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      • Bleed for This poster image

        Bleed for This

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        No flatfoot, no knockout, writer-director Ben Younger's "Bleed for This" wins on points. Miles Teller stars as Vinny Pazienza, later known as Vinny Paz, also known as the Pazmanian Devil. The fighter, a working-class Rhode Island hero, held world titles in three weight classes: lightweight, junior middleweight and super middleweight. Teller seizes the day; the actor, best known for "Whiplash" and for not getting the Ryan Gosling role in "La La Land," is now free ... (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)

      • 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)

      • Inferno poster image

        Inferno

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        We must remember this: Movie stars such as James Stewart, Bette Davis, Cary Grant, Denzel Washington, Katharine Hepburn, supporting ringers like Peter Lorre and Thelma Ritter -- they all made heaps of movies to forget, along with the ones to remember. Generations from now, when we're watching Turner Classic Movies and the three Dan Brown movies starring Tom Hanks and directed by Ron Howard rotate onto the schedule, it'll be like: Oh, yeah. Those. I'd forgotten about those movies. Howard and H... (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)

      • Deepwater Horizon poster image

        Deepwater Horizon

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Certain ingredients help a disaster movie qualify as "fun." These include, but are not limited to, asteroids; Carla Gugino, Dwayne Johnson and Alexandra Daddario outrunning an earthquake-created tsunami; global warming, or icing, on a Roland Emmerich "Day After Tomorrow" scale; and, from the genre's '70s heyday, the "all-star cast" inclusion of Red Buttons, Helen Reddy or a theme song sung by the fabulous Maureen McGovern. "Deepwater Horizon" contains n... (read more)

      • Masterminds poster image

        Masterminds

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        There's a certain subset of the population that may find Zach Galifianakis in a ridiculous hairdo the height of comedy. If you are in that segment, welcome, join us. You'll find much merriment in the lightweight and very silly comedy "Masterminds," which is astonishingly based on the true story of one of the largest cash robberies in the United States. Also, Galifianakis sports a variety of insane wigs and 'dos, from a long blonde number, to a kinky black perm, to his own Prince Val... (read more)

      • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children poster image

        Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Now and then, "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" reminds you director Tim Burton still has it, in bulk. My favorite image dominates one of the movie's posters. It depicts an ethereal young woman being flown like a kite by the seaside. Another image, in the trailers, shows a wide-eyed boy, who's sweet on the zero-gravity girl, swimming down, down, down into the sea, his head comfortably encased in a diving-bell-sized air bubble. Simple ideas, charmingly realized. To be sur... (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)

      • Don't Breathe poster image

        Don't Breathe

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Before it became "Don't Breathe," the new home-invasion thriller with a difference had the working title "A Man in the Dark." This would be like calling "Wait Until Dark" "The Lady of Greenwich Village" -- accurate, but dull. It's the second feature directed by Uruguayan writer-director Fede Alvarez, who became a bankable genre specialist with a single movie: his slick, profitable 2013 remake of "Evil Dead." "Don't Breathe" is far le... (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)

      • Sausage Party poster image

        Sausage Party

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Gleason poster image

        Gleason

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The word "hero" gets thrown around a lot, and it's a title that Steve Gleason first earned during the first football game back in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina. The New Orleans Saints safety blocked a punt and became a symbol of renewed hope for the broken city, and effectively cemented his status as a New Orleans sports hero. But as we see in the documentary "Gleason," it's the way he's tackled what's come after that establishes his place in history. In 2011, thre... (read more)

      • Suicide Squad poster image

        Suicide Squad

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Bad Moms poster image

        Bad Moms

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Jason Bourne poster image

        Jason Bourne

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Ice Age: Collision Course poster image

        Ice Age: Collision Course

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Ghostbusters poster image

        Ghostbusters

        Jake Coyle, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Secret Life of Pets poster image

        The Secret Life of Pets

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Finding Dory poster image

        Finding Dory

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping poster image

        Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Alice Through the Looking Glass poster image

        Alice Through the Looking Glass

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Angry Birds Movie poster image

        The Angry Birds Movie

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Meddler poster image

        The Meddler

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Nice Guys poster image

        The Nice Guys

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Captain America: Civil War poster image

        Captain America: Civil War

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Dheepan poster image

        Dheepan

        Justin Chang, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Miles Ahead poster image

        Miles Ahead

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • I Saw the Light poster image

        I Saw the Light

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Anomalisa poster image

        Anomalisa

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Sad, beautiful, the wittiest film of the year, "Anomalisa" takes place largely in a hotel room in Cincinnati, where a customer service expert (his well-regarded book: "How May I Help You Help Them?") has traveled from Los Angeles. He's delivering the keynote address at a regional customer service conference. Honestly, could the premise for a feature-length story of middle-aged malaise and inchoate yearning be any drabber? Hardly. And yet directors Duke Johnson and Charlie ... (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)

      • Carol poster image

        Carol

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By now, the critical reception for director Todd Haynes' "Carol" has built a fortress of prestige around the film itself, much as the title character played by Cate Blanchett goes through her life protected by just the right clothes and makeup, a lacquered, tightly put-together look ever-so-slightly subverting the image of the quintessential wife and mother of her time and station. On the fortress wall there are signs declaring this adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith novel "T... (read more)

      • Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip poster image

        Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Peanuts Movie poster image

        The Peanuts Movie

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • He Named Me Malala poster image

        He Named Me Malala

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Chances are, you're already familiar with Malala Yousafszai, the young activist and Nobel laureate who survived being shot in the head by the Taliban in Pakistan. But with Davis Guggenheim's new documentary, "He Named Me Malala," based on her memoir, "I Am Malala," you'll get to know the remarkable girl in a much more intimate and illuminating light. While the film itself is plagued with structural storytelling issues that are at best emotionally numbing, at worst confound... (read more)

      • Pan poster image

        Pan

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Everest poster image

        Everest

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It sounds bizarre, considering "Everest" -- a fairly good, extremely grueling movie as far as it goes -- tracks the true-life fortunes of a battered group of climbers to the highest place on Earth. Yet somehow it doesn't go far enough. In May 1996, eight climbers died on Mount Everest: three on the north face, under circumstances less known to the outside world, and five others on the south face in a far more extensively documented series of unfortunate events. (They were hardly alo... (read more)

      • Minions poster image

        Minions

        Rick Bentley, Chicago Tribune

        It's the role of a minion to be a servile follower of a person in charge. That means they are resigned to playing the supporting role. That's the problem with the new animated comedy "Minions." The pill-shaped, yellow characters introduced in "Despicable Me" as the subordinates to the villainous Gru have now taken center stage. The charm and humor they brought in tiny doses in the previous films now come in a massive blast that wears thin quickly. "Minions" start... (read more)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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 Girl on the Train poster image

        The Girl on the Train

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Let's be Blunt. Emily Blunt is an excellent and wily actress. In "The Girl on the Train" she's persuasive enough, both in angsty, raging extremis and in wary voyeur mode, to play a sort of shell game with her own messed-up movie. Look over here! I've figured out how to make this plot device behave like a real person! The words you'd use to describe director Tate Taylor's film version of the best-selling Paula Hawkins novel are the same words one of the patronizing male characters mi... (read more)

      • The LEGO Movie poster image

        The LEGO Movie

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Her poster image

        Her

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Frozen poster image

        Frozen

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Big, bright, often beautiful and essentially an action movie, as are most animated features these days, "Frozen" comes from Walt Disney Animation Studios. While Disney credits the 1845 Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale "The Snow Queen" as primary inspiration, the movie owes a lot more to the Broadway blockbuster "Wicked." Example: In "Frozen," when its misunderstood young sorceress (voiced by Idina Menzel, who won a Tony for originating the green one i... (read more)

      • The Best Man Holiday poster image

        The Best Man Holiday

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Best Man Holiday" follows in the footsteps of writer-director Malcolm D. Lee's successful 1999 comedy "The Best Man," using a template familiar to anyone who may have seen "The Big Chill" or its micro-budget predecessor, "Return of the Secaucus Seven." They're all different in their qualities and atmosphere. "The Best Man Holiday," for example, is a far more Tyler Perry-ish mixture of comedy and tragedy than the easygoing "Best Man&q... (read more)

      • All Is Bright poster image

        All Is Bright

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        If there is any reason, besides an annual craving for cinematic Christmas cheer, to see "Almost Christmas," that reason is Mo'Nique. Heck, the Mo'Nique bloopers at the end of the film are worth the price of admission. So thank you, writer/director David E. Talbert for finally giving Mo'Nique a decent role after her Oscar-winning turn in 2009's "Precious" -- we needed her back on the big screen. Talbert does right by essentially turning the cameras on and letting Mo'Nique d... (read more)

      • Much Ado About Nothing poster image

        Much Ado About Nothing

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Media Services Film Clips Finally! A romantic comedy that works. And not just because of Shakespeare. There's a disarming home-movie vibe to adapter/director Joss Whedon's small-scale, black-and-white contemporary version of "Much Ado About Nothing." He shot it in 12 days in his Santa Monica home, for starters, after completing principal photography on "The Avengers." For his Shakespearean vacation, Whedon called on a pickup ensemble ... (read more)

      • Rise of the Guardians poster image

        Rise of the Guardians

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

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

      • War Horse poster image

        War Horse

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        On stage in London and New York, "War Horse" has found a wide and emotionally drained audience. How could it be otherwise? The horrors of World War I plus the horrors of war as endured by a horse, capped by a ruthlessly effective happy ending: I don't mean to be glib, but that is an awful lot to cry about. Befitting its origins as a children's novel by Michael Morpurgo, the National Theatre of Great Britain stage edition of "War Horse" transcends its own choppy vignette st... (read more)

      • Arthur Christmas poster image

        Arthur Christmas

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Five years ago, the Bristol, England-based Aardman animation folks -- who created the stop-motion legends Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep and therefore are eligible for sainthood -- made the digitally animated British/American co-production "Flushed Away." Jampacked with peril, if not with charm, the film had both eyes on a crossover American audience that never materialized. Now comes happier news: a much better film. The company's second digitally animated feature, billed a... (read more)

      • Hugo poster image

        Hugo

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Rich and stimulating even when it wanders, director Martin Scorsese's first 3-D effort, "Hugo," takes place mostly within the confines of a railway station modeled on Montparnasse. The story, developed by screenwriter John Logan from Brian Selznick's graphic novel "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," ranges beyond the station. But every locale in Scorsese's vision of 1931 Paris looks and feels like another planet. The filmmaker embraces storybook artifice as wholeheartedly as h... (read more)

      • The Skin I Live In poster image

        The Skin I Live In

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Part of the payoff of the new Pedro Almodovar movie, "The Skin I Live In," comes in seeing Antonio Banderas reunite, after two decades, with the director whose flamboyant black comedies launched Banderas into stardom. The last film they made together was "Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!" In "The Skin I Live In," despite its psychosexual figure eights and risky medical procedures, Banderas keeps a tight seal on his usual ebullience, anchoring with a meticulously straight ... (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)

      • Hanna poster image

        Hanna

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Hanna" presents the problem of the well-made diversion that is, at its core, repellent. It is not because of who's on screen. In director Joe Wright's film, Saoirse Ronan sets her piercing gaze on the role of the teenage daughter of a trained CIA assassin, played by Eric Bana. The story begins in snowy northern Finland where father, rugged but humane, schools his little girl in all manner of brutal combat and survival tactics. Dad's former supervisor, a slab of granite-like resolve... (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)

      • The Tourist poster image

        The Tourist

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        ``The Tourist is a facsimile of a masquerade of a gloss on ``Charade, and on all the lesser cinematic charades that followed in the wake of director Stanley Donen's 1963 picture. While it's fairly easy to take in its retro way - it certainly takes it easy on the audience - it's a peculiar sort of ... leisure thriller, I suppose is the phrase. When the Johnny Depp character scurries against a green screen in his jammies along tiled Venice rooftops, fleeing Russian mobsters, the question arises... (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)

      • The Expendables poster image

        The Expendables

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The cinematic equivalent of Ribfest, Sylvester Stallone's "The Expendables" is all gristle and meat, featuring more leathery tough guys than "Cruising," "The Dirty Dozen" and the '80s and '90s Cannon films canon put together. Is it fun? Sort of. But it shoulda coulda been a ton of fun. Instead you take your auto assault 12-gauge shotgun splatterings and unintentional laughs, which I have a feeling were intentional unintentional ones, where you can. The Expendable... (read more)

      • Los Abrazos Rotos poster image

        Los Abrazos Rotos

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Sleek and swank, Pedro Almodovar's latest movie, "Broken Embraces," is destined to be overlooked come awards time. Almodovar's talent and interests are those of a mellow craftsman who serves his themes and performers without much fuss. It's a strange thing to say about a moviemaker working at his level -- once a provocateur, now a cinematic nostalgist with taste -- but Almodovar can be taken for granted far too easily. His genre samplings, a little noir, a little melodrama, a little... (read more)

      • Julie & Julia poster image

        Julie & Julia

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Julie & Julia," which could also be called "Butter & Butterer," may not be great cinema, but people going to a movie like this for great cinema are sniffing around the wrong kitchen. You go to a movie like this for the sauces and stews, and for the considerable pleasure of seeing (and listening to) Meryl Streep's drolly exuberant performance as Julia Child, the towering culinary icon with the distinctively plummy vocal intonations evoking a flute, an oboe and Ed Wynn afte... (read more)

      • Monsters vs. Aliens poster image

        Monsters vs. Aliens

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Watchmen poster image

        Watchmen

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Talk all you want about the dense novelistic embroidery of the graphic novel "Watchmen," its obsessive detail and clever subversion of superhero mythology and masked avenger cliches. But really, the appeal of the film version, such as it is, relates almost entirely to eye-for-an-eye, severed-limb-for-a-limb vengeance, two hours and 41 minutes of it, with just enough solemnity to make anyone who thought "The Dark Knight" was a little gassy think twice about which superhero ... (read more)

      • Under the Sea poster image

        Under the Sea

        Michael Esposito, Chicago Tribune

        Jim Carrey narrates "Under the Sea 3D," a new installment in the underwater 3-D filmmaking that IMAX pretty much owns these days. Nothing compares to the images in these films, and director Howard Hall, whose previous offerings include the IMAX hits "Deep Sea 3D" and "Into the Deep 3D," knows his way around the underwater camera - all 1,300 pounds of it - and personally tallied 358 hours of the dive team's 2,073 hours under the sea (accomplished in 1,668 total di... (read more)

      • Slumdog Millionaire poster image

        Slumdog Millionaire

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Slumdog Millionaire" is a ruthlessly effective paean to destiny, leaving nothing to chance. It also has a good shot at winning this year's Academy Award for best picture, if the pundits, Allah, Shiva and Fox Searchlight Pictures have anything to say about it. Each life-or-death cliffhanger and meticulous splash of color, every arrow plucked from director Danny Boyle's sari-wrapped quiver takes aim at the same objective: to leave you exhausted but wowed. The end-credits sequence, a ... (read more)

      • Marley & Me poster image

        Marley & Me

        Jessica Reaves, Chicago Tribune

        There are two kinds of people in this world: those who love dogs, and those who have no souls. "Marley & Me" is tailor-made for the former, who will laugh delightedly for the first hour of this unabashedly earnest, unexpectedly funny movie, and spend the remaining hour weeping openly into whatever absorbent materials they can find in the dark theater. (Hide your scarves.) When John Grogan, a newspaper columnist, published his 2005 memoir of life with Marley, a boisterous yellow lab... (read more)

      • The Tale of Despereaux poster image

        The Tale of Despereaux

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The chipper cynicism of the "Shrek" movies ($2.2 billion in grosses worldwide) is a popular commodity indeed because so many cultures share the same fairy tale tropes and enjoy seeing them shot at with a pea shooter. The success of those films makes it doubly hard for a more earnest, emotional number such as "The Tale of Despereaux" to gain traction with a mass audience, particularly a mass audience of preteens for whom DreamWorks and Nickelodeon-fed sarcasm is the default... (read more)

      • Fly Me to the Moon poster image

        Fly Me to the Moon

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Man on Wire poster image

        Man on Wire

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        On a misty day in August, 1974, 1,350 feet above the Manhattan streets, French wire-walker Philippe Petit spent 45 minutes gliding back and forth between the south and the north towers of the World Trade Center, eight crossings in all. "Man on Wire" captures the renegade artistry and poetic audacity of Petit's performance. The film itself is perfectly poised between artistry and audacity. It's beautiful. For the record: Robert Zemeckis ("Forrest Gump," "Beowulf")... (read more)

      • Drillbit Taylor poster image

        Drillbit Taylor

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        We can't go back to the dear old movie bullies of yesteryear. It's too late. The world is now officially more dangerous and violent teens aren't much of a punch line. The new Owen Wilson vehicle "Drillbit Taylor" knows this. The film's eerily unfunny antagonist skulks around in a hooded sweatshirt, looking like one of the Columbine perps - as much as it's possible to do so and still exist inside some sort of comedy, albeit a queasy and increasingly grim one. "Drillbit Taylor&qu... (read more)

      • Arctic Tale poster image

        Arctic Tale

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "An Inconvenient Truth" for the juice-box set, "Arctic Tale" has my 6-year-old son very interested in the concept of helping polar bears and walrus pups and other wildlife live better, longer, icier lives. So how bad can it be? The film has turned him into a good little eco-fellow. It might be temporary, but I hope not. He's turning off lights around the house when they're not needed. He's saving up for a hybrid car. He thought the film was "not bad - better than I th... (read more)

      • Hot Rod poster image

        Hot Rod

        Jessica Reaves, Chicago Tribune

        If you've seen "Saturday Night Live" recently, you may experience a familiar sensation as you're watching "Hot Rod": Andy Samberg's doing a bit, and you're not really sure where it's going. Sure, it's funny, mainly because it's utterly absurd and meandering, but you can't help wondering when he's going to get to the point. And of course he never does because there is no point, but you forgive him and laugh anyway because he seems like a really nice guy. Oh, look, here come... (read more)

      • Zodiac poster image

        Zodiac

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In 1978, in one of many letters to the San Francisco Chronicle, the man known as Zodiac wrote: "I am waiting for a good movie about me." A generation later, David Fincher has made it. "Zodiac" is not the serial killer tale audiences expect in this torture-friendly, cold-cased era. To be sure, Fincher has been down this road before. In 1995, the director, trained in special effects and videos and the third "Alien" movie, broke through with "Se7en," the ... (read more)

      • Children of Men poster image

        Children of Men

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Dsytopian nightmares are so yesterday. They're a dime a dozen in the movies; earlier this year, for example, "V for Vendetta" came up with exactly 10 cents' worth of cinematic interest in exchange for your $9.50. The latest hellish forecast for our planet, however, makes up for the sluggishness of "Vendetta" in spades. It is "Children of Men," based on a P.D. James novel, and as directed - dazzlingly - by Alfonso Cuaron, it is that rare futuristic thriller: grim ... (read more)

      • Happy Feet poster image

        Happy Feet

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A dancing-penguin epic with more mood swings than "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Terms of Endearment" put together, "Happy Feet" also claims the distinction of being the grimmest film with the word "happy" in its title since "Happy Birthday, Wanda June." This is merely a fact, not a dismissal. Far from it: A lot of director George Miller's film is gorgeous and exciting. Its craftsmanship and ambition put it a continent ahead of nearly every othe... (read more)

      • Iraq in Fragments poster image

        Iraq in Fragments

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        "Iraq in Fragments" is one of the year's finest documentaries, a remarkable example of the conjunction of a burningly topical and newsworthy subject with a brilliant filmmaker. Director James Longley's intimate three-part look at the separate Sunni, Shiite and Kurd cultures in the modern chaos of Iraq reveals the country in a way we don't get in our relatively sketchy evening news reports. Shot in Iraq from 2003 to 2005, "Iraq in Fragments" comes as close as we probably c... (read more)

      • Akeelah and the Bee poster image

        Akeelah and the Bee

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Akeelah and the Bee" is predictable, corny and formulaic. Maybe we'll see it listed in some future edition of Webster's under the word "precornulaic." Yet this latest triumph of the spelling-bee spirit, like last year's earnest, flawed film version of "Bee Season," features a film-saving performance where it counts most: from the kid playing the kid with big brain and even bigger heart. Keke Palmer portrays Akeelah, fictional spelling ace of Los Angeles' Crensha... (read more)

      • Deep Sea IMAX 3D poster image

        Deep Sea IMAX 3D

        Michael Esposito, Chicago Tribune

        Director Howard Hall (?Into the Deep,? ?Island of the Sharks?) and the underwater IMAX film team do their usual splendid job of making the sea and its often-hungry denizens look beautiful in ?Deep Sea 3D.? While the film spans the oceans, much of it takes place in near-shore areas such as coral reefs and kelp forests - areas teeming with life from minuscule plankton to a hefty (though still youthful) right whale, not to mention rays, eels, a multitude of crustaceans, anemones, seastars, barra... (read more)

      • The Family Stone poster image

        The Family Stone

        Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune

        With mid-December buzz focused squarely on gay cowboys and Israeli assassins, and Tim Allen on ?Santa Clause? hiatus, there?s room in the Hollywood holiday landscape for a warm and cozy, frothy and familiar Christmas weeper. ?The Family Stone? aims to please, and lands precisely on so-so. Writer-director Thomas Bezucha gifts us with the Stone clan, ready-made and custom-quirked to remind you of your own (likely less attractive) dysfunctional family - those horribly insane buggers you suddenl... (read more)

      • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe poster image

        The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In 1949 C.S. Lewis completed ?The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,? a fantasy set in World War II-era England and a parallel, mystical universe found just past the overcoats and straight on till the lion king. The book, a tremendous success, ended with these 10 words: ?? it was only the beginning of the adventures of Narnia.? Certainly the employees of Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media, funders of the $180 million film version, hope it works out that way. Lewis, the Oxford don and friend... (read more)

      • Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang poster image

        Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

        Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

        Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.) is as inept a thief as he is a narrator in ?Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang,? a rich, pulpy meta-movie that?s a guilty pleasure you don?t have to feel guilty about. As a Sam Spade-like narrator, Harry?s terrible. He even admits it, as the film yanks us from the past to the present to the past again, just so Harry can illuminate that one detail that makes the previous scene make sense. But who can blame him? Harry only fell into acting when a robbery went bad, cops chas... (read more)

      • Domino poster image

        Domino

        Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune

        Domino Harvey, the privileged daughter of British actor Laurence Harvey (Raymond Shaw in "The Manchurian Candidate") and model Paulene Stone, died from a fentanyl overdose in June at the age of 35. By all accounts, Domino led quite the life, seamlessly moving from the London fashion and club scene to the States, where, after trying her hand as a volunteer firefighter and ranch hand, she became a bounty hunter - and, apparently, a drug addict. (She died while out on bond, after bein... (read more)

      • Good Night, and Good Luck. poster image

        Good Night, and Good Luck.

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        They had voices then. With a delivery like the Voice of Doom?s slightly more optimistic brother, Edward R. Murrow brought the London Blitz to war-fixated radio listeners, which in turn brought international fame to the man behind the CBS microphone. Making the move to television and bolstering his reputation on the documentary program ?See It Now,? sponsored by ALCOA - when a specific installment proved too hot for ALCOA, Murrow and producer Fred Friendly simply paid for it themselves - Murro... (read more)

      • Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man poster image

        Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        As tools of seduction go, Leonard Cohen's voice - a rumble, as U2's Bono says in "Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man," that seems "to come from the subway" - ranks with the Marlene Dietrich growl and Johnny Hartman's lion purr. "I was born like this, I had no choice/I was born with the gift of a golden voice," goes one of the Montreal native's lyrics from "Tower of Song." Cohen's reputation as a melancholy rake, albeit a rake with pitch problems, owes a lot to... (read more)

      • Kung Fu Hustle poster image

        Kung Fu Hustle

        Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

        "Kung Fu Hustle" swaggers into theaters this Friday, delivering a full-on-the-mouth, sloppy-wet kiss to Hong Kong martial arts movies. Named Best Picture by the Hong Kong Film Critics Association, Stephen Chow's action-comedy suggests influences as diverse as early Gordon Liu movies, the Mortal Kombat video games and Looney Tunes cartoons. "Kung Fu Hustle" also represents, in part, an Asian movement to recapture international audiences. Blockbusters such as Quentin Taranti... (read more)

      • Brick poster image

        Brick

        Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune

        The hard-bitten language in writer-director Rian Johnson's debut feature, a noir mystery in the tradition of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler set in the high school hallways and highways of Southern California, is challenging to follow, at best. In "Brick," "gum" means "to mess things up," "heel" is "to walk away from," "jake" stands for drugs, and "yeg" is just another word for "guy." If this yeg doses bad ... (read more)

      • The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou poster image

        The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Wes Anderson's "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou," in which Bill Murray plays a shaggy-dog American version of oceanographer-filmmaker Jacques-Yves Cousteau, is a comedy that seems to have most everything going for it but the ability to make us laugh. Despite its cast and director, it's an amazingly unfunny movie, drowned in its own conceits, half-strangled by the tongue so obtrusively in its cheek. Anderson, the writer-director of "Rushmore" and "The Royal Tenenbau... (read more)

      • Birth poster image

        Birth

        Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune

        In 2001, Jonathan Glazer, previously the director of commercials and music videos, made his stunning feature-film debut with "Sexy Beast," a slick, moody British gangster film that, with Ben Kingsley as the bad guy, was more a study of character than of crime. Mixing a conventional plot (an ex-thug and one more heist) with unusual visuals and superb performances, Glazer's premiere brimmed with emotion and authenticity. That's all lost in "Birth," his middling sophomore eff... (read more)

      • Friday Night Lights poster image

        Friday Night Lights

        Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune

        "Friday Night Lights" opens with a sweeping overhead shot of the dust-choked West Texas town of Odessa - flat, brown, barren. It's a place described in H.G. Bissinger's book, on which this film is based, as "forever enmeshed in the cycles of the boom-and-bust oil town the highs of the boom years like a drug-induced euphoria followed by the lows of the bust and the realization that everything you had made during the boom had just been lost, followed again by the euphoria of boo... (read more)

      • Howl's Moving Castle poster image

        Howl's Moving Castle

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Hayao Miyazaki's "Howl's Moving Castle" is a great animated feature - and one made, obviously, as much for older audiences as very young ones. But this wondrous movie probably shouldn't be put in age brackets at all. It's perfect for anyone with a youthful heart and a rich imagination. Though highly reminiscent of the whimsical Japanese genius' last two films, 1997's "Princess Mononoke" and 2001's "Spirited Away," it's even more densely virtuosic. This new film t... (read more)

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