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      • The Walk poster image

        The Walk

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        If only. If only, for the benefit of other filmmakers exploring the same material, we could un-see a great film and clear our memories of it. One such film is the 2008 documentary "Man on Wire," James Marsh's account of what happened the morning of Aug. 7, 1974, when French aerialist Philippe Petit wire-walked between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Eight times, he crossed that wire, 1,350 feet above the streets of lower Manhattan. The act of trespassing was not legal and... (read more)

      • 99 Homes poster image

        99 Homes

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Well before 1925, when the Marx Brothers cavorted through a story about the Florida real estate craze in "The Cocoanuts" on Broadway, the Sunshine State real estate explosion became the boom heard around the world. But explosions go both ways, semantically speaking. When a housing market "blows up," it can mean success or failure, money or disaster. Or money made on the backs of other people's disaster. The storyline in the tense new drama "99 Homes," set in 2010... (read more)

      • Sicario poster image


        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        For a gripping documentary about the U.S./Mexico border, the drug trade and a hornet's nest of sociopolitical nightmares, watch Matthew Heineman's "Cartel Land." For a commercial thriller on related themes, "Sicario" will do. The first hour of this latest film from French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve is sleek, terrific pulp. The second half of "Sicario" (in Mexico, slang for "hitman") settles for more conventional bloodshed and storytelling. Such ... (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)

      • The Green Inferno poster image

        The Green Inferno

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        What's the point of watching horror movies? An often argued reason is catharsis. Horror movies have a unique way of dredging up cultural anxieties and playing them to their worst ends on screen, so when the lights come up, we can say, "it's only a movie," and dismiss those fears away. Eli Roth has managed to do this in artful, cheeky ways with his films "Cabin Fever" (flesh-eating viruses!) and "Hostel" and "Hostel Part II" (commercialized torture!). In... (read more)

      • The Intern poster image

        The Intern

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Nicely acted by Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro, the artificial sweetener titled "The Intern" has its bright spots but is practically blinded by its own privileged perspective of life among the landed gentry of Brooklyn. It's not fair to single out the writer-director, Nancy Meyers, whose better work includes "Something's Gotta Give" and "It's Complicated," for making high-end escapist fantasies about a certain socioeconomic strata. Most Hollywood products work ... (read more)

      • Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials poster image

        Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        As I write this, it's a lovely, breezy, sunny day, so thoughts turn naturally to the latest dystopian hellhole at the movies, "Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials." A year ago the inaugural "Maze Runner" adaptation proved a pleasantly unpleasant surprise. Director Wes Ball's feature film debut delivered the first in author James Dashner's trilogy (he wrote two prequels as well) with an earnest, no-nonsense commitment to the protagonist's waking nightmare. From last year's Tribu... (read more)

      • 90 Minutes in Heaven poster image

        90 Minutes in Heaven

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Not all stories are created equal. Amazing true stories can be remarkable for their sheer wonder and seemingly unbelievable qualities -- but those details might not translate into an amazing movie. This is the case with "90 Minutes in Heaven," based on the best-selling book of the same name by Don Piper. Based on his own incredible life story, the film adaptation, written and directed by Michael Polish, is an all-too-faithful rendition of this spiritual tale, where minor details get... (read more)

      • Goodnight Mommy poster image

        Goodnight Mommy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Pristinely vicious, the Austrian thriller "Goodnight Mommy" spins a fairy tale about twin boys, played by Lukas and Elias Schwarz, who live in a sleek, scarily minimalist country home with their mother, a television personality (we gather through a few clues) portrayed by Susanne Wuest. Outside this soulless abode, the boys spend their days romping in a bucolic playground, dashing through rows of corn, exploring the woods nearby. Mom has changed, however. She has returned home from ... (read more)

      • The Perfect Guy poster image

        The Perfect Guy

        Nick Schager, Chicago Tribune

        Variety Sanaa Lathan is as tough as she is fetching, which is why it's so disheartening to watch her play a dopey victim for much of "The Perfect Guy," in which her well-to-do professional is terrorized by a new flame who doesn't take kindly to being dumped. Boasting a screenplay by Tyger Williams that never fails to telegraph its every move, David M. Rosenthal's film is a cheap "Fatal Attraction" knockoff, complete with a subplot involving the potentially dire fate of Lat... (read more)

      • Wolf Totem poster image

        Wolf Totem

        Mark Jenkins, Chicago Tribune

        The Washington Post With its sweeping Mongolian panoramas and majestic, real-life wolf packs, "Wolf Totem" should lure lovers of nature into the theater. But director Jean-Jacques Annaud's 3-D action-drama will also repel them, for this is the sad, bloody tale of a campaign to eradicate wolves from the steppes they once ruled. The movie is based on the semiautobiographical 2004 novel by Jiang Rong (a pseudonym for Lu Jiamin). Raised in Beijing, he became a herder-hunter in Inner Mon... (read more)

      • Mistress America poster image

        Mistress America

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's a 90-year-old song lyric, but Lorenz Hart's description of Manhattan (from the song "Manhattan") as a "wondrous toy" holds newfound allure for the bright young things -- 21st century moderns -- populating Noah Baumbach's latest chamber-screwball outing, "Mistress America." In "Frances Ha," director and co-writer Baumbach's previous collaboration with co-writer, star and romantic partner Greta Gerwig, the protagonist was a sweet, creative, thwarted ... (read more)

      • Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine poster image

        Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine

        Karen D'Souza, Chicago Tribune

        Think Different Ironically Apple's famous slogan may be the perfect tagline for the damning new documentary "Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine." Oscar-winner Alex Gibney, who has taken down such powerful institutions as "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" and Scientology ("Going Clear") is never one to pull his punches. Jobs, usually revered as the Silicon Valley genius who transformed our lives with beautifully designed technology, gets raked over the coals ... (read more)

      • The Transporter Refueled poster image

        The Transporter Refueled

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        You'll see much to applaud in the B-movie action pleasures on display in "Transporter Refueled." You can't do much better than this for a last gasp of mindless cinematic summer fun. The thing about "Transporter Refueled" is that it actually is fun -- chock-a-block with breathtaking stunts, plot twists and visual treats. Just don't think too hard about it or you might ruin the ride. A reboot of the Luc Besson-helmed "Transporter" series of the early aughts, this f... (read more)

      • A Walk in the Woods poster image

        A Walk in the Woods

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In the wake of "Wild," in which Reese Witherspoon's version of Cheryl Strayed hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and reckoned with her demons, we now have "Mild," better known as "A Walk in the Woods." It stars Robert Redford and Nick Nolte as travel writer Bill Bryson and his buddy, fictionalized by Bryson as "Stephen Katz," having a go at the Appalachian Trail for a little light banter and a casual insight or two regarding life's highways. The project grew... (read more)

      • Learning to Drive poster image

        Learning to Drive

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Learning to Drive," not to be confused with the Corey Haim/Corey Feldman vehicle "License to Drive," comes from an autobiographical 2002 New Yorker article by essayist Katha Pollitt. In the magazine piece, later published in a Pollitt collection of stories, the longtime nondriving Manhattan resident bounces back from a breakup with a womanizing jerk (I'm taking her point of view) by grabbing the wheel of her own life, through driving lessons. At one point Pollitt imagines... (read more)

      • We Are Your Friends poster image

        We Are Your Friends

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        "Are we ever gonna be better than this?" Cole Carter (Zac Efron) entreats his hyped, pulsating crowd. "We Are Your Friends," directed by Max Joseph, isn't quite sure of the answer to that question. But, as an audience, you wish that this promising, but generic film were better than this. "We Are Your Friends" injects a throbbing beat and fresh style into a classic coming-of-age tale, but all the electronic dance music and formal experimentation can't keep it out ... (read more)

      • No Escape poster image

        No Escape

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        If what you're seeking in the doldrums of August is stomach-churning, eye-watering suspense, "No Escape" delivers just that, but it falls short with a tone-deaf story and extremely xenophobic worldview. Clearly, brother filmmaking duo Drew and John Erick Dowdle were not paying attention to the backlash that greeted "The Impossible," which followed the plight of a rich, white family's desperate escape from the Thai tsunami, at the expense of the stories of the Thai people. ... (read more)

      • American Ultra poster image

        American Ultra

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        A soup spoon turns lethal in the unlikely hands of sweet and spacy stoner Mike (Jesse Eisenberg) in the violently paranoid action comedy "American Ultra." Mike's a lot like the spoon -- harmless unless deployed in the right way -- because he used to be a particularly effective "asset" at the CIA, a term used to describe highly trained super-killers. But the program was shut down, Mike's memories replaced with serious phobias, and he was planted in a sleepy West Virginia to... (read more)

      • Digging for Fire poster image

        Digging for Fire

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The best thing to happen to filmmaker Joe Swanberg? His choice of cinematographer. Ben Richardson, who worked with the director on the recent Chicago projects "Drinking Buddies" and "Happy Christmas," teams up with Swanberg again for "Digging for Fire," which was shot on warm, pleasing 35 millimeter film in the canyons and on the beaches of Los Angeles. The movie, the latest of Swanberg's infidelity daydreams, moves with uneffacing assurance. It boasts a blue-chi... (read more)

      • Grandma poster image


        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        We don't get to choose when or where we fall in love with a performer; sometimes it happens when they're doing Ingmar Bergman, and sometimes it's "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In." Lily Tomlin joined the cast of that cherished relic of a sketch comedy TV show in 1970, and very quickly millions became her comedy slaves, thanks to Ernestine, her purse-lipped telephone operator, and to Edith Ann, the fidgety wonder of a 5-year-old in the oversize rocking chair. In short order Tomlin, now 75,... (read more)

      • Hitman: Agent 47 poster image

        Hitman: Agent 47

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        If you see one movie about governmentally modified assassins this weekend, don't make it "Hitman: Agent 47." "American Ultra" is the far superior take on the unknowing superspy, because it takes itself far less seriously and can actually poke fun at the genre. "Hitman: Agent 47" was just never going to be able to keep up, especially with its overly serious take on the genre. It's so coldblooded, it's practically reptilian. Directed by newcomer Aleksander Bach, wi... (read more)

      • Sinister 2 poster image

        Sinister 2

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Horror sequel "Sinister 2" is a very strange movie. Of course, it's a horror film, so strange, ghostly, and sinister events are expected. Yet this is a horror film that doesn't quite know what it is. You can't tell if the filmmakers (director CiarĂ¡n Foy and screenwriters Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill) are deliberately going for a bit of a goofy, throwback feel, but that's what comes across in this spooky tale. It's almost like an '80s movie you'd find on cable, and that mig... (read more)

      • Rosenwald poster image


        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times "Rosenwald" used to be a name to conjure with, but no more, and that is a shame this vivid, engaging documentary attempts to do something about. In the early years of the 20th century, Julius Rosenwald was a philanthropist on a colossal scale, giving away what has been estimated as close to a billion dollars in today's money. But as revealed by writer-director Aviva Kempner, it's not just the amount of money he donated that makes Rosenwald special, it's the specifi... (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)

      • The Man From U.N.C.L.E. poster image

        The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Some movies are hung up on their own moves, and they can be terrific fun if they're directed by someone who knows how and when to move a camera. But other movies get hung up on their own looks, which is a different, vainglorious story. Director and co-writer Guy Ritchie's "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.," inspired by the 1964-1968 TV series that rode the James Bond wave, tells a tale of nice suits, pretty sunglasses and actors posing, not acting. The male stars are Henry Cavill (the curren... (read more)

      • Tom at the Farm poster image

        Tom at the Farm

        Guy Lodge, Chicago Tribune

        Variety Lusciously coiffed Quebecois prodigy Xavier Dolan overreached with last year's "Laurence Anyways," a three-hour transgender saga that overindulged his admittedly striking stylistic affectations. Perhaps even he agreed, since "Tom at the Farm," the 24-year-old hyphenate's delicious fourth feature -- and first excursion into genre terrain -- is a trimmer, tarter effort all around. Perhaps not coincidentally, it's also his first collaboration with another writer. A no... (read more)

      • Ricki and the Flash poster image

        Ricki and the Flash

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Ricki and the Flash" comes from director Jonathan Demme, whose good and great films include "Melvin and Howard," "Swing Shift," "Stop Making Sense," "Something Wild," "Married to the Mob" and, seven years ago, "Rachel Getting Married." (He's made a few others, of course, among them "The Silence of the Lambs," which won him an Oscar.) Diablo Cody, an Oscar winner for "Juno" and a fascinating purveyor of ... (read more)

      • Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation poster image

        Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        With the new "Mission: Impossible" movie, even if it's the most assured and satisfying of the five so far, it sounds foolish to even mention the things the characters say in between screeching tires, gunfights, knife fights, motorcycle derring-do, and the opening act featuring Tom Cruise dangling for real (real enough to make it look cool, and frightening) on the outside of a plane high over a Belarus airstrip. But it isn't foolish. One of the many pleasures of "Mission: Imposs... (read more)

      • The End of the Tour poster image

        The End of the Tour

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A clever, gently provocative movie about talking, listening and competing interests, "The End of the Tour" is a two-character play that managed to hitch a ride as a road movie directed by James Ponsoldt, whose previous films include "The Spectacular Now" and "Smashed." In March 1996, starting at his house outside the college town of Normal, Illinois State University professor and "Infinite Jest" author David Foster Wallace turned five days of his life o... (read more)

      • Mr. Holmes poster image

        Mr. Holmes

        Colin Covert, Chicago Tribune

        With Robert Downey Jr. making him a skull-cracking action hero, and Benedict Cumberbatch making him a high-functioning sociopath, what sort of Sherlock Holmes yarn can add fresh story material? How about Ian McKellen playing the immortal character as we've never seen him before? The Sherlock we meet in "Mr. Holmes" is a man of growing frailties, gently portrayed. Well into the dusk of his life at 93, his recollection has declined worryingly. The long-retired consulting detective als... (read more)

      • Paper Towns poster image

        Paper Towns

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        There's something incredibly satisfying about a well-executed high school film that hits all the right John Hughes-inspired sweet spots. "Paper Towns," adapted from a novel by "The Fault in Our Stars" writer John Green, does just that, with a twist. Concerned with the miracles, myths and mysteries that come with the end of high school, the film self-consciously engages with genre tropes, while also updating and evolving the formula, this time by inserting mystery into its ... (read more)

      • Samba poster image


        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In "Jurassic World," a movie about undocumented workers (the dinosaurs) adjusting to life, and theme park employment, in their adopted home, Omar Sy takes a supporting role, backing up the heroics of headliner Chris Pratt. In his too-few scenes Sy gives a serviceable, mechanical blockbuster a rooting interest and a jolt of charisma it wouldn't otherwise have. The actor's career-making French-language hit came earlier, with "The Intouchables," the $400 million-grossing inte... (read more)

      • Southpaw poster image


        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A flurry of haymakers in the form of boxing movie cliches, "Southpaw" was conceived as a loose remake of "The Champ" -- Wallace Beery in 1931, Jon Voight in 1979 -- tailored for Marshall Mathers, also known as Eminem. The rage-iest rap star on the planet took the initial meetings with director Antoine Fuqua and screenwriter Kurt Sutter. Eminem eventually bowed out, affording Fuqua ("Training Day," "The Equalizer") and Sutter ("The Shield," &qu... (read more)

      • Ant-Man poster image


        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Ant-Man" has been skittering around the development corridors of Hollywood so long, the earliest unproduced screenplays about the tiny superhero actually preceded the Disney film "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids." That was another age (1989), decades before our present Age of Ultron -- an epoch of expensive cheap thrills dictated by the steady, crushing rollout of so many Marvel movies that even the good ones start to seem like ants at an endless picnic. But wait. The "Ant-... (read more)

      • Irrational Man poster image

        Irrational Man

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Forty-five features into his half-century of moviemaking, the rote obsessions distinguishing Woody Allen's furtive protagonists -- luck, fate, chance, getting away with murder -- have extended more and more to Allen's own approach to screenwriting. A mixture of the obvious and the indecisive, "Irrational Man" stars Joaquin Phoenix as philosophy professor Abe Lucas, new arrival to fictional Braylin College in Newport, R.I. He's notorious for being a drunk, a womanizer, a provocateur.... (read more)

      • The Look of Silence poster image

        The Look of Silence

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        More than a companion piece -- it's more contemplative and focused than the film preceding it -- Joshua Oppenheimer's quietly devastating documentary "The Look of Silence" wouldn't have been possible without the 2012 project that brought Oppenheimer international renown, "The Act of Killing." In that earlier project, various and thriving perpetrators of the Indonesian genocide of 1965-66 spoke to Oppenheimer on camera to talk about what happened. The filmmaker asked them t... (read more)

      • The Stanford Prison Experiment poster image

        The Stanford Prison Experiment

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Stanford Prison Experiment" plays like the most unnerving improvisational theater game imaginable. In 1971, social psychology professor Philip Zimbardo set up a two-week study in the basement of a Stanford University campus building. He wanted to prove one of two things. One: The brutality and dehumanization in a prison setting was "dispositional," tied to the personalities of the prison guards and the prisoners. Or two: The brutality was "situational," an i... (read more)

      • Amy poster image


        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The saddest moment in Asif Kapadia's new documentary "Amy," and there are many, occurs relatively late in the 27 years lived by its subject, Amy Winehouse. The North London singer-songwriter with the tornado hair and heartbreaking grin is on stage at an Isle of Wight concert. This time she's not smiling. Smashed, strung out or both, she grinds through yet another performance of her signature hit, "Rehab," the one with the irresistible '60s girl-group hook and the blithe de... (read more)

      • Do I Sound Gay? poster image

        Do I Sound Gay?

        Gary Goldstein, Chicago Tribune

        For a film largely about speech, the provocatively titled documentary "Do I Sound Gay?" has little of great significance to say. Writer-director-star David Thorpe attempts to probe the whys and wherefores of what he calls the stereotypical "gay male voice," but he ends up crafting a naval-gazing self-portrait that's unflattering, inconclusive and, at times, a bit specious. Cameras follow 40-ish journalist Thorpe on his journey to change what he considers his "gay"... (read more)

      • Minions poster image


        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)

      • Jimmy's Hall poster image

        Jimmy's Hall

        Lindsey Bahr, Chicago Tribune

        Associated Press Jimmy Gralton is not a name you've likely heard before. A modest Irish revolutionary, Gralton has the dubious distinction of being the only native to ever be deported from Ireland. On top of leading a communist group in the provincial county of Leitrim in the 1930s, he incited fear in the ruling classes by running what they viewed as a particularly mutinous establishment: A dance hall. The history books may have yet to give his story a comprehensive treatment, but in "Ji... (read more)

      • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl poster image

        Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The big noise from this year's Sundance Film Festival, "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl," is a weaselly liar of a movie. It comes on full of self-deprecating bluster, professing no interest in jerking tears a la "The Fault in Our Stars," as it lays out its tale of a Pittsburgh high school senior's friendship with a fellow classmate diagnosed with cancer. But gradually, as the narrator-protagonist learns to lower his emotional guard, the film lunges, sensitively, for the jug... (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)

      • Dope poster image


        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It sounds clueless and blinkered to compare the vibrant new comedy "Dope," set in multicultural Inglewood southwest of LA, to the extremely white 1983 film "Risky Business." But wait. The filmmaker, writer-director Rick Famuyiwa, is the first to refer to his movie as "'Risky Business' for the social-media generation." Producer Mimi Valdes, also quoted in the production notes, adds that its focus is "black nerds in the 'hood. Why hasn't anyone shown that part... (read more)

      • Infinitely Polar Bear poster image

        Infinitely Polar Bear

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        How much funny goes with the crazy? Facile as it sounds, this is the question guiding the efforts of a considerable number of writer-directors over the years, as they have brought family stories (often autobiographical) involving some form of mental illness to the screen. The latest of these is "Infinitely Polar Bear," writer-director Maya Forbes' agreeable but dodgy film based on Forbes' experiences growing up with a bipolar father in 1970s-era Cambridge, Mass. It's worth seeing, o... (read more)

      • Jurassic World poster image

        Jurassic World

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Wolfpack poster image

        The Wolfpack

        Michael O'Sullivan, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Insidious: Chapter 3 poster image

        Insidious: Chapter 3

        Rick Bentley, Chicago Tribune

        The Fresno Bee It's very important to note that the rating for "Insidious: Chapter 3" is PG-13, which means that director/writer Leigh Whannell has structured his movie to be scary without having to rely on gore. Audiences have become so desensitized to blood and guts that horror movies now have to be smarter. And that makes them better. The film is the third in the series, but it goes back in time before the haunting of the Lambert family that made up the first two offerings. This ... (read more)

      • Love & Mercy poster image

        Love & Mercy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence poster image

        A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

        Peter Debruge, Chicago Tribune

        Variety Who would expect the new Roy Andersson picture -- "the final part of a trilogy on being a human being" -- to be life-affirming? And yet, from its comic title to the wistful smile that accompanies its over-too-soon last shot, Andersson's delightfully odd "A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence" finds the Swedish master of comic absurdity feeling downright generous, perched at a comfortable enough distance from this coterie of sad sacks and lonelyhearts to ... (read more)

      • San Andreas poster image

        San Andreas

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars. The fault is the star of "San Andreas," a fairly entertaining weapon of mass destruction reminding us that life's blessings come to those who receive preferential billing. We may as well call it "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Earthquake," though the tremors in "San Andreas" aren't so much mad as disappointed. So many Californians to wipe out in only 107 minutes of screen time! That's 51 minutes shorter than Roland Emmerich... (read more)

      • Aloft poster image


        Peter Debruge, Chicago Tribune

        Variety Director Claudia Llosa expands her preoccupations with mysticism and superstition in the modern world, working her way up from a medieval-minded Andean village in "Madeinusa" (2006) to faith healing at the frigid far reaches of the Arctic Circle with "Aloft." But this time, instead of seeming plugged into some primitive native religion, the Peruvian director invents a rickety belief system as a pretext for tearing it all down, botching the telling of a more satisfy... (read more)

      • Poltergeist poster image


        Andrew Barker, Chicago Tribune

        Variety The closing credits for Gil Kenan's remake of the 1982 horror classic "Poltergeist" feature the band Spoon covering the Cramps' 1980 punk classic "TV Set." Spoon is a tasteful, studious yet largely anodyne indie-rock outfit that has become an NPR staple; the Cramps were a scuzzy, unhinged psychobilly band whose most famous gig took place in an actual mental hospital. It's hard to think of a more fitting postscript for this professionally executed yet bloodless film... (read more)

      • Tomorrowland poster image


        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)

      • I'll See You in My Dreams poster image

        I'll See You in My Dreams

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Our attraction to the movies starts from simple building blocks: a face, a heart-wrenching separation, a pratfall. But here are two simple pleasures I defy anyone to argue against. I speak of Blythe Danner's and Sam Elliott's speaking voices. Both instruments are showcased in the modest, Kickstarter-funded heartwarmer "I'll See You in My Dreams." To reiterate what others have already noted, it's stupidly uncommon for an American indie (let alone a better-funded studio project) to gi... (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)

      • Pitch Perfect 2 poster image

        Pitch Perfect 2

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        Can we please talk about the snottiness of "Pitch Perfect 2"? It's seriously snotty. It's a two-hour lesson in how to act like a frenemy to your alleged friends. And it's not funny enough. Correction: For the sequel to become a global success, yes, it's funny enough. And some of the vocals are choice. But I am not representing the a cross-section of the planet's "Pitch Perfect" fan base with this review, I'm representing myself, and I found the new movie snide and lazy ins... (read more)

      • Slow West poster image

        Slow West

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        There's an alien feel to "Slow West," an unconventionally conventional Western about a romantic tenderfoot provided safe passage to the frontier by a grizzled, unsentimental gunman. Credit the New Zealand locations, fresh and convincingly Western, with nary a hobbit to be found. Credit the German-Irish Michael Fassbender, who heads a cast that gives this immigrant era a distinctly international feel. But credit most of all first-time director John Maclean, an old friend of Fassbende... (read more)

      • Where Hope Grows poster image

        Where Hope Grows

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        "Where Hope Grows" is a sometimes moving and generally watchable melodrama about a drunken ex-ballplayer who finds purpose and a friend back in his home town. But unlike most faith-based films, it isn't a church that saves him, or a pastor or devout Christian who shows him the way. It's a teen with Down syndrome. The kid's nicknamed Produce, thanks to his job at the local supermarket. That's where Calvin Campbell (Kristoffer Polaha) stumbles into him. Calvin's a single-dad whose tee... (read more)

      • 5 Flights Up poster image

        5 Flights Up

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        The considerable cinematic charms of Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman are no match for the hell that is the New York real estate market in "5 Flights Up," a middling comedy about getting old, trying to downsize and running up against real estate agents, hagglers and looky Lous. If you've ever sold anything, you know that last category of gawker. They're the best running gag in "5 Flights Up," the assorted flakes, narcissists, power couples and others who acquire nicknames a... (read more)

      • Saint Laurent poster image

        Saint Laurent

        Guy Lodge, Chicago Tribune

        Variety Even in a contemporary film culture where no idea seems too thin to try twice, the arrival of two Yves Saint Laurent biopics in the space of five months counts as a distinct curiosity: The enduring influence of the French fashion god, who died in 2008, is beyond question, but his life doesn't seem an obvious source of fascination to the filmgoing public. Yet if Jalil Lespert's bland, authorized "Yves Saint Laurent" represents the pret-a-porter version of its subject, Bertran... (read more)

      • Avengers: Age of Ultron poster image

        Avengers: Age of Ultron

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        When I say "Avengers: Age of Ultron" won't disappoint a majority of its pre-sold, culturally obligated fans around the world -- the world perpetually on the verge of extinction in the Marvel universe -- you know what I mean. You know what the movie promises, and would be foolish, or inept, not to deliver. Action, relentless and assaultive. Wisecracks, numerous, pretty sharp and evenly parceled out among Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Mark Ruffalo (Hulk), Chris... (read more)

      • Far From the Madding Crowd poster image

        Far From the Madding Crowd

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Equipped with its own brand of rough-hewn glamour, the new film version of the 1874 love quadrangle "Far From the Madding Crowd" is a long way from the widescreen, 171-minute running time and anachronistic Julie Christie eyeliner of the Thomas Hardy novel's best-known previous adaptation, released in 1968. In '68 the posters for director John Schlesinger's version touted the story of "a willful passionate girl ... and the three men who want her!" Little of that sort of ful... (read more)

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

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

        Betsy Sharkey, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck poster image

        Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

        Dennis Harvey, Chicago Tribune

        Variety The short, unhappy life of legendary grunge band Nirvana's driving force gets probably definitive screen treatment in "Cobain: Montage of Heck." Like fellow Sundance entry "Listen to Me Marlon," Brett Morgan's documentary creates a virtual autobiography largely from personal archival materials. Both films are absorbing and highly accomplished, the major difference being that while Brando lived eight incident-filled decades in and out of the spotlight, "Heck's&... (read more)

      • Monkey Kingdom poster image

        Monkey Kingdom

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Compile all the sufferings and adversities heaped upon all the vulnerable protagonists in the complete works of Charles Dickens, from "Little Dorrit" to "Oliver Twist," and you'd still fall short of the 81 minutes of hardship endured by Maya, the simian heroine of Disneynature's new nature documentary "Monkey Kingdom." I write this as someone who finds all of nature ruthlessly manipulative -- a cheap excuse to make us cry, basically, though a lot of it's amazing ... (read more)

      • Furious 7 poster image

        Furious 7

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Under the hood, we're all Vin Diesel, trying to live a meaningful life a quarter-mile at a time. Yet the film series begun in the pre-9/11 era with "The Fast and the Furious" has sustained itself through weak sequels and exuberant ones, and has become not a drag race but the Indy 500 of the movies: a reliable if repetitive ode to fossil fuel. Keep it coming, pal. We'll tell you when we've had enough. "They say the open road helps you see where you've been ... and where you're g... (read more)

      • The Salt of the Earth poster image

        The Salt of the Earth

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Watching "The Salt of the Earth," the compelling new documentary about photographer Sebastiao Salgado, it becomes clear early on just how odd it is to experience Salgado's work on someone else's timetable. With an exhibition or a book of photographs, you set your own clock, spending as much time or as little inside a particular image as you like. With film, that's not the case. Co-directors Wim Wenders (a huge Salgado fan) and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado (the photographer's son) linger ... (read more)

      • White God poster image

        White God

        Guy Lodge, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips Variety The words "release the hounds" take on vibrant new meaning in "White God," a thrillingly strange update of the "Lassie Come Home" formula in which one lost mutt's incredible journey to sanctuary evolves into a full-scale man-versus-beast revolution. Otherwise given no explanation in the film, the title "White God" may be a tip of the hat to Samuel Fuller, whose 1982 race-relations ... (read more)

      • The Wrecking Crew poster image

        The Wrecking Crew

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        To Beach Boys guru Brian Wilson, "they were the ones with all the spirit and all the know-how." To Nancy Sinatra, they were "unsung heroes," to Herb Alpert, "an established groove machine." And to celebrated songwriter Jimmy Webb, they were simply "stone cold rock 'n' roll professionals." If the history of rock music means anything to you, you know the individuals in question could only be the Wrecking Crew, a legendary group of Los Angeles-based studio... (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 Rewrite poster image

        The Rewrite

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips Hugh Grant doesn't flutter his eyes and stammer for comic effect any more. The long forelock that bounced over one sparkling blue eye was victim of that middle-aged-man trim from the hair stylist. But the guy still has a way with an offhandedly witty, cutting line. So in "The Rewrite," he is well cast as a once-hot screenwriter forced to pitch his ideas to the mere "embryos" who run film studios today, mispla... (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


        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)

      • Spare Parts poster image

        Spare Parts

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        "Spare Parts" is a pleasant enough run-of-the-mill outsiders-beat-the-odds dramedy in the "Race the Sun" mold. It's about undocumented high school kids who enter a big robot-building competition and make a splash in that state most hostile to illegal immigration -- Arizona. So it's a little more concerned with making a statement than with covering new ground in an original and entertaining way. An ROTC go-getter (Carlos PenaVega) needs to get into the Army to help his undo... (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)

      • Top Five poster image

        Top Five

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "I don't feel funny anymore," complains the movie star played by Chris Rock in "Top Five," but don't worry. Unlike Woody Allen's "Stardust Memories," this cinematic confessional, which is also a genial wish-fulfillment fantasy, is actually funny. It's also indulgent, uneven and naggingly misogynist, which is weird, given how sharp writer-director Rock has been on any number of other subjects lately. In the runup to the release of "Top Five," Rock has be... (read more)

      • She's Beautiful When She's Angry poster image

        She's Beautiful When She's Angry

        Sheri Linden, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times Those who bristle at the term "feminist," which inexplicably has fallen out of fashion among many young adults, might find a vibrant new documentary enlightening and inspiring. "She's Beautiful When She's Angry," director Mary Dore's incisive portrait of so-called second-wave feminism of the late 1960s, is an exceptional chronicle, its mix of archival material and new interviews bristling with the energy and insight of one of the most important social mov... (read more)

      • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 poster image

        The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In honor of the title we'll break this part of the sentence with a colon, and then use a portentous dash: "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 1" is a worthy third movie in the Suzanne Collins franchise -- destined to satisfy the legions of filmgoers willing to swing with a lot of scheming and skulking in an underground bunker resembling the world's most frightening Marriott, in order to get to the revolution. The third book in Collins' dystopian-literature juggernaut has been halv... (read more)

      • Big Hero 6 poster image

        Big Hero 6

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Big Hero 6" we have a robot considerably more beguiling than his movie. Yet there's enough visual invention afoot, and enough spirited interplay among the human characters, to keep things bobbing along. Baymax is the name of the robot in question. He resembles a flotation device or the Michelin Man's blobbier brother. He and his adventures come from the pages of Marvel Comics, which marks a first for Disney animation. It will not be the last; Disney's purchase of Marvel five years ... (read more)

      • Laggies poster image


        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In "Laggies," Keira Knightley tries on a generic American dialect. Based on the results, the actress defines that as "nasal, and how!" Her character, Megan, is 28 years old and a Seattle native. She has thus far let life happen to her, and around her. She lacks a career (she freelances as a sign-twirler for her accountant father, played by Jeff Garlin) and finds herself through another year of a lengthy relationship with her boyfriend, nice but dull, played by Mark Webber.... (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)

      • The Book of Life poster image

        The Book of Life

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        "The Book of Life" is a Mexican-accented kids' cartoon so colorful and unconventionally dazzling it almost reinvents the art form. Endlessly inventive, warm and traditional, it serves up Mexican culture in a riot of colors and mariachi-flavored music. The tale is told by a museum tour guide in an effort to impress a raucous bunch of American school kids. Mary Beth (Christina Applegate) recounts a love story built around Dia de los Muertos, Mexico's Day of the Dead. And the moment th... (read more)

      • Gone Girl poster image

        Gone Girl

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Maze Runner poster image

        The Maze Runner

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Get On Up poster image

        Get On Up

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Everything about "Get on Up," a provocatively structured and unusually rich musical biopic, is a little better, a little less formula-bound, a little sharper than the average specimen in this genre. I'm surprised it's this good, given that director Tate Taylor is coming off "The Help," a sweet fraud of a civil rights fable saved by Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. They play key supporting roles in "Get on Up." What Taylor achieves in his James Brown story works a... (read more)

      • Maleficent poster image


        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The formula works. It worked with "Wicked" on stage and it worked with "Frozen" on film -- tilting the storytelling prism so that a new angle on a well-known fairy tale appears in the light. The strategy depends on humanizing characters formerly known as evil, so that another tale of conflicted impulses emerges from the story we know, driven by female antagonist/protagonist hybrids who aren't bad, just misunderstood. So it goes with "Maleficent," the Disney corpo... (read more)

      • Ida poster image


        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips One of the year's gems, photographed in velvety, expressive black-and-white by two different cinematographers working as one, "Ida" accomplishes so much, so surely in its 80 minutes, it's as if the director Pawel Pawlikowski had dared himself: How can I tell this fascinating story efficiently yet without rushing and abridging the narrative? His answer is the film itself, set in early 1960s Poland, not so many years aft... (read more)

      • Rio 2 poster image

        Rio 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Finding Vivian Maier poster image

        Finding Vivian Maier

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Vivian Maier is a great Chicago story. And what she did for, and with, the faces, neighborhoods and character of mid-20th century Chicago deserves comparison to what Robert Frank accomplished, in a wider format, with "The Americans." "Finding Vivian Maier" captures the bittersweet life, stealth photographic career and tantalizing riddle embodied by Maier (1926-2009), who was of French and Austrian ancestry. For much of her life Maier lived and worked as a nanny in Chicago'... (read more)

      • 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)

      • Walking With Dinosaurs poster image

        Walking With Dinosaurs

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug poster image

        The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        One year and several hundred films later, I confess my mind isn't over-full of vivid memories of director Peter Jackson's first "Hobbit." It did the job, in its leisurely, fill-out-the-trilogy fashion, albeit looking like clinically detailed crud when viewed in 48 frames-per-second digital projection. Maybe my eyes will catch up to the glories of this alleged improvement. Maybe not. Format aside: Why so much "Hobbit," when the book itself supplies just enough story for one... (read more)

      • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire poster image

        The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" is a lot like its own celebrity heroine, Katniss Everdeen, who begins this second "Hunger Games" movie fulfilling a public relations tour as penance for her killer -- literally, killer -- popularity. She is adored by millions; the books are too. The three Suzanne Collins novels, to be spread across four films, are being adapted with both eyes on fidelity to the source material. All "Catching Fire" had to do was to show up, look g... (read more)

      • 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)

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