Movie Reviews

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Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest
Sony Pictures Classics
In Theaters: 08.12
Beats, Rhymes & Life serves as a comprehensive look at one of the most influential hip hop groups to come out of the East Coast. The film traces A Tribe Called Quest from their roots in Queens, through the creation of their five albums and to their eventual and unexpected breakup in 1998. Longtime fan and first-time filmmaker, Michael Rapaport, joined the band during their 2008 reunion tour on Rock the Bells. Despite not having recorded any new material in the last decade, the group played to sold-out crowds across the country and their fan base continues to grow. Rapaport weaves together archival footage, present day interviews with group members and live performances from the 2008 tour to create a story that exposes the inner turmoil that led to the band’s initial breakup and the unresolved personal conflicts that continue to plague their members. At times the film comes off in the vein of the Metallica documentary Some Kind of Monster—making long-time friends Phife Dawg and Q-Tip seem like dysfunctional men with overly large egos. After an argument breaks out on tour between the two, you wonder if they’re pushing forward for the wrong reasons—a sentiment that is reiterated when members of De La Soul state that they hope the 2008 performances are the last for A Tribe Called Quest. Regardless, Beats, Rhymes & Life successfully captures the intensity and energy of one of the most innovative hip hop groups of an era. –Jeanette D. Moses

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Warner Bros.
In Theaters: 07.15
The last two installments of the Harry Potter franchise have been nothing but expository build up to a grand finale encounter. So, after having sat through over five hours of explanative conversations and intensified teasers, the call for an impressive conclusion has never been in such high demand. In the final chapter, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his band of magical misfits must avoid capture and certain death from Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) as they seek to discover and destroy the hidden horcruxes that provide the evil sorcerer with the gift of immortality. Director David Yates skillfully stays consistent with the dismal tone established in the previous endeavors, yet adds a heightened level of severity that actually makes viewers fear for the characters’ safety. From beginning to end, Yates takes the audience on a non-stop thrill ride that begins with a bank vault heist and ends with a magnificent battle for Hogwarts that would make Peter Jackson smile. It has been an exciting decade-long journey watching Radcliffe, along with his series co-stars (Rupert Grint and Emma Watson), mature from adolescent newcomers into seasoned actors capable of carrying one of the biggest film franchises ever, and their final portrayal as J.K. Rowling’s creations certainly delivers. The only unappealing aspect comes in the film’s final moments when viewers are given a glimpse of their beloved characters 19 years into the future. Rather than using the brilliant CGI utilized throughout the rest of the film to properly age the cast, shoddy make-up and gray streaks in their hair is the outcome. It’s definitely not the final bow one would hope for, but it doesn’t disrupt the film’s overall achievement. ­–Jimmy Martin

Horrible Bosses
New Line Cinema
In Theaters: 07.08
If you’ve ever had a job working in the “real world,” you can probably recall at least one supervisor who was arrogant, unreasonable, sexist or possibly a flat-out drug addict. In Seth Gordon’s homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train and Danny DeVito’s Throw Momma from the Train, three friends find themselves stuck in unappreciated positions with the most revolting bosses imaginable. Jason Bateman stars as a workaholic desperately seeking a promotion from his demonic supervisor (Kevin Spacey), but soon discovers it’ll never happen, no matter the number of hours worked or family funerals missed. The multiple sexual harassment encounters Charlie Day endures as a dental assistant from his sexually-aggressive employer (Jennifer Aniston) may not seem traumatizing to most, but Day’s abilities to conjure up awkwardness between the two certainly says otherwise. Finally, Jason Sudeikis actually adores working for Donald Sutherland, but when the old-timer croaks, the company is left to his immature cokehead son (Colin Farrell). The three self-proclaimed victims determine their lives would be better after the deaths of their bosses, and a devious plan is launched with the help of an ex-con (Jamie Foxx). While it may be hard to root for three protagonists about to commit murder, the charisma and brotherly chemistry offered by the trio is enough for audiences to forgive the impending criminal acts. Bateman (the straight man), Sudeikis (the pervert) and Day (the loon) all do well at playing roles they’ve perfected, but it’s the supporting cast who take a step outside their comfort zones who add the special ingredient required to make the film memorable. While witnessing Farrell as a balding junkie who takes pleasure in being as offensive as possible is devilishly delightful, it only enhances the raunchy filth excreted from Aniston’s mouth. –Jimmy Martin

Larry Crowne
Universal
In Theaters: 07.01
It may be unusual for a film about two middle-aged loners searching for love to be released amongst the crowd of battling wizards, flying gods and World War II super soldiers, but it’s actually a refreshing twist to the summer mix. Tom Hanks stars as Larry Crowne, a former Navy cook turned department store employee who is laid off when his company learns that he never earned a college degree and therefore cannot progress up the corporate ladder (a violation of company policy). Rather than searching for a similar job, he enrolls in community college to better his life, but finds more than an education in his charismatic speech professor (Julia Roberts) who’s had enough with her porn-addicted husband and handles the abysmal situation with a glass of scotch. With the help of his trendy classmates, Larry discovers not only a fresh perspective on fashion, but a new outlook on life as well. Hanks (acting as director and writer) achieves what was thought to be impossible and revives the dormant charm and likeability Roberts hasn’t showcased in years, but it’s the never-ending (sometimes a tad overboard) charisma Hanks excretes that makes the film even more pleasurable. Sure, the pairing of America’s sweethearts is sweet enough to make anyone an instant diabetic, but it’s enjoyable to witness the artists do what they do best. As for story, Hanks has crafted a simple independent project that most likely wouldn’t voyage far beyond the festival circuit because it’s a romantic plot that’s been made before, but no one can blame the guy for using his celebrity-status to generate a movie he wanted to make. –Jimmy Martin

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Paramount
In Theaters: 06.29
It’s hard to be excited for the third (and hopefully final) chapter to Michael Bay’s vision of the 1980s toy franchise, especially since that last project was such an abomination, the director himself apologized for the blunder and promised to rectify the situation. Was the master of “Drool Cinema” capable of mending the millions of shattered dreams he left behind? Nope! Unbeknownst to the general public, the Space Race in the 1960s was not only a mission to be the first humans to reach the moon, but to also be the first humans to explore an alien crash site that contained a weapon crafted by the mechanical human-allies, the Autobots. Over 40 years later, the secret is revealed and the evil Decepticons have made their final stance to obtain the weapon, annihilate the human race and eliminate the Autobots once and for all. Once again, Bay has neglected to produce a Transformers flick that largely focuses on the one thing moviegoers want to see … fighting robots! Granted, the final 25 minutes incorporates robots punching each other, but when it takes 130 minutes of drivel dialogue, John Malkovich’s worst performance to date and  a mind-numbing romantic triangle plot between Shia LaBeouf, Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Patrick Dempsey, it’s simply unacceptable. LaBeouf delivers the same sarcasm he is known and adored for, but Huntington-Whiteley offers nothing more than a delectable ass-shot every now and again, which is exactly how Bay introduces her character. Since it took Bay a year to apologize for the disgrace that was 2009’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, I expect another apology next summer for this all-star blunder. –Jimmy Martin