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      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Money Monster poster image

        Money Monster

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Money Monster," director Jodie Foster's fourth feature, gets right to it. Popular cable TV personality and financial guru Lee Gates, played as a belligerent, self-loathing whirlwind by George Clooney, is preparing for his Manhattan-based show "Money Monster," plainly inspired by Jim Cramer's real-life "Mad Money." Lee's veteran producer Patty Fenn, portrayed by Julia Roberts as a wised-up pro under pressure, is about to scoot for a job at a rival station; she's ... (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)

      • Dheepan poster image

        Dheepan

        Justin Chang, Chicago Tribune

        The films of the French director Jacques Audiard roil with tension of every kind: political, ethnic, dramatic, aesthetic. He is a master of screen violence, someone who knows how to orchestrate action and mayhem for maximum stylistic flair and visceral impact. He is also a sharp and sensitive observer of race- and class-based malaise in his home country, as in "A Prophet," his galvanizing 2010 thriller about a French Arab outcast who morphs into a crime lord behind bars. At times, h... (read more)

      • Green Room poster image

        Green Room

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Keanu poster image

        Keanu

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Papa poster image

        Papa

        Rene Rodriguez, Chicago Tribune

        Miami Herald "Papa: Hemingway in Cuba" is the first American feature shot entirely on location in Havana since 1959. The movie makes a good argument for reinstating the American travel ban to the island, at least for Hollywood productions. Shot in 2014 with the assistance of the Cuban Film Institute, on a budget low enough to skate by the U.S. trade embargo policy, this dramatization of the real-life friendship between a former Miami Herald reporter and the legendary author during t... (read more)

      • Ratchet & Clank poster image

        Ratchet & Clank

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The 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)

      • A Hologram for the King poster image

        A Hologram for the King

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Elvis & Nixon poster image

        Elvis & Nixon

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Everybody Wants Some!! poster image

        Everybody Wants Some!!

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Miles Ahead poster image

        Miles Ahead

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Huntsman: Winter's War poster image

        The Huntsman: Winter's War

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Barbershop: The Next Cut poster image

        Barbershop: The Next Cut

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Midnight Special poster image

        Midnight Special

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • I Saw the Light poster image

        I Saw the Light

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • No Home Movie poster image

        No Home Movie

        Peter Debruge, Chicago Tribune

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

      • My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 poster image

        My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Divergent Series: Allegiant poster image

        The Divergent Series: Allegiant

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Miracles From Heaven poster image

        Miracles From Heaven

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 10 Cloverfield Lane poster image

        10 Cloverfield Lane

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • London Has Fallen poster image

        London Has Fallen

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Zootopia poster image

        Zootopia

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Eddie the Eagle poster image

        Eddie the Eagle

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip poster image

        Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Star Wars: The Force Awakens poster image

        Star Wars: The Force Awakens

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Secret in Their Eyes poster image

        Secret in Their Eyes

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In the languid remake "Secret in Their Eyes," the awkward missing "The" in its title poses a more intriguing mystery than anything on the screen. If you've never seen the 2009 original from Argentina, which won the Oscar for best foreign-language picture, do. It's extremely high-grade pulp, satisfying as a romance and a crime drama. Writer-director Billy Ray's Americanized redux isn't a disaster, exactly; it keeps its head down and does its job. But nothing quite gels, or ... (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)

      • Pan poster image

        Pan

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Martian poster image

        The Martian

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • The Gallows poster image

        The Gallows

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        At the end of the last century, "The Blair Witch Project" popularized the notion of idiots in horror movies filming every second of their own imminent demise. A deliberately unpolished subgenre was born: found-footage horror, cheap to make (with some higher-budget exceptions, "Cloverfield" among them), profitable in a flash. The latest of these is "The Gallows," shot for a buck-eighty-three in Fresno, Calif., by the writers-directors Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff... (read more)

      • Magic Mike XXL poster image

        Magic Mike XXL

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Terminator Genisys poster image

        Terminator Genisys

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Humanity gets a do-over in "Terminator Genisys," the fifth in the franchise begun in 1984 with "The Terminator." But this screwy revision of the previous "Terminator" movies is so muddled and yakky, you may find yourself rooting for the apocalypse. At one point Arnold Schwarzenegger is thrown through a wall into a Pepsi Max vending machine (if the rise of the machines means the fall of product placement, I'm all for it), and for a second I was pulling for a slugf... (read more)

      • Ted 2 poster image

        Ted 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Ted 2" unites Mark Wahlberg's insecure wallflower character (it's called acting, folks) with the chubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff and racial, sexual, scatological and '80s-reference insults voiced, with movie-saving acumen, by co-writer and director Seth MacFarlane. "Saving" is relative. Madly uneven, more so than the mediocre 2012 hit that made half a billion worldwide, this one's an easy predictive call. If you got your laughs out of "Ted," you'll li... (read more)

      • Jurassic World poster image

        Jurassic World

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Tomorrowland poster image

        Tomorrowland

        Christopher Borrelli, Chicago Tribune

        By now you probably heard that the series finale of "Mad Men" ended with adman Don Draper dressed in loose-fitting whites, chanting "om" on the lawn of a commune in California, perched at the edge of the Pacific, the 1960s having slid into the 1970s. Then, just as we assumed Don had found spiritual release, a smile flickered at his mouth. He had an idea, and the show cut to that most characteristic of '70s corporate hosannas -- a field of people singing they would like to ... (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)

      • Merchants of Doubt poster image

        Merchants of Doubt

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times Don't underestimate Robert Kenner's "Merchants of Doubt." It may sound like a standard-issue advocacy documentary concerned, as so many are, with the perils of global warming, but it's a lot more than that. It's not just that "Merchants of Doubt" is loaded with jazzy visuals and starts with a performance by close-up magician Jamy Ian Swiss. This enthralling film, based on the book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, is as fascinating as it is horrifying.... (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)

      • 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)

      • American Sniper poster image

        American Sniper

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        People will take what they want to take from "American Sniper," director Clint Eastwood's latest film. Already it has turned into an ideological war to be won or lost, rather than a fictionalized biopic to be debated. It's the most divisive movie on screens at the moment, and it appears to have caught a wave of desire among audiences -- conservative, liberal, centrist -- to return to stories of nerve-wracking wartime heroism in varying degrees of truth and fiction, from "Fury&q... (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)

      • Inherent Vice poster image

        Inherent Vice

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It takes a genuine film artist to create an alternate-reality version of a familiar place -- real enough to make us feel we've been there, or somewhere near there, unreal enough to push it over the edge of familiarity and even sanity. Sorry, must be the dope talking. But this is what writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson has done with "Inherent Vice," an exasperating shaggy dog of a noir goof, nearly 21/2 hours in length, based on the relatively compact 2009 Thomas Pynchon novel. The... (read more)

      • Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb poster image

        Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb," otherwise known as "Night at the Museum 3," rates as more determinedly heartfelt than the first and not as witty as the second (and best). Also, no Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart in jodhpurs this time around. "Night at the Museum 3" closes out director Shawn Levy's effects-driven, family-friendly trilogy with three separate farewells. The most bittersweet parting involves the late Robin Williams. It's both touching and diff... (read more)

      • The Boxtrolls poster image

        The Boxtrolls

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Guardians of the Galaxy poster image

        Guardians of the Galaxy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Like the '70s cassette mix tape so dear to its hero, "Guardians of the Galaxy" scavenges all sorts of "greatest hits" precedents, from "Iron Man" on down, to come up with its own summertime fling. It's looser, scruffier and more overtly comic than the average Marvel action fantasy. And despite the usual load of violence, not all of it properly handled, the film owes its relative buoyancy above all to Chris Pratt as the wisecracking space rogue at the helm. There ... (read more)

      • Rio 2 poster image

        Rio 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Walking With Dinosaurs poster image

        Walking With Dinosaurs

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Concussion poster image

        Concussion

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 poster image

        Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Smurfs 2 poster image

        The Smurfs 2

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        Get yourself into a Smurfy frame of mind, hum a few notes of "The Smurf Song" and try to remember your cartoon-watching primary school years. Cross your fingers that actors Neil Patrick Harris, Hank Azaria, Jayma Mays and Brendan Gleeson will find something funny to do. Never mind. Filled with Smurf wholesomeness, Smurf puns and posi-Smurf messages about never giving up "on family," "The Smurfs 2" still isn't worth Smurfberries. Gargamel the Smurf-hater is now a ... (read more)

      • Turbo poster image

        Turbo

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        In animation shorthand, "Turbo" is "Cars" with snails. It's light on the jokes, but cute, with animation so vivid it looks photo-real. It's another "impossible dream" tale, this time of a motor head mollusk who has a need for "terrifying, blinding speed." Theo (Ryan Gosling) is an auto-racing obsessed garden snail who longs to escape his colony of tomato-munchers. The occasional terror by a Big Wheel-riding tyke nicknamed "Shell Crusher" and t... (read more)

      • Monsters University poster image

        Monsters University

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        What is Pixar doing, settling for adequacy? "Monsters University," the weirdly charmless sequel to the animated 2001 Pixar hit "Monsters, Inc.," is no better or worse than the average (and I mean average) time-filling sequel cranked out by other animation houses. But there's no point in talking about the movie without putting it in context with the reasons so many responded to Pixar's best over the past few years. Pixar's best -- "Wall-E," "Ratatouille"... (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)

      • John Dies at the End poster image

        John Dies at the End

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Rise of the Guardians poster image

        Rise of the Guardians

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The 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)

      • ParaNorman poster image

        ParaNorman

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days poster image

        Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Moonrise Kingdom poster image

        Moonrise Kingdom

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Brave poster image

        Brave

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The heather on the hill and other scenic Scottish glories never looked lovelier than in the animated realm of "Brave," the gorgeous if awkwardly plotted new film from Pixar Animation Studios and the ruling clan of Disney. Several firsts here for Pixar. Its 13th feature is the studio's first period assignment, set in pre-medieval times, a fairy tale grounded in the textures and enticements of a real place. It's also the first princess-themed project from Pixar, and the writers wisely... (read more)

      • Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted poster image

        Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

        Colin Covert, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Marvel's the Avengers poster image

        Marvel's the Avengers

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The culmination of everything ever written, produced or imagined in the known universe, or something like that, "The Avengers" bunches together Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Thor, the leather-clad assassin Black Widow, the lethal archer Hawkeye and the superheroes' one-eyed wrangler, Nick Fury, for 143 minutes of stylish mayhem in the service of defeating Thor's malevolent brother, the god Loki, who hails from the interstellar world known as Asgard (access through wormhole on... (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)

      • The Grey poster image

        The Grey

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The title "8 Million Ways to Die" was already taken, so "The Grey" had to settle for "The Grey," named for the plus-size wolves waging war on the desperate human survivors of an Alaskan wilderness plane crash. Tough situation. Frostbite. Wolf bite. Drowning. Falling from great heights. Harsh outcomes abound for both man and beast. And yet the film takes some time to let its characters ruminate, by way of dialogue, on their circumstances, which gives "The Gre... (read more)

      • The Adventures of Tintin poster image

        The Adventures of Tintin

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Directed by Steven Spielberg, a longtime fan of the source material, "The Adventures of Tintin" begins with a gorgeous animated credit sequence, deftly incorporating bits of the narrative about to unfold. It's as nifty as the overture in Spielberg's earlier "Catch Me If You Can," both scored, with a glancing touch, by his longtime mood generator, composer John Williams. It's always gratifying to hear what Williams can do when he's not in attack mode. Then comes the film pr... (read more)

      • Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked poster image

        Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        A Sarah Palin joke? A Charlie Sheen wisecrack? Is this a Chipmunks movie or a Letterman monologue? As current as a Lady Gaga cover, if not quite as relevant, Alvin and the Chipmunks "Munk Up" for their third digitally animated turn on the big screen -- "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked," a "Cast Away" takeoff that parks the three chipmunks, their three Chipette counterparts and their human family on a deserted island. Most adults would sooner gouge their ears... (read more)

      • Winnie the Pooh poster image

        Winnie the Pooh

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Cars 2 poster image

        Cars 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Kung Fu Panda 2 poster image

        Kung Fu Panda 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It takes somewhat longer for the awesomeness to turn all that awesome. And you can't really replicate that element of surprise that the first movie had going for it: a fan boy panda that gets to team up with his martial arts heroes. But "Kung Fu Panda 2" delivers more heart than laughs, and is, if anything, more visually dazzling than the 2008 original film. Cuddly, plush Po (voiced by Jack Black) is now a reasonably accomplished and competent Dragon Warrior, a sixth member of the F... (read more)

      • Rio poster image

        Rio

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

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