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      • Ponyo poster image

        Ponyo

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        You'll be planning to see "Ponyo" twice before you've finished seeing it once. Five minutes into this magical film you'll be making lists of the individuals of every age you can expose to the very special mixture of fantasy and folklore, adventure and affection, that make up the enchanted vision of Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki. The great genius of contemporary animation, the only foreign director to win the Oscar for best animated feature (for "Spirited Away," which al... (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)

      • A Perfect Getaway poster image

        A Perfect Getaway

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        How many times has it been said about a thriller that "nothing is what it seems"? Not often enough, according to writer-director David Twohy, whose cockamamie honeymoon-fiasco picture "A Perfect Getaway" at least has the fortitude to venture off the beaten path of formula. Be warned, though: When the story's twist arrives, you half-expect Twohy to throw in a couple of reels from "Dead Again," plus outtakes from "The Usual Suspects." It's a lulu; I'm jus... (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)

      • Home poster image

        Home

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The cuddliest alien invasion movie ever, "Home" contains nifty turns of phrase and some actual, verifiable verbal wit, owing in large part to its source material, Adam Rex's 2007 children's book "The True Meaning of Smekday." In the grand Hollywood tradition, DreamWorks Animation threw out most of that book (and the film's original title, "Happy Smekday!") after optioning the property seven years ago. Even though screenwriters Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember over-pac... (read more)

      • Adventureland poster image

        Adventureland

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A sweet, sharp coming-of-age romance, "Adventureland" is a little warmer, a little funnier and a lot more truthful than the last 20 or 30 of its ilk. Especially its Hollywood ilk. You know the kind: R-rated comedies about socially maladroit horndogs on the brink of adulthood, partying, hooking up, throwing up, setting their sights on the rest of their lives. All this happens in "Adventureland" - set in 1987, mostly within the confines of a Pittsburgh amusement park - yet t... (read more)

      • Monsters vs. Aliens poster image

        Monsters vs. Aliens

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The new DreamWorks animated 3-D feature "Monsters vs. Aliens" is blessed with a high-concept title - possibly the highest ever; my son's been hocking me about this movie since before he was born - and Seth Rogen's serenely dense line readings in the role of a genetically altered tomato gone wrong. But a bizarre percentage of the project went wrong somewhere, along with the tomato. Pilfering everything from "Mothra" to "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman" to "Men in... (read more)

      • Coraline poster image

        Coraline

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Coraline" may not be for all tastes and it's certainly not for all kids, given its macabre premise. But writer-director Henry Selick's animated feature advances the stop-motion animation genre through that most heartening of attributes: quality. It pulls audiences into a meticulously detailed universe, familiar in many respects, whacked and menacing in many others. Unlike other recent films shot in 3-D ("Bolt" comes to mind), this one takes rich advantage of the process, ... (read more)

      • Hotel for Dogs poster image

        Hotel for Dogs

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Paul Blart: Mall Cop poster image

        Paul Blart: Mall Cop

        Glenn Whipp, Chicago Tribune

        "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" is as sticky and gooey as a Cinnabon cinnamon roll, a snack the movie's title character has no doubt sampled once or twice over the years during his shifts. A high-concept smash-up of "Die Hard" and "Kung-Fu Panda," "Blart" gives sitcom star Kevin James a showcase for broad-comedy pratfalls, providing him 87 minutes to plop, flop and crash into things. The targeted tween audience will lap up James' antics, but for the rest of us, ... (read more)

      • The Wrestler poster image

        The Wrestler

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Written by Robert Siegel, former editor of The Onion, "The Wrestler" spends 105 minutes grappling at the edge of camp, cheap laughs and cliches. Yet the way it's handled by director Darren Aronofsky and especially by Mickey Rourke - who really should get an Oscar for his portrayal of Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a steroid-addled sweetie in tights - it stays honest and keeps on fighting. "The Wrestler" works for the same reason "Rachel Getting Married" work... (read more)

      • Twilight poster image

        Twilight

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Low-key" is not the adjective you'd expect to describe a highly anticipated vampire movie, but there it is. "Twilight" is a film of intelligent strengths and easily avoidable weaknesses, a modest film adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's publishing phenomenon. It is faithful to its source material, which will likely please the fan base. It's also better written than Meyer's book, which tends toward froth and fulmination. (Sample line: "I was in danger of being distracted ... (read more)

      • Happy-Go-Lucky poster image

        Happy-Go-Lucky

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The new Mike Leigh film "Happy-Go-Lucky" is a real pleasure, and besides being Leigh's most buoyantly comic feature it's a marvelous showcase for Sally Hawkins, who has worked twice before with the British writer-director. Hawkins, whose squinty smile is one of the bright lights of the fall, plays Poppy, a grade school instructor. Her good cheer is so intense, when we first see her - riding her bicycle through the North London streets, grinning and waving - you wonder: Is she tetche... (read more)

      • Fly Me to the Moon poster image

        Fly Me to the Moon

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        At what point might animators be arrested for doing work so ugly it causes aesthetic blindness in millions of younglings? It's not a question that comes up every week. But this is the week for it. The two cruddiest animated films of the year, "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" and "Fly Me to the Moon," have precious little to take your mind or your eyes off the visual crimes against humanity. I suppose I'm overstating it. But woe be to us and our eyes if we get worse animation of... (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)

      • Man on Wire poster image

        Man on Wire

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        On a misty day in August, 1974, 1,350 feet above the Manhattan streets, French wire-walker Philippe Petit spent 45 minutes gliding back and forth between the south and the north towers of the World Trade Center, eight crossings in all. "Man on Wire" captures the renegade artistry and poetic audacity of Petit's performance. The film itself is perfectly poised between artistry and audacity. It's beautiful. For the record: Robert Zemeckis ("Forrest Gump," "Beowulf")... (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)

      • WALL-E poster image

        WALL-E

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's the surest thing in the infinitely malleable world of animation: Get the eyes right, and you're halfway home. One look at the binocular-eyed trash compactor starring in the marvelous new Disney/Pixar feature "WALL-E," and you're halfway home. One look at EVE, the sleek, egg-shaped robot from space who introduces WALL-E to a world wider than his own, and those cool blue oval eyes - which digitally transform into upside-down crescents when amused-and you're all the way home. Thes... (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)

      • The Fall poster image

        The Fall

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Some filmmakers can imagine everything and select nothing, and while it's clear as a bell Tarsem Singh (who goes by his first name professionally) has more talent than almost any 10 directors put together, in "The Fall" he's basically showing off with every new wondrous image. The story, based on the 1981 Bulgarian fantasy "Yo Ho Ho," is set in 1915, in the vicinity of Hollywood. A stuntman (Lee Pace) has suffered a bad fall and recuperates in a hospital. There he befriend... (read more)

      • What Happens in Vegas poster image

        What Happens in Vegas

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Thanks to the aggressive product placement of "What Happens in Vegas," I'll always associate Budweiser with a distinct lack of laughter. I'm sure that's not what Anheuser-Busch had in mind! The year's latest attempt at romantic comedy stars Cameron Diaz as a strait-laced, Type-A commodities trader who cuts loose in Vegas after being dumped by her pill of a boyfriend. There, she bumps into irresponsible, irrepressible Jack, played by Ashton Kutcher. They drink, they marry, they win $... (read more)

      • Forgetting Sarah Marshall poster image

        Forgetting Sarah Marshall

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Early in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," protagonist Peter Bretter, played by Jason Segel, steps out of the shower as his girlfriend, played by Kristen Bell, arrives back at their apartment. Peter thinks it's carnival time. Sarah, however, has come to call it quits and Peter realizes, in all his mistimed nudity - (BEGIN ITALICS) all (BEGIN ITALICS) his mistimed nudity - that he's getting dumped. They've grown apart, Sarah says: "It's like you're standing on the dock, and I'm in th... (read more)

      • There Will Be Blood poster image

        There Will Be Blood

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        As surely as our country's multiple personalities owe a great deal to both religious fervor and the oil industry, "There Will Be Blood" reminds us that the greatest screen performances don't settle for capturing one trait, a dominant emotion or an easy way in. The very best of them are symphonies of paradox, forcing us to reckon with the ramifications. This is what Daniel Day-Lewis achieves in director Paul Thomas Anderson's majestic crackpot of a film. It runs 158 minutes on a broo... (read more)

      • The Bucket List poster image

        The Bucket List

        Sid Smith, Chicago Tribune

        Rob Reiner proved bewitching and insightful on pre-adolescence ("Stand By Me"), on-the-road youth ("The Sure Thing") and adult love and lust ("When Harry Met Sally"). But he stumbles badly in tackling geriatric blues in "The Bucket List," a manipulative look at dying with dignity and a lame yarn about as realistic as the fantasy in "The Princess Bride." The pitch itself is hopelessly hokey. Two seniors (Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman), diff... (read more)

      • The Great Debaters poster image

        The Great Debaters

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Good story, well told. Interesting concept. I wonder if people will go for it. Director Denzel Washington's "The Great Debaters" is pure Hollywood, not without its share of storytelling cliches and golden-toned inspirational teaching moments, but you know what? The results really are inspirational. It is an underdog story produced by Oprah Winfrey, among others, about the real-life Wiley College, a small Methodist African-American institution located in northeast Texas. Under coach ... (read more)

      • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street poster image

        Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's not the volume of the blood that distinguishes "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" from every other film this year. The shocker is the context. Movie audiences aren't used to seeing throats slit while the leading character sings a song - Stephen Sondheim's stealthy, quietly obsessive counter-melody to "Johanna" - and then, in methodical succession, dumps the corpses down a makeshift slide into a cellar where the bodies collected are ground, slowly, into m... (read more)

      • Revolver poster image

        Revolver

        Sid Smith, Chicago Tribune

        Word was that Guy Ritchie's "Revolver," when first released in Great Britain two years ago, was a return to his neo-gangster roots, a movie more in the "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" vein than "Swept Away," his disastrous effort with wife Madonna. But the Brits weren't swept away by this one either. Widely panned, "Revolver" topped a 2005 online poll of worst movies of the year, ahead of "Alexander," "Bewitched" and "The ... (read more)

      • Enchanted poster image

        Enchanted

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Enchanted" is a contraption redeemed by a delightful leading performance. The world may not have needed another attempt to cash in on all things princess-y, but Amy Adams, per the old "Mary Tyler Moore Show" theme song, takes a (potentially) nothing day and suddenly makes it all seem worthwhile. Like Marlo Thomas in "That Girl," she's diamonds, daisies, snowflakes, chestnuts, rainbows and springtime. Yes, (BEGIN ITALICS) and (END ITALICS) springtime. "Encha... (read more)

      • The Mist poster image

        The Mist

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Good and creepy, "The Mist" comes from a Stephen King novella and is more the shape, size and quality of the recent "1408," likewise taken from a King story, than anything in the persistently fashionable charnel house inhabited by the "Saw" and "Hostel" franchises. People get torn apart and beset by monsters in "The Mist" but not enough, I'm guessing, for the "Saw" folk, who prefer grinding realism to the supernatural. On the other h... (read more)

      • Wristcutters: A Love Story poster image

        Wristcutters: A Love Story

        Jessica Reaves, Chicago Tribune

        If only the filmmakers behind "Wristcutters: A Love Story" had better timed the release of this oddball, quirky movie, they might have had a Valentine's Day blockbuster on their hands. OK, maybe not a blockbuster, but likely a perennial cult favorite. As you might expect from the title and shoestring production values, "Wristcutters" is quite a bit darker than most mainstream romantic comedies. As you might not expect, it's also quite a bit more inventive and far wittier ... (read more)

      • Hot Rod poster image

        Hot Rod

        Jessica Reaves, Chicago Tribune

        If you've seen "Saturday Night Live" recently, you may experience a familiar sensation as you're watching "Hot Rod": Andy Samberg's doing a bit, and you're not really sure where it's going. Sure, it's funny, mainly because it's utterly absurd and meandering, but you can't help wondering when he's going to get to the point. And of course he never does because there is no point, but you forgive him and laugh anyway because he seems like a really nice guy. Oh, look, here come... (read more)

      • The Bourne Ultimatum poster image

        The Bourne Ultimatum

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Has a film's running time, in this case a breathless 115 minutes, ever involved so much actual running? The superbly kinetic action picture "The Bourne Ultimatum" treats its own narrative almost abstractly, as a series of hurdles to be knocked over quickly, casually, en route to the next futile attempt on Jason Bourne's life. This is the most satisfying thriller of the year, capping the Bourne trilogy taken from the Robert Ludlum novels. The films are faithful to those books in name... (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)

      • Hostel Part II poster image

        Hostel Part II

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        When you live in a free country, you put up with crud like "Hostel Part II." It truly is crud, though. The film is the definition of torture porn, and regarding the Motion Picture Association of America's business-friendly, brain-free decision to give it an R rating: If this film gets by with an R, then what is left to warrant an NC-17? Many fans of "Hostel" the first, which was a hugely profitable international success, have been yakking up a storm on sites such as Rotten... (read more)

      • Surf's Up poster image

        Surf's Up

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Surf's Up" has only one point of overlap with "Happy Feet": the penguins. Whereas last year's Oscar-winning animated feature clobbered audiences with sound, tap, fury and 70 tons of pathos, "Surf's Up" is just a slip of a thing, derivative but mellow, about a teenage surfer from the penguin burg of Shiverpool, Antarctica, who ventures to the tropics to compete with the big kahunas of the flightless aviary endless-summer set. The life lessons learned here will be... (read more)

      • Knocked Up poster image

        Knocked Up

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Most comic actors are hyper-aware of how their act is playing at any given moment, whether in the realm of slob comedy or romantic comedy or, in the case of the very funny "Knocked Up," a slobmantic hybrid. The better actors nonetheless go about their business and find a way of simply being (or faking a degree of naturalness), letting the chips fall where they may. This is the great virtue of Seth Rogen, and of writer-director Judd Apatow's accidental-pregnancy fairy tale, universa... (read more)

      • Hot Fuzz poster image

        Hot Fuzz

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In its climactic village assault, the English comedy "Hot Fuzz" risks becoming the excessive, slow-mo-slaughter affair it's satirizing. But the best of it is a riot - a "Bad Boys II" fireball hurled with exquisite accuracy at a quaint English town peopled by Agatha Christie archetypes. On the strength of "Shaun of the Dead," his droll zombie bash, the spot-on "Don't Scream" trailer in "Grindhouse" and now this, director Edgar Wright is one of ... (read more)

      • Grindhouse poster image

        Grindhouse

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Fanboy vengeance is theirs! Like so many stray body parts, the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez double bill "Grindhouse" gathers up two 85-minute features, "Planet Terror" by Rodriguez and Tarantino's more talkatively sadistic (and far better) "Death Proof"; a quartet of coming-attraction trailers for fake `70s-schlockazoid pictures of various genres, one of which is a riot; and 1,001 memories of the genuine grindhouse trash that malnourished many a grateful yo... (read more)

      • 300 poster image

        300

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        If a film manages to tell an old story in an appreciably new visual way, that's not nothing. By that measure "300" succeeds. It's a fairly entertaining bloodbath designed to put audiences ringside in the cage match of the fifth century B.C., as the Spartans square off against the Persians. It's the few against the many, and the few are mighty fit. The movie should've been called "Ode to a Grecian Ab." Zack Snyder directs, from a script he wrote with Kurt Johnstad and Micha... (read more)

      • Dreamgirls poster image

        Dreamgirls

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Dreamgirls" is performed, shot, edited and packaged like a coming-attractions trailer for itself. Ordinarily that would be enough to sink a film straight off, unless you're a fan of "Moulin Rouge." But this one's a good time. Four years ago, the film version of "Chicago" operated on a similar rhythm and restlessness, and that worked surprisingly well against the odds, too. Bill Condon, a writer of distinction ("Gods and Monsters," "Kinsey"), ... (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)

      • 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)

      • Marie Antoinette poster image

        Marie Antoinette

        Jessica Reaves, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Departed poster image

        The Departed

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        After the dolled-up theatrics of his last few features, from "Casino" (1995) up through "The Aviator" (2004), it's a kick to find director Martin Scorsese back in prime form, at least in the terrific first half of "The Departed." The second half of this Boston-set thriller, based on the sleek, more sparingly brutal 2002 Hong Kong export "Infernal Affairs," can't quite match it, despite a few bursts of startling violence handled as only a first-rate dire... (read more)

      • The Descent poster image

        The Descent

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        In "The Descent," a low-budget horror movie full of tough ladies and creepy thrills, six adventurous girlfriends from the United Kingdom, on a cave-exploring expedition in the American Appalachian Mountains, get lost in the caverns and run into a race of flesh-eating mutant cave-dwellers; these "crawlers" look like monster cousins of Gollum from "Lord of the Rings." You either go for a movie like this or you don't. But though I didn't like it much, I've got to ad... (read more)

      • Monster House poster image

        Monster House

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • A Scanner Darkly poster image

        A Scanner Darkly

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Curious George poster image

        Curious George

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Stephanie Daley poster image

        Stephanie Daley

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        "Stephanie Daley" is a movie that can wound you. This sophomore feature by writer-director Hilary Brougher, a Sundance prize-winner for best script, is a stark, painful drama about pregnancy - a subject rarely treated this fully, candidly or tragically. Brougher shows us two women, Stephanie (Amber Tamblyn of "Joan of Arcadia"), a high school junior accused of killing the baby whose existence she kept secret until a school ski trip, and Lydie Crane (Tilda Swinton), a foren... (read more)

      • Brokeback Mountain poster image

        Brokeback Mountain

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The Western genre?s big skies and limitless visual capacity for loneliness have enveloped nearly a century?s worth of stories, all kinds, about flinty survivors learning that a man?s gotta do what a man?s gotta do. ?Brokeback Mountain,? a good and eloquent Wyoming-set love story with a great performance at its heart, is part of that classical filmmaking tradition. It is also prime Oscar bait. Already the film has won the best picture prize from the New York and Los Angeles film critics and sn... (read more)

      • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire poster image

        Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Unlike Peter Pan, that other magical airborne boy of British literature and film, J.K. Rowling?s Harry Potter just keeps growing up. So do the Potter movies, in size, in ambition and in visual splendor - and with increasingly stunning results. ?Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire? is the latest film adventure for the bespectacled student sorcerer of Rowling?s amazingly well-imagined Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And it may be the best-filmed Potter of them all - though last year... (read more)

      • Domino poster image

        Domino

        Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune

        Domino Harvey, the privileged daughter of British actor Laurence Harvey (Raymond Shaw in "The Manchurian Candidate") and model Paulene Stone, died from a fentanyl overdose in June at the age of 35. By all accounts, Domino led quite the life, seamlessly moving from the London fashion and club scene to the States, where, after trying her hand as a volunteer firefighter and ranch hand, she became a bounty hunter - and, apparently, a drug addict. (She died while out on bond, after bein... (read more)

      • Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit poster image

        Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Most of us come from common clay. Wallace & Gromit do not. The jolly inventor with the sausage-shaped smile and his patient, silent yet wondrously expressive dog are the stuff of uncommon clay, the synthetic material known as Plasticine, of which two of modern cinema's loveliest comic creations are molded. "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" is the first feature-length showcase for these indelible characters, and it's a good one. For 40 minutes or so it's really good, i... (read more)

      • Mr. & Mrs. Smith poster image

        Mr. & Mrs. Smith

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie look like they had a terrific time making "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" - but I certainly didn't have a good time watching it. Neither, I suspect, will many of you. Despite its cast and director (Doug Liman of "Swingers," "Go" and "The Bourne Identity"), this romantic-comedy action movie is a fizzle. It's not for want of glamour. Pitt and Jolie, said to be embroiled for months in a Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton-style affair that a... (read more)

      • Madagascar poster image

        Madagascar

        Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune

        DreamWorks' latest computer-animated film harkens back to a quieter, simpler time - when men were men and cartoons were two-dimensional talking animals, not E! talking heads. "Madagascar," with its intentionally retro aesthetic, shuns much of the street-savvy navel-gazing so crucial to DreamWorks predecessors "Shrek" and "Shrek 2." Those films made bundles but relied far too heavily on winks and nods, with No. 2 drooping under the weight of its own pop-culture pr... (read more)

      • Oldboy poster image

        Oldboy

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Chan-wook Park's "Oldboy" is a high-voltage Korean saga about an elaborate cat-and-mouse game between a sadistic criminal of seemingly limitless resources and his dangerous prey: a businessman whose life has been brutally stolen from him. Set in modern Seoul, in a noir wilderness full of rain-slick streets, neon restaurants, corrupt gangsters and byzantine hotels, it's a movie of such jaw-dropping violence, wild improbability and dazzling style, it overpowers all resistance. "O... (read more)

      • Constantine poster image

        Constantine

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Aviator poster image

        The Aviator

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

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

      • House of Flying Daggers poster image

        House of Flying Daggers

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        The best movies are those that open up the heart and stimulate the mind. But what about movies like Zhang Yimou's "House of Flying Daggers" that knock your eyes out and set your pulse and senses on fire? "Daggers" is a lavish Chinese martial arts epic done with staggering physical excitement and visual splendor. It's a love triangle embedded in a Hong Kong-style movie, complete with battles in bamboo forests, soaring sword-slashing duelists and a fairy-tale air of gorgeous... (read more)

      • The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou poster image

        The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Wes Anderson's "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou," in which Bill Murray plays a shaggy-dog American version of oceanographer-filmmaker Jacques-Yves Cousteau, is a comedy that seems to have most everything going for it but the ability to make us laugh. Despite its cast and director, it's an amazingly unfunny movie, drowned in its own conceits, half-strangled by the tongue so obtrusively in its cheek. Anderson, the writer-director of "Rushmore" and "The Royal Tenenbau... (read more)

      • Blade: Trinity poster image

        Blade: Trinity

        Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

        Sooner or later, all vampire stories come back to Dracula. "Blade: Trinity," the third fang-flashing installment in Wesley Snipes' vampire-killer franchise, is no exception. It seems that Dracula (Dominic Purcell) was napping in a crypt in Iraq, making him the only weapon of mass destruction found there to date. Waking up grumpy, Dracula (dressed like an '80s rock star and called Drake) joins modern bloodsuckers in their battle to control the human race and end Blade's decades-long ... (read more)

      • Christmas With the Kranks poster image

        Christmas With the Kranks

        Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune

        "Christmas with the Kranks," a wholly Midwestern affair focused almost entirely on a single street in suburban Chicago, was filmed in a former Boeing aircraft factory in Downey, Calif., 15 miles east of Los Angeles. This is, of course, quite unremarkable - save for the fact that the filmmakers preferred to shoot in a genuine heartland neighborhood but, after scouting locations from Illinois to Minnesota, simply couldn't find one genuine enough. You just had to get aluminum siding, d... (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)

      • Sideways poster image

        Sideways

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Alexander Payne's "Sideways" - a boisterous, brilliant, heartwarming comedy about two aging college buddies and their last bachelor fling through California wine country - strikes me as just about perfect. Payne's movie, the highlight of his already strong filmography ("Citizen Ruth," "Election" and "About Schmidt"), really deserves that questionable accolade, "instant classic." Starring Paul Giamatti ("American Splendor") and Thomas... (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)

      • A Dirty Shame poster image

        A Dirty Shame

        Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune

        Though rated NC-17 for its sexual content, "A Dirty Shame" contains very little actual sex. After a four-year hiatus, the always-out-there writer/director John Waters is back with this awfully bawdy, never sexy, rarely funny, actually boring, one-note sex comedy. Inspired by a little-known and quite suspicious "fact" - that a sliver of head-injury sufferers find themselves with a heightened and uncontrollable libido post-concussion - the film tells of a sex-addict revolt i... (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 Bourne Supremacy poster image

        The Bourne Supremacy

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        With his jock good looks, diffident air and squinty-eyed intensity, Matt Damon is an unlikely looking movie hero. But maybe that's why he's so good as former CIA hit man Jason Bourne in "The Bourne Supremacy," a movie in which both the "hero" and the world around him are out of joint. Almost as good as its predecessor, the Robert Ludlum-derived 2002 hit "The Bourne Identity," "The Bourne Supremacy" is another brainy, fast spy thriller with another off-t... (read more)

      • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban poster image

        Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        Just as J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" represents a step in maturity beyond the series' first two books, director Alfonso Cuaron's film version improves upon its predecessors. This third "Harry Potter" movie shakes the candy coating off of the franchise without violating its spirit. Chris Columbus, who directed the first two, is skilled at assembling the elements and moving a story along, but he doesn't leave behind ideas that haunt or images tha... (read more)

      • Shrek 2 poster image

        Shrek 2

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Man on Fire poster image

        Man on Fire

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Denzel Washington plays a flawed superman named John Creasy in "Man on Fire." And though this movie by director Tony Scott is itself flawed - a super-thriller that gets too crazy in the last half - Washington gets our juices running. Once again, he's a perfect edgy leading man. Cast as an alcoholic ex-counter terrorist ace hired as the bodyguard of a Mexican millionaire's 9-year-old daughter, Washington wins us with his mix of taciturn menace and boyish charm. He suggests both a dam... (read more)

      • Kill Bill: Vol. 2 poster image

        Kill Bill: Vol. 2

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        "Kill Bill, Vol. 2" is the sound of a filmmaker in love with his own voice. For sure that voice is lively and distinct, which is what made "Kill Bill, Vol. 1" so watchable even as you suspected that it was more of a bravura exercise than an emotionally engaged piece of storytelling. But after spending an additional two-plus hours with "Vol. 2," you may be seeking a cure for cinematic verbal diarrhea. "Vol. 2" was supposed to provide the payoffs that &qu... (read more)

      • Mean Girls poster image

        Mean Girls

        Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

        The biting teen comedy "Mean Girls" heralds the silver-screen big bang of two promising careers: actress Lindsay Lohan and comedy writer/actor Tina Fey. In one movie, Lohan ("Freaky Friday") goes from a Disney-sculpted actress to her own star, transported by "Saturday Night Live" head writer Fey's nervy comic script. Lohan stars as 15-year-old Cady Heron, whose childhood in Africa with her zoologist parents leaves her ill-equipped for the jungle politics of high ... (read more)

      • Shaun of the Dead poster image

        Shaun of the Dead

        Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind poster image

        Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        Charlie Kaufman writes heady movies about the heart. His resume - "Being John Malkovich," "Human Nature," "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," "Adaptation" and now "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" - offers a trick bag of off-kilter views into the disgruntled male soul. "Eternal Sunshine" features another one of Kaufman's muttering, self-critical protagonists, Joel Barish. Unreformed extrovert Jim Carrey has the role, though he m... (read more)

      • Before Sunset poster image

        Before Sunset

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Who can really gauge what steals or breaks a heart, either in movies or in life? Richard Linklater's "Before Sunset," a film of luminous delights, is the sequel to one of my favorite romantic movies: Linklater's 1995 "Before Sunrise," the breathless, sweet and very smart tale of two strangers, Texan Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Parisian Celine (Julie Delpy), who meet in Vienna on a train and spend an intoxicating evening together, walking, talking and making love, before partin... (read more)

      • Saved! poster image

        Saved!

        Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune

        "Saved!," the newest and most ambitious entry in the recent deluge of teen comedies, has a message-management problem. Its wit and subversive charm get lost in a maze of mixed signals. The film at times is about tolerance, sort of about embracing faith, kind of about eschewing it and probably about learning to love yourself, which is getting to be a pointless theme considering few of us love ourselves any more than we did before we started watching movies. Believers Mary (Jena Malon... (read more)

      • Napoleon Dynamite poster image

        Napoleon Dynamite

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        "Napoleon Dynamite" may have been the surprise comedy hit of the last Sundance Film Festival - and its 24-year-old director/co-writer, Jared Hess, may be a helmer with a future - but that doesn't mean it will make you laugh out loud. It didn't tickle me much, anyway, though it did hand me a few smiles, and it may work for others. Hess, his co-writer wife Jerusha Hess and some buddies from Brigham Young University have imagined a screw-loose parody of the small Idaho city where Hess ... (read more)

      • Something's Gotta Give poster image

        Something's Gotta Give

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        XXXXX Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson play lovers in Nancy Meyers' smart new romantic comedy "Something's Gotta Give," and they disprove the rusty old saw that in movies only the young (or the heavily made-up middle-aged) can be sexy. "Something's Gotta Give" doesn't always sizzle, but its stars do. When they shuck clothes and pitch woo, they make convincing magic. Playing a pair of lovers supposedly past their prime - lecherous hip-hop record company owner Harry Sanborn a... (read more)

      • The Cat in the Hat poster image

        The Cat in the Hat

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        We can debate the merits of adapting beloved children's books into live-action films, but can we agree on one point? You shouldn't have to add burps, farts and dog pee to Dr. Seuss. Including the author's name in the movie title "Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat" takes a lot of chutzpah. Dr. Seuss was a wondrous, groundbreaking storyteller thanks to his ingenious use of simple words, his limitless creativity, his bright visual style and the slyness with which he'd make his moral (and s... (read more)

      • Elf poster image

        Elf

        Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

        Writer David Sedaris launched his career in 1992 with "The SantaLand Diaries," a scorching, hilarious account of his brief career as a Macy's Christmas elf. Given the reaction to that story, which is still in regular holiday-season rotation on public radio and has been sold in book form, it's astonishing that Hollywood didn't move faster on this fertile elfin ground. While "Elf" doesn't have Sedaris (his sister Amy has a small part, however), it does have "Saturday Ni... (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)

      • 2 Fast 2 Furious poster image

        2 Fast 2 Furious

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        There was something endearing about how dumb "The Fast and the Furious" was. It wasn't dumb in a cynical, manufactured way. It was dumb in an old-fashioned, exploitation-film, no-brain-cells-necessary kind of way. It didn't pretend to be anything more than it was: a big, silly movie about street racing that delivered its thrills with gusto even as it delivered its dialogue with marbles in its mouth. The empty-headedness of the sequel, "2 Fast 2 Furious," isn't as easy to a... (read more)

      • Whale Rider poster image

        Whale Rider

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        "Whale Rider" is a far different film from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and "Bend It Like Beckham," but it proves a similar point: The more culturally specific a story is, the more universal it may turn out to be. Like "Wedding" and "Beckham," the superior "Whale Rider" depicts a headstrong young female character bumping up against the tradition in which she was raised. The heroine here is 12-year-old Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes), a Maor... (read more)

      • Finding Nemo poster image

        Finding Nemo

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        It's the details that stand out whenever a classic film is converted to 3-D. With "Finding Nemo 3D," the shimmering sea surface, scratches on the lens of a diver's goggles, and smudge marks Nemo the clown fish makes when he mashes his face up against the glass wall of the aquarium that imprisons him all pop off the screen in the reissue of Pixar's undisputed masterpiece. The fish seem to float in between the surface of the screen and the deep blue underwater backgrounds of the South... (read more)

      • The Lizzie McGuire Movie poster image

        The Lizzie McGuire Movie

        Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune

        The folks behind "The Lizzie McGuire Movie" have a strategy: to make girls want to be Lizzie McGuire. And their implementation device of choice? The musical montage. So it's Lizzie picking out what to wear to her junior high graduation, set to music; Lizzie and her friend Gordo on the plane to Italy, set to music; Lizzie tooling around Rome on the back of an Italian teen pop star's moped, set to music (I'm almost done); Lizzie modeling haute couture for said pop star, Paulo, set to ... (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)

      • About Schmidt poster image

        About Schmidt

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Jack Nicholson breaks your heart in "About Schmidt," a surprising achievement from an actor who became a legend in 1970s American cinema by regularly breaking another part of the male anatomy. But Nicholson here forgoes his youthful acting mainstays the wily joke and wild tantrum to craft something full of comedy and despair: a portrait of an old man who is face to face with mortality and the emptiness of a life near its end. We are a long way from the roguish Randle McMurphys and... (read more)

      • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets poster image

        Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        Entering the world of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" is like returning to a wondrous summer camp after a year's break. You see old friends, meet some new ones, and you're reminded of the magical appeal of a place far away from home. Only after becoming acclimated do you notice what bugs you. Last year's first entry in the Potter movie series, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," may not have exceeded J.K. Rowling's book, but it gave a good taste of what made... (read more)

      • 8 Mile poster image

        8 Mile

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Punch-Drunk Love poster image

        Punch-Drunk Love

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        "Punch-Drunk Love" is an Adam Sandler movie with class, and if that sounds like an oxymoron, so be it. The movie is a happy nightmare of silly-smart movie comedy that defies category - and challenges expectations involving Sandler and his pictures. Written and directed by one of the brainiest of the younger American auteurs, Paul Thomas Anderson ("Boogie Nights"), this offbeat romantic farce puts Sandler - the delight of college students and the bane of some of their elder... (read more)

      • Stuart Little 2 poster image

        Stuart Little 2

        Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Scooby-Doo poster image

        Scooby-Doo

        Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Sweetest Thing poster image

        The Sweetest Thing

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        At last, a gross-out comedy that women can call their own. Ever since Cameron Diaz got goo in her hair in "There's Something About Mary," the can-you-top-this vulgarity battle has been fought chiefly among overgrown boys, like those in "Road Trip," "Saving Silverman" and the new "National Lampoon's Van Wilder." Even "American Pie," the one such comedy that supposedly empowered women, really was about the guys. So Diaz has returned to correct t... (read more)

      • The Royal Tenenbaums poster image

        The Royal Tenenbaums

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        Director Wes Anderson and actor Owen Wilson have co-written three films, each more ambitious than the last and all inhabiting a world that spins on a different, more delightfully wobbly axis than our own. The filmmakers' trademark characters have ambitions that may be absurdly overblown yet take their setbacks with great equanimity (at least in the long run). The would-be heroes of "Bottle Rocket" (1996) see themselves as mastermind criminals without ever becoming more than harmless... (read more)

      • Zoolander poster image

        Zoolander

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        Few non-formula comedies have become word-of-mouth hits in recent years, but Ben Stiller has starred in three of them: "Flirting with Disaster," "There's Something About Mary" and "Meet the Parents." His appeal in all three stems from his coming across as a generally smart guy who can't help acting dumb at inopportune moments. We see ourselves in his self-inflicted pain. In "Zoolander," which Stiller directed and co-wrote, he's playing a dumb guy who ac... (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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