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      • 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)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Thor: Ragnarok poster image

        Thor: Ragnarok

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        As part of its generally welcome comic strategy, "Thor: Ragnarok" heckles itself for two hours and 10 minutes and lets Jeff Goldblum, skittering around as master of the death-match revels on the planet Sakaar, get away with murder. Nobody else in the known universe works on Goldblum's wavelength. The deadpan verbal shtick he's relying on in this inventive if increasingly duty-bound sequel will be royally amusing to 20 percent of the opening-weekend multiplex audience, and "Huh?... (read more)

      • A Bad Moms Christmas poster image

        A Bad Moms Christmas

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • All I See Is You poster image

        All I See Is You

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The premise of "All I See Is You," wherein Blake Lively stars as a blind woman who has her sight restored, sounds, on the surface, unfortunately sentimental. Thankfully, the film itself is far weirder than that. Director and co-writer Marc Forster explores questions of identity in relationship to sensory experiences in this erotic-ish thriller, about a woman whose whole self opens up to the world -- for better or for worse -- after a cutting-edge eye surgery restores the sight she l... (read more)

      • Suburbicon poster image

        Suburbicon

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The talent in front of and behind the camera for George Clooney's latest directorial effort, the 1950s satire "Suburbicon," has accumulated heaps of Oscar gold. But talented, award-winning filmmakers can get it totally, embarrassingly wrong sometimes. There's no other way to say it -- this movie stinks. It is irritating, faux-edgy, tonally wack, strained, unfunny, and such a colossally tone-deaf misfire. Clooney enlists Julianne Moore to trot out her tired Stepford wife routine, whi... (read more)

      • The Killing of a Sacred Deer poster image

        The Killing of a Sacred Deer

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Wonderstruck poster image

        Wonderstruck

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Professor Marston & the Wonder Women poster image

        Professor Marston & the Wonder Women

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Wonder Woman" made $821 million worldwide, so the timing seems ideal for an intimately connected origin story. The comic book superheroine's creator, free-thinking psychologist William Moulton Marston, introduced Wonder Woman (initially called Suprema, which sounds like a sugar substitute) in December 1941. In spirit as well as accessories, the bondage-prone island dweller, dreamed up by Marston as "psychological propaganda" for a more enlightened American society, owed c... (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)

      • 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)

      • American Made poster image

        American Made

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Has Tom Cruise been watching a lot of Warren Beatty movies lately? In "American Made," a zigzagging, heavily fictionalized account of a TWA pilot turned drugs and arms smuggler Barry Seal, the movie star does a lot of his own flying, and executes some stunts that belie his 55 years. But on the ground, the actor takes his sweet, smiling time with every rejoinder in every dialogue sequence, the way Beatty does, pausing before answering the latest question, registering disbelief throug... (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)

      • Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House poster image

        Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House

        Justin Chang, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times It's hard to pinpoint the moment the audience might be tempted to give up on "Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House," a sleek, scattershot portrait of the FBI associate director who spent more than 30 years hiding behind the naughty nom de guerre of Deep Throat. For some it might be the movie's opening minutes, when that ponderously self-important title first appears on-screen. Or it might be an early scene in which Felt (Liam Neeson) has a tense reun... (read more)

      • Kingsman: The Golden Circle poster image

        Kingsman: The Golden Circle

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" offers everything -- several bored Oscar winners, two scenes featuring death by meat grinder, Elton John mugging in close-up -- except a good time. It's a tiny bit more bizarre and depraved than the 2014 "Kingsman: The Secret Service," and I watched it (which I don't recommend, even if 141 minutes means nothing to you) with the same blank expression and 38-degree head-tilt that Halle Berry and valiant Mark Strong bring to their "meanwhile... (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)

      • Beach Rats poster image

        Beach Rats

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Hazy summer nights lit with neon lights. Salty mist, smoky cigarettes. Peeking midriffs, lanky arms and torsos dripping with seawater; undulating in a cheap motel. This is the furtive, nocturnal, sensory world of Frankie (Harris Dickinson), effortlessly spun like sugar by writer-director Eliza Hittman in her sophomore feature, "Beach Rats." Frankie and his friends, a group of young Coney Island hoodlums without much to do, spend their evenings trolling the boardwalk for babes and bu... (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)

      • Ingrid Goes West poster image

        Ingrid Goes West

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        No film has yet captured both the lure and the psychosis of social media quite like "Ingrid Goes West," a dark comedy -- or is it a warning? -- about a lonely soul who seeks connection and finds it, unfortunately for everyone in her orbit, on Instagram. This is the real "Emoji Movie," a true horror story for our digital times. In the most acutely relatable ways and built around deft turns by Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen, it skewers how we live and lurk these days in ti... (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)

      • The Hitman's Bodyguard poster image

        The Hitman's Bodyguard

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Commercial l moviemaking is often a matter of crossing your fingers and worrying about the same thing Gene Kelly did in "Singin' in the Rain," when, at the last minute, Monumental Pictures turned "The Dueling Cavalier" into a musical. "You think it'll get by?" Kelly wondered. Are movie stars enough to sell a breathlessly rewritten paste-up job? So it is with "The Hitman's Bodyguard," which is not a musical but is, according to reports, a breathlessly re... (read more)

      • Wind River poster image

        Wind River

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        With the drug cartel thriller "Sicario" (2015), the West Texas bank robbery yarn "Hell or High Water" (2016) and the new, Wyoming-set "Wind River" (2017), screenwriter Taylor Sheridan has created an unofficial trilogy of crime stories sharing an unstated moral. It goes like this: Follow the rules in America, whether you're an innocent victim, a charismatic outlaw or a valiant, frequently outmatched law enforcement official, and you'll either go broke or get kille... (read more)

      • An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power poster image

        An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Columbus poster image

        Columbus

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        With its calm, careful attention to architectural detail and a fascination with the spaces between and around its characters, "Columbus" is a lovely feature debut from the writer-director who goes by the name Kogonada, starring John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson in two of the year's subtlest and truest performances. The film's title refers to the Indiana city (population just under 47,000, and the birthplace of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence) boasting a considerable array of buildings... (read more)

      • The Glass Castle poster image

        The Glass Castle

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It happens, too often, with memoirs of harsh, unpredictable childhoods adapted for the screen. Forty pages into a book like "Angela's Ashes" or "This Boy's Life" you may be riveted and eager for more, whereas 20 minutes into a well-meaning eternity of a film version, you may be thinking: Lock these parents up. That's not a charitable thought, and author Jeannette Walls exercised no such reductive judgment when she wrote her eloquent, breathlessly readable memoir, "The... (read more)

      • The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature poster image

        The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Kidnap poster image

        Kidnap

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Improbable action movies just got a new set of wheels: the increasingly scuffed-up Chrysler Town and Country driven down every stretch of freeway in the New Orleans area by a fiercely distraught Halle Berry in the child abduction thriller "Kidnap." In this picture, directed with tons of extreme telephoto close-ups by Luis Prieto designed to MAXIMIZE TENSION in the MOST OBVIOUS POSSIBLE WAY, most of the angsting takes place in the driver's seat, behind a steering wheel. Berry's waitr... (read more)

      • Atomic Blonde poster image

        Atomic Blonde

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The '80s are back, baby -- the fashions, the tunes, the Russian spies. The Cold War is so hot right now, and action thriller "Atomic Blonde" is here to capitalize on that moment. Charlize Theron stars as the titular blonde in this violently stylish spy flick, doing her own version of "John Wick" as a taciturn secret agent with a very impressive set of skills. Directed by former stunt man and "Wick" co-director David Leitch, "Atomic Blonde" is a cool bit... (read more)

      • A Ghost Story poster image

        A Ghost Story

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Big Sick poster image

        The Big Sick

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Big Sick" arrives just in time to make the summer a little funnier and more honest, and a little less loud and stupid. The movie treats the people on screen generously, and it's a romantic comedy with surprising depth of feeling, glancing on all sorts of things: race, religion, tolerance, understanding, the competitive peculiarity of stand-up comedy and its various practitioners. Primarily "The Big Sick" is a showcase for actor, writer and comedian Kumail Nanjiani (&q... (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)

      • Beatriz at Dinner poster image

        Beatriz at Dinner

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In literature, on stage and in the movies, there's a subgenre of social satire dealing with the unstable, unexpectedly confrontational dinner party. The setting offers the clever writer a chance to take on vast societal ills in a confined setting just begging for a little upheaval. "Beatriz at Dinner" is the latest example. As written by Mike White ("School of Rock," HBO's "Enlightened") and directed by Miguel Arteta (whose work includes "The Good Girl,"... (read more)

      • Maudie poster image

        Maudie

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Thirteen and a half feet long, 12 1/2 feet wide, a tiny, brightly colored roadside house in Marshalltown, Nova Scotia, contained the married lives of Maud and Everett Lewis, a folk artist and a fish peddler, respectively, for 32 years. For any couple that's not much room to maneuver. In fact the setting, and the modest whole of the new movie "Maudie," can barely contain the sheer volume of capital-A Acting in this biopic focused on one of Canada's best-known painters, a self-taught ... (read more)

      • Wonder Woman poster image

        Wonder Woman

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        After showing up in last year's excruciating "Batman v. Superman" just long enough to steal the movie and then, unfortunately, give it back to the men, Gal Gadot grabs the Lasso of Truth and the bracelets of infinite resilience to take center stage in "Wonder Woman," director Patty Jenkins' formidable and almost entirely successful bid to make the DC Comics movies a little less lame. I mean, thank Zeus, right? We needed one of these to be good. This has been a lousy spring... (read more)

      • Born in China poster image

        Born in China

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Song to Song poster image

        Song to Song

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        As a critic and as a human being, with needs, I'm driven more than a little crazy by the recent films of Terrence Malick, with their perpetual murmuring voice-overs and creamy idealization of women as saints or sinners. I've begun to resent the ravishing floor-to-ceiling windows in all those swanky, minimally furnished private residences. My buttocks clench, ever so slightly, when the ethereal female spirits in white twirl around in circles, surrounded by tall grass, or break into an atavisti... (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)

      • Kiki poster image

        Kiki

        Justin Chang, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times The various bodies moving through "Kiki," an energetic and enveloping documentary about New York City's LGBT ballroom scene, are capable of astonishing, even superhuman physical feats. They dance and gyrate on underground subway platforms, down half-empty streets and on the grass at Christopher Street Pier. They pour themselves into stunningly elaborate costumes before hitting the dance floor, performing under hot lights, thundering music and the eyes of hundreds 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)

      • I Am Not Your Negro poster image

        I Am Not Your Negro

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Bad Santa 2 poster image

        Bad Santa 2

        Colin Covert, Chicago Tribune

        In calling "Bad Santa 2" the feel-bad movie of the season, let me be clear: I don't mean that it revives the rude-and-crude fun of the original hit, which turned the traditional Christmas film on its head. I mean the opposite. Trying to recapture that dark magic doesn't work the second time around. This lazy sequel is a lump of coal in a dirty stocking. Terry Zwigoff's provocative 2003 film, produced and evidently script-polished by those master cynics Joel and Ethan Coen, created a... (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)

      • 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)

      • Finding Dory poster image

        Finding Dory

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Childhood and, in fact, the very act of being human involves a certain level of loneliness. The great news is, you can make money off it. For close to 80 years, if you go by Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" making history in 1937, all sorts and achievement levels of feature animation have preyed upon the fears, insecurities and isolating circumstances of growing up. The best Pixar features, like those pre- and post-digital from Pixar's parent company, Disney, have exploite... (read more)

      • Kung Fu Panda 3 poster image

        Kung Fu Panda 3

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Carol poster image

        Carol

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Star Wars: The Force Awakens poster image

        Star Wars: The Force Awakens

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Pitch Perfect 2 poster image

        Pitch Perfect 2

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        Can we please talk about the snottiness of "Pitch Perfect 2"? It's seriously snotty. It's a two-hour lesson in how to act like a frenemy to your alleged friends. And it's not funny enough. Correction: For the sequel to become a global success, yes, it's funny enough. And some of the vocals are choice. But I am not representing the a cross-section of the planet's "Pitch Perfect" fan base with this review, I'm representing myself, and I found the new movie snide and lazy ins... (read more)

      • Iris poster image

        Iris

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        She was never a great beauty, a model or magazine editor, never married anybody famous. But somehow, Iris Apfel was anointed a New York "fashion icon." That Apfel achieved this status, with her vast collection of couture accessories earning a Metropolitan Museum of Art show followed by newspaper profiles and magazine covers, well into her 80s, is what makes her rise astonishing and worthy of "Iris," one of the last documentaries of the late Albert Maysles. The godfather of... (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)

      • 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 Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 poster image

        The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Whiplash poster image

        Whiplash

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Whatever the ripping melodrama "Whiplash" says about artistic torment, or the price of ambition, or mentor/student relationships from hell or thereabouts, it's too busy providing serious excitement -- both as an actors showcase and a confirmation of writer-director Damien Chazelle's cinematic chops -- to get hung up on conventional uplift. I've seen the film twice, and part of what makes it such a kick is Chazelle's conflicted feelings about his young protagonist and alter ego, a fi... (read more)

      • Only Lovers Left Alive poster image

        Only Lovers Left Alive

        Sheri Linden, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire poster image

        The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Best Man Holiday poster image

        The Best Man Holiday

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Best Man Holiday" follows in the footsteps of writer-director Malcolm D. Lee's successful 1999 comedy "The Best Man," using a template familiar to anyone who may have seen "The Big Chill" or its micro-budget predecessor, "Return of the Secaucus Seven." They're all different in their qualities and atmosphere. "The Best Man Holiday," for example, is a far more Tyler Perry-ish mixture of comedy and tragedy than the easygoing "Best Man&q... (read more)

      • 42 poster image

        42

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The 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)

      • 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)

      • Life of Pi poster image

        Life of Pi

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Life of Pi," Yann Martel's beautiful little book about a young man and the sea and a tiger, has transformed into a big, imposing and often lovely 3-D experience. If the results are less about poetry and wonder than the digital and cinematic engineering designed to evoke those things, with this story -- so very, very unlikely to succeed in any other medium -- "good" is achievement enough. The guiding hand belongs to Ang Lee, a director of versatile tastes, catlike patience... (read more)

      • Rise of the Guardians poster image

        Rise of the Guardians

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg recently lamented the dearth of holiday-themed movies headed to your multiplex this year. But in foisting "Rise of the Guardians" upon unsuspecting audiences for the holidays, it's clear he just wanted to take some of the pressure off this joyless, soul-dead piffle. "Guardians" is the worst animated movie to ever wear the DreamWorks logo. It's based on William Joyce's "The Guardians of Childhood" books, about a team tha... (read more)

      • The Master poster image

        The Master

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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 Hunger Games poster image

        The Hunger Games

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The hypocrisy at the heart of "The Hunger Games" is irresistible. Novelist Suzanne Collins, whose trilogy has been decreed "awesome" by, among others, my 5th grade son, indicts violence and organized brutality as tools of mass-audience manipulation. Yet "The Hunger Games" wouldn't have gotten very far without its steady supply of threatened or actual gladiatorial teen-on-teen bloodshed: death by arrow, javelin, genetically engineered wasp, plus knives. And land m... (read more)

      • Arthur Christmas poster image

        Arthur Christmas

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Five years ago, the Bristol, England-based Aardman animation folks -- who created the stop-motion legends Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep and therefore are eligible for sainthood -- made the digitally animated British/American co-production "Flushed Away." Jampacked with peril, if not with charm, the film had both eyes on a crossover American audience that never materialized. Now comes happier news: a much better film. The company's second digitally animated feature, billed a... (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)

      • Bridesmaids poster image

        Bridesmaids

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Thor poster image

        Thor

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        At this point in the Marvel Comics-derived superhero cycle, audiences can be forgiven for feeling a tad worn out, both for reasons of quality and quantity. My rear end's thor just thinking about how many more we have coming. Yet sometimes a product exceeds expectations. I like "Thor," for example. This is remarkable, considering the lameness of the first 25 minutes of director Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of the Marvel character introduced in 1962. A stolid visual stylist at best, B... (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)

      • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World poster image

        Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • MacGruber poster image

        MacGruber

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        The yearlong '80s flashback that is 2010 continues with ``MacGruber, a comedy that summons up memories of mullets, ``MacGyver and Mike Myers. A blood-spattered, hit-or-miss, ``out there character comedy of the ``Wayne's World/``Austin Powers school, it manages to be nostalgic and profane in equal measures, a movie that's retro and yet retrofitted to suit the new cutting edge in screen farce. Will Forte's thin ``Saturday Night Live sketch is taken to places network TV hasn't yet been in a game... (read more)

      • Coco avant Chanel poster image

        Coco avant Chanel

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        For someone who was as celebrated internationally as France's Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, the woman who changed the shape of 20th century fashion, not much is known for sure about her formative years. "Chanel lied all the time. She used to say, 'I invented my life because I didn't like my life,'" Anne Fontaine has said. Though Chanel's reticence may sound like a barrier to filmmakers, it stimulated co-writer and director Fontaine and star Audrey Tautou, who collaborated to tu... (read more)

      • Disney's A Christmas Carol poster image

        Disney's A Christmas Carol

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Robert Zemeckis has long been a filmmaker divided against himself, the techno-geek warring with the storyteller. His newest work, "Disney's A Christmas Carol" (Charles Dickens - demoted!), is an extravaganza of colliding intentions. But just when you give up on it, usually in the middle of its latest, extraneous, gyroscoping thrill-ride sequence, Zemeckis reminds you that he's capable of true visual dynamism, enhanced but not wholly dictated by the digital landscape he so clearly ad... (read more)

      • A Serious Man poster image

        A Serious Man

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "A Serious Man" is a tart, brilliantly acted fable of life's little cosmic difficulties, a Coen brothers comedy with a darker philosophical outlook than "No Country for Old Men" but with a script rich in verbal wit. This time it's God - or chance, or fate with a grudge against the Minneapolis suburbs - wielding the stun gun. The most we can do, the film implies, is stick to our principles and hope for the best. Physics professor Larry Gopnik, played by the excellent Micha... (read more)

      • Slumdog Millionaire poster image

        Slumdog Millionaire

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Slumdog Millionaire" is a ruthlessly effective paean to destiny, leaving nothing to chance. It also has a good shot at winning this year's Academy Award for best picture, if the pundits, Allah, Shiva and Fox Searchlight Pictures have anything to say about it. Each life-or-death cliffhanger and meticulous splash of color, every arrow plucked from director Danny Boyle's sari-wrapped quiver takes aim at the same objective: to leave you exhausted but wowed. The end-credits sequence, a ... (read more)

      • Sex and the City poster image

        Sex and the City

        Jessica Reaves, Chicago Tribune

        At the New York City premiere of "Sex and the City," cast member Willie Garson (Stanford Blatch) called the highly anticipated movie "critic-proof." If the crowds at early screenings are any predictor of box office performance, he's right. Happily, he doesn't have to be. Witty, effervescent and unexpectedly thoughtful, the big-screen iteration of the HBO series stands up beautifully (and somewhat miraculously) to the twin pressures of popular expectation and critical asses... (read more)

      • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull poster image

        Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Really, it would have been fantastic if the new Indiana Jones movie had turned out gangbusters. Failing that, a good, solid sequel would have been nice - proof that a handsomely graying collection of world-class cinematic entertainers, both behind and in front of a defiantly non-digital camera, were right to haul out the fedora and the bullwhip for one more adventure. But the movie with the title that does not know when to quit, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," ... (read more)

      • Wild Ocean poster image

        Wild Ocean

        Michael Esposito, Chicago Tribune

        When "Wild Ocean" leaves the surface of the Earth for aerial shots of South Africa's Wild Coast and the nearby waters, IMAX is in its element. Sharp plunging cliffs or tumbled rock shorelines with waves breaking over them are incredible. Looking down on huge shoals of sardines migrating along the coast with telltale shadows of sharks, dolphins or other predators menacing their flanks gives the impression of the vast areas that have seen little encroachment by man. The giant screen's... (read more)

      • Cloverfield poster image

        Cloverfield

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        There's nothing to "Cloverfield," really, but stripped-down chaos shot in a faux-verite "Blair Witch Project" fashion. Call it "The Manhattan Monster Project." Its special guest star is a Godzilla-inspired sea creature rather coyly concealed from full view, like a hostile celebrity who gets itchy around cameras. But I have to say, I was with it. It's dumb but quick and dirty and effectively brusque, dispensing with niceties such as character. It runs about 74 min... (read more)

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