Now Playing: Movie Capsules

Capsule descriptions and starred mini-reviews by John Beifuss.

OPENING Friday

Dark Skies (PG-13, 95 min.) Suburbanites Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton try to save their children from an apparent extraterrestrial menace.

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

Snitch (PG-13, 112 min.) See review on Page 12.

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

SPECIAL MOVIES

Opera in Cinema: Les Troyen (Not rated, 330 min.) Berlioz’s five-act grand opera of ancient Greece and Rome, filmed live onstage at London’s Royal Opera House.

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

A Royal Affair (R, 137 min.) Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, this Danish production is a sumptuous, intelligent dramatization of the real-life 18th century adulterous affair between a progressive royal physician (Mads Mikkelsen) and an English princess (Alicia Vikander), wed as a teenager to the immature and possibly demented king of Denmark, Christian VII (Mikkel Folsgaard).

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

Somewhere Between (Not rated, 88 min.) Linda Goldstein Knowlton’s three-years-in-the-making documentary is a “moving” (Los Angeles Times) profile of four of the roughly 80,000 Chinese girls who have been adopted by American families since China adopted its “One Child Policy” in 1979. The girls find themselves “emotionally divided between the Asian country in which they were born and the America in which they were raised,” writes LA Times critic Kenneth Turan. The screening is presented in partnership with the Memphis chapter of Families with Chinese Children.

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

Thurgood (Not rated, 105 min.) Laurence Fishburne portrays the civil rights leader who became the first African-American Supreme Court Justice in this HBO movie. The screening is sponsored by the Memphis Urban Debate League, in recognition of Black History Month.

6:45 p.m. Friday, River Room, University Center, University of Memphis. Admission: free.

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

Amour (PG-13, 127 min.) HHH A chronicle of the physical decline, emotional turmoil and hard decisions that are the inevitable consequences of a decadeslong, till-death-do-us-part romance, director Michael Haneke’s film climaxes with what might be described as a grim act of true love that is presented with the unblinking absorption of an entomologist pinning a specimen to a corkboard. It’s an approach that is a signature of the much-honored and resolute Haneke, whose movies often present harsh, sometimes violent events within a minutely and artfully calibrated visual context. Nominated for five major Oscars (Best Picture, Director, Actress, Original Screenplay and Foreign Language Film), the movie is a valedictory showcase for Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, octogenarian icons of French art house cinema.

Ridgeway Four.

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.

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.

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

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).

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

Bartlett 10.

A Good Day to Die Hard (R, 97 min.) HH “Do you know what I hate about the Americans? Everything.” The fifth “Die Hard” movie offers no evidence to dispute this Russian villain’s opinion, as arrogant, reckless New York police detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) does more damage to the former Soviet republic than a hailstorm of meteorites. Coming to the aid of his estranged CIA spy son (Jai Courtney), McClane destroys property, punches out innocents, tosses out names like “Nijinsky” and “Solzhenitsyn” as if they were insults and otherwise demonstrates that the Second Amendment is the only constitutional principle he respects. The sometimes impressive, often absurd havoc staged by director John Moore (“Max Payne”) is interrupted occasionally for bits of belated father-son bonding, suggesting the film is aimed at a divorced male demographic desperate for reassurance that it hasn’t entirely screwed up the lives of its children.

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 Guilt Trip (PG-13, 95 min.) Seth Rogen (son) and Barbra Streisand (mother) take a cross-country comedy road trip.

Bartlett 10.

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/video game 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, Cordova Cinema (in 3-D), DeSoto Cinema 16 (in 3-D), Hollywood 20 Cinema, Palace Cinema, Paradiso (in 3-D), Stage Cinema (in 3-D).

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.

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.

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.

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 tipoff 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.

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.

Bartlett 10.

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.

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.

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; 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.

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.) A domestic comedy with Bette Midler and Billy Crystal as nosy parents.

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

DeSoto Cinema 16.

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.

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 an almost 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 twists become tiresome, and increasingly predictable.

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, 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.

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

Bartlett 10, Palace Cinema.

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

Bartlett 10.

Warm Bodies (PG-13, 97 min.) HHH

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 decadelong hunt for Osama bin Laden.

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

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