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      • Where the Wild Things Are poster image

        Where the Wild Things Are

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • More Than a Game poster image

        More Than a Game

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        It's always risky to mix sports metaphors, but it's hard to resist the notion that the basketball-themed "More Than a Game" is a knockout of a sports documentary. Destined to be known as "the LeBron James movie," it is all that, and a good deal more. James, of course, was drafted in 2003 by the Cleveland Cavaliers right out of high school. Given that this film is coming out around the same time as his autobiography, "Shooting Stars," it may sound like part of a c... (read more)

      • Whip It poster image

        Whip It

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The whip is a slingshot-type maneuver in roller derby, where you're flung by a teammate straight into traffic and, with luck, past it. Raquel Welch got whipped a time or two in the 1972 vehicle "Kansas City Bomber," but in that film roller derby wasn't about athletic prowess or female empowerment; it was just an excuse for shoving Welch into one ogled, manhandled situation after another. "Whip It" is different. It's not designed primarily for the heterosexual male gaze (t... (read more)

      • Bright Star poster image

        Bright Star

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Certain images in Jane Campion's "Bright Star" are beautiful, as opposed to merely attractive, and only a major talent could've produced them. My favorite is a sun-drenched shot of Abbie Cornish's Fanny Brawne, her head and heart newly opened to the intoxication of love and poetry, lying on her bed, with a perfectly timed breeze fluttering her curtains just so. Cornish enters this early 19th century dream world of Brawne's relationship with the poet John Keats (played by Ben Whishaw... (read more)

      • Inglourious Basterds poster image

        Inglourious Basterds

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A queasy historical do-over, Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" has been described as a grindhouse version of "Valkyrie"; a rhapsody dedicated to the cinema's powers of persuasion; and a showcase for a 52-year-old Austrian-born character actor named Christoph Waltz, who waltzes off with the performance honors as a suavely vicious Nazi colonel known as "the Jew hunter." All true. Tarantino's seventh full-length film recasts the iconography and mythic cruel... (read more)

      • The Time Traveler's Wife poster image

        The Time Traveler's Wife

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Somewhere in time, in a vault marked "commuter love stories: supernatural," there's a place ready and waiting for the hazy film version of "The Time Traveler's Wife." Its best feature, besides Eric Bana's bum, is Rachel McAdams in the title role of the serenely long-suffering mate of a library researcher born with a dilly of a chromosomal irregularity. Involuntarily, usually at inconvenient times, Henry (Bana) zwoops to an entirely different locale and chronological point ... (read more)

      • Up in Disney Digital 3D poster image

        Up in Disney Digital 3D

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        You know the most heartening thing about the new Disney-Pixar film "Up"? It may be wonderful, but it isn't perfect. It feels nervy and adventurous and a little messy, the result of formidable creators and genuine wits working on an enormous budget, enormously well-spent. As different as it is from its Pixar predecessors "Ratatouille" and "WALL-E," and as different as those two masterworks were from each other, "Up" shares with those films a few storytel... (read more)

      • Under the Sea poster image

        Under the Sea

        Michael Esposito, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Burn After Reading poster image

        Burn After Reading

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The dour espionage goof "Burn After Reading" offers a few laughs, most of them provided by Brad Pitt as a serenely clueless gym employee who really, really likes his iPod, and by David Rasche and J.K. Simmons as C.I.A. analysts who don't know anything about anything. On screen, delusional schmoes are more fun than smart people, and in the latest film from Joel and Ethan Coen, the imperious former spook played by John Malkovich accuses his blackmailers, played by Pitt and Frances McD... (read more)

      • Mamma Mia! poster image

        Mamma Mia!

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's funny what you buy completely onstage and resist completely, or nearly, on-screen. Case in point: "Mamma Mia!" -the ABBA-fueled stage phenomenon that has now become "Mamma Mia! The Movie." Of course I never miss a Meryl Streep musical. On-screen she sang in "Silkwood," "Ironweed," "Postcards From the Edge" and plenty in "A Prairie Home Companion." Onstage Streep put her pipes to work on Brecht and Weill's "Happy End";... (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)

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

        Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Juno poster image

        Juno

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It takes "Juno" about 15 minutes to calm down and get its joke reflex in check. Screenwriter Diablo Cody, formerly Brook Busey-Hunt of Lemont, has everyone quipping like maniacs?it's dialogue you notice, every second?and for a while you wonder if this story of a pregnant teenager's coming of age will exhaust you with cleverness. Then, stealthily, everything about the movie starts working together more purposefully. And by the end you've fallen in love with the thing. Ellen Page is k... (read more)

      • Bee Movie poster image

        Bee Movie

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Like a lot of people, Jerry Seinfeld has acknowledged "Rocky and His Friends" and "The Bullwinkle Show" as key early comic influences, as well as proof that you can target animation for kids as well as adults if you keep the jokes coming fast enough. The kids get the moose/squirrel friendship; the adults get the references to "Crime and Punishment." Or they don't. But they can appreciate that something funny's going on when Boris Badenov mutters "Raskolnikov... (read more)

      • Before the Devil Knows You're Dead poster image

        Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It sounds grandiose, comparing the greatest dramatic poet in English to a defiantly unshowy film director. But just as Shakespeare started screwing around with formulas and genres late in his career, resulting in what are often classified as "problem comedies," here we have 83-year-old Sidney Lumet, the cinematic prince of his city (New York and environs), keeping his audiences off-guard and on their toes in his latest picture, "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead." It is a... (read more)

      • Eastern Promises poster image

        Eastern Promises

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        An unusually strong crime thriller, "Eastern Promises" comes from director David Cronenberg, a meticulous old-school craftsman of a type that is becoming increasingly rare. It's difficult to describe his technique, which is vivid but not flashy. Similarly this tale, about the sinister workings of the Russian mob in modern-day London, is gripping and often spectacularly violent - more about the bathhouse murder sequence later - but never salaciously so. The Canadian director has enjo... (read more)

      • Paprika poster image

        Paprika

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Movies, it's often said, are the art form that most closely suggests the dream state - and "Paprika" is pretty joyously dreamy and disorienting for much of its length. Director/co-writer Satoshi Kon is a virtuoso of Japanese anime; 2003's "Tokyo Godfathers" was his stunning sci-fi remake of the 1948 John Ford western "Three Godfathers." Original author Yasutaka Tsutsui is one of his country's major science-fiction writers. Their joint creation is a movie about a ... (read more)

      • Shrek the Third poster image

        Shrek the Third

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In "Shrek the Third" there's a scene in which the frog King Harold (voice by John Cleese), ward boss of Far Far Away, is dying. He utters his last words, and then - old joke for a new generation - no, he's not dead, he's still alive, and says a bit more, and expires, but in fact ... The scene's supposed to be funny but sad, too, and then in the funeral sequence the oh-so-not-quite-hip soundtrack fills the theater with "Live and Let Die." By that point you're thinking: Huh?... (read more)

      • Zodiac poster image

        Zodiac

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In 1978, in one of many letters to the San Francisco Chronicle, the man known as Zodiac wrote: "I am waiting for a good movie about me." A generation later, David Fincher has made it. "Zodiac" is not the serial killer tale audiences expect in this torture-friendly, cold-cased era. To be sure, Fincher has been down this road before. In 1995, the director, trained in special effects and videos and the third "Alien" movie, broke through with "Se7en," the ... (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)

      • The Pursuit of Happyness poster image

        The Pursuit of Happyness

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Will Smith is an ebullient screen presence with such a trillion-dollar smile, it's weirdly suspenseful watching him in "The Pursuit of Happyness" playing a character who buries each new setback, stoically, while soldiering on and taking care of his son. Can the actor manage to keep the early 1980s-set story honest and true, even when some of the storytelling leans Hollywood? Yes, he can. Smith is terrific and moving in this film. The film itself is more conventional. Yet it's better... (read more)

      • Happy Feet poster image

        Happy Feet

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A dancing-penguin epic with more mood swings than "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Terms of Endearment" put together, "Happy Feet" also claims the distinction of being the grimmest film with the word "happy" in its title since "Happy Birthday, Wanda June." This is merely a fact, not a dismissal. Far from it: A lot of director George Miller's film is gorgeous and exciting. Its craftsmanship and ambition put it a continent ahead of nearly every othe... (read more)

      • Open Season poster image

        Open Season

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Martin Lawrence and Ashton Kutcher may seem like an odd-sounding comedy team, but in some weird way, they click as voice actors and cartoon buddies in "Open Season," the first feature from Sony Pictures Animation. It's a movie that kids will probably like, but that may rightly exasperate hard-core hunters and "Field and Stream" subscribers. "Season" starts out as a back-to-nature comedy about a big, fuzzy hipster of a domesticated grizzly bear, Boog (Lawrence), w... (read more)

      • Beerfest poster image

        Beerfest

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Beerfest" is one sloppy comedy, but the lads of the comedy troupe Broken Lizard don't know when to say when in their pursuit of the idiotic laugh, and persistence certainly counts for something. The result is the opposite of a microbrew. It's more of a HALF OFF ALL PITCHERS! special. In honor of their late grandfather, played by Donald "Cash the Check" Sutherland, brothers Todd and Jan Wolfhouse travel to Germany to scatter the old man's ashes at Oktoberfest. There, they ... (read more)

      • Deep Sea IMAX 3D poster image

        Deep Sea IMAX 3D

        Michael Esposito, Chicago Tribune

        Director Howard Hall (?Into the Deep,? ?Island of the Sharks?) and the underwater IMAX film team do their usual splendid job of making the sea and its often-hungry denizens look beautiful in ?Deep Sea 3D.? While the film spans the oceans, much of it takes place in near-shore areas such as coral reefs and kelp forests - areas teeming with life from minuscule plankton to a hefty (though still youthful) right whale, not to mention rays, eels, a multitude of crustaceans, anemones, seastars, barra... (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)

      • 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)

      • Broken Flowers poster image

        Broken Flowers

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Bill Murray has a wonderfully lost and distracted look in "Broken Flowers," the Jim Jarmusch film that won the Grand Prize at May's Cannes Film Festival. Somehow combining the whipped demeanors of a shot-down lover and a sad little spaniel, he brilliantly recalls and expands on the malaise he projected so effectively in "Lost in Translation." Playing Don Johnston, a lifelong woman chaser, Murray mopes throughout "Broken Flowers" with the weary gaze of a joyless ... (read more)

      • Land of the Dead poster image

        Land of the Dead

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        "George A. Romero's Land of the Dead" gives us another great shock to the system. The fourth blood-spattered chapter in writer-director Romero's horrific film saga of America laid waste by an army of marauding zombies, this new film continues in high style the fearsome epic Romero began back in 1968 with his sleeper Z-budget indie hit "Night of the Living Dead." He reaches a grand climax. Deepening and darkening the increasingly grim vision that dominates "Night"... (read more)

      • Kung Fu Hustle poster image

        Kung Fu Hustle

        Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

        "Kung Fu Hustle" swaggers into theaters this Friday, delivering a full-on-the-mouth, sloppy-wet kiss to Hong Kong martial arts movies. Named Best Picture by the Hong Kong Film Critics Association, Stephen Chow's action-comedy suggests influences as diverse as early Gordon Liu movies, the Mortal Kombat video games and Looney Tunes cartoons. "Kung Fu Hustle" also represents, in part, an Asian movement to recapture international audiences. Blockbusters such as Quentin Taranti... (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)

      • Brick poster image

        Brick

        Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune

        The hard-bitten language in writer-director Rian Johnson's debut feature, a noir mystery in the tradition of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler set in the high school hallways and highways of Southern California, is challenging to follow, at best. In "Brick," "gum" means "to mess things up," "heel" is "to walk away from," "jake" stands for drugs, and "yeg" is just another word for "guy." If this yeg doses bad ... (read more)

      • The Aviator poster image

        The Aviator

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Howard Hughes - visionary airplane tycoon, unbuttoned movie mogul, insatiable woman chaser and mad recluse of Las Vegas - is one of the great, wild figures of American history, a fascinating denizen of both America's shining public and dark private realms. A massively wealthy and powerful nabob who seemed trapped in a teenage boy's fantasy world, Hughes and his story are subjects too vast and tumultuous to capture in any one movie - even a great one. So to say that director Martin Scorsese's ... (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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Shrek 2 poster image

        Shrek 2

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        "Shrek 2" is "Meet the Parents" for computer-animated ogres, and once again the cat gets the biggest laughs. The frisky feline of the moment is a swashbuckling Puss in Boots, voiced by Antonio Banderas in a sendup of his Zorro character. For reasons to be explained later, Puss is hired to vanquish everyone's favorite big ugly green dude, Shrek (again voiced by Mike Myers), but soon he's hanging out with the good guys, causing a jealous Donkey (Eddie Murphy, again better he... (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)

      • Shaun of the Dead poster image

        Shaun of the Dead

        Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

        Following the success of "28 Days Later," this year's remake of "Dawn of the Dead" and the recently released "Resident Evil: Apocalypse," you would think the zombie genre has ambled its course. Think again. With "Shaun of the Dead," British filmmakers Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg have rolled out a gleefully gory, pitch-perfect parody of George Romero's zombie films. But this isn't a movie about other movies. "Shaun of the Dead" stands on its ow... (read more)

      • Primer poster image

        Primer

        Chicago Tribune

        Shane Carruth's "Primer," an amateur low-budget indie with a higher-than-usual IQ, takes a classic science fiction theme - the time-travel story - and warps it into the "inner space" computer age. A prize winner at the Sundance Film Festival (despite a dinky initial budget of around $7,000), Carruth's movie is about four young Dallas technicians who begin tinkering with private inventions in a garage and come up with something spectacular: a device that lets them make brie... (read more)

      • Pieces of April poster image

        Pieces of April

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        "Pieces of April," which marks the directorial debut of that often excellent writer Peter Hedges ("What's Eating Gilbert Grape?"), is a funny movie about a very sad subject: an impending death in a family splintered for years and now trying to come together. In American films, the most honestly earned tears sometimes seep through a screen of cutting humor; this hipness shows the filmmakers and actors know the score and aren't suckers for sentiment. Patricia Clarkson gives ... (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)

      • 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)

      • Enough poster image

        Enough

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Jennifer Lopez plays a battered wife in "Enough," and at first she's excellent. But it's symptomatic of what's wrong with this movie that by the end, we have trouble believing she's in any real danger. Despite a story that starts off convincingly, this movie turns into melodramatic, revenge-crazy Hollywood mush. Yet playing Slim, the abused wife of the charming but brutal rich tyrant Mitch (Billy Campbell), Lopez gets everything right at the start. We can believe her as a sensitive,... (read more)

      • Frailty poster image

        Frailty

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Most horror movies depend on our susceptibility to cliched scare setups and prefab gore. But most of "Frailty" is so good done in a low-key, realistic mood of genuine creepiness and dread that it doesn't need formula shocks. Then, unfortunately, the last third of the movie leads to a surprise ending that reverses the meaning of most of what we've seen. Up to then, Bill Paxton's directorial debut film about a family of small-town Southern serial killers is impressive. Paxton also... (read more)

      • Monsters, Inc. poster image

        Monsters, Inc.

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        The main characters of "Monsters, Inc." are fantasy beasts who frighten children and capture their screams to use as fuel in the monsters' homeland. And they're the good guys. Given that Shrek was an ogre who disliked cuddly fairytale characters, we've obviously entered a new era for animated heroes, at least of the computer-generated kind. The "Toy Story" movies' Woody and Buzz Lightyear, after all, just wanted to make kids happy. Nevertheless, James P. Sullivan (a.k.a. &... (read more)

      • Hedwig and the Angry Inch poster image

        Hedwig and the Angry Inch

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        Most modern-day drag queens don't rock. They're more likely to be seen grooving to disco or lip-synching to ABBA or just generally camping it up. But the title character of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" isn't your typical drag queen. Having survived a botched sex-change operation (which left the "one-inch mound of flesh" that explains the rest of the title), married and been abandoned by an American G.I., moved from East Berlin to a Kansas trailer park and formed a rock band... (read more)

      • The Fast and the Furious poster image

        The Fast and the Furious

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        Just when you've become resigned to a summer of action films that are big, loud, stupid and boring, along comes an action film that is big, loud, stupid and reasonably entertaining. "The Fast and the Furious" is appealing in the same way someone who looks in the mirror and says, "I'm a lug, and I like myself" might be preferable to someone who looks in the mirror and says, "I'm a lug, and I hate myself." That is, this movie is unapologetic about its nature: It's ... (read more)

      • Ghost World poster image

        Ghost World

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Enid and Rebecca, the two best friends of "Ghost World," are a couple of acid-tongued outsiders in a gray modern world of strip malls, chain stores and dehydrated culture. They're too smart for their own good and definitely too cheeky to slide through life like their chirpier, smilier high-school classmates. Based on the characters in David Clowes' underground comic book, and brought to life by actresses Thora Birch (Enid) and Scarlett Johansson (Rebecca), they're a couple of teen-a... (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)

      • Beauty and the Beast poster image

        Beauty and the Beast

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The chaotic, pushy remake of Disney's 1991 screen musical "Beauty and the Beast" stresses the challenges of adapting a success in one form (animation) for another (live-action). We're in for a long line of Disney remakes in the coming years: Everything from "Dumbo" to "Aladdin" is headed for a wallet near you, banking on nostalgia and brand recognition. The financial wallop of the recent, pretty good live-action "Jungle Book" redo, and the live-action &... (read more)

      • Beauty and the Beast poster image

        Beauty and the Beast

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        That "tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme" returns to the screen, now in 3-D. But "Beauty and the Beast," the greatest animated film ever made and one of the screen's great musicals, hardly needs this sort of sprucing up. A timeless French fairy tale about a cruel young man cursed to live as a beast in his enchanted home if he cannot change and be worthy of another's love, it features sparkling wit, lovely songs, stunning animation, terrific vocal performances by Pai... (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)

      • Marie Antoinette poster image

        Marie Antoinette

        Jessica Reaves, Chicago Tribune

        Marie Antoinette has, in popular history, been accused of frivolity, irreverence and disdain for historical precedent. Sofia Coppola's indulgent, frothy biopic will be charged with precisely these same offenses. What more could a filmmaker ask for? Coppola's third movie, reportedly in the works for many years, has finally landed in the U.S. after a rocky premiere at Cannes, where the French media reaction was, shall we say, mixed. Wags there accused the young filmmaker of taking certain liber... (read more)

      • About Elly poster image

        About Elly

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Filmed prior to his Oscar-winning drama "A Separation," writer-director Asghar Farhadi's "About Elly" (2009) only recently untangled its foreign-rights distribution issues, and opens Friday at the Music Box. It's been on DVD for years. But now, at last, it can be seen on a large screen by anyone with an interest in ... well, lots of things, but uncommonly good ensemble storytelling, for starters. I hesitate to give much away in terms of narrative, and for once I'll listen ... (read more)

      • Sea Monsters 3D: A Prehistoric Adventure poster image

        Sea Monsters 3D: A Prehistoric Adventure

        Michael Esposito, Chicago Tribune

        National Geographic's "Sea Monsters 3D: A Prehistoric Adventure" dives into the toothy Cretaceous era's undersea world where the Great Plains were part of the seabed in an inland sea, a North American Mediterranean, 80 million years ago. The stories, narrated by Liev Schreiber, are based on fossil records. For example, the star of the film is a female dolichorhynchops or "doli" (pronounced "dolly"), a dolphin-sized marine reptile that fed mainly on fish and squid... (read more)

      • Silence poster image

        Silence

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The Japanese novelist Shusaku Endo once said he considered his Catholic baptism the equivalent of receiving a "ready-made suit," infant size. Only in adulthood did he realize "it had become a part of me after all." Endo's 1966 novel "Silence," a stern, exquisite piece of historical fiction about Portuguese Jesuit priests persecuted for their beliefs in 17th century Japan, walks a thin line separating West from East, religious fervor from spiritual skepticism. It ... (read more)

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