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      Movie Reviews

      • St. Vincent poster image

        St. Vincent

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        For all the boozed and abusive amusement provided by the great Bill Murray in the good-enough "St. Vincent," the moment I liked best was Naomi Watts as a pregnant Russian stripper, manhandling a vacuum across the Murray character's ancient carpet. In movies as in life, it's the little things. In another scene, the alcoholic, misanthropic Vietnam vet played by Murray is locking horns with a snippy young teller at his bank. In frustration Murray thunks his forehead against the glass. ... (read more)

      • Fury poster image

        Fury

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Fury" is a mixture of sharp realism and squishy cliches that combat movies don't really need anymore. It stars Brad Pitt as a 2nd Armored Division sergeant known as Wardaddy, commander of a battle-scarred Sherman tank whose nickname, painted on its gun barrel, gives writer-director David Ayer's film its title. Coming off his LAPD drive-around chronicle "End of Watch," Ayer once again gravitates toward hard men in deadly, roving circumstances. "Fury" compresses a... (read more)

      • Men, Women & Children poster image

        Men, Women & Children

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Jason Reitman's serenely panic-stricken "Men, Women & Children" pushed every single one of my hot buttons as a parent while simultaneously setting off every single one of my warning bells as a critic. Based on Chad Kultgen's debut novel, it depicts modern-day America as the land of scarily unlimited digital opportunity. It is a place where honest personal communication without the filter, the crutch or the dodge of a personal electronic device has become a distant memory. Everyone t... (read more)

      • The Best of Me poster image

        The Best of Me

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        For an hour or so, Michelle Monaghan and James Marsden gamely swim against the current, fighting the torpid tide of tripe that romance novelist Nicholas Sparks sends their way in the latest adaptation of one of his books. It's sad to watch them strain and struggle and then give up as the lachrymose "The Best of Me" drowns them in a sea of saccharine. It's yet another doomed last-chance love story set in the coastal South, with star-crossed lovers "destined" to be together ... (read more)

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

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

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

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

      • One Chance poster image

        One Chance

        Annlee Ellingson, Chicago Tribune

        Before Susan Boyle there was Paul Potts, a schlubby car-phone salesman from Wales who blew Simon Cowell and his fellow judges away on the first episode of "Britain's Got Talent" with his rendition of Puccini's aria "Nessun Dorma." The son of a steelworker with a chipped front tooth and the voice of an angel won that first season of the reality show, but his progression through the competition is just an afterthought in "One Chance," the story of his life leading ... (read more)

      • Annabelle poster image

        Annabelle

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Gone Girl poster image

        Gone Girl

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Left Behind poster image

        Left Behind

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        And away we go! A little traveling music, please, for the Rapture, the special guest star of "Left Behind," starring a sadly becalmed Nicolas Cage as a married airline pilot whose unconsummated lust for a cheap harlot of a flight attendant, played by Nicky Whelan, is enough to bring on God's wrath, the end of days and a cycle of protracted calamity, starting with the film itself. Make that a cycle-ette. We don't see much actual calamity in director Vic Armstrong's picture, described... (read more)

      • Jimi: All Is by My Side poster image

        Jimi: All Is by My Side

        Andrew Barker, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips Variety The first thing to know about John Ridley's "Jimi: All Is by My Side" is that the writer-director was unable to secure rights to any of Jimi Hendrix's original songs or recordings: This turns out to provide both the film's biggest strength and biggest shortcoming. Less a traditional biopic than a strategically limited portrait of a particular time, place and person, the film effectively brings pre-stardom Hendr... (read more)

      • The Boxtrolls poster image

        The Boxtrolls

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Equalizer poster image

        The Equalizer

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby poster image

        The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips Films aren't so much born as worried into existence, and with some films the worrying -- the concern that the audience won't get it, or get out for it, or make the required time commitment -- never stops. Take, for example, "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby." There are three separate versions afoot. The one available currently came into being at the insistence of producer Harvey Weinstein, whose company backed writer... (read more)

      • The Maze Runner poster image

        The Maze Runner

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Skeleton Twins poster image

        The Skeleton Twins

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Some weeks at the movies are like this. You settle for wonderful actors doing some wonderful acting with scripts that support those efforts even as they limit them. In "The Skeleton Twins," Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader play Maggie and Milo, grown twins who haven't seen each other in 10 years. In the opening shots Wiig's character, an unhappily married Nyack, N.Y., woman who's gotten a little too comfortable lying to her husband (Luke Wilson), stands in her bathroom with a fistful of ... (read more)

      • The Guest poster image

        The Guest

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A pretty crafty genre pastiche until it stalls, director Adam Wingard's "The Guest" introduces its title character after he knocks on the front door of a small-town New Mexico family that recently lost their older son in the Iraq War. Door opens, a man's head is turned away from the camera ... .. And then, after a strange little two-second pause, he turns around and it's a dashing yet sinister Dan Stevens, of "Downton Abbey," here playing the role of a mysterious combat ve... (read more)

      • Dolphin Tale 2 poster image

        Dolphin Tale 2

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Drop poster image

        The Drop

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Even a terrible actor could win friends and influence moviegoers in the role of Bob, a sweetie-pie Brooklyn bartender who saves an injured pit bull puppy from a garbage can in the opening minutes of "The Drop," expanded by screenwriter Dennis Lehane from his own short story, "Animal Rescue." For the record, Tom Hardy is not a terrible actor. He's an excellent one. In "The Drop," Hardy, brandishing (or, rather, Brando-ishing) an outer-borough dialect and mumble, i... (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)

      • The Notebook poster image

        The Notebook

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        "The Notebook," the movie version of Nicholas Sparks' 1996 best seller, may be corny, but it's also absorbing, sweet and powerfully acted. It's a film about falling in love and looking back on it, and it avoids many of the genre's syrupy dangers. This picture, beautifully shaped and shot, filled with fine actors doing moving work, is based on Sparks' debut novel, a "Bridges of Madison County" sort of piece that unfolds in both the past and the present. In the past, two you... (read more)

      • 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)

      • Life After Beth poster image

        Life After Beth

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Aubrey Plaza is so deadpan she's undeadpan, and not just in her new zombie movie. Playing April, Indiana's snarkiest state employee on "Parks and Recreation," the actress who'd be most likely mistaken for the MTV animated show goddess "Daria" slings so many bizarrely timed and unpredictable line readings at her skillful cohorts, with such straight-faced topspin, sometimes you don't know if you're in the company of an actress's extraordinarily practiced shtick or some kind ... (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)

      • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles poster image

        Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        McClatchy Newspapers The "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" franchise earns a Michael Bay-produced 3-D reboot that spares no expense in special effects and spares no decibels in the volume that is the soundtrack to all their new mayhem. These digitally animated supersize turtles have real-world presence and weight, stomping onto the scene like teenagers who haven't learned to do anything quietly. Their brawls with trigger-happy foes from the Foot Clan are a blur of body blows and bullet... (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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 22 Jump Street poster image

        22 Jump Street

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Ivory Tower poster image

        Ivory Tower

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • For No Good Reason poster image

        For No Good Reason

        Gary Goldstein, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Draft Day poster image

        Draft Day

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Only Lovers Left Alive poster image

        Only Lovers Left Alive

        Sheri Linden, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Rio 2 poster image

        Rio 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Divergent poster image

        Divergent

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Big Men poster image

        Big Men

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me poster image

        Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips "Everybody's got a sack of rocks," Elaine Stritch says, quoting her late husband, John Bay. Some people don't let you know it. Some people do. The 89-year-old Broadway, TV, movie and cabaret star never lets you forget it. Swinging her particular rock sack with as much panache as her body will allow, Stritch makes her life a perpetual 11 o'clock number, celebrating strength through adversity, self-inflicted or otherwise... (read more)

      • Gimme Shelter poster image

        Gimme Shelter

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • American Hustle poster image

        American Hustle

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        My favorite minute of movie this year comes early in David O. Russell's "American Hustle." Christian Bale's character, the con man Irving Rosenfeld, based on the real-life Abscam linchpin Mel Weinberg, is riding high: His small-time investment scams, conducted with his wily mistress (played by Amy Adams), keep growing more profitable, and they're falling in love. Backed by the great Broadway finger-snapper "I've Got Your Number," Bale and Adams dance their way across a Man... (read more)

      • The Past poster image

        The Past

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In an earlier Asghar Farhadi film, "About Elly," a divorcing character says: "A bitter end is much better than a bitterness without ending." Neither option provides much ease. In the right hands, however, both yield infinite dramatic riches. Writer-director Farhadi's new film is "The Past." It has the unenviable position of following the deserved global rapture that greeted his previous work, "A Separation," two years ago. What can a filmmaker do after ... (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)

      • Nebraska poster image

        Nebraska

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The small and medium towns in the Midwest and the Great Plains region aren't so different from any other part -- rural, urban or in between -- of the United States. Half the people don't talk much, while the other half chatter to fill the silence. It's a time-honored cliche according to Garrison Keillor, but there's truth in it. And there truly are a million or more men in this country like Woody Grant, the tight-lipped subject of Alexander Payne's latest film, "Nebraska." Throughou... (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)

      • Ender's Game poster image

        Ender's Game

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Jobs poster image

        Jobs

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Here's what we know from "Jobs," the first and, with luck, the lamer of the two biopics (Aaron Sorkin is working on his own screenplay) about the late Apple computer guru Steve Jobs, played here by Ashton Kutcher. Genius, according to Kutcher's bland performance, is a matter of pursing your lips, pausing, speaking deliberately and arrogantly and reading every line as if you already know the retort, because you are Steve Jobs and therefore an omniscient god. Kutcher has the circular ... (read more)

      • White House Down poster image

        White House Down

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        If you see just one terrorists-take-over-the-White House thriller this year, make it "White House Down." Even if you saw the dour and bloody "Olympus Has Fallen," which has a lot in common with "White House Down," you owe it to yourself to check out Roland "2012" Emmerich's preachy, goofy, over-the-top take on "Die Hard" at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. From the earnest but earnestly funny president in jeopardy (Jamie Foxx), who doesn't like bad guys... (read more)

      • 42 poster image

        42

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "42," writer-director Brian Helgeland's carefully tended portrait of Jackie Robinson, treats its now-mythic Brooklyn Dodger with respect, reverence and love. But who's in there, underneath the mythology? Has the movie made Robinson, a man who endured so much in the name of breaking Major League Baseball's color barrier and then died before his 54th birthday, something less than three-dimensionally human? I'm afraid so. This is a smooth-edged treatment of a life full of sharp, painfu... (read more)

      • Zero Dark Thirty poster image

        Zero Dark Thirty

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        To consider what director Kathryn Bigelow has accomplished in "Zero Dark Thirty," imagine the events depicted by the story if they'd been given the "Argo" treatment. Not to take anything away from that rousing true(-ish) story of hostages freed and rights wronged and, in every sense, Hollywood triumphant. But think about it. If Ben Affleck or a lesser Ben Affleck had directed "Zero Dark Thirty," a film concluding with the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Abb... (read more)

      • Rise of the Guardians poster image

        Rise of the Guardians

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg recently lamented the dearth of holiday-themed movies headed to your multiplex this year. But in foisting "Rise of the Guardians" upon unsuspecting audiences for the holidays, it's clear he just wanted to take some of the pressure off this joyless, soul-dead piffle. "Guardians" is the worst animated movie to ever wear the DreamWorks logo. It's based on William Joyce's "The Guardians of Childhood" books, about a team tha... (read more)

      • The Master poster image

        The Master

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • ParaNorman poster image

        ParaNorman

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Here's the historical designation of the new animated film ``ParaNorman: It's the third feature made in the painstaking stop-motion process - consciously unrealistic, herky-jerky and rough-hewn, in the George Pal ``Puppetoons or Tim Burton ``Corpse Bride vein - as well as in stereoscopic 3-D. The first two to do so were the very fine ``Coraline and the noisy, bustling ``The Pirates! Band of Misfits. The other distinction worth noting: In this summer of 2012, ``ParaNorman is one of the good mo... (read more)

      • The Dark Knight Rises: The IMAX Experience poster image

        The Dark Knight Rises: The IMAX Experience

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Eight years after the camp frippery of "Batman & Robin" (1997), in which Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mr. Freeze and Uma Thurman's Poison Ivy played dress-up while George Clooney let his nipply bat-suit do most of the acting, director and co-writer Christopher Nolan brought to the screen the origin story of Bruce Wayne and his tortured, emotionally isolated crime-fighting alter ego. Stately and just serious enough, "Batman Begins" was trumped by Nolan's own 2008 sequel, "T... (read more)

      • 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)

      • To Rome With Love poster image

        To Rome With Love

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        If it's a zinger capped by the phrase "leper colony," if there's a hotel room being broken into by house detectives, if it's Penelope Cruz spilling out of an outfit borrowed from Mira Sorvino in "Mighty Aphrodite," then it's time for the new Woody Allen film. His latest overseas postcard, "To Rome With Love," lacks the clean lines and payoffs of "Midnight in Paris." On the other hand, it's not painful the way "Whatever Works" was, or a dullard... (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)

      • Ted poster image

        Ted

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Like "The Hangover" and its sequel, "Ted" is a bully of a comedy but a bully with just enough calculated heart to make it a hit. It plays like a movie tryout for a TV series, specifically a Seth MacFarlane series, which means a high quotient of startlingly crude ethnic and cultural stereotypes leavened by a sincere appreciation for American popular music of another era. The movie's soundtrack promises old-time sentiment and heartfelt pathos, with a little swing. The jokes,... (read more)

      • Battleship poster image

        Battleship

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        There will be bigger movies this summer, and better ones and worse ones. But there will not be a dumber movie than "Battleship." Ponderous and pandering, shameless and head-slappingly silly, this Navy vs. Aliens epic delivers a few thrills and a few laughs. In between the head-slaps, that is. A pointless prologue establishes that NASA has sent signals to a distant Earth-like planet. Warnings from one scientist (Hamish Linklater, of "The New Adventures of Old Christine," ha... (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)

      • John Carter poster image

        John Carter

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Set on Earth and Mars, the new science-fiction bash "John Carter" isn't much -- or rather, it's too much and not enough in weird, clumpy combinations -- but it is a curious sort of blur. And it was directed by Andrew Stanton, making his live-action feature debut after the Pixar successes he helmed, "Finding Nemo" and the splendid "Wall-E." He has the courage of his convictions; with Disney suits breathing down his neck, through all sorts of reshoots, he has made ... (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)

      • Arthur Christmas poster image

        Arthur Christmas

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Five years ago, the Bristol, England-based Aardman animation folks -- who created the stop-motion legends Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep and therefore are eligible for sainthood -- made the digitally animated British/American co-production "Flushed Away." Jampacked with peril, if not with charm, the film had both eyes on a crossover American audience that never materialized. Now comes happier news: a much better film. The company's second digitally animated feature, billed a... (read more)

      • Bridesmaids poster image

        Bridesmaids

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        There's a reason "Bridesmaids" isn't called "The Bridesmaid." Kristen Wiig, the star and co-writer (along with Annie Mumolo) of director Paul Feig's comedy, has a self-effacing streak running right alongside her deadly deadpan streak. Even when she's playing the lead, she's not really playing the lead. Reedy and extremely pretty, Wiig has a dry, backhanded way of nailing laughs. In the posters and ads for "Bridesmaids," all Wiig's female co-stars strike bigger po... (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)

      • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 poster image

        Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        We have reached the semifinals. Staffed with half the best character actors in Great Britain, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" brings the seventh J.K. Rowling tale to market, reminding both fervent Hogwarts maniacs and the Potter-ambivalent of this series' priorities, its increasingly somber tone, as well as its dedication to one of the rarest of all franchise qualities: actual quality. At this point in Harry's anguished saga, the saga doesn't care much about the needs... (read more)

      • Soul Kitchen poster image

        Soul Kitchen

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The funky, enjoyable Hamburg-set comedy "Soul Kitchen" is a celebration of co-writer-director Fatih Akin's home base, a spacious, moody city of apparently limitless industrial warehouse space -- like Chicago -- just made for artists and craftspeople and a little creative repurposing, before better economic times bring in the gentrification. This marks a change of pace for Akin, whose previous picture, "The Edge of Heaven," was an elaborately structured and very grim portra... (read more)

      • Inception poster image

        Inception

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Sometimes the first adjective spoken in a movie speaks volumes. The first one you hear in the new thriller "Inception" is "delirious," describing the psychological state of a man, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who has washed up (or awakened) on a beach and is brought into the home of a wealthy man he has known in other circumstances, somewhere in time. "Delirious" describes the movie as well, which assuredly offers audiences sights heretofore unseen. Despite riffs... (read more)

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

        How to Train Your Dragon: An IMAX 3D Experience

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • It's Complicated poster image

        It's Complicated

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "It's Complicated" isn't: It's pretty simple. It's simply a good time, a relatively adult and easygoing conveyance for three ace performers of a certain age, working through a few comic machinations created by writer-director Nancy Meyers. Her earlier romantic comedy, "Something's Gotta Give," offered a similar payout. You like that one, you'll like this one. The fun isn't related to directorial finesse; if anything, that earlier Meyers film starring Diane Keaton and Jack ... (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)

      • Planet 51 poster image

        Planet 51

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        How might a teenager protect himself from that dreaded fate described in legions of sci-fi movies - the probe? If you weren't thinking "champagne cork," you were way off, according to the sci-fi kids cartoon "Planet 51." A genial but generic riff on sci-fi movie history, "Planet" has barely enough slapstick to keep the kids interested. Children won't get the many sci-fi movie references - or the cork gag - and adults probably won't find them that funny. But the... (read more)

      • Paranormal Activity poster image

        Paranormal Activity

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        Some movies are more of a shared experience than others, and that's certainly the case with "Paranormal Activity," a micro-budget horror flick about things that go bump in the you-know-what in a nice new home. It's opening in select college towns, midnight-only showings, in a handful of theaters. The combination of the late hour and the horror-jazzed audience could make this minimalist chill-fest the new "Blair Witch Project," or so Paramount hopes. At the right moments, ... (read more)

      • Zombieland poster image

        Zombieland

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Warts, entrails and all, I had a ball at "Zombieland." It's 81 minutes of my kind of stupid. The premise gives you absolutely nothing new in terms of what zombies do, or look like, or run like, and the genre's more stringent aficionados may get sniffy when confronted with a modest, high-spirited gore comedy. But I laughed more often, and harder, at the best gags here than I did with any number of other comedies this year. And there's something inherently droll about plunking down Je... (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)

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