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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)

      • Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween poster image

        Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The 2015 adaptation of R.L. Stine's popular "Goosebumps" book series was way better than it had any right to be. Starring Jack Black as a freewheeling version of the author, the film was a kid-friendly Halloween spookfest that examined the way we use horror as a coping mechanism in everyday life. It was smart and silly and scary, anchored by the inimitable Black. But the follow-up, "Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween," is a serious disappointment, starting with how Black is b... (read more)

      • A Star Is Born poster image

        A Star Is Born

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Alpha poster image

        Alpha

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        You know Sheila the She-Wolf from "Glow" on Netflix? "Alpha" would be her favorite movie. She'd watch it every day on a VHS tape, memorizing each line of Cro-Magnon dialogue, fashioning her costumes in tribute to the fur-trimmed Hot Topic looks sported by the characters, adopting a Czech wolf dog like the one in the movie. It's sweet, really, to imagine the kind of devotion "Alpha" might inspire, a film that's very simple, kind of strange, but will melt any dog-l... (read more)

      • Blaze poster image

        Blaze

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Director Ethan Hawke's "Blaze" paints a sweetly melancholy portrait of a singer-songwriter, the gifted, self-destructive Texas-based Blaze Foley (born Michael David Fuller). The movie neither apologizes for his destructive excesses nor turns him into a bigger, nobler deal than Foley became in his short 39 years. Ben Dickey plays him in Hawke's film. He's a legit musician, which does wonders for the film's texture. Foley's voice was different -- lower, more formidably lived-in and ro... (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)

      • Mary Shelley poster image

        Mary Shelley

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Rider poster image

        The Rider

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Blockers poster image

        Blockers

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        I went into "Blockers" cringing and came out smiling, which says more about me (double standard! They wouldn't treat graduating high school males that way!) than it says about the movie. But that's how moviegoing works. We're pre-judgy that way. And "Blockers," the feature directorial debut of "Pitch Perfect" screenwriter Kay Cannon, turns out to be well aware of that double standard, in a consistently funny and rather sweet fashion. This is what Hollywood used t... (read more)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • Personal Shopper poster image

        Personal Shopper

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Get Out poster image

        Get Out

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Red Turtle poster image

        The Red Turtle

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Storks poster image

        Storks

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Tronc Newspapers Critic Welcome to the very strange, and strangely moving, world of "Storks." Writer-director Nicholas Stoller, known for his more adult comedies, such as "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "Neighbors," delves into the family-friendly animated genre in a little movie about where babies come from. Or where they used to come from. In this world, the old wives tale of storks delivering bouncing bundles of joy is real history, though the birds have been ... (read more)

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • A Bigger Splash poster image

        A Bigger Splash

        Justin Chang, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times No less than his ravishing 2009 melodrama "I Am Love," Luca Guadagnino's "A Bigger Splash" is a swooning cinematic appeal to the senses -- two hours of al fresco lovemaking, gorgeous scenery and simmering erotic warfare. Which is not to suggest that the movie short-circuits rational thought or inquiry; on the contrary, its teasing, sun-drenched surfaces are likely to prompt a series of questions. When was the last time you sampled a freshly made ricotta? ... (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)

      • Room poster image

        Room

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Much of the effectiveness of "Room" -- and it's very effective -- depends on not knowing every narrative turnabout in advance. We'll be as clear as we can while hinting around at a few things regarding director Lenny Abrahamson's splendidly acted, if ever-so-slightly dodgy, film version of the 2010 Emma Donoghue novel. The premise is simple and brutally confining. A young woman known only as "Ma," played by an unerringly true Brie Larson, lives with her newly 5-year-old so... (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)

      • Infinitely Polar Bear poster image

        Infinitely Polar Bear

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        How much funny goes with the crazy? Facile as it sounds, this is the question guiding the efforts of a considerable number of writer-directors over the years, as they have brought family stories (often autobiographical) involving some form of mental illness to the screen. The latest of these is "Infinitely Polar Bear," writer-director Maya Forbes' agreeable but dodgy film based on Forbes' experiences growing up with a bipolar father in 1970s-era Cambridge, Mass. It's worth seeing, o... (read more)

      • Ex Machina poster image

        Ex Machina

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Interstellar poster image

        Interstellar

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Edge of Tomorrow poster image

        Edge of Tomorrow

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • The LEGO Movie poster image

        The LEGO Movie

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Finally! A comedy that works. An animated film with a look -- a kinetic aesthetic honoring its product line's bright, bricklike origins -- that isn't like every other clinically rounded and bland digital 3-D effort. A movie that works for the Lego-indebted parent as well as the Lego-crazed offspring. A movie that, in its brilliantly crammed first half especially, will work even if you don't give a rip about Legos. "The Lego Movie" proves that you can soar directly into and then stra... (read more)

      • 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)

      • Ender's Game poster image

        Ender's Game

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In step with its sensitive, tactically brilliant 12-year-old hero, "Ender's Game" is a bit of a tweener, neither triumph nor disaster, a war-games fantasy with a use-by date of Nov. 22, when the new "Hunger Games" movie comes out. Its central action scenes unfold in a vast zero-gravity battle-simulation arena, on a space station readying for an alien attack of enormous skittery bugs called Formics. The preteens and young teenagers being trained to save the world play dange... (read more)

      • The Conjuring poster image

        The Conjuring

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Haunted house movies only work if the people in the house are worth scaring. Sounds stupid, but it's true, although let's be honest: Real estate is inherently frightening. You put all that money in and only Satan knows if it'll turn out to be a decent investment, or if you'll be able to afford what it takes to repair any undisclosed matters of basement seepage. The quirks and creaks of an old house are always good for gallows humor or a cold shot of dread. As I write this the fridge in our ne... (read more)

      • 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 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 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)

      • Cloud Atlas poster image

        Cloud Atlas

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A big-budget film's marketing mission is simple: Eliminate the idea of an unsuspecting audience. Did people know what they were getting when they got "Transformers: Dark of the Moon"? Yes. They got what they were shown in the 30-second ads, over and over and over. Now and then, though, a movie comes along defying shorthand description. Adapted from David Mitchell's spinning top of a novel, "Cloud Atlas" exists to vex, intrigue and discombobulate unsuspecting audiences six ... (read more)

      • The Perks of Being a Wallflower poster image

        The Perks of Being a Wallflower

        Betsy Sharkey, Chicago Tribune

        Sometimes an inexperienced filmmaker can use a helping hand from his cast. That's exactly what Stephen Chbosky got from Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller and Emma Watson in the adaptation of his popular young adult novel "The Perks of Being a Wallflower." Back in the director's chair for only the second time, the filmmaker, like his main character, is a little unsteady on his feet. But thanks to his stars, the film -- like the book -- is a smartly observed study of a troubled teen's first y... (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)

      • Melancholia poster image

        Melancholia

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In a May 2011 interview during the Cannes Film Festival, a few days after he'd been declared persona non grata for making some criminally misjudged wisecracks about Jews, and the nascent Hitler lurking inside all of us, filmmaker Lars von Trier told me he considered his latest project, "Melancholia" -- in which an elaborate wedding party serves as prelude to the extinction of the planet -- to be "too beautiful," as well as "too easy." He may be an exasperating do... (read more)

      • Puss in Boots poster image

        Puss in Boots

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        DreamWorks' cunning casting of the silky Spaniard Antonio Banderas as a swashbuckling Puss in Boots pays off, brilliantly, in "Puss in Boots," a star vehicle for the nursery rhyme kitty cat from the "Shrek" movies. Thanks to Banderas and his Corinthian-leather purr and writers who know how to use it, "Puss" is the best animated film of 2011. This is no mere "Shrek" sequel. There is sex appeal in every syllable, swagger in every line. And even kids get t... (read more)

      • Drive poster image

        Drive

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Inside Out poster image

        Inside Out

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Director Pete Docter's "Inside Out" springs from a single, terrific idea. What if a person's basic emotions were tiny humanoid sprites sharing a command center, a spacious variation on the one in the starship Enterprise but inside the human brain? While the idea isn't new (you may recall the late 20th-century sitcom "Herman's Head," or not), it is vastly adaptable. As the Pixar Animation folks learned a long time ago, before they coupled up with Disney: If your premise has... (read more)

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

        Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • 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)

      • How Do You Know poster image

        How Do You Know

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        On paper and in the gossip-sphere, the new romantic comedy written and directed by James L. Brooks has had a lot to overcome. Ridiculous budget, north of $100 million. Suspiciously few advance screenings. An aura of bland, generic complication in the film's marketing. But "How Do You Know" turns out to be quite good, and its strengths are a lot more interesting than its limitations. Reports of re-shoots indicate Brooks' own nervousness about the story resolution. Here's how the stor... (read more)

      • Tron: Legacy: The IMAX Experience poster image

        Tron: Legacy: The IMAX Experience

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Imagine being "trapped ... inside an electronic arena!" This is how the coming-attractions trailer for the original "Tron" sold the goods back in 1982. Now comes Disney's remake of its cult property, fancied up with 3-D and the high-minded title, "TRON: Legacy." The results impart that "trapped" feeling all too well. It's a sullen affair, dominated by a grim visual palette that intrigues for about 30 minutes. Thereafter I found myself wishing I could sw... (read more)

      • Burlesque poster image

        Burlesque

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The choicest dialogue in "Burlesque" provokes the sort of laughter that other, intentionally funny films only dream of generating. Gather 'round for some free samples! In the opening seconds, a country singer on the helpful soundtrack sings: "If ah ever left this town. ..." Not one minute later, the plucky Iowa waitress played by Christina Aguilera announces to her coworker: "Ah'm leavin'." After a few bars of '80s synthesizer and a travel montage, young Ali gets... (read more)

      • Tangled poster image

        Tangled

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

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

        Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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 Princess and the Frog poster image

        The Princess and the Frog

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        How can a good-looking animated feature with a Randy Newman song as kicky as "When We're Human" end up being just sort of ... all right? Such is "The Princess and the Frog," Disney's first hand-drawn (non-digital) effort since "Home on the Range" five years ago. It'll look especially pleasing to older audiences who've missed this warmer visual aesthetic of 2-D animation -- and their kids won't have their souls crushed by it or anything. But the movie slam-jams it... (read more)

      • Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans poster image

        Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Anything's possible in this storm!" says the man with the badge in Werner Herzog's delirious "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans," a true feat of daring and one of the craziest films of the year. It's a very loose remake of the 1992 "Bad Lieutenant," in which director Abel Ferrara unleashed Harvey Keitel as a drug-addled spin cycle disguised as a police detective. The character of the drug-abusing cop, at work and play, has been relocated from New York to ... (read more)

      • The Blind Side poster image

        The Blind Side

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Blind Side" fumbles a remarkable true story of an African-American product of the West Memphis projects who ended up at a Christian school and in the care of a wealthy white family, and then went on to professional football glory. The kid is Michael Oher, who now plays offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens. He is not the main character, though. The star is Sandra Bullock, whose character, Leigh Anne Tuohy, is conceived as a steel magnolia with a will of iron and the righteo... (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)

      • 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)

      • Hunger poster image

        Hunger

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Hunger" stars Michael Fassbender as Bobby Sands, the Irish Republican Army terrorist/martyr who starved himself to death in 1981, at 27, to bring attention to the extraordinarily harsh conditions in which he and his fellow prisoners of the infamous H-Block of the Maze Prison, near Belfast, lived under British authority. The focal points, however, are twofold: the prison itself, and the way the first-time feature director, British video artist Steve McQueen, fragments the visual spe... (read more)

      • Under the Sea poster image

        Under the Sea

        Michael Esposito, Chicago Tribune

        Jim Carrey narrates "Under the Sea 3D," a new installment in the underwater 3-D filmmaking that IMAX pretty much owns these days. Nothing compares to the images in these films, and director Howard Hall, whose previous offerings include the IMAX hits "Deep Sea 3D" and "Into the Deep 3D," knows his way around the underwater camera - all 1,300 pounds of it - and personally tallied 358 hours of the dive team's 2,073 hours under the sea (accomplished in 1,668 total di... (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)

      • 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)

      • Fly Me to the Moon poster image

        Fly Me to the Moon

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        At what point might animators be arrested for doing work so ugly it causes aesthetic blindness in millions of younglings? It's not a question that comes up every week. But this is the week for it. The two cruddiest animated films of the year, "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" and "Fly Me to the Moon," have precious little to take your mind or your eyes off the visual crimes against humanity. I suppose I'm overstating it. But woe be to us and our eyes if we get worse animation of... (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)

      • Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D poster image

        Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Next year at least 11 different 3-D pictures will compete for the pleasure of the company of your eyeballs. By the time James Cameron's "Avatar" opens in December 2009, a spotty, unreliable cinematic tradition may well have reached critical mass and found new ways to amaze and entice a mass audience. Or else the trend will fizzle and the studios will await the next technological breakthrough in digital 3-D projection, the one that'll really put that lion in your lap and that lover i... (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)

      • The Bucket List poster image

        The Bucket List

        Sid Smith, Chicago Tribune

        Rob Reiner proved bewitching and insightful on pre-adolescence ("Stand By Me"), on-the-road youth ("The Sure Thing") and adult love and lust ("When Harry Met Sally"). But he stumbles badly in tackling geriatric blues in "The Bucket List," a manipulative look at dying with dignity and a lame yarn about as realistic as the fantasy in "The Princess Bride." The pitch itself is hopelessly hokey. Two seniors (Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman), diff... (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)

      • In the Shadow of the Moon poster image

        In the Shadow of the Moon

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's hard to imagine anyone not liking "In the Shadow of the Moon," director David Sington's new documentary on the Apollo space program, what Buzz Aldrin called our "noble national effort." It has the air of an officially sanctioned tribute rather than a probing study, but it's stirring all the same. The only thing missing from it is the notoriously private Neil Armstrong, the first of 12 Americans to walk on the moon. Yet he's hardly missed: What's there is enough, and ... (read more)

      • Superbad poster image

        Superbad

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A new titan has joined the pantheon of adenoidal screen legends, up where Julius Kelp and Lina Lamont and Ratso Rizzo dwell. His name is Fogell, age 17 or thereabouts. He also goes by the one-named alias "McLovin," according to a fake ID that pegs McLovin as a 25-year-old Hawaiian organ donor. Fogell's theoretical access to store-bought liquor may hold the key to paradise for him and Seth and Evan, his fellow college-bound high school seniors played by Jonah Hill and Michael Cera. A... (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)

      • 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 Departed poster image

        The Departed

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        After the dolled-up theatrics of his last few features, from "Casino" (1995) up through "The Aviator" (2004), it's a kick to find director Martin Scorsese back in prime form, at least in the terrific first half of "The Departed." The second half of this Boston-set thriller, based on the sleek, more sparingly brutal 2002 Hong Kong export "Infernal Affairs," can't quite match it, despite a few bursts of startling violence handled as only a first-rate dire... (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)

      • The Devil Wears Prada poster image

        The Devil Wears Prada

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Transamerica poster image

        Transamerica

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        In ?Transamerica,? Felicity Huffman of ?Desperate Housewives? pulls off a real actress? coup. She takes on an enormously complex role - a pre-op transsexual male named Bree traveling cross-country with a long-lost son - and gives a technically amazing performance. Huffman?s Bree is a first-class piece of acting in an amusing if sometimes tawdry-looking movie, a debut feature from writer-director Duncan Tucker that twists the ?70s road-movie genre in a few unexpected directions. We meet Bree n... (read more)

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