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      • The November Man poster image

        The November Man

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        Pierce Brosnan's perfect hair barely budges in the breeze, he fixes his eyes in that narrowed, steely stare and you remember, yes, he was a pretty good James Bond. But he's not Bond, not at 61. He's this fellow named Devereaux, and back in the day, when he showed up for an assignment it was like winter had hit. Everything was dead. That's why they called Devereaux "The November Man." Here's a humorless, muddled, bloody and generally unpleasant thriller about an ex-agent sucked back ... (read more)

      • If I Stay poster image

        If I Stay

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Artfully assaultive, "If I Stay" is better than average young adult material, cleverly adapted from Gayle Forman's 2009 novel about a teenage cellist experiencing true love, a terrible car crash and magical realism for the first time. Young adult fiction comes in too many shapes, sizes and qualities to court generalizations. But here goes. Director R.J. Cutler, who comes out of documentaries, reality TV ("Flip That House") and series television ("Nashville"), has... (read more)

      • Love Is Strange poster image

        Love Is Strange

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Something wonderful happens in the final minutes of "Love Is Strange." A careful, humble examination of a marriage opens up emotionally, thanks in large part to co-writer and director Ira Sachs' use of a gorgeous lullaby, Chopin's Berceuse Op. 57 in D-flat major. From the moment a key supporting character at last allows himself to grieve the loss of a loved one, up through the ensuing 11 or 12 exterior shots, photographed on the streets of New York alive with renewal and young love,... (read more)

      • The Expendables 3 poster image

        The Expendables 3

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        No pensions were harmed in the making of "The Expendables 3," the latest in the continuing saga of Sylvester Stallone's mission to provide a work week or two to as many of his old pals as possible. Also these movies make money, so there's a larger imperative. This one reportedly cost $90 million. It looks more like $30 million. I think audiences respond to the general air of cheapness in this franchise; it's part of the fun, the tinny macho ridiculousness of it. The cast list is lon... (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)

      • Let's Be Cops poster image

        Let's Be Cops

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        McClatchy Newspapers The laughs are loud, lewd and low in "Let's Be Cops," a spoof of cop "buddy pictures" that is pretty much the definition of an August comedy. The last month of summer is typically a dumping ground for titles studios don't have high hopes for. Sometimes that's due to the lack of marketable stars. Sometimes, they're just too hard to market, period. And sometimes, if they're comedies, it's because the belly laughs are few and far between. All of those app... (read more)

      • Into the Storm poster image

        Into the Storm

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Like "The Passion of Joan of Arc," "Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki" and "Dude, Where's My Car?" "Into the Storm" is a movie. And like the wind, this particular movie blows tall, unstable columns of hot air willy-nilly. In the spirit of "Sharknado" and "Sharknado 2," "Into the Storm" eventually goes into blender mode and mixes its elements of wind column terror, smoothie-style. At one point one of the twisters (there are severa... (read more)

      • The F Word poster image

        The F Word

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "What If" brings up the distinctions among wit, jokes and robotic banter, and this new romantic comedy has a bit of the first and a few of the second, but it's largely a case of the third. The script, adapted by Elan Mastai from the play "Toothpaste and Cigars," does a few things right. It affords the female characters a decent 50 percent stake in the action. It allows for some ambiguity and edge and doesn't beg for the audience's sympathy, even though the outcome is never... (read more)

      • A Most Wanted Man poster image

        A Most Wanted Man

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's impossible to watch the character anchoring Anton Corbijn's cool, clear-eyed film version of "A Most Wanted Man" without forgetting the fate of the bleary-eyed but fantastically vital actor who plays him. Philip Seymour Hoffman died of a drug overdose in February after completing work on what became his final starring role in the movies. As Gunther Bachmann, the patient, alert German intelligence expert created by novelist John le Carre, Hoffman smokes constantly. The character... (read more)

      • Get On Up poster image

        Get On Up

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Everything about "Get on Up," a provocatively structured and unusually rich musical biopic, is a little better, a little less formula-bound, a little sharper than the average specimen in this genre. I'm surprised it's this good, given that director Tate Taylor is coming off "The Help," a sweet fraud of a civil rights fable saved by Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. They play key supporting roles in "Get on Up." What Taylor achieves in his James Brown story works a... (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)

      • Lucy poster image

        Lucy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Le schlockmeister Luc Besson has no beef with men and guns, or he wouldn't have made the "Transporter" movies with Jason Statham. Or written "Taken." But in the world according to Besson, older girls ("La Femme Nikita") and young women in wee skirts and stiletto heels, gliding in slow motion toward their latest deserving victims of firearm violence, carrying nicely polished automatic weapons in each perfectly manicured hand -- that's the stuff, that's what makes ... (read more)

      • Magic in the Moonlight poster image

        Magic in the Moonlight

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Among recent Woody Allen films, the crabby but pretty "Magic in the Moonlight" is a well-thumbed playing card from the middle of the deck, not one of his fully good ones ("Midnight in Paris," "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"), not one of the whiffs ("Cassandra's Dream," "Scoop," "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger"). The new one's set in 1928 in the south of France, where people really do seem on the verge of asking, "Tennis, anyone?&... (read more)

      • 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)

      • I Origins poster image

        I Origins

        Betsy Sharkey, Chicago Tribune

        In Mike Cahill movies, bad things happen to good people, and other good people are guilt-ridden as a result. But the human connections and the spare sci-fi logic that characterized "Another Earth," Cahill's ethereal romantic dramatic debut, are muddied in "I Origins." It is, in fact, logic that weighs this film down. While "Another Earth" floated the idea of a parallel universe and a second chance at life and love within its tragedy, "I Origins" uses it... (read more)

      • Mood Indigo poster image

        Mood Indigo

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        The eccentric whimsy and invention overfill the screen of Michel Gondry's "Mood Indigo," an adaptation of a novel by the Frenchman who wrote "I Spit on Your Graves." Set in an alternate "Brazil"/"Delicatessen"/"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" reality, it's a blur of queer gadgets and odd doodads, see-through limousines and dinner tables on roller skates, all in a tale concocted by an office full of women clattering at a conveyor belt of... (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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Oculus poster image

        Oculus

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Happily longer on chills than entrails, the crafty new horror film "Oculus" is about a haunted mirror. Three years ago, writer-director Mike Flanagan made the similarly low-budget "Absentia," which dealt with a haunted pedestrian underpass. In this genre, it's good to be specific. Certainly Flanagan, whose latest comes from a 2005 short film, has learned the virtues of a simple idea, fruitfully elaborated. His co-writer, Jeff Howard, worked on both the short version of &qu... (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)

      • Bad Words poster image

        Bad Words

        Betsy Sharkey, Chicago Tribune

        Betsy Sharkey Sarcastic, sanctimonious, salacious, sly, slight and surprisingly sweet, the black comedy of "Bad Words," starring and directed by Jason Bateman, is high-minded, foul-mouthed good nonsense. I had wondered where Bateman's angry itch would take him next. The script, by Andrew Dodge, is his first to be produced after many years in the studio trenches, and it's a good match of man and material. As an actor -- whether a victim trying to even the score with Melissa McCarthy ... (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)

      • 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)

      • The Missing Picture poster image

        The Missing Picture

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips As brilliantly as Art Spiegelman examined his parents' experiences of the Holocaust in the graphic novel "Maus," the Cambodian-born filmmaker and author Rithy Panh relives his own survival of the Khmer Rouge regime in "The Missing Picture." It's a fantastic film, and while I loved the movie that won this year's best documentary Oscar, "Twenty Feet From Stardom," that one's a blip on the world radar ... (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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • If You Build It poster image

        If You Build It

        Gary Goldstein, Chicago Tribune

        A struggling community finds its own kind of field of dreams in "If You Build It," Patrick Creadon's fine documentary about a teaching program that from 2010 to 2012 inspired a group of teens in tiny Windsor, N.C. -- and jolted a town in the process. The film proves not only a stirring look at education's potential to rally and invigorate but also a vital snapshot of contemporary rural America. Despite resistance from the entrenched local school board, activist architects Matthew Mi... (read more)

      • Walking With Dinosaurs poster image

        Walking With Dinosaurs

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        The BBC series "Walking With Dinosaurs" gets a kid-friendly big-screen treatment, complete with cutesy story and dino-poop jokes, in "Walking With Dinosaurs 3D." Aimed squarely at that dino-crazy demographic (7-12), it pumps a few IQ points into a kid film genre sorely in need of them. "Walking" takes care to ID each new dinosaur species introduced, including factoids about what they ate and any special skills they might have had. It's downright educational. Just... (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)

      • The Book Thief poster image

        The Book Thief

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Adapted from the internationally popular book-club staple by Markus Zusak, "The Book Thief" tries so hard to warm our hearts amid grotesque suffering, it goes a bit mad under the strain. It relays an uplifting story that, ill-advisedly, is not so much Holocaust-era as Holocaust-adjacent, determined to steer clear of too much discomfort. Zusak follows the fortunes of his young heroine, Liesel, played by the talented young actress Sophie Nelisse, as she's adopted by Hans and Rosa Hube... (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)

      • 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)

      • Pacific Rim poster image

        Pacific Rim

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The Summer of Loud continues this week with "Pacific Rim," full of sound and fury signifying nothing more than a monster movie in full roar. Director and co-writer Guillermo del Toro's clever if rather wearying ode to Japanese sea-beast mythology is best enjoyed with a pair of earplugs and on a short night's sleep. That is to say: It's closer to the hammering "Transformers" aesthetic than expected. Yet the weirdness around the edges saves it from impersonality. In this nea... (read more)

      • The Hangover Part III poster image

        The Hangover Part III

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        Slow, sentimental and somewhat sedated, the third "Hangover" movie isn't so much exhausted of outrageous "Oh no, they didn't!" ideas as it is spent of energy. And they knew it, too. The only raunchy moment is stuffed into the closing credits, a "we forgot to do that" afterthought. They know they're done. They just want to make sure we know. "The Hangover Part III" becomes a fairly conventional caper comedy, with the capers driven by the still-cackling, ... (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)

      • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days poster image

        Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Why are the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" movies so much less fun, and funny, than the best of the books created by Jeff Kinney? On the page, Kinney's illustrations, those stick-figure humiliations and angsty margin doodles allegedly drawn by the exasperated protagonist, Greg Heffley, hold the key to why "Wimpy Kid" took off with so many millions of young and angsty seekers of humiliation comedy. Perpetual, grinding setbacks and massive, why-me? preteen injustices are more amusin... (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)

      • Moonrise Kingdom poster image

        Moonrise Kingdom

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Media Services Film Clips Nothing in a Wes Anderson movie is quite like life. He creates odd, gorgeous miniature universes on screen, setting his characters in italics, so that they become characters playing themselves in a pageant inspired by their own lives. The storybook quality to his films is either coy or entrancing, depending on your receptiveness to Anderson's comic spark and his sharply angled, presentational arrangements of actors against some ... (read more)

      • The Cabin in the Woods poster image

        The Cabin in the Woods

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A peppy horror mash-up with existential airs, "The Cabin in the Woods" goes completely nuts in its final half-hour and is all the better for it. Writers lie about this sort of thing constantly, but according to screenwriters Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, who cut their eyeteeth on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" among other credits, the script came together in three days, in the spirit of "Let's try that, too." Goddard, making his feature directorial debut, plays aroun... (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)

      • Rio poster image

        Rio

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Love and Other Impossible Pursuits poster image

        Love and Other Impossible Pursuits

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Hollywood years are like dog years, which means 17 years is a long time. Seventeen years ago Cameron Diaz played the chipper second banana, the other woman, in the Julia Roberts vehicle "My Best Friend's Wedding." While that movie really belonged to Rupert Everett, the sunny goodwill flying out of every single one of Diaz's pores cast a nice warm glow over the Chicago-filmed diversion. Diaz has long since proven she can tackle various leading roles, and in the unsteady revenge comed... (read more)

      • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World poster image

        Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Expendables poster image

        The Expendables

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The cinematic equivalent of Ribfest, Sylvester Stallone's "The Expendables" is all gristle and meat, featuring more leathery tough guys than "Cruising," "The Dirty Dozen" and the '80s and '90s Cannon films canon put together. Is it fun? Sort of. But it shoulda coulda been a ton of fun. Instead you take your auto assault 12-gauge shotgun splatterings and unintentional laughs, which I have a feeling were intentional unintentional ones, where you can. The Expendable... (read more)

      • Detestable Moi 3D Numerique poster image

        Detestable Moi 3D Numerique

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • A Nightmare on Elm Street poster image

        A Nightmare on Elm Street

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "You gotta stop that kinda dreamin,'" said the naive mother in the original 1984 "Nightmare on Elm Street," and of course the advice was not heeded, and Freddy Krueger (billed as "Fred Krueger") and his metallic claw-fingers wiped out teenager after teenager, and a franchise was born. Director Wes Craven's film never did get the critical respect of, say, John Carpenter's first " Halloween," but its creepiest scenes -- the body-bag appearance at the high... (read more)

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

        How to Train Your Dragon: An IMAX 3D Experience

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Everybody's Fine poster image

        Everybody's Fine

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Relief" is the word for it. It's a relief to see Robert De Niro giving an honest, effective starring performance in a project that does not stink and that, in fact, rises to a respectable level of filmmaking proficiency. How long has it been? "Everybody's Fine" may be as calculated a commercial product as the "Meet the Parents"/"Meet the Fockers" comedies (No. 3 to come next year), in which De Niro's comic skills were stretched into cartoon broadness.... (read more)

      • Fantastic Mr. Fox poster image

        Fantastic Mr. Fox

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Old Dogs poster image

        Old Dogs

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Wild Hogs," "Old Dogs" - what's next, "Bumps on Logs"? Truly, I would rather watch John Travolta and Robin Williams sitting on a tree trunk, doing nothing, than endure their best efforts to energize this ol' hound. Does no one know how to film physical comedy anymore? In the latest Disney live-action comedy, people are constantly getting their fingers crushed by car-trunk lids, or getting clocked in the groin by golf balls, and undergoing grotesque facial distor... (read more)

      • Michael Jackson's This Is It poster image

        Michael Jackson's This Is It

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Black Dynamite poster image

        Black Dynamite

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Fueled by a suspicious, insidious brand of malt liquor called Anaconda, the blaxploitation spoof "Black Dynamite" knows its genre's weak spots, sore spots and aesthetically challenged delights, from the cruddy overlit early-'70s-era interiors to the "Shaft"-ed theme song contributed by composer (and editor) Adrian Younge. Director and co-writer Scott Sanders' comedy reveals an eye for visual detail. I'm still puzzled as to why it's not funnier. When you describe certain sc... (read more)

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

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

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Soul Power poster image

        Soul Power

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Food, Inc. poster image

        Food, Inc.

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        If Wal-Mart, the Lucifer of multinational corporations in many liberal eyes, sees the fiscal sense in stocking an increasingly wide array of organic foodstuffs, consumer habits truly are changing. Not fast enough, though, for documentary filmmaker Robert Kenner, whose eye-opening "Food, Inc." should win a few hearts and minds regarding what we put in our stomachs. Several things - too many, probably - are going on in "Food, Inc.," all connected. Kenner begins by tracing th... (read more)

      • Under the Sea poster image

        Under the Sea

        Michael Esposito, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa poster image

        Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Madagascar" (2005) made half a bil, and my preteen son certainly enjoyed it, especially for the penguins. The sequel, "Madagascar: Back 2 Africa," is a better film, though - less manic, more easygoing. The first film referenced so many other movies so indiscriminately, from "Chariots of Fire" to "Planet of the Apes" to "American Beauty," watching it was like being caught on a bus with a bunch of screenwriters on the way to a wisenheimer conve... (read more)

      • Sex and the City poster image

        Sex and the City

        Jessica Reaves, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Juno poster image

        Juno

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It takes "Juno" about 15 minutes to calm down and get its joke reflex in check. Screenwriter Diablo Cody, formerly Brook Busey-Hunt of Lemont, has everyone quipping like maniacs?it's dialogue you notice, every second?and for a while you wonder if this story of a pregnant teenager's coming of age will exhaust you with cleverness. Then, stealthily, everything about the movie starts working together more purposefully. And by the end you've fallen in love with the thing. Ellen Page is k... (read more)

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

        Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford poster image

        The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" will drive a lot of people to distraction, if they're even attracted to it in the first place. A meditation on celebrity, 19th century frontier fan boys and the myths America feeds to its young, this superbly realized adaptation of Ron Hansen's novel runs about 160 minutes, and while there aren't many individual acts of violence, they are painful and, more importantly, carry a moral consequence. The film does not concern i... (read more)

      • Superbad poster image

        Superbad

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix poster image

        Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • TMNT poster image

        TMNT

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        I just love the Motion Picture Association of America and its touchingly unreliable ratings system. "TMNT," the latest installment in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise and the first computer-animated feature therein, carries a business-friendly PG rating for "animated action violence" as well as "some scary cartoon images," neither of which sound scary in the least. So, you know, bring the 2-year-olds. Surprise! Besides being lame, cold, ugly-spirited an... (read more)

      • The Lives of Others poster image

        The Lives of Others

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        "The Lives of Others" takes place in a world of systematic terror and freezing paranoia, an informer's society of secret police and betrayers in Communist East Germany. The time is the Orwellian 1984, five years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The major characters, all fictional, are a celebrated East German playwright, Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch); his actress-mistress, Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck); some of Dreyman's dissident friends; and the police who are watchin... (read more)

      • Happy Feet poster image

        Happy Feet

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan poster image

        Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Borat" is a rarity: a comedy whose middle name is danger, or as the Kazakhs say, kauwip-kater. A provocative, riotous and multidirectionally offensive comedy, it showcases a boorish, sexist, anti-Semitic oaf whose formidable mustache rests atop a ferocious smile, and who has a merry way of making much of America look more dangerous than Borat himself. Sacha Baron Cohen created the character of Borat Sagdiyev, a Kazakh television commentator and satyr-like fool, for the British seri... (read more)

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