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      • Dr. Seuss' The Grinch poster image

        Dr. Seuss' The Grinch

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        We all feel a little grinchy sometimes. When holiday cheer becomes particularly oppressive, when we feel lonely in a crowd, when we would rather rain on someone's parade than admit defeat, Dr. Seuss gave us a way to describe that feeling with his classic holiday children's book "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." The universality of the emotion is why the tale endures, and why we're now on our third film adaptation of the story. Benedict Cumberbatch steps into the role as the Grinch i... (read more)

      • Bohemian Rhapsody poster image

        Bohemian Rhapsody

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Halloween poster image

        Halloween

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        At this point in 2018, a movie featuring three generations of victimized women squaring off against a predatory male is destined to find an audience. Nostalgia and catharsis; splatter and sisterhood. The new "Halloween" couldn't miss even if it were set on Arbor Day. It's a fairly engrossing bit of fan service, boasting many clever touches and a few disappointing ones. Director and co-writer David Gordon Green's picture veers erratically in tone, and the killings are sort of a drag ... (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)

      • Blindspotting poster image

        Blindspotting

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Of all the sharp scenes in "Blindspotting," and there are plenty, one in particular gathers up every grudge, blind spot and frustration packed inside the moving company coworkers played by Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal. On his last night of parole, ex-con Collin (Diggs), a biracial Oakland resident who has recently witnessed a fatal police shooting, arrives at an overwhelmingly white party. He's accompanied by the rowdy powder keg Miles (Casal), a white-Latino who has grown up on bl... (read more)

      • Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation poster image

        Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's all about the zing. If you are not up on monster speak, the term zing refers to what happens once in the life of a vampire, mummy, werewolf, etc. It's that moment when they know they have found the one true love in their life. In the case of "Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation," Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) learns it's possible to zing more than once as he meets the new once-in-a-lifetime love of his life during a monster sea cruise. While Dracula zings again, this third... (read more)

      • Ocean's 8 poster image

        Ocean's 8

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Some movies are more about parallel play than actual playground interaction, and despite a screenful of terrifically skillful talents, "Ocean's 8" never quite gets its ensemble act together. It's smooth, and far from inept. But it isn't much fun. That's all you want from a certain kind of heist picture, isn't it? Fun? Sandra Bullock takes the linchpin role of Debbie Ocean, sister of Danny, played by George Clooney in the three "Ocean's" movies of widely varying quality dir... (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)

      • 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)

      • Murder on the Orient Express poster image

        Murder on the Orient Express

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The new version of "Murder on the Orient Express" is a film about a mustache. This culprit boasts the fiendish ability to steal focus from whatever and whomever it's up against, every time director and star Kenneth Branagh confronts a suspect as Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. A horizontal wonder, with wavy upturned curls like feathers from the helmet of winged Mercury, the mustache in its totality resembles a miniature train aswirl in locomotive smoke. No mystery could possibly l... (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)

      • 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)

      • It poster image

        It

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The slick, numbingly relentless new film version of "It," adapted from the 1986 Stephen King best-seller and a lot rougher than the 1990 TV miniseries, gets a few things right, in flashes of imagery and in the performances. The opening scene is brutally effective, depicting the little Derry, Maine, resident Georgie meeting his cruel preteen doom at the hands, and teeth, of the malevolent supernatural clown Pennywise, and then dragged at alarmingly high speed down into the sewer. Dir... (read more)

      • In the Deep poster image

        In the Deep

        Cary Darling, Chicago Tribune

        Fort Worth Star-Telegram We're going to need a bigger cage. The "Jaws" jokes write themselves with "47 Meters Down," a surprisingly effective shark-in-the-dark thriller that makes for frighteningly fun summer escapism. Horror director Johannes Roberts ("The Other Side of the Door") knows what the audience wants in a film like this -- two sisters trapped in a dive cage surrounded by sharks -- and gives it to them, straight no chaser. Appropriately, he wastes littl... (read more)

      • Baywatch poster image

        Baywatch

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        No formula for success exists regarding feature films based on late 20th century television shows. There are only odds favoring partial or complete failure. So that's comforting. But what about "21 Jump Street" and "22 Jump Street"? Didn't those movies work? Yes, they did. Especially the first one, which was crude without being brainless, and relentlessly self-referential without pounding the jokes into the ground. Beyond "Jump Street," let's see ... we've gritte... (read more)

      • Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer poster image

        Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        This week some strong, wryly unconventional work opens on a limited number of screens around the country, which means adults not particularly interested in "The Fate of the Furious" can re-enter a movie theater with confidence. Topic A: "Norman," a mordantly funny study in ambition, desperation, manipulation and luck from the writer-director Joseph Cedar. Born in New York, working primarily in Israel, Cedar makes his English-language feature debut here. In the juicy role o... (read more)

      • The LEGO Batman Movie poster image

        The LEGO Batman Movie

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        At its sporadic best, the crazy velocity and wisenheimer appeal of "The Lego Batman Movie" reminds you of what made "The Lego Movie" such a nice surprise three years ago. It was my favorite comedy of 2014, even without that insidiously satiric theme song "Everything is Awesome!" Director Chris McKay's spinoff, however, is more about expectations fulfilled than new surprises, nicely sprung. Basically a conventional superhero action movie with a constant stream of ... (read more)

      • The Red Turtle poster image

        The Red Turtle

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them poster image

        Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Arrival poster image

        Arrival

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The alien spacecraft in "Arrival" arrive by the dozen, each of the looming, egg-sliced-in-half-shaped wonders looking like the latest in KitchenAid gadgetry writ large. All around the globe, their contents a mystery to paranoid earthlings, the visitors hover just above the planet's surface. Why have they come? Do they come in peace? Will the U.S. military and other nations' leaders give peace a chance? True to the spacecraft, director Denis Villeneuve is one sleek craftsman. Every s... (read more)

      • Hell or High Water poster image

        Hell or High Water

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Star Trek Beyond poster image

        Star Trek Beyond

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Things have started to feel a little ... episodic," acknowledges the commander of the USS Enterprise in his famous captain's log, three long years into a five-year 23rd century gig. That line, cheeky and knowing, comes early in "Star Trek Beyond." It's the 13th feature film pulled from the hallowed Gene Roddenberry TV series, the Cold War-era phenomenon that believed in ideas and the democratic ideal, as opposed to its cultural bookend, the vastly more influential "S... (read more)

      • The BFG poster image

        The BFG

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Hunt for the Wilderpeople poster image

        Hunt for the Wilderpeople

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times Every once in a while, a small, unheralded film comes along, so smart and funny, such a pleasure to experience, you can't believe your luck. "Hunt for the Wilderpeople" is such a film. The wacky story of the way-unlikely alliance between an overweight reprobate of a teenager and a surly, wilderness loving loner, "Wilderpeople" was written and directed by New Zealand's Taika Waititi, whose last credit was the admired vampire mockumentary "What We Do i... (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)

      • Dheepan poster image

        Dheepan

        Justin Chang, Chicago Tribune

        The films of the French director Jacques Audiard roil with tension of every kind: political, ethnic, dramatic, aesthetic. He is a master of screen violence, someone who knows how to orchestrate action and mayhem for maximum stylistic flair and visceral impact. He is also a sharp and sensitive observer of race- and class-based malaise in his home country, as in "A Prophet," his galvanizing 2010 thriller about a French Arab outcast who morphs into a crime lord behind bars. At times, h... (read more)

      • The Witch poster image

        The Witch

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In 1999, when the Internet was young and our hearts were blithe and bonny, the found-footage horror film "The Blair Witch Project" was brought to market on a production budget of well under a million dollars. It went on to make nearly a quarter-billion worldwide. Its aesthetic seemed novel back then, before all the "Paranormal Activitys" and visual copycats. With its shrieky, hand-held, shaky-cam approach to fright, the scruffy li'l movie connected with a new generation ea... (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)

      • 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)

      • Hotel Transylvania 2 poster image

        Hotel Transylvania 2

        Rick Bentley, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Terminator Genisys poster image

        Terminator Genisys

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Humanity gets a do-over in "Terminator Genisys," the fifth in the franchise begun in 1984 with "The Terminator." But this screwy revision of the previous "Terminator" movies is so muddled and yakky, you may find yourself rooting for the apocalypse. At one point Arnold Schwarzenegger is thrown through a wall into a Pepsi Max vending machine (if the rise of the machines means the fall of product placement, I'm all for it), and for a second I was pulling for a slugf... (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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Maleficent poster image

        Maleficent

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The formula works. It worked with "Wicked" on stage and it worked with "Frozen" on film -- tilting the storytelling prism so that a new angle on a well-known fairy tale appears in the light. The strategy depends on humanizing characters formerly known as evil, so that another tale of conflicted impulses emerges from the story we know, driven by female antagonist/protagonist hybrids who aren't bad, just misunderstood. So it goes with "Maleficent," the Disney corpo... (read more)

      • Ida poster image

        Ida

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Big Bad Wolves poster image

        Big Bad Wolves

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Content Agency Film Clips McClatchy Newspapers The new year has barely begun, but we'll be hard pressed to find a movie as disturbing, on many levels, as the darkly comic Israeli thriller "Big Bad Wolves." It's about the torture of an accused child molester-serial killer. The torturers are sure they have their guy. The accused keeps protesting his innocence and suffering horribly. We see cops use a stun gun on the guy's dog, kidnap the man, bea... (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)

      • Thor: The Dark World poster image

        Thor: The Dark World

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Thor: The Dark World" is the eighth movie in its particular franchise. So if anyone asks you what it has in common with "Blondie Goes Latin" and "Bomba and the Jungle Girl" you'll know the answer. The franchise at hand goes by the name of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, encompassing the new adventures of Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America and so on, worth billions around the world. (Rumor has it the next all-star "Avengers" movie will be two hours of a... (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)

      • Star Trek Into Darkness poster image

        Star Trek Into Darkness

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's lame and sort of geeky to compare franchise apples to oranges. Oh, well. "Star Trek Into Darkness" does everything "Iron Man 3" tries to do, in the realm of global terrorism imagery reprocessed for popcorn kicks, but with a little more style, a dash more brio and invention. Yes, the film culminates in a vicious fistfight that goes on slightly longer than forever. Yes, it's brazenly dependent on our collective (and justified) fond memories of the best of the first-roun... (read more)

      • The Croods poster image

        The Croods

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Like Someone in Love poster image

        Like Someone in Love

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Media Services Film Clips In "Certified Copy," from Iranian writer-director Abbas Kiarostami, a relationship blossoms and then fades under the Tuscan sun, though the story keeps changing its rules of engagement. The couple at the center, we presume, are strangers getting to know each other, but halfway through the exquisite riddle of a picture they "become" (or pretend to become) husband and wife. Nothing so tricky occurs in "Lik... (read more)

      • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey poster image

        The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • ParaNorman poster image

        ParaNorman

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Here's the historical designation of the new animated film ``ParaNorman: It's the third feature made in the painstaking stop-motion process - consciously unrealistic, herky-jerky and rough-hewn, in the George Pal ``Puppetoons or Tim Burton ``Corpse Bride vein - as well as in stereoscopic 3-D. The first two to do so were the very fine ``Coraline and the noisy, bustling ``The Pirates! Band of Misfits. The other distinction worth noting: In this summer of 2012, ``ParaNorman is one of the good mo... (read more)

      • The Cabin in the Woods poster image

        The Cabin in the Woods

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A peppy horror mash-up with existential airs, "The Cabin in the Woods" goes completely nuts in its final half-hour and is all the better for it. Writers lie about this sort of thing constantly, but according to screenwriters Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, who cut their eyeteeth on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" among other credits, the script came together in three days, in the spirit of "Let's try that, too." Goddard, making his feature directorial debut, plays aroun... (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)

      • 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)

      • Life as We Know It poster image

        Life as We Know It

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Compared to "27 Dresses," "The Ugly Truth" and "Killers" -- "The Ugly Truth" and "Killers" being extra-specially evil benchmarks of how low modern romantic comedies can go -- "Life as We Know It" does not crush your soul, does not turn Katherine Heigl into a shrill pain in the keister, only occasionally devolves into clumsy, poorly timed slapstick and outstays its modest but heartfelt welcome only by 10-15 minutes. "Killers"... (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)

      • Shutter Island poster image

        Shutter Island

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        For Martin Scorsese's follow-up to the "crazy" (his word) Oscar-winning gangster picture "The Departed," the director has gone seriously bughouse with the thriller "Shutter Island." It is less a film than a puny trampoline -- an occasion, though a grim one, for this most fervently movie-mad of American directors to show off his love for the various pulp genres mooshed together by the 2003 Dennis Lehane novel. That book has been adapted, faithfully, for the screen... (read more)

      • The House of the Devil poster image

        The House of the Devil

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Those of us who spent many hours in the '70s and '80s watching satanic cultists at work and play in junk like "Race With the Devil" (1975) will experience director Ti West's fourth feature in a different way from those who weren't around then, or were confining their filmgoing to more noble matters. "The House of the Devil" works either way. It is a fine little old-school thriller, set in the 1980s and devoted, fondly, to the visual syntax and Farrah-inspired hair of the e... (read more)

      • Paranormal Activity poster image

        Paranormal Activity

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        Some movies are more of a shared experience than others, and that's certainly the case with "Paranormal Activity," a micro-budget horror flick about things that go bump in the you-know-what in a nice new home. It's opening in select college towns, midnight-only showings, in a handful of theaters. The combination of the late hour and the horror-jazzed audience could make this minimalist chill-fest the new "Blair Witch Project," or so Paramount hopes. At the right moments, ... (read more)

      • Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs poster image

        Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Jennifer's Body poster image

        Jennifer's Body

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        From her earlier days and nights as a blogger and a pole dancer, screenwriter Diablo Cody knows a lot about the power of eyeballs, the predominance of the male gaze and the raging narcissism that feeds so many personalities, good and evil. Cody's Oscar-winning script for "Juno" revealed a highly stylized comic sensibility, as well as an arch-fiend of cleverness behind each turn of phrase. Her second script to reach the screen is "Jennifer's Body," which, like its privilege... (read more)

      • Inglourious Basterds poster image

        Inglourious Basterds

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A queasy historical do-over, Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" has been described as a grindhouse version of "Valkyrie"; a rhapsody dedicated to the cinema's powers of persuasion; and a showcase for a 52-year-old Austrian-born character actor named Christoph Waltz, who waltzes off with the performance honors as a suavely vicious Nazi colonel known as "the Jew hunter." All true. Tarantino's seventh full-length film recasts the iconography and mythic cruel... (read more)

      • Ponyo poster image

        Ponyo

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Julie & Julia poster image

        Julie & Julia

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

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

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

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Orphan poster image

        Orphan

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Approximately nobody saw the indie thriller "Joshua," in which Vera Farmiga - she of the fascinating Modigliani features and the emotional intensity that goes to 11 - played the unraveling mother of a malevolent 9-year-old hellbent on familial destruction. Two years later, on a bigger budget and a fancy set of producers including Joel Silver and Leonardo DiCaprio, here's "Orphan," in which Farmiga plays the unraveling mother of a malevolent 9-year-old hellbent on familial ... (read more)

      • Moon poster image

        Moon

        Betsy Sharkey, Chicago Tribune

        Another name for "Moon" might be, and I mean this only slightly facetiously, "2009: A Space (Spacey?) Odyssey," as it's virtually impossible not to be reminded of Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece between Kevin Spacey's soothing ministrations as a computer named Gerty and Sam Rockwell's efforts to cope as the lone occupant of a lunar outpost. The film, the first for director Duncan Jones, is certainly reaching for the same stars, the ones that his dad, David Bowie, shot throu... (read more)

      • Drag Me to Hell poster image

        Drag Me to Hell

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Star Trek: The IMAX Experience poster image

        Star Trek: The IMAX Experience

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        After "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," which exists primarily for its 7-Eleven Slurpee tie-in, the world needed a better franchise product, one that works with an audience rather than simply working it over. Here it is. The new "Star Trek" motion picture, not to be confused with "Star Trek - the Motion Picture" (1979), seeks to extend a lucrative brand with a young demographic. But it's a real movie - breathlessly paced bordering on manic, but propulsively entertainin... (read more)

      • Coraline poster image

        Coraline

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Coraline" may not be for all tastes and it's certainly not for all kids, given its macabre premise. But writer-director Henry Selick's animated feature advances the stop-motion animation genre through that most heartening of attributes: quality. It pulls audiences into a meticulously detailed universe, familiar in many respects, whacked and menacing in many others. Unlike other recent films shot in 3-D ("Bolt" comes to mind), this one takes rich advantage of the process, ... (read more)

      • Twilight poster image

        Twilight

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Low-key" is not the adjective you'd expect to describe a highly anticipated vampire movie, but there it is. "Twilight" is a film of intelligent strengths and easily avoidable weaknesses, a modest film adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's publishing phenomenon. It is faithful to its source material, which will likely please the fan base. It's also better written than Meyer's book, which tends toward froth and fulmination. (Sample line: "I was in danger of being distracted ... (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)

      • Tropic Thunder poster image

        Tropic Thunder

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        My favorite gag in "Tropic Thunder" comes just before "Tropic Thunder" itself, in a movie trailer touting a fake movie called "Satan's Alley." (That's an in-joke for all you "Staying Alive" freaks; "Satan's Alley" was the Broadway musical John Travolta cavorted in.) The pretend drama, a kind of "Brokeback Monk-Man," stars five-time Oscar winner Kirk Lazarus as a tormented 18th century Irish priest who has big love for a fellow Man of... (read more)

      • Pineapple Express poster image

        Pineapple Express

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In its gleefully befogged first hour, "Pineapple Express" seems to be onto something new: It's a marijuana comedy that keeps shuffling genres, like a stoned blackjack dealer. James Franco is blissfully funny as Saul, the supplier who finds himself running for his barely cognizant life with steady customer Dale, played by Seth Rogen. Dale's a 25-year-old dating a high school senior. (He proudly sports a high school girl's wristwatch.) They're running because Dale witnessed a drug-rel... (read more)

      • Flawless poster image

        Flawless

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In "Flawless," the quality of Demi Moore's old-lady makeup in the prologue and epilogue nearly sinks the picture. (You expect some sort of "Mission: Impossible" aha! reveal.) Working from a screenplay set in 1960 London, director Michael Radford shot most of this diamond-heist lark in Luxembourg. Even though most of the key scenes are interiors, something seems dodgy every time Moore, playing a cool, watchful executive of the London Diamond Corp., leaves the office. The st... (read more)

      • Diary of the Dead poster image

        Diary of the Dead

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Call it OCVD - obsessive-compulsive video disorder, the insatiable itch to visually document terrible, unfathomable events as they unfold. This syndrome kept "Cloverfield" on the run, but in many ways it's more provocatively handled in "George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead," which is funny and sad and rather sweet as zombie pictures go. No blockbuster freight saddles the latest from the 68-year-old Romero, whose "Night of the Living Dead" 40 years ago forever cha... (read more)

      • There Will Be Blood poster image

        There Will Be Blood

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        As surely as our country's multiple personalities owe a great deal to both religious fervor and the oil industry, "There Will Be Blood" reminds us that the greatest screen performances don't settle for capturing one trait, a dominant emotion or an easy way in. The very best of them are symphonies of paradox, forcing us to reckon with the ramifications. This is what Daniel Day-Lewis achieves in director Paul Thomas Anderson's majestic crackpot of a film. It runs 158 minutes on a broo... (read more)

      • Charlie Wilson's War poster image

        Charlie Wilson's War

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Something doesn't smell right with "Charlie Wilson's War." I'm not particularly concerned with the specific facts it has left out of its telling. But what has been left in feels compromised and dodgy. The film glides along on the polish provided by the on-screen and off-screen talent, and when the 90-odd minutes have run their course, you're left with a sensation of punches pulled and a $75 million budget protected. Easy for a critic to say: I'm not in danger of getting sued, as far... (read more)

      • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street poster image

        Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's not the volume of the blood that distinguishes "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" from every other film this year. The shocker is the context. Movie audiences aren't used to seeing throats slit while the leading character sings a song - Stephen Sondheim's stealthy, quietly obsessive counter-melody to "Johanna" - and then, in methodical succession, dumps the corpses down a makeshift slide into a cellar where the bodies collected are ground, slowly, into m... (read more)

      • I Am Legend poster image

        I Am Legend

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "I Am Legend" has a distinct drop-off point, which is a shame, because for an hour it's a surprisingly absorbing last-man-on-Earth movie. Why surprising? Because the director, Francis Lawrence, made "Constantine," which was two hours of visual noise. This one actually takes its time, creating some sights worth the gape, though they tend to be rather simple and unshowy sights, such as Will Smith stalking the empty, weed-strewn streets of Manhattan, looking for something to ... (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)

      • 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)

      • Shrek the Third poster image

        Shrek the Third

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In "Shrek the Third" there's a scene in which the frog King Harold (voice by John Cleese), ward boss of Far Far Away, is dying. He utters his last words, and then - old joke for a new generation - no, he's not dead, he's still alive, and says a bit more, and expires, but in fact ... The scene's supposed to be funny but sad, too, and then in the funeral sequence the oh-so-not-quite-hip soundtrack fills the theater with "Live and Let Die." By that point you're thinking: Huh?... (read more)

      • Grindhouse poster image

        Grindhouse

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Fanboy vengeance is theirs! Like so many stray body parts, the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez double bill "Grindhouse" gathers up two 85-minute features, "Planet Terror" by Rodriguez and Tarantino's more talkatively sadistic (and far better) "Death Proof"; a quartet of coming-attraction trailers for fake `70s-schlockazoid pictures of various genres, one of which is a riot; and 1,001 memories of the genuine grindhouse trash that malnourished many a grateful yo... (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)

      • Dreamgirls poster image

        Dreamgirls

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Dreamgirls" is performed, shot, edited and packaged like a coming-attractions trailer for itself. Ordinarily that would be enough to sink a film straight off, unless you're a fan of "Moulin Rouge." But this one's a good time. Four years ago, the film version of "Chicago" operated on a similar rhythm and restlessness, and that worked surprisingly well against the odds, too. Bill Condon, a writer of distinction ("Gods and Monsters," "Kinsey"), ... (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)

      • Charlotte's Web poster image

        Charlotte's Web

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The E.B. White wonder known as "Charlotte's Web" is told in such simple, beautiful language that any film version is bound to come up a little runty by comparison. Yet if you don't expect the moon or any directorial distinction, the new adaptation of the 1952 classic works on its own terms while respecting the original. I liked it. I didn't love it the way I love the book, but the book ... well, that is some book. The last "Charlotte's Web" on film was the animated 1973 Ha... (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)

      • The Descent poster image

        The Descent

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        In "The Descent," a low-budget horror movie full of tough ladies and creepy thrills, six adventurous girlfriends from the United Kingdom, on a cave-exploring expedition in the American Appalachian Mountains, get lost in the caverns and run into a race of flesh-eating mutant cave-dwellers; these "crawlers" look like monster cousins of Gollum from "Lord of the Rings." You either go for a movie like this or you don't. But though I didn't like it much, I've got to ad... (read more)

      • Monster House poster image

        Monster House

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Monster House" is more fun and a bit stranger than it looks from the trailer, and from the way its handlers make it sound. The film resembles "a fun house in an amusement park," according to co-executive producer Robert Zemeckis, deploying an old cliche made monetarily new by Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequel. The studio materials describe "Monster House" as a "comedy thrill-ride." Is that different from a thriller comedy-ride? The s... (read more)

      • V for Vendetta poster image

        V for Vendetta

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        If the h-for-hype "V for Vendetta" connects with a wide American audience, then something truly has shifted in the homeland-insecurity pop landscape of the early 21st century. It means we're ready for a cultured, sophisticated, man-about-town terrorist who espouses the belief that "blowing up a building can change the world." Finally, a film to unite movie-mad members of al-Qaida with your neighbor's kid, the one with the crush on Natalie Portman. Various film enthusiasts,... (read more)

      • The Hills Have Eyes poster image

        The Hills Have Eyes

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The reasons why the Motion Picture Association of America can?t be trusted keep piling up like festering, bullet-ridden corpses, which happen to be among the MPAA?s favorite things. The ratings board gets all twisted up about sex and skin, yet it cannot give you or your kids enough ax blades to the cranium. This week?s evidence: the remake of the old Wes Craven horror item ?The Hills Have Eyes,? which should not be rated R. It should be rated NC-17, or ITTS-OW, which stands for Is This Thing ... (read more)

      • Deep Sea IMAX 3D poster image

        Deep Sea IMAX 3D

        Michael Esposito, Chicago Tribune

        Director Howard Hall (?Into the Deep,? ?Island of the Sharks?) and the underwater IMAX film team do their usual splendid job of making the sea and its often-hungry denizens look beautiful in ?Deep Sea 3D.? While the film spans the oceans, much of it takes place in near-shore areas such as coral reefs and kelp forests - areas teeming with life from minuscule plankton to a hefty (though still youthful) right whale, not to mention rays, eels, a multitude of crustaceans, anemones, seastars, barra... (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)

      • Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit poster image

        Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Most of us come from common clay. Wallace & Gromit do not. The jolly inventor with the sausage-shaped smile and his patient, silent yet wondrously expressive dog are the stuff of uncommon clay, the synthetic material known as Plasticine, of which two of modern cinema's loveliest comic creations are molded. "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" is the first feature-length showcase for these indelible characters, and it's a good one. For 40 minutes or so it's really good, i... (read more)

      • The Devil's Rejects poster image

        The Devil's Rejects

        Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

        In the first third of rocker/director Rob Zombie's "The Devil's Rejects," one of his serial killer antiheroes proclaims, "I am the devil, and I am here to do the devil's work." His claim seems dubious. If Satan were involved in "Rejects," wouldn't it have more style and better production values? At the very least, the Great Beast would have hired a more disciplined film editor. Evil isn't this boring. Zombie's unevenly acted, badly directed sequel to the lacklust... (read more)

      • Land of the Dead poster image

        Land of the Dead

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        "George A. Romero's Land of the Dead" gives us another great shock to the system. The fourth blood-spattered chapter in writer-director Romero's horrific film saga of America laid waste by an army of marauding zombies, this new film continues in high style the fearsome epic Romero began back in 1968 with his sleeper Z-budget indie hit "Night of the Living Dead." He reaches a grand climax. Deepening and darkening the increasingly grim vision that dominates "Night"... (read more)

      • Fade to Black poster image

        Fade to Black

        Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune

        Jay-Z's storied 2003 farewell concert at Madison Square Garden was supposed to mark the end of the beloved rapper's short but prolific career, one that included the formation of Roc-A-Fella Records, a rivalry with Nas, Beyonce rumors and a "60 Minutes" profile. It was to be, metaphorically, Jay-Z's funeral - what critic Kelefa Sanneh called "a memorial service disguised as a block party." Patterning a trajectory in the shadow of slain hip-hop legends Tupac Shakur and Notor... (read more)

      • Howl's Moving Castle poster image

        Howl's Moving Castle

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Hayao Miyazaki's "Howl's Moving Castle" is a great animated feature - and one made, obviously, as much for older audiences as very young ones. But this wondrous movie probably shouldn't be put in age brackets at all. It's perfect for anyone with a youthful heart and a rich imagination. Though highly reminiscent of the whimsical Japanese genius' last two films, 1997's "Princess Mononoke" and 2001's "Spirited Away," it's even more densely virtuosic. This new film t... (read more)

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