Movie Capsules: Now showing

The anthropomorphic automobiles of 'Cars' return in a spoof of James Bond-style spy thrillers.

Disney/Pixar

The anthropomorphic automobiles of "Cars" return in a spoof of James Bond-style spy thrillers.

Capsule descriptions by The Commercial Appeal movie writer John Beifuss.

OPENING FRIDAY

Beginners (R, 105 min.) A son (Ewan McGregor) learns his dying father (Christopher Plummer) is gay in this acclaimed drama from writer-director Mike Mills ("Thumbsucker").

Ridgeway Four.

Horrible Bosses (R, 98 min.) Friends conspire to murder their awful bosses in this all-star black comedy with Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Spacey.

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

Zookeeper (PG, 101 min.) See review.

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

SPECIAL MOVIES

Harry Potter Film Festival: All seven films will be screened, beginning at 12:01 a.m. Thursday and culminating with the 12:01 a.m. July 15 premiere of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2."

Paradiso. Tickets: $25. Visit malco.com.

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 $8.25, $7.50 senior citizens, $6.50 children ages 3-12; children under 3 free.

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

The Invisible Eye (Not rated, 97 min.) The "Global Lens" series continues with a 2010 film from Argentina about a young teacher (Julieta Zylberberg) in the 1980s whose interest in the "subversive" activities of her students parallels the abuses of the country's military dictatorship.

2 p.m. today, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. Admission: $7, or $5 for museum members; free for Indie Memphis members. Visit brooksmuseum.org.

The Last Picture Show (R, 118 min.) Memphian Cybill Shepherd was never more dazzling than in her motion picture debut as Jacy Farrow in director Peter Bogdanovich's 1971 adaptation of Larry McMurtry's novel about smalltown Texas.

7:15 p.m. today, the Orpheum, 203 S. Main. Admission: $7 per adult, $5 per senior or child (12 and under). Call 525-300 or visit orpheum-memphis.org.

Legends of Flight: Experience aerial innovation at the dawn of a new era in flight transportation; an insider's view of how a modern aircraft is built. Through Nov. 11. Tickets $8.25, $7.50 senior citizens, $6.50 children ages 3-12; children under 3 free.

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

Metropolitan Opera: Fille du Regiment (Not rated, 190 min.) A repeat screening of a collaborative presentation of Donizetti's comic opera, produced by London's Royal Opera House and Vienna's Wiener Staatsoper.

6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Paradiso. Tickets: $12.50. Visit malco.com.

Paris, Je T'aime (R, 120 min.) Olivier Assayas, Gus Van Sant, Alfonso Cuarón, Wes Craven, the Coen Brothers and 18 other famed international directors present vignettes of Parisian life in this 2006 film. Presented on the terrace, the screening follows a 6 p.m. Bastille Day celebration.

7 p.m. Thursday, Dixon Gallery and Gardens, 4339 Park. Regular admission; cash bar. Visit dixon.org.

Radiohead: Live in Prague (Not rated, 120 min.) A 2009 Radiohead concert from the "In Rainbows" tour, edited together from footage shot by fans from as many different angles as possible.

Dusk tonight (8:46 p.m.), Levitt Park Shell. Visit indiememphis.com.

The Rainmaker (PG-13, 135 min.) Director Francis Ford Coppola ("The Godfather") shot this 1997 John Grisham adaptation in Memphis.

7:15 p.m. Thursday, the Orpheum, 203 S. Main. Admission: $7 per adult, $5 per senior or child (12 and under). Call 525-300 or visit orpheum-memphis.org.

Rigoletto from Mantua (Not rated, 153 min.) Plàcido Domingo stars in this bold version of Verdi's opera, shot on the streets of Mantua, Italy.

10:30 a.m. Saturday, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. Admission: $15, or $12 for museum members. Visit brooksmuseum.org.

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, 2012. Tickets $8.25, $7.50 senior citizens, $6.50 children ages 3-12; 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.) A 2009 fable from Iran, about a boatman who tries to appease the gods by collecting the tears of the people who inhabit the coastline of the brackish waters he navigates.

2 p.m. Sunday, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. Admission: $7 or $5 for museum members; free for Indie Memphis members. Visit brooksmuseum.org.

NOW SHOWING

Bad Teacher (R, 89 min.) Would "Bridesmaids" have worked if audiences had been asked to sympathize with a meaner version of Rose Byrne and root against Kristen Wiig? In essence, that's the premise of this miscalculated, loosely plotted, needlessly crude and occasionally funny film, with Cameron Diaz perfectly cast as a sexy, pot-smoking, booze-swilling, gold-digging and disinterested-in-education 7th-grade teacher whose rival at her new school is the enthusiastically nerdy and dedicated Amy Squirrel, beautifully played by Lucy Punch (the cockney sexpot of Woody Allen's "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger"). Self-centered characters can be amusing, but Diaz's teacher is so shallow (she's saving money for breast implants) she's just not likable, unlike her gym-teacher suitor (Jason Segel) and dolphin-obsessed principal (John Michael Higgins). Playing against his pop-idol image in glasses and a bowtie, Justin Timberlake adds little to the film. Directed by Jake Kasdan, who's done much better ("Dewey Cox," "The Zero Effect"), as have scripters Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg ("The Office," "Year One").

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

Bridesmaids (R, 125 min.) Advertised as a sort of female response to "The Hangover," this frequently hilarious film is as much a coronation as a wedding celebration, with current "Saturday Night Live" MVP Kristen Wiig emerging as a successor to Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett as the new queen of knockabout comedy.

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

Buck (PG, 88 min.) Directed with fannish appreciation by first-time filmmaker Cindy Meehla, this documentary examines the uncanny talent and remarkable career of Dan Brannaman, a horse trainer whose sensitivity and apparent empathy with animals made him one of the primary inspirations of "The Horse Whisperer" (both the best-selling novel and the Robert Redford film). "Rather than helping people with horse problems, I'm helping horses with people problems," says Brannaman, nicknamed "Buck," who sounds rather sheepish when he admits to sometimes watching "The Oprah Winfrey Show." In fact, Brannaman's affection for the Queen of Daytime isn't surprising: With its fringe show-business context, celebrity connections and therapeutic usefulness, the cowboy's inspirational journey from abused child "professional trick roper"to liberated animal-loving adult seems made to order for Winfrey's television couch.

Ridgeway Four.

Cars 2 (G, 112 min.) Directed by Pixar/Disney Animation head John Lasseter, this inevitable sequel to 2006's "Cars" is the first Pixar film that seems unnecessary -- more marketplace contrivance than passion project. It's enjoyable on its own meager terms, but it puts the brakes on Pixar's 15-year record of innovation and excellence. Set once again in a weird world that suggests (to me, at least) that all flesh-and-blood life was extinguished in some sort of rise-of-the-machines apocalypse ("Cars" is like the "Planet of the Apes" of cartoon car movies), this globetrotting James Bond spoof demotes race star Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) to supporting-player status to showcase the snaggle-toothed hayseed humor of the rusty but lovable tow truck, Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), who is mistaken for a genius spy by secret agent Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and his data analyst, Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer), whose vaguely risqué name is a funny car-centric variant on such famous Bond girl monikers as Holly Goodhead. The digital animation is as brilliant as expected, but the film fumbles its "green" message, and it's suprisingly violent: Villains command "Kill him!" -- twice. Is this a phrase parents want their children repeating?

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, Majestic, Palace Cinema (in 3-D), Paradiso (in 3-D), Raleigh Springs Cinema, Stage Cinema, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (PG, 100 min.) Zachary Gordon, Devon Bostick.

Bartlett 10.

Fast Five (PG-13, 130 min.) Vin Diesel, Paul Walker.

Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic.

Green Lantern (PG-13, 114 min.) Director Martin Campbell ("The Mask of Zorro") delivers one of the goofier, less pretentious and more agreeably kid-friendly superhero action movies of the current cycle -- a film that seems charged not by the title hero's "power ring" but by the smiley hunkiness of star Ryan Reynolds, who is better known for his washboard abs and romantic resumé than his acting credits. Reynolds is cocky, courageous test pilot Hal Jordan, chosen -- as first revealed in the DC Comics series that began in 1959 -- to be a member of an intergalactic police force known as the "Green Lantern Corps," organized by the all-wise and all-wizened "Guardians of the Universe," a blue-faced race that inhabits the planet Yoda, er, Oa.

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

The Hangover Part II (R, 102 min.) Mistaking meanness for edge, borderline racism for irreverence and disregard for women as "boys will be boys" solidarity, this "Part II" is as horrifying as a "Saw" sequel, but with fewer laughs -- it may represent the ugliest portrait of a foreign land and culture since jailed American student Brad Davis was driven to bite off a stoolie's tongue in a hellhole Turkish prison in "Midnight Express."

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

Insidious (PG-13, 103 min.) Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne.

Majestic, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer (PG, 91 min.) Megan McDonald's popular book series for young readers comes to the screen.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Jumping the Broom (PG-13, 113 min.) An all-star ensemble converges on Martha's Vineyard for a wedding.

Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Kung Fu Panda 2 (PG, 90 min.) Voices of Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman.

Majestic, Stage Cinema, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

Larry Crowne (PG-13, 99 min.) Easy to watch if not always easy to swallow, this is the feel-good movie of the era of 9 percent unemployment, a modest fable of reassurance about an affable Southern California man (Tom Hanks) whose divorce and firing provide a springboard for personal liberation, physical makeover and, eventually, make-out sessions with Julia Roberts, who plays one of Larry's community college teachers (another is a very welcome George Takei, of "Star Trek" fame). A mysterious passion project for Hanks, who also directed and co-scripted (with Nia Vardalos, of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"), the film is hamstrung by Larry's genial passiveness: His self-improvement is almost entirely directed by a beautiful classmate (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a free spirit on a motor scooter who essentially adopts Larry as if he were a puppy, inexplicably assuring him that "you are way cooler than you appear."

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

Limitless (PG-13, 106 min.) A top-secret drug transforms a sloppy underachiever (Bradley Cooper) into a stock market-exploiting, GQ-worthy superbrain in this intriguing, visually overstimulated thriller, which begins like an update of Roger Corman's "X -- The Man with the X-Ray Eyes" but abandons its probe of the soul-sucking price of power addiction to pander to the idea that audiences demand slick fantasy-role-model heroes and happy endings. Directed by Neil Burger ("The Illusionist"), from a novel by Alan Glynn.

Bartlett 10.

The Lincoln Lawyer (R, 119 min.) Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei.

Bartlett 10.

Madea's Big Happy Family (PG-13, 105 min.) Tyler Perry doubles down on the comedy when his drag alter ego is joined by the rambunctious Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis).

Bartlett 10.

Midnight in Paris (PG-13, 100 min.) A chewy bonbon with a tasty time-travel center, the latest wistful dispatch from writer-director Woody Allen stars Owen Wilson as a Paris-besotted "Hollywood hack" screenwriter with great-novelist aspirations who is transported, as if by magic, to the "Jazz Age" of 1920s Paris, where he meets and befriends his idols (depicted as amusing carictures), including Picasso, Hemingway and Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), who tells him the purpose of making art is "to find an antidote to the emptiness of existence." Directed with the wan functionality that has become Allen's trademark, the movie operates to some extent as a self-critique of the filmmaker's obsessive love of the past ("Nostalgia is denial," one character says) and his fantasy romanticism ("There is nothing beautiful about walking in the rain," asserts the writer's humorless fiancée, played by Rachel McAdams); a late twist invests this notion with surprising power, which is somewhat disippated by the supposedly soothing storybook ending.

Ridgeway Four, Studio on the Square.

Mr. Popper's Penguins (PG, 95 min.) Big-city businessman Jim Carrey inherits a gaggle of arctic waterfowl in this adaptation of a 1938 children's book.

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.

Monte Carlo (PG, 109 min.) Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester and Katie Cassidy have a dream vacation.

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

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (PG-13, 137 min.) Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz.

CinePlanet 16, Paradiso, Stage Cinema.

Priest (PG-13, 88 min.) Paul Bettany, Lily Collins.

Bartlett 10.

Rango (PG, 107 min.) Voice of Johnny Depp.

Bartlett 10.

Rio (G, 99 min.) Voices of Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway.

Bartlett 10.

Something Borrowed (PG-13, 113 min.) Ginnifer Goodwin, Kate Hudson.

Bartlett 10.

Soul Surfer (PG, 106 min.) AnnaSophia Robb, Dennis Quaid.

Bartlett 10.

Super 8 (PG-13, 112 min.) Producer Steven Spielberg and geek-beloved writer-director J.J. Abrams have delivered the season's best "summer movie" -- a popcorn blockbuster made with craft, care, enthusiasm, genuine affection for its characters and respect for its audience. It's entirely derivative, yet in this season of sequels and remakes and snark, it feels not just fresh but refreshing -- a tonic that restores one's appreciation for the commercial moviegoing experience. A science-fiction throwback times two set in 1979, the movie is an extended homage to the boys'-own-adventure "classic Spielberg" era of "E.T." and "The Goonies," but it also harks back to the monster movies of the 1950s.

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.

Thor (PG-13, 114 min.) Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman.

Bartlett 10, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (PG-13, 157 min.) Out of context, the special effects sequences here -- the morphing metal, the robot carnage, the wanton urban destruction -- are scary, eyeball-stinging masterpieces: Dangerous visions of some sort of almost abstract machine-age Hal Needham-on-acid apocalypse, with talking Tonka trucks strewn across a Pop Art landscape, and J.G. Ballard calling for the Jaws of Life. Unfortunately, the rampaging Autobots and Decepticons of this third "Transformers" adventure reside within the nonsense structure of a film by Michael Bay, the master of fascist kitsch, who here -- to the movie's benefit -- discards his signature incoherent editing and shaky-camera close-ups to meet the technical and esthetic demands of the 3D format. Like its predecessors, this sequel embraces the militarization and mechanization of civilization even as it pays lip service to American notions of liberty and justice, expressed here not by a human character but by the towering Autobot, Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen), who promises to defeat all challengers "in the name of freedom," with the help of returning young hero Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) and his new arm candy (stilted British supermodel Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who actually makes the viewer miss Megan Fox). With a cast that includes such hyena-jawed scenery-chewers as John Turturro, John Malkovich and Frances McDormand, the human "drama" is played for comedy, which kills time until the fairly amazing and lengthy siege of Chicago that occupies the final third of the film, during which humans are vaporized, robots are decapitated, and the youngsters who are the series' biggest fans are encouraged to celebrate mayhem and vengeance. For kids, this is like a PG-13 gateway drug to R-rated movie violence.

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), Raleigh Springs Cinema, Stage Cinema (in 3-D), Studio on the Square.

The Tree of Life (PG-13, 138 min.) Many moviegoers will reject this film's glacial pacing, its whispery voiceovers, its lengthy cosmic detour to the birth of the universe (the ultimate flashback!), its religious -- even Christian -- implications. But sympathetic viewers will find themselves stirred, moved and spellbound by a frequently confounding, arguably overreaching project that just might be a great work of art: a film that aspires to be as mysterious and powerful -- and as attuned to the miraculous -- as the Episcopal service attended by its central family, or the baby's birth that functions as its core event. The bulk of this fifth feature film in almost 40 years from writer-director Terrence Malick consists of an extraordinarily convincing and intimate if dreamlike portrait of a family in a leafy postwar Waco, Texas. The stern father (Brad Pitt) seems to represent "the way of nature"; the forgiving mother (Jessica Chastain) offers "the way of grace"; while the often angry pre-adolescent son (Hunter McCracken, a remarkable newcomer -- represented as an adult by Sean Penn) is torn between violence and empathy. From its backyard realism to its lengthy detours deep into both outer space (the "astrophysical realm," according to the end credits) and the primordial stew (the "microbial realm"), this is the rare film that asks the moviegoer to be a participant -- a collaborator -- in its meaning, rather than merely a spectator. The camera frequently follows the characters so closely that it becomes a ghostly companion; in essence, our point of view becomes that of an attendant spirit, eavesdropping as the characters ask such terrifying questions as, "Lord, why -- where are you?" and: "Who are we to you?"

Ridgeway Four.

Turtle: The Incredible Journey (G, 81 min.) The astonishing decades-long life cycle of the loggerhead turtle -- from Florida hatching to North Atlantic adolescence to Caribbean adulthood and mating, and back again -- is chronicled in this nature documentary from director Nick Stringer, which mixes amazing location photography with the occasional tank "re-creation" and special effects shot. Narrated by Miranda Richardson, the film has many nice moments and even a few scares (super-closeup shots of sand crabs ambushing baby turtles on the beach suggest the giant crustacean attacks of 1970's "When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth"), but in this era of Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel, the project seems rather redundant.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Water for Elephants (PG-13, 121 min.) Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson.

Bartlett 10.

X-Men: First Class (PG-13, 132 min.) Say it loud, I'm mutant and I'm proud: As perhaps befits the early 1960s setting, this origin story from director Matthew Vaughn ("Kick-Ass") de-emphasizes the coming-out motif of the previous X-Men films to embed a racial metaphor (blue-skinned Mystique, played by Jennifer Lawrence, learns to accept her dark complexion and un-straight hair) within its Marvel Comics superheroics, "alternate history" science-fiction (the X-Men are part of the Cuban Missile Crisis) and James Bond-esque Cold War international intrigue.

CinePlanet 16, Collierville Towne 16, Palace Cinema, Paradiso, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

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