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      • 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)

      • Monster House poster image

        Monster House

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Monster House" is more fun and a bit stranger than it looks from the trailer, and from the way its handlers make it sound. The film resembles "a fun house in an amusement park," according to co-executive producer Robert Zemeckis, deploying an old cliche made monetarily new by Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequel. The studio materials describe "Monster House" as a "comedy thrill-ride." Is that different from a thriller comedy-ride? The s... (read more)

      • A Scanner Darkly poster image

        A Scanner Darkly

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Philip K. Dick was a dark literary visionary, sometimes disguised as a prolific pulp science fiction writer, whose explosively imaginative tales could usher his readers into realms of dread, alternative lives and utter madness. So do some of the many movies of his stories (notably 1982's "Blade Runner"), though few of them are the pure stuff. Richard Linklater's film of "A Scanner Darkly" comes close, though. It's one of the most faithful movie adaptations of any Dick sto... (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)

      • 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)

      • Inside Man poster image

        Inside Man

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Fairly diverting bank-heist doings, "Inside Man" stars two of the coolest cucumbers in contemporary film: Denzel Washington and Clive Owen, both of whom have a way of holding your attention without expending a speck of visible effort. It's a lovely, catlike quality to have, if you happen to be a movie star who is first and foremost an actor. The cast also includes Jodie Foster, swanning around as a Manhattan power broker of mysterious purpose, and Christopher Plummer, a Zen master o... (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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Zathura poster image


        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        For a kid-aimed PG-rated fantasy you could do worse than ?Zathura: A Space Adventure.? Now there?s a ringing endorsement. You could do worse. It?s not ?an interstellar delight!? but then, neither is the movie. It?s a tick better than the movie version of ?Jumanji,? if that?s any help. If you liked the book, you?ll find the film of ?Zathura? faithful in most respects, though not so much amplified as padded. Its spirit, however, is more abrasive than that of the original. In the original story... (read more)

      • Batman Begins poster image

        Batman Begins

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        In "Batman Begins," which reignites the bat-saga, Christian Bale is the new face of the bat-guy and his alter ego, Bruce Wayne, following Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney in recent movies and Adam West in the '60s TV show. Bale's is a grimmer, tauter, more serious face, swallowed up in the shadows of a darker, tauter, more serious movie. He's a wounded man hell-bent on revenge against the evil world that slaughtered his parents and scarred him. The movie series fizzled ... (read more)

      • Madagascar poster image


        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)

      • The Interpreter poster image

        The Interpreter

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        "The Interpreter," a new Sydney Pollack political thriller set and shot largely in New York City's United Nations headquarters, is the kind of polished, exciting treat the movies should give us far more regularly. As beautifully designed, swift and sleek as a classic sports car, throbbing with emotion and intelligence, it's a neat suspense film that's also dramatically and sociologically potent, with two supremely talented stars, Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn, delivering beyond the em... (read more)

      • Constantine poster image


        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Keanu Reeves is caught between heaven and hell in "Constantine," his latest epic fantasy/science-fiction thriller. But though the story is potentially fascinating and the visuals sometimes spellbinding, the movie itself is stranded in the purgatory of the second-rate. A "Matrix" it isn't - though it's obviously intended to remind us at times of Reeves' wildly nightmarish and imaginative 1999 hit. But here the source is different. Reeves plays doomed Los Angeles exorcist/sl... (read more)

      • Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior poster image

        Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior

        Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

        Meet the new Jackie Chan: Tony Jaa, star of Thailand's martial arts epic "Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior." Jaa combines Chan's early-career daredevil feats with Jet Li's calm ferocity, generating a powerful cinematic experience reminiscent of Chan's "Drunken Master II" and Li's "The Legend" movies. Gone are the gravity-defying effects of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Hero"; "Ong-Bak" carves out its place in cinema history with swe... (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)

      • The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie poster image

        The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie

        Scott L. Powers, Chicago Tribune

        If your kid has SpongeBob SquarePants underwear, it's a good bet she or he will relish "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie." For those of us without such attire, the $8, 90-minute wager isn't so safe. The inevitable movie version of the Nickelodeon cartoon that since 1999 has featured the undersea adolescent adventures of sea sponge SpongeBob SquarePants, his buddy Patrick (a starfish) and peevish neighbor Squidward (yes, a squid) revolves around SpongeBob's job as a fry cook at the K... (read more)

      • The Incredibles poster image

        The Incredibles

        Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

        If "The Incredibles" did not exist, it would be necessary to invent them. It's amazing that this cartoon super-family wasn't created sooner, given the recent blockbuster status of both superheroes ("Spider-Man 2") and computer-animated movies ("Shrek 2," "Shark Tale"). With "The Incredibles," Pixar's first PG film, writer/director Brad Bird delivers the perfect parody of, and valentine to, the superhero genre. At its center, Mr. Incredible (vo... (read more)

      • Birth poster image


        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)

      • Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt poster image

        Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt

        Louis R. Carlozo, Chicago Tribune

        With a voice as flat as a shot cowboy boot and lyrics sharper than a junkie?s needle, Townes Van Zandt remained an obscure enigma throughout his too-short life - not just to music fans who hailed him as a genius, but his nearest and dearest who were frustrated, even angered, by his addictions and rambling lifestyle. Maybe this explains why Margaret Brown?s documentary ?Be Here To Love Me? proves a less-than-satisfying examination of the country singer?s art, career and demons. To an extent, t... (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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • The Matrix Revolutions poster image

        The Matrix Revolutions

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        "Jesus H. Christ!" someone shouts near the beginning of "The Matrix Revolutions," providing, in more ways than one, a succinct review of the movie. The exclamation could be an expression of incredulity at how far afield this "Matrix" trilogy has ventured, or a literal declaration of hero Neo's ultimately obvious role model. The original 1999 "Matrix" was the story of a seemingly ordinary guy who discovers mind-warping layers of reality as well as his ow... (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)

      • 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)

      • Bruce Almighty poster image

        Bruce Almighty

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        If God chooses to bestow His powers upon some mere mortal, you figure the human's got to have something special going on. I mean, with billions and billions of people on Earth, you wouldn't figure God would hand over the holy reins to some schnook who lacks even the potential for greatness. Unless that schnook is played by Jim Carrey though some of us might argue that the actor's head already is big enough. In "Bruce Almighty," God, in the person of Morgan Freeman, gives the ultima... (read more)

      • Daddy Day Care poster image

        Daddy Day Care

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Eddie Murphy, a comic sometimes-genius who can play it raunchy or nice, shows his sweet side in "Daddy Day Care," a likable little movie without much to offer but cute tots, recycled gags and a talented cast amiably wasting their time and ours. Shining in the midst of slick malarkey, as he often has before, Murphy plays an unemployed, middle-class, suburban-L.A. dad, Charlie Hinton, who stumbles on the idea of opening a child-care center called "Daddy Day Care." This high-... (read more)

      • Willard poster image


        Kevin M. Williams, Chicago Tribune

        "Right now, this moment, I like myself." This payoff line in "Willard," a remake of the 1971 killer-rat film, is fabulous perfectly placed and beautifully delivered because of what it represents, which is so much more than a looming lunchtime in rodent land. Finally, the much-abused Willard Stiles (Crispin Glover) has self-esteem, thanks to rat power. "Willard" is more than a killer-rat story; it's a morality play about loyalty and friendship. Rats kill because... (read more)

      • Old School poster image

        Old School

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        Comedy is subjective, but can we agree that some laughs are easier than others? For instance, presenting three-dimensional characters who crack you up with wit or behavioral quirks is tougher than, say, having a fleshy fellow run naked through the streets. The best humor requires craft. The lazy brand runs closer to pandering, in the manner of a thirtysomething guy eliciting cheers from college kids by proclaiming, "Let's get stoned!" No one would lump Todd Phillips' "Old Schoo... (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)

      • 8 Mile poster image

        8 Mile

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        The movie "8 Mile" poses three questions: Can rap star Eminem act? Can he be a movie superstar? Is it a decent picture? "Yes" to the first and third questions, and "maybe" to the second - though the deck is stacked in the rapper's favor. In "8 Mile," Eminem, the foul-mouthed white rapper who took the pop music world by storm in 1999, plays aspiring Detroit rhymer/climber Jimmy "Rabbit" Smith. It's as good a movie showcase as any solo music sup... (read more)

      • The Rules of Attraction poster image

        The Rules of Attraction

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        Roger Avary's adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' "The Rules of Attraction" is a bravura exercise in emptiness. Its flashy camera moves, backwards sequences, jumbled chronology and energetic soundtrack make you feel, at least for a while, like you're having fun watching characters who generally aren't. Avary helped write "Pulp Fiction," and his new movie, which he wrote and directed, has a similar freewheeling quality. All that's missing are plots to drive the narrative, char... (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)

      • Men in Black II poster image

        Men in Black II

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith are back. The space monsters are funny. The little people in the Grand Central Station locker are a stitch. And Frank, the talking street snitch/pug dog, is often hilarious. So why is "Men in Black II," probably one of the most eagerly awaited sequels of the past several years, so relatively sparkless and disappointing? "MIB II" is a sequel that seems to have everything going for it, not the least being those creaseless black suits, super-hip Ray Ba... (read more)

      • Scooby-Doo poster image


        Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

        As smoke rolls out of the sunroof of the Mystery Mobile and the words "primo stuff" are uttered by a major character, finally, we're led to think, someone is coming clean about Scooby-Doo's psychedelic roots. It would explain a lot, from Shaggy's reefer-smoking demeanor to the talking dog. Of course, no explanations are offered, only flirted with, as the next shot reveals an in-van barbecue of vegetarian burgers shared by a boy and his dog. Usually, calling movies "cartoonish&q... (read more)

      • Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron poster image

        Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron

        Loren King, Chicago Tribune

        DreamWorks borrows a page from Walt Disney's book on epic animated adventures with its new widescreen production, "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron." The studio that playfully skewed Disney in "Shrek" flatters the competition with this imitation of Disney style and sincerity. "Spirit" trots confidently in the hoof-steps of old-fashioned family films such as "Black Beauty" and "The Black Stallion," while giving obvious nods to "Dumbo"... (read more)

      • The Importance of Being Earnest poster image

        The Importance of Being Earnest

        Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

        It remains one of the tragedies of the English language that Oscar Wilde didn't leave us with more plays. Shortly after the 1895 London premiere of Wilde's stage masterwork, "The Importance of Being Earnest," the 40-year-old wordsmith found himself in prison for being unfashionably homosexual in Victorian England. He was dead five years later, a broken writer suffering ill health after two years in poor prison conditions. "Earnest" represented Wilde at the height of his li... (read more)

      • Frailty poster image


        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)

      • Crossroads poster image


        Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

        Pop star Britney Spears' big-screen debut, "Crossroads," follows the "Purple Rain" logic that an emotional, autobiographical song at the end of the film solves everything. And perhaps "Crossroads" might become the pop "Purple Rain" of its age as long as we remember what a rickety vanity project "Purple Rain" was. Like Prince, Spears affords herself plenty of chances to flash her assets in this case her vocal talents, slim midriff and, well, ... (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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Shrek poster image


        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)

      • Save the Last Dance poster image

        Save the Last Dance

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        "Respect" has become the all-purpose demand. Athletes don't ask for record-breaking contracts for the money; they want the respect that the millions represent. When a troubled teen in Save the Last Dance plans to attack some rival gangbangers, he's not seeking revenge for a previous shooting; he just needs to preserve his sense that he's being respected. True respect, however, goes a long way in the moviemaking game. The reason many teen films stink is that their creators haven't ... (read more)

      • Memento poster image


        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)

      • 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)

      • Ghostbusters poster image


        Jake Coyle, Chicago Tribune

        Associated Press The easy, electric chemistry of the four leads in Paul Feig's "Ghostbusters" acts like a firewall against the supernatural and the adolescent, alike, in this spirited reboot of the 1984 original. Ghouls and anonymous Internet commenters -- who have flocked to their thumbs-down buttons ahead of the film's release -- share plenty of characteristics. Each is likely to drool and quickly disappear when you turn on the lights. Feig's "Ghostbusters" ain't afraid ... (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)

      • Gimme Shelter poster image

        Gimme Shelter

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Godzilla poster image


        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In one fell swoop, and a pretty swell fell swoop it is, the new "Godzilla" makes up for the 1998 Godzilla movie, the one with Matthew Broderick up against the sea beast klutzing around New York like Jack Lemmon in "The Out-of-Towners." The latest "Godzilla," fine and fierce, removes the camp (though it's not humorless) and takes the smartly considered step of not over-exploiting its star. Already it has become the water-cooler topic for this unusually classy summ... (read more)

      • Godzilla poster image


        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)

      • Kinky Boots poster image

        Kinky Boots

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Chiwetel Ejiofor plays a red-booted, show-stopping drag queen named Lola in the new British film "Kinky Boots," and it's a sensational performance. Ejiofor, the Nigerian-British actor who made a big hit in Stephen Frears' "Dirty Pretty Things," plays Lola - a 6-foot floozie chantoozie - as a big, warm, seductive homme/femme fatale. When he blasts out his stage routines, singing "I Want To Be Evil," "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'" or (a perfect choice... (read more)

      • The Nun poster image

        The Nun

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Step aside, "Halloween." Forget it, "Paranormal Activity." Nice try, "Scream." "The Conjuring" franchise (or the "Conjuring Cinematic Universe," the "CCU") has steadily become the most dependable horror film franchise of late, conquering the box office with good old-fashioned and flawlessly executed spooks and scares, with a few interesting ideas to boot. Spinning off James Wan's 2013 "The Conjuring," about real-life marrie... (read more)

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