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      Movie Reviews

      • Green Room poster image

        Green Room

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        In writer-director Jeremy Saulnier's "Blue Ruin," which put him on the map in 2013, the tension is controlled, measured; it follows an intentional plan of violence in a story of long overdue revenge. In his follow-up, "Green Room," Saulnier takes the opposite approach, in a horror story of the chaos and random chance of violence set in the world of hardcore punk shows. While "Blue Ruin" was openly emotional, burrowing into deep interfamilial rifts, "Green Ro... (read more)

      • Keanu poster image

        Keanu

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        We expect our comedies to be hit-and-miss. They're different from action movies, which, in recent years, have become numbingly relentless -- hit-and-never-miss, unless you're third thug from the left and swarthy, and your job is to shoot and then die. Now we have the strange case of "Keanu," starring two extremely funny people, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, just off their five-season sketch comedy TV run, in their first theatrical showcase as a comedy duo. Written by Peele an... (read more)

      • Ratchet & Clank poster image

        Ratchet & Clank

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Based on a popular Playstation game, the sci-fi animated feature "Ratchet & Clank" seeks to capture the kid-friendly audience, as well as the gamer crowd who has a familiarity with the space-based game characters. The film is a basic hero story about Ratchet (James Arnold Taylor, also the voice in the video game), a young lombax (a cat-like creature) who dreams of joining the Galactic Rangers, only to find that the hero business is much more complicated than it seems. Ratchet gets h... (read more)

      • The Meddler poster image

        The Meddler

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The smooth, cozy charm of writer-director Lorene Scafaria's "The Meddler" offers considerable seriocomic satisfaction in its story of a mother and a daughter, the meddler and the meddled with, respectively. I don't get the high-end praise for this medium entity. But as a performance vehicle it's nice and spacious. Susan Sarandon is Marnie Minervini, recently widowed New Jersey transplant, whose late husband left her with plenty of money to go with her generous-slash-compulsive insti... (read more)

      • A Hologram for the King poster image

        A Hologram for the King

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        You can tell a lot about a movie's quality, and a director's instincts, by the way a protagonist falls off a chair. In the wobbly film version of the Dave Eggers novel "A Hologram for the King," Tom Hanks plays an American businessman at odds with the furniture, the business customs and the cultural mores of Saudi Arabia. His character, a struggling former Schwinn executive named Alan Clay, has come to Jeddah and to the nearby construction project known as King Abdullah Economic Cit... (read more)

      • Elvis & Nixon poster image

        Elvis & Nixon

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Knowing in advance that the new film "Elvis & Nixon" is only yea-big, and that it's not intended to carry the usual biopic baggage, its particular charms are disarming nonetheless. Mainly it's fun. It's fun to watch Michael Shannon (Elvis) and Kevin Spacey (Nixon) do their thing without settling for impressions or impersonations. In the grand tradition of first-rate actors, actually acting, Shannon and Spacey evoke and explore, rather than replicate. In a wryly comic but unshticky v... (read more)

      • Everybody Wants Some!! poster image

        Everybody Wants Some!!

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A minor pleasure from a deceptively major American filmmaker, Richard Linklater's "Everybody Wants Some!!" owes its title to a Van Halen song and its porn-star mustaches and ever-so-slightly-exaggerated clothes to its time and locale: three hot August days prior to the start of the 1980-81 school year at fictional Southeast Texas University. Jake, played by Blake Jenner of "Glee," serves as the wide-eyed freshman of Linklater's screenplay. He's a pitcher on the university ... (read more)

      • Miles Ahead poster image

        Miles Ahead

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        With musical biopics, so often the most crucial element -- the music -- becomes a solo act, accompanied by little-to-nothing in the way of strong visual corollaries to that music. You get the outline of a tormented genius' life, and a misguided, reverential sense of respect, but no cinema; no life in that life. Don Cheadle's "Miles Ahead" is a disarming exception to the usual. It's squirrelly and exuberant, and it moves. Even with what you might call a necessary evil at its center (... (read more)

      • Sing Street poster image

        Sing Street

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Set in 1985 Dublin, "Sing Street" is a seriously endearing picture from John Carney, the writer-director of "Once," about which I am crazy. For his latest, I'm two-thirds crazy. That's percentage enough. Working on a broader canvas, creating a different sort of artist's fantasy of fulfillment than the plaintive "Once" offered, "Sing Street" accommodates elements of gritty realism and liberating escapism, one feeding the other. One minute you're watching... (read more)

      • The Huntsman: Winter's War poster image

        The Huntsman: Winter's War

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        How do you solve a problem like Kristen (Stewart)? If you're the filmmakers of "The Huntsman: Winter's War," you write Snow White entirely out of the sequel to "Snow White and the Huntsman." The film's clearly a valuable property, so it's no wonder that Universal would return to that well with a sequel, this time directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, the visual effects supervisor on the first film. But the script acrobatics result in a bizarre prequel/sequel mash up where Sno... (read more)

      • Barbershop: The Next Cut poster image

        Barbershop: The Next Cut

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Arriving 14 years after the original "Barbershop," and 12 after "Barbershop 2: Back in Business," "Barbershop: The Next Cut" is saddled with the task of taking a familiar property and bringing it up to date. In the hands of writers Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver, and director Malcom D. Lee, the strategy is to get political, with the issue of shootings and gang violence in Chicago as the galvanizing force around which the barbershop rallies. Leaving aside the humor... (read more)

      • Midnight Special poster image

        Midnight Special

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Midnight Special" puts its potential audience at a crossroads. You say you want a genuinely unpredictable film combining more genres than can be accurately charted, acted with force and grace throughout? You want an antidote to "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice"? Then take the road less traveled. Writer-director Jeff Nichols has concocted a chase drama; a science fiction parable about parents and children; a story of a religious cult's and the U.S. government's pursuit ... (read more)

      • I Saw the Light poster image

        I Saw the Light

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        If a prosaic movie can be redeemed, partially, by an excellent performance, then "I Saw the Light" and Tom Hiddleston's Hank Williams serve as point A and point B, respectively. The good and the phony in the new Williams biopic sit side by side in the opening minutes. After the first of several faux black-and-white interview sequences featuring Bradley Whitford as Williams' producer, Fred Rose, aka "Mr. Exposition," we get to the star. On a soundstage of the mind, swathed ... (read more)

      • No Home Movie poster image

        No Home Movie

        Peter Debruge, Chicago Tribune

        Variety Chantal Akerman's "No Home Movie" is not, as its enigmatic title might suggest, a deconstruction of or attack on the home-movie tradition -- that amateur pastime of documenting private family moments for posterity's sake. If anything, the avant-garde Belgian director's tribute to her mother, Natalia, a Polish immigrant and Auschwitz survivor who died in 2014, appears to fully embrace the format, with its power to preserve the past and sentimentalize mundane moments. Ergo, to... (read more)

      • My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 poster image

        My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Back in 2002, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" became a bona fide cultural phenomenon, a romantic comedy that mined the cultural specificities of the Greek heritage of unknown writer and star Nia Vardalos. The film picked up an Oscar nomination for Vardalos' original screenplay, everyone began adding "My Big Fat" in front of various nouns, and we all learned a thing or two about the versatility of Windex. Fourteen years later, Vardalos and gang are back again for another wedding... (read more)

      • Anomalisa poster image

        Anomalisa

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Sad, beautiful, the wittiest film of the year, "Anomalisa" takes place largely in a hotel room in Cincinnati, where a customer service expert (his well-regarded book: "How May I Help You Help Them?") has traveled from Los Angeles. He's delivering the keynote address at a regional customer service conference. Honestly, could the premise for a feature-length story of middle-aged malaise and inchoate yearning be any drabber? Hardly. And yet directors Duke Johnson and Charlie ... (read more)

      • The Automatic Hate poster image

        The Automatic Hate

        Dennis Harvey, Chicago Tribune

        Variety The family you never knew you had turns out to be the family you may wish you never met in Justin Lerner's "The Automatic Hate." This arresting seriocomedy deftly walks a tightrope between droll and tense, over a gaping pit of crazy. Domestic life is already bumpy enough for mild-mannered Bostonian Davis (Joseph Cross): We meet him just as he's returning from the bathroom to find himself locked out of his own bedroom because (for reasons that are only made clear much later) ... (read more)

      • The Divergent Series: Allegiant poster image

        The Divergent Series: Allegiant

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Well, almost done. You know how it is. A franchise must eat and make hay while the sun shines and the customers still give a rip. As we learned with "Harry Potter," and then with "Twilight," and then with "The Hunger Games," and now with "Divergent," the rule is this: The last book in the series gets whacked in two, and then you're given the precious gift of two movies with barely enough narrative glue for one ("Deathly Hallows" largely except... (read more)

      • Miracles From Heaven poster image

        Miracles From Heaven

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        In recent years, there's been a mini trend of faith-based films concerned with proving the existence of heaven. Based on true stories, films such as "Heaven is For Real" and "90 Minutes in Heaven" take up this task. Ostensibly following on their heels is the Jennifer Garner-starring "Miracles From Heaven," based on an amazing -- and weird -- true story. But while the film is centered on Christian-based faith, it argues for the powers of miracles that are of the m... (read more)

      • 10 Cloverfield Lane poster image

        10 Cloverfield Lane

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "10 Cloverfield Lane" is only nominally a sequel to "Cloverfield," the scruffy li'l 2008 monster movie in which New York idiots ran around filming themselves while their city became the plaything of an intergalactic tourist. The new picture is that earlier film's neighbor down the street. And the neighbor lives in an underground bunker, where most of the story is set. Are there monsters? Well. They're alluded to in the title and in the trailer, when John Goodman and Mary E... (read more)

      • The Brothers Grimsby poster image

        The Brothers Grimsby

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        First, the good news. "The Brothers Grimsby," Sacha Baron Cohen's latest exploration in pushing the boundaries of taste, gets a couple of things right. First and foremost, it clocks in at a tight 82 minutes -- it knows just how long its schtick will last. Secondly, co-writer and star Baron Cohen's Nobby Butcher, a working class British football hooligan from the town of Grimsby, is an entertaining character to throw into a spy parody. With his Liam Gallagher haircut and ever-present... (read more)

      • London Has Fallen poster image

        London Has Fallen

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        After the fake (and occasionally authentic) cultural import of the annual Academy Awards, it should be refreshing to watch Gerard Butler shoot, stab and wisecrack a slew of anonymous Middle Eastern terrorists to death in "London Has Fallen." But the frenzied sequel to 2013's "Olympus Has Fallen," returning Butler to his security detail in the role of the U.S. president's infallible protector, works on a very low level of bloodthirsty escapism. Around the midpoint, long aft... (read more)

      • Zootopia poster image

        Zootopia

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Who are animated feature films for these days? Traditionally seen as children's entertainment, the higher quality entries in this genre have hit a sweet spot with enough sophisticated jokes for parents to enjoy, coupled with cutesy animation to delight children. Disney's latest film, "Zootopia" achieves this, though it seems to skew more adult in its content, if not its characters. Somehow, Disney has managed to pull off a hard-boiled police procedural thriller about political corru... (read more)

      • Eddie the Eagle poster image

        Eddie the Eagle

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        A cheery tale of unlikely sporting triumph, "Eddie the Eagle," directed by Dexter Fletcher, offers up a retro feel-good yarn about the power of determination. While it's often cookie-cutter sports movie conventional, you'd have to be stone-hearted to remain un-charmed by the story of real-life British ski jumper Michael "Eddie" Edwards, played by rising star Taron Egerton. As a kid, enthusiastic young Eddie declares he's going to be an Olympian, despite his corrective leg ... (read more)

      • Gods of Egypt poster image

        Gods of Egypt

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Wow! Where to start? The effects-driven (into the ground!) "Gods of Egypt" is so screwy, yet so lame, its already-infamous whitewashed casting issues are the least of its troubles. As we hear in the opening voice-over, in a line recycled from any number of '50s TV variety shows featuring Sammy Cahn or Johnny Mercer, the story "goes something ... like ... this": Ancient Egypt, see? We're in ancient Egypt, mythological division. Anything can happen here. The place looks like... (read more)

      • The Lady in the Van poster image

        The Lady in the Van

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In 1974, by reluctant invitation, a homeless but not vanless woman by the name of Mary Shepherd parked her banged-up vehicle in the driveway of the Camden Town home belonging to playwright, novelist and humorist Alan Bennett. A former concert pianist of shadowy circumstance, Shepherd was well-known as a vagabond in this rapidly gentrifying part of London. With a mixture of timidity, kindness, inertia and privileged guilt, Bennett let her stay on his patio. For 15 years. The anecdote grew into... (read more)

      • Deadpool poster image

        Deadpool

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A fairly funny trashing of its own glib self, "Deadpool" is a movie about an unkillable wisenheimer who never shuts up, even while enduring or inflicting enough putrid brutality to earn an X or a NC-17 rating just a few years ago. The masked antihero is played by Ryan Reynolds, clearly having the screen time of his life, to date. He sounds strikingly like his fellow Canadian Jim Carrey when he goes into manic-wisecrack mode, riffing on everything from the "Taken" movies to... (read more)

      • How to Be Single poster image

        How to Be Single

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        This Valentine's Day weekend, the gender lines have been drawn in bright red. If you want the latest R-rated male fantasy of empowerment, lousy with testosterone, "Deadpool" is your diversion. For a 55-gallon drum of estrogen, help yourself to "How to Be Single." Both films are a little better than you'd expect, thanks to the key performers. I should add, however, that February, in movie parlance, is a synonym for "settling." "How to Be Single" stars Da... (read more)

      • Where to Invade Next poster image

        Where to Invade Next

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Michael Moore's wry first-person documentary "Where to Invade Next," his first since 2009 and "Capitalism: A Love Story," isn't what it sounds like. The title suggests a cry, or a typically ironic Moore screed, against the history and dangers of recent U.S. foreign policy. But Moore's latest goes a different direction. It follows one goofball firebrand's "invasion" of a few choice countries abroad where the spending priorities and social safety nets are more to h... (read more)

      • Kung Fu Panda 3 poster image

        Kung Fu Panda 3

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        A third installment in a franchise isn't always great. But sometimes, it can be a comforting guarantee of a good time at the movies, as is the case with "Kung Fu Panda 3." The first two installments have been met with rapturous reception and box office success, and this one will no doubt follow in their footsteps -- with good reason. The engaging and heartfelt story, coupled with eye-popping animation, makes "Kung Fu Panda 3" a total knockout. In a prologue, we're introduc... (read more)

      • The 5th Wave poster image

        The 5th Wave

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        When the apocalypse happens, all that's going to be left for us are the guns. Which might actually be true, but is also the subtext of the dystopian young adult film hitting theaters this weekend, "The 5th Wave." The film opens with a winsome blonde teen girl executing a man with a military-style assault rifle, and the teen gunplay only goes further from there. The sight of teens with rifles is one we're used to from news reports of a much more tragic nature, so the imagery definite... (read more)

      • 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi poster image

        13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Everything in director Michael Bay's cinematic vocabulary -- the glamorizing slo-mo, the falling bomb point-of-view shots, the low-angle framing of his heroes with blue sky, fireballs or an American flag in the background -- suggests not real life, or the way things might have happened, but a Michael Bay movie. It's true of the "Transformers" movies and it's true of "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi." Bay's latest is a mixed-up blend of truth and distortion. Parts... (read more)

      • Ride Along 2 poster image

        Ride Along 2

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Watching the "Ride Along" films (this is the second installment in the buddy cop franchise) is an exercise in succumbing to Kevin Hart's unique, manic charms. By the end, it's most likely you'll be laughing at the antics of the bite-sized comic whose style is reminiscent of an over-enthusiastic puppy nipping at your ankles even if you're not sure why. This is why Ice Cube is the perfect audience proxy as Hart's tough and taciturn counterpart; while he initially wants to bat the irri... (read more)

      • Carol poster image

        Carol

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Hateful Eight poster image

        The Hateful Eight

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Danish Girl poster image

        The Danish Girl

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        After the publicity maelstrom that surrounded Caitlyn Jenner's transition and the success of Amazon's "Transparent" TV series, no contemporary consumer of media need be told what it means to be a transgender woman. In 1926, the situation was very different. That's the year when "The Danish Girl" begins its story of Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) and wife Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander). When Einar began to feel like a woman painfully confined inside a man's body and became... (read more)

      • Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip poster image

        Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The persistence of "Alvin and the Chipmunks" as a cultural text is rather baffling. The mischievous singing rodents were created in 1958 for a novelty record, which makes them 57 years old. You're probably familiar with that record, as it usually gets some air time this season, and features that inimitably high-pitched ear worm chorus, "Please, Christmas, don't be late." It's amazing to think that that song has been tormenting parents for nearly six decades now. These are ... (read more)

      • Star Wars: The Force Awakens poster image

        Star Wars: The Force Awakens

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        So: Where were we? Let's skip past the prequel trilogy "The Phantom Menace," "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith," apparently written and directed by droids. In chronological story terms we last saw Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, princess-turned-queen Leia, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C-3PO whooping it up at the Ewok luau back in 1983, in "Return of the Jedi," celebrating the massive global popularity and merchandising sales of George Lucas' bright idea... (read more)

      • Chi-Raq poster image

        Chi-Raq

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Dec. 4, Spike Lee's "Chi-Raq" is destined to make almost everybody angry -- not for what it says about Chicago's homicide statistics, especially among young African-Americans, but for how it says it. Director and co-writer Lee took on an existing script by Kevin Willmott ("C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America"), and together they relocated this brash update on the ancient Greek play "Lysistrata" to modern-day Chicago. Its prologue is all business, indicating... (read more)

      • Creed poster image

        Creed

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Back in 1976, our bicentennial year, the nation yearned for a red, white and blue plate special piled high with corn. Something to believe in. Then, up those Philadelphia Museum of Art steps, backed by the Bill Conti theme, that something arrived. Nobody went to the first "Rocky" for the finesse of the filmmaking. They went for the underdog-rooting, for Rocky and Adrian, for the unexpected sweetness, for the redemption angle, for the reconstituted boxing movie cliches that tasted no... (read more)

      • The Good Dinosaur poster image

        The Good Dinosaur

        Rick Bentley, Chicago Tribune

        Production was halted early in the process of making "The Good Dinosaur" because it had some dinosaur-sized problems. Peter Sohn was brought in as the new director and he started the process over two years ago. The second attempt ends up so flat it would have been smart to scrap it and try a third time. It is weighed down by a flawed concept, unappealing characters and a soundtrack that lacks anything close to a memorable tune. The only aspect worthy of high praise is the background... (read more)

      • Suffragette poster image

        Suffragette

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The story of women fighting for the right to vote is all too recent, and for some, all too forgotten. Director Sarah Gavron and writer Abi Morgan bring the history of the British suffragette movement to bear in the film "Suffragette," as a reminder of the struggles that have come before, and the achievements that have yet to be won. The resulting film is dark and unglamorous, but it burns with a determined fire, giving these women a revolutionary hero treatment. "Suffragette&qu... (read more)

      • The 33 poster image

        The 33

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Going into "The 33," we know a few things. We know it'll be tense, and largely subterranean. We know it's a bad-news/good-news story, in that order, about the 2010 mine explosion and cave-in stranding 33 workers for 69 excruciating days in the depths of a gold and copper mine in Chile's Atacama Desert. The ordeal and eventual rescue of all 33 became the stuff of gripping reality television around the world. Mining is innately risky work, especially in mines with lousy safety records... (read more)

      • Burnt poster image

        Burnt

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In "Burnt," playing a brilliant, tormented American chef clawing his way to the top of the London culinary scene, Bradley Cooper throws more tantrums than a season's worth of "Rugrats." The movie is devoted three ways: to the character's reckless past as an apprentice in Paris, drink and drugs and women strewn in his wake; to his lust for the validation of a coveted third Michelin star rating ("I want people to be sick with longing," he says of his cooking ambiti... (read more)

      • Goosebumps poster image

        Goosebumps

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Silly, spooky monster mash-up "Goosebumps" doesn't have to be as good as it is. Slyly smarter and more entertaining than it appears, adults might have just as much fun as the kids who will undoubtedly gobble up this Halloween treat. A sort of PG version of "Cabin in the Woods," this adaptation of R.L. Stine's series of young adult horror novels is bolstered by a stellar comedic cast, headed up by the inimitable Jack Black in the role of the author. With so many "Goose... (read more)

      • He Named Me Malala poster image

        He Named Me Malala

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Chances are, you're already familiar with Malala Yousafszai, the young activist and Nobel laureate who survived being shot in the head by the Taliban in Pakistan. But with Davis Guggenheim's new documentary, "He Named Me Malala," based on her memoir, "I Am Malala," you'll get to know the remarkable girl in a much more intimate and illuminating light. While the film itself is plagued with structural storytelling issues that are at best emotionally numbing, at worst confound... (read more)

      • Pan poster image

        Pan

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In "Pan," young Peter learns he can fly in the grimmest possible context, as he plummets to his presumptive death after being kicked, viciously, off a plank hundreds of feet above a rock quarry. In the new film directed by Joe Wright, Neverland lies high above the clouds as usual, but much of its real estate has been turned over to a miserable steampunk mining village in the "Mad Max: Fury Road" vein. Kidnapped slave boys dig for Pixum, also known as pixie dust. The precio... (read more)

      • The Martian poster image

        The Martian

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A highly enjoyable, zestily acted team-building exercise, with Matt Damon playing the team of one, director Ridley Scott's "The Martian" throws a series of life-or-death scenarios at its resourceful botanist-astronaut, stranded on Mars but making the most of it. It's one of the most comforting science fiction films in years. "I'm not gonna die here," Damon's character, Mark Watney, declares early on to the camera. Left for dead by his crew amid a monstrous windstorm, in wh... (read more)

      • Learning to Drive poster image

        Learning to Drive

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Learning to Drive," not to be confused with the Corey Haim/Corey Feldman vehicle "License to Drive," comes from an autobiographical 2002 New Yorker article by essayist Katha Pollitt. In the magazine piece, later published in a Pollitt collection of stories, the longtime nondriving Manhattan resident bounces back from a breakup with a womanizing jerk (I'm taking her point of view) by grabbing the wheel of her own life, through driving lessons. At one point Pollitt imagines... (read more)

      • Grandma poster image

        Grandma

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        We don't get to choose when or where we fall in love with a performer; sometimes it happens when they're doing Ingmar Bergman, and sometimes it's "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In." Lily Tomlin joined the cast of that cherished relic of a sketch comedy TV show in 1970, and very quickly millions became her comedy slaves, thanks to Ernestine, her purse-lipped telephone operator, and to Edith Ann, the fidgety wonder of a 5-year-old in the oversize rocking chair. In short order Tomlin, now 75,... (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)

      • Minions poster image

        Minions

        Rick Bentley, Chicago Tribune

        It's the role of a minion to be a servile follower of a person in charge. That means they are resigned to playing the supporting role. That's the problem with the new animated comedy "Minions." The pill-shaped, yellow characters introduced in "Despicable Me" as the subordinates to the villainous Gru have now taken center stage. The charm and humor they brought in tiny doses in the previous films now come in a massive blast that wears thin quickly. "Minions" start... (read more)

      • Magic Mike XXL poster image

        Magic Mike XXL

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Chappie poster image

        Chappie

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        I found lots to admire in writer-director Neill Blomkamp's "District 9" and, despite its heavy-handed universal health care polemics, the Matt Damon space station allegory "Elysium." But his latest science fiction outing, co-written (like "Elysium") with his wife, Terri Tatchell, is a misjudgment from metallic head to titanium toe. After Wednesday's advance screening, the dialogue en route to the parking garage was clear and pointed. Woman 1: "Wasn't that th... (read more)

      • Jupiter Ascending poster image

        Jupiter Ascending

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In "Jupiter Ascending" Channing Tatum's character is a "splice," an intergalactic bounty hunter with a distaste for shirts. His genetically engineered DNA contains both wolf and human strands. He sports wee pointy ears, a lemon-brown goatee and a terrific pair of jet boots. He's basically Shakespeare's Puck plunked down in a story recalling "The House of Atreus," but in space. The movie doesn't really work, but the jet boots would be the envy of Iron Man, and the... (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)

      • Mommy poster image

        Mommy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The first half of Montreal-born Xavier Dolan's "Mommy" feels like a modern classic, driven by galvanizing performances from Anne Dorval, Suzanne Clement and Antoine Olivier Pilon. The second half succumbs to a less original, more manipulative brand of emotional excess. But see it; see those three performers go to town. This is Dolan's fifth feature, and he's only 25. The former child actor (he still acts) made a splash with his debut, "I Killed My Mother," a cry from a rag... (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)

      • Spare Parts poster image

        Spare Parts

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        "Spare Parts" is a pleasant enough run-of-the-mill outsiders-beat-the-odds dramedy in the "Race the Sun" mold. It's about undocumented high school kids who enter a big robot-building competition and make a splash in that state most hostile to illegal immigration -- Arizona. So it's a little more concerned with making a statement than with covering new ground in an original and entertaining way. An ROTC go-getter (Carlos PenaVega) needs to get into the Army to help his undo... (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)

      • Last Days in Vietnam poster image

        Last Days in Vietnam

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips Rory Kennedy's exceptional documentary "Last Days in Vietnam" will be broadcast in April on the long-running PBS series "American Experience." But it holds up on a bigger screen and deserves a large audience earlier than that. Ideally that audience includes younger viewers, for whom many of the specifics of Saigon's 1975 fall will be news. But it'll be of particular interest to older audiences who have a fogg... (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)

      • Neighbors poster image

        Neighbors

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        One part smart, one part stupid and three parts jokes about body parts, the extremely raunchy "Neighbors" is a strange success story. It's nobody's idea of a well-structured and logically detailed screenplay, even though its premise -- new parents battling frat house neighbors -- springs from a high-concept idea that could've come from scriptwriting software or a research facility. Which brings us to one of the movie's better early jokes: Sizing up the perpetually shirtless kegmeist... (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 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)

      • Captain Phillips poster image

        Captain Phillips

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Captain Phillips" is a Tom Hanks movie. It is also a Paul Greengrass movie, and the cinematic tumult director Greengrass adroitly captures and sustains in the service of a narrative has a way of keeping his stars unmoored -- in a good way -- while trumping conventional Hollywood notions of a star vehicle. Heroism exists in a Greengrass picture. But the British-born, documentary-trained director, best known for "United 93" and the second and third "Bourne" thrill... (read more)

      • Concussion poster image

        Concussion

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        "Concussion," written and directed by Peter Landesman, establishes two things right away -- the extreme reverence that people have for football, through a Hall of Fame acceptance speech by Pittsburgh Steeler "Iron Mike" Webster (David Morse), and the bona fides of Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith), an extremely well-educated Nigerian immigrant and forensic neuropathologist in the Pittsburgh coroner's office. These are the two conflicting forces throughout the film: the love of... (read more)

      • Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 poster image

        Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The World's End poster image

        The World's End

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Zippy, kinetic and brashly funny, "The World's End" comes to the U.S. from its native England hard on the heels of "This Is the End," an American comedy about ordinary mortals (comedians, actually, so maybe not so ordinary) manning up to deal with apocalyptic plot developments. "World's End," a collaboration among director Edgar Wright, co-writer and star Simon Pegg and co-star Nick Frost, joins the trio's earlier genre scrambles "Shaun of the Dead" (zo... (read more)

      • G.I. Joe: Retaliation poster image

        G.I. Joe: Retaliation

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Right in the middle of "G.I. Joe: Retaliation," which is one sort of action movie, there's another, better one that lasts five or six very good minutes. We're in the Himalayas, where the fancy ninjas such as Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) and Snake Eyes (Ray Park) go for a little me-time and to brush up on their training. With a sword to my head, I couldn't tell you who was fighting whom, but on the face of a mountainside, with dozens of ninjas hooked up to mountain-climbing ropes, th... (read more)

      • Spring Breakers poster image

        Spring Breakers

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        No animals were harmed during the making of "Spring Breakers." But plenty of impressionable young and older minds will assuredly experience feelings of disorientation watching writer-director Harmony Korine's candy-colored clown of a movie, which starts out like a salacious, rump-centric and blithely bare-breasted hip-hop video and ends up in the realm of scary and inspired trash. That's not meant negatively. Korine is a resolute sleaze monger, whose nightmarish daydreams include &q... (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)

      • Jack the Giant Slayer poster image

        Jack the Giant Slayer

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Most modern fantasy adventures are distinguished, if that's the right word, by shot after shot of actors gaping at amazements -- beanstalks busting out of the ground, for example, or flaming trees being flung as weapons at the king's castle -- along with actors running away yelling "Look out!" or "Aaaggghhhhh!!!" while being pursued, say, by a digitally animated giant with two heads. The movies have been into such trickery across the medium's entire life span, back to Geor... (read more)

      • John Dies at the End poster image

        John Dies at the End

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Media Services Film Clips "John Dies at the End" dies closer to the beginning, before writer-director Don Coscarelli's adaptation of the book of the same name has reached minute 20. Some films have just one thing on their cine-minds: to become the next midnight-movie cult item, even now, in this age of perpetual, immediate, any time-access to so much. A noble goal. But facetiousness gets you only so far. This is a fantasy grab bag in which near... (read more)

      • Silver Linings Playbook poster image

        Silver Linings Playbook

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Cloud Atlas poster image

        Cloud Atlas

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Revenant poster image

        The Revenant

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The gorgeously brutal first hour of "The Revenant" marks the peak of director Alejandro G. Inarritu's glittering if not quite golden career. For a while his new movie's really something. Then, as Leonardo DiCaprio crawls across miles and miles of mighty pretty scenery filmed in Canada, Montana and Argentina, gradually it turns into not much of anything. Screenwriter and director Inarritu gave us the 10-ton granite pretensions of "Babel," "Biutiful" as well as les... (read more)

      • Ice Age: Continental Drift poster image

        Ice Age: Continental Drift

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted poster image

        Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

        Colin Covert, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 21 Jump Street poster image

        21 Jump Street

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Most of the big laughs in "21 Jump Street" arrive in the first half, but take a moment to consider that phrase "big laughs." What was the last stupid Hollywood comedy -- good-stupid, not stupid-stupid -- to offer actual, audible, verifiable big laughs? Heartily raunchy and rather sweet, "21 Jump Street" comes from the 1987-1991 Fox TV show, in which Johnny Depp and his incredible swirly hair led an ensemble of younglings playing barely legal police officers posin... (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)

      • The Secret World of Arrietty poster image

        The Secret World of Arrietty

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Compared to so much American animation, which seems hellbent on putting a global audience of addled kids in a paradoxical manic stupor, the work of Japan's Studio Ghibli sets its own pace, establishes its own, meticulously observed realms of the fantastic and respects a moviegoer's senses -- any moviegoer's, of any age. "The Secret World of Arrietty" is the latest import from the collective responsible for "Princess Mononoke," "Spirited Away," "Howl's Moving... (read more)

      • Moneyball poster image

        Moneyball

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Director Bennett Miller's "Moneyball" is the perfect sports movie for these cash-strapped times of efficiency maximization. It's also the best sports movie in a long time, period, as well as honestly inspirational -- even though nobody knocks one into the lights, causing showers of sparks to blend into the night sky with the fireworks. This is not that film. It's better than that film. The focus on facts, figures, sabermetrics and cold, hard stats never competes with the human being... (read more)

      • Captain America: The First Avenger poster image

        Captain America: The First Avenger

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Everything good about ``Captain America: The First Avenger, which certainly is the most stylish comics-derived entertainment of the year, sets director Joe Johnston's film in direct opposition to the attention-span-destroying likes of ``Transformers 3. It's paced and designed for people who won't shrivel up and die if two or three characters take 45 seconds between combat sequences to have a conversation about world domination, or a dame. This is the fifth film in the interconnected Marvel co... (read more)

      • Winnie the Pooh poster image

        Winnie the Pooh

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        "Winnie the Pooh," Disney's latest film revival of A.A. Milne's "willy, nilly, silly old bear," is longer on charm than it is on laughs. Or length. But it's a treat for children making their first trek to the multiplex and for parents and grandparents with fond memories of the Hundred Acre Wood. This "Pooh" is a musical homage to the 1960s Pooh short films, adding new songs (by "Book of Mormon" composer Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez) and a lov... (read more)

      • Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest poster image

        Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Musical groups come together and they come apart, and even the ones that come apart occasionally get back together for gigs and another fan-tantalizing prospect of a new album. So it is with A Tribe Called Quest, the subject of debut feature filmmaker Michael Rapaport's bracing documentary -- a reminder, part "Behind the Music" and part something better, that even artists professing love and togetherness have a hard time keeping it going. Members of ATCQ have expressed varying degre... (read more)

      • Cars 2 poster image

        Cars 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Cars 2" had every chance to improve upon the leisurely 2006 animated feature from Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Studios. Yet here we are, stuck with a merchandising assembly line in lieu of a movie. Despite its technical and design finesse, this ranks as Pixar's weakest project to date, as well as the first from the animation powerhouse that can be described as craven. Twelve films into the life and times of Pixar, it's clear the "Cars" pictures are best assesse... (read more)

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