Capsule reviews: 'Harry Potter,' 'Tabloid'

Associated Press
In this film publicity image released by Fox Searchlight Pictures, Li Bing Bing, left, and Gianna Jun are shown in a scene from "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan." (AP Photo/Fox Searchlight Pictures)
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In this film publicity image released by Fox Searchlight Pictures, Li Bing Bing, left, and Gianna Jun are shown in a scene from "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan." (AP Photo/Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Capsule reviews of films opening this week:

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" — If last year's first half of the finale marked the beginning of the end with a gripping feeling of doom and gloom, this wraps things up once and for all on a note of melancholy. Oh, it's dramatic, to be sure: gorgeous, somber and startling as the young wizard faces his destiny and fights the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). But the end of this staggeringly successful movie franchise, an epic fantasy saga spanning eight films over the past decade, provides a necessary emotional catharsis for Harry and for us. Even those who aren't ardent Potterphiles might find themselves getting unexpectedly choked up a couple of times. That's always been the real magic of the series, based on J.K. Rowling's novels: that mixture of the exotic and the everyday, the otherworldly and the utterly relatable. No longer the innocent children they were when they entered Hogwarts, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) are growing up and moving on, and so must we. That the future of the wizard world hangs in the balance in this final installment is only part of the tale. Still, director David Yates has accomplished the difficult task of bringing it all to a close in satisfying fashion. PG-13 for some sequence of intense action violence and frightening images. 130 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"Salvation Boulevard" — A film with just half of this cast would be well worth seeing. But despite the talents of Greg Kinnear, Pierce Brosnan, Marisa Tomei, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, Ciaran Hinds, Yul Vazquez and Jim Gaffigan, "Salvation Boulevard" is far less than the sum of its fine, character-actor parts. A religious satire based on the book by Larry Beinhart ("Wag the Dog"), it gathers an intriguing group of characters — evangelist zealots, aging Deadheads, academic nonbelievers — in a murder plot that somehow steers clear of both real comedy and interesting parody. It's centered on celebrity pastor Dan Day (Brosnan), who's more a glitzy snake oil salesman than man of God. When he accidentally shoots and nearly kills a debating opponent (Harris) in front of reformed Grateful Dead fan Carl Vanderveer (Kinnear), he lets his faithful flock (Hinds, Gaffigan) protect him. It's a good premise but nothing clicks and the plot dissipates instead of swelling in absurdity. Not rated. Film includes some drug use, violence and expletives. 96 minutes. Two stars out of four.

— Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer

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"Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" — There really should be a disclaimer somewhere explaining Hollywood's ill-advised tinkering on Lisa See's novel. "Inspired by" at least would tip off See's readers that the film version is far from a genuine adaptation of her tale of friendship between two women in 19th century China. "Remotely suggested by" would be closer to the truth, since director Wayne Wang shifts the bulk of the action to modern Shanghai, with two contemporary women as stand-ins for See's characters. The two women in both time periods are played by the same actresses, Li Bingbing and Gianna Jun, who often convey a deep sisterly bond despite the movie's clumsy lurches backward and forward in time. The trouble is that the modern story the filmmakers whipped up isn't very compelling. Yet it dominates the movie, continually oozing back in just as the period drama is getting interesting. The fitful cutting between eras is distracting enough, but it's truly annoying to get yanked out of See's sumptuous, exotic world of barbaric foot-binding and ancient tradition, into Wang's amorphous wanderings through the China of today. PG-13 for sexuality, violent/disturbing images and drug use. 104 minutes. Two stars out of four.

— David Germain, AP Movie Writer

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"Tabloid" — Is Joyce McKinney a delusional, manipulative narcissist? Or just a clever, plucky charmer who'll do anything for true love? Errol Morris lets her tell her own story, and lets us decide for ourselves. The master documentarian is having some fun here for the first time in a while. He's explored weighty topics with his most recent films, 2008's "Standard Operating Procedure" (about the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib) and 2003's Oscar-winning "The Fog of War" (about Robert McNamara, the U.S. defense secretary during much of the Vietnam War). He employs the same matter-of-fact interviewing style that has become his trademark, but in revisiting the late-'70s tale of a former beauty queen and the abducted Mormon who reportedly became her sex slave, he elicits answers that will make you giggle rather than gasp. "Tabloid" is a playful, voyeuristic guilty pleasure, an exploration of the wacky and tacky and our compulsive need to feed on such tales. It lacks the substance and insight of Morris' strongest work, but it's consistently a kick, and with the recent collapse of Britain's News of the World, it couldn't be more relevant. R for sexual content and nudity. 88 minutes. Three stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"Winnie the Pooh" — Pooh tends to amble unhurriedly through his days, enjoying his life and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood at his own pace. But his new movie couldn't have come along at a better time. It is the ideal alternative to all those big, shiny, effects-laden spectacles that tend to dominate during the summer — animated or otherwise. It's not jammed with computer-generated trickery and, mercifully, it doesn't pop out at you in 3-D. This is just 68 minutes of pure, hunny-covered satisfaction. Given the source material — A.A. Milne's enduring writing for children — "Winnie the Pooh" is naturally geared toward the little ones, with its cuddly characters and pleasingly soft watercolor strokes, but not at the expense of adults' enjoyment. Quite the contrary: Grown-ups may find themselves even more engaged by it and perhaps even moved to tears. This is hilariously funny, though; there's a great energy about it, an earnestness to the adventures of Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and pals that results in abject zaniness. Jim Cummings, Craig Ferguson and Bud Luckey are among the vocal cast. G. 68 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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