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      • American Ultra poster image

        American Ultra

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        A soup spoon turns lethal in the unlikely hands of sweet and spacy stoner Mike (Jesse Eisenberg) in the violently paranoid action comedy "American Ultra." Mike's a lot like the spoon -- harmless unless deployed in the right way -- because he used to be a particularly effective "asset" at the CIA, a term used to describe highly trained super-killers. But the program was shut down, Mike's memories replaced with serious phobias, and he was planted in a sleepy West Virginia to... (read more)

      • Digging for Fire poster image

        Digging for Fire

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The best thing to happen to filmmaker Joe Swanberg? His choice of cinematographer. Ben Richardson, who worked with the director on the recent Chicago projects "Drinking Buddies" and "Happy Christmas," teams up with Swanberg again for "Digging for Fire," which was shot on warm, pleasing 35 millimeter film in the canyons and on the beaches of Los Angeles. The movie, the latest of Swanberg's infidelity daydreams, moves with uneffacing assurance. It boasts a blue-chi... (read more)

      • Hitman: Agent 47 poster image

        Hitman: Agent 47

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        If you see one movie about governmentally modified assassins this weekend, don't make it "Hitman: Agent 47." "American Ultra" is the far superior take on the unknowing superspy, because it takes itself far less seriously and can actually poke fun at the genre. "Hitman: Agent 47" was just never going to be able to keep up, especially with its overly serious take on the genre. It's so coldblooded, it's practically reptilian. Directed by newcomer Aleksander Bach, wi... (read more)

      • Mistress America poster image

        Mistress America

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's a 90-year-old song lyric, but Lorenz Hart's description of Manhattan (from the song "Manhattan") as a "wondrous toy" holds newfound allure for the bright young things -- 21st century moderns -- populating Noah Baumbach's latest chamber-screwball outing, "Mistress America." In "Frances Ha," director and co-writer Baumbach's previous collaboration with co-writer, star and romantic partner Greta Gerwig, the protagonist was a sweet, creative, thwarted ... (read more)

      • Sinister 2 poster image

        Sinister 2

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Horror sequel "Sinister 2" is a very strange movie. Of course, it's a horror film, so strange, ghostly, and sinister events are expected. Yet this is a horror film that doesn't quite know what it is. You can't tell if the filmmakers (director CiarĂ¡n Foy and screenwriters Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill) are deliberately going for a bit of a goofy, throwback feel, but that's what comes across in this spooky tale. It's almost like an '80s movie you'd find on cable, and that mig... (read more)

      • Straight Outta Compton poster image

        Straight Outta Compton

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Straight Outta Compton" is a musically propulsive mixed blessing of a biopic, made the way these things often get made: with the real-life protagonists breathing down the movie's neck to make sure nothing too harsh or unflattering gets in the way of the telling. Three of the film's producers are Ice Cube (born O'Shea Jackson), Dr. Dre (Andre Young) and Tomica Woods-Wright, the widow of Eric "Eazy-E" Wright. As relayed by director F. Gary Gray, the rise of South Central L.... (read more)

      • The Man From U.N.C.L.E. poster image

        The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Some movies are hung up on their own moves, and they can be terrific fun if they're directed by someone who knows how and when to move a camera. But other movies get hung up on their own looks, which is a different, vainglorious story. Director and co-writer Guy Ritchie's "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.," inspired by the 1964-1968 TV series that rode the James Bond wave, tells a tale of nice suits, pretty sunglasses and actors posing, not acting. The male stars are Henry Cavill (the curren... (read more)

      • Tom at the Farm poster image

        Tom at the Farm

        Guy Lodge, Chicago Tribune

        Variety Lusciously coiffed Quebecois prodigy Xavier Dolan overreached with last year's "Laurence Anyways," a three-hour transgender saga that overindulged his admittedly striking stylistic affectations. Perhaps even he agreed, since "Tom at the Farm," the 24-year-old hyphenate's delicious fourth feature -- and first excursion into genre terrain -- is a trimmer, tarter effort all around. Perhaps not coincidentally, it's also his first collaboration with another writer. A no... (read more)

      • Dark Places poster image

        Dark Places

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        For those who loved the twisty and twisted narrative of last year's "Gone Girl," "Dark Places," also from the mind of novelist Gillian Flynn, just might scratch that itch for mystery. But without David Fincher's chilly auteurist touch, "Dark Places" is just one step above a Lifetime TV movie. Not that there's anything wrong with that: There are many pleasures to be found mucking around in this ooey-gooey murder melodrama, but high-brow this is not. Charlize Thero... (read more)

      • Ricki and the Flash poster image

        Ricki and the Flash

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Ricki and the Flash" comes from director Jonathan Demme, whose good and great films include "Melvin and Howard," "Swing Shift," "Stop Making Sense," "Something Wild," "Married to the Mob" and, seven years ago, "Rachel Getting Married." (He's made a few others, of course, among them "The Silence of the Lambs," which won him an Oscar.) Diablo Cody, an Oscar winner for "Juno" and a fascinating purveyor of ... (read more)

      • Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation poster image

        Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        With the new "Mission: Impossible" movie, even if it's the most assured and satisfying of the five so far, it sounds foolish to even mention the things the characters say in between screeching tires, gunfights, knife fights, motorcycle derring-do, and the opening act featuring Tom Cruise dangling for real (real enough to make it look cool, and frightening) on the outside of a plane high over a Belarus airstrip. But it isn't foolish. One of the many pleasures of "Mission: Imposs... (read more)

      • The End of the Tour poster image

        The End of the Tour

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A clever, gently provocative movie about talking, listening and competing interests, "The End of the Tour" is a two-character play that managed to hitch a ride as a road movie directed by James Ponsoldt, whose previous films include "The Spectacular Now" and "Smashed." In March 1996, starting at his house outside the college town of Normal, Illinois State University professor and "Infinite Jest" author David Foster Wallace turned five days of his life o... (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)

      • Paper Towns poster image

        Paper Towns

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        There's something incredibly satisfying about a well-executed high school film that hits all the right John Hughes-inspired sweet spots. "Paper Towns," adapted from a novel by "The Fault in Our Stars" writer John Green, does just that, with a twist. Concerned with the miracles, myths and mysteries that come with the end of high school, the film self-consciously engages with genre tropes, while also updating and evolving the formula, this time by inserting mystery into its ... (read more)

      • Phoenix poster image

        Phoenix

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        (No star rating available) "Phoenix" is an intoxicating witches' brew, equal parts melodrama and moral parable, that audaciously mixes diverse elements to compelling, disturbing effect. The latest collaboration between German writer-director Christian Petzold and star Nina Hoss (their last film together, "Barbara," was a knockout) is set in Berlin in 1945, in the immediate aftermath of World War II. But its penetrating examination of how individuals endure the unthinkable ... (read more)

      • Samba poster image

        Samba

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In "Jurassic World," a movie about undocumented workers (the dinosaurs) adjusting to life, and theme park employment, in their adopted home, Omar Sy takes a supporting role, backing up the heroics of headliner Chris Pratt. In his too-few scenes Sy gives a serviceable, mechanical blockbuster a rooting interest and a jolt of charisma it wouldn't otherwise have. The actor's career-making French-language hit came earlier, with "The Intouchables," the $400 million-grossing inte... (read more)

      • Southpaw poster image

        Southpaw

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A flurry of haymakers in the form of boxing movie cliches, "Southpaw" was conceived as a loose remake of "The Champ" -- Wallace Beery in 1931, Jon Voight in 1979 -- tailored for Marshall Mathers, also known as Eminem. The rage-iest rap star on the planet took the initial meetings with director Antoine Fuqua and screenwriter Kurt Sutter. Eminem eventually bowed out, affording Fuqua ("Training Day," "The Equalizer") and Sutter ("The Shield," &qu... (read more)

      • Ant-Man poster image

        Ant-Man

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Ant-Man" has been skittering around the development corridors of Hollywood so long, the earliest unproduced screenplays about the tiny superhero actually preceded the Disney film "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids." That was another age (1989), decades before our present Age of Ultron -- an epoch of expensive cheap thrills dictated by the steady, crushing rollout of so many Marvel movies that even the good ones start to seem like ants at an endless picnic. But wait. The "Ant-... (read more)

      • Irrational Man poster image

        Irrational Man

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Forty-five features into his half-century of moviemaking, the rote obsessions distinguishing Woody Allen's furtive protagonists -- luck, fate, chance, getting away with murder -- have extended more and more to Allen's own approach to screenwriting. A mixture of the obvious and the indecisive, "Irrational Man" stars Joaquin Phoenix as philosophy professor Abe Lucas, new arrival to fictional Braylin College in Newport, R.I. He's notorious for being a drunk, a womanizer, a provocateur.... (read more)

      • The Look of Silence poster image

        The Look of Silence

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        More than a companion piece -- it's more contemplative and focused than the film preceding it -- Joshua Oppenheimer's quietly devastating documentary "The Look of Silence" wouldn't have been possible without the 2012 project that brought Oppenheimer international renown, "The Act of Killing." In that earlier project, various and thriving perpetrators of the Indonesian genocide of 1965-66 spoke to Oppenheimer on camera to talk about what happened. The filmmaker asked them t... (read more)

      • The Stanford Prison Experiment poster image

        The Stanford Prison Experiment

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Stanford Prison Experiment" plays like the most unnerving improvisational theater game imaginable. In 1971, social psychology professor Philip Zimbardo set up a two-week study in the basement of a Stanford University campus building. He wanted to prove one of two things. One: The brutality and dehumanization in a prison setting was "dispositional," tied to the personalities of the prison guards and the prisoners. Or two: The brutality was "situational," an i... (read more)

      • Trainwreck poster image

        Trainwreck

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        If you've seen "Spy" with Melissa McCarthy, you're already aware that the movie nails its first big laugh -- the sneezing-assassin joke -- within moments of the opening credits. Even if you know it's coming, the timing is just right. And right away you think: There. Thank you. These people know what they're doing. How often does that thought run through your mind in a mainstream commercial comedy? Not often enough. It didn't happen with "Ted 2," which may be a moderate box... (read more)

      • Amy poster image

        Amy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Do I Sound Gay? poster image

        Do I Sound Gay?

        Gary Goldstein, Chicago Tribune

        For a film largely about speech, the provocatively titled documentary "Do I Sound Gay?" has little of great significance to say. Writer-director-star David Thorpe attempts to probe the whys and wherefores of what he calls the stereotypical "gay male voice," but he ends up crafting a naval-gazing self-portrait that's unflattering, inconclusive and, at times, a bit specious. Cameras follow 40-ish journalist Thorpe on his journey to change what he considers his "gay"... (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)

      • Self/less poster image

        Self/less

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In the ineffectual new fantasy-thriller "Self/less" the fantastical plot device -- a body-switching process costing millions and not covered by any known health plan -- is called "shedding." You buy yourself a new, longer life in a younger person's body, and your troubles are over. Or ARE THEY? Ben Kingsley, sounding like a compendium of every attempt at a New York accent ever heard in the movies, plays Damian Hale, a Trump-like Manhattan developer (i.e., he's a selfish ba... (read more)

      • The Gallows poster image

        The Gallows

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        At the end of the last century, "The Blair Witch Project" popularized the notion of idiots in horror movies filming every second of their own imminent demise. A deliberately unpolished subgenre was born: found-footage horror, cheap to make (with some higher-budget exceptions, "Cloverfield" among them), profitable in a flash. The latest of these is "The Gallows," shot for a buck-eighty-three in Fresno, Calif., by the writers-directors Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff... (read more)

      • Jimmy's Hall poster image

        Jimmy's Hall

        Lindsey Bahr, Chicago Tribune

        Associated Press Jimmy Gralton is not a name you've likely heard before. A modest Irish revolutionary, Gralton has the dubious distinction of being the only native to ever be deported from Ireland. On top of leading a communist group in the provincial county of Leitrim in the 1930s, he incited fear in the ruling classes by running what they viewed as a particularly mutinous establishment: A dance hall. The history books may have yet to give his story a comprehensive treatment, but in "Ji... (read more)

      • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl poster image

        Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The big noise from this year's Sundance Film Festival, "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl," is a weaselly liar of a movie. It comes on full of self-deprecating bluster, professing no interest in jerking tears a la "The Fault in Our Stars," as it lays out its tale of a Pittsburgh high school senior's friendship with a fellow classmate diagnosed with cancer. But gradually, as the narrator-protagonist learns to lower his emotional guard, the film lunges, sensitively, for the jug... (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)

      • Terminator Genisys poster image

        Terminator Genisys

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Humanity gets a do-over in "Terminator Genisys," the fifth in the franchise begun in 1984 with "The Terminator." But this screwy revision of the previous "Terminator" movies is so muddled and yakky, you may find yourself rooting for the apocalypse. At one point Arnold Schwarzenegger is thrown through a wall into a Pepsi Max vending machine (if the rise of the machines means the fall of product placement, I'm all for it), and for a second I was pulling for a slugf... (read more)

      • Ted 2 poster image

        Ted 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Ted 2" unites Mark Wahlberg's insecure wallflower character (it's called acting, folks) with the chubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff and racial, sexual, scatological and '80s-reference insults voiced, with movie-saving acumen, by co-writer and director Seth MacFarlane. "Saving" is relative. Madly uneven, more so than the mediocre 2012 hit that made half a billion worldwide, this one's an easy predictive call. If you got your laughs out of "Ted," you'll li... (read more)

      • Dope poster image

        Dope

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It sounds clueless and blinkered to compare the vibrant new comedy "Dope," set in multicultural Inglewood southwest of LA, to the extremely white 1983 film "Risky Business." But wait. The filmmaker, writer-director Rick Famuyiwa, is the first to refer to his movie as "'Risky Business' for the social-media generation." Producer Mimi Valdes, also quoted in the production notes, adds that its focus is "black nerds in the 'hood. Why hasn't anyone shown that part... (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)

      • Jurassic World poster image

        Jurassic World

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Bailed out by a few good jolts, "Jurassic World" gets by, barely, as a marauding-dinosaurs narrative designed for a more jaded audience than the one "Jurassic Park" conquered back in 1993. Why was director Steven Spielberg's film version of the Michael Crichton novel a hit? In an industry built on high-concept pitches, the first film pitched the highest. Dinos brought back to life; trouble ensues. Digital effects, smoothly integrated with animatronics, made a quantum leap ... (read more)

      • The Wolfpack poster image

        The Wolfpack

        Michael O'Sullivan, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Insidious: Chapter 3 poster image

        Insidious: Chapter 3

        Rick Bentley, Chicago Tribune

        The Fresno Bee It's very important to note that the rating for "Insidious: Chapter 3" is PG-13, which means that director/writer Leigh Whannell has structured his movie to be scary without having to rely on gore. Audiences have become so desensitized to blood and guts that horror movies now have to be smarter. And that makes them better. The film is the third in the series, but it goes back in time before the haunting of the Lambert family that made up the first two offerings. This ... (read more)

      • Love & Mercy poster image

        Love & Mercy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Everything that goes right with "Love & Mercy" -- it's the best musical biopic in decades -- begins and ends with the shadows lurking in the Beach Boys' sunniest hit songs about little deuce coupes and summers with no end in sight. The movie opens with a beautiful montage, cutting in and out of scenes scored by a series of hit singles at sudden, disorienting junctures. We witness the group's escalating, slightly sheepish fame and its near-mythological place in the popular culture, e... (read more)

      • A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence poster image

        A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

        Peter Debruge, Chicago Tribune

        Variety Who would expect the new Roy Andersson picture -- "the final part of a trilogy on being a human being" -- to be life-affirming? And yet, from its comic title to the wistful smile that accompanies its over-too-soon last shot, Andersson's delightfully odd "A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence" finds the Swedish master of comic absurdity feeling downright generous, perched at a comfortable enough distance from this coterie of sad sacks and lonelyhearts to ... (read more)

      • Entourage poster image

        Entourage

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        There's no successful formula for the extraction of a stand-alone movie from the mines of a recently departed TV series. If there were, that second "Sex and the City" film and last year's Kickstarter-funded "Veronica Mars" wouldn't have turned out galling and forgettable, respectively. How's "Entourage"? More like the latter. It's in the realm of "eh." Devoted fans of the HBO series (2004-2011) will find it passably engaging, and newcomers will likely s... (read more)

      • San Andreas poster image

        San Andreas

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars. The fault is the star of "San Andreas," a fairly entertaining weapon of mass destruction reminding us that life's blessings come to those who receive preferential billing. We may as well call it "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Earthquake," though the tremors in "San Andreas" aren't so much mad as disappointed. So many Californians to wipe out in only 107 minutes of screen time! That's 51 minutes shorter than Roland Emmerich... (read more)

      • Aloft poster image

        Aloft

        Peter Debruge, Chicago Tribune

        Variety Director Claudia Llosa expands her preoccupations with mysticism and superstition in the modern world, working her way up from a medieval-minded Andean village in "Madeinusa" (2006) to faith healing at the frigid far reaches of the Arctic Circle with "Aloft." But this time, instead of seeming plugged into some primitive native religion, the Peruvian director invents a rickety belief system as a pretext for tearing it all down, botching the telling of a more satisfy... (read more)

      • Poltergeist poster image

        Poltergeist

        Andrew Barker, Chicago Tribune

        Variety The closing credits for Gil Kenan's remake of the 1982 horror classic "Poltergeist" feature the band Spoon covering the Cramps' 1980 punk classic "TV Set." Spoon is a tasteful, studious yet largely anodyne indie-rock outfit that has become an NPR staple; the Cramps were a scuzzy, unhinged psychobilly band whose most famous gig took place in an actual mental hospital. It's hard to think of a more fitting postscript for this professionally executed yet bloodless film... (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)

      • I'll See You in My Dreams poster image

        I'll See You in My Dreams

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Our attraction to the movies starts from simple building blocks: a face, a heart-wrenching separation, a pratfall. But here are two simple pleasures I defy anyone to argue against. I speak of Blythe Danner's and Sam Elliott's speaking voices. Both instruments are showcased in the modest, Kickstarter-funded heartwarmer "I'll See You in My Dreams." To reiterate what others have already noted, it's stupidly uncommon for an American indie (let alone a better-funded studio project) to gi... (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)

      • Pitch Perfect 2 poster image

        Pitch Perfect 2

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Where Hope Grows poster image

        Where Hope Grows

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        "Where Hope Grows" is a sometimes moving and generally watchable melodrama about a drunken ex-ballplayer who finds purpose and a friend back in his home town. But unlike most faith-based films, it isn't a church that saves him, or a pastor or devout Christian who shows him the way. It's a teen with Down syndrome. The kid's nicknamed Produce, thanks to his job at the local supermarket. That's where Calvin Campbell (Kristoffer Polaha) stumbles into him. Calvin's a single-dad whose tee... (read more)

      • Hot Pursuit poster image

        Hot Pursuit

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        Cheap, short and slow, "Hot Pursuit" is a comedy that never lets you forget that pairing up Sofia Vergara with Reese Witherspoon should have worked better than this. A mismatch-misfire badly misdirected by the director of "The Guilt Trip" and "27 Dresses," it wastes the Oscar-winning Reese and the spirited spitfire Vergara, cast as a comically disgraced cop who escorts the wife of a drug lord to court. It's "Midnight Run" without enough running, "T... (read more)

      • Saint Laurent poster image

        Saint Laurent

        Guy Lodge, Chicago Tribune

        Variety Even in a contemporary film culture where no idea seems too thin to try twice, the arrival of two Yves Saint Laurent biopics in the space of five months counts as a distinct curiosity: The enduring influence of the French fashion god, who died in 2008, is beyond question, but his life doesn't seem an obvious source of fascination to the filmgoing public. Yet if Jalil Lespert's bland, authorized "Yves Saint Laurent" represents the pret-a-porter version of its subject, Bertran... (read more)

      • Avengers: Age of Ultron poster image

        Avengers: Age of Ultron

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared poster image

        The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

        Betsy Sharkey, Chicago Tribune

        Echoes of the hilarious ineptitude of Woody Allen's "Take the Money and Run" and the historic kookiness of "Forrest Gump" turn up throughout "The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared," starring Sweden's beloved comic actor Robert Gustafsson. It's a hoot and a half. based on the fanciful international best-seller of the same name, the film is directed with an appropriately wry touch by Felix Herngren. It captures the quintessential baby boom... (read more)

      • Welcome to Me poster image

        Welcome to Me

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        As a comic performer with admirably sneaky dramatic instincts, Kristen Wiig works like a pair of binoculars as peered into from the wrong end. Tiny throwaway mutterings become the activation point of an exchange, even an entire scene, while conventionally emotional big moments are often glancing, unexpected and gone before you know it. In "Welcome to Me," Wiig plays a wobbly Palm Desert, Calif. woman whose name -- Alice Klieg -- points to a date with showbiz destiny. Like Rupert Pup... (read more)

      • Ex Machina poster image

        Ex Machina

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A grandly ridiculous theatrical tradition born in ancient Greece, deus ex machina meant, literally, a god borne by a machine descending from the sky to determine a story's outcome. The hardware in writer-director Alex Garland's crafty new thriller "Ex Machina" signifies something a little less clunky and considerably more ambiguous. In this case the object of adoration is a superadvanced example of artificial intelligence. The hook, hardly new, is this: Can A.I. be made not simply t... (read more)

      • Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck poster image

        Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

        Dennis Harvey, Chicago Tribune

        Variety The short, unhappy life of legendary grunge band Nirvana's driving force gets probably definitive screen treatment in "Cobain: Montage of Heck." Like fellow Sundance entry "Listen to Me Marlon," Brett Morgan's documentary creates a virtual autobiography largely from personal archival materials. Both films are absorbing and highly accomplished, the major difference being that while Brando lived eight incident-filled decades in and out of the spotlight, "Heck's&... (read more)

      • Little Boy poster image

        Little Boy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Little Boy" answers a question most tear-jerkers wouldn't have the nerve to ask: Can the bombing of Hiroshima be manipulated narratively, if briefly, into a position of warming our hearts? The answer is no. The film's D-Day-like assault on our emotional defenses tries all it can to turn that no into a yes. The story takes place in a storybook California coastal village named O'Hare. Director and co-writer Alejandro Monteverde shot 'Little Boy' in Mexico's Baja Film Studios; cinemat... (read more)

      • The Water Diviner poster image

        The Water Diviner

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Russell Crowe's feature directorial debut, "The Water Diviner," stems from an honest impulse to dramatize ordinary people who honor their dead. Yet the results are narratively dishonest and emotionally a little cheap. A single performance lifts the film above the level of mediocrity; more on that later. The idea came from a single line of description uncovered by co-screenwriter Andrew Anastasios when he was researching another project. In the wake of the horrendously costly Battle ... (read more)

      • Monkey Kingdom poster image

        Monkey Kingdom

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Compile all the sufferings and adversities heaped upon all the vulnerable protagonists in the complete works of Charles Dickens, from "Little Dorrit" to "Oliver Twist," and you'd still fall short of the 81 minutes of hardship endured by Maya, the simian heroine of Disneynature's new nature documentary "Monkey Kingdom." I write this as someone who finds all of nature ruthlessly manipulative -- a cheap excuse to make us cry, basically, though a lot of it's amazing ... (read more)

      • While We're Young poster image

        While We're Young

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The vantage point of middle age is delightfully cruel, affording a clear view of the generation of hotshots coming up on the rail from behind and the generation of long-distance thoroughbreds five lengths ahead. The opportunities for angst are limitless. This is the comic perspective -- justifiable paranoia, creative class division -- providing the material for writer-director Noah Baumbach's zesty tale of two marriages, "While We're Young," the filmmaker's fifth worthwhile (or bett... (read more)

      • Woman in Gold poster image

        Woman in Gold

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In "Woman in Gold," a paint-by-numbers account of a gorgeous Klimt and its tortured history of ownership, there's really no other word for what Helen Mirren is doing in certain reaction shots, out of subtle interpretive desperation: mugging. She's mugging. She is a sublimely talented performer, and this is material with fascinating implications, and I doubt there's a moviegoer in the world who doesn't like Helen Mirren. But even the best actors need a director to tell them to tone i... (read more)

      • Furious 7 poster image

        Furious 7

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Under the hood, we're all Vin Diesel, trying to live a meaningful life a quarter-mile at a time. Yet the film series begun in the pre-9/11 era with "The Fast and the Furious" has sustained itself through weak sequels and exuberant ones, and has become not a drag race but the Indy 500 of the movies: a reliable if repetitive ode to fossil fuel. Keep it coming, pal. We'll tell you when we've had enough. "They say the open road helps you see where you've been ... and where you're g... (read more)

      • Lambert & Stamp poster image

        Lambert & Stamp

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        There have been better, more thorough documentaries about the seminal rock band The Who. "The Kids Are Alright" set the standard in '79, and "Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who" seemed to fill in the gaps of that earlier film. But "Lambert & Stamp," an alternative history of the band as chaotically organized as The Who itself, is still an eye-opener. James D. Cooper's film, built around two British filmmakers who took over management of the band and led them t... (read more)

      • Get Hard poster image

        Get Hard

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        An awful lot of "Get Hard" depends on gay-panic humor of a weirdly squirmy and dated sort, making you wonder if this new Will Ferrell/Kevin Hart mystery might best be viewed alongside reissues of "Cruising" and "Norman ... Is That You?" I call it a mystery because that's what it contains -- a series of mysteries. It's a mystery why two bona fide comic stars, working very, very hard to keep this thing from tanking, couldn't pressure their collaborators for another... (read more)

      • The Salt of the Earth poster image

        The Salt of the Earth

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Watching "The Salt of the Earth," the compelling new documentary about photographer Sebastiao Salgado, it becomes clear early on just how odd it is to experience Salgado's work on someone else's timetable. With an exhibition or a book of photographs, you set your own clock, spending as much time or as little inside a particular image as you like. With film, that's not the case. Co-directors Wim Wenders (a huge Salgado fan) and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado (the photographer's son) linger ... (read more)

      • Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter poster image

        Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

        Betsy Sharkey, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips Los Angeles Times "Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter" is a moody comic allegory about desperation, disconnection and dreams that uses "Fargo," the Coen brothers classic, as a touchstone to examine modern life. The film stars Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi, Oscar nominated for her stirring portrayal of a deaf teen in "Babel," as Kumiko, a depressed cog in a corporate wheel being slowly ground down. Her sto... (read more)

      • The Divergent Series: Insurgent poster image

        The Divergent Series: Insurgent

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Chicago as never looked less toddlin' than it does in "Insurgent," the second of four planned movies to be pulled, taffylike, out of the hugely popular Veronica Roth trilogy. At one point our fierce yet humble dystopian world saver, Tris Prior, played by the fierce but humble franchise saver, Shailene Woodley, strolls beneath rusted bridges along the dried-up remains of the Chicago River. I knew that St. Patrick's Day dye wasn't safe! I kid. I kid the post-apocalypse. It is no laugh... (read more)

      • Seymour: An Introduction poster image

        Seymour: An Introduction

        Justin Chang, Chicago Tribune

        Variety Although clearly designed as a reverent tribute from one artist to another, this first documentary directed by Ethan Hawke happily sidesteps any vanity-project pitfalls, granting full expression to great classical pianist Seymour Bernstein's wise and witty commentary on a craft that he's spent decades honing -- as well as the proper application of that craft when the demands of art are often outweighed by the pressures of commerce. Although he's only onscreen for a few minutes, Hawke ... (read more)

      • Merchants of Doubt poster image

        Merchants of Doubt

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times Don't underestimate Robert Kenner's "Merchants of Doubt." It may sound like a standard-issue advocacy documentary concerned, as so many are, with the perils of global warming, but it's a lot more than that. It's not just that "Merchants of Doubt" is loaded with jazzy visuals and starts with a performance by close-up magician Jamy Ian Swiss. This enthralling film, based on the book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, is as fascinating as it is horrifying.... (read more)

      • The Hunting Ground poster image

        The Hunting Ground

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        From its first moments, the new documentary "The Hunting Ground" instills a sense of dread that is very, very tough to shake. To the tune of "Pomp and Circumstance," filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering introduce us to a variety of high school graduates, captured on what appears to be cellphone camera footage, each receiving news of their college acceptance. "I got in!" one girl whoops with joy. We're being set up, deliberately, for a terrible turn of events. De... (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)

      • American Sniper poster image

        American Sniper

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        People will take what they want to take from "American Sniper," director Clint Eastwood's latest film. Already it has turned into an ideological war to be won or lost, rather than a fictionalized biopic to be debated. It's the most divisive movie on screens at the moment, and it appears to have caught a wave of desire among audiences -- conservative, liberal, centrist -- to return to stories of nerve-wracking wartime heroism in varying degrees of truth and fiction, from "Fury&q... (read more)

      • Paddington poster image

        Paddington

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb poster image

        Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb," otherwise known as "Night at the Museum 3," rates as more determinedly heartfelt than the first and not as witty as the second (and best). Also, no Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart in jodhpurs this time around. "Night at the Museum 3" closes out director Shawn Levy's effects-driven, family-friendly trilogy with three separate farewells. The most bittersweet parting involves the late Robin Williams. It's both touching and diff... (read more)

      • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies poster image

        The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        There is a moment late in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies," after what may be the longest on-screen battle in movie history, when Ian McKellen's Gandalf sits quietly beside Martin Freeman's Bilbo Baggins and starts fussing with his pipe. No one fusses with a pipe more fussily than a great veteran English character actor, and as McKellen carefully scrapes out the bowl, getting it ready for a nice little smoke, you wonder if director Peter Jackson is going to turn this bit ... (read more)

      • She's Beautiful When She's Angry poster image

        She's Beautiful When She's Angry

        Sheri Linden, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times Those who bristle at the term "feminist," which inexplicably has fallen out of fashion among many young adults, might find a vibrant new documentary enlightening and inspiring. "She's Beautiful When She's Angry," director Mary Dore's incisive portrait of so-called second-wave feminism of the late 1960s, is an exceptional chronicle, its mix of archival material and new interviews bristling with the energy and insight of one of the most important social mov... (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)

      • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day poster image

        Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        Whatever else children take from Judith Viorst's delightful "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day," the sly subtext of this picture-heavy book is how exhausting and sometimes misguided the optimism of the eternally optimistic can be. Parents who smile all the time, who make light of the weight of the world kids carry around sometimes? Annoying, especially to those kids. That's what the film version kicks around the block, and rather amusingly, a few times. Lif... (read more)

      • Annabelle poster image

        Annabelle

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The devil-doll lark "Annabelle" exists to make its host movie, last year's excellent "The Conjuring," look even better by comparison. As prequels go, it's not bad, though a couple of things keeping it from amounting to more are worth discussing, briefly, before we all get back to our lives. Here's one drawback: It looks like cheap digital crud. Horror fans are used to lo-fi visual scares, especially in the found-footage genre, but "Annabelle" is not one of those ... (read more)

      • Gone Girl poster image

        Gone Girl

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        David Fincher's film version of the Gillian Flynn bestseller "Gone Girl" is a stealthy, snake-like achievement. It's everything the book was and more -- more, certainly, in its sinister, brackish atmosphere dominated by mustard-yellow fluorescence, designed to make you squint, recoil and then lean in a little closer. So often in Fincher's movies, and especially in this one, actors are placed precisely against a window, or in shadows surrounded by low-wattage electric light sources. ... (read more)

      • The Boxtrolls poster image

        The Boxtrolls

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Fans of "Coraline" and "ParaNorman," the deft, eccentric supernatural fairy tales created by Oregon-based Laika animation house, have every reason to anticipate "The Boxtrolls." Laika's latest feature is based on Alan Snow's 2005 book "Here Be Monsters!" part one of "The Ratbridge Chronicles." For the film's purposes, the mythical hilltop town of Ratbridge has changed its name to Cheesebridge. Something else has changed en route to the screen.... (read more)

      • The Equalizer poster image

        The Equalizer

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Based loosely on the 1985-1989 television series, on which Edward Woodward never stuck garden shears in an enemy's throat and never, ever stabbed anyone through the neck with a corkscrew, "The Equalizer" smells like a hit. But I wish it had one completely honest scene, where (for example) someone asks the avenging angel-hero: "Who are you?" And he answers: "I'm Denzel Washington. And Denzel Washington can make even this thing watchable." More and more with action... (read more)

      • The Maze Runner poster image

        The Maze Runner

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Forever indebted to H.G. Wells, William Golding and other cranky visionaries, the hardy, cockroach-like "Hunger Games"/"Divergent" genre has a nickname: "dyslit," after the dystopian best-sellers in which young adult protagonists must prove their physical and mental prowess and lead the revolution to save what's left of their crummy old world. The first "Hunger Games" movie came out in 2012. (Has it really only been two years?) Because that film was so ... (read more)

      • This Is Where I Leave You poster image

        This Is Where I Leave You

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Going by the new ensemble comedy "This Is Where I Leave You," you'd think Tina Fey was a medium acting talent at best, prone to overstatement and eye-rolling. Performers can't do it alone; they need guidance. But in the movies, very often performers end up doing solo acts in proximity to other solo acts, and the camera's either in the wrong place or the director and the editor hack up simple two-person conversations into frantic, competing moments. There's one bit in director Shawn ... (read more)

      • Dolphin Tale 2 poster image

        Dolphin Tale 2

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        You might have thought "Dolphin Tale," the sleeper hit kids' film of a few falls back, was a complete, compact and uplifting story that didn't really need a second act. If so, you were on the money. It was the fictionalized account of the true story of Winter, a badly injured dolphin who was rescued by the Clearwater (Fla.) Aquarium, and how a prosthetic tail was fabricated for her, allowing her to swim and survive and inspire veterans, cancer survivors and accident victims of all a... (read more)

      • The Giver poster image

        The Giver

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        At this point in the dystopian movie cycle, I'm ready for a story about a teenager with zero interest in questioning the system, let alone starting a revolution. A spineless conformist -- that's what the genre needs. Meantime there's "The Giver," director Phillip Noyce's film version of the 1993 Lois Lowry best-seller, which remains a staple of the young adult shelves alongside the "Hunger Games" and "Divergent" books. So here we are again. It's the future. Life ... (read more)

      • Guardians of the Galaxy poster image

        Guardians of the Galaxy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Like the '70s cassette mix tape so dear to its hero, "Guardians of the Galaxy" scavenges all sorts of "greatest hits" precedents, from "Iron Man" on down, to come up with its own summertime fling. It's looser, scruffier and more overtly comic than the average Marvel action fantasy. And despite the usual load of violence, not all of it properly handled, the film owes its relative buoyancy above all to Chris Pratt as the wisecracking space rogue at the helm. There ... (read more)

      • How to Train Your Dragon 2 poster image

        How to Train Your Dragon 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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 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)

      • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug poster image

        The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        One year and several hundred films later, I confess my mind isn't over-full of vivid memories of director Peter Jackson's first "Hobbit." It did the job, in its leisurely, fill-out-the-trilogy fashion, albeit looking like clinically detailed crud when viewed in 48 frames-per-second digital projection. Maybe my eyes will catch up to the glories of this alleged improvement. Maybe not. Format aside: Why so much "Hobbit," when the book itself supplies just enough story for one... (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 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)

      • Promised Land poster image

        Promised Land

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        For a fellow who's just been promoted to vice president of land management by his multibillion-dollar natural gas company, the character played by Matt Damon in "Promised Land" is awfully wussy. He turns into a puddle whenever he's bested by the opposition: a likable environmental activist portrayed by John Krasinski. What's up? Mr. Corporate Slicko has never been trained in countering the other side's arguments? More an argument than a fully fleshed-out drama, "Promised Land&q... (read more)

      • Django Unchained poster image

        Django Unchained

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey poster image

        The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Hobbit," the first of three movies to be yanked out of J.R.R. Tolkien's single novel, comes from Mister Middle-earth: Peter Jackson, who thrilled Tolkien fans worldwide with his lavish screen version of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. It's a moderately engaging launch to the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, the homey fellow temperamentally ill-suited to quests involving dragons and goblins and orcs. The many-hands screenplay by Jackson, Guillermo del Toro (originally sla... (read more)

      • Sinister poster image

        Sinister

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Sinister" goes about as far as a horror movie can with just shocking images, a good cast and outstanding sound design. But this modestly creepy blend of "The Ring" and "The Shining" whiffs on a horror film fundamental: Nobody seems that scared. The fear is faced by one person, and he's very slow to get alarmed over the things that go bump in the night and the boogeyman he thinks he catches a glimpse of, many times. But Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke), a true-crime ... (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)

      • 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)

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