Movie Capsules: Now showing

Natalie Portman plays a disturbed ballerina in Darren Aronofsky's 'Black Swan.'

Niko Tavernise/Fox Searchlight

Natalie Portman plays a disturbed ballerina in Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan."

Capsule descriptions by The Commercial Appeal movie writer John Beifuss.

OPENING TODAY

The Adjustment Bureau (PG-13, 99 min.) See review.

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

Beastly (PG-13, 93 min.) "Beauty and the Beast" meets "Twilight," as Vanessa Hudgens falls for Alex Pettyfer, who has been cursed with ugliness. (Although if Rose McGowan can date Marilyn Manson, what's the big deal here?)

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

From Prada to Nada (PG-13, 107 min.) A Latina spin on Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility."

Ridgeway Four.

Rango (PG, 107 min.) "Pirates of the Caribbean" director Gore Verbinski helms his first animated feature, a Sergio Leone-meets-"The Paleface" comedy about a chameleon (voiced by Johnny Depp) who wants to be a cowboy hero.

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.

Somewhere (R, 97 min.) See review.

Ridgeway Four.

Take Me Home Tonight (R, 98 min.) Recent college grad Topher Grace pursues his dream girl over a wild party weekend.

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

SPECIAL MOVIES

Dolphins and Whales: Tribes of the Ocean: A new adventure from Jean-Michel Cousteau, narrated by Daryl Hannah. IMAX film ends today. 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.

Hot Flash Havoc (Not rated, 98 min.) This documentary offers "an elightening, entertaining, humorous and profound crash course in what every woman and man needs to know about menopause." A panel of medical experts will discuss women's health issues after the screening.

6:30 p.m. Monday, Germantown Performing Arts Centre, 1801 Exeter Rd. Admission: $25. Part of the proceeds go to the Women's and Children's Pavilion at Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital. Visit gpacweb.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, $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.

The Illusionist (PG, 80 min.) Nominated for an Oscar this year for Best Animated Feature, this sweet and sad, mysterious and melancholy, and stunningly beautiful hand-drawn film about an aging magician returns for a special screening, following its two-week run at Malco's Ridgeway Four. Directed by Sylvain Chomet ("The Triplets of Belleville"), from a story by the late Jacques Tati.

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

Legends of Flight: Experience aerial innovation at the dawn of a new era in flight transportation; an insider's view of a how a modern aircraft is built. Opens Saturday and 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.

The Mark of Zorro (Not rated, 90 min.) Renowned improvisational organist Tom Trenney will provide the musical accompaniment for this special screening of the silent 1920 swashbuckling classic about the masked hero (Douglas Fairbanks Sr.) of old Spanish California.

7:30 p.m. Monday, St. Mary's Cathedral, 700 Poplar. Admission: free. Co-sponsored by the Memphis chapter of the American Guild of Organist.

Saving the Bay (Not rated, 60 min.) The producer of this Robert Redford-narrated documentary about the eco-problems facing San Francisco Bay hosts this preview screening; the film airs on PBS stations in April. A panel discussion follows the screening. Hosted by the Chickasaw Group of the Sierra Club and WKNO-TV Channel 10.

6 p.m. Tuesday, BRIDGES, 477 N. Fifth St. Admission: free.

"Southern Stories": Filmmakers Paul Harrill and Ashley Maynor screen three of their short films, including "Gina, an Actress, Age 29," winner of the best short film award at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival. Local actor/filmmaker/journalist Jon W. Sparks will host a discussion with the filmmakers after the screenings.

6 p.m. Sunday, Buckman Performing and Fine Arts Center, St. Mary's Episcopal School, 60 Perkins Ext. Tickets: $8, or $5 for seniors, students and Indie Memphis members. Visit indiememphis.com.

Yu-Gi-Oh! 3D: Bonds Beyond Time (Not rated, 90 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

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 director 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 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 movie 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.

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.

Country Strong (PG-13, 117 min.) Gwyneth Paltrow, Garrett Hedlund.

Bartlett 10.

Drive Angry 3D (R, 104 min.) Escapee-from-hell Nicolas Cage races with the devil (William Fichtner, who appears to be enjoying himself immensely) in this calculatedly over-the-top grindhouse-inspired revenge thriller, with all the gratuitous nudity, gore, Daisy Duke shorts (courtesy of Amber Heard) and automotive action one could ask for in a 3D rabble-rouser. Director Patrick Lussier understands that in-your-face exploitation content remains the primary justification for the "stereoscopic" process: He also helmed the 3D remake of "My Bloody Valentine." The only drawback: The self-congratulatory "hipness" of its callously comic attitude toward violence.

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

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.

Majestic.

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, DeSoto Cinema 16 (in 3-D), Cordova Cinema (in 3-D), Paradiso, Palace Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema (in 3-D), CinePlanet 16 (in 3-D).

The Grace Card (PG-13, 108 min.) For much of its length, this locally produced, faith-based movie from Memphis optometrist- turned-debuting director David G. Evans is surprisingly tough, confronting potent, distressing issues of social inequity, family dysfunction and personal despair without the overt religious cant and Sunday school perkiness that can make so-called Christian films a trial for skeptics. If it ultimately succumbs to formula, scoring a series of increasingly unlikely plot twists with anthemic contemporary Christian power pop, at least it has the courage of its convictions, and the bravado to suggest solutions to meaningful dilemmas. The plot hinges on a reversal of "The Blind Side" formula, as a loving, well-adjusted black family comes to the rescue of a white person, who is spiritually if not literally homeless; Michael Joiner plays the angry racist cop, while Michael Higgenbottom is the cheery African-American "patrolman preacher" who offers a godly answer when Joiner's character asks questions that have kept all of us awake at night: "What is there to believe in? What's the use of any of it?" The movie makes the idea of racial reconciliation easy for white audiences by showcasing a reassuring black protagonist who is not just likable but downright cuddly; and the white wish-fulfillment aspect of an anecdote told by the Louis Gossett Jr. character about a happy group of ex-slaves who decided to forgive white America en masse for its sins is not just a historical whitewash but just plain weird; but even so, the movie deserves credit for plunging headfirst into the racial quagmire. And -- thanks in no small part to the often lovely digital cinematography of John Paul Clark -- it's a remarkably professional-looking production, even with the heavy volunteer participation of Cordova's Calvary Church of the Nazarene, where Evans fueled his artistic ambitions creating Passion Plays.

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

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

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

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

Bartlett 10.

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.

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

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.

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, 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 is now 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 fact-based, crowd-pleasing, highfalutin 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 status quo affirmation. (Hooper's framing and queasy carnival color schemes also are unconventional.) Winner of the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.

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

The Mechanic (R, 100 min.) Jason Statham, Ben Cross.

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.

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, Raleigh Springs Cinema, 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"?

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Majestic, 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).

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

Bartlett 10.

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

Bartlett 10.

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.

Forest Hill 8, Stage Cinema, 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.

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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