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      • Dr. Seuss' The Grinch poster image

        Dr. Seuss' The Grinch

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        We all feel a little grinchy sometimes. When holiday cheer becomes particularly oppressive, when we feel lonely in a crowd, when we would rather rain on someone's parade than admit defeat, Dr. Seuss gave us a way to describe that feeling with his classic holiday children's book "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." The universality of the emotion is why the tale endures, and why we're now on our third film adaptation of the story. Benedict Cumberbatch steps into the role as the Grinch i... (read more)

      • The Hate U Give poster image

        The Hate U Give

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's seriously satisfying to watch a screen version of a young-adult best-seller that knows what it's doing, and gets so much right. Just as Angie Thomas' debut novel "The Hate U Give" was good enough to transcend the conventional YA parameters, director George Tillman Jr.'s fully packed film version has the stuff to pull in all sorts of audiences. You never know how these things are going to translate, or sell, or if the timing's right. I hope it is. The movie works from a screenpl... (read more)

      • Ant-Man and The Wasp poster image

        Ant-Man and The Wasp

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Ocean's 8 poster image

        Ocean's 8

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Some movies are more about parallel play than actual playground interaction, and despite a screenful of terrifically skillful talents, "Ocean's 8" never quite gets its ensemble act together. It's smooth, and far from inept. But it isn't much fun. That's all you want from a certain kind of heist picture, isn't it? Fun? Sandra Bullock takes the linchpin role of Debbie Ocean, sister of Danny, played by George Clooney in the three "Ocean's" movies of widely varying quality dir... (read more)

      • First Reformed poster image

        First Reformed

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • A Bad Moms Christmas poster image

        A Bad Moms Christmas

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A movie can be unreasonably formulaic and still be reasonably diverting, and "A Bad Moms Christmas" is the proof. Some sequels take time to come together. This one took a mere 15 months to reunite Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and the extraordinarily valuable Kathryn Hahn as the suburban Chicago pals perennially under the gun of peer pressure and familial expectation. (The movie was shot in Atlanta, with some fake-looking snow-machine snow in tidy little piles here and there.) Screenwrit... (read more)

      • The Florida Project poster image

        The Florida Project

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In different hands, the people knocking around the mauve-slathered kitsch universe of "The Florida Project," a highlight of the fall season, might've made for a pretty awful and manipulative dramatic experience. At-risk children running wild and having too much fun to know why they're hurting inside; a poverty-line motel named the Magic Castle, a cruelly short distance from Orlando's Walt Disney World, run by a kindly, big-hearted manager; a pace of perpetual motion set by the 6-yea... (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)

      • Song to Song poster image

        Song to Song

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        As a critic and as a human being, with needs, I'm driven more than a little crazy by the recent films of Terrence Malick, with their perpetual murmuring voice-overs and creamy idealization of women as saints or sinners. I've begun to resent the ravishing floor-to-ceiling windows in all those swanky, minimally furnished private residences. My buttocks clench, ever so slightly, when the ethereal female spirits in white twirl around in circles, surrounded by tall grass, or break into an atavisti... (read more)

      • Get Out poster image

        Get Out

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Bad Moms poster image

        Bad Moms

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        As surely as most mothers can't win, "Bad Moms" can't lose. Certainly it can't lose with moms who've endured, through gritted teeth, one too many R-rated guy comedies where the women on screen are either sidelined or humiliated or leaning down a lot, for the gratification of the male gaze. This movie represents a vacation from mean-spirited sexism like "The Hangover." Or does it? Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. The "Hangover" writing team of Jon Lucas and Scott ... (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)

      • Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping poster image

        Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Maybe I'm still recovering from the trauma of Netflixing the Adam Sandler movie "The Do-Over," but I honestly enjoyed a lot of "Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping," a steadily funny mockumentary from the Lonely Island triad of Jorma Taccone (co-director, co-writer, co-star), Akiva Schaffer (same) and Andy Samberg (co-writer and star). Eleven years ago, the trio's digital short "Lazy Sunday" aired on "Saturday Night Live." It was a great moment, arriving... (read more)

      • A Bigger Splash poster image

        A Bigger Splash

        Justin Chang, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times No less than his ravishing 2009 melodrama "I Am Love," Luca Guadagnino's "A Bigger Splash" is a swooning cinematic appeal to the senses -- two hours of al fresco lovemaking, gorgeous scenery and simmering erotic warfare. Which is not to suggest that the movie short-circuits rational thought or inquiry; on the contrary, its teasing, sun-drenched surfaces are likely to prompt a series of questions. When was the last time you sampled a freshly made ricotta? ... (read more)

      • Knight of Cups poster image

        Knight of Cups

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        Beautiful yet unapproachable, opaque and occasionally incomprehensible, "Knight of Cups" shares its personality with its self-absorbed Hollywood characters. Which makes it business as usual for its unconcerned writer-director, Terrence Malick. From "Badlands" and "Days of Heaven," his earliest films, through the more recent "The Tree of Life" and "To the Wonder," Malick has moved with unbending firmness further and further away from convention... (read more)

      • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies poster image

        Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Carol poster image

        Carol

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By now, the critical reception for director Todd Haynes' "Carol" has built a fortress of prestige around the film itself, much as the title character played by Cate Blanchett goes through her life protected by just the right clothes and makeup, a lacquered, tightly put-together look ever-so-slightly subverting the image of the quintessential wife and mother of her time and station. On the fortress wall there are signs declaring this adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith novel "T... (read more)

      • The Hateful Eight poster image

        The Hateful Eight

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Hateful Eight" is an ultrawide bore. If you have the option, and you're committed to seeing the thing, you should see Quentin Tarantino's latest in one of its 100 or so limited-release "roadshow" screenings, projected on film, complete with overture (a lovely, eerie one from the great composer Ennio Morricone) and running just over three hours. After that, it'll be the conventional digital projection editions at the multiplexes, running 20 minutes shorter. Writer-dire... (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 Night Before poster image

        The Night Before

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Last year around the holidays, the world received the dubious gift of the Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy "The Interview," which pretended to kill off the leader of North Korea. The film led to an apparent retaliatory Sony Pictures hack costing the studio $35 million; a lot of controversial correspondence and information going public; and, if anyone remembers it, a pretty disappointing movie. This year, comedywise ... an improvement, at least. There are several funny things in "... (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 Salvation poster image

        The Salvation

        Betsy Sharkey, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips Los Angeles Times The simplicity of an old-school Western with one good loner facing down a relentless outlaw can fool you into thinking these films are easy to make. From classics such as "High Noon" and "Shane" to Sergio Leone's bloody spaghetti Westerns, they tend to be short on dialogue and long on mood, with death coming at the end of the day. It's only when you watch something like "The Salvation,&... (read more)

      • Paddington poster image

        Paddington

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Never judge by appearances. The poster image for "Paddington," already a hit in Britain, depicts the valiant little bear in the red hat and blue jacket careening down a flooded staircase in a bathtub, and the image (from the first of creator Michael Bond's 26 "Paddington" books) is rendered in such a way as to make the film look pushy and twee and eminently skippable. And yet the film isn't any of those things. It's witty and charming, with a considerable if sneaky emotion... (read more)

      • Frozen poster image

        Frozen

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Big, bright, often beautiful and essentially an action movie, as are most animated features these days, "Frozen" comes from Walt Disney Animation Studios. While Disney credits the 1845 Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale "The Snow Queen" as primary inspiration, the movie owes a lot more to the Broadway blockbuster "Wicked." Example: In "Frozen," when its misunderstood young sorceress (voiced by Idina Menzel, who won a Tony for originating the green one i... (read more)

      • The Best Man Holiday poster image

        The Best Man Holiday

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Best Man Holiday" follows in the footsteps of writer-director Malcolm D. Lee's successful 1999 comedy "The Best Man," using a template familiar to anyone who may have seen "The Big Chill" or its micro-budget predecessor, "Return of the Secaucus Seven." They're all different in their qualities and atmosphere. "The Best Man Holiday," for example, is a far more Tyler Perry-ish mixture of comedy and tragedy than the easygoing "Best Man&q... (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)

      • Despicable Me 2 poster image

        Despicable Me 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Older kids and their minion guardians could do worse than "Despicable Me 2," the sequel to the 2010 smash about a supervillain turned adoptive parent. On the other hand, reports of the movie's charm have been greatly exaggerated. It's a reasonably efficient baby sitter, done up in 3-D computer-generated animation of no special distinction. But the first one's weird mixture of James Bond bombast and hyperactive pill-shaped Minions (the protagonist Gru's goggle-clad helpers) had the e... (read more)

      • To the Wonder poster image

        To the Wonder

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Media Services Film Clips In the spirit of a Terrence Malick screenplay, certain rhetorical questions to be spoken in hushed voice-over present themselves regarding Malick's latest, "To the Wonder." Can we ever see enough sunsets as filmed by Malick and his mighty cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki? Is serious spiritual yearning even worth attempting to capture in a series of moving images? And will Malick ever tire of the look of tall grass in ... (read more)

      • Like Someone in Love poster image

        Like Someone in Love

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Media Services Film Clips In "Certified Copy," from Iranian writer-director Abbas Kiarostami, a relationship blossoms and then fades under the Tuscan sun, though the story keeps changing its rules of engagement. The couple at the center, we presume, are strangers getting to know each other, but halfway through the exquisite riddle of a picture they "become" (or pretend to become) husband and wife. Nothing so tricky occurs in "Lik... (read more)

      • The Central Park Five poster image

        The Central Park Five

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Central Park Five" is an unusually good documentary about an outlandish miscarriage of justice. On an April night in 1989, Trisha Meili was beaten, raped and left for dead not far from a path in Manhattan's Central Park. Five boys between the ages of 14 and 16 signed confessions regarding the attack, which was the worst of several criminal incidents unfolding in the area that night. The boys were African-American and Latino: Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymon... (read more)

      • Rise of the Guardians poster image

        Rise of the Guardians

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg recently lamented the dearth of holiday-themed movies headed to your multiplex this year. But in foisting "Rise of the Guardians" upon unsuspecting audiences for the holidays, it's clear he just wanted to take some of the pressure off this joyless, soul-dead piffle. "Guardians" is the worst animated movie to ever wear the DreamWorks logo. It's based on William Joyce's "The Guardians of Childhood" books, about a team tha... (read more)

      • Cloud Atlas poster image

        Cloud Atlas

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A big-budget film's marketing mission is simple: Eliminate the idea of an unsuspecting audience. Did people know what they were getting when they got "Transformers: Dark of the Moon"? Yes. They got what they were shown in the 30-second ads, over and over and over. Now and then, though, a movie comes along defying shorthand description. Adapted from David Mitchell's spinning top of a novel, "Cloud Atlas" exists to vex, intrigue and discombobulate unsuspecting audiences six ... (read more)

      • Journey 2: The Mysterious Island poster image

        Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In its own sweetly bombastic way, the 2008 remake of "Journey to the Center of the Earth" did the job, the job being a 21st-century 3-D bash starring Brendan Fraser -- an actor who gives his all to the green screen, every time -- and loosely based on the 19th-century Jules Verne adventure, a natural for the movies. Its script proceeded from the idea that Verne, science fiction visionary, was in reality writing about real places and genuine fantastic phenomena only disguised as ficti... (read more)

      • Arthur Christmas poster image

        Arthur Christmas

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Five years ago, the Bristol, England-based Aardman animation folks -- who created the stop-motion legends Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep and therefore are eligible for sainthood -- made the digitally animated British/American co-production "Flushed Away." Jampacked with peril, if not with charm, the film had both eyes on a crossover American audience that never materialized. Now comes happier news: a much better film. The company's second digitally animated feature, billed a... (read more)

      • A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas poster image

        A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Comic effrontery is the Bic that lights the bong in the "Harold & Kumar" movies, but willfully strained outrageousness can turn sour like that. For a definition of "that," there's "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas," the weakest of the three. Here, the boy-men -- now 30ish men-boys, dealing with adult concerns and relationships, in addition to their perpetual White Castle jones -- hunt down a Christmas tree, mix it up with Ukrainian gangsters, briefly turn into ... (read more)

      • Puss in Boots poster image

        Puss in Boots

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        DreamWorks' cunning casting of the silky Spaniard Antonio Banderas as a swashbuckling Puss in Boots pays off, brilliantly, in "Puss in Boots," a star vehicle for the nursery rhyme kitty cat from the "Shrek" movies. Thanks to Banderas and his Corinthian-leather purr and writers who know how to use it, "Puss" is the best animated film of 2011. This is no mere "Shrek" sequel. There is sex appeal in every syllable, swagger in every line. And even kids get t... (read more)

      • The Guard poster image

        The Guard

        Betsy Sharkey, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Media Services Film Clips For the f-word in heavy, conventional rotation, go see "The Change-Up." Which is another way of saying there's not much reason to go see "The Change-Up," unless you're an unusually big fan of Ryan Reynolds or Jason Bateman. But for the same word in heavy, unconventional and often very funny usage, in a disarming black comedy set in County Galway, Ireland, feast your ears on the sweetly profane dialogue of wri... (read more)

      • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 poster image

        Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It has taken Harry Potter eight full-length films to really have it out with Lord Voldemort, the reptilian prince of darkness with the undeniable leadership qualities and a clear, can-do game plan. With an ordinary franchise, the audience -- even an audience pre-devoted to J.K. Rowling's books -- would've grown itchy long ago, renouncing its allegiance and moving on. But this is no ordinary franchise. As the 21st century has lurched, in the Muggle world, from terrorism to pervasive, political... (read more)

      • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 poster image

        Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        We have reached the semifinals. Staffed with half the best character actors in Great Britain, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" brings the seventh J.K. Rowling tale to market, reminding both fervent Hogwarts maniacs and the Potter-ambivalent of this series' priorities, its increasingly somber tone, as well as its dedication to one of the rarest of all franchise qualities: actual quality. At this point in Harry's anguished saga, the saga doesn't care much about the needs... (read more)

      • It's Kind of a Funny Story poster image

        It's Kind of a Funny Story

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Some films are at once disappointing and successful, worth seeing despite the limitations of their source material. How so? Let "It's Kind of a Funny Story" explain it all for you. This is the third feature from the writing-directing team of Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden. Their first film, "Half Nelson," gave Ryan Gosling his most interesting role to date as a heroin-addicted high school teacher. Their second, an even richer character study called "Sugar," followed a... (read more)

      • Machete poster image

        Machete

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        I'm talkin' 'bout Machete! He's the federale who's a sex machine to all the chicks, and no friend of the racist white folk out to mess with all the murderous, blade-flashing attitude for which he stands. The character, played by the authentic tough guy and character actor Danny Trejo, was introduced in a fake trailer, part of the 2007 Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino double bill known as "Grindhouse." Now Rodriguez and Trejo have delivered the movie to go with the trailer. It's ou... (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)

      • 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)

      • Disney's A Christmas Carol poster image

        Disney's A Christmas Carol

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Robert Zemeckis has long been a filmmaker divided against himself, the techno-geek warring with the storyteller. His newest work, "Disney's A Christmas Carol" (Charles Dickens - demoted!), is an extravaganza of colliding intentions. But just when you give up on it, usually in the middle of its latest, extraneous, gyroscoping thrill-ride sequence, Zemeckis reminds you that he's capable of true visual dynamism, enhanced but not wholly dictated by the digital landscape he so clearly ad... (read more)

      • Whip It poster image

        Whip It

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The whip is a slingshot-type maneuver in roller derby, where you're flung by a teammate straight into traffic and, with luck, past it. Raquel Welch got whipped a time or two in the 1972 vehicle "Kansas City Bomber," but in that film roller derby wasn't about athletic prowess or female empowerment; it was just an excuse for shoving Welch into one ogled, manhandled situation after another. "Whip It" is different. It's not designed primarily for the heterosexual male gaze (t... (read more)

      • Ponyo poster image

        Ponyo

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        You'll be planning to see "Ponyo" twice before you've finished seeing it once. Five minutes into this magical film you'll be making lists of the individuals of every age you can expose to the very special mixture of fantasy and folklore, adventure and affection, that make up the enchanted vision of Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki. The great genius of contemporary animation, the only foreign director to win the Oscar for best animated feature (for "Spirited Away," which al... (read more)

      • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: The IMAX 2D Experience poster image

        Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: The IMAX 2D Experience

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A small vial of "liquid luck" (lovely concept, one of many in J.K. Rowling's universe) plays a supporting role in "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," No. 6 in the franchise. (The two-film edition of " Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" will be released in 2010 and 2011, respectively.) But luck, really, has little to do with the way these films turn out. After getting my head caught in the blender that is "Transformers 2," I found it especially ... (read more)

      • Moon poster image

        Moon

        Betsy Sharkey, Chicago Tribune

        Another name for "Moon" might be, and I mean this only slightly facetiously, "2009: A Space (Spacey?) Odyssey," as it's virtually impossible not to be reminded of Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece between Kevin Spacey's soothing ministrations as a computer named Gerty and Sam Rockwell's efforts to cope as the lone occupant of a lunar outpost. The film, the first for director Duncan Jones, is certainly reaching for the same stars, the ones that his dad, David Bowie, shot throu... (read more)

      • Up in Disney Digital 3D poster image

        Up in Disney Digital 3D

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        You know the most heartening thing about the new Disney-Pixar film "Up"? It may be wonderful, but it isn't perfect. It feels nervy and adventurous and a little messy, the result of formidable creators and genuine wits working on an enormous budget, enormously well-spent. As different as it is from its Pixar predecessors "Ratatouille" and "WALL-E," and as different as those two masterworks were from each other, "Up" shares with those films a few storytel... (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)

      • Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father poster image

        Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father

        Maureen M. Hart, Chicago Tribune

        A documentary of love and loss, "Dear Zachary" is a last gift to a departed friend, a filmmaker's salute to the childhood buddy who acted in Kuenne's earliest productions. Dr. Andrew Bagby was 28 when he was shot to death in a Pennsylvania park Nov. 5, 2001. His parents, David and Kathleen, forced to ID their only child at the morgue, were sustained in large part by his legion of friends, many of whom appear in the film. An ex-girlfriend named Shirley Turner was the main suspect, an... (read more)

      • Let the Right One In poster image

        Let the Right One In

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        I'm so sick of Swedish vampire movies, aren't you? Honestly, I've had it with those bloodsucking Svenskar. If you can stomach just one more, however, "Let the Right One In" is the Swedish vampire movie to see. The film is terrific. The upcoming screen version of "Twilight" (opening Nov. 21) may be the set of fangs everyone's waiting for, at least among certain demographics, but I can't imagine anyone older than 15, who cherishes vampire lore or not, failing to fall for thi... (read more)

      • Mamma Mia! poster image

        Mamma Mia!

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's funny what you buy completely onstage and resist completely, or nearly, on-screen. Case in point: "Mamma Mia!" -the ABBA-fueled stage phenomenon that has now become "Mamma Mia! The Movie." Of course I never miss a Meryl Streep musical. On-screen she sang in "Silkwood," "Ironweed," "Postcards From the Edge" and plenty in "A Prairie Home Companion." Onstage Streep put her pipes to work on Brecht and Weill's "Happy End";... (read more)

      • Shine a Light poster image

        Shine a Light

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The ads for the new Rolling Stones concert picture "Shine a Light" come at you like a three-way heavyweight title bout. There's also an undeniably corporate air to the packaging: three well-known brands converging for an event, a concert by the Stones performed in 2006 at New York's Beacon Theatre, apropos of nothing except a chance to be captured for posterity for fun and profit, en route to the next tour stop. But who needs an excuse for a party? This one's a lot of fun. Director... (read more)

      • Stardust poster image

        Stardust

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Stardust" has its moments, most of them plot-unrelated. The highlight is a patter routine wherein Robert De Niro, as a cross-dressing pirate, haggles over the price of some fenced goods with a disreputable fellow played by Ricky Gervais. The way these two negotiate back and forth it's like Faerie Kingdom vaudeville, a distant cousin to the Billy Crystal and Carol Kane routines in "The Princess Bride." Most of "Stardust," alas, has no time for such detours. The ... (read more)

      • Hairspray poster image

        Hairspray

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        As mile-high-wig musicals go, the film version of "Hairspray" is less polished but more fun than "Dreamgirls." Both are drag revues at heart, one funny, the other serious. I prefer the funny one. Whether or not "Hairspray" finds a large international audience depends on the audience's interest in seeing an international star enlarged. You have probably heard that this latest stage-to-screen musical transfer, based on the 1988 John Waters film, stars John Travolta... (read more)

      • Children of Men poster image

        Children of Men

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Dsytopian nightmares are so yesterday. They're a dime a dozen in the movies; earlier this year, for example, "V for Vendetta" came up with exactly 10 cents' worth of cinematic interest in exchange for your $9.50. The latest hellish forecast for our planet, however, makes up for the sluggishness of "Vendetta" in spades. It is "Children of Men," based on a P.D. James novel, and as directed - dazzlingly - by Alfonso Cuaron, it is that rare futuristic thriller: grim ... (read more)

      • The Nativity Story poster image

        The Nativity Story

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Few stories are more familiar than the one told in "The Nativity Story," a new film about the trials of Mary and Joseph, the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and the birth of Christ. So it seems a wonder at times that director Catherine Hardwicke and writer Mike Rich still manage to make the tale seem fresh and vital. Their movie is reverent without seeming too pious-minded, and loving without being sticky. And it has actors in the central roles, Keisha Castle-Hughes and Oscar Isa... (read more)

      • Happy Feet poster image

        Happy Feet

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A dancing-penguin epic with more mood swings than "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Terms of Endearment" put together, "Happy Feet" also claims the distinction of being the grimmest film with the word "happy" in its title since "Happy Birthday, Wanda June." This is merely a fact, not a dismissal. Far from it: A lot of director George Miller's film is gorgeous and exciting. Its craftsmanship and ambition put it a continent ahead of nearly every othe... (read more)

      • The Departed poster image

        The Departed

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        After the dolled-up theatrics of his last few features, from "Casino" (1995) up through "The Aviator" (2004), it's a kick to find director Martin Scorsese back in prime form, at least in the terrific first half of "The Departed." The second half of this Boston-set thriller, based on the sleek, more sparingly brutal 2002 Hong Kong export "Infernal Affairs," can't quite match it, despite a few bursts of startling violence handled as only a first-rate dire... (read more)

      • Deep Sea IMAX 3D poster image

        Deep Sea IMAX 3D

        Michael Esposito, Chicago Tribune

        Director Howard Hall (?Into the Deep,? ?Island of the Sharks?) and the underwater IMAX film team do their usual splendid job of making the sea and its often-hungry denizens look beautiful in ?Deep Sea 3D.? While the film spans the oceans, much of it takes place in near-shore areas such as coral reefs and kelp forests - areas teeming with life from minuscule plankton to a hefty (though still youthful) right whale, not to mention rays, eels, a multitude of crustaceans, anemones, seastars, barra... (read more)

      • Brokeback Mountain poster image

        Brokeback Mountain

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The Western genre?s big skies and limitless visual capacity for loneliness have enveloped nearly a century?s worth of stories, all kinds, about flinty survivors learning that a man?s gotta do what a man?s gotta do. ?Brokeback Mountain,? a good and eloquent Wyoming-set love story with a great performance at its heart, is part of that classical filmmaking tradition. It is also prime Oscar bait. Already the film has won the best picture prize from the New York and Los Angeles film critics and sn... (read more)

      • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire poster image

        Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Unlike Peter Pan, that other magical airborne boy of British literature and film, J.K. Rowling?s Harry Potter just keeps growing up. So do the Potter movies, in size, in ambition and in visual splendor - and with increasingly stunning results. ?Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire? is the latest film adventure for the bespectacled student sorcerer of Rowling?s amazingly well-imagined Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And it may be the best-filmed Potter of them all - though last year... (read more)

      • Oldboy poster image

        Oldboy

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Chan-wook Park's "Oldboy" is a high-voltage Korean saga about an elaborate cat-and-mouse game between a sadistic criminal of seemingly limitless resources and his dangerous prey: a businessman whose life has been brutally stolen from him. Set in modern Seoul, in a noir wilderness full of rain-slick streets, neon restaurants, corrupt gangsters and byzantine hotels, it's a movie of such jaw-dropping violence, wild improbability and dazzling style, it overpowers all resistance. "O... (read more)

      • The Devil and Daniel Johnston poster image

        The Devil and Daniel Johnston

        Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune

        After his first tab of acid, dosed backstage at a 1986 Butthole Surfers show in New York, the scrawny, scruffy and wide-eyed singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston smacked his manager with a pipe, putting him in the hospital; ran away to New Jersey; sent members of Sonic Youth on a wild goose chase after him; spent 24 hours in Bellevue; was released mistakenly due to a clerical error; and opened at CBGB that night. "In terms of creating a legend," says ex-girlfriend Kathy McCarty in Jeff... (read more)

      • I, Robot poster image

        I, Robot

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Midway through the Isaac Asimov-inspired "I, Robot" - in a chase scene with Will Smith as future Chicago cop Del Spooner, surrounded and attacked by vans full of menacing robots - we get something approaching a technology high. The hundreds of shimmery robot images are so fantastically detailed, yet so obviously an example of modern CGI virtuosity, that they're both scary and amusing. And though "Robot" tops that sequence several times, especially in its climactic cliffhan... (read more)

      • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban poster image

        Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        Just as J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" represents a step in maturity beyond the series' first two books, director Alfonso Cuaron's film version improves upon its predecessors. This third "Harry Potter" movie shakes the candy coating off of the franchise without violating its spirit. Chris Columbus, who directed the first two, is skilled at assembling the elements and moving a story along, but he doesn't leave behind ideas that haunt or images tha... (read more)

      • Troy poster image

        Troy

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        "Troy," Wolfgang Petersen's spectacular, literate saga of the Trojan War, may have been preposterously expensive ($175 million), but it's also in a league with Hollywood's top historical epics, ancient or otherwise. It's a stunningly handsome film, with an equally stunning cast and engrossing story - and a movie like this almost has to reach the top ranks in its class to succeed. With its outsize budget and dense, rich literary-historical source (Homer's "Iliad"), it's a h... (read more)

      • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind poster image

        Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        Charlie Kaufman writes heady movies about the heart. His resume - "Being John Malkovich," "Human Nature," "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," "Adaptation" and now "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" - offers a trick bag of off-kilter views into the disgruntled male soul. "Eternal Sunshine" features another one of Kaufman's muttering, self-critical protagonists, Joel Barish. Unreformed extrovert Jim Carrey has the role, though he m... (read more)

      • Big Fish poster image

        Big Fish

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Sometimes the stuff of pathos is better conveyed through lightness and fantasy than through the grim, hard facts. In the whimsical "Big Fish," that beguiling fantasist Tim Burton takes a painful subject - an estranged son's reconciliation during his father's terminal illness - and weaves around it a gossamer web of artifice and fancy, spinning a delightful set of American tall tales. With Albert Finney as prevaricating dad Ed Bloom, Billy Crudup as son Will, and Ewan McGregor as the... (read more)

      • Bad Santa poster image

        Bad Santa

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        You may never hear as much swearing around kids as in "Bad Santa." There are some lessons here: 1. Don't take kids to "Bad Santa." 2. Don't see "Bad Santa" if you're offended by swearing around kids. But for those who can laugh at the profane, who miss the toxic bite of early National Lampoon, who long for a comedy that would rather offend some than please everyone, who now require insulin shots from prolonged exposure to "Love Actually," who tire of Ch... (read more)

      • Elf poster image

        Elf

        Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

        Writer David Sedaris launched his career in 1992 with "The SantaLand Diaries," a scorching, hilarious account of his brief career as a Macy's Christmas elf. Given the reaction to that story, which is still in regular holiday-season rotation on public radio and has been sold in book form, it's astonishing that Hollywood didn't move faster on this fertile elfin ground. While "Elf" doesn't have Sedaris (his sister Amy has a small part, however), it does have "Saturday Ni... (read more)

      • Love Actually poster image

        Love Actually

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        The ensemble romantic comedy "Love Actually" opens with one of its least familiar actors, Bill Nighy, as a wonderfully crooked-faced pop singer recording a lame, Christmas-themed remake of the Troggs' "Love Is All Around." The running joke, which provides the movie's most reliable laughs, is that this old-timer is so candid and good-natured about the record's crassness that the British public sends it zooming up the charts. Alas, "Love Actually" has more in comm... (read more)

      • Kill Bill: Vol. 1 poster image

        Kill Bill: Vol. 1

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        There's no question that Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill, Vol. 1" is a virtuoso piece of filmmaking. What's questionable is whether it's more than that. He's been much imitated since his one-two punch of "Reservoir Dogs" (1992) and "Pulp Fiction" (1994), yet as you watch "Kill Bill, Vol. 1" (the story's second half, "Vol. 2," comes out in February), you realize that no one combines tension and release, violence and humor, dialogue and action an... (read more)

      • Maid in Manhattan poster image

        Maid in Manhattan

        Caro, Chicago Tribune

        "Maid in Manhattan" follows the lead of certain fast-food chains that combine familiar ingredients under a new name and make sure they taste exactly as anyone would expect them to. That's not necessarily a bad thing if you've got a hankering for those flavors, but no one's going to confuse the meal for fine dining. The filmmaker and studio here are banking on the idea that people are in the mood for yet another Cinderella story, albeit one without wicked stepsisters. Jennifer Lopez ... (read more)

      • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets poster image

        Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        Entering the world of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" is like returning to a wondrous summer camp after a year's break. You see old friends, meet some new ones, and you're reminded of the magical appeal of a place far away from home. Only after becoming acclimated do you notice what bugs you. Last year's first entry in the Potter movie series, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," may not have exceeded J.K. Rowling's book, but it gave a good taste of what made... (read more)

      • Punch-Drunk Love poster image

        Punch-Drunk Love

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        "Punch-Drunk Love" is an Adam Sandler movie with class, and if that sounds like an oxymoron, so be it. The movie is a happy nightmare of silly-smart movie comedy that defies category - and challenges expectations involving Sandler and his pictures. Written and directed by one of the brainiest of the younger American auteurs, Paul Thomas Anderson ("Boogie Nights"), this offbeat romantic farce puts Sandler - the delight of college students and the bane of some of their elder... (read more)

      • Spirited Away poster image

        Spirited Away

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        The pictures are worth a thousand words in "Spirited Away," Disney Studios' delightful English-language version of the Japanese feature cartoon that holds that country's all-time box office record. In this case, popularity is not an index of expensive hype. Writer-director Hayao Miyazaki's spellbinding tale of a little girl named Chihiro who's lost in an alternative world of tricky ghosts and bizarre monsters is both universally engaging and deeply personal. It's a movie full of bew... (read more)

      • Hedwig and the Angry Inch poster image

        Hedwig and the Angry Inch

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        Most modern-day drag queens don't rock. They're more likely to be seen grooving to disco or lip-synching to ABBA or just generally camping it up. But the title character of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" isn't your typical drag queen. Having survived a botched sex-change operation (which left the "one-inch mound of flesh" that explains the rest of the title), married and been abandoned by an American G.I., moved from East Berlin to a Kansas trailer park and formed a rock band... (read more)

      • Moulin Rouge poster image

        Moulin Rouge

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Grandiose and whimsical, packed with oddball delights and bursts of passion, Baz Luhrmann's "Moulin Rouge" is a rare picture that gets you intoxicated on the possibilities of movies. Luhrmann is a filmmaker of near-demonic energy and invention. He transforms the film's chestnut of a story a sensitive and penniless writer (Ewan McGregor) battles for the body and soul of a dazzling courtesan-entertainer (Nicole Kidman) into something mad and wonderful. "Moulin Rouge" is a ... (read more)

      • Shrek poster image

        Shrek

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        With "Shrek," DreamWorks stakes its claim to Disney's cutting-edge animation crown while blowing a raspberry in Mickey Mouse's face. This computer-animated film, which mostly chronicles the title ogre's adventures in rescuing a princess, aims to be not just a kids flick but a sassy mock fairy tale that appeals to all ages and sensibilities. Leaving few of its swamp stones unturned, "Shrek" is alternately sweet and mean, sophisticated and vulgar, witty and base, dazzling an... (read more)

      • Memento poster image

        Memento

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        Memento is a thriller for people who are sick of thrillers, a puzzle movie in which the puzzle is actually worth the time and effort to solve. Suspense movies of late have been anything but suspenseful. The lead character faces some mystery, travels down right and wrong paths, gets double-crossed in an out-of-nowhere "surprise" and winds up in a chase in which the villain ultimately buys the farm. Young British writer-director Christopher Nolan (Following) turns the formula on its... (read more)

      • Jurassic Park poster image

        Jurassic Park

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        Forget blowing the images up to Imax size and converting the lunging velociraptors and T. rexes into 3-D. The best reason to revive "Jurassic Park" for its 20th anniversary is Jeff Goldblum. Yes, children, there was a time when Goldblum was sci-fi's "ultimate explainer," as producer Dean Devlin labeled him in "Independence Day." Goldblum's bug-eyes said "scientist-smart," and his mannered, considered and hesitating line readings reinforce that. His very... (read more)

      • Godzilla poster image

        Godzilla

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        What would the 1954 Japanese monster classic "Godzilla: King of the Monsters" be without Raymond Burr? As it turns out, it would be a much better movie, something you can confirm for yourself at the Music Box by catching the original version of "Godzilla," director Ishiro (or Inishiro) Honda's epochal tale of a post-nuclear sea monster's assault on Tokyo. Godzilla, of course, is the oft-copied, never-duplicated, gigantic scaly monster who, mutated into super-monstrosity by... (read more)

      • Happy Christmas poster image

        Happy Christmas

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        ?Joyeux Noel? (?Merry Christmas?), one of this year?s foreign-language Oscar nominees, is based on an incident that took place on Christmas 1914 in the trenches near the German-French border. Reshaped by French writer-director Christian Carion, it becomes a poignant story, partly true, partly invented, about fraternization between enemies in wartime, in this case among soldiers of three armies - the French and British allies and Germans - whose wintry trenches are within walking distance of ... (read more)

      • Sea Monsters 3D: A Prehistoric Adventure poster image

        Sea Monsters 3D: A Prehistoric Adventure

        Michael Esposito, Chicago Tribune

        National Geographic's "Sea Monsters 3D: A Prehistoric Adventure" dives into the toothy Cretaceous era's undersea world where the Great Plains were part of the seabed in an inland sea, a North American Mediterranean, 80 million years ago. The stories, narrated by Liev Schreiber, are based on fossil records. For example, the star of the film is a female dolichorhynchops or "doli" (pronounced "dolly"), a dolphin-sized marine reptile that fed mainly on fish and squid... (read more)

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