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      • Jimi: All Is by My Side poster image

        Jimi: All Is by My Side

        Andrew Barker, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips Variety The first thing to know about John Ridley's "Jimi: All Is by My Side" is that the writer-director was unable to secure rights to any of Jimi Hendrix's original songs or recordings: This turns out to provide both the film's biggest strength and biggest shortcoming. Less a traditional biopic than a strategically limited portrait of a particular time, place and person, the film effectively brings pre-stardom Hendr... (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 Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby poster image

        The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips Films aren't so much born as worried into existence, and with some films the worrying -- the concern that the audience won't get it, or get out for it, or make the required time commitment -- never stops. Take, for example, "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby." There are three separate versions afoot. The one available currently came into being at the insistence of producer Harvey Weinstein, whose company backed writer... (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)

      • The Skeleton Twins poster image

        The Skeleton Twins

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Some weeks at the movies are like this. You settle for wonderful actors doing some wonderful acting with scripts that support those efforts even as they limit them. In "The Skeleton Twins," Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader play Maggie and Milo, grown twins who haven't seen each other in 10 years. In the opening shots Wiig's character, an unhappily married Nyack, N.Y., woman who's gotten a little too comfortable lying to her husband (Luke Wilson), stands in her bathroom with a fistful of ... (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)

      • Tusk poster image

        Tusk

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Civilians and critics alike, a lot of them, loved "Tusk" in Toronto, where it played the Midnight Madness sidebar of the international film festival earlier this month. And it's fun to have writer-director Kevin Smith, of "Clerks" and "Dogma," whose filmmaking star has fallen while his podcasting prowess has risen, once again at the center of a debate or two. The chief argument regarding his "Human Centipede" riff is pretty basic: good trash or stupid t... (read more)

      • The Guest poster image

        The Guest

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A pretty crafty genre pastiche until it stalls, director Adam Wingard's "The Guest" introduces its title character after he knocks on the front door of a small-town New Mexico family that recently lost their older son in the Iraq War. Door opens, a man's head is turned away from the camera ... .. And then, after a strange little two-second pause, he turns around and it's a dashing yet sinister Dan Stevens, of "Downton Abbey," here playing the role of a mysterious combat ve... (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 Drop poster image

        The Drop

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Even a terrible actor could win friends and influence moviegoers in the role of Bob, a sweetie-pie Brooklyn bartender who saves an injured pit bull puppy from a garbage can in the opening minutes of "The Drop," expanded by screenwriter Dennis Lehane from his own short story, "Animal Rescue." For the record, Tom Hardy is not a terrible actor. He's an excellent one. In "The Drop," Hardy, brandishing (or, rather, Brando-ishing) an outer-borough dialect and mumble, i... (read more)

      • The Last of Robin Hood poster image

        The Last of Robin Hood

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Last of Robin Hood" is the latest film starring the dashing Kevin Kline. It's also the latest of Kline's period pictures that wastes no time in dashing your expectations. Now 66, the actor has always had that delicious old-school panache, even back in his salad days when he won his first Tony Award in 1977 in "On the Twentieth Century." Thirty-seven years later, I still remember the way he bounced around a train compartment like a pinball in the role of egocentric '30... (read more)

      • The Notebook poster image

        The Notebook

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        "The Notebook," the movie version of Nicholas Sparks' 1996 best seller, may be corny, but it's also absorbing, sweet and powerfully acted. It's a film about falling in love and looking back on it, and it avoids many of the genre's syrupy dangers. This picture, beautifully shaped and shot, filled with fine actors doing moving work, is based on Sparks' debut novel, a "Bridges of Madison County" sort of piece that unfolds in both the past and the present. In the past, two you... (read more)

      • The November Man poster image

        The November Man

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        Pierce Brosnan's perfect hair barely budges in the breeze, he fixes his eyes in that narrowed, steely stare and you remember, yes, he was a pretty good James Bond. But he's not Bond, not at 61. He's this fellow named Devereaux, and back in the day, when he showed up for an assignment it was like winter had hit. Everything was dead. That's why they called Devereaux "The November Man." Here's a humorless, muddled, bloody and generally unpleasant thriller about an ex-agent sucked back ... (read more)

      • Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For poster image

        Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        I'm not sure what mood I'd have to be in to truly enjoy "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For." But I'm not in it. Is it because crime scenes in Ferguson, Mo., and Chicago and the rest of the real world -- where senseless killings are supposed to matter -- are hindering my ability to kick back with some recreational slaughter? Maybe. On the other hand, millions of devotees of the 2005 "Sin City" and its halfway point between "real" and digitally illustrated sadism will b... (read more)

      • If I Stay poster image

        If I Stay

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Artfully assaultive, "If I Stay" is better than average young adult material, cleverly adapted from Gayle Forman's 2009 novel about a teenage cellist experiencing true love, a terrible car crash and magical realism for the first time. Young adult fiction comes in too many shapes, sizes and qualities to court generalizations. But here goes. Director R.J. Cutler, who comes out of documentaries, reality TV ("Flip That House") and series television ("Nashville"), has... (read more)

      • Love Is Strange poster image

        Love Is Strange

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Something wonderful happens in the final minutes of "Love Is Strange." A careful, humble examination of a marriage opens up emotionally, thanks in large part to co-writer and director Ira Sachs' use of a gorgeous lullaby, Chopin's Berceuse Op. 57 in D-flat major. From the moment a key supporting character at last allows himself to grieve the loss of a loved one, up through the ensuing 11 or 12 exterior shots, photographed on the streets of New York alive with renewal and young love,... (read more)

      • Life After Beth poster image

        Life After Beth

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Aubrey Plaza is so deadpan she's undeadpan, and not just in her new zombie movie. Playing April, Indiana's snarkiest state employee on "Parks and Recreation," the actress who'd be most likely mistaken for the MTV animated show goddess "Daria" slings so many bizarrely timed and unpredictable line readings at her skillful cohorts, with such straight-faced topspin, sometimes you don't know if you're in the company of an actress's extraordinarily practiced shtick or some kind ... (read more)

      • The Expendables 3 poster image

        The Expendables 3

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        No pensions were harmed in the making of "The Expendables 3," the latest in the continuing saga of Sylvester Stallone's mission to provide a work week or two to as many of his old pals as possible. Also these movies make money, so there's a larger imperative. This one reportedly cost $90 million. It looks more like $30 million. I think audiences respond to the general air of cheapness in this franchise; it's part of the fun, the tinny macho ridiculousness of it. The cast list is lon... (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)

      • Let's Be Cops poster image

        Let's Be Cops

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        McClatchy Newspapers The laughs are loud, lewd and low in "Let's Be Cops," a spoof of cop "buddy pictures" that is pretty much the definition of an August comedy. The last month of summer is typically a dumping ground for titles studios don't have high hopes for. Sometimes that's due to the lack of marketable stars. Sometimes, they're just too hard to market, period. And sometimes, if they're comedies, it's because the belly laughs are few and far between. All of those app... (read more)

      • Into the Storm poster image

        Into the Storm

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Like "The Passion of Joan of Arc," "Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki" and "Dude, Where's My Car?" "Into the Storm" is a movie. And like the wind, this particular movie blows tall, unstable columns of hot air willy-nilly. In the spirit of "Sharknado" and "Sharknado 2," "Into the Storm" eventually goes into blender mode and mixes its elements of wind column terror, smoothie-style. At one point one of the twisters (there are severa... (read more)

      • A Most Wanted Man poster image

        A Most Wanted Man

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's impossible to watch the character anchoring Anton Corbijn's cool, clear-eyed film version of "A Most Wanted Man" without forgetting the fate of the bleary-eyed but fantastically vital actor who plays him. Philip Seymour Hoffman died of a drug overdose in February after completing work on what became his final starring role in the movies. As Gunther Bachmann, the patient, alert German intelligence expert created by novelist John le Carre, Hoffman smokes constantly. The character... (read more)

      • Get On Up poster image

        Get On Up

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Guardians of the Galaxy poster image

        Guardians of the Galaxy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Lucy poster image

        Lucy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Le schlockmeister Luc Besson has no beef with men and guns, or he wouldn't have made the "Transporter" movies with Jason Statham. Or written "Taken." But in the world according to Besson, older girls ("La Femme Nikita") and young women in wee skirts and stiletto heels, gliding in slow motion toward their latest deserving victims of firearm violence, carrying nicely polished automatic weapons in each perfectly manicured hand -- that's the stuff, that's what makes ... (read more)

      • Magic in the Moonlight poster image

        Magic in the Moonlight

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Among recent Woody Allen films, the crabby but pretty "Magic in the Moonlight" is a well-thumbed playing card from the middle of the deck, not one of his fully good ones ("Midnight in Paris," "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"), not one of the whiffs ("Cassandra's Dream," "Scoop," "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger"). The new one's set in 1928 in the south of France, where people really do seem on the verge of asking, "Tennis, anyone?&... (read more)

      • Alive Inside poster image

        Alive Inside

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips Think of them as Lazarus moments. One by one, we are introduced to a series of elderly people with serious dementia. People who've barely said a word in years, who don't recognize their children, who sit around nursing homes like the living dead. Then Dan Cohen does something to them, and it's like a switch has been turned on. They become gloriously happy and alive. As detailed in the joyous, unexpectedly uplifting "Alive I... (read more)

      • Boyhood poster image

        Boyhood

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By the midpoint of writer-director Richard Linklater's gentle marvel "Boyhood," the round-faced young Texas boy played by Ellar Coltrane has become a lanky, plaintive teenager. Already an hour or so of screen time has floated by. Linklater made the film with a core group of actors over a 12-year period, starting with the kids played by Coltrane and Linklater's daughter, Lorelei Linklater, at ages 7 and 9, respectively. They change so quickly, these two. As the characters become teen... (read more)

      • Mood Indigo poster image

        Mood Indigo

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Sex Tape poster image

        Sex Tape

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Like "2001: A Space Odyssey," Jake Kasdan's "Sex Tape" is a grim cautionary fable about the evils of technology, in this case pitting its desperate protagonists against an unseen force people refer to as "the cloud." Unlike "2001," it's also a stupid, strenuous sex farce starring Cameron Diaz, Diaz's dorsal-view body double and Jason Segel as an LA couple (she's a mommy blogger, he's in radio) with two kids, an increasingly groggy romantic life and a pr... (read more)

      • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes poster image

        Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Three summers ago "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" proved it's possible to reboot a franchise while avoiding that sinking feeling of movie capitalism at its dumbest. Now, in a disappointing July dominated with a shrug by "Transformers: Age of Extinction," the follow-up "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" has arrived. Just in time. The nation's multiplexes need a solid hit to save face and lend the impression that all's right with the business preferences and practic... (read more)

      • Life Itself poster image

        Life Itself

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The fine, fond Roger Ebert documentary "Life Itself" is finally in a theater in Chicago, Landmark's Century Centre Cinema, starting opening in limited release Friday. It's also available from July 4 onward on iTunes and various video-on-demand formats. On July 11, the film opens in Highland Park. We all have our preferences, but a traditional movie house really is the best place to embrace director Steve James' internationally beloved subject. Ebert's mellifluous intellect and opini... (read more)

      • Can a Song Save Your Life? poster image

        Can a Song Save Your Life?

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        "Begin Again" is an insistent puppy of a movie, just about willing you to like it. And while it has appeal -- you'd have to be a troll to resist it completely -- you may end up wanting to enjoy it more than its qualities will allow. Starring Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo, "Begin Again" is the latest film by John Carney, responsible for the landmark "Once," and although comparisons are invariably unfair, the two films have so much in common that the question of... (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)

      • Tammy poster image

        Tammy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Small favors, but in "Tammy" we have a less grating road-trip comedy than "Identity Thief," the one Melissa McCarthy did with Jason Bateman, and a more deliberately heartwarming vehicle than "The Heat," featuring McCarthy and Sandra Bullock. In McCarthy, we have a performer we can trust to deliver laughs even when they barely exist on the page. The "Mike & Molly" star and Oscar nominee (for "Bridesmaids") produced and co-wrote her latest with ... (read more)

      • Transformers: Age of Extinction poster image

        Transformers: Age of Extinction

        Christopher Borrelli, Chicago Tribune

        "Transformers: Age of Extinction," the fourth installment of Michael Bay's $2.6-billion blue-chip franchise about a race of super robot freedom fighters that wear codpieces (to hide the junk under their trunk) and appear fundamentally incapable of not banging into stuff (even when these things are in an open field they find the one barn or tractor for miles around to collide with), is an aggressively charmless act of digital confetti. It is scattered, weightless, impossible to get h... (read more)

      • Jersey Boys poster image

        Jersey Boys

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Jersey Boys" the movie is a different, more sedate animal than "Jersey Boys" the Broadway musical. Often this happens when a stage success comes to the screen, even with many of the same performers and artistic team members on board. Changes are made; ardent fans of the original are variously pleased or disappointed. And in this case, those who missed the theatrical edition of the tale of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons -- how they found their sound and wrestled with t... (read more)

      • Oh Boy poster image

        Oh Boy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips Reports of the slim but impressive 83-minute German film "A Coffee in Berlin" -- titled "Oh Boy" in its popular initial European release -- have been inflated by the picture winning scads of awards in its country of origin upon initial release. But we're here to talk about the movie, not the hype or the burden of expectation. This Music Box Films release has a distinct and confident look, as sure of itself vi... (read more)

      • The Rover poster image

        The Rover

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        Don't take Eric's car. Don't take Eric's car. Don't take Eric's ... You get the idea. Masterfully brought to life by Guy Pearce in a performance of pure controlled ferocity, Eric and his implacable, obsessive, stop-at-nothing quest to recover his stolen vehicle is the centerpiece of David Michod's tense and remorseless "The Rover," a film shot in 100-degree-plus heat that chills the blood as well as the soul. Michod's name may not be familiar, but his debut film, "Animal Kingdo... (read more)

      • Think Like a Man Too poster image

        Think Like a Man Too

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A 105-minute ad for Caesars Palace, the passably engaging sequel "Think Like a Man Too" allows Kevin Hart, the ensemble's hottest potato, to hijack whole sections of the Las Vegas-set hijinks as he lets loose with his little verbal tsunamis of braggadocio. The way this comedy has been edited by Peter S. Elliot, presumably at the urging of director Tim Story, the shots barely hold themselves for two or three seconds before slam-cutting away to a pushy reaction shot. This isn't moment... (read more)

      • Third Person poster image

        Third Person

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Women! They're all desperate, agitated harpies and relentless sources of internal and external conflict in "Third Person," writer-director Paul Haggis' exasperating multistory drama about how hard it is for a nice, quiet, sensitive guy to be left alone to write an exasperating multistory drama. Liam Neeson stars as that guy. He's a famous prize-winning author, holed up in a swank Paris hotel room, trying to wrestle his latest novel into shape many drafts after its inception. He has ... (read more)

      • 22 Jump Street poster image

        22 Jump Street

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The peculiar sweetness of "21 Jump Street" has taken a hiatus in "22 Jump Street," a brazen sequel that's both slightly disappointing and a reliable, often riotous "laffer" in the old Variety trade-magazine parlance. No question about it, I laffed, more at the little things -- Channing Tatum trying to cut glass with a laser pointer, for example -- than the brawls. And now it's crow-eating time. For a long time I misjudged Channing Tatum's abilities; not too many ... (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)

      • Ivory Tower poster image

        Ivory Tower

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        Is college, specifically the elite four-year residential model, overrated? Is it worth its ever-increasing cost? Has it been oversold as the key to a child's brighter future? The stimulating documentary "Ivory Tower" asks all these tough questions and, most provocatively of all, declines to give definitive answers. As directed by Andrew Rossi, "Ivory Tower" wants to educate and stir the pot, to get us to understand the extent of the dilemma, which is considerable. This fil... (read more)

      • Edge of Tomorrow poster image

        Edge of Tomorrow

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Insanely derivative, frenetically enjoyable, "Edge of Tomorrow" takes gaming to a new level of big-screen indulgence, sending Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt through the same alien-invasion scenario over and over until they learn how to win, put down the consoles and get off the couch for a little lunch and some fresh air, maybe. The film is based on a Japanese graphic novel "All You Need is Kill." It owes a tremendous amount of its structure, and appeal, to "Groundhog Day... (read more)

      • The Fault in Our Stars poster image

        The Fault in Our Stars

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In the discreetly assaultive film version of "The Fault in Our Stars" there's a scene, faithful to the one in the best-selling John Green book, where Hazel and Augustus visit the Amsterdam home of a novelist whose cancer-related novel holds great personal meaning for two teenage Indianapolis cancer patients in love. The meeting is a bust. Their literary idol turns out to be a cynical, drunken lout. The kids decide to shake it off and tour the nearby Anne Frank museum. Gamely lugging... (read more)

      • A Million Ways to Die in the West poster image

        A Million Ways to Die in the West

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "A Million Ways to Die in the West" is a grim vanity project for, by and about its creator, "Family Guy" guru Seth MacFarlane, determined here to prove himself capable of carrying his own movie in a romantic-comic leading role. He hits his marks; he's just not funny or interesting. Don Knotts made "The Shakiest Gun in the West"; MacFarlane is the smuggest. Plenty of comedies aren't funny, but this one is more than that. It's wholeheartedly narcissistic in its por... (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)

      • Blended poster image

        Blended

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        McClatchy Newspapers These days, Adam Sandler is a bottle of beer that's lost all its bubbles -- cheap, mass-produced domestic beer. So let's focus on what works in his latest, "Blended," because he sure doesn't. Drew Barrymore, in her third pairing with Sandler, still brings energy and conviction to her performance as Lauren, a mother of two thrown together on an African vacation with this lump she met on the blind date from hell -- a blind date at Hooters. Wendi McClendon-Covey, p... (read more)

      • The Immigrant poster image

        The Immigrant

        Betsy Sharkey, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return poster image

        Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        "Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return" is a harmless but almost charmless adaptation of a book by L. Frank Baum's grandson. It's a derivative hash of grandpa's story, set in the present day, given forgettable new tunes by pop songsmiths such as Bryan Adams sung by the likes of Lea Michele, Martin Short, Hugh Dancy and the operatic Megan Hilty of TV's "Smash." And it's in 3-D, of course. This work, animated at Prana in India, has decent production design -- a dark, abandoned Eme... (read more)

      • Neighbors poster image

        Neighbors

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        One part smart, one part stupid and three parts jokes about body parts, the extremely raunchy "Neighbors" is a strange success story. It's nobody's idea of a well-structured and logically detailed screenplay, even though its premise -- new parents battling frat house neighbors -- springs from a high-concept idea that could've come from scriptwriting software or a research facility. Which brings us to one of the movie's better early jokes: Sizing up the perpetually shirtless kegmeist... (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)

      • Locke poster image

        Locke

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Locke" is a solo act, and Tom Hardy is its superbly talented soloist. Throughout writer-director Steven Knight's nocturnal drama, the actor, deploying a Welsh accent, keeps his voice in a calm, determined register, suggesting a born manager and innate control freak whose life has spun atypically out of control. This man knows the best way to talk someone off a ledge does not involve matching or exceeding their emotions. Hardy, Mr. Intensity always, tamps down the character's inner ... (read more)

      • 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)

      • The Unknown Known poster image

        The Unknown Known

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips The crucial Rummyism in the life, lexicon and flamboyantly knotty verbiage of former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld isn't the infamous "known knowns/unknown knowns/known unknowns" briar patch. Rather, it's found in one of Rumsfeld's thousands of "snowflakes," internal memos to various colleagues, subordinates and superiors and, often, wee dictations to himself for future use. It goes like this: &qu... (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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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 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)

      • Gimme Shelter poster image

        Gimme Shelter

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's hard not to be affected by a story about a pregnant, homeless teenager such as the one at the heart of "Gimme Shelter," which stars "High School Musical's" Vanessa Hudgens. But some movies, full of good intentions and cliches undermining those intentions, make it very hard indeed. In the case of this one, writer-director Ron Krauss deals a mixture of truth; characters based on actual people, composites and creative fabrications. In other words, it's no more or less fa... (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)

      • All Is Lost poster image

        All Is Lost

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips Imagine an alternate-universe version of the lean, relentlessly taciturn survival tale "All Is Lost," featuring a different actor than the film's one and only performer, Robert Redford. Had, for example, the drama starred Woody Allen (at 77, the same age as Redford) as the sailor undergoing the trials and tribulations of the unnamed character's Indian Ocean shipwreck, we'd no doubt have gotten a full quotient of realis... (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)

      • Only God Forgives poster image

        Only God Forgives

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Nicolas Winding Refn's pretty little bore "Only God Forgives" stars the director's "Drive" dreamboat Ryan Gosling, this time speaking less and staring, unblinkingly, more than he did in "Drive." Gosling portrays Julian, a Bangkok drug dealer and kickboxing promoter whose sole function in the film is to glare, or glower, while the blood-red neon glows all around him. This is the worst, least, dumbest picture made by people of talent this year, although Kristin Sco... (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 Great Gatsby poster image

        The Great Gatsby

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Even if it's true, let's forget the "great American novel" business regarding "The Great Gatsby" for a minute. What makes F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, published in the spring of 1925 but set three years earlier, such a haunted portrait of a time, a place and a Lost Generation dream? The work's spellbinding qualities, I think, lie less with the beauty of the prose (although God knows it's beautiful, and not just on the surface) than with the psyche of the author so eager to... (read more)

      • The Host poster image

        The Host

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Like all good hosts, the host in "The Host," a mutant squid-lizard that moves with the agility of an Olympic gymnast, throws a lively party with a little of everything: scares, laughs, politics and a bit of archery. South Korean writer-director Bong Joon-ho has made a considerable international splash with this picture, and no wonder. It boasts a photogenic antagonist from the deep. It's also savvy enough to make you care about the human factor. Like "Pan's Labyrinth," ano... (read more)

      • Django Unchained poster image

        Django Unchained

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In "Django Unchained," which has its moments of devilish glee in and among dubious wallows in numbing slaughter, writer-director-trash compactor Quentin Tarantino delivers a mashup of several hundred of his favorite movies, all hanging, like barnacles, onto a story of a freed slave (Jamie Foxx) and his bounty-hunter savior (Christoph Waltz) out to rescue Django's wife (Kerry Washington) from a venal plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio). The plantation's "house slave" (Samu... (read more)

      • Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away poster image

        Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Media Services Film Clips Cirque du Soleil movies are a lot like ballet films -- long on beauty and artistry, short on story. "Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away" is a 3-D catalog of the wonders of the Cirque company's Las Vegas shows, from "Believe" and "Mystere" to "O" and "Viva Elvis." It is a feast for the eyes and an appreciation of the accomplished art of the jugglers, tumblers, mimes, contortionists, ac... (read more)

      • Killer Joe poster image

        Killer Joe

        Leah Rosen, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Media Services Film Clips There's a reason Matthew McConaughey's character wears a black Stetson in "Killer Joe," a self-knowingly sleazy crime drama that's simultaneously repellent and enjoyable. His is no white-hat role, and both he and the movie are the better for it. McConaughey is in the midst of a career revival, leaving behind the brainless, lightweight charmers he played in a string of flimsy romantic comedies to portray more complicate... (read more)

      • Magic Mike poster image

        Magic Mike

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Moonrise Kingdom poster image

        Moonrise Kingdom

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Brave poster image

        Brave

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The heather on the hill and other scenic Scottish glories never looked lovelier than in the animated realm of "Brave," the gorgeous if awkwardly plotted new film from Pixar Animation Studios and the ruling clan of Disney. Several firsts here for Pixar. Its 13th feature is the studio's first period assignment, set in pre-medieval times, a fairy tale grounded in the textures and enticements of a real place. It's also the first princess-themed project from Pixar, and the writers wisely... (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)

      • The Cabin in the Woods poster image

        The Cabin in the Woods

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A peppy horror mash-up with existential airs, "The Cabin in the Woods" goes completely nuts in its final half-hour and is all the better for it. Writers lie about this sort of thing constantly, but according to screenwriters Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, who cut their eyeteeth on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" among other credits, the script came together in three days, in the spirit of "Let's try that, too." Goddard, making his feature directorial debut, plays aroun... (read more)

      • Big Miracle poster image

        Big Miracle

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The success of last year's "Dolphin Tale" proved this theorem: Imperiled marine animals plus true-ish story plus workmanlike sincerity plus happy ending equals a hit. Will the equation hold for director Ken Kwapis' whale movie "Big Miracle"? The film is surprisingly good, though the "surprisingly" part betrays certain low-bar expectations going in. So be it. Kwapis, whose recent screen work ("He's Just Not That Into You," "The Sisterhood of the Tra... (read more)

      • Hugo poster image

        Hugo

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Dolphin Tale poster image

        Dolphin Tale

        Michaelk Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Whistleblower poster image

        The Whistleblower

        Mark Olsen, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Media Services Film Clips When a movie is "inspired by true events," the ideal is that the real-story backdrop will lend an air of authenticity to the drama, but often it inadvertently leads to excessive earnestness or aggrandizement. "The Whistleblower" is one such film, too well-intentioned for its own good. The movie tells the story of Kathy Bolkovac, a Nebraska police officer who signs on with a private contractor to act as a U.N.... (read more)

      • Love and Other Impossible Pursuits poster image

        Love and Other Impossible Pursuits

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Hollywood years are like dog years, which means 17 years is a long time. Seventeen years ago Cameron Diaz played the chipper second banana, the other woman, in the Julia Roberts vehicle "My Best Friend's Wedding." While that movie really belonged to Rupert Everett, the sunny goodwill flying out of every single one of Diaz's pores cast a nice warm glow over the Chicago-filmed diversion. Diaz has long since proven she can tackle various leading roles, and in the unsteady revenge comed... (read more)

      • Tangled poster image

        Tangled

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Bright and engaging, and blessed with two superb non-verbal non-human sidekicks, "Tangled" certainly is more like it. For much of the last decade, the Disney corporation has struggled to regain its animation mojo, while one-time rival, and current business partner, Pixar -- and, at its more sporadic best, DreamWorks -- dominated the market. While no masterwork, "Tangled" reworks the Brothers Grimm tale of Rapunzel clearly and well. It's rollicking without being pushy. Afte... (read more)

      • Ramona and Beezus poster image

        Ramona and Beezus

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Know how to give mild G-rated fare a little something special? Cast Sandra Oh as an elementary school teacher who enjoys her orderly ways, and who regards the Ramona half of "Ramona and Beezus," taken from the venerable Beverly Cleary children's books, as more challenge than charmer. Oh's droll supporting turn as Ramona's third-grade instructor reminds us how much good a performer can do even when the material makes her work for it. Directed by Elizabeth Allen, the film is darned if... (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)

      • 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)

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