie writer John Beifuss.
Dead Man (R, 121 min.) Johnny Depp is an accountant named William Blake who journeys into an increasingly violent and visionary Old West in this 1995 masterpiece from writer-director Jim Jarmusch.
7 p.m. Thursday, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. Admission: $8, or $6 for museum and Indie memphis members. Visit brooksmuseum.org.
The Metropolitan Opera: Rodelinda (Not rated, 250 min.) An encore presentation of a recent performance of Handel's 18th-century saga of royal love and murder, filmed live onstage in New York.
6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Paradiso. Tickets: $20. Visit malco.com.
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.
Abduction (PG-13, 106 min.) Taylor Lautner's on the run, and John Singleton's directing.
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, so his adventures leave us breathless with exhaustion, not excitement.
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.) Four Christian sheriff's deputies and their new Latin amigo (I'm resisting using the word "mascot") struggle with the responsibilities of work and family in this fourth feature film from Albany, Georgia's Sherwood Pictures, the startlingly successful "movie ministry" of Sherwood Baptist Church. Essentially a Bible-based pep rally for dads, the movie recommends that fathers sign a pledge "to serve and protect" at home that affirms their status as the wife-loving, bread-winning, God-fearing heads of their households. Directed, co-written by and starring Sherwood's Orson Welles, Adam Kendrick, the film is nicely produced, alternating corny tearjerker moments (the father played by Kendrick pantomimes a final dance with his buried dead daughter) with wholesome buddy comedy and on-the-street police action; the converted are more likely to be impressed than the skeptical.
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.
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.
Don 2 (Not rated, 145 min.) A "Bollywood" gangster epic about an Indian crime kingpin (Shah Rukh Khan).
Hollywood 20 Cinema (in 3-D).
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.) Director David Fincher's adaptation of Stieg Larsson's phenomenally successful international best-seller is a movie of extreme length as well as unassailable technical polish and posh production values, but the gloss doesn't hide the gruesomeness: In its bid to be the first major-studio "mainstream" franchise worthy of its R rating, "Girl" is unflinching in its intermittent depiction of sexual exploitation and brutality. It's this injustice that motivates the series' indelible outsider avenger heroine, Lisbeth Salander, portrayed with a remarkable mix of confidence and vulnerability by Rooney Mara; Daniel Craig is the disgraced investigative journalist who recruits the punk-garbed genius computer hacker to help investigate a decades-old disappearance connected to a savage string of Bible-inspired murders. With its cold and spooky Scandinavian mise-en-scène, which merges hard-angled IKEA modernism with the misty irrationality of a Nordic fairy tale, the film is superior to the Swedish version of "Girl" that appeared in 2009, but it's not as gripping as Fincher's previous serial-killer masterpiece, "Zodiac." Even so, it reminds us why murder mysteries and investigative procedurals -- useful parables about the certainty of death that have pretty much migrated to television -- can be especially compelling in a darkened theater.
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.) See the 'Ten Best' movies of 2011 on Page G9.
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.
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.) "
CinePlanet 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Palace Cinema, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.
Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol (PG-13, 133 min.) The first live-action film from director Brad Bird ("The Iron Giant," "Ratatouille") doesn't reach the giddy action heights of his incredible "The Incredibles," but it occasionally comes close, with a chase through a dust storm and an already famous sequence in which IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise, increasingly cipher-like) attempts to scale the glassy exterior of the world's tallest manmade structure, the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai. Better still is the scene in which Hunt and his comic-relief associate (Simon Pegg) infiltrate the Kremlin with, essentially, a high-tech magic trick; the playfulness of the effect demonstrates the usefulness of Bird's background in the astonish-the-audience culture of animation. With Jeremy Renner and Paula Patton as the other members of Hunt's outcast team.
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.
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.
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.
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.) The highlight is Hank Azaria's committed performance as Gargamel, the Smurf-hating sorcerer; a low point is the scene in which Harris, wearing a CBGB T-shirt, rocks out with Clumsy Smurf to a "Guitar Hero" rendition of the Aerosmith/Run-DMC hit, "Walk This Way." Historians may want to remember this sequence when they're trying to pinpoint the exact moment that rock and roll died.
The Three Musketeers (PG-13, 111 min.) The producer of the "Resident Evil" series puts the 3D into D'Artagnan.
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.
War Horse (PG-13, 146 min.) See the 'Ten Best' movies of 2011 on Page G9.
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.
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.
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.