Movie Capsules: Now showing

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

OPENING TODAY

Drive Angry 3D (R, 104 min.) Nicolas Cage races with the devil.

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

The Grace Card (PG-13, 108 min.) See review.

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

Hall Pass (R, 108 min.) Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis are granted extramarital privileges by their wives in the latest comedy from the Farrelly Brothers ("There's Something About Mary").

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

Tiny Furniture (Not rated, 98 min.) See review.

Ridgeway Four. Also 7 p.m. Thursday, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

SPECIAL MOVIES

Brain Freeze (Not rated, 69 min.) Recorded at the Gotham Comedy Club in New York, this standup concert film stars comic/stroke survivor John Kawie, who transforms his experiences into what one reviewer calls "hysterical, poignant" comedy. Sponsored by the Methodist Hospital stroke survivor group.

4 p.m. Tuesday, Suite 250 of the Medical Office Building, 7655 Poplar, at Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital. Admission: free. Call 516-6929.

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.

Freedom Riders (Not rated, 60 min.) Ernest "Rip" Patton Jr., a student "freedom rider" in 1961, hosts this preview screening of an upcoming PBS "American Experiences" documentary about one of the civil rights movement's most famous grassroots efforts.

7 p.m. Thursday, University Theater, Christian Brothers University, 650 E. Parkway South. Admission: free. Visit http://pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/freedomrider.

Hubble: Narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, this new IMAX film explores the legacy of the Hubble Space Telescope and its impact on our understanding of the universe. runs through Nov. 11. 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: Iphigenie en Tauride (Not rated, 145 min.) Inspired by Greek myth and a drama by Euripides, this French opera by Gluck will be screened live via satellite from New York

Noon Saturday, Paradiso. Tickets: $20. Visit malco.com.

Metropolitan Opera: Nixon in China (Not rated, 255 min.) A repeat screening of the recent live-via-satellite-from-New York production of John Adams' groundbreaking modern opera about President Richard Nixon's 1972 visit with Chairman Mao.

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

Yu-Gi-Oh! 3D: Bonds Beyond Time (Not rated, 60 min.) An animated science-fiction/fantasy adventure, inspired by the long-running Japanese manga, anime and trading-card franchise.

Noon Saturday and Sunday, Paradiso. Visit malco.com.

NOW SHOWING

Another Year (PG-13, 129 min.) As its title suggests, the passage — the crush — of time is the theme of the latest painstaking portrait of British middle-class and working-class life from writer-director Mike Leigh, who here focuses on a peculiarly nurturing, even green-thumbed couple (Ruth Sheen and Jim Broadbent) and their satellite associates, including the deteriorating, wine-guzzling Mary (Lesley Manville). Divided — somewhat unimaginatively and portentously — into chapters named for the four seasons, the film becomes increasingly wintry as it progresses; as we feel our sympathies toward various characters shift in surprising ways, the effect is both depressing and exhilarating. Mary proves to be the key: Nonfans might describe her as a victim of Leigh's cruelty, but she's also a beneficiary of the filmmaker's generosity — she's as fully realized a character as you are likely to find in any movie.

Studio on the Square.

Barney's Version (R, 134 min.) Paul Giamatti is Barney Panofsky, a self-centered soap-opera producer and murder suspect, and Dustin Hoffman is his lovably coarse retired-police officer father, inevitably named Izzy, in this acting showcase from Richard J. Lewis, which suffers from more mood swings than its drunken protagonist. The first half is played for broad Jewish comedy, as Barney copes with his his oft-verklempt second wife (Minnie Driver) and vulgar-rich in-laws; the film becomes solemn after Barney marries his love-at-first-sight third wife (Rosamund Pike). The film was adapted from a 1997 novel by Mordecai Richler ("The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz"), whose signature Borscht Belt-with-bite humor is demonstrated here when a beautiful woman proclaims: "Oh, Barney, you really do wear your heart on your sleeve. Now put it away, it's disgusting to look at."

Ridgeway Four.

Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son (PG-13, 108 min.) Martin Lawrence is back in drag, with Brandon T. Jackson.

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

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 sinuous, 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.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Studio on the Square, Hollywood 20 Cinema.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (PG, 115 min.) Ben Barnes, Will Poulter.

Bartlett 10.

The Company Men (R, 104 min.) This all-star pity party for the privileged views the current economic crisis mostly through the big brown eyes of Ben Affleck, playing a temporarily inconvenienced salesman who is forced to part with his Patriots tickets and his Porsche when he loses his six-figure salary. (In a show of solidarity, the salesman's teenage son sells his Xbox — "Precious," this isn't.) Writer- director John Wells wants to score points about the inhumanity of a corporate culture that prizes stock-market value over employee welfare and that is more interested in creating wealth than useful goods and services, but the focus is so narrow that one reacts as negatively to the "heroes" as to the economic system that supposedly betrayed them. With Tommy Lee Jones as a millionaire division chief who continues to have an affair with his company's sexy human resources coordinator (Maria Bello) even after he's fired; at least he lost use of the corporate jet.

Ridgeway Four.

The Eagle (PG-13, 114 min.) In the 2nd century A.D., a young Roman centurion (Channing Tatum) travels with his Scottish slave (Jamie Bell) into the uncharted wilds of Britain, to retrieve a slaughtered legion's lost standard — the golden insignia of an eagle — and restore his family's honor. Director Kevin Macdonald — whose "The Last King of Scotland" was another tale of a representative of "civilization" entering the heart of darkness — bungles this adaptation of Rosemary Sutcliff's much-loved 1954 novel; what could have been a perfectly serviceable action-adventure is rendered flaccid by protracted "character development," narrative redundancy and directorial pretension. All but ignoring the parallels between ancient Rome and succeeding empires, the movie is essentially uncritical of the Roman occupation, while promoting a belief responsible for so much disaster: that not just ideas but physical symbols — a standard or flag or gang color or holy book — are worth killing and dying for.

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

Faster (R, 98 min.) Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton.

Bartlett 10.

Gnomeo & Juliet (G, 84 min.) If future generations associate the idea of feuding families and forbidden love more closely with Elton John than William Shakespeare, we'll assign the blame to this fairly clever computer-animated feature, which borrows as liberally from "Toy Story" as from the Bard in its depiction of star-crossed romance among ceramic garden gnomes, whose capers are scored to selections from the Elton John-Bernie Taupin songbook. The musical conceit is explained by the fact that the film, directed by Kelly Asbury, was produced by John and his longtime partner, David Furnish; no doubt the couple responded to the story's notion that love and "matrignomy" are matters of the heart that deserve respect rather than interference and condemnation. James McAvoy lends his voice to the brash Gnomeo, while Emily Blunt speaks for spunky Juliet, whose father wants to keep her on a pedestal, literally; other living lawn ornaments include a pink flamingo, stone rabbits and a Shakespeare-savvy frog fountain who proclaims the story "romantically tragic!"

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

The Green Hornet (PG-13, 119 min.) Seth Rogen, Jay Chou.

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

Gulliver's Travels (PG, 87 min.) Jack Black, Emily Blunt.

Bartlett 10.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (PG-13, 146 min.) Daniel Radcliffe, Ralph Fiennes.

Bartlett 10, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

How Do You Know (PG-13, 121 min.) Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd.

Bartlett 10.

I Am Number Four (PG-13, 110 min.) An alien teen hunk (Alex Pettyfer) with extraordinary powers poses as a typical high-school student and romances an artsy-pretty classmate (Dianna Agron of "Glee") until the evil "Mogs" (tattooed bald guys with gills flanking their nostrils) and their monstrous attack bat crash the party; at this point, the heavy hand of executive producer Michael Bay becomes evident through a series of spectacular special-effects battles. Directed by D.J. Caruso ("Disturbia") from a Young Adult novel by Pittacus Lore (a pseudonym for Jobie Hughes and disgraced memoirist James Frey), the film is an entertaining addition to the super-teen trend.

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

Just Go With It (PG-13, 117 min.) How long before Adam Sandler realizes he likes Jennifer Aniston?

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

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (G, 105 min.) Bieber fever infects the third dimension. A "Director's Fan Cut" with added footage opens this week at 3D theaters.

Forest Hill 8, Stage Cinema (in 3-D), Collierville Towne 16 (in 3-D), DeSoto Cinema 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).

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

The Mechanic (R, 100 min.) Reliable Jason Statham — who deserves better — is the title professional assassin in this solid if unnecessary and compromised remake of the existential hitman thriller that actor Charles Bronson and director Michael Winner made in 1972, two years before the momentous success of their collaboration on "Death Wish"; Ben Cross — who really deserves better — co-stars as Statham's beginner-killer apprentice. The sometimes brutal action scenes are thankfully less fanciful than one would expect from director Simon West ("Lara Croft: Tomb Raider"), although — as usual for the current decade — they are marred by an overreliance on shaky close-up camera work and quick edits that eliminate the need for smart fight choreography.

Majestic, Collierville Towne 16, Palace Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

Megamind (PG, 96 min.) Voices of Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt.

Bartlett 10.

The Next Three Days (PG-13, 122 min.) Community-college professor Russell Crowe throws more than a phone when an unsympathetic justice system forces him to bust his wife (Elizabeth Banks) out of prison, after her unjust murder conviction. Protracted and pretentious, this remake of a 2008 French film, "Pour Elle," groans under the weight of director Paul Haggis' determination to transform a potentially gripping thriller into a meaningful "human drama," and reminds us again that the Academy was crazy when it gave the 2004 Best Picture Oscar to Haggis' "Crash."

Bartlett 10.

No Strings Attached (R, 108 min.) Natalie Portman in a sex comedy with Ashton Kutcher.

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

127 Hours (R, 94 min.) Director Danny Boyle's followup to his 2008 Best Picture-winner "Slumdog Millionaire" is an adaptation of Aron Ralston's literally titled autobiography, "Between a Rock and a Hard Place," which told the harrowing true story of a young outdoorsman forced to amputate his right arm — with a dull pocket knife — after it was pinned against a canyon wall by a boulder in the Utah desert. The lifesaving disfigurement is why the story fascinates, but Boyle and his digital editing programs work overtime to make the film entertaining rather than grim: Although Aron (deserving Best Actor nominee James Franco) is more or less immobile for much of the story, the film is hyperactive, even giddy, as Aron's frequently comic memories, hallucinations and fantasies fill the (sometimes-split) screen with noise and with action that is presented in quick, multiple-angle cuts, as if to suggest the young man's inner life is as chaotic and complex as the Mumbai of "Slumdog." I would have preferred a less strenuous, more patient production, without the occasional hallucinated laugh track and visions of Scooby-Doo, but the movie succeeds as a novel celebration of ingenuity, determination and perseverance.

Studio on the Square.

The Rite (PG-13, 114 min.) A skeptical seminarian (Colin O'Donoghue) in Italy for exorcist lessons (really!) must save a possessed veteran devil-caster-outer (Anthony Hopkins) in a so-called horror movie dull enough to have been produced for Catholic cable television. I can't improve on the words of Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter, who writes that when Hopkins' inner demon gets active, the "red-faced, bug-eyed Father Lucas begins to resemble John Boehner having a particularly nasty hissy fit." Directed by Mikael Hfström ("1408").

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Majestic, DeSoto Cinema 16, Raleigh Springs Cinema, Palace Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

The Roommate (PG-13, 92 min.) "I love the danger in your work," absurd "fashion professor" Billy Zane tells new student Minka Kelly — "dangerously" dressed in a scarf and fedora — in this abysmal "Single White Female"-goes-to-college nonchiller, so scare-free it's likely to find its destiny as a My First Horror Movie for tween-girl slumber parties. There's no gore and no nudity (despite a shower scene and a cast of coeds), and even the first three "shocks" are calculated to be gender-specific: Two involve decorative piercings (an earring and a belly ring) and the third focuses on a kitten named Cuddles. Director Christian E. Christiansen also finds no compassion for the title psycho (Leighton Meester), who probably would be OK if she just got back on her meds — though, come to think of it, who wouldn't go a little nuts stranded in a cast of names (Leighton, Minka, Cam, Aly, Danneel) that just about screams "CW network"?

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

Sanctum (R, 109 min.) James Cameron — the rare filmmaker who understands how to use 3D (note the natural depth of the tunnel and pool settings) — produced this rugged, brawny, old-fashioned adventure-disaster film about a team of explorers trapped by a cyclone in a system of rapidly flooding subterranean caves. The stock characters — hard-nosed team leader (Richard Roxburgh), resentful teenager (Rhys Wakefield), thrill-seeking millionaire (Ioan Gruffudd), etc. — are little more than pawns, moved through a series of claustrophobic challenges by director Alister Grierson, but the movie is notable for its reliance on dangerous practical effects and stuntwork rather than CGI.

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

Season of the Witch (PG-13, 98 min.) Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman.

Bartlett 10.

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

Bartlett 10.

Tangled (PG, 101 min.) Voices of Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi.

Majestic.

The Tourist (PG-13, 104 min.) Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie.

Bartlett 10.

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."

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Collierville Towne 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16.

Unknown (PG-13, 113 min.) Proof that multiplexes don't rely on marquees: Who'd step into a theater that said "Unknown" out front? Liam Neeson stars as a man driven to violence in an effort to recover his identity.

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.

Unstoppable (PG-13, 98 min.) Denzel Washington, Chris Pine.

Bartlett 10.

Yogi Bear (PG, 83 min.) Voices of Dan Ayrkoyd, Justin Timberlake.

Majestic.

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