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      • Life Itself poster image

        Life Itself

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The fine, fond Roger Ebert documentary "Life Itself" is finally in a theater in Chicago, Landmark's Century Centre Cinema, starting opening in limited release Friday. It's also available from July 4 onward on iTunes and various video-on-demand formats. On July 11, the film opens in Highland Park. We all have our preferences, but a traditional movie house really is the best place to embrace director Steve James' internationally beloved subject. Ebert's mellifluous intellect and opini... (read more)

      • A Simple Favor poster image

        A Simple Favor

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Comedy director Paul Feig tries a thriller on for size with the juicy "A Simple Favor," a suburban Connecticut murder mystery that's "Gone Girl" meets "The Stepford Wives." Based on the novel by Darcey Bell, written by Jessica Sharzer, the consciously campy "A Simple Favor" is as bright and bracing as an ice cold gin martini with a lemon twist, and just as satisfying. Anna Kendrick stars as Stephanie, a mommy vlogger raising her son, Miles (Joshua Satin... (read more)

      • Life of the Party poster image

        Life of the Party

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The back-to-school genre of collegiate comedies has given us "Old School" (Will Ferrell), "Back to School" (Rodney Dangerfield) and "Horse Feathers" (the Marx Brothers), among others. Melissa McCarthy joins that class list in the ramshackle, amiable "Life of the Party," about a woman, freshly dumped by her husband, heading back to college 20 years after she dropped out with a kid on the way. Now a college senior, Maddie (Molly Gordon) runs a gamut of em... (read more)

      • Unbroken: Path to Redemption poster image

        Unbroken: Path to Redemption

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        "Didn't we already get an 'Unbroken' movie?" you might ask, about "Unbroken: Path to Redemption." Is it even possible to have a sequel to a biopic? Faith-based film production company PureFlix thinks so. "Unbroken: Path to Redemption" serves as a bit of a coda to Angelina Jolie's 2014 film about the amazing World War II survival story of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini, a minor corrective. Both films take Laura Hillenbrand's biography as inspiration and adaptation... (read more)

      • Destination Wedding poster image

        Destination Wedding

        Rick Bentley, Chicago Tribune

        Victor Levin ("Mad About You") should either buy a lottery ticket or plan a trip to Las Vegas. The writer/director of "Destination Wedding" took a major gamble with the way his feature film is written and performed. The result is a winner. It starts with a smart and witty script detailing the meet-not-so-cute of Frank (Keanu Reeves) and Lindsay (Winona Ryder) when they are headed to Paso Robles, Calif., for a destination wedding. Frank is the half-brother of the groom who ... (read more)

      • Operation Finale poster image

        Operation Finale

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        There's something very familiar about "Operation Finale," written by debut screenwriter Matthew Orton and directed by Chris Weitz. The film chronicles the thrilling, stranger-than-fiction 1960 Mossad operation to kidnap principal Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann from Argentina and extradite him to Israel to be tried for war crimes. The event was depicted in the 1996 TV movie "The Man Who Captured Eichmann," in the 2014 German Foreign Language Academy Award submission &qu... (read more)

      • Support the Girls poster image

        Support the Girls

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Andrew Bujalski's "Support the Girls" is the perfect bait-and-switch of a film. Its light, sweetly frisky exterior and easygoing pace camouflages what a subtle and brilliant piece of bracing social commentary it is; a deft portrait of sisterhood existing under the thumb of capitalistic patriarchy. And it wouldn't work without the anchor of an exceptional performance by Regina Hall. Hall is Lisa, the general manager of a Texas restaurant named Double Whammies, and the mother hen of a... (read more)

      • The Happytime Murders poster image

        The Happytime Murders

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Happytime Murders" is a one-joke movie, minus one joke. The year may cough up a worse film, but probably not a more joyless, witless one, raunchy or otherwise. This one's raunchy, not otherwise. It's a private eye spoof full of rough puppet sex and lingering depictions of puppet semen, copious and midair. The mystery hinges on close-ups of female puppet pubic hair. Every other exchange between Melissa McCarthy (as an LAPD detective) and her disgraced puppet ex-partner, a Bogart... (read more)

      • Alpha poster image

        Alpha

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        You know Sheila the She-Wolf from "Glow" on Netflix? "Alpha" would be her favorite movie. She'd watch it every day on a VHS tape, memorizing each line of Cro-Magnon dialogue, fashioning her costumes in tribute to the fur-trimmed Hot Topic looks sported by the characters, adopting a Czech wolf dog like the one in the movie. It's sweet, really, to imagine the kind of devotion "Alpha" might inspire, a film that's very simple, kind of strange, but will melt any dog-l... (read more)

      • The Meg poster image

        The Meg

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Have sharks jumped the Fonzie? Seems like it's always Shark Week around here, and "here" means everywhere. Think of how long it has been since the first "Jaws" (1975). A digital effects revolution and a generation later, "Deep Blue Sea" (1999) closed out the century with some forgettably entertaining (or entertainingly forgettable) jump scares in between what filmmakers believed to be necessary expository information about the people lining up at the human buffet... (read more)

      • Eighth Grade poster image

        Eighth Grade

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Tender, socially reticent, selectively assertive, Kayla is a middle-school student a few days away from graduation and the rest of her life. "Everything will work out," she tells her scant audience of YouTube channel followers in the video post opening Bo Burnham's new film "Eighth Grade," if "you're just being yourself." She's hoping for the best with that one. This kid knows it's not going to be so easy. But wishing (and then posting) might just make it so. Kay... (read more)

      • The Darkest Minds poster image

        The Darkest Minds

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        From "The Hunger Games" to "Harry Potter," dystopian young adult science fiction has become a favorite device for unpacking the complexities of the real world. The new film "The Darkest Minds," based on the novel by Amanda Bracken, written by Chad Hodge, feels like a bit of a late entry, even as it positions itself for sequels. Although the film, directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson making her live-action debut, is rather choppy and never ascends to the levels summite... (read more)

      • The Spy Who Dumped Me poster image

        The Spy Who Dumped Me

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Spy Who Dumped Me" gets by, barely, thanks mainly to Kate McKinnon. Her crazily fluid and unpredictable comic timing, and her willingness to go big -- well past Madeline Kahn-big and very near Eddie Cantor-big -- has saved several movies. She salvaged the "Ghostbusters" reboot, rescued parts of "Rough Night" and wrung what she could out of the damp rag "Office Christmas Party." Working with a game Mila Kunis, McKinnon takes care of this one, too, w... (read more)

      • Blindspotting poster image

        Blindspotting

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Of all the sharp scenes in "Blindspotting," and there are plenty, one in particular gathers up every grudge, blind spot and frustration packed inside the moving company coworkers played by Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal. On his last night of parole, ex-con Collin (Diggs), a biracial Oakland resident who has recently witnessed a fatal police shooting, arrives at an overwhelmingly white party. He's accompanied by the rowdy powder keg Miles (Casal), a white-Latino who has grown up on bl... (read more)

      • Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again poster image

        Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Welcome back to the magical island of Kalokairi, a sun-strewn rocky outcropping in the azure Aegean Sea, a land where white people can only express themselves with the music of Sweden's most enduring musical group, ABBA. The sequel/prequel hybrid "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again" arrives a decade after the bonkers filmed adaptation of the stage musical "Mamma Mia!" Vehicles for ABBA's songs, the films perfectly reflect the music: guileless, emotionally raw and unabashedly chee... (read more)

      • Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation poster image

        Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's all about the zing. If you are not up on monster speak, the term zing refers to what happens once in the life of a vampire, mummy, werewolf, etc. It's that moment when they know they have found the one true love in their life. In the case of "Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation," Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) learns it's possible to zing more than once as he meets the new once-in-a-lifetime love of his life during a monster sea cruise. While Dracula zings again, this third... (read more)

      • Sorry to Bother You poster image

        Sorry to Bother You

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Sorry to Bother You" is about a telemarketer who becomes a superstar, for a price. It's a science fiction allegory, though the science fiction angle emerges late in the game. It's a provocative, serious, ridiculous, screwy concoction about whiteface, cultural code-switching, African-American identities and twisted new forms of wage slavery, beyond previously known ethical limits. Premiering earlier this year at Sundance, the film comes from rapper and musician Boots Riley of the fu... (read more)

      • Ant-Man and the Wasp poster image

        Ant-Man and the Wasp

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The unlimited breadsticks approach of the Marvel Cinematic Universe ensures that we remain full of carbs, all year, as each franchise rolls out another metaphorical Olive Garden. Some of the movies offer veritable superhero conventions -- most recently the ensemble blowout "Avengers: Infinity War," which managed to make $2.3 billion worldwide without any interesting action sequences, mainly on the strength of that ridiculously dire cliffhanger ending setting up a big fat profitable ... (read more)

      • Sicario: Day of the Soldado poster image

        Sicario: Day of the Soldado

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Sick as it sounds, "Sicario: Day of the Soldado" is the lucky beneficiary of every belligerent tweet, crying child and political point scored in the chaos of the current Mexico/U.S. border crisis. At its mean, snakelike best, it's also a brutally assured commercial action picture, unburdened by the moral qualms or unnerving ambiguity of its predecessor. Both factors may help it find a larger international audience than "Sicario" (2015), written, as is the sequel, by Taylor... (read more)

      • Damsel poster image

        Damsel

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The opening shots of "Damsel," thanks to cinematographer Adam Stone, are misleadingly evocative. We're somewhere in Utah (the movie was made there, and along the Oregon coast). Against a forbiddingly beautiful landscape of red rock and imposing sky, two men wait for a stagecoach. One, a disillusioned man of the cloth, is played by Robert Forster. "I come out here to spoon-feed religion to the savages. Tried real hard," he says, defeated. Forster is perfect, and the tone of... (read more)

      • Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom poster image

        Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Of all the terrors on view in "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," the sight of Toby Jones' toupee bobbing up and down, when his character (a sniveling dinosaur auctioneer) dashes into an elevator to alleged safety, with the camera and something called the "Indoraptor" scrambling behind him -- reader, it is a strange and wondrous vision of foolish vanity in flight. There are other diversions in director J.A. Bayona's Gothic-tinged follow-up to "Jurassic World." That... (read more)

      • Incredibles 2 poster image

        Incredibles 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        When writer-director Brad Bird made "The Incredibles" (2004), the superhero movie genre looked nothing like the overcrowded youth hostel it does today. The "X-Men" movies, the fledgling "Spider-Man" franchise and that was about it. This was pre-"Iron Man." This preceded the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Comics afflictions, if you can remember such a time. Bird's movie, about a family of "Supers" banned by the government from thei... (read more)

      • Tag poster image

        Tag

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Subjects of a 2013 Wall Street Journal feature, the real-life friends who provoked the new comedy "Tag" are, let's assume, decent guys, fun-loving and supportive and appreciative of having the time and money to keep the same elaborate prankster version of tag going for nearly 30 years. But I kind of hate the movie's mixture of bro comedy, sadistic practical jokes (don't call it slapstick) and last-ditch pull for the heartstrings. If you like the trailer, please know the best bits ar... (read more)

      • Hereditary poster image

        Hereditary

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, as Tolstoy noted in a sentence so right, by the time you started arguing with it "Anna Karenina" was off and suffering. If Tolstoy got a look at "Hereditary," he might've added: "Well. There's unhappy, and then there's grief-stricken-hideously cruel-unholy family secrets-horror movie-unhappy." The latter is the dwelling place of director Ari Aster's fiendish feature debut. Not everything... (read more)

      • Upgrade poster image

        Upgrade

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The fairly peppy, extremely gory science fiction thriller ``Upgrade was originally titled ``Stem, referring to a digital cockroach (``a new, better brain, its pale inventor notes) implanted in the body of the protagonist. The time is the near future. The place is a world of driverless cars and Siri-like communications and control systems designed to reassure the human population while undermining its autonomy in this forbidding vision of Earth as a hellhole of convenience. Our hero is an anal... (read more)

      • First Reformed poster image

        First Reformed

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "A life without despair is a life without hope," says the man at the center of Paul Schrader's "First Reformed." That paradox embraces the world as it is, and suggests a better world for the making. The movie it belongs to is an act of spiritual inquiry, a coolly assured example of cinematic scholarship in subtly deployed motion and one of the strongest pictures of 2018. It's also one of those third-act miracles all too rare in American filmmaking. Now 71, writer-director ... (read more)

      • Mary Shelley poster image

        Mary Shelley

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times ``Mary Shelley conjures up images of a lumbering, disfigured, greenish-skinned monster of a man. That monster, now a cultural icon of horror films for over a century, and his mad scientist creator, Dr. Frankenstein, were dreamed up by the young Mary Shelley in her 1818 horror/fantasy novel, ``Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus. Haifaa al-Mansour's biopic of the writer, ``Mary Shelley, starring Elle Fanning, attempts to make some sense out of Shelley's remarkable, wild l... (read more)

      • Solo: A Star Wars Story poster image

        Solo: A Star Wars Story

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In the summer of 1977, Ron Howard made his directorial debut with "Grand Theft Auto," a merrily destructive low-budget fairy tale that found its way into a lot of newly twinned multiplexes that summer of '77. Audiences liked Howard. An entire generation grew up with the guy, best known as Opie on "The Andy Griffith Show," in the 1960s. By the early '70s Howard starred in "Happy Days," which owed a huge debt to "American Graffiti" (1973), the smash co-st... (read more)

      • Book Club poster image

        Book Club

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Fonda. Bergen. Keaton . Steenburgen. "Book Club." Sure, "Avengers: Infinity War" came out a few weeks ago, but now this is the greatest crossover event in history. Four of the most iconic actresses of the 20th century come together for a film in which their book club reads "50 Shades of Grey"? Where can I line up? This movie is either in your wheelhouse or it's not, but for those looking forward to "Book Club," it delivers. For what it is -- a breezy bi... (read more)

      • Deadpool 2 poster image

        Deadpool 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Deadpool 2" is just like "Deadpool" only more so. It's actually a fair bit better -- funnier, more inventive than the 2016 smash (which made $783 million worldwide, on a sensible $58 million production budget), and more consistent in its chosen tone and style: ultraviolent screwball comedy. The movie offers a bracing corrective to the Marvel traffic management smash of the moment, "Avengers: Infinity War," which has sent millions of preteens into a collective, l... (read more)

      • Avengers: Infinity War poster image

        Avengers: Infinity War

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Avengers: Infinity War" is a lot of movie. You can hate it and still say that much with confidence. Its various, overlapping fan bases won't hold what they don't like against it, I bet. "A lot," though, doesn't mean it's much fun or even very good. No hate here, honestly. The film has its momentary diversions, a few good throwaway jokes amid a tremendous amount of PG-13 maiming and destruction. The nervy fatalism of its climax might actually count for something if you did... (read more)

      • The Rider poster image

        The Rider

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Subtle, elemental and powerfully beautiful, writer-director Chloe Zhao's "The Rider" is the Western of the new century, and the most enveloping film experience I've had this year. Even a hack director could make something of the southwestern South Dakota landscapes near Wounded Knee, lined by the Badlands, and foregrounded by the people who live, work, ride and risk their lives there. But with this, the second feature written and directed by Beijing-born and American-educated Zhao, ... (read more)

      • A Quiet Place poster image

        A Quiet Place

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Director John Krasinski's third feature, and by far his most accomplished, "A Quiet Place" is a pretty crafty small-scale thriller set a few years in the future, with minimal dialogue and maximal, human-eating monsters. The creatures' origin is never discussed or explained by way of the usual sheepish exposition about a meteor or some garden-variety bio-disaster. Produced by Michael Bay, the movie takes them for granted, and then goes about figuring a vanquishing plan. It's a surviv... (read more)

      • Sherlock Gnomes poster image

        Sherlock Gnomes

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        There's a current boom of family-friendly film fare inspired by beloved British literary characters, which makes this moment ripe for the animated "Sherlock Gnomes," the sequel to 2011's "Gnomeo and Juliet." In terms of ranking these adaptations, "Sherlock Gnomes" is quite a bit more pleasant than "Peter Rabbit," but doesn't touch the wonder of "Paddington 2." It's a fairly serviceable animated feature, with a few inspired elements, and more t... (read more)

      • Unsane poster image

        Unsane

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        No American filmmaker is more in love with mundane American ugliness than Steven Soderbergh. Office cubicle walls of indistinct schmutz tones; the overhead glare of fluorescent lighting; an eerily drab expanse of institutional hallway: These are the vistas we're stuck with. The workaday locales set the scene and tell the story and subtly get on the audience's nerves, even before the actors speak, or start running away from trouble. "Unsane" is Soderbergh's latest. He shot it in 10 d... (read more)

      • Black Panther poster image

        Black Panther

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Just because something works does not mean it cannot be improved." So says the tech-wizard sister of the title character in "Black Panther." It's an apt credo for this soulful, stirringly acted and pretty terrific movie's place in the Marvel Studios realm. As a rule, these movies basically work, most of them, even if they sometimes feel more like a product, launched, than a superhero world, imagined. But co-writer and director Ryan Coogler's film qualifies, handily, as hi... (read more)

      • Fifty Shades Freed poster image

        Fifty Shades Freed

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The "Fifty Shades" film franchise is a study in contradictions. It's kinky, but conservative. It's filled with plot, but none of it means anything. The adventurous sex turns out to be fairly vanilla monogamy. The films are bad, but they are entertaining. "Fifty Shades Freed," the final film of the trilogy, just might be the most competently made yet -- which is a shame for those expecting the high camp factor of "Fifty Shades Darker." The "Darker" writi... (read more)

      • Peter Rabbit poster image

        Peter Rabbit

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Hollywood studios have recently been pillaging the literary canon of beloved children's literature, digging up fodder for animated feature films. The best of these, like the "Paddington" movies, successfully meld nostalgia with modern and exciting filmmaking, while the more questionable ones, like the recent "Ferdinand" adaptation, manage to muddle the source material with too many pop songs and dirty jokes. The new "Peter Rabbit" adaptation manages to land right... (read more)

      • Winchester poster image

        Winchester

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Prior to a Thursday screening of "Winchester," a ghost story whose protagonist comes down on the pro-gun control side of the firearms violence debate, a smattering of multiplex attendees and I watched a trailer for the new "Death Wish" (opening March 2). Bruce Willis plays a heroically murderous vigilante who takes the law into his own hands. It's an old story. Billions have been made on it. I suspect "Winchester" will be a tough sell up against that old story, a... (read more)

      • Maze Runner: The Death Cure poster image

        Maze Runner: The Death Cure

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Maze Runner: The Death Cure" opens with a misleadingly snappy train robbery sequence involving the theft of an entire train car. The components of director Wes Ball's overture are many: off-road buggies at high speed, orphans in chains, tons of CGI of better-than-usual quality. Most importantly it has Giancarlo Esposito, as Jorge, the father figure of the resistance, saying the line that must be said in every YA franchise when the hellhounds are on the kids' trail: "You got co... (read more)

      • Den of Thieves poster image

        Den of Thieves

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In our current slew of 2 1/2-star movies (seriously, everything's in the middle this week), "Den of Thieves" rates as the most curious tug-of-war, yanked back and forth between what works and what doesn't. It's a sidewinding but often surprisingly effective LA crime thriller. It's also saddled with the wrong leading man. Then again, I often think of Gerard Butler as the wrong leading man. This may have some bearing on my reaction here. The quality of merciless mediocrities such as &... (read more)

      • I, Tonya poster image

        I, Tonya

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Naked on piles of money in "The Wolf of Wall Street," popping in for a brief explanatory cameo in "The Big Short," the Australian-born actress Margot Robbie has had several close cinematic encounters with a distinct brand of peppy, fact-based cynicism. It's the tone, fashionable these days in black comedies about how messed up our American priorities are, that says: This is funny. No it isn't! But it is! SMACK! Quit laughing! The streak continues with the new Tonya Harding... (read more)

      • Paddington 2 poster image

        Paddington 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Here's hoping the forthcoming film version of "Peter Rabbit" is less awful than its trailers suggest. Reformulating Beatrix Potter as a brutish "Home Alone"/"Straw Dogs" melee, full of grim electrocutions, really does seem like a mistake. Meantime, fortunately, there's "Paddington 2." The sequel to the 2014 picture turns out to be every bit as deft, witty and, yes, moving as the first one. It's a little over-packed, narratively. But the further adventur... (read more)

      • Molly's Game poster image

        Molly's Game

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Molly Bloom's 2014 memoir "Molly's Game" was more of a tell-some than a tell-all. In the book, the former freestyle skiing Olympic hopeful discussed the accident that derailed her athletic career. Mainly, she wrote about her improbable career running a pricey underground poker game in Los Angeles and, later, in New York City, where she ran afoul of mobsters, drugs and the feds, who arrested Bloom as part of a mafia investigation. Her book named names, up to a point. Leonardo DiCapri... (read more)

      • In the Fade poster image

        In the Fade

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times "In the Fade" does not tell a happy story, not even close. But it is a powerful film, one of the nine shortlisted for the foreign-language Oscar, and it is elevated, as it would need to be, by Diane Kruger's superb performance in the central role. An international star and former model who is fluent in both French and English (she won a SAG Award as part of the "Inglourious Basterds" ensemble), Kruger had never acted in her native German before. But she w... (read more)

      • Lady Bird poster image

        Lady Bird

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Already, writer-director Greta Gerwig's "Lady Bird" is contending with praise it can't possibly live up to, and it's a disservice to mislead anybody about its particular, disarming interplay of comedy and drama, which does not go for the throat. But it's not too strong a word: Most people who've seen "Lady Bird" love it. They love it. Truly love it. I love it. If a more enchanted movie comes along this year, I'll be surprised. The love goes beyond appreciation of an impecc... (read more)

      • Murder on the Orient Express poster image

        Murder on the Orient Express

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The new version of "Murder on the Orient Express" is a film about a mustache. This culprit boasts the fiendish ability to steal focus from whatever and whomever it's up against, every time director and star Kenneth Branagh confronts a suspect as Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. A horizontal wonder, with wavy upturned curls like feathers from the helmet of winged Mercury, the mustache in its totality resembles a miniature train aswirl in locomotive smoke. No mystery could possibly l... (read more)

      • Faces Places poster image

        Faces Places

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Chance has always been my best assistant," says the elfin giant of the cinema, Agnes Varda, in the enormously pleasurable documentary "Faces Places." Not everything (or even most things) that happen in Varda's rolling, roving collaboration with the photographer and muralist known as JR occur by happenstance. But filmmaker Varda, now 89, has been catching lightning in a bottle for decades, first as part of the Nouvelle Vague, then as a post-New Wave artist. This movie, a d... (read more)

      • The Mountain Between Us poster image

        The Mountain Between Us

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Survival romance "The Mountain Between Us" seems straightforward enough -- a couple of strangers are bonded forever when they endure a harrowing ordeal after their charter plane crashes on a mountain in Utah. It's "Alive," without the cannibalism, and a lot more romance. But as the film progresses, it becomes clear that the romantic fantasy tendencies hijack this otherwise interesting unconventional love story in order to become a sort of bizarre Idris Elba fan fiction. Th... (read more)

      • Battle of the Sexes poster image

        Battle of the Sexes

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Engaging and sunny (literally; this is the brightest, squintiest film in months), as far as it goes, "Battle of the Sexes" is a two-headed biopic reluctant to complicate its coming-out story with too many ... complications. This will not be a problem for most audiences. Collectively, the "Battle of the Sexes" team knows how to please a crowd. The directors, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, made the wish fulfillment smash "Little Miss Sunshine." The screenwriter... (read more)

      • A Ghost Story poster image

        A Ghost Story

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        David Lowery's film "A Ghost Story" is best seen a second time, though obeying the customary rules of time and cinema, you'll have the mysterious pleasure of seeing it a first time to get there. It's not the usual haunting, though writer-director Lowery's unusually thoughtful picture concerns a dead man's ghost, his widow's grief and what it means to say goodbye to a person, and the sweet, bitter fact of life's deadline. Watching "A Ghost Story" at Sundance earlier this ye... (read more)

      • I, Daniel Blake poster image

        I, Daniel Blake

        Steven Zeitchik, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times The honor and struggle of the working class are a staple of auteur cinema -- in modern days, via some of the works of the Dardenne brothers and Mike Leigh and, in earlier times, with classics such as "The Bicycle Thief." But few directors do neorealism like Ken Loach. And few Loach movies arrive at a more propitious moment than the British director's latest, "I, Daniel Blake." The surprising recipient of last year's Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival,... (read more)

      • The Fate of the Furious poster image

        The Fate of the Furious

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Like "Beauty and the Beast," "The Boss Baby" and "The Bad and the Beautiful," "The Fate of the Furious" features a title in which two key words share the same first letter. That's one of the most interesting things about it. Adjust your expectations accordingly. This is the eighth in the franchise, which began with a relatively modest LA street-racing movie in 2001. The film just prior to the new one, "Furious 7," had a production budget of so... (read more)

      • Beauty and the Beast poster image

        Beauty and the Beast

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The chaotic, pushy remake of Disney's 1991 screen musical "Beauty and the Beast" stresses the challenges of adapting a success in one form (animation) for another (live-action). We're in for a long line of Disney remakes in the coming years: Everything from "Dumbo" to "Aladdin" is headed for a wallet near you, banking on nostalgia and brand recognition. The financial wallop of the recent, pretty good live-action "Jungle Book" redo, and the live-action &... (read more)

      • Get Out poster image

        Get Out

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's a point of pride with any horror film, or any thriller verging on horror: Used correctly, a perfectly innocent song suddenly sounds like the scariest bleep in the world. The opening sequence of "Get Out," one of the most bracing surprises of the new moviegoing year, finds a young man walking along a dark suburban street, looking for an address somewhere on Edgewood Lane. He is alone. A car, driver obscured by the streetlight shadows, slowly rolls up alongside him. The gently ma... (read more)

      • I Am Not Your Negro poster image

        I Am Not Your Negro

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Thirty pages of notes and an invisible pile of regrets were all the writer James Baldwin had in his hands when he abandoned work on a book, initiated in 1979, he called "Remember This House." Baldwin knew his subjects well. He was taking on three historical melodies in the key of civil rights activism, all victims of assassination: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., whom Baldwin called friends. "He took on his shoulders the weight of the crimes, and the lies an... (read more)

      • The Red Turtle poster image

        The Red Turtle

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        We're born; life washes us up on various shores; we build our sand castles and navigate the years; we die. From this four-part miniseries we call human existence, the Dutch animator Michael Dudok de Wit has created "The Red Turtle," a product of de Wit's collaboration with Studio Ghibli, Japan's house of plaintive animation mastery. There are no words spoken in this story, and none are needed. A man, apparently shipwrecked and battered by ocean waves, wakes up on the sand of a tropi... (read more)

      • Split poster image

        Split

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Through the ups and downs of his career, the name M. Night Shyamalan has always been synonymous with one thing: twist. While watching his films, it's easy to spend more time wondering if he will, won't, and how he'll twist, and it can take away the power of what's actually on screen. Which is a shame when the filmmaking and performances are particularly exceptional. In the multiple-personality psycho-thriller "Split," Anya Taylor-Joy and James McAvoy shine as predator and prey who u... (read more)

      • Patriots Day poster image

        Patriots Day

        Cary Darling, Chicago Tribune

        Fort Worth Star-Telegram "Patriots Day," Peter Berg's film about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, lands with all the subtlety of one of the deadly explosions that claimed three lives and injured 264 others. Terrorism, bad. Law enforcement, first responders, marathon runners and onlookers as embodied by the fictional, Boston-proud composite character played by Mark Wahlberg who just happens to be at most of the pivotal plot points at the right time good. There are no shades of cine... (read more)

      • Hidden Figures poster image

        Hidden Figures

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Hidden Figures" is a fairly entertaining gloss of a docudrama elevated by its cast. It takes place mostly in 1961 and early 1962, three years into the life of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, better known as NASA. At this point "computers" were people, by and large, not machines. With Russia's successful launch of Sputnik, America had to play catch-up in the space race. Based on Margot Lee Shetterly's nonfiction account of the same name, "Hidden Fig... (read more)

      • La La Land poster image

        La La Land

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        How to write about "La La Land," the year's most seriously pleasurable entertainment, without making it sound like nostalgic goo? Let's give it a go. A five, six, seven, eight! This is a wonderful, imperfect but, as recently noted in this sentence's first adjective, wonderful new musical full of actual human feeling (something unlocatable in "Moulin Rouge," for example). The 31-year-old writer-director, Damien Chazelle, has made a throwback/shoutout to musicals of various ... (read more)

      • Moana poster image

        Moana

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Featuring songs by "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, the new animated musical adventure "Moana" is Disney's first princess-with-an-asterisk offering since "Frozen." The "Moana" score's signature power ballad, "How Far I'll Go," may well take its rightful place alongside the earlier film's big hit, "Let It Go," in the female-empowerment earworm department. That's a lucrative department. I prefer Miranda's contribution; it serves ... (read more)

      • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them poster image

        Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Five years have passed since the last of the Harry Potter movies, "Deathly Hallows: Part 2," wrapped up J.K. Rowling's staggeringly popular film franchise, the natural extension of the greatest publishing phenomenon in the history of wands. But endings often leave a door open, and a map to somewhere new. In handsome, generally diverting fashion "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," directed by Potter alum David Yates and adapted by Rowling from her 2001 book, takes us... (read more)

      • Don't Breathe poster image

        Don't Breathe

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Before it became "Don't Breathe," the new home-invasion thriller with a difference had the working title "A Man in the Dark." This would be like calling "Wait Until Dark" "The Lady of Greenwich Village" -- accurate, but dull. It's the second feature directed by Uruguayan writer-director Fede Alvarez, who became a bankable genre specialist with a single movie: his slick, profitable 2013 remake of "Evil Dead." "Don't Breathe" is far le... (read more)

      • Kubo and the Two Strings poster image

        Kubo and the Two Strings

        Colin Covert, Chicago Tribune

        Within this heyday of computer-animated movies, the greatest special effect is creating emotionally resonant characters. The adventure fantasy "Kubo and the Two Strings" is seamless stop-motion storytelling, from Laika, the independent animation studio that gave us the darkly entertaining "Coraline," "ParaNorman" and "The Boxtrolls." Yet wizardly art direction isn't the film's most striking quality. It's the endearing, playful, touching, cantankerous an... (read more)

      • Pete's Dragon poster image

        Pete's Dragon

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Wait: How did this happen? How did a remake of the 1977 Disney animation/live-action hybrid "Pete's Dragon," a pushy mediocrity from tip to tail, become the most soulful film of the summer, and one of the best of the year? In terms of story, director David Lowery's version shares only two things with the '77 model. Pete's an orphan. And the title is still "Pete's Dragon," which indicates there's a dragon (beautifully, digitally realized this time, as opposed to animated). ... (read more)

      • Ghostbusters poster image

        Ghostbusters

        Jake Coyle, Chicago Tribune

        Associated Press The easy, electric chemistry of the four leads in Paul Feig's "Ghostbusters" acts like a firewall against the supernatural and the adolescent, alike, in this spirited reboot of the 1984 original. Ghouls and anonymous Internet commenters -- who have flocked to their thumbs-down buttons ahead of the film's release -- share plenty of characteristics. Each is likely to drool and quickly disappear when you turn on the lights. Feig's "Ghostbusters" ain't afraid ... (read more)

      • The Secret Life of Pets poster image

        The Secret Life of Pets

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        A movie about what pets do during the day is a winning premise. Of course we want to know what those adorable creatures with whom we share our lives are up to, and so "The Secret Life of Pets" is here to explore those possibilities. Turns out their days are much more dramatic and crazier than ours, with all sorts of underworld pet societies and warring animal factions. There's apparently a lot to keep secret in the lives of these pets. "The Secret Life of Pets" comes from ... (read more)

      • The Neon Demon poster image

        The Neon Demon

        Michael O'Sullivan, Chicago Tribune

        The headlines generated by last month's premiere of "The Neon Demon" at Cannes -- virtually all of which singled out the film's violence, cannibalism and lesbian necrophilia -- were not sufficient to crush all hope that filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn had returned to the mastery he displayed in his breakout film, "Drive." The noirish and violent 2011 drama won Refn the best director prize at that year's Cannes Film Festival and got the movie nominated for a Palme d'Or. Perh... (read more)

      • The Music of Strangers poster image

        The Music of Strangers

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        With a documentary called "The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble," there's no doubting that wonderful sounds will be in store. But that's not all that's on offer. For, as directed by Morgan Neville, "Strangers" turns out to be as concerned with emotion as with performance, spending much of its time investigating how so much joyous music was able to come out of exploration, disturbance, even pain. At the center of everything is 60-year-old cellist Ma, ... (read more)

      • The Witch poster image

        The Witch

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In 1999, when the Internet was young and our hearts were blithe and bonny, the found-footage horror film "The Blair Witch Project" was brought to market on a production budget of well under a million dollars. It went on to make nearly a quarter-billion worldwide. Its aesthetic seemed novel back then, before all the "Paranormal Activitys" and visual copycats. With its shrieky, hand-held, shaky-cam approach to fright, the scruffy li'l movie connected with a new generation ea... (read more)

      • Deadpool poster image

        Deadpool

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A fairly funny trashing of its own glib self, "Deadpool" is a movie about an unkillable wisenheimer who never shuts up, even while enduring or inflicting enough putrid brutality to earn an X or a NC-17 rating just a few years ago. The masked antihero is played by Ryan Reynolds, clearly having the screen time of his life, to date. He sounds strikingly like his fellow Canadian Jim Carrey when he goes into manic-wisecrack mode, riffing on everything from the "Taken" movies to... (read more)

      • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies poster image

        Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's apples and oranges, but the film version of "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" is, in fact, slightly more diverting than the 2012 release "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter." So we're getting there. Fifty years from now, when it's "Richard Nixon vs. the Kraken vs. Sharknado," we'll have this mashup thing down pat. Seth Grahame-Smith wrote both "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" and the Lincoln melee, and adapted "Vampire Hunter" for the scree... (read more)

      • Suffragette poster image

        Suffragette

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The story of women fighting for the right to vote is all too recent, and for some, all too forgotten. Director Sarah Gavron and writer Abi Morgan bring the history of the British suffragette movement to bear in the film "Suffragette," as a reminder of the struggles that have come before, and the achievements that have yet to be won. The resulting film is dark and unglamorous, but it burns with a determined fire, giving these women a revolutionary hero treatment. "Suffragette&qu... (read more)

      • Burnt poster image

        Burnt

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In "Burnt," playing a brilliant, tormented American chef clawing his way to the top of the London culinary scene, Bradley Cooper throws more tantrums than a season's worth of "Rugrats." The movie is devoted three ways: to the character's reckless past as an apprentice in Paris, drink and drugs and women strewn in his wake; to his lust for the validation of a coveted third Michelin star rating ("I want people to be sick with longing," he says of his cooking ambiti... (read more)

      • The Martian poster image

        The Martian

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A highly enjoyable, zestily acted team-building exercise, with Matt Damon playing the team of one, director Ridley Scott's "The Martian" throws a series of life-or-death scenarios at its resourceful botanist-astronaut, stranded on Mars but making the most of it. It's one of the most comforting science fiction films in years. "I'm not gonna die here," Damon's character, Mark Watney, declares early on to the camera. Left for dead by his crew amid a monstrous windstorm, in wh... (read more)

      • Everest poster image

        Everest

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It sounds bizarre, considering "Everest" -- a fairly good, extremely grueling movie as far as it goes -- tracks the true-life fortunes of a battered group of climbers to the highest place on Earth. Yet somehow it doesn't go far enough. In May 1996, eight climbers died on Mount Everest: three on the north face, under circumstances less known to the outside world, and five others on the south face in a far more extensively documented series of unfortunate events. (They were hardly alo... (read more)

      • Straight Outta Compton poster image

        Straight Outta Compton

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Straight Outta Compton" is a musically propulsive mixed blessing of a biopic, made the way these things often get made: with the real-life protagonists breathing down the movie's neck to make sure nothing too harsh or unflattering gets in the way of the telling. Three of the film's producers are Ice Cube (born O'Shea Jackson), Dr. Dre (Andre Young) and Tomica Woods-Wright, the widow of Eric "Eazy-E" Wright. As relayed by director F. Gary Gray, the rise of South Central L.... (read more)

      • Jurassic World poster image

        Jurassic World

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Bailed out by a few good jolts, "Jurassic World" gets by, barely, as a marauding-dinosaurs narrative designed for a more jaded audience than the one "Jurassic Park" conquered back in 1993. Why was director Steven Spielberg's film version of the Michael Crichton novel a hit? In an industry built on high-concept pitches, the first film pitched the highest. Dinos brought back to life; trouble ensues. Digital effects, smoothly integrated with animatronics, made a quantum leap ... (read more)

      • Mad Max: Fury Road poster image

        Mad Max: Fury Road

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        You remember "Happy Feet." This is George Miller's "Happy Wheels." The creator of the original "Mad Max" trilogy has whipped up a gargantuan grunge symphony of vehicular mayhem that makes "Furious 7" look like "Curious George." The full title of Miller's remake of "Mad Max" is "Mad Max: Fury Road." It stars Tom Hardy, who says very little, in the old Mel Gibson role of the post-apocalyptic road warrior. Here the character's... (read more)

      • Saint Laurent poster image

        Saint Laurent

        Guy Lodge, Chicago Tribune

        Variety Even in a contemporary film culture where no idea seems too thin to try twice, the arrival of two Yves Saint Laurent biopics in the space of five months counts as a distinct curiosity: The enduring influence of the French fashion god, who died in 2008, is beyond question, but his life doesn't seem an obvious source of fascination to the filmgoing public. Yet if Jalil Lespert's bland, authorized "Yves Saint Laurent" represents the pret-a-porter version of its subject, Bertran... (read more)

      • Home poster image

        Home

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The cuddliest alien invasion movie ever, "Home" contains nifty turns of phrase and some actual, verifiable verbal wit, owing in large part to its source material, Adam Rex's 2007 children's book "The True Meaning of Smekday." In the grand Hollywood tradition, DreamWorks Animation threw out most of that book (and the film's original title, "Happy Smekday!") after optioning the property seven years ago. Even though screenwriters Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember over-pac... (read more)

      • Still Alice poster image

        Still Alice

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        Losing your mind is a terrible thing to watch, but the splendid acting in "Still Alice" makes it worth the pain. Scarier than any Elm Street nightmare, it succeeds despite itself not because of one strong performance but two. Oscar-nominated Julianne Moore stars as respected academic Alice Howland, shocked by her diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer's disease, and the actress's work as someone coping with the ravages of the unthinkable deserves all the plaudits it's going to get. But ... (read more)

      • Interstellar poster image

        Interstellar

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A knockout one minute, a punch-drunk crazy film the next, "Interstellar" is a highly stimulating mess. Emotionally it's also a mess, and that's what makes it worth its 165 minutes -- minutes made possible by co-writer and director Christopher Nolan's prior global success with his brooding, increasingly nasty "Batman" films, and with the commercially viable head-trip that was "Inception." You can call "Interstellar" corny or reiterative or just plain dau... (read more)

      • The Boxtrolls poster image

        The Boxtrolls

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Fans of "Coraline" and "ParaNorman," the deft, eccentric supernatural fairy tales created by Oregon-based Laika animation house, have every reason to anticipate "The Boxtrolls." Laika's latest feature is based on Alan Snow's 2005 book "Here Be Monsters!" part one of "The Ratbridge Chronicles." For the film's purposes, the mythical hilltop town of Ratbridge has changed its name to Cheesebridge. Something else has changed en route to the screen.... (read more)

      • The Equalizer poster image

        The Equalizer

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Based loosely on the 1985-1989 television series, on which Edward Woodward never stuck garden shears in an enemy's throat and never, ever stabbed anyone through the neck with a corkscrew, "The Equalizer" smells like a hit. But I wish it had one completely honest scene, where (for example) someone asks the avenging angel-hero: "Who are you?" And he answers: "I'm Denzel Washington. And Denzel Washington can make even this thing watchable." More and more with action... (read more)

      • Guardians of the Galaxy poster image

        Guardians of the Galaxy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Like the '70s cassette mix tape so dear to its hero, "Guardians of the Galaxy" scavenges all sorts of "greatest hits" precedents, from "Iron Man" on down, to come up with its own summertime fling. It's looser, scruffier and more overtly comic than the average Marvel action fantasy. And despite the usual load of violence, not all of it properly handled, the film owes its relative buoyancy above all to Chris Pratt as the wisecracking space rogue at the helm. There ... (read more)

      • Mood Indigo poster image

        Mood Indigo

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        The eccentric whimsy and invention overfill the screen of Michel Gondry's "Mood Indigo," an adaptation of a novel by the Frenchman who wrote "I Spit on Your Graves." Set in an alternate "Brazil"/"Delicatessen"/"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" reality, it's a blur of queer gadgets and odd doodads, see-through limousines and dinner tables on roller skates, all in a tale concocted by an office full of women clattering at a conveyor belt of... (read more)

      • Captain America: The Winter Soldier poster image

        Captain America: The Winter Soldier

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is a better-than-average Marvel superhero bash, intriguingly plotted and pretty clever in its speculations about 21st-century life for Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, the greatest of the Greatest Generation warriors, as he contends with contemporary American geopolitical ideals run amok. The movie does its duty. It's a reliable commodity, delivered efficiently and well, like pizza. In its frenzied action style and overall visual approach, the... (read more)

      • Jodorowsky's Dune poster image

        Jodorowsky's Dune

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips If I ever go through a wormhole, let me land on a planet where repertory cinema is alive and well and showcasing all the lost, cruelly abridged and, especially, unmade movies conceived on a grand, misbegotten scale. That'd be quite a three-day weekend. Murnau's "4 Devils," followed by von Stroheim's original cut of "Greed," plus the Welles version of "The Magnificent Ambersons." Plus Welles' never-m... (read more)

      • The Grand Budapest Hotel poster image

        The Grand Budapest Hotel

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Ever since the moment in "Bottle Rocket" (1996) when Luke Wilson's character paused during a robbery of his own boyhood home to straighten a toy soldier on a bedroom shelf, writer-director Wes Anderson announced his intentions as an artist of serenely extreme exactitude. This is a filmmaker, working in varying degrees of visual stylization, who operates within precise notions of how the universe of his imagining will proceed in terms of story and how his characters will operate with... (read more)

      • The Wind Rises poster image

        The Wind Rises

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Here's a beautiful apparent contradiction: a gentle, supple picture about the man who designed the Zero fighter plane. "The Wind Rises" is being marketed as the "farewell masterpiece" of Japanese writer-director Hayao Miyazaki, who brought the world "Spirited Away," "Howl's Moving Castle" and "Ponyo," as well as oversaw and contributed to "From Up on Poppy Hill" most recently. There's a fascinating push/pull in Miyazaki's latest. The... (read more)

      • Walking With Dinosaurs poster image

        Walking With Dinosaurs

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        The BBC series "Walking With Dinosaurs" gets a kid-friendly big-screen treatment, complete with cutesy story and dino-poop jokes, in "Walking With Dinosaurs 3D." Aimed squarely at that dino-crazy demographic (7-12), it pumps a few IQ points into a kid film genre sorely in need of them. "Walking" takes care to ID each new dinosaur species introduced, including factoids about what they ate and any special skills they might have had. It's downright educational. Just... (read more)

      • Thor: The Dark World poster image

        Thor: The Dark World

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Thor: The Dark World" is the eighth movie in its particular franchise. So if anyone asks you what it has in common with "Blondie Goes Latin" and "Bomba and the Jungle Girl" you'll know the answer. The franchise at hand goes by the name of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, encompassing the new adventures of Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America and so on, worth billions around the world. (Rumor has it the next all-star "Avengers" movie will be two hours of a... (read more)

      • Enough Said poster image

        Enough Said

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips James Gandolfini died in June at age 51, and it's still a terrible loss, all these breathless 24-hour news cycles later. His final picture, a crime drama called "Animal Rescue," opens next year. Meantime, consider writer-director Nicole Holofcener's "Enough Said" to be a fond farewell. The bearlike actor with one of the most instantly identifiable voices in popular culture co-stars opposite top-billed Julia L... (read more)

      • The Wolverine poster image

        The Wolverine

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Every time Hugh Jackman's up there on screen, dining out on the rage stew that is the Wolverine, I think back to his Tony Award-winning performance as entertainer Peter Allen in "The Boy From Oz." It was a terrible musical but a wonderful Broadway turn, flamboyant exuberance personified. Each strand of this performer's DNA is about giving the audience a great time. He's a strutter, and in "The Wolverine," Jackman's sixth and most dominant appearance as the Marvel Comics ch... (read more)

      • The Conjuring poster image

        The Conjuring

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Haunted house movies only work if the people in the house are worth scaring. Sounds stupid, but it's true, although let's be honest: Real estate is inherently frightening. You put all that money in and only Satan knows if it'll turn out to be a decent investment, or if you'll be able to afford what it takes to repair any undisclosed matters of basement seepage. The quirks and creaks of an old house are always good for gallows humor or a cold shot of dread. As I write this the fridge in our ne... (read more)

      • Much Ado About Nothing poster image

        Much Ado About Nothing

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Media Services Film Clips Finally! A romantic comedy that works. And not just because of Shakespeare. There's a disarming home-movie vibe to adapter/director Joss Whedon's small-scale, black-and-white contemporary version of "Much Ado About Nothing." He shot it in 12 days in his Santa Monica home, for starters, after completing principal photography on "The Avengers." For his Shakespearean vacation, Whedon called on a pickup ensemble ... (read more)

      • The Wall poster image

        The Wall

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Before Clint Eastwood took over the project, "American Sniper" was being developed by Steven Spielberg, who ultimately passed on it because he couldn't figure out a way, budgetarily, to create and follow a parallel storyline dealing with an Iraqi counterpart to the real-life sniper played by Bradley Cooper. We'll never know how a Spielberg take on "American Sniper" would've fared. We only know that Eastwood's version, morally untroubled and a bellwether for the 2016 electi... (read more)

      • Sparkle poster image

        Sparkle

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Warmly remembered corn, featuring some fantastic performers including Lonette McKee and Mary Alice, the first ``Sparkle (1976) starred Irene Cara as a mousy but learning-to-roar 15-year-old - one third of a late '50s sister act led by the hard-living smolderer played by McKee, whose character grappled with drug abuse, contended with an abusive boyfriend and battled relentless cliches in a heartbreak-and-triumph fairy tale whipped up by screenwriter Joel Schumacher. This was before the Broadwa... (read more)

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