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      • Boyhood poster image

        Boyhood

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By the midpoint of writer-director Richard Linklater's gentle marvel "Boyhood," the round-faced young Texas boy played by Ellar Coltrane has become a lanky, plaintive teenager. Already an hour or so of screen time has floated by. Linklater made the film with a core group of actors over a 12-year period, starting with the kids played by Coltrane and Linklater's daughter, Lorelei Linklater, at ages 7 and 9, respectively. They change so quickly, these two. As the characters become teen... (read more)

      • Sex Tape poster image

        Sex Tape

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Like "2001: A Space Odyssey," Jake Kasdan's "Sex Tape" is a grim cautionary fable about the evils of technology, in this case pitting its desperate protagonists against an unseen force people refer to as "the cloud." Unlike "2001," it's also a stupid, strenuous sex farce starring Cameron Diaz, Diaz's dorsal-view body double and Jason Segel as an LA couple (she's a mommy blogger, he's in radio) with two kids, an increasingly groggy romantic life and a pr... (read more)

      • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes poster image

        Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Three summers ago "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" proved it's possible to reboot a franchise while avoiding that sinking feeling of movie capitalism at its dumbest. Now, in a disappointing July dominated with a shrug by "Transformers: Age of Extinction," the follow-up "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" has arrived. Just in time. The nation's multiplexes need a solid hit to save face and lend the impression that all's right with the business preferences and practic... (read more)

      • Life Itself poster image

        Life Itself

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Can a Song Save Your Life? poster image

        Can a Song Save Your Life?

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        "Begin Again" is an insistent puppy of a movie, just about willing you to like it. And while it has appeal -- you'd have to be a troll to resist it completely -- you may end up wanting to enjoy it more than its qualities will allow. Starring Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo, "Begin Again" is the latest film by John Carney, responsible for the landmark "Once," and although comparisons are invariably unfair, the two films have so much in common that the question of... (read more)

      • Deliver Us From Evil poster image

        Deliver Us From Evil

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Classed up by its cast, "Deliver Us From Evil" concludes with a deliverance from evil in the form of a rip-roaring exorcism, simply staged in a police interrogation room, though goosed up with the usual barrage of digital effects. Routine in nearly every aspect, the movie cannot be accused of holding out on its audience. The evil's delivered, and then dealt with. Co-writer and director Scott Derrickson's extremely loose adaptation of the book "Beware the Night" (the film's... (read more)

      • Earth to Echo poster image

        Earth to Echo

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        McClatchy Newspapers "Earth to Echo" is an engagingly unassuming "E.T." knockoff, a kids movie that serves up a similar alien-with-kids story in a "Blair Witch"/ "Paranormal" shaky-cam package. Disney produced it, but then sold it to Relativity. Cast with cute, likable kids, given a few decent effects and having that found-footage "reality," it doesn't have the financial or emotional heft of the mythic "phone home" tale. But it works... (read more)

      • Tammy poster image

        Tammy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Small favors, but in "Tammy" we have a less grating road-trip comedy than "Identity Thief," the one Melissa McCarthy did with Jason Bateman, and a more deliberately heartwarming vehicle than "The Heat," featuring McCarthy and Sandra Bullock. In McCarthy, we have a performer we can trust to deliver laughs even when they barely exist on the page. The "Mike & Molly" star and Oscar nominee (for "Bridesmaids") produced and co-wrote her latest with ... (read more)

      • They Came Together poster image

        They Came Together

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The agreeable romantic-comedy critique "They Came Together" is occasionally very funny, and moderately funny the rest of the time. In mathematical terms that adds up to pretty funny or "funny enough." Director David Wain has worked in genre spoofs and other comedies, never more engagingly than in the summer-camp goof "Wet Hot American Summer," a beloved film very few people have actually seen, co-written with his frequent collaborator Michael Showalter. Their scr... (read more)

      • Transformers: Age of Extinction poster image

        Transformers: Age of Extinction

        Christopher Borrelli, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Jersey Boys poster image

        Jersey Boys

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Jersey Boys" the movie is a different, more sedate animal than "Jersey Boys" the Broadway musical. Often this happens when a stage success comes to the screen, even with many of the same performers and artistic team members on board. Changes are made; ardent fans of the original are variously pleased or disappointed. And in this case, those who missed the theatrical edition of the tale of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons -- how they found their sound and wrestled with t... (read more)

      • The Rover poster image

        The Rover

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        Don't take Eric's car. Don't take Eric's car. Don't take Eric's ... You get the idea. Masterfully brought to life by Guy Pearce in a performance of pure controlled ferocity, Eric and his implacable, obsessive, stop-at-nothing quest to recover his stolen vehicle is the centerpiece of David Michod's tense and remorseless "The Rover," a film shot in 100-degree-plus heat that chills the blood as well as the soul. Michod's name may not be familiar, but his debut film, "Animal Kingdo... (read more)

      • Think Like a Man Too poster image

        Think Like a Man Too

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A 105-minute ad for Caesars Palace, the passably engaging sequel "Think Like a Man Too" allows Kevin Hart, the ensemble's hottest potato, to hijack whole sections of the Las Vegas-set hijinks as he lets loose with his little verbal tsunamis of braggadocio. The way this comedy has been edited by Peter S. Elliot, presumably at the urging of director Tim Story, the shots barely hold themselves for two or three seconds before slam-cutting away to a pushy reaction shot. This isn't moment... (read more)

      • Third Person poster image

        Third Person

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Women! They're all desperate, agitated harpies and relentless sources of internal and external conflict in "Third Person," writer-director Paul Haggis' exasperating multistory drama about how hard it is for a nice, quiet, sensitive guy to be left alone to write an exasperating multistory drama. Liam Neeson stars as that guy. He's a famous prize-winning author, holed up in a swank Paris hotel room, trying to wrestle his latest novel into shape many drafts after its inception. He has ... (read more)

      • 22 Jump Street poster image

        22 Jump Street

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The peculiar sweetness of "21 Jump Street" has taken a hiatus in "22 Jump Street," a brazen sequel that's both slightly disappointing and a reliable, often riotous "laffer" in the old Variety trade-magazine parlance. No question about it, I laffed, more at the little things -- Channing Tatum trying to cut glass with a laser pointer, for example -- than the brawls. And now it's crow-eating time. For a long time I misjudged Channing Tatum's abilities; not too many ... (read more)

      • Ivory Tower poster image

        Ivory Tower

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        Is college, specifically the elite four-year residential model, overrated? Is it worth its ever-increasing cost? Has it been oversold as the key to a child's brighter future? The stimulating documentary "Ivory Tower" asks all these tough questions and, most provocatively of all, declines to give definitive answers. As directed by Andrew Rossi, "Ivory Tower" wants to educate and stir the pot, to get us to understand the extent of the dilemma, which is considerable. This fil... (read more)

      • Oh Boy poster image

        Oh Boy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips Reports of the slim but impressive 83-minute German film "A Coffee in Berlin" -- titled "Oh Boy" in its popular initial European release -- have been inflated by the picture winning scads of awards in its country of origin upon initial release. But we're here to talk about the movie, not the hype or the burden of expectation. This Music Box Films release has a distinct and confident look, as sure of itself vi... (read more)

      • The Fault in Our Stars poster image

        The Fault in Our Stars

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In the discreetly assaultive film version of "The Fault in Our Stars" there's a scene, faithful to the one in the best-selling John Green book, where Hazel and Augustus visit the Amsterdam home of a novelist whose cancer-related novel holds great personal meaning for two teenage Indianapolis cancer patients in love. The meeting is a bust. Their literary idol turns out to be a cynical, drunken lout. The kids decide to shake it off and tour the nearby Anne Frank museum. Gamely lugging... (read more)

      • A Million Ways to Die in the West poster image

        A Million Ways to Die in the West

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "A Million Ways to Die in the West" is a grim vanity project for, by and about its creator, "Family Guy" guru Seth MacFarlane, determined here to prove himself capable of carrying his own movie in a romantic-comic leading role. He hits his marks; he's just not funny or interesting. Don Knotts made "The Shakiest Gun in the West"; MacFarlane is the smuggest. Plenty of comedies aren't funny, but this one is more than that. It's wholeheartedly narcissistic in its por... (read more)

      • Maleficent poster image

        Maleficent

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The formula works. It worked with "Wicked" on stage and it worked with "Frozen" on film -- tilting the storytelling prism so that a new angle on a well-known fairy tale appears in the light. The strategy depends on humanizing characters formerly known as evil, so that another tale of conflicted impulses emerges from the story we know, driven by female antagonist/protagonist hybrids who aren't bad, just misunderstood. So it goes with "Maleficent," the Disney corpo... (read more)

      • Blended poster image

        Blended

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        McClatchy Newspapers These days, Adam Sandler is a bottle of beer that's lost all its bubbles -- cheap, mass-produced domestic beer. So let's focus on what works in his latest, "Blended," because he sure doesn't. Drew Barrymore, in her third pairing with Sandler, still brings energy and conviction to her performance as Lauren, a mother of two thrown together on an African vacation with this lump she met on the blind date from hell -- a blind date at Hooters. Wendi McClendon-Covey, p... (read more)

      • Cold in July poster image

        Cold in July

        Betsy Sharkey, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips Only in Texas could the neo-noir of "Cold in July" be so believable. I say that as a fan of both the state and the style. This striking new entry in pulp fiction stars Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard and Don Johnson in a tangled tale of crime and punishment that mines the Lone Star lore of guns and killing. Written and directed by Jim Mickle and based on Joe R. Lansdale's novel, "Cold's" threatening mood puts it... (read more)

      • X-Men: Days of Future Past poster image

        X-Men: Days of Future Past

        Christopher Borrelli, Chicago Tribune

        About midway into the latest X-Men flick, Bryan Singer's generous, delightfully convoluted "X-Men: Days of Future Past," there is a prison break so exuberant and uncharacteristic of superhero movies that you sit up a bit in your seat. You feel the audience around you snapping to. Not because Singer's return to the 14-year-old film franchise feels undernourished (it doesn't). Or what comes before seems perfunctory (it's not). But because the sequence -- Wolverine, the Pentagon and &q... (read more)

      • Chinese Puzzle poster image

        Chinese Puzzle

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        McClatchy Newspapers There was a time when we felt safe assuming the course of our lives would be predictable: courtship in our teens and 20s, align ourselves with a career, marriage and kids by our 30s and "settle down" by 40. But maybe that's changing, evolving right before our eyes. That's the larger subtext of "Chinese Puzzle," the new French film, third in a series (we can't really call it a "trilogy") featuring those randy, open-minded Europeans of "L'... (read more)

      • Godzilla poster image

        Godzilla

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In one fell swoop, and a pretty swell fell swoop it is, the new "Godzilla" makes up for the 1998 Godzilla movie, the one with Matthew Broderick up against the sea beast klutzing around New York like Jack Lemmon in "The Out-of-Towners." The latest "Godzilla," fine and fierce, removes the camp (though it's not humorless) and takes the smartly considered step of not over-exploiting its star. Already it has become the water-cooler topic for this unusually classy summ... (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)

      • Million Dollar Arm poster image

        Million Dollar Arm

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Partly it's the granite chin, and the ever-so-slightly self-congratulatory grin just above it. Partly it's his signature role, the duplicitous hollow man Don Draper on "Mad Men," the role Jon Hamm has been fortunate enough to explore the past few years. Whatever the factors, Hamm may always have to guard against a certain self-regard on camera, a mild-to-moderate case of peacock-itis. The actor, like many a well-known star before him, has the blessing and the sometime curse of the r... (read more)

      • The Immigrant poster image

        The Immigrant

        Betsy Sharkey, Chicago Tribune

        "The Immigrant," starring Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner, is one of those prickly period pieces about hard times that gets under your skin and leaves you unsettled long after. Though its story is far more about survival than love, there is a sense of seduction in director James Gray's new film, a wolf in sheep's clothing quality. Not unlike Bruno Weiss, the dandy who trolls Ellis Island for pretty girls in bad straits, played so well by Phoenix. Cotillard's Ewa ... (read more)

      • Chef poster image

        Chef

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Jon Favreau's "Chef" has one goal: to make you want to eat Cuban sandwiches twice a day for the rest of your life. Meat-eating moviegoers of all palates will have a difficult time controlling their drool, thanks to writer-director-star Favreau's close-ups of a snazzy food truck grill in action, sizzling, sizzling away, the ham looking like heaven, to say nothing of the bread and the pickles. Then, just when things have dried up in the region of your chin, Favreau presents a sequence... (read more)

      • Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return poster image

        Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        "Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return" is a harmless but almost charmless adaptation of a book by L. Frank Baum's grandson. It's a derivative hash of grandpa's story, set in the present day, given forgettable new tunes by pop songsmiths such as Bryan Adams sung by the likes of Lea Michele, Martin Short, Hugh Dancy and the operatic Megan Hilty of TV's "Smash." And it's in 3-D, of course. This work, animated at Prana in India, has decent production design -- a dark, abandoned Eme... (read more)

      • Moms' Night Out poster image

        Moms' Night Out

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        Faith-based films have become commonplace this year. But faith-based comedies? Comedies that work? That's still a very short historical list -- the George Burns blockbuster "Oh God" and Andy Griffith's "Angel in my Pocket" are the only two that come to mind. "Moms' Night Out" doesn't join their ranks. A PG-rated romp that never romps, it lacks the jokes, sight gags, pacing and performances that laughs are made of. A funny movie doesn't have to leave you with a &q... (read more)

      • Palo Alto poster image

        Palo Alto

        Mark Olsen, Chicago Tribune

        Written and directed by Gia Coppola, "Palo Alto" is adapted from a collection of short stories by James Franco and conjures a delicate, very specific sense of middle-class adolescence, the indeterminate, nascent feelings of the teenage years. Small moments can feel epic in scale, such as when a boy almost sending a girl a text message is an emotional turning point. Revolving around a small group of high school kids in a suburban anywhere, the film follows shy April (Emma Roberts), w... (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)

      • The Amazing Spider-Man 2 poster image

        The Amazing Spider-Man 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Already spinning large webs of money overseas, "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" is a decent superhero franchise product, lent some personality by Andrew Garfield's skyscraper hair and the actor's easy, push-pull rapport with co-star Emma Stone, who plays the eternally disappointed Gwen, freshly graduated from high school, frustratingly in love with Peter Parker. The love is mootual, as Teri Garr said in "Young Frankenstein." But Spandexed, web-slinging crime-fighting consumes ou... (read more)

      • Brick Mansions poster image

        Brick Mansions

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        McClatchy Newspapers The late Paul Walker wasn't a great actor, but within a narrow corner of the action genre, he was the guy who got the job done. A vulnerable tough guy who could hold his own in stunt brawls and car chases, an actor who said "bro" like he meant it, he will be missed. But not for something like "Brick Mansions." This A-level action/D-level plot is too typical of the lesser fare that Walker squeezed in between the increasingly popular, decreasingly intell... (read more)

      • For No Good Reason poster image

        For No Good Reason

        Gary Goldstein, Chicago Tribune

        The inventively shot and constructed documentary "For No Good Reason" is an absorbing look at the unique, surreal work of British cartoonist Ralph Steadman. Yet the film, directed by Charlie Paul and narrated by -- and also co-starring -- Steadman's friend and admirer Johnny Depp, proves more successful at examining a lifetime's worth of an artist's output than at revealing much about the artist himself. Fortunately, Steadman's blotchy ink drawings are captivating; bold, weird, sati... (read more)

      • Locke poster image

        Locke

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Locke" is a solo act, and Tom Hardy is its superbly talented soloist. Throughout writer-director Steven Knight's nocturnal drama, the actor, deploying a Welsh accent, keeps his voice in a calm, determined register, suggesting a born manager and innate control freak whose life has spun atypically out of control. This man knows the best way to talk someone off a ledge does not involve matching or exceeding their emotions. Hardy, Mr. Intensity always, tamps down the character's inner ... (read more)

      • The Railway Man poster image

        The Railway Man

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The concept of manly grief leads into so many dark areas and cultural expectations -- questions about how men are expected to bury their trauma long after the traumatizing event. Or else, how men are expected to examine it, reckon with it emotionally, when everything in their DNA and their upbringing tells them to keep it in. In "The Railway Man," which has many problems but also has Colin Firth, the story belongs to Eric Lomax. Lomax's memoir gave this half-good, half-fraudulent fi... (read more)

      • Draft Day poster image

        Draft Day

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Draft Day" feels like a play, and I don't mean a football play. It feels like a play-play at its sporadic best, in the same way J.C. Chandor's 2011 "Margin Call" felt that way. Set mostly in a series of offices across 13 hours in a pressure-cooked day, the film lives and dies on the low-key, take-it-easy spectacle of Kevin Costner maneuvering his way through an administrative obstacle course, crises intermingling with draft-pick opportunities. Costner plays Sonny Weaver J... (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)

      • Rio 2 poster image

        Rio 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Captain America: The Winter Soldier poster image

        Captain America: The Winter Soldier

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Unknown Known poster image

        The Unknown Known

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips The crucial Rummyism in the life, lexicon and flamboyantly knotty verbiage of former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld isn't the infamous "known knowns/unknown knowns/known unknowns" briar patch. Rather, it's found in one of Rumsfeld's thousands of "snowflakes," internal memos to various colleagues, subordinates and superiors and, often, wee dictations to himself for future use. It goes like this: &qu... (read more)

      • Finding Vivian Maier poster image

        Finding Vivian Maier

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Vivian Maier is a great Chicago story. And what she did for, and with, the faces, neighborhoods and character of mid-20th century Chicago deserves comparison to what Robert Frank accomplished, in a wider format, with "The Americans." "Finding Vivian Maier" captures the bittersweet life, stealth photographic career and tantalizing riddle embodied by Maier (1926-2009), who was of French and Austrian ancestry. For much of her life Maier lived and worked as a nanny in Chicago'... (read more)

      • Noah poster image

        Noah

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Michael Phillips Neither fish nor fowl, neither foul nor inspiring, director and co-writer Darren Aronofsky's strange and often rich new movie "Noah" has enough actual filmmaking to its name to deserve better handling than a plainly nervous Paramount Pictures has given it. Aronofsky's a determined sort of fever dreamer, whose work so far includes "Black Swan" and "The Wrestler" in the popular success category, along with his earlier "Pi" and "Requi... (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)

      • Muppets Most Wanted poster image

        Muppets Most Wanted

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Michael Phillips High spirits and good times are hard to come by in "Muppets Most Wanted," the anxious follow-up to the commercially successful 2011 reboot ("The Muppets") and the seventh Muppet sequel to follow in the animal tracks of "The Muppet Movie" in 1979. I'm not sure what young newcomers will make of this sardonic take on the felt-covered universe, created by the late Jim Henson long before Disney got ahold of it. The pop culture references, mostly fleet... (read more)

      • Big Men poster image

        Big Men

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        No single resource is more essential to modern life than oil, and no film offers a more incisive look at how the enormous wealth oil creates subverts the morality of individuals, corporations, even entire countries than Rachel Boynton's compelling documentary "Big Men." Those who remember Boynton's excellent previous film, "Our Brand Is Crisis," an examination of political consultants working at the highest levels of Latin American elections, know this director's specialty... (read more)

      • Enemy poster image

        Enemy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Based on "The Double" by novelist Jose Saramago, "Enemy" stars Jake Gyllenhaal in what the old studio publicity departments used to call "a demanding dual role." We're in a city -- Toronto, clouded over with haze and a peculiar, sickly light managed by cinematographer Nicolas Bolduc -- where a history professor, played by Gyllenhaal, tries to rally his half-empty lecture halls with warnings of the totalitarian state. Is this man, Adam, the same man (also played b... (read more)

      • Need for Speed poster image

        Need for Speed

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Michael Phillips In the race between interesting, long-ish screen noses belonging to good young actors, it's simply too close to call between Dominic Cooper and Imogen Poots. Both English performers and their noses appear in the exuberantly stupid time-killer (and if logic were applied, pedestrian-killer), "Need for Speed." It is based on the Electronic Arts gaming franchise begun in 1994, back when dinosaurs ruled the Earth and gas was quite a bit cheaper. This was when video games... (read more)

      • 300: Rise of an Empire poster image

        300: Rise of an Empire

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Even with a change in directors and a half-enlightened, half-salacious emphasis on the voracious Persian conqueror played by Eva Green, "300: Rise of an Empire" hews closely to the look, vibe and the casualty count of its sleekly schlocky 2007 predecessor, helmed by Zack Snyder. Likewise taken from a Frank Miller graphic novel, the sequel chronicles mighty Grecian battles regarding who's going to get to use the workout equipment first. This is the genre of abs and pecs and arrows in... (read more)

      • Mr. Peabody & Sherman poster image

        Mr. Peabody & Sherman

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Michael Phillips We bring to the movies whatever childhoods we had, and whatever television we watched to keep real life at bay, one half-hour at a time. The frantic, occasionally funny new animated feature "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" is a 3-D big-screen version of a defiantly 2-D (if that) and utterly fantastic early 1960s artifact, endlessly replayed on television throughout the '70s and beyond. If you want this movie reviewed by somebody with less love for the original, try a differe... (read more)

      • The Grand Budapest Hotel poster image

        The Grand Budapest Hotel

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Non-Stop poster image

        Non-Stop

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        All's right with the world on this late day in February. Liam Neeson, also known as Mr. Capable or Uncle Avuncular, is back headlining another entertainingly preposterous thriller, this one called "Non-Stop," directed by his "Unknown" collaborator, director Jaume Collet-Serra. I can take or leave the "Taken" movies, which are so very, very profitable around the world, but thanks to films such as "Unknown," "The Grey" and now "Non-Stop,&qu... (read more)

      • The Wind Rises poster image

        The Wind Rises

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • About Last Night poster image

        About Last Night

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        About Last Night," which is about hookups and relationships and the photogenic allure of the revitalized downtown Los Angeles, comes with a strange pedigree. First in its line was David Mamet's mean, sad, funny 1974 comedy "Sexual Perversity in Chicago," 100 percent Chicago all the way. Mamet saw no hope for his four characters, romantically speaking, and his view of men and women went far beyond Mars and Venus. House plants and rubber bands had a better shot at relating. In 19... (read more)

      • RoboCop poster image

        RoboCop

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Intriguingly ambiguous in its rooting interests, the "RoboCop" remake doesn't really believe its own poster. The tagline "Crime has a new enemy" suggests little more than point and shoot -- the same old cyborg song and dance. While nobody'd be dumb enough to reboot the original 1987 kill-'em-up franchise by holding back on the scenes of slaughter in favor of sly political satire about arm-twisting Fox News jingoism or American business ethics, Brazilian-born director Jose ... (read more)

      • The Monuments Men poster image

        The Monuments Men

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A genial disappointment about the preciousness of art amid the destructive horrors of war, "The Monuments Men" is scored to a military march by composer Alexandre Desplat. You hear what he was going for: jaunty heroics. The throwback sound of it suggests the director, co-writer and star George Clooney sat down with Desplat, gave him a smile and said: "Gimme some of that Elmer Bernstein 'Great Escape' magic, Al." It almost works. The whole film, with its unfashionable techn... (read more)

      • Labor Day poster image

        Labor Day

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The thesis of "Labor Day," taken from Joyce Maynard's novel, was summed up well by The Washington Post headline affixed to the Post's book review: "Sometimes it's okay to pick up a scary drifter." In the fictitious town of Holton Mills, N.H., 13-year-old Henry has become the emotional caretaker for his depressed, agoraphobic single mother, Adele. Numerous miscarriages have eroded her sense of stability; monthly trips to the local supermarket are all she can handle. On one ... (read more)

      • Gimme Shelter poster image

        Gimme Shelter

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's hard not to be affected by a story about a pregnant, homeless teenager such as the one at the heart of "Gimme Shelter," which stars "High School Musical's" Vanessa Hudgens. But some movies, full of good intentions and cliches undermining those intentions, make it very hard indeed. In the case of this one, writer-director Ron Krauss deals a mixture of truth; characters based on actual people, composites and creative fabrications. In other words, it's no more or less fa... (read more)

      • Ride Along poster image

        Ride Along

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Early, bloggy reviews of "Ride Along" have rolled in this week with phrases such as "perfectly acceptable" and "been-there-done-that," suggesting the likely range of opinion. It'll probably be a hit: Audiences are getting precisely what they're promised. This is the ol' odd-couple cops routine, rigged up to support the pairing of Ice Cube, in the role of a snarling Atlanta police detective on the trail of a mysterious arms dealer, and Kevin Hart, as the detective... (read more)

      • The Invisible Woman poster image

        The Invisible Woman

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Charles Dickens wrote often about people required by circumstance to skitter through double lives, none with more dastardly, compartmentalized determination than the secretive choirmaster at the center of his final, unfinished work, "The Mystery of Edwin Drood." As his biographers have made clear, Dickens knew a thing or two about the demands of a two-sided existence. Claire Tomalin's excellent study of Dickens and his love affair with actress Nelly Ternan, outside the bounds of Dic... (read more)

      • Inside Llewyn Davis poster image

        Inside Llewyn Davis

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Inside Llewyn Davis" takes place in winter 1961, just before Bob Dylan makes the scene. The scene is the Greenwich Village folk music universe, a few finite blocks of an island that, in the hands of cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, looks and feels like a beautiful, long-ago smudge in motion. Crashing here and there, on couches uptown and downtown, Llewyn has a guitar, a voice and some talent. Thanks to Oscar Isaac's extraordinarily subtle and shrewd performance, the surly protagoni... (read more)

      • Saving Mr. Banks poster image

        Saving Mr. Banks

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        No feathers, animated or otherwise, will be ruffled by "Saving Mr. Banks," director John Lee Hancock's genial fictionalized account of how Walt Disney seduced "Mary Poppins" author P.L. Travers into allowing, for 5 percent of the gross, the supernatural caregiver to become a shiny Disney version of herself. Mainly the film is a testament to Emma Thompson. She's swell as Travers, the Australian-born resident of London who travels to Los Angeles in 1961 for a couple of conte... (read more)

      • Out of the Furnace poster image

        Out of the Furnace

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Out of the Furnace" is a lot of movie, a lot of it good and pungent. In the first hour especially, its many moving parts keep a sprawling ensemble cast busy and engaged. Christian Bale and Casey Affleck play Russell and Rodney, sons of a dying Pennsylvania steelworker. Russell has gone into the family business, working in the mill. Rodney enlists in the Army. The year is 2008. An early twist of fate lands Russell in prison. Upon his release, he and his brother, back from a punishin... (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 Hunger Games: Catching Fire poster image

        The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 12 Years a Slave poster image

        12 Years a Slave

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        At this point, "12 Years a Slave" has only its own publicity to conquer. Moviegoers reeling from "Gravity" may well approach director Steve McQueen's patient, clear-eyed and altogether extraordinary adaptation of the 1853 slave narrative with a combination of preconditioned shock and awe (given the subject matter) and misleading expectations of classy, eight-cylinder Hollywood melodrama. But this is different. It is smaller in size and larger, deeper, more complicated in i... (read more)

      • Gravity poster image

        Gravity

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 poster image

        Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Closed Circuit poster image

        Closed Circuit

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Closed Circuit," starring Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall as a pair of sleek English defense attorneys who make those Old Bailey wigs look positively haute, opens with security-camera screens, first four, then eight, then 12, then 15, dispassionately recording street activity and anonymous passers-by in London's Borough Market neighborhood. A truck appears on one of the screens. The music signals trouble. A bomb explodes. More than 100 people die. The rest of this confidently mounted ex... (read more)

      • Planes poster image

        Planes

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The pitch meeting. Disney executive on one side of the table, "Planes" director Klay Hall and screenwriter Jeffrey M. Howard on the other. The executive: So ... it's "Cars." Hall: Yes ... Howard: That's right ... The executive: But with planes. Pause. Howard: Yes. Right. "Cars," with planes. And some cars. And a truck or two. The executive: Fine. Great. I have a 10 o'clock, but fine. Thanks. Lorraine can validate your parking on the way out. Scene 2 The follow-up... (read more)

      • Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters poster image

        Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        Any thoughts that a second "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" film would drag author Rick Riordan's "Greek Godchildren" franchise out of the shadow of Harry Potter are dashed the moment Percy and his "half-blood" friends pile into a supernatural taxi in "Sea of Monsters." The cab may be driven by the three haggling, wisecracking Graeae of Greek myth -- blind women with one eye among them -- but it's a pure Potter picture moment. And with every magical cr... (read more)

      • The Smurfs 2 poster image

        The Smurfs 2

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        Get yourself into a Smurfy frame of mind, hum a few notes of "The Smurf Song" and try to remember your cartoon-watching primary school years. Cross your fingers that actors Neil Patrick Harris, Hank Azaria, Jayma Mays and Brendan Gleeson will find something funny to do. Never mind. Filled with Smurf wholesomeness, Smurf puns and posi-Smurf messages about never giving up "on family," "The Smurfs 2" still isn't worth Smurfberries. Gargamel the Smurf-hater is now a ... (read more)

      • Turbo poster image

        Turbo

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • The Purge poster image

        The Purge

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        James DeMonaco's "The Purge" is a bloody-minded, heavy-handed satire of life within these violent United States. It's a horror film with the occasional visceral thrill -- the fear of being hunted, the excitement of righteous violence against nameless intruders. But mostly, it's just a clumsy lecture about who we're becoming: haves versus have-nots, with the haves armed to the teeth. In the not-too-distant future, "the New Founding Fathers" have decreed America has one nigh... (read more)

      • Epic poster image

        Epic

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Silver Linings Playbook poster image

        Silver Linings Playbook

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Media Services Film Clips Hollywood movies, and even off-Hollywood independent films, have long encouraged us to empathize with unstable or psychologically troubled characters only if they're "kooky" for a little while, as a prelude to more palatable, normalized levels of craziness. You know. The charming kind. Happy ending, followed by a fade to a sunny shade of black. This helps to explain why Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" nev... (read more)

      • Skyfall poster image

        Skyfall

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Hotel Transylvania poster image

        Hotel Transylvania

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Master poster image

        The Master

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        I need to get the lighting right," mutters the man with the camera in "The Master," one of the few truly vital and unruly American films in recent years. The man is Freddie Quell, a World War II Navy veteran suffering from what has been diagnosed as a nervous condition. He's a long way, adjustment-wise, from the disenchanted returning vet author James Jones wrote about in "Some Came Running," played by Frank Sinatra in the movie. Freddie's far gone: An alcoholic, a br... (read more)

      • Ice Age: Continental Drift poster image

        Ice Age: Continental Drift

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        First came the God particle, the Higgs boson. Then came ``Ice Age (2002). Then, ``Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006). Then ``Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009). And now arrives ``Ice Age: Continental Drift, informally known as ``Ice Age 4, also known as a paycheck and a likely haul for all involved at Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox. The new picture contains a valuable lesson in recycling. It opens with what I believe is a slightly abridged version of ``Scrat's Continental Crack-Up, the ``... (read more)

      • The Amazing Spider-Man poster image

        The Amazing Spider-Man

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        When a new actor slips on the Spandex for a superhero franchise reboot, we should, you know, notice. And we do with Andrew Garfield, who plays Peter Parker in director Marc Webb's "The Amazing Spider-Man." Garfield served as the skeptical conscience of "The Social Network" as Mark Zuckerberg's fellow Harvard student Eduardo Saverin, and here, anchoring his first franchise outing, he represents a significant change from Tobey Maguire, who played Parker/Spidey in the three &... (read more)

      • Magic Mike poster image

        Magic Mike

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's crazy to oversell "Magic Mike," or fluff it up into something its makers never intended. It is not a major motion picture. It is not searing melodrama, though in story outline terms -- the least interesting terms by which to engage with director Steven Soderbergh's loose, funky and blithely engaging workplace comedy -- it resembles "Showgirls" with showboys, though without the hysteria or the punitive humiliation. So what is it, then? Inspired by star and producer Cha... (read more)

      • Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted poster image

        Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

        Colin Covert, Chicago Tribune

        "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" is one of the fanciest, most carefully assembled cartoons ever put on the screen. The jokes come so fast that they're nearly subliminal. Plot points whiz by, and when things threaten to blur, there's a crazy musical number or a tightly worked out physical comedy routine involving a hippo or a penguin. Then it's back on the bullet train. Your brain goes breathless and giddy struggling to keep up. Like the last "Madagascar" installment, t... (read more)

      • The Pirates! Band of Misfits poster image

        The Pirates! Band of Misfits

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Maniacally inventive and tightly packed, if not overpacked, "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" comes from the Aardman animation folks behind "Wallace & Gromit," "Chicken Run" and, more recently, "Arthur Christmas." Their latest may be easier to admire than to love; it's more tone-funny and incidental-muttered-aside funny than, for example, your average DreamWorks smash, where every other comic beat ends with a cartoon animal getting bashed in the nethers an... (read more)

      • The Hunger Games poster image

        The Hunger Games

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The hypocrisy at the heart of "The Hunger Games" is irresistible. Novelist Suzanne Collins, whose trilogy has been decreed "awesome" by, among others, my 5th grade son, indicts violence and organized brutality as tools of mass-audience manipulation. Yet "The Hunger Games" wouldn't have gotten very far without its steady supply of threatened or actual gladiatorial teen-on-teen bloodshed: death by arrow, javelin, genetically engineered wasp, plus knives. And land m... (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)

      • War Horse poster image

        War Horse

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        On stage in London and New York, "War Horse" has found a wide and emotionally drained audience. How could it be otherwise? The horrors of World War I plus the horrors of war as endured by a horse, capped by a ruthlessly effective happy ending: I don't mean to be glib, but that is an awful lot to cry about. Befitting its origins as a children's novel by Michael Morpurgo, the National Theatre of Great Britain stage edition of "War Horse" transcends its own choppy vignette st... (read more)

      • The Adventures of Tintin poster image

        The Adventures of Tintin

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Directed by Steven Spielberg, a longtime fan of the source material, "The Adventures of Tintin" begins with a gorgeous animated credit sequence, deftly incorporating bits of the narrative about to unfold. It's as nifty as the overture in Spielberg's earlier "Catch Me If You Can," both scored, with a glancing touch, by his longtime mood generator, composer John Williams. It's always gratifying to hear what Williams can do when he's not in attack mode. Then comes the film pr... (read more)

      • Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked poster image

        Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Happy Feet Two poster image

        Happy Feet Two

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        I admired much of the original "Happy Feet" (2006), but five years later, I'm still considering suing its makers for emotional distreess. Certainly the most sadistic aspects of its storyline make it a film one doesn't easily revisit, either for me or my son. "Here's my review," the Young Him, not quite 5, whispered during the "Shock Corridor" climax of the first film, after Mumble the Emperor Penguin had been captured and confined. "Movie, please be over.&qu... (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)

      • Fright Night poster image

        Fright Night

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Plenty gory, but graced by a jovial sense of humor and an enjoyably guts-centric use of 3-D, director Craig Gillespie's remake of the 1985 vampire film "Fright Night" may not tickle the fancies of those who have a close personal friendship with the older version. I have no such relationship. I brought no carry-on baggage to what Gillespie and screenwriter Marti Noxon deliver their way, with a cast of surprising quality. In relation to the original, some things about the new "Fr... (read more)

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