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      • Mr. Holmes poster image

        Mr. Holmes

        Colin Covert, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Paper Towns poster image

        Paper Towns

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Southpaw poster image

        Southpaw

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Ant-Man poster image

        Ant-Man

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Irrational Man poster image

        Irrational Man

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Trainwreck poster image

        Trainwreck

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        If you've seen "Spy" with Melissa McCarthy, you're already aware that the movie nails its first big laugh -- the sneezing-assassin joke -- within moments of the opening credits. Even if you know it's coming, the timing is just right. And right away you think: There. Thank you. These people know what they're doing. How often does that thought run through your mind in a mainstream commercial comedy? Not often enough. It didn't happen with "Ted 2," which may be a moderate box... (read more)

      • Amy poster image

        Amy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Do I Sound Gay? poster image

        Do I Sound Gay?

        Gary Goldstein, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Minions poster image

        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)

      • Self/less poster image

        Self/less

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In the ineffectual new fantasy-thriller "Self/less" the fantastical plot device -- a body-switching process costing millions and not covered by any known health plan -- is called "shedding." You buy yourself a new, longer life in a younger person's body, and your troubles are over. Or ARE THEY? Ben Kingsley, sounding like a compendium of every attempt at a New York accent ever heard in the movies, plays Damian Hale, a Trump-like Manhattan developer (i.e., he's a selfish ba... (read more)

      • The Gallows poster image

        The Gallows

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        At the end of the last century, "The Blair Witch Project" popularized the notion of idiots in horror movies filming every second of their own imminent demise. A deliberately unpolished subgenre was born: found-footage horror, cheap to make (with some higher-budget exceptions, "Cloverfield" among them), profitable in a flash. The latest of these is "The Gallows," shot for a buck-eighty-three in Fresno, Calif., by the writers-directors Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff... (read more)

      • Jimmy's Hall poster image

        Jimmy's Hall

        Lindsey Bahr, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl poster image

        Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Magic Mike XXL poster image

        Magic Mike XXL

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Magic Mike XXL" comes up a little short compared with the original, director Steven Soderbergh's blithe and bonny Channing Tatum showcase inspired by Tatum's salad days as a male stripper. This time the jokes are heavier, more on-the-nose, though a surprising percentage of them work anyway. And yet the sequel earns its singles, reasons that are simple and quite unusual. Feel free to quit reading the review here, because why lie? You've already determined whether you're going to see... (read more)

      • Terminator Genisys poster image

        Terminator Genisys

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Humanity gets a do-over in "Terminator Genisys," the fifth in the franchise begun in 1984 with "The Terminator." But this screwy revision of the previous "Terminator" movies is so muddled and yakky, you may find yourself rooting for the apocalypse. At one point Arnold Schwarzenegger is thrown through a wall into a Pepsi Max vending machine (if the rise of the machines means the fall of product placement, I'm all for it), and for a second I was pulling for a slugf... (read more)

      • Ted 2 poster image

        Ted 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Ted 2" unites Mark Wahlberg's insecure wallflower character (it's called acting, folks) with the chubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff and racial, sexual, scatological and '80s-reference insults voiced, with movie-saving acumen, by co-writer and director Seth MacFarlane. "Saving" is relative. Madly uneven, more so than the mediocre 2012 hit that made half a billion worldwide, this one's an easy predictive call. If you got your laughs out of "Ted," you'll li... (read more)

      • The Little Death poster image

        The Little Death

        Jake Coyle, Chicago Tribune

        Associated Press I come to praise the portmanteau. Anthologies, omnibuses, whatever you want to call them: Those cinematic conglomerations of disconnected or slightly interwoven stories are what I'm talking about. As a storytelling tradition, it stretches back beyond "The Canterbury Tales," and runs through "Pulp Fiction." The latest is "The Little Death," an Australian series of sex fetish fables. The portmanteau is often good fun because it's happily free of co... (read more)

      • Dope poster image

        Dope

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Infinitely Polar Bear poster image

        Infinitely Polar Bear

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Jurassic World poster image

        Jurassic World

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Wolfpack poster image

        The Wolfpack

        Michael O'Sullivan, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Insidious: Chapter 3 poster image

        Insidious: Chapter 3

        Rick Bentley, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Love & Mercy poster image

        Love & Mercy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Entourage poster image

        Entourage

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        There's no successful formula for the extraction of a stand-alone movie from the mines of a recently departed TV series. If there were, that second "Sex and the City" film and last year's Kickstarter-funded "Veronica Mars" wouldn't have turned out galling and forgettable, respectively. How's "Entourage"? More like the latter. It's in the realm of "eh." Devoted fans of the HBO series (2004-2011) will find it passably engaging, and newcomers will likely s... (read more)

      • Aloha poster image

        Aloha

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        For context's sake, the new Cameron Crowe film "Aloha" is a tick up from the dregs of "Elizabethtown" and a tick down from "We Bought a Zoo." The Media Action Network for Asian-Americans calls it a "whitewashed" version of Hawaii, a state that is roughly 30 percent Caucasian in real life and, as "Aloha" presents it, roughly 97 percent in fake life. Same old Hollywood ethnographic story. And yet the recent Alexander Payne picture "The Desc... (read more)

      • Heaven Knows What poster image

        Heaven Knows What

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Mainstream audiences can only handle so much honesty in their portraits of addicts on screen. I have no doubt that the latest film from Josh and Benny Safdie, "Heaven Knows What," will not appeal to the majority of casual moviegoers. Likewise, I have no doubts regarding the film's remarkable achievement. Working on another film project, about Manhattan's diamond district, the Safdie brothers encountered a young woman they knew, instinctively, had a story to tell. Nineteen-year-old A... (read more)

      • San Andreas poster image

        San Andreas

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Tomorrowland poster image

        Tomorrowland

        Christopher Borrelli, Chicago Tribune

        By now you probably heard that the series finale of "Mad Men" ended with adman Don Draper dressed in loose-fitting whites, chanting "om" on the lawn of a commune in California, perched at the edge of the Pacific, the 1960s having slid into the 1970s. Then, just as we assumed Don had found spiritual release, a smile flickered at his mouth. He had an idea, and the show cut to that most characteristic of '70s corporate hosannas -- a field of people singing they would like to ... (read more)

      • I'll See You in My Dreams poster image

        I'll See You in My Dreams

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Mad Max: Fury Road poster image

        Mad Max: Fury Road

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        You remember "Happy Feet." This is George Miller's "Happy Wheels." The creator of the original "Mad Max" trilogy has whipped up a gargantuan grunge symphony of vehicular mayhem that makes "Furious 7" look like "Curious George." The full title of Miller's remake of "Mad Max" is "Mad Max: Fury Road." It stars Tom Hardy, who says very little, in the old Mel Gibson role of the post-apocalyptic road warrior. Here the character's... (read more)

      • Pitch Perfect 2 poster image

        Pitch Perfect 2

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Slow West poster image

        Slow West

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 5 Flights Up poster image

        5 Flights Up

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Hot Pursuit poster image

        Hot Pursuit

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        Cheap, short and slow, "Hot Pursuit" is a comedy that never lets you forget that pairing up Sofia Vergara with Reese Witherspoon should have worked better than this. A mismatch-misfire badly misdirected by the director of "The Guilt Trip" and "27 Dresses," it wastes the Oscar-winning Reese and the spirited spitfire Vergara, cast as a comically disgraced cop who escorts the wife of a drug lord to court. It's "Midnight Run" without enough running, "T... (read more)

      • I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story poster image

        I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        No negative thoughts, words or deeds intrude upon "I Am Big Bird," Dave LaMattina and Chad Walker's documentary about Caroll Spinney, the man behind the voice, walk, heart and soul of the beloved Sesame Street character for the last 45 years. But as endless processions of friends and colleagues attest to Spinney's genius, and the filmmakers wallow in behind-the-scenes imagery, they fail to fully capture the actual art of puppeteering, with woefully few substantial excerpts from the ... (read more)

      • Saint Laurent poster image

        Saint Laurent

        Guy Lodge, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Avengers: Age of Ultron poster image

        Avengers: Age of Ultron

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Far From the Madding Crowd poster image

        Far From the Madding Crowd

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

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

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

        Betsy Sharkey, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Welcome to Me poster image

        Welcome to Me

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        As a comic performer with admirably sneaky dramatic instincts, Kristen Wiig works like a pair of binoculars as peered into from the wrong end. Tiny throwaway mutterings become the activation point of an exchange, even an entire scene, while conventionally emotional big moments are often glancing, unexpected and gone before you know it. In "Welcome to Me," Wiig plays a wobbly Palm Desert, Calif. woman whose name -- Alice Klieg -- points to a date with showbiz destiny. Like Rupert Pup... (read more)

      • Ex Machina poster image

        Ex Machina

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Water Diviner poster image

        The Water Diviner

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Russell Crowe's feature directorial debut, "The Water Diviner," stems from an honest impulse to dramatize ordinary people who honor their dead. Yet the results are narratively dishonest and emotionally a little cheap. A single performance lifts the film above the level of mediocrity; more on that later. The idea came from a single line of description uncovered by co-screenwriter Andrew Anastasios when he was researching another project. In the wake of the horrendously costly Battle ... (read more)

      • Monkey Kingdom poster image

        Monkey Kingdom

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Cybernatural poster image

        Cybernatural

        Rick Bentley, Chicago Tribune

        The Fresno Bee Not since "The Blair Witch Project" in 1999 has a horror film taken such a creative approach to conjure scares as "Unfriended." It's a cautionary tale of friends who become the target of an unseen cyberentity starving for revenge. What makes this film so different is that it's shot looking at a computer screen. The actors interact through Skype, with back-story elements handled through online searches. Even the soundtrack is created using the tunes stored on... (read more)

      • Clouds of Sils Maria poster image

        Clouds of Sils Maria

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Now 60, and always more of a wry classicist than a maverick, the writer-director Olivier Assayas is one of the steadiest and most reliable filmmakers in contemporary cinema. I like his latest, "Clouds of Sils Maria," a great deal; it's beautifully acted and has a few wise (if familiar) things to impart regarding how age and experience must make way for, or at least accommodate, the brashness of youth. You should know, however, what sort of dramatic strategies you're dealing with, si... (read more)

      • Woman in Gold poster image

        Woman in Gold

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In "Woman in Gold," a paint-by-numbers account of a gorgeous Klimt and its tortured history of ownership, there's really no other word for what Helen Mirren is doing in certain reaction shots, out of subtle interpretive desperation: mugging. She's mugging. She is a sublimely talented performer, and this is material with fascinating implications, and I doubt there's a moviegoer in the world who doesn't like Helen Mirren. But even the best actors need a director to tell them to tone i... (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)

      • Lambert & Stamp poster image

        Lambert & Stamp

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        There have been better, more thorough documentaries about the seminal rock band The Who. "The Kids Are Alright" set the standard in '79, and "Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who" seemed to fill in the gaps of that earlier film. But "Lambert & Stamp," an alternative history of the band as chaotically organized as The Who itself, is still an eye-opener. James D. Cooper's film, built around two British filmmakers who took over management of the band and led them t... (read more)

      • Get Hard poster image

        Get Hard

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        An awful lot of "Get Hard" depends on gay-panic humor of a weirdly squirmy and dated sort, making you wonder if this new Will Ferrell/Kevin Hart mystery might best be viewed alongside reissues of "Cruising" and "Norman ... Is That You?" I call it a mystery because that's what it contains -- a series of mysteries. It's a mystery why two bona fide comic stars, working very, very hard to keep this thing from tanking, couldn't pressure their collaborators for another... (read more)

      • The Salt of the Earth poster image

        The Salt of the Earth

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • White God poster image

        White God

        Guy Lodge, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Divergent Series: Insurgent poster image

        The Divergent Series: Insurgent

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Chicago as never looked less toddlin' than it does in "Insurgent," the second of four planned movies to be pulled, taffylike, out of the hugely popular Veronica Roth trilogy. At one point our fierce yet humble dystopian world saver, Tris Prior, played by the fierce but humble franchise saver, Shailene Woodley, strolls beneath rusted bridges along the dried-up remains of the Chicago River. I knew that St. Patrick's Day dye wasn't safe! I kid. I kid the post-apocalypse. It is no laugh... (read more)

      • Cinderella poster image

        Cinderella

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Refreshingly free of all snark, the satisfying new live-action "Cinderella" from the princess manufacturing company known as Disney has generated a whirl of pre-screening publicity regarding the billowy blue gown with the terrifyingly narrow waist, as worn by the excellent British actress Lily James. I vote for costume designer Sandy Powell as the real star of this project. The setting may be early 19th century, but Powell and director Kenneth Branagh roam freely across the decades ... (read more)

      • Seymour: An Introduction poster image

        Seymour: An Introduction

        Justin Chang, Chicago Tribune

        Variety Although clearly designed as a reverent tribute from one artist to another, this first documentary directed by Ethan Hawke happily sidesteps any vanity-project pitfalls, granting full expression to great classical pianist Seymour Bernstein's wise and witty commentary on a craft that he's spent decades honing -- as well as the proper application of that craft when the demands of art are often outweighed by the pressures of commerce. Although he's only onscreen for a few minutes, Hawke ... (read more)

      • Chappie poster image

        Chappie

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        I found lots to admire in writer-director Neill Blomkamp's "District 9" and, despite its heavy-handed universal health care polemics, the Matt Damon space station allegory "Elysium." But his latest science fiction outing, co-written (like "Elysium") with his wife, Terri Tatchell, is a misjudgment from metallic head to titanium toe. After Wednesday's advance screening, the dialogue en route to the parking garage was clear and pointed. Woman 1: "Wasn't that th... (read more)

      • Merchants of Doubt poster image

        Merchants of Doubt

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times Don't underestimate Robert Kenner's "Merchants of Doubt." It may sound like a standard-issue advocacy documentary concerned, as so many are, with the perils of global warming, but it's a lot more than that. It's not just that "Merchants of Doubt" is loaded with jazzy visuals and starts with a performance by close-up magician Jamy Ian Swiss. This enthralling film, based on the book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, is as fascinating as it is horrifying.... (read more)

      • The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel poster image

        The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Three years ago, on a somewhat different scale, the success of the first "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" was weirdly akin to the success of the first "Avengers" movie. Both relied on ensemble superheroics and charmingly fractious banter among movie stars. This year brings sequels to both films. First up is "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," the one without the explosions. Director John Madden's easygoing follow-up resembles a slightly scattered second season o... (read more)

      • Focus poster image

        Focus

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In August 2016, Will Smith and Margot Robbie will lead the ensemble of the DC Comics adaptation "Suicide Squad," a presumptive superantihero franchise in the making. Meantime, consider the new film "Focus" as a sort of Intro-to-Chemistry test for the same actors. Do they pass? Screen chemistry between two individuals isn't really a pass/fail proposition. There are degrees involved. But let's pretend otherwise and say yes, Smith and Robbie pass, barely, with less than flyin... (read more)

      • Kung Fu Elliot poster image

        Kung Fu Elliot

        Michael Rechtshaffen, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times The already murky parameters of contemporary reality filmmaking are further fudged in "Kung Fu Elliot," an entertaining documentary following two years in the life of an idealistic amateur filmmaker intent on becoming Canada's first action hero. With a pair of Ed Wood-type productions under his belt, self-proclaimed karate champion Elliot Scott is convinced his latest micro-budgeted epic, "Blood Fight," will make him the Chuck Norris of Halifax, Nova Scot... (read more)

      • The Lazarus Effect poster image

        The Lazarus Effect

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        "The Lazarus Effect" is what happens when hip, smart actors commit themselves -- body and soul -- to a horror movie. Mark Duplass, a mainstay of indie cinema's microbudget "mumblecore" movement, and recent convert Olivia Wilde ably play a scientist couple whose work has led to a serum that brings the dead back to life. And with director David Gelb ("Jiro Dreams of Sushi") in charge, you can be sure this isn't some brain-munching zombie apocalypse. What the scient... (read more)

      • Fifty Shades of Grey poster image

        Fifty Shades of Grey

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Adapted and directed by women of considerably larger talent than novelist E.L. James, the film version of "Fifty Shades of Grey" turns out to be an intriguing tussle -- not in the sack, or in the Red Room of Pain, but in its internal war between the dubious erotica of James' novel (the first of three) and the far craftier trash offered by the movie. It's poetic justice. James' love story concerns an impossibly rich, sexually exotic, emotionally remote billionaire and the collegiate ... (read more)

      • Jupiter Ascending poster image

        Jupiter Ascending

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In "Jupiter Ascending" Channing Tatum's character is a "splice," an intergalactic bounty hunter with a distaste for shirts. His genetically engineered DNA contains both wolf and human strands. He sports wee pointy ears, a lemon-brown goatee and a terrific pair of jet boots. He's basically Shakespeare's Puck plunked down in a story recalling "The House of Atreus," but in space. The movie doesn't really work, but the jet boots would be the envy of Iron Man, and the... (read more)

      • Seventh Son poster image

        Seventh Son

        Peter Debruge, Chicago Tribune

        Variety Legend has it that the seventh son of a seventh son is born with certain special powers, which, in Joseph Delaney's "Wardstone Chronicles" fantasy-lit series, include the ability to see supernatural beings and, potentially, to kill witches. But given the unusually long gestation period for Universal's film adaptation, "Seventh Son," which opens in the U.S. Friday, nearly a year later than originally planned, one shouldn't be all that surprised to discover some pret... (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)

      • The Boy Next Door poster image

        The Boy Next Door

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        As the song from "Meet Me in St. Louis" put it, in a different story context: How can she ignore the boy next door? She can't! Jennifer Lopez just can't. The boy next door, played by Ryan Guzman, is just too darn hot. Psycho, but hot. And this week, after so much "American Sniper" analysis of patriotism, jingoism, geopolitical morality and cinematic debate, it's important to remember what two things we, as a nation, fight for every day of our lives: the sight of Lopez's ep... (read more)

      • American Sniper poster image

        American Sniper

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        People will take what they want to take from "American Sniper," director Clint Eastwood's latest film. Already it has turned into an ideological war to be won or lost, rather than a fictionalized biopic to be debated. It's the most divisive movie on screens at the moment, and it appears to have caught a wave of desire among audiences -- conservative, liberal, centrist -- to return to stories of nerve-wracking wartime heroism in varying degrees of truth and fiction, from "Fury&q... (read more)

      • Blackhat poster image

        Blackhat

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Blackhat" is a thickly plotted disappointment, yet it has three or four big sequences proving that director Michael Mann, who gave us "Thief," "Heat," "Collateral" and others, has lost none of his instincts for how to choreograph, photograph and edit screen violence. My favorite moment comes in a waterfront chase taking place in Hong Kong -- the movie's set variously in Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Malaysia and Indonesia -- when Mann's hand-held digital cam... (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)

      • Unbroken poster image

        Unbroken

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Laura Hillenbrand's 2010 nonfiction account "Unbroken" introduced millions to Louis Zamperini, the Italian-American who competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics and, in World War II, became an Army Air Corps bombardier flying missions over the South Pacific. In 1943 Zamperini was aboard a rickety B-24 aircraft, the "Green Hornet," when it crashed in the water. He and two other survivors, "Phil" Phillips and "Mac" McNamara, survived 33 days on a life raft, c... (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)

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

        She's Beautiful When She's Angry

        Sheri Linden, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day poster image

        Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        Whatever else children take from Judith Viorst's delightful "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day," the sly subtext of this picture-heavy book is how exhausting and sometimes misguided the optimism of the eternally optimistic can be. Parents who smile all the time, who make light of the weight of the world kids carry around sometimes? Annoying, especially to those kids. That's what the film version kicks around the block, and rather amusingly, a few times. Lif... (read more)

      • One Chance poster image

        One Chance

        Annlee Ellingson, Chicago Tribune

        Before Susan Boyle there was Paul Potts, a schlubby car-phone salesman from Wales who blew Simon Cowell and his fellow judges away on the first episode of "Britain's Got Talent" with his rendition of Puccini's aria "Nessun Dorma." The son of a steelworker with a chipped front tooth and the voice of an angel won that first season of the reality show, but his progression through the competition is just an afterthought in "One Chance," the story of his life leading ... (read more)

      • Annabelle poster image

        Annabelle

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The devil-doll lark "Annabelle" exists to make its host movie, last year's excellent "The Conjuring," look even better by comparison. As prequels go, it's not bad, though a couple of things keeping it from amounting to more are worth discussing, briefly, before we all get back to our lives. Here's one drawback: It looks like cheap digital crud. Horror fans are used to lo-fi visual scares, especially in the found-footage genre, but "Annabelle" is not one of those ... (read more)

      • Gone Girl poster image

        Gone Girl

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The 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)

      • The Equalizer poster image

        The Equalizer

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Based loosely on the 1985-1989 television series, on which Edward Woodward never stuck garden shears in an enemy's throat and never, ever stabbed anyone through the neck with a corkscrew, "The Equalizer" smells like a hit. But I wish it had one completely honest scene, where (for example) someone asks the avenging angel-hero: "Who are you?" And he answers: "I'm Denzel Washington. And Denzel Washington can make even this thing watchable." More and more with action... (read more)

      • The Maze Runner poster image

        The Maze Runner

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • This Is Where I Leave You poster image

        This Is Where I Leave You

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Going by the new ensemble comedy "This Is Where I Leave You," you'd think Tina Fey was a medium acting talent at best, prone to overstatement and eye-rolling. Performers can't do it alone; they need guidance. But in the movies, very often performers end up doing solo acts in proximity to other solo acts, and the camera's either in the wrong place or the director and the editor hack up simple two-person conversations into frantic, competing moments. There's one bit in director Shawn ... (read more)

      • Dolphin Tale 2 poster image

        Dolphin Tale 2

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        You might have thought "Dolphin Tale," the sleeper hit kids' film of a few falls back, was a complete, compact and uplifting story that didn't really need a second act. If so, you were on the money. It was the fictionalized account of the true story of Winter, a badly injured dolphin who was rescued by the Clearwater (Fla.) Aquarium, and how a prosthetic tail was fabricated for her, allowing her to swim and survive and inspire veterans, cancer survivors and accident victims of all a... (read more)

      • The Giver poster image

        The Giver

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        At this point in the dystopian movie cycle, I'm ready for a story about a teenager with zero interest in questioning the system, let alone starting a revolution. A spineless conformist -- that's what the genre needs. Meantime there's "The Giver," director Phillip Noyce's film version of the 1993 Lois Lowry best-seller, which remains a staple of the young adult shelves alongside the "Hunger Games" and "Divergent" books. So here we are again. It's the future. Life ... (read more)

      • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles poster image

        Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Earth to Echo poster image

        Earth to Echo

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        McClatchy Newspapers "Earth to Echo" is an engagingly unassuming "E.T." knockoff, a kids movie that serves up a similar alien-with-kids story in a "Blair Witch"/ "Paranormal" shaky-cam package. Disney produced it, but then sold it to Relativity. Cast with cute, likable kids, given a few decent effects and having that found-footage "reality," it doesn't have the financial or emotional heft of the mythic "phone home" tale. But it works... (read more)

      • How to Train Your Dragon 2 poster image

        How to Train Your Dragon 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Toothless it's not. In a world of sequels, reboots and franchise industry economics dictating that creativity is encouraged but not required, the DreamWorks Animation offering "How to Train Your Dragon 2" looks, feels and flows like a real movie. It's better than the last few Pixar features, among other things, and from where I sit that includes "Toy Story 3." In an emotionally resonant key, it's as satisfying as the initial 2010 "Dragon," based very loosely on t... (read more)

      • Maleficent poster image

        Maleficent

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Chef poster image

        Chef

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Jon Favreau's "Chef" has one goal: to make you want to eat Cuban sandwiches twice a day for the rest of your life. Meat-eating moviegoers of all palates will have a difficult time controlling their drool, thanks to writer-director-star Favreau's close-ups of a snazzy food truck grill in action, sizzling, sizzling away, the ham looking like heaven, to say nothing of the bread and the pickles. Then, just when things have dried up in the region of your chin, Favreau presents a sequence... (read more)

      • Ida poster image

        Ida

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Rio 2 poster image

        Rio 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Promised Land poster image

        Promised Land

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        For a fellow who's just been promoted to vice president of land management by his multibillion-dollar natural gas company, the character played by Matt Damon in "Promised Land" is awfully wussy. He turns into a puddle whenever he's bested by the opposition: a likable environmental activist portrayed by John Krasinski. What's up? Mr. Corporate Slicko has never been trained in countering the other side's arguments? More an argument than a fully fleshed-out drama, "Promised Land&q... (read more)

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