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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)

      • Bohemian Rhapsody poster image

        Bohemian Rhapsody

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        At the center of the long-gestating Queen biopic "Bohemian Rhapsody" is the kind of performance that's less acting than it is the channeling of a spirit from another realm. Rami Malek takes to the role of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury with a studious intensity, making manifest the dueling relationship between the twin poles of Mercury's personality: his confidence and his insecurity. It's the centrifuge around which the rather uneven film whirls, and Malek keeps it going with his s... (read more)

      • Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween poster image

        Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The 2015 adaptation of R.L. Stine's popular "Goosebumps" book series was way better than it had any right to be. Starring Jack Black as a freewheeling version of the author, the film was a kid-friendly Halloween spookfest that examined the way we use horror as a coping mechanism in everyday life. It was smart and silly and scary, anchored by the inimitable Black. But the follow-up, "Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween," is a serious disappointment, starting with how Black is b... (read more)

      • Alpha poster image

        Alpha

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Eighth Grade poster image

        Eighth Grade

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation poster image

        Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Hereditary poster image

        Hereditary

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Adrift poster image

        Adrift

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A highly seaworthy star performance from ``Divergent trilogy captain Shailene Woodley battles an onslaught of Category 4-level flashbacks in ``Adrift. This is the fact-based drama of what happened to Tami Oldham (now Tami Oldham Ashcraft) when she set sail in 1983 from Tahiti to San Diego with her fiance, Englishman Richard Sharp. Their craft was a 44-foot yacht; their adversary was Hurricane Raymond, which they met a few weeks into their planned 4,000-mile trek. The hurricane whipped up 40-f... (read more)

      • Mary Shelley poster image

        Mary Shelley

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Murder on the Orient Express poster image

        Murder on the Orient Express

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Blade Runner 2049 poster image

        Blade Runner 2049

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In 1982, when replicants hadn't yet become a Hollywood business model, "Blade Runner" failed to do what Warner Brothers hoped it would: make a pile of money. It succeeded, however, in acquiring the reputation of a modern science fiction classic. Director Ridley Scott's 2019-set story (based on Philip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?") entered our popular culture sideways, influencing two generations of filmmakers with its menacing dystopian perspective. Now ... (read more)

      • Marjorie Prime poster image

        Marjorie Prime

        Justin Chang, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times "It's always nice to be lied to." Those words are tossed off with a chuckle early on in "Marjorie Prime," but by the end they have acquired an almost prophetic significance. Beautiful untruths and half-truths abound in Michael Almereyda's quietly shimmering new movie, which takes place in a somewhat distant future when our deceased loved ones can be summoned back as "Primes" -- artificially intelligent holograms that, through the act of talking ... (read more)

      • Dunkirk poster image

        Dunkirk

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        With a bare minimum of dialogue, and a brutal maximum of scenes depicting near-drowning situations in and around Dunkirk, France, in late May and early June 1940, Christopher Nolan's "Dunkirk" is a unique waterboarding of a film experience. Many will respond to it, primally, as a grueling dramatization of what the English call "the Dunkirk spirit," one that turned a perilous mass evacuation of British and Allied troops, under German fire (though bad weather kept the Luftwa... (read more)

      • In the Deep poster image

        In the Deep

        Cary Darling, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Logan poster image

        Logan

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • The LEGO Batman Movie poster image

        The LEGO Batman Movie

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • La La Land poster image

        La La Land

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Seasons poster image

        Seasons

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A Music Box Films release, the exceedingly pretty documentary "Seasons" comes from filmmakers Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud, the two-Jacques act behind "Oceans" and, earlier, their most dazzling work to date, "Winged Migration." With "Seasons" they go long, and wide, if not necessarily deep. In the words of the co-directors, the film covers "20,000 years of the history of Europe's wild animals." They create an impressionistic, largely nar... (read more)

      • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them poster image

        Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Hell or High Water poster image

        Hell or High Water

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        One of the great pleasures in modern movies is watching Jeff Bridges peer a long, long way over a pair of reading glasses, chew on a private thought for a second or two and then roll the next line of dialogue out of his mouth, like an Atomic Fireball. He's a paradox: a joyously authentic hambone. And he's one of many successful elements of the sentimental, violent, irresistible new crime thriller "Hell or High Water." If you like, call it a Western. It's a Western old-fashioned enou... (read more)

      • Florence Foster Jenkins poster image

        Florence Foster Jenkins

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Perhaps not every quirky true story needs a biopic starring Meryl Streep, as evidenced by Stephen Frears' bizarre "Florence Foster Jenkins," the story of a wealthy older woman who launched an amateur singing career in the 1940s, despite her distinct lack of talent. It's a film that dares you to give it a bad review, simply so it can turn around and call you a bully who picks on the people who try. It invites you to giggle at Florence's horrible singing and then promptly scolds you f... (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)

      • The BFG poster image

        The BFG

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        There's a lot not quite right and even flat-out wrong with "The BFG," and we'll get to that. There's also a lot that's very, very right, starting with Mark Rylance's astonishing performance-capture portrayal of the Big Friendly Giant created by author Roald Dahl. The right stuff makes it worth seeing. Like millions of other kids, I cherished the droll wish-fulfillment sadism of Dahl's earlier works "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "James and the Giant Peach,&qu... (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)

      • 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)

      • Mr. Holmes poster image

        Mr. Holmes

        Colin Covert, Chicago Tribune

        With Robert Downey Jr. making him a skull-cracking action hero, and Benedict Cumberbatch making him a high-functioning sociopath, what sort of Sherlock Holmes yarn can add fresh story material? How about Ian McKellen playing the immortal character as we've never seen him before? The Sherlock we meet in "Mr. Holmes" is a man of growing frailties, gently portrayed. Well into the dusk of his life at 93, his recollection has declined worryingly. The long-retired consulting detective als... (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)

      • Magic Mike XXL poster image

        Magic Mike XXL

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Magic Mike XXL" comes up a little short compared with the original, director Steven Soderbergh's blithe and bonny Channing Tatum showcase inspired by Tatum's salad days as a male stripper. This time the jokes are heavier, more on-the-nose, though a surprising percentage of them work anyway. And yet the sequel earns its singles, reasons that are simple and quite unusual. Feel free to quit reading the review here, because why lie? You've already determined whether you're going to see... (read more)

      • Infinitely Polar Bear poster image

        Infinitely Polar Bear

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        How much funny goes with the crazy? Facile as it sounds, this is the question guiding the efforts of a considerable number of writer-directors over the years, as they have brought family stories (often autobiographical) involving some form of mental illness to the screen. The latest of these is "Infinitely Polar Bear," writer-director Maya Forbes' agreeable but dodgy film based on Forbes' experiences growing up with a bipolar father in 1970s-era Cambridge, Mass. It's worth seeing, o... (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)

      • Tomorrowland poster image

        Tomorrowland

        Christopher Borrelli, Chicago Tribune

        By now you probably heard that the series finale of "Mad Men" ended with adman Don Draper dressed in loose-fitting whites, chanting "om" on the lawn of a commune in California, perched at the edge of the Pacific, the 1960s having slid into the 1970s. Then, just as we assumed Don had found spiritual release, a smile flickered at his mouth. He had an idea, and the show cut to that most characteristic of '70s corporate hosannas -- a field of people singing they would like to ... (read more)

      • Mad Max: Fury Road poster image

        Mad Max: Fury Road

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water poster image

        The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Annie poster image

        Annie

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It brings no pleasure to report this, especially when the distributing studio, Sony, is dealing with a monstrous hacking scandal and a hard-knock year. Let's put it charitably. The risks taken by co-writer and director Will Gluck ("Easy A," "Friends With Benefits," both quite good) begin with pulling "Annie" out of the 1930s and plopping it down in contemporary Manhattan. Living in foster care up in Harlem, the girl formerly known as "orphan" (each time... (read more)

      • Penguins of Madagascar poster image

        Penguins of Madagascar

        Geoff Berkshire, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Interstellar poster image

        Interstellar

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Ida poster image

        Ida

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips One of the year's gems, photographed in velvety, expressive black-and-white by two different cinematographers working as one, "Ida" accomplishes so much, so surely in its 80 minutes, it's as if the director Pawel Pawlikowski had dared himself: How can I tell this fascinating story efficiently yet without rushing and abridging the narrative? His answer is the film itself, set in early 1960s Poland, not so many years aft... (read more)

      • Only Lovers Left Alive poster image

        Only Lovers Left Alive

        Sheri Linden, Chicago Tribune

        With the YA swoon of "Twilight" safely in the rearview mirror, movie vampires get their mojo back in the sensuous dreamscape of "Only Lovers Left Alive," one of the strongest films yet from Jim Jarmusch. A filmmaker with a deep affection for outsiders, Jarmusch sets his ode to the urbane undead -- and margin-dwelling artists -- in two ultra-poetic cities: Detroit, a vision of trampled grandeur on the cusp of rebirth, and worldly Tangier, its alleyways alive with the murmur... (read more)

      • Divergent poster image

        Divergent

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In Veronica Roth's young adult trilogy of best-selling futuristic hellholes, being a "divergent" means you avoid easy categorization and defy the crushing dictates of your overseers. The movie version of "Divergent" is no divergent. It goes along to get along. It's tame, formulaic and strictly by the book in every sense. Certainly you can do worse in this genre. The recent screen adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's "The Host" was a lot worse. But you can do better, c... (read more)

      • Jodorowsky's Dune poster image

        Jodorowsky's Dune

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The 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)

      • Ender's Game poster image

        Ender's Game

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In step with its sensitive, tactically brilliant 12-year-old hero, "Ender's Game" is a bit of a tweener, neither triumph nor disaster, a war-games fantasy with a use-by date of Nov. 22, when the new "Hunger Games" movie comes out. Its central action scenes unfold in a vast zero-gravity battle-simulation arena, on a space station readying for an alien attack of enormous skittery bugs called Formics. The preteens and young teenagers being trained to save the world play dange... (read more)

      • Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa poster image

        Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        Strip the danger out of ``Borat'' and the injuries out of ``Jackass,'' and you've got a bead on ``Bad Grandpa,'' a fitfully funny, semi-scripted ``Jackass'' outing built around elaborately staged pranks played on the unsuspecting. Johnny Knoxville dons old-age makeup and becomes Irving Zisman, whom we meet at his wife's doctor's office: ``I thought she'd never die.'' Innocent bystanders give him a look. At the funeral, a hired black church choir freaks out -- a bit -- at Irving's tasteless eu... (read more)

      • Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 poster image

        Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The 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)

      • 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)

      • Frankenweenie poster image

        Frankenweenie

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Before things took off with "Pee-wee's Big Adventure" and "Beetlejuice," Tim Burton made a live-action black-and-white film, in 1984, called "Frankenweenie." You can find it on YouTube. It's really good. Just about everything we now know as Burtonesque -- passionate devotion to '30s, '40s, '50s and '60s Hollywood, English and Japanese horror; the "Leave it to Beaver"-but-sinister vision of American domestic life; the black humor, always in the corner of... (read more)

      • Dredd poster image

        Dredd

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The time-killing carnage in "Dredd 3D" can be assessed all sorts of ways. One depends on how much M-rated gaming you do as a matter of course. If the answer is some, or a lot, you'll likely find "Dredd 3D" up your viscera-strewn alley, because the film isn't merely influenced by a genre of first-person, shoot/stab/eviscerate/these/anonymous/enemies scenarios. It re-creates them, slavishly, as did the recent "The Raid: Redemption," so that calling "Dredd 3D&q... (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)

      • Rock of Ages poster image

        Rock of Ages

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Onstage, the ABBA love letter "Mamma Mia!" made the jukebox-musical trick look easy and enjoyable. On screen, less enjoyment, more strain -- but people love their ABBA, their Meryl Streep and their Greek islands. And the movie did the trick for those who never miss a Pierce Brosnan musical. We have the popularity of "Mamma Mia!" to thank for a much thinner jukebox goof, the tribute to '80s glam, hair, metal and krrrrranggg! known as "Rock of Ages." A few days aft... (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)

      • 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)

      • Drive poster image

        Drive

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Drive" begins extremely well and ends in a muddle of ultraviolence, hypocrisy and stylistic preening, which won't be any sort of deterrent for those who like its looks. Director Nicolas Winding Refn's avenging-angel thriller premiered at this year's Cannes Film Festival, where Refn won the directing prize, and every supersaturated image is designed for hushed adoration. If the movie were a movie star, it'd be looking just past you to see if someone cooler had recently come in. Ryan... (read more)

      • Contagion poster image

        Contagion

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Director Steven Soderbergh knows how to keep calm in the face of a global pandemic. He's the anti-Michael Bay, the un-Roland Emmerich. No fake-documentary "realism" here; Soderbergh values the silence before the storm, or a hushed two-person encounter in which one or both parties are concealing something. Written by Scott Z. Burns, "Contagion" -- likely to provoke a widespread outbreak of midscreening antibacterial hand gel usage -- contains little in the way of on-screen ... (read more)

      • Super 8: The IMAX Experience poster image

        Super 8: The IMAX Experience

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Set in 1979 during the summer of "Alien" and "Breaking Away," "Super 8" evokes a time before smartphones and YouTube, when making movies with your pals (inspired by the last five movies you saw at the two-screen theater out by the shopping center) took some effort, risked serious social isolation and constituted a high, rarefied calling. It's a good time, this movie -- a critter picture conjoined with a coming-of-age picture. While its more obvious '70s and '80s ... (read more)

      • The Tree of Life poster image

        The Tree of Life

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In 1975 writer-director Terrence Malick told a writer from Sight and Sound magazine: "There's something about growing up in the Midwest. There's no check on you. People imagine it's the kind of place where your behavior is under constant observation, where you really have to toe the line. They got that idea from Sinclair Lewis. But people can really get ignored there and fall into bad soil." In Malick's first feature, "Badlands" (1973), that soil produced the serial killer... (read more)

      • True Grit poster image

        True Grit

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The new "True Grit" restores all the grit removed in the first version (the 1969 Henry Hathaway film starring John Wayne) of the 1968 Charles Portis novel. All of Portis' sardonic wit has been retained this time, and then some. The "then some" derives from this project's writers, directors and editors, all of whom are Joel and Ethan Coen, who edit under a pseudonym and who have been making Westerns (of variously disguised sorts), film noir riffs and revenge tragicomedies t... (read more)

      • How Do You Know poster image

        How Do You Know

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        On paper and in the gossip-sphere, the new romantic comedy written and directed by James L. Brooks has had a lot to overcome. Ridiculous budget, north of $100 million. Suspiciously few advance screenings. An aura of bland, generic complication in the film's marketing. But "How Do You Know" turns out to be quite good, and its strengths are a lot more interesting than its limitations. Reports of re-shoots indicate Brooks' own nervousness about the story resolution. Here's how the stor... (read more)

      • Burlesque poster image

        Burlesque

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The choicest dialogue in "Burlesque" provokes the sort of laughter that other, intentionally funny films only dream of generating. Gather 'round for some free samples! In the opening seconds, a country singer on the helpful soundtrack sings: "If ah ever left this town. ..." Not one minute later, the plucky Iowa waitress played by Christina Aguilera announces to her coworker: "Ah'm leavin'." After a few bars of '80s synthesizer and a travel montage, young Ali gets... (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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Shutter Island poster image

        Shutter Island

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        For Martin Scorsese's follow-up to the "crazy" (his word) Oscar-winning gangster picture "The Departed," the director has gone seriously bughouse with the thriller "Shutter Island." It is less a film than a puny trampoline -- an occasion, though a grim one, for this most fervently movie-mad of American directors to show off his love for the various pulp genres mooshed together by the 2003 Dennis Lehane novel. That book has been adapted, faithfully, for the screen... (read more)

      • Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans poster image

        Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Anything's possible in this storm!" says the man with the badge in Werner Herzog's delirious "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans," a true feat of daring and one of the craziest films of the year. It's a very loose remake of the 1992 "Bad Lieutenant," in which director Abel Ferrara unleashed Harvey Keitel as a drug-addled spin cycle disguised as a police detective. The character of the drug-abusing cop, at work and play, has been relocated from New York to ... (read more)

      • The Blind Side poster image

        The Blind Side

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Blind Side" fumbles a remarkable true story of an African-American product of the West Memphis projects who ended up at a Christian school and in the care of a wealthy white family, and then went on to professional football glory. The kid is Michael Oher, who now plays offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens. He is not the main character, though. The star is Sandra Bullock, whose character, Leigh Anne Tuohy, is conceived as a steel magnolia with a will of iron and the righteo... (read more)

      • Michael Jackson's This Is It poster image

        Michael Jackson's This Is It

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        How much of "Michael Jackson's This Is It" can we believe? Was Jackson, 50 at the time of his death on June 25, in rougher shape overall than the concert rehearsal footage assembled here suggests? Most certainly, yes. Produced with the full, watchful cooperation of the Jackson estate, pulled from 100-plus hours of film and video shot between March and June 2009, "This Is It" has no interest in telling the full story of anything, or the crumbling state of anyone. Rather, d... (read more)

      • Jennifer's Body poster image

        Jennifer's Body

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        From her earlier days and nights as a blogger and a pole dancer, screenwriter Diablo Cody knows a lot about the power of eyeballs, the predominance of the male gaze and the raging narcissism that feeds so many personalities, good and evil. Cody's Oscar-winning script for "Juno" revealed a highly stylized comic sensibility, as well as an arch-fiend of cleverness behind each turn of phrase. Her second script to reach the screen is "Jennifer's Body," which, like its privilege... (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)

      • (500) Days of Summer poster image

        (500) Days of Summer

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        For a lot of casual filmgoers in their teens and 20s - the ones yet to encounter a Charlie Kaufman script such as "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" or who haven't seen the bittersweet 1967 "Two for the Road," written by Frederic Raphael, or have yet to dive into a Milan Kundera novel - the structural mind games played by the romantic comedy "(500) Days of Summer" may throw them, happily, for a loop. I hope so. The structure's mainly what this pleasant summe... (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)

      • The Taking of Pelham 123 poster image

        The Taking of Pelham 123

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Entire epochs have passed since New York City could plausibly be called "the biggest rathole in the world," a charge made by the subway hijacker played by John Travolta in the shiny, gentrified remake (the second; there was a TV version late last century) of "The Taking of Pelham 123." But the city really was a rathole in 1974. The original film version of "Pelham" came out that year, same as "Death Wish." In the post-Watergate era, urban thrillers lov... (read more)

      • Star Trek: The IMAX Experience poster image

        Star Trek: The IMAX Experience

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        After "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," which exists primarily for its 7-Eleven Slurpee tie-in, the world needed a better franchise product, one that works with an audience rather than simply working it over. Here it is. The new "Star Trek" motion picture, not to be confused with "Star Trek - the Motion Picture" (1979), seeks to extend a lucrative brand with a young demographic. But it's a real movie - breathlessly paced bordering on manic, but propulsively entertainin... (read more)

      • The Limits of Control poster image

        The Limits of Control

        Betsy Sharkey, Chicago Tribune

        There are endless ways to film a face, particularly one with such a rich landscape as Isaach De Bankole's - cheekbones rising sharply over deep valleys, thundercloud eyes gazing straight into the gathering storm, and a wide plain of a forehead riding high above. In "The Limits of Control," Jim Jarmusch's absorbing and visually mesmerizing new crime thriller, the filmmaker risks everything on the power of De Bankole's face to carry us through. It is a gamble that pays off as the acto... (read more)

      • Friday the 13th poster image

        Friday the 13th

        Christopher Borrelli, Chicago Tribune

        I don't know about you, but my last encounter with Jason Voorhees was less than pleasant. We were in space, if I remember, and his employment situation, bloody awful in the best of times, only steady during the Reagan administration, had grown so desperate that he had to venture outside Earth's atmosphere to find anyone left to kill. "Jason X," the movie was called. And though he had led a full life - appearing in 3-D, vacationing in New York, going to hell, becoming a zombie, spli... (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)

      • Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D poster image

        Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Next year at least 11 different 3-D pictures will compete for the pleasure of the company of your eyeballs. By the time James Cameron's "Avatar" opens in December 2009, a spotty, unreliable cinematic tradition may well have reached critical mass and found new ways to amaze and entice a mass audience. Or else the trend will fizzle and the studios will await the next technological breakthrough in digital 3-D projection, the one that'll really put that lion in your lap and that lover i... (read more)

      • Kung Fu Panda poster image

        Kung Fu Panda

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Everything about "Kung Fu Panda" is a little better, a little sharper, a little funnier than the animated run of the mill. It's one of the few comedies of 2008 in any style or genre that knows what it's doing. Plus, all its jokes actually belong to the same movie, which is set in ancient China by way of Jack Black. In other words, it may have Black fulminating about "(going) blind from overexposure to pure awesomeness!" but nobody slips in a Travis Bickle impersonation or ... (read more)

      • Sex and the City poster image

        Sex and the City

        Jessica Reaves, Chicago Tribune

        At the New York City premiere of "Sex and the City," cast member Willie Garson (Stanford Blatch) called the highly anticipated movie "critic-proof." If the crowds at early screenings are any predictor of box office performance, he's right. Happily, he doesn't have to be. Witty, effervescent and unexpectedly thoughtful, the big-screen iteration of the HBO series stands up beautifully (and somewhat miraculously) to the twin pressures of popular expectation and critical asses... (read more)

      • My Brother Is an Only Child poster image

        My Brother Is an Only Child

        Sid Smith, Chicago Tribune

        The fey illogic in the title of "My Brother is an Only Child" hints at the style of this funny-sad film, which flips from dark to light moods and back with suave, unpredictable dexterity. The movie is a sweet, gently real portrait of two brothers coming of age in 1960s Italy and at the same time aswim in the muddy waters of postwar European politics. The brothers live in a rural area in cheap temporary quarters while awaiting long-promised, government-subsidized housing - a wait tha... (read more)

      • There Will Be Blood poster image

        There Will Be Blood

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        As surely as our country's multiple personalities owe a great deal to both religious fervor and the oil industry, "There Will Be Blood" reminds us that the greatest screen performances don't settle for capturing one trait, a dominant emotion or an easy way in. The very best of them are symphonies of paradox, forcing us to reckon with the ramifications. This is what Daniel Day-Lewis achieves in director Paul Thomas Anderson's majestic crackpot of a film. It runs 158 minutes on a broo... (read more)

      • The Bucket List poster image

        The Bucket List

        Sid Smith, Chicago Tribune

        Rob Reiner proved bewitching and insightful on pre-adolescence ("Stand By Me"), on-the-road youth ("The Sure Thing") and adult love and lust ("When Harry Met Sally"). But he stumbles badly in tackling geriatric blues in "The Bucket List," a manipulative look at dying with dignity and a lame yarn about as realistic as the fantasy in "The Princess Bride." The pitch itself is hopelessly hokey. Two seniors (Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman), diff... (read more)

      • P.S. I Love You poster image

        P.S. I Love You

        Jessica Reaves, Chicago Tribune

        You think you've got relationship problems? Clearly you haven't met Holly Kennedy, who gets mail from her husband Gerry, a swaggering, hard-drinking, fun-loving, totally besotted romantic. Who has been dead for weeks. The letters, delivered to Holly (Hilary Swank) in all manner of clever ways, are more or less laundry lists of what Gerry (Gerard Butler) would like his wife to do in his absence. Composed in the throes of his battle with a brain tumor, these instructions go a long way to qualif... (read more)

      • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street poster image

        Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's not the volume of the blood that distinguishes "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" from every other film this year. The shocker is the context. Movie audiences aren't used to seeing throats slit while the leading character sings a song - Stephen Sondheim's stealthy, quietly obsessive counter-melody to "Johanna" - and then, in methodical succession, dumps the corpses down a makeshift slide into a cellar where the bodies collected are ground, slowly, into m... (read more)

      • American Gangster poster image

        American Gangster

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Amid this fall's array of small, topical dramas, many of which have carried a medicinal aftertaste, "American Gangster" comes as something of a relief. It's a big, juicy 1970s period piece, one foot in real life, the other in the movies, the preferred stance of many Hollywood crime sagas. The film gathers steam slowly but surely. Near the end, after spending most of their screen time on parallel tracks, Denzel Washington, as Harlem drug lord Frank Lucas, mixes it up with Russell Cro... (read more)

      • Michael Clayton poster image

        Michael Clayton

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Michael Clayton" makes old-style Hollywood craftsmanship look easy. It's one of the most satisfying films of the year, recalling a classy breed of studio film more common in the 1970s and the early `80s. Such films often made money, but they weren't blockbusters and didn't try to be. Generally they were too low-key to bust any blocks. So is "Michael Clayton," but I suspect it will wear well, and well past Oscar season. It comes from screenwriter Tony Gilroy, whose knack ... (read more)

      • Superbad poster image

        Superbad

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A new titan has joined the pantheon of adenoidal screen legends, up where Julius Kelp and Lina Lamont and Ratso Rizzo dwell. His name is Fogell, age 17 or thereabouts. He also goes by the one-named alias "McLovin," according to a fake ID that pegs McLovin as a 25-year-old Hawaiian organ donor. Fogell's theoretical access to store-bought liquor may hold the key to paradise for him and Seth and Evan, his fellow college-bound high school seniors played by Jonah Hill and Michael Cera. A... (read more)

      • Hot Rod poster image

        Hot Rod

        Jessica Reaves, Chicago Tribune

        If you've seen "Saturday Night Live" recently, you may experience a familiar sensation as you're watching "Hot Rod": Andy Samberg's doing a bit, and you're not really sure where it's going. Sure, it's funny, mainly because it's utterly absurd and meandering, but you can't help wondering when he's going to get to the point. And of course he never does because there is no point, but you forgive him and laugh anyway because he seems like a really nice guy. Oh, look, here come... (read more)

      • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix poster image

        Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        He's back, and he's hacked off. The most striking aspect of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" is its contrast between the hormonally and supernaturally tormented teenager at its center and the modestly well-made and easygoing picture unfolding all around him. No. 5 in the omnipresent global franchise, "Order of the Phoenix" lies at a no-nonsense halfway point between the best of the Potter films ("Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban") and the most ... (read more)

      • Surf's Up poster image

        Surf's Up

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Surf's Up" has only one point of overlap with "Happy Feet": the penguins. Whereas last year's Oscar-winning animated feature clobbered audiences with sound, tap, fury and 70 tons of pathos, "Surf's Up" is just a slip of a thing, derivative but mellow, about a teenage surfer from the penguin burg of Shiverpool, Antarctica, who ventures to the tropics to compete with the big kahunas of the flightless aviary endless-summer set. The life lessons learned here will be... (read more)

      • Hot Fuzz poster image

        Hot Fuzz

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In its climactic village assault, the English comedy "Hot Fuzz" risks becoming the excessive, slow-mo-slaughter affair it's satirizing. But the best of it is a riot - a "Bad Boys II" fireball hurled with exquisite accuracy at a quaint English town peopled by Agatha Christie archetypes. On the strength of "Shaun of the Dead," his droll zombie bash, the spot-on "Don't Scream" trailer in "Grindhouse" and now this, director Edgar Wright is one of ... (read more)

      • Zodiac poster image

        Zodiac

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In 1978, in one of many letters to the San Francisco Chronicle, the man known as Zodiac wrote: "I am waiting for a good movie about me." A generation later, David Fincher has made it. "Zodiac" is not the serial killer tale audiences expect in this torture-friendly, cold-cased era. To be sure, Fincher has been down this road before. In 1995, the director, trained in special effects and videos and the third "Alien" movie, broke through with "Se7en," the ... (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)

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