Now Playing: Movie Capsules

Capsule descriptions and starred mini-reviews by John Beifuss.

OPENING FRIDAY

Amour (PG-13, 127 min.) See review on Page 12.

Ridgeway Four.

Escape from Planet Earth (PG, 95 min.) Alien astronaut Scotch Supernova (voiced by Brendan Fraser) lands on a notoriously dangerous planet in this computer-animated film from the producers of "Hoodwinked!"

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).

SPECIAL MOVIES

Ballet in Cinema: La Bayadere (Not rated, 210 min.) The Bolshoi Ballet has been much in the news lately for reasons of crime, conspiracy and melodrama. Forget the news, here's the art: a filmed version of a recent stage production of a late 19th-century ballet set in exotic ancient India.

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

Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (PG-13, 86 min.) A 2012 documentary about the life and work of the late Diana Vreeland, the Paris-born New York socialite who influenced fashion as an editor at Harper's Bazaar and Vogue.

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

The Metropolitan Opera: Rigoletto (Not rated, 215 min.) Presented live via satellite from New York, this bold new production locates Verdi's tragedy of lust, betrayal, and revenge in Las Vegas in 1960.

11:55 a.m. Saturday, Paradiso. Tickets: $20. Visit malco.com.

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. Presented with an intermission.

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

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.

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

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, Studio on the Square, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

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

Paradiso.

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.

Cordova Cinema, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Paradiso, Stage Cinema.

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.

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

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

Bartlett 10.

A Good Day to Die Hard (R, 97 min.) See review on Page 16.

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.

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"). CinePlanet 16, Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, DeSoto Cinema 16, 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, DeSoto Cinema 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic, Palace Cinema.

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 (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).

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

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.

Identity Thief (R, 111 min.) HH In supporting roles in "Bridesmaids" and other comedies, Melissa McCarthy has been a ruthless and unapologetic scene-stealer, so it's appropriate that her first feature-film star vehicle casts her as a professional pilferer, pursued by drug dealers, a skip tracer (Robert Patrick) and the insecure Everyman (Jason Bateman) she befriends during a zany cross-country road trip. Conceptually, at least, this is an ideal vehicle for the heavyset, robust and graceful McCarthy: The title role plays to her strength as an enthusiastic improviser, spinning outlandish falsehoods on the fly. Unfortunately, director Seth Gordon weighs the film down with too many characters, too much sentiment and too much time-wasting side material and phony-baloney "motivation," when the only thing he needed to do was plant his camera on a tripod, get out of the way and let McCarthy do her thing. The Bateman character is an accountant in the "financial industry," where his honesty is unappreciated, and where he is played for a "chump"; in other words, he is exploited by the same economic system the McCarthy character subverts. Did "Identity Thief" start life as a commentary on greed and a response to class imbalance? Perhaps; but the movie that has arrived in theaters is such a compromised consumer object itself that — like the snake that bites Bateman's neck during a forest sequence — it lacks any real sting.

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

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: The title is a tip-off that writer Sergio G. Sánchez and director Juan Antonio Bayona have brought a wide-eyed wonder-of-life approach to this tough material. A more accurate name might be "The Lucky" or "The Coincidental": The family's fate seems no more "impossible" than any other outcome; and if we accept the Brits' survival as something miraculous, what does that imply about the tens of thousands of Asians who were wiped out?

Ridgeway Four.

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, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

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, Paradiso.

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 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.

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.

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

CinePlanet 16, Palace Cinema.

Parental Guidance (PG, 104 min.) Bette Midler and Billy Crystal are nosy parents.

CinePlanet 16, Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, DeSoto Cinema 16, 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).

Cordova Cinema, DeSoto Cinema 16, Majestic.

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.

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

Bartlett 10.

Rise of the Guardians (PG, 97 min.) HH½ Inspired by the "Guardians of Childhood" chapter books by William Joyce.

Bartlett 10.

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, Studio on the Square, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

Side Effects (R, 106 min.) HH½ Director/editor/cinematographer Steven Soderbergh's alleged final theatrical film is as smart and stylish as one would expect, but like his other recent artsy genre essays — "Haywire," "Contagion" — its duller than its sources (in this case, "Bigger Than Life," "Basic Instinct" and "Psycho"). Promoted as a pharma-thriller, the story (credited to Scott Z. Burns) is more pulpy than topical as psychiatrist Jude Law is dragged into a murder case that involves an antidepressant-addled somnambulist (Rooney Mara), her regretful insider-trader husband (Channing Tatum) and a comically buttoned-down and bespectacled therapist (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Soderbergh's love of cinema is evidenced through his sleek lensing (somehow, the New York surfaces seem as shiny as snakeskin) and his apparent glee in constructing sequences that distract the viewer from the increasing implausibility of the narrative; but the plot twists become tiresome, and increasingly predictable. Even so, we'll miss Soderbergh's honesty: He remains almost unique among American filmmakers for his refusal to ignore or reduce the importance of money as a key motivating force for people's actions.

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

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 his daily jogs.

CinePlanet 16, Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, 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.

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

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

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

Bartlett 10.

Texas Chainsaw 3D (R, 92 min.) HH Dropping the "Massacre" but adding stereoscopic technology (what better use of 3D than to thrust a buzzing chain saw in your face?), the seventh film in the grisly series opens with clips from Tobe Hooper's franchise-launching 1974 masterpiece, then jumps to the present, pretending the interim movies didn't exist while rewriting the history of the first. 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 (non 3-D), Palace Cinema.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2 (PG-13, 116 min.) HHKristen Stewart.

Bartlett 10.

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.

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.

Collierville Towne 16, Paradiso, Studio on the Square, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

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