Movie Capsules: Now showing

Tadanobu Asano (left) and Taylor Kitsch endure some of the digitally rendered carnage of Hasbro and Universal Pictures' 'Battleship.'

ILM/Universal Pict

Tadanobu Asano (left) and Taylor Kitsch endure some of the digitally rendered carnage of Hasbro and Universal Pictures' "Battleship."

Capsule descriptions by John Beifuss.

OPENING FRIDAY

Battlefield America (PG-13, 110 min.) Quoth the Internet Movie Database: "A young businessman hires an instructor to turn a group of misfit kids into a team on the underground dance competition circuit." From the director of "You Got Served."

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Crooked Arrows (PG-13, 105 min.) Whatever happened to "Superman" Brandon Routh? He's back, playing the coach of a Native American lacrosse team making its way through a prep school tournament.

Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema.

For Greater Glory (R, 143 min.) Andy Garcia is a rebel general in this epic inspired by the Cristero War, a 1920s uprising motivated by the Mexican government's persecution of Roman Catholics.

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

Snow White and the Huntsman (PG-13, 127 min.) See review on Page 16.

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.

Sound of My Voice (R, 85 min.) See review on Page 12.

Ridgeway Four.

SPECIAL MOVIES

Amnesty (Not rated, 83 min.) The 2012 Global Lens series begins. See story on Page 14.

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

Before Your Eyes (Not rated, 108 min.) Dedicated to international cinema, the "Wider Angle" series returns with this 2009 drama from writer-director Miraz Bezar about two young children in Turkey forced to live on the street after their parents are killed by state security forces. In Turkish and Kurdish, with English subtitles.

6 p.m. Saturday, Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library, 3030 Poplar. Admission is free; children under 17 admitted with parent or guardian. Call (901) 415-2726.

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.

Breakfast at Tiffany's (Not rated, 110 min.) Audrey Hepburn wows New York. (Trivia: Author Truman Capote had a much different notion of Holly Golightly: He wanted Marilyn Monroe for the role.)

7:15 p.m. Friday, the Orpheum, 203 S. Main. Admission: $7, or $5 for children 12 and under. Visit orpheum-memphis.com.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (Not rated, 108 min.) The famous domestic comedy-drama about racial attitudes in 1967, starring Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.

6 p.m. Thursday, National Civil Rights Museum, 450 Mulberry. Admission: free. Call (901) 521-9699 or visit civilrightsmuseum.org.

Memphis Film Festival: The annual celebration of classic Westerns and other vintage movies and TV programs brings more than two dozen stars to town for panel discussions, autograph sessions, film screenings and more.

Continues today and Saturday at Whispering Woods Hotel and Conference Center, 11200 E. Goodman Road in Olive Branch. Visit memphisfilmfestival.com.

Opera in Cinema: Vespri Siciliani (Not rated, 186 min.) A production of Verdi's opera, filmed at the Royal Theatre in Turin, Italy.

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

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.

NOW SHOWING

American Reunion (R, 113 min.) Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott.

Bartlett 10.

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.

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.

Battleship (PG-13, 131 min.) A forgiving viewer may wonder if there's method in this film's moronity: Creedence Clearwater Revival's classic if frequently misunderstood 1969 anti-war song, "Fortunate Son," blares over the end credits, as if in veiled insult to the audience members who cheered the movie's Hollywoodized warmongering. Has director Peter Berg (whose "Hancock" tweaked the superhero genre) pulled a fast one on his employers, delivering a satirical critique of U.S. militarism disguised as a chest-thumping celebration of American firepower? Unfortunately, the evidence suggests the answer is: Naaah. A $200 million military-hardware science-fiction action epic inspired by a board game played with tiny plastic pegs and miniature toy boats, Hasbro's follow-up to the similarly wacko (if not Wham-O) "Transformers" and "G.I. Joe" movies is torpedoed by cliché, illogic and idiocy. Taylor Kitsch (no more inspiring here than in "John Carter") stars as a former longhaired ne'er-do-well turned buzz-scalped Navy junior officer who helps save the Earth from an outer-space attack that begins in earnest, appropriately enough, near Pearl Harbor; the 21st-century messiness of the visuals and the storytelling contradicts the script's championing of tradition, as exemplified when the World War II-vintage USS Missouri is reactivated to give the ET's an old-school beatdown (cue the jock jams by AC/DC).

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.

Bernie (PG-13, 104 min.) Jack Black is a dapper and beloved and possibly "light in the loafers" smalltown assistant funeral director in this wry true-crime story from director Richard Linklater, looking again to his home state for inspiration, as in his early triumphs ("Slacker," "Dazed and Confused"). Adapted from a Texas Monthly magazine article about the 1996 murder of a feisty old millionaire widow, the movie mixes interviews with actual Carthage, Texas, townsfolk with black comedy and droll drama, with Shirley MacLaine as the ill-fated, unlikable widow. Like "The Informant!" with Matt Damon and "I Love You Phillip Morris" with Jim Carrey, the movie is evidence of a post-noir trend in fact-based crime drama that suggests that those most eager to achieve the so-called American dream -- to be both materially successful and admired -- may be more psychotic than admirable.

Ridgeway Four.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (PG-13, 124 min.) Lured by exaggerated promises of leisure and luxury, a group of Kipling-quoting British retirees relocate to a ramshackle "palace" in Jaipur, India, where the earnest and cleancut young manager (Dev Patel, the "Slumdog Millionaire") wants to "outsource old age"; predictably, the stuffy Brits are transformed for the better by their forced immersion into the subcontinent's "riot of color and noise." As the manager states, early in the film: "In India we have a saying: Everything will be alright." No doubt many moviegoers are reassured by this promise of a happy ending; others may feel they've been invited to an Indian restaurant where the buffet consists of white bread and boiled potatoes. A huge hit with mature moviegoers, the film coasts on the charms of its English all-star ensemble, headed by dignified Judi Dench, feisty Maggie Smith and melancholy Tom Wilkinson. The director is the reliably dull John Madden ("Shakespeare in Love"); the screenwriter is Ol Parker, working from a 2004 novel by Deborah Moggach.

Cordova Cinema, Ridgeway Four.

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.

DeSoto Cinema 16, Majestic, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Chernobyl Diaries (R, 86 min.) "My friends are morons," asserts a young American, early in the film. However unintentionally, that line sums up the plot of this dull, poorly motivated and dreadfully constructed horror movie about a group of tourists pursued by barely seen cannibal mutants after they unwisely visit the ghost town of Prypiat, abandoned since the catastrophic 1986 accident at the nearby Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Produced and scripted by "Paranormal Activity" auteur-turned-mini-mogul Oren Peli, the movie boasts a serviceable premise and spookily impressive locations (in Hungary and Serbia), but it's sabotaged by ridiculous character behavior, incoherent storytelling and the type of annoyingly dark and shaky camerawork once only found in "Blair Witch"-style fake documentaries. The script doesn't even bother to explain the significance of Chernobyl to a target audience with no memory of the disaster, and even the casting is problematic: Buxom blond Olivia Dudley looks like she should be babysitting rather than dating her pop-singer co-star, Jesse McCartney.

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

Dark Shadows (PG-13, 113 min.) Unlike Angelique the witch (Eva Green), who proves to be as cold and hollow as a porcelain doll despite her robust Barbie dimensions, the new film from director Tim Burton has real heart, in addition to the director's trademark macabre wit and obsessive creepy/funny design. Uninterested in carving a straight horror-romance from the "soapernatural" source material, Burton has transformed "Dark Shadows," the weekday Gothic soap opera that aired from 1966 to 1971 on ABC-TV, into an affectionate spoof and another of his "eccentric outsider" collaborations with Johnny Depp, who dons Nosferatu nails and comically ghoulish greasepaint to portray Barnabas Collins, the romantic vampire whose lovesick bloodlust provided the template for "True Blood" and "Twilight." Released after 200 years in his coffin, Barnabas emerges in 1972 ("Superfly" functions briefly as his theme song) to restore his family's pride as well as his ancestral Maine mansion, Collinwood, occupied by -- among others -- a frustrated matriarch (Michelle Pfeiffer), an alcoholic psychiatrist (Helena Bonham Carter) and a surly teenager (Chloë Grace Moretz).

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 Dictator (R, 83 min.) Inspired by current events and Charlie Chaplin (whose 1940 "The Great Dictator" also involved a despot and a lookalike peon), Sacha Baron Cohen retains director Larry Charles but abandons the real-life ambushes of the team's previous films, "Borat" and "Bruno," to create a new character in a scripted comedy: He stars as Admiral General Aladeen, pampered anti-Semitic and anti-American tyrant ruler of the North African republic of Wadiya, who escapes an assassination attempt to find himself beardless and friendless on the streets of New York, replaced by a dupe of a double controlled by his treacherous uncle (Ben Kingsley). Frequently very funny, the movie begins promisingly, but -- unlike its Chaplin predecessor -- lacks moral bravery and a coherent point of view. The frequent one-liners suggest Woody Allen with a potty mouth, but the crudeness becomes wearying; by this time, even Eve Ensler probably would support a movie and TV comedy moratorium on the use of the word "vagina."

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

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

Bartlett 10, Palace Cinema.

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.

Bartlett 10.

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).

Bartlett 10, Hollywood 20 Cinema.

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. .

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

John Carter (PG-13, 132 min.) A Confederate soldier turned Martian swashbuckler, John Carter was introduced to readers by future Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1912, which makes the hero's belated motion-picture debut a particularly extravagant birthday celebration: Not many people, fictional or otherwise, are feted with a failed $250 million Disney 3D blockbuster when they hit 100. Directed by Pixar graduate and ERB enthusiast Andrew Stanton ("Finding Nemo," "WALL-E"), the movie is both a bloated misfire and a true labor of love; unfortunately, the labor is more evident than the love, as Stanton and his screenwriters -- who include Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon -- struggle to remain faithful to the source material, crowding the screen with four-armed Tharks and eight-legged Thoats and giant fanged gorillas and other weightlessly digital marvels that seem more old hat than awesome in a movie culture that has become supersatured with science-fiction images.

Bartlett 10.

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, which has it all: giant lizards and bees, miniature elephants, an active volcano, a treehouse the Swiss Family Robinson would envy, and the ruins of Atlantis -- plus, a lost grandfather explorer (Michael Caine)..

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?

Cordova Cinema, DeSoto Cinema 16, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Men in Black 3 (PG-13, 106 min.) Perhaps reflecting a national yearning for the type of unifying heroism and epic achievement represented by the space program, this is the second film in as many years to incorporate the Apollo 11 moon landing into its science-fiction rewrite of history (the first was "Transformers: Dark of the Moon"). The result is one small step for cinema, one giant leap for creative accounting: "MIB3" reportedly cost a staggering $375 to make and market. If the budget is bloated, the storytelling is economical, as is typical for this series, thanks to director Barry Sonnenfeld, whose penchant for witty, cartoonish visuals is more Mad magazine than Michael Bay. Nimble and lively, the movie spends most of its time in 1969, where Agent J (Will Smith), the true focus of the story, travels back in time to prevent the assassination of his future mentor and partner, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), played as a young man by Josh Brolin, whose deadpan impersonation of Jones' signature stoicism is one of the film's pleasures. (The chief pleasure, as usual, is the creative design and slapstick energy of the story's many aliens, created in large part by seven-time Oscar-winner Rick Baker.) The movie is marred by a contrived "ironic" ending that seems motivated more by Smith's desire for the spotlight than by the emotional needs of the franchise.

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

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.

Bartlett 10, Forest Hill 8, 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.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Safe (R, 95 min.) A cage fighter (Jason Statham) becomes the protector of a genius little girl.

Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic.

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, Summer Quartet Drive-In, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

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

Bartlett 10.

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.

Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic.

21 Jump Street (R, 110 min.) Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum.

Bartlett 10, Stage Cinema.

What to Expect When You're Expecting (PG-13, 110 min.) The nonfiction best-seller inspires an all-star ensemble comedy.

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

Wrath of the Titans (PG-13, 99 min.) Sam Worthingon returns as Perseus, son of Zeus (Liam Neeson), in this simple-minded myth-mash.

Bartlett 10.

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