Capsule descriptions and starred mini-reviews by John Beifuss.
Dark Shadows (PG-13, 113 min.) See review.
CinePlanet 16, Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, DeSoto Cinema 16, Forest Hill 8, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic, Palace Cinema, Paradiso, Ridgeway Four, Stage Cinema, Studio on the Square, Summer Quartet Drive-In.
Momo: The Sam Giancana Story (Not rated, 90 min.) See story.
The Dictator (R, 83 min.) Sacha Baron Cohen follows "Borat" and "Bruno" with this comedic portrait of a North African despot.
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.
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.
Digital Media Senior Showcase: A program of original animated and digitally created short films by Memphis College of Art students.
7 p.m. today, Memphis College of Art, Overton Park; reception at 6:30 p.m. Admission: free. Call (901) 272-5100.
The Metropolitan Opera: Die Walkür (Not rated, 260 min.) An encore presentation of a recent New York production of the second part of Wagner's famous "Rings" cycle.
6:30 p.m. Monday, Paradiso. Tickets: $15. Visit malco.com.
The Metropolitan Opera: Siegfried (Not rated, 265 min.) If you liked Thor in "The Avengers," check out the original Norse superhero in this encore presentation of a recent New York production of the third part of Wagner's famous "Rings" cycle.
6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Paradiso. Tickets: $15. Visit malco.com.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (R, 100 min.) The monthly screening of the ultimate audience-participation sci-fi rock-and-roll cult classic.
11:30 p.m. today, Evergreen Theatre, 1711 Poplar. Admission: $10. Visit rockyhorrormemphis.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 tornadoes. 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.
Woman's Picture (Not rated, 105 min.) Rich decor is inseparable from ripe emotion in this three-part, made-in-Memphis anthology film about troubled mothers and daughters, starring Ann Magnuson and Amy LaVere. Writer-director Brian Pera will introduce the film, and answer questions afterward.
2 p.m. Sunday, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. Tickets: $8, or $6 for museum members. Visit brooksmuseum.org.
Act of Valor (R, 101 min.) The gimmick of this violent, us-against-the-world special ops action film is that its Navy SEAL heroes are portrayed by actual Navy SEALS; this may explain why the script fails to differentiate among the characters, so no acting is required. Directed without distinction by Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh, the movie may have you longing for an old-fashioned era of "square" propaganda, when it wouldn't have been considered a cool recruitment strategy to acknowledge that U.S. troops use constant profanity, threaten bad guys with pictures of their wives and children, and splatter opponent's brains against the wall. The paranoid plotline concerns a terrorist effort to use illegal aliens to smuggle suicide-bomber vests across the Mexican border into the U.S.; the only suspense comes from wondering how long until the film shamelessly kills off the SEAL who is revealed to be an expectant father.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (G, 90 min.)
American Reunion (R, 113 min.) Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott.
Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.
The Artist (PG-13, 100 min.) Celebrated and perhaps overhyped as the first wide-release black-and-white silent film of the modern era (its old-fashioned squarish screen ratio is an even more extreme retro formal choice), writer-director Michel Hazanavicius' salute to the romance of the movies is novel, funny and refreshing — it's terrific entertainment. Dashing Jean Dujardin, a Gene Kelly/Douglas Fairbanks type, stars as George Valentin, a silent screen idol who feels threatened by the rise of the "talkies"; Bérénice Bejo is Peppy Miller, the chorus girl elevated to stardom by the coming of sound. The story is cribbed from "Singin' in the Rain" and "A Star Is Born," but the film's use of "silence" (in fact, Ludovic Bource's wonderful score is almost nonstop) is extremely clever; better still, the movie introduces the year's most undeniable star in Uggie, the Jack Russell terrier that is the hero's constant companion and eventual savior (as demonstrated in a thrilling sequence that harks — or barks? — back to the era of Rin Tin Tin). The movie earned five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Actor and Director; such acclaim perhaps explains why a mild backlash has developed against a charming picture that is perhaps most profitably viewed as an elaborate update of the type of old-movie spoof that used to be featured on "The Carol Burnett Show."
Collierville Towne 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.
The Avengers (PG-13, 143 min.) The culmination if not the end of a Hollywood/Marvel Comics master plan that began in earnest four years ago with "Iron Man," writer-director Joss Whedon's all-star assembly — which gathers a cast of literal heavy hitters that includes Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), plus the more vulnerable Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johanssen) — is a witty, spectacular, action-packed triumph. The film is entertaining and coherent for newcomers yet true to the spirit of its comic-book source material: It's rich with the superhero angst and personality clashes that were a Marvel innovation, but does not neglect the no-holds-barred hero-vs.-hero throwdowns that were a speciality of the so-called "Marvel Age of Comics." Whedon (the creator of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") is a master synthesizer and a great gag writer, which is just what this potential interstate pileup of a movie needs: When Hulk smash Loki, the moment owes as much to Chuck Jones as to Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. Yes, with its space invaders and Asgardian villains and high-tech gadgetry, "The Avengers" registers in the red on the Nerdgasmatron; but when a movie earns $200 million on its opening weekend in the U.S., it's time to stop suggesting that "nerds" and "fanboys" are responsible for the supremacy of the superhero at the multiplex. Clearly, these thrilling yet comforting modern myths of peril and rescue and gods and champions appeal to all types of moviegoers, most of whom won't lose sleep wondering about the arguable immaturity of a culture that dreams of salvation via guardian angels.
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.
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, DeSoto Cinema 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic, Palace Cinema, Paradiso, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.
Chimpanzee (G, 78 min.) A Disney documentary.
CinePlanet 16, Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, DeSoto Cinema 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Palace Cinema, 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.
Contraband (R, 110 min.) Ex-smuggler turned family man Mark Wahlberg is pulled back into crime to repay a debt owed by his loser brother-in-law in this serviceable but unremarkable remake of the 2008 Icelandic thriller, "Reykjavík-Rotterdam." With its dim lighting and handheld camerawork, the "realistic" visual approach of director Baltasar Kormákur (an actor in the earlier film) is arguably bogus, but it pays dividends as the narrative becomes increasingly grim. With Kate Beckinsale, cashing a paycheck as Wahlberg's wife, and Giovanni Ribisi, chewing the scenery through a Castro beard as a scuzzball drug dealer.
The Deep Blue Sea (R, 98 min.) Adapted from a play by Terence Rattigan, the sixth film in 25 years from director Terence Davies, "master chronicler of postwar England" (according to the publicists at Music Box Films), examines the consequences of choosing sexual passion and emotional turmoil over "guarded enthusiasm" and physical and economic comfort. Rachel Weisz stars as Hester (who shares a name as well as a sin with fiction's most famous adulterer, Hester Prynne), who leaves her loving and rich but dull graybeard of a husband (Simon Russell Beale) for a physically intact but emotionally incomplete former Royal Air Force pilot (Tom Hiddleston) who longs for the dangers of the Battle of Britain, when he was distracted by the "excitement and fear" of combat, and not "tangled up in other people's emotions." Weisz offers a master class in the discipline of acting: In one lengthy shot, the tears well in her eyes, slowly, almost imperceptibly; they glisten but never fall. Meanwhile, Davies' compositions are luminous and painterly, and their design is not just stunning but cunning, as when a breath of cigarette smoke comes to brilliant, cumulous life when Weisz blows it into an otherwise invisible but purposefully placed shaft of light.
Dr. Seuss' The Lorax (PG, 94 min.) He's grumpy and orange.
Majestic, Palace Cinema.
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, Forest Hill 8, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Paradiso, Ridgeway Four, Stage Cinema, Studio on the Square.
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.
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. The impersonal story-first style of director Gary Ross ("Secretariat") doesn't serve the violent content well; the immersive shaky-camera strategy eliminates the possibility of impressive action set pieces, and the Games are insufficiently suspenseful. The wry social satire of the first half of the film is more effective; if District 12 seems inspired by the photographs of Dorothea Lange, the Capitol of this post-America suggests a meeting of L. Frank Baum and Albert Speer — it's a city of Roman/Fascist monumentalism and Oz-like fancy, where the elite dress like dandified Munchkins: Their jeweled nails and pink powdered wigs suggest a class averse to physical labor, and a corruption of the ideals as well as the fashions of the Founding Fathers.
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.
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (PG, 94 min.) Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
Bartlett 10, Palace Cinema.
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.
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. Once again, Tarsem Singh Dhandwar ("The Fall," "Immortals") demonstrates that as a director, he makes a great interior decorator; the sets and especially the costumes (the final work of the late Eiko Ishioka, an Oscar-winner for Coppola's "Dracula") delight the eye, even if the action they are meant to support is rather static. With Nathan Lane, channeling Bob Hope as the queen's cowardly, wise-cracking aide-de-camp.
Collierville Towne 16, Forest Hill 8, Majestic, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.
The Pirates! Band of Misfits (PG, 88 min.) Adapted from a book series by Gideon Defoe, the latest stop-motion feature from Aardman Animations (the producers of "Wallace & Gromit") is typically droll and charming, and will probably appeal more to fans of Monty Python and "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" than to young kids, who won't understand the Charles Darwin references or appreciate the dense compositions, as filled with gags as a page in a classic-era Mad magazine. Hugh Grand lends his voice to the incompetent yet somehow lovable lead character identified only as "the Pirate Captain," who's on a quest to win the "Pirate of the Year" award from such favorites as Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek) and Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven); the finale pits the Captain against Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton). Directed by Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt.
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.
The Raven (R, 111 min.) John Cusack is miscast as an apparently well-fed Edgar Allan Poe, recruited by the Baltimore police for his "unwholesome expertise" when a killer begins re-creating murder scenes from the author's horror stories. The concept (which nods to 1935's "The Raven," with Bela Lugosi) holds gruesome promise, but this highly fictionalized (duh) version of the last few days of Poe's life in 1849 is directed (by James McTeigue, of "V for Vendetta") with no mystery or imagination, and with so much digital "correction" that even the simplest scenes look phony. It's tempting but pointless to wonder what Dario Argento or Brian De Palma might have done in their primes with this implausible, lurid whodunit.
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.
CinePlanet 16, Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, DeSoto Cinema 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic, Palace Cinema, 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.
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.) "We might have some Constitutional issues here," warns a CIA underling, recruited to help rival Romeos and longtime best buddies Chris Pine and Tom Hardy illegally but "comically" employ high-tech surveillance hardware to spy on the woman they've both inexplicably fallen for, Reese Witherspoon. Also, issues of taste, art and intelligence: Directed by the ever-hapless McG, this insulting, structureless so-called romantic comedy is a wretched embarrassment for all involved, especially Witherspoon, who is required to act like a ninny while other characters remark on how "really, really beautiful" she is. The set-up is bogus: The Hardy character has a cute young son and attractive and sweet ex-wife, so there's no suspense: From the very start, we know Chris will win Reese, and Tom will be happily reunited with his family. Worse, the movie is in a state of denial: The male protagonists appear so obsessed with each other that the only satisfying ending would find them realizing their mutual love, dumping Witherspoon, and moving to Massachusetts to be married.
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, 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. Unfortunately, the played-for-laughs violent finale, which affirms the queasy wink-wink legalized bullying of its early police-vs.-citizens scenes and associates manhood with a willingness to kill with a gun, shoots the film's generally happy vibe between the eyes, as surely as Hill shoots a bad guy between the legs.
Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic, Stage Cinema, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.
The Vow (PG-13, 104 min.) Cut yet huggable meathead Leo (Channing Tatum, implausibly cast as an indie recording studio owner and Sun Records aficionado) must win back the "once in a lifetime love" of his James Patterson fan-turned-bohemian sculptor wife, Paige (dewy Rachel McAdams), after she emerges from a car-crash coma with no recollection of the couple's life together in director Michael Sucsy's absurd albeit fact-inspired romance. Beautifully lensed by Rogier Stoffers, the film is almost awe-inspiring in its determination to ensure that every element in each attractively composed frame has some sort of significance or informational value (Look, this cool guy is wearing a funny top hat with a purple tie to Leo and Paige's wedding! So they must be cool, too!), and in its unabashed embrace of a love so all-encompassing that Paige even treasures Leo's flatulence (seriously — she rolls up the car window so the smell won't escape). Laughable yet effective, the film is lifted by the novelty of its lead character's decency: The solid Tatum plays a genuinely honorable man.
We Bought a Zoo (PG, 124 min.) Matt Damon.
Wrath of the Titans (PG-13, 99 min.) Sam Worthingon.
Hollywood 20 Cinema (in 3-D), Majestic, Palace Cinema (in 3-D).