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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)

      • The Hate U Give poster image

        The Hate U Give

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • A Star Is Born poster image

        A Star Is Born

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Sorry to Bother You poster image

        Sorry to Bother You

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Sorry to Bother You" is about a telemarketer who becomes a superstar, for a price. It's a science fiction allegory, though the science fiction angle emerges late in the game. It's a provocative, serious, ridiculous, screwy concoction about whiteface, cultural code-switching, African-American identities and twisted new forms of wage slavery, beyond previously known ethical limits. Premiering earlier this year at Sundance, the film comes from rapper and musician Boots Riley of the fu... (read more)

      • First Reformed poster image

        First Reformed

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "A life without despair is a life without hope," says the man at the center of Paul Schrader's "First Reformed." That paradox embraces the world as it is, and suggests a better world for the making. The movie it belongs to is an act of spiritual inquiry, a coolly assured example of cinematic scholarship in subtly deployed motion and one of the strongest pictures of 2018. It's also one of those third-act miracles all too rare in American filmmaking. Now 71, writer-director ... (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)

      • Ready Player One poster image

        Ready Player One

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Of all the frenzied races in Steven Spielberg's "Ready Player One," the closest one pits the director's mastery against the material's banality. By a whisker, Spielberg wins it. If you're a fan of the 2011 Ernest Cline best-seller, you wouldn't use "banality," but you'd have to concede "familiarity" as an acceptable substitute. We're back in the realm of Young Adult dystopia, in this case (as revised by screenwriter Zak Penn, working with co-adapter Cline) the mi... (read more)

      • Black Panther poster image

        Black Panther

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Just because something works does not mean it cannot be improved." So says the tech-wizard sister of the title character in "Black Panther." It's an apt credo for this soulful, stirringly acted and pretty terrific movie's place in the Marvel Studios realm. As a rule, these movies basically work, most of them, even if they sometimes feel more like a product, launched, than a superhero world, imagined. But co-writer and director Ryan Coogler's film qualifies, handily, as hi... (read more)

      • Call Me by Your Name poster image

        Call Me by Your Name

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Paddington 2 poster image

        Paddington 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Shape of Water poster image

        The Shape of Water

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Shape of Water" is a sexy, violent, preposterous, beautiful fantasy, co-writer and director Guillermo del Toro's most vivid and fully formed achievement since "Pan's Labyrinth" 11 years ago. Set in 1962, the story del Toro fleshed out with co-writer Vanessa Taylor marries "Creature from the Black Lagoon" to "Beauty and the Beast," referencing all sorts of other movies. Yet this one is its own being. It's exquisitely detailed and period-accurate whe... (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)

      • 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)

      • Dunkirk poster image

        Dunkirk

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        With a bare minimum of dialogue, and a brutal maximum of scenes depicting near-drowning situations in and around Dunkirk, France, in late May and early June 1940, Christopher Nolan's "Dunkirk" is a unique waterboarding of a film experience. Many will respond to it, primally, as a grueling dramatization of what the English call "the Dunkirk spirit," one that turned a perilous mass evacuation of British and Allied troops, under German fire (though bad weather kept the Luftwa... (read more)

      • Unforgettable poster image

        Unforgettable

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Every once in a while, you need a good, juicy, erotic thriller. In the '90s, those were a dime a dozen, but now they're few and far between (forget the dopey "50 Shades" movies). Which makes savoring the outlandishly entertaining "Unforgettable" worthwhile. It's a female-driven melodrama -- a "women's picture" as they used to call them in the Hollywood of the 1940s -- that deals frankly with the issues of domestic violence, trauma and motherhood, all wrapped up i... (read more)

      • The Fate of the Furious poster image

        The Fate of the Furious

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Like "Beauty and the Beast," "The Boss Baby" and "The Bad and the Beautiful," "The Fate of the Furious" features a title in which two key words share the same first letter. That's one of the most interesting things about it. Adjust your expectations accordingly. This is the eighth in the franchise, which began with a relatively modest LA street-racing movie in 2001. The film just prior to the new one, "Furious 7," had a production budget of so... (read more)

      • Beauty and the Beast poster image

        Beauty and the Beast

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The chaotic, pushy remake of Disney's 1991 screen musical "Beauty and the Beast" stresses the challenges of adapting a success in one form (animation) for another (live-action). We're in for a long line of Disney remakes in the coming years: Everything from "Dumbo" to "Aladdin" is headed for a wallet near you, banking on nostalgia and brand recognition. The financial wallop of the recent, pretty good live-action "Jungle Book" redo, and the live-action &... (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)

      • Doctor Strange poster image

        Doctor Strange

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Hacksaw Ridge poster image

        Hacksaw Ridge

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        For all sorts of emotional and psychological reasons I'm trying to figure out as a critic and, relatedly, as a human, audiences tend to remember and even admire what traumatizes them in the name of entertainment. But even a film determined to show us the grisliest horrors of war must traumatize and -- more palatably -- excite in roughly equal measure, in order to make a lot of money. I think director Mel Gibson's "Hacksaw Ridge" is going to make a lot of money. Its old-fashioned sto... (read more)

      • Bad Moms poster image

        Bad Moms

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping poster image

        Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Sing Street poster image

        Sing Street

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Set in 1985 Dublin, "Sing Street" is a seriously endearing picture from John Carney, the writer-director of "Once," about which I am crazy. For his latest, I'm two-thirds crazy. That's percentage enough. Working on a broader canvas, creating a different sort of artist's fantasy of fulfillment than the plaintive "Once" offered, "Sing Street" accommodates elements of gritty realism and liberating escapism, one feeding the other. One minute you're watching... (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)

      • 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)

      • Rosenwald poster image

        Rosenwald

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times "Rosenwald" used to be a name to conjure with, but no more, and that is a shame this vivid, engaging documentary attempts to do something about. In the early years of the 20th century, Julius Rosenwald was a philanthropist on a colossal scale, giving away what has been estimated as close to a billion dollars in today's money. But as revealed by writer-director Aviva Kempner, it's not just the amount of money he donated that makes Rosenwald special, it's the specifi... (read more)

      • The Gift poster image

        The Gift

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A delayed-secret suspense thriller of unusual stealth, "The Gift" comes from actor and screenwriter Joel Edgerton, here making his feature directorial debut. Among this summer's worthwhile movies, this one faces a particular challenge, since its marketing campaign makes it look like a slasher outing. It's not. Check the MPAA rating for a clue: "The Gift" received an R for language and language alone; no violence. So, some will see "The Gift" expecting one sort of... (read more)

      • Trainwreck poster image

        Trainwreck

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        If you've seen "Spy" with Melissa McCarthy, you're already aware that the movie nails its first big laugh -- the sneezing-assassin joke -- within moments of the opening credits. Even if you know it's coming, the timing is just right. And right away you think: There. Thank you. These people know what they're doing. How often does that thought run through your mind in a mainstream commercial comedy? Not often enough. It didn't happen with "Ted 2," which may be a moderate box... (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)

      • Furious 7 poster image

        Furious 7

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Under the hood, we're all Vin Diesel, trying to live a meaningful life a quarter-mile at a time. Yet the film series begun in the pre-9/11 era with "The Fast and the Furious" has sustained itself through weak sequels and exuberant ones, and has become not a drag race but the Indy 500 of the movies: a reliable if repetitive ode to fossil fuel. Keep it coming, pal. We'll tell you when we've had enough. "They say the open road helps you see where you've been ... and where you're g... (read more)

      • American Sniper poster image

        American Sniper

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        People will take what they want to take from "American Sniper," director Clint Eastwood's latest film. Already it has turned into an ideological war to be won or lost, rather than a fictionalized biopic to be debated. It's the most divisive movie on screens at the moment, and it appears to have caught a wave of desire among audiences -- conservative, liberal, centrist -- to return to stories of nerve-wracking wartime heroism in varying degrees of truth and fiction, from "Fury&q... (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 Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies poster image

        The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        There is a moment late in "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies," after what may be the longest on-screen battle in movie history, when Ian McKellen's Gandalf sits quietly beside Martin Freeman's Bilbo Baggins and starts fussing with his pipe. No one fusses with a pipe more fussily than a great veteran English character actor, and as McKellen carefully scrapes out the bowl, getting it ready for a nice little smoke, you wonder if director Peter Jackson is going to turn this bit ... (read more)

      • Guardians of the Galaxy poster image

        Guardians of the Galaxy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Like the '70s cassette mix tape so dear to its hero, "Guardians of the Galaxy" scavenges all sorts of "greatest hits" precedents, from "Iron Man" on down, to come up with its own summertime fling. It's looser, scruffier and more overtly comic than the average Marvel action fantasy. And despite the usual load of violence, not all of it properly handled, the film owes its relative buoyancy above all to Chris Pratt as the wisecracking space rogue at the helm. There ... (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 Grand Budapest Hotel poster image

        The Grand Budapest Hotel

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • The Wolf of Wall Street poster image

        The Wolf of Wall Street

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In the waning years of the last century at Stratton Oakmont, the Wall Street brokerage house run like a coked-up 24-hour bacchanal by Jordan Belfort, the customer wasn't king. The customer was merely a means to an end. Belfort and his minions ruled, and they couldn't spend, snort or swallow the riches reaped fast enough. Belfort's various illegalities and near-death experiences were lovingly self-chronicled in his memoirs. Now director Martin Scorsese has made a three-hour picture about the m... (read more)

      • Inside Llewyn Davis poster image

        Inside Llewyn Davis

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Inside Llewyn Davis" takes place in winter 1961, just before Bob Dylan makes the scene. The scene is the Greenwich Village folk music universe, a few finite blocks of an island that, in the hands of cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, looks and feels like a beautiful, long-ago smudge in motion. Crashing here and there, on couches uptown and downtown, Llewyn has a guitar, a voice and some talent. Thanks to Oscar Isaac's extraordinarily subtle and shrewd performance, the surly protagoni... (read more)

      • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug poster image

        The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        One year and several hundred films later, I confess my mind isn't over-full of vivid memories of director Peter Jackson's first "Hobbit." It did the job, in its leisurely, fill-out-the-trilogy fashion, albeit looking like clinically detailed crud when viewed in 48 frames-per-second digital projection. Maybe my eyes will catch up to the glories of this alleged improvement. Maybe not. Format aside: Why so much "Hobbit," when the book itself supplies just enough story for one... (read more)

      • Free Birds poster image

        Free Birds

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        "Free Birds" is more proof, as if 2013 needed it, that Hollywood has almost killed the animated goose that laid the golden egg. No matter that in this case the goose is a turkey. You didn't need to be told that. But a year that has produced the clever and heartfelt "The Croods" and the passably amusing "Despicable Me 2" has also had a healthy dose of sausage factory about it. "Epic," "Monsters University," "Planes," "Escape from... (read more)

      • Gravity poster image

        Gravity

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Fast & Furious 6 poster image

        Fast & Furious 6

        Christopher Borrelli, Chicago Tribune

        "Fast & Furious 6," which surely maxed out Universal's tank-top budget for the year, and sustains its joyful, unpretentious ridiculousness so perfectly that I secretly hoped the "6" meant "hours long," ends with a disclaimer, the sort of legalese that typically arrives at the tail end of the closing credits. To paraphrase: On the way out of this theater, should you get the urge to drive your tank into traffic across a towering bridge in Spain, or feel the need to... (read more)

      • Like Someone in Love poster image

        Like Someone in Love

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey poster image

        The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 poster image

        The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The fifth and very likely final "Twilight" picture boasts one moment, perhaps three or four seconds in length, so delightfully intense and uncharacteristically juicy that the rest of the film -- most of the rest of the whole series, in fact -- looks pretty pale by comparison. Not vampire pale. Paler. I refer to Michael Sheen as Aro, chief executive officer of the undead Volturi and the president of the Gleeful British Ham Actors Union. At the moment in question, Aro mistakenly belie... (read more)

      • Looper poster image

        Looper

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted poster image

        Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

        Colin Covert, Chicago Tribune

        "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" is one of the fanciest, most carefully assembled cartoons ever put on the screen. The jokes come so fast that they're nearly subliminal. Plot points whiz by, and when things threaten to blur, there's a crazy musical number or a tightly worked out physical comedy routine involving a hippo or a penguin. Then it's back on the bullet train. Your brain goes breathless and giddy struggling to keep up. Like the last "Madagascar" installment, t... (read more)

      • Wanderlust poster image

        Wanderlust

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        Paul Rudd stands in front of a bathroom vanity and riffs a string of vulgar, not-very-funny euphemisms for the intercourse he plans to have with Malin Akerman's character in an outtake that's part of the closing credits of "Wanderlust." It's a part of the process with any Judd Apatow production -- raunchy, riffy runs, comic actors firing away in an effort to top each other and what's in the script. Apatow's ethos: "The funniest line wins." Only they're not funny. The take ... (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 Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 poster image

        The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The fourth film in the "Twilight" series reveals a flash or two of real filmmaking (mostly in a suggestively grotesque birthing sequence), enough to save it from pure lousiness. But a significant number of its 117 minutes do seem like hours, and whenever certain actors take the lead and set the pace of the dialogue, time itself begins to crawl backward and the breaking dawn begins to feel like yesterday's breaking dawn, or last Tuesday's. How did this happen? Quite apart from the so... (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)

      • 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)

      • Fast Five: The IMAX Experience poster image

        Fast Five: The IMAX Experience

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        As adolescent male power fantasies go, "Fast Five" has an undeniable trashy charm. Things blow up right and left, muscle cars are pulverized, sexpots vamp and brawny men wallop the tar out of one another. Yet there are pauses between adrenaline-packed driving sequences, shootouts and explosions for three romance subplots and two involving babies. Here's a summer popcorn flick strong enough for a man and gentle enough for a woman. The story, such as it is, begins with an exhilarating... (read more)

      • Somewhere poster image

        Somewhere

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Many, including writer-director Sofia Coppola herself, have noted that Coppola's "Lost in Translation," "Marie Antoinette" and now "Somewhere" take place in either literal or (in the case of Versailles) metaphoric hotels, magnets for ennui as well as possibility. In a hotel, as Vicki Baum wrote in her novel "Grand Hotel," nothing ever happens but everything happens in spite of all that nothing. So it is with "Somewhere," a small but, in its wa... (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)

      • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World poster image

        Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Inception poster image

        Inception

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Fantastic Mr. Fox poster image

        Fantastic Mr. Fox

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Twilight Saga: New Moon poster image

        The Twilight Saga: New Moon

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," also known as "Twilight: The Squeakquel," is actually pretty good - a tick better than the first "Twilight," which wasn't bad, either. These are hardly superlatives on the order of "shattering" and "beautiful," but compared with the film versions of "The Da Vinci Code" and "Angels & Demons," the only two movies ever made with less sex than the first two "Twilight" installments, they'... (read more)

      • Zombieland poster image

        Zombieland

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Warts, entrails and all, I had a ball at "Zombieland." It's 81 minutes of my kind of stupid. The premise gives you absolutely nothing new in terms of what zombies do, or look like, or run like, and the genre's more stringent aficionados may get sniffy when confronted with a modest, high-spirited gore comedy. But I laughed more often, and harder, at the best gags here than I did with any number of other comedies this year. And there's something inherently droll about plunking down Je... (read more)

      • Bright Star poster image

        Bright Star

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Certain images in Jane Campion's "Bright Star" are beautiful, as opposed to merely attractive, and only a major talent could've produced them. My favorite is a sun-drenched shot of Abbie Cornish's Fanny Brawne, her head and heart newly opened to the intoxication of love and poetry, lying on her bed, with a perfectly timed breeze fluttering her curtains just so. Cornish enters this early 19th century dream world of Brawne's relationship with the poet John Keats (played by Ben Whishaw... (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)

      • Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg poster image

        Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        At one point in the juicy new documentary "Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg," Ed Asner - who grew up Jewish in Kansas City, Kan. - talks about why his family wasn't crazy about "The Goldbergs," a radio mainstay from the beginning of the Depression through 1947 and successfully adapted for television two years later. "Molly Goldberg with her accent interfered with our 'blending,'" Asner recalls, carefully. To say nothing of the iron-lunged Mrs. Bloom, the Bronx neighbor to ... (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)

      • The Brothers Bloom poster image

        The Brothers Bloom

        Jessica Reaves, Chicago Tribune

        The jaunty, energetic first 10 minutes of "The Brothers Bloom" are easily the best first 10 minutes of any film I've seen recently. And while the succeeding hour and 43 minutes doesn't hold up to the movie's opening scenes, the whole endeavor is still an awfully good time. Writer/director Rian Johnson pitched "Brothers" after the surprise success of his freshman effort, "Brick," which was the cinematic equivalent of rapidly downing 25 espresso shots. With "B... (read more)

      • Observe and Report poster image

        Observe and Report

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Seth Rogen is likely to get blamed for everything wrong with "Observe and Report," because he's overexposed at the moment and the film doesn't really work, even with its flashes of rude invention. But the fault lies with writer-director Jody Hill, whose microbudget comedy "The Foot Fist Way" got a strange amount of attention from the sleep-deprived regulars at the Sundance Film Festival, and whose new outing is a puny black-comic riff on "Taxi Driver," casting Ro... (read more)

      • Monsters vs. Aliens poster image

        Monsters vs. Aliens

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The new DreamWorks animated 3-D feature "Monsters vs. Aliens" is blessed with a high-concept title - possibly the highest ever; my son's been hocking me about this movie since before he was born - and Seth Rogen's serenely dense line readings in the role of a genetically altered tomato gone wrong. But a bizarre percentage of the project went wrong somewhere, along with the tomato. Pilfering everything from "Mothra" to "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman" to "Men in... (read more)

      • Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father poster image

        Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father

        Maureen M. Hart, Chicago Tribune

        A documentary of love and loss, "Dear Zachary" is a last gift to a departed friend, a filmmaker's salute to the childhood buddy who acted in Kuenne's earliest productions. Dr. Andrew Bagby was 28 when he was shot to death in a Pennsylvania park Nov. 5, 2001. His parents, David and Kathleen, forced to ID their only child at the morgue, were sustained in large part by his legion of friends, many of whom appear in the film. An ex-girlfriend named Shirley Turner was the main suspect, an... (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)

      • Mamma Mia! poster image

        Mamma Mia!

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It's funny what you buy completely onstage and resist completely, or nearly, on-screen. Case in point: "Mamma Mia!" -the ABBA-fueled stage phenomenon that has now become "Mamma Mia! The Movie." Of course I never miss a Meryl Streep musical. On-screen she sang in "Silkwood," "Ironweed," "Postcards From the Edge" and plenty in "A Prairie Home Companion." Onstage Streep put her pipes to work on Brecht and Weill's "Happy End";... (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)

      • Charlie Wilson's War poster image

        Charlie Wilson's War

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Across the Universe poster image

        Across the Universe

        Jessica Reaves, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Die Hard 4.0 poster image

        Die Hard 4.0

        Jessica Reaves, Chicago Tribune

        Detective John McClane is back. This time, he's not fighting a bunch of bad guys who've taken over an airport or a high-rise during an office Christmas party. This time, he's fighting a bunch of bad guys who've hacked into a whole lot of really important computers. With information on them. That's right: This time, it's impersonal. And while cold mazes of hard drives and warrens of blinking lights in "Live Free or Die Hard" may not sound like the obvious settings for summer movie m... (read more)

      • Paprika poster image

        Paprika

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Movies, it's often said, are the art form that most closely suggests the dream state - and "Paprika" is pretty joyously dreamy and disorienting for much of its length. Director/co-writer Satoshi Kon is a virtuoso of Japanese anime; 2003's "Tokyo Godfathers" was his stunning sci-fi remake of the 1948 John Ford western "Three Godfathers." Original author Yasutaka Tsutsui is one of his country's major science-fiction writers. Their joint creation is a movie about a ... (read more)

      • Shrek the Third poster image

        Shrek the Third

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Away From Her poster image

        Away From Her

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Bergmanesque and beautiful, set in a wintry landscape fitfully lit by one woman's flickering awareness and one man's long-term, stubborn love, "Away from Her" is one of the most remarkable and moving love stories the movies have recently given us. Made with jewel-like craft and deep human understanding, it is based on Alice Munro's poignant story "The Bear Came Over the Mountain," about a long-married academic couple threatened by the wife's approaching Alzheimer's disease... (read more)

      • Grindhouse poster image

        Grindhouse

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Host poster image

        The Host

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • The Holiday poster image

        The Holiday

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        This one's more of a working vacation. "The Holiday" is a 131-minute romantic comedy for those who, if they had their way, would still be watching "Love Actually." Star power is not nothing, though, and "The Holiday" has that covered, thanks to its toothsome cast - they're a dental paradise, this lot - and to a premise (L.A. dame exchanges houses with a Brit) requiring little elaboration. Writer-director Nancy Meyers elaborates the daylights out of her story anyw... (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)

      • Flags of Our Fathers poster image

        Flags of Our Fathers

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "We like things nice and simple. Good and evil, heroes and villains," says an Iwo Jima survivor played by Harve Presnell, one of many voices heard in the new Clint Eastwood movie "Flags of Our Fathers." Eastwood's 27th feature behind the camera, the film is an honorable effort to complicate that simplicity while delivering a mass-audience Greatest Generation tale, to the best of a mature craftsman's abilities. It's hard not to be moved by many of the scenes, both in battle... (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)

      • Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby poster image

        Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Your body lets you know if a comedy isn't working. Your shoulders tense up. You get restless. You start frowning, even if the film offers the occasional laugh and the hope of something better in the next reel. "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" is one of those movies. It seems like it'd be fun. You figure NASCAR and America's obsession with the loud, the fast and the fossil fuel-dependent could take a little kidding, as could the leaden seriousness of racing dramas such a... (read more)

      • The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift poster image

        The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Some century soon, fossil fuels and the internal-combustion engine may lose their stranglehold on American lifestyles and movies. But in the meantime, they get a formidable workout in "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift," third in the lucrative, gas-guzzling series that began in the L.A. fast lane with 2001's "The Fast and the Furious," took a wrong turn or two with the Miami-set "2 Fast 2 Furious" (2003) and now winds up in a Tokyo dead end in director Justin... (read more)

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