Movie Capsules: Now showing

Fran Kranz is shown in a scene from 'The Cabin in the Woods.'

Lionsgate, Diyah Pera

Fran Kranz is shown in a scene from "The Cabin in the Woods."

Capsule descriptions of first-run movies by John Beifuss.

OPENING FRIDAY

The Avengers (PG-13, 143 min.) See review on Page 14.

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

Boy (Not rated, 87 min.) Taika Waitit's coming-of-age comedy-drama about a Michael Jackson-worshipping farmboy is a huge hit in its native land of New Zealand.

Ridgeway Four.

The Deep Blue Sea (R, 98 min.) See review on Page 18.

Ridgeway Four.

SPECIAL MOVIES

Ballet in Cinema: The Bright Stream (Not rated, 125 min.) Set during a harvest festival on the Russian steppes, this recent Bolshoi Ballet production was filmed live onstage in Moscow, and features a folk music-inspired score by Shostakovich.

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

Born To Be Wild: The latest IMAX film is "an inspiring story of love, dedication and the remarkable bond between humans and animals" that focuses on efforts to reintroduce rescued elephants and orangutans into the wild. Narrated by Morgan Freeman. Runs through Nov. 16.

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

The Metropolitan Opera: Das Rheingold (Not rated, 170 min.) Gods, magic, giants, dwarfs and heroes abound in this encore presentation of the first part of Wagner's "Ring" cycle, filmed live onstage in New York.

6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Paradiso. Tickets: $20. Visit malco.com.

The Metropolitan Opera: Wagner's Dream (Not rated, 120 min.) Presented as an introduction to the upcoming encore presentation of Wagner's "Ring" cycle, this 2007 opera -- filmed live onstage in New York -- mixes events from the final days of Wagner's life with fantasy elements from one of his compositions .

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

Tornado Alley: Narrated by Bill Paxton, this IMAX film follows storm-chasing scientists who travel in rugged, high-tech vehicles as they hunt raging tornados. Runs through Nov. 16. Tickets: $8.25 ($7.50 for senior citizens), $6.50 for children ages 3-12; combo/group tickets available.

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

NOW SHOWING

Act of Valor (R, 101 min.) Actual active-duty Navy SEALs star in this action film.

Bartlett 10.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (G, 90 min.) If you can't get enough of aggressively cute digitally animated rodents shaking their fuzzy tails while singing helium-voiced covers of mostly recent funk/hip-hop dance hits and spouting clichéd "urban" catchphrases ("Oh no she di'int!"), then this "squeakquel" -- the second follow-up to 2007's "Alvin and the Chipmunks" -- is for you. The essentially plotless film follows the Chipmunks and increasingly dominant Chipettes from a cruise ship to a volcanic tropical island, where the stranded furballs are separated from their father figure, Dave (a sinewy Jason Lee).

Bartlett 10.

American Reunion (R, 113 min.) Aimed primarily at audiences who grew up with and identified with friends Jim (Jason Biggs), Oz (Chris Klein), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) and loose-cannon Stifler (Seann William Scott), this fourth theatrical-release "American Pie" movie reunites most of the original series cast members -- yes, including Czech exchange student Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth) and the "Band Camp" enthusiast who is now Jim's wife (Alyson Hannigan) -- for the Class of 1999's overdue 13th high-school reunion. in the white-bread suburban town of "East Great Falls, Michigan." After opening with the series' signature gesture, a slapstick masturbation sequence, the movie -- directed by "Harold and Kumar" creators Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg -- becomes surprisingly funny, soft-pedaling the inevitable "we're growing up" subplots in favor of unpretentious if crude farce, shot and edited with old-school directness, and buoyed by the go-for-broke, happy-to-be-humiliated professionalism of the actors.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

The Cabin in the Woods (R, 95 min.) Wow. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" creator Joss Whedon and "Lost"/"Cloverfield" writer Drew Goddard (who also directed) co-wrote this meta-clever "Scream"-meets- "Truman Show" evisceration-and- reanimation of the traditional teenage slasher film, which follows a purposefully clichéd group of typical victims -- the bimbo (Anna Hutchison), the jock (Chris Hemsworth), the virgin (Kristen Connolly), and so on -- as they are terrorized by some traditional horror-movie ghouls and some mysterious behind-the-scenes white guys in ties (Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford). The film is never very scary, and some fans may not cotton to its gleeful over-the-top celebration of genre history; but I found it exhilarating, like one of those special-issue comic-book splash panels in which the artist tries to squeeze in as many superheroes as possible. And it's as much a story of selfish/resentful adult exploitation of youth as "The Hunger Games."

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

Chimpanzee (G, 78 min.) A Disney documentary.

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

Chronicle (PG-13, 84 min.) Three teenage buddies gain mysterious telekinetic powers in yet another "found footage" thriller, an ingenious "Carrie"-meets-"Spider-Man"- meets-"The Blair Witch Project" construction that suggests -- contrary to Marvel Comics lore -- that fate is as likely to bestow a superpower on an abused, resentful, psychologically damaged high-school loser as on an inherently decent Peter Parker type. Presented, for the most part, as home-video footage shot by the lead character (Dane DeHaan), the movie is utterly gripping, although it flags a bit during its final act, which favors (beautifully shot and edited) action spectacle over intense character interaction.

Bartlett 10.

Dr. Seuss' The Lorax (PG, 94 min.) He's grumpy and orange.

Collierville Towne 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema (in 3-D), Majestic, Palace Cinema, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

The Five-Year Engagement (R, 124 min.) The stars are Jason Segel and Emily Blunt, and the writers are Segel and director Nicholas Stoller ("Forgetting Sarah Marshall"), who previously collaborated on "The Muppets."

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

Footnote (PG, 103 min.) Winner of the Best Screenplay Award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and a nominee for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, writer-director Joseph Cedar's darkly humorous drama dissects a relationship that has been fraught with tension ever since Abraham was willing to slay Isaac: the love-hate connection between father and son. Set in a militarized and somewhat hostile if privileged Jerusalem, the film devises a cunning predicament to test the loyalty and rivalry between a resentful aging Talmud scholar (Shlomo Bar Aba) and his much-honored professor son (Lior Ashkenazi); the movie becomes a spoof of academic culture and intellectual celebrity, enlivened with the digital editing tricks and active music score of a much more "commercial" enterprise. Cedar makes smart use of the themes of confinement and entrapment: His protagonists haunt rooms crowded with oppressive piles of books, and the tension between comedy and drama reaches its peak in a beautifully staged sequence -- among the most memorable movie scenes of the year -- in which angry emotions erupt in a campus meeting room so cramped it suggests the famous Marx Brothers stateroom in "A Night at the Opera."

Ridgeway Four.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (PG-13, 96 min.) Thanks to the turbocharged bad-trip direction of "Crank" auteurs Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, who use extreme angles, distorting lenses and disorienting digital effects to essentially place the moviegoer inside Johnny Blaze's devil-haunted, pill-addled, literally fiery skull, this Marvel Comics sequel is a huge if wack improvement over its forgettable 2007 predecessor. Bug-eyed and manic as ever, Nicolas Cage returns as Blaze, who this time hopes to free himself from his demonic curse by rescuing a young boy (Fergus Riordan) from his Satanic father (Ciarán Hinds); the supernatural- adventure aspect makes this as much a horror film as an action thriller, and the Ghost Rider -- his leather biker gear bubbling and smoking -- appears more nightmarish than "cool," as if this impossible and absurd scenario were inspired not by a comic book but by a drug fiend's delirium.

Hollywood 20 Cinema (in 3-D).

Good Deeds (PG-13, 111 min.) Tyler Perry doffs the drag to portray Wesley Deeds, a complacent businessman jolted by his feelings for a working-class single mother (Thandie Newton).

Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic, Summer Quartet Drive-In, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

The Hunger Games (PG-13, 142 min.) Like her young heroine, Katniss Everdeen, author Suzanne Collins is a sure shot: Her "Hunger Games" trilogy launched an arrow deep into the pulsing heart of a teenage audience eager for its affirmation of youth empowerment and its confirmation of adult conspiracy. Already a box-office sensation, the movie -- inspired as much by reality television as by dystopian science fiction -- may not be as powerful as the novel, but it treats its target audience and source material with respect. Sturdy Jennifer Lawrence is Katniss, a resident of the Appalachian-like District 12 who volunteers to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a competition organized by the decadent one-percenters who rule futuristic Panem (as in "panem et circenses," Latin for "bread and circuses"); the contest requires a boy and girl, ages 12 to 18, from each of the nation's 12 districts to take part in a televised fight to the death.

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.

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (PG, 94 min.) Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson replaces Brendan Fraser in this silly, colorful, harmless and fun sequel to the similarly family-friendly surprise hit of 2008, "Journey to the Center of the Earth," which helped launch the current 3D revival. Returning from the earlier film, Josh Hutcherson plays a surly teenage "Vernean" who believes the science-fiction novels of Jules Verne were inspired by real-life adventure; joined by his stepfather (Johnson), a comic-relief helicopter pilot (Luis Guzmán) and the pilot's tight-clothed daughter (Disney graduate Vanessa Hudgens), the boy travels to the title land mass. The 3D, for a change, is excellent, and worth the surcharge.

Bartlett 10, Palace Cinema.

Lockout (PG-13, 95 min.) "Escape from New York" in orbit, as convict Guy Pearce infiltrates a high-tech outer-space prison to rescue the president's daughter.

Collierville Towne 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Palace Cinema, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

The Lucky One (PG-13, 101 min.) A Nicholas Sparks adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel asks: Can a Marine (Zac Efron) find love working at a kennel run by a young North Carolina woman (Taylor Schilling)? Does a bear do his business in the woods?

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

Mirror Mirror (PG, 106 min.) Julia Roberts is the vain, evil queen in this playful, occasionally plodding reimagining of the Grimm fairy tale of "Snow White," with Lily Collins as the fairest -- and, sadly, dullest -- of them all. Snow, as she's called, inevitably is retooled as a swashbuckler who is the rescuer rather than the rescuee of the sparkle-smiled prince (Armie Hammer, ideally cast), yet her girl-power prowess doesn't prevent her from cooking and keeping house for the now ethnically diverse seven dwarves, presented as highwaymen who rob the rich on telescopic stilts that hide their nonthreatening height..

CinePlanet 16, Collierville Towne 16, Forest Hill 8, Majestic, Palace Cinema, Stage Cinema, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits (PG, 88 min.) A stop-motion animated comedy from the producers of "Wallace & Gromit."

CinePlanet 16, 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, Paradiso (in 3-D), Stage Cinema (in 3-D).

The Raid: Redemption (R, 101 min.) How high is the body count in this punishing nonstop Indonesian action showcase of spectacular martial-arts combat and less appealing firearms frenzy? So high that most cast members are identified in the end credits by numeral: "Hole Drop Attacker #8," "Riot Van Shooter #3," "Tama's Victim #5," and so. A throwback to the type of stripped-down thriller that might have attracted John Carpenter before the "Assault on Precinct 13" director lost his mojo, the film chronicles an unauthorized police assault on a highrise tenement that is headquarters to a mob kingpin; the floor-by-floor progress of the raid provides a videogame-like structure for the mayhem, as well as a showcase for the Indonesian combat style known as pencak silat. The photography and sets are unattractive, but writer-director Gareth Evans smartly presents the athletic fighting and stuntwork in real time, essentially, with none of the flashy and obscuring edits of phony American action cinema; the result is exhilarating if somewhat wearying -- and probably the purest action movie to reach Main Street U.S.A. since Thailand's "Ong-Bak" in 2005.

Majestic.

The Raven (R, 111 min.) Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) turns sleuth when a murderer begins recreating the deaths in the author's horror stories.

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

Safe (R, 95 min.) A cage fighter (Jason Statham) becomes the protector of a genius little girl sought by the Russian mob, the Triads and the police.

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

The Secret World of Arrietty (G, 95 min.) The latest exquisitely hand-drawn animated film from Japan's Studio Ghibli ("Spirited Away") is another wonder, as heartbreaking for its devotion to craft, artistry and intelligent storytelling (for viewers of all ages) as for its themes of inevitable exile and impossible love. Based on Mary Norton's classic 1952 children's novel, "The Borrowers," the film depicts the struggles of a family of miniature people who live under the floorboards of a "normal"-sized human house; when an adolescent girl Borrower, Arriety (voiced by Bridgit Mendler in this English-language version), strikes up a wary friendship with a human teenage boy (David Henrie), their relationship threatens the Borrowers' existence. As in many Studio Ghibli films, the message is essentially ecological: The Borrowers don't exploit their environment, but survive by taking only those items that won't be missed: a random sugar cube, a piece of tissue paper, and so on. Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, from a script by Ghibli mastermind Hayao Miyazaki.

Bartlett 10.

Think Like a Man (PG-13, 122 min.) Inspired by Steve Harvey with Taraji P. Henson, Kevin Hart and Gabrielle Union.

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

This Means War (PG-13, 98 min.) Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine.

Bartlett 10.

A Thousand Words (PG-13, 91 min.) Eddie Murphy.

Bartlett 10, Majestic.

The Three Stooges (PG, 92 min.) Knucklehead impersonators Sean Hayes (Larry), Will Sasso (Curly) and Chris Diamantopoulos (Moe) are impressive, but this episodic, years-in-development, supposed labor of love from the Farrelly Brothers is a blandly shot disappointment that sentimentalizes the trio for kids (at one point, the Stooges are referred to as "BFF's forever") but lacks the knowing references that might have amused diehard adult fans. Unlike Moe's slaps and eye pokes, the attempts to update the slapstick miss as often as they hit: Sparks fly humorously when Moe scrapes a buzzing chainsaw rather than the traditional handsaw across Curly's scalp, but there's more yuck than nyuk-nyuk-nyuk in a nursery scene in which the Stooges use urine-spraying infants as human water pistols. A subplot that lands Moe on "Jersey Shore" will date faster than the Tojo references in "The Yoke's on Me" (1944), and the use of Talking Heads and Allman Brothers music to score several bits of Stoogery is distracting and inexplicable. The funniest performer is Larry David, in penguin drag as the meanest nun at the convent/orphanage that is the setting for a Stooges origin story that may be the movie's most amusing sequence, thanks to the talented youngsters who play the kid nitwits with arresting haircuts and arrested personalities already in place.

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.

Titanic 3D (PG-13, 197 min.)

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

21 Jump Street (R, 110 min.) Clever and funny if ultimately dispiriting, this spoofy feature-length riff on the campy Fox TV series that introduced the world to Johnny Depp (and, less notably, Richard Grieco) recognizes the comic possibilities of its post-"Mod Squad" premise, casting Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as former high school classmates turned incompetent rookie police officers assigned to a revived version of what angry commanding officer Ice Cube calls "a canceled undercover police program from the '80s." Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller (making the live-action leap from "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs"), the film is very funny when it focuses on the confusion and euphoria the undercover cops experience in the strange environment of the 21st century classroom, where former loser Hill -- once a "Not-So-Slim-Shady" with an Eminem dye job -- is delighted to discover that "liking comic books" and "being tolerant" are popular activities.

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

The Vow (PG-13, 104 min.) Channing Tatum, Rachel McAdams.

Bartlett 10.

We Bought a Zoo (PG, 124 min.) Seeking a radical lifestyle change, a grieving widower (Matt Damon) moves with his petulant teen son (Colin Ford) and cutie-pie little daughter (kleptomaniacal scene-stealer Maggie Elizabeth Jones, of Craig Brewer's "Footloose") to a broken-down California animal park; its rehabilitation becomes a worn metaphor for the family's healing. Directed by the Norman Rockwell of the classic-rock set, Cameron Crowe, the movie -- overdetermined and painfully protracted -- needs more animals and less bathos.

Bartlett 10.

Wrath of the Titans (PG-13, 99 min.) Sam Worthingon returns as Perseus., son of Zeus (Liam Neeson), in this simple-minded myth-mash, which -- contrary to the promise of its dynamic trailer -- is even more disappointing than its predecessor, 2009's "Clash of the Titans."

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

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