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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)

      • What They Had poster image

        What They Had

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Amid the clank and calculation of the usual Hollywood machinery, a movie more attuned to the human heart of things such as "What They Had" deserves an audience. If it's good, that is. And it is. Small but sure, this low-keyed actors' feast marks the feature directorial debut of writer-director Elizabeth Chomko, who grew up in Chicago and the western suburb of Hinsdale, among other stops in a relocation-heavy childhood. "What They Had" comes from Chomko's experiences and me... (read more)

      • A Simple Favor poster image

        A Simple Favor

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Comedy director Paul Feig tries a thriller on for size with the juicy "A Simple Favor," a suburban Connecticut murder mystery that's "Gone Girl" meets "The Stepford Wives." Based on the novel by Darcey Bell, written by Jessica Sharzer, the consciously campy "A Simple Favor" is as bright and bracing as an ice cold gin martini with a lemon twist, and just as satisfying. Anna Kendrick stars as Stephanie, a mommy vlogger raising her son, Miles (Joshua Satin... (read more)

      • Support the Girls poster image

        Support the Girls

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Andrew Bujalski's "Support the Girls" is the perfect bait-and-switch of a film. Its light, sweetly frisky exterior and easygoing pace camouflages what a subtle and brilliant piece of bracing social commentary it is; a deft portrait of sisterhood existing under the thumb of capitalistic patriarchy. And it wouldn't work without the anchor of an exceptional performance by Regina Hall. Hall is Lisa, the general manager of a Texas restaurant named Double Whammies, and the mother hen of a... (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)

      • Eighth Grade poster image

        Eighth Grade

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Tender, socially reticent, selectively assertive, Kayla is a middle-school student a few days away from graduation and the rest of her life. "Everything will work out," she tells her scant audience of YouTube channel followers in the video post opening Bo Burnham's new film "Eighth Grade," if "you're just being yourself." She's hoping for the best with that one. This kid knows it's not going to be so easy. But wishing (and then posting) might just make it so. Kay... (read more)

      • Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again poster image

        Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Welcome back to the magical island of Kalokairi, a sun-strewn rocky outcropping in the azure Aegean Sea, a land where white people can only express themselves with the music of Sweden's most enduring musical group, ABBA. The sequel/prequel hybrid "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again" arrives a decade after the bonkers filmed adaptation of the stage musical "Mamma Mia!" Vehicles for ABBA's songs, the films perfectly reflect the music: guileless, emotionally raw and unabashedly chee... (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)

      • Won't You Be My Neighbor? poster image

        Won't You Be My Neighbor?

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" is a depressingly good documentary about a singularly empathetic television personality. Fred Rogers (1928-2003) knew what he was up against in a culture, and an economy, built on marketable aggression. Against long odds he prevailed. Now he belongs to another time. Can his spirit of gentle reassurance possibly be revived, in any form? I wish I were more optimistic. The "bombardment" Rogers once described as commercial children's programming, de... (read more)

      • Solo: A Star Wars Story poster image

        Solo: A Star Wars Story

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In the summer of 1977, Ron Howard made his directorial debut with "Grand Theft Auto," a merrily destructive low-budget fairy tale that found its way into a lot of newly twinned multiplexes that summer of '77. Audiences liked Howard. An entire generation grew up with the guy, best known as Opie on "The Andy Griffith Show," in the 1960s. By the early '70s Howard starred in "Happy Days," which owed a huge debt to "American Graffiti" (1973), the smash co-st... (read more)

      • Deadpool 2 poster image

        Deadpool 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Deadpool 2" is just like "Deadpool" only more so. It's actually a fair bit better -- funnier, more inventive than the 2016 smash (which made $783 million worldwide, on a sensible $58 million production budget), and more consistent in its chosen tone and style: ultraviolent screwball comedy. The movie offers a bracing corrective to the Marvel traffic management smash of the moment, "Avengers: Infinity War," which has sent millions of preteens into a collective, l... (read more)

      • Avengers: Infinity War poster image

        Avengers: Infinity War

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Avengers: Infinity War" is a lot of movie. You can hate it and still say that much with confidence. Its various, overlapping fan bases won't hold what they don't like against it, I bet. "A lot," though, doesn't mean it's much fun or even very good. No hate here, honestly. The film has its momentary diversions, a few good throwaway jokes amid a tremendous amount of PG-13 maiming and destruction. The nervy fatalism of its climax might actually count for something if you did... (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)

      • The Death of Stalin poster image

        The Death of Stalin

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Mordant in the extreme, and often hilarious, "The Death of Stalin" somehow manages to acknowledge the murderous depths of Josef Stalin's regime while rising to the level of incisive, even invigorating political satire. If it's a romp, then it's a romp that does what anything on this topic must do: leave audiences a little rattled, with a hint of ashes in the mouth. The movie comes from director and co-writer Armando Iannucci, the creator of "Veep" and, on British televisio... (read more)

      • Annihilation poster image

        Annihilation

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In the popular culture and various corners of our own lives, we confront the unknown in one form or another, learning something about our own fears and desires. The examples defy rational explanation. The Monolith in "2001: A Space Odyssey." The Mist in Stephen King's novella. The Smoke Monster in "Lost." The Great Boyg in Henrik Ibsen's "Peer Gynt." The line at the Department of Motor Vehicles, its shape and duration endlessly mutating into something beyond huma... (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)

      • Molly's Game poster image

        Molly's Game

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Molly Bloom's 2014 memoir "Molly's Game" was more of a tell-some than a tell-all. In the book, the former freestyle skiing Olympic hopeful discussed the accident that derailed her athletic career. Mainly, she wrote about her improbable career running a pricey underground poker game in Los Angeles and, later, in New York City, where she ran afoul of mobsters, drugs and the feds, who arrested Bloom as part of a mafia investigation. Her book named names, up to a point. Leonardo DiCapri... (read more)

      • The Disaster Artist poster image

        The Disaster Artist

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In 1998, aspiring actor Greg Sestero met another aspiring actor, Tommy Wiseau, in an acting class in San Francisco. Wiseau performed a bit of Stanley Kowalski from "A Streetcar Named Desire," and Sestero had never seen anything like Wiseau's raw anguish, unvarnished pain, chair-throwing abandon and complete lack of finesse. Sestero later described Wiseau as resembling "one of the anonymous, Uzi-hugging goons who appeared for 2 seconds in a Jean-Claude Van Damme film before gett... (read more)

      • Lady Bird poster image

        Lady Bird

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Already, writer-director Greta Gerwig's "Lady Bird" is contending with praise it can't possibly live up to, and it's a disservice to mislead anybody about its particular, disarming interplay of comedy and drama, which does not go for the throat. But it's not too strong a word: Most people who've seen "Lady Bird" love it. They love it. Truly love it. I love it. If a more enchanted movie comes along this year, I'll be surprised. The love goes beyond appreciation of an impecc... (read more)

      • Thor: Ragnarok poster image

        Thor: Ragnarok

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        As part of its generally welcome comic strategy, "Thor: Ragnarok" heckles itself for two hours and 10 minutes and lets Jeff Goldblum, skittering around as master of the death-match revels on the planet Sakaar, get away with murder. Nobody else in the known universe works on Goldblum's wavelength. The deadpan verbal shtick he's relying on in this inventive if increasingly duty-bound sequel will be royally amusing to 20 percent of the opening-weekend multiplex audience, and "Huh?... (read more)

      • Ingrid Goes West poster image

        Ingrid Goes West

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        No film has yet captured both the lure and the psychosis of social media quite like "Ingrid Goes West," a dark comedy -- or is it a warning? -- about a lonely soul who seeks connection and finds it, unfortunately for everyone in her orbit, on Instagram. This is the real "Emoji Movie," a true horror story for our digital times. In the most acutely relatable ways and built around deft turns by Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen, it skewers how we live and lurk these days in ti... (read more)

      • Dunkirk poster image

        Dunkirk

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        With a bare minimum of dialogue, and a brutal maximum of scenes depicting near-drowning situations in and around Dunkirk, France, in late May and early June 1940, Christopher Nolan's "Dunkirk" is a unique waterboarding of a film experience. Many will respond to it, primally, as a grueling dramatization of what the English call "the Dunkirk spirit," one that turned a perilous mass evacuation of British and Allied troops, under German fire (though bad weather kept the Luftwa... (read more)

      • The Big Sick poster image

        The Big Sick

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Big Sick" arrives just in time to make the summer a little funnier and more honest, and a little less loud and stupid. The movie treats the people on screen generously, and it's a romantic comedy with surprising depth of feeling, glancing on all sorts of things: race, religion, tolerance, understanding, the competitive peculiarity of stand-up comedy and its various practitioners. Primarily "The Big Sick" is a showcase for actor, writer and comedian Kumail Nanjiani (&q... (read more)

      • War for the Planet of the Apes poster image

        War for the Planet of the Apes

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Gripping, visually assured and working far above its summer-sequel paygrade, "War for the Planet of the Apes" treats a harsh storyline with a solemnity designed to hoist the tale of Caesar, simian revolutionary -- the Moses of apes -- into the realm of the biblical. Not everything in director and co-screenwriter Matt Reeves' movie works. Some of its grimmest passages, depicting life under concentration camp quarantine amid various, escalating acts of human-on-simian brutality, whack... (read more)

      • Baby Driver poster image

        Baby Driver

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Edgar Wright is a filmmaker whose oeuvre reflects his identity as a true cinephile -- he's foremost a fan. Each of his films is a tribute to a specific genre, and all manage to transcend homage. His breakout film, "Shaun of the Dead," isn't just a send-up of zombie movie tropes, it's one of the best in the canon, and the same could be said for buddy cop action movie "Hot Fuzz." Graphic novel adaptation "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" proved Wright could break new g... (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)

      • The Red Turtle poster image

        The Red Turtle

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        We're born; life washes us up on various shores; we build our sand castles and navigate the years; we die. From this four-part miniseries we call human existence, the Dutch animator Michael Dudok de Wit has created "The Red Turtle," a product of de Wit's collaboration with Studio Ghibli, Japan's house of plaintive animation mastery. There are no words spoken in this story, and none are needed. A man, apparently shipwrecked and battered by ocean waves, wakes up on the sand of a tropi... (read more)

      • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them poster image

        Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Five years have passed since the last of the Harry Potter movies, "Deathly Hallows: Part 2," wrapped up J.K. Rowling's staggeringly popular film franchise, the natural extension of the greatest publishing phenomenon in the history of wands. But endings often leave a door open, and a map to somewhere new. In handsome, generally diverting fashion "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," directed by Potter alum David Yates and adapted by Rowling from her 2001 book, takes us... (read more)

      • The Magnificent Seven poster image

        The Magnificent Seven

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Tronc Newspapers Critic It's the little things that screw up a movie, along with all the big things. In the starry, hollow remake of "The Magnificent Seven," the gambling rogue played by Chris Pratt is introduced by a gunslinging trick he calls "the incredible disappearing ear." It's just a cheap, violent sight gag, but it leaves a lousy aftertaste. So "magnificent" is a joke, too? Not exactly, but this movie's all over the place, trying too hard to be all Wester... (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)

      • 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)

      • The Music of Strangers poster image

        The Music of Strangers

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        With a documentary called "The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble," there's no doubting that wonderful sounds will be in store. But that's not all that's on offer. For, as directed by Morgan Neville, "Strangers" turns out to be as concerned with emotion as with performance, spending much of its time investigating how so much joyous music was able to come out of exploration, disturbance, even pain. At the center of everything is 60-year-old cellist Ma, ... (read more)

      • Anomalisa poster image

        Anomalisa

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Sad, beautiful, the wittiest film of the year, "Anomalisa" takes place largely in a hotel room in Cincinnati, where a customer service expert (his well-regarded book: "How May I Help You Help Them?") has traveled from Los Angeles. He's delivering the keynote address at a regional customer service conference. Honestly, could the premise for a feature-length story of middle-aged malaise and inchoate yearning be any drabber? Hardly. And yet directors Duke Johnson and Charlie ... (read more)

      • 10 Cloverfield Lane poster image

        10 Cloverfield Lane

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "10 Cloverfield Lane" is only nominally a sequel to "Cloverfield," the scruffy li'l 2008 monster movie in which New York idiots ran around filming themselves while their city became the plaything of an intergalactic tourist. The new picture is that earlier film's neighbor down the street. And the neighbor lives in an underground bunker, where most of the story is set. Are there monsters? Well. They're alluded to in the title and in the trailer, when John Goodman and Mary E... (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)

      • Star Wars: The Force Awakens poster image

        Star Wars: The Force Awakens

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        So: Where were we? Let's skip past the prequel trilogy "The Phantom Menace," "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith," apparently written and directed by droids. In chronological story terms we last saw Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, princess-turned-queen Leia, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C-3PO whooping it up at the Ewok luau back in 1983, in "Return of the Jedi," celebrating the massive global popularity and merchandising sales of George Lucas' bright idea... (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)

      • 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)

      • Avengers: Age of Ultron poster image

        Avengers: Age of Ultron

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        When I say "Avengers: Age of Ultron" won't disappoint a majority of its pre-sold, culturally obligated fans around the world -- the world perpetually on the verge of extinction in the Marvel universe -- you know what I mean. You know what the movie promises, and would be foolish, or inept, not to deliver. Action, relentless and assaultive. Wisecracks, numerous, pretty sharp and evenly parceled out among Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Mark Ruffalo (Hulk), Chris... (read more)

      • The Hunting Ground poster image

        The Hunting Ground

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        From its first moments, the new documentary "The Hunting Ground" instills a sense of dread that is very, very tough to shake. To the tune of "Pomp and Circumstance," filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering introduce us to a variety of high school graduates, captured on what appears to be cellphone camera footage, each receiving news of their college acceptance. "I got in!" one girl whoops with joy. We're being set up, deliberately, for a terrible turn of events. De... (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)

      • Big Hero 6 poster image

        Big Hero 6

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Big Hero 6" we have a robot considerably more beguiling than his movie. Yet there's enough visual invention afoot, and enough spirited interplay among the human characters, to keep things bobbing along. Baymax is the name of the robot in question. He resembles a flotation device or the Michelin Man's blobbier brother. He and his adventures come from the pages of Marvel Comics, which marks a first for Disney animation. It will not be the last; Disney's purchase of Marvel five years ... (read more)

      • Guardians of the Galaxy poster image

        Guardians of the Galaxy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Like the '70s cassette mix tape so dear to its hero, "Guardians of the Galaxy" scavenges all sorts of "greatest hits" precedents, from "Iron Man" on down, to come up with its own summertime fling. It's looser, scruffier and more overtly comic than the average Marvel action fantasy. And despite the usual load of violence, not all of it properly handled, the film owes its relative buoyancy above all to Chris Pratt as the wisecracking space rogue at the helm. There ... (read more)

      • Boyhood poster image

        Boyhood

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By the midpoint of writer-director Richard Linklater's gentle marvel "Boyhood," the round-faced young Texas boy played by Ellar Coltrane has become a lanky, plaintive teenager. Already an hour or so of screen time has floated by. Linklater made the film with a core group of actors over a 12-year period, starting with the kids played by Coltrane and Linklater's daughter, Lorelei Linklater, at ages 7 and 9, respectively. They change so quickly, these two. As the characters become teen... (read more)

      • Finding Vivian Maier poster image

        Finding Vivian Maier

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Vivian Maier is a great Chicago story. And what she did for, and with, the faces, neighborhoods and character of mid-20th century Chicago deserves comparison to what Robert Frank accomplished, in a wider format, with "The Americans." "Finding Vivian Maier" captures the bittersweet life, stealth photographic career and tantalizing riddle embodied by Maier (1926-2009), who was of French and Austrian ancestry. For much of her life Maier lived and worked as a nanny in Chicago'... (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)

      • The LEGO Movie poster image

        The LEGO Movie

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Finally! A comedy that works. An animated film with a look -- a kinetic aesthetic honoring its product line's bright, bricklike origins -- that isn't like every other clinically rounded and bland digital 3-D effort. A movie that works for the Lego-indebted parent as well as the Lego-crazed offspring. A movie that, in its brilliantly crammed first half especially, will work even if you don't give a rip about Legos. "The Lego Movie" proves that you can soar directly into and then stra... (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 World's End poster image

        The World's End

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Zippy, kinetic and brashly funny, "The World's End" comes to the U.S. from its native England hard on the heels of "This Is the End," an American comedy about ordinary mortals (comedians, actually, so maybe not so ordinary) manning up to deal with apocalyptic plot developments. "World's End," a collaboration among director Edgar Wright, co-writer and star Simon Pegg and co-star Nick Frost, joins the trio's earlier genre scrambles "Shaun of the Dead" (zo... (read more)

      • Kick-Ass 2 poster image

        Kick-Ass 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Kick-Ass 2," the sequel to the 2010 adaptation of Scottish comic book author Mark Millar's "Kick-Ass," comes in right on the bubble: It's no better, no worse and essentially no different from the jocular, clodhopping brutality of the first one. Here in writer-director Jeff Wadlow's crimson bauble, Chloe Grace Moretz and Aaron Taylor-Johnson reprise their roles as Hit Girl and Kick-Ass, respectively -- the homegrown, limb-lopping superheroes and high school classmates (he'... (read more)

      • The Conjuring poster image

        The Conjuring

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Haunted house movies only work if the people in the house are worth scaring. Sounds stupid, but it's true, although let's be honest: Real estate is inherently frightening. You put all that money in and only Satan knows if it'll turn out to be a decent investment, or if you'll be able to afford what it takes to repair any undisclosed matters of basement seepage. The quirks and creaks of an old house are always good for gallows humor or a cold shot of dread. As I write this the fridge in our ne... (read more)

      • The Croods poster image

        The Croods

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey poster image

        The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Hobbit," the first of three movies to be yanked out of J.R.R. Tolkien's single novel, comes from Mister Middle-earth: Peter Jackson, who thrilled Tolkien fans worldwide with his lavish screen version of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. It's a moderately engaging launch to the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, the homey fellow temperamentally ill-suited to quests involving dragons and goblins and orcs. The many-hands screenplay by Jackson, Guillermo del Toro (originally sla... (read more)

      • Rise of the Guardians poster image

        Rise of the Guardians

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg recently lamented the dearth of holiday-themed movies headed to your multiplex this year. But in foisting "Rise of the Guardians" upon unsuspecting audiences for the holidays, it's clear he just wanted to take some of the pressure off this joyless, soul-dead piffle. "Guardians" is the worst animated movie to ever wear the DreamWorks logo. It's based on William Joyce's "The Guardians of Childhood" books, about a team tha... (read more)

      • Silver Linings Playbook poster image

        Silver Linings Playbook

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Media Services Film Clips Hollywood movies, and even off-Hollywood independent films, have long encouraged us to empathize with unstable or psychologically troubled characters only if they're "kooky" for a little while, as a prelude to more palatable, normalized levels of craziness. You know. The charming kind. Happy ending, followed by a fade to a sunny shade of black. This helps to explain why Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" nev... (read more)

      • Magic Mike poster image

        Magic Mike

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's crazy to oversell "Magic Mike," or fluff it up into something its makers never intended. It is not a major motion picture. It is not searing melodrama, though in story outline terms -- the least interesting terms by which to engage with director Steven Soderbergh's loose, funky and blithely engaging workplace comedy -- it resembles "Showgirls" with showboys, though without the hysteria or the punitive humiliation. So what is it, then? Inspired by star and producer Cha... (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)

      • Ted poster image

        Ted

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Like "The Hangover" and its sequel, "Ted" is a bully of a comedy but a bully with just enough calculated heart to make it a hit. It plays like a movie tryout for a TV series, specifically a Seth MacFarlane series, which means a high quotient of startlingly crude ethnic and cultural stereotypes leavened by a sincere appreciation for American popular music of another era. The movie's soundtrack promises old-time sentiment and heartfelt pathos, with a little swing. The jokes,... (read more)

      • Marvel's the Avengers poster image

        Marvel's the Avengers

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Jiro Dreams of Sushi poster image

        Jiro Dreams of Sushi

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Dr. Seuss' the Lorax poster image

        Dr. Seuss' the Lorax

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Coriolanus poster image

        Coriolanus

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Media Services Film Clips With great power comes great responsibility, but powerful men often make for lousy, irresponsible politicians. (Insert personal observations on certain presidential candidates here.) With "Coriolanus," one of William Shakespeare's toughest, most provocative studies in statesmanship, the dramatist created a tragedy (premiering in 1608) built upon the life of a fifth century B.C. warrior who, whether by excess of pride o... (read more)

      • Pariah poster image

        Pariah

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Remember the name Adepero Oduye. In fact, commit the spelling to memory. The luminous actress who plays the high school junior (nearly half the performer's real age) at the center of the exceptional, new, coming-of-age drama "Pariah" has one of those faces that lights up the screen while lighting the way for a filmmaker's story. Already playing in New York and LA, writer-director Dee Rees' film is one of those Sundance Film Festival success stories that travels well; it started as a... (read more)

      • Hugo poster image

        Hugo

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • J. Edgar poster image

        J. Edgar

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In the 1959 film "The FBI Story," Federal Bureau of Investigation director J. Edgar Hoover -- photographed from the rear, his face unseen -- plays a younger cameo version of himself, speaking to G-men (James Stewart among them) about the newly formed agency and how its operation will remain free of all politics and the whims of any one presidential administration. Hoover, following the Hoover-approved script, then expounds on the "love of justice." He says: "I warn yo... (read more)

      • Dolphin Tale poster image

        Dolphin Tale

        Michaelk Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        I'll be honest, in the spirit of the honestly shameless heartwarmer "Dolphin Tale." I saw it in a somewhat distracted, agitated state. Forty-five seconds into the opening credits, I'm watching ocean-dwelling dolphins nosing around all sorts of potential dangers (a rusty fishing tackle box, a fateful metal crab trap), and the film's in 3-D so the dangers loom with exceptional emphasis, and the picture's premise depends on putting the eventually tailless protagonist -- a real-life dol... (read more)

      • Moneyball poster image

        Moneyball

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Director Bennett Miller's "Moneyball" is the perfect sports movie for these cash-strapped times of efficiency maximization. It's also the best sports movie in a long time, period, as well as honestly inspirational -- even though nobody knocks one into the lights, causing showers of sparks to blend into the night sky with the fireworks. This is not that film. It's better than that film. The focus on facts, figures, sabermetrics and cold, hard stats never competes with the human being... (read more)

      • The Tree of Life poster image

        The Tree of Life

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In 1975 writer-director Terrence Malick told a writer from Sight and Sound magazine: "There's something about growing up in the Midwest. There's no check on you. People imagine it's the kind of place where your behavior is under constant observation, where you really have to toe the line. They got that idea from Sinclair Lewis. But people can really get ignored there and fall into bad soil." In Malick's first feature, "Badlands" (1973), that soil produced the serial killer... (read more)

      • Bridesmaids poster image

        Bridesmaids

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        There's a reason "Bridesmaids" isn't called "The Bridesmaid." Kristen Wiig, the star and co-writer (along with Annie Mumolo) of director Paul Feig's comedy, has a self-effacing streak running right alongside her deadly deadpan streak. Even when she's playing the lead, she's not really playing the lead. Reedy and extremely pretty, Wiig has a dry, backhanded way of nailing laughs. In the posters and ads for "Bridesmaids," all Wiig's female co-stars strike bigger po... (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)

      • Limitless poster image

        Limitless

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Parts of the new thriller "Limitless" are exciting; other parts are familiar or fuzzy-headed, and the movie takes a rather more enthusiastic view of its fictional brain pill than did the original author, Dubliner Alan Glynn, whose novel "The Dark Fields" served as the film's basis. But almost all of it works as wish-fulfillment fantasy. A sleek black comedy built for speed, it's about a pill that, when ingested, makes you the smartest person in any given room. (In other wo... (read more)

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

        Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest poster image

        The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        From "King Lear" to "Psycho," some of the greatest popular art in existence has confronted human evil and depravity with an eye as unblinking as Marion Crane's after a visit from Mrs. Bates. By transcending the boundaries of disreputable genres built on bloodlust, our shrewdest artists have made something of such stories beyond mere cruelty. Then there's everything else, a little (or a lot) further down the durability scale. I doubt anyone who has read one, two or all thre... (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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Frozen poster image

        Frozen

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Big, bright, often beautiful and essentially an action movie, as are most animated features these days, "Frozen" comes from Walt Disney Animation Studios. While Disney credits the 1845 Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale "The Snow Queen" as primary inspiration, the movie owes a lot more to the Broadway blockbuster "Wicked." Example: In "Frozen," when its misunderstood young sorceress (voiced by Idina Menzel, who won a Tony for originating the green one i... (read more)

      • Brothers poster image

        Brothers

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Amid all the promotional noise for "Up in the Air" and "Avatar" and the rest, it's easy to overlook a drama like "Brothers," with its plain-spoken title and stern subject matter. Don't. The film is gripping - an honorable and beautifully acted addition to the tradition of homefront war stories. Director Jim Sheridan has prodded his actors to dig deeply and deliver the big emotions without going for capital-A Acting, also classified as capital-O (Oliver) and capit... (read more)

      • Bright Star poster image

        Bright Star

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Certain images in Jane Campion's "Bright Star" are beautiful, as opposed to merely attractive, and only a major talent could've produced them. My favorite is a sun-drenched shot of Abbie Cornish's Fanny Brawne, her head and heart newly opened to the intoxication of love and poetry, lying on her bed, with a perfectly timed breeze fluttering her curtains just so. Cornish enters this early 19th century dream world of Brawne's relationship with the poet John Keats (played by Ben Whishaw... (read more)

      • Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs poster image

        Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Julie & Julia poster image

        Julie & Julia

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Julie & Julia," which could also be called "Butter & Butterer," may not be great cinema, but people going to a movie like this for great cinema are sniffing around the wrong kitchen. You go to a movie like this for the sauces and stews, and for the considerable pleasure of seeing (and listening to) Meryl Streep's drolly exuberant performance as Julia Child, the towering culinary icon with the distinctively plummy vocal intonations evoking a flute, an oboe and Ed Wynn afte... (read more)

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

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

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Soul Power poster image

        Soul Power

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Taking of Pelham 123 poster image

        The Taking of Pelham 123

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Entire epochs have passed since New York City could plausibly be called "the biggest rathole in the world," a charge made by the subway hijacker played by John Travolta in the shiny, gentrified remake (the second; there was a TV version late last century) of "The Taking of Pelham 123." But the city really was a rathole in 1974. The original film version of "Pelham" came out that year, same as "Death Wish." In the post-Watergate era, urban thrillers lov... (read more)

      • The Hangover poster image

        The Hangover

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Drag Me to Hell poster image

        Drag Me to Hell

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Director Sam Raimi gets back to his disreputable roots with "Drag Me to Hell," a title never to be confused with "Spider-Man 4" (which Raimi is preparing; let's hope it's closer in quality to "Spider-Man 2" than "Spider-Man 3"). This hellaciously effective B-movie comes with a handy moral tucked inside its scares, laughs and Raimi's specialty, the scare/laugh hybrid. Moral: Be nice to people. More specifically: Do not foreclose on the old Gypsy woman, o... (read more)

      • Sleep Dealer poster image

        Sleep Dealer

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Present-day Tijuana is one of the most compelling places on earth, and even among border cities (what few I've seen, anyway) it represents a spectacular welter of rich possibility and crushing limitation. It's a symbol of the push-pull co-dependency of America and Mexico, a city defined by a fence that runs straight down the beach, into the Pacific Ocean. Alex Rivera's overstuffed but intriguing feature debut "Sleep Dealer" takes a speculative leap into Tijuana's near future, imag... (read more)

      • Sin nombre poster image

        Sin nombre

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Crushingly realistic one minute and melodramatically hokey the next - the strategy worked for "Slumdog Millionaire," why not for "Sin Nombre"? This debut feature comes from writer-director Cary Joji Fukunaga, an Oakland native who developed his project at the Sundance Institute. The film went on to considerable acclaim at this year's Sundance Film Festival, as did last year's "Frozen River." I wonder if there's something in the Sundance development process that ... (read more)

      • Watchmen poster image

        Watchmen

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Talk all you want about the dense novelistic embroidery of the graphic novel "Watchmen," its obsessive detail and clever subversion of superhero mythology and masked avenger cliches. But really, the appeal of the film version, such as it is, relates almost entirely to eye-for-an-eye, severed-limb-for-a-limb vengeance, two hours and 41 minutes of it, with just enough solemnity to make anyone who thought "The Dark Knight" was a little gassy think twice about which superhero ... (read more)

      • Under the Sea poster image

        Under the Sea

        Michael Esposito, Chicago Tribune

        Jim Carrey narrates "Under the Sea 3D," a new installment in the underwater 3-D filmmaking that IMAX pretty much owns these days. Nothing compares to the images in these films, and director Howard Hall, whose previous offerings include the IMAX hits "Deep Sea 3D" and "Into the Deep 3D," knows his way around the underwater camera - all 1,300 pounds of it - and personally tallied 358 hours of the dive team's 2,073 hours under the sea (accomplished in 1,668 total di... (read more)

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