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      • Bohemian Rhapsody poster image

        Bohemian Rhapsody

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Hate U Give poster image

        The Hate U Give

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's seriously satisfying to watch a screen version of a young-adult best-seller that knows what it's doing, and gets so much right. Just as Angie Thomas' debut novel "The Hate U Give" was good enough to transcend the conventional YA parameters, director George Tillman Jr.'s fully packed film version has the stuff to pull in all sorts of audiences. You never know how these things are going to translate, or sell, or if the timing's right. I hope it is. The movie works from a screenpl... (read more)

      • A Star Is Born poster image

        A Star Is Born

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Crazy Rich Asians poster image

        Crazy Rich Asians

        Justin Chang, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times Before it whisks you off on the sunniest, most extravagant Singaporean holiday imaginable, "Crazy Rich Asians" begins on a curiously dark and stormy night. When Eleanor Young (a mesmerizing Michelle Yeoh) arrives dripping wet at an exclusive London hotel, the snob at the front desk declines her booking and advises her to stay elsewhere ("May I suggest Chinatown?"). He's hopelessly unaware that he's dealing with one of the world's wealthiest families, or t... (read more)

      • Eighth Grade poster image

        Eighth Grade

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Won't You Be My Neighbor? poster image

        Won't You Be My Neighbor?

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Blade Runner 2049 poster image

        Blade Runner 2049

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In 1982, when replicants hadn't yet become a Hollywood business model, "Blade Runner" failed to do what Warner Brothers hoped it would: make a pile of money. It succeeded, however, in acquiring the reputation of a modern science fiction classic. Director Ridley Scott's 2019-set story (based on Philip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?") entered our popular culture sideways, influencing two generations of filmmakers with its menacing dystopian perspective. Now ... (read more)

      • mother! poster image

        mother!

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A movie for the difficult domestic partner in all of us, "Mother!" will surely blow some people's minds while alienating a healthy share of moviegoers just for sport, the way the hit of the moment, "It," wouldn't be caught dead trying. Paramount Pictures can try to make "Mother!" look like a straight-up horror film all it likes. But at heart it's a wormy, increasingly outlandish portrait of a creative artist in torment, hard to live with when suffering from write... (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)

      • The Beguiled poster image

        The Beguiled

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Sophia Coppola's version of "The Beguiled," set in 1864 Virginia, takes the 1971 film version of the story and whumps it, gently, the way you whump a bedsheet before hanging it on a line to dry. In narrative outline (with a couple of telling exceptions) it stays close to the feverish Clint Eastwood vehicle Don Siegel directed. But in terms of tone, sexual gaze and aesthetic priorities it's another picture altogether, and a worthwhile one. Coppola adapted her screenplay from the 1966... (read more)

      • King Arthur: Legend of the Sword poster image

        King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "From nothing comes a king": So declares the poster for director Guy Ritchie's soccer hooligan edition of "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword." It stars Charlie Hunnam's muscle mass and, secondarily, Charlie Hunnam as the bare-knuckled, head-butting brawler and "bastard son of a prostitute," as he introduces himself at one point. He's also the rightful heir to the throne stolen by Jude Law's ruthless Vortigern, the fifth-century Alan Rickman. The way Law slouches i... (read more)

      • Born in China poster image

        Born in China

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        "Born in China" is the latest installment in the "Disneynature" documentary series. It's "Planet Earth" aimed at younger audiences, but any nature lovers can find enjoyment here, especially in the stunning cinematography. While other installments have focused on specific species and eco-systems, "Born in China," directed by Lu Chuan, gets up close and personal with some of the unique species found in China -- pandas, snow leopards, cranes, Chiru antelop... (read more)

      • T2 Trainspotting poster image

        T2 Trainspotting

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times Looked at logically, "T2 Trainspotting" should not work as well as it does. In fact, it shouldn't work at all. But up there on the screen, where it matters, the dark magic remains intact and logic be damned. When it was released in 1996, the original "Trainspotting" seemed the very definition of a one-shot phenomenon. Exuberant and pitiless, profane yet eloquent, flush with the ability to create laughter out of unspeakable situations, this look at the dea... (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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Moonlight poster image

        Moonlight

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The extraordinary new film "Moonlight" exerts a tidal pull on your heartstrings, but honestly: It's better than that. The reason it's distinctive has less to do with raw emotion, or a relentless assault on your tear ducts, and more to do with the film medium's secret weapons: restraint, quiet honesty, fluid imagery and an observant, uncompromised way of imagining one outsider's world so that it becomes our own. Since its festival premieres in Telluride and Toronto, "Moonlight&q... (read more)

      • Doctor Strange poster image

        Doctor Strange

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Doctor Strange," starring Benedict Cumberbatch as a neurosurgeon who learns to bend time, space and his workaholic, narcissistic ways, can't escape all its Marvel Universe corporate imperatives and generic third-act battles for control of the planet. If it could, it'd be like a new Olive Garden opening with some sort of crazy "no breadsticks" rule. Financially it behooves Marvel's superheroes to stick to the plan, and the plan, to borrow a line from the old musical "... (read more)

      • Bad Moms poster image

        Bad Moms

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping poster image

        Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Maybe I'm still recovering from the trauma of Netflixing the Adam Sandler movie "The Do-Over," but I honestly enjoyed a lot of "Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping," a steadily funny mockumentary from the Lonely Island triad of Jorma Taccone (co-director, co-writer, co-star), Akiva Schaffer (same) and Andy Samberg (co-writer and star). Eleven years ago, the trio's digital short "Lazy Sunday" aired on "Saturday Night Live." It was a great moment, arriving... (read more)

      • My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 poster image

        My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Back in 2002, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" became a bona fide cultural phenomenon, a romantic comedy that mined the cultural specificities of the Greek heritage of unknown writer and star Nia Vardalos. The film picked up an Oscar nomination for Vardalos' original screenplay, everyone began adding "My Big Fat" in front of various nouns, and we all learned a thing or two about the versatility of Windex. Fourteen years later, Vardalos and gang are back again for another wedding... (read more)

      • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies poster image

        Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's apples and oranges, but the film version of "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" is, in fact, slightly more diverting than the 2012 release "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter." So we're getting there. Fifty years from now, when it's "Richard Nixon vs. the Kraken vs. Sharknado," we'll have this mashup thing down pat. Seth Grahame-Smith wrote both "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" and the Lincoln melee, and adapted "Vampire Hunter" for the scree... (read more)

      • Carol poster image

        Carol

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By now, the critical reception for director Todd Haynes' "Carol" has built a fortress of prestige around the film itself, much as the title character played by Cate Blanchett goes through her life protected by just the right clothes and makeup, a lacquered, tightly put-together look ever-so-slightly subverting the image of the quintessential wife and mother of her time and station. On the fortress wall there are signs declaring this adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith novel "T... (read more)

      • The Big Short poster image

        The Big Short

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        If a film can essentially succeed while also remaining essentially frustrating, here's a prime example. I'm conflicted beyond the usual definitions of "conflicted" regarding director and co-writer Adam McKay's "The Big Short," a valiant, zestily acted adaptation of the Michael Lewis nonfiction bestseller about the financial meltdown of 2008. The national and world economies are still mired in the melted cheese of that crisis, a slice of recent history that seems very far a... (read more)

      • Star Wars: The Force Awakens poster image

        Star Wars: The Force Awakens

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Everest poster image

        Everest

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It sounds bizarre, considering "Everest" -- a fairly good, extremely grueling movie as far as it goes -- tracks the true-life fortunes of a battered group of climbers to the highest place on Earth. Yet somehow it doesn't go far enough. In May 1996, eight climbers died on Mount Everest: three on the north face, under circumstances less known to the outside world, and five others on the south face in a far more extensively documented series of unfortunate events. (They were hardly alo... (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)

      • Heaven Knows What poster image

        Heaven Knows What

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Mainstream audiences can only handle so much honesty in their portraits of addicts on screen. I have no doubt that the latest film from Josh and Benny Safdie, "Heaven Knows What," will not appeal to the majority of casual moviegoers. Likewise, I have no doubts regarding the film's remarkable achievement. Working on another film project, about Manhattan's diamond district, the Safdie brothers encountered a young woman they knew, instinctively, had a story to tell. Nineteen-year-old A... (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)

      • I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story poster image

        I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        No negative thoughts, words or deeds intrude upon "I Am Big Bird," Dave LaMattina and Chad Walker's documentary about Caroll Spinney, the man behind the voice, walk, heart and soul of the beloved Sesame Street character for the last 45 years. But as endless processions of friends and colleagues attest to Spinney's genius, and the filmmakers wallow in behind-the-scenes imagery, they fail to fully capture the actual art of puppeteering, with woefully few substantial excerpts from the ... (read more)

      • Paddington poster image

        Paddington

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Inherent Vice poster image

        Inherent Vice

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It takes a genuine film artist to create an alternate-reality version of a familiar place -- real enough to make us feel we've been there, or somewhere near there, unreal enough to push it over the edge of familiarity and even sanity. Sorry, must be the dope talking. But this is what writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson has done with "Inherent Vice," an exasperating shaggy dog of a noir goof, nearly 21/2 hours in length, based on the relatively compact 2009 Thomas Pynchon novel. The... (read more)

      • Interstellar poster image

        Interstellar

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Dear White People poster image

        Dear White People

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        So many movies come out of the Sundance Film Festival, and others like it, laden with praise but oddly short on narrative invention, visual instincts and a story with something on its mind. Heartiest congratulations to "Dear White People," which is equipped with all three. It's a slyly provocative achievement and a serious calling card for its writer-director, Justin Simien. He sets his ensemble affair on the campus of the fictional Ivy League enclave Winchester University, where Af... (read more)

      • The Guest poster image

        The Guest

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A pretty crafty genre pastiche until it stalls, director Adam Wingard's "The Guest" introduces its title character after he knocks on the front door of a small-town New Mexico family that recently lost their older son in the Iraq War. Door opens, a man's head is turned away from the camera ... .. And then, after a strange little two-second pause, he turns around and it's a dashing yet sinister Dan Stevens, of "Downton Abbey," here playing the role of a mysterious combat ve... (read more)

      • Jersey Boys poster image

        Jersey Boys

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Jersey Boys" the movie is a different, more sedate animal than "Jersey Boys" the Broadway musical. Often this happens when a stage success comes to the screen, even with many of the same performers and artistic team members on board. Changes are made; ardent fans of the original are variously pleased or disappointed. And in this case, those who missed the theatrical edition of the tale of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons -- how they found their sound and wrestled with t... (read more)

      • Edge of Tomorrow poster image

        Edge of Tomorrow

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Only Lovers Left Alive poster image

        Only Lovers Left Alive

        Sheri Linden, Chicago Tribune

        With the YA swoon of "Twilight" safely in the rearview mirror, movie vampires get their mojo back in the sensuous dreamscape of "Only Lovers Left Alive," one of the strongest films yet from Jim Jarmusch. A filmmaker with a deep affection for outsiders, Jarmusch sets his ode to the urbane undead -- and margin-dwelling artists -- in two ultra-poetic cities: Detroit, a vision of trampled grandeur on the cusp of rebirth, and worldly Tangier, its alleyways alive with the murmur... (read more)

      • Her poster image

        Her

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A delicate, droll masterwork, writer-director Spike Jonze's "Her" sticks its neck out, all the way out, asserting that what the world needs now and evermore is love, sweet love. Preferably between humans, but you can't have everything all the time. It tells a love story about a forlorn writer, whose firm --BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com -- provides busy, digitally preoccupied customers with personalized correspondence crafted by professionals like Theodore Twombly, played by refres... (read more)

      • Gravity poster image

        Gravity

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • The Central Park Five poster image

        The Central Park Five

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Central Park Five" is an unusually good documentary about an outlandish miscarriage of justice. On an April night in 1989, Trisha Meili was beaten, raped and left for dead not far from a path in Manhattan's Central Park. Five boys between the ages of 14 and 16 signed confessions regarding the attack, which was the worst of several criminal incidents unfolding in the area that night. The boys were African-American and Latino: Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymon... (read more)

      • Looper poster image

        Looper

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        For about an hour, "Looper" really cooks. Its second half is more of a medium boil, and less fun. But watching it, I realized how few commercial entertainments hold up straight through to the end-point. Even a clever and idiosyncratic filmmaker such as Rian Johnson, the writer-director of "Looper," must feel the pressure (especially with Bruce Willis and a lot of bullets involved) to deliver the body-count payoffs in a way that satisfies genre expectations. Still, and in w... (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)

      • Take This Waltz poster image

        Take This Waltz

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Five years into their marriage, the freelance Toronto writers played by Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen in "Take This Waltz" have drifted, rudderless, into a harbor that is anything but safe. They're cute together, but the act has begun to curdle: The reflexive baby talk for laughs, the weirdly hostile banter ("I love you so much I'm gonna inject your face with a curious combination of swine flu and ebola") and a troubling lack of easy intimacy all spell trouble. In write... (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)

      • Hugo poster image

        Hugo

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Drive poster image

        Drive

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 poster image

        Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It has taken Harry Potter eight full-length films to really have it out with Lord Voldemort, the reptilian prince of darkness with the undeniable leadership qualities and a clear, can-do game plan. With an ordinary franchise, the audience -- even an audience pre-devoted to J.K. Rowling's books -- would've grown itchy long ago, renouncing its allegiance and moving on. But this is no ordinary franchise. As the 21st century has lurched, in the Muggle world, from terrorism to pervasive, political... (read more)

      • Horrible Bosses poster image

        Horrible Bosses

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        You can practically hear little coils of contempt tightening inside Jason Bateman every time he's in a pickle on screen. In the new comedy "Horrible Bosses" the Bateman specialty is the are-you-trying-to-tell-me response. At one point in the film, when confronted with some improbable information, the "Arrested Development" alum asks one of his partners in idiot crime: "You found a hit man online?" "Horrible Bosses" is not Noel Coward, nor is it trying t... (read more)

      • Leap Year poster image

        Leap Year

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        We're told by the "Leap Year" production notes that writers Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont are "well-known as Hollywood 'script doctors.'" Yikes. Is there a doctor for the doctors in the house? Mid-January, and already there's another romantic comedy that makes you weep for the genre. Honestly. After "P.S. I Love You," "27 Dresses," "Bride Wars" and "The Ugly Truth," Beatrice and Benedick from "Much Ado About Nothing" are ... (read more)

      • Bridesmaids poster image

        Bridesmaids

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Gnomeo & Juliet poster image

        Gnomeo & Juliet

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        "Two households, both alike in dignity / In fair Verona, where we lay our scene / From ancient grudge break to new mutiny. ..." And at about this point the gnome reciting the prologue to "Romeo and Juliet" is yanked off stage by a big Bugs Bunny hook. For this is no epic tale of woe, this romance of Juliet and her Gnomeo. Even if "the story you are about to see has been told before. A lot," you've never seen it told like this. "Gnomeo & Juliet" is a daf... (read more)

      • Machete poster image

        Machete

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        I'm talkin' 'bout Machete! He's the federale who's a sex machine to all the chicks, and no friend of the racist white folk out to mess with all the murderous, blade-flashing attitude for which he stands. The character, played by the authentic tough guy and character actor Danny Trejo, was introduced in a fake trailer, part of the 2007 Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino double bill known as "Grindhouse." Now Rodriguez and Trejo have delivered the movie to go with the trailer. It's ou... (read more)

      • Eat Pray Love poster image

        Eat Pray Love

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It is easy to watch "Eat Pray Love," the pretty, languid film adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert's best-selling journal of self-discovery. Sun-drenched close-ups of asparagus drizzled just so on a plate next to very good-looking bread in Rome: aaaaah. A Balinese beach, with Julia Roberts gazing out upon it: oooooh. Javier Bardem at the end of the protagonist's yearlong journey, waiting: tasty. Director and co-adapter Ryan Murphy's film will likely do the trick for a good percentage of ... (read more)

      • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World poster image

        Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's easy to make a movie in a style approximating that of a comic book or graphic novel. "Sin City" did it. "Road to Perdition" did it. "Watchmen" and "Kick-Ass" did it. As did "Ghost World." Except for that last one, the others fell short as movies because they mistook visual replication for authenticity. They were storyboards based on storyboards, not films. "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" is different, and not just because it's fun... (read more)

      • Inception poster image

        Inception

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Detestable Moi 3D Numerique poster image

        Detestable Moi 3D Numerique

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        An agreeable jumble, the animated feature "Despicable Me" sells its 3-D in ways you wouldn't call sophisticated or witty. But you certainly notice it. Front car in a roller coaster, up, up, up, then down, down, down -- aaaaahhhhAAAAAAAHHHH!!!!!!!! Like that. And now and then, I like it like that, no matter how dubious this second coming of 3-D is starting to smell. Compared with the restrained sophistication of Pixar's approach to the technology, and in sharp contrast to such murky,... (read more)

      • How to Train Your Dragon: An IMAX 3D Experience poster image

        How to Train Your Dragon: An IMAX 3D Experience

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The swoops and dives of the exuberant 3-D DreamWorks Animation feature "How to Train Your Dragon," in which the teenage hero breaks all the Viking rules and befriends the winged enemy, should prove as addicting to its target audience as similar scenes have in a little something called "Avatar." Freely adapted from the books by Cressida Cowell, "How to Train Your Dragon" exists to support its flying sequences, just as last year's animated DreamWorks offering, &quo... (read more)

      • Diary of a Wimpy Kid poster image

        Diary of a Wimpy Kid

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Snot, I think, is funnier when it's animated. So is excessively moldy cheese. Also: If some kid's getting smacked around, it's likely to be less painful if you don't hear the punch or the slap; slapstick in general takes on a different, more clinical and humorless air when handled realistically, which is why "Home Alone" remains a low point in the history of hugely successful "family" comedies. So here we are with "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," "Hotel for Dogs"... (read more)

      • Frozen poster image

        Frozen

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Leap Year poster image

        Leap Year

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        We're told by the "Leap Year" production notes that writers Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont are "well-known as Hollywood 'script doctors.'" Yikes. Is there a doctor for the doctors in the house? Mid-January, and already there's another romantic comedy that makes you weep for the genre. Honestly. After "P.S. I Love You," "27 Dresses," "Bride Wars" and "The Ugly Truth," Beatrice and Benedick from "Much Ado About Nothing" are ... (read more)

      • Sherlock Holmes poster image

        Sherlock Holmes

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Guy Ritchie can make all the superslick, ultragreasy crime movies he wants ("RocknRolla" being the most recent and one of the greasiest), but now he has given us "Sherlock Holmes," and I'm sorry, but I like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's characters. I have no fixed notion about how they should be handled, but it's a serious drag to see how Ritchie has turned Holmes and Dr. Watson into a couple of garden-variety thugs. People really want to see this movie. (So did I, despite the ... (read more)

      • Fantastic Mr. Fox poster image

        Fantastic Mr. Fox

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        So many careful and clever visual felicities dot the landscape of Wes Anderson's animated feature "Fantastic Mr. Fox," from the catastrophically inclined watercolors painted by Mrs. Fox to the autumn breezes ruffling various species of animals' fur just so, I'm flummoxed as to why the movie left me feeling up in the air, as opposed to over the moon. Partly, I think, it's a matter of how Anderson's sense of humor rubs up against that of the book's author, Roald Dahl. It's also a mat... (read more)

      • Ponyo poster image

        Ponyo

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

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

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

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

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Hurt Locker poster image

        The Hurt Locker

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In varying states of reality and various levels of pulp, the films of Kathryn Bigelow wrestle with what it means to be a warrior. "I hate violence," says Patrick Swayze's murdering, surfing, skydiving, bank-robbing shaman in "Point Break." It's a punch line - the film is certifiably insane, as well as gloriously kinetic - but we can relate. We decry violence, yet millions of us pay good money to revel in it vicariously. In her grim thriller "Strange Days," far ha... (read more)

      • I Love You, Man poster image

        I Love You, Man

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A minor but enjoyable entry in the boy-man comedy genre, "I Love You, Man" stars Paul Rudd as a guyless guy - a heterosexual L.A. real estate agent engaged to be married but short on straight-up male companionship in general and a best man for his wedding in particular. Rudd has worked wonders in all sorts of comedies, from "Anchorman" (no one could turn to the camera, suddenly, with more phony intensity) to "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up." Th... (read more)

      • Let the Right One In poster image

        Let the Right One In

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        I'm so sick of Swedish vampire movies, aren't you? Honestly, I've had it with those bloodsucking Svenskar. If you can stomach just one more, however, "Let the Right One In" is the Swedish vampire movie to see. The film is terrific. The upcoming screen version of "Twilight" (opening Nov. 21) may be the set of fangs everyone's waiting for, at least among certain demographics, but I can't imagine anyone older than 15, who cherishes vampire lore or not, failing to fall for thi... (read more)

      • The Dark Knight: The IMAX Experience poster image

        The Dark Knight: The IMAX Experience

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Sensational, grandly sinister and not for the kids, "The Dark Knight" elevates pulp to a very high level. Heath Ledger's Joker takes it higher still, and the 28-year-old actor's death earlier this year of an accidental overdose lends the film an air of a funeral and a rollicking, out-of-control wake mixed together. In "The Dark Knight," Ledger makes all other comic-book screen villains look like Baby Huey. Like Shakespeare's Iago or Richard III, like Anthony Hopkins' Hanni... (read more)

      • Drillbit Taylor poster image

        Drillbit Taylor

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        We can't go back to the dear old movie bullies of yesteryear. It's too late. The world is now officially more dangerous and violent teens aren't much of a punch line. The new Owen Wilson vehicle "Drillbit Taylor" knows this. The film's eerily unfunny antagonist skulks around in a hooded sweatshirt, looking like one of the Columbine perps - as much as it's possible to do so and still exist inside some sort of comedy, albeit a queasy and increasingly grim one. "Drillbit Taylor&qu... (read more)

      • Juno poster image

        Juno

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It takes "Juno" about 15 minutes to calm down and get its joke reflex in check. Screenwriter Diablo Cody, formerly Brook Busey-Hunt of Lemont, has everyone quipping like maniacs?it's dialogue you notice, every second?and for a while you wonder if this story of a pregnant teenager's coming of age will exhaust you with cleverness. Then, stealthily, everything about the movie starts working together more purposefully. And by the end you've fallen in love with the thing. Ellen Page is k... (read more)

      • Lars and the Real Girl poster image

        Lars and the Real Girl

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Lars and the Real Girl" peddles a brand of whimsy - kinky on the surface, enough to make Frank Capra gag underneath - that a lot of people enjoyed this year on the film festival circuit. I know people who cried, and who find it quirky and charming and a real treasure. And I am happy for these people, though I am not with them, because I find "Lars and the Real Girl" adorable in the worst way, bailed out only by most every member of its excellent cast. Note that "most... (read more)

      • Across the Universe poster image

        Across the Universe

        Jessica Reaves, Chicago Tribune

        It's the oldest story in the world: Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, girl joins radical student organization hell-bent on ending the Vietnam War, boy's passion devolves into paranoia, boy returns to work in a Liverpool shipyard. Months pass before they simultaneously arrive at a wholly unoriginal yet heartwarming conclusion: All You Need, it turns out, Is Love. We've just given away the major plot points of "Across the Universe," Julie Taymor's uncharacteristically chipp... (read more)

      • Hairspray poster image

        Hairspray

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        As mile-high-wig musicals go, the film version of "Hairspray" is less polished but more fun than "Dreamgirls." Both are drag revues at heart, one funny, the other serious. I prefer the funny one. Whether or not "Hairspray" finds a large international audience depends on the audience's interest in seeing an international star enlarged. You have probably heard that this latest stage-to-screen musical transfer, based on the 1988 John Waters film, stars John Travolta... (read more)

      • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix poster image

        Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        He's back, and he's hacked off. The most striking aspect of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" is its contrast between the hormonally and supernaturally tormented teenager at its center and the modestly well-made and easygoing picture unfolding all around him. No. 5 in the omnipresent global franchise, "Order of the Phoenix" lies at a no-nonsense halfway point between the best of the Potter films ("Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban") and the most ... (read more)

      • Hot Fuzz poster image

        Hot Fuzz

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Red Road poster image

        Red Road

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        We have to tread very carefully here. The remarkable thriller "Red Road" plants tiny slivers of expository information just so, at precise and artful junctures in its story. Much (though hardly all) of the film's effectiveness depends on narrative surprise. Those surprises shouldn't be spoiled. But writer-director Andrea Arnold's film is far more than a contraption built for conventional thrills. It's a fully realized portrait of a city, Glasgow, its high-rise projects threatened by... (read more)

      • The Host poster image

        The Host

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Like all good hosts, the host in "The Host," a mutant squid-lizard that moves with the agility of an Olympic gymnast, throws a lively party with a little of everything: scares, laughs, politics and a bit of archery. South Korean writer-director Bong Joon-ho has made a considerable international splash with this picture, and no wonder. It boasts a photogenic antagonist from the deep. It's also savvy enough to make you care about the human factor. Like "Pan's Labyrinth," ano... (read more)

      • Children of Men poster image

        Children of Men

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Dsytopian nightmares are so yesterday. They're a dime a dozen in the movies; earlier this year, for example, "V for Vendetta" came up with exactly 10 cents' worth of cinematic interest in exchange for your $9.50. The latest hellish forecast for our planet, however, makes up for the sluggishness of "Vendetta" in spades. It is "Children of Men," based on a P.D. James novel, and as directed - dazzlingly - by Alfonso Cuaron, it is that rare futuristic thriller: grim ... (read more)

      • Happy Feet poster image

        Happy Feet

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A dancing-penguin epic with more mood swings than "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Terms of Endearment" put together, "Happy Feet" also claims the distinction of being the grimmest film with the word "happy" in its title since "Happy Birthday, Wanda June." This is merely a fact, not a dismissal. Far from it: A lot of director George Miller's film is gorgeous and exciting. Its craftsmanship and ambition put it a continent ahead of nearly every othe... (read more)

      • Casino Royale poster image

        Casino Royale

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        For a long time now, the James Bond franchise has been operating with a license to overkill. That license has been revoked by "Casino Royale." It doesn't even feel like a Bond film as we have come to expect them, in their numbing, increasingly gadget-dependent gigantism. No death rays from space this time. No invisible car. For once, most of the laws of physics are given due respect. A renewed sense of engagement informs director Martin Campbell's tough, absorbing adaptation of the ... (read more)

      • Marie Antoinette poster image

        Marie Antoinette

        Jessica Reaves, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Devil Wears Prada poster image

        The Devil Wears Prada

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Every third movie or so, Meryl Streep does something swell - and effortless, which isn't one of her defining qualities - to renew her membership in the Great Actress pantheon. "The Devil Wears Prada," a surprisingly sharp adaptation of the Lauren Weisberger bestseller, features Streep as Miranda Priestly, monstrously self-centered editor of the Vogue-like Runway magazine. It's an occasion for Streep to play against a stereotype, and win. It's a rout, in fact. Lowering both her voice... (read more)

      • Akeelah and the Bee poster image

        Akeelah and the Bee

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Akeelah and the Bee" is predictable, corny and formulaic. Maybe we'll see it listed in some future edition of Webster's under the word "precornulaic." Yet this latest triumph of the spelling-bee spirit, like last year's earnest, flawed film version of "Bee Season," features a film-saving performance where it counts most: from the kid playing the kid with big brain and even bigger heart. Keke Palmer portrays Akeelah, fictional spelling ace of Los Angeles' Crensha... (read more)

      • She's the Man poster image

        She's the Man

        Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune

        Falling somewhere between that ubiquitous community theater production of "Romeo and Juliet: A Hip-Hop Love Story" and Amy Heckerling's scrumptious, ohmigod take on Jane Austen in "Clueless" is "She's the Man," a veeeeery loose adaptation of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" featuring the refreshing comic charm of teen starlet Amanda Bynes. Bynes, a five-time Kids' Choice Award winner and current star of the WB's "What I Like About You," plays Vio... (read more)

      • Brokeback Mountain poster image

        Brokeback Mountain

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire poster image

        Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Pride & Prejudice poster image

        Pride & Prejudice

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Austen, Shmausten. Do we really need another ?Pride & Prejudice,? one more dance of misperception performed by Fitzwilliam Darcy, whom the world knows always as Darcy and never as Fitzwilliam, and Lizzie Bennet, whom Jane Austen once called ?as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print?? Each new adaptation of Austen?s three-volume novel, titled ?First Impressions? in its original manuscript draft, carries with it this stern question of need. And while it may be a decade old, the prist... (read more)

      • Red Eye poster image

        Red Eye

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The trailer for Wes Craven's "Red Eye" appears to be peddling a horror film, with a demon-eyed killer at 30,000 feet - flying coach, yet, to add to the unspeakable fright - preying on that toothsome "Wedding Crashers" squeeze of Owen Wilson's. The trailer is lying. Director Craven's brisk, efficient B movie has no supernatural element of any kind, unless you count the supernatural shade of white emanating from the pearlies of its star, Rachel McAdams. Any brighter, and her... (read more)

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