Movie Capsules: What's Showing

Capsule descriptions and starred mini-reviews by John Beifuss.

OPENED FRIDAY

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (R, 105 min.) See review elsewhere on gomemphis.com.

Forest Hill 8.

Laughing to the Bank (R, 89 min.) Star Brian Hooks directed this low-budget comedy about a struggling actor.

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

Riddick (R, 119 min.) Not the sound a frog makes but the sound of Vin Diesel, flexing his pecs, cashing his checks and battling alien predators.

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.

Taming the Bull: The John Bramlett Story (Not rated, 64 min.) Inspirational documentary about the ultimately purposeful life of the notorious Memphis football player once known for his violence, boozing and women.

Collierville Towne 16.

The Ultimate Life (PG, 124 min.) Michael Landon Jr. directed this faith-based film about a billionaire who re-examines his life after discovering his grandfather’s journals.

Cordova Cinema, Paradiso.

SPECIAL MOVIES

Great White Shark: IMAX feature film.

IMAX Theater at Memphis Pink Palace Museum, 3050 Central. Call 901-636-2362 for showtimes, tickets and reservations.

Outflix Film Festival: The 16th annual celebration of films of particular interest to the gay and lesbian community, featuring acclaimed comedies, dramas, documentaries and shorts from the U.S., Denmark, Israel, Palestine and elsewhere.

Through Thursday, Ridgeway Cinema Grill. Tickets: $10 per screening; passes and other multi-ticket bargain prices available. Visit outflixfestival.org.

Out of the Clear Blue Sky (Not rated, 127 min.) This new documentary examines the impact of the 9/11 attacks on the investment banking firm of Cantor Fitzgerald, whose offices on the top five floors of the North Tower of the World Trade Center were destroyed, killing 658 of their 960 employees.

7 p.m. Wednesday, Paradiso. Tickets: $10.50. Visit malco.com.

Titans of the Ice Age: Go back to the beautiful and foreign frozen landscapes of North America, Europe and Asia 10,000 years before civilization Runs through Nov. 22. 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

Blue Jasmine (PG-13, 98 min.) 4 stars. Cate Blanchett is intense, unlikable, pathetic, sympathetic, hateful, clueless, charming, fragile and frightening as an Upper East Side socialite turned San Francisco sponge in writer-director Woody Allen’s 45th film, a “Streetcar Named Desire” gloss about a spoiled, self-medicating, suddenly broke (in more ways than one) woman who is forced to move in with her unglamorous working-class sister (Sally Hawkins) after her millionaire husband (Alec Baldwin) is revealed to be a Bernie Madoff-esque crook.

Ridgeway Cinema Grill.

Closed Circuit (R, 96 min.) 2 stars. Eric Bana (rather lumpen) and Rebecca Hall (always welcome) play former lovers and fellow lawyers assigned to represent a terrorist suspect (Denis Moschitto) in “the biggest, most high-profile murder case in British history” in director John Crowley’s tasteful and dull conspiracy thriller. With their powdered wigs and powerful eloquence, the highly ritualized courtroom scenes are intriguing; but outside the Old Bailey the film is old hat, with no novelty for anyone who has caught an episode of “Homeland” or watched a spy film since 9/11.

Studio on the Square.

The Conjuring (R, 112 min.) 3 stars. America’s stealth auteur James Wan (“Saw,” “Insidious”) directs unpretentious, inexpensive, stylistically consistent horror movies that spook audiences and scare up enormous profits; he embraces the genre’s tropes — creepy dolls and puppets, loud music cues, figures lunging from shadows — and demonstrates why they continue to unnerve. Inspired by (supposedly) true events, this Amityville-esque chiller set in 1971 casts Patrick Wilson and the impeccable Vera Farmiga as real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, asked to examine a haunted farmhouse occupied by a working-class couple (Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston) and their five daughters.

CinePlanet 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic, Summer Quartet Drive-In, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Despicable Me 2 (PG, 98 min.) Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) and his minions return.

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

Elysium (R, 109 min.) 3½ stars. Like much purposeful science fiction, Neil Blomkamp’s follow-up to “District 9” is not so much a vision of another world as an exaggerated picture of our own. The writer-director has taken note of the growing gap between the world’s have and have-nots and made it literal by imagining a “diseased, polluted and vastly overpopulated” slum of a future Earth that has been abandoned to the so-called 99 percent while the privileged 1 percent lives in security and luxury on the ring-shaped orbiting “habitat” of Elysium, a green, clean place of classical music and almost magical health care, protected by a stern pantsuited Defense Secretary (Jodie Foster) who shoots down the “illegals” in “undocumented” ships who try to infiltrate her Year 2154 paradise. Bald and buff, Matt Damon is the sympathetic “Metropolis”-esque industrial wage slave who returns to his outlaw ways after receiving a death-sentence dose of on-the-job radiation and being outfitted, crucifixion-style, with a strength-enhancing “exo suit” by Earth’s rebels; his increasingly violent clash with a brutal special ops agent (Sharlto Copley) distances the film from its beautifully realized dystopian setup, in favor of the dull routine of “blockbuster” action-violence and an unconvincing “happy” ending.

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

Epic (PG, 103 min.) 2 stars. A teenage girl (voiced by Amanda Seyfried) discovers a hidden forest world of tiny warriors and talking slugs when she is shrunk to bug-size.

Bartlett 10.

Fast & Furious 6 (PG-13, 130 min.) 2 stars. Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson.

Bartlett 10.

Fill the Void (PG, 90 min.) 3 stars. This Israeli production begins as an apparent critique of conservative religion but ultimately affirms the values and traditions of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in which the entire film takes place, eventually revealing itself as a sort of Jane Austen romance — a tale of matchmaking and marriage motivated by the ritual and decorum of Haredi Judaism in modern Tel Aviv rather than by the social strictures of 19th-century England. Credit debuting writer-director Rama Burshtein with the sympathetic point of view: Born in New York, Burshtein is an adult convert to Orthodox Judaism. Hadas Yaron stars as pretty 18-year-old Shira, a young woman torn between family loyalties and community expectations when she becomes a likely marriage prospect for her widower brother-in-law (Yiftach Klein).

Forest Hill 8.

Getaway (PG-13, 90 min.) Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez in a race-against-the-clock car-chase thriller.

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

The Grandmaster (PG-13, 123 min.) 3 stars. For his first feature in close to six years (following the partly made-in-Memphis “My Blueberry Nights”), Hong Kong’s master movie artist, Wong Kar-wai, has delivered his second martial arts story; but more impressive than the film’s flurry of fists is its sleight of hand — the misdirection that conceals for some the truth that this is not primarily a decades-spanning historical drama but a romance of unrequited love, more melancholy at its heart than even Wong’s acknowledged masterpiece, “In the Mood for Love” (2000). The message here is that the deepest passion may be the one that is never acted upon or even acknowledged, as the married and honorable Ip Man (Tony Leung), the most famous real-life martial arts master of the 20th century, spars with but never actually courts beautiful Gong Re (Ziyi Zhang), the other half of what might be dubbed a phantom relationship. The movie contains several impressive kung fu fights (choreographed by the legendary Yuen Woo-ping), but Wong is as interested in the beads of water spinning off the brim of a brawler’s hat in the rain as in the thunderous kicks and the lightning punches that determine the match’s. Released in the U.S. by the scissor-happy Weinstein Company, this version is 15 minutes shorter than the somewhat differently structured international edit.

Cordova Cinema, Paradiso.

Grown Ups 2 (PG-13, 101 min.) 2 stars. Jettisoning the earlier film’s egregious schmaltz for an overload of (literal) gags involving vomit, loaded diapers and a CG urinating deer, this Happy Madison remedial-school version of “This Is 40” is as insane and dumbfounding and worthy of WTF mock-cult status as “The Room” or “Manos, Hands of Fate,” even if it did earn $42 million on 3,491 screens its first weekend.

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

The Heat (R, 117 min.) Slobby Melissa McCarthy and uptight Sandra Bullock are an “odd couple” of cops.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Instructions Not Included (PG-13, 100 min.) Mexican TV superstar Eugenio Derbez directed and stars in this Spanish-language comedy-drama about a party-hearty man suddenly saddled with the daughter he never knew he had.

Paradiso.

Iron Man 3 (PG-13, 128 min.) 3 stars. Robert Downey Jr., Guy Pearce.

Bartlett 10.

Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain (R, 75 min.) A standup comedy concert film, shot at Madison Square Garden.

Bartlett 10.

Kick-Ass 2 (R, 107 min.) 2 stars. This gruesome, frequently tasteless, ethically dubious and much-maligned sequel to 2010’s comic book-inspired superhero riff “Kick-Ass” offers a convenient punching bag for critics who want to equate the gunplay and youth violence in movies with their manifestations off-screen, when teenagers, in fact, represent the ideal audience to both enjoy and see through this clumsy, anti-social, contradictory, nuance-free and bathetic cartoon, with its spurting blood (and worse).

Hollywood 20 Cinema, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler (PG-13, 132 min.) 3 stars. Loosely inspired by the true story of Eugene Allen (1919-2010), who worked as a domestic servant at the White House from the Truman through Reagan administrations, this is a history lesson and symbolic portrait of U.S. racial alienation and aspiration presented through the strong, dignified, inspirational yet somewhat tragic figure of Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), orphaned in the cotton fields of Georgia and taught to be a “house Negro”; it’s a testimony to Gaines’ character and perhaps evidence of the depth of his emotional damage that he absorbs the lesson so well he becomes what might be called the ultimate “house Negro,” the head butler at “America’s house,” the White House. There’s irony in this success story, but also a wary appreciation for Gaines’ talent at donning “two faces” (one for work, one for home) and for making himself “invisible” in the potentially dangerous presence of white people. A weary-looking Oprah Winfrey is a convincing Mrs. Gaines, but this is Whitaker’s movie: It’s another of the film’s ironies that while Gaines owes his success to an ability to make a room feel empty, Whitaker, even at his most still and silent, fills the frame with life — with presence.

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.

The Lone Ranger (PG-13, 149 min.) 3 stars. Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer.

Bartlett 10.

Man of Steel (PG-13, 143 min.) 3 stars. Henry Cavill, Michael Shannon.

Bartlett 10.

The Mortal Instruments: The City of Bones (PG-13, 130 min.) A New York teenager (Lily Collins) battles demons in the latest post-“Harry Potter” would-be fantasy franchise-starter, inspired by the Young Adult novel series by Cassandra Clare.

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

Now You See Me (PG-13, 116 min.) 2½ stars. Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson.

Bartlett 10.

One Direction: This Is Us (PG, 92 min.) A 3D documentary showcasing the Brit-pop boy band, at home and in concert.

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, Paradiso, Stage Cinema (in 3-D).

Pacific Rim (PG-13, 131 min.) 2½ stars. Guillermo del Toro’s sincere, elaborate tribute to the (mostly) Japanese colossal-creature features that enthralled him as a child proves to be the director’s squarest, least interesting film, as if the project’s sense of fun and wonder collapsed beneath the gargantuism of its $190 million budget, in an aesthetic equivalent of the square-cube law that makes the story’s monsters impossible in real life.

Bartlett 10.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (PG, 106 min.) 2 stars. “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” director Thor Freudenthal graduates to adolescent demigods in this second special effects-heavy adventure inspired by Rick Riordan’s fantasy book series about the teen son of Poseidon, Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman). The sleek hippocampus (a literal sea horse) is cool, and Percy’s clumsy new Cyclops half-brother (Douglas Smith) is amusing, but the movie rarely sets foot — or cloven hoof, in the case of Percy’s satyr pal, played by Brandon T. Jackson — in the world outside magic and mythology; with little mundane contrast to the Olympian antics, Percy’s peripatetic quest for the healing Golden Fleece quickly becomes tiresome.

CinePlanet 16, Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, DeSoto Cinema 16, Forest Hill 8, Hollywood 20 Cinema (in 3-D), Palace Cinema (in 3-D), Paradiso, Stage Cinema.

Planes (PG, 92 min.) This airborne “Cars” spinoff is a production of DisneyToons, not Pixar, so expect to be amused, not stunned.

CinePlanet 16, Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, DeSoto Cinema 16, Forest Hill 8, Hollywood 20 Cinema (in 3-D), Palace Cinema, Paradiso, Stage Cinema, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

Red 2 (PG-13, 116 min.) 3 stars. Directed with snap by Dean Parisot (“Galaxy Quest”), this witty follow-up to 2010’s DC Comics-inspired sleeper hit succeeds largely on the charm of its wily veteran cast, with top comedy honors going to John Malkovich as Marvin Boggs, a paranoid ex-“black ops” agent.

Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8.

Smurfs 2 (PG, 105 min.) 2 stars. “It’s in my face!” complained a young girl new to 3D at the Memphis preview for this film; child, we feel your pain. Another blend of live-action and digital animation from director Raja Gosnell, this sequel to the 2011 hit could give anyone — dare I say it? — the blues.

CinePlanet 16, DeSoto Cinema 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema (in 3-D), Majestic, Palace Cinema, Stage Cinema, Summer Quartet Drive-In.

The Spectacular Now (R, 95 min.) 3 stars. Miles Teller is the film’s narrator, Sutter, the irresponsible, irrepressible “life of every party” whose Vince Vaughn humor covers his serious alcohol problem; Shailene Woodley is Aimee, bookish and sincere. Working from a novel by Tim Tharp, director James Ponsoldt presents this working-class, so-called unlikely high-school romance with uncommon tenderness and compassion as well as suspense, as we wait for the inevitable moment when the sexually experienced and reckless Sutter breaks Aimee’s shy, sweet heart. Unfortunately, as the story progresses, an odd paradox emerges: The more we learn about the self-deprecating Aimee, the more she is revealed to be, in fact, just a prop for Sutter’s rehabilitation and redemption. “I don’t really have any stories,” she insists early in the film; the movie works to give her one but then dismisses it, maintaining — as the first-person narration at the start suggests — that this is Sutter’s story, after all.

Studio on the Square.

Star Trek Into Darkness (PG-13, 132 min.) 3 stars. Director-fanboy J.J. Abrams’ follow-up to his franchise-reviving 2009 “Star Trek”is a super-glossy spectacle of bludgeoning action and emotion — moment to moment, it’s as entertaining, rousing and visually impressive as any recent science-fiction action epic, as reckless young Captain Kirk (Chris Pine), the Vulcan Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto) and their colorful subordinates battle a genetic superman (mesmerizingly mannered Benedict Cumberbatch).

CinePlanet 16, Palace Cinema.

This Is the End (R, 107 min.) 3½ stars. Seth Rogen.

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

2 Guns (R, 109 min.) 3 stars. A pair of undercover agents (Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg) become reluctant allies after they attract the violent interest of the DEA, a Mexican drug lord (James Edward Olmos) and a rogue Navy Intelligence officer (James Marsden) in this unpretentious actioner, elevated by the wry likability of its star duo. Adapted from the graphic novel series published by Boom! Studios.

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

The Way, Way Back (PG-13, 103 min.) 2½ stars. If “Meatballs” were relocated from a summer camp to a water park and reworked into a semi-“serious” film, with half its running time devoted to Chris Makepeace’s poignant back story and dysfunctional home life, it would be something like this somewhat trite but beautifully acted and nicely atmospheric coming-of-age tale, which marks the impressive directing debut of its screenwriters, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (adapted screenplay Oscar-winners for “The Descendants”).

Ridgeway Cinema Grill.

We’re the Millers (R, 110 min.) Pot dealer Jason Sudeikis and stripper Jennifer Aniston form a fake family to elude the Feds.

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

White House Down (PG-13, 132 min.) 2 stars. Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx.

Bartlett 10.

The Wolverine (PG-13, 129 min.) 3½ stars. Donning the Blacula sideburns and adamantine claws of the surly Marvel Comics mutant for the fifth time, Hugh Jackman appears entirely at home in his character’s tortured skin in this superior, even adult Marvel Comics adaptation, which plays almost like a straight gangster/yakuza thriller for much of its length, until the obligatory climactic superhero/supervillain dust-up between the Wolverine and a massive CG robot, the Silver Samurai.

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

World War Z (PG-13, 116 min.) 2½ stars. The spectacular set-piece highlights — the antlike swarms of zombies attacking the Jerusalem wall, the lethal traffic jam in Philadelphia, the airplane attack — were revealed in the trailers; what’s left is nothing that hasn’t been done better many times before by Romero, Danny Boyle, even AMC.

Bartlett 10, CinePlanet 16, Palace Cinema.

The World’s End (R, 109 min.) 3 stars. Five middle-age mates reunite to complete a failed teen-years pub crawl in their cozy British hometown in this third film in a decade from the genre-loving, genre-spoofing “Shaun of the Dead”/“Hot Fuzz” team of writer-director Edgar Wright, writer-actor Simon Pegg and actor Nick Frost. The movie is absolutely terrific — lively, witty, hilarious — for at least half its length, but it founders during the protracted final act, which becomes too noisy, too chaotic and too wordy.

Paradiso, Studio on the Square.

You’re Next (R, 96 min.) 3 stars. Mumblecore may be dead but mumblegore is alive and, well, pretty grisly, judging from this tongue-in-cheek, blender-in-head home-invasion horror thriller from director Adam Wingard, whose cast of (mostly doomed) characters includes such fellow lo-fi auteurs as Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz and Ti West. With its action confined almost entirely to a large isolated house, the film is a clever and convincing throwback to the heydays of the drive-in and grindhouse, complete with casual if infrequent nudity, illogical motivations, dubious acting, a clever twist or two, startling violence and — best of all — a sense of go-for-broke brashness and what-the-hell spirit.

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

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