Now Playing: Movie Capsules

Capsule descriptions and starred mini-reviews by John Beifuss.

OPENING FRIDAY

Bullet to the Head (R, 97 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.

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.

Warm Bodies (PG-13, 97 min.) A teen zombie romance, based on the popular novel by Isaac Marion.

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.

SPECIAL MOVIES

British National Theatre Live: The Magistrate (Not rated, 180 min.) John Lithgow stars in this new production (filmed live onstage in London) of Arthur Wing Pinero's 1885 farce about a respectable judge who finds himself caught in a series of comically scandalous events.

1 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Tuesday, Paradiso. Tickets: $20. Visit malco.com.

Duty of the Hour (Not rated, 60 min.) Director Reece Auguiste's 2012 documentary explores the life and legacy of the late Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks, the Memphis minister who was the longtime executive director of the NAACP. Mayor A C Wharton will introduce the screening.

5:30 p.m. Monday, Michael D. Rose Theatre, University of Memphis. Admission: free. Visit memphis.edu/benhooks.

Josh Groban Live: All That Echoes (Not rated, 165 min.) The pop-classical singer appears live in concert from New York's Lincoln Center; a segment of the show will enable fans to interact with Groban via text and Twitter.

6 p.m. Monday, Paradiso. Tickets: $15. Visit malco.com.

The Metropolitan Opera: Maria Stuarda (Not rated, 200 min.) Filmed live onstage in New York, an encore screening of a recent production of Donizetti's opera about Mary, Queen of Scots.

6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Paradiso. Tickets: $20. Visit malco.com.

The Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts (Not rated, 88 min.) "The Longest Daycare" (starring Maggie Simpson of "The Simpsons"), Disney's "Paperman" (which blends traditional and computer animation), "Fresh Guacamole" (a stop-motion project in which common objects are converted into yummy green dip) and this year's two other nominees are screened, along with three classic cartoons from the past.

11:30 a.m. Sunday, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. Tickets: $8, or $6 for museum members. Call 901-544-6208 or 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 five 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 buzkhasi, a brutal game of polo played on horseback with a headless goat carcass instead of a ball.

2 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Thursday, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. Tickets: $8, or $6 for museum members. Call 901-544-6208 or 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.

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, DeSoto Cinema 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Paradiso.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (R, 88 min.) HH½ Played by Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton, the title kid trespassers turned would-be witch snacks turned adult avengers-for-hire kick much hag ass 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, 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.

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: The title is a tipoff 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.

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).

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.

DeSoto Cinema 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

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.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, DeSoto Cinema 16, Paradiso, Stage Cinema.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.".

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. The cast (including Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, David Strathairn as Secretary of State William Seward and Tommy Lee Jones as Pennsylvania abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens) is terrific, but Daniel Day-Lewis' wise, rustic, gnarled Lincoln truly seems a creature from another age; remarkably, there's no apparent vanity in the actor's somewhat hobbled gait or high, thin voice.

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.

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

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

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

Bartlett 10.

Playing for Keeps (PG-13, 95 min.) Sexy soccer moms pursue the hunky new kids coach (Gerard Butler) while his ex-wife (Jessica Biel) glares. Prediction: Before the end credits, True Love will cry "Gooooooaaaaaaaallllll!"

Bartlett 10.

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. (Told she has been assigned to the mansion's B wing, Jean deadpans: "Sounds like a prison.") The film coasts on the charm of its performers, the gloss of the visuals (the cinematography by John de Borman keeps us alert to Hedsor House's loveliness) and the genteel fantasy of its oh-so-civilized setting (Beecham is the type of place where one is liable to encounter a string quartet practicing in a gazebo during one's stroll through the woods). These elements help compensate for a script by the usually reliable Ronald Harwood ("The Pianist," "The Dresser") that -- like some Beecham residents? -- is more or less toothless. The film marks the directorial debut of Dustin Hoffman, who no doubt identifies with the story's aging troupers; he pays tribute to his fellow entertainers by populating Beecham with real-life musicians and singers (including famed soprano Dame Gwyneth Jones), who steal the show whenever possible.

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.

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.

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, 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.

Collierville Towne 16, 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. (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).

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

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

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.

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

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