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      • Dr. Seuss' The Grinch poster image

        Dr. Seuss' The Grinch

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        We all feel a little grinchy sometimes. When holiday cheer becomes particularly oppressive, when we feel lonely in a crowd, when we would rather rain on someone's parade than admit defeat, Dr. Seuss gave us a way to describe that feeling with his classic holiday children's book "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." The universality of the emotion is why the tale endures, and why we're now on our third film adaptation of the story. Benedict Cumberbatch steps into the role as the Grinch i... (read more)

      • Bohemian Rhapsody poster image

        Bohemian Rhapsody

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        At the center of the long-gestating Queen biopic "Bohemian Rhapsody" is the kind of performance that's less acting than it is the channeling of a spirit from another realm. Rami Malek takes to the role of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury with a studious intensity, making manifest the dueling relationship between the twin poles of Mercury's personality: his confidence and his insecurity. It's the centrifuge around which the rather uneven film whirls, and Malek keeps it going with his s... (read more)

      • First Man poster image

        First Man

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        There's enough going on in director Damien Chazelle's tense, distinctive Neil Armstrong biopic, "First Man," to leave the climactic, inspired Apollo 11 moon landing sequence aside for a few paragraphs. So hang in there, please, and we'll get to the flag. "First Man" comes from the James R. Hansen biography of the same name, exploring the far reaches of uncharted territory. The lunar mission, yes, of course. But really Chazelle's film, written by Josh Singer ("Spotligh... (read more)

      • Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween poster image

        Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The 2015 adaptation of R.L. Stine's popular "Goosebumps" book series was way better than it had any right to be. Starring Jack Black as a freewheeling version of the author, the film was a kid-friendly Halloween spookfest that examined the way we use horror as a coping mechanism in everyday life. It was smart and silly and scary, anchored by the inimitable Black. But the follow-up, "Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween," is a serious disappointment, starting with how Black is b... (read more)

      • A Star Is Born poster image

        A Star Is Born

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Nobody ever lost money remaking "A Star is Born," Hollywood's favorite tragic romantic fable. Whether it's any good doesn't matter. To wit: The 1976 Barbra Streisand/ Kris Kristofferson remake wasn't good, but you believed the archetypal show business lovers had musical talent. And they could act, with or against their own ridiculous material. The new "Star is Born" with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper is more like it. The toast of the 2018 festival circuit, it arrives in the... (read more)

      • Alpha poster image

        Alpha

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        You know Sheila the She-Wolf from "Glow" on Netflix? "Alpha" would be her favorite movie. She'd watch it every day on a VHS tape, memorizing each line of Cro-Magnon dialogue, fashioning her costumes in tribute to the fur-trimmed Hot Topic looks sported by the characters, adopting a Czech wolf dog like the one in the movie. It's sweet, really, to imagine the kind of devotion "Alpha" might inspire, a film that's very simple, kind of strange, but will melt any dog-l... (read more)

      • The Meg poster image

        The Meg

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Have sharks jumped the Fonzie? Seems like it's always Shark Week around here, and "here" means everywhere. Think of how long it has been since the first "Jaws" (1975). A digital effects revolution and a generation later, "Deep Blue Sea" (1999) closed out the century with some forgettably entertaining (or entertainingly forgettable) jump scares in between what filmmakers believed to be necessary expository information about the people lining up at the human buffet... (read more)

      • Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation poster image

        Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's all about the zing. If you are not up on monster speak, the term zing refers to what happens once in the life of a vampire, mummy, werewolf, etc. It's that moment when they know they have found the one true love in their life. In the case of "Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation," Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) learns it's possible to zing more than once as he meets the new once-in-a-lifetime love of his life during a monster sea cruise. While Dracula zings again, this third... (read more)

      • Incredibles 2 poster image

        Incredibles 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        When writer-director Brad Bird made "The Incredibles" (2004), the superhero movie genre looked nothing like the overcrowded youth hostel it does today. The "X-Men" movies, the fledgling "Spider-Man" franchise and that was about it. This was pre-"Iron Man." This preceded the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Comics afflictions, if you can remember such a time. Bird's movie, about a family of "Supers" banned by the government from thei... (read more)

      • Sherlock Gnomes poster image

        Sherlock Gnomes

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        There's a current boom of family-friendly film fare inspired by beloved British literary characters, which makes this moment ripe for the animated "Sherlock Gnomes," the sequel to 2011's "Gnomeo and Juliet." In terms of ranking these adaptations, "Sherlock Gnomes" is quite a bit more pleasant than "Peter Rabbit," but doesn't touch the wonder of "Paddington 2." It's a fairly serviceable animated feature, with a few inspired elements, and more t... (read more)

      • Fifty Shades Freed poster image

        Fifty Shades Freed

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The "Fifty Shades" film franchise is a study in contradictions. It's kinky, but conservative. It's filled with plot, but none of it means anything. The adventurous sex turns out to be fairly vanilla monogamy. The films are bad, but they are entertaining. "Fifty Shades Freed," the final film of the trilogy, just might be the most competently made yet -- which is a shame for those expecting the high camp factor of "Fifty Shades Darker." The "Darker" writi... (read more)

      • Peter Rabbit poster image

        Peter Rabbit

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Hollywood studios have recently been pillaging the literary canon of beloved children's literature, digging up fodder for animated feature films. The best of these, like the "Paddington" movies, successfully meld nostalgia with modern and exciting filmmaking, while the more questionable ones, like the recent "Ferdinand" adaptation, manage to muddle the source material with too many pop songs and dirty jokes. The new "Peter Rabbit" adaptation manages to land right... (read more)

      • Paddington 2 poster image

        Paddington 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Here's hoping the forthcoming film version of "Peter Rabbit" is less awful than its trailers suggest. Reformulating Beatrix Potter as a brutish "Home Alone"/"Straw Dogs" melee, full of grim electrocutions, really does seem like a mistake. Meantime, fortunately, there's "Paddington 2." The sequel to the 2014 picture turns out to be every bit as deft, witty and, yes, moving as the first one. It's a little over-packed, narratively. But the further adventur... (read more)

      • Coco poster image

        Coco

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Coco" is the 19th title under the Pixar umbrella, an umbrella factory now owned by Disney. Is it a great Pixar film? No. But we become ingrates if we expect greatness every time. It is a solidly, vividly good Pixar film. Director Lee Unkrich and his animation and design collaborators pack every delectably overstuffed frame with a swarm of human or skeleton activity. The story they tell is a manic, occasionally erratic but finally warming quest spanning two worlds, the land of the l... (read more)

      • Wonderstruck poster image

        Wonderstruck

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Worlds collide in unusually gentle fashion in "Wonderstruck," director Todd Haynes' film version of the lavishly illustrated 2011 Brian Selznick best-seller -- a book for introspective puzzle fans of all ages. I enjoyed Martin Scorsese's "Hugo," an adaptation of Selznick's "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," which like "Wonderstruck" told a tale of intrepid children uncovering the real stories of their disillusioned elders. But Haynes' film is the more emot... (read more)

      • Faces Places poster image

        Faces Places

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Chance has always been my best assistant," says the elfin giant of the cinema, Agnes Varda, in the enormously pleasurable documentary "Faces Places." Not everything (or even most things) that happen in Varda's rolling, roving collaboration with the photographer and muralist known as JR occur by happenstance. But filmmaker Varda, now 89, has been catching lightning in a bottle for decades, first as part of the Nouvelle Vague, then as a post-New Wave artist. This movie, a d... (read more)

      • Woodshock poster image

        Woodshock

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        When a film distributor picks up a promising director's feature, often it's a show of faith -- a down payment the distributor's happy to make on that filmmaker's next project. A24, the boutique distribution company which finessed "Moonlight" all the way to the Oscars, is one of the shrewdest and most adventurous in the business. And its belief in "Woodshock," the archly poetic debut feature from fashion designers Kate Mulleavy and Laura Mulleavy, is best viewed as a down p... (read more)

      • The LEGO NINJAGO Movie poster image

        The LEGO NINJAGO Movie

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        If you're of a certain age and childless, it's entirely possible you haven't the foggiest idea what a "Ninjago" -- of the latest Lego movie -- might be. Apparently it is both a show and a toy, but that's as far as I got into the Wikipedia article. With the wild success of both "The Lego Movie" and "The Lego Batman Movie," released just earlier this year, it stands to reason that Warner Bros. would strike while the iron is hot and churn out more Lego-themed movies... (read more)

      • Marjorie Prime poster image

        Marjorie Prime

        Justin Chang, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times "It's always nice to be lied to." Those words are tossed off with a chuckle early on in "Marjorie Prime," but by the end they have acquired an almost prophetic significance. Beautiful untruths and half-truths abound in Michael Almereyda's quietly shimmering new movie, which takes place in a somewhat distant future when our deceased loved ones can be summoned back as "Primes" -- artificially intelligent holograms that, through the act of talking ... (read more)

      • An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power poster image

        An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        With articles about climate change going viral on social media, reports of extreme weather events and melting glaciers circling in the news, and the president's recent decision to leave the Paris climate accord, it seems that this couldn't be a better or scarier time for "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power" to hit theaters. A follow-up to former Vice President Al Gore and Davis Guggenheim's Oscar-winning 2006 documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," this film seems like i... (read more)

      • The Emoji Movie poster image

        The Emoji Movie

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        "Words aren't cool," is the courtship advice imparted by one texting teen to another in "The Emoji Movie." That statement is the canary in the coal mine that "Cyrano de Bergerac" this movie is most decidedly not. Will Alex (Jake T. Austin) choose the right emoji to express his ardor for Addie (Tati Gabrielle)? Or will "meh" emoji Gene (T.J. Miller) mess it all up for him? Perhaps we should just throw our smart phones into the sea and let the waves take ... (read more)

      • The Boss Baby poster image

        The Boss Baby

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        "The Boss Baby" derives its premise from the notion that when new babies show up in the household, they render parents into slavishly devoted employees with their demands and fits. Babies are like bosses, but more satirically, bosses are like babies, right? That metaphor is explored in Marla Frazee's children's book, with a boss baby outfitted in a suit, complete with buttoned bottom flap, and now that's been transported to the screen with Alec Baldwin voicing the titular boss. In t... (read more)

      • Logan poster image

        Logan

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The rabid Wolverine fans among you should be warned: You won't be able to trust the following few paragraphs on "Logan." Most of the early reviews have been ecstatic, and those fully invested in this corner of the Marvel universe tend to respond very, very strongly to director and co-writer James Mangold's picture. It's at once the most solemn, sentimental and relentlessly violent of the nine films featuring Hugh Jackman, either in the lead or in a cameo, as the furry mutant with th... (read more)

      • John Wick: Chapter 2 poster image

        John Wick: Chapter 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "John Wick: Chapter 2," the sequel least likely to suggest anything with actual chapters or anything to read, stars Keanu Reeves in the role of Liam Neeson. Here we are, it's February, and in recent years we've often had a "Taken" sequel in theaters to take our hard-earned money for two hours of recreational sadism. But the solid autumn 2014 success of "John Wick" proved there was space in the universe for a new Neeson, a more youthful exemplar of steely vengeanc... (read more)

      • The LEGO Batman Movie poster image

        The LEGO Batman Movie

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        At its sporadic best, the crazy velocity and wisenheimer appeal of "The Lego Batman Movie" reminds you of what made "The Lego Movie" such a nice surprise three years ago. It was my favorite comedy of 2014, even without that insidiously satiric theme song "Everything is Awesome!" Director Chris McKay's spinoff, however, is more about expectations fulfilled than new surprises, nicely sprung. Basically a conventional superhero action movie with a constant stream of ... (read more)

      • Split poster image

        Split

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Through the ups and downs of his career, the name M. Night Shyamalan has always been synonymous with one thing: twist. While watching his films, it's easy to spend more time wondering if he will, won't, and how he'll twist, and it can take away the power of what's actually on screen. Which is a shame when the filmmaking and performances are particularly exceptional. In the multiple-personality psycho-thriller "Split," Anya Taylor-Joy and James McAvoy shine as predator and prey who u... (read more)

      • Hidden Figures poster image

        Hidden Figures

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Hidden Figures" is a fairly entertaining gloss of a docudrama elevated by its cast. It takes place mostly in 1961 and early 1962, three years into the life of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, better known as NASA. At this point "computers" were people, by and large, not machines. With Russia's successful launch of Sputnik, America had to play catch-up in the space race. Based on Margot Lee Shetterly's nonfiction account of the same name, "Hidden Fig... (read more)

      • Seasons poster image

        Seasons

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A Music Box Films release, the exceedingly pretty documentary "Seasons" comes from filmmakers Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud, the two-Jacques act behind "Oceans" and, earlier, their most dazzling work to date, "Winged Migration." With "Seasons" they go long, and wide, if not necessarily deep. In the words of the co-directors, the film covers "20,000 years of the history of Europe's wild animals." They create an impressionistic, largely nar... (read more)

      • Moana poster image

        Moana

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Featuring songs by "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, the new animated musical adventure "Moana" is Disney's first princess-with-an-asterisk offering since "Frozen." The "Moana" score's signature power ballad, "How Far I'll Go," may well take its rightful place alongside the earlier film's big hit, "Let It Go," in the female-empowerment earworm department. That's a lucrative department. I prefer Miranda's contribution; it serves ... (read more)

      • Trolls poster image

        Trolls

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        It can be difficult to be around lots of happy people when you're feeling gray. That's the conundrum of Branch (Justin Timberlake), a misanthropic and maudlin troll who just doesn't fit in with his dancing, singing brethren in the animated feature "Trolls." It's easy to see where he's coming from. His foil, Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick), bursts with a weaponized sense of joy, forcing her subjects into an oppressive regime of colorful, glittery glee, replete with complex choreograph... (read more)

      • Storks poster image

        Storks

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Tronc Newspapers Critic Welcome to the very strange, and strangely moving, world of "Storks." Writer-director Nicholas Stoller, known for his more adult comedies, such as "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "Neighbors," delves into the family-friendly animated genre in a little movie about where babies come from. Or where they used to come from. In this world, the old wives tale of storks delivering bouncing bundles of joy is real history, though the birds have been ... (read more)

      • Ben-Hur poster image

        Ben-Hur

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Neither a sterling remake nor the disastrous camp hoot some were anticipating, those punks, the new "Ben-Hur" arrives in theaters beaded with flop sweat. Its box office forecast calls for gray skies followed by red ink: It cost about $100 million to make and the tracking data puts the weekend haul at $14-$15 million, which is grim like the Charlton Heston jawline under pressure was grim. The movie arrives in the supplicant position, begging for unfavorable comparisons to the 1959 Wi... (read more)

      • Hell or High Water poster image

        Hell or High Water

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        One of the great pleasures in modern movies is watching Jeff Bridges peer a long, long way over a pair of reading glasses, chew on a private thought for a second or two and then roll the next line of dialogue out of his mouth, like an Atomic Fireball. He's a paradox: a joyously authentic hambone. And he's one of many successful elements of the sentimental, violent, irresistible new crime thriller "Hell or High Water." If you like, call it a Western. It's a Western old-fashioned enou... (read more)

      • Florence Foster Jenkins poster image

        Florence Foster Jenkins

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Perhaps not every quirky true story needs a biopic starring Meryl Streep, as evidenced by Stephen Frears' bizarre "Florence Foster Jenkins," the story of a wealthy older woman who launched an amateur singing career in the 1940s, despite her distinct lack of talent. It's a film that dares you to give it a bad review, simply so it can turn around and call you a bully who picks on the people who try. It invites you to giggle at Florence's horrible singing and then promptly scolds you f... (read more)

      • Bad Moms poster image

        Bad Moms

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        As surely as most mothers can't win, "Bad Moms" can't lose. Certainly it can't lose with moms who've endured, through gritted teeth, one too many R-rated guy comedies where the women on screen are either sidelined or humiliated or leaning down a lot, for the gratification of the male gaze. This movie represents a vacation from mean-spirited sexism like "The Hangover." Or does it? Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. The "Hangover" writing team of Jon Lucas and Scott ... (read more)

      • Café Society poster image

        Café Society

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        There's not much to "Cafe Society," but for a while now Woody Allen has been getting by with not much happening at the keyboard. Thanks to the warm, glowing light lavished on the film by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, shooting digitally, the writer-director's 47th feature looks like a million bucks in that drippingly nostalgic late-period Allen way. The dialogue? The dialogue ranges in value from a quarter-million to a buck eighty-three. Then again, the cast is pretty wonderful, ... (read more)

      • The Secret Life of Pets poster image

        The Secret Life of Pets

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        A movie about what pets do during the day is a winning premise. Of course we want to know what those adorable creatures with whom we share our lives are up to, and so "The Secret Life of Pets" is here to explore those possibilities. Turns out their days are much more dramatic and crazier than ours, with all sorts of underworld pet societies and warring animal factions. There's apparently a lot to keep secret in the lives of these pets. "The Secret Life of Pets" comes from ... (read more)

      • A Bigger Splash poster image

        A Bigger Splash

        Justin Chang, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times No less than his ravishing 2009 melodrama "I Am Love," Luca Guadagnino's "A Bigger Splash" is a swooning cinematic appeal to the senses -- two hours of al fresco lovemaking, gorgeous scenery and simmering erotic warfare. Which is not to suggest that the movie short-circuits rational thought or inquiry; on the contrary, its teasing, sun-drenched surfaces are likely to prompt a series of questions. When was the last time you sampled a freshly made ricotta? ... (read more)

      • Zootopia poster image

        Zootopia

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Who are animated feature films for these days? Traditionally seen as children's entertainment, the higher quality entries in this genre have hit a sweet spot with enough sophisticated jokes for parents to enjoy, coupled with cutesy animation to delight children. Disney's latest film, "Zootopia" achieves this, though it seems to skew more adult in its content, if not its characters. Somehow, Disney has managed to pull off a hard-boiled police procedural thriller about political corru... (read more)

      • Kung Fu Panda 3 poster image

        Kung Fu Panda 3

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        A third installment in a franchise isn't always great. But sometimes, it can be a comforting guarantee of a good time at the movies, as is the case with "Kung Fu Panda 3." The first two installments have been met with rapturous reception and box office success, and this one will no doubt follow in their footsteps -- with good reason. The engaging and heartfelt story, coupled with eye-popping animation, makes "Kung Fu Panda 3" a total knockout. In a prologue, we're introduc... (read more)

      • The Hateful Eight poster image

        The Hateful Eight

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Hateful Eight" is an ultrawide bore. If you have the option, and you're committed to seeing the thing, you should see Quentin Tarantino's latest in one of its 100 or so limited-release "roadshow" screenings, projected on film, complete with overture (a lovely, eerie one from the great composer Ennio Morricone) and running just over three hours. After that, it'll be the conventional digital projection editions at the multiplexes, running 20 minutes shorter. Writer-dire... (read more)

      • Brooklyn poster image

        Brooklyn

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Twenty-one-year-old Saoirse Ronan is about as Irish as they come, but she was born in the Bronx, New York City. That sealed the deal, I suspect, for the magically right casting of Ronan as the reluctant County Wexford immigrant to 1952 America, in the lovely new film "Brooklyn." Regardless of age, ethnicity or anything, really, some performers have a way of holding the screen while holding back, prodding the audience to think not only: "What is that character thinking?" Bu... (read more)

      • Suffragette poster image

        Suffragette

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The story of women fighting for the right to vote is all too recent, and for some, all too forgotten. Director Sarah Gavron and writer Abi Morgan bring the history of the British suffragette movement to bear in the film "Suffragette," as a reminder of the struggles that have come before, and the achievements that have yet to be won. The resulting film is dark and unglamorous, but it burns with a determined fire, giving these women a revolutionary hero treatment. "Suffragette&qu... (read more)

      • Goosebumps poster image

        Goosebumps

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Silly, spooky monster mash-up "Goosebumps" doesn't have to be as good as it is. Slyly smarter and more entertaining than it appears, adults might have just as much fun as the kids who will undoubtedly gobble up this Halloween treat. A sort of PG version of "Cabin in the Woods," this adaptation of R.L. Stine's series of young adult horror novels is bolstered by a stellar comedic cast, headed up by the inimitable Jack Black in the role of the author. With so many "Goose... (read more)

      • The Martian poster image

        The Martian

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A highly enjoyable, zestily acted team-building exercise, with Matt Damon playing the team of one, director Ridley Scott's "The Martian" throws a series of life-or-death scenarios at its resourceful botanist-astronaut, stranded on Mars but making the most of it. It's one of the most comforting science fiction films in years. "I'm not gonna die here," Damon's character, Mark Watney, declares early on to the camera. Left for dead by his crew amid a monstrous windstorm, in wh... (read more)

      • Hotel Transylvania 2 poster image

        Hotel Transylvania 2

        Rick Bentley, Chicago Tribune

        It's as rare as vampires on a beach to have a movie sequel be better than the original. But vampires might start looking for some sunglasses because the spookiest thing about "Hotel Transylvania 2" is how much funnier, colorful and more original it is this second time around. There was nothing particularly wrong -- or right -- with the 2012 movie. It was just a series of lightweight jokes in a movie that's main plus was proving Adam Sandler should be heard and not seen. His voicing ... (read more)

      • Minions poster image

        Minions

        Rick Bentley, Chicago Tribune

        It's the role of a minion to be a servile follower of a person in charge. That means they are resigned to playing the supporting role. That's the problem with the new animated comedy "Minions." The pill-shaped, yellow characters introduced in "Despicable Me" as the subordinates to the villainous Gru have now taken center stage. The charm and humor they brought in tiny doses in the previous films now come in a massive blast that wears thin quickly. "Minions" start... (read more)

      • Infinitely Polar Bear poster image

        Infinitely Polar Bear

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        How much funny goes with the crazy? Facile as it sounds, this is the question guiding the efforts of a considerable number of writer-directors over the years, as they have brought family stories (often autobiographical) involving some form of mental illness to the screen. The latest of these is "Infinitely Polar Bear," writer-director Maya Forbes' agreeable but dodgy film based on Forbes' experiences growing up with a bipolar father in 1970s-era Cambridge, Mass. It's worth seeing, o... (read more)

      • Inside Out poster image

        Inside Out

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Director Pete Docter's "Inside Out" springs from a single, terrific idea. What if a person's basic emotions were tiny humanoid sprites sharing a command center, a spacious variation on the one in the starship Enterprise but inside the human brain? While the idea isn't new (you may recall the late 20th-century sitcom "Herman's Head," or not), it is vastly adaptable. As the Pixar Animation folks learned a long time ago, before they coupled up with Disney: If your premise has... (read more)

      • Mad Max: Fury Road poster image

        Mad Max: Fury Road

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        You remember "Happy Feet." This is George Miller's "Happy Wheels." The creator of the original "Mad Max" trilogy has whipped up a gargantuan grunge symphony of vehicular mayhem that makes "Furious 7" look like "Curious George." The full title of Miller's remake of "Mad Max" is "Mad Max: Fury Road." It stars Tom Hardy, who says very little, in the old Mel Gibson role of the post-apocalyptic road warrior. Here the character's... (read more)

      • Ex Machina poster image

        Ex Machina

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A grandly ridiculous theatrical tradition born in ancient Greece, deus ex machina meant, literally, a god borne by a machine descending from the sky to determine a story's outcome. The hardware in writer-director Alex Garland's crafty new thriller "Ex Machina" signifies something a little less clunky and considerably more ambiguous. In this case the object of adoration is a superadvanced example of artificial intelligence. The hook, hardly new, is this: Can A.I. be made not simply t... (read more)

      • The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water poster image

        The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        There's a new "SpongeBob" movie out, "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water." It's passable. The trade publication Variety predicts it will be "equally popular among the franchise's key grade-schooler and head-shop-owner demographics," and that sounds right to me. But I've always found SpongeBob's world terrifying, and while I'm probably overreacting, well, that's in the spirit of the fry-cook protagonist himself. "SpongeBob SquarePants" made its Nic... (read more)

      • Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) poster image

        Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Birdman" proves that a movie -- the grabbiest, most kinetic film ever made about putting on a play -- can soar on the wings of its own technical prowess, even as the banality of its ideas threatens to drag it back down to earth. Much of what you've heard is true. The movie's just plain fun to watch. Its star, Michael Keaton, is someone everyone likes and many love, an actor who made millions on "Batman" and settled for a different level of fame and smaller pieces of small... (read more)

      • Paddington poster image

        Paddington

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Never judge by appearances. The poster image for "Paddington," already a hit in Britain, depicts the valiant little bear in the red hat and blue jacket careening down a flooded staircase in a bathtub, and the image (from the first of creator Michael Bond's 26 "Paddington" books) is rendered in such a way as to make the film look pushy and twee and eminently skippable. And yet the film isn't any of those things. It's witty and charming, with a considerable if sneaky emotion... (read more)

      • Penguins of Madagascar poster image

        Penguins of Madagascar

        Geoff Berkshire, Chicago Tribune

        Variety Charming in small doses, the "Penguins of Madagascar" prove altogether less irresistible in their feature-length starring debut. The latest example of DreamWorks Animation's franchise mania is a frantic, peppy, in-your-face slice of irreverent toon action, but the result is far more snoozy than Looney (as in Tunes). DreamWorks practically patented the idea of conceiving and marketing animated pics like live-action comedies intended to appeal equally to adults and kids, and w... (read more)

      • Interstellar poster image

        Interstellar

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A knockout one minute, a punch-drunk crazy film the next, "Interstellar" is a highly stimulating mess. Emotionally it's also a mess, and that's what makes it worth its 165 minutes -- minutes made possible by co-writer and director Christopher Nolan's prior global success with his brooding, increasingly nasty "Batman" films, and with the commercially viable head-trip that was "Inception." You can call "Interstellar" corny or reiterative or just plain dau... (read more)

      • How to Train Your Dragon 2 poster image

        How to Train Your Dragon 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Toothless it's not. In a world of sequels, reboots and franchise industry economics dictating that creativity is encouraged but not required, the DreamWorks Animation offering "How to Train Your Dragon 2" looks, feels and flows like a real movie. It's better than the last few Pixar features, among other things, and from where I sit that includes "Toy Story 3." In an emotionally resonant key, it's as satisfying as the initial 2010 "Dragon," based very loosely on t... (read more)

      • Edge of Tomorrow poster image

        Edge of Tomorrow

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Insanely derivative, frenetically enjoyable, "Edge of Tomorrow" takes gaming to a new level of big-screen indulgence, sending Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt through the same alien-invasion scenario over and over until they learn how to win, put down the consoles and get off the couch for a little lunch and some fresh air, maybe. The film is based on a Japanese graphic novel "All You Need is Kill." It owes a tremendous amount of its structure, and appeal, to "Groundhog Day... (read more)

      • Divergent poster image

        Divergent

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In Veronica Roth's young adult trilogy of best-selling futuristic hellholes, being a "divergent" means you avoid easy categorization and defy the crushing dictates of your overseers. The movie version of "Divergent" is no divergent. It goes along to get along. It's tame, formulaic and strictly by the book in every sense. Certainly you can do worse in this genre. The recent screen adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's "The Host" was a lot worse. But you can do better, c... (read more)

      • Jodorowsky's Dune poster image

        Jodorowsky's Dune

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips If I ever go through a wormhole, let me land on a planet where repertory cinema is alive and well and showcasing all the lost, cruelly abridged and, especially, unmade movies conceived on a grand, misbegotten scale. That'd be quite a three-day weekend. Murnau's "4 Devils," followed by von Stroheim's original cut of "Greed," plus the Welles version of "The Magnificent Ambersons." Plus Welles' never-m... (read more)

      • The Grand Budapest Hotel poster image

        The Grand Budapest Hotel

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Ever since the moment in "Bottle Rocket" (1996) when Luke Wilson's character paused during a robbery of his own boyhood home to straighten a toy soldier on a bedroom shelf, writer-director Wes Anderson announced his intentions as an artist of serenely extreme exactitude. This is a filmmaker, working in varying degrees of visual stylization, who operates within precise notions of how the universe of his imagining will proceed in terms of story and how his characters will operate with... (read more)

      • Ender's Game poster image

        Ender's Game

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In step with its sensitive, tactically brilliant 12-year-old hero, "Ender's Game" is a bit of a tweener, neither triumph nor disaster, a war-games fantasy with a use-by date of Nov. 22, when the new "Hunger Games" movie comes out. Its central action scenes unfold in a vast zero-gravity battle-simulation arena, on a space station readying for an alien attack of enormous skittery bugs called Formics. The preteens and young teenagers being trained to save the world play dange... (read more)

      • Gravity poster image

        Gravity

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        ``Gravity defies itself. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney play astronauts - a newbie scientist and a veteran cowboy - who dodge space debris and the usual narrative expectations while coping with a highly compressed series of crises 372 miles above the Earth's surface. It's a nerve-wracking visual experience of unusual and paradoxical delicacy. And if your stomach can take it, it's truly something to see. Director and co-writer Alfonso Cuaron, who wrote the script with his son, Jonas, has de... (read more)

      • Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 poster image

        Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Thanks to the likes of "Ice Age," most animated features rely on a general wash of sarcasm-based meanness atop sequences of hammering, photo-realistically rendered peril. Throw in a rote message of friendship and a reminder of the importance of family before the up-tempo closing credits, and the people will come. Same old thing but louder? Count me in. So when a modest, quick-witted charmer such as "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2" comes along, attention must be paid. ... (read more)

      • The Smurfs 2 poster image

        The Smurfs 2

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        Get yourself into a Smurfy frame of mind, hum a few notes of "The Smurf Song" and try to remember your cartoon-watching primary school years. Cross your fingers that actors Neil Patrick Harris, Hank Azaria, Jayma Mays and Brendan Gleeson will find something funny to do. Never mind. Filled with Smurf wholesomeness, Smurf puns and posi-Smurf messages about never giving up "on family," "The Smurfs 2" still isn't worth Smurfberries. Gargamel the Smurf-hater is now a ... (read more)

      • Django Unchained poster image

        Django Unchained

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In "Django Unchained," which has its moments of devilish glee in and among dubious wallows in numbing slaughter, writer-director-trash compactor Quentin Tarantino delivers a mashup of several hundred of his favorite movies, all hanging, like barnacles, onto a story of a freed slave (Jamie Foxx) and his bounty-hunter savior (Christoph Waltz) out to rescue Django's wife (Kerry Washington) from a venal plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio). The plantation's "house slave" (Samu... (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)

      • Dredd poster image

        Dredd

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The time-killing carnage in "Dredd 3D" can be assessed all sorts of ways. One depends on how much M-rated gaming you do as a matter of course. If the answer is some, or a lot, you'll likely find "Dredd 3D" up your viscera-strewn alley, because the film isn't merely influenced by a genre of first-person, shoot/stab/eviscerate/these/anonymous/enemies scenarios. It re-creates them, slavishly, as did the recent "The Raid: Redemption," so that calling "Dredd 3D&q... (read more)

      • The Dark Knight Rises: The IMAX Experience poster image

        The Dark Knight Rises: The IMAX Experience

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Eight years after the camp frippery of "Batman & Robin" (1997), in which Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mr. Freeze and Uma Thurman's Poison Ivy played dress-up while George Clooney let his nipply bat-suit do most of the acting, director and co-writer Christopher Nolan brought to the screen the origin story of Bruce Wayne and his tortured, emotionally isolated crime-fighting alter ego. Stately and just serious enough, "Batman Begins" was trumped by Nolan's own 2008 sequel, "T... (read more)

      • Moonrise Kingdom poster image

        Moonrise Kingdom

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Media Services Film Clips Nothing in a Wes Anderson movie is quite like life. He creates odd, gorgeous miniature universes on screen, setting his characters in italics, so that they become characters playing themselves in a pageant inspired by their own lives. The storybook quality to his films is either coy or entrancing, depending on your receptiveness to Anderson's comic spark and his sharply angled, presentational arrangements of actors against some ... (read more)

      • Brave poster image

        Brave

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The heather on the hill and other scenic Scottish glories never looked lovelier than in the animated realm of "Brave," the gorgeous if awkwardly plotted new film from Pixar Animation Studios and the ruling clan of Disney. Several firsts here for Pixar. Its 13th feature is the studio's first period assignment, set in pre-medieval times, a fairy tale grounded in the textures and enticements of a real place. It's also the first princess-themed project from Pixar, and the writers wisely... (read more)

      • The Hunger Games poster image

        The Hunger Games

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The hypocrisy at the heart of "The Hunger Games" is irresistible. Novelist Suzanne Collins, whose trilogy has been decreed "awesome" by, among others, my 5th grade son, indicts violence and organized brutality as tools of mass-audience manipulation. Yet "The Hunger Games" wouldn't have gotten very far without its steady supply of threatened or actual gladiatorial teen-on-teen bloodshed: death by arrow, javelin, genetically engineered wasp, plus knives. And land m... (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)

      • Puss in Boots poster image

        Puss in Boots

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        DreamWorks' cunning casting of the silky Spaniard Antonio Banderas as a swashbuckling Puss in Boots pays off, brilliantly, in "Puss in Boots," a star vehicle for the nursery rhyme kitty cat from the "Shrek" movies. Thanks to Banderas and his Corinthian-leather purr and writers who know how to use it, "Puss" is the best animated film of 2011. This is no mere "Shrek" sequel. There is sex appeal in every syllable, swagger in every line. And even kids get t... (read more)

      • Drive poster image

        Drive

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Drive" begins extremely well and ends in a muddle of ultraviolence, hypocrisy and stylistic preening, which won't be any sort of deterrent for those who like its looks. Director Nicolas Winding Refn's avenging-angel thriller premiered at this year's Cannes Film Festival, where Refn won the directing prize, and every supersaturated image is designed for hushed adoration. If the movie were a movie star, it'd be looking just past you to see if someone cooler had recently come in. Ryan... (read more)

      • Zookeeper poster image

        Zookeeper

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        We want the same thing from our comedians that we expect of great ballplayers -- that they "leave it all on the field." And Kevin James does that. From his various team-ups with Adam Sandler to "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," James hurls himself at the physical shtick and never lets on that he knows he's not making art. In "Zookeeper," James and his stunt-doubles take a pounding -- pratfalls, bicycle spills, porcupine pokes. It's a kid-friendly romantic comedy, a " ... (read more)

      • Bad Teacher poster image

        Bad Teacher

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        An employee of the Chicago public school system, the ha-cha seventh-grade educator Elizabeth portrayed by Cameron Diaz in "Bad Teacher" blows most of her classroom time showing her students (whose names she never learns) movies such as "Lean on Me," "Stand and Deliver" and "Dangerous Minds" while she nurses a hangover or longs for her next bong hit. Dumped by her fiance, this craven schemer has returned to the job she thought she'd left behind. But a da... (read more)

      • X-Men: First Class poster image

        X-Men: First Class

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Primarily for dues-paying "X-Men" club members in good standing, rather than anyone wandering by a multiplex wondering if the prequel stands on its own, "X-Men: First Class" settles for moderately engrossing second-class mutant superheroism. Plus it includes January Jones as Emma Frost, here depicted as Austin Powers' dream shag, and Rose Byrne as a perpetually aghast CIA operative. Mainly, though, the film features Michael Fassbender in a pivotal role. That's enough to li... (read more)

      • Fast Five: The IMAX Experience poster image

        Fast Five: The IMAX Experience

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        As adolescent male power fantasies go, "Fast Five" has an undeniable trashy charm. Things blow up right and left, muscle cars are pulverized, sexpots vamp and brawny men wallop the tar out of one another. Yet there are pauses between adrenaline-packed driving sequences, shootouts and explosions for three romance subplots and two involving babies. Here's a summer popcorn flick strong enough for a man and gentle enough for a woman. The story, such as it is, begins with an exhilarating... (read more)

      • Hop poster image

        Hop

        Robert Abele, Chicago Tribune

        When it comes to notable secular Easter movies, there's Fred Astaire at the parade with Judy Garland and little else. But with the seasonal ubiquity of candy, eggs and bunnies, it's hardly a shock that an animation company would wring some type of festive, sentimental kids flick out of so commercially tinged and cute animal-friendly a holiday. The animation/live-action ``Hop - from the producing-writing team behind last year's ``Despicable Me,'' and director Tim Hill, of ``Alvin and the Chipm... (read more)

      • Black Swan poster image

        Black Swan

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Mainlining Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" ballet score like a drug addict, "Black Swan" pushes its protagonist, a Manhattan ballerina devoted (and then some) to her craft, to the brink of insanity and then a couple of subway stops beyond. Director Darren Aronofsky's film is with her all the way. Its intensity risks absurdity in nearly every scene, even the ones not featuring Winona Ryder as the alcoholic castoff of the sneering ballet impresario played by Vincent Cassel. Is &qu... (read more)

      • How Do You Know poster image

        How Do You Know

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        On paper and in the gossip-sphere, the new romantic comedy written and directed by James L. Brooks has had a lot to overcome. Ridiculous budget, north of $100 million. Suspiciously few advance screenings. An aura of bland, generic complication in the film's marketing. But "How Do You Know" turns out to be quite good, and its strengths are a lot more interesting than its limitations. Reports of re-shoots indicate Brooks' own nervousness about the story resolution. Here's how the stor... (read more)

      • Megamind poster image

        Megamind

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Earlier this year "Despicable Me" proved it: A story about a hapless villain, humanized, is good for a few laughs and a half-billion worldwide. That figure would very likely be A-OK with the makers of the new DreamWorks animated feature "Megamind," also about a hapless villain, humanized. This villain's blue. Moderately funny though immoderately derivative, the film is no "How to Train Your Dragon" or "Kung Fu Panda," DreamWorks' recent high points, and... (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)

      • Dinner for Schmucks poster image

        Dinner for Schmucks

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Dinner for Schmucks" is a remake for schlemiels, or at least easy marks when it comes to formulaic Hollywood comedy. But the film's peculiar sluggishness and nagging hypocrisy probably won't get in the way of its popularity. It has a lot of funny people going for it. The most valuable is Jemaine Clement, the sonorous New Zealander who slayed in HBO's "Flight of the Conchords" and who even managed to make a sustained Michael York impersonation pay off in the recent "G... (read more)

      • Inception poster image

        Inception

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Sometimes the first adjective spoken in a movie speaks volumes. The first one you hear in the new thriller "Inception" is "delirious," describing the psychological state of a man, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who has washed up (or awakened) on a beach and is brought into the home of a wealthy man he has known in other circumstances, somewhere in time. "Delirious" describes the movie as well, which assuredly offers audiences sights heretofore unseen. Despite riffs... (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)

      • Shrek Forever After 3D poster image

        Shrek Forever After 3D

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        Dreamworks seems bored with the ogre who laid the golden egg. "Shrek Forever After," the fourth film in the lucrative franchise, barely tampers with the Shrek formula (one-liners, flatulence jokes, pop tunes) and not enough to breathe life into the exhausted series. Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) is feeling buried under the celebrity, the diapers and the playdates with Donkey's dragon-donkey toddlers. "I used to be an ogre. Now I'm a jolly green joke," he complains to Fiona ... (read more)

      • Kick-Ass poster image

        Kick-Ass

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In a new introduction to the eight-part comic book series "Kick-Ass," which was created in tandem with the film version, Image Comics co-founder Rob Liefeld describes the chief strength of Mark Millar's superhero lark as extolling "hyper-real super-violence," "so far over the top it has to be seen to be believed ... it makes you cringe and wince and ultimately leaves you with your slack-jawed mouth scraping the bottom of the floor." A tasty image, especially if y... (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)

      • It's Complicated poster image

        It's Complicated

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "It's Complicated" isn't: It's pretty simple. It's simply a good time, a relatively adult and easygoing conveyance for three ace performers of a certain age, working through a few comic machinations created by writer-director Nancy Meyers. Her earlier romantic comedy, "Something's Gotta Give," offered a similar payout. You like that one, you'll like this one. The fun isn't related to directorial finesse; if anything, that earlier Meyers film starring Diane Keaton and Jack ... (read more)

      • Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans poster image

        Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Anything's possible in this storm!" says the man with the badge in Werner Herzog's delirious "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans," a true feat of daring and one of the craziest films of the year. It's a very loose remake of the 1992 "Bad Lieutenant," in which director Abel Ferrara unleashed Harvey Keitel as a drug-addled spin cycle disguised as a police detective. The character of the drug-abusing cop, at work and play, has been relocated from New York to ... (read more)

      • Michael Jackson's This Is It poster image

        Michael Jackson's This Is It

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        How much of "Michael Jackson's This Is It" can we believe? Was Jackson, 50 at the time of his death on June 25, in rougher shape overall than the concert rehearsal footage assembled here suggests? Most certainly, yes. Produced with the full, watchful cooperation of the Jackson estate, pulled from 100-plus hours of film and video shot between March and June 2009, "This Is It" has no interest in telling the full story of anything, or the crumbling state of anyone. Rather, d... (read more)

      • Black Dynamite poster image

        Black Dynamite

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Paranormal Activity poster image

        Paranormal Activity

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        Some movies are more of a shared experience than others, and that's certainly the case with "Paranormal Activity," a micro-budget horror flick about things that go bump in the you-know-what in a nice new home. It's opening in select college towns, midnight-only showings, in a handful of theaters. The combination of the late hour and the horror-jazzed audience could make this minimalist chill-fest the new "Blair Witch Project," or so Paramount hopes. At the right moments, ... (read more)

      • A Serious Man poster image

        A Serious Man

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "A Serious Man" is a tart, brilliantly acted fable of life's little cosmic difficulties, a Coen brothers comedy with a darker philosophical outlook than "No Country for Old Men" but with a script rich in verbal wit. This time it's God - or chance, or fate with a grudge against the Minneapolis suburbs - wielding the stun gun. The most we can do, the film implies, is stick to our principles and hope for the best. Physics professor Larry Gopnik, played by the excellent Micha... (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)

      • Jennifer's Body poster image

        Jennifer's Body

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        From her earlier days and nights as a blogger and a pole dancer, screenwriter Diablo Cody knows a lot about the power of eyeballs, the predominance of the male gaze and the raging narcissism that feeds so many personalities, good and evil. Cody's Oscar-winning script for "Juno" revealed a highly stylized comic sensibility, as well as an arch-fiend of cleverness behind each turn of phrase. Her second script to reach the screen is "Jennifer's Body," which, like its privilege... (read more)

      • Inglourious Basterds poster image

        Inglourious Basterds

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

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