Movie Capsules: Now Showing

Capsule descriptions and starred mini-reviews by John Beifuss.

SPECIAL MOVIES

The Light Before Christmas: Stop-Motion animated holiday film tells the story of The Candleman, an old sage who imparts wisdom, hot chocolate and stories to two lost children. Ends Monday. Tickets $8.25, $7.50 senior citizens, $6.50 children ages 3-12.

IMAX Theater at Memphis Pink Palace Museum, 3050 Central. Call 901-636-2362 for show times, tickets and reservations.

To the Arctic: Narrated by Meryl Streep, this journey to the top of the world follows a polar bear family as it adapts to its changing environment. Runs through March 8, 2013. Tickets $8.25; $7.50 senior citizens, and $6.50 for ages 3-12.

IMAX Theater at Memphis Pink Palace Museum, 3050 Central. Call 901-636-2362 for show times, tickets and reservations.

NOW SHOWING

Alex Cross (PG-13, 102 min.) Tyler Perry trades Madea drag for the shoulder holster and scowl of a genius police psychologist-detective, but this movie couldn't be any sillier if the title sleuth pursued the story's sadistic professional killer in a gray wig and granny panties.

Bartlett 10.

Anna Karenina (R, 130 min.) Eschewing the faithful approach of his previous literary adaptations ("Pride and Prejudice," "Atonement"), director Joe Wright transforms Leo Tolstoy's 900-page doorstop of a 19th-century Russian masterpiece into something intended to be playful and light on its feet, for all its weighty themes of adultery and dishonor: He stages most of the story in what appears to be a theater, complete with flats, painted backdrops and breakaway walls, and choreographs much of the movement as if this were a musical; clerks stamp paper in syncopated rhythm, while scandalized socialites gasp en masse.

Cordova Cinema.

Argo (R, 120 min.) Inspired by the unlikely true story of the secret rescue of six U.S. diplomats from Tehran in 1980 (while 52 of their less-fortunate colleagues were held hostage by militants in the American embassy), this is an entertaining and intelligent suspense film.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

The Bourne Legacy (PG-13, 125 min.) Jeremy Renner, Rachel Wesiz. This is the "Curse of the Pink Panther" of Jason Bourne films.

Bartlett 10.

Brave (PG, 101 min.) Marketed as a saga of you-go-girl empowerment intended to update the tradition of the so-called "Disney princess" for the Katniss Everdeen generation, the latest Pixar release actually is a very odd and sometimes scary affirmation of mother-daughter love.

Bartlett 10.

Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away (Not rated, 91 min.) Andrew Adamson, director of "Shrek" and "Narnia" movies, helmed this 3D fantasy about a pair of lovers lost in the "dreamlike worlds" of the circus art-acrobatics performance company.

Hollywood 20 Cinema (in 3-D), Paradiso (in 3-D).

Dabangg 2 (Not rated, 122 min.) Like its predecessor, 2010's "Dabangg," this is a Bollywood crime film with songs.

Hollywood 20 Cinema.

The Dark Knight Rises (PG-13, 165 min.) Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway.

Bartlett 10.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (PG, 94 min.) With episodes involving a country club, a camping trip and an amusement park ride called the "Cranium Shaker," this third "Wimpy" comedy in as many years affirms the simple sitcom pleasures of an amusing and reliable franchise. Inspired by Jeff Kinney's popular kids books, these films, with their recurring characters and suburban Anytown USA setting, represent a throwback to the assembly-line days of "Andy Hardy" and "Blondie" movies: They lack surprise but not laughs. The only suspense is whether the series can continue with Zachary Gordon in the lead: The teenaged "kid" now appears long in the tooth if short in stature, like a stocky Seth Green. Directed by David Bowers.

Bartlett 10.

Django Unchained (R, 165 min.) Jamie Foxx is a vengeful slave in Quentin Tarantino's Spaghetti Western/blaxploitation revamp.

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, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

Flight (R, 139 min.) Returning to live action after a decade of disappointing experimentation with performance-capture animation, director Robert Zemeckis provides Denzel Washington with one of the more complex roles of the actor's career as an airline pilot whose skill and heroism are matched by his alcoholism and drug addiction. The fine supporting cast includes Kelly Reilly as a junkie (think Robin Wright in "Forrest Gump"), Don Cheadle as a pilots union lawyer and John Goodman as a scene-stealing Dr. Feelgood.

CinePlanet 16.

The Guilt Trip (PG-13, 95 min.) Seth Rogen (son) and Barbra Streisand (mother) take a cross-country comedy road trip.

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

Hitchcock (PG-13, 98 min.) Pitched somewhere between the larky "My Week with Marilyn" and the wry "Ed Wood," and aimed — despite its many cinephiliac-flattering in-jokes — more at the senior crowd that made "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" a hit than at those cinéastes who believe "Marnie" is a masterpiece, this more or less comic dramatization of the personal and professional crises faced by the aging "Master of Suspense" (Anthony Hopkins) while working on his most "tasteless" and déclassé production, 1960's "Psycho," is thoroughly entertaining: It ought to be subtitled "Dial M for Marriage," because the "Psycho"-therapy storyline is essentially a framework for the depiction of Hitchcock's longtime relationship with his wife and collaborator, Alma Reville (a wonderful Helen Mirren), frustrated by her husband's blond obsession and pursuing a possible romance with a dapper screenwriter (Danny Huston). Despite the disturbing presence of real-life Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein (Michael Wincott) as a sort of gruesome muse, the film is essentially a reassuring movie-themed nostalgia piece in psychoanalytic drag, with Scarlett Johansson as famous shower victim Janet Leigh, Jessica Biel as the out-of-favor Vera Miles and James D'Arcy as closeted Anthony Perkins. Some may object to the portrayal of Hitch, a great artist, as alternately pouty and cuddly — a somewhat cartoonish Peeping Tom whose suppressed sadistic "impulses" ultimately prove more naughty than menacing. But the director established this precedent himself: If anyone was adept at exploiting and lampooning his image and what we would now call his "brand," it was the "corpulent" (to borrow a word from the new movie), deliberate and oh-so-droll Alfred Hitchcock. Directed by Sacha Gervasi (known for the affectionate heavy-metal doc, "Anvil: The Story of Anvil"), from a script by John J. McLaughlin (whose "Black Swan" owes a big debt to "Psycho").

Cordova Cinema, Ridgeway Four.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (PG-13, 170 min.) Nine years after the conclusion of his box-office-conquering, Oscar-grabbing "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, Peter Jackson returns to Middle-earth (i.e., the landscapes and green screens of New Zealand) to adapt J.R.R. Tolkien's earlier novel, "The Hobbit," a simpler children's adventure that the producer-director has transformed into another epic trilogy, as well as a "prequel" (such "Rings" characters as Elijah Wood's Frodo, Cate Blanchett's Galadriel and Christopher Lee's Saruman make brief appearances). Jackson clearly loves immersing himself in Tolkien's elaborate mythology, but viewers with less enthusiasm may be impatient with this somewhat dawdling "Journey," in which reluctant hobbit Bilbo Baggins (a fine Martin Freeman) is recruited from his comfy hobbit-hole by the great wizard, Gandalf (Ian McKellen), to join a band of 13 dwarves (led by Richard Armitage as heroic and handsome Thorin Oakenshield) on an "adventure" to reclaim their ancestral homeland from the occupying dragon, Smaug (unseen here, except for flashes of tail and eye). The effect is like watching the opening episode of an unhurried HBO fantasy series, in which humorous asides and bits of dramatic foreshadowing alternate with elaborate, somewhat tiresome battles (there are sword-swinging orcs and goblins aplenty) and tepid monster comedy (Bilbo is almost eaten by some Three Stooges-like trolls). As for Jackson's much-ballyhooed innovation, HFR 3D, to my eyes this "High Frame Rate" technology gives the image an unfortunate "soap opera effect"; it's like watching a movie on the incorrect setting on the new hi-def TV at your brother-in-law's house. The absolute highlight: the return of Andy Serkis, master of motion-capture performance, as the scary, disturbing, pathetic Gollum.

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 HFR 3-D and 3-D), Stage Cinema (in 3-D), Studio on the Square, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

House at the End of the Street (PG-13, 101 min.) Ignoring the concerns of mom Elisabeth Shue, teen Jennifer Lawrence befriends sensitive, soft-spoken Max Thieriot, whose parents were murdered in the scary house next door. The acting is persuasive, and the screenplay by David Loucka (from a story by Jonathan Mostow) has a nice twist that could have supported an inventively stylish giallo-esque thriller.

Bartlett 10.

Ice Age: Continental Drift (PG, 94 min.) The climate change of cliché has melted most of the charm and novelty from this computer-animated comedy-adventure series.

Bartlett 10.

Jack Reacher (PG-13, 130 min.) See review on Page 12.

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

Les Misérables (PG-13, 157 min.) Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway star in an adaptation of the beloved Broadway musical.

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

Life of Pi (PG, 127 min.) We're all in the same boat. Like its source novel, director Ang Lee's adaptation of Yann Martel's 2001 best-seller is captivating as long as it sticks to literalizing this notion of man's relationship to nature and the animal kingdom; it's less persuasive when it insists that its inspirational message may cause its audience to "believe in God." Suraj Sharma stars as 16-year-old Pi, a zookeeper's son shipwrecked in a lifeboat in the Pacific with a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena and a Bengal tiger with the incongruous name of "Richard Parker."

Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema (in 3-D), DeSoto Cinema 16, Paradiso, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Lincoln (R, 150 min.) See Best Films of 2012, on Page 12.

Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, DeSoto Cinema 16, Paradiso, Studio on the Square. Opens Wednesday at the CinePlanet 16 and Hollywood 20 Cinema, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Looper (R, 119 min.) Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Bartlett 10.

Monsters, Inc. (G, 92 min.) The Pixar classic is reissued in 3D.

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

Paranormal Activity 4 (R, 88 min.) The popularity of the reliable if repetitious "Paranormal Activity" franchise — this is the fourth film in five years — suggests that anxieties over the ubiquity and invasiveness of social media and its related technologies may trouble even the most enthusiastic members of the plugged-in generation. To this end, the new film focuses for the first time in series history on a pair of young teenagers, Alex (charming Kathryn Newton) and her computer-savvy boyfriend (likable Matt Shively) place secret surveillance cameras in Alex's possibly haunted but otherwise bland suburban home after strange occurrences accompany the arrival of a "weird" little neighbor boy (Brady Allen). Returning from part 3, directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schuman are let down by a silly, anticlimactic ending, but they ably exploit the spookiness inherent to the limited, often fixed perspective of the "found footage" frame. Much of the "action" involves people talking in looming closeup on Skype; as they block most of the camera's view, we wonder what's crept up, unseen, behind them.

Bartlett 10.

Parental Guidance (PG, 104 min.) A domestic comedy with Bette Midler and Billy Crystal as nosy parents.

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.

Playing for Keeps (PG-13, 95 min.) Sexy soccer moms pursue the hunky new kids coach (Gerard Butler) while his ex-wife (Jessica Biel) glares. Prediction: Before the end credits, True Love will cry "Gooooooaaaaaaaallllll!"

CinePlanet 16.

Red Dawn (PG-13, 94 min.) Shot in 2009 but not released until three years later (probably to piggyback on star Chris Hemsworth's new fame as the Marvel superhero Thor), stunt coordinator-turned-director Dan Bradley's remake of the 1984 camp cult "classic" is as idiotic as its inspiration, but it lacks the live-free-or-die integrity that gun-collecting director and conservative "Zen anarchist" John Milius brought to the original production.

CinePlanet 16, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Rise of the Guardians (PG, 97 min.) Inspired by the "Guardians of Childhood" chapter books by William Joyce, this DreamWorks Animation action-fantasy imagines that Santa Claus (voiced by Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), the mute Sandman and newcomer Jack Frost (Chris Pine) are the members of a sort of bedtime-story Justice League, dedicated to protecting the kids of the world from the sinister Pitch Black, aka The Boogeyman (voice cast MVP Jude Law).

CinePlanet 16, Collierville Towne, Cordova Cinema, DeSoto Cinema 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic, Palace Cinema (in 3-D), Paradiso, Summer Quartet Drive-In, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Silver Linings Playbook (R, 122 min.) See Best Films of 2012, on Page 12.

Cordova Cinema, Ridgeway Four.

Sinister (R, 98 min.) A desperate true-crime writer (Ethan Hawke) moves his unwitting family into a "murder house" that may be haunted.

Bartlett 10.

Skyfall (PG-13, 143 min.) If our 21st-century spies must be dark instead of Pop, let them be presented with as much conviction, professionalism and entertainment value as in this 23rd MGM 007 feature film, the best yet with Daniel Craig as a particularly vulnerable bruiser of a Bond for a cynical post-Cold War era.

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

Taken 2 (PG-13, 91 min.) Auspiciously named director Olivier Megaton ("Colombiana") delivers a real dud: a sequel to the 2008 action-thriller that is so absurd and moronic we'd assume it was a spoof if not for its insistent score.

Hollywood 20 Cinema.

This Is 40 (R, 133 min.) Longtime married couple Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann face the title birthday in the latest Judd Apatow comedy.

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, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2 (PG-13, 116 min.) An increasingly risible parody of not just itself but the multitude of supernatural-romance series that have followed in its alternately preening and mopey wake, the "Twilight" so-called saga comes to its overdue end with another kitschy "indie"-pop-scored story of hemoglobin-hungry eternally young people (the actors' faces appear to have been digitally scrubbed of blemishes) and their coarser if sometimes hunky were-neighbors.

CinePlanet 16, Collierville Towne 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic, Palace Cinema, Summer Quartet Drive-In, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Wreck-It Ralph (PG) This arcade version of "Toy Story" imagines that when the lights are out and the players gone home, the avatars inside video games come to life with their own stories and personalities; if the premise is gimmicky, the execution is brilliant, as the title lovable lug of a villain (voiced to perfection by John C. Reilly) attempts to transcend his programming and become a hero, with the help of bratty Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), the "glitch" trapped inside the girlie go-kart game "Sugar Rush." Witty and genuinely heartwarming, this Disney production is looser and less insistent on your emotional acquiescence than its Pixar counterparts; plus, the video game premise is ideally suited to the digital animation process that brings it to life.

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

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