Capsule descriptions by The Commercial Appeal movie writer John Beifuss.
The Beaver (PG-13, 91 min.) See review.
13 Assassins (R, 126 min.) See review on Page 12.
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.
Last Train Home (Not rated, 85 min.) An acclaimed, intimate documentary about the impact of China's economic growth on the millions of industrial worker "peasants" who live in the cities and travel to their home villages only for the Chinese New Year.
2 p.m. Sunday, Memphis Brooks Museum or Art. Tickets: $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 how a modern aircraft is built. 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.
Memphis Film Festival: See cover story
Thursday through June 4, Whispering Woods Hotel and Conference Center, 11200 E. Goodman Road in Olive Branch. Visit memphisfilmfestival.com.
Metropolitan Opera: Die Walküre (Not rated, 330 min.) An encore presentation of a recent epic production of the second part of Wagner's famous "Rings" cycle.
6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Paradiso. Tickets: $20. Visit malco.com.
Rent (PG-13, 135 min.) The 2005 film version of the smash Pulitzer Prize-winning musical about bohemian New Yorkers coping with life, love and HIV. The screening is a fundraiser for the Outflix Film Festival.
7 p.m. Thursday, Studio on the Square. Suggested donation: $10. Visit outflixfestival.org.
The Adjustment Bureau (PG-13, 99 min.) Matt Damon, Emily Blunt.
Battle Los Angeles (PG-13, 117 min.) Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez.
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. Directed by Paul Feig ("Freaks and Geeks") and produced by Judd Apatow (who apparently is responsible for a soon-to-be-infamous food-poisoning sequence and other male-friendly gross-out moments), the movie -- despite its wonderful ensemble cast and generous plural title -- is Wiig's show all the way, with the actress cast as an unlucky-in-love Milwaukee failure facing her role as Maid of Honor in the marriage of her lifelong best friend (Maya Rudolph) with a mix of pride, dread and jealousy; the latter emotion is compounded when she meets a bridesmaid (Rose Byrne) who seems to be using her beauty, poise and prestige Chicago address to insinuate herself into the bride's life as a new best friend. This rivalry is wonderfully played and convincingly written, by Wiig and her longtime comedy collaborator, Annie Mumolo.
Forest Hill 8, Stage Cinema, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Studio on the Square, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (PG, 100 min.) This second film inspired by the popular Jeff Kinney kids' book series emphasizes the rivalry and barely acknowledged affection between the undersized and oft-humiliated middle-school title narrator (Zachary Gordon) and his tormenting teenage brother (Devon Bostick), drummer in the band "Löded Diper." Directed by former animator David Bowers, the film is essentially a feature-length sitcom episode, but it's often laugh-out-loud funny, and it respects its young audience.
Everything Must Go (R, 96 min.) A typically concise and withholding Raymond Carver short story becomes a typically maudlin, overstated and inartful "art" film, notable -- if at all -- for providing Will Ferrell with a rare "serious" leading role. As a recovering alcoholic who loses his job, his wife and access to his home on the same day, Ferrell -- registering the poleaxed incomprehension that characterized his George W. Bush impersonations -- acquits himself admirably; but what's the point of this "creative" casting? If Ferrell is useful for audiences, it's as a representation of the unleashed id: He's the petulant man-child, the berserker in tighty-whities whose comic rampages provide a cathartic release for the stressed-out, responsibility-burdened moviegoer. Here, he's just a substitute Paul Giamatti, locked out of his house and bank accounts, and living like a woeful suburban squatter on the front lawn of his Arizona ranch home, among his scattered, art-directed possessions; director/screenwriter Dan Rush is mistaken if he thinks this self-conscious symbolism has more to say about the human condition than, say, "Blades of Glory." The Carver story, titled "Why Don't You Dance?" when it appeared more than 30 years ago, ends on a note of cruelty and ambiguity; the movie ends with a reassuring twilight hug, scored to The Band's performance of "I Shall Be Released." Sheesh.
Fast Five (PG-13, 130 min.) A pedal-to-the-metal paean to reckless driving and fuel inefficiency, this fifth film in the rubber-burning franchise is the most spectacular and elaborate yet, bringing new meaning to the term "muscle car" by pitting series regular Vin Diesel (who plays an ex-con street racer) against former wrestling superstar Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (who plays a U.S. super-agent). When the two bodybuilding behemoths finally go toe to toe and pec to pec, the movie achieves its "King Kong vs. Godzilla" moment -- but even that Rumble in Rio pales in comparison to the giddy high-speed chase finale in which Diesel and co-star Paul Walker destroy much of Brazil's mecca of tourism and tropicália by towing a gigantic bank vault through the streets, wiping out lampposts, storefronts and pursuing police vehicles as the strong box -- "ten tons of top-of-the-line security" -- swings from side to side like a cubical wrecking ball. Directed (like the previous two installments) by Justin Lin, the movie is part action epic and part heist film, as Diesel and Walker assemble what might be called the Fast & Furious All-Stars (Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Sung Kang) to steal $100 million from the drug lord who framed them for murder. This 'B' picture on steroids offers plenty of reasons -- all legitimate -- to go to the movies, including car wrecks, wisecracks, picturesque locations, female extras in skimpy outfits and strong men with huge muscles. However, the audience's embrace of the cavalier and self-centered attitude of the "heroes" toward the violence and destruction they cause is troubling, in part because the protagonists' sense of entitlement is too often seen -- and tolerated -- in the offscreen politicians and business executives who sponsor real-life disaster.
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.
Gnomeo & Juliet (G, 84 min.) Voices of Emily Blunt and James McAvoy.
The Grace Card (PG-13, 108 min.) Michael Joiner, Michael Higgenbottom.
The Hangover Part II (R, 102 min.) Opened Thursday. See review on Page 11.
Forest Hill 8, Stage Cinema, Majestic, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Studio on the Square, Raleigh Springs Cinema, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso, CinePlanet 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Palace Cinema, Summer Quartet Drive-In.
Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil (PG, 85 min.) Like its predecessor, "Hoodwinked," which earned $51 million at the less-'toon-saturated box office of 2005, this is an intermittently amusing smart-aleck fairy-tale spoof, inspired by the success of the "Shrek" franchise but justifying its cheap-looking digital animation by also paying homage to the less-pretentious era of "Fractured Fairy Tales" on TV's Rocky and Bullwinkle programs. Taken in small doses, the fairy-tale "Dragnet" premise and anti-Pixar casualness of these movies would make for decent Saturday morning fodder; unfortunately, the feature-length format makes one all too aware that the visuals are crummy and the comedy is lame, consisting almost entirely of "Family Guy"-style non sequiturs and tired pop-culture references to "Star Wars," "Scarface," "Silence of the Lambs" and so on. Adding economic injury to aesthetic insult, director Mike Disa's movie is in 3-D, which means the tickets carry a surcharge: The extra expense gets you not just a temporary pair of glasses but 11 minutes of end credits, to pad the film to its dubious 85-minute running time. Hayden Panettiere (replacing Anne Hathaway) provides the voice of Red Riding Hood (whose moxie and martial artistry should amuse young girls); Patrick Warburton returns as the Big Bad Wolf.
Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Majestic.
I Am Number Four (PG-13, 110 min.) Alex Pettyfer, Dianna Agron.
Insidious (PG-13, 103 min.) For one loopy moment in this unpretentious we-just-want-to-scare-you horror movie, the trilly sound of "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" wafts through a spook-plagued California home, and it seems as if the story's unfortunate family is being haunted by the ghosts of Tiny Tim and his ukulele. No such luck: In an inevitable letdown, the chief demon/poltergeist isn't a pasty-faced vibrato song stylist but what appears to be a cloven-hoofed Darth Maul. Even so, producer Oren Peli ("Paranormal Activity") and the "Saw" team of writer Leigh Whannell and director James Wan have delivered an efficient chiller, which favors loud BUMPS in the night and other gore-free frights over explicit gross-outs. The story is pure "Poltergeist," as suburban couple Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne hire spiritualist Lin Shaye and her team of ghost-hunting techno-nerds to rescue their comatose young son from the threat of supernatural possession.
Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Majestic, DeSoto Cinema 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema.
Jumping the Broom (PG-13, 113 min.) An all-star ensemble -- Angela Bassett, Paula Patton, Loretta Devine -- converges on Martha's Vineyard for a wedding.
Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Majestic, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Raleigh Springs Cinema, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso, Palace Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16, Summer Quartet Drive-In.
The King's Speech (PG-13 version, 118 min.) Oscar's Best Picture of 2010 returns in an edited family-friendly version, shorn of its frequent F-words.
Kung Fu Panda 2 (PG, 90 min.) Opened Thursday.
Forest Hill 8, Stage Cinema (in 3-D), Majestic, Collierville Towne 16 (in 3-D), DeSoto Cinema 16 (in 3-D), Raleigh Springs Cinema, Cordova Cinema (in 3-D), Paradiso (in 3-D), CinePlanet 16 (in 3-D), Hollywood 20 Cinema, Palace Cinema (in 3-D).
Limitless (PG-13, 106 min.) Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro.
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).
Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Majestic, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Raleigh Springs Cinema, Paradiso, Palace Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema, CinePlanet 16.
Mars Needs Moms (PG, 88 min.) As used here and in the past by producer Robert Zemeckis ("The Polar Express"), the "performance capture" process -- in which actors covered in reflective markers are photographed so their movements and expressions can be translated into computer-generated animation -- seems pointless: Instead of creating distinctive characters, it typically turns actors into inferior simulacra of themselves. The effect of this "realism" is not just creepy but kitschy, and it's especially offputting when shackled to an anti-feminist story in which a young Earth boy ("performed" by Seth Green, voiced by Seth Robert Dusky) discovers that the killjoy female tyrants of Mars have exiled the planet's scruffy, happy-go-lucky males to an underground garbage dump. Noisy and obvious and very un-funny (a chubby sidekick named "Gribble" is especially annoying), the film was directed by Simon Wells, working from a children's book by "Bloom County" creator Berkeley Breathed.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (PG-13, 137 min.) This fourth film in the series originally inspired by a Disney theme park ride chronicles a quest for the fabled fountain of youth, and the movie itself represents a desire for rejuvenation: It's an attempt to rewind the clock back, back, all the way back to those halcyon days of, um, 2003, when the lively, jokey "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" was embraced by moviegoers and even most movie reviewers as a breath of fresh blockbuster air. Scuttling the unnavigable plot complications of the previous two sequels, this is essentially a rebooters' reboot, with Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) -- he of the carroty Coppertone sunburn, mincing Glimmer Twin body language, Foster Brooks slur and Bogey/Bugs Bunny facial tics -- reconnecting with the now peg-legged pirate Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and encountering zombies, mermaids, Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and Penélope Cruz, cast as a sort of swashbuckling projection of Sparrow's anima. New director Rob Marshall ("Chicago") is a less interesting filmmaker than his predecessor, Gore Verbinski, but his journeyman's approach helps shape the overstuffed story; the movie is overlong but entertaining, with a few standout sequences (the mermaids), and a relative coherence that is probably due to its source material. (The script was adapted for Sparrow from Tim Powers' 1987 fantasy pirate novel, "On Stranger Tides.")
Forest Hill 8, Stage Cinema (in 3-D), Majestic, Collierville Towne 16 (in 3-D), DeSoto Cinema 16 (in 3-D), Studio on the Square, Raleigh Springs Cinema, 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), Summer Quartet Drive-In (in 3-D).
Priest (PG-13, 88 min.) A horror/sci-fi revamp (pun intended) of "The Searchers," with vampires instead of Indians, a post-apocalyptic wasteland instead of Monument Valley and a kung-fu warrior priest (Paul Bettany) instead of John Wayne, on the hunt for his kidnapped niece (Lily Collins, last seen as the Tuohy daughter in "The Blind Side"). The inspiration may be John Ford and the credited source may be a Korean comic book, but director Scott Charles Stewart ("Legion") delivers something that resembles one of producer Roger Corman's 1980s "Mad Max" rip-offs, but pumped up with charmless and overbusy 21st-century digital effects.
Forest Hill 8, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Majestic, 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), Summer Quartet Drive-In.
Rango (PG, 107 min.) Sergio Leone meets "The Shakiest Gun in the West" at "High Noon" on the way to "Chinatown": That's one way to describe this odd and original (for all its pop-culture references) computer-animated movie about a chameleon who -- credit the filmmakers for their cleverness -- doesn't blend in. Directed by Gore Verbinski (who also alludes here to his "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise), the first full-on "cartoon" created by Industrial Light & Magic is more for adults than kids, as an eccentric, perhaps delusional chameleon (voiced by Johnny Depp) is bounced from his terrarium into a desert wasteland, where the cowed townspeople (scruffy, even ugly rodents, reptiles and amphibians) accept him -- like Bob Hope and Don Knotts before him -- as a vicious gunfighter, despite his inexperience and ineptitude. John Logan's screenplay begins as a sort of metaphysical quest story in the manner of "El Topo"; eventually, it resolves itself into a talking-animal rewrite of Robert Towne's script for "Chinatown," complete with a greedy John Huston-inspired tortoise who enriches himself by manipulating the water supply. With veteran Coen Brothers cinematographer Roger Deakins as a consultant, the film is consistently visually stunning: The CG haze, dust and shafts of sunlight are convincing and poetic.
Rio (G, 99 min.) A pampered pet Minnesota macaw named Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) who never learned to fly is brought to Brazil to mate with proudly independent Jewel (Anne Hathaway) and save their species in this colorful, musical computer-animated film from Rio-born director Carlos Saldanha and Blue Sky Studios ("Ice Age"). The urban/tropical landscapes and Carnival backdrop add vibrancy to a smart romance-adventure that borrows from classic Bob Hope suspense-comedies and even Hitchcock's "The 39 Steps" as the nebbishy Blu and the sassy Jewel flee from exotic-bird thieves and, inevitably, fall into each other's, um, wings. A treat for grownups as well as kids.
Stage Cinema, Majestic, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso, Palace Cinema (in 3-D), Hollywood 20 Cinema (in 3-D), CinePlanet 16.
Scream 4 (R, 112 min.) Director Wes Craven, writer Kevin Williamson and stars Neve Campbell (the "survivor"), Courtney Cox (the reporter) and David Arquette (the cop) are back in this effective "Ghostface Killer" franchise revival, aimed at the plugged-in social-media teen generation represented by such series newcomers as Emma Roberts (who plays Campbell's niece), Rory Culkin (a geeked-out cinephile) and Hayden Panettiere (a stylish smart-aleck). The self-referential "meta" cleverness of what may be the talkiest slasher film ever made may annoy viewers who prefer their scares straight, but the movie works as both a well-cast horror-comedy and a multiple-suspects mystery thriller that demonstrates that the sudden ring of an old-fashioned telephone is a lot scarier than any downloaded ringtone or text-message ping.
Something Borrowed (PG-13, 113 min.) Like a caramel glaze on a suspect apple, the glossy sheen that represents the house style of Alcon Entertainment ("The Blind Side") can't quite sugarcoat the duplicity and betrayal at the center of this so-called romantic comedy, populated by characters who are cute and charming, yes, but also self-centered and two-faced. The tension between the film's happy public surface -- the generic pop songs that spackle over the transitions and montages; the alluring images of beautiful young people in beautiful places -- and the thorny realism of its interior themes of guilt and deception gives the movie a weird sort of kick -- a seemingly unintentional "romcom noir" distinctiveness. ("You're all going to hell, anyway, so do something for yourself," advises supporting character John Krasinski, delivering a line that would not be out of place in the most cynical heist film.) Adapted from the best-seller by Emily Giffin and produced by Memphis' Molly Mickler Smith, the movie represents a sort of starring-role coming-out party for another native Memphian, Ginnifer Goodwin, cast as Rachel, a seemingly sweet-natured lawyer who begins a serious love affair with the fiancé (Colin Egglesfield) of her lifelong best friend, a show-off party girl played by Kate Hudson. Is Rachel more of a hypocrite if she denies herself a chance at happiness, or if she continues her affair? Does love justify all? Director Luke Greenfield stages the action with a shrewd breeziness intended to camouflage the more nettlesome aspects of the story from the film's target "chick lit" demographic.
Forest Hill 8, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso.
Soul Surfer (PG, 106 min.) AnnaSophia Robb, Dennis Quaid. Robb stars as blond, ukulele-strumming Bethany Hamilton in this true-life parable of the 13-year-old Hawaiian girl who returned to competitive surfing after losing her left arm to a shark attack. A sincere and well-made tale of teenage triumph set against the warm backdrops of the beautiful Pacific surf.
Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8, Collierville Towne 16.
Source Code (PG-13, 93 min.) Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan.
Summer Quartet Drive-In.
Thor (PG-13, 114 min.) Entertaining and instantly forgettable, the latest Marvel Comics would-be blockbuster is as much a promo for the upcoming "Avengers" superteam flick as an origin story, as moviegoers are introduced to the title Norse God of Thunder (a perfectly cast Chris Hemsworth), who is exiled to Earth from the "Realm Eternal" of Asgard by his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), who hopes his impetuous son will develop insight and maturity to match the muscles that enable him to heft Mjolnir, his mighty magic hammer. As expected, director Kenneth Branagh is comfortable with the faux-Shakespearean dialogue of the Asgardians, and he handles the action and drama efficiently (I've always enjoyed Branagh's signature use of Dutch angles); but the multimillion-dollar computer-generated environments and effects seen here pale next to the singular imagination on display in Jack Kirby's drawings in the old Thor comic books. Natalie Portman is charming if unnecessary as the Earth astrophysicist smitten by Thor's golden locks and silver tongue; Tom Hiddleston is amusing as Thor's treacherous "brother" god, Loki.
Forest Hill 8, Stage Cinema (in 3-D), Majestic, Collierville Towne 16 (in 3-D), DeSoto Cinema 16 (in 3-D), Studio on the Square, 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).
Water for Elephants (PG-13, 121 min.) Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon. With unlikely director Francis Lawrence ("I Am Legend," "Constantine") at the helm, Sara Gruen's best-seller becomes an engrossing, old-fashioned romantic-triangle motion picture with appeal for both men and women -- in other words, the type of movie that used to be a Hollywood staple. The Depression-era traveling circus setting adds novelty and color as a young veterinary student (Robert Pattinson) in charge of a big-top menagerie has his life changed by two females: an elegant equestrian (Reese Witherspoon) and Rosie, the elephant. As the equestrian's sadistic husband and circus boss, Christoph Waltz -- in what might be called the Lionel Atwill role -- provides enough scene-stealing flamboyance to compensate for the serviceable blandness of the leads.
Forest Hill 8, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.
Winter in Wartime (R, 103 min.) An enormous popular and critical hit in its home country of the Netherlands, this occasionally moving film -- part coming-of-age story, part wartime resistance thriller -- offers a boy's-eye-view of the Nazi occupation of Holland in January, 1945. Martijn Lakemeier stars as a 14-year-old mayor's son who discovers a wounded English soldier (Jamie Campbell Bower) hiding in the forest near his village; with the aid of his pretty older sister (Melody Klaver), he adopts the soldier as a sort of secret surrogate brother or even pet, until forced to face the dangerous realities of his boy's adventure. Adapted from a Dutch Young Adult novel, the movie is visually unremarkable, and worse than that when director Martin Koolhoven tries too hard: During a dramatic execution scene, the film shifts to slow-motion and the soundtrack becomes awash in angelic, choral harmonies; the effect is kitschy and bathetic.
Your Highness (R, 102 min.) James Franco, Danny McBride.
Summer Quartet Drive-In.