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Film Capsules

Short, sweet, to the point

Beats Rhymes & Life (R)

Fans of the pioneering rap group a Tribe Called Quest will find plenty to like about this documentary, as will hip-hop heads in general and anyone curious about music history circa the late '80s and early '90s. Director Michael Rapaport (the actor, who's appeared in movies like The 6th Day) followed the group during its 2008 Rock the Bells tour, capturing the increasing conflict between founding members Q-Tip and Phife Dawg. The first part of the movie offers incredible insight into New York's '80s hip-hop scene, complete with interviews and a terrific soundtrack. But then Beats Rhymes & Life begins to focus on the backstage drama and Phife's diabetes, and quickly loses its way. The auxiliary content feels tacked-on, making the film seem much longer than it is. Only the group's most dedicated fans will bother to fight the boredom at this point. (Ben Gifford) Captain America: The First Avenger (PG-13) — The final lead-in to next summer's all-star Avengers falls somewhere between the terrific X-Men: First Class and the awful Green Lantern. Chris Evans plays a 90-pound weakling who takes part in a secret government experiment during World War II that turns him into a lean, mean, Nazi-fighting machine. There's an old-fashioned approach to the look and storytelling, which instantly makes it a richer experience than the empty Green Lantern. But by the end of its 125 minutes, Captain America starts to wobble from battle fatigue. (Michael Gallucci)

Cowboys & Aliens (PG-13) — It's everything you could possibly want in an action movie: James Bond, Indiana Jones, and the director of Iron Man. Daniel Craig plays Jake Lonergan, a wanted man with a mysterious past even he can't remember. Harrison Ford is a prick of a cattle owner who wants Jake dead. Eventually they band together to save the small town being attacked by hostile aliens in laser-blasting spaceships. It really doesn't add up to much more than cowboys and aliens duking it out in the Old West. But what else did you expect? (Gallucci)

Crazy, Stupid, Love (PG-13) — Michael Scott may have left the office, but Steve Carell injects a similar clueless awkwardness into his role as Cal in this hexagonal tale of love. As Cal faces divorce from his cheating wife (Julianne Moore), his life derails and he heads straight to the bottle. But smooth-talking ladies' man Jacob (Ryan Gosling) takes Cal under his wing, shaping a midlife crisis into a confident and stylish new opportunity. Cal fights for his wife, his kids, and his manhood — hilariously. There's plenty of sex, drama, one-liners, and moments of serious reflection in Crazy, Stupid, Love, and none of it comes off as corny or insincere. One of the year's most unpredictable movies. (Courtney Kerrigan)

Friends With Benefits (R) — Jamie (Mila Kunis) is a tough-talking New York headhunter who, despite a history of failed relationships, believes in fairy-tale love. Dylan (Justin Timberlake), an L.A. art director with a similar romantic past, is recruited by Jamie to work at a magazine. The two form a quick friendship after Dylan moves to New York, and one drunken night decide that Hollywood clichés have it all wrong — sometimes it's really just about sex. And, with this clichéd denouncement of clichés, two very good-looking actors strip down in predictable fashion. (Emily Schiller)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two — The eighth and final Harry Potter movie is everything you hoped it would be: big, beautiful, thrilling, emotional, and a gratifying conclusion to a series that's had more ups than downs over the past 10 years. It picks up where last year's dark Part One left off, leading to a rousing showdown between Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). If you haven't seen any of the other Harry Potter movies, don't start with this one. If you have, get ready for the best movie in the series. (Gallucci)

A Little Help (R) — The Office's Jenna Fischer plays dental hygienist Laura, a thirtysomething cutie mom whose husband dies after she gives him a blowjob (way to go, Pam!). A coming-of-age tale as well as a midlife-crisis movie, A Little Help balances its occasionally stifled storytelling with a gently funny performance by Fischer. (Gallucci)

The Smurfs (PG) — If you're skeptical of an all-star cast that includes Doogie Howser and Katy Perry, just let go. The Smurfs will take you on a fun but occasionally wobbly ride. When Clumsy's clumsiness leads the gang — including Brainy (voiced by Fred Armisen), Grouchy (George Lopez), and Smurfette (Perry) — to New York City, they're forced to navigate the largest, most dangerous "village" they've ever seen, with the evil wizard Gargamel (a wonderfully disgusting Hank Azaria) in hot pursuit. It's a perfectly sweet movie with plenty of surprises for grown-ups. Plus it looks great, with a candy-colored blend of live action and CGI. It's a smurf of a lot better than you might think. (Lydia Munnell)

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (PG-13) — Some books lose something on their way to the big screen. That's the case with Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, based on Lisa See's best-selling novel. The story of two best friends in present-day Hong Kong runs parallel with the tale of two sisters in Hunan Province during the 19th century. The girls' hardship and prosperity span centuries as they're fed the ol' love-conquers-all song and dance. Though it runs less than two hours, there are times the movie feels like it will never end. (Munnell)

Tabloid (NR) — Bat Boy's got nothing on Joyce McKinney, the subject of Errol Morris' latest documentary, which tests the old adage about truth being stranger than fiction. Tabloid tells the story of the 1970s southern pageant girl, who met a young Mormon named Kirk Anderson. That's about the only detail we know for sure. McKinney claims that she and Kirk fell in love but that he disappeared one day. After hiring a private investigator, she learned he was in England and flew to rescue him from the "cult" that had abducted him. Ask almost anyone else, and they'll say McKinney abducted Anderson and made him her sex slave. Morris tells McKinney's story with humor and heart, but the director's real gift lies in the serious questions he asks about truth and justice and desire. (Munnell)

Winnie the Pooh (G) — Bucking the trend of so many maligned reboots and remakes, this subtle and charming animated movie is a delight for fans young and old. Its familiar plot — essentially, Pooh's hungry again — remains faithful to the series' heritage, and John Cleese sets the perfect tone with his eloquent narration. Winnie the Pooh is charming, funny, and (best of all) short enough for the littlest ones to sit through. (Ben Gifford)

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