Now Playing: Movie Capsules

Capsule descriptions and starred mini-reviews by John Beifuss.

OPENING FRIDAY

Identity Thief (R, 111 min.) See review on Page 12.

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

Mirchi (Not rated, 156 min.) The actor/pop idol Prabhas, known as the "Young Rebel" of Telugu-language cinema, stars in this musical romance from south-central India.

Hollywood 20 Cinema.

Side Effects (R, 106 min.) Steven Soderbergh says this pharma-thriller with Rooney Mara and Channing Tatum will be his final film as a director.

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

OPENING THURSDAY

Beautiful Creatures (PG-13, 123 min.) Memphis' Molly Mickler Smith is among the producers of this Southern supernatural hot teen/old witch saga, adapted from the popular Young Adult novel.

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

A Good Day to Die Hard (R, 97 min.) Bruce Willis battles terrorists in Russia in the fifth "Die Hard" film.

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

Safe Haven (PG-13, 115 min.) A mystery woman (Julianne Hough) and a young widower (Josh Duhamel) find romance in the latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation.

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

SPECIAL MOVIES

Free Men (Not rated, 65 min.) Dedicated to international cinema, the "Wider Angle" series continues with this French film from director Ismaël Ferroukhi about an Algerian resistance fighter in German-occupied Paris during World War II.

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

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Not rated, 133 min.) Improvisational organist Tom Trenney is returning to Memphis to accompany a revival of the 1923 classic "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," starring Lon Chaney.

7 p.m. Friday, St. Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, 700 Poplar. Admission: free. Visit stmarysmemphis.org.

Internet Cat Video Festival (Not rated, 65 min.) Cat videos already rule the Internet, why not let them take over a museum, too? Dozens of witty and, yes, adorable short cat films (some of which last only seconds) will be screened, curated by officials with the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. The screenings more or less coincide with a 6-9 p.m. party, "Must Love Cats!," featuring live and deejayed music, a cash bar, art-making activities and more.

7 and 9 p.m. Thursday, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. Tickets: $10, or $8 for museum members. Visit brooksmuseum.org.

The Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts (Not rated, 206 min.) High-risk heart surgery for children in Sudan, people who literally live off trash and a Long Island beauty salon for women undergoing chemotherapy are among the subjects of these five films. Program includes an intermission.

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

The Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts (Not rated, 114 min.) Hailing from South Africa, Argentina, Belgium/France, Canada and the U.S., these shorts include — among others — the "Twilight Zone"-esque "Death of a Shadow"; "Asad," about a small boy in war-torn Somalia who is recruited to be a pirate; and "Buzkashi Boys," inspired by the Afghan national sport of buzkashi, a rough game of horseback polo played with a headless goat carcass instead of a ball.

7 p.m. Thursday, Ridgeway Four. Tickets: $10. Visit onlocationmemphis.org.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (R, 100 min.) The monthly screening of the ultimate audience-participation sci-fi rock-and-roll cult-classic musical.

11:30 p.m. Friday, Evergreen Theatre, 1711 Poplar. Admission: $10. Visit rockyhorrormemphis.com.

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. 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

Argo (R, 120 min.) HHH Ben Affleck.

CinePlanet 16, Forest Hill 8, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Broken City (R, 109 min.) Ex-cop Mark Wahlberg is framed by city mayor Russell Crowe in this crime/conspiracy thriller.

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

Bullet to the Head (R, 97 min.) HHH With a cracked-asphalt voice, a shaved-wildebeest hide, the veined musculature of Swamp Thing and the apparent flexibility of a tree trunk, the aging Sylvester Stallone remains a commanding, amusing and somewhat awe-inspiring screen presence; here, he plays a New Orleans hit man, Jimmy Bobo, whose quest to avenge his murdered partner attracts the attention of an honest out-of-town police detective (Sung Kang) as well as the forces of political and economic corruption that always have called the Crescent City home. Veteran action director Walter Hill ("Southern Comfort," "48 Hrs.") succumbs to a few trendy and already cornball digital editing techniques but otherwise keeps this violent and somewhat implausible story on track until the brutish climax, when Bobo and a hulking enforcer (Jason "Conan the Barbarian" Momoa) face off with fire axes. ("What are we, Vikings?" Bobo asks. Answer: Yup, essentially.) Most moviegoers apparently weren't interested; the anemic response to first Schwarzenegger's "The Last Stand" and now "Bullet" suggests not even a dose of box-office Viagra, much less Geritol, could revive the careers of these '80s action icons.

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

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (PG, 94 min.) HH½ Zachary Gordon.

Bartlett 10.

Django Unchained (R, 165 min.) HHH Part bloody buddy picture, part revenge thriller, part action-comedy and entirely a racial provocation, Quentin Tarantino's latest would-be masterpiece mashup reaches beyond the writer-director's beloved Spaghetti Westerns and "blaxploitation" movies all the way back to D.W. Griffith's "The Birth of a Nation" (1915) for inspiration. Griffith's film, which celebrated the "heroism" of the Ku Klux Klan even as it helped give birth to the modern motion picture, was "like history writ with lightning," in a remark widely attributed to Woodrow Wilson. "Django Unchained" is history — film and otherwise — writ with bursting squibs of blood and the calligraphy of makeup-effects scars on whipped slaves' backs and a compulsive use of the N-word that detractors may liken to Tourette's syndrome.

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

Flight (R, 139 min.) HHH Denzel Washington. Bartlett 10.

Gangster Squad (R, 113 min.) HH The bravura opening scene finds Sean Penn imitating and quoting Bela Lugosi in "Dracula" preparatory to literally ripping a rival in half beneath the Hollywoodland sign; unfortunately, that's the highlight of this movie-mad and garish gangster saga, which becomes increasingly, absurdly cartoonish rather than satisfyingly noirish. Josh Brolin stars as an incorruptible police sergeant in 1948 Los Angeles who recruits a diverse platoon of honest cops — Anthony Mackie is the South Central blade-toter, Giovanni Ribisi is the egghead, Ryan Gosling is the ladies' man, Robert Patrick is the cowboy — for an unofficial, extralegal battle against mob boss Mickey Cohen (Penn, whose performance here suggests "88 Minutes"-era Al Pacino). Re-edited in the wake of the Aurora, Colorado "Dark Knight" massacre, the film definitely misses its excised Grauman's Chinese Theatre shootout, which might have helped justify its movie-obsessed unreality. Directed by Ruben Fleischer ("Zombieland").

Cordova Cinema, Paradiso.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (R, 88 min.) HH½ Played by Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton, the title kid trespassers turned almost witch snacks turned adult avengers-for-hire kick much hag butt in this bloody and frenetic fairy-tale/comic book/videogame blend, which marks the English-language directorial debut of Norway's Tommy Wirkola ("Dead Snow"). With stylish steampunk production design, coherent stunt choreography and bravura special makeup effects (Edward the troll impresses), this is superior to many recent supernatural action thrillers; on the other hand, the dumbing-down of the genre is depressing: In the 1960s and '70s, violent witch movies (such as "Witchfinder General") offered anti-establishment critiques of fascist witch-hunt intolerance; in 2013, a violent witch movie asks the audience to cheer the torture of suspects and affirm the slaughter of "the other" as escapist entertainment.

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

A Haunted House (R, 86 min.) In the tradition of "Scary Movie," A "Paranormal Activity" spoof.

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

Here Comes the Boom (PG, 105 min.) H½ Kevin James.

Bartlett 10.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (PG-13, 170 min.) HHH Nine years after the conclusion of his box-office-conquering, Oscar-grabbing "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, Peter Jackson returns to Middle-earth (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 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 the heroic and handsome Thorin Oakenshield) on an "adventure" to reclaim their ancestral homeland from the occupying dragon.

CinePlanet 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Palace Cinema (in 3-D), Paradiso (in 3-D HFR and 2-D), Stage Cinema.

Hotel Transylvania (PG, 91 min.) HH½ Count Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) opens a "human-free" castle hostelry in a computer-animated tribute to old-school ghouls that more or less pretends the past 50 years of horror movies never happened, even though it's aimed at kids who may be more familiar with Freddy, Jason and Chucky than Boris, Bela and Vincent.

Bartlett 10.

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

Bartlett 10.

The Impossible (PG-13, 114 min.) HH½ Inspired by the true story of a vacationing family that survived the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed some 230,000 people and displaced 1.7 million more when it smashed against much of Southeast Asia on Dec. 26, 2004, this is a sort of New Age disaster movie.

CinePlanet 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Ridgeway Four.

Jack Reacher (PG-13, 130 min.) HHH The tough-guy star of 17 novels in 15 years, author Lee Child's 6-foot-5, 250-pound military police officer turned crime-solving drifter morphs into smallish if fit Tom Cruise to make his movie debut. A less robotic lead might have helped, but writer-director Christopher McQuarrie has delivered an efficient action-crime film, with Reacher as the sort of fearless, unstoppable, ultracompetent reluctant hero once played on the B-movie circuit by Chuck Norris. The opening sniper sequence is startling, while the dialogue is alternately absurd ("I mean to beat you to death and drink your blood from a boot" is perhaps the most extreme Reacher taunt) and witty (Reacher's barroom encounter with a "slut" and her thug pals is especially memorable).

DeSoto Cinema 16, Palace Cinema.

The Last Stand (R, 107 min.) HH½ Satisfied customers may include undiscriminating action fans, Luis Guzman completists and Wayne LaPierre (one bad guy meets his reward when he trespasses on the property of a shotgun-toting granny); others are likely to be disappointed in the frequent flatness of this entertaining but dumb English-language filmmaking debut for director Kim Jee-woon, already responsible this decade for two Korean masterpieces, "A Tale of Two Sisters" and "I Saw the Devil." Intended as a would-be comeback star vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger, the movie casts Der Ahnuld as a "Rio Bravo"-esque sheriff whose small Arizona border town becomes the only roadblock in the escape path of a fugitive Mexican drug lord (Eduardo Noriega) in a turbocharged Corvette. A climactic cornfield car chase and subsequent border-bridge brawl are impressive, and a few moments of slapstick ultraviolence are a hoot; but overall, the movie proves less than the sum of its (body) parts.

Hollywood 20 Cinema, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Les Misérables (PG-13, 157 min.) HH The cast includes Hugh Jackman as the heroic Jean Valjean, sentenced to 19 years of hard labor for stealing a loaf of bread; Russell Crowe as Inspector Javert, obsessed with returning Valjean to prison; and the Falconetti-coiffed Anne Hathaway as a virtuous factory seamstress turned unwed mother and prostitute whose showstopping, single-take, solo version of "I Dreamed a Dream" provides the only moment of transcendence. The other scene-stealer is young Daniel Huttlestone as a rebel street urchin; cute and confident, he's like the Lil' P-Nut of the Paris Uprising. Collierville Towne 16, Paradiso, Stage Cinema.

Life of Pi (PG, 127 min.) HHH 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.".

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Lincoln (R, 150 min.) HHHH Returning to the themes of race, bondage and liberation that marked not just "Amistad" and "Schindler's List" but also "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," director Steven Spielberg delivers his most actor-centric and word-heavy film, and the result is as much a tour de force as was "Jurassic Park" — and as much a glorious resurrection of an extinct species: If only some amber-trapped DNA could be discovered to bring some of these great men back to life. .

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

Mama (PG-13, 100 min.) HHH With a Joan Jett-esque 'do on her head and a tentacly Cthulhoid tattoo on her arm, Jessica Chastain is the punk-rock girlfriend who becomes reluctant guardian to her injured boyfriend's disturbed and essentially feral nieces (rescued after five years in the woods) in this dark modern fairy tale from writer-director Andrés Muschietti (expanding his 2008 short) and producer Guillermo del Toro (who has mined similar themes in past films). Spooky and gripping, this beautifully lensed movie evokes a real sense of place and introduces compelling, sympathetic characters (the little girl actresses, Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nélisse, are wonderful) and powerful themes (motherhood, loneliness, female identity, and so on); for about two-thirds of its length, it promises to be a masterpiece of its type. Sadly, it eventually succumbs to the Hollywood contagion of too much CGI and too much MUCHness; the title ghost loses its power as it becomes too active and visible, while the climax is overextended to a Spielbergian crescendo.

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

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

CinePlanet 16, Palace Cinema.

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, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Parker (R, 118 min.) Jason Statham stars as the professional thief introduced in the 1960s in a series of novels by Donald E. Westlake (writing as Richard Stark).

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

Quartet (PG-13, 98 min.) HH½ Shot at historic Hedsor House, a Georgian-style mansion near the River Thames, this comedy-drama aimed at "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" patrons takes place at "Beecham House," a home for retired classical musicians and vocalists; the residents include flirty, roguish Wilf (Billy Connolly), dotty Cissy (Pauline Collins), subdued Reggie (Tom Courtenay, the only one of the leads who doesn't try to ingratiate himself to the audience with cuteness and shtick), and newcomer Jean (Maggie Smith), a notorious diva who has given up singing if not the dispensing of droll retorts.

Ridgeway Four.

Race 2 (NR, 146 min.) A Bollywood revenge thriller involving the Indian mafia.

Hollywood 20 Cinema.

Red Dawn (PG-13, 94 min.) H½ Chris Hemsworth.

Bartlett 10.

Silver Linings Playbook (R, 122 min.) HHH½ "Screwball" is a slang term for "crazy," and perhaps this is what inspired David O. Russell to literalize as well as update the screwball comedy genre in this charming and surprisingly affecting film. Bradley Cooper is Pat Solitano Jr., an "undiagnosed bipolar" history teacher who moves back home with his working-class Philadelphia parents (Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro, both wonderful); Jennifer Lawrence (never more adult, or hotter) is the neighborhood "crazy slut with a dead husband" who seems determined to catch Pat, literally: She sometimes bursts into the frame, in running shoes and sweats, to intrude on hisdaily jogs.

CinePlanet 16, Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, Forest Hill 8, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Ridgeway Four, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Skyfall (PG-13, 143 min.) HHH½ 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.

Bartlett 10, Collierville Towne 16, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Stand Up Guys (R, 95 min.) Con artist-criminals Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin want to take you for a ride.

Cordova Cinema, Ridgeway Four, Studio on the Square.

Taken 2 (PG-13, 91 min.) H Liam Neeson. .

Bartlett 10.

Texas Chainsaw 3D (R, 92 min.) HH Alexandra Daddario stars as a minimally clothed young woman who travels to Texas with a vanload of ill-fated friends to take possession of a newly inherited mansion; she also acquires a heritage of dark secrets and a homicidal cousin, Leatherface (Dan Yeagar).

Bartlett 10, DeSoto Cinema 16, Majestic (non 3-D), Palace Cinema.

Warm Bodies (PG-13, 97 min.) HHH A collector of vinyl record albums as well as an eater of brains, a cute teen emo zombie (Nicholas Hoult) becomes increasingly alive after he meets a beautiful young human survivor (Teresa Palmer) of the walking-dead apocalypse in this witty if sometimes over-obvious adaptation of a popular novel by Isaac Marion. (Filmmakers, please quit relying on pop songs for emotional and narrative grout.) Derided pre-release as a zomromcom "Twilight" wannabe, director Jonathan Levine's movie in fact revivifies a tired, dare we say dead genre, returning it to its George Romero roots: The film works best as a sort of screwball social and cultural satire, with flashbacks to a pre-disaster America that reveal an essentially already zombified populace, stumbling along uncomprehendingly, glued to its cell phones.

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.

Wreck-It Ralph (PG) HHH½ 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 independent life, with their own stories and personalities.

Bartlett 10.

Zero Dark Thirty (R, 157 min.) HHH½ Director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal follow their war-on-terror Best Picture winner "The Hurt Locker" with a scrupulously researched chronicle of the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden. Herself a no-nonsense Glamazon warrior in a male-dominated occupation and industry, Bigelow must have been delighted to discover the CIA agent perhaps most responsible for Osama's death was a woman: As played by Jessica Chastain, the obsessed "Maya" (as she is identified here) is a red-tressed Pre-Raphaelite madonna with the cleft chin, chiseled features and this-time-it's-personal bias of a Hollywood action hero.

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

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