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      • The Railway Man poster image

        The Railway Man

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The concept of manly grief leads into so many dark areas and cultural expectations -- questions about how men are expected to bury their trauma long after the traumatizing event. Or else, how men are expected to examine it, reckon with it emotionally, when everything in their DNA and their upbringing tells them to keep it in. In "The Railway Man," which has many problems but also has Colin Firth, the story belongs to Eric Lomax. Lomax's memoir gave this half-good, half-fraudulent fi... (read more)

      • Draft Day poster image

        Draft Day

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Draft Day" feels like a play, and I don't mean a football play. It feels like a play-play at its sporadic best, in the same way J.C. Chandor's 2011 "Margin Call" felt that way. Set mostly in a series of offices across 13 hours in a pressure-cooked day, the film lives and dies on the low-key, take-it-easy spectacle of Kevin Costner maneuvering his way through an administrative obstacle course, crises intermingling with draft-pick opportunities. Costner plays Sonny Weaver J... (read more)

      • Oculus poster image

        Oculus

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Happily longer on chills than entrails, the crafty new horror film "Oculus" is about a haunted mirror. Three years ago, writer-director Mike Flanagan made the similarly low-budget "Absentia," which dealt with a haunted pedestrian underpass. In this genre, it's good to be specific. Certainly Flanagan, whose latest comes from a 2005 short film, has learned the virtues of a simple idea, fruitfully elaborated. His co-writer, Jeff Howard, worked on both the short version of &qu... (read more)

      • Only Lovers Left Alive poster image

        Only Lovers Left Alive

        Sheri Linden, Chicago Tribune

        With the YA swoon of "Twilight" safely in the rearview mirror, movie vampires get their mojo back in the sensuous dreamscape of "Only Lovers Left Alive," one of the strongest films yet from Jim Jarmusch. A filmmaker with a deep affection for outsiders, Jarmusch sets his ode to the urbane undead -- and margin-dwelling artists -- in two ultra-poetic cities: Detroit, a vision of trampled grandeur on the cusp of rebirth, and worldly Tangier, its alleyways alive with the murmur... (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)

      • Captain America: The Winter Soldier poster image

        Captain America: The Winter Soldier

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is a better-than-average Marvel superhero bash, intriguingly plotted and pretty clever in its speculations about 21st-century life for Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, the greatest of the Greatest Generation warriors, as he contends with contemporary American geopolitical ideals run amok. The movie does its duty. It's a reliable commodity, delivered efficiently and well, like pizza. In its frenzied action style and overall visual approach, the... (read more)

      • Frankie & Alice poster image

        Frankie & Alice

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        True cases of people suffering from multiple personality disorders are among the most harrowing encounters most of us could ever expect to face this side of the supernatural. The idea that a person is not just acting like wildly different people but really is inhabited by several distinct personas whom they believe themselves to be is just chilling. So it's a shame that the movies have rendered such rarities humdrum and routine. But actors just love the idea of slinging several accents and we... (read more)

      • Dom Hemingway poster image

        Dom Hemingway

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Quiet nobility is all very well, but what actor doesn't relish a good bad boy now and then? In "Dom Hemingway," a facile, Guy Ritchie-esque crime jape, Jude Law goes to town, dines out on the scenery, spits out the scenery and then chews it up again as a London safecracker of insatiable appetites and Olympian self-regard. Writer-director Richard Shepard ("The Matador") introduces Dom in prison, near the end of a 12-year sentence. In a single unbroken take, we see Law monol... (read more)

      • Bad Words poster image

        Bad Words

        Betsy Sharkey, Chicago Tribune

        Betsy Sharkey Sarcastic, sanctimonious, salacious, sly, slight and surprisingly sweet, the black comedy of "Bad Words," starring and directed by Jason Bateman, is high-minded, foul-mouthed good nonsense. I had wondered where Bateman's angry itch would take him next. The script, by Andrew Dodge, is his first to be produced after many years in the studio trenches, and it's a good match of man and material. As an actor -- whether a victim trying to even the score with Melissa McCarthy ... (read more)

      • Finding Vivian Maier poster image

        Finding Vivian Maier

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Noah poster image

        Noah

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Michael Phillips Neither fish nor fowl, neither foul nor inspiring, director and co-writer Darren Aronofsky's strange and often rich new movie "Noah" has enough actual filmmaking to its name to deserve better handling than a plainly nervous Paramount Pictures has given it. Aronofsky's a determined sort of fever dreamer, whose work so far includes "Black Swan" and "The Wrestler" in the popular success category, along with his earlier "Pi" and "Requi... (read more)

      • Divergent poster image

        Divergent

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In Veronica Roth's young adult trilogy of best-selling futuristic hellholes, being a "divergent" means you avoid easy categorization and defy the crushing dictates of your overseers. The movie version of "Divergent" is no divergent. It goes along to get along. It's tame, formulaic and strictly by the book in every sense. Certainly you can do worse in this genre. The recent screen adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's "The Host" was a lot worse. But you can do better, c... (read more)

      • Jodorowsky's Dune poster image

        Jodorowsky's Dune

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips If I ever go through a wormhole, let me land on a planet where repertory cinema is alive and well and showcasing all the lost, cruelly abridged and, especially, unmade movies conceived on a grand, misbegotten scale. That'd be quite a three-day weekend. Murnau's "4 Devils," followed by von Stroheim's original cut of "Greed," plus the Welles version of "The Magnificent Ambersons." Plus Welles' never-m... (read more)

      • Muppets Most Wanted poster image

        Muppets Most Wanted

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Michael Phillips High spirits and good times are hard to come by in "Muppets Most Wanted," the anxious follow-up to the commercially successful 2011 reboot ("The Muppets") and the seventh Muppet sequel to follow in the animal tracks of "The Muppet Movie" in 1979. I'm not sure what young newcomers will make of this sardonic take on the felt-covered universe, created by the late Jim Henson long before Disney got ahold of it. The pop culture references, mostly fleet... (read more)

      • Nymphomaniac: Volume I poster image

        Nymphomaniac: Volume I

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        For all its credited sex doubles (eight) and digitally attached stunt genitalia, the new Lars von Trier lark "Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1" is a weirdly old-fashioned affair. If it weren't for the explicit sexual encounters, this could be an Ibsen or a Strindberg play, unclothed and unmoored from the late 19th or early 20th century. Much of the film's running time consists of a hushed two-person play set in an apartment. One night, in an alley, a bruised and battered woman named Joe is disc... (read more)

      • The Missing Picture poster image

        The Missing Picture

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips As brilliantly as Art Spiegelman examined his parents' experiences of the Holocaust in the graphic novel "Maus," the Cambodian-born filmmaker and author Rithy Panh relives his own survival of the Khmer Rouge regime in "The Missing Picture." It's a fantastic film, and while I loved the movie that won this year's best documentary Oscar, "Twenty Feet From Stardom," that one's a blip on the world radar ... (read more)

      • Big Men poster image

        Big Men

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        No single resource is more essential to modern life than oil, and no film offers a more incisive look at how the enormous wealth oil creates subverts the morality of individuals, corporations, even entire countries than Rachel Boynton's compelling documentary "Big Men." Those who remember Boynton's excellent previous film, "Our Brand Is Crisis," an examination of political consultants working at the highest levels of Latin American elections, know this director's specialty... (read more)

      • Enemy poster image

        Enemy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Based on "The Double" by novelist Jose Saramago, "Enemy" stars Jake Gyllenhaal in what the old studio publicity departments used to call "a demanding dual role." We're in a city -- Toronto, clouded over with haze and a peculiar, sickly light managed by cinematographer Nicolas Bolduc -- where a history professor, played by Gyllenhaal, tries to rally his half-empty lecture halls with warnings of the totalitarian state. Is this man, Adam, the same man (also played b... (read more)

      • 300: Rise of an Empire poster image

        300: Rise of an Empire

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Even with a change in directors and a half-enlightened, half-salacious emphasis on the voracious Persian conqueror played by Eva Green, "300: Rise of an Empire" hews closely to the look, vibe and the casualty count of its sleekly schlocky 2007 predecessor, helmed by Zack Snyder. Likewise taken from a Frank Miller graphic novel, the sequel chronicles mighty Grecian battles regarding who's going to get to use the workout equipment first. This is the genre of abs and pecs and arrows in... (read more)

      • Mr. Peabody & Sherman poster image

        Mr. Peabody & Sherman

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Michael Phillips We bring to the movies whatever childhoods we had, and whatever television we watched to keep real life at bay, one half-hour at a time. The frantic, occasionally funny new animated feature "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" is a 3-D big-screen version of a defiantly 2-D (if that) and utterly fantastic early 1960s artifact, endlessly replayed on television throughout the '70s and beyond. If you want this movie reviewed by somebody with less love for the original, try a differe... (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)

      • 3 Days to Kill poster image

        3 Days to Kill

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        McClatchy Newspapers Kevin Costner and director McG are plunged into the madcap mayhem of Monsieur Luc Besson in "3 Days to Kill," a seriocomic thriller about mortality, murder for hire and fatherhood. This being a Besson script and production, it's also about car chases and epic shootouts, torture played for sadistic laughs, Paris locations and Peugeot product placement. Besson, who morphed into a producer after "The Professional" and before "The Transporter," g... (read more)

      • Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me poster image

        Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips "Everybody's got a sack of rocks," Elaine Stritch says, quoting her late husband, John Bay. Some people don't let you know it. Some people do. The 89-year-old Broadway, TV, movie and cabaret star never lets you forget it. Swinging her particular rock sack with as much panache as her body will allow, Stritch makes her life a perpetual 11 o'clock number, celebrating strength through adversity, self-inflicted or otherwise... (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 Monuments Men poster image

        The Monuments Men

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A genial disappointment about the preciousness of art amid the destructive horrors of war, "The Monuments Men" is scored to a military march by composer Alexandre Desplat. You hear what he was going for: jaunty heroics. The throwback sound of it suggests the director, co-writer and star George Clooney sat down with Desplat, gave him a smile and said: "Gimme some of that Elmer Bernstein 'Great Escape' magic, Al." It almost works. The whole film, with its unfashionable techn... (read more)

      • Vampire Academy poster image

        Vampire Academy

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        McClatchy Newspapers The various young blood suckers of "Vampire Academy" belong to warring clans, with a royal family, "guardians" of those royals, silver daggers they use to kill each other and varying degrees of sensitivity to the harsh light of day. And just in case there's still confusion: "They don't sparkle either." It's a self-aware horror/action comedy, first in a possible franchise (sigh) based on Richelle Mead's books, that sits somewhere on the border... (read more)

      • Labor Day poster image

        Labor Day

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The thesis of "Labor Day," taken from Joyce Maynard's novel, was summed up well by The Washington Post headline affixed to the Post's book review: "Sometimes it's okay to pick up a scary drifter." In the fictitious town of Holton Mills, N.H., 13-year-old Henry has become the emotional caretaker for his depressed, agoraphobic single mother, Adele. Numerous miscarriages have eroded her sense of stability; monthly trips to the local supermarket are all she can handle. On one ... (read more)

      • That Awkward Moment poster image

        That Awkward Moment

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        More grating than peppy, the Manhattan-set romantic comedy "That Awkward Moment" proceeds as a series of awkward moments in search of a premise and a protagonist a little less stupid. Zac Efron bed-hops around as writer-director Tom Gormican's narrator/hero. He's a graphic designer whose life is one long hookup interrupted by beers and shots and trash-talk and Xbox with guy friends. This lady-killer, meant to be fetchingly blase on the surface and a fine fellow underneath, comes off... (read more)

      • Visitors poster image

        Visitors

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        It's playing in theaters and charging admission, but "Visitors" is not what it seems. It's an art piece masquerading as a movie, and whether you think that's a good thing will determine your reaction to what's on the screen. "Visitors" is also the latest collaboration between director Godfrey Reggio and composer Philip Glass, who've previously combined to produce celebrated trance-inducing documentaries such as "Koyaanisqatsi" and "Powaqqatsi." This tim... (read more)

      • Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit poster image

        Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The best moment in "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" allows the director and crucial supporting player Kenneth Branagh to set cars and guns aside for a brief, unblinking glare in a two-person scene at a dinner table. Branagh plays a heroin-addicted Russian terrorist in this routine franchise reboot, and when he's at dinner in Moscow with Ryan's fiancee, played by Keira Knightley, he's being duped into believing he's making meaningful progress in the sniveling-seduction department. Then he... (read more)

      • Ride Along poster image

        Ride Along

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Early, bloggy reviews of "Ride Along" have rolled in this week with phrases such as "perfectly acceptable" and "been-there-done-that," suggesting the likely range of opinion. It'll probably be a hit: Audiences are getting precisely what they're promised. This is the ol' odd-couple cops routine, rigged up to support the pairing of Ice Cube, in the role of a snarling Atlanta police detective on the trail of a mysterious arms dealer, and Kevin Hart, as the detective... (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)

      • August: Osage County poster image

        August: Osage County

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Over and over, the negative reviews of "August: Osage County" have pulled variations on a sad theme, with various New York- and LA-based critics wrestling with the film without having seen, or read, the Tracy Letts play that came before it. Paraphrased, the theme goes like this: "Well, at least now I don't have to see the play. The movie doesn't work for me. Why would I ever take time to see the original?" And this is why weak, misdirected film versions of worthy stage pro... (read more)

      • Her poster image

        Her

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Lone Survivor poster image

        Lone Survivor

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Roughly half of "Lone Survivor" is a standard-issue Hollywood treatment of a recent, bloody and, in human terms, tragic 2005 Navy SEAL mission to eliminate an al-Qaida operative in the Afghanistan mountain region of Hindu Kush. But the other half -- the hour or so of writer-director Peter Berg's film dealing specifically with what happens when four men are cut off in Taliban country, scrambling under fire -- is strong, gripping stuff, free of polemics, nerve-wracking in the extreme.... (read more)

      • Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones poster image

        Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

        Mark Olsen, Chicago Tribune

        The scariest thing about some horror movies might be when "5" appears at the end of the title; little good has ever come from that. So it's not surprising the team behind the "Paranormal Activity" films has gone an alternate route, adding a non-numbered secondary title of "The Marked Ones" on the franchise's fifth entry. The wildly successful series of low-budget films has trafficked in a sort of charged mundanity, the movies" found-footage aesthetic based o... (read more)

      • The Invisible Woman poster image

        The Invisible Woman

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Charles Dickens wrote often about people required by circumstance to skitter through double lives, none with more dastardly, compartmentalized determination than the secretive choirmaster at the center of his final, unfinished work, "The Mystery of Edwin Drood." As his biographers have made clear, Dickens knew a thing or two about the demands of a two-sided existence. Claire Tomalin's excellent study of Dickens and his love affair with actress Nelly Ternan, outside the bounds of Dic... (read more)

      • The Wolf of Wall Street poster image

        The Wolf of Wall Street

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In the waning years of the last century at Stratton Oakmont, the Wall Street brokerage house run like a coked-up 24-hour bacchanal by Jordan Belfort, the customer wasn't king. The customer was merely a means to an end. Belfort and his minions ruled, and they couldn't spend, snort or swallow the riches reaped fast enough. Belfort's various illegalities and near-death experiences were lovingly self-chronicled in his memoirs. Now director Martin Scorsese has made a three-hour picture about the m... (read more)

      • American Hustle poster image

        American Hustle

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        My favorite minute of movie this year comes early in David O. Russell's "American Hustle." Christian Bale's character, the con man Irving Rosenfeld, based on the real-life Abscam linchpin Mel Weinberg, is riding high: His small-time investment scams, conducted with his wily mistress (played by Amy Adams), keep growing more profitable, and they're falling in love. Backed by the great Broadway finger-snapper "I've Got Your Number," Bale and Adams dance their way across a Man... (read more)

      • Inside Llewyn Davis poster image

        Inside Llewyn Davis

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Inside Llewyn Davis" takes place in winter 1961, just before Bob Dylan makes the scene. The scene is the Greenwich Village folk music universe, a few finite blocks of an island that, in the hands of cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, looks and feels like a beautiful, long-ago smudge in motion. Crashing here and there, on couches uptown and downtown, Llewyn has a guitar, a voice and some talent. Thanks to Oscar Isaac's extraordinarily subtle and shrewd performance, the surly protagoni... (read more)

      • Saving Mr. Banks poster image

        Saving Mr. Banks

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        No feathers, animated or otherwise, will be ruffled by "Saving Mr. Banks," director John Lee Hancock's genial fictionalized account of how Walt Disney seduced "Mary Poppins" author P.L. Travers into allowing, for 5 percent of the gross, the supernatural caregiver to become a shiny Disney version of herself. Mainly the film is a testament to Emma Thompson. She's swell as Travers, the Australian-born resident of London who travels to Los Angeles in 1961 for a couple of conte... (read more)

      • The Past poster image

        The Past

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Walking With Dinosaurs poster image

        Walking With Dinosaurs

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues poster image

        Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Maybe if I liked the first "Anchorman" a little less, I'd like "Anchorman 2" a little more. Still, I laughed. Louder and crasser than the 2004 original, though God knows the first one had its share of jokes ending with phrases like "massive erection" or "smelly pirate hooker," director and co-writer Adam McKay's sequel nonetheless offers a fair number of idiotic rewards. Some wander in from far-left field: Ron Burgundy bottle-feeding a shark, for exampl... (read more)

      • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug poster image

        The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Oldboy poster image

        Oldboy

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Chan-wook Park's "Oldboy" is a high-voltage Korean saga about an elaborate cat-and-mouse game between a sadistic criminal of seemingly limitless resources and his dangerous prey: a businessman whose life has been brutally stolen from him. Set in modern Seoul, in a noir wilderness full of rain-slick streets, neon restaurants, corrupt gangsters and byzantine hotels, it's a movie of such jaw-dropping violence, wild improbability and dazzling style, it overpowers all resistance. "O... (read more)

      • Philomena poster image

        Philomena

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips On the job for 55 years, Judi Dench elevates everything she does, from M in the James Bond epics to the less intimidating but equally determined "little old Irish lady" who's the title character in "Philomena." Dench is not the only reason to see this unapologetic crowd-pleaser, but she is the best one. As directed by the veteran Stephen Frears, "Philomena's" "inspired by true events" narr... (read more)

      • Delivery Man poster image

        Delivery Man

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's too much to call the misty-eyed sentimental comedy "Delivery Man" Vince Vaughn's very own "Patch Adams," but the film does require Vaughn's character to smile through tears, over and over, in an attempt to yank your own heartstrings straight out of your heart. The movie's goal is a simple one: to leave moviegoers all over the world without functioning hearts, just like that poor schnook in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom." This is a doggedly faithful E... (read more)

      • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire poster image

        The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Nebraska poster image

        Nebraska

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The small and medium towns in the Midwest and the Great Plains region aren't so different from any other part -- rural, urban or in between -- of the United States. Half the people don't talk much, while the other half chatter to fill the silence. It's a time-honored cliche according to Garrison Keillor, but there's truth in it. And there truly are a million or more men in this country like Woody Grant, the tight-lipped subject of Alexander Payne's latest film, "Nebraska." Throughou... (read more)

      • The Book Thief poster image

        The Book Thief

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Adapted from the internationally popular book-club staple by Markus Zusak, "The Book Thief" tries so hard to warm our hearts amid grotesque suffering, it goes a bit mad under the strain. It relays an uplifting story that, ill-advisedly, is not so much Holocaust-era as Holocaust-adjacent, determined to steer clear of too much discomfort. Zusak follows the fortunes of his young heroine, Liesel, played by the talented young actress Sophie Nelisse, as she's adopted by Hans and Rosa Hube... (read more)

      • Thor: The Dark World poster image

        Thor: The Dark World

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Thor: The Dark World" is the eighth movie in its particular franchise. So if anyone asks you what it has in common with "Blondie Goes Latin" and "Bomba and the Jungle Girl" you'll know the answer. The franchise at hand goes by the name of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, encompassing the new adventures of Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America and so on, worth billions around the world. (Rumor has it the next all-star "Avengers" movie will be two hours of a... (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)

      • 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)

      • Captain Phillips poster image

        Captain Phillips

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Captain Phillips" is a Tom Hanks movie. It is also a Paul Greengrass movie, and the cinematic tumult director Greengrass adroitly captures and sustains in the service of a narrative has a way of keeping his stars unmoored -- in a good way -- while trumping conventional Hollywood notions of a star vehicle. Heroism exists in a Greengrass picture. But the British-born, documentary-trained director, best known for "United 93" and the second and third "Bourne" thrill... (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)

      • Blue Jasmine poster image

        Blue Jasmine

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips The acting is everything in "Blue Jasmine," though Cate Blanchett and company wouldn't have anything to act without writer-director Woody Allen's flagrant revision of "A Streetcar Named Desire." "Best-since" phrases have been flying since Allen's seriocomic exercise opened in New York and Los Angeles: best since "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," best since "Match Point," best since &qu... (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)

      • Dirty Wars poster image

        Dirty Wars

        Robert Abele, Chicago Tribune

        Richard Rowley's documentary "Dirty Wars" is a sobering account of acclaimed journalist Jeremy Scahill's reporting on the war on terror in the Middle East and Africa, and the effect its clandestine operations have had not just on those shaken by its violence but also on Scahill himself. He's the increasingly weary, die-hard truth-seeker covering a military/political apparatus built on shielding those truths from the American public. Narrated by Scahill, author of a blistering expose... (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)

      • Kon-Tiki poster image

        Kon-Tiki

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Media Services Film Clips "Kon-Tiki" is a ripping yarn torn from yesterday's headlines. Though somewhat forgotten now, the 1947 story of six men, an oceangoing raft and a wild and crazy theory was a media sensation that gripped the world's imagination -- and launched a thousand tiki bars. Though scientists then and now largely believe that the original inhabitants of Polynesia came eastward from Asia, Norwegian scientist and adventurer Thor Hey... (read more)

      • 42 poster image

        42

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "42," writer-director Brian Helgeland's carefully tended portrait of Jackie Robinson, treats its now-mythic Brooklyn Dodger with respect, reverence and love. But who's in there, underneath the mythology? Has the movie made Robinson, a man who endured so much in the name of breaking Major League Baseball's color barrier and then died before his 54th birthday, something less than three-dimensionally human? I'm afraid so. This is a smooth-edged treatment of a life full of sharp, painfu... (read more)

      • To the Wonder poster image

        To the Wonder

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Media Services Film Clips In the spirit of a Terrence Malick screenplay, certain rhetorical questions to be spoken in hushed voice-over present themselves regarding Malick's latest, "To the Wonder." Can we ever see enough sunsets as filmed by Malick and his mighty cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki? Is serious spiritual yearning even worth attempting to capture in a series of moving images? And will Malick ever tire of the look of tall grass in ... (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)

      • Bettie Page Reveals All poster image

        Bettie Page Reveals All

        Gary Goldstein, Chicago Tribune

        In the kicky documentary "Bettie Page Reveals All," the 1950s cult pin-up gal with the trademark bangs is called "the first icon of her nature," "an extraordinary creature" and a "revolutionary." But according to Page herself, who was captured in an audio-only interview by director Mark Mori more than a decade before her 2008 death, she was just an uninhibited young woman, comfortable with her photogenic looks, who enjoyed sex, posing and making folks h... (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)

      • War Horse poster image

        War Horse

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • 127 Hours poster image

        127 Hours

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        With "127 Hours," the Oscar-winning director of "Slumdog Millionaire" proves it's possible to make a supercharged, perpetually kinetic movie about a man who can't move. It is something, this film, from director Danny Boyle, who adapted Aron Ralston's memoir "Between a Rock and a Hard Place" with Boyle's "Slumdog" collaborator Simon Beaufoy. I just don't think it's quite the right thing. In April 2003, Ralston, an experienced hiker like a lot of Colorado... (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)

      • Detestable Moi 3D Numerique poster image

        Detestable Moi 3D Numerique

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Karate Kid poster image

        The Karate Kid

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "New" being relative, the new version of "The Karate Kid" -- which relies on the heart and cheery bloodthirstiness of the original -- marks the first time the city of Detroit has been played on screen by parts of Beijing. The film was shot on location in China. In its 1984 inspiration, the new world greeting our boy hero was Southern California, and that was exotic enough. Ralph Macchio (then in his early 20s) starred as a New Jersey teenager relocated with his mother to a... (read more)

      • Marmaduke poster image

        Marmaduke

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        "If you're a teenager and the world doesn't fit you, you're totally hosed." And if you're making a movie about a chatty, teenaged Great Dane, you might as well give him the voice of Owen Wilson. "Marmaduke," the comic strip about life with a 200-pound canine, earns a dull but harmless big-screen comedy aimed at the youngest moviegoers. Got kids? Be thankful this isn't in pricey 3D. And be thrilled that unlike "Beverly Hills Chihuahua," nobody will want to stop at... (read more)

      • How to Train Your Dragon: An IMAX 3D Experience poster image

        How to Train Your Dragon: An IMAX 3D Experience

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The swoops and dives of the exuberant 3-D DreamWorks Animation feature "How to Train Your Dragon," in which the teenage hero breaks all the Viking rules and befriends the winged enemy, should prove as addicting to its target audience as similar scenes have in a little something called "Avatar." Freely adapted from the books by Cressida Cowell, "How to Train Your Dragon" exists to support its flying sequences, just as last year's animated DreamWorks offering, &quo... (read more)

      • Frozen poster image

        Frozen

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Avatar: An IMAX Experience poster image

        Avatar: An IMAX Experience

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Blue is the new green, if the billion-or-more box-office predictions come true for James Cameron's first feature since "Titanic" 12 years ago. So. How is it? Does it look like a billion? It does, yes. But folks, I haven't experienced such a clear dividing line within a blockbuster in years. The first 90 minutes of "Avatar" are pretty terrific -- a full-immersion technological wonder with wonders to spare. The other 72 minutes, less and less terrific. Cameron's story, which... (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)

      • Where the Wild Things Are poster image

        Where the Wild Things Are

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Truly, I am madly, deeply in love with the film version of "Where the Wild Things Are." Not since Robert Altman took on "Popeye" a generation ago, and lost, has a major director addressed such a well-loved, all-ages title. This time everything works, from tip to tail, from the moment in the prologue at which director Spike Jonze freezes the action (Max, fork in hand, tearing after the family dog) to the final scene's hard-won reconnection between Max and his mother at the ... (read more)

      • Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs poster image

        Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Fairly inventive and exceedingly manic, "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" comes from the 1978 picture book by Judi Barrett and Ron Barrett. To say the title helped sell the kids story is an understatement, certainly the only understatement involved with the movie version. Still, there's a semblance of a comic personality at work. Plenty of middle-ground (or worse) animated features feel like timid corporate entities. This one, which is certainly fresher than "Ice Age 3,"... (read more)

      • Under the Sea poster image

        Under the Sea

        Michael Esposito, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa poster image

        Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Madagascar" (2005) made half a bil, and my preteen son certainly enjoyed it, especially for the penguins. The sequel, "Madagascar: Back 2 Africa," is a better film, though - less manic, more easygoing. The first film referenced so many other movies so indiscriminately, from "Chariots of Fire" to "Planet of the Apes" to "American Beauty," watching it was like being caught on a bus with a bunch of screenwriters on the way to a wisenheimer conve... (read more)

      • Synecdoche, New York poster image

        Synecdoche, New York

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Most movies fling an audience from A to B to C so that the typical customer response to the average studio product - "Well, it was OK" - is elicited and there's a few more ducats in the coffers at the end of the day and no hard feelings. Being taken for a ride in comfortably predictable fashion: That's the idea. Now and then, though, you encounter a film roomy enough to walk around in, like an art installation. It might get you vexed, or lost. But you might work your way out of the ... (read more)

      • Pineapple Express poster image

        Pineapple Express

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In its gleefully befogged first hour, "Pineapple Express" seems to be onto something new: It's a marijuana comedy that keeps shuffling genres, like a stoned blackjack dealer. James Franco is blissfully funny as Saul, the supplier who finds himself running for his barely cognizant life with steady customer Dale, played by Seth Rogen. Dale's a 25-year-old dating a high school senior. (He proudly sports a high school girl's wristwatch.) They're running because Dale witnessed a drug-rel... (read more)

      • Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! poster image

        Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Someday, if we're all good little boys and girls, the world will hand us a Dr. Seuss film half as wonderful as one of the books. Meantime we have the competent, clinical computer animation and relative inoffensiveness of "Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!" to pass the time. Graced with some rich voice talent led by a sweetly restrained Jim Carrey, the film is far less grating than the big-budget versions of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (big hit) and "The Cat in the H... (read more)

      • Step Up 2 the Streets poster image

        Step Up 2 the Streets

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Providing you're not hip-hop- or cliche-averse, see "Step Up 2 the Streets" with the right expectations and you'll be pleasantly surprised. It's just as cornball as "Step Up" (2006), but it's more fun - more of a full-on dance musical, its plot a mere slip of a thing designed to whisk you to the next excuse for another choreographic and ab-centric display. The film glides from the Baltimore subway to the classrooms of the Maryland School of the Arts (think "Fame,"... (read more)

      • Grindhouse poster image

        Grindhouse

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Fanboy vengeance is theirs! Like so many stray body parts, the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez double bill "Grindhouse" gathers up two 85-minute features, "Planet Terror" by Rodriguez and Tarantino's more talkatively sadistic (and far better) "Death Proof"; a quartet of coming-attraction trailers for fake `70s-schlockazoid pictures of various genres, one of which is a riot; and 1,001 memories of the genuine grindhouse trash that malnourished many a grateful yo... (read more)

      • 300 poster image

        300

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        If a film manages to tell an old story in an appreciably new visual way, that's not nothing. By that measure "300" succeeds. It's a fairly entertaining bloodbath designed to put audiences ringside in the cage match of the fifth century B.C., as the Spartans square off against the Persians. It's the few against the many, and the few are mighty fit. The movie should've been called "Ode to a Grecian Ab." Zack Snyder directs, from a script he wrote with Kurt Johnstad and Micha... (read more)

      • Night at the Museum poster image

        Night at the Museum

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        You know Ben Stiller isn't coming off well in "Night at the Museum" when his character, a third-shift security guard at New York's Museum of Natural History, is beset by Attila the Hun and his marauding hordes and you find yourself rooting for the hordes. Stranded in this charmless fantasy, Stiller is reduced to his old halting, squirming tricks. Hot (well, cold) off his "Pink Panther" remake, director Shawn Levy squanders a rich premise. Working from Milan Trenc's book, a... (read more)

      • Charlotte's Web poster image

        Charlotte's Web

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The E.B. White wonder known as "Charlotte's Web" is told in such simple, beautiful language that any film version is bound to come up a little runty by comparison. Yet if you don't expect the moon or any directorial distinction, the new adaptation of the 1952 classic works on its own terms while respecting the original. I liked it. I didn't love it the way I love the book, but the book ... well, that is some book. The last "Charlotte's Web" on film was the animated 1973 Ha... (read more)

      • Over the Hedge poster image

        Over the Hedge

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Redeemed only by its best voice-over artistes - Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara as a couple of amiable porcupines, refugees from somewhere north of Toronto - "Over the Hedge" recalls the old war movie cliche about it being "too quiet" out there. As with so many recent computer-animated critter features (this one's on a passable, forgettable par with "Madagascar"), the visual style of "Over the Hedge" is bright and surreally crisp. Too bright. Too cris... (read more)

      • Ice Age: The Meltdown poster image

        Ice Age: The Meltdown

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        "Ice Age: The Meltdown" has strange but seemingly good news for fans of director Chris Wedge's slap-happy original "Ice Age" - of which I admit to being one. In that movie, one of the surprise hits of 2002, Wedge and his nifty creative team and live-wire actors had lots of fun with an oncoming ice age. But whereas a real ice age lasts 100,000 years or so, the one that descended on our buddies from the first movie - including Manny the dolorous woolly mammoth (voiced by Ray... (read more)

      • Mirrormask poster image

        Mirrormask

        Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune

        It is pointless to summarize the story of "MirrorMask," a trippy fantasy flick from graphic novel whiz kids Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman. Pointless because for all its flying cats with rainbow wings and navigational library books, "MirrorMask" barely has a story, its talent and vision focused entirely on its singular dreamworld facade. It's hollow. Working for her family's circus, 15-year-old Helena (Stephanie Leonidas) is a pretty typical teen: mad at her ringleader paren... (read more)

      • The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada poster image

        The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Two ripe acts of dramatic wishful thinking lie at the center of Tommy Lee Jones? fascinating and unpredictable feature film directorial debut, ?The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.? One involves old-fashioned vigilante justice, by which a West Texas cattle rancher, played by Jones in his most vivid performance in years, avenges the murder of his friend, the undocumented Mexican of the title. The other instance of wishful thinking posits what, in a poetically just world, might happen if a ... (read more)

      • Robots poster image

        Robots

        Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

        The best movies capture their time in history, taking us to another world and making us see ourselves from a fresh angle. The wildly inventive, sweetly subversive "Robots" fits squarely into this category. Blue Sky Studio's high-concept animated comedy folds in an unlikely combination of themes - corporate monopolies, plastic surgery and genocide - and still manages to be funny. "Ice Age" directors Chris Wedge and Carlos Saldanha, along with their team of animators and de... (read more)

      • The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie poster image

        The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie

        Scott L. Powers, Chicago Tribune

        If your kid has SpongeBob SquarePants underwear, it's a good bet she or he will relish "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie." For those of us without such attire, the $8, 90-minute wager isn't so safe. The inevitable movie version of the Nickelodeon cartoon that since 1999 has featured the undersea adolescent adventures of sea sponge SpongeBob SquarePants, his buddy Patrick (a starfish) and peevish neighbor Squidward (yes, a squid) revolves around SpongeBob's job as a fry cook at the K... (read more)

      • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban poster image

        Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        Just as J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" represents a step in maturity beyond the series' first two books, director Alfonso Cuaron's film version improves upon its predecessors. This third "Harry Potter" movie shakes the candy coating off of the franchise without violating its spirit. Chris Columbus, who directed the first two, is skilled at assembling the elements and moving a story along, but he doesn't leave behind ideas that haunt or images tha... (read more)

      • Mean Girls poster image

        Mean Girls

        Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

        The biting teen comedy "Mean Girls" heralds the silver-screen big bang of two promising careers: actress Lindsay Lohan and comedy writer/actor Tina Fey. In one movie, Lohan ("Freaky Friday") goes from a Disney-sculpted actress to her own star, transported by "Saturday Night Live" head writer Fey's nervy comic script. Lohan stars as 15-year-old Cady Heron, whose childhood in Africa with her zoologist parents leaves her ill-equipped for the jungle politics of high ... (read more)

      • Hellboy poster image

        Hellboy

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        Ron Perlman is no one's idea of a superhero, which is what makes "Hellboy" interesting. The hulking, chiseled, 53-year old actor is most famous for starring in TV's long-gone "Beauty and the Beast" series, but he's wearing a different kind of makeup in this would-be franchise based on Mike Mignola's popular, dry-witted Dark Horse Comics books. Hellboy is a big red dude with an oversized right hand of stone and two disks sticking out of his forehead like embedded goggles, t... (read more)

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