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      • 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)

      • Sorry to Bother You poster image

        Sorry to Bother You

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Sorry to Bother You" is about a telemarketer who becomes a superstar, for a price. It's a science fiction allegory, though the science fiction angle emerges late in the game. It's a provocative, serious, ridiculous, screwy concoction about whiteface, cultural code-switching, African-American identities and twisted new forms of wage slavery, beyond previously known ethical limits. Premiering earlier this year at Sundance, the film comes from rapper and musician Boots Riley of the fu... (read more)

      • Ant-Man and the Wasp poster image

        Ant-Man and the Wasp

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The unlimited breadsticks approach of the Marvel Cinematic Universe ensures that we remain full of carbs, all year, as each franchise rolls out another metaphorical Olive Garden. Some of the movies offer veritable superhero conventions -- most recently the ensemble blowout "Avengers: Infinity War," which managed to make $2.3 billion worldwide without any interesting action sequences, mainly on the strength of that ridiculously dire cliffhanger ending setting up a big fat profitable ... (read more)

      • Sicario: Day of the Soldado poster image

        Sicario: Day of the Soldado

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Sick as it sounds, "Sicario: Day of the Soldado" is the lucky beneficiary of every belligerent tweet, crying child and political point scored in the chaos of the current Mexico/U.S. border crisis. At its mean, snakelike best, it's also a brutally assured commercial action picture, unburdened by the moral qualms or unnerving ambiguity of its predecessor. Both factors may help it find a larger international audience than "Sicario" (2015), written, as is the sequel, by Taylor... (read more)

      • Damsel poster image

        Damsel

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The opening shots of "Damsel," thanks to cinematographer Adam Stone, are misleadingly evocative. We're somewhere in Utah (the movie was made there, and along the Oregon coast). Against a forbiddingly beautiful landscape of red rock and imposing sky, two men wait for a stagecoach. One, a disillusioned man of the cloth, is played by Robert Forster. "I come out here to spoon-feed religion to the savages. Tried real hard," he says, defeated. Forster is perfect, and the tone of... (read more)

      • Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom poster image

        Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Of all the terrors on view in "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," the sight of Toby Jones' toupee bobbing up and down, when his character (a sniveling dinosaur auctioneer) dashes into an elevator to alleged safety, with the camera and something called the "Indoraptor" scrambling behind him -- reader, it is a strange and wondrous vision of foolish vanity in flight. There are other diversions in director J.A. Bayona's Gothic-tinged follow-up to "Jurassic World." That... (read more)

      • Incredibles 2 poster image

        Incredibles 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Tag poster image

        Tag

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Subjects of a 2013 Wall Street Journal feature, the real-life friends who provoked the new comedy "Tag" are, let's assume, decent guys, fun-loving and supportive and appreciative of having the time and money to keep the same elaborate prankster version of tag going for nearly 30 years. But I kind of hate the movie's mixture of bro comedy, sadistic practical jokes (don't call it slapstick) and last-ditch pull for the heartstrings. If you like the trailer, please know the best bits ar... (read more)

      • Hereditary poster image

        Hereditary

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, as Tolstoy noted in a sentence so right, by the time you started arguing with it "Anna Karenina" was off and suffering. If Tolstoy got a look at "Hereditary," he might've added: "Well. There's unhappy, and then there's grief-stricken-hideously cruel-unholy family secrets-horror movie-unhappy." The latter is the dwelling place of director Ari Aster's fiendish feature debut. Not everything... (read more)

      • Hotel Artemis poster image

        Hotel Artemis

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Apart from a few exteriors and some flashbacks, the pungent, eccentric "Hotel Artemis" confines its story to a single night, 10 years in the future, inside a beautiful ruin of a downtown Los Angeles hotel. Outside, the worst riots in the city's history rage on; Angelenos are thirsty, punished for their presumed sins by a near-total lack of access to LA's corporate-owned water supply. Like the assassin's den in "John Wick," the Artemis operates under a no-kill policy. Unlik... (read more)

      • Upgrade poster image

        Upgrade

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The fairly peppy, extremely gory science fiction thriller ``Upgrade was originally titled ``Stem, referring to a digital cockroach (``a new, better brain, its pale inventor notes) implanted in the body of the protagonist. The time is the near future. The place is a world of driverless cars and Siri-like communications and control systems designed to reassure the human population while undermining its autonomy in this forbidding vision of Earth as a hellhole of convenience. Our hero is an anal... (read more)

      • First Reformed poster image

        First Reformed

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "A life without despair is a life without hope," says the man at the center of Paul Schrader's "First Reformed." That paradox embraces the world as it is, and suggests a better world for the making. The movie it belongs to is an act of spiritual inquiry, a coolly assured example of cinematic scholarship in subtly deployed motion and one of the strongest pictures of 2018. It's also one of those third-act miracles all too rare in American filmmaking. Now 71, writer-director ... (read more)

      • Mary Shelley poster image

        Mary Shelley

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times ``Mary Shelley conjures up images of a lumbering, disfigured, greenish-skinned monster of a man. That monster, now a cultural icon of horror films for over a century, and his mad scientist creator, Dr. Frankenstein, were dreamed up by the young Mary Shelley in her 1818 horror/fantasy novel, ``Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus. Haifaa al-Mansour's biopic of the writer, ``Mary Shelley, starring Elle Fanning, attempts to make some sense out of Shelley's remarkable, wild l... (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)

      • Book Club poster image

        Book Club

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Fonda. Bergen. Keaton . Steenburgen. "Book Club." Sure, "Avengers: Infinity War" came out a few weeks ago, but now this is the greatest crossover event in history. Four of the most iconic actresses of the 20th century come together for a film in which their book club reads "50 Shades of Grey"? Where can I line up? This movie is either in your wheelhouse or it's not, but for those looking forward to "Book Club," it delivers. For what it is -- a breezy bi... (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)

      • Tully poster image

        Tully

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        We live many lives within the one we've got. When Chicago-born Diablo Cody wrote "Juno," she imagined a charmed teenage pregnancy, the story focusing on a young woman's anxieties and defense mechanisms but predominantly, buoyantly comic in tone. As finessed by director Jason Reitman, the happy ending ensured the film's popularity and Cody's Oscar. The heroine ended up with everything she needed. By the end, the audience knew she'd be fine. "Fine" is relative, though. While... (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)

      • I Feel Pretty poster image

        I Feel Pretty

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In a 2015 sketch aired on Comedy Central's "Inside Amy Schumer," the one called "New Body," Schumer played a woman shopping for a wardrobe for the body she's always wanted. The clothing store clerk, thin and deadpan, is the perfect foil for Schumer's chipper, play-along reactions. With those two perfect minutes you don't realize the first time through how much Schumer and her writers are actually saying about the culture's omnipresent assault on female self-image. Take tha... (read more)

      • The Rider poster image

        The Rider

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Subtle, elemental and powerfully beautiful, writer-director Chloe Zhao's "The Rider" is the Western of the new century, and the most enveloping film experience I've had this year. Even a hack director could make something of the southwestern South Dakota landscapes near Wounded Knee, lined by the Badlands, and foregrounded by the people who live, work, ride and risk their lives there. But with this, the second feature written and directed by Beijing-born and American-educated Zhao, ... (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)

      • Final Portrait poster image

        Final Portrait

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The artist paints, a little. He sits back, leans forward, scowls, smokes, mutters, swears and flees the canvas and his studio for his favorite bistro. Or instead, he falls into bed with his favorite prostitute. Or with his neglected wife. Then he paints again. The artist's subject sits, hands folded in his lap, wondering how long this will continue. Is there a movie in that? Why, yes, a small but sure one. Writer-director Stanley Tucci, best known as an actor of supreme, sly command and a Mon... (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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Wonderstruck poster image

        Wonderstruck

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Florida Project poster image

        The Florida Project

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In different hands, the people knocking around the mauve-slathered kitsch universe of "The Florida Project," a highlight of the fall season, might've made for a pretty awful and manipulative dramatic experience. At-risk children running wild and having too much fun to know why they're hurting inside; a poverty-line motel named the Magic Castle, a cruelly short distance from Orlando's Walt Disney World, run by a kindly, big-hearted manager; a pace of perpetual motion set by the 6-yea... (read more)

      • Faces Places poster image

        Faces Places

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Battle of the Sexes poster image

        Battle of the Sexes

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Engaging and sunny (literally; this is the brightest, squintiest film in months), as far as it goes, "Battle of the Sexes" is a two-headed biopic reluctant to complicate its coming-out story with too many ... complications. This will not be a problem for most audiences. Collectively, the "Battle of the Sexes" team knows how to please a crowd. The directors, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, made the wish fulfillment smash "Little Miss Sunshine." The screenwriter... (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)

      • 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)

      • Cars 3 poster image

        Cars 3

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Cars 3," a reasonably diverting account of middle-aged pity, humiliation and suffering as experienced by Rust-eze-sponsored race car Lightning McQueen, is not the weakest of the Disney/Pixar sequels (I'd vote "Cars 2" or "Monsters University," those sour, desperate things). But it's by far the most guilt-ridden. Every few minutes we get another reminder of the franchise's success in the merchandising department -- over $10 billion in "Cars"-related toy... (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)

      • Get Out poster image

        Get Out

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's a point of pride with any horror film, or any thriller verging on horror: Used correctly, a perfectly innocent song suddenly sounds like the scariest bleep in the world. The opening sequence of "Get Out," one of the most bracing surprises of the new moviegoing year, finds a young man walking along a dark suburban street, looking for an address somewhere on Edgewood Lane. He is alone. A car, driver obscured by the streetlight shadows, slowly rolls up alongside him. The gently ma... (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)

      • I Am Not Your Negro poster image

        I Am Not Your Negro

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Thirty pages of notes and an invisible pile of regrets were all the writer James Baldwin had in his hands when he abandoned work on a book, initiated in 1979, he called "Remember This House." Baldwin knew his subjects well. He was taking on three historical melodies in the key of civil rights activism, all victims of assassination: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., whom Baldwin called friends. "He took on his shoulders the weight of the crimes, and the lies an... (read more)

      • A Dog's Purpose poster image

        A Dog's Purpose

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky said there are two kinds of scenes in screenplays: "the Pet the Dog scene and the Kick the Dog scene." Canine love letter "A Dog's Purpose" manages to work in both. You might be surprised that this sappy, family-friendly tribute to man's best friend kills its main character within mere moments. A stray puppy is snapped up by an evil, net-wielding dog catcher, and soon he's off to that nice farm in the sky, before his rebirth. This serves as the... (read more)

      • Patriots Day poster image

        Patriots Day

        Cary Darling, Chicago Tribune

        Fort Worth Star-Telegram "Patriots Day," Peter Berg's film about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, lands with all the subtlety of one of the deadly explosions that claimed three lives and injured 264 others. Terrorism, bad. Law enforcement, first responders, marathon runners and onlookers as embodied by the fictional, Boston-proud composite character played by Mark Wahlberg who just happens to be at most of the pivotal plot points at the right time good. There are no shades of cine... (read more)

      • Moana poster image

        Moana

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Pete's Dragon poster image

        Pete's Dragon

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Wait: How did this happen? How did a remake of the 1977 Disney animation/live-action hybrid "Pete's Dragon," a pushy mediocrity from tip to tail, become the most soulful film of the summer, and one of the best of the year? In terms of story, director David Lowery's version shares only two things with the '77 model. Pete's an orphan. And the title is still "Pete's Dragon," which indicates there's a dragon (beautifully, digitally realized this time, as opposed to animated). ... (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 Angry Birds Movie poster image

        The Angry Birds Movie

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        If you've ever played the mobile video game Angry Birds, you might have found yourself wondering -- why am I sling-shotting cartoon birds at grinning green pigs? Why are these birds so angry? What have the pigs done to deserve this destruction? "Angry Birds," the movie, is here to fill in that backstory, to answer the questions that may or may not have been asked, and provide motivation for the avian rage. The film, directed by Clay Kittis and Fergal Reilly, from a screenplay by &qu... (read more)

      • The Nice Guys poster image

        The Nice Guys

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        At one point in "The Nice Guys," the disheveled, half-drunk private eye played by Ryan Gosling falls off a Hollywood Hills balcony, rolls down the hill and comes to rest inches away from one of the film's many corpses. Gosling's reaction? Bust out the best Lou Costello (of Abbott and Costello, for you ahistorical comedy rookies) available under the circumstances, complete with non-verbal gasping, tears and a comic inability to form actual words. It's pretty fair nostalgia, this bit,... (read more)

      • Miracles From Heaven poster image

        Miracles From Heaven

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        In recent years, there's been a mini trend of faith-based films concerned with proving the existence of heaven. Based on true stories, films such as "Heaven is For Real" and "90 Minutes in Heaven" take up this task. Ostensibly following on their heels is the Jennifer Garner-starring "Miracles From Heaven," based on an amazing -- and weird -- true story. But while the film is centered on Christian-based faith, it argues for the powers of miracles that are of the m... (read more)

      • Kung Fu Panda 3 poster image

        Kung Fu Panda 3

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Creed poster image

        Creed

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Back in 1976, our bicentennial year, the nation yearned for a red, white and blue plate special piled high with corn. Something to believe in. Then, up those Philadelphia Museum of Art steps, backed by the Bill Conti theme, that something arrived. Nobody went to the first "Rocky" for the finesse of the filmmaking. They went for the underdog-rooting, for Rocky and Adrian, for the unexpected sweetness, for the redemption angle, for the reconstituted boxing movie cliches that tasted no... (read more)

      • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 poster image

        The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Nothing lasts forever, except the "Hunger Games" franchise. Yet here we are. Forever is over. "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 2" brings the four-film saga of Katniss Everdeen and her revolutionary war to a dutiful, fairly satisfying if undeniably attenuated conclusion. Following the lucrative "Twilight" template, there was simply too much money at stake here to prevent the third "Hunger Games" book in novelist Suzanne Collins' trilogy from being h... (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)

      • Crimson Peak poster image

        Crimson Peak

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        You may come out of the 1901-set Gothic chiller "Crimson Peak" humming the production design (by Thomas Sanders), or singing arias about the clothes (Kate Hawley, costume designer), or composing symphonies of praise for the mellow, honeyed menace of the cinematography (Dan Laustsen). If looks made the movie, and they can in the right circumstances, this movie would be made. "Crimson Peak" represents not-quite-right circumstances. It's the latest from co-writer and director... (read more)

      • Goosebumps poster image

        Goosebumps

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Sicario poster image

        Sicario

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        For a gripping documentary about the U.S./Mexico border, the drug trade and a hornet's nest of sociopolitical nightmares, watch Matthew Heineman's "Cartel Land." For a commercial thriller on related themes, "Sicario" will do. The first hour of this latest film from French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve is sleek, terrific pulp. The second half of "Sicario" (in Mexico, slang for "hitman") settles for more conventional bloodshed and storytelling. Such ... (read more)

      • Hotel Transylvania 2 poster image

        Hotel Transylvania 2

        Rick Bentley, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation poster image

        Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        With the new "Mission: Impossible" movie, even if it's the most assured and satisfying of the five so far, it sounds foolish to even mention the things the characters say in between screeching tires, gunfights, knife fights, motorcycle derring-do, and the opening act featuring Tom Cruise dangling for real (real enough to make it look cool, and frightening) on the outside of a plane high over a Belarus airstrip. But it isn't foolish. One of the many pleasures of "Mission: Imposs... (read more)

      • Ant-Man poster image

        Ant-Man

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Ant-Man" has been skittering around the development corridors of Hollywood so long, the earliest unproduced screenplays about the tiny superhero actually preceded the Disney film "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids." That was another age (1989), decades before our present Age of Ultron -- an epoch of expensive cheap thrills dictated by the steady, crushing rollout of so many Marvel movies that even the good ones start to seem like ants at an endless picnic. But wait. The "Ant-... (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)

      • 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)

      • Jurassic World poster image

        Jurassic World

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Bailed out by a few good jolts, "Jurassic World" gets by, barely, as a marauding-dinosaurs narrative designed for a more jaded audience than the one "Jurassic Park" conquered back in 1993. Why was director Steven Spielberg's film version of the Michael Crichton novel a hit? In an industry built on high-concept pitches, the first film pitched the highest. Dinos brought back to life; trouble ensues. Digital effects, smoothly integrated with animatronics, made a quantum leap ... (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)

      • The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water poster image

        The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

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

        Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 poster image

        The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In honor of the title we'll break this part of the sentence with a colon, and then use a portentous dash: "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 1" is a worthy third movie in the Suzanne Collins franchise -- destined to satisfy the legions of filmgoers willing to swing with a lot of scheming and skulking in an underground bunker resembling the world's most frightening Marriott, in order to get to the revolution. The third book in Collins' dystopian-literature juggernaut has been halv... (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)

      • Annabelle poster image

        Annabelle

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The devil-doll lark "Annabelle" exists to make its host movie, last year's excellent "The Conjuring," look even better by comparison. As prequels go, it's not bad, though a couple of things keeping it from amounting to more are worth discussing, briefly, before we all get back to our lives. Here's one drawback: It looks like cheap digital crud. Horror fans are used to lo-fi visual scares, especially in the found-footage genre, but "Annabelle" is not one of those ... (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)

      • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom poster image

        Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        Katniss Everdeen, it turns out, is not the only person catching fire this fall. She's matched flame for flame by Nelson Mandela and his wife, Winnie, who burn with formidable fury in the sturdy biopic "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom." It is the incendiary work of British actors Idris Elba and Naomie Harris as the couple in question that elevates our involvement in this authorized film version of Nelson Mandela's autobiography. That, and the astonishing course of Mandela's life. For t... (read more)

      • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire poster image

        The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" is a lot like its own celebrity heroine, Katniss Everdeen, who begins this second "Hunger Games" movie fulfilling a public relations tour as penance for her killer -- literally, killer -- popularity. She is adored by millions; the books are too. The three Suzanne Collins novels, to be spread across four films, are being adapted with both eyes on fidelity to the source material. All "Catching Fire" had to do was to show up, look g... (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 Canyons poster image

        The Canyons

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Already trolling for customers online, "The Canyons" is a four-auteur folly of considerable interest despite its badness. Director Paul Schrader gave us Los Angeles' darkly, sunny side half a lifetime ago in "American Gigolo," and lots of good, knotty psychodrama since then. He teamed up for "The Canyons" with screenwriter Bret Easton Ellis, the enfant-terrible in every sense of the word, whose "Less Than Zero" sprang from the post-"American Gigolo... (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)

      • 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 Wall poster image

        The Wall

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Before Clint Eastwood took over the project, "American Sniper" was being developed by Steven Spielberg, who ultimately passed on it because he couldn't figure out a way, budgetarily, to create and follow a parallel storyline dealing with an Iraqi counterpart to the real-life sniper played by Bradley Cooper. We'll never know how a Spielberg take on "American Sniper" would've fared. We only know that Eastwood's version, morally untroubled and a bellwether for the 2016 electi... (read more)

      • Epic poster image

        Epic

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The hopeful title of "Epic" suggests big things in a way that a more accurate title, such as "How to Train Your Hummingbird," would not. The animated result isn't bad. It's an adequate baby sitter. But where's the allure in telling the truth? Twentieth Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios present "Adequate"? A few days after seeing "Epic," which is loosely based on a few concepts in William Joyce's book "The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs," it's... (read more)

      • 42 poster image

        42

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "42," writer-director Brian Helgeland's carefully tended portrait of Jackie Robinson, treats its now-mythic Brooklyn Dodger with respect, reverence and love. But who's in there, underneath the mythology? Has the movie made Robinson, a man who endured so much in the name of breaking Major League Baseball's color barrier and then died before his 54th birthday, something less than three-dimensionally human? I'm afraid so. This is a smooth-edged treatment of a life full of sharp, painfu... (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)

      • Wreck-It Ralph poster image

        Wreck-It Ralph

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Wreck-It Ralph," the exhaustingly dazzling new Walt Disney Animation Studios feature, qualifies as the most manic baby sitter in town, clever and detailed in its kaleidoscopic depiction of the private lives, seething resentments and yearning dreams of video game characters both "Donkey Kong" retro and "Call of Duty" modern. Certainly 2012-era moviegoers of a certain age who blew a fair number of hours playing "Donkey Kong" or "Centipede" (I l... (read more)

      • Hotel Transylvania poster image

        Hotel Transylvania

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Master poster image

        The Master

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        I need to get the lighting right," mutters the man with the camera in "The Master," one of the few truly vital and unruly American films in recent years. The man is Freddie Quell, a World War II Navy veteran suffering from what has been diagnosed as a nervous condition. He's a long way, adjustment-wise, from the disenchanted returning vet author James Jones wrote about in "Some Came Running," played by Frank Sinatra in the movie. Freddie's far gone: An alcoholic, a br... (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)

      • Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted poster image

        Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

        Colin Covert, Chicago Tribune

        "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" is one of the fanciest, most carefully assembled cartoons ever put on the screen. The jokes come so fast that they're nearly subliminal. Plot points whiz by, and when things threaten to blur, there's a crazy musical number or a tightly worked out physical comedy routine involving a hippo or a penguin. Then it's back on the bullet train. Your brain goes breathless and giddy struggling to keep up. Like the last "Madagascar" installment, t... (read more)

      • The Pirates! Band of Misfits poster image

        The Pirates! Band of Misfits

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Maniacally inventive and tightly packed, if not overpacked, "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" comes from the Aardman animation folks behind "Wallace & Gromit," "Chicken Run" and, more recently, "Arthur Christmas." Their latest may be easier to admire than to love; it's more tone-funny and incidental-muttered-aside funny than, for example, your average DreamWorks smash, where every other comic beat ends with a cartoon animal getting bashed in the nethers an... (read more)

      • The Raven poster image

        The Raven

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Quoth the raven: "Eh." Showcasing John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe on the trail of a copycat serial killer, the strangely dull new film "The Raven" squanders a promising scenario while half-burying Cusack's mercurial skills as a leading man with the wiles of a character actor. Someone in 1849 Baltimore is on a murder spree, riffing on methods of torture and execution depicted in "The Pit and the Pendulum" and other works of the melancholic, alcoholic Poe. It's like... (read more)

      • Dr. Seuss' the Lorax poster image

        Dr. Seuss' the Lorax

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • We Bought a Zoo poster image

        We Bought a Zoo

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked poster image

        Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Happy Feet Two poster image

        Happy Feet Two

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        I admired much of the original "Happy Feet" (2006), but five years later, I'm still considering suing its makers for emotional distreess. Certainly the most sadistic aspects of its storyline make it a film one doesn't easily revisit, either for me or my son. "Here's my review," the Young Him, not quite 5, whispered during the "Shock Corridor" climax of the first film, after Mumble the Emperor Penguin had been captured and confined. "Movie, please be over.&qu... (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)

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