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      • Dr. Seuss' The Grinch poster image

        Dr. Seuss' The Grinch

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        We all feel a little grinchy sometimes. When holiday cheer becomes particularly oppressive, when we feel lonely in a crowd, when we would rather rain on someone's parade than admit defeat, Dr. Seuss gave us a way to describe that feeling with his classic holiday children's book "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." The universality of the emotion is why the tale endures, and why we're now on our third film adaptation of the story. Benedict Cumberbatch steps into the role as the Grinch i... (read more)

      • Bohemian Rhapsody poster image

        Bohemian Rhapsody

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        At the center of the long-gestating Queen biopic "Bohemian Rhapsody" is the kind of performance that's less acting than it is the channeling of a spirit from another realm. Rami Malek takes to the role of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury with a studious intensity, making manifest the dueling relationship between the twin poles of Mercury's personality: his confidence and his insecurity. It's the centrifuge around which the rather uneven film whirls, and Malek keeps it going with his s... (read more)

      • First Man poster image

        First Man

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        There's enough going on in director Damien Chazelle's tense, distinctive Neil Armstrong biopic, "First Man," to leave the climactic, inspired Apollo 11 moon landing sequence aside for a few paragraphs. So hang in there, please, and we'll get to the flag. "First Man" comes from the James R. Hansen biography of the same name, exploring the far reaches of uncharted territory. The lunar mission, yes, of course. But really Chazelle's film, written by Josh Singer ("Spotligh... (read more)

      • Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween poster image

        Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The 2015 adaptation of R.L. Stine's popular "Goosebumps" book series was way better than it had any right to be. Starring Jack Black as a freewheeling version of the author, the film was a kid-friendly Halloween spookfest that examined the way we use horror as a coping mechanism in everyday life. It was smart and silly and scary, anchored by the inimitable Black. But the follow-up, "Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween," is a serious disappointment, starting with how Black is b... (read more)

      • The Meg poster image

        The Meg

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Have sharks jumped the Fonzie? Seems like it's always Shark Week around here, and "here" means everywhere. Think of how long it has been since the first "Jaws" (1975). A digital effects revolution and a generation later, "Deep Blue Sea" (1999) closed out the century with some forgettably entertaining (or entertainingly forgettable) jump scares in between what filmmakers believed to be necessary expository information about the people lining up at the human buffet... (read more)

      • Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation poster image

        Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's all about the zing. If you are not up on monster speak, the term zing refers to what happens once in the life of a vampire, mummy, werewolf, etc. It's that moment when they know they have found the one true love in their life. In the case of "Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation," Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) learns it's possible to zing more than once as he meets the new once-in-a-lifetime love of his life during a monster sea cruise. While Dracula zings again, this third... (read more)

      • Incredibles 2 poster image

        Incredibles 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        When writer-director Brad Bird made "The Incredibles" (2004), the superhero movie genre looked nothing like the overcrowded youth hostel it does today. The "X-Men" movies, the fledgling "Spider-Man" franchise and that was about it. This was pre-"Iron Man." This preceded the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Comics afflictions, if you can remember such a time. Bird's movie, about a family of "Supers" banned by the government from thei... (read more)

      • Hereditary poster image

        Hereditary

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, as Tolstoy noted in a sentence so right, by the time you started arguing with it "Anna Karenina" was off and suffering. If Tolstoy got a look at "Hereditary," he might've added: "Well. There's unhappy, and then there's grief-stricken-hideously cruel-unholy family secrets-horror movie-unhappy." The latter is the dwelling place of director Ari Aster's fiendish feature debut. Not everything... (read more)

      • Sherlock Gnomes poster image

        Sherlock Gnomes

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        There's a current boom of family-friendly film fare inspired by beloved British literary characters, which makes this moment ripe for the animated "Sherlock Gnomes," the sequel to 2011's "Gnomeo and Juliet." In terms of ranking these adaptations, "Sherlock Gnomes" is quite a bit more pleasant than "Peter Rabbit," but doesn't touch the wonder of "Paddington 2." It's a fairly serviceable animated feature, with a few inspired elements, and more t... (read more)

      • Fifty Shades Freed poster image

        Fifty Shades Freed

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The "Fifty Shades" film franchise is a study in contradictions. It's kinky, but conservative. It's filled with plot, but none of it means anything. The adventurous sex turns out to be fairly vanilla monogamy. The films are bad, but they are entertaining. "Fifty Shades Freed," the final film of the trilogy, just might be the most competently made yet -- which is a shame for those expecting the high camp factor of "Fifty Shades Darker." The "Darker" writi... (read more)

      • Peter Rabbit poster image

        Peter Rabbit

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Hollywood studios have recently been pillaging the literary canon of beloved children's literature, digging up fodder for animated feature films. The best of these, like the "Paddington" movies, successfully meld nostalgia with modern and exciting filmmaking, while the more questionable ones, like the recent "Ferdinand" adaptation, manage to muddle the source material with too many pop songs and dirty jokes. The new "Peter Rabbit" adaptation manages to land right... (read more)

      • Call Me by Your Name poster image

        Call Me by Your Name

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Set in the summer of 1983, in a land of leisurely alfresco lunches and spontaneous all-day bike rides under the northern Italian sun, the romantic idyll "Call Me by Your Name" is enough to make you move to the town of Crema, even if your rational self realizes the director Luca Guadagnino trades in a heightened, miragelike state of mythic yearning. The swoony atmosphere is familiar from his earlier films, particularly "I Am Love" (2009), in which Tilda Swinton communed wit... (read more)

      • Paddington 2 poster image

        Paddington 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Here's hoping the forthcoming film version of "Peter Rabbit" is less awful than its trailers suggest. Reformulating Beatrix Potter as a brutish "Home Alone"/"Straw Dogs" melee, full of grim electrocutions, really does seem like a mistake. Meantime, fortunately, there's "Paddington 2." The sequel to the 2014 picture turns out to be every bit as deft, witty and, yes, moving as the first one. It's a little over-packed, narratively. But the further adventur... (read more)

      • Lady Bird poster image

        Lady Bird

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Already, writer-director Greta Gerwig's "Lady Bird" is contending with praise it can't possibly live up to, and it's a disservice to mislead anybody about its particular, disarming interplay of comedy and drama, which does not go for the throat. But it's not too strong a word: Most people who've seen "Lady Bird" love it. They love it. Truly love it. I love it. If a more enchanted movie comes along this year, I'll be surprised. The love goes beyond appreciation of an impecc... (read more)

      • Wonderstruck poster image

        Wonderstruck

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Worlds collide in unusually gentle fashion in "Wonderstruck," director Todd Haynes' film version of the lavishly illustrated 2011 Brian Selznick best-seller -- a book for introspective puzzle fans of all ages. I enjoyed Martin Scorsese's "Hugo," an adaptation of Selznick's "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," which like "Wonderstruck" told a tale of intrepid children uncovering the real stories of their disillusioned elders. But Haynes' film is the more emot... (read more)

      • The LEGO NINJAGO Movie poster image

        The LEGO NINJAGO Movie

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        If you're of a certain age and childless, it's entirely possible you haven't the foggiest idea what a "Ninjago" -- of the latest Lego movie -- might be. Apparently it is both a show and a toy, but that's as far as I got into the Wikipedia article. With the wild success of both "The Lego Movie" and "The Lego Batman Movie," released just earlier this year, it stands to reason that Warner Bros. would strike while the iron is hot and churn out more Lego-themed movies... (read more)

      • An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power poster image

        An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        With articles about climate change going viral on social media, reports of extreme weather events and melting glaciers circling in the news, and the president's recent decision to leave the Paris climate accord, it seems that this couldn't be a better or scarier time for "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power" to hit theaters. A follow-up to former Vice President Al Gore and Davis Guggenheim's Oscar-winning 2006 documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," this film seems like i... (read more)

      • The Emoji Movie poster image

        The Emoji Movie

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        "Words aren't cool," is the courtship advice imparted by one texting teen to another in "The Emoji Movie." That statement is the canary in the coal mine that "Cyrano de Bergerac" this movie is most decidedly not. Will Alex (Jake T. Austin) choose the right emoji to express his ardor for Addie (Tati Gabrielle)? Or will "meh" emoji Gene (T.J. Miller) mess it all up for him? Perhaps we should just throw our smart phones into the sea and let the waves take ... (read more)

      • Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie poster image

        Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

        Rick Bentley, Chicago Tribune

        "Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie" is childish and silly. Of course, anyone of the animated feature film's target audience who has read one of the 70 million books sold around the world featuring the rotund hero and the elementary students who created him know that already. The important thing is that while the production never reaches for intellectual grandeur, it is on a very basic level one of the funniest movies of the year. If you still giggle when someone mentions the ... (read more)

      • Alien: Covenant poster image

        Alien: Covenant

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        When the first "Alien" came out in 1979, promising and delivering screams in space that no one could hear, more than a few critics and regular humans called it a relentless, hard-driving thrill machine. In retrospect it resembles a movie with the patience of Job, taking its sweet, stealthy time before arriving at one the great moments in the history of extreme cinematic gore. You know the scene, probably. There's John Hurt, an actor whose face always seemed halfway to crestfallen ev... (read more)

      • The Boss Baby poster image

        The Boss Baby

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        "The Boss Baby" derives its premise from the notion that when new babies show up in the household, they render parents into slavishly devoted employees with their demands and fits. Babies are like bosses, but more satirically, bosses are like babies, right? That metaphor is explored in Marla Frazee's children's book, with a boss baby outfitted in a suit, complete with buttoned bottom flap, and now that's been transported to the screen with Alec Baldwin voicing the titular boss. In t... (read more)

      • The LEGO Batman Movie poster image

        The LEGO Batman Movie

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        At its sporadic best, the crazy velocity and wisenheimer appeal of "The Lego Batman Movie" reminds you of what made "The Lego Movie" such a nice surprise three years ago. It was my favorite comedy of 2014, even without that insidiously satiric theme song "Everything is Awesome!" Director Chris McKay's spinoff, however, is more about expectations fulfilled than new surprises, nicely sprung. Basically a conventional superhero action movie with a constant stream of ... (read more)

      • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them poster image

        Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Five years have passed since the last of the Harry Potter movies, "Deathly Hallows: Part 2," wrapped up J.K. Rowling's staggeringly popular film franchise, the natural extension of the greatest publishing phenomenon in the history of wands. But endings often leave a door open, and a map to somewhere new. In handsome, generally diverting fashion "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," directed by Potter alum David Yates and adapted by Rowling from her 2001 book, takes us... (read more)

      • Trolls poster image

        Trolls

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        It can be difficult to be around lots of happy people when you're feeling gray. That's the conundrum of Branch (Justin Timberlake), a misanthropic and maudlin troll who just doesn't fit in with his dancing, singing brethren in the animated feature "Trolls." It's easy to see where he's coming from. His foil, Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick), bursts with a weaponized sense of joy, forcing her subjects into an oppressive regime of colorful, glittery glee, replete with complex choreograph... (read more)

      • Storks poster image

        Storks

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Tronc Newspapers Critic Welcome to the very strange, and strangely moving, world of "Storks." Writer-director Nicholas Stoller, known for his more adult comedies, such as "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "Neighbors," delves into the family-friendly animated genre in a little movie about where babies come from. Or where they used to come from. In this world, the old wives tale of storks delivering bouncing bundles of joy is real history, though the birds have been ... (read more)

      • Ben-Hur poster image

        Ben-Hur

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Neither a sterling remake nor the disastrous camp hoot some were anticipating, those punks, the new "Ben-Hur" arrives in theaters beaded with flop sweat. Its box office forecast calls for gray skies followed by red ink: It cost about $100 million to make and the tracking data puts the weekend haul at $14-$15 million, which is grim like the Charlton Heston jawline under pressure was grim. The movie arrives in the supplicant position, begging for unfavorable comparisons to the 1959 Wi... (read more)

      • Hell or High Water poster image

        Hell or High Water

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        One of the great pleasures in modern movies is watching Jeff Bridges peer a long, long way over a pair of reading glasses, chew on a private thought for a second or two and then roll the next line of dialogue out of his mouth, like an Atomic Fireball. He's a paradox: a joyously authentic hambone. And he's one of many successful elements of the sentimental, violent, irresistible new crime thriller "Hell or High Water." If you like, call it a Western. It's a Western old-fashioned enou... (read more)

      • Florence Foster Jenkins poster image

        Florence Foster Jenkins

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Perhaps not every quirky true story needs a biopic starring Meryl Streep, as evidenced by Stephen Frears' bizarre "Florence Foster Jenkins," the story of a wealthy older woman who launched an amateur singing career in the 1940s, despite her distinct lack of talent. It's a film that dares you to give it a bad review, simply so it can turn around and call you a bully who picks on the people who try. It invites you to giggle at Florence's horrible singing and then promptly scolds you f... (read more)

      • Bad Moms poster image

        Bad Moms

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        As surely as most mothers can't win, "Bad Moms" can't lose. Certainly it can't lose with moms who've endured, through gritted teeth, one too many R-rated guy comedies where the women on screen are either sidelined or humiliated or leaning down a lot, for the gratification of the male gaze. This movie represents a vacation from mean-spirited sexism like "The Hangover." Or does it? Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. The "Hangover" writing team of Jon Lucas and Scott ... (read more)

      • Café Society poster image

        Café Society

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        There's not much to "Cafe Society," but for a while now Woody Allen has been getting by with not much happening at the keyboard. Thanks to the warm, glowing light lavished on the film by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, shooting digitally, the writer-director's 47th feature looks like a million bucks in that drippingly nostalgic late-period Allen way. The dialogue? The dialogue ranges in value from a quarter-million to a buck eighty-three. Then again, the cast is pretty wonderful, ... (read more)

      • Ghostbusters poster image

        Ghostbusters

        Jake Coyle, Chicago Tribune

        Associated Press The easy, electric chemistry of the four leads in Paul Feig's "Ghostbusters" acts like a firewall against the supernatural and the adolescent, alike, in this spirited reboot of the 1984 original. Ghouls and anonymous Internet commenters -- who have flocked to their thumbs-down buttons ahead of the film's release -- share plenty of characteristics. Each is likely to drool and quickly disappear when you turn on the lights. Feig's "Ghostbusters" ain't afraid ... (read more)

      • The Secret Life of Pets poster image

        The Secret Life of Pets

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        A movie about what pets do during the day is a winning premise. Of course we want to know what those adorable creatures with whom we share our lives are up to, and so "The Secret Life of Pets" is here to explore those possibilities. Turns out their days are much more dramatic and crazier than ours, with all sorts of underworld pet societies and warring animal factions. There's apparently a lot to keep secret in the lives of these pets. "The Secret Life of Pets" comes from ... (read more)

      • The Music of Strangers poster image

        The Music of Strangers

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        With a documentary called "The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble," there's no doubting that wonderful sounds will be in store. But that's not all that's on offer. For, as directed by Morgan Neville, "Strangers" turns out to be as concerned with emotion as with performance, spending much of its time investigating how so much joyous music was able to come out of exploration, disturbance, even pain. At the center of everything is 60-year-old cellist Ma, ... (read more)

      • The Witch poster image

        The Witch

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In 1999, when the Internet was young and our hearts were blithe and bonny, the found-footage horror film "The Blair Witch Project" was brought to market on a production budget of well under a million dollars. It went on to make nearly a quarter-billion worldwide. Its aesthetic seemed novel back then, before all the "Paranormal Activitys" and visual copycats. With its shrieky, hand-held, shaky-cam approach to fright, the scruffy li'l movie connected with a new generation ea... (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 Peanuts Movie poster image

        The Peanuts Movie

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Beloved, neurotic cartoon kid Charlie Brown hits the biggest screen possible (and in 3-D) in the warm "The Peanuts Movie," directed by animation vet Steve Martino. The film pays its utmost respect to artist Charles Schulz, who carefully created a world inhabited only by children, where their dilemmas are treated with high-stakes drama. It meets children on their own terms, but never dumbs it down, exploring the complex emotions of children. "The Peanuts Movie" cobbles toge... (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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Ex Machina poster image

        Ex Machina

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Penguins of Madagascar poster image

        Penguins of Madagascar

        Geoff Berkshire, Chicago Tribune

        Variety Charming in small doses, the "Penguins of Madagascar" prove altogether less irresistible in their feature-length starring debut. The latest example of DreamWorks Animation's franchise mania is a frantic, peppy, in-your-face slice of irreverent toon action, but the result is far more snoozy than Looney (as in Tunes). DreamWorks practically patented the idea of conceiving and marketing animated pics like live-action comedies intended to appeal equally to adults and kids, and w... (read more)

      • Interstellar poster image

        Interstellar

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A knockout one minute, a punch-drunk crazy film the next, "Interstellar" is a highly stimulating mess. Emotionally it's also a mess, and that's what makes it worth its 165 minutes -- minutes made possible by co-writer and director Christopher Nolan's prior global success with his brooding, increasingly nasty "Batman" films, and with the commercially viable head-trip that was "Inception." You can call "Interstellar" corny or reiterative or just plain dau... (read more)

      • Edge of Tomorrow poster image

        Edge of Tomorrow

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Insanely derivative, frenetically enjoyable, "Edge of Tomorrow" takes gaming to a new level of big-screen indulgence, sending Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt through the same alien-invasion scenario over and over until they learn how to win, put down the consoles and get off the couch for a little lunch and some fresh air, maybe. The film is based on a Japanese graphic novel "All You Need is Kill." It owes a tremendous amount of its structure, and appeal, to "Groundhog Day... (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)

      • 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)

      • The LEGO Movie poster image

        The LEGO Movie

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Finally! A comedy that works. An animated film with a look -- a kinetic aesthetic honoring its product line's bright, bricklike origins -- that isn't like every other clinically rounded and bland digital 3-D effort. A movie that works for the Lego-indebted parent as well as the Lego-crazed offspring. A movie that, in its brilliantly crammed first half especially, will work even if you don't give a rip about Legos. "The Lego Movie" proves that you can soar directly into and then stra... (read more)

      • Her poster image

        Her

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A delicate, droll masterwork, writer-director Spike Jonze's "Her" sticks its neck out, all the way out, asserting that what the world needs now and evermore is love, sweet love. Preferably between humans, but you can't have everything all the time. It tells a love story about a forlorn writer, whose firm --BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com -- provides busy, digitally preoccupied customers with personalized correspondence crafted by professionals like Theodore Twombly, played by refres... (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 Host poster image

        The Host

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Like all good hosts, the host in "The Host," a mutant squid-lizard that moves with the agility of an Olympic gymnast, throws a lively party with a little of everything: scares, laughs, politics and a bit of archery. South Korean writer-director Bong Joon-ho has made a considerable international splash with this picture, and no wonder. It boasts a photogenic antagonist from the deep. It's also savvy enough to make you care about the human factor. Like "Pan's Labyrinth," ano... (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)

      • Django Unchained poster image

        Django Unchained

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Hotel Transylvania poster image

        Hotel Transylvania

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Bachelorette poster image

        Bachelorette

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        You could, if you wanted, sit in a dark theater and simply check off the similarities between the blockbuster "Bridesmaids" and this fall's "Bridesmaids" knockoff, titled "Bachelorette." Female bodily function jokes? Check. Inappropriate come-ons on an airplane? Check. Crass, crude and fearlessly frank talk about sex, once reserved for the fraternity house? Check. Wedding dress disasters? Check-eroonie. Enthusiastic cocaine snorting, Xanax and alcohol abuse, abor... (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)

      • Prometheus poster image

        Prometheus

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Nearly all the bits and pieces in director Ridley Scott's "Prometheus" come from other movies -- either one of Scott's or someone else's. More and more, though, I appreciate Scott's fundamental squareness as a filmmaker. "Prometheus" may be the "Gladiator" director's first picture shot digitally and in 3-D, but there's an old-school assurance in the pacing and the design. "Elegant" and "stately" are two adjectives that won't mean a thing to th... (read more)

      • Men in Black 3 poster image

        Men in Black 3

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        Josh Brolin impersonating the young Tommy Lee Jones is worth the price of admission to "Men in Black 3." Dry, drawling, deadpan, he nails the flinty Texan in this sentimental sequel to the sci-fi comedies about secret agents in black suits who save the world from aliens. We have to meet the young Agent K because an alien serial killer who isn't fond of his nickname, "Boris the Animal" (Jemaine Clement), has traveled back in time to save the arm that Agent K shot off in 19... (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)

      • Coriolanus poster image

        Coriolanus

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Media Services Film Clips With great power comes great responsibility, but powerful men often make for lousy, irresponsible politicians. (Insert personal observations on certain presidential candidates here.) With "Coriolanus," one of William Shakespeare's toughest, most provocative studies in statesmanship, the dramatist created a tragedy (premiering in 1608) built upon the life of a fifth century B.C. warrior who, whether by excess of pride o... (read more)

      • Haywire poster image

        Haywire

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In terms of its title, "Haywire" doesn't quite go there; it's more "Haywire-ish." But it's eccentric, and the on-screen violence is sharp and exciting -- brutal without being either subhumanly sadistic or superhumanly ridiculous. Director Steven Soderbergh had an idea to showcase the serious, muscly agility of Women's Mixed Martial Arts star Gina Carano, without a lot of digital this or stunt-double that. Early in the picture, special operative Mallory Kane, played by Cara... (read more)

      • Puss in Boots poster image

        Puss in Boots

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        DreamWorks' cunning casting of the silky Spaniard Antonio Banderas as a swashbuckling Puss in Boots pays off, brilliantly, in "Puss in Boots," a star vehicle for the nursery rhyme kitty cat from the "Shrek" movies. Thanks to Banderas and his Corinthian-leather purr and writers who know how to use it, "Puss" is the best animated film of 2011. This is no mere "Shrek" sequel. There is sex appeal in every syllable, swagger in every line. And even kids get t... (read more)

      • 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)

      • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 poster image

        Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It has taken Harry Potter eight full-length films to really have it out with Lord Voldemort, the reptilian prince of darkness with the undeniable leadership qualities and a clear, can-do game plan. With an ordinary franchise, the audience -- even an audience pre-devoted to J.K. Rowling's books -- would've grown itchy long ago, renouncing its allegiance and moving on. But this is no ordinary franchise. As the 21st century has lurched, in the Muggle world, from terrorism to pervasive, political... (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)

      • True Grit poster image

        True Grit

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The new "True Grit" restores all the grit removed in the first version (the 1969 Henry Hathaway film starring John Wayne) of the 1968 Charles Portis novel. All of Portis' sardonic wit has been retained this time, and then some. The "then some" derives from this project's writers, directors and editors, all of whom are Joel and Ethan Coen, who edit under a pseudonym and who have been making Westerns (of variously disguised sorts), film noir riffs and revenge tragicomedies t... (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)

      • White Material poster image

        White Material

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Claire Denis' previous and excellent film, "35 Shots of Rum," floated on a poetic cloud of feeling for a French-African father, his grown daughter, and their lives, together and apart, in Paris. Denis would likely be the first to acknowledge that her latest, "White Material," is far thornier material. It's also not as good. Yet minor Denis is well worth seeing here for reasons that start, and end, with the stoic magnificence of her chief camera subject, Isabelle Huppert. P... (read more)

      • Megamind poster image

        Megamind

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Earlier this year "Despicable Me" proved it: A story about a hapless villain, humanized, is good for a few laughs and a half-billion worldwide. That figure would very likely be A-OK with the makers of the new DreamWorks animated feature "Megamind," also about a hapless villain, humanized. This villain's blue. Moderately funny though immoderately derivative, the film is no "How to Train Your Dragon" or "Kung Fu Panda," DreamWorks' recent high points, and... (read more)

      • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World poster image

        Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Detestable Moi 3D Numerique poster image

        Detestable Moi 3D Numerique

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Toy Story 3: The IMAX Experience poster image

        Toy Story 3: The IMAX Experience

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        If "Toy Story 3" had sprung, Slinky Dog-like, from any creative think tank besides Pixar Animation Studios, it might be considered a classic. As is, it's a good sequel to the 1999 "Toy Story 2" and the 1995 original. After a rather shrill and conventional first half, more in the DreamWorks style, it recaptures the old comic spark with a splendid ode to "The Great Escape" as cowboy Woody, spaceman Buzz Lightyear, cowgirl Jessie, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head and the re... (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)

      • Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans poster image

        Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Anything's possible in this storm!" says the man with the badge in Werner Herzog's delirious "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans," a true feat of daring and one of the craziest films of the year. It's a very loose remake of the 1992 "Bad Lieutenant," in which director Abel Ferrara unleashed Harvey Keitel as a drug-addled spin cycle disguised as a police detective. The character of the drug-abusing cop, at work and play, has been relocated from New York to ... (read more)

      • Michael Jackson's This Is It poster image

        Michael Jackson's This Is It

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Where the Wild Things Are poster image

        Where the Wild Things Are

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Truly, I am madly, deeply in love with the film version of "Where the Wild Things Are." Not since Robert Altman took on "Popeye" a generation ago, and lost, has a major director addressed such a well-loved, all-ages title. This time everything works, from tip to tail, from the moment in the prologue at which director Spike Jonze freezes the action (Max, fork in hand, tearing after the family dog) to the final scene's hard-won reconnection between Max and his mother at the ... (read more)

      • Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs poster image

        Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Fairly inventive and exceedingly manic, "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" comes from the 1978 picture book by Judi Barrett and Ron Barrett. To say the title helped sell the kids story is an understatement, certainly the only understatement involved with the movie version. Still, there's a semblance of a comic personality at work. Plenty of middle-ground (or worse) animated features feel like timid corporate entities. This one, which is certainly fresher than "Ice Age 3,"... (read more)

      • Inglourious Basterds poster image

        Inglourious Basterds

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A queasy historical do-over, Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" has been described as a grindhouse version of "Valkyrie"; a rhapsody dedicated to the cinema's powers of persuasion; and a showcase for a 52-year-old Austrian-born character actor named Christoph Waltz, who waltzes off with the performance honors as a suavely vicious Nazi colonel known as "the Jew hunter." All true. Tarantino's seventh full-length film recasts the iconography and mythic cruel... (read more)

      • (500) Days of Summer poster image

        (500) Days of Summer

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        For a lot of casual filmgoers in their teens and 20s - the ones yet to encounter a Charlie Kaufman script such as "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" or who haven't seen the bittersweet 1967 "Two for the Road," written by Frederic Raphael, or have yet to dive into a Milan Kundera novel - the structural mind games played by the romantic comedy "(500) Days of Summer" may throw them, happily, for a loop. I hope so. The structure's mainly what this pleasant summe... (read more)

      • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: The IMAX 2D Experience poster image

        Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: The IMAX 2D 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)

      • Moon poster image

        Moon

        Betsy Sharkey, Chicago Tribune

        Another name for "Moon" might be, and I mean this only slightly facetiously, "2009: A Space (Spacey?) Odyssey," as it's virtually impossible not to be reminded of Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece between Kevin Spacey's soothing ministrations as a computer named Gerty and Sam Rockwell's efforts to cope as the lone occupant of a lunar outpost. The film, the first for director Duncan Jones, is certainly reaching for the same stars, the ones that his dad, David Bowie, shot throu... (read more)

      • Star Trek: The IMAX Experience poster image

        Star Trek: The IMAX Experience

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        After "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," which exists primarily for its 7-Eleven Slurpee tie-in, the world needed a better franchise product, one that works with an audience rather than simply working it over. Here it is. The new "Star Trek" motion picture, not to be confused with "Star Trek - the Motion Picture" (1979), seeks to extend a lucrative brand with a young demographic. But it's a real movie - breathlessly paced bordering on manic, but propulsively entertainin... (read more)

      • Home poster image

        Home

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The cuddliest alien invasion movie ever, "Home" contains nifty turns of phrase and some actual, verifiable verbal wit, owing in large part to its source material, Adam Rex's 2007 children's book "The True Meaning of Smekday." In the grand Hollywood tradition, DreamWorks Animation threw out most of that book (and the film's original title, "Happy Smekday!") after optioning the property seven years ago. Even though screenwriters Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember over-pac... (read more)

      • Monsters vs. Aliens poster image

        Monsters vs. Aliens

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The new DreamWorks animated 3-D feature "Monsters vs. Aliens" is blessed with a high-concept title - possibly the highest ever; my son's been hocking me about this movie since before he was born - and Seth Rogen's serenely dense line readings in the role of a genetically altered tomato gone wrong. But a bizarre percentage of the project went wrong somewhere, along with the tomato. Pilfering everything from "Mothra" to "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman" to "Men in... (read more)

      • Taken poster image

        Taken

        Christopher Borrelli, Chicago Tribune

        "Taken," which tells the story of how Liam Neeson blows a gasket and flies off to France and kills 75 Albanians in 90 minutes, is crisp, efficient and deeply insane. Neeson, who now resembles an aging Labrador retriever, all angles and mournful eyes and jumpy eagerness, plays a former CIA spook whose clandestine career bled into his home and made blood sausage of his family. His wife has divorced him, taken their 17-year-old daughter and remarried. She now lives a life of entitlemen... (read more)

      • Hotel for Dogs poster image

        Hotel for Dogs

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        So many canines are going potty in the nation's multiplexes this month, what with "Marley & Me" and now the ensemble bowser adventure "Hotel for Dogs," I wouldn't be surprised if Lars Von Trier re-released "Dogville" just for fun. He'd make $10 million before the kids knew what hit 'em. I love dogs. My kind of animal. They understand my needs, and their owners are kinder, more humane, more intelligent and better-looking than the average non-dog-owning citizenry. ... (read more)

      • Paul Blart: Mall Cop poster image

        Paul Blart: Mall Cop

        Glenn Whipp, Chicago Tribune

        "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" is as sticky and gooey as a Cinnabon cinnamon roll, a snack the movie's title character has no doubt sampled once or twice over the years during his shifts. A high-concept smash-up of "Die Hard" and "Kung-Fu Panda," "Blart" gives sitcom star Kevin James a showcase for broad-comedy pratfalls, providing him 87 minutes to plop, flop and crash into things. The targeted tween audience will lap up James' antics, but for the rest of us, ... (read more)

      • Waltz With Bashir poster image

        Waltz With Bashir

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        An extraordinary achievement, Ari Folman's "Waltz With Bashir" is a detective story as well as an moral inquiry into the specific horrors of one war, and one man's buried memories of that war. It is personal filmmaking of the highest order, recognized with an Academy Award nomination for best foreign film. Israeli writer-director Folman sets himself a near-impossible task: How to make an animated documentary focused largely about yourself without falling into a morass of self-indulg... (read more)

      • Milk poster image

        Milk

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The story of Harvey Milk is a tragedy, but not since Jeff Spicoli in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" has Sean Penn played such a serenely happy individual. It does an actor good to play a joyous character. In "Milk," Penn is superb as the martyred San Francisco city supervisor, America's first widely acknowledged openly gay elected official. He was killed by Milk's former colleague, Dan White, minutes after White's fatal shooting of Mayor George Moscone in 1978. The key to ... (read more)

      • Twilight poster image

        Twilight

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Low-key" is not the adjective you'd expect to describe a highly anticipated vampire movie, but there it is. "Twilight" is a film of intelligent strengths and easily avoidable weaknesses, a modest film adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's publishing phenomenon. It is faithful to its source material, which will likely please the fan base. It's also better written than Meyer's book, which tends toward froth and fulmination. (Sample line: "I was in danger of being distracted ... (read more)

      • Let the Right One In poster image

        Let the Right One In

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        I'm so sick of Swedish vampire movies, aren't you? Honestly, I've had it with those bloodsucking Svenskar. If you can stomach just one more, however, "Let the Right One In" is the Swedish vampire movie to see. The film is terrific. The upcoming screen version of "Twilight" (opening Nov. 21) may be the set of fangs everyone's waiting for, at least among certain demographics, but I can't imagine anyone older than 15, who cherishes vampire lore or not, failing to fall for thi... (read more)

      • Fly Me to the Moon poster image

        Fly Me to the Moon

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        At what point might animators be arrested for doing work so ugly it causes aesthetic blindness in millions of younglings? It's not a question that comes up every week. But this is the week for it. The two cruddiest animated films of the year, "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" and "Fly Me to the Moon," have precious little to take your mind or your eyes off the visual crimes against humanity. I suppose I'm overstating it. But woe be to us and our eyes if we get worse animation of... (read more)

      • Step Brothers poster image

        Step Brothers

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Step Brothers" is stupid, predictable and fairly funny, though even its bigger laughs - John C. Reilly clocking Will Ferrell with a cymbal in a nicely judged medium shot, for example - make you wonder if the whole arrested-adolescent streak in contemporary screen comedy may be running its course. Watch the red-band trailer for this picture, the one with the R-rated language intact, and you'll get a good idea of what's in store. Too good, really: The R-rated teaser makes the film se... (read more)

      • Mamma Mia! poster image

        Mamma Mia!

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's funny what you buy completely onstage and resist completely, or nearly, on-screen. Case in point: "Mamma Mia!" -the ABBA-fueled stage phenomenon that has now become "Mamma Mia! The Movie." Of course I never miss a Meryl Streep musical. On-screen she sang in "Silkwood," "Ironweed," "Postcards From the Edge" and plenty in "A Prairie Home Companion." Onstage Streep put her pipes to work on Brecht and Weill's "Happy End";... (read more)

      • Kung Fu Panda poster image

        Kung Fu Panda

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Everything about "Kung Fu Panda" is a little better, a little sharper, a little funnier than the animated run of the mill. It's one of the few comedies of 2008 in any style or genre that knows what it's doing. Plus, all its jokes actually belong to the same movie, which is set in ancient China by way of Jack Black. In other words, it may have Black fulminating about "(going) blind from overexposure to pure awesomeness!" but nobody slips in a Travis Bickle impersonation or ... (read more)

      • The Foot Fist Way poster image

        The Foot Fist Way

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        There comes a moment in any major film festival when the crowd is pooped and nobody's had enough sleep and everybody's had it with the earnest, well-meaning human dramas. Then something offering a couple of laughs hits the screen, and before long there's a cult hit in the making. "The Foot Fist Way," which killed, they say, at the Sundance Film Festival two years ago, is one of those success stories, success being defined by famous fans (in this case, Will Ferrell, Seth Rogen, Jonah... (read more)

      • Forgetting Sarah Marshall poster image

        Forgetting Sarah Marshall

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Early in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," protagonist Peter Bretter, played by Jason Segel, steps out of the shower as his girlfriend, played by Kristen Bell, arrives back at their apartment. Peter thinks it's carnival time. Sarah, however, has come to call it quits and Peter realizes, in all his mistimed nudity - (BEGIN ITALICS) all (BEGIN ITALICS) his mistimed nudity - that he's getting dumped. They've grown apart, Sarah says: "It's like you're standing on the dock, and I'm in th... (read more)

      • Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! poster image

        Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Someday, if we're all good little boys and girls, the world will hand us a Dr. Seuss film half as wonderful as one of the books. Meantime we have the competent, clinical computer animation and relative inoffensiveness of "Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!" to pass the time. Graced with some rich voice talent led by a sweetly restrained Jim Carrey, the film is far less grating than the big-budget versions of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (big hit) and "The Cat in the H... (read more)

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