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      • The Young Victoria poster image

        The Young Victoria

        Betsy Sharkey, Chicago Tribune

        "The Young Victoria," starring Emily Blunt as the 18-year-old queen of England circa 1837, is such a rich pastiche of first love, teen empowerment, fabulous fashion and fate that you almost wish a few brooding vampires had been thrown in for good measure, since that's the crowd that should fall head over heels for this movie. Which isn't to suggest that "Young Victoria" is sophomoric -- anything but. What filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallee has done in this delicious historical rom... (read more)

      • Pirate Radio poster image

        Pirate Radio

        Betsy Sharkey, Chicago Tribune

        The new rock-saturated "Pirate Radio" proves life really is better when it's set to a '60s soundtrack. From the Kinks, the Rolling Stones, Hendrix, the Who, the Troggs, the Turtles, the Beach Boys, the Yardbirds, the Seekers, the list goes on ... nearly 60 cuts in what may be the coolest music video masquerading as a movie ever. Filmmaker Richard Curtis, the hopeless romantic behind "Four Weddings and a Funeral," "Notting Hill" and "Love Actually," has ... (read more)

      • Black Dynamite poster image

        Black Dynamite

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Fueled by a suspicious, insidious brand of malt liquor called Anaconda, the blaxploitation spoof "Black Dynamite" knows its genre's weak spots, sore spots and aesthetically challenged delights, from the cruddy overlit early-'70s-era interiors to the "Shaft"-ed theme song contributed by composer (and editor) Adrian Younge. Director and co-writer Scott Sanders' comedy reveals an eye for visual detail. I'm still puzzled as to why it's not funnier. When you describe certain sc... (read more)

      • 9 poster image

        9

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The new animated feature "9" delivers audiences into a blasted, desolate landscape reminiscent of Warsaw or Dresden after World War II. We're thrown headlong into a post-apocalyptic universe. Humanity is no more. Life, or something like it, has come down to the vicious combat between two species: machines resembling metallic dinosaurs, voracious and relentless, and a tiny band of brothers and sisters akin to burlap-sack hand puppets, with big goggle eyes and an instinct for survival... (read more)

      • Ponyo poster image

        Ponyo

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

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

      • (500) Days of Summer poster image

        (500) Days of Summer

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        For a lot of casual filmgoers in their teens and 20s - the ones yet to encounter a Charlie Kaufman script such as "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" or who haven't seen the bittersweet 1967 "Two for the Road," written by Frederic Raphael, or have yet to dive into a Milan Kundera novel - the structural mind games played by the romantic comedy "(500) Days of Summer" may throw them, happily, for a loop. I hope so. The structure's mainly what this pleasant summe... (read more)

      • Julie & Julia poster image

        Julie & Julia

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Julie & Julia," which could also be called "Butter & Butterer," may not be great cinema, but people going to a movie like this for great cinema are sniffing around the wrong kitchen. You go to a movie like this for the sauces and stews, and for the considerable pleasure of seeing (and listening to) Meryl Streep's drolly exuberant performance as Julia Child, the towering culinary icon with the distinctively plummy vocal intonations evoking a flute, an oboe and Ed Wynn afte... (read more)

      • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: The IMAX 2D Experience poster image

        Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: The IMAX 2D Experience

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A small vial of "liquid luck" (lovely concept, one of many in J.K. Rowling's universe) plays a supporting role in "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," No. 6 in the franchise. (The two-film edition of " Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" will be released in 2010 and 2011, respectively.) But luck, really, has little to do with the way these films turn out. After getting my head caught in the blender that is "Transformers 2," I found it especially ... (read more)

      • Soul Power poster image

        Soul Power

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Pure pleasure. I've heard the arguments against this out-of-the-vault concert film, capturing the frantic planning and glorious execution (financed by Liberian investors) of the three-day music festival "Zaire '74." Not enough political or ethnographic context; too plain Jane in the presentation; not nearly enough about the festival's relationship to its sister act, the '74 Muhammad Ali/George Foreman "Rumble in the Jungle," the subject of the Oscar-winning documentary &qu... (read more)

      • Fast & Furious poster image

        Fast & Furious

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        If you're in the mood for a lot of vroom, vroom, thump, thump, "Fast & Furious," the fourth edition of that metal-twisting series, should leave you satiated for a very long time. "The Fast and the Furious" pit crew, or most of it, is back, led by Vin Diesel's Dom - all ripped muscles and fast cars and evil deeds. He's as enigmatic as ever, and still with girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), the only one who's ever been able to push past Dom's "auto" erotic zone... (read more)

      • Sin nombre poster image

        Sin nombre

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Crushingly realistic one minute and melodramatically hokey the next - the strategy worked for "Slumdog Millionaire," why not for "Sin Nombre"? This debut feature comes from writer-director Cary Joji Fukunaga, an Oakland native who developed his project at the Sundance Institute. The film went on to considerable acclaim at this year's Sundance Film Festival, as did last year's "Frozen River." I wonder if there's something in the Sundance development process that ... (read more)

      • Coraline poster image

        Coraline

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Coraline" may not be for all tastes and it's certainly not for all kids, given its macabre premise. But writer-director Henry Selick's animated feature advances the stop-motion animation genre through that most heartening of attributes: quality. It pulls audiences into a meticulously detailed universe, familiar in many respects, whacked and menacing in many others. Unlike other recent films shot in 3-D ("Bolt" comes to mind), this one takes rich advantage of the process, ... (read more)

      • Slumdog Millionaire poster image

        Slumdog Millionaire

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Slumdog Millionaire" is a ruthlessly effective paean to destiny, leaving nothing to chance. It also has a good shot at winning this year's Academy Award for best picture, if the pundits, Allah, Shiva and Fox Searchlight Pictures have anything to say about it. Each life-or-death cliffhanger and meticulous splash of color, every arrow plucked from director Danny Boyle's sari-wrapped quiver takes aim at the same objective: to leave you exhausted but wowed. The end-credits sequence, a ... (read more)

      • Gran Torino poster image

        Gran Torino

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        If Clint Eastwood wins his first Academy Award for acting come February, besting Sean Penn for "Milk" and Mickey Rourke for "The Wrestler" among other probable nominees, it'll be like 1971 all over again, the year Helen Hayes snagged a supporting actress statuette for her shifty-stowaway routine in "Airport." Longevity and sentiment count for a lot with the Oscars. And Eastwood is a titan. He's an international movie star who developed into a confident, defiantly... (read more)

      • Wendy and Lucy poster image

        Wendy and Lucy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        America is full of people like Wendy Carroll, the young woman at the center of director Kelly Reichardt's small, supple new film "Wendy and Lucy." Somewhere along the line - we're not given the usual facile reasons - her promise and possibilities have been thwarted. She is a couple of hundred dollars away from homelessness, living with her sweet-faced dog out of a Honda Civic in dire need of repair. These two have traveled from the Midwest (we're told Wendy has a sister in Muncie, I... (read more)

      • Milk poster image

        Milk

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The story of Harvey Milk is a tragedy, but not since Jeff Spicoli in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" has Sean Penn played such a serenely happy individual. It does an actor good to play a joyous character. In "Milk," Penn is superb as the martyred San Francisco city supervisor, America's first widely acknowledged openly gay elected official. He was killed by Milk's former colleague, Dan White, minutes after White's fatal shooting of Mayor George Moscone in 1978. The key to ... (read more)

      • Let the Right One In poster image

        Let the Right One In

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        I'm so sick of Swedish vampire movies, aren't you? Honestly, I've had it with those bloodsucking Svenskar. If you can stomach just one more, however, "Let the Right One In" is the Swedish vampire movie to see. The film is terrific. The upcoming screen version of "Twilight" (opening Nov. 21) may be the set of fangs everyone's waiting for, at least among certain demographics, but I can't imagine anyone older than 15, who cherishes vampire lore or not, failing to fall for thi... (read more)

      • Man on Wire poster image

        Man on Wire

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        On a misty day in August, 1974, 1,350 feet above the Manhattan streets, French wire-walker Philippe Petit spent 45 minutes gliding back and forth between the south and the north towers of the World Trade Center, eight crossings in all. "Man on Wire" captures the renegade artistry and poetic audacity of Petit's performance. The film itself is perfectly poised between artistry and audacity. It's beautiful. For the record: Robert Zemeckis ("Forrest Gump," "Beowulf")... (read more)

      • Speed Racer poster image

        Speed Racer

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Speed Racer" bemoans corporately financed entertainment for the masses while serving as a fine example thereof. So as big, blaring blockbusters go, it's a bit of a hypocrite. It is also self-congratulatory. When Susan Sarandon's Mom Racer (think Jane Jetson without the pre-feminist itch to shop) tells her son, Speed, played by Emile Hirsch, that what he does may be machine-driven but it's "art" that "takes my breath away," the whap-whap-whap you hear isn't a blo... (read more)

      • Shine a Light poster image

        Shine a Light

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The ads for the new Rolling Stones concert picture "Shine a Light" come at you like a three-way heavyweight title bout. There's also an undeniably corporate air to the packaging: three well-known brands converging for an event, a concert by the Stones performed in 2006 at New York's Beacon Theatre, apropos of nothing except a chance to be captured for posterity for fun and profit, en route to the next tour stop. But who needs an excuse for a party? This one's a lot of fun. Director... (read more)

      • There Will Be Blood poster image

        There Will Be Blood

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        As surely as our country's multiple personalities owe a great deal to both religious fervor and the oil industry, "There Will Be Blood" reminds us that the greatest screen performances don't settle for capturing one trait, a dominant emotion or an easy way in. The very best of them are symphonies of paradox, forcing us to reckon with the ramifications. This is what Daniel Day-Lewis achieves in director Paul Thomas Anderson's majestic crackpot of a film. It runs 158 minutes on a broo... (read more)

      • Persepolis poster image

        Persepolis

        Tasha Robinson, Chicago Tribune

        In her internationally best-selling graphic-novel autobiographies, "Persepolis" and "Persepolis 2," Paris-based artist Marjane Satrapi isn't kind to herself. As a young child in Tehran in the late '70s and early '80s under the Shah, she's an arrogant girl whose loudly proclaimed political convictions far outstrip her understanding of current events. Following the Islamic revolution and the rise of a fundamentalist state, she's a rebellious and abrasive teenager, quick to f... (read more)

      • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street poster image

        Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's not the volume of the blood that distinguishes "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" from every other film this year. The shocker is the context. Movie audiences aren't used to seeing throats slit while the leading character sings a song - Stephen Sondheim's stealthy, quietly obsessive counter-melody to "Johanna" - and then, in methodical succession, dumps the corpses down a makeshift slide into a cellar where the bodies collected are ground, slowly, into m... (read more)

      • Enchanted poster image

        Enchanted

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Enchanted" is a contraption redeemed by a delightful leading performance. The world may not have needed another attempt to cash in on all things princess-y, but Amy Adams, per the old "Mary Tyler Moore Show" theme song, takes a (potentially) nothing day and suddenly makes it all seem worthwhile. Like Marlo Thomas in "That Girl," she's diamonds, daisies, snowflakes, chestnuts, rainbows and springtime. Yes, (BEGIN ITALICS) and (END ITALICS) springtime. "Encha... (read more)

      • No Country for Old Men poster image

        No Country for Old Men

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        As pure craftsmanship, "No Country for Old Men" is as good as we've ever gotten from Joel and Ethan Coen. Only "Fargo" is more satisfying (it's also a comedy, which this one isn't), certainly among the brothers' pictures driven by the evil that men do and all that can go wrong under the precepts of Murphy's law. It took me two viewings of the film, set in the early 1980s along the West Texas/Mexico border, to appreciate it fully for what it is, a viciously effective exerc... (read more)

      • The Darjeeling Limited poster image

        The Darjeeling Limited

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Three boys head off to see their mother, though only one of them knows where they're going, and why. "We're just trying to experience something," says the one played by Owen Wilson, his head bandaged owing to a recent motorcycle accident. They are privileged Anglos abroad, carrying an improbably fabulous collection of designer luggage with them aboard a train chugging across India. They have reunited, uneasily, a year after their father's death and their mother's disappearance. Spir... (read more)

      • Across the Universe poster image

        Across the Universe

        Jessica Reaves, Chicago Tribune

        It's the oldest story in the world: Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, girl joins radical student organization hell-bent on ending the Vietnam War, boy's passion devolves into paranoia, boy returns to work in a Liverpool shipyard. Months pass before they simultaneously arrive at a wholly unoriginal yet heartwarming conclusion: All You Need, it turns out, Is Love. We've just given away the major plot points of "Across the Universe," Julie Taymor's uncharacteristically chipp... (read more)

      • Stardust poster image

        Stardust

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Stardust" has its moments, most of them plot-unrelated. The highlight is a patter routine wherein Robert De Niro, as a cross-dressing pirate, haggles over the price of some fenced goods with a disreputable fellow played by Ricky Gervais. The way these two negotiate back and forth it's like Faerie Kingdom vaudeville, a distant cousin to the Billy Crystal and Carol Kane routines in "The Princess Bride." Most of "Stardust," alas, has no time for such detours. The ... (read more)

      • Hot Rod poster image

        Hot Rod

        Jessica Reaves, Chicago Tribune

        If you've seen "Saturday Night Live" recently, you may experience a familiar sensation as you're watching "Hot Rod": Andy Samberg's doing a bit, and you're not really sure where it's going. Sure, it's funny, mainly because it's utterly absurd and meandering, but you can't help wondering when he's going to get to the point. And of course he never does because there is no point, but you forgive him and laugh anyway because he seems like a really nice guy. Oh, look, here come... (read more)

      • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix poster image

        Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        He's back, and he's hacked off. The most striking aspect of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" is its contrast between the hormonally and supernaturally tormented teenager at its center and the modestly well-made and easygoing picture unfolding all around him. No. 5 in the omnipresent global franchise, "Order of the Phoenix" lies at a no-nonsense halfway point between the best of the Potter films ("Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban") and the most ... (read more)

      • Hot Fuzz poster image

        Hot Fuzz

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In its climactic village assault, the English comedy "Hot Fuzz" risks becoming the excessive, slow-mo-slaughter affair it's satirizing. But the best of it is a riot - a "Bad Boys II" fireball hurled with exquisite accuracy at a quaint English town peopled by Agatha Christie archetypes. On the strength of "Shaun of the Dead," his droll zombie bash, the spot-on "Don't Scream" trailer in "Grindhouse" and now this, director Edgar Wright is one of ... (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)

      • Music and Lyrics poster image

        Music and Lyrics

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        When he sings in the charming "Music and Lyrics," Hugh Grant sounds like Davy Jones of The Monkees relocated to the '80s, somewhere in the vicinity of Wham. Grant plays Alex Fletcher, the second-best-known member of a Reagan-era band called PoP. Fifteen years after the band's dissolution, Alex lives the single life in New York City, writing the occasional song, cashing the odd royalty check and trotting out his retro act, complete with pelvic bumps, for high school reunions and them... (read more)

      • Dreamgirls poster image

        Dreamgirls

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Dreamgirls" is performed, shot, edited and packaged like a coming-attractions trailer for itself. Ordinarily that would be enough to sink a film straight off, unless you're a fan of "Moulin Rouge." But this one's a good time. Four years ago, the film version of "Chicago" operated on a similar rhythm and restlessness, and that worked surprisingly well against the odds, too. Bill Condon, a writer of distinction ("Gods and Monsters," "Kinsey"), ... (read more)

      • Children of Men poster image

        Children of Men

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Dsytopian nightmares are so yesterday. They're a dime a dozen in the movies; earlier this year, for example, "V for Vendetta" came up with exactly 10 cents' worth of cinematic interest in exchange for your $9.50. The latest hellish forecast for our planet, however, makes up for the sluggishness of "Vendetta" in spades. It is "Children of Men," based on a P.D. James novel, and as directed - dazzlingly - by Alfonso Cuaron, it is that rare futuristic thriller: grim ... (read more)

      • Night at the Museum poster image

        Night at the Museum

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Casino Royale poster image

        Casino Royale

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        For a long time now, the James Bond franchise has been operating with a license to overkill. That license has been revoked by "Casino Royale." It doesn't even feel like a Bond film as we have come to expect them, in their numbing, increasingly gadget-dependent gigantism. No death rays from space this time. No invisible car. For once, most of the laws of physics are given due respect. A renewed sense of engagement informs director Martin Campbell's tough, absorbing adaptation of the ... (read more)

      • The Departed poster image

        The Departed

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        After the dolled-up theatrics of his last few features, from "Casino" (1995) up through "The Aviator" (2004), it's a kick to find director Martin Scorsese back in prime form, at least in the terrific first half of "The Departed." The second half of this Boston-set thriller, based on the sleek, more sparingly brutal 2002 Hong Kong export "Infernal Affairs," can't quite match it, despite a few bursts of startling violence handled as only a first-rate dire... (read more)

      • Mutual Appreciation poster image

        Mutual Appreciation

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        "Mutual Appreciation" is a realistic comic movie about a raffish young Boston singer-composer named Alan (Justin Rice) and his erratic (and sometimes erotic) adventures after he moves to New York and his band breaks up. And though what follows may sometimes seem like a too-obvious wish-fulfillment youth fantasy about crashing the big-city scene, writer-director-actor-editor Andrew Bujalski - who made the well-regarded "Funny Ha Ha" (2002) - has a flair for casual naturalis... (read more)

      • Miami Vice poster image

        Miami Vice

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The turquoise T-shirts have been shoved in a drawer somewhere. In their place is the sullen, ashen color palette of "Miami Vice," writer-director Michael Mann's big-screen, 21st century version of that most '80s of television shows Much of Mann's work has oscillated between sleek, nocturnal good looks and existential woe, and this movie is no different. It is, however, a radical departure from the Reagan-era phenomenon that ran on TV from 1984 to 1989, with Don Johnson and Philip Mi... (read more)

      • The Devil Wears Prada poster image

        The Devil Wears Prada

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Every third movie or so, Meryl Streep does something swell - and effortless, which isn't one of her defining qualities - to renew her membership in the Great Actress pantheon. "The Devil Wears Prada," a surprisingly sharp adaptation of the Lauren Weisberger bestseller, features Streep as Miranda Priestly, monstrously self-centered editor of the Vogue-like Runway magazine. It's an occasion for Streep to play against a stereotype, and win. It's a rout, in fact. Lowering both her voice... (read more)

      • Cars poster image

        Cars

        Jessica Reaves, Chicago Tribune

        It has been 20 years since the first Pixar creation made its debut; a short, called "Luxo Jr.," premiered at Siggraph, an annual conference on computer graphics and interactive techniques that attracts a very, ahem, particular demographic. Specifically, nerds - nerds you may have seen recently laughing all the way to the bank. Suffice it to say the audience for Pixar's work has grown substantially. By the end of 2005, the studio's six feature films had grossed more than $3.2 billion... (read more)

      • Akeelah and the Bee poster image

        Akeelah and the Bee

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Akeelah and the Bee" is predictable, corny and formulaic. Maybe we'll see it listed in some future edition of Webster's under the word "precornulaic." Yet this latest triumph of the spelling-bee spirit, like last year's earnest, flawed film version of "Bee Season," features a film-saving performance where it counts most: from the kid playing the kid with big brain and even bigger heart. Keke Palmer portrays Akeelah, fictional spelling ace of Los Angeles' Crensha... (read more)

      • ATL poster image

        ATL

        Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune

        If "Roll Bounce" and "Boyz n the Hood" fell in love and had a PG-13 baby, it would be "ATL." Directed by music video veteran Chris Robinson and set in modern-day South Atlanta, "ATL" covers all its bases: For nostalgia, there's Sunday night skate at the ghetto rink. For class-consciousness, there's Esquire, an ambitious high school kid who hides his background and cozies up to Atlanta's privileged set to escape the 'hood. And for drama, there's Rashad ... (read more)

      • She's the Man poster image

        She's the Man

        Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune

        Falling somewhere between that ubiquitous community theater production of "Romeo and Juliet: A Hip-Hop Love Story" and Amy Heckerling's scrumptious, ohmigod take on Jane Austen in "Clueless" is "She's the Man," a veeeeery loose adaptation of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" featuring the refreshing comic charm of teen starlet Amanda Bynes. Bynes, a five-time Kids' Choice Award winner and current star of the WB's "What I Like About You," plays Vio... (read more)

      • V for Vendetta poster image

        V for Vendetta

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        If the h-for-hype "V for Vendetta" connects with a wide American audience, then something truly has shifted in the homeland-insecurity pop landscape of the early 21st century. It means we're ready for a cultured, sophisticated, man-about-town terrorist who espouses the belief that "blowing up a building can change the world." Finally, a film to unite movie-mad members of al-Qaida with your neighbor's kid, the one with the crush on Natalie Portman. Various film enthusiasts,... (read more)

      • An Inconvenient Truth poster image

        An Inconvenient Truth

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Equal parts filmed lecture, campaign-style documentary and greenhouse-gas disaster film, "An Inconvenient Truth" gussies up Al Gore's well-traveled multimedia presentation on global warming just enough to justify itself in front of a camera. Nonetheless the film's context and talking points are more interesting than the film itself, which settles for an earnest (though rarely dull) nudge in its chosen direction: PowerPoint cinema. Like most films, only more so, this one will be proc... (read more)

      • Brokeback Mountain poster image

        Brokeback Mountain

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The Western genre?s big skies and limitless visual capacity for loneliness have enveloped nearly a century?s worth of stories, all kinds, about flinty survivors learning that a man?s gotta do what a man?s gotta do. ?Brokeback Mountain,? a good and eloquent Wyoming-set love story with a great performance at its heart, is part of that classical filmmaking tradition. It is also prime Oscar bait. Already the film has won the best picture prize from the New York and Los Angeles film critics and sn... (read more)

      • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire poster image

        Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Unlike Peter Pan, that other magical airborne boy of British literature and film, J.K. Rowling?s Harry Potter just keeps growing up. So do the Potter movies, in size, in ambition and in visual splendor - and with increasingly stunning results. ?Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire? is the latest film adventure for the bespectacled student sorcerer of Rowling?s amazingly well-imagined Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And it may be the best-filmed Potter of them all - though last year... (read more)

      • Pride & Prejudice poster image

        Pride & Prejudice

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Austen, Shmausten. Do we really need another ?Pride & Prejudice,? one more dance of misperception performed by Fitzwilliam Darcy, whom the world knows always as Darcy and never as Fitzwilliam, and Lizzie Bennet, whom Jane Austen once called ?as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print?? Each new adaptation of Austen?s three-volume novel, titled ?First Impressions? in its original manuscript draft, carries with it this stern question of need. And while it may be a decade old, the prist... (read more)

      • Good Night, and Good Luck. poster image

        Good Night, and Good Luck.

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        They had voices then. With a delivery like the Voice of Doom?s slightly more optimistic brother, Edward R. Murrow brought the London Blitz to war-fixated radio listeners, which in turn brought international fame to the man behind the CBS microphone. Making the move to television and bolstering his reputation on the documentary program ?See It Now,? sponsored by ALCOA - when a specific installment proved too hot for ALCOA, Murrow and producer Fred Friendly simply paid for it themselves - Murro... (read more)

      • Capote poster image

        Capote

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Too many film biographies rely on the mimetic skill and charisma of the actor in charge, as did ?Ray? last year, thanks to Jamie Foxx. The Ray Charles biopic was a limited sort of achievement, a case of a fine performer competing against the old A-to-Z, and-then-he-wrote cliches and storytelling formulas. ?Capote? is different, and it is exceptional in every sharp-eyed, low-keyed detail. Covering a six-year chapter in Truman Capote?s attention-grabbing life, it concerns how the Alabama-born a... (read more)

      • Edmond poster image

        Edmond

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Horror movies don't always have to be about homicidal corpses or monsters. "Edmond," a new movie from horror specialist Stuart Gordon ("Re-Animator"), based on a play by David Mamet, takes place in modern L.A. It's about a middle-aged white executive - the title character, played by William H. Macy - who wanders one night into a hell of crime and punishment in search of his manhood, love and some cheap oral sex. He finds them all, though not in the ways he expected. Mamet... (read more)

      • Wedding Crashers poster image

        Wedding Crashers

        Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune

        Along with ballroom dancing and Supreme Court vacancies, this summer marks the return of the R-rated comedy. After milquetoast laughers "DodgeBall" and "Anchorman," the guys formerly known as funny and currently known as powerful - a.k.a. the Comedy Mafia, a loose group of Hollywood heavy hitters - are going in for the kill with a bawdy, raunchy, sexed-up romantic comedy. "Wedding Crashers" stars capos Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson as business partners and best p... (read more)

      • Rebound poster image

        Rebound

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Basketball, to me, is one of the world's great sports and pastimes. It consumed much of my youth on the playgrounds. It still entertains me mightily on TV. So why are so many basketball comedies, including Martin Lawrence's latest vehicle, "Rebound," so bewilderingly bad? Why are they so foolish, so poorly written and so slackly made, even compared to most other sports movies? What is the explanation for "Celtic Pride," "Like Mike," "Eddie," "Space... (read more)

      • Madagascar poster image

        Madagascar

        Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune

        DreamWorks' latest computer-animated film harkens back to a quieter, simpler time - when men were men and cartoons were two-dimensional talking animals, not E! talking heads. "Madagascar," with its intentionally retro aesthetic, shuns much of the street-savvy navel-gazing so crucial to DreamWorks predecessors "Shrek" and "Shrek 2." Those films made bundles but relied far too heavily on winks and nods, with No. 2 drooping under the weight of its own pop-culture pr... (read more)

      • Mad Hot Ballroom poster image

        Mad Hot Ballroom

        Jessica Reaves, Chicago Tribune

        How do you turn a bunch of street-smart, painfully self-conscious, brazen, at-risk kids into a well-mannered parade of ladies and gentlemen? You teach them ballroom dancing, of course. That's the theory, anyway, behind a compulsory ballroom dancing course introduced a decade ago in New York City's public schools. It's also the philosophy behind "Mad Hot Ballroom," the documentary triumph from first-time filmmakers Marilyn Agrelo and Amy Sewell. Filmed in the spring of 2004, "Ma... (read more)

      • Sin City poster image

        Sin City

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Film noir never dies. It just keeps coming back, drenched in black, guns blazing. At least that's the case with "Sin City," an amazingly successful attempt by Robert Rodriguez to translate Frank Miller's hard-boiled, brutally violent crime comic to the big screen. The movie, shot in a monochrome by turns gorgeously lurid and horrifically bleak and set in a prototypical city of night, is acted by an all-star, mugs-and-sluts gallery that includes Bruce Willis, Clive Owen, Rosario Daws... (read more)

      • Bride & Prejudice poster image

        Bride & Prejudice

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Gurinder Chadha's "Bride and Prejudice" is a pretty movie, but it's also a pretty crazy one. It's an imitation Bollywood-Hollywood musical loosely based on Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice." On the other hand, it's knowingly off-the-rails, and if you're in a tolerant or adventurous mood, it's very entertaining. Chadha is the gifted Indian-British director of the beguiling 2002 comedy-drama "Bend it Like Beckham," a movie whose sleeper success obviously gave her... (read more)

      • The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou poster image

        The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Wes Anderson's "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou," in which Bill Murray plays a shaggy-dog American version of oceanographer-filmmaker Jacques-Yves Cousteau, is a comedy that seems to have most everything going for it but the ability to make us laugh. Despite its cast and director, it's an amazingly unfunny movie, drowned in its own conceits, half-strangled by the tongue so obtrusively in its cheek. Anderson, the writer-director of "Rushmore" and "The Royal Tenenbau... (read more)

      • Birth poster image

        Birth

        Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune

        In 2001, Jonathan Glazer, previously the director of commercials and music videos, made his stunning feature-film debut with "Sexy Beast," a slick, moody British gangster film that, with Ben Kingsley as the bad guy, was more a study of character than of crime. Mixing a conventional plot (an ex-thug and one more heist) with unusual visuals and superb performances, Glazer's premiere brimmed with emotion and authenticity. That's all lost in "Birth," his middling sophomore eff... (read more)

      • Ray poster image

        Ray

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        When you play a genius on screen, you better have the right stuff yourself, or the camera will shrivel you. That doesn't happen in "Ray." In this triumphant musical movie-bio, Jamie Foxx gives a landmark performance as soul, jazz and blues great Ray Charles, playing the late legend with such brilliant physical recall and incendiary emotion that his performance almost erases the barriers of life and time. Foxx, taller and huskier than Charles, somehow turns himself into a carbon copy... (read more)

      • Howl's Moving Castle poster image

        Howl's Moving Castle

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Hayao Miyazaki's "Howl's Moving Castle" is a great animated feature - and one made, obviously, as much for older audiences as very young ones. But this wondrous movie probably shouldn't be put in age brackets at all. It's perfect for anyone with a youthful heart and a rich imagination. Though highly reminiscent of the whimsical Japanese genius' last two films, 1997's "Princess Mononoke" and 2001's "Spirited Away," it's even more densely virtuosic. This new film t... (read more)

      • The World poster image

        The World

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        "The World" introduces several dozen young Chinese workers, sometimes harshly, to the world outside. And it also introduces many of us to one of today's great young filmmakers, China's Jia Zhangke. A huge critical hit at the last Toronto Film Festival, Jia's new work is an ensemble drama about a group of young employees who work at a strange Beijing amusement center called "World Park" - a large, (real-life) fair where the attractions are scale models of the globe's leg... (read more)

      • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban poster image

        Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Man on Fire poster image

        Man on Fire

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Denzel Washington plays a flawed superman named John Creasy in "Man on Fire." And though this movie by director Tony Scott is itself flawed - a super-thriller that gets too crazy in the last half - Washington gets our juices running. Once again, he's a perfect edgy leading man. Cast as an alcoholic ex-counter terrorist ace hired as the bodyguard of a Mexican millionaire's 9-year-old daughter, Washington wins us with his mix of taciturn menace and boyish charm. He suggests both a dam... (read more)

      • Kill Bill: Vol. 2 poster image

        Kill Bill: Vol. 2

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        "Kill Bill, Vol. 2" is the sound of a filmmaker in love with his own voice. For sure that voice is lively and distinct, which is what made "Kill Bill, Vol. 1" so watchable even as you suspected that it was more of a bravura exercise than an emotionally engaged piece of storytelling. But after spending an additional two-plus hours with "Vol. 2," you may be seeking a cure for cinematic verbal diarrhea. "Vol. 2" was supposed to provide the payoffs that &qu... (read more)

      • Mean Girls poster image

        Mean Girls

        Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 50 First Dates poster image

        50 First Dates

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        As a rule, the more convoluted a comedy's setup, the bigger the laughs should be. An audience shouldn't be made to work too hard for a meager payoff. So watching the Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore vehicle "50 First Dates" is a flabbergasting experience. Here's a romantic comedy that mixes the premises of "Memento" and "Groundhog Day" yet spends most of its energy convincing you to take its absurd story seriously. That story is this: Hawaii-based sea-animal caretake... (read more)

      • Napoleon Dynamite poster image

        Napoleon Dynamite

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        "Napoleon Dynamite" may have been the surprise comedy hit of the last Sundance Film Festival - and its 24-year-old director/co-writer, Jared Hess, may be a helmer with a future - but that doesn't mean it will make you laugh out loud. It didn't tickle me much, anyway, though it did hand me a few smiles, and it may work for others. Hess, his co-writer wife Jerusha Hess and some buddies from Brigham Young University have imagined a screw-loose parody of the small Idaho city where Hess ... (read more)

      • Big Fish poster image

        Big Fish

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Sometimes the stuff of pathos is better conveyed through lightness and fantasy than through the grim, hard facts. In the whimsical "Big Fish," that beguiling fantasist Tim Burton takes a painful subject - an estranged son's reconciliation during his father's terminal illness - and weaves around it a gossamer web of artifice and fancy, spinning a delightful set of American tall tales. With Albert Finney as prevaricating dad Ed Bloom, Billy Crudup as son Will, and Ewan McGregor as the... (read more)

      • The Cat in the Hat poster image

        The Cat in the Hat

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        We can debate the merits of adapting beloved children's books into live-action films, but can we agree on one point? You shouldn't have to add burps, farts and dog pee to Dr. Seuss. Including the author's name in the movie title "Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat" takes a lot of chutzpah. Dr. Seuss was a wondrous, groundbreaking storyteller thanks to his ingenious use of simple words, his limitless creativity, his bright visual style and the slyness with which he'd make his moral (and s... (read more)

      • Tupac: Resurrection poster image

        Tupac: Resurrection

        Kevin M. Williams, Chicago Tribune

        Tupac Amaru Shakur was a rapper with a beautiful, doe-eyed face, immense talent and a booming, authoritative voice the likes of which hasn't been heard since Public Enemy's Chuck D. was in full roar. Tupac Amaru Shakur, a dazzling success story, was also a mass of contradictions who died young and violently, in a hail of bullets. "Tupac: Resurrection" is a biopic that relies upon archival footage (some old, some new) to make some sense out of a life that doesn't make any sense when ... (read more)

      • Kill Bill: Vol. 1 poster image

        Kill Bill: Vol. 1

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        There's no question that Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill, Vol. 1" is a virtuoso piece of filmmaking. What's questionable is whether it's more than that. He's been much imitated since his one-two punch of "Reservoir Dogs" (1992) and "Pulp Fiction" (1994), yet as you watch "Kill Bill, Vol. 1" (the story's second half, "Vol. 2," comes out in February), you realize that no one combines tension and release, violence and humor, dialogue and action an... (read more)

      • Lost in Translation poster image

        Lost in Translation

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        In her brief career, Sofia Coppola has established herself as a remarkably intuitive director. While most directors use structure, plot and dialogue as their storytelling building blocks, Coppola seems to work through her material by feel. Both of her movies, her 2000 adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenides' "The Virgin Suicides" and now "Lost in Translation," zero in on emotions and moods, making them uncannily vivid. She was able to capture the tricky tragedy-turned-misty-memory... (read more)

      • Whale Rider poster image

        Whale Rider

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        "Whale Rider" is a far different film from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and "Bend It Like Beckham," but it proves a similar point: The more culturally specific a story is, the more universal it may turn out to be. Like "Wedding" and "Beckham," the superior "Whale Rider" depicts a headstrong young female character bumping up against the tradition in which she was raised. The heroine here is 12-year-old Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes), a Maor... (read more)

      • Finding Nemo poster image

        Finding Nemo

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        It's the details that stand out whenever a classic film is converted to 3-D. With "Finding Nemo 3D," the shimmering sea surface, scratches on the lens of a diver's goggles, and smudge marks Nemo the clown fish makes when he mashes his face up against the glass wall of the aquarium that imprisons him all pop off the screen in the reissue of Pixar's undisputed masterpiece. The fish seem to float in between the surface of the screen and the deep blue underwater backgrounds of the South... (read more)

      • How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days poster image

        How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" is a would-be romantic comedy about modern New York City dating wars. That seems a likely subject for an entertaining big-studio movie, but though it's trendy and sleek-looking enough for a Giorgio Armani TV commercial or two, this picture's preposterous premise almost completely sabotages Kate Hudson, Matthew McConaughey and the rest of an attractive but doomed cast. Based on a cutesy, forgettable book of dating "don'ts" by Michele Alexander... (read more)

      • Final Destination 2 poster image

        Final Destination 2

        Loren King, Chicago Tribune

        This innocuous sequel to the 2000 horror hit "Final Destination" likely ensures a long life for the franchise despite its trashiness. Like the first installment, the sequel also builds an entire movie around the paint-itself-into-a-corner premise that death has a plan that can't be cheated. As one character so cleverly says, "When your number is up, it's up!" But the film's fifth-rate "Twilight Zone" pretensions are just an excuse for well-executed but pointless... (read more)

      • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets poster image

        Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        Entering the world of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" is like returning to a wondrous summer camp after a year's break. You see old friends, meet some new ones, and you're reminded of the magical appeal of a place far away from home. Only after becoming acclimated do you notice what bugs you. Last year's first entry in the Potter movie series, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," may not have exceeded J.K. Rowling's book, but it gave a good taste of what made... (read more)

      • Spirited Away poster image

        Spirited Away

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        The pictures are worth a thousand words in "Spirited Away," Disney Studios' delightful English-language version of the Japanese feature cartoon that holds that country's all-time box office record. In this case, popularity is not an index of expensive hype. Writer-director Hayao Miyazaki's spellbinding tale of a little girl named Chihiro who's lost in an alternative world of tricky ghosts and bizarre monsters is both universally engaging and deeply personal. It's a movie full of bew... (read more)

      • The Learning Curve poster image

        The Learning Curve

        Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

        Case in point: "The Learning Curve," a debut film written and directed by Eric Schwab, a former protégé and second unit director for Brian DePalma. As a title, "The Learning Curve" adds a layer of irony as the director makes one beginner's mistake after anotherrevealing Schwab's own learning curve to be quite steep. That's not to say that there isn't promise. Schwab creates strong thematic drama and characters that are easy to empathize with. But while these elements are i... (read more)

      • The Royal Tenenbaums poster image

        The Royal Tenenbaums

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        Director Wes Anderson and actor Owen Wilson have co-written three films, each more ambitious than the last and all inhabiting a world that spins on a different, more delightfully wobbly axis than our own. The filmmakers' trademark characters have ambitions that may be absurdly overblown yet take their setbacks with great equanimity (at least in the long run). The would-be heroes of "Bottle Rocket" (1996) see themselves as mastermind criminals without ever becoming more than harmless... (read more)

      • A.I.: Artificial Intelligence poster image

        A.I.: Artificial Intelligence

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Steven Spielberg's "A.I. Artificial Intelligence" is pure magic, a three-act movie fantasy that transports us as the best films do to a world of its own, a place of ambiguous joy and delirious terror. This genuinely spellbinding fairy tale touches chords both dissonant and universal. It is an unlikely triumph for its two strangely matched collaborators: dream-weaver Spielberg and nightmare-maker Stanley Kubrick, who initiated this project and nurtured it for years. And it's a triu... (read more)

      • Moulin Rouge poster image

        Moulin Rouge

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Grandiose and whimsical, packed with oddball delights and bursts of passion, Baz Luhrmann's "Moulin Rouge" is a rare picture that gets you intoxicated on the possibilities of movies. Luhrmann is a filmmaker of near-demonic energy and invention. He transforms the film's chestnut of a story a sensitive and penniless writer (Ewan McGregor) battles for the body and soul of a dazzling courtesan-entertainer (Nicole Kidman) into something mad and wonderful. "Moulin Rouge" is a ... (read more)

      • Shrek poster image

        Shrek

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        With "Shrek," DreamWorks stakes its claim to Disney's cutting-edge animation crown while blowing a raspberry in Mickey Mouse's face. This computer-animated film, which mostly chronicles the title ogre's adventures in rescuing a princess, aims to be not just a kids flick but a sassy mock fairy tale that appeals to all ages and sensibilities. Leaving few of its swamp stones unturned, "Shrek" is alternately sweet and mean, sophisticated and vulgar, witty and base, dazzling an... (read more)

      • Jurassic Park poster image

        Jurassic Park

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        Forget blowing the images up to Imax size and converting the lunging velociraptors and T. rexes into 3-D. The best reason to revive "Jurassic Park" for its 20th anniversary is Jeff Goldblum. Yes, children, there was a time when Goldblum was sci-fi's "ultimate explainer," as producer Dean Devlin labeled him in "Independence Day." Goldblum's bug-eyes said "scientist-smart," and his mannered, considered and hesitating line readings reinforce that. His very... (read more)

      • The Last Waltz poster image

        The Last Waltz

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Martin Scorsese's 1978 film of The Band's all-star farewell concert, "The Last Waltz," is the greatest rock concert movie ever made and maybe the best rock movie, period. Now being re-released with restored picture and sound, for the original concert's 25th anniversary, "The Last Waltz" is a movie that exactly fits the words of Bob Dylan, who helps close the show with "Forever Young." This movie and the event it records with such rapture and passion is forever... (read more)

      • The Passenger poster image

        The Passenger

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        There have been many years and changes in the landscape of film since 1975, but Michelangelo Antonioni's "The Passenger" still packs an enigmatic wallop. It's also a movie with no easy passage to its dark heart. Re-released in its original form, the slightly longer European cut known as "Professione: Reporter," this moody Jack Nicholson political thriller remains a great, bizarre film, full of beauty, mystery and riddles with no answers. Starring Nicholson as the ultimate ... (read more)

      • Godzilla poster image

        Godzilla

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        What would the 1954 Japanese monster classic "Godzilla: King of the Monsters" be without Raymond Burr? As it turns out, it would be a much better movie, something you can confirm for yourself at the Music Box by catching the original version of "Godzilla," director Ishiro (or Inishiro) Honda's epochal tale of a post-nuclear sea monster's assault on Tokyo. Godzilla, of course, is the oft-copied, never-duplicated, gigantic scaly monster who, mutated into super-monstrosity by... (read more)

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