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      • 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)

      • The Big Sick poster image

        The Big Sick

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Big Sick" arrives just in time to make the summer a little funnier and more honest, and a little less loud and stupid. The movie treats the people on screen generously, and it's a romantic comedy with surprising depth of feeling, glancing on all sorts of things: race, religion, tolerance, understanding, the competitive peculiarity of stand-up comedy and its various practitioners. Primarily "The Big Sick" is a showcase for actor, writer and comedian Kumail Nanjiani (&q... (read more)

      • War for the Planet of the Apes poster image

        War for the Planet of the Apes

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Gripping, visually assured and working far above its summer-sequel paygrade, "War for the Planet of the Apes" treats a harsh storyline with a solemnity designed to hoist the tale of Caesar, simian revolutionary -- the Moses of apes -- into the realm of the biblical. Not everything in director and co-screenwriter Matt Reeves' movie works. Some of its grimmest passages, depicting life under concentration camp quarantine amid various, escalating acts of human-on-simian brutality, whack... (read more)

      • Wish Upon poster image

        Wish Upon

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        What to make of the curious, ridiculous horror-lite "Wish Upon"? This is a spooky teen story that's not particularly heavy on the scares and over-delivers on the unintentional giggles, almost ensuring it a spot as a cult movie, like the hilariously misguided "The Room," though this sports a far bigger budget and higher profile names among the cast and crew. Written by Barbara Marshall and directed by "Annabelle" director John R. Leonetti, "Wish Upon" pl... (read more)

      • Baby Driver poster image

        Baby Driver

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Edgar Wright is a filmmaker whose oeuvre reflects his identity as a true cinephile -- he's foremost a fan. Each of his films is a tribute to a specific genre, and all manage to transcend homage. His breakout film, "Shaun of the Dead," isn't just a send-up of zombie movie tropes, it's one of the best in the canon, and the same could be said for buddy cop action movie "Hot Fuzz." Graphic novel adaptation "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" proved Wright could break new g... (read more)

      • Beatriz at Dinner poster image

        Beatriz at Dinner

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In literature, on stage and in the movies, there's a subgenre of social satire dealing with the unstable, unexpectedly confrontational dinner party. The setting offers the clever writer a chance to take on vast societal ills in a confined setting just begging for a little upheaval. "Beatriz at Dinner" is the latest example. As written by Mike White ("School of Rock," HBO's "Enlightened") and directed by Miguel Arteta (whose work includes "The Good Girl,"... (read more)

      • Transformers: The Last Knight poster image

        Transformers: The Last Knight

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Of course it's not good. "Good" would only get in the way. The new "Transformers" movie sits right on the beam, qualitatively, with the previous three sequels (the first one was a mite less ... I don't know, something). So be warned or be encouraged, depending on your allegiance to the earlier movies. Of course it'll be profitable. The previous four "Transformers" films made more than $3.7 billion worldwide. It's time to throw another bil on the fire. "Deep ... (read more)

      • In the Deep poster image

        In the Deep

        Cary Darling, Chicago Tribune

        Fort Worth Star-Telegram We're going to need a bigger cage. The "Jaws" jokes write themselves with "47 Meters Down," a surprisingly effective shark-in-the-dark thriller that makes for frighteningly fun summer escapism. Horror director Johannes Roberts ("The Other Side of the Door") knows what the audience wants in a film like this -- two sisters trapped in a dive cage surrounded by sharks -- and gives it to them, straight no chaser. Appropriately, he wastes littl... (read more)

      • Maudie poster image

        Maudie

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Thirteen and a half feet long, 12 1/2 feet wide, a tiny, brightly colored roadside house in Marshalltown, Nova Scotia, contained the married lives of Maud and Everett Lewis, a folk artist and a fish peddler, respectively, for 32 years. For any couple that's not much room to maneuver. In fact the setting, and the modest whole of the new movie "Maudie," can barely contain the sheer volume of capital-A Acting in this biopic focused on one of Canada's best-known painters, a self-taught ... (read more)

      • Rough Night poster image

        Rough Night

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Rough h Night" is good one minute, weak or stilted or wince-y the next, though even with seriously uneven pacing and inventiveness it's a somewhat better low comedy than "Snatched" or "Bad Moms," or (here's where I part company with the world) the "Hangover" pictures. Yes, even the first one. The premise is "Bridesmaids" marries "Weekend at Bernie's," and the raunch level is persistent, verging on "skeevy enough for ya?" A... (read more)

      • The Book of Henry poster image

        The Book of Henry

        Colin Covert, Chicago Tribune

        The best films are the ones that require some active, alert viewing. They depend upon a degree of audience interpretation and provide a minimum of predigested pablum. They are films that cannot be reviewed, let alone discussed, in the traditional way. They are dense, vibrant and they keep us off balance until the final fade out. Ideally even longer. I don't want to oversell the virtues of that approach in "The Book of Henry," a movie that I found irresistible precisely because it is... (read more)

      • Megan Leavey poster image

        Megan Leavey

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Based on a true story, "Megan Leavey" is a unique movie about war. It's a story of heroism, sacrifice, and connection forged on the battlefield, but it's remarkable in how the story it tells is so deeply personal that it obfuscates the political. The focus is on the troops, as it should be, and in this case, troops whose stories haven't always been seen on screen -- the women, and the canine. Named after the woman who protected soldiers in Iraq with her IED-detecting K9 officer, Ser... (read more)

      • Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie poster image

        Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

        Rick Bentley, Chicago Tribune

        "Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie" is childish and silly. Of course, anyone of the animated feature film's target audience who has read one of the 70 million books sold around the world featuring the rotund hero and the elementary students who created him know that already. The important thing is that while the production never reaches for intellectual grandeur, it is on a very basic level one of the funniest movies of the year. If you still giggle when someone mentions the ... (read more)

      • Dean poster image

        Dean

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        For anyone who makes a living in comedy, taking it easy is no easy thing. It's easier to deliver, to sell it, conspicuously; the tougher course involves delivering in unexpected and subterranean ways. The focal point in Demetri Martin's feature film debut, "Dean," might be characterized as unassuming on the cusp of bashfulness. With his soft-pedal delivery, appealing hesitancy and wily timing, Martin plays a Brooklyn cartoonist coping with the recent death of his mother. "Dean&... (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)

      • Baywatch poster image

        Baywatch

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        No formula for success exists regarding feature films based on late 20th century television shows. There are only odds favoring partial or complete failure. So that's comforting. But what about "21 Jump Street" and "22 Jump Street"? Didn't those movies work? Yes, they did. Especially the first one, which was crude without being brainless, and relentlessly self-referential without pounding the jokes into the ground. Beyond "Jump Street," let's see ... we've gritte... (read more)

      • Alien: Covenant poster image

        Alien: Covenant

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        When the first "Alien" came out in 1979, promising and delivering screams in space that no one could hear, more than a few critics and regular humans called it a relentless, hard-driving thrill machine. In retrospect it resembles a movie with the patience of Job, taking its sweet, stealthy time before arriving at one the great moments in the history of extreme cinematic gore. You know the scene, probably. There's John Hurt, an actor whose face always seemed halfway to crestfallen ev... (read more)

      • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul poster image

        Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        From 2010 to 2012, a trilogy of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" films were released in rapid succession, starring Zachary Gordon, Devon Bostick, Rachael Harris and Steve Zahn. Adapted from the web comic turned kids novels by Jeff Kinney, the films featured the kinds of embarrassments and toilet humor that tend to make up most middle school lore. Five years later, a fourth film, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul," is hitting theaters, with a completely new cast making up the Heff... (read more)

      • Everything, Everything poster image

        Everything, Everything

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The sickly teen romantic weepy isn't exactly a new genre --consider the 1970 smash hit "Love Story" -- but it has gained resurgence in the past few years with the runaway success of the likes of "The Fault in Our Stars." The success or failure of such a film, which can so often dip treacherously too far into sentimentality, rides on the plucky charm of its lead actors. Fortunately, "Everything, Everything," based on the novel by Nicola Yoon, has the radiant Amand... (read more)

      • Lowriders poster image

        Lowriders

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The family drama "Lowriders," starring Demian Bichir and Eva Longoria, explores the car culture of East Los Angeles, delving into the roots of lowriding. Though the tricked out, bouncing vintage cars are a staple of '90s rap videos, "Lowriders," directed by Ricardo de Montreuil, situates these iconic vehicles within a historical context, while telling a family story of grief, loss and redemption. Our hero is Danny (Gabriel Chavarria), a young man from Boyle Heights in East... (read more)

      • Paris Can Wait poster image

        Paris Can Wait

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        At the age of 81, Eleanor Coppola makes her narrative feature directorial debut with "Paris Can Wait," a winsome tale of a road trip through the French countryside starring Diane Lane. Coppola, who previously directed shorts and documentaries, including "Hearts of Darkness," about the making of "Apocalypse Now," took inspiration from her own impromptu road trip from Cannes to Paris with a French associate while her husband Francis Ford Coppola traveled for work. ... (read more)

      • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 poster image

        Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A brash summer surprise back in 2014, "Guardians of the Galaxy" had, as they said in the old days, plenty of pep and, for once, a lot of jokes. Audiences responded to co-writer and director James Gunn's Marvel franchise launch; it had a breezy, what-the-hell air, and even with the usual quotient of digital fireballs and shades of doomsday blue and orange, the fun was legit. Chris Pratt, as the alien-abducted earthling with a difference, commanded an entertaining crew of misfit inter... (read more)

      • The Dinner poster image

        The Dinner

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A small, clammy film of deep moral and ethical discomfort interrupted by ridiculously swank food, writer-director Oren Moverman's "The Dinner" comes from the 2009 Dutch novel by Herman Koch already adapted for the screen twice: first by writer-director Menno Meyjes, in a 2013 Dutch production, and a year later in a looser Italian-language edition directed by Ivano De Matteo. To say the story's premise travels easily between cultures doesn't mean "The Dinner" is easy materi... (read more)

      • Born in China poster image

        Born in China

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        "Born in China" is the latest installment in the "Disneynature" documentary series. It's "Planet Earth" aimed at younger audiences, but any nature lovers can find enjoyment here, especially in the stunning cinematography. While other installments have focused on specific species and eco-systems, "Born in China," directed by Lu Chuan, gets up close and personal with some of the unique species found in China -- pandas, snow leopards, cranes, Chiru antelop... (read more)

      • The Lost City of Z poster image

        The Lost City of Z

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The English go native very easily," explorer Percy Fawcett once wrote, speaking on behalf of himself, T.E. Lawrence and an entire sociological and literary tradition steeped in the sun never setting on the British Empire. "There is no disgrace in it. On the contrary, in my opinion it shows a creditable regard for the real things in life." Throughout the 20th century and, stubbornly, into the 21st, the movies have banked on stories about men of pallor entering the realm (a... (read more)

      • Colossal poster image

        Colossal

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Colossal" is a colossal splitter, destined to divide audiences into "What the hell?!" and "What the hell?! I like it!" camps. But of course there's a third camp, right in between. And I'm in it. The movie, a little less wild than it sounds, stars Anne Hathaway as a woman facing an even more fearsome dilemma than her up-the-nostrils close-ups in "Les Miserables." Occasionally employed New York City freelance writer Gloria, played by Hathaway, stumbles h... (read more)

      • Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer poster image

        Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        This week some strong, wryly unconventional work opens on a limited number of screens around the country, which means adults not particularly interested in "The Fate of the Furious" can re-enter a movie theater with confidence. Topic A: "Norman," a mordantly funny study in ambition, desperation, manipulation and luck from the writer-director Joseph Cedar. Born in New York, working primarily in Israel, Cedar makes his English-language feature debut here. In the juicy role o... (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)

      • Gifted poster image

        Gifted

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Everyone involved with "Gifted" no doubt intended a sweet, affecting, sincere and, as manipulative heartwarmers go, relatively low-key affair. But virtually no one involved appears to have remembered what human or human-adjacent behavior should feel like, scene to scene. Easier said than done. But this contrived mashup of "Proof" (earth-shaking algorithms), "Kramer vs. Kramer" (nerve-wracking custody battles) and "Little Man Tate" really isn't much. Scr... (read more)

      • The Zookeeper's Wife poster image

        The Zookeeper's Wife

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The Holocaust film has become a genre unto itself, and sadly, there are more than enough stories from that era to continue the trend. Against ever-shifting, polarized political landscapes, the lessons gleaned from the horrors of this very recent past are never not relevant. But too often, many of these biopics fall prey to well-trod norms and conventions. In Niki Caro's "The Zookeeper's Wife," the backdrop of a Warsaw zoo offers a new angle, and features a show-stopping performance ... (read more)

      • Saban's Power Rangers poster image

        Saban's Power Rangers

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Back in the '90s, you probably knew them as Mighty Morphin, and these days they take the pre-fix "Saban's," but we all know them best as simply the Power Rangers. Executive producer Haim Saban discovered the "Super Sentai" series on Japanese television in the '80s, and brought the concept of teens in colorful costumes fighting monsters to American audiences in the form of the somewhat silly, but much beloved, "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" series. Now, of course,... (read more)

      • T2 Trainspotting poster image

        T2 Trainspotting

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times Looked at logically, "T2 Trainspotting" should not work as well as it does. In fact, it shouldn't work at all. But up there on the screen, where it matters, the dark magic remains intact and logic be damned. When it was released in 1996, the original "Trainspotting" seemed the very definition of a one-shot phenomenon. Exuberant and pitiless, profane yet eloquent, flush with the ability to create laughter out of unspeakable situations, this look at the dea... (read more)

      • The Sense of an Ending poster image

        The Sense of an Ending

        Justin Chang, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times I'm a great believer time's revenge." The words are spoken late in "The Sense of an Ending," though it might be just as accurate to say that they are spoken early. In the grand, somewhat dubious tradition of movies where the wounds of the past bleed heavily into the present, this genteel British puzzle-box of a movie leaps deftly back and forth in time, bridging the gap between an old man's present-day existence and his lively 1960s school days. The older vers... (read more)

      • Kong: Skull Island poster image

        Kong: Skull Island

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In 21st-century moviemaking, money can buy you a lot of things, but often it just buys you the look, the clinical evidence, of crazy expenditure without any guarantee of customer payoff. Exotic, complex location shooting; high-priced actors, compensated like pashas; digital effects running rampant. We see the results every quarter on our screens. The movies may not stink, and some are pretty good. But too many settle for meeting expectations, in the language and the spirit of an employee eval... (read more)

      • Personal Shopper poster image

        Personal Shopper

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        No matter what sort of movie you're expecting from "Personal Shopper," you'll get it. You'll also contend with three others, and then the movie you first expected will turn inside out. So all that awaits the receptive viewer, along with a dangling modifier of an ending guaranteed to satisfy virtually no one. Even so, this is one of the most intriguing pictures of the year, a genre-hopper of unusual gravity. It's also the latest proof that Kristen Stewart has the goods for a long-hau... (read more)

      • Logan poster image

        Logan

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The rabid Wolverine fans among you should be warned: You won't be able to trust the following few paragraphs on "Logan." Most of the early reviews have been ecstatic, and those fully invested in this corner of the Marvel universe tend to respond very, very strongly to director and co-writer James Mangold's picture. It's at once the most solemn, sentimental and relentlessly violent of the nine films featuring Hugh Jackman, either in the lead or in a cameo, as the furry mutant with th... (read more)

      • Kiki poster image

        Kiki

        Justin Chang, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times The various bodies moving through "Kiki," an energetic and enveloping documentary about New York City's LGBT ballroom scene, are capable of astonishing, even superhuman physical feats. They dance and gyrate on underground subway platforms, down half-empty streets and on the grass at Christopher Street Pier. They pour themselves into stunningly elaborate costumes before hitting the dance floor, performing under hot lights, thundering music and the eyes of hundreds o... (read more)

      • A United Kingdom poster image

        A United Kingdom

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times The opening title "Based on a true story" can cover a multitude of movie sins, but in "A United Kingdom," it unlocks the door to a romantic drama that grows more remarkable by the minute. While lovers faced with daunting obstacles is a dramatic tradition going back to Romeo and Juliet, if not further, the real-life barriers facing Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) and Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike) when they fell in love in 1947 London were unusually intimidat... (read more)

      • John Wick: Chapter 2 poster image

        John Wick: Chapter 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "John Wick: Chapter 2," the sequel least likely to suggest anything with actual chapters or anything to read, stars Keanu Reeves in the role of Liam Neeson. Here we are, it's February, and in recent years we've often had a "Taken" sequel in theaters to take our hard-earned money for two hours of recreational sadism. But the solid autumn 2014 success of "John Wick" proved there was space in the universe for a new Neeson, a more youthful exemplar of steely vengeanc... (read more)

      • The LEGO Batman Movie poster image

        The LEGO Batman Movie

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        At its sporadic best, the crazy velocity and wisenheimer appeal of "The Lego Batman Movie" reminds you of what made "The Lego Movie" such a nice surprise three years ago. It was my favorite comedy of 2014, even without that insidiously satiric theme song "Everything is Awesome!" Director Chris McKay's spinoff, however, is more about expectations fulfilled than new surprises, nicely sprung. Basically a conventional superhero action movie with a constant stream of ... (read more)

      • A Dog's Purpose poster image

        A Dog's Purpose

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky said there are two kinds of scenes in screenplays: "the Pet the Dog scene and the Kick the Dog scene." Canine love letter "A Dog's Purpose" manages to work in both. You might be surprised that this sappy, family-friendly tribute to man's best friend kills its main character within mere moments. A stray puppy is snapped up by an evil, net-wielding dog catcher, and soon he's off to that nice farm in the sky, before his rebirth. This serves as the... (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)

      • Manchester by the Sea poster image

        Manchester by the Sea

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Without revealing too much: The crucial moment in Kenneth Lonergan's third feature, "Manchester by the Sea," arrives in a scene set in the police station of the Massachusetts coastal town of the title. Lee, played by a rivetingly contained Casey Affleck, is relaying the details of the incident that has changed his life. When he comes to the point in the interrogation when he reveals the small, horribly plausible human error at the heart of his tragedy, the one alluded to by various ... (read more)

      • Doctor Strange poster image

        Doctor Strange

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Doctor Strange," starring Benedict Cumberbatch as a neurosurgeon who learns to bend time, space and his workaholic, narcissistic ways, can't escape all its Marvel Universe corporate imperatives and generic third-act battles for control of the planet. If it could, it'd be like a new Olive Garden opening with some sort of crazy "no breadsticks" rule. Financially it behooves Marvel's superheroes to stick to the plan, and the plan, to borrow a line from the old musical "... (read more)

      • Trolls poster image

        Trolls

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        It can be difficult to be around lots of happy people when you're feeling gray. That's the conundrum of Branch (Justin Timberlake), a misanthropic and maudlin troll who just doesn't fit in with his dancing, singing brethren in the animated feature "Trolls." It's easy to see where he's coming from. His foil, Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick), bursts with a weaponized sense of joy, forcing her subjects into an oppressive regime of colorful, glittery glee, replete with complex choreograph... (read more)

      • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children poster image

        Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Now and then, "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" reminds you director Tim Burton still has it, in bulk. My favorite image dominates one of the movie's posters. It depicts an ethereal young woman being flown like a kite by the seaside. Another image, in the trailers, shows a wide-eyed boy, who's sweet on the zero-gravity girl, swimming down, down, down into the sea, his head comfortably encased in a diving-bell-sized air bubble. Simple ideas, charmingly realized. To be sur... (read more)

      • Storks poster image

        Storks

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Tronc Newspapers Critic Welcome to the very strange, and strangely moving, world of "Storks." Writer-director Nicholas Stoller, known for his more adult comedies, such as "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "Neighbors," delves into the family-friendly animated genre in a little movie about where babies come from. Or where they used to come from. In this world, the old wives tale of storks delivering bouncing bundles of joy is real history, though the birds have been ... (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)

      • When Two Worlds Collide poster image

        When Two Worlds Collide

        Dennis Harvey, Chicago Tribune

        Variety "When Two Worlds Collide" offers a vivid if unabashedly partisan depiction of the clash between indigenous Peruvian minorities and government interests bent on "opening up" protected tribal lands to multinational-corporation mining, drilling and clear-cutting. That conflict flared into contentious, highly publicized strikes and violence in 2009, which are depicted here in alarmingly immediate on-the-ground footage shot by participants on both sides. After showing s... (read more)

      • Ice Age: Collision Course poster image

        Ice Age: Collision Course

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Fourteen years after the first "Ice Age" animated film was a hit, the fifth installment in the franchise, "Ice Age: Collision Course," rolls into theaters. Is it inevitable? Yes, 2012's "Ice Age: Continental Drift," was the highest grossing animated film that year. Is it necessary? Absolutely not. "Collision Course" is simply a perfunctory, watered-down entry in the series that feels like it should have been released on home video. In this world of anci... (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)

      • Finding Dory poster image

        Finding Dory

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Childhood and, in fact, the very act of being human involves a certain level of loneliness. The great news is, you can make money off it. For close to 80 years, if you go by Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" making history in 1937, all sorts and achievement levels of feature animation have preyed upon the fears, insecurities and isolating circumstances of growing up. The best Pixar features, like those pre- and post-digital from Pixar's parent company, Disney, have exploite... (read more)

      • The Angry Birds Movie poster image

        The Angry Birds Movie

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        If you've ever played the mobile video game Angry Birds, you might have found yourself wondering -- why am I sling-shotting cartoon birds at grinning green pigs? Why are these birds so angry? What have the pigs done to deserve this destruction? "Angry Birds," the movie, is here to fill in that backstory, to answer the questions that may or may not have been asked, and provide motivation for the avian rage. The film, directed by Clay Kittis and Fergal Reilly, from a screenplay by &qu... (read more)

      • Keanu poster image

        Keanu

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        We expect our comedies to be hit-and-miss. They're different from action movies, which, in recent years, have become numbingly relentless -- hit-and-never-miss, unless you're third thug from the left and swarthy, and your job is to shoot and then die. Now we have the strange case of "Keanu," starring two extremely funny people, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, just off their five-season sketch comedy TV run, in their first theatrical showcase as a comedy duo. Written by Peele an... (read more)

      • Mother's Day poster image

        Mother's Day

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        It seems there's no stopping Garry Marshall's terrifying cinematic rampage on our nation's treasured holidays. Having ruined both "Valentine's Day" and "New Year's Eve" with his star-packed omnibus projects, the director has burned his way through the calendar, landing on "Mother's Day" as his next victim. This time around, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Jason Sudeikis, Britt Robertson, Margo Martindale, Timothy Olyphant, Aasif Mandvi, Sarah Chalke... (read more)

      • Ratchet & Clank poster image

        Ratchet & Clank

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Based on a popular Playstation game, the sci-fi animated feature "Ratchet & Clank" seeks to capture the kid-friendly audience, as well as the gamer crowd who has a familiarity with the space-based game characters. The film is a basic hero story about Ratchet (James Arnold Taylor, also the voice in the video game), a young lombax (a cat-like creature) who dreams of joining the Galactic Rangers, only to find that the hero business is much more complicated than it seems. Ratchet gets h... (read more)

      • Zootopia poster image

        Zootopia

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Who are animated feature films for these days? Traditionally seen as children's entertainment, the higher quality entries in this genre have hit a sweet spot with enough sophisticated jokes for parents to enjoy, coupled with cutesy animation to delight children. Disney's latest film, "Zootopia" achieves this, though it seems to skew more adult in its content, if not its characters. Somehow, Disney has managed to pull off a hard-boiled police procedural thriller about political corru... (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)

      • Kung Fu Panda 3 poster image

        Kung Fu Panda 3

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        A third installment in a franchise isn't always great. But sometimes, it can be a comforting guarantee of a good time at the movies, as is the case with "Kung Fu Panda 3." The first two installments have been met with rapturous reception and box office success, and this one will no doubt follow in their footsteps -- with good reason. The engaging and heartfelt story, coupled with eye-popping animation, makes "Kung Fu Panda 3" a total knockout. In a prologue, we're introduc... (read more)

      • Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip poster image

        Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The persistence of "Alvin and the Chipmunks" as a cultural text is rather baffling. The mischievous singing rodents were created in 1958 for a novelty record, which makes them 57 years old. You're probably familiar with that record, as it usually gets some air time this season, and features that inimitably high-pitched ear worm chorus, "Please, Christmas, don't be late." It's amazing to think that that song has been tormenting parents for nearly six decades now. These are ... (read more)

      • Star Wars: The Force Awakens poster image

        Star Wars: The Force Awakens

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        So: Where were we? Let's skip past the prequel trilogy "The Phantom Menace," "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith," apparently written and directed by droids. In chronological story terms we last saw Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, princess-turned-queen Leia, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C-3PO whooping it up at the Ewok luau back in 1983, in "Return of the Jedi," celebrating the massive global popularity and merchandising sales of George Lucas' bright idea... (read more)

      • The Peanuts Movie poster image

        The Peanuts Movie

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Beloved, neurotic cartoon kid Charlie Brown hits the biggest screen possible (and in 3-D) in the warm "The Peanuts Movie," directed by animation vet Steve Martino. The film pays its utmost respect to artist Charles Schulz, who carefully created a world inhabited only by children, where their dilemmas are treated with high-stakes drama. It meets children on their own terms, but never dumbs it down, exploring the complex emotions of children. "The Peanuts Movie" cobbles toge... (read more)

      • Crimson Peak poster image

        Crimson Peak

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        You may come out of the 1901-set Gothic chiller "Crimson Peak" humming the production design (by Thomas Sanders), or singing arias about the clothes (Kate Hawley, costume designer), or composing symphonies of praise for the mellow, honeyed menace of the cinematography (Dan Laustsen). If looks made the movie, and they can in the right circumstances, this movie would be made. "Crimson Peak" represents not-quite-right circumstances. It's the latest from co-writer and director... (read more)

      • Amy poster image

        Amy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The saddest moment in Asif Kapadia's new documentary "Amy," and there are many, occurs relatively late in the 27 years lived by its subject, Amy Winehouse. The North London singer-songwriter with the tornado hair and heartbreaking grin is on stage at an Isle of Wight concert. This time she's not smiling. Smashed, strung out or both, she grinds through yet another performance of her signature hit, "Rehab," the one with the irresistible '60s girl-group hook and the blithe de... (read more)

      • Minions poster image

        Minions

        Rick Bentley, Chicago Tribune

        It's the role of a minion to be a servile follower of a person in charge. That means they are resigned to playing the supporting role. That's the problem with the new animated comedy "Minions." The pill-shaped, yellow characters introduced in "Despicable Me" as the subordinates to the villainous Gru have now taken center stage. The charm and humor they brought in tiny doses in the previous films now come in a massive blast that wears thin quickly. "Minions" start... (read more)

      • The Wolfpack poster image

        The Wolfpack

        Michael O'Sullivan, Chicago Tribune

        The Washington Post To say that the six brothers profiled in the documentary "The Wolfpack" have had an unusual upbringing is to put it mildly. They were raised in near-total isolation in a public housing complex on New York's Lower East Side, in a run-down apartment that one of the boys compares to a prison. Because of their father's fears about the outside world, the Angulo brothers were rarely allowed outdoors for most of their young lives. Ranging from age 11 to 18 when this rem... (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)

      • The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water poster image

        The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        There's a new "SpongeBob" movie out, "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water." It's passable. The trade publication Variety predicts it will be "equally popular among the franchise's key grade-schooler and head-shop-owner demographics," and that sounds right to me. But I've always found SpongeBob's world terrifying, and while I'm probably overreacting, well, that's in the spirit of the fry-cook protagonist himself. "SpongeBob SquarePants" made its Nic... (read more)

      • Penguins of Madagascar poster image

        Penguins of Madagascar

        Geoff Berkshire, Chicago Tribune

        Variety Charming in small doses, the "Penguins of Madagascar" prove altogether less irresistible in their feature-length starring debut. The latest example of DreamWorks Animation's franchise mania is a frantic, peppy, in-your-face slice of irreverent toon action, but the result is far more snoozy than Looney (as in Tunes). DreamWorks practically patented the idea of conceiving and marketing animated pics like live-action comedies intended to appeal equally to adults and kids, and w... (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)

      • Get On Up poster image

        Get On Up

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Everything about "Get on Up," a provocatively structured and unusually rich musical biopic, is a little better, a little less formula-bound, a little sharper than the average specimen in this genre. I'm surprised it's this good, given that director Tate Taylor is coming off "The Help," a sweet fraud of a civil rights fable saved by Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. They play key supporting roles in "Get on Up." What Taylor achieves in his James Brown story works a... (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)

      • Lucy poster image

        Lucy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Le schlockmeister Luc Besson has no beef with men and guns, or he wouldn't have made the "Transporter" movies with Jason Statham. Or written "Taken." But in the world according to Besson, older girls ("La Femme Nikita") and young women in wee skirts and stiletto heels, gliding in slow motion toward their latest deserving victims of firearm violence, carrying nicely polished automatic weapons in each perfectly manicured hand -- that's the stuff, that's what makes ... (read more)

      • Transformers: Age of Extinction poster image

        Transformers: Age of Extinction

        Christopher Borrelli, Chicago Tribune

        "Transformers: Age of Extinction," the fourth installment of Michael Bay's $2.6-billion blue-chip franchise about a race of super robot freedom fighters that wear codpieces (to hide the junk under their trunk) and appear fundamentally incapable of not banging into stuff (even when these things are in an open field they find the one barn or tractor for miles around to collide with), is an aggressively charmless act of digital confetti. It is scattered, weightless, impossible to get h... (read more)

      • How to Train Your Dragon 2 poster image

        How to Train Your Dragon 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Toothless it's not. In a world of sequels, reboots and franchise industry economics dictating that creativity is encouraged but not required, the DreamWorks Animation offering "How to Train Your Dragon 2" looks, feels and flows like a real movie. It's better than the last few Pixar features, among other things, and from where I sit that includes "Toy Story 3." In an emotionally resonant key, it's as satisfying as the initial 2010 "Dragon," based very loosely on t... (read more)

      • Rio 2 poster image

        Rio 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In the commercial animation realm, there are movies that reach for something, or many things. Others are content merely to baby-sit. The 2011 hit "Rio" was a baby sitter. And so is "Rio 2," a routine sequel following the perilous adventures of the rare blue macaws Blu (wow, clever character name), Jewel and their offspring as they leave urban Rio life for a chaotic trip to Amazon rain forest country. In the jungle the birds' sympathetic human protectors Linda and Tulio (no... (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)

      • Her poster image

        Her

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A delicate, droll masterwork, writer-director Spike Jonze's "Her" sticks its neck out, all the way out, asserting that what the world needs now and evermore is love, sweet love. Preferably between humans, but you can't have everything all the time. It tells a love story about a forlorn writer, whose firm --BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com -- provides busy, digitally preoccupied customers with personalized correspondence crafted by professionals like Theodore Twombly, played by refres... (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)

      • Nebraska poster image

        Nebraska

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The small and medium towns in the Midwest and the Great Plains region aren't so different from any other part -- rural, urban or in between -- of the United States. Half the people don't talk much, while the other half chatter to fill the silence. It's a time-honored cliche according to Garrison Keillor, but there's truth in it. And there truly are a million or more men in this country like Woody Grant, the tight-lipped subject of Alexander Payne's latest film, "Nebraska." Throughou... (read more)

      • Gravity poster image

        Gravity

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        ``Gravity defies itself. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney play astronauts - a newbie scientist and a veteran cowboy - who dodge space debris and the usual narrative expectations while coping with a highly compressed series of crises 372 miles above the Earth's surface. It's a nerve-wracking visual experience of unusual and paradoxical delicacy. And if your stomach can take it, it's truly something to see. Director and co-writer Alfonso Cuaron, who wrote the script with his son, Jonas, has de... (read more)

      • Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 poster image

        Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Thanks to the likes of "Ice Age," most animated features rely on a general wash of sarcasm-based meanness atop sequences of hammering, photo-realistically rendered peril. Throw in a rote message of friendship and a reminder of the importance of family before the up-tempo closing credits, and the people will come. Same old thing but louder? Count me in. So when a modest, quick-witted charmer such as "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2" comes along, attention must be paid. ... (read more)

      • The World's End poster image

        The World's End

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Zippy, kinetic and brashly funny, "The World's End" comes to the U.S. from its native England hard on the heels of "This Is the End," an American comedy about ordinary mortals (comedians, actually, so maybe not so ordinary) manning up to deal with apocalyptic plot developments. "World's End," a collaboration among director Edgar Wright, co-writer and star Simon Pegg and co-star Nick Frost, joins the trio's earlier genre scrambles "Shaun of the Dead" (zo... (read more)

      • Turbo poster image

        Turbo

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        In animation shorthand, "Turbo" is "Cars" with snails. It's light on the jokes, but cute, with animation so vivid it looks photo-real. It's another "impossible dream" tale, this time of a motor head mollusk who has a need for "terrifying, blinding speed." Theo (Ryan Gosling) is an auto-racing obsessed garden snail who longs to escape his colony of tomato-munchers. The occasional terror by a Big Wheel-riding tyke nicknamed "Shell Crusher" and t... (read more)

      • Man of Steel poster image

        Man of Steel

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Thanks, "Man of Steel." Because of the scene where Superman battles two of his adversaries from the planet Krypton in downtown Smallville, wrecking most of an IHOP and a Sears store, I now associate pancakes and appliances with pain and suffering. A sure hit, if only because of its 100 "global promotional partners" (according to Advertising Age) and an estimated $170 million in product placement and "collective promotional support," "Man of Steel" has a... (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)

      • Epic poster image

        Epic

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The hopeful title of "Epic" suggests big things in a way that a more accurate title, such as "How to Train Your Hummingbird," would not. The animated result isn't bad. It's an adequate baby sitter. But where's the allure in telling the truth? Twentieth Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios present "Adequate"? A few days after seeing "Epic," which is loosely based on a few concepts in William Joyce's book "The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs," it's... (read more)

      • Pain & Gain poster image

        Pain & Gain

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In America, you're either a "doer" or a "don't-er." So says the hostile motivational speaker played by Ken Jeong, one of several supporting sleazebags tipping around the edges of director Michael Bay's "Pain & Gain." What the self-help guru is selling, bodybuilder and gym manager Danny Lugo, played by Mark Wahlberg, is buying with a vengeance. The movie, based on the true story of a truly stupid group of pumped-up kidnappers and killers, wallows in steroidally ja... (read more)

      • 42 poster image

        42

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "42," writer-director Brian Helgeland's carefully tended portrait of Jackie Robinson, treats its now-mythic Brooklyn Dodger with respect, reverence and love. But who's in there, underneath the mythology? Has the movie made Robinson, a man who endured so much in the name of breaking Major League Baseball's color barrier and then died before his 54th birthday, something less than three-dimensionally human? I'm afraid so. This is a smooth-edged treatment of a life full of sharp, painfu... (read more)

      • The Croods poster image

        The Croods

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's "Ice Age" with humans and less ice. "The Croods" began life nearly a decade ago as "Crood Awakening," a collaboration of DreamWorks Animation and Aardman Studios, with a script co-written by John Cleese. Then Aardman, creators of the great Wallace & Gromit and the very good "Chicken Run," fell out of the development. Years later, here we are: Another DreamWorks movie perpetually on the run, desperately full of action because slapstick violence tran... (read more)

      • The Last Stand poster image

        The Last Stand

        Cary Darling, Chicago Tribune

        The question with "The Last Stand," Arnold Schwarzenegger's return to the big screen (not counting "The Expendables 2") after being the governor of California and at the heart of a messy marital scandal, is this: Does he pick up where he left off as an action hero, or is it an embarrassment, hurtling him down the road to cinematic obsolescence? The answer falls somewhere squarely in the middle. For sure, "The Last Stand" is no "Terminator," but it is a ... (read more)

      • Django Unchained poster image

        Django Unchained

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In "Django Unchained," which has its moments of devilish glee in and among dubious wallows in numbing slaughter, writer-director-trash compactor Quentin Tarantino delivers a mashup of several hundred of his favorite movies, all hanging, like barnacles, onto a story of a freed slave (Jamie Foxx) and his bounty-hunter savior (Christoph Waltz) out to rescue Django's wife (Kerry Washington) from a venal plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio). The plantation's "house slave" (Samu... (read more)

      • Life of Pi poster image

        Life of Pi

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Life of Pi," Yann Martel's beautiful little book about a young man and the sea and a tiger, has transformed into a big, imposing and often lovely 3-D experience. If the results are less about poetry and wonder than the digital and cinematic engineering designed to evoke those things, with this story -- so very, very unlikely to succeed in any other medium -- "good" is achievement enough. The guiding hand belongs to Ang Lee, a director of versatile tastes, catlike patience... (read more)

      • Lincoln poster image

        Lincoln

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Lincoln" is a grave and surprisingly subtle magic trick, conjuring the past and an almost ridiculously impressive figure in ways that transcend art direction and the right stovepipe hat. Director Steven Spielberg's latest combines the most commonly shared notions we have of our 16th U.S. president -- the folksy deliberation, the spindly gait, the all-seeing eye on the prize of history remade -- with the behavior, idiosyncrasies and contradictions of an actual human being. It blends... (read more)

      • Skyfall poster image

        Skyfall

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Early on in his stage career, director Sam Mendes worked with Dame Judi Dench on a production of "The Cherry Orchard." Now they have reteamed for a slightly less Chekhovian project: the 23rd official James Bond film (24th if you count the Sean Connery off-brander "Never Say Never Again"). It's the seventh featuring Dench as M, Bond's steely handler, and more to the box office point, the third featuring Daniel Craig as 007, the licensed and, in fact, bonded killer. This tim... (read more)

      • Hotel Transylvania poster image

        Hotel Transylvania

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Dominated by Adam Sandler's D-minus Bela Lugosi impression, the 3-D animated feature "Hotel Transylvania" illustrates the difference between engaging a young movie audience and agitating it, with snark and noise and everything but the funny. Do yourself a favor. See instead "ParaNorman," a film of wit and wiles and a distinctive visual quality. Or see "Frankenweenie" when that opens next week. Or just see to your laundry. Honestly, staring at your laundry will be... (read more)

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