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      • The Sense of an Ending poster image

        The Sense of an Ending

        Justin Chang, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times I'm a great believer time's revenge." The words are spoken late in "The Sense of an Ending," though it might be just as accurate to say that they are spoken early. In the grand, somewhat dubious tradition of movies where the wounds of the past bleed heavily into the present, this genteel British puzzle-box of a movie leaps deftly back and forth in time, bridging the gap between an old man's present-day existence and his lively 1960s school days. The older vers... (read more)

      • Kong: Skull Island poster image

        Kong: Skull Island

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In 21st-century moviemaking, money can buy you a lot of things, but often it just buys you the look, the clinical evidence, of crazy expenditure without any guarantee of customer payoff. Exotic, complex location shooting; high-priced actors, compensated like pashas; digital effects running rampant. We see the results every quarter on our screens. The movies may not stink, and some are pretty good. But too many settle for meeting expectations, in the language and the spirit of an employee eval... (read more)

      • Personal Shopper poster image

        Personal Shopper

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        No matter what sort of movie you're expecting from "Personal Shopper," you'll get it. You'll also contend with three others, and then the movie you first expected will turn inside out. So all that awaits the receptive viewer, along with a dangling modifier of an ending guaranteed to satisfy virtually no one. Even so, this is one of the most intriguing pictures of the year, a genre-hopper of unusual gravity. It's also the latest proof that Kristen Stewart has the goods for a long-hau... (read more)

      • The Ottoman Lieutenant poster image

        The Ottoman Lieutenant

        Dennis Harvey, Chicago Tribune

        Variety Joseph Ruben's "The Ottoman Lieutenant" offers a theoretically noble if B-grade and somewhat propagandistic attempt to shed light on a murky historical chapter -- while falling into a similar puddle of romance-novel cliches from which it can't get up. Less discriminating viewers jonesing for some old-fashioned costume hokum will get just that, but lack of critical support and marquee names should make the theatrical stay of this dusty slice of exotica a short one. Immediatel... (read more)

      • Table 19 poster image

        Table 19

        Owen Gleiberman, Chicago Tribune

        Variety "Table 19" is an under-imagined, overly-pleased-with-itself comedy about half a dozen "colorful characters" who meet while sharing a table at a wedding reception. The premise sounds like it has possibilities (Robert Altman, of course, set an entire movie at a wedding), but the strangers-at-a-table concept turns out to be a thin excuse to cobble together what might have been the pilot episode for a glibly forgettable TV series. This is the sort of movie in which the... (read more)

      • Kiki poster image

        Kiki

        Justin Chang, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times The various bodies moving through "Kiki," an energetic and enveloping documentary about New York City's LGBT ballroom scene, are capable of astonishing, even superhuman physical feats. They dance and gyrate on underground subway platforms, down half-empty streets and on the grass at Christopher Street Pier. They pour themselves into stunningly elaborate costumes before hitting the dance floor, performing under hot lights, thundering music and the eyes of hundreds o... (read more)

      • The Girl With All the Gifts poster image

        The Girl With All the Gifts

        Jay Weissberg, Chicago Tribune

        Variety Why is it that good actors in career stasis so often wind up in zombie films? No one reading the outline for "The Girl With All the Gifts" could really have come away thinking, "This will break the mold," though given the long list of executive producers, the script must have passed through plenty of hands. Colorlessly directed by Colm McCarthy in his feature debut, this overlong contribution to the genre is set in the not-too-distant future, when a fungus has turn... (read more)

      • A Cure for Wellness poster image

        A Cure for Wellness

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Though Gore Verbinski has made a name for himself with large Hollywood studio pictures like "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "The Lone Ranger," he's always had a weird streak; a "one for them, one for me" mentality, interspersing in films like "The Weather Man" and "Rango." "A Cure for Wellness," a horror film set at a spa in the Swiss Alps, is most definitely one for him. Here, "wellness" could easily be a euphemism for &quo... (read more)

      • A United Kingdom poster image

        A United Kingdom

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times The opening title "Based on a true story" can cover a multitude of movie sins, but in "A United Kingdom," it unlocks the door to a romantic drama that grows more remarkable by the minute. While lovers faced with daunting obstacles is a dramatic tradition going back to Romeo and Juliet, if not further, the real-life barriers facing Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) and Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike) when they fell in love in 1947 London were unusually intimidat... (read more)

      • Fist Fight poster image

        Fist Fight

        Colin Covert, Chicago Tribune

        In "Fist Fight," a rowdy, vulgar, surprisingly bloody action-comedy, human punching bags Charlie Day and Ice Cube are knocked across the screen by assorted wallops, fire extinguisher blasts, head butts, random billy clubs, hostile jailbirds, office rivals in the chaotic big city high school where they teach, unruly students, nincompoop coworkers and runaway horses. Short of "Deadpool," it is one of the most violent laugh fests in recent cinema. This quick, unpredictable mo... (read more)

      • John Wick: Chapter 2 poster image

        John Wick: Chapter 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "John Wick: Chapter 2," the sequel least likely to suggest anything with actual chapters or anything to read, stars Keanu Reeves in the role of Liam Neeson. Here we are, it's February, and in recent years we've often had a "Taken" sequel in theaters to take our hard-earned money for two hours of recreational sadism. But the solid autumn 2014 success of "John Wick" proved there was space in the universe for a new Neeson, a more youthful exemplar of steely vengeanc... (read more)

      • The LEGO Batman Movie poster image

        The LEGO Batman Movie

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • I Am Not Your Negro poster image

        I Am Not Your Negro

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Thirty pages of notes and an invisible pile of regrets were all the writer James Baldwin had in his hands when he abandoned work on a book, initiated in 1979, he called "Remember This House." Baldwin knew his subjects well. He was taking on three historical melodies in the key of civil rights activism, all victims of assassination: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., whom Baldwin called friends. "He took on his shoulders the weight of the crimes, and the lies an... (read more)

      • The Comedian poster image

        The Comedian

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        To paraphrase the song by Charlie Chaplin: Watching "The Comedian," starring a game but straining Robert De Niro as a once-hot insult comic hitting the skids on the road to redemption, I tried to smile, though my heart was breaking. The eerie unfunniness of the De Niro character's routines, meant to be shocking yet funny and loaded with genital-related punchlines, gave me the cold creeps. Edie Falco (as the comic's long-suffering manager) and Leslie Mann (as his friend, then lover) ... (read more)

      • A Dog's Purpose poster image

        A Dog's Purpose

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky said there are two kinds of scenes in screenplays: "the Pet the Dog scene and the Kick the Dog scene." Canine love letter "A Dog's Purpose" manages to work in both. You might be surprised that this sappy, family-friendly tribute to man's best friend kills its main character within mere moments. A stray puppy is snapped up by an evil, net-wielding dog catcher, and soon he's off to that nice farm in the sky, before his rebirth. This serves as the... (read more)

      • The Red Turtle poster image

        The Red Turtle

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        We're born; life washes us up on various shores; we build our sand castles and navigate the years; we die. From this four-part miniseries we call human existence, the Dutch animator Michael Dudok de Wit has created "The Red Turtle," a product of de Wit's collaboration with Studio Ghibli, Japan's house of plaintive animation mastery. There are no words spoken in this story, and none are needed. A man, apparently shipwrecked and battered by ocean waves, wakes up on the sand of a tropi... (read more)

      • 20th Century Women poster image

        20th Century Women

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Set in Santa Barbara, Calif., in 1979, the easygoing, wonderfully acted "20th Century Women" is a movie about a boy and the estrogen in his life. The boy comes from writer-director Mike Mills' memories of growing up in a benevolent, amorphous, vexing, highly stimulating matriarchy. The filmmaker establishes a lovely hangout factor, at once carefully scripted and narratively spacious. Both the characters and the actresses (and actors) are fine company. Annette Bening is Dorothea, a c... (read more)

      • xXx: Return of Xander Cage poster image

        xXx: Return of Xander Cage

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Film scholar Tom Gunning coined the phrase "cinema of attractions" to describe the earliest, exhibitionist impulses of filmmaking, bits of spectacle that called attention to their own visibility and technological craft. Pure spectacle has since been subsumed into narrative filmmaking, but the cinema of attractions is always present, especially in modern action movies, and there may be no greater current example of this than "xXx: The Return of Xander Cage." Though there ha... (read more)

      • Patriots Day poster image

        Patriots Day

        Cary Darling, Chicago Tribune

        Fort Worth Star-Telegram "Patriots Day," Peter Berg's film about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, lands with all the subtlety of one of the deadly explosions that claimed three lives and injured 264 others. Terrorism, bad. Law enforcement, first responders, marathon runners and onlookers as embodied by the fictional, Boston-proud composite character played by Mark Wahlberg who just happens to be at most of the pivotal plot points at the right time good. There are no shades of cine... (read more)

      • The Bye Bye Man poster image

        The Bye Bye Man

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        First things first, let's get it out of the way "The Bye Bye Man" is an absolutely ludicrous title for a horror movie. However, it's pretty obvious that the filmmakers are in on the joke too. If we're laughing, it's with the movie, not at it. Besides, the most fun horror movies are often the ones that deliver laughs and scares hand in hand, albeit totally straight-faced. The tale comes from the chapter titled "The Bridge to Body Island" in Robert Damon Schneck's book "... (read more)

      • Hidden Figures poster image

        Hidden Figures

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Hidden Figures" is a fairly entertaining gloss of a docudrama elevated by its cast. It takes place mostly in 1961 and early 1962, three years into the life of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, better known as NASA. At this point "computers" were people, by and large, not machines. With Russia's successful launch of Sputnik, America had to play catch-up in the space race. Based on Margot Lee Shetterly's nonfiction account of the same name, "Hidden Fig... (read more)

      • Fences poster image

        Fences

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Robust, delicate, sublimely acted and a close cinematic cousin to the theatrical original, director Denzel Washington's film version of "Fences" makes up for a lot of overeager or undercooked stage-to-screen adaptations over the decades. The performances of Washington, Viola Davis and their colleagues offer something more than mere skill or easy familiarity with August Wilson's 1987 drama. (Washington and Davis won Tony Awards for their work in the 2010 Broadway revival.) Even as Wi... (read more)

      • Assassin's Creed poster image

        Assassin's Creed

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        You be soft, all right. As a gaming phenomenon, the Ubisoft video game series "Assassin's Creed" has been piling up bodies worldwide since 2007. Now we have the stupendously pretentious film version, starring Michael Fassbender (also producer) and Marion Cotillard, one frequently topless, the other not. Fassbender and Cotillard first worked with director Justin Kurzel on an adaptation, released last year, of Shakespeare's "Macbeth," which Kurzel treated as a frantically ki... (read more)

      • Manchester by the Sea poster image

        Manchester by the Sea

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Without revealing too much: The crucial moment in Kenneth Lonergan's third feature, "Manchester by the Sea," arrives in a scene set in the police station of the Massachusetts coastal town of the title. Lee, played by a rivetingly contained Casey Affleck, is relaying the details of the incident that has changed his life. When he comes to the point in the interrogation when he reveals the small, horribly plausible human error at the heart of his tragedy, the one alluded to by various ... (read more)

      • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story poster image

        Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," the tale of a controversial Death Star and those who loathe it, operates as a prequel to the 1977 movie that became a flexible, malleable religion (with ray guns!) to millions. The new movie is a little bit "Guardians of the Galaxy," a little bit "Dirty Dozen" in its mass wartime slaughter, and a pretty good time once it gets going. The opening title crawl to the '77 original made reference, as you may recall, to "Rebel spies&... (read more)

      • Office Christmas Party poster image

        Office Christmas Party

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        When it comes to big, brassy studio comedies, a filmmaker can do worse than to gather the brightest, funniest stars, situate them in an odd, yet relatable situation and let 'em rip. That's exactly what directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck do with "Office Christmas Party," the delightfully debauched holiday desecration we need this year. Working from a screenplay credited to no less than six writers, the greatest strength of "Office Christmas Party" is its casting. If you'v... (read more)

      • Allied poster image

        Allied

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        If a movie's central narrative hook is hanging right there, in the middle of a coming-attractions trailer already seen online and in multiplexes by millions, are we really going to get hung up on what's a spoiler and what isn't? In the swank but waxy new World War II-era Robert Zemeckis film "Allied," starring Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard and whatever sunglasses they happen to be wearing at the time, we're in the land of patently artificial intrigue, as opposed to fakery trying to be... (read more)

      • Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk poster image

        Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Director Ang Lee has given us "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," "The Ice Storm," "Brokeback Mountain" and "Life of Pi," films with little in common except the important things: calm visual assurance, bittersweet magic, carefully observed worlds unto themselves. Lee's enough of a filmmaker, and a grown-up, to make even his misfires interesting. "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" is an interesting misfire. It's also the victim of lousy timing. Af... (read more)

      • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them poster image

        Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Arrival poster image

        Arrival

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The alien spacecraft in "Arrival" arrive by the dozen, each of the looming, egg-sliced-in-half-shaped wonders looking like the latest in KitchenAid gadgetry writ large. All around the globe, their contents a mystery to paranoid earthlings, the visitors hover just above the planet's surface. Why have they come? Do they come in peace? Will the U.S. military and other nations' leaders give peace a chance? True to the spacecraft, director Denis Villeneuve is one sleek craftsman. Every s... (read more)

      • Doctor Strange poster image

        Doctor Strange

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Doctor Strange," starring Benedict Cumberbatch as a neurosurgeon who learns to bend time, space and his workaholic, narcissistic ways, can't escape all its Marvel Universe corporate imperatives and generic third-act battles for control of the planet. If it could, it'd be like a new Olive Garden opening with some sort of crazy "no breadsticks" rule. Financially it behooves Marvel's superheroes to stick to the plan, and the plan, to borrow a line from the old musical "... (read more)

      • Hacksaw Ridge poster image

        Hacksaw Ridge

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        For all sorts of emotional and psychological reasons I'm trying to figure out as a critic and, relatedly, as a human, audiences tend to remember and even admire what traumatizes them in the name of entertainment. But even a film determined to show us the grisliest horrors of war must traumatize and -- more palatably -- excite in roughly equal measure, in order to make a lot of money. I think director Mel Gibson's "Hacksaw Ridge" is going to make a lot of money. Its old-fashioned sto... (read more)

      • Off the Rails poster image

        Off the Rails

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times "I'm just a train buff," Darius McCollum says, which is a little bit like Mozart saying, "I just fool around with notes." For, as the excellent documentary "Off the Rails" demonstrates, McCollum is obsessed with trains (and buses for that matter) past the point of legality, or even reason. And he has more than paid the price for his passion. Something of a media celebrity in New York, where headlines about his behavior range from "Transit R... (read more)

      • Jack Reacher: Never Go Back poster image

        Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The new "Jack Reacher" movie, subtitled "Never Go Back," arrives four years after Tom Cruise made his first Reacher movie, subtitled nothing. It wasn't a huge hit, but it was hit enough. Some franchises are born; some are made; others thrust themselves upon the public. The books keep coming: British author Lee Child has written 21 novels (the new one's due later this year) about the ex-U.S. Military Police Corps major, now living off the grid as a freelance knight-errant w... (read more)

      • The Accountant poster image

        The Accountant

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Reassuring the audience that, yes, there will be blood in a movie about a strip-mall accountant, "The Accountant" opens with a flashback of a multiple-murder scene involving mobsters, federal agents and an obscure sense of narrative purpose. Then, another flashback, this one to 1989: We're at a neuroscience center for children who live somewhere along the wide spectrum of autism. The boy who will become the math savant played by Ben Affleck is solving a picture puzzle, rocking back ... (read more)

      • Queen of Katwe poster image

        Queen of Katwe

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Tronc Newspapers Critic A lot of Disney's fact-based sports movies stir the blood or, at the very least, satisfy our need for rousing underdog stories. Often the stories can be shaped so that a white protagonist runs the show, even if it's not really their show. "Million Dollar Arm" was like that; so was "McFarland, USA," both of which I liked -- despite the key characters, the competitors, being marginalized in their own narratives so that Jon Hamm and Kevin Costner could... (read more)

      • Storks poster image

        Storks

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Snowden poster image

        Snowden

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Tronc Newspapers Critic When it comes to poking the bear, and to depicting American history as the cyclical wising-up of its idealists, Oliver Stone remains the man with the plan, and the bullet points. "Snowden" is co-writer and director Stone's latest. It's fairly absorbing though, increasingly, a bit of an eye-roller, and it's designed, photographed and edited to make you itchy with paranoia. Its goal is simple: It agitates for a society and a government a little less hellbent on... (read more)

      • Sully poster image

        Sully

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The sight of a passenger plane along the skyline of New York is an image that has been seared in the global collective consciousness. It's a memory that "Sully," Clint Eastwood's new film, acknowledges, but also attempts to redefine. What if a plane skimming skyscrapers could conjure an image not just of unimaginable terror, but one of incredible heroism and skill? That's what "Sully" might accomplish, in committing to film the heartwarming story of "The Miracle on th... (read more)

      • The Light Between Oceans poster image

        The Light Between Oceans

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        With "Blue Valentine" and "The Place Beyond the Pines," filmmaker Derek Cianfrance has proved that he has a knack for both intimate romantic fables and sweeping family epics that span decades. In his adaptation of M.L. Stedman's 2012 debut novel "The Light Between Oceans," Cianfrance makes a film that is both epic and intimate, a love story intertwined with tragedy. In stars Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender, he finds performers who manage to deftly inhabit ... (read more)

      • Hell or High Water poster image

        Hell or High Water

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Little Men poster image

        Little Men

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Compact, emotionally resonant, "Little Men" is the latest very good film from co-writer and director Ira Sachs. It works subtly and indirectly, letting life happen, rather than saddling its characters with a lot of heavy narrative machinery. As such its rare clunky moments tend to stick out more than they would in less effective circumstances. Here's one example: At one point brash young Antonio, played by Michael Barbieri, flatly declares to his newfound Brooklyn pal, Jake, played ... (read more)

      • Nine Lives poster image

        Nine Lives

        Owen Gleiberman, Chicago Tribune

        Variety At this point, the prospect of another chapter in the "Saw" series might conceivably be worse -- or, perhaps, one of those movies in which the French director Bruno Dumont tries to pass off his ponderous metaphysical misanthropy as "light and funny." Really, though, one would be hard-pressed to think of a contemporary movie form more torturous to sit through than the cutesy-wacky anthropomorphic celebrity-voiced pet comedy. The thing that's so excruciating about fi... (read more)

      • The Secret Life of Pets poster image

        The Secret Life of Pets

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice poster image

        Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A near-total drag, "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" plays like a loose, unofficial quarter-billion-dollar remake of "The Odd Couple," in which Oscar and Felix are literally trying to kill each other. I kid. A little. This certainly is not true of director Zack Snyder's solemn melee. The movie does not kid. It takes the mournful death knells of the Christopher Nolan "Batman" trilogy and cranks up the volume, while ignoring any of the visual strengths and moral... (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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Little Boy poster image

        Little Boy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Little Boy" answers a question most tear-jerkers wouldn't have the nerve to ask: Can the bombing of Hiroshima be manipulated narratively, if briefly, into a position of warming our hearts? The answer is no. The film's D-Day-like assault on our emotional defenses tries all it can to turn that no into a yes. The story takes place in a storybook California coastal village named O'Hare. Director and co-writer Alejandro Monteverde shot 'Little Boy' in Mexico's Baja Film Studios; cinemat... (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)

      • 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)

      • Annie poster image

        Annie

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It brings no pleasure to report this, especially when the distributing studio, Sony, is dealing with a monstrous hacking scandal and a hard-knock year. Let's put it charitably. The risks taken by co-writer and director Will Gluck ("Easy A," "Friends With Benefits," both quite good) begin with pulling "Annie" out of the 1930s and plopping it down in contemporary Manhattan. Living in foster care up in Harlem, the girl formerly known as "orphan" (each time... (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)

      • Nightcrawler poster image

        Nightcrawler

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Jake Gyllenhaal lost 30 pounds for his new movie, "Nightcrawler," and the result is simple and eerie, much like the film itself. He appears to be wearing a Jake Gyllenhaal mask, all cheekbones, sallow complexion and unblinking laser-beam eyes. His character is Lou Bloom, a freelance LA crime scene videographer. Is this man human, exactly? Lou's small talk leans heavy on the self-help axioms and self-directed pep rallies; it's as if he were an alien learning to pass for earthling by ... (read more)

      • Citizenfour poster image

        Citizenfour

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips A cool, steady stream of anxiety, Laura Poitras' documentary "Citizenfour" draws from the visual language and buggy paranoia of the best-known 1970s political thrillers: "The Conversation," "The Parallax View," "Three Days of the Condor," "All the President's Men." Each of the cities filmed in "Citizenfour" gets its own quiet yet sinister establishing shot, so that Rio ... (read more)

      • Dear White People poster image

        Dear White People

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        So many movies come out of the Sundance Film Festival, and others like it, laden with praise but oddly short on narrative invention, visual instincts and a story with something on its mind. Heartiest congratulations to "Dear White People," which is equipped with all three. It's a slyly provocative achievement and a serious calling card for its writer-director, Justin Simien. He sets his ensemble affair on the campus of the fictional Ivy League enclave Winchester University, where Af... (read more)

      • Mood Indigo poster image

        Mood Indigo

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        The eccentric whimsy and invention overfill the screen of Michel Gondry's "Mood Indigo," an adaptation of a novel by the Frenchman who wrote "I Spit on Your Graves." Set in an alternate "Brazil"/"Delicatessen"/"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" reality, it's a blur of queer gadgets and odd doodads, see-through limousines and dinner tables on roller skates, all in a tale concocted by an office full of women clattering at a conveyor belt of... (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 Wind Rises poster image

        The Wind Rises

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Here's a beautiful apparent contradiction: a gentle, supple picture about the man who designed the Zero fighter plane. "The Wind Rises" is being marketed as the "farewell masterpiece" of Japanese writer-director Hayao Miyazaki, who brought the world "Spirited Away," "Howl's Moving Castle" and "Ponyo," as well as oversaw and contributed to "From Up on Poppy Hill" most recently. There's a fascinating push/pull in Miyazaki's latest. The... (read more)

      • The Past poster image

        The Past

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The World's End poster image

        The World's End

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Fruitvale Station poster image

        Fruitvale Station

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Fruitvale Station" is hugely effective meat-and-potatoes moviemaking, and one hell of a feature film debut for writer-director Ryan Coogler. Lean (84 minutes), swift and full of life, Coogler's picture recounts a random and needless death, that of 22-year-old Oscar Grant, played by Michael B. Jordan, a familiar face from "The Wire," "Friday Night Lights" and the films "Chronicle" and "Red Tails." At 2:15 a.m. Jan. 1, 2009, the unarmed victim ... (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)

      • The Central Park Five poster image

        The Central Park Five

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Central Park Five" is an unusually good documentary about an outlandish miscarriage of justice. On an April night in 1989, Trisha Meili was beaten, raped and left for dead not far from a path in Manhattan's Central Park. Five boys between the ages of 14 and 16 signed confessions regarding the attack, which was the worst of several criminal incidents unfolding in the area that night. The boys were African-American and Latino: Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymon... (read more)

      • Magic Mike poster image

        Magic Mike

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's crazy to oversell "Magic Mike," or fluff it up into something its makers never intended. It is not a major motion picture. It is not searing melodrama, though in story outline terms -- the least interesting terms by which to engage with director Steven Soderbergh's loose, funky and blithely engaging workplace comedy -- it resembles "Showgirls" with showboys, though without the hysteria or the punitive humiliation. So what is it, then? Inspired by star and producer Cha... (read more)

      • 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)

      • Drive poster image

        Drive

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Drive" begins extremely well and ends in a muddle of ultraviolence, hypocrisy and stylistic preening, which won't be any sort of deterrent for those who like its looks. Director Nicolas Winding Refn's avenging-angel thriller premiered at this year's Cannes Film Festival, where Refn won the directing prize, and every supersaturated image is designed for hushed adoration. If the movie were a movie star, it'd be looking just past you to see if someone cooler had recently come in. Ryan... (read more)

      • Snow Flower and the Secret Fan poster image

        Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The film version of ``Snow Flower and the Secret Fan proceeds as if willed into being by a particularly misguided ``question for discussion, the kind you'd find at the tail end of a best-seller's paperback edition. The question would go something like this. What would happen to novelist Lisa See's story of two 19th century Hunan province women and everything their friendship endures - foot-binding, arranged marriages, tragic loss of children, typhoid outbreaks, political turmoil - if that sto... (read more)

      • Bridesmaids poster image

        Bridesmaids

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Meek's Cutoff poster image

        Meek's Cutoff

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Media Services Film Clips At one point in "Meek's Cutoff," set in 1845, the frontier settler played by the excellent, plain-spoken Michelle Williams fires two warning shots after an alarming encounter with a Native American. Hurriedly she loads the rifle with gunpowder and ammunition, while director Kelly Reichardt observes the action from a patient, fixed middle-distance vantage point. It takes a good while -- precisely as long as it would in ... (read more)

      • Hop poster image

        Hop

        Robert Abele, Chicago Tribune

        When it comes to notable secular Easter movies, there's Fred Astaire at the parade with Judy Garland and little else. But with the seasonal ubiquity of candy, eggs and bunnies, it's hardly a shock that an animation company would wring some type of festive, sentimental kids flick out of so commercially tinged and cute animal-friendly a holiday. The animation/live-action ``Hop - from the producing-writing team behind last year's ``Despicable Me,'' and director Tim Hill, of ``Alvin and the Chipm... (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)

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

        Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Megamind poster image

        Megamind

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Social Network poster image

        The Social Network

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Across far too many stretches of our moviegoing lives, we see movie after movie without seeing one that really moves. At once stealthy and breathlessly paced, "The Social Network" scoots at a fabulous clip, depicting how its version of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made his billions, and, according to various allegations and two key depositions, whom Zuckerberg aced out of those billions, while following his digital yellow brick road. Is director David Fincher's film the stuff of... (read more)

      • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World poster image

        Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Inception poster image

        Inception

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Detestable Moi 3D Numerique poster image

        Detestable Moi 3D Numerique

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Grown Ups poster image

        Grown Ups

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Grown Ups" is a sure thing -- a film you feel as if you've seen before, and probably saw somewhere a second time, so why not another? Actors, particularly stage actors in long-running plays, strive for "the illusion of the first time." High-concept comedies like "Grown Ups" strive for the illusion of the third. It's a tiny bit better than "Couples Retreat," so that's good. The ensemble is funnier than the material (the script was co-written by Sandler,... (read more)

      • Fantastic Mr. Fox poster image

        Fantastic Mr. Fox

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        So many careful and clever visual felicities dot the landscape of Wes Anderson's animated feature "Fantastic Mr. Fox," from the catastrophically inclined watercolors painted by Mrs. Fox to the autumn breezes ruffling various species of animals' fur just so, I'm flummoxed as to why the movie left me feeling up in the air, as opposed to over the moon. Partly, I think, it's a matter of how Anderson's sense of humor rubs up against that of the book's author, Roald Dahl. It's also a mat... (read more)

      • More Than a Game poster image

        More Than a Game

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        It's always risky to mix sports metaphors, but it's hard to resist the notion that the basketball-themed "More Than a Game" is a knockout of a sports documentary. Destined to be known as "the LeBron James movie," it is all that, and a good deal more. James, of course, was drafted in 2003 by the Cleveland Cavaliers right out of high school. Given that this film is coming out around the same time as his autobiography, "Shooting Stars," it may sound like part of a c... (read more)

      • Land of the Lost poster image

        Land of the Lost

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Like him or not (I like him), Will Ferrell remains at the mercy of his material. Is it sheer luck that "Blades of Glory" was so much funnier than "Semi-Pro"? No. Luck had nothing to do with it. "Blades of Glory" had jokes, pacing, dryly assured direction and the right comic attitude. "Semi-Pro" felt lazy and off-kilter and sour. Ferrell may well shoulder the blame for "Land of the Lost," even if he doesn't deserve it. He did, however, willingl... (read more)

      • Goodbye Solo poster image

        Goodbye Solo

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's a fleeting shot of a convenience mart, and it could be in any town in America. The name carries a whiff of poetic grandiosity: "Great American Food Store." Who runs this place? An immigrant from which country? This one? A hundred others? We never find out. The storefront is onscreen a few seconds, simply one more stop in another night in the life of a Senegalese taxi driver, Solo, who lives and works in Winston-Salem, N.C. "Goodbye Solo" is the third feature - eloquen... (read more)

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