Movie Capsules: Now showing

The hunky Chris Evans plays Steve Rogers, who, through a special serum,  becomes 'Captain America: The First Avenger.'  Paramount Pictures

The hunky Chris Evans plays Steve Rogers, who, through a special serum, becomes "Captain America: The First Avenger." Paramount Pictures

Capsule descriptions by The Commercial Appeal movie writer John Beifuss.

OPENING FRIDAY

Attack the Block (R, 88 min.) South London teens battle alien invaders in this acclaimed indie.

Studio on the Square.

Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star (R, 96 min.) A Midwest grocery-bagger (Nick Swardson) decides to follow in his parents, um, footsteps after he discovers they were top 1970s porn stars.

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

Contagion (PG-13, 106 min.) See review.

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

Creature (R, 93 min.) An old-school "Black Lagoon"-style creature feature, with newfangled gore.

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

Warrior (PG-13, 139 min.) Brothers Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy becomes mixed martial-arts competitors.

Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, DeSoto Cinema 16, Paradiso.

SNEAK PREVIEW SATURDAY

I Don't Know How She Does It (PG-13, 89 min.) A romantic comedy with Sarah Jessica Parker and Pierce Brosnan.

Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

SPECIAL MOVIES

Ballet in Cinema: The Flames of Paris (Not rated, 102 min.) A filmed-live-onstage presentation of a spectacular ballet about the French Revolution, performed by Moscow's Bolshoi Ballet.

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

The Globe Theatre Presents... Henry VIII (Not rated, 180 min.) A recent production of Shakespeare's play about England's lustiest monarch, filmed live onstage in London.

6:30 p.m. Thursday, Paradiso. Tickets: $15. Visit malco.com.

Hubble: Narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, this 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.

Midnight in Paris (PG-13, 100 min.) Don't want to drive to the Wolfchase? Here's a one-time-only alternate venue for Woody Allen's hit comedy.

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

Outflix Film Festival: See story.

Today through Thursday, Ridgeway Four. Visit outflixfestival.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.

NOW SHOWING

Apollo 18 (PG-13, 86 min.) Like 'Paranormal Activity,' but with astronauts.

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

Bad Teacher (R, 89 min.) Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake.

Summer Quartet Drive-In.

Captain America: The First Avenger (PG-13, 124 min.) Journeyman director Joe Johnston (whose "The Rocketeer" was a similar exercise in World War II-era superhero nostalgia) delivers the squarest Marvel Comics adaptation of the current cycle, and it's this old-school pulp sense of adventure and the characters' old-fashioned decorum (even brawling commando "Dum Dum" Dugan doesn't curse) that makes the film so satisfying.

CinePlanet 16, Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, DeSoto Cinema 16, Stage Cinema.

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

Stage Cinema.

The Change-Up (R, 112 min.) Jason Bateman, Ryan Reynolds.

Cordova Cinema.

Colombiana (PG-13, 108 min.) Cat-like Zoe Saldana is Cataleya (named for an orchid), a vengeful Bogota orphan turned coldblooded unstoppable killer in the latest saga of female kick-assery from the action-movie assembly line of producer/co-writer Luc Besson ("The Professional," "Nikita"). Directed by the appropriately named Olivier Megaton, the film might have been a classic, but the promise of the borderline-priceless early scenes with Amandla Stenberg as the 10-year-old Cataleya aren't quite fulfilled by the more predictable if clever and nicely staged set pieces with the adult assassin. (The highlight: a "Mission: Impossible"-worthy jailhouse hit.)

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.

Conan the Barbarian (R, 112 min.) A movie that includes a cast listing for "Topless Wenches" at least ought to have a kitschy sense of humor, but not this noisy, cheerless actioner; one imagines that director Marcus Nispel's eyes twinkled only when staging the skull-crackings, impalements and dismemberments that, paradoxically, are the movie's only signs of life. (Well, Nispel is the guy who helmed the remakes of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Friday the 13th.") Amid the chaotic carnage (baby Conan himself is delivered by sword-administered C-section on a bloody battlefield), the one truly squirm-inducing moment finds the Barbarian sticking his finger up what's left of a bad guy's nose -- ouuucchh! Replacing Arnold Schwarzenegger as the "Hyborian Age" adventurer introduced by author Robert E. Howard in the "Weird Tales" pulp magazine in 1932, Jason Momoa ("Game of Thrones") has the requisite Frazettaesque sneer and physique, but the overcomplicated yet simple-minded premise -- set up by narrator Morgan Freeman, no less -- gives the Cimmerian little to do but slay and slay; distressingly, the Conan franchise itself appears to be among the victims. At least Rose McGowan's Freddy Krueger-clawed witch looks cool. The post-production 3D is worthless.

Hollywood 20 Cinema (in 3-D), Majestic, Raleigh Springs Cinema, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

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

CinePlanet 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Majestic, Stage Cinema.

Crazy, Stupid, Love. (PG-13, 118 min.) Steve Carell starred in a movie titled "Dinner for Schmucks," but the actor more accurately specializes in shnooks: people who are hapless and naive, rather than stupid and obnoxious. Here, he plays a husband-turned-"cuckold" whose life is thrown out of whack when his "soulmate" of 25 years (Julianne Moore) says she wants a divorce. Written by Dan Fogelman and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (the team that made its debut with the very worthwhile "I Love You Phillip Morris"), the film primarily labors to reunite the husband and wife; at the same time, it works to join a callow, expert ladies' man (Ryan Gosling, perfectly cast to make use of his trademark smugness and self-regard) with a disarmingly sweet would-be conquest (the vivid Emma Stone).

Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, DeSoto Cinema 16, Forest Hill 8, Paradiso, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

The Debt (R, 113 min.) The good news is director John Madden's film has nothing to do with the national economy. The bad news is that the movie's deficiencies begin with its uninformative name; granted, "Nazi Gynecologist" would have been problematic, but shouldn't a movie that casts Helen Mirren as a scar-faced secret agent bear a more interesting title? A remake of "Ha-Hov," a 2007 Israeli film, this decades-spanning story of political intrigue and moral crisis concerns a trio of Israeli spies charged with capturing a Mengele-like Nazi war criminal who has reinvented himself as an East Berlin gynecologist. In the 1960s, the young Mossad agents are played by Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington and Martin Csokas; in 1997, they are Mirren, Ciarán Hinds and Tom Wilkinson. The characters are haunted by their ethical compromises and the lies they told in support of what was supposed to be a good cause, Israeli morale; we can all agree that government honesty is important, but I couldn't help finding the suggestion of moral equivalency between the sins of a Mossad coverup and the crimes of the Nazi to be specious and even offensive.

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

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (R, 100 min.) 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. Leaving teethmarks of his own is producer/co-writer Guillermo del Toro; as in "Pan's Labyrinth," he connects a vulnerable child's yearnings to the attractions-turned-terrors of the supernatural realm. Bailee Madison stars as a little girl with issues whose stories of goblin-like imps are disbelieved by her architect father (Guy Pearce) and his new girlfriend (Katie Holmes), who are trying to restore a creepy old mansion in Rhode Island. As Peter Jackson did with "King Kong," del Toro is attempting to make a beloved influence as spectacular in fact as it appeared to have been to his childhood imagination, but this very impulse diminishes the power -- the mystery -- of the source material. By the end of this film, the impressively realized creatures have been revealed in so much detail that we recognize them as assignments from an artist's workshop, not escapees from a nightmare.

CinePlanet 16, Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, DeSoto Cinema 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic, Palace Cinema, Paradiso, Raleigh Springs Cinema, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

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

Bartlett 10.

Final Destination 5 (R, 92 min.) Contrary to rumor, Death never takes a holiday, as demonstrated yet again in this ultra-gory exercise in audience manhandling that begins with a spectacular high-tension bridge collapse that totally justifies the 3D surcharge. (See David Koechner enveloped by hot liquid asphalt!) Directed by feature newcomer Steven Quale, the film is little more than a series of nail-biting, sadistic set pieces, as invisible omnipresent Death (symbolized by series returnee Tony Todd, the "coroner") contrives a series of Rube Goldberg-like lethal coincidences to wipe out the demographically diverse and mostly photogenic young people who somehow missed their original dates with destiny. Repetitious? Yes, but so what? The "Final Destination" franchise is the Ramones discography of horror cinema: There's not a lot of variety, but if you liked the first release, there's no reason not to like the rest.

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

Friends with Benefits (R, 110 min.) Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis.

Stage Cinema.

Fright Night (R, 106 min.) It can't hold a flickering haunted-house candle to the 1985 original, but this vampire remake is a fine "B" film -- a witty (if frequently poorly motivated) chiller-thriller that justifies its 3D surcharge by tossing splattery vampire innards and "For Sale" yard-sign stakes at the audience. The movie benefits from a sly performance by Colin Farrell as hunky "Jerry the Vampire," who dresses like the construction worker in a male-stripper revue while attracting the suspicion of reformed nerd Charley (Anton Yelchin), his geeky best friend, Evil Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), and a Criss Angel-like stage magician (David Tennant). Directed by Craig Gillespie and scripted by "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" veteran Marti Noxon, the movie contains one ingenious twist: The action has been moved to suburban Las Vegas, where a vampire is less likely to be noticed because many of his casino-worker neighbors also sleep all day and rise at night. As in the original, the tensest moments are teasing rather than explicit, when Jerry fences with his wits rather than his fangs. (Assessing Charley's faddish footwear, Jerry comments: "It takes a real man to wear puce.")

Hollywood 20 Cinema (in 3-D), Majestic, Palace Cinema (in 3-D), Summer Quartet Drive-In.

Green Lantern (PG-13, 114 min.) Ryan Reynolds, Peter Sarsgaard.

Bartlett 10.

The Guard (R, 96 min.) Dropping casual F-bombs and calculated insults with an Irish brogue and an invisible wink, bearish character actor Brendan Gleeson is not just the title policeman but almost the entire justification of this extraordinarily entertaining film from writer-director John Michael McDonagh. Shot and set in County Galway, Ireland, the movie contains murders and shoot-outs but is more interested in painting a portrait of "the last of the independents" in the twilight of his career than in outlining corpses in chalk. Don Cheadle is the FBI agent who teams with Sgt. Boyle (Gleeson) to track down $500,000 in cocaine; the Yank-baiting Boyle seem more interested in offering racial slurs than assistance. The dialogue occasionally lapses into post-Tarantino glibness, but the movie's nuanced focus on the sly Boyle, its loose approach to the mechanics of the plot and its insistence on the guard's stubborn integrity in a world of insincerity and corruption represent a welcome novelistic approach to genre material.

Ridgeway Four.

The Hangover Part II (R, 102 min.) Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis.

Bartlett 10.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (PG-13, 130 min.) Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson.

Hollywood 20 Cinema (in 3-D), Palace Cinema, Stage Cinema.

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 a "superior" 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. Emma Stone plays "Skeeter," a socially conscious young Ole Miss grad so disturbed by the casual racism of her former classmates that she encourages the maids Aibileen (Viola Davis, the movie's emotional center) and Minny (scene-stealing Octavia Spencer) to share with her, in secret, "the truth" of their experiences working for white women, so she can publish these stories in book form. Unlike in many similar films, Skeeter is not presented as the black race's white savior (the film's ending is hardly upbeat); and while the book had three narrators, the movie reserves the voiceover for Aibileen, making this more her story than Skeeter's. The recurring "bathroom" theme, however, is problematic; it sometimes seems to strip the maids of the dignity the film otherwise insists upon. Directed by Stockett's longtime friend, Tate Taylor, and shot mostly in Greenwood, Miss., with several Memphians in the cast and crew.

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

Horrible Bosses (R, 98 min.) Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston.

Bartlett 10, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

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

Bartlett 10.

Midnight in Paris (PG-13, 100 min.) Owen Wilson, Marion Cotillard.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Mr. Popper's Penguins (PG, 95 min.) Jim Carrey, waterfowl.

Bartlett 10.

One Day (PG-13, 107 min.) Movie love stories typically spend most of their running time keeping the lead couple apart until the inevitable climactic clinch, but this film prolongs the sexual tension between opposites-attract so-called best friends Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess) over a period of almost 20 years. (If the makers of "Moonlighting" had been this patient, Cybill Shepherd might still be on network television.)

Collierville Towne 16, Studio on the Square.

Our Idiot Brother (R, 90 min.) Genial stoner Paul Rudd fails to mesh with sisters Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer and Elizabeth Banks.

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

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

Bartlett 10.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (PG-13, 105 min.) "Curious George" meets "Splice" (with a dash of "The Yearling" and "Born Free") in this seventh "Apes" film and franchise reboot, which casts James Franco as a big pharma researcher whose retrovirus would-be cure for Alzheimer's transforms lab-born chimpanzee Caesar into the simian genius who foments the title anthropoidal rebellion. The remarkable computer graphics transform the apes into legitimate characters, and the final assault on San Francisco is spectacular and exciting; but the familiar contagion plot line prevents the film from achieving the allegorical charm or cautionary impact of the 1968 original. However, the movie -- more PETA parable than action blockbuster -- may prove influential in raising consciousness about the ever more obvious kinship between ape and man. Directed by Rupert Wyatt; Andy Serkis -- who performed similar duty for Peter Jackson's "King Kong" -- is the actor whose motion-captured pantomime provided the basis for Caesar.

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

Sarah's Key (PG-13, 111 min.) A journalist (Kristin Scott Thomas) investigates France's Nazi past.

Ridgeway Four.

Seven Days in Utopia (G, 98 min.) Lucas Black, Robert Duvall and Melissa Leo star in an inspirational golf drama.

CinePlanet 16, Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso.

Shark Night 3D (PG-13, 91 min.) "Huge Teeth and Teenie-Weenie Bikinis," summarized the headline on the New York Times review; unfortunately, there's not quite enough of either in this nonetheless diverting genre fishing expedition from director David R. Ellis, who certainly has a flair for titles with bite: He also helmed "Snakes on a Plane." Sort of like what a "Friday the 13th" movie might be if Crystal Lake were stocked with cartilaginous killers, the film strands a cast of photogenic Tulane undergrads at a Louisiana private vacation home, where they are menaced by snaggle-toothed rednecks as well as razor-toothed fish. The film becomes oddly ambitious during its final act: I was expecting the man-eating hammerhead, but not the lecture on "moral relativism" from the local sheriff (Donal Logue).

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), Summer Quartet Drive-In.

The Smurfs (PG, 103 min.) "Who smurfed in here?" That question -- uttered by one of the cheerful cerulean homunculi of Hollywood's latest 3D money grab -- is likely to be echoed in auditoriums across America as parents escort their offspring to this adaptation of the inexplicably popular 1980s Hanna-Barbera cartoon series. The highlight is Hank Azaria's committed performance as Gargamel, the Smurf-hating sorcerer.

CinePlanet 16, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema (in 3-D), Majestic, Palace Cinema (in 3-D), Raleigh Springs Cinema.

Spy Kids: All the Time in the World (PG, 89 min.) In "4D," or "Aroma-Scope": Viewers will be given scratch-and-sniff cards so they can follow their noses throughout the "scentsational" film.

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

Super 8 (PG-13, 112 min.) Joel Courtney.

Bartlett 10.

30 Minutes or Less (R, 83 min.) Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride.

Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (PG-13, 157 min.)

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

Winnie the Pooh (G, 70 min.) Pooh Bear, Piglet.

Bartlett 10.

X-Men: First Class (PG-13, 132 min.) James McAvoy, Kevin Bacon.

Bartlett 10.

Zookeeper (PG, 101 min.) Kevin James, Rosario Dawson.

Bartlett 10.

© 2011 Go Memphis. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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