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      • Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore 3D poster image

        Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore 3D

        Glenn Whipp, Chicago Tribune

        The title might be "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore," but you can't really talk about this OK sequel to the best-forgotten 2001 kids movie without addressing another animal -- namely, the elephant in the room. "Cats & Dogs" is the latest family movie to be unnecessarily converted to 3-D, which means that if mom and dad want to take the kids to see the fur fly this weekend, they're going to probably pay a premium surcharge to receive absolutely nothing of value in ... (read more)

      • Detestable Moi 3D Numerique poster image

        Detestable Moi 3D Numerique

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The A-Team poster image

        The A-Team

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The A-Team," like "The Karate Kid" -- a 1980s artifact blown up for a 21st Century audience -- has a hard time topping the moment when Liam Neeson's Hannibal Smith takes time for a philosophical heart-to-heart with one of his men, B.A. Baracus, played by mixed martial arts star Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. They're about to kill a lot of people, but Baracus has undergone a conversion of the soul (the movie isn't kidding here) and so they discuss Gandhi's theories o... (read more)

      • MacGruber poster image

        MacGruber

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        The yearlong '80s flashback that is 2010 continues with ``MacGruber, a comedy that summons up memories of mullets, ``MacGyver and Mike Myers. A blood-spattered, hit-or-miss, ``out there character comedy of the ``Wayne's World/``Austin Powers school, it manages to be nostalgic and profane in equal measures, a movie that's retro and yet retrofitted to suit the new cutting edge in screen farce. Will Forte's thin ``Saturday Night Live sketch is taken to places network TV hasn't yet been in a game... (read more)

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

        How to Train Your Dragon: An IMAX 3D Experience

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Diary of a Wimpy Kid poster image

        Diary of a Wimpy Kid

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Snot, I think, is funnier when it's animated. So is excessively moldy cheese. Also: If some kid's getting smacked around, it's likely to be less painful if you don't hear the punch or the slap; slapstick in general takes on a different, more clinical and humorless air when handled realistically, which is why "Home Alone" remains a low point in the history of hugely successful "family" comedies. So here we are with "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," "Hotel for Dogs"... (read more)

      • Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel poster image

        Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel" is a kids comedy that screams "Direct to DVD." It doesn't help that it screams that in high, squeaky, three-part harmony. Whatever slim charms there were in the nostalgic, musically cute and slapstick-friendly first film of chipmunk mania are squished right out of "The Squeakquel" like so much rodent roadkill. The cast is cut rate, and the script needed a serious visit from a serious gag writer. Apparently, Fox blew the b... (read more)

      • Fantastic Mr. Fox poster image

        Fantastic Mr. Fox

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        So many careful and clever visual felicities dot the landscape of Wes Anderson's animated feature "Fantastic Mr. Fox," from the catastrophically inclined watercolors painted by Mrs. Fox to the autumn breezes ruffling various species of animals' fur just so, I'm flummoxed as to why the movie left me feeling up in the air, as opposed to over the moon. Partly, I think, it's a matter of how Anderson's sense of humor rubs up against that of the book's author, Roald Dahl. It's also a mat... (read more)

      • Planet 51 poster image

        Planet 51

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        How might a teenager protect himself from that dreaded fate described in legions of sci-fi movies - the probe? If you weren't thinking "champagne cork," you were way off, according to the sci-fi kids cartoon "Planet 51." A genial but generic riff on sci-fi movie history, "Planet" has barely enough slapstick to keep the kids interested. Children won't get the many sci-fi movie references - or the cork gag - and adults probably won't find them that funny. But the... (read more)

      • The House of the Devil poster image

        The House of the Devil

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Those of us who spent many hours in the '70s and '80s watching satanic cultists at work and play in junk like "Race With the Devil" (1975) will experience director Ti West's fourth feature in a different way from those who weren't around then, or were confining their filmgoing to more noble matters. "The House of the Devil" works either way. It is a fine little old-school thriller, set in the 1980s and devoted, fondly, to the visual syntax and Farrah-inspired hair of the e... (read more)

      • Where the Wild Things Are poster image

        Where the Wild Things Are

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Zombieland poster image

        Zombieland

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Warts, entrails and all, I had a ball at "Zombieland." It's 81 minutes of my kind of stupid. The premise gives you absolutely nothing new in terms of what zombies do, or look like, or run like, and the genre's more stringent aficionados may get sniffy when confronted with a modest, high-spirited gore comedy. But I laughed more often, and harder, at the best gags here than I did with any number of other comedies this year. And there's something inherently droll about plunking down Je... (read more)

      • District 9 poster image

        District 9

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Some movies pack such a terrific central idea, even their flaws can't stop the train. "District 9" is one of them. In its first hour it barrels along with the velocity and assurance of a new classic; as it settles for being a good, splattery addition to the venerable aliens-come-calling genre, you feel a slight letdown. But that first half? Nice. Pulp moviemakers constantly challenge themselves to find the right sort of realism to lend to a far-out premise. In the case of "Dist... (read more)

      • Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian: The IMAX Experience poster image

        Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian: The IMAX Experience

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        I admit it: I was a little tough on the first "Night at the Museum." My son and I disagree all the time on movies, yet I suppose it took his delight in the film's simple but surefire premise (to preteens especially) to make me reconsider. Also, repeated encounters with the movie on a family vacation after it came out on DVD didn't hurt. That's the key to revising an opinion upward a half-star or so: hammering repetition. On the other hand: Is Shawn Levy Mr. Finesse when it comes to ... (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)

      • Hotel for Dogs poster image

        Hotel for Dogs

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        So many canines are going potty in the nation's multiplexes this month, what with "Marley & Me" and now the ensemble bowser adventure "Hotel for Dogs," I wouldn't be surprised if Lars Von Trier re-released "Dogville" just for fun. He'd make $10 million before the kids knew what hit 'em. I love dogs. My kind of animal. They understand my needs, and their owners are kinder, more humane, more intelligent and better-looking than the average non-dog-owning citizenry. ... (read more)

      • The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor poster image

        The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Some movies should've signed a no-compete clause with themselves. The action beats are more like action beat-downs. One Wow cancels out the last Wow, until the Wows start looking more like lowercase wows and soon the wows become merely eh, or worse, a string of low-grade, minimally inventive aggravations that fail even to hit the level of eh. They're more like bleh. "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" is bleh, though it's likely to click with the public, given the enormous profi... (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)

      • U2 3D poster image

        U2 3D

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It takes a seriously pretentious band to maximize the digital IMAX 3-D format. U2 is that band. And while "U2 3D" doesn't rank with "Stop Making Sense" or "The Last Waltz" in the realm of top-shelf concert films, it's enjoyable and a fine fat eyeful. Bono's sunglasses alone justify the visual showcase. The U2 "Vertigo" tour was large to begin with. Co-directors Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington and crew shot 100-plus hours of footage, as Bono, The Ed... (read more)

      • Diary of the Dead poster image

        Diary of the Dead

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Call it OCVD - obsessive-compulsive video disorder, the insatiable itch to visually document terrible, unfathomable events as they unfold. This syndrome kept "Cloverfield" on the run, but in many ways it's more provocatively handled in "George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead," which is funny and sad and rather sweet as zombie pictures go. No blockbuster freight saddles the latest from the 68-year-old Romero, whose "Night of the Living Dead" 40 years ago forever cha... (read more)

      • 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days poster image

        4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Great acting comes in all shapes, sizes and temperatures, and sometimes a murmur of the heart speaks as loudly as the grand theatrical gesture. For a demonstration in the opposite of what Daniel Day-Lewis is up to, gloriously, in "There Will Be Blood," just savor the cool, subtle assurance of the greatest performance not recognized by this year's Academy Awards. The portrayal belongs to Anamaria Marinca, whose Sphinx-like countenance masks an emotional nightmare in "4 Months, 3... (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)

      • Cloverfield poster image

        Cloverfield

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        There's nothing to "Cloverfield," really, but stripped-down chaos shot in a faux-verite "Blair Witch Project" fashion. Call it "The Manhattan Monster Project." Its special guest star is a Godzilla-inspired sea creature rather coyly concealed from full view, like a hostile celebrity who gets itchy around cameras. But I have to say, I was with it. It's dumb but quick and dirty and effectively brusque, dispensing with niceties such as character. It runs about 74 min... (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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Flushed Away poster image

        Flushed Away

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Flushed Away" is enough to make any hopped-up multitasking preteen long for a nice glass of milk and a copy of "Good Dog, Carl." After the fourth electrocution gag, the 10th smack in the face and the 12th assault on a wee rodent crotch, we could all use something quiet. This chaotic animated feature proves two things. One: Singing slugs can save a picture, or nearly. Every time the slug chorus overreacts to the hero or breaks into a number, "Flushed Away" sudden... (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)

      • Over the Hedge poster image

        Over the Hedge

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Curious George poster image

        Curious George

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        You can say several things in favor of ?Curious George,? a mild off-season cinematic bid for the young and the restless. The movie, a G-rated, 86-minute affair, isn?t glib or assaultive in the ?Shrek? vein, though Joe Stillman, a ?Shrek? alum, is one among many uncredited screenwriters on this project. Jack Johnson?s songs slide in one ear and out the other. Filmed primarily in traditional two-dimensional animation, though without much wit or distinction, director Matthew O?Callaghan?s featur... (read more)

      • Half Nelson poster image

        Half Nelson

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        No halves about it: "Half Nelson" is a wholly absorbing and delicately shaded portrait of an educator played by Ryan Gosling, a young man harboring an offstage secret. Dan Dunne teaches 13- and 14-year-olds history in an underfunded Brooklyn public school. Veering off the official syllabus, he prods his kids to think about the civil rights movement and the CIA-backed Chilean coup and all of human history as a series of "opposing forces." The outcome of those forces is what... (read more)

      • Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story poster image

        Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story

        Jessica Reaves, Chicago Tribune

        Let?s get this out of the way. ?Dreamer? is not a movie for anyone who has ever been accused of being cynical and/or immune to the charms of doe-eyed farm animals. If, on the other hand, you loved ?The Black Stallion,? you?re not creeped out by Dakota Fanning, and you can tolerate a phoned-in performance from Kris Kristofferson, ?Dreamer? is right up your alley. Gorgeously shot amidst the verdant hills of Kentucky horse country, this is an underdog (underhorse?) story about the redemptive pow... (read more)

      • The Devil's Rejects poster image

        The Devil's Rejects

        Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

        In the first third of rocker/director Rob Zombie's "The Devil's Rejects," one of his serial killer antiheroes proclaims, "I am the devil, and I am here to do the devil's work." His claim seems dubious. If Satan were involved in "Rejects," wouldn't it have more style and better production values? At the very least, the Great Beast would have hired a more disciplined film editor. Evil isn't this boring. Zombie's unevenly acted, badly directed sequel to the lacklust... (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)

      • 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)

      • Million Dollar Baby poster image

        Million Dollar Baby

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        At 74, Clint Eastwood still has some tricks up his sleeve, including, when he wants it, a knockout punch of shattering force. "Million Dollar Baby" - in which Eastwood admirably returns as director, producer and lead actor after shucking star duties in last year's instant classic "Mystic River" - is a tough, pungent boxing drama with a delayed-action wallop. The movie is one of Eastwood's best, but it fools you. Starting out as if it were another "Rocky"-style bo... (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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Dawn of the Dead poster image

        Dawn of the Dead

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        "Dawn of the Dead" is a big-bucks remake of George Romero's grisly 1978 horror classic about a zombie army besieging an all-American shopping mall. But despite a big budget, lots of technical flair and a good cast headed by Sarah Polley and Ving Rhames, it's mostly a bloody mess. Romero's movie was both scary and satiric, but this reprise, directed by British TV-ad wiz Zack Snyder, is neither. It's a blood-spattered zombie of a picture, almost as violent, soulless and drenched with ... (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)

      • 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)

      • Mystic River poster image

        Mystic River

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Clint Eastwood's powerful new movie, "Mystic River," his best since "Unforgiven," takes us on a voyage almost to the end of the night. It's a shattering journey into darkness, taken by three Boston boys pulled at age 11 into one awful act of transgression, climaxing 25 years later, when an even more terrible crime reunites them. Based on the 2001 crime novel by Dennis Lehane, "Mystic River" is classic Eastwood, classic noir. If there is still some doubt about whe... (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)

      • Adaptation poster image

        Adaptation

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Few recent films have stripped open the angst-ridden mind and heart of a writer with more wit and firecracker imagination than "Adaptation," the latest cinema jape from the unbuttoned "Being John Malkovich" team of director Spike Jonze and writer Charlie Kaufman. Even more than "Malkovich," this film is a real cockeyed delight though here, more than ever, the word "real" is relative. One of the year's most clever comedies, "Adaptation" is a m... (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)

      • Stuart Little 2 poster image

        Stuart Little 2

        Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

        In the three years since E.B. White's cheery, sweater-clad mouse first made his wobbly transition to the big screen, the forces behind "Stuart Little" have discovered how to give their computer-generated rodent a palpable soul. Perhaps it's because director Rob Minkoff was stung by the charge that the original cinematic Little had no more heart than a frog in a beer commercial. Maybe it's just that Bruce Joel Rubin ("Ghost") wrote a much wittier and more intelligent screen... (read more)

      • Minority Report poster image

        Minority Report

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Steven Spielberg's "Minority Report," with Tom Cruise as a cop on the run in 2054 Washington, D.C., is a film that can get you high on the sheer magic and exhilaration of making movies. The film, based on a Philip K. Dick pulp science-fiction story about a future police force that solves and then prevents murders before they happen, has been turned into a riveting journey through a densely imagined future world. And it's the product of a filmmaker whose technical prowess and storyte... (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)

      • 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)

      • Memento poster image

        Memento

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        Memento is a thriller for people who are sick of thrillers, a puzzle movie in which the puzzle is actually worth the time and effort to solve. Suspense movies of late have been anything but suspenseful. The lead character faces some mystery, travels down right and wrong paths, gets double-crossed in an out-of-nowhere "surprise" and winds up in a chase in which the villain ultimately buys the farm. Young British writer-director Christopher Nolan (Following) turns the formula on its... (read more)

      • Titanic poster image

        Titanic

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The ship so nice they sank it twice, the RMS Titanic has resurfaced from the icy depths of the Atlantic only to be subjected to a second dunking, this time with a 3-D up-charge, under the stewardship of Capt. James Cameron, master and commander. This week, Cameron's 1997 film -- perhaps you've heard of it? -- returns to theaters on both regular and IMAX-sized screens, just in time for this month's 100th anniversary of the doomed vessel's maiden and farewell 1912 voyage. How's the 3-D? It's fi... (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)

      • Gold poster image

        Gold

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        It's been said that Matthew McConaughey is a character actor trapped in a leading man's body. After his rom-com hunk period in the 2000s, he had his "McConnaissance," delving deeply into character work in "Bernie," "Magic Mike" and "The Wolf of Wall Street," on TV in "True Detective," and in "Dallas Buyers Club," for which he won an Oscar. His latest film, "Gold," directed by Stephen Gaghan, is his most extreme character wo... (read more)

      • Lassie poster image

        Lassie

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Dog and movie lovers, take note: Lassie has come home. Writer-director Charles Sturridge's "Lassie" revives a well-worn, sometimes grand tradition begun in 1938, when Eric Knight's first Lassie story was published. Since then, Knight's tale, amplified in his later 1940 novel "Lassie Come Home" - about the magnificently faithful English collie who travels 500 miles to return to her youthful master, Joe - has inspired more cinema and TV, some good, some fair, than any other ... (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)

      • The Master poster image

        The Master

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        I need to get the lighting right," mutters the man with the camera in "The Master," one of the few truly vital and unruly American films in recent years. The man is Freddie Quell, a World War II Navy veteran suffering from what has been diagnosed as a nervous condition. He's a long way, adjustment-wise, from the disenchanted returning vet author James Jones wrote about in "Some Came Running," played by Frank Sinatra in the movie. Freddie's far gone: An alcoholic, a br... (read more)

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