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      • The Lovers poster image

        The Lovers

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Azazel Jacobs' "The Lovers" is a complex character study of long-term relationships that takes a clever premise -- what if you were cheating on your lover, with your spouse? -- and uses it to explore the nuances and ultimate truths of long term relationships. The film is anchored by a duo of powerhouse performances from Debra Winger and Tracy Letts, who play married couple Mary and Michael, with an arch sophistication mixed with genuine vulnerability. Mary and Michael have slipped i... (read more)

      • Baywatch poster image

        Baywatch

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        No formula for success exists regarding feature films based on late 20th century television shows. There are only odds favoring partial or complete failure. So that's comforting. But what about "21 Jump Street" and "22 Jump Street"? Didn't those movies work? Yes, they did. Especially the first one, which was crude without being brainless, and relentlessly self-referential without pounding the jokes into the ground. Beyond "Jump Street," let's see ... we've gritte... (read more)

      • Alien: Covenant poster image

        Alien: Covenant

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        When the first "Alien" came out in 1979, promising and delivering screams in space that no one could hear, more than a few critics and regular humans called it a relentless, hard-driving thrill machine. In retrospect it resembles a movie with the patience of Job, taking its sweet, stealthy time before arriving at one the great moments in the history of extreme cinematic gore. You know the scene, probably. There's John Hurt, an actor whose face always seemed halfway to crestfallen ev... (read more)

      • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul poster image

        Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        From 2010 to 2012, a trilogy of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" films were released in rapid succession, starring Zachary Gordon, Devon Bostick, Rachael Harris and Steve Zahn. Adapted from the web comic turned kids novels by Jeff Kinney, the films featured the kinds of embarrassments and toilet humor that tend to make up most middle school lore. Five years later, a fourth film, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul," is hitting theaters, with a completely new cast making up the Heff... (read more)

      • Everything, Everything poster image

        Everything, Everything

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The sickly teen romantic weepy isn't exactly a new genre --consider the 1970 smash hit "Love Story" -- but it has gained resurgence in the past few years with the runaway success of the likes of "The Fault in Our Stars." The success or failure of such a film, which can so often dip treacherously too far into sentimentality, rides on the plucky charm of its lead actors. Fortunately, "Everything, Everything," based on the novel by Nicola Yoon, has the radiant Amand... (read more)

      • Lowriders poster image

        Lowriders

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The family drama "Lowriders," starring Demian Bichir and Eva Longoria, explores the car culture of East Los Angeles, delving into the roots of lowriding. Though the tricked out, bouncing vintage cars are a staple of '90s rap videos, "Lowriders," directed by Ricardo de Montreuil, situates these iconic vehicles within a historical context, while telling a family story of grief, loss and redemption. Our hero is Danny (Gabriel Chavarria), a young man from Boyle Heights in East... (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 Wall poster image

        The Wall

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Before Clint Eastwood took over the project, "American Sniper" was being developed by Steven Spielberg, who ultimately passed on it because he couldn't figure out a way, budgetarily, to create and follow a parallel storyline dealing with an Iraqi counterpart to the real-life sniper played by Bradley Cooper. We'll never know how a Spielberg take on "American Sniper" would've fared. We only know that Eastwood's version, morally untroubled and a bellwether for the 2016 electi... (read more)

      • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 poster image

        Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A brash summer surprise back in 2014, "Guardians of the Galaxy" had, as they said in the old days, plenty of pep and, for once, a lot of jokes. Audiences responded to co-writer and director James Gunn's Marvel franchise launch; it had a breezy, what-the-hell air, and even with the usual quotient of digital fireballs and shades of doomsday blue and orange, the fun was legit. Chris Pratt, as the alien-abducted earthling with a difference, commanded an entertaining crew of misfit inter... (read more)

      • Sleight poster image

        Sleight

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        By day, Bo (Jacob Latimore) is a street magician, wowing passersby with truly impressive sleight of hand for tips. By night, he slings party drugs in the clubs and on the streets of LA. But all the time, he's the protective guardian of his sister, Tina (Storm Reid), just two orphaned siblings against the world. In "Sleight," co-writer/director J.D. Dillard and co-writer/producer Alex Theurer have created an unlikely superhero origin story, executed with the style, themes and budget ... (read more)

      • Born in China poster image

        Born in China

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        "Born in China" is the latest installment in the "Disneynature" documentary series. It's "Planet Earth" aimed at younger audiences, but any nature lovers can find enjoyment here, especially in the stunning cinematography. While other installments have focused on specific species and eco-systems, "Born in China," directed by Lu Chuan, gets up close and personal with some of the unique species found in China -- pandas, snow leopards, cranes, Chiru antelop... (read more)

      • Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent poster image

        Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times If food is your passion, Jeremiah Tower is a name to conjure with. A venerated chef whom writer and critic Ruth Reichl calls "a game changer who defined what a modern American restaurant could be," he was a legend who vanished from the scene only to reappear years later to attempt one more act of culinary magic. As directed by Lydia Tenaglia and executive produced by Anthony Bourdain -- no mean chef himself -- "Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent" is a d... (read more)

      • The Lost City of Z poster image

        The Lost City of Z

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The English go native very easily," explorer Percy Fawcett once wrote, speaking on behalf of himself, T.E. Lawrence and an entire sociological and literary tradition steeped in the sun never setting on the British Empire. "There is no disgrace in it. On the contrary, in my opinion it shows a creditable regard for the real things in life." Throughout the 20th century and, stubbornly, into the 21st, the movies have banked on stories about men of pallor entering the realm (a... (read more)

      • Unforgettable poster image

        Unforgettable

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Every once in a while, you need a good, juicy, erotic thriller. In the '90s, those were a dime a dozen, but now they're few and far between (forget the dopey "50 Shades" movies). Which makes savoring the outlandishly entertaining "Unforgettable" worthwhile. It's a female-driven melodrama -- a "women's picture" as they used to call them in the Hollywood of the 1940s -- that deals frankly with the issues of domestic violence, trauma and motherhood, all wrapped up i... (read more)

      • Colossal poster image

        Colossal

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Colossal" is a colossal splitter, destined to divide audiences into "What the hell?!" and "What the hell?! I like it!" camps. But of course there's a third camp, right in between. And I'm in it. The movie, a little less wild than it sounds, stars Anne Hathaway as a woman facing an even more fearsome dilemma than her up-the-nostrils close-ups in "Les Miserables." Occasionally employed New York City freelance writer Gloria, played by Hathaway, stumbles h... (read more)

      • Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer poster image

        Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        This week some strong, wryly unconventional work opens on a limited number of screens around the country, which means adults not particularly interested in "The Fate of the Furious" can re-enter a movie theater with confidence. Topic A: "Norman," a mordantly funny study in ambition, desperation, manipulation and luck from the writer-director Joseph Cedar. Born in New York, working primarily in Israel, Cedar makes his English-language feature debut here. In the juicy role o... (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)

      • Gifted poster image

        Gifted

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Everyone involved with "Gifted" no doubt intended a sweet, affecting, sincere and, as manipulative heartwarmers go, relatively low-key affair. But virtually no one involved appears to have remembered what human or human-adjacent behavior should feel like, scene to scene. Easier said than done. But this contrived mashup of "Proof" (earth-shaking algorithms), "Kramer vs. Kramer" (nerve-wracking custody battles) and "Little Man Tate" really isn't much. Scr... (read more)

      • Going in Style poster image

        Going in Style

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A pleasant hangout session for its stars, and those who love them, the remake of the bittersweet 1979 comedy "Going in Style" cheers things up for early 21st-century audiences and allows its Golden Boys ensemble a measure of dignity alongside the slapstick, pathos and wish fulfillment. If that sounds like a qualified endorsement, you're reading me loud and clear. Director Zach Braff, best known for "Scrubs," works from a script by Theodore Melfi ("St. Vincent," &... (read more)

      • The Boss Baby poster image

        The Boss Baby

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        "The Boss Baby" derives its premise from the notion that when new babies show up in the household, they render parents into slavishly devoted employees with their demands and fits. Babies are like bosses, but more satirically, bosses are like babies, right? That metaphor is explored in Marla Frazee's children's book, with a boss baby outfitted in a suit, complete with buttoned bottom flap, and now that's been transported to the screen with Alec Baldwin voicing the titular boss. In t... (read more)

      • The Zookeeper's Wife poster image

        The Zookeeper's Wife

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The Holocaust film has become a genre unto itself, and sadly, there are more than enough stories from that era to continue the trend. Against ever-shifting, polarized political landscapes, the lessons gleaned from the horrors of this very recent past are never not relevant. But too often, many of these biopics fall prey to well-trod norms and conventions. In Niki Caro's "The Zookeeper's Wife," the backdrop of a Warsaw zoo offers a new angle, and features a show-stopping performance ... (read more)

      • CHIPS poster image

        CHIPS

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The randy action-comedy "CHIPS" is pitched right to that 18-24 demographic, but that audience is probably wondering what this whole California Highway Patrol movie is about. Two words, teens: Erik Estrada. He was the ultimate late '70s small-screen sex symbol and people were really into his hair -- at least according to what we've been able to glean from the "CHiPS" detritus that always seems to be in the pop cultural ether. Who knew that a TV dramedy about a pair of cool ... (read more)

      • Saban's Power Rangers poster image

        Saban's Power Rangers

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Back in the '90s, you probably knew them as Mighty Morphin, and these days they take the pre-fix "Saban's," but we all know them best as simply the Power Rangers. Executive producer Haim Saban discovered the "Super Sentai" series on Japanese television in the '80s, and brought the concept of teens in colorful costumes fighting monsters to American audiences in the form of the somewhat silly, but much beloved, "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" series. Now, of course,... (read more)

      • Song to Song poster image

        Song to Song

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        As a critic and as a human being, with needs, I'm driven more than a little crazy by the recent films of Terrence Malick, with their perpetual murmuring voice-overs and creamy idealization of women as saints or sinners. I've begun to resent the ravishing floor-to-ceiling windows in all those swanky, minimally furnished private residences. My buttocks clench, ever so slightly, when the ethereal female spirits in white twirl around in circles, surrounded by tall grass, or break into an atavisti... (read more)

      • T2 Trainspotting poster image

        T2 Trainspotting

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times Looked at logically, "T2 Trainspotting" should not work as well as it does. In fact, it shouldn't work at all. But up there on the screen, where it matters, the dark magic remains intact and logic be damned. When it was released in 1996, the original "Trainspotting" seemed the very definition of a one-shot phenomenon. Exuberant and pitiless, profane yet eloquent, flush with the ability to create laughter out of unspeakable situations, this look at the dea... (read more)

      • The Sense of an Ending poster image

        The Sense of an Ending

        Justin Chang, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Personal Shopper poster image

        Personal Shopper

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Logan poster image

        Logan

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The rabid Wolverine fans among you should be warned: You won't be able to trust the following few paragraphs on "Logan." Most of the early reviews have been ecstatic, and those fully invested in this corner of the Marvel universe tend to respond very, very strongly to director and co-writer James Mangold's picture. It's at once the most solemn, sentimental and relentlessly violent of the nine films featuring Hugh Jackman, either in the lead or in a cameo, as the furry mutant with th... (read more)

      • Kiki poster image

        Kiki

        Justin Chang, Chicago Tribune

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

      • A United Kingdom poster image

        A United Kingdom

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Fist Fight poster image

        Fist Fight

        Colin Covert, Chicago Tribune

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

      • John Wick: Chapter 2 poster image

        John Wick: Chapter 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The LEGO Batman Movie poster image

        The LEGO Batman Movie

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • I Am Not Your Negro poster image

        I Am Not Your Negro

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • A Dog's Purpose poster image

        A Dog's Purpose

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Red Turtle poster image

        The Red Turtle

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 20th Century Women poster image

        20th Century Women

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Split poster image

        Split

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Through the ups and downs of his career, the name M. Night Shyamalan has always been synonymous with one thing: twist. While watching his films, it's easy to spend more time wondering if he will, won't, and how he'll twist, and it can take away the power of what's actually on screen. Which is a shame when the filmmaking and performances are particularly exceptional. In the multiple-personality psycho-thriller "Split," Anya Taylor-Joy and James McAvoy shine as predator and prey who u... (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)

      • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them poster image

        Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Arrival poster image

        Arrival

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Doctor Strange poster image

        Doctor Strange

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Hacksaw Ridge poster image

        Hacksaw Ridge

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Jack Reacher: Never Go Back poster image

        Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • A Tale of Love and Darkness poster image

        A Tale of Love and Darkness

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times Actors gravitate toward passion projects, films they care deeply, even obsessively about, but the result is seldom as convincing as "A Tale of Love and Darkness," a film of beautiful melancholy written, directed by and starring Natalie Portman. A Hebrew-language film based on the celebrated memoir by Israeli novelist Amos Oz, "Love and Darkness" persuasively intertwines the personal tale of a young boy's bond with his emotionally fragile mother, strongly ... (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)

      • 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)

      • Star Trek Beyond poster image

        Star Trek Beyond

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Things have started to feel a little ... episodic," acknowledges the commander of the USS Enterprise in his famous captain's log, three long years into a five-year 23rd century gig. That line, cheeky and knowing, comes early in "Star Trek Beyond." It's the 13th feature film pulled from the hallowed Gene Roddenberry TV series, the Cold War-era phenomenon that believed in ideas and the democratic ideal, as opposed to its cultural bookend, the vastly more influential "S... (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 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)

      • Green Room poster image

        Green Room

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Keanu poster image

        Keanu

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • 10 Cloverfield Lane poster image

        10 Cloverfield Lane

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Kung Fu Panda 3 poster image

        Kung Fu Panda 3

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip poster image

        Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Goosebumps poster image

        Goosebumps

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Silly, spooky monster mash-up "Goosebumps" doesn't have to be as good as it is. Slyly smarter and more entertaining than it appears, adults might have just as much fun as the kids who will undoubtedly gobble up this Halloween treat. A sort of PG version of "Cabin in the Woods," this adaptation of R.L. Stine's series of young adult horror novels is bolstered by a stellar comedic cast, headed up by the inimitable Jack Black in the role of the author. With so many "Goose... (read more)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Furious 7 poster image

        Furious 7

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water poster image

        The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        There's a new "SpongeBob" movie out, "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water." It's passable. The trade publication Variety predicts it will be "equally popular among the franchise's key grade-schooler and head-shop-owner demographics," and that sounds right to me. But I've always found SpongeBob's world terrifying, and while I'm probably overreacting, well, that's in the spirit of the fry-cook protagonist himself. "SpongeBob SquarePants" made its Nic... (read more)

      • Paddington poster image

        Paddington

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Never judge by appearances. The poster image for "Paddington," already a hit in Britain, depicts the valiant little bear in the red hat and blue jacket careening down a flooded staircase in a bathtub, and the image (from the first of creator Michael Bond's 26 "Paddington" books) is rendered in such a way as to make the film look pushy and twee and eminently skippable. And yet the film isn't any of those things. It's witty and charming, with a considerable if sneaky emotion... (read more)

      • Inherent Vice poster image

        Inherent Vice

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

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

        Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • The Boxtrolls poster image

        The Boxtrolls

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Get On Up poster image

        Get On Up

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Guardians of the Galaxy poster image

        Guardians of the Galaxy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Rio 2 poster image

        Rio 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • The Nut Job poster image

        The Nut Job

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Mighty oaks from little acorns grow, and all that, but "The Nut Job" didn't work out that way. This 3-D animation job, a co-production of South Korea's Redrover Co. and the Canadian outfit ToonBox Entertainment, generates such little interest in the fates of its urban park critters, you may find yourself pondering mixed-use development schemes to rid the film of its key setting altogether. Director and co-writer Peter Lepeniotis' movie comes from "Surly Squirrel," an anima... (read more)

      • The Punk Singer poster image

        The Punk Singer

        Inkoo Kang, Chicago Tribune

        Kathleen Hanna has never had an easy relationship with the media. Just three years into her musical career as the frontwoman of Bikini Kill, Hanna imposed a media blackout after some mainstream publications disparaged her feminist punk band with reductive criticism -- along the lines of calling them hairy-legged rape victims -- and falsely reported that Hanna had endured incest. Hanna finally gets to tell her story to a friendly audience in Sini Anderson's respectful documentary, "The Pu... (read more)

      • 12 Years a Slave poster image

        12 Years a Slave

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        At this point, "12 Years a Slave" has only its own publicity to conquer. Moviegoers reeling from "Gravity" may well approach director Steve McQueen's patient, clear-eyed and altogether extraordinary adaptation of the 1853 slave narrative with a combination of preconditioned shock and awe (given the subject matter) and misleading expectations of classy, eight-cylinder Hollywood melodrama. But this is different. It is smaller in size and larger, deeper, more complicated in i... (read more)

      • Gravity poster image

        Gravity

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        ``Gravity defies itself. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney play astronauts - a newbie scientist and a veteran cowboy - who dodge space debris and the usual narrative expectations while coping with a highly compressed series of crises 372 miles above the Earth's surface. It's a nerve-wracking visual experience of unusual and paradoxical delicacy. And if your stomach can take it, it's truly something to see. Director and co-writer Alfonso Cuaron, who wrote the script with his son, Jonas, has de... (read more)

      • Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 poster image

        Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The World's End poster image

        The World's End

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Turbo poster image

        Turbo

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Epic poster image

        Epic

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The hopeful title of "Epic" suggests big things in a way that a more accurate title, such as "How to Train Your Hummingbird," would not. The animated result isn't bad. It's an adequate baby sitter. But where's the allure in telling the truth? Twentieth Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios present "Adequate"? A few days after seeing "Epic," which is loosely based on a few concepts in William Joyce's book "The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs," it's... (read more)

      • The Croods poster image

        The Croods

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's "Ice Age" with humans and less ice. "The Croods" began life nearly a decade ago as "Crood Awakening," a collaboration of DreamWorks Animation and Aardman Studios, with a script co-written by John Cleese. Then Aardman, creators of the great Wallace & Gromit and the very good "Chicken Run," fell out of the development. Years later, here we are: Another DreamWorks movie perpetually on the run, desperately full of action because slapstick violence tran... (read more)

      • 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)

      • Ice Age: Continental Drift poster image

        Ice Age: Continental Drift

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        First came the God particle, the Higgs boson. Then came ``Ice Age (2002). Then, ``Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006). Then ``Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009). And now arrives ``Ice Age: Continental Drift, informally known as ``Ice Age 4, also known as a paycheck and a likely haul for all involved at Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox. The new picture contains a valuable lesson in recycling. It opens with what I believe is a slightly abridged version of ``Scrat's Continental Crack-Up, the ``... (read more)

      • Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted poster image

        Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

        Colin Covert, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Marvel's the Avengers poster image

        Marvel's the Avengers

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Dr. Seuss' the Lorax poster image

        Dr. Seuss' the Lorax

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The new animated feature "The Lorax," known in its entirety as "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" to keep it straight from "John Grisham's The Lorax," does a few smaller things right but the bigger things not quite. I've come to fear these movies. I love Seuss so much, even his second-shelf works. Who doesn't feel protective of authors and illustrators they love? And not just because we were young when we made their acquaintance. As with "Horton Hears a Who!" four ... (read more)

      • Journey 2: The Mysterious Island poster image

        Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In its own sweetly bombastic way, the 2008 remake of "Journey to the Center of the Earth" did the job, the job being a 21st-century 3-D bash starring Brendan Fraser -- an actor who gives his all to the green screen, every time -- and loosely based on the 19th-century Jules Verne adventure, a natural for the movies. Its script proceeded from the idea that Verne, science fiction visionary, was in reality writing about real places and genuine fantastic phenomena only disguised as ficti... (read more)

      • The Grey poster image

        The Grey

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Adventures of Tintin poster image

        The Adventures of Tintin

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked poster image

        Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

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

      • New Year's Eve poster image

        New Year's Eve

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Scrambling to accommodate its Big Gulp of an ensemble cast, for which disaster movie maven Irwin Allen would've killed, "New Year's Eve" does for its holiday what last year's "Valentine's Day" did for Valentine's Day. If this one's a hit, as was "V Day" ($200 million worldwide), surely we can expect "Presidents Day." With nice cameos for actual ex-presidents. As with "Valentine's Day," the template for director Garry Marshall and screenwriter ... (read more)

      • Dolphin Tale poster image

        Dolphin Tale

        Michaelk Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        I'll be honest, in the spirit of the honestly shameless heartwarmer "Dolphin Tale." I saw it in a somewhat distracted, agitated state. Forty-five seconds into the opening credits, I'm watching ocean-dwelling dolphins nosing around all sorts of potential dangers (a rusty fishing tackle box, a fateful metal crab trap), and the film's in 3-D so the dangers loom with exceptional emphasis, and the picture's premise depends on putting the eventually tailless protagonist -- a real-life dol... (read more)

      • Kung Fu Panda 2 poster image

        Kung Fu Panda 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Rio poster image

        Rio

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Rango poster image

        Rango

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        As a family demographic product, "Rango" has a million selling points, among them an unusually strong voice cast headed by Johnny Depp in tremulous-aesthete mode, a popular live-action director making his feature animation debut, and a twist on a genre temporarily back in vogue, thanks to "True Grit." It is, for what it is, a work of considerable care and craft. And it's completely soulless. I may be in the minority. But seeing this sour riff on everything from "Cat B... (read more)

      • Megamind poster image

        Megamind

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

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