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      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Tully poster image

        Tully

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        We live many lives within the one we've got. When Chicago-born Diablo Cody wrote "Juno," she imagined a charmed teenage pregnancy, the story focusing on a young woman's anxieties and defense mechanisms but predominantly, buoyantly comic in tone. As finessed by director Jason Reitman, the happy ending ensured the film's popularity and Cody's Oscar. The heroine ended up with everything she needed. By the end, the audience knew she'd be fine. "Fine" is relative, though. While... (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)

      • I Feel Pretty poster image

        I Feel Pretty

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In a 2015 sketch aired on Comedy Central's "Inside Amy Schumer," the one called "New Body," Schumer played a woman shopping for a wardrobe for the body she's always wanted. The clothing store clerk, thin and deadpan, is the perfect foil for Schumer's chipper, play-along reactions. With those two perfect minutes you don't realize the first time through how much Schumer and her writers are actually saying about the culture's omnipresent assault on female self-image. Take tha... (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)

      • Blockers poster image

        Blockers

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        I went into "Blockers" cringing and came out smiling, which says more about me (double standard! They wouldn't treat graduating high school males that way!) than it says about the movie. But that's how moviegoing works. We're pre-judgy that way. And "Blockers," the feature directorial debut of "Pitch Perfect" screenwriter Kay Cannon, turns out to be well aware of that double standard, in a consistently funny and rather sweet fashion. This is what Hollywood used t... (read more)

      • Acrimony poster image

        Acrimony

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The female melodrama was one of the foremost genres of classical Hollywood filmmaking, reaching its heyday in the 1940s. These days, stories of complex women and their complicated private lives are unfortunately few and far between, though filmmaker Tyler Perry has never been afraid to plunge into this arena. Between installments of the comic "Madea" franchise, Perry regularly churns out female-driven films about love, marriage and infidelity. The most entertaining of these films st... (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)

      • The Death of Stalin poster image

        The Death of Stalin

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Mordant in the extreme, and often hilarious, "The Death of Stalin" somehow manages to acknowledge the murderous depths of Josef Stalin's regime while rising to the level of incisive, even invigorating political satire. If it's a romp, then it's a romp that does what anything on this topic must do: leave audiences a little rattled, with a hint of ashes in the mouth. The movie comes from director and co-writer Armando Iannucci, the creator of "Veep" and, on British televisio... (read more)

      • Death Wish poster image

        Death Wish

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's still a free country. Therefore we have to put up with the occasional "Death Wish." Some believe the timing of this remake's release Friday is bad taste incarnate, coming as it does 16 days after the Parkland, Fla., school massacre. Isn't there a more appropriate week for a movie glorifying vigilante revenge, and the tightly coiled wrath of the quietly seething middle-aged male and his firearms? Actually: No. There's no better time to sit with director Eli Roth's version of &qu... (read more)

      • Foxtrot poster image

        Foxtrot

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Metaphorically the foxtrot is an irresistible dance step. The dancer makes a square, returning to where he or she started, and begins again. It's a paradox, creating invisible box after box, while creating the illusion of freedom. "Foxtrot," the movie, embraces that box-step metaphor, and writer-director Samuel Maoz uses fate itself as the ultimate vindictive choreographer. This is the second feature from Maoz; his first, the superb "Lebanon" (2009), is one of the essentia... (read more)

      • Red Sparrow poster image

        Red Sparrow

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Jennifer Lawrence is a movie star who, at 27, happens also to be a genuine and terrifically nervy actress. Her talent remains very much in evidence in the spy thriller "Red Sparrow." But in the coolly preposterous role of a Slavic Mata Hari, straight out of a secret Russian "whore school" run by Charlotte Rampling, Lawrence lets her frozen bangs do the heavy lifting, while her face betrays as little as possible. She's a sex-worker edition of John le Carre's George Smiley -... (read more)

      • Annihilation poster image

        Annihilation

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In the popular culture and various corners of our own lives, we confront the unknown in one form or another, learning something about our own fears and desires. The examples defy rational explanation. The Monolith in "2001: A Space Odyssey." The Mist in Stephen King's novella. The Smoke Monster in "Lost." The Great Boyg in Henrik Ibsen's "Peer Gynt." The line at the Department of Motor Vehicles, its shape and duration endlessly mutating into something beyond huma... (read more)

      • Game Night poster image

        Game Night

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The modest but legitimate payoffs in the new action comedy "Game Night" owe everything to the comedy and not much to the action. Most of the truly great action pictures (this isn't trying to one of them) are spiced with wit. A lot of our best comedies (and "Game Night" is not trying to be one of those, either) move like crazy and take the pursuits and evasions seriously, or at least mock-seriously, so that the audience can, too. So where does this ensemble effort, led by t... (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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Ferdinand poster image

        Ferdinand

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The beloved children's book "The Story of Ferdinand" by Munro Leaf, with illustrations by Robert Lawson, was published in 1936. But the simple, pacifist story about a bull who would rather smell flowers than fight has resonated across generations. It's a natural progression that this favorite character would find a home on the big screen in an animated feature, "Ferdinand," but perhaps the filmmakers behind the raucous "Ice Age" movies aren't exactly the right te... (read more)

      • Star Wars: The Last Jedi poster image

        Star Wars: The Last Jedi

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Great fun, and a reminder that unpopular political leaders mock the Resistance in other galaxies, too, "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" boasts a bald-faced lie of a subtitle -- sorry, folks, last Jedi, no more "Star Wars" movies! -- and special guest appearances from some old, familiar faces. The oldest of them utters a very funny line about the sacred Jedi religious texts being the opposite of page-turners. It's a lot of movie, in a good way. Writer-director Rian Johnson, in hi... (read more)

      • Coco poster image

        Coco

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Coco" is the 19th title under the Pixar umbrella, an umbrella factory now owned by Disney. Is it a great Pixar film? No. But we become ingrates if we expect greatness every time. It is a solidly, vividly good Pixar film. Director Lee Unkrich and his animation and design collaborators pack every delectably overstuffed frame with a swarm of human or skeleton activity. The story they tell is a manic, occasionally erratic but finally warming quest spanning two worlds, the land of the l... (read more)

      • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri poster image

        Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        No one in contemporary movies delivers the side-eye -- the withering, nonverbal judgment of the righteous -- the way Frances McDormand delivers it in "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri." Sometimes it's funny, because whoever she's playing is so much sharper than whoever she's acting opposite. Other times, it's more of a look of pity, or quiet resignation. This is what I have to deal with. The film is writer-director Martin McDonagh's third feature, and all three are driven b... (read more)

      • Daddy's Home 2 poster image

        Daddy's Home 2

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        "Daddy's Home 2" just might have to meet "A Bad Moms Christmas" outside in the parking lot to rumble over this turf war. Both films are seasonal romps about intergenerational love, acceptance and different parenting styles, but "Daddy's Home 2" slightly gets the edge. The surreal and silly sequel to the hit 2015 comedy skates on the well-known but still-appealing comic personas of stars Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg and their zany chemistry. Co-writer and direct... (read more)

      • Thor: Ragnarok poster image

        Thor: Ragnarok

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        As part of its generally welcome comic strategy, "Thor: Ragnarok" heckles itself for two hours and 10 minutes and lets Jeff Goldblum, skittering around as master of the death-match revels on the planet Sakaar, get away with murder. Nobody else in the known universe works on Goldblum's wavelength. The deadpan verbal shtick he's relying on in this inventive if increasingly duty-bound sequel will be royally amusing to 20 percent of the opening-weekend multiplex audience, and "Huh?... (read more)

      • The Killing of a Sacred Deer poster image

        The Killing of a Sacred Deer

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        With his fifth feature, and his first shot in America, the Greek writer-director-absurdist Yorgos Lanthimos has reached the intersection of tremendous skill and vague frustration. There's nothing vague about the narrative of "The Killing of a Sacred Deer." Its strangeness is crystal clear. It plays out in ways both sardonically funny and extremely cruel. The acting is uniformly superb within the filmmaker's preferred, emotionally deadpan parameters; the telling of the tale, a contem... (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 LEGO NINJAGO Movie poster image

        The LEGO NINJAGO Movie

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        If you're of a certain age and childless, it's entirely possible you haven't the foggiest idea what a "Ninjago" -- of the latest Lego movie -- might be. Apparently it is both a show and a toy, but that's as far as I got into the Wikipedia article. With the wild success of both "The Lego Movie" and "The Lego Batman Movie," released just earlier this year, it stands to reason that Warner Bros. would strike while the iron is hot and churn out more Lego-themed movies... (read more)

      • Good Time poster image

        Good Time

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The most legitimately divisive movie of the moment, right alongside (and more urgent than) "Detroit," the unnerving crime thriller "Good Time" moves like a streak, barely able to keep up with its characters. The reckless, selfish, charismatic man at its core, Constantine "Connie" Nikas, is a small-time Queens, N.Y., hustler of Greek-American extraction. He's played by Robert Pattinson. The actor's "Twilight" vampire career afforded the young, minimally ... (read more)

      • Wind River poster image

        Wind River

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        With the drug cartel thriller "Sicario" (2015), the West Texas bank robbery yarn "Hell or High Water" (2016) and the new, Wyoming-set "Wind River" (2017), screenwriter Taylor Sheridan has created an unofficial trilogy of crime stories sharing an unstated moral. It goes like this: Follow the rules in America, whether you're an innocent victim, a charismatic outlaw or a valiant, frequently outmatched law enforcement official, and you'll either go broke or get kille... (read more)

      • The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature poster image

        The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        You never know where you're going to find the most radical ideas. Somehow, a sub-par animated film sequel intended to quiet the kids for a few hours on a weekend afternoon burns with a proletarian rage. You'd never expect that from "The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature," but somehow, it's true. First, a warning about truth (or lack thereof) in advertising. In "The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature," there is no job that involves nuts, as promised by the title. The first "Nut Job&q... (read more)

      • The Emoji Movie poster image

        The Emoji Movie

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        "Words aren't cool," is the courtship advice imparted by one texting teen to another in "The Emoji Movie." That statement is the canary in the coal mine that "Cyrano de Bergerac" this movie is most decidedly not. Will Alex (Jake T. Austin) choose the right emoji to express his ardor for Addie (Tati Gabrielle)? Or will "meh" emoji Gene (T.J. Miller) mess it all up for him? Perhaps we should just throw our smart phones into the sea and let the waves take ... (read more)

      • Girls Trip poster image

        Girls Trip

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Perfecting the raunchy, randy, female-driven comedy can be a tall order. "Bridesmaids" showed it could be done, though such successes can be few and far between. "Girls Trip" proves to be the heir apparent to "Bridesmaids," a film about female friendship that nails the comedy, the boldness and the heart. There's no need for high concepts or outlandish premises here; all that's necessary is four longtime best friends and a city built for sin. "The Best Man&qu... (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)

      • Cars 3 poster image

        Cars 3

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Cars 3," a reasonably diverting account of middle-aged pity, humiliation and suffering as experienced by Rust-eze-sponsored race car Lightning McQueen, is not the weakest of the Disney/Pixar sequels (I'd vote "Cars 2" or "Monsters University," those sour, desperate things). But it's by far the most guilt-ridden. Every few minutes we get another reminder of the franchise's success in the merchandising department -- over $10 billion in "Cars"-related toy... (read more)

      • Wonder Woman poster image

        Wonder Woman

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        After showing up in last year's excruciating "Batman v. Superman" just long enough to steal the movie and then, unfortunately, give it back to the men, Gal Gadot grabs the Lasso of Truth and the bracelets of infinite resilience to take center stage in "Wonder Woman," director Patty Jenkins' formidable and almost entirely successful bid to make the DC Comics movies a little less lame. I mean, thank Zeus, right? We needed one of these to be good. This has been a lousy spring... (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)

      • 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)

      • The Boss Baby poster image

        The Boss Baby

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        "The Boss Baby" derives its premise from the notion that when new babies show up in the household, they render parents into slavishly devoted employees with their demands and fits. Babies are like bosses, but more satirically, bosses are like babies, right? That metaphor is explored in Marla Frazee's children's book, with a boss baby outfitted in a suit, complete with buttoned bottom flap, and now that's been transported to the screen with Alec Baldwin voicing the titular boss. In t... (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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Captain America: Civil War poster image

        Captain America: Civil War

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The solemn, wrecking-ball mediocrity that was "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" made either too much or not enough of its key themes: collateral damage; vigilante excess and the ethics of peacekeeping through extreme force; and, more to the marketing point, the bloodsport appeal of should-be crime-fighting allies beating the hell out of each other for what seemed like several days. Those bullet points return, to far livelier and more satisfying results, in "Captain America: ... (read more)

      • Green Room poster image

        Green Room

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        In writer-director Jeremy Saulnier's "Blue Ruin," which put him on the map in 2013, the tension is controlled, measured; it follows an intentional plan of violence in a story of long overdue revenge. In his follow-up, "Green Room," Saulnier takes the opposite approach, in a horror story of the chaos and random chance of violence set in the world of hardcore punk shows. While "Blue Ruin" was openly emotional, burrowing into deep interfamilial rifts, "Green Ro... (read more)

      • The Man Who Knew Infinity poster image

        The Man Who Knew Infinity

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Intuition can only carry you so far." With the patented over/underplaying only a wily veteran British actor can provide, so says Trinity College mathematician G.H. Hardy, as played by Jeremy Irons, to his East Indian protege Srinivasa Ramanujan, played by Dev Patel, in "The Man Who Knew Infinity." The line about intuition holds true for sincerity and noble intentions in movie biopics. Such things can't always get a filmmaker over the hump and into the realm of dramaticall... (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)

      • 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)

      • Macbeth poster image

        Macbeth

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The new "Macbeth" starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard opens with a funeral you won't find in the Shakespeare play. Director Justin Kurzel's film version imagines the Macbeths as grieving parents. (The interpretation's supported by a line of Lady Macbeth's.) We see Macbeth placing the scales on his dead son's eyes, as Fassbender's own eyes run cold. Kurzel, the Australian director who made his name on an unnerving true-crime drama called "The Snowtown Murders,"... (read more)

      • Creed poster image

        Creed

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Back in 1976, our bicentennial year, the nation yearned for a red, white and blue plate special piled high with corn. Something to believe in. Then, up those Philadelphia Museum of Art steps, backed by the Bill Conti theme, that something arrived. Nobody went to the first "Rocky" for the finesse of the filmmaking. They went for the underdog-rooting, for Rocky and Adrian, for the unexpected sweetness, for the redemption angle, for the reconstituted boxing movie cliches that tasted no... (read more)

      • Goosebumps poster image

        Goosebumps

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Silly, spooky monster mash-up "Goosebumps" doesn't have to be as good as it is. Slyly smarter and more entertaining than it appears, adults might have just as much fun as the kids who will undoubtedly gobble up this Halloween treat. A sort of PG version of "Cabin in the Woods," this adaptation of R.L. Stine's series of young adult horror novels is bolstered by a stellar comedic cast, headed up by the inimitable Jack Black in the role of the author. With so many "Goose... (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)

      • 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)

      • Pitch Perfect 2 poster image

        Pitch Perfect 2

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        Can we please talk about the snottiness of "Pitch Perfect 2"? It's seriously snotty. It's a two-hour lesson in how to act like a frenemy to your alleged friends. And it's not funny enough. Correction: For the sequel to become a global success, yes, it's funny enough. And some of the vocals are choice. But I am not representing the a cross-section of the planet's "Pitch Perfect" fan base with this review, I'm representing myself, and I found the new movie snide and lazy ins... (read more)

      • Avengers: Age of Ultron poster image

        Avengers: Age of Ultron

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        When I say "Avengers: Age of Ultron" won't disappoint a majority of its pre-sold, culturally obligated fans around the world -- the world perpetually on the verge of extinction in the Marvel universe -- you know what I mean. You know what the movie promises, and would be foolish, or inept, not to deliver. Action, relentless and assaultive. Wisecracks, numerous, pretty sharp and evenly parceled out among Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Mark Ruffalo (Hulk), Chris... (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)

      • The Boy Next Door poster image

        The Boy Next Door

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        As the song from "Meet Me in St. Louis" put it, in a different story context: How can she ignore the boy next door? She can't! Jennifer Lopez just can't. The boy next door, played by Ryan Guzman, is just too darn hot. Psycho, but hot. And this week, after so much "American Sniper" analysis of patriotism, jingoism, geopolitical morality and cinematic debate, it's important to remember what two things we, as a nation, fight for every day of our lives: the sight of Lopez's ep... (read more)

      • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 poster image

        The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In honor of the title we'll break this part of the sentence with a colon, and then use a portentous dash: "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 1" is a worthy third movie in the Suzanne Collins franchise -- destined to satisfy the legions of filmgoers willing to swing with a lot of scheming and skulking in an underground bunker resembling the world's most frightening Marriott, in order to get to the revolution. The third book in Collins' dystopian-literature juggernaut has been halv... (read more)

      • Foxcatcher poster image

        Foxcatcher

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Does extreme privilege point, like an arrow, to a sort of rot within the true-blue American spirit? Putting criminal insanity aside for a moment, the answer's a qualified, sorrowful yes in director Bennett Miller's "Foxcatcher," a true-crime drama hailed in many quarters as a modern classic since it debuted six months ago at the Cannes Film Festival. Sometimes you encounter a movie begging to be revisited a decade from now, simply to see which one of you has changed more in the inte... (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 Book of Life poster image

        The Book of Life

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        "The Book of Life" is a Mexican-accented kids' cartoon so colorful and unconventionally dazzling it almost reinvents the art form. Endlessly inventive, warm and traditional, it serves up Mexican culture in a riot of colors and mariachi-flavored music. The tale is told by a museum tour guide in an effort to impress a raucous bunch of American school kids. Mary Beth (Christina Applegate) recounts a love story built around Dia de los Muertos, Mexico's Day of the Dead. And the moment th... (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)

      • 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)

      • The LEGO Movie poster image

        The LEGO Movie

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Finally! A comedy that works. An animated film with a look -- a kinetic aesthetic honoring its product line's bright, bricklike origins -- that isn't like every other clinically rounded and bland digital 3-D effort. A movie that works for the Lego-indebted parent as well as the Lego-crazed offspring. A movie that, in its brilliantly crammed first half especially, will work even if you don't give a rip about Legos. "The Lego Movie" proves that you can soar directly into and then stra... (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)

      • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire poster image

        The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" is a lot like its own celebrity heroine, Katniss Everdeen, who begins this second "Hunger Games" movie fulfilling a public relations tour as penance for her killer -- literally, killer -- popularity. She is adored by millions; the books are too. The three Suzanne Collins novels, to be spread across four films, are being adapted with both eyes on fidelity to the source material. All "Catching Fire" had to do was to show up, look g... (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)

      • 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)

      • 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 Dark Knight Rises: The IMAX Experience poster image

        The Dark Knight Rises: The IMAX Experience

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Eight years after the camp frippery of "Batman & Robin" (1997), in which Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mr. Freeze and Uma Thurman's Poison Ivy played dress-up while George Clooney let his nipply bat-suit do most of the acting, director and co-writer Christopher Nolan brought to the screen the origin story of Bruce Wayne and his tortured, emotionally isolated crime-fighting alter ego. Stately and just serious enough, "Batman Begins" was trumped by Nolan's own 2008 sequel, "T... (read more)

      • Dr. Seuss' the Lorax poster image

        Dr. Seuss' the Lorax

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The new animated feature "The Lorax," known in its entirety as "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" to keep it straight from "John Grisham's The Lorax," does a few smaller things right but the bigger things not quite. I've come to fear these movies. I love Seuss so much, even his second-shelf works. Who doesn't feel protective of authors and illustrators they love? And not just because we were young when we made their acquaintance. As with "Horton Hears a Who!" four ... (read more)

      • Man on a Ledge poster image

        Man on a Ledge

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A man edges along the 21st-story ledge of a midtown New York City hotel. He's an ex-cop and a convicted thief on the lam, straight out of Sing Sing, and he's threatening suicide. Sam Worthington, of "Avatar" and "Clash of the Titans," plays this character, Nick Cassidy, and it is odd to see Worthington on a precipice without winged beasts or blue friendlies buzzing about his head. The only thing buzzing in "Man on a Ledge" are little gnats of narrative improbabil... (read more)

      • Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked poster image

        Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        A Sarah Palin joke? A Charlie Sheen wisecrack? Is this a Chipmunks movie or a Letterman monologue? As current as a Lady Gaga cover, if not quite as relevant, Alvin and the Chipmunks "Munk Up" for their third digitally animated turn on the big screen -- "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked," a "Cast Away" takeoff that parks the three chipmunks, their three Chipette counterparts and their human family on a deserted island. Most adults would sooner gouge their ears... (read more)

      • Dolphin Tale poster image

        Dolphin Tale

        Michaelk Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        I'll be honest, in the spirit of the honestly shameless heartwarmer "Dolphin Tale." I saw it in a somewhat distracted, agitated state. Forty-five seconds into the opening credits, I'm watching ocean-dwelling dolphins nosing around all sorts of potential dangers (a rusty fishing tackle box, a fateful metal crab trap), and the film's in 3-D so the dangers loom with exceptional emphasis, and the picture's premise depends on putting the eventually tailless protagonist -- a real-life dol... (read more)

      • Inside Out poster image

        Inside Out

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Director Pete Docter's "Inside Out" springs from a single, terrific idea. What if a person's basic emotions were tiny humanoid sprites sharing a command center, a spacious variation on the one in the starship Enterprise but inside the human brain? While the idea isn't new (you may recall the late 20th-century sitcom "Herman's Head," or not), it is vastly adaptable. As the Pixar Animation folks learned a long time ago, before they coupled up with Disney: If your premise has... (read more)

      • Bridesmaids poster image

        Bridesmaids

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        There's a reason "Bridesmaids" isn't called "The Bridesmaid." Kristen Wiig, the star and co-writer (along with Annie Mumolo) of director Paul Feig's comedy, has a self-effacing streak running right alongside her deadly deadpan streak. Even when she's playing the lead, she's not really playing the lead. Reedy and extremely pretty, Wiig has a dry, backhanded way of nailing laughs. In the posters and ads for "Bridesmaids," all Wiig's female co-stars strike bigger po... (read more)

      • Rio poster image

        Rio

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Midway through one in a manic string of chase sequences in the animated "Rio," the uptight macaw voiced by Jesse Eisenberg says, "I would love to go five minutes without almost getting killed." This is the movie's strategy: near-perpetual peril, dialogue that's ... almost funny and an extremely bright color palette, plus the musical supervision of the great Sergio Mendes, whose LPs I still have in the house somewhere, my tastes' not having changed much since 1966. Re-heari... (read more)

      • I Love You Phillip Morris poster image

        I Love You Phillip Morris

        Betsy Sharkey, Chicago Tribune

        When a romantic comedy opens with kids looking for shapes in the clouds and one young lad spots a "wiener" -- and he's not talking hotdogs -- it's a pretty good bet that a conventional love story is not going to follow. That is most definitely the case in the audacious and wildly out-of-control farce of "I Love You Phillip Morris," with Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor as a match made in prison. And, trust me, that is a long way from heaven. Though the film, and its many whims... (read more)

      • White Material poster image

        White Material

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Claire Denis' previous and excellent film, "35 Shots of Rum," floated on a poetic cloud of feeling for a French-African father, his grown daughter, and their lives, together and apart, in Paris. Denis would likely be the first to acknowledge that her latest, "White Material," is far thornier material. It's also not as good. Yet minor Denis is well worth seeing here for reasons that start, and end, with the stoic magnificence of her chief camera subject, Isabelle Huppert. P... (read more)

      • Megamind poster image

        Megamind

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Earlier this year "Despicable Me" proved it: A story about a hapless villain, humanized, is good for a few laughs and a half-billion worldwide. That figure would very likely be A-OK with the makers of the new DreamWorks animated feature "Megamind," also about a hapless villain, humanized. This villain's blue. Moderately funny though immoderately derivative, the film is no "How to Train Your Dragon" or "Kung Fu Panda," DreamWorks' recent high points, and... (read more)

      • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World poster image

        Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's easy to make a movie in a style approximating that of a comic book or graphic novel. "Sin City" did it. "Road to Perdition" did it. "Watchmen" and "Kick-Ass" did it. As did "Ghost World." Except for that last one, the others fell short as movies because they mistook visual replication for authenticity. They were storyboards based on storyboards, not films. "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" is different, and not just because it's fun... (read more)

      • Inception poster image

        Inception

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Sometimes the first adjective spoken in a movie speaks volumes. The first one you hear in the new thriller "Inception" is "delirious," describing the psychological state of a man, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who has washed up (or awakened) on a beach and is brought into the home of a wealthy man he has known in other circumstances, somewhere in time. "Delirious" describes the movie as well, which assuredly offers audiences sights heretofore unseen. Despite riffs... (read more)

      • Detestable Moi 3D Numerique poster image

        Detestable Moi 3D Numerique

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        An agreeable jumble, the animated feature "Despicable Me" sells its 3-D in ways you wouldn't call sophisticated or witty. But you certainly notice it. Front car in a roller coaster, up, up, up, then down, down, down -- aaaaahhhhAAAAAAAHHHH!!!!!!!! Like that. And now and then, I like it like that, no matter how dubious this second coming of 3-D is starting to smell. Compared with the restrained sophistication of Pixar's approach to the technology, and in sharp contrast to such murky,... (read more)

      • Toy Story 3: The IMAX Experience poster image

        Toy Story 3: The IMAX Experience

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        If "Toy Story 3" had sprung, Slinky Dog-like, from any creative think tank besides Pixar Animation Studios, it might be considered a classic. As is, it's a good sequel to the 1999 "Toy Story 2" and the 1995 original. After a rather shrill and conventional first half, more in the DreamWorks style, it recaptures the old comic spark with a splendid ode to "The Great Escape" as cowboy Woody, spaceman Buzz Lightyear, cowgirl Jessie, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head and the re... (read more)

      • How to Train Your Dragon: An IMAX 3D Experience poster image

        How to Train Your Dragon: An IMAX 3D Experience

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The swoops and dives of the exuberant 3-D DreamWorks Animation feature "How to Train Your Dragon," in which the teenage hero breaks all the Viking rules and befriends the winged enemy, should prove as addicting to its target audience as similar scenes have in a little something called "Avatar." Freely adapted from the books by Cressida Cowell, "How to Train Your Dragon" exists to support its flying sequences, just as last year's animated DreamWorks offering, &quo... (read more)

      • Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel poster image

        Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel" is a kids comedy that screams "Direct to DVD." It doesn't help that it screams that in high, squeaky, three-part harmony. Whatever slim charms there were in the nostalgic, musically cute and slapstick-friendly first film of chipmunk mania are squished right out of "The Squeakquel" like so much rodent roadkill. The cast is cut rate, and the script needed a serious visit from a serious gag writer. Apparently, Fox blew the b... (read more)

      • The Messenger poster image

        The Messenger

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Some jobs are dirtier than others, and after seeing director and co-writer Oren Moverman's beautifully acted new film "The Messenger," you'll be better acquainted with some of the most grueling work a human being can be called upon to perform. A decorated U.S. Army soldier, Staff Sgt. Montgomery (Ben Foster) has returned to America from Iraq. He is in rough shape, and adding some challenging adversity to post-traumatic stress disorder, he is assigned to the Casualty Notification pro... (read more)

      • Fantastic Mr. Fox poster image

        Fantastic Mr. Fox

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        So many careful and clever visual felicities dot the landscape of Wes Anderson's animated feature "Fantastic Mr. Fox," from the catastrophically inclined watercolors painted by Mrs. Fox to the autumn breezes ruffling various species of animals' fur just so, I'm flummoxed as to why the movie left me feeling up in the air, as opposed to over the moon. Partly, I think, it's a matter of how Anderson's sense of humor rubs up against that of the book's author, Roald Dahl. It's also a mat... (read more)

      • Pirate Radio poster image

        Pirate Radio

        Betsy Sharkey, Chicago Tribune

        The new rock-saturated "Pirate Radio" proves life really is better when it's set to a '60s soundtrack. From the Kinks, the Rolling Stones, Hendrix, the Who, the Troggs, the Turtles, the Beach Boys, the Yardbirds, the Seekers, the list goes on ... nearly 60 cuts in what may be the coolest music video masquerading as a movie ever. Filmmaker Richard Curtis, the hopeless romantic behind "Four Weddings and a Funeral," "Notting Hill" and "Love Actually," has ... (read more)

      • Where the Wild Things Are poster image

        Where the Wild Things Are

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Truly, I am madly, deeply in love with the film version of "Where the Wild Things Are." Not since Robert Altman took on "Popeye" a generation ago, and lost, has a major director addressed such a well-loved, all-ages title. This time everything works, from tip to tail, from the moment in the prologue at which director Spike Jonze freezes the action (Max, fork in hand, tearing after the family dog) to the final scene's hard-won reconnection between Max and his mother at the ... (read more)

      • Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs poster image

        Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Fairly inventive and exceedingly manic, "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" comes from the 1978 picture book by Judi Barrett and Ron Barrett. To say the title helped sell the kids story is an understatement, certainly the only understatement involved with the movie version. Still, there's a semblance of a comic personality at work. Plenty of middle-ground (or worse) animated features feel like timid corporate entities. This one, which is certainly fresher than "Ice Age 3,"... (read more)

      • Inglourious Basterds poster image

        Inglourious Basterds

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A queasy historical do-over, Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" has been described as a grindhouse version of "Valkyrie"; a rhapsody dedicated to the cinema's powers of persuasion; and a showcase for a 52-year-old Austrian-born character actor named Christoph Waltz, who waltzes off with the performance honors as a suavely vicious Nazi colonel known as "the Jew hunter." All true. Tarantino's seventh full-length film recasts the iconography and mythic cruel... (read more)

      • Soul Power poster image

        Soul Power

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Pure pleasure. I've heard the arguments against this out-of-the-vault concert film, capturing the frantic planning and glorious execution (financed by Liberian investors) of the three-day music festival "Zaire '74." Not enough political or ethnographic context; too plain Jane in the presentation; not nearly enough about the festival's relationship to its sister act, the '74 Muhammad Ali/George Foreman "Rumble in the Jungle," the subject of the Oscar-winning documentary &qu... (read more)

      • The Hangover poster image

        The Hangover

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Hangover" takes care of its target audience's needs - the target audience being males who, after seeing director Todd Phillips' earlier (and funnier) "Old School," dreamed of joining the "Old School" fraternity. But this film left a sour taste in my mouth. Only "Daily Show" alum Ed Helms, as a buttoned-down dentist along for the ride on a chaotic Las Vegas bachelor party, got me laughing, periodically, between the not-laughing parts. There's a swee... (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)

      • Hunger poster image

        Hunger

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Hunger" stars Michael Fassbender as Bobby Sands, the Irish Republican Army terrorist/martyr who starved himself to death in 1981, at 27, to bring attention to the extraordinarily harsh conditions in which he and his fellow prisoners of the infamous H-Block of the Maze Prison, near Belfast, lived under British authority. The focal points, however, are twofold: the prison itself, and the way the first-time feature director, British video artist Steve McQueen, fragments the visual spe... (read more)

      • Under the Sea poster image

        Under the Sea

        Michael Esposito, Chicago Tribune

        Jim Carrey narrates "Under the Sea 3D," a new installment in the underwater 3-D filmmaking that IMAX pretty much owns these days. Nothing compares to the images in these films, and director Howard Hall, whose previous offerings include the IMAX hits "Deep Sea 3D" and "Into the Deep 3D," knows his way around the underwater camera - all 1,300 pounds of it - and personally tallied 358 hours of the dive team's 2,073 hours under the sea (accomplished in 1,668 total di... (read more)

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