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Published: Thursday, 7/21/2011

Movie reviews: 7-21

Summaries are condensed from Blade reviews and reflect the theater schedule starting Friday. Films are rated on a scale of 5 stars (best) to Bomb (worst). The reviewer's name, movie running time, and abbreviations of the theaters where the movie is playing are at the end of each summary.

Bad Teacher. Cameron Diaz gets in touch with her bad side in this raunchy comedy about an alcoholic, drug-using party animal marking time as a teacher as she tries to snare a wealthy husband. Diaz is funny, but she can't erase the movie's slow spots or uneven tone. R ** 1/2 89 min. (Wire review) (FP, FT, LC)

Cars 2. Lightning McQueen heads to the first-ever World Grand Prix race. On the way, his best friend, the tow truck Mater, is mistaken for a secret agent. Though by no means a wreck, this Pixar sequel is a disappointment, putting the spotlight on Mater as a country bumpkin bumbling his way through a sophisticated world. G ** 113 min. (Baird) (Fox, FP, FT, LC)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Dark and melancholy, the film sees J.K. Rowling's literary creation grown up and in the battle of his life against the evil Lord Voldemort. We know the cast well by now, having watched Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Emma Watson (Hermione), and Rupert Grint (Ron) mature on the big screen. Director David Yates, back for his fourth Potter film, doesn't let them or us down. The movie starts slow, but works itself into an emotional, thrilling, and completely satisfying finale. PG-13 **** 130 min. (Baird) (Fox, FP, FT, LC, SDI)

Horrible Bosses. While not the breakout comedy of the summer, Horrible Bosses delivers laughs, along with a foolproof premise of bad people getting theirs and big-name actors ensuring it all works. Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, and Charlie Day play the put-upon employees who plot the demise of their vile bosses played by Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, and Jennifer Aniston, who steals the movie as a profane and sexually aggressive dentist. R *** 98 min. (Baird) (FP, FT, LC)

Rio. Jessie Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Jane Lynch, and Wanda Sykes provide the voices for this animated tale about a domesticated macaw that travels around the world to chase down the love of his life. The film bursts with big images and vibrant colors, and the use of 3-D is surprisingly effective. So much is so appealing for so long that you can almost forgive the fact that the story is ultra-thin. G *** 96 minutes. (Wire review) (MIT)

Super 8. This monster movie masquerading as an early Steven Spielberg work is set in 1979, when a train wreck lets something mysterious loose in the fictional town of Lillian, Ohio. First the military shows up to investigate the accident, then residents begin to vanish, leaving a group of teens who filmed the wreck scrambling to uncover the truth. Writer-director J.J. Abrams is no Spielberg (who produced), and Super 8 lacks the magic of classics such as Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. PG-13 ** 112 min. (Baird) (FP)

Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Shia LaBeouf again stars in and Michael Bay directs the third Transformers film, and shock of shocks, it's fun. There are holes in logic and plot big enough to drive an Autobot through, and dialogue is meaningless, but the movie delivers where it counts -- action and effects -- and is unrelenting in its goal to be this summer's biggest crowd-pleaser. PG-13 *** 1/2 157 min. (Baird) (Fox, FP, FT, LC, SDI)

Water for Elephants. During the Great Depression, a veterinary student (Robert Pattinson) lands a job treating animals in a traveling circus, then falls in love with the wife (Reese Witherspoon) of the circus' owner (Christoph Walz). This handsome adaptation of Sara Gruen's 2006 best seller balances the colorful glitz of a three-ring spectacle with the atmospheric realism that a rich drama demands. The sideline characters are hokey stereotypes, but the main trio is well-developed. PG-13 *** 1/2 122 minutes (Wire review) (MIT)

Winnie the Pooh. Disney's latest film revival of A.A. Milne's "willy, nilly, silly old bear" is now a musical, longer on charm than it is on laughs. But it's a treat for children making their first trek to the multiplex and for parents with fond memories of the short films of the 1960s. G *** 104 minutes. (Wire review) (FP, FT, LC)

X-Men: First Class successfully reboots the franchise with an origins story set in the early 1960s of friends-turned-rivals Professor X and Magneto when they were still known as Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Eric Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender). The pair lead a young team of mutants against a villainous band led by the powerful mutant Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon). Director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) assembles a strong cast and a pretty good script, with Brian Singer welcomed back as the franchise's guiding force. PG-13 *** 1/2 132 min. (Baird) (Fox, FP, FT, LC, SDI)

Zookeeper. When an animal-loving caretaker (Kevin James) realizes he's more comfortable in the company of a lion than that of a woman, he decides he must make a career change and quits his beloved job. But the animals at the zoo (voiced by Cher, Adam Sandler, Nick Nolte, and Sylvester Stallone) try to get him to change his mind by teaching him the ways of courtship -- jungle style. James may not make audiences believe animals can talk, but with slapstick and sincerity, he makes the film work anyway. PG ** 104 minutes. (Wire review) (FP, FT, LC, SDI)



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