Movie Capsules: Now showing

 Ryan Gosling stars in  'Drive,' an ultraviolent action flick that is one of the year's best films.

Richard Foreman/Film District

Ryan Gosling stars in "Drive," an ultraviolent action flick that is one of the year's best films.

Capsule descriptions by The Commercial Appeal movie writer John Beifuss.

OPENING FRIDAY

Immortals (R, 110 min.) The Titan Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) launches an epic battle among mortals and Greek gods.

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 (in 3-D), 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, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

Jack and Jill (PG, 91 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.

J. Edgar (R, 137 min.) Director Clint Eastwood's epic biopic covers seven decades in the life of the FBI director (Leonardo DiCaprio).

Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, DeSoto Cinema 16, Paradiso, Studio on the Square, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Martha Marcy May Marlene (R, 120 min.) See review.

Ridgeway Four.

Take Shelter (R, 120 min.) See review.

Ridgeway Four.

OPENING THURSDAY

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1 (PG-13, 117 min.) The smash-hit vampire-human love saga nears its conclusion.

Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, DeSoto Cinema 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Paradiso, Stage Cinema, Studio on the Square.

SPECIAL MOVIES

Opera in Cinema: Tosca (Not rated, 194 min.) A recent production of Puccini's masterpiece, staged and filmed at London's Royal Opera House.

2 p.m. Sunday, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. Tickets: $15, or $12 for museum members. Visit brooksmuseum.org.

Preacher (Not rated, 73 min.) A documentary by Daniel Kraus about 72-year-old Bishop William Nowell, a charismatic Pentecostal pastor in Charlottesville, Va.

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

The Seventh Seal (Not rated, 96 min.) Ingmar Bergman's much-parodied 1957 masterpiece follows a medieval knight (Max von Sydow) through plague-devastated Europe.

10:30 a.m. Saturday, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. Tickets: $8, or $6 for museum members. Visit brooksmuseum.org.

This Is Spinal Tap (R, 82 min.) Director Rob Reiner's classic 1984 rock mockumentary screens in a fundraising party for the Memphis Music Foundation.

8 p.m. Friday, The Warehouse, 93 S. G.E. Patterson. Tickets: $30, or $50 per couple. Call 527-1029.

Twilight Marathon: The three previous movies -- "Twilight," "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" and "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" -- will be screened back to back, to lead up to the Thursday near-midnight premiere of the new movie, "Breaking Dawn -- Part 1."

Thursday: Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, DeSoto Cinema 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Paradiso, Stage Cinema, Studio on the Square.

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.

NOW SHOWING

Abduction (PG-13, 106 min.) Taylor Lautner's on the run, and John Singleton's directing.

CinePlanet 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic, Palace Cinema, Stage Cinema.

Anonymous (PG-13, 130 min.) With this indigestible pottage of royal conspiracy, backstage intrigue and computer-generated 16th-century cityscapes, director Roland Emmerich does to Elizabethan history and Shakespearean scholarship what his previous movies, "The Day After Tomorrow" and the "Godzilla" remake, did to the sciences of climate change and herpetology. Inspired by the classist theory that Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford (nicely played by Rhys Ifans), actually penned the plays attributed to Shakespeare (Rafe Spall), the film not only depicts the Bard as a drunken oaf but Queen Elizabeth (Joely Richardson in flashback, Vanessa Redgrave in the "present") as a love-addled ditherer. What's most distressing about the movie, however, isn't its plodding incoherence or wild-eyed credulousness but its misplaced priority: It suggests that what's most interesting about this writer we call Shakespeare is not the genius of his words but the puzzle of his identity. That's not just a bad judgment call but an indictment of a culture that often seems more devoted to scandal than to art. Yes, the play's the thing, and this one's a crock.

Paradiso.

Captain America: The First Avenger (PG-13, 124 min.) Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving.

Bartlett 10.

Cars 2 (G, 112 min.) Voices of Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Caine.

Bartlett 10.

Colombiana (PG-13, 108 min.) Zoe Saldana.

Majestic.

Contagion (PG-13, 106 min.) A plague threatens the Earth and an all-star cast -- Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet and many more -- in director Steven Soderbergh's creepy cautionary tale about a modern world in which the "viral" menaces include Internet rumors as well as deadly diseases.

Bartlett 10, Majestic, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Courageous (PG-13, 130 min.) The faith values of four police officers are challenged in the latest Christian-themed film from Sherwood Pictures ("Fireproof") and distributor Affirm Films (the Memphis-made "The Grace Card").

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

Cowboys & Aliens (PG-13, 118 min.) Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford.

Bartlett 10.

Crazy, Stupid, Love. (PG-13, 118 min.) Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling.

Bartlett 10.

Dolphin Tale (PG, 113 min.) Now a celebrity at Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida, Winter the bottlenose dolphin plays herself in this intelligently crafted family film, which demonstrates that an injury or disability need not diminish the quality or value of an individual's life, even if that individual breathes through a blowhole on the top of her head. Produced by Fred Smith's Alcon Entertainment company, the movie might be called the first cetacean biopic as it recounts the marine mammal's rescue and rehabilitation at a coastal animal hospital..

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

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (R, 100 min.) Bailee Madison, Guy Pearce. Director Troy Nixon's remake of a famously spooky 1973 ABC Movie of the Week is an effective if overthought horror tale about the creepy "little things" that scuttle along baseboards, under beds and through air ducts -- not rats and roaches, in this case, but evil ugly fairies with a literal hunger for children's teeth.

Bartlett 10, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

Dream House (PG-13, 110 min.) New homeowners Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz learn they need to replace the word "dream" with "haunted."

CinePlanet 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Drive (R, 103 min.) A movie with style and rubber to burn, Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn's action-suspense stunner is a candidate for the best film of the year, even when it becomes too pleased with its own remorseless coolness -- with the action-painting blossoms of blood and the acousticophiliac squish of heel to face that characterize its ultraviolent final act. The title is an an imperative, an action verb that describes momentum and movement; the word becomes flesh in the studied person of Ryan Gosling as the story's antihero, a nameless Hollywood stunt driver and underworld wheelman -- "I drive," he explains -- whose professional security and personal safety become compromised when he allows sentiment to enter his life by showing interest in a new neighbor (Carey Mulligan) and her young son.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Final Destination 5 (R, 92 min.)

Bartlett 10.

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. ("If we can't have braless wet women here in Bomont, the terrorists win," jokes comic-relief sidekick Miles Teller, referencing his home town's lack of wet T-shirt contests.) "You deal with your pain in extremes," a woman (Andie MacDowell) tells the minister (Dennis Quaid) whose grief-motivated crusade is responsible for the town's legislatively enforced conservatism, and this softspoken line offers a key to Brewer's filmography: All the director's movies (most expressionistically, "Black Snake Moan") are about people who deal with their pain in extremes, and the films' plots chronicle the consequences of the characters' unorthodox coping mechanisms. The bright cast includes Kenny Wormald as the Kennedyesque "Yankee" newcomer to town and Julianne Hough as the "rebel child" preacher's daughter whose sad confession -- "I have been so lost" -- places her in the company of Brewer's other lost heroines: the huckster, the hooker, the sex addict and even the smear-faced Halloween clown of "$5 Cover."

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

The Help (PG-13, 137 min.) This adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's phenomenally successful best-seller about "colored" maids and their white employers in early 1960s Jackson, Miss., is not only superior to the novel but it may be the most surprising movie of the year: a wide-release studio film about race relations that adopts a liberation rather than plantation mentality by suggesting that nothing good can come of a system in which one race controls the destiny of another. It's also one of the funnier movies of the year, with more than a dozen indelible, distinctive characters, played by relative newcomers (Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain) and Oscar-validated veterans (Sissy Spacek, Cicely Tyson). The ensemble is so delightful, it recalls the 1930s heyday of Hollywood women's pictures, such as "Stage Door"; the comedy is the movie's saving grace, and it prevents "The Help" from becoming pretentious or sanctimonious.

Collierville Towne 16, Majestic, Palace Cinema, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

The Ides of March (R, 101 min.) 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 snake skins, 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. ("None of this is about the democratic process," one character says. "It's about getting our guy in office." No duh.) The movie is worth seeing, however, because its ideas are worth discussing (should revelations of sexual misbehavior be a campaign killer?), and because its supporting cast is a hoot: Watching pros like Philip Seymor Hoffman, Marisa Tomei and Paul Giamatti swirl their dialogue around in their mouth like oenophiles savoring a wine is a real pleasure.

Ridgeway Four.

In Time (PG-13, 110 min.) Justin Timberlake is on the run in a future society where the wealthy can become immortal.

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.

Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain (R, 89 min.) A comedy concert and documentary.

Majestic.

Killer Elite (R, 116 min.) Jason Statham, Robert DeNiro.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Margin Call (R, 107 min.) An impressive debut for writer-director J.C. Chandor, this modestly budgeted drama transforms a Manhattan investment bank tower into ground zero for the slow-motion big bang of the 2008 financial crisis, which moviegoers view through the calculating eyes of an inner circle of invested executives and analysts, played by such worthy Oscar-contenders as Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci and Zachary Quinto. As sleek and attractive as an obsidian serpent, the film has an insinuating, seductive style that ultimately romanticizes the traders it pretends only to humanize and critique. Chandor repeatedly shoots the characters against large windows that reveal the city skyline below, to make an ironic comment on their God-like perspective and inaccessibility, but the irony gives way to affirmation, and the consequences of the decisions made by these masterminds on the unseen groundlings below remain abstract.

Ridgeway Four.

Moneyball (PG-13, 133 min.) A shaggy-haired, crinkle-eyed Brad Pitt plays failed major-leaguer turned harried Oakland Athletics' general manager Billy Beane in this enjoyable but not entirely successful attempt to wrest a feel-good underdog sports movie out of the geeked-out content of "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game," a 2003 nonfiction best-seller by Michael Lewis (author of "The Blind Side") about the development of a statistical-analysis approach to baseball management known as "sabermetrics."

CinePlanet 16, Collierville Towne 16.

October Baby (PG-13, 105 min.) A beautiful college freshman (Rachel Hendrix) joins a group of misfits on an eye-opening road trip in this "faith-based" film with a "pro-life" message.

Hollywood 20 Cinema.

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 confounds the continuity of previous entries (according to the series' Internet fan base) and adds few new scares, although the 1988 setting means the supernatural antics supposedly are captured on VHS rather than digital video. Once again, a mundane California suburban home of carpeted staircases and showroom furniture is inhabited by some sort of invisible ghost or demon immune to bad interior design; this time, the vector for the haunting is a little girl (beautifully played by Jessica Tyler Brown), who identifies the poltergeist as "Toby." The very spooky scene in the trailer in which the two sisters play "Bloody Mary" in the bathroom is absent, even though it's scarier than anything that actually occurs in the film. Even so, this threepeat earned $53 million on its opening weekend -- a horror-movie record. Directed by "Catfish" collaborators Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost.

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, Studio on the Square.

Real Steel (PG-13, 127 min.) Inspired as much by "Rocky" as by Rock'em Sock'em Robots, this canny crowd-pleaser is set in the year 2020, but it scavenges its buffed and retooled spare parts not just from the Mattel aisle at Toys "R" Us but from a vast and ancient junkyard, overflowing with all the shamelessly manipulative hokum and staged public violence of eras past. Based "in part" (according to the credits) on a 1956 short story by Richard Matheson, the film represents an ingenious welding of the state-of-the-art effects and boy-and-his-robot relationship of the "Transformers" films with the hoary sentiment of the tough guy-reformed-by-cute kid movies that have been a staple of motion pictures since the silent era. Hugh Jackman stars as a washed-up fighter turned second-rate robot-boxing manager who changes his irresponsible ways after he bonds with his 11-year-old son (Dakota Goyo), a pint-sized gizmo whiz whose salvaged obsolete robot, Atom, becomes a contender -- a symbol of underdog, all-American, grit-and-grind determination in a sport dominated by high-tech, big-money and, yes, foreign arrogance (the champion 'bot, Zeus, is an Asian invention).

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

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (PG-13, 105 min.) James Franco.

Bartlett 10.

The Rum Diary (PG-13, 122 min.) Thirteen years after "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," Johnny Depp return as a Hunter S. Thompson-inspired drug-addled reporter.

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

Sarah's Key (PG-13, 111 min.) Inspired by one of the most shameful episodes in French history, the 1942 roundup of Jews by French police during the Nazi occupation, this stirring if not particularly cinematic film makes the case that "we're all a product of our history." Moving back and forth between English and fluent French, Kristin Scott Thomas stars as a journalist whose investigation into the Vel' d'Hiv roundup uncovers an unexpected connection to her own life; unfortunately, the emphasis on the writer's relatively trivial if symbolic domestic woes (she experiences a "miracle" pregnancy in the midst of her research into death) detracts from the power of the wartime scenes involving young Sarah (Mélusine Mayance), a brave girl on her own in a concentration camp. Directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner from a novel by Tatiana de Rosay that likely is responsible for the "woman's picture" aspects of the story.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

The Smurfs (PG, 103 min.)

Bartlett 10.

The Thing (R, 103 min.) John W. Campbell's classic 1938 science-fiction short story, "Who Goes There?," already has inspired two great movies titled "The Thing," in 1951 and 1982. This remake in prequel disguise adds absolutely nothing of interest to director John Carpenter's masterpiece of alien invasion and Antarctic paranoia, but it succeeds as a genre fan-pleasing showcase for gruesome human/monster shapeshifting and other digital horror effects. Lost within the embrace of fur-lined parkas and extraterrestrial tentacles, the actors -- including Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Joel Edgerton -- hardly register.

CinePlanet 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic.

The Three Musketeers (PG-13, 111 min.) The producer of the "Resident Evil" series puts the 3D into D'Artagnan.

Cordova Cinema (in 3-D), Palace Cinema (in 3-D), Paradiso (in 3-D), Summer Quartet Drive-In.

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" -- an elevator operator (Michael Peña), a maid (Gabourey Sidibe), a desk clerk (Casey Affleck) and so on -- who seek revenge on the "Wall Street kingpin" (Alan Alda) who stole their pension fund; Eddie Murphy is the cat burglar enlisted to help the "working stiffs" storm the kingpin's tower penthouse and heist $20 million in cash. Something of a throwback to the class-conscious wish-fulfillment comedies of the Depression, this is a more useful response to the financial crisis than "Margin Call": It's a pie in the face of the rich, not an apologia.

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.

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas (R, 90 min.) Now, THIS is why they invented 3D.

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

Warrior (PG-13, 139 min.) Estranged brothers -- Tommy (Tom Hardy) is the antisocial ex-Marine, Brendan (Joel Edgerton) is the cash-strapped family man and schoolteacher -- become mixed martial arts competitors in this unlikely but compelling allegory of family love and loyalty expressed through bone-crunching spectator violence. Inspired by the biblical story of Jacob and Esau by way of "Rocky" and Bruce Springsteen, this is essentially a boxing film for a desensitized era that demands the bloody brutality of a new style of cage fighting; it's shamelessly, operatically emotional (Nick Nolte plays the recovering alcoholic father who craves his boys' love) but gritty/indie in style. The disconnect exposes the film as somewhat dishonest: Director Gavin O'Connor ("Miracle," "Pride and Glory") relies on the graininess of his dimly lighted shaky-camera shots rather than on the integrity of his narrative to convince viewers the film is more artful than cornball.

Bartlett 10.

Zookeeper (PG, 101 min.) Kevin James.

Bartlett 10.

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