Now Playing: Movie Capsules

Capsule descriptions and starred mini-reviews by John Beifuss.

OPENING Friday

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (R, 88 min.) See review on Page 15.

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

Movie 43 (R, 97 min.) An allstar ensemble comedy in which three kids "search the depths of the Internet to find the most banned movie in the world."

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

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, Forest Hill 8, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic, Palace Cinema, Paradiso, Stage Cinema, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

Quartet (PG-13, 98 min.) See review on Page 12.

Ridgeway Four.

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

Hollywood 20 Cinema.

SPECIAL MOVIES

Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters (Not rated, 78 min.) Shot over a decade, Ben Shapiro's 2012 documentary explores the life, art and working methods of famed Brooklyn-born photographer Gregory Crewdson, known for painstakingly and expensively staged tableaux of Edward Hopper-meets-David Lynch rooms, homes and neighborhoods that require, in essence, actors, production designers and a film crew to create, even if the result is not a motion picture but a huge, brilliantly colored print to be hung on a wall (by those who can afford to pay $125,000 for a still photograph, that is).

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

Holy Motors (Not rated, 115 min.) Making its Memphis debut, French director Leos Carax's stylish cinema-obsessed puzzlement was named the best movie of 2012 by some prominent critics. The story, such as it is, follows a role-playing mystery man (Denis Lavant) who spends the day emerging from his chauffeur-driven limousine in a variety of sometimes weird disguises: concerned parent, cemetery vandal, brutish assassin, and so on.

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

Opera in Cinema: La Boheme (Not rated, 180 min.) A recent and epic production of Puccini's masterpiece, filmed live at the Royal Opera House in London.

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

Alex Cross (PG-13, 102 min.) H½ Tyler Perry.

Bartlett 10.

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

Bartlett 10, 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.

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

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. With Jamie Foxx as the title slave turned avenger; Christoph Waltz as Django's bounty-hunter mentor; Leonardo DiCaprio as a sinister phrenologist and plantation owner; and Samuel L. Jackson as an Uncle Tom who is a totem of evil.

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.

End of Watch (R, 109 min.) HHH Jake Gyllenhaal.

Bartlett 10.

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").

CinePlanet 16, Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, DeSoto Cinema 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic, Paradiso, Studio on the Square, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

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

CinePlanet 16.

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

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

Hyde Park on Hudson (R, 94 min.) HH½ "The Day the King Ate a Hot Dog" might be a more informative title for this wispy historical trifle, which reaches its dramatic, even mustardy climax at a supposedly momentous 1939 picnic hosted by President Frankline Delano Roosevelt (Bill Murray) for the stuttering King of England, George VI (Samuel West), and the Queen Consort, Elizabeth (Olivia Colman). Evoking rather than impersonating the four-term president who led America through the Great Depression and the Second World War, Murray presents FDR as a wily seducer, whose show of fatherly respect and affection proves as irresistible to the insecure new king as the roguish twinkle in his eyes is to the ladies of his informal harem. Ridgeway Four.

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: The title is a tip-off that writer Sergio G. Sánchez and director Juan Antonio Bayona (the duo previously collaborated on the Spanish ghost story, "The Orphanage") 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? In the context of such devastation, the trauma suffered by the film's lost, weary and muddy Europeans seems relatively insignificant. 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). CinePlanet 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic, Palace Cinema, Paradiso, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

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.

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.

Les Misérables (PG-13, 157 min.) HH Inspired by Victor Hugo's very serious 1862 novel of history, romance and moral philosophy, the musical "Les Misérables" has been a global phenomenon since the 1980s, generating a rabid and influential fan base that helped make America safe again for show tunes (as demonstrated by such living-room sing-a-long successes as "American Idol" and "Glee"). Contrary to its genre categorization, however, this epic film version from director Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech") is not particularly musical nor even tuneful. 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.

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

Life of Pi (PG, 127 min.) HHH We're all in the same boat. Like its source novel, director Ang Lee's adaptation of Yann Martel's 2001 best-seller is captivating as long as it sticks to literalizing this notion of man's relationship to nature and the animal kingdom; it's less persuasive when it insists that its inspirational message may cause its audience to "believe in God." 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.".

Palace Cinema, 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. Scripted by Tony Kushner (Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of "Angels in America") from historian Doris Kearns Goodwin's book "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln," the movie is a timely depiction of the backroom finagling and ethically dubious deal-making required to gain even the most virtuous political result, in this case House passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery.

Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, Paradiso, Studio on the Square. Opens Wednesday at the CinePlanet 16 and Hollywood 20 Cinema, 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.

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

CinePlanet 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, 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, Majestic, Paradiso, Stage Cinema.

Pitch Perfect (PG-13, 112 min.) HH½ Anna Kendrick.

Bartlett 10.

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

Bartlett 10.

Rise of the Guardians (PG, 97 min.) HH½ This DreamWorks Animation action-fantasy imagines that Santa Claus (voiced by Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), the mute Sandman and newcomer Jack Frost (Chris Pine) are the members of a sort of bedtime-story Justice League.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu (Not rated, 155 min.) An Indian "Tollywood" musical, in the Telugu language, from the Tollygunge-based film industry of West Bengal. (The more familiar Hindi-language "Bollywood" films originate in Mumbai, formerly Bombay.)

Hollywood 20 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 the teacher's 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.

Collierville Towne 16, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

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

Hollywood 20 Cinema.

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 sventh 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. (A key difference: This time, all the young people — even the hitchhiker — are hot). 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). Director John Luessenhop delivers some legitimate jolts as well as much gruesomeness, but a bogus ending and the convoluted morality of a script that attempts to transform the vengeful Leatherface into a sympathetic if psychotic antihero hamstrings his efforts as surely as the skin-masked killer slices the ankles of corrupt Mayor Hartman (a robust Paul Rae).

CinePlanet 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic (non 3-D), Palace Cinema, Paradiso.

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

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

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. (When Osama's likely location is discovered, she tells a Navy SEAL: "You're gonna kill him for me." Not for justice, not for freedom, not for America — "for me.") The SEAL raid on the 9/11 masterminds's compound in Pakistan occupies the movie's final half-hour, and it's a tour de force of boots-on-the-ground, documentary-style intensity; this "realism" helps explain why the movie's ambiguous attitude toward the U.S. torture — or "enhanced interrogation" — of terror suspects has generated so much controversy, despite a final scene in which Bigelow condescends to audience expectations by allowing Maya to shed a tear. In a way, this is a grand-scale, historical revenge film, like "Django Unchained," but operating within an approximation of the real world, which necessarily gives the story a different outcome. The climax of Quentin Tarantino's what-if fantasy promises a transformed (if imaginary) America, while the audience for "Zero Dark Thirty" knows that post-Osama life outside the movie theater is as dangerous as ever.

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

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