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      • Dr. Seuss' The Grinch poster image

        Dr. Seuss' The Grinch

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        We all feel a little grinchy sometimes. When holiday cheer becomes particularly oppressive, when we feel lonely in a crowd, when we would rather rain on someone's parade than admit defeat, Dr. Seuss gave us a way to describe that feeling with his classic holiday children's book "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." The universality of the emotion is why the tale endures, and why we're now on our third film adaptation of the story. Benedict Cumberbatch steps into the role as the Grinch i... (read more)

      • The Girl in the Spider's Web poster image

        The Girl in the Spider's Web

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Girl in the Spider's Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story" has lots of what you want, if you want something grindingly familiar. It's full of prettily photographed brutality, most of it in the neighborhood of Claire Foy, the latest screen incarnation of the dragon-tattooed Lisbeth Salander. Throughout the film the largely nonverbal Foy's either getting tased or choked or punched or shot or, worst of all, patronized, or she's the one doing the tasing, choking, punching and shooting. B... (read more)

      • Bohemian Rhapsody poster image

        Bohemian Rhapsody

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        At the center of the long-gestating Queen biopic "Bohemian Rhapsody" is the kind of performance that's less acting than it is the channeling of a spirit from another realm. Rami Malek takes to the role of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury with a studious intensity, making manifest the dueling relationship between the twin poles of Mercury's personality: his confidence and his insecurity. It's the centrifuge around which the rather uneven film whirls, and Malek keeps it going with his s... (read more)

      • What They Had poster image

        What They Had

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Amid the clank and calculation of the usual Hollywood machinery, a movie more attuned to the human heart of things such as "What They Had" deserves an audience. If it's good, that is. And it is. Small but sure, this low-keyed actors' feast marks the feature directorial debut of writer-director Elizabeth Chomko, who grew up in Chicago and the western suburb of Hinsdale, among other stops in a relocation-heavy childhood. "What They Had" comes from Chomko's experiences and me... (read more)

      • The Hate U Give poster image

        The Hate U Give

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's seriously satisfying to watch a screen version of a young-adult best-seller that knows what it's doing, and gets so much right. Just as Angie Thomas' debut novel "The Hate U Give" was good enough to transcend the conventional YA parameters, director George Tillman Jr.'s fully packed film version has the stuff to pull in all sorts of audiences. You never know how these things are going to translate, or sell, or if the timing's right. I hope it is. The movie works from a screenpl... (read more)

      • The Old Man & the Gun poster image

        The Old Man & the Gun

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In 2003, David Grann's lovably bizarre true-crime account "The Old Man and the Gun" appeared in The New Yorker, telling the unlikely story of Forrest Tucker, a natty serial bank robber with multiple prison escape attempts on his resume. Tucker ended up dying behind bars the year after the story brought him national renown. Such a man was made for the movies, destined specifically to attract the attention of a star of a certain age. Now 82, Robert Redford says "The Old Man and t... (read more)

      • Bad Times at the El Royale poster image

        Bad Times at the El Royale

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Some filmmakers make movies about the world; others make movies about other movies, or the puzzle being assembled before our eyes. Drew Goddard belongs to the second category, and he's pretty good at it. I'm still trying to figure out why I don't respond more fully to his work. In his writing-directing feature debut, "The Cabin in the Woods" (2012), "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" alum Goddard dismantled and recombined a crazy number of horror-movie tropes, and his bamboozle we... (read more)

      • First Man poster image

        First Man

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        There's enough going on in director Damien Chazelle's tense, distinctive Neil Armstrong biopic, "First Man," to leave the climactic, inspired Apollo 11 moon landing sequence aside for a few paragraphs. So hang in there, please, and we'll get to the flag. "First Man" comes from the James R. Hansen biography of the same name, exploring the far reaches of uncharted territory. The lunar mission, yes, of course. But really Chazelle's film, written by Josh Singer ("Spotligh... (read more)

      • Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween poster image

        Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The 2015 adaptation of R.L. Stine's popular "Goosebumps" book series was way better than it had any right to be. Starring Jack Black as a freewheeling version of the author, the film was a kid-friendly Halloween spookfest that examined the way we use horror as a coping mechanism in everyday life. It was smart and silly and scary, anchored by the inimitable Black. But the follow-up, "Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween," is a serious disappointment, starting with how Black is b... (read more)

      • Fahrenheit 11/9 poster image

        Fahrenheit 11/9

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Michael Moore wants to save us from ourselves. It's been his mission for a long time, a noble one, and it's obvious he is sincere. But as a filmmaker, Moore needs to save himself from his worst indulgences, which undercuts his good work. His new film, "Fahrenheit 11/9," showcases both the best and the worst of his filmmaking instincts. "Fahrenheit 9/11" was about former President George W. Bush, and "Fahrenheit 11/9" is about President Donald Trump and the way th... (read more)

      • Life Itself poster image

        Life Itself

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Not to be confused with Roger Ebert's autobiography, or anything good, actually, "Life Itself" is an emotional mugging, not a movie. Writer-director Dan Fogelman, creator of NBC-TV's warm bath of feels "This is Us," tells his story in five chapters and a million platitudes. When a key character admits he's "smothering," it's not just his fictional self he's acknowledging; it's the entire greezy script. Meanwhile, on the soundtrack, Fogelman exploits "Make Yo... (read more)

      • Love, Gilda poster image

        Love, Gilda

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Gilda Radner, the funniest woman on television in the 1970s, got hired by Lorne Michaels for what was originally called "NBC's Saturday Night" before anybody else -- before John Belushi, before Chevy Chase, before Dan Aykroyd, before Jane Curtin, Laraine Newman, Garrett Morris. Those who watched the show in 1975 or a year or two later, when it was getting huge and starting to change the culture, had their favorites. But the Detroit-born Radner was the one everybody cherished. She br... (read more)

      • A Simple Favor poster image

        A Simple Favor

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Comedy director Paul Feig tries a thriller on for size with the juicy "A Simple Favor," a suburban Connecticut murder mystery that's "Gone Girl" meets "The Stepford Wives." Based on the novel by Darcey Bell, written by Jessica Sharzer, the consciously campy "A Simple Favor" is as bright and bracing as an ice cold gin martini with a lemon twist, and just as satisfying. Anna Kendrick stars as Stephanie, a mommy vlogger raising her son, Miles (Joshua Satin... (read more)

      • Unbroken: Path to Redemption poster image

        Unbroken: Path to Redemption

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        "Didn't we already get an 'Unbroken' movie?" you might ask, about "Unbroken: Path to Redemption." Is it even possible to have a sequel to a biopic? Faith-based film production company PureFlix thinks so. "Unbroken: Path to Redemption" serves as a bit of a coda to Angelina Jolie's 2014 film about the amazing World War II survival story of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini, a minor corrective. Both films take Laura Hillenbrand's biography as inspiration and adaptation... (read more)

      • Operation Finale poster image

        Operation Finale

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        There's something very familiar about "Operation Finale," written by debut screenwriter Matthew Orton and directed by Chris Weitz. The film chronicles the thrilling, stranger-than-fiction 1960 Mossad operation to kidnap principal Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann from Argentina and extradite him to Israel to be tried for war crimes. The event was depicted in the 1996 TV movie "The Man Who Captured Eichmann," in the 2014 German Foreign Language Academy Award submission &qu... (read more)

      • Support the Girls poster image

        Support the Girls

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Andrew Bujalski's "Support the Girls" is the perfect bait-and-switch of a film. Its light, sweetly frisky exterior and easygoing pace camouflages what a subtle and brilliant piece of bracing social commentary it is; a deft portrait of sisterhood existing under the thumb of capitalistic patriarchy. And it wouldn't work without the anchor of an exceptional performance by Regina Hall. Hall is Lisa, the general manager of a Texas restaurant named Double Whammies, and the mother hen of a... (read more)

      • Alpha poster image

        Alpha

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        You know Sheila the She-Wolf from "Glow" on Netflix? "Alpha" would be her favorite movie. She'd watch it every day on a VHS tape, memorizing each line of Cro-Magnon dialogue, fashioning her costumes in tribute to the fur-trimmed Hot Topic looks sported by the characters, adopting a Czech wolf dog like the one in the movie. It's sweet, really, to imagine the kind of devotion "Alpha" might inspire, a film that's very simple, kind of strange, but will melt any dog-l... (read more)

      • Blaze poster image

        Blaze

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Director Ethan Hawke's "Blaze" paints a sweetly melancholy portrait of a singer-songwriter, the gifted, self-destructive Texas-based Blaze Foley (born Michael David Fuller). The movie neither apologizes for his destructive excesses nor turns him into a bigger, nobler deal than Foley became in his short 39 years. Ben Dickey plays him in Hawke's film. He's a legit musician, which does wonders for the film's texture. Foley's voice was different -- lower, more formidably lived-in and ro... (read more)

      • The Meg poster image

        The Meg

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Have sharks jumped the Fonzie? Seems like it's always Shark Week around here, and "here" means everywhere. Think of how long it has been since the first "Jaws" (1975). A digital effects revolution and a generation later, "Deep Blue Sea" (1999) closed out the century with some forgettably entertaining (or entertainingly forgettable) jump scares in between what filmmakers believed to be necessary expository information about the people lining up at the human buffet... (read more)

      • Blindspotting poster image

        Blindspotting

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Of all the sharp scenes in "Blindspotting," and there are plenty, one in particular gathers up every grudge, blind spot and frustration packed inside the moving company coworkers played by Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal. On his last night of parole, ex-con Collin (Diggs), a biracial Oakland resident who has recently witnessed a fatal police shooting, arrives at an overwhelmingly white party. He's accompanied by the rowdy powder keg Miles (Casal), a white-Latino who has grown up on bl... (read more)

      • Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again poster image

        Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Welcome back to the magical island of Kalokairi, a sun-strewn rocky outcropping in the azure Aegean Sea, a land where white people can only express themselves with the music of Sweden's most enduring musical group, ABBA. The sequel/prequel hybrid "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again" arrives a decade after the bonkers filmed adaptation of the stage musical "Mamma Mia!" Vehicles for ABBA's songs, the films perfectly reflect the music: guileless, emotionally raw and unabashedly chee... (read more)

      • Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation poster image

        Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's all about the zing. If you are not up on monster speak, the term zing refers to what happens once in the life of a vampire, mummy, werewolf, etc. It's that moment when they know they have found the one true love in their life. In the case of "Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation," Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) learns it's possible to zing more than once as he meets the new once-in-a-lifetime love of his life during a monster sea cruise. While Dracula zings again, this third... (read more)

      • Sorry to Bother You poster image

        Sorry to Bother You

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Sorry to Bother You" is about a telemarketer who becomes a superstar, for a price. It's a science fiction allegory, though the science fiction angle emerges late in the game. It's a provocative, serious, ridiculous, screwy concoction about whiteface, cultural code-switching, African-American identities and twisted new forms of wage slavery, beyond previously known ethical limits. Premiering earlier this year at Sundance, the film comes from rapper and musician Boots Riley of the fu... (read more)

      • Ant-Man and The Wasp poster image

        Ant-Man and The Wasp

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The unlimited breadsticks approach of the Marvel Cinematic Universe ensures that we remain full of carbs, all year, as each franchise rolls out another metaphorical Olive Garden. Some of the movies offer veritable superhero conventions -- most recently the ensemble blowout "Avengers: Infinity War," which managed to make $2.3 billion worldwide without any interesting action sequences, mainly on the strength of that ridiculously dire cliffhanger ending setting up a big fat profitable ... (read more)

      • Won't You Be My Neighbor? poster image

        Won't You Be My Neighbor?

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" is a depressingly good documentary about a singularly empathetic television personality. Fred Rogers (1928-2003) knew what he was up against in a culture, and an economy, built on marketable aggression. Against long odds he prevailed. Now he belongs to another time. Can his spirit of gentle reassurance possibly be revived, in any form? I wish I were more optimistic. The "bombardment" Rogers once described as commercial children's programming, de... (read more)

      • Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom poster image

        Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Of all the terrors on view in "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," the sight of Toby Jones' toupee bobbing up and down, when his character (a sniveling dinosaur auctioneer) dashes into an elevator to alleged safety, with the camera and something called the "Indoraptor" scrambling behind him -- reader, it is a strange and wondrous vision of foolish vanity in flight. There are other diversions in director J.A. Bayona's Gothic-tinged follow-up to "Jurassic World." That... (read more)

      • Incredibles 2 poster image

        Incredibles 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        When writer-director Brad Bird made "The Incredibles" (2004), the superhero movie genre looked nothing like the overcrowded youth hostel it does today. The "X-Men" movies, the fledgling "Spider-Man" franchise and that was about it. This was pre-"Iron Man." This preceded the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Comics afflictions, if you can remember such a time. Bird's movie, about a family of "Supers" banned by the government from thei... (read more)

      • Upgrade poster image

        Upgrade

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The fairly peppy, extremely gory science fiction thriller ``Upgrade was originally titled ``Stem, referring to a digital cockroach (``a new, better brain, its pale inventor notes) implanted in the body of the protagonist. The time is the near future. The place is a world of driverless cars and Siri-like communications and control systems designed to reassure the human population while undermining its autonomy in this forbidding vision of Earth as a hellhole of convenience. Our hero is an anal... (read more)

      • First Reformed poster image

        First Reformed

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "A life without despair is a life without hope," says the man at the center of Paul Schrader's "First Reformed." That paradox embraces the world as it is, and suggests a better world for the making. The movie it belongs to is an act of spiritual inquiry, a coolly assured example of cinematic scholarship in subtly deployed motion and one of the strongest pictures of 2018. It's also one of those third-act miracles all too rare in American filmmaking. Now 71, writer-director ... (read more)

      • Book Club poster image

        Book Club

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Fonda. Bergen. Keaton . Steenburgen. "Book Club." Sure, "Avengers: Infinity War" came out a few weeks ago, but now this is the greatest crossover event in history. Four of the most iconic actresses of the 20th century come together for a film in which their book club reads "50 Shades of Grey"? Where can I line up? This movie is either in your wheelhouse or it's not, but for those looking forward to "Book Club," it delivers. For what it is -- a breezy bi... (read more)

      • The Rider poster image

        The Rider

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Subtle, elemental and powerfully beautiful, writer-director Chloe Zhao's "The Rider" is the Western of the new century, and the most enveloping film experience I've had this year. Even a hack director could make something of the southwestern South Dakota landscapes near Wounded Knee, lined by the Badlands, and foregrounded by the people who live, work, ride and risk their lives there. But with this, the second feature written and directed by Beijing-born and American-educated Zhao, ... (read more)

      • Sherlock Gnomes poster image

        Sherlock Gnomes

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        There's a current boom of family-friendly film fare inspired by beloved British literary characters, which makes this moment ripe for the animated "Sherlock Gnomes," the sequel to 2011's "Gnomeo and Juliet." In terms of ranking these adaptations, "Sherlock Gnomes" is quite a bit more pleasant than "Peter Rabbit," but doesn't touch the wonder of "Paddington 2." It's a fairly serviceable animated feature, with a few inspired elements, and more t... (read more)

      • Fifty Shades Freed poster image

        Fifty Shades Freed

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The "Fifty Shades" film franchise is a study in contradictions. It's kinky, but conservative. It's filled with plot, but none of it means anything. The adventurous sex turns out to be fairly vanilla monogamy. The films are bad, but they are entertaining. "Fifty Shades Freed," the final film of the trilogy, just might be the most competently made yet -- which is a shame for those expecting the high camp factor of "Fifty Shades Darker." The "Darker" writi... (read more)

      • Peter Rabbit poster image

        Peter Rabbit

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Hollywood studios have recently been pillaging the literary canon of beloved children's literature, digging up fodder for animated feature films. The best of these, like the "Paddington" movies, successfully meld nostalgia with modern and exciting filmmaking, while the more questionable ones, like the recent "Ferdinand" adaptation, manage to muddle the source material with too many pop songs and dirty jokes. The new "Peter Rabbit" adaptation manages to land right... (read more)

      • Hostiles poster image

        Hostiles

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In "Hostiles," a solemnly bloody tale of white redemption in the Old West from writer-director Scott Cooper, Christian Bale does all his truest, best acting in between his actual lines of dialogue. The time is 1892. Bale's character is a U.S. Army captain who has seen much slaughter, and has done a vengeful lion's share of killing himself, in the wars against the Native American tribes. Working from material written decades ago by Donald Stewart, Cooper's film follows a redemptive j... (read more)

      • Maze Runner: The Death Cure poster image

        Maze Runner: The Death Cure

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Maze Runner: The Death Cure" opens with a misleadingly snappy train robbery sequence involving the theft of an entire train car. The components of director Wes Ball's overture are many: off-road buggies at high speed, orphans in chains, tons of CGI of better-than-usual quality. Most importantly it has Giancarlo Esposito, as Jorge, the father figure of the resistance, saying the line that must be said in every YA franchise when the hellhounds are on the kids' trail: "You got co... (read more)

      • Den of Thieves poster image

        Den of Thieves

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In our current slew of 2 1/2-star movies (seriously, everything's in the middle this week), "Den of Thieves" rates as the most curious tug-of-war, yanked back and forth between what works and what doesn't. It's a sidewinding but often surprisingly effective LA crime thriller. It's also saddled with the wrong leading man. Then again, I often think of Gerard Butler as the wrong leading man. This may have some bearing on my reaction here. The quality of merciless mediocrities such as &... (read more)

      • Paddington 2 poster image

        Paddington 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Here's hoping the forthcoming film version of "Peter Rabbit" is less awful than its trailers suggest. Reformulating Beatrix Potter as a brutish "Home Alone"/"Straw Dogs" melee, full of grim electrocutions, really does seem like a mistake. Meantime, fortunately, there's "Paddington 2." The sequel to the 2014 picture turns out to be every bit as deft, witty and, yes, moving as the first one. It's a little over-packed, narratively. But the further adventur... (read more)

      • Daddy's Home 2 poster image

        Daddy's Home 2

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        "Daddy's Home 2" just might have to meet "A Bad Moms Christmas" outside in the parking lot to rumble over this turf war. Both films are seasonal romps about intergenerational love, acceptance and different parenting styles, but "Daddy's Home 2" slightly gets the edge. The surreal and silly sequel to the hit 2015 comedy skates on the well-known but still-appealing comic personas of stars Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg and their zany chemistry. Co-writer and direct... (read more)

      • A Bad Moms Christmas poster image

        A Bad Moms Christmas

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A movie can be unreasonably formulaic and still be reasonably diverting, and "A Bad Moms Christmas" is the proof. Some sequels take time to come together. This one took a mere 15 months to reunite Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and the extraordinarily valuable Kathryn Hahn as the suburban Chicago pals perennially under the gun of peer pressure and familial expectation. (The movie was shot in Atlanta, with some fake-looking snow-machine snow in tidy little piles here and there.) Screenwrit... (read more)

      • Blade Runner 2049 poster image

        Blade Runner 2049

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In 1982, when replicants hadn't yet become a Hollywood business model, "Blade Runner" failed to do what Warner Brothers hoped it would: make a pile of money. It succeeded, however, in acquiring the reputation of a modern science fiction classic. Director Ridley Scott's 2019-set story (based on Philip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?") entered our popular culture sideways, influencing two generations of filmmakers with its menacing dystopian perspective. Now ... (read more)

      • Home Again poster image

        Home Again

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The name "Meyers" has come to signify a very specific type of film in Hollywood -- the shiny, gentle, comforting and aspirational romantic family comedies that writer/director Nancy Meyers has perfected ("Something's Gotta Give," "The Holiday," "It's Complicated"). Her daughter, Hallie Meyers-Shyer, keeps that legacy alive with her directorial debut, "Home Again." Call it nepotism, call it a legacy, or simply call it the family business, which... (read more)

      • Ingrid Goes West poster image

        Ingrid Goes West

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        No film has yet captured both the lure and the psychosis of social media quite like "Ingrid Goes West," a dark comedy -- or is it a warning? -- about a lonely soul who seeks connection and finds it, unfortunately for everyone in her orbit, on Instagram. This is the real "Emoji Movie," a true horror story for our digital times. In the most acutely relatable ways and built around deft turns by Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen, it skewers how we live and lurk these days in ti... (read more)

      • Cars 3 poster image

        Cars 3

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Cars 3," a reasonably diverting account of middle-aged pity, humiliation and suffering as experienced by Rust-eze-sponsored race car Lightning McQueen, is not the weakest of the Disney/Pixar sequels (I'd vote "Cars 2" or "Monsters University," those sour, desperate things). But it's by far the most guilt-ridden. Every few minutes we get another reminder of the franchise's success in the merchandising department -- over $10 billion in "Cars"-related toy... (read more)

      • Night School poster image

        Night School

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Am I asking too much of "Night School"? It's no big thing, this new movie starring Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish, and nobody's expecting a formula-, game- or life-changer. You just don't want to leave feeling shortchanged. Is that so wrong? Director Malcolm D. Lee's commodity squeaks by, barely, with solid comic assistance from the delightful Romany Malco (serenely panicked, every second) and Mary Lynn Rajskub ("blessed," she keeps saying, even though her character's dome... (read more)

      • Paris Can Wait poster image

        Paris Can Wait

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        At the age of 81, Eleanor Coppola makes her narrative feature directorial debut with "Paris Can Wait," a winsome tale of a road trip through the French countryside starring Diane Lane. Coppola, who previously directed shorts and documentaries, including "Hearts of Darkness," about the making of "Apocalypse Now," took inspiration from her own impromptu road trip from Cannes to Paris with a French associate while her husband Francis Ford Coppola traveled for work. ... (read more)

      • The Fate of the Furious poster image

        The Fate of the Furious

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Like "Beauty and the Beast," "The Boss Baby" and "The Bad and the Beautiful," "The Fate of the Furious" features a title in which two key words share the same first letter. That's one of the most interesting things about it. Adjust your expectations accordingly. This is the eighth in the franchise, which began with a relatively modest LA street-racing movie in 2001. The film just prior to the new one, "Furious 7," had a production budget of so... (read more)

      • The Girl With All the Gifts poster image

        The Girl With All the Gifts

        Jay Weissberg, Chicago Tribune

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

      • I Am Not Your Negro poster image

        I Am Not Your Negro

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Hidden Figures poster image

        Hidden Figures

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • La La Land poster image

        La La Land

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        How to write about "La La Land," the year's most seriously pleasurable entertainment, without making it sound like nostalgic goo? Let's give it a go. A five, six, seven, eight! This is a wonderful, imperfect but, as recently noted in this sentence's first adjective, wonderful new musical full of actual human feeling (something unlocatable in "Moulin Rouge," for example). The 31-year-old writer-director, Damien Chazelle, has made a throwback/shoutout to musicals of various ... (read more)

      • Office Christmas Party poster image

        Office Christmas Party

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Moana poster image

        Moana

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Featuring songs by "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, the new animated musical adventure "Moana" is Disney's first princess-with-an-asterisk offering since "Frozen." The "Moana" score's signature power ballad, "How Far I'll Go," may well take its rightful place alongside the earlier film's big hit, "Let It Go," in the female-empowerment earworm department. That's a lucrative department. I prefer Miranda's contribution; it serves ... (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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Kung Fu Panda 3 poster image

        Kung Fu Panda 3

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Revenant poster image

        The Revenant

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Creed poster image

        Creed

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Night Before poster image

        The Night Before

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Last year around the holidays, the world received the dubious gift of the Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy "The Interview," which pretended to kill off the leader of North Korea. The film led to an apparent retaliatory Sony Pictures hack costing the studio $35 million; a lot of controversial correspondence and information going public; and, if anyone remembers it, a pretty disappointing movie. This year, comedywise ... an improvement, at least. There are several funny things in "... (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)

      • 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)

      • Ex Machina poster image

        Ex Machina

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A grandly ridiculous theatrical tradition born in ancient Greece, deus ex machina meant, literally, a god borne by a machine descending from the sky to determine a story's outcome. The hardware in writer-director Alex Garland's crafty new thriller "Ex Machina" signifies something a little less clunky and considerably more ambiguous. In this case the object of adoration is a superadvanced example of artificial intelligence. The hook, hardly new, is this: Can A.I. be made not simply t... (read more)

      • 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)

      • Whiplash poster image

        Whiplash

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Whatever the ripping melodrama "Whiplash" says about artistic torment, or the price of ambition, or mentor/student relationships from hell or thereabouts, it's too busy providing serious excitement -- both as an actors showcase and a confirmation of writer-director Damien Chazelle's cinematic chops -- to get hung up on conventional uplift. I've seen the film twice, and part of what makes it such a kick is Chazelle's conflicted feelings about his young protagonist and alter ego, a fi... (read more)

      • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles poster image

        Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        McClatchy Newspapers The "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" franchise earns a Michael Bay-produced 3-D reboot that spares no expense in special effects and spares no decibels in the volume that is the soundtrack to all their new mayhem. These digitally animated supersize turtles have real-world presence and weight, stomping onto the scene like teenagers who haven't learned to do anything quietly. Their brawls with trigger-happy foes from the Foot Clan are a blur of body blows and bullet... (read more)

      • Mood Indigo poster image

        Mood Indigo

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Immigrant poster image

        The Immigrant

        Betsy Sharkey, Chicago Tribune

        "The Immigrant," starring Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner, is one of those prickly period pieces about hard times that gets under your skin and leaves you unsettled long after. Though its story is far more about survival than love, there is a sense of seduction in director James Gray's new film, a wolf in sheep's clothing quality. Not unlike Bruno Weiss, the dandy who trolls Ellis Island for pretty girls in bad straits, played so well by Phoenix. Cotillard's Ewa ... (read more)

      • The Grand Budapest Hotel poster image

        The Grand Budapest Hotel

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The 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)

      • Dallas Buyers Club poster image

        Dallas Buyers Club

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In "Dallas Buyers Club," we meet Matthew McConaughey's Ron Woodroof mid-coitus. He's making love with two women in a rodeo holding pen, seconds before he jumps onto a wild bull for thrills and the promise of a few bucks. The year is 1985, the same year Rock Hudson died of AIDS-related causes. By contrast Woodroof, a drug-using heterosexual, is just another good ol' boy with a dangerous edge and zero sense of personal frailty, as quick with a casual homophobic slur as with a come-on ... (read more)

      • Free Birds poster image

        Free Birds

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        "Free Birds" is more proof, as if 2013 needed it, that Hollywood has almost killed the animated goose that laid the golden egg. No matter that in this case the goose is a turkey. You didn't need to be told that. But a year that has produced the clever and heartfelt "The Croods" and the passably amusing "Despicable Me 2" has also had a healthy dose of sausage factory about it. "Epic," "Monsters University," "Planes," "Escape from... (read more)

      • Fruitvale Station poster image

        Fruitvale Station

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Despicable Me 2 poster image

        Despicable Me 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Older kids and their minion guardians could do worse than "Despicable Me 2," the sequel to the 2010 smash about a supervillain turned adoptive parent. On the other hand, reports of the movie's charm have been greatly exaggerated. It's a reasonably efficient baby sitter, done up in 3-D computer-generated animation of no special distinction. But the first one's weird mixture of James Bond bombast and hyperactive pill-shaped Minions (the protagonist Gru's goggle-clad helpers) had the e... (read more)

      • Like Someone in Love poster image

        Like Someone in Love

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Media Services Film Clips In "Certified Copy," from Iranian writer-director Abbas Kiarostami, a relationship blossoms and then fades under the Tuscan sun, though the story keeps changing its rules of engagement. The couple at the center, we presume, are strangers getting to know each other, but halfway through the exquisite riddle of a picture they "become" (or pretend to become) husband and wife. Nothing so tricky occurs in "Lik... (read more)

      • Rise of the Guardians poster image

        Rise of the Guardians

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Dark Knight Rises: The IMAX Experience poster image

        The Dark Knight Rises: The IMAX Experience

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Eight years after the camp frippery of "Batman & Robin" (1997), in which Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mr. Freeze and Uma Thurman's Poison Ivy played dress-up while George Clooney let his nipply bat-suit do most of the acting, director and co-writer Christopher Nolan brought to the screen the origin story of Bruce Wayne and his tortured, emotionally isolated crime-fighting alter ego. Stately and just serious enough, "Batman Begins" was trumped by Nolan's own 2008 sequel, "T... (read more)

      • Magic Mike poster image

        Magic Mike

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Moonrise Kingdom poster image

        Moonrise Kingdom

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Joyful Noise poster image

        Joyful Noise

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Assembled from spare parts of "Footloose" and "Sister Act," the serviceable gospel contraption "Joyful Noise" takes place in an economically hard-hit Georgia town, where the multiracial members of the Divinity Church Choir raise voices and spirits under the direction of their beloved choirmaster, played by Kris Kristofferson. We see him in action in church in the opening credits, though he suffers a heart attack well before "written and directed by Todd Graf... (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)

      • Rise of the Planet of the Apes poster image

        Rise of the Planet of the Apes

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Swift and nimble, like the rising ape at its center, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is gratifyingly free of the usual big-budget blockbuster weight and volume. After so many galumphing origin stories involving human-based superheroes, it's nice to get one about a simian revolutionary in training, and one that really does stand alone as a satisfying prequel requiring little or no knowledge or nostalgia for the five "Planet of the Apes" pictures of the late 1960s and early... (read more)

      • Crazy, Stupid, Love. poster image

        Crazy, Stupid, Love.

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In the aggravatingly punctuated romantic comedy "Crazy, Stupid, Love." (can you even believe that period?) does anyone ever discuss why the central couple, played by Steve Carell and Julianne Moore, should or shouldn't be together? Or the romantic challenges that face two people who met in high school, when they were pre-adults, and settled down when their friends were still wound up over their latest romances? No, they don't. They do not talk about such matters. Too bad, because th... (read more)

      • Cars 2 poster image

        Cars 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Beautiful Boy poster image

        Beautiful Boy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The words cannot be easy to hear as an addict, or as the parent of an addict. "Relapse is a part of recovery," a clinic worker says to a distraught David Sheff, played by Steve Carell in the new film "Beautiful Boy." David's bright, unraveling son, Nic, played by Timothee Chalamet, has begun to face his addictions head-on. But on the road to success -- in real life, Nic Sheff, now 36, has been sober for eight years -- failures lurk around every corner, along with chemical ... (read more)

      • Meek's Cutoff poster image

        Meek's Cutoff

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Trust poster image

        Trust

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Relentless in its diagrammatic A-to-B-to-C progression, director David Schwimmer's ``Trust'' had an unusual genesis, premiering at Chicago's Lookingglass Theatre Company last spring at the same time Schwimmer was editing the play's film version. The live theater experience allows actors the chance to carve away a script's contrivances and concentrate on the human element - in this case, a squirm-inducing story of the seduction, criminal sexual assault and traumatic recovery of a 14-year-old N... (read more)

      • Jane Eyre poster image

        Jane Eyre

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Social Network poster image

        The Social Network

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World poster image

        Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Inception poster image

        Inception

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Predators poster image

        Predators

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Predators," plural, starts well and ends poorly, and in the middle, it's in the middle. The original 1987 "Predator," featuring future politicians Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura, was an entertaining hybrid of the commando genre and "Alien"-inspired science fiction. The new one, directed by Nimrod Antal ("Kontroll"), lifts its building blocks from an un-produced 1990s script by Robert Rodriguez, who ended up producing the revised screenplay by ... (read more)

      • Fantastic Mr. Fox poster image

        Fantastic Mr. Fox

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The House of the Devil poster image

        The House of the Devil

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Those of us who spent many hours in the '70s and '80s watching satanic cultists at work and play in junk like "Race With the Devil" (1975) will experience director Ti West's fourth feature in a different way from those who weren't around then, or were confining their filmgoing to more noble matters. "The House of the Devil" works either way. It is a fine little old-school thriller, set in the 1980s and devoted, fondly, to the visual syntax and Farrah-inspired hair of the e... (read more)

      • A Serious Man poster image

        A Serious Man

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "A Serious Man" is a tart, brilliantly acted fable of life's little cosmic difficulties, a Coen brothers comedy with a darker philosophical outlook than "No Country for Old Men" but with a script rich in verbal wit. This time it's God - or chance, or fate with a grudge against the Minneapolis suburbs - wielding the stun gun. The most we can do, the film implies, is stick to our principles and hope for the best. Physics professor Larry Gopnik, played by the excellent Micha... (read more)

      • Adam poster image

        Adam

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Sweet, simple and more than a little dodgy, writer-director Max Mayer's "Adam" gets a lift from its ensemble, thereby proving that a film's acting typically is the least of its problems. Millions live with the high-functioning autism classified as Asperger's syndrome. Millions more lives are affected by their relationships to, and with, the "Apsies." In the film, Adam works as a toy engineer, has a fierce interest in astronomy, enjoys watching the raccoons in Central Park... (read more)

      • Ponyo poster image

        Ponyo

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        You'll be planning to see "Ponyo" twice before you've finished seeing it once. Five minutes into this magical film you'll be making lists of the individuals of every age you can expose to the very special mixture of fantasy and folklore, adventure and affection, that make up the enchanted vision of Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki. The great genius of contemporary animation, the only foreign director to win the Oscar for best animated feature (for "Spirited Away," which al... (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)

      • The Day the Earth Stood Still poster image

        The Day the Earth Stood Still

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In one eye and out the other, the sullen remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still" airlifts certain story details straight from its source material. For example, the robot known as Gort resembles the metallic, helmet-headed being of the 1951 original, only he's taller and has better muscle tone, suggesting the occasional intergalactic workout. That's about it for visual links to director Robert Wise's film (his best, in any genre), which remains one of the great science fiction tale... (read more)

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