Now Playing: Movie Capsules

Capsule descriptions and starred mini-reviews by John Beifuss.

Opening Friday

56 Up (Not rated, 144 min.) Director Michael Apted’s decades-in-the-making documentary provides intimate, surprising portraits of several British-born adults.

Studio on the Square.

Jack the Giant Slayer (PG-13, 115 min.) See review on Page 13..

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), Summer Quartet Drive-In.

The Last Exorcism Part II (PG-13, 93 min.) Young Nell (Ashley Bell) is subjected to more devilish hijinks.

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.

Phantom (R, 97 min.) A Cold War Soviet-submarine drama with Ed Harris.

CinePlanet 16, Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, DeSoto Cinema 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Palace Cinema, Paradiso, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

21 & Over (R, 93 min.) Bad-influence buddies transform a promising medical student’s 21st birthday celebration into a comedic bacchanal.

CinePlanet 16, Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, DeSoto Cinema 16, Forest Hill 8, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic, Paradiso, Stage Cinema, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

West of Memphis (R, 147 min.) See review on Page 12.

Studio on the Square.

Special Movies

The Metropolitan Opera: Parsifal (Not rated, 345 min.) Live via satellite from New York, a new production of Wagner’s masterpiece about a knight’s quest for the Holy Grail.

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

The Metropolitan Opera: Rigoletto (Not rated, 215 min.) An encore presentation of a bold new production that locates Verdi’s tragedy of lust, betrayal and revenge in Las Vegas in 1960.

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

The Story of Film: An Odyssey, Part 1 (Not rated, 180 min.) Northern Ireland’s Mark Cousins directed and narrated this epic history of international cinema, to be presented in five parts at the Brooks each Saturday during March. Part 1 focuses on the birth of cinema and the geniuses of the silent era, including Chaplin, Keaton, Dreyer, Erich Von Stroheim and so on.

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

Titans of the Ice Age: Narrated by Christopher Plummer, this IMAX feature film transports you to the otherworldly frozen landscapes of the northern hemisphere 10,000 years before modern civilization. Starts Saturday, runs through June 21. 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.

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 Inspired by the unlikely true story of the secret rescue of six U.S. diplomats from Tehran in 1980 (while 52 of their less fortunate colleagues were held hostage by militants in the American embassy), this is an entertaining and intelligent suspense film, with a commitment to quality and what might be called self-consciously purposeful content that is typical of the producing team of George Clooney and Grant Heslov (“The Ides of March,” “Good Night, and Good Luck”). Sporting a vintage Chuck Norris/porn star mustache and hairdo, increasingly confident director Ben Affleck stars as real-life CIA “exfiltration” specialist Tony Mendez, who concocts a rescue plan that requires the Americans to pose as science-fiction movie producers scouting locations in the Middle East; his collaborators include a smart-aleck veteran movie producer (Alan Arkin) and Oscar-winner John Chambers (John Goodman), the makeup artist for “Planet of the Apes.” Abandoning the Boston crime milieu of his first two films, Affleck unnecessarily pumps up the action and sentiment in the final act and its coda, but the chaotic opening in Iran is gripping, and the in-jokes and movie references of the Hollywood scenes are witty and amusing. Winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture of 2012.

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

Bartlett 10.

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.

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.

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, Cordova Cinema, 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.

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.

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.

Cordova Cinema (in 3-D), DeSoto Cinema 16 (in 3-D), Hollywood 20 Cinema, Palace Cinema, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8 (in 3-D).

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.” Winner of four Academy Awards, including Best Director.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Lincoln (R, 150 min.) HHHH

Collierville Towne 16.

Mama (PG-13, 100 min.) HHH 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.

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

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.

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, Paradiso, Stage Cinema, 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) proves 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. 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.

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

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.

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

Skyfall (PG-13, 143 min.) HHH½ Daniel Craig as a particularly vulnerable bruiser of a James Bond for a cynical post-Cold War era.

Bartlett 10.

Snitch (PG-13, 112 min.) HHH Contrary to the suggestion of its misleadingly bombastic trailer, this is not primarily an action movie but a slow-burning and legitimate neo-noir. It’s the type of dark but not despairing feature that might have starred Glenn Ford in the 1950s, although a thriller from six decades ago would not have been obliged to climax with an implausible — if, in this case, well-constructed — sequence of gear-grinding, metal-crunching, bullet-spraying destruction. It’s also an earnest “issue” movie (inspired by a PBS “Frontline” documentary), intended to function as a protest against draconian federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug offenders. Presented as an actor first, impressive physical specimen second, Dwayne Johnson — who has banished his more famous professional-wrestling alias, “The Rock,” from his movie credits — stars as a distraught construction-company owner who deceives his employees, endangers his wife and makes a Faustian bargain with self-interested politicians in order to save his 18-year-old son from a prison sentence. Stuntman turned director Ric Roman Waugh’s camera set-ups are more functional than interesting, but there’s intelligence at work here, as well as restraint: This is the rare modern crime drama that takes place in a recognizable world, where the laws of physics as well as Murphy’s Law apply, and where violence, when it erupts, is a thing of consequence, not just spectacle.

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

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

Bartlett 10.

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.

CinePlanet 16, Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, DeSoto Cinema 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, 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, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

© 2013 Go Memphis. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.