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      • A Quiet Place poster image

        A Quiet Place

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Director John Krasinski's third feature, and by far his most accomplished, "A Quiet Place" is a pretty crafty small-scale thriller set a few years in the future, with minimal dialogue and maximal, human-eating monsters. The creatures' origin is never discussed or explained by way of the usual sheepish exposition about a meteor or some garden-variety bio-disaster. Produced by Michael Bay, the movie takes them for granted, and then goes about figuring a vanquishing plan. It's a surviv... (read more)

      • Blockers poster image

        Blockers

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        I went into "Blockers" cringing and came out smiling, which says more about me (double standard! They wouldn't treat graduating high school males that way!) than it says about the movie. But that's how moviegoing works. We're pre-judgy that way. And "Blockers," the feature directorial debut of "Pitch Perfect" screenwriter Kay Cannon, turns out to be well aware of that double standard, in a consistently funny and rather sweet fashion. This is what Hollywood used t... (read more)

      • Acrimony poster image

        Acrimony

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The female melodrama was one of the foremost genres of classical Hollywood filmmaking, reaching its heyday in the 1940s. These days, stories of complex women and their complicated private lives are unfortunately few and far between, though filmmaker Tyler Perry has never been afraid to plunge into this arena. Between installments of the comic "Madea" franchise, Perry regularly churns out female-driven films about love, marriage and infidelity. The most entertaining of these films st... (read more)

      • Pacific Rim Uprising poster image

        Pacific Rim Uprising

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Pacific Rim Uprising" may be not be much, but in the spirit of the film itself, let's be realistic. It's better than any of the "Transformers" movies, and shorter. The sequel to the Guillermo del Toro-directed "Pacific Rim" (2013) plows through its battle sequences and utterly mechanical "humanizing" moments until the last 20 minutes or so. Then, it gets its act together and takes it on the road to Mount Fuji. The climactic open-air battle between the ... (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)

      • 7 Days in Entebbe poster image

        7 Days in Entebbe

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Unless it's complicated by something like human feeling, and a recognition of the human beings on both sides of any bloody ideological conflict, true-life heroism has a tendency to look a little synthetic on screen. It's what sells, of course. And it's an easy emotional sale if The Other in the story -- the Viet Cong in "The Green Berets"; virtually everyone on the receiving end of Chris Kyle's rifle in "American Sniper" -- remains a vaguely subhuman blank. Is this why the... (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)

      • Foxtrot poster image

        Foxtrot

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Metaphorically the foxtrot is an irresistible dance step. The dancer makes a square, returning to where he or she started, and begins again. It's a paradox, creating invisible box after box, while creating the illusion of freedom. "Foxtrot," the movie, embraces that box-step metaphor, and writer-director Samuel Maoz uses fate itself as the ultimate vindictive choreographer. This is the second feature from Maoz; his first, the superb "Lebanon" (2009), is one of the essentia... (read more)

      • Red Sparrow poster image

        Red Sparrow

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Jennifer Lawrence is a movie star who, at 27, happens also to be a genuine and terrifically nervy actress. Her talent remains very much in evidence in the spy thriller "Red Sparrow." But in the coolly preposterous role of a Slavic Mata Hari, straight out of a secret Russian "whore school" run by Charlotte Rampling, Lawrence lets her frozen bangs do the heavy lifting, while her face betrays as little as possible. She's a sex-worker edition of John le Carre's George Smiley -... (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)

      • Game Night poster image

        Game Night

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The modest but legitimate payoffs in the new action comedy "Game Night" owe everything to the comedy and not much to the action. Most of the truly great action pictures (this isn't trying to one of them) are spiced with wit. A lot of our best comedies (and "Game Night" is not trying to be one of those, either) move like crazy and take the pursuits and evasions seriously, or at least mock-seriously, so that the audience can, too. So where does this ensemble effort, led by t... (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)

      • The 15:17 to Paris poster image

        The 15:17 to Paris

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        An oddly misguided act of generosity, director Clint Eastwood's "The 15:17 to Paris" may be the first film from Eastwood that lacks a storytelling compass and a baseline sense of direction. The docudrama follows a screenplay by first-timer Dorothy Blyskal, taken in turn from the nonfiction account (written with Jeffrey E. Stern) by the three young Americans, friends since childhood, who thwarted a 2015 terrorist attack on an Amsterdam train bound for Paris. Their story, and Eastwood... (read more)

      • Maze Runner: The Death Cure poster image

        Maze Runner: The Death Cure

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Maze Runner: The Death Cure" opens with a misleadingly snappy train robbery sequence involving the theft of an entire train car. The components of director Wes Ball's overture are many: off-road buggies at high speed, orphans in chains, tons of CGI of better-than-usual quality. Most importantly it has Giancarlo Esposito, as Jorge, the father figure of the resistance, saying the line that must be said in every YA franchise when the hellhounds are on the kids' trail: "You got co... (read more)

      • Call Me by Your Name poster image

        Call Me by Your Name

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Set in the summer of 1983, in a land of leisurely alfresco lunches and spontaneous all-day bike rides under the northern Italian sun, the romantic idyll "Call Me by Your Name" is enough to make you move to the town of Crema, even if your rational self realizes the director Luca Guadagnino trades in a heightened, miragelike state of mythic yearning. The swoony atmosphere is familiar from his earlier films, particularly "I Am Love" (2009), in which Tilda Swinton communed wit... (read more)

      • Den of Thieves poster image

        Den of Thieves

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In our current slew of 2 1/2-star movies (seriously, everything's in the middle this week), "Den of Thieves" rates as the most curious tug-of-war, yanked back and forth between what works and what doesn't. It's a sidewinding but often surprisingly effective LA crime thriller. It's also saddled with the wrong leading man. Then again, I often think of Gerard Butler as the wrong leading man. This may have some bearing on my reaction here. The quality of merciless mediocrities such as &... (read more)

      • Forever My Girl poster image

        Forever My Girl

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Romance novelist and screenwriter Nicholas Sparks cornered the market on a subgenre he essentially invented -- exceedingly pleasant, Southern-set epic romances (between young, attractive, white, Christian, heterosexual couples). But this is a genre that overwhelmingly appeals to a female movie-going audience, so it's about time female creators have been given a place behind the camera to shape the voice and perspective of these stories. Writer/director Bethany Ashton Wolf has adapted Heidi Mc... (read more)

      • I, Tonya poster image

        I, Tonya

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Naked on piles of money in "The Wolf of Wall Street," popping in for a brief explanatory cameo in "The Big Short," the Australian-born actress Margot Robbie has had several close cinematic encounters with a distinct brand of peppy, fact-based cynicism. It's the tone, fashionable these days in black comedies about how messed up our American priorities are, that says: This is funny. No it isn't! But it is! SMACK! Quit laughing! The streak continues with the new Tonya Harding... (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)

      • The Post poster image

        The Post

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        My favorite moment in director Steven Spielberg's "The Post" hinges on Meryl Streep's delivery of the word "however." It's late in the film. Katharine Graham, The Washington Post's publisher and company president, finds herself surrounded by the usual clutch of tense, murmuring male advisers behind closed doors. She must decide whether to defy Richard Nixon's White House and risk possible incarceration by printing the first of many stories, in the wake of The New York Time... (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)

      • Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool poster image

        Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Happily offering a good time to James Stewart in "It's a Wonderful Life," driving Humphrey Bogart to murderous distraction in "In a Lonely Place," the sullenly sensual Hollywood legend Gloria Grahame lived a turbulent life (four marriages, one to her stepson by onetime husband Nicholas Ray) that ended in 1981, at age 57. Her final, cancer-ridden years were spent in the company of a Liverpool actor, Peter Turner. They met in a London boarding house. At the time Grahame was ... (read more)

      • In the Fade poster image

        In the Fade

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times "In the Fade" does not tell a happy story, not even close. But it is a powerful film, one of the nine shortlisted for the foreign-language Oscar, and it is elevated, as it would need to be, by Diane Kruger's superb performance in the central role. An international star and former model who is fluent in both French and English (she won a SAG Award as part of the "Inglourious Basterds" ensemble), Kruger had never acted in her native German before. But she w... (read more)

      • All the Money in the World poster image

        All the Money in the World

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        What's the going rate for a Spacey-ectomy? Ten million dollars isn't all the money in the world, but it's a lot. And it's the amount director Ridley Scott's backers paid to remove Kevin Spacey from an already completed version of the brisk, medium-good kidnapping drama "All the Money in the World." In a breathless few weeks since multiple accusations of sexual misconduct against Spacey began surfacing in October, Scott and company recast the role of oil magnate J. Paul Getty with Ch... (read more)

      • Ferdinand poster image

        Ferdinand

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The beloved children's book "The Story of Ferdinand" by Munro Leaf, with illustrations by Robert Lawson, was published in 1936. But the simple, pacifist story about a bull who would rather smell flowers than fight has resonated across generations. It's a natural progression that this favorite character would find a home on the big screen in an animated feature, "Ferdinand," but perhaps the filmmakers behind the raucous "Ice Age" movies aren't exactly the right te... (read more)

      • Star Wars: The Last Jedi poster image

        Star Wars: The Last Jedi

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Great fun, and a reminder that unpopular political leaders mock the Resistance in other galaxies, too, "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" boasts a bald-faced lie of a subtitle -- sorry, folks, last Jedi, no more "Star Wars" movies! -- and special guest appearances from some old, familiar faces. The oldest of them utters a very funny line about the sacred Jedi religious texts being the opposite of page-turners. It's a lot of movie, in a good way. Writer-director Rian Johnson, in hi... (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)

      • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri poster image

        Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        No one in contemporary movies delivers the side-eye -- the withering, nonverbal judgment of the righteous -- the way Frances McDormand delivers it in "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri." Sometimes it's funny, because whoever she's playing is so much sharper than whoever she's acting opposite. Other times, it's more of a look of pity, or quiet resignation. This is what I have to deal with. The film is writer-director Martin McDonagh's third feature, and all three are driven b... (read more)

      • Justice League poster image

        Justice League

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        It's been a long, hard road to "Justice League." Director Zack Snyder, who helmed the latest iterations of Batman and Superman in "Man of Steel" and "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," stepped away for personal reasons during post-production. "The Avengers" director Joss Whedon came in to finish the film, including reshoots, which were famously foiled by Superman Henry Cavill's "Mission: Impossible" mandated mustache. But after all of that, ... (read more)

      • Daddy's Home 2 poster image

        Daddy's Home 2

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        "Daddy's Home 2" just might have to meet "A Bad Moms Christmas" outside in the parking lot to rumble over this turf war. Both films are seasonal romps about intergenerational love, acceptance and different parenting styles, but "Daddy's Home 2" slightly gets the edge. The surreal and silly sequel to the hit 2015 comedy skates on the well-known but still-appealing comic personas of stars Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg and their zany chemistry. Co-writer and direct... (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)

      • A Bad Moms Christmas poster image

        A Bad Moms Christmas

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A movie can be unreasonably formulaic and still be reasonably diverting, and "A Bad Moms Christmas" is the proof. Some sequels take time to come together. This one took a mere 15 months to reunite Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and the extraordinarily valuable Kathryn Hahn as the suburban Chicago pals perennially under the gun of peer pressure and familial expectation. (The movie was shot in Atlanta, with some fake-looking snow-machine snow in tidy little piles here and there.) Screenwrit... (read more)

      • The Killing of a Sacred Deer poster image

        The Killing of a Sacred Deer

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        With his fifth feature, and his first shot in America, the Greek writer-director-absurdist Yorgos Lanthimos has reached the intersection of tremendous skill and vague frustration. There's nothing vague about the narrative of "The Killing of a Sacred Deer." Its strangeness is crystal clear. It plays out in ways both sardonically funny and extremely cruel. The acting is uniformly superb within the filmmaker's preferred, emotionally deadpan parameters; the telling of the tale, a contem... (read more)

      • The Snowman poster image

        The Snowman

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Mister Alfredson, you could have saved it. We gave you all the tools -- a star-studded cast, a blockbuster best-selling Scandinavian murder novel by Jo Nesbo, and three-time Oscar winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker. So why is "The Snowman" such a jumbled nonsensical mess? Director Tomas Alfredson has copped to the fact that scheduling issues were a big part of the problem, which doesn't excuse what ends up on screen. It's a film that deals with extreme, distressing violence against w... (read more)

      • Marshall poster image

        Marshall

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A workmanlike but vividly acted courtroom drama dealing with what one 1941 newspaper account called "the most sensational sex mystery in history," director Reginald Hudlin's "Marshall" takes the narrow road in biopic terms. The screenplay by Jacob Koskoff and Michael Koskoff doesn't wrestle with the famous achievements of the man who became the first African-American U.S. Supreme Court justice, notably Thurgood Marshall's crucial role in Brown v. Board of Education and the... (read more)

      • The LEGO NINJAGO Movie poster image

        The LEGO NINJAGO Movie

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Good Time poster image

        Good Time

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The most legitimately divisive movie of the moment, right alongside (and more urgent than) "Detroit," the unnerving crime thriller "Good Time" moves like a streak, barely able to keep up with its characters. The reckless, selfish, charismatic man at its core, Constantine "Connie" Nikas, is a small-time Queens, N.Y., hustler of Greek-American extraction. He's played by Robert Pattinson. The actor's "Twilight" vampire career afforded the young, minimally ... (read more)

      • An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power poster image

        An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature poster image

        The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        You never know where you're going to find the most radical ideas. Somehow, a sub-par animated film sequel intended to quiet the kids for a few hours on a weekend afternoon burns with a proletarian rage. You'd never expect that from "The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature," but somehow, it's true. First, a warning about truth (or lack thereof) in advertising. In "The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature," there is no job that involves nuts, as promised by the title. The first "Nut Job&q... (read more)

      • The Emoji Movie poster image

        The Emoji Movie

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Girls Trip poster image

        Girls Trip

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Perfecting the raunchy, randy, female-driven comedy can be a tall order. "Bridesmaids" showed it could be done, though such successes can be few and far between. "Girls Trip" proves to be the heir apparent to "Bridesmaids," a film about female friendship that nails the comedy, the boldness and the heart. There's no need for high concepts or outlandish premises here; all that's necessary is four longtime best friends and a city built for sin. "The Best Man&qu... (read more)

      • A Ghost Story poster image

        A Ghost Story

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        David Lowery's film "A Ghost Story" is best seen a second time, though obeying the customary rules of time and cinema, you'll have the mysterious pleasure of seeing it a first time to get there. It's not the usual haunting, though writer-director Lowery's unusually thoughtful picture concerns a dead man's ghost, his widow's grief and what it means to say goodbye to a person, and the sweet, bitter fact of life's deadline. Watching "A Ghost Story" at Sundance earlier this ye... (read more)

      • Spider-Man: Homecoming poster image

        Spider-Man: Homecoming

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        "Do we really need a new Spider-Man?" It's a refrain heard every few years, with news that yet another young actor will be taking on the role of the webbed superhero in another reboot of the beloved comic-book character. What "Spider-Man: Homecoming" proves is that while we don't necessarily need a new one, if it's going to be this fun and fresh, a new Spider-Man is more than welcome in our summer movie season. After his quick, but memorable debut in "Captain America:... (read more)

      • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul poster image

        Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        From 2010 to 2012, a trilogy of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" films were released in rapid succession, starring Zachary Gordon, Devon Bostick, Rachael Harris and Steve Zahn. Adapted from the web comic turned kids novels by Jeff Kinney, the films featured the kinds of embarrassments and toilet humor that tend to make up most middle school lore. Five years later, a fourth film, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul," is hitting theaters, with a completely new cast making up the Heff... (read more)

      • Everything, Everything poster image

        Everything, Everything

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The sickly teen romantic weepy isn't exactly a new genre --consider the 1970 smash hit "Love Story" -- but it has gained resurgence in the past few years with the runaway success of the likes of "The Fault in Our Stars." The success or failure of such a film, which can so often dip treacherously too far into sentimentality, rides on the plucky charm of its lead actors. Fortunately, "Everything, Everything," based on the novel by Nicola Yoon, has the radiant Amand... (read more)

      • Paris Can Wait poster image

        Paris Can Wait

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        At the age of 81, Eleanor Coppola makes her narrative feature directorial debut with "Paris Can Wait," a winsome tale of a road trip through the French countryside starring Diane Lane. Coppola, who previously directed shorts and documentaries, including "Hearts of Darkness," about the making of "Apocalypse Now," took inspiration from her own impromptu road trip from Cannes to Paris with a French associate while her husband Francis Ford Coppola traveled for work. ... (read more)

      • Beauty and the Beast poster image

        Beauty and the Beast

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The chaotic, pushy remake of Disney's 1991 screen musical "Beauty and the Beast" stresses the challenges of adapting a success in one form (animation) for another (live-action). We're in for a long line of Disney remakes in the coming years: Everything from "Dumbo" to "Aladdin" is headed for a wallet near you, banking on nostalgia and brand recognition. The financial wallop of the recent, pretty good live-action "Jungle Book" redo, and the live-action &... (read more)

      • Logan poster image

        Logan

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • La La Land poster image

        La La Land

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        How to write about "La La Land," the year's most seriously pleasurable entertainment, without making it sound like nostalgic goo? Let's give it a go. A five, six, seven, eight! This is a wonderful, imperfect but, as recently noted in this sentence's first adjective, wonderful new musical full of actual human feeling (something unlocatable in "Moulin Rouge," for example). The 31-year-old writer-director, Damien Chazelle, has made a throwback/shoutout to musicals of various ... (read more)

      • Neruda poster image

        Neruda

        Justin Chang, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times "Neruda," an intoxicating puzzle of a movie directed by Pablo Larrain, chronicles a strange, harrowing episode from the late 1940s, when the Chilean government's crackdown on communism drove the great poet and politician Pablo Neruda underground. Specifically, the film unravels the tricky game of cat-and-mouse between Neruda and an ambitious police inspector named Oscar Peluchonneau, who sought to track down the dissident artist whose writings had struck a dangerou... (read more)

      • Storks poster image

        Storks

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Hell or High Water poster image

        Hell or High Water

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Kubo and the Two Strings poster image

        Kubo and the Two Strings

        Colin Covert, Chicago Tribune

        Within this heyday of computer-animated movies, the greatest special effect is creating emotionally resonant characters. The adventure fantasy "Kubo and the Two Strings" is seamless stop-motion storytelling, from Laika, the independent animation studio that gave us the darkly entertaining "Coraline," "ParaNorman" and "The Boxtrolls." Yet wizardly art direction isn't the film's most striking quality. It's the endearing, playful, touching, cantankerous an... (read more)

      • Ice Age: Collision Course poster image

        Ice Age: Collision Course

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Fourteen years after the first "Ice Age" animated film was a hit, the fifth installment in the franchise, "Ice Age: Collision Course," rolls into theaters. Is it inevitable? Yes, 2012's "Ice Age: Continental Drift," was the highest grossing animated film that year. Is it necessary? Absolutely not. "Collision Course" is simply a perfunctory, watered-down entry in the series that feels like it should have been released on home video. In this world of anci... (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 BFG poster image

        The BFG

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        There's a lot not quite right and even flat-out wrong with "The BFG," and we'll get to that. There's also a lot that's very, very right, starting with Mark Rylance's astonishing performance-capture portrayal of the Big Friendly Giant created by author Roald Dahl. The right stuff makes it worth seeing. Like millions of other kids, I cherished the droll wish-fulfillment sadism of Dahl's earlier works "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "James and the Giant Peach,&qu... (read more)

      • The Neon Demon poster image

        The Neon Demon

        Michael O'Sullivan, Chicago Tribune

        The headlines generated by last month's premiere of "The Neon Demon" at Cannes -- virtually all of which singled out the film's violence, cannibalism and lesbian necrophilia -- were not sufficient to crush all hope that filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn had returned to the mastery he displayed in his breakout film, "Drive." The noirish and violent 2011 drama won Refn the best director prize at that year's Cannes Film Festival and got the movie nominated for a Palme d'Or. Perh... (read more)

      • Captain America: Civil War poster image

        Captain America: Civil War

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The solemn, wrecking-ball mediocrity that was "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" made either too much or not enough of its key themes: collateral damage; vigilante excess and the ethics of peacekeeping through extreme force; and, more to the marketing point, the bloodsport appeal of should-be crime-fighting allies beating the hell out of each other for what seemed like several days. Those bullet points return, to far livelier and more satisfying results, in "Captain America: ... (read more)

      • The Man Who Knew Infinity poster image

        The Man Who Knew Infinity

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Intuition can only carry you so far." With the patented over/underplaying only a wily veteran British actor can provide, so says Trinity College mathematician G.H. Hardy, as played by Jeremy Irons, to his East Indian protege Srinivasa Ramanujan, played by Dev Patel, in "The Man Who Knew Infinity." The line about intuition holds true for sincerity and noble intentions in movie biopics. Such things can't always get a filmmaker over the hump and into the realm of dramaticall... (read more)

      • Deadpool poster image

        Deadpool

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A fairly funny trashing of its own glib self, "Deadpool" is a movie about an unkillable wisenheimer who never shuts up, even while enduring or inflicting enough putrid brutality to earn an X or a NC-17 rating just a few years ago. The masked antihero is played by Ryan Reynolds, clearly having the screen time of his life, to date. He sounds strikingly like his fellow Canadian Jim Carrey when he goes into manic-wisecrack mode, riffing on everything from the "Taken" movies to... (read more)

      • Macbeth poster image

        Macbeth

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The new "Macbeth" starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard opens with a funeral you won't find in the Shakespeare play. Director Justin Kurzel's film version imagines the Macbeths as grieving parents. (The interpretation's supported by a line of Lady Macbeth's.) We see Macbeth placing the scales on his dead son's eyes, as Fassbender's own eyes run cold. Kurzel, the Australian director who made his name on an unnerving true-crime drama called "The Snowtown Murders,"... (read more)

      • The Peanuts Movie poster image

        The Peanuts Movie

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Beloved, neurotic cartoon kid Charlie Brown hits the biggest screen possible (and in 3-D) in the warm "The Peanuts Movie," directed by animation vet Steve Martino. The film pays its utmost respect to artist Charles Schulz, who carefully created a world inhabited only by children, where their dilemmas are treated with high-stakes drama. It meets children on their own terms, but never dumbs it down, exploring the complex emotions of children. "The Peanuts Movie" cobbles toge... (read more)

      • Captive poster image

        Captive

        Colin Covert, Chicago Tribune

        No star ranking David Oyelowo, the picture of principled honor as Dr. Martin Luther King in "Selma," delivers unmitigated evil as the murderer at the heart of "Captive." He plays psychopath Brian Nichols, whose 2005 murder spree terrified Atlanta. As he did before, Oyelowo explores issues of suffering and spiritual salvation in mature, realistic terms. For a second time, he has won over this impious viewer completely. Both faith-based and fact-based, "Captive" is... (read more)

      • Rosenwald poster image

        Rosenwald

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times "Rosenwald" used to be a name to conjure with, but no more, and that is a shame this vivid, engaging documentary attempts to do something about. In the early years of the 20th century, Julius Rosenwald was a philanthropist on a colossal scale, giving away what has been estimated as close to a billion dollars in today's money. But as revealed by writer-director Aviva Kempner, it's not just the amount of money he donated that makes Rosenwald special, it's the specifi... (read more)

      • Inside Out poster image

        Inside Out

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Yes Men Are Revolting poster image

        The Yes Men Are Revolting

        Dennis Harvey, Chicago Tribune

        Variety The further adventures of Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno -- not that those are necessarily their real names -- are chronicled in "The Yes Men Are Revolting." The prankster activists here turn their imaginative shaming schemes toward those corporations and governments doing little to address (when they're not actively enabling) the escalating global-warming crisis. Co-directed with Laura Nix, the duo's follow-up to "The Yes Men" (2003) and "The Yes Men Fix the... (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)

      • Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck poster image

        Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

        Dennis Harvey, Chicago Tribune

        Variety The short, unhappy life of legendary grunge band Nirvana's driving force gets probably definitive screen treatment in "Cobain: Montage of Heck." Like fellow Sundance entry "Listen to Me Marlon," Brett Morgan's documentary creates a virtual autobiography largely from personal archival materials. Both films are absorbing and highly accomplished, the major difference being that while Brando lived eight incident-filled decades in and out of the spotlight, "Heck's&... (read more)

      • Little Boy poster image

        Little Boy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Little Boy" answers a question most tear-jerkers wouldn't have the nerve to ask: Can the bombing of Hiroshima be manipulated narratively, if briefly, into a position of warming our hearts? The answer is no. The film's D-Day-like assault on our emotional defenses tries all it can to turn that no into a yes. The story takes place in a storybook California coastal village named O'Hare. Director and co-writer Alejandro Monteverde shot 'Little Boy' in Mexico's Baja Film Studios; cinemat... (read more)

      • The Salt of the Earth poster image

        The Salt of the Earth

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Watching "The Salt of the Earth," the compelling new documentary about photographer Sebastiao Salgado, it becomes clear early on just how odd it is to experience Salgado's work on someone else's timetable. With an exhibition or a book of photographs, you set your own clock, spending as much time or as little inside a particular image as you like. With film, that's not the case. Co-directors Wim Wenders (a huge Salgado fan) and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado (the photographer's son) linger ... (read more)

      • American Sniper poster image

        American Sniper

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        People will take what they want to take from "American Sniper," director Clint Eastwood's latest film. Already it has turned into an ideological war to be won or lost, rather than a fictionalized biopic to be debated. It's the most divisive movie on screens at the moment, and it appears to have caught a wave of desire among audiences -- conservative, liberal, centrist -- to return to stories of nerve-wracking wartime heroism in varying degrees of truth and fiction, from "Fury&q... (read more)

      • Foxcatcher poster image

        Foxcatcher

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Does extreme privilege point, like an arrow, to a sort of rot within the true-blue American spirit? Putting criminal insanity aside for a moment, the answer's a qualified, sorrowful yes in director Bennett Miller's "Foxcatcher," a true-crime drama hailed in many quarters as a modern classic since it debuted six months ago at the Cannes Film Festival. Sometimes you encounter a movie begging to be revisited a decade from now, simply to see which one of you has changed more in the inte... (read more)

      • The Notebook poster image

        The Notebook

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        "The Notebook," the movie version of Nicholas Sparks' 1996 best seller, may be corny, but it's also absorbing, sweet and powerfully acted. It's a film about falling in love and looking back on it, and it avoids many of the genre's syrupy dangers. This picture, beautifully shaped and shot, filled with fine actors doing moving work, is based on Sparks' debut novel, a "Bridges of Madison County" sort of piece that unfolds in both the past and the present. In the past, two you... (read more)

      • 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)

      • How to Train Your Dragon 2 poster image

        How to Train Your Dragon 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Ida poster image

        Ida

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips One of the year's gems, photographed in velvety, expressive black-and-white by two different cinematographers working as one, "Ida" accomplishes so much, so surely in its 80 minutes, it's as if the director Pawel Pawlikowski had dared himself: How can I tell this fascinating story efficiently yet without rushing and abridging the narrative? His answer is the film itself, set in early 1960s Poland, not so many years aft... (read more)

      • Draft Day poster image

        Draft Day

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Draft Day" feels like a play, and I don't mean a football play. It feels like a play-play at its sporadic best, in the same way J.C. Chandor's 2011 "Margin Call" felt that way. Set mostly in a series of offices across 13 hours in a pressure-cooked day, the film lives and dies on the low-key, take-it-easy spectacle of Kevin Costner maneuvering his way through an administrative obstacle course, crises intermingling with draft-pick opportunities. Costner plays Sonny Weaver J... (read more)

      • Rio 2 poster image

        Rio 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In the commercial animation realm, there are movies that reach for something, or many things. Others are content merely to baby-sit. The 2011 hit "Rio" was a baby sitter. And so is "Rio 2," a routine sequel following the perilous adventures of the rare blue macaws Blu (wow, clever character name), Jewel and their offspring as they leave urban Rio life for a chaotic trip to Amazon rain forest country. In the jungle the birds' sympathetic human protectors Linda and Tulio (no... (read more)

      • Mr. Peabody & Sherman poster image

        Mr. Peabody & Sherman

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Michael Phillips We bring to the movies whatever childhoods we had, and whatever television we watched to keep real life at bay, one half-hour at a time. The frantic, occasionally funny new animated feature "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" is a 3-D big-screen version of a defiantly 2-D (if that) and utterly fantastic early 1960s artifact, endlessly replayed on television throughout the '70s and beyond. If you want this movie reviewed by somebody with less love for the original, try a differe... (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 Wind Rises poster image

        The Wind Rises

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Here's a beautiful apparent contradiction: a gentle, supple picture about the man who designed the Zero fighter plane. "The Wind Rises" is being marketed as the "farewell masterpiece" of Japanese writer-director Hayao Miyazaki, who brought the world "Spirited Away," "Howl's Moving Castle" and "Ponyo," as well as oversaw and contributed to "From Up on Poppy Hill" most recently. There's a fascinating push/pull in Miyazaki's latest. The... (read more)

      • Despicable Me 2 poster image

        Despicable Me 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Older kids and their minion guardians could do worse than "Despicable Me 2," the sequel to the 2010 smash about a supervillain turned adoptive parent. On the other hand, reports of the movie's charm have been greatly exaggerated. It's a reasonably efficient baby sitter, done up in 3-D computer-generated animation of no special distinction. But the first one's weird mixture of James Bond bombast and hyperactive pill-shaped Minions (the protagonist Gru's goggle-clad helpers) had the e... (read more)

      • The Great Gatsby poster image

        The Great Gatsby

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Even if it's true, let's forget the "great American novel" business regarding "The Great Gatsby" for a minute. What makes F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, published in the spring of 1925 but set three years earlier, such a haunted portrait of a time, a place and a Lost Generation dream? The work's spellbinding qualities, I think, lie less with the beauty of the prose (although God knows it's beautiful, and not just on the surface) than with the psyche of the author so eager to... (read more)

      • Spring Breakers poster image

        Spring Breakers

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Django Unchained poster image

        Django Unchained

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Killer Joe poster image

        Killer Joe

        Leah Rosen, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Media Services Film Clips There's a reason Matthew McConaughey's character wears a black Stetson in "Killer Joe," a self-knowingly sleazy crime drama that's simultaneously repellent and enjoyable. His is no white-hat role, and both he and the movie are the better for it. McConaughey is in the midst of a career revival, leaving behind the brainless, lightweight charmers he played in a string of flimsy romantic comedies to portray more complicate... (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)

      • Battleship poster image

        Battleship

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        There will be bigger movies this summer, and better ones and worse ones. But there will not be a dumber movie than "Battleship." Ponderous and pandering, shameless and head-slappingly silly, this Navy vs. Aliens epic delivers a few thrills and a few laughs. In between the head-slaps, that is. A pointless prologue establishes that NASA has sent signals to a distant Earth-like planet. Warnings from one scientist (Hamish Linklater, of "The New Adventures of Old Christine," ha... (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)

      • 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)

      • Man on a Ledge poster image

        Man on a Ledge

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A man edges along the 21st-story ledge of a midtown New York City hotel. He's an ex-cop and a convicted thief on the lam, straight out of Sing Sing, and he's threatening suicide. Sam Worthington, of "Avatar" and "Clash of the Titans," plays this character, Nick Cassidy, and it is odd to see Worthington on a precipice without winged beasts or blue friendlies buzzing about his head. The only thing buzzing in "Man on a Ledge" are little gnats of narrative improbabil... (read more)

      • Joyful Noise poster image

        Joyful Noise

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Assembled from spare parts of "Footloose" and "Sister Act," the serviceable gospel contraption "Joyful Noise" takes place in an economically hard-hit Georgia town, where the multiracial members of the Divinity Church Choir raise voices and spirits under the direction of their beloved choirmaster, played by Kris Kristofferson. We see him in action in church in the opening credits, though he suffers a heart attack well before "written and directed by Todd Graf... (read more)

      • Melancholia poster image

        Melancholia

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In a May 2011 interview during the Cannes Film Festival, a few days after he'd been declared persona non grata for making some criminally misjudged wisecracks about Jews, and the nascent Hitler lurking inside all of us, filmmaker Lars von Trier told me he considered his latest project, "Melancholia" -- in which an elaborate wedding party serves as prelude to the extinction of the planet -- to be "too beautiful," as well as "too easy." He may be an exasperating do... (read more)

      • The Help poster image

        The Help

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Help" has Viola Davis going for it, and she is more than enough. The actress deserves the Academy Award nomination (if not the Oscar Itself) she'll be receiving come early 2012. I'm not working for her; I'm just passing along news of the nearly inevitable. Davis is reason No. 1 the film extracted from Kathryn Stockett's 2009 best-seller improves on its source material. You can talk all you want about how a movie begins and ends with the screenwriter(s), or lives and dies on a d... (read more)

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