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      • Hands of Stone poster image

        Hands of Stone

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        With "Hands of Stone," Robert De Niro officially enters his Burgess Meredith-in-"Rocky" phase, bringing the ringside grizzle and rumpled gravitas by the pound. In writer-director Jonathan Jakubowicz's peppy, none-too-probing biopic of Panamanian champion Roberto Duran, played by Edgar Ramirez, the "Raging Bull" Oscar winner (and let's not forget "Grudge Match") takes the role of legendary trainer Ray Arcel. He's the man behind the man. And good or bad, ... (read more)

      • Kubo and the Two Strings poster image

        Kubo and the Two Strings

        Colin Covert, Chicago Tribune

        Within this heyday of computer-animated movies, the greatest special effect is creating emotionally resonant characters. The adventure fantasy "Kubo and the Two Strings" is seamless stop-motion storytelling, from Laika, the independent animation studio that gave us the darkly entertaining "Coraline," "ParaNorman" and "The Boxtrolls." Yet wizardly art direction isn't the film's most striking quality. It's the endearing, playful, touching, cantankerous an... (read more)

      • War Dogs poster image

        War Dogs

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        So this is weird: Vocally, Jonah Hill and Miles Teller sound eerily alike, even though they're completely different physical types. If "War Dogs" were more interesting, funnier, wilder, something, anything, this wouldn't warrant a mention. But director and co-writer Todd Phillips' flat, enervated movie, based on a 2011 Rolling Stone story about a couple of Miami pals who stumbled into the wonderful world of international arms-dealing, gives you all too much time to focus on things l... (read more)

      • Sausage Party poster image

        Sausage Party

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Insanely raunchy, and occasionally very funny, "Sausage Party" won't be for everyone. But you could say that about any film featuring a vaginal douche as a villain; a talking used condom, with a tale of woe to tell; a tremendous amount of rough language and rough sex, and rough existential reckonings; and a climactic orgy, the foodstuffs of a store called Shopwell's out of their packaging at last. So it won't be mistaken for "Pete's Dragon" or "The Secret Life of Pets... (read more)

      • Suicide Squad poster image

        Suicide Squad

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Three "if"s, a "when" and a "but" regarding the new DC Comics movie "Suicide Squad" starring Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto and Viola Davis: IF you were to make a better film than the one writer-director David Ayer has made, you'd still hire Smith. He takes top billing as Deadshot, the world's most lethal hit man who is going through some custody issues with his adorable daughter. Older now, his screen presence informed by a relaxed authority, th... (read more)

      • Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie poster image

        Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        After the off-putting "Entourage" movie and that second, egregious "Sex and the City" film, I'm stunned to report that the latest small-screen transfer to hit theaters, "Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie," occasionally justifies its merrily low comic existence. It helps, of course, when you have Joanna Lumley, that epic dame, and her uniquely piquant pronunciation of the word "fabulous," spoken without moving her lips, as if savoring a liqueur-flavored mar... (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)

      • Jason Bourne poster image

        Jason Bourne

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Jason Bourne is back, after nine long years in cold franchise storage. That time gap explains why the new film "Jason Bourne" puts quotes around its conflicted super-assassin's full fake name. We know it, according to the ads. We know his name. But just in case. The ideal audience for this movie: amnesiac graduates of the deadly U.S. intelligence experiment known as Operation Treadstone, the dark secret at the center of the series based extraordinarily loosely on the Bourne novels b... (read more)

      • Ice Age: Collision Course poster image

        Ice Age: Collision Course

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Fourteen years after the first "Ice Age" animated film was a hit, the fifth installment in the franchise, "Ice Age: Collision Course," rolls into theaters. Is it inevitable? Yes, 2012's "Ice Age: Continental Drift," was the highest grossing animated film that year. Is it necessary? Absolutely not. "Collision Course" is simply a perfunctory, watered-down entry in the series that feels like it should have been released on home video. In this world of anci... (read more)

      • The Infiltrator poster image

        The Infiltrator

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Bryan Cranston is an actor, you know what I mean? Capital A. He relishes the work, probably because it took him a decade or two, pre-"Breaking Bad," to snag the roles he deserved. (Guest stints on "CHiPs" and "Hill Street Blues" came a long time ago.) With that voice of steel and a face that can go from hangdog to top dog in 0.3 seconds flat, Cranston is gleefully capable of chewing scenery with the best of them -- I believe he's still picking little bits of &quo... (read more)

      • Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates poster image

        Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

        Stephanie Merry, Chicago Tribune

        The Washington Post Mike and Dave Stangle put the "bro" in brothers. Twenty-something liquor salesmen, they're the life of the party -- but also the death of it -- having turned a perfectly lovely Fourth of July fireworks spectacle into a conflagration while endangering innocent bystanders with over-the-top trampoline acrobatics. They just don't know when to say when. The movie they're in is similarly afflicted. Starring Adam Devine and Zac Efron as the titular duo, "Mike and D... (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)

      • Our Kind of Traitor poster image

        Our Kind of Traitor

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Many aspects of "Our Kind of Traitor" mark it, indelibly, as John le Carre material: moody, ruminative, one foot in the movies, one foot in the real world. Early on there's an abrupt love scene between Ewan McGregor and Naomie Harris that, by narrative design, ends before it gets going. Harris plays Gail, a London barrister married to McGregor's character, Perry, a literature and poetry instructor. The marriage is on rocky ground; we hear of the husband's affair with a student. Perr... (read more)

      • Swiss Army Man poster image

        Swiss Army Man

        Robert Abele, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times Labeled "the farting corpse movie" at Sundance, the forcefully quirky "Swiss Army Man" certainly expels a lot in trying to convince you its bruised-emo wilderness yarn is whimsically imaginative. Its dynamic duo -- Paul Dano's stranded neurotic and Daniel Radcliffe's gaseous cadaver -- may be one of modern cinema's more willfully odd pairings. But there's more than a whiff of overwrought dude pity to this spottily amusing absurdist adventure from feature ... (read more)

      • The Purge: Election Year poster image

        The Purge: Election Year

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The third "Purge" movie, which may be the harshest political commentary this year in any medium, is weirdly pretty good and carries the subtitle "Election Year." The America we see in writer-director James DeMonaco's sequel might've been dreamed up over a conference call among Donald Trump (a clear model for the movie's prime minister), the National Rifle Association (referenced by name, though not in a way the NRA would prefer, despite the film's high levels of assault we... (read more)

      • Free State of Jones poster image

        Free State of Jones

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In so many Civil War-era photographs, a bone-weariness of spirit, coupled with a kind of faraway intensity, lurks in the soldiers' eyes. Plenty of actors can fake that sort of thing, but Matthew McConaughey really does have it. He looks right and convincing in a period drama such as "Free State of Jones," the historical biography, equal parts intrigue and frustration, written and directed by Gary Ross. McConaughey plays Newton Knight, like Oskar Schindler an anomaly in a horrific ti... (read more)

      • The Neon Demon poster image

        The Neon Demon

        Michael O'Sullivan, Chicago Tribune

        The headlines generated by last month's premiere of "The Neon Demon" at Cannes -- virtually all of which singled out the film's violence, cannibalism and lesbian necrophilia -- were not sufficient to crush all hope that filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn had returned to the mastery he displayed in his breakout film, "Drive." The noirish and violent 2011 drama won Refn the best director prize at that year's Cannes Film Festival and got the movie nominated for a Palme d'Or. Perh... (read more)

      • The Shallows poster image

        The Shallows

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Shot in a creamy, sunny style suggesting a Sports Illustrated swimsuit-issue video shoot gone wrong, "The Shallows" belongs almost entirely to Blake Lively, who plays Nancy, a resourceful medical student from Texas vacationing in Mexico with a purpose. Years ago her mother, a recent casualty of cancer, conceived her on the very beach (the "secret beach," everyone keeps calling it) where the doctor-in-training has brought her surfboard. There is a great white shark in the a... (read more)

      • Central Intelligence poster image

        Central Intelligence

        Colin Covert, Chicago Tribune

        The arithmetic of comedy is not that difficult. If you produce logically linked laughs every five minutes in a feature film you have created a classic. Deliver random chuckles every 10 minutes and your movie is pretty good. Provide the best fun in a pile of outtakes shown in the end credits and you have a zero-momentum mess like "Central Intelligence." It's the kind of movie that sends you from the theater smiling because you're glad it's over. No need to bother with the paltry excu... (read more)

      • Finding Dory poster image

        Finding Dory

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Childhood and, in fact, the very act of being human involves a certain level of loneliness. The great news is, you can make money off it. For close to 80 years, if you go by Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" making history in 1937, all sorts and achievement levels of feature animation have preyed upon the fears, insecurities and isolating circumstances of growing up. The best Pixar features, like those pre- and post-digital from Pixar's parent company, Disney, have exploite... (read more)

      • Maggie's Plan poster image

        Maggie's Plan

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Rebecca Miller, the writer and director of "Maggie's Plan" seems to have a sixth sense for knowing just what her audience might like. If you're interested in a dramedy starring Greta Gerwig about a young, single woman looking to become a mother, chances are the cameo from riot grrl Kathleen Hanna will delight you (Hanna's husband, Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz, is the music supervisor). Miller's film isn't trying to be all things to all people, it's just trying to be the right thing for... (read more)

      • Now You See Me 2 poster image

        Now You See Me 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Now You See Me 2" is more fun than "Now You See Me," which says something, I guess. It fits snugly in the long list of easygoing nothings, the narrative equivalent of a Fruit Roll-Up, designed to be forgotten in as many minutes as they took to watch. The cast remains the chief reason it squeaks by, but it's also a matter of the change in directors. Jon M. Chu did two of the "Step Up" movies, which I enjoyed for reasons unknown. In the context of this grandiose-d... (read more)

      • The Conjuring 2 poster image

        The Conjuring 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Nothing else in "The Conjuring 2" is as terrifying as the 1977-era floral wallpaper lining the hallways of its dimly lit and plainly haunted North London flat, not to mention the fearsome edge on Patrick Wilson's sideburns. But despite being saddled with 20 minutes it doesn't need, the movie is a consistently nerve-wracking sequel to the even better 2013 haunted-house thriller directed by James Wan ("Saw," "Insidious," the forthcoming "Aquaman"). He is ... (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)

      • Warcraft poster image

        Warcraft

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The skepticism has been whirling around "Warcraft" since the first trailer dropped for the epic fantasy adaptation of Blizzard Entertainment's massive multi-player online role playing game, directed by visionary sci-fi auteur Duncan Jones. Orcs with feelings? And pierced tusks? No good can come of this. Critics have been gleefully sharpening their knives and have wasted no time in eviscerating the blockbuster franchise-launching hopeful. With that context, this may come as a surpris... (read more)

      • Me Before You poster image

        Me Before You

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In many cases there's no sound defense for works of fiction that make millions weep. If there were, "The Bridges of Madison County" and "Miss Saigon" would be, in some way, defensible. This brings us to "Me Before You," written by ex-journalist Jojo Moyes. Moyes came to her 2012 romance between a wealthy, dashing quadriplegic and his maniacally upbeat caregiver with a confident, reasonably witty prose style. In England especially the book turned into a monster of... (read more)

      • Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping poster image

        Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Maybe I'm still recovering from the trauma of Netflixing the Adam Sandler movie "The Do-Over," but I honestly enjoyed a lot of "Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping," a steadily funny mockumentary from the Lonely Island triad of Jorma Taccone (co-director, co-writer, co-star), Akiva Schaffer (same) and Andy Samberg (co-writer and star). Eleven years ago, the trio's digital short "Lazy Sunday" aired on "Saturday Night Live." It was a great moment, arriving... (read more)

      • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows poster image

        Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        If you're of a certain age (born in the early '80s) the best part of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows" comes after the movie is over, when the credits morph into the bright, cartoon style of the TV show we knew and loved, soundtracked to that indelible theme song. Sing it with me: "Heroes in a half shell, turtle power!" That's the point when you finally recognize the beloved and bizarre turtles that somehow signify childhood. The preceding hour and 50 minu... (read more)

      • Alice Through the Looking Glass poster image

        Alice Through the Looking Glass

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        When Tim Burton's 2010 live-action version of "Alice in Wonderland" raked in a billion dollars there was no question that Disney would pounce on the opportunity for a sequel. Helpfully, Lewis Carroll did write a second book about Alice and her adventures in Wonderland, "Through the Looking-Glass," but it proves to be only a suggestion for the film, which arrives this weekend, to a very diminished return. It feels reverse-engineered to fit a release date, with a story that,... (read more)

      • Love & Friendship poster image

        Love & Friendship

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Whit Stillman's "Love & Friendship" is compact, modestly budgeted, sublimely acted and almost completely terrific. It'll likely disorient the average Jane Austen fanatic, which is nice, too. The writer-director of "Metropolitan," "Barcelona," "The Last Days of Disco" and "Damsels in Distress" has adapted Jane Austen's early novella "Lady Susan," retitling it after an even more obscure story from Austen's teenage years. The results re... (read more)

      • X-Men: Apocalypse poster image

        X-Men: Apocalypse

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The stakes in the boringly apocalyptic "X-Men: Apocalypse" (opening May 26) couldn't be higher. Its long-entombed, ready-to-party mutant god, played by Oscar Isaac is both invincible and immortal, and he wants to control every single mind in every single human on Earth. The world's nukes are unleashed willy-nilly, though that part works out fine. It's a "just kidding!" moment of imminent global destruction. Then the movie levels the entire city of Cairo, leaving (presumabl... (read more)

      • Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising poster image

        Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Two years ago, "Neighbors" writers Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O'Brien, along with director Nicholas Stoller, reinvented the classic college party movie by pitting the frat guys against the young parents next door. It was a raunchy but sweet rumination on getting older and growing out of party mode, a refreshing take on the college movie formula. With "Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising," they've flipped the script, creating a feminist party classic that's completely current an... (read more)

      • The Angry Birds Movie poster image

        The Angry Birds Movie

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        If you've ever played the mobile video game Angry Birds, you might have found yourself wondering -- why am I sling-shotting cartoon birds at grinning green pigs? Why are these birds so angry? What have the pigs done to deserve this destruction? "Angry Birds," the movie, is here to fill in that backstory, to answer the questions that may or may not have been asked, and provide motivation for the avian rage. The film, directed by Clay Kittis and Fergal Reilly, from a screenplay by &qu... (read more)

      • The Meddler poster image

        The Meddler

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Nice Guys poster image

        The Nice Guys

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        At one point in "The Nice Guys," the disheveled, half-drunk private eye played by Ryan Gosling falls off a Hollywood Hills balcony, rolls down the hill and comes to rest inches away from one of the film's many corpses. Gosling's reaction? Bust out the best Lou Costello (of Abbott and Costello, for you ahistorical comedy rookies) available under the circumstances, complete with non-verbal gasping, tears and a comic inability to form actual words. It's pretty fair nostalgia, this bit,... (read more)

      • A Bigger Splash poster image

        A Bigger Splash

        Justin Chang, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times No less than his ravishing 2009 melodrama "I Am Love," Luca Guadagnino's "A Bigger Splash" is a swooning cinematic appeal to the senses -- two hours of al fresco lovemaking, gorgeous scenery and simmering erotic warfare. Which is not to suggest that the movie short-circuits rational thought or inquiry; on the contrary, its teasing, sun-drenched surfaces are likely to prompt a series of questions. When was the last time you sampled a freshly made ricotta? ... (read more)

      • Last Days in the Desert poster image

        Last Days in the Desert

        Justin Chang, Chicago Tribune

        Variety A filmmaker known primarily for his perceptive melodramas about women, from "Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her" to "Mother and Child," now turns his attention to a primal tale of fathers and sons -- including the Son of Man himself -- in "Last Days in the Desert," a quietly captivating and remarkably beautiful account of Jesus' time in the wilderness before the beginning of his ministry. Deliberately paced, sparely imagined and suffused with myst... (read more)

      • Sing Street poster image

        Sing Street

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Captain America: Civil War poster image

        Captain America: Civil War

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The solemn, wrecking-ball mediocrity that was "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" made either too much or not enough of its key themes: collateral damage; vigilante excess and the ethics of peacekeeping through extreme force; and, more to the marketing point, the bloodsport appeal of should-be crime-fighting allies beating the hell out of each other for what seemed like several days. Those bullet points return, to far livelier and more satisfying results, in "Captain America: ... (read more)

      • Keanu poster image

        Keanu

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Man Who Knew Infinity poster image

        The Man Who Knew Infinity

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Intuition can only carry you so far." With the patented over/underplaying only a wily veteran British actor can provide, so says Trinity College mathematician G.H. Hardy, as played by Jeremy Irons, to his East Indian protege Srinivasa Ramanujan, played by Dev Patel, in "The Man Who Knew Infinity." The line about intuition holds true for sincerity and noble intentions in movie biopics. Such things can't always get a filmmaker over the hump and into the realm of dramaticall... (read more)

      • Everybody Wants Some!! poster image

        Everybody Wants Some!!

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Huntsman: Winter's War poster image

        The Huntsman: Winter's War

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 poster image

        My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 10 Cloverfield Lane poster image

        10 Cloverfield Lane

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Brothers Grimsby poster image

        The Brothers Grimsby

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • London Has Fallen poster image

        London Has Fallen

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Whiskey Tango Foxtrot poster image

        Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Tone means everything in comedy -- any kind of comedy. With a rollicking black comedy set in a war zone, the tone necessarily goes plural, as the story careens from the abruptly tragic to the blithely, weirdly funny and back again. "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" learns this lesson the hard way, and while it's no disaster, it's oddly indistinct and uncertain. The film stars Tina Fey as a battle-untested TV news producer and writer thrown into the war correspondent game in Afghanistan, in th... (read more)

      • Zootopia poster image

        Zootopia

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Eddie the Eagle poster image

        Eddie the Eagle

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Lady in the Van poster image

        The Lady in the Van

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Deadpool poster image

        Deadpool

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Where to Invade Next poster image

        Where to Invade Next

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Kung Fu Panda 3 poster image

        Kung Fu Panda 3

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Hateful Eight poster image

        The Hateful Eight

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Daddy's Home poster image

        Daddy's Home

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        It's OK if you're skeptical about the Will Ferrell vs. Mark Wahlberg vehicle "Daddy's Home." The trailers have showcased obvious, lowest common denominator humor that doesn't look too promising. But the reality is that the film, directed by comedy vet Sean Anders, is much funnier than it appears -- never doubt the powers of Will Ferrell. Ferrell is at his best when he's playing a buffoonish naif; the sweet-natured bull in the china shop who just can't seem to get anything right (see... (read more)

      • Star Wars: The Force Awakens poster image

        Star Wars: The Force Awakens

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Chi-Raq poster image

        Chi-Raq

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Brooklyn poster image

        Brooklyn

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Twenty-one-year-old Saoirse Ronan is about as Irish as they come, but she was born in the Bronx, New York City. That sealed the deal, I suspect, for the magically right casting of Ronan as the reluctant County Wexford immigrant to 1952 America, in the lovely new film "Brooklyn." Regardless of age, ethnicity or anything, really, some performers have a way of holding the screen while holding back, prodding the audience to think not only: "What is that character thinking?" Bu... (read more)

      • Creed poster image

        Creed

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Suffragette poster image

        Suffragette

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • The Martian poster image

        The Martian

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Hotel Transylvania 2 poster image

        Hotel Transylvania 2

        Rick Bentley, Chicago Tribune

        It's as rare as vampires on a beach to have a movie sequel be better than the original. But vampires might start looking for some sunglasses because the spookiest thing about "Hotel Transylvania 2" is how much funnier, colorful and more original it is this second time around. There was nothing particularly wrong -- or right -- with the 2012 movie. It was just a series of lightweight jokes in a movie that's main plus was proving Adam Sandler should be heard and not seen. His voicing ... (read more)

      • Straight Outta Compton poster image

        Straight Outta Compton

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Magic Mike XXL poster image

        Magic Mike XXL

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Jurassic World poster image

        Jurassic World

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Wolfpack poster image

        The Wolfpack

        Michael O'Sullivan, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Love & Mercy poster image

        Love & Mercy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

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

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

        Betsy Sharkey, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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 Hunting Ground poster image

        The Hunting Ground

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • How to Train Your Dragon 2 poster image

        How to Train Your Dragon 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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 Grand Budapest Hotel poster image

        The Grand Budapest Hotel

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Ever since the moment in "Bottle Rocket" (1996) when Luke Wilson's character paused during a robbery of his own boyhood home to straighten a toy soldier on a bedroom shelf, writer-director Wes Anderson announced his intentions as an artist of serenely extreme exactitude. This is a filmmaker, working in varying degrees of visual stylization, who operates within precise notions of how the universe of his imagining will proceed in terms of story and how his characters will operate with... (read more)

      • The 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)

      • 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)

      • Blue Jasmine poster image

        Blue Jasmine

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips The acting is everything in "Blue Jasmine," though Cate Blanchett and company wouldn't have anything to act without writer-director Woody Allen's flagrant revision of "A Streetcar Named Desire." "Best-since" phrases have been flying since Allen's seriocomic exercise opened in New York and Los Angeles: best since "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," best since "Match Point," best since &qu... (read more)

      • Pacific Rim poster image

        Pacific Rim

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Epic poster image

        Epic

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The hopeful title of "Epic" suggests big things in a way that a more accurate title, such as "How to Train Your Hummingbird," would not. The animated result isn't bad. It's an adequate baby sitter. But where's the allure in telling the truth? Twentieth Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios present "Adequate"? A few days after seeing "Epic," which is loosely based on a few concepts in William Joyce's book "The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs," it's... (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)

      • The Guilt Trip poster image

        The Guilt Trip

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Well, it's a masterpiece compared with "Little Fockers," the last movie featuring Barbra Streisand. "The Guilt Trip" stars Streisand and Seth Rogen as kvetchy mother and nudnik son, in a rental car, causing each other no little tsuris, not to mention tsimmes, as they drive cross-country learning a few life lessons per Dan Fogelman's clearly mapped screenplay. The plot points arrive like historical markers. And yet it's a lot better than "Little Fockers," in which... (read more)

      • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey poster image

        The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • The Revenant poster image

        The Revenant

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Pirates! Band of Misfits poster image

        The Pirates! Band of Misfits

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Maniacally inventive and tightly packed, if not overpacked, "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" comes from the Aardman animation folks behind "Wallace & Gromit," "Chicken Run" and, more recently, "Arthur Christmas." Their latest may be easier to admire than to love; it's more tone-funny and incidental-muttered-aside funny than, for example, your average DreamWorks smash, where every other comic beat ends with a cartoon animal getting bashed in the nethers an... (read more)

      • The Hunger Games poster image

        The Hunger Games

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The hypocrisy at the heart of "The Hunger Games" is irresistible. Novelist Suzanne Collins, whose trilogy has been decreed "awesome" by, among others, my 5th grade son, indicts violence and organized brutality as tools of mass-audience manipulation. Yet "The Hunger Games" wouldn't have gotten very far without its steady supply of threatened or actual gladiatorial teen-on-teen bloodshed: death by arrow, javelin, genetically engineered wasp, plus knives. And land m... (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)

      • Big Miracle poster image

        Big Miracle

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The success of last year's "Dolphin Tale" proved this theorem: Imperiled marine animals plus true-ish story plus workmanlike sincerity plus happy ending equals a hit. Will the equation hold for director Ken Kwapis' whale movie "Big Miracle"? The film is surprisingly good, though the "surprisingly" part betrays certain low-bar expectations going in. So be it. Kwapis, whose recent screen work ("He's Just Not That Into You," "The Sisterhood of the Tra... (read more)

      • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides poster image

        Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Shot in 3-D, if that means anything to anybody anymore, "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" comes with a misleading subtitle. Stranger tides? Stranger than what? What's strange, or fresh, about any of the mechanical diversions on offer here? Director Rob Marshall's chorus of yo-ho-hum does remind us that Johnny Depp really was a good time in the first and second "Pirates" movies. The new film reminds us also that, in general, projects undertaken by Jerry Bruckhei... (read more)

      • Jane Eyre poster image

        Jane Eyre

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The pretty, moody, well-acted new adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre" rests on a key early scene between Mia Wasikowska, as Bronte's protagonist and narrator, and Michael Fassbender, as the storm warning known as Edward Rochester. This is one of the most famous getting-to-know-you passages in 19th century literature, chronicling the second encounter and first civil conversation between the new governess of Thornfield Hall and her employer. With a disarming mixture of candor... (read more)

      • Black Swan poster image

        Black Swan

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Mainlining Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" ballet score like a drug addict, "Black Swan" pushes its protagonist, a Manhattan ballerina devoted (and then some) to her craft, to the brink of insanity and then a couple of subway stops beyond. Director Darren Aronofsky's film is with her all the way. Its intensity risks absurdity in nearly every scene, even the ones not featuring Winona Ryder as the alcoholic castoff of the sneering ballet impresario played by Vincent Cassel. Is &qu... (read more)

      • Tangled poster image

        Tangled

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Bright and engaging, and blessed with two superb non-verbal non-human sidekicks, "Tangled" certainly is more like it. For much of the last decade, the Disney corporation has struggled to regain its animation mojo, while one-time rival, and current business partner, Pixar -- and, at its more sporadic best, DreamWorks -- dominated the market. While no masterwork, "Tangled" reworks the Brothers Grimm tale of Rapunzel clearly and well. It's rollicking without being pushy. Afte... (read more)

      • Secretariat poster image

        Secretariat

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        There is no suspense in "Secretariat." This is the one thing Disney's new picture has in common with "The Passion of the Christ" and "Titanic." We know the outcome. Studios rarely back movies about horses that place or show. The animal that loved to preen for the cameras made all the magazine covers in 1973 after running away with the Triple Crown, though in the '73 Kentucky Derby, Secretariat was back by nine lengths before finishing like a champ. With the facts... (read more)

      • The Young Victoria poster image

        The Young Victoria

        Betsy Sharkey, Chicago Tribune

        "The Young Victoria," starring Emily Blunt as the 18-year-old queen of England circa 1837, is such a rich pastiche of first love, teen empowerment, fabulous fashion and fate that you almost wish a few brooding vampires had been thrown in for good measure, since that's the crowd that should fall head over heels for this movie. Which isn't to suggest that "Young Victoria" is sophomoric -- anything but. What filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallee has done in this delicious historical rom... (read more)

      • The Princess and the Frog poster image

        The Princess and the Frog

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        How can a good-looking animated feature with a Randy Newman song as kicky as "When We're Human" end up being just sort of ... all right? Such is "The Princess and the Frog," Disney's first hand-drawn (non-digital) effort since "Home on the Range" five years ago. It'll look especially pleasing to older audiences who've missed this warmer visual aesthetic of 2-D animation -- and their kids won't have their souls crushed by it or anything. But the movie slam-jams it... (read more)

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