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      • Peter Rabbit poster image

        Peter Rabbit

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Hollywood studios have recently been pillaging the literary canon of beloved children's literature, digging up fodder for animated feature films. The best of these, like the "Paddington" movies, successfully meld nostalgia with modern and exciting filmmaking, while the more questionable ones, like the recent "Ferdinand" adaptation, manage to muddle the source material with too many pop songs and dirty jokes. The new "Peter Rabbit" adaptation manages to land right... (read more)

      • The 15:17 to Paris poster image

        The 15:17 to Paris

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Winchester poster image

        Winchester

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Prior to a Thursday screening of "Winchester," a ghost story whose protagonist comes down on the pro-gun control side of the firearms violence debate, a smattering of multiplex attendees and I watched a trailer for the new "Death Wish" (opening March 2). Bruce Willis plays a heroically murderous vigilante who takes the law into his own hands. It's an old story. Billions have been made on it. I suspect "Winchester" will be a tough sell up against that old story, a... (read more)

      • Call Me by Your Name poster image

        Call Me by Your Name

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Den of Thieves poster image

        Den of Thieves

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Forever My Girl poster image

        Forever My Girl

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • I, Tonya poster image

        I, Tonya

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Paddington 2 poster image

        Paddington 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Here's hoping the forthcoming film version of "Peter Rabbit" is less awful than its trailers suggest. Reformulating Beatrix Potter as a brutish "Home Alone"/"Straw Dogs" melee, full of grim electrocutions, really does seem like a mistake. Meantime, fortunately, there's "Paddington 2." The sequel to the 2014 picture turns out to be every bit as deft, witty and, yes, moving as the first one. It's a little over-packed, narratively. But the further adventur... (read more)

      • The Post poster image

        The Post

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Molly's Game poster image

        Molly's Game

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool poster image

        Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • In the Fade poster image

        In the Fade

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

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

      • All the Money in the World poster image

        All the Money in the World

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Downsizing poster image

        Downsizing

        Rick Bentley, Chicago Tribune

        Director Alexander Payne got our votes when he offered a brilliantly satirical look at politics and popularity with his insightful high school-based comedy "Election." He showed with "Sideways" that he could present a story as firm and dry as a prized red wine. He's done neither with his latest offering, "Downsizing." All the Oscar-winning filmmaker has shown with the production is how he came up short whether trying to make social commentary, dealing with politi... (read more)

      • Pitch Perfect 3 poster image

        Pitch Perfect 3

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        When the a cappella-themed comedy "Pitch Perfect" debuted in 2012, its success proved audiences were hungry for the style of raucous yet decidedly feminine humor it served up. The inventive musical numbers didn't hurt either, and suddenly, the niche singing style most often seen on college campuses went mainstream. With "Pitch Perfect 2," the franchise went bigger and broader, to mixed results. In the final farewell of the trilogy, "Pitch Perfect 3" jettisons the... (read more)

      • Ferdinand poster image

        Ferdinand

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Star Wars: The Last Jedi poster image

        Star Wars: The Last Jedi

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Disaster Artist poster image

        The Disaster Artist

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Lady Bird poster image

        Lady Bird

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Roman J. Israel, Esq. poster image

        Roman J. Israel, Esq.

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By the time a movie star of verifiable acting ability has been around for a few decades, you start seeing interviews like the one, recently, in which George Clooney mentioned quitting acting at least until something like Paul Newman's role in "The Verdict" comes along. That film has become an industry-veteran touchstone. Legal dramas featuring a flawed but nobly wily protagonist: These are catnip for maturing male beauties eager to remind audiences they can A) carry a character-driv... (read more)

      • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri poster image

        Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Justice League poster image

        Justice League

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Mudbound poster image

        Mudbound

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Mudbound" compacts a lot of story, handed off between no fewer than six narrators, into a little over two hours. So much of it works, with an unusually deft balance between its African-American and white characters, that you wish co-writer and director Dee Rees could stretch it out to a full three- or four-hour adaptation of Hillary Jordan's 2008 debut novel. But we have the "Mudbound" we have, and it really is something -- a vividly acted, dramatically rich depiction, ha... (read more)

      • Daddy's Home 2 poster image

        Daddy's Home 2

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Thank You for Your Service poster image

        Thank You for Your Service

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        It's been a long time since "The Best Years of Our Lives," the beloved 1946 film about soldiers returning home to their families after World War II, but the story, in many ways, remains the same. In William Wyler's movie, the sacrifices of war were embodied by vet-turned-actor Harold Russell, who lost both his hands in the Army. But combat injuries aren't always so visible, as evidenced in "Thank You for Your Service," the directorial debut of "American Sniper" w... (read more)

      • Geostorm poster image

        Geostorm

        Rick Bentley, Chicago Tribune

        "Geostorm" finds ways to draw attention away from an interesting use of weather as a weapon by using a cold front of political jabber. The problems in "Geostorm" were caused by director Dean Devlin and co-writer Paul Guyot as they have taken a passable action film and buried it under a tsunami of political muck. Politics can work -- even in an action movie -- but each smart twist needs to be followed by an even smarter turn. Both Devlin and Guyot have worked heavily in tel... (read more)

      • Only the Brave poster image

        Only the Brave

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The title "Only the Brave" sounds like Hollywood fraudulence. Certainly there are moments in director Joseph Kosinksi's film, an adaptation of Sean Flynn's vivid 2013 GQ article about the fatal Arizona wildfires and the elite Granite Mountain firefighters who took them on, when the characters don't get their due. Early in the picture the leader of the Prescott, Ariz., municipal firefighting squad, played by Josh Brolin, is on a mountain with his team, establishing a plan of attack. ... (read more)

      • Happy Death Day poster image

        Happy Death Day

        Rick Bentley, Chicago Tribune

        "Happy Death Day," the story of a woman who's caught in an endless loop of her own death, follows in the footsteps of "Get Out" by taking familiar elements from the horror genre but delivering the scares with more wit, wisdom and wonder. It starts with Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe), a sorority sister in desperate need of some sensitivity training, waking up in a strange college dorm room. Her meeting with the dorm's occupant, the sweet and naive Carter Davis (Israel Broussa... (read more)

      • Marshall poster image

        Marshall

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The 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)

      • 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)

      • The Mountain Between Us poster image

        The Mountain Between Us

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Survival romance "The Mountain Between Us" seems straightforward enough -- a couple of strangers are bonded forever when they endure a harrowing ordeal after their charter plane crashes on a mountain in Utah. It's "Alive," without the cannibalism, and a lot more romance. But as the film progresses, it becomes clear that the romantic fantasy tendencies hijack this otherwise interesting unconventional love story in order to become a sort of bizarre Idris Elba fan fiction. Th... (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)

      • Stronger poster image

        Stronger

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Stronger" is a movie you need to see, no matter how much you think you don't need to see it. A less effective version of the same fact-based story, even with the same actors doing the same excellent work -- it's Jake Gyllenhaal's finest, truest two hours on film -- might creak and groan with "inspirational weepie" biopic machinery, over-engineered Big Moments and an arm-twisting, melodramatic approach to its subject. We've all had that feeling of being ushered in to movie... (read more)

      • The LEGO NINJAGO Movie poster image

        The LEGO NINJAGO Movie

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Good Time poster image

        Good Time

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Marjorie Prime poster image

        Marjorie Prime

        Justin Chang, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times "It's always nice to be lied to." Those words are tossed off with a chuckle early on in "Marjorie Prime," but by the end they have acquired an almost prophetic significance. Beautiful untruths and half-truths abound in Michael Almereyda's quietly shimmering new movie, which takes place in a somewhat distant future when our deceased loved ones can be summoned back as "Primes" -- artificially intelligent holograms that, through the act of talking ... (read more)

      • Girls Trip poster image

        Girls Trip

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Baby Driver poster image

        Baby Driver

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Rough Night poster image

        Rough Night

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Rough h Night" is good one minute, weak or stilted or wince-y the next, though even with seriously uneven pacing and inventiveness it's a somewhat better low comedy than "Snatched" or "Bad Moms," or (here's where I part company with the world) the "Hangover" pictures. Yes, even the first one. The premise is "Bridesmaids" marries "Weekend at Bernie's," and the raunch level is persistent, verging on "skeevy enough for ya?" A... (read more)

      • Last Men in Aleppo poster image

        Last Men in Aleppo

        Guy Lodge, Chicago Tribune

        Variety When a devastating international crisis brings with it an inevitable surfeit of topical documentaries on the subject, audiences can be overwhelmed to the point of inactivity. No one outside the festival circuit has either the inclination or the constitution to watch them all, while the options can look indistinguishably downbeat even to the conscientious. The ongoing Syrian Civil War has been abundantly covered on screen of late -- with three Syria-related feature docs premiering at S... (read more)

      • Sleight poster image

        Sleight

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        By day, Bo (Jacob Latimore) is a street magician, wowing passersby with truly impressive sleight of hand for tips. By night, he slings party drugs in the clubs and on the streets of LA. But all the time, he's the protective guardian of his sister, Tina (Storm Reid), just two orphaned siblings against the world. In "Sleight," co-writer/director J.D. Dillard and co-writer/producer Alex Theurer have created an unlikely superhero origin story, executed with the style, themes and budget ... (read more)

      • Personal Shopper poster image

        Personal Shopper

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        No matter what sort of movie you're expecting from "Personal Shopper," you'll get it. You'll also contend with three others, and then the movie you first expected will turn inside out. So all that awaits the receptive viewer, along with a dangling modifier of an ending guaranteed to satisfy virtually no one. Even so, this is one of the most intriguing pictures of the year, a genre-hopper of unusual gravity. It's also the latest proof that Kristen Stewart has the goods for a long-hau... (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)

      • The Red Turtle poster image

        The Red Turtle

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Hidden Figures poster image

        Hidden Figures

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Hidden Figures" is a fairly entertaining gloss of a docudrama elevated by its cast. It takes place mostly in 1961 and early 1962, three years into the life of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, better known as NASA. At this point "computers" were people, by and large, not machines. With Russia's successful launch of Sputnik, America had to play catch-up in the space race. Based on Margot Lee Shetterly's nonfiction account of the same name, "Hidden Fig... (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)

      • Office Christmas Party poster image

        Office Christmas Party

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        When it comes to big, brassy studio comedies, a filmmaker can do worse than to gather the brightest, funniest stars, situate them in an odd, yet relatable situation and let 'em rip. That's exactly what directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck do with "Office Christmas Party," the delightfully debauched holiday desecration we need this year. Working from a screenplay credited to no less than six writers, the greatest strength of "Office Christmas Party" is its casting. If you'v... (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)

      • 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)

      • Trolls poster image

        Trolls

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        It can be difficult to be around lots of happy people when you're feeling gray. That's the conundrum of Branch (Justin Timberlake), a misanthropic and maudlin troll who just doesn't fit in with his dancing, singing brethren in the animated feature "Trolls." It's easy to see where he's coming from. His foil, Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick), bursts with a weaponized sense of joy, forcing her subjects into an oppressive regime of colorful, glittery glee, replete with complex choreograph... (read more)

      • Kubo and the Two Strings poster image

        Kubo and the Two Strings

        Colin Covert, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Nina poster image

        Nina

        Dan Deluca, Chicago Tribune

        The Philadelphia Inquirer Cynthia Mort's long-time-in-coming biopic about the trials and travails of the great Nina Simone has been harshly criticized going as far back as 2012, when word first got out that the "Young, Gifted, and Black" pianist and soul woman would be portrayed by Zoe Saldana with the aid of dark-brown makeup and a prosthetic nose. Now that "Nina" has finally arrived in theaters, revealing itself to be a listless, oddly constructed tale that does a poor j... (read more)

      • Anomalisa poster image

        Anomalisa

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Chi-Raq poster image

        Chi-Raq

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Dec. 4, Spike Lee's "Chi-Raq" is destined to make almost everybody angry -- not for what it says about Chicago's homicide statistics, especially among young African-Americans, but for how it says it. Director and co-writer Lee took on an existing script by Kevin Willmott ("C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America"), and together they relocated this brash update on the ancient Greek play "Lysistrata" to modern-day Chicago. Its prologue is all business, indicating... (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 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)

      • 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)

      • The Martian poster image

        The Martian

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A highly enjoyable, zestily acted team-building exercise, with Matt Damon playing the team of one, director Ridley Scott's "The Martian" throws a series of life-or-death scenarios at its resourceful botanist-astronaut, stranded on Mars but making the most of it. It's one of the most comforting science fiction films in years. "I'm not gonna die here," Damon's character, Mark Watney, declares early on to the camera. Left for dead by his crew amid a monstrous windstorm, in wh... (read more)

      • Black Mass poster image

        Black Mass

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Turns out the thing Johnny Depp's career needed was simple. He needed to play a type of role relatively new to him, even if it's relatively familiar to the rest of us. Some scenes in the solid, vividly acted gangster picture "Black Mass" come from real life, or something like it. These trade off with scenes yanked straight out of the movies. In a major "GoodFellas" moment, Depp, as South Boston underworld kingpin James "Whitey" Bulger, has been invited over for s... (read more)

      • Ex Machina poster image

        Ex Machina

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A grandly ridiculous theatrical tradition born in ancient Greece, deus ex machina meant, literally, a god borne by a machine descending from the sky to determine a story's outcome. The hardware in writer-director Alex Garland's crafty new thriller "Ex Machina" signifies something a little less clunky and considerably more ambiguous. In this case the object of adoration is a superadvanced example of artificial intelligence. The hook, hardly new, is this: Can A.I. be made not simply t... (read more)

      • Little Boy poster image

        Little Boy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Divergent Series: Insurgent poster image

        The Divergent Series: Insurgent

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Chicago as never looked less toddlin' than it does in "Insurgent," the second of four planned movies to be pulled, taffylike, out of the hugely popular Veronica Roth trilogy. At one point our fierce yet humble dystopian world saver, Tris Prior, played by the fierce but humble franchise saver, Shailene Woodley, strolls beneath rusted bridges along the dried-up remains of the Chicago River. I knew that St. Patrick's Day dye wasn't safe! I kid. I kid the post-apocalypse. It is no laugh... (read more)

      • The Hunting Ground poster image

        The Hunting Ground

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • 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 Judge poster image

        The Judge

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Of the 141 minutes in "The Judge," roughly 70 work well, hold the screen and allow a ripe ensemble cast the chance to do its thing, i.e., act. The other 71 are dominated by narrative machinery going ka-THUNKITA-thunkita-thunkita. This is the same sound a clothes dryer makes when a half-dozen John Grisham hardcovers are tossed in with an iron-plated movie star and 30 pounds of rocks. Even when it clutters up the story, the script by Nick Schenk and Bill Dubuque takes every opportunit... (read more)

      • The Boxtrolls poster image

        The Boxtrolls

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Fans of "Coraline" and "ParaNorman," the deft, eccentric supernatural fairy tales created by Oregon-based Laika animation house, have every reason to anticipate "The Boxtrolls." Laika's latest feature is based on Alan Snow's 2005 book "Here Be Monsters!" part one of "The Ratbridge Chronicles." For the film's purposes, the mythical hilltop town of Ratbridge has changed its name to Cheesebridge. Something else has changed en route to the screen.... (read more)

      • Life After Beth poster image

        Life After Beth

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Aubrey Plaza is so deadpan she's undeadpan, and not just in her new zombie movie. Playing April, Indiana's snarkiest state employee on "Parks and Recreation," the actress who'd be most likely mistaken for the MTV animated show goddess "Daria" slings so many bizarrely timed and unpredictable line readings at her skillful cohorts, with such straight-faced topspin, sometimes you don't know if you're in the company of an actress's extraordinarily practiced shtick or some kind ... (read more)

      • Lucy poster image

        Lucy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Le schlockmeister Luc Besson has no beef with men and guns, or he wouldn't have made the "Transporter" movies with Jason Statham. Or written "Taken." But in the world according to Besson, older girls ("La Femme Nikita") and young women in wee skirts and stiletto heels, gliding in slow motion toward their latest deserving victims of firearm violence, carrying nicely polished automatic weapons in each perfectly manicured hand -- that's the stuff, that's what makes ... (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)

      • The Grand Budapest Hotel poster image

        The Grand Budapest Hotel

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Ever since the moment in "Bottle Rocket" (1996) when Luke Wilson's character paused during a robbery of his own boyhood home to straighten a toy soldier on a bedroom shelf, writer-director Wes Anderson announced his intentions as an artist of serenely extreme exactitude. This is a filmmaker, working in varying degrees of visual stylization, who operates within precise notions of how the universe of his imagining will proceed in terms of story and how his characters will operate with... (read more)

      • The Wind Rises poster image

        The Wind Rises

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • At Berkeley poster image

        At Berkeley

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips In the fall of 2010, documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman went back to school. He and a two-person crew embarked on a three-month project, auditing with their cameras a semester or so in the life of University of California at Berkeley. The result was 250 hours of raw footage, 246 of which did not make the final cut of this elegant, observant experience now at the Siskel Film Center. "At Berkeley" is Wiseman's lates... (read more)

      • Fruitvale Station poster image

        Fruitvale Station

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Fruitvale Station" is hugely effective meat-and-potatoes moviemaking, and one hell of a feature film debut for writer-director Ryan Coogler. Lean (84 minutes), swift and full of life, Coogler's picture recounts a random and needless death, that of 22-year-old Oscar Grant, played by Michael B. Jordan, a familiar face from "The Wire," "Friday Night Lights" and the films "Chronicle" and "Red Tails." At 2:15 a.m. Jan. 1, 2009, the unarmed victim ... (read more)

      • Pacific Rim poster image

        Pacific Rim

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The Summer of Loud continues this week with "Pacific Rim," full of sound and fury signifying nothing more than a monster movie in full roar. Director and co-writer Guillermo del Toro's clever if rather wearying ode to Japanese sea-beast mythology is best enjoyed with a pair of earplugs and on a short night's sleep. That is to say: It's closer to the hammering "Transformers" aesthetic than expected. Yet the weirdness around the edges saves it from impersonality. In this nea... (read more)

      • Before Midnight poster image

        Before Midnight

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Media Services Film Clips When Celine, played by Julie Delpy, first met Ethan Hawke's Jesse in "Before Sunrise" back in 1995, on a Budapest-to-Vienna train just made for postcollegiate flirtation, one round of small talk led to another, until the talk got a little bigger and phased into bleary-eyed, besotted exchanges about literature and life's fleeting romantic glories. A lot of the talk was showboating, particularly with Hawke's aspiring nov... (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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Chronicle poster image

        Chronicle

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        Teenagers acquire super powers and, being teenagers, videotape themselves as they learn what they can do in "Chronicle," an entertaining comic-book movie without the comic book. Featuring effects that put the last two "Spider-Man" movies to shame, engaging, believable characters and a kind of real-teens/real-problems melodramatic screenplay, this makes an entertaining exercise in that child's game, "What would YOU do if you had super powers?" You know that virgin... (read more)

      • Coriolanus poster image

        Coriolanus

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Pariah poster image

        Pariah

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Dolphin Tale poster image

        Dolphin Tale

        Michaelk Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Help poster image

        The Help

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Crazy, Stupid, Love. poster image

        Crazy, Stupid, Love.

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In the aggravatingly punctuated romantic comedy "Crazy, Stupid, Love." (can you even believe that period?) does anyone ever discuss why the central couple, played by Steve Carell and Julianne Moore, should or shouldn't be together? Or the romantic challenges that face two people who met in high school, when they were pre-adults, and settled down when their friends were still wound up over their latest romances? No, they don't. They do not talk about such matters. Too bad, because th... (read more)

      • The Tree of Life poster image

        The Tree of Life

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Meek's Cutoff poster image

        Meek's Cutoff

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Media Services Film Clips At one point in "Meek's Cutoff," set in 1845, the frontier settler played by the excellent, plain-spoken Michelle Williams fires two warning shots after an alarming encounter with a Native American. Hurriedly she loads the rifle with gunpowder and ammunition, while director Kelly Reichardt observes the action from a patient, fixed middle-distance vantage point. It takes a good while -- precisely as long as it would in ... (read more)

      • The Green Hornet poster image

        The Green Hornet

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Slipping into a funk while watching half of Los Angeles get shot up in the second half of "The Green Hornet," I was struck by the sheer unluckiness of this film's timing. In the wake of last weekend's massacre in Tucson, Ariz., it's suddenly, temporarily a little harder to laugh off scene after scene of obsessive gun fetishization and mass slaughter in a superhero vigilante lark. I'm as much of a hypocrite as any moviegoer on the issue of diversionary screen violence. I've lapped up... (read more)

      • Blue Valentine poster image

        Blue Valentine

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Set in Scranton, Pa., and Brooklyn, N.Y., "Blue Valentine" depicts a working-class marriage hanging by threads of resentment, contempt and love, a very tricky braid to unravel. At its best, the drama captures little bits and pieces of a relationship, the telltale signs and clues to its undoing. In the end, it sympathizes more with the wronged, childlike husband than with the numbly exasperated wife. At least, that's the way it's written; as performed, thankfully, it's more intriguin... (read more)

      • Black Swan poster image

        Black Swan

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Mainlining Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" ballet score like a drug addict, "Black Swan" pushes its protagonist, a Manhattan ballerina devoted (and then some) to her craft, to the brink of insanity and then a couple of subway stops beyond. Director Darren Aronofsky's film is with her all the way. Its intensity risks absurdity in nearly every scene, even the ones not featuring Winona Ryder as the alcoholic castoff of the sneering ballet impresario played by Vincent Cassel. Is &qu... (read more)

      • Tangled poster image

        Tangled

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Bright and engaging, and blessed with two superb non-verbal non-human sidekicks, "Tangled" certainly is more like it. For much of the last decade, the Disney corporation has struggled to regain its animation mojo, while one-time rival, and current business partner, Pixar -- and, at its more sporadic best, DreamWorks -- dominated the market. While no masterwork, "Tangled" reworks the Brothers Grimm tale of Rapunzel clearly and well. It's rollicking without being pushy. Afte... (read more)

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

        Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Easy A poster image

        Easy A

        Sheri Linden, Chicago Tribune

        The story of a smart, funny girl who becomes a self-styled Hester Prynne, "Easy A" is neither as smart nor as funny as it wants to be. With the verbal-cleverness dial set at 11, the teen comedy wears its glib cultural references -- pop and 19th century literary -- in boldface embroidery. Much of what passes for fresh in this "Scarlet Letter" update doesn't bear closer inspection, yet the movie is not without its pleasures, chief among them the potentially star-making lead ... (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)

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