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      • Spring Breakers poster image

        Spring Breakers

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        No animals were harmed during the making of "Spring Breakers." But plenty of impressionable young and older minds will assuredly experience feelings of disorientation watching writer-director Harmony Korine's candy-colored clown of a movie, which starts out like a salacious, rump-centric and blithely bare-breasted hip-hop video and ends up in the realm of scary and inspired trash. That's not meant negatively. Korine is a resolute sleaze monger, whose nightmarish daydreams include &q... (read more)

      • The Croods poster image

        The Croods

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's "Ice Age" with humans and less ice. "The Croods" began life nearly a decade ago as "Crood Awakening," a collaboration of DreamWorks Animation and Aardman Studios, with a script co-written by John Cleese. Then Aardman, creators of the great Wallace & Gromit and the very good "Chicken Run," fell out of the development. Years later, here we are: Another DreamWorks movie perpetually on the run, desperately full of action because slapstick violence tran... (read more)

      • The Perks of Being a Wallflower poster image

        The Perks of Being a Wallflower

        Betsy Sharkey, Chicago Tribune

        Sometimes an inexperienced filmmaker can use a helping hand from his cast. That's exactly what Stephen Chbosky got from Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller and Emma Watson in the adaptation of his popular young adult novel "The Perks of Being a Wallflower." Back in the director's chair for only the second time, the filmmaker, like his main character, is a little unsteady on his feet. But thanks to his stars, the film -- like the book -- is a smartly observed study of a troubled teen's first y... (read more)

      • Hotel Transylvania poster image

        Hotel Transylvania

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Dominated by Adam Sandler's D-minus Bela Lugosi impression, the 3-D animated feature "Hotel Transylvania" illustrates the difference between engaging a young movie audience and agitating it, with snark and noise and everything but the funny. Do yourself a favor. See instead "ParaNorman," a film of wit and wiles and a distinctive visual quality. Or see "Frankenweenie" when that opens next week. Or just see to your laundry. Honestly, staring at your laundry will be... (read more)

      • Sparkle poster image

        Sparkle

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Warmly remembered corn, featuring some fantastic performers including Lonette McKee and Mary Alice, the first ``Sparkle (1976) starred Irene Cara as a mousy but learning-to-roar 15-year-old - one third of a late '50s sister act led by the hard-living smolderer played by McKee, whose character grappled with drug abuse, contended with an abusive boyfriend and battled relentless cliches in a heartbreak-and-triumph fairy tale whipped up by screenwriter Joel Schumacher. This was before the Broadwa... (read more)

      • Marvel's the Avengers poster image

        Marvel's the Avengers

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The culmination of everything ever written, produced or imagined in the known universe, or something like that, "The Avengers" bunches together Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Thor, the leather-clad assassin Black Widow, the lethal archer Hawkeye and the superheroes' one-eyed wrangler, Nick Fury, for 143 minutes of stylish mayhem in the service of defeating Thor's malevolent brother, the god Loki, who hails from the interstellar world known as Asgard (access through wormhole on... (read more)

      • 21 Jump Street poster image

        21 Jump Street

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Most of the big laughs in "21 Jump Street" arrive in the first half, but take a moment to consider that phrase "big laughs." What was the last stupid Hollywood comedy -- good-stupid, not stupid-stupid -- to offer actual, audible, verifiable big laughs? Heartily raunchy and rather sweet, "21 Jump Street" comes from the 1987-1991 Fox TV show, in which Johnny Depp and his incredible swirly hair led an ensemble of younglings playing barely legal police officers posin... (read more)

      • Jiro Dreams of Sushi poster image

        Jiro Dreams of Sushi

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Media Services Film Clips There's so much drooly food porn on TV these days, it takes an exceptional subject to arrest our senses and hold our attention. Now 86, Jiro Ono -- the world's premier sushi chef -- is that subject. And the lovely little documentary "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" honors Ono while making his culinary creations of horse mackerel, squid, egg, halibut, fatty tuna, "medium" tuna, lean tuna and gizzard shad, served in his ... (read more)

      • Dr. Seuss' the Lorax poster image

        Dr. Seuss' the Lorax

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The new animated feature "The Lorax," known in its entirety as "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" to keep it straight from "John Grisham's The Lorax," does a few smaller things right but the bigger things not quite. I've come to fear these movies. I love Seuss so much, even his second-shelf works. Who doesn't feel protective of authors and illustrators they love? And not just because we were young when we made their acquaintance. As with "Horton Hears a Who!" four ... (read more)

      • We Bought a Zoo poster image

        We Bought a Zoo

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Pap, but easygoing pap with a cast you can live with for a couple of hours, "We Bought a Zoo" is co-writer and director Cameron Crowe's adaptation of a memoir by Benjamin Mee entitled "We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals That Change Their Lives Forever." Fans of Crowe's "Jerry Maguire" (his best to date) and "Almost Famous" aren't the natural primary audience for this family-friendly pro... (read more)

      • Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked poster image

        Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        A Sarah Palin joke? A Charlie Sheen wisecrack? Is this a Chipmunks movie or a Letterman monologue? As current as a Lady Gaga cover, if not quite as relevant, Alvin and the Chipmunks "Munk Up" for their third digitally animated turn on the big screen -- "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked," a "Cast Away" takeoff that parks the three chipmunks, their three Chipette counterparts and their human family on a deserted island. Most adults would sooner gouge their ears... (read more)

      • Hugo poster image

        Hugo

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Captain America: The First Avenger poster image

        Captain America: The First Avenger

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Everything good about ``Captain America: The First Avenger, which certainly is the most stylish comics-derived entertainment of the year, sets director Joe Johnston's film in direct opposition to the attention-span-destroying likes of ``Transformers 3. It's paced and designed for people who won't shrivel up and die if two or three characters take 45 seconds between combat sequences to have a conversation about world domination, or a dame. This is the fifth film in the interconnected Marvel co... (read more)

      • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 poster image

        Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It has taken Harry Potter eight full-length films to really have it out with Lord Voldemort, the reptilian prince of darkness with the undeniable leadership qualities and a clear, can-do game plan. With an ordinary franchise, the audience -- even an audience pre-devoted to J.K. Rowling's books -- would've grown itchy long ago, renouncing its allegiance and moving on. But this is no ordinary franchise. As the 21st century has lurched, in the Muggle world, from terrorism to pervasive, political... (read more)

      • Thor poster image

        Thor

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        At this point in the Marvel Comics-derived superhero cycle, audiences can be forgiven for feeling a tad worn out, both for reasons of quality and quantity. My rear end's thor just thinking about how many more we have coming. Yet sometimes a product exceeds expectations. I like "Thor," for example. This is remarkable, considering the lameness of the first 25 minutes of director Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of the Marvel character introduced in 1962. A stolid visual stylist at best, B... (read more)

      • Rio poster image

        Rio

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Midway through one in a manic string of chase sequences in the animated "Rio," the uptight macaw voiced by Jesse Eisenberg says, "I would love to go five minutes without almost getting killed." This is the movie's strategy: near-perpetual peril, dialogue that's ... almost funny and an extremely bright color palette, plus the musical supervision of the great Sergio Mendes, whose LPs I still have in the house somewhere, my tastes' not having changed much since 1966. Re-heari... (read more)

      • Soul Surfer poster image

        Soul Surfer

        Glenn Whipp, Chicago Tribune

        "Soul Surfer" begins like most other coming-of-age movie dramas. Our young heroine, surfer girl Bethany Hamilton (AnnaSophia Robb) sketches out the details of her sunny life in a quick voice-over. She lives on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, has a loving family and, from the moment she rode her first wave, knew she wanted to be a pro surfer. "It's my passion, my way of life," Bethany says with matter-of-fact conviction. We then see Bethany practicing her passion in the Pacif... (read more)

      • Jane Eyre poster image

        Jane Eyre

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The pretty, moody, well-acted new adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre" rests on a key early scene between Mia Wasikowska, as Bronte's protagonist and narrator, and Michael Fassbender, as the storm warning known as Edward Rochester. This is one of the most famous getting-to-know-you passages in 19th century literature, chronicling the second encounter and first civil conversation between the new governess of Thornfield Hall and her employer. With a disarming mixture of candor... (read more)

      • Fair Game poster image

        Fair Game

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Doug Liman made "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," the movie that brought together Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie over a pile of weapons. Now the same director, who also made "The Bourne Identity," gives us a real-life, only partly glamorized Mr. and Mrs. Smith: a fact-based tale of Valerie Plame, a non-official covert operative (NOC) in the employ of the Central Intelligence Agency, and her diplomat husband Joseph Wilson. One personality fed on secrecy, the other, bravado and public out... (read more)

      • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 poster image

        Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        We have reached the semifinals. Staffed with half the best character actors in Great Britain, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" brings the seventh J.K. Rowling tale to market, reminding both fervent Hogwarts maniacs and the Potter-ambivalent of this series' priorities, its increasingly somber tone, as well as its dedication to one of the rarest of all franchise qualities: actual quality. At this point in Harry's anguished saga, the saga doesn't care much about the needs... (read more)

      • Easy A poster image

        Easy A

        Sheri Linden, Chicago Tribune

        The story of a smart, funny girl who becomes a self-styled Hester Prynne, "Easy A" is neither as smart nor as funny as it wants to be. With the verbal-cleverness dial set at 11, the teen comedy wears its glib cultural references -- pop and 19th century literary -- in boldface embroidery. Much of what passes for fresh in this "Scarlet Letter" update doesn't bear closer inspection, yet the movie is not without its pleasures, chief among them the potentially star-making lead ... (read more)

      • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World poster image

        Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's easy to make a movie in a style approximating that of a comic book or graphic novel. "Sin City" did it. "Road to Perdition" did it. "Watchmen" and "Kick-Ass" did it. As did "Ghost World." Except for that last one, the others fell short as movies because they mistook visual replication for authenticity. They were storyboards based on storyboards, not films. "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" is different, and not just because it's fun... (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)

      • Iron Man 2 poster image

        Iron Man 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "A passable knock-off": That's how the man in the Iron Man mask, the obscenely rich but heartsick industrialist played by Robert Downey Jr., characterizes the electro-weaponry wielded by his Slavic adversary (Mickey Rourke) in "Iron Man 2." Much of this scattershot sequel to the 2008 smash feels like a passable knock-off as well. Here and there, director Jon Favreau's diversion takes us back to the considerable satisfactions of the first "Iron Man," whether in ac... (read more)

      • Date Night poster image

        Date Night

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In a recent Entertainment Weekly interview, Steve Carell recalls co-star Tina Fey telling him: "I just want to go and do a movie and hang off the end of a car." This, of course, is the problem with being associated with successful, classy, verbally driven television series such as "30 Rock" or "The Office": You so rarely get to hang off the end of a car. Like the abrasive big-screen "Get Smart" (starring Carell) and the synthetic-formula "Baby Mama... (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)

      • Brooklyn's Finest poster image

        Brooklyn's Finest

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Everything that does and does not work in "Brooklyn's Finest" arrives in Scene One. A twitchy, cash-strapped detective played by Ethan Hawke is driving around with a shifty associate played by unbilled Vincent D'Onofrio. They park by a cemetery. (Warning.) Director Antoine Fuqua takes his time with this scene and doesn't visually hype the inevitable. He and the actors finesse the encounter artfully. Yet the dialogue is such a weird combination of the stilted and the obvious, you thi... (read more)

      • The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus poster image

        The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" is as unusual and idiosyncratic as its title. You'd expect no less from Terry Gilliam, and admirers of this singular filmmaker will be pleased to know that "Imaginarium" is one of his most original and accessible works. Though "Imaginarium's" head-spinning plot resists easy summation, the film, co-written by Charles McKeown, has a backstory no one is likely to forget. When actor Heath Ledger died, this was the project he left... (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)

      • Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs poster image

        Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Fairly inventive and exceedingly manic, "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" comes from the 1978 picture book by Judi Barrett and Ron Barrett. To say the title helped sell the kids story is an understatement, certainly the only understatement involved with the movie version. Still, there's a semblance of a comic personality at work. Plenty of middle-ground (or worse) animated features feel like timid corporate entities. This one, which is certainly fresher than "Ice Age 3,"... (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)

      • It Might Get Loud poster image

        It Might Get Loud

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Or, "Not Loud Enough." If only director Davis Guggenheim had cut a deal with the devil at the crossroads, then his slavish but oddly stilted documentary/concert pic paying tribute to the electric guitar might have acquired some unholy, unruly energy. As is ... eh. U2's The Edge (honestly, I never quite got over that name) sits on an L.A. soundstage trading anecdotes with Led Zeppelin's silver-maned Jimmy Page and dork god Jack White of The White Stripes. The three exchange generalit... (read more)

      • (500) Days of Summer poster image

        (500) Days of Summer

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

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

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

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Soul Power poster image

        Soul Power

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Hangover poster image

        The Hangover

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Hangover" takes care of its target audience's needs - the target audience being males who, after seeing director Todd Phillips' earlier (and funnier) "Old School," dreamed of joining the "Old School" fraternity. But this film left a sour taste in my mouth. Only "Daily Show" alum Ed Helms, as a buttoned-down dentist along for the ride on a chaotic Las Vegas bachelor party, got me laughing, periodically, between the not-laughing parts. There's a swee... (read more)

      • Tokyo Sonata poster image

        Tokyo Sonata

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The best new film of the week, "Tokyo Sonata," can be read at least two different ways, which is a sign of quality in itself. If you view it as subtly but predominantly comic, you'll experience it differently than those pulled in by the film's dramatic implications, its depiction of modern urban life, perched on an abyss no one can quite make out in the fog. Either way, it's fascinating. Director and co-writer Kiyoshi Kurosawa, best known in America for his stealthy atmospheric chil... (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)

      • Tropic Thunder poster image

        Tropic Thunder

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        My favorite gag in "Tropic Thunder" comes just before "Tropic Thunder" itself, in a movie trailer touting a fake movie called "Satan's Alley." (That's an in-joke for all you "Staying Alive" freaks; "Satan's Alley" was the Broadway musical John Travolta cavorted in.) The pretend drama, a kind of "Brokeback Monk-Man," stars five-time Oscar winner Kirk Lazarus as a tormented 18th century Irish priest who has big love for a fellow Man of... (read more)

      • Pineapple Express poster image

        Pineapple Express

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In its gleefully befogged first hour, "Pineapple Express" seems to be onto something new: It's a marijuana comedy that keeps shuffling genres, like a stoned blackjack dealer. James Franco is blissfully funny as Saul, the supplier who finds himself running for his barely cognizant life with steady customer Dale, played by Seth Rogen. Dale's a 25-year-old dating a high school senior. (He proudly sports a high school girl's wristwatch.) They're running because Dale witnessed a drug-rel... (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)

      • The Incredible Hulk poster image

        The Incredible Hulk

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        What do you know? A credible Hulk. "Incredible" overstates it, but "The Incredible Hulk" finds a viable way to retell an old Jekyll-and-Hyde story, dating back to the early 1960s and a Cold War that inspired its share of unruly Marvel Comics misfits. The film establishes a tone and the dramatic stakes necessary to support that story. In the realm of cinematic superheroism, that's saying something. And in its noisy "Transformers"-mayhem fashion, the movie's pretty... (read more)

      • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull poster image

        Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Really, it would have been fantastic if the new Indiana Jones movie had turned out gangbusters. Failing that, a good, solid sequel would have been nice - proof that a handsomely graying collection of world-class cinematic entertainers, both behind and in front of a defiantly non-digital camera, were right to haul out the fedora and the bullwhip for one more adventure. But the movie with the title that does not know when to quit, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," ... (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)

      • Iron Man poster image

        Iron Man

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Surviving his own private Afghanistan hostage drama, billionaire industrialist Tony Stark returns home, as he terms it, "conflicted." You could say the same about "Iron Man," in which a war profiteer develops a conscience, an off-and-on politicized streak and a titanium alloy flying suit, with jets of flame shooting out of his palms. As big-budget comic book adaptations go, this one's a gratifying freak - the right kind of conflicted, as well as quick-witted. It's a lot of... (read more)

      • Mister Lonely poster image

        Mister Lonely

        Tasha Robinson, Chicago Tribune

        In his visually and emotionally exhausting previous films, "Gummo" and "Julien Donkey-Boy," writer-director Harmony Korine reveled in dysfunction. His subjects - a frantic schizophrenic in "Julien," a run-down town full of bored, angry kids in "Gummo" - were ugly, disturbed people, and he accordingly shot them in ugly, disturbing ways, designed to jangle nerves and set teeth on edge. With his latest, "Mister Lonely," Korine sets out to soothe ... (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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Alvin and the Chipmunks poster image

        Alvin and the Chipmunks

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        How to explain the appeal of Alvin and the Chipmunks?the old ones, the ones who hit it big in 1958 with "Witch Doctor" and, more indelibly, "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)"? Very simple: Helium voices. People think helium voices are funny. (Creator Ross Bagdasarian, who died in 1972, did all the voices, including Dave, the short-tempered father figure.) Also, Dave screaming out "Alvin!!!!" on cue?that was funny too, or at least "funny enough.&qu... (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)

      • Superbad poster image

        Superbad

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A new titan has joined the pantheon of adenoidal screen legends, up where Julius Kelp and Lina Lamont and Ratso Rizzo dwell. His name is Fogell, age 17 or thereabouts. He also goes by the one-named alias "McLovin," according to a fake ID that pegs McLovin as a 25-year-old Hawaiian organ donor. Fogell's theoretical access to store-bought liquor may hold the key to paradise for him and Seth and Evan, his fellow college-bound high school seniors played by Jonah Hill and Michael Cera. A... (read more)

      • Rescue Dawn poster image

        Rescue Dawn

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The dreamy prisoner-of-war account "Rescue Dawn" is the work of Werner Herzog, yet it is not the work of Werner Herzog. It is an impersonal personal film, a paradox attracting all sorts of other paradoxes. The writer-director's first official American project, it is a wartime survival story made by someone who has no time for platitudes regarding heroism or the triumph of the human spirit, yet who must dutifully follow his own conflicted screenplay to the bitter end, an end that is ... (read more)

      • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix poster image

        Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Nancy Drew poster image

        Nancy Drew

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Published in 1930, the first of the 56 original Nancy Drew stories, ghost-written by Iowa's own Mildred Wirt Benson, concerned a missing will. In a spirit of playful fidelity to the Drew of old, the latest screen incarnation of the Type-A wonder-sleuth sends Ms. Drew in search of a will of her own. It's tucked away in a Chinese box, and it holds the key to the unsolved murder of a film star, whose allegedly haunted L.A. mansion is now inhabited by Nancy and her attorney father, recently reloc... (read more)

      • Blades of Glory poster image

        Blades of Glory

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        He's actor enough to have anchored "Stranger Than Fiction," but for most moviegoers Will Ferrell is associated with a specific comic niche of celebrity-hungry Boobus Americanus. Following Ron Burgundy, regional TV icon in "Anchorman," and Ricky Bobby, polestar of NASCAR cool in last summer's hit "Talladega Nights," Ferrell takes on another arrogant but soft-centered superstar in "Blades of Glory." This time he's Chazz Michael Michaels, hot-shot competit... (read more)

      • Shooter poster image

        Shooter

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Shooter" feeds on a global audience's cynicism regarding the evil that men do in the name of freedom and for a good price on crude oil. Mainly, though, it's about finding different, audience-stoking ways to shoot people in the head. A screwy assassination thriller for these murky times, it takes half its pages from Soldier of Fortune and the other half from links provided by conspiracytheories-zapoppin.org. For a while it's entertaining to watch Mark Wahlberg as a retired Marine ma... (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)

      • Rocky Balboa poster image

        Rocky Balboa

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        In "Rocky Balboa," the last bell finally rings for Rocky and his three-decade-long fight-movie series. And though we won't play spoiler by tipping off the final score, we can tell you this: The movie itself, defying all odds, comes close to a knockout. No fooling. Like no "Rocky" since the first one, this fifth "Rocky" sequel makes you smile and wins your heart. Rocky Balboa is 58 now, and he shouldn't even be having dreams of comebacks, but Stallone, 60, has coo... (read more)

      • The Fountain poster image

        The Fountain

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        It's possible to admire or respect a movie without enjoying it too much, and that's partly the reaction I had to Darren Aronofsky's "The Fountain." It's an incredibly ambitious film of sometimes-thrilling visual achievement, but it didn't connect fully to my mind and nerves. "The Fountain" is Aronofsky's three-part tale of the search for the Tree of Life - for victory over death, especially the death of those we love. At the center, present in body or memory in all three t... (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)

      • Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby poster image

        Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Your body lets you know if a comedy isn't working. Your shoulders tense up. You get restless. You start frowning, even if the film offers the occasional laugh and the hope of something better in the next reel. "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" is one of those movies. It seems like it'd be fun. You figure NASCAR and America's obsession with the loud, the fast and the fossil fuel-dependent could take a little kidding, as could the leaden seriousness of racing dramas such a... (read more)

      • Clerks II poster image

        Clerks II

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Shot for a dime in black and white, the first "Clerks" (1994) looks better with each passing year, and you can't say that about everything that came out of New Jersey. In writer-director Kevin Smith's debut feature, Dante Hicks and Randal Graves worked as register jockeys at a Quick Stop convenience mart and an adjoining video store, respectively. Portrayed by newcomers Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson, the goateed, initiative-challenged Dante played off his serenely troublemaking... (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)

      • Nacho Libre poster image

        Nacho Libre

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In the Coen brothers' "Barton Fink," a Broadway playwright grapples with his premier screenwriting assignment, "The Burly Man." The studio head tells Fink he should dream up a relationship for his protagonist, either with an orphan or with a dame. "Nacho Libre" is "The Burly Man" with Jack Black in the Wallace Beery role. The film is easy to take and easy to forget, even with Black running around Oaxaca in turquoise wrestling tights. He plays Ignacio, t... (read more)

      • Cars poster image

        Cars

        Jessica Reaves, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Awesome; I F... Shot That! poster image

        Awesome; I F... Shot That!

        Jessica Reaves, Chicago Tribune

        Bitter about missing out on Beastie Boys concert tickets? Still spend a lot of time muttering the lyrics to "Hey, Ladies," much to the chagrin of your friends? Well, if what-cha, what-cha, what-cha want is all Beasties, all the time, your movie moment has arrived. "Awesome; I ... Shot That!" (the ellipses stand in for an expletive), which could have stood on its own as a straight-up concert movie, comes with a novel twist: The band handed out 50 video cameras (digital and ... (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)

      • 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)

      • The 40-Year-Old Virgin poster image

        The 40-Year-Old Virgin

        Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune

        Andy Stitzer, the titular protagonist of "The 40 Year-Old Virgin," drinks Fanta, meticulously assembles egg salad sandwiches, frames Asia concert posters and counts among his beloved action figures the Six Million Dollar Man's boss. But in the able hands and open face of "Daily Show" alum Steve Carell, these are not the reasons for Andy's sexual innocence. Much more than the byproduct of a geeky, figurine-collecting existence, Andy's longstanding virginity is owed to a pre... (read more)

      • Howl's Moving Castle poster image

        Howl's Moving Castle

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Merchant of Venice poster image

        The Merchant of Venice

        Sid Smith, Chicago Tribune

        William Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice" is often labeled one of his problem plays, a comedy with a dark, serious side and thoughtful layers of sociological analysis. For modern audiences, despite its beautiful poetry, compelling characters and perceptive take on revenge, "Merchant" also poses a problem of another sort. The tale and undoing of the Jewish villain Shylock strike the modern viewer as anti-Semitic, and indeed the story involves outright anti-Semitic lang... (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)

      • Friday Night Lights poster image

        Friday Night Lights

        Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune

        "Friday Night Lights" opens with a sweeping overhead shot of the dust-choked West Texas town of Odessa - flat, brown, barren. It's a place described in H.G. Bissinger's book, on which this film is based, as "forever enmeshed in the cycles of the boom-and-bust oil town the highs of the boom years like a drug-induced euphoria followed by the lows of the bust and the realization that everything you had made during the boom had just been lost, followed again by the euphoria of boo... (read more)

      • Shark Tale poster image

        Shark Tale

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        "Shark Tale" is a sprightly, funny DreamWorks feature cartoon about a Cosa Nostrafied underwater world that pits the little fishes - Will Smith's Oscar and Renee Zellweger's Angie - against a shark Mafia run by the casually murderous Don Lino (Robert De Niro) and his bizarrely mismatched sons, cold-blooded hammerhead Frankie (Michael Imperioli) and pacifist vegetarian Lenny (Jack Black). Packed with topical and inside-movie gags and all-star voiceovers, and enacted against a dreamy ... (read more)

      • I, Robot poster image

        I, Robot

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Midway through the Isaac Asimov-inspired "I, Robot" - in a chase scene with Will Smith as future Chicago cop Del Spooner, surrounded and attacked by vans full of menacing robots - we get something approaching a technology high. The hundreds of shimmery robot images are so fantastically detailed, yet so obviously an example of modern CGI virtuosity, that they're both scary and amusing. And though "Robot" tops that sequence several times, especially in its climactic cliffhan... (read more)

      • Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy poster image

        Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        In "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy," writer-star Will Ferrell and co-writer-director Adam McKay make fun of three subjects ripe for the comic slaughter: TV newscasting, male chauvinism and '70s fashions and hairstyles. And they pick them off with a sure-shot glee lacking in their main character: Emmy-winning San Diego news anchor and local Casanova Ron Burgundy. Ron, one of Ferrell's more amusing movie creations, is a charismatic but fairly empty-headed news guy, who, in abou... (read more)

      • Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story poster image

        Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        The lameness of recent Ben Stiller comedies seems proportional to the amount he mugs in them - and he mugs a ton in "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story," his fourth stinker of 2004. Stiller, who established himself as one of the savviest comedic actors in "Flirting with Disaster," "There's Something About Mary" and "Meet the Parents," continues to burn through his goodwill faster than you can say "Along Came Polly," "Starsky and Hutch,&quo... (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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Freddy vs. Jason poster image

        Freddy vs. Jason

        Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

        A marriage of two horror franchises, "Freddy vs. Jason" succeeds as a guilty pleasure, a monster mash that clobbers the recent lackluster sequels plaguing both legacies. If only that were a higher compliment. In the grand money-grabbing tradition of "King Kong vs. Godzilla " and "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein," this cinematic gorefest matches up dream demon Freddy Krueger from "Nightmare on Elm Street" and hockey-fashionable killer Jason Voorhee... (read more)

      • Bad Boys II poster image

        Bad Boys II

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        "Bad Boys II" is the kind of movie that gives sequels a bad name, even though, strangely enough, it's better than the 1995 hit that spawned it. This movie reunites the detective team of Martin Lawrence and Will Smith for another wild pyrotechnic ride, and it plays like the buddy-cop action comedy to end them all. By the time the credits roll on this nonstop, stylishly bloody crash-a-thon, part of its audience may wish just that that "B.B. II" would stop the genre, at leas... (read more)

      • Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony poster image

        Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Lee Hirsch's "Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony" is a great documentary that makes your heart leap with joy. A musical and political record of more than a half-century of South African history, it's the story of a relatively peaceful revolution wrought against all the weapons of the state by suffering, mass protest and music. And it's told with such sadness and exaltation, such mastery of image and sound, that watching it makes you feel renewed and hopeful. In a world often... (read more)

      • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers poster image

        The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" takes us back to J.R.R. Tolkien's land of myth and fury, and the return quest is even more staggering and marvelous than last year's maiden voyage. Concentrating on the middle book of the Middle Earth saga, Peter Jackson and company once again dazzle and delight us, fulfilling practically every expectation either a longtime Tolkien fan or a movie-going neophyte could want. Here is a movie, like "The Fellowship of the Ring," that's pa... (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)

      • 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)

      • Bones poster image

        Bones

        Loren King, Chicago Tribune

        Blending hip-hop style with horror-movie conventions, and adding a playful homage to '70s blaxploitation films, "Bones" jolts some refreshing energy into the haunted-house genre. For a while, that is. Before the film dovetails into an absurd, no-holds-barred splatter of gore and showy effects, it offers a fresh take on the ghost-story movie. The haunted house in "Bones" is a Gothic-style mansion that was abandoned in 1979, when something evil happened there. Enter four ent... (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)

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