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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)

      • The Girl in the Spider's Web poster image

        The Girl in the Spider's Web

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Girl in the Spider's Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story" has lots of what you want, if you want something grindingly familiar. It's full of prettily photographed brutality, most of it in the neighborhood of Claire Foy, the latest screen incarnation of the dragon-tattooed Lisbeth Salander. Throughout the film the largely nonverbal Foy's either getting tased or choked or punched or shot or, worst of all, patronized, or she's the one doing the tasing, choking, punching and shooting. B... (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)

      • What They Had poster image

        What They Had

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Amid the clank and calculation of the usual Hollywood machinery, a movie more attuned to the human heart of things such as "What They Had" deserves an audience. If it's good, that is. And it is. Small but sure, this low-keyed actors' feast marks the feature directorial debut of writer-director Elizabeth Chomko, who grew up in Chicago and the western suburb of Hinsdale, among other stops in a relocation-heavy childhood. "What They Had" comes from Chomko's experiences and me... (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)

      • The Old Man & the Gun poster image

        The Old Man & the Gun

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In 2003, David Grann's lovably bizarre true-crime account "The Old Man and the Gun" appeared in The New Yorker, telling the unlikely story of Forrest Tucker, a natty serial bank robber with multiple prison escape attempts on his resume. Tucker ended up dying behind bars the year after the story brought him national renown. Such a man was made for the movies, destined specifically to attract the attention of a star of a certain age. Now 82, Robert Redford says "The Old Man and t... (read more)

      • Bad Times at the El Royale poster image

        Bad Times at the El Royale

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Some filmmakers make movies about the world; others make movies about other movies, or the puzzle being assembled before our eyes. Drew Goddard belongs to the second category, and he's pretty good at it. I'm still trying to figure out why I don't respond more fully to his work. In his writing-directing feature debut, "The Cabin in the Woods" (2012), "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" alum Goddard dismantled and recombined a crazy number of horror-movie tropes, and his bamboozle we... (read more)

      • First Man poster image

        First Man

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        There's enough going on in director Damien Chazelle's tense, distinctive Neil Armstrong biopic, "First Man," to leave the climactic, inspired Apollo 11 moon landing sequence aside for a few paragraphs. So hang in there, please, and we'll get to the flag. "First Man" comes from the James R. Hansen biography of the same name, exploring the far reaches of uncharted territory. The lunar mission, yes, of course. But really Chazelle's film, written by Josh Singer ("Spotligh... (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)

      • Love, Gilda poster image

        Love, Gilda

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Gilda Radner, the funniest woman on television in the 1970s, got hired by Lorne Michaels for what was originally called "NBC's Saturday Night" before anybody else -- before John Belushi, before Chevy Chase, before Dan Aykroyd, before Jane Curtin, Laraine Newman, Garrett Morris. Those who watched the show in 1975 or a year or two later, when it was getting huge and starting to change the culture, had their favorites. But the Detroit-born Radner was the one everybody cherished. She br... (read more)

      • A Simple Favor poster image

        A Simple Favor

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Comedy director Paul Feig tries a thriller on for size with the juicy "A Simple Favor," a suburban Connecticut murder mystery that's "Gone Girl" meets "The Stepford Wives." Based on the novel by Darcey Bell, written by Jessica Sharzer, the consciously campy "A Simple Favor" is as bright and bracing as an ice cold gin martini with a lemon twist, and just as satisfying. Anna Kendrick stars as Stephanie, a mommy vlogger raising her son, Miles (Joshua Satin... (read more)

      • Support the Girls poster image

        Support the Girls

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Andrew Bujalski's "Support the Girls" is the perfect bait-and-switch of a film. Its light, sweetly frisky exterior and easygoing pace camouflages what a subtle and brilliant piece of bracing social commentary it is; a deft portrait of sisterhood existing under the thumb of capitalistic patriarchy. And it wouldn't work without the anchor of an exceptional performance by Regina Hall. Hall is Lisa, the general manager of a Texas restaurant named Double Whammies, and the mother hen of a... (read more)

      • The Happytime Murders poster image

        The Happytime Murders

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Happytime Murders" is a one-joke movie, minus one joke. The year may cough up a worse film, but probably not a more joyless, witless one, raunchy or otherwise. This one's raunchy, not otherwise. It's a private eye spoof full of rough puppet sex and lingering depictions of puppet semen, copious and midair. The mystery hinges on close-ups of female puppet pubic hair. Every other exchange between Melissa McCarthy (as an LAPD detective) and her disgraced puppet ex-partner, a Bogart... (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)

      • The Meg poster image

        The Meg

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Have sharks jumped the Fonzie? Seems like it's always Shark Week around here, and "here" means everywhere. Think of how long it has been since the first "Jaws" (1975). A digital effects revolution and a generation later, "Deep Blue Sea" (1999) closed out the century with some forgettably entertaining (or entertainingly forgettable) jump scares in between what filmmakers believed to be necessary expository information about the people lining up at the human buffet... (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)

      • Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again poster image

        Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Welcome back to the magical island of Kalokairi, a sun-strewn rocky outcropping in the azure Aegean Sea, a land where white people can only express themselves with the music of Sweden's most enduring musical group, ABBA. The sequel/prequel hybrid "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again" arrives a decade after the bonkers filmed adaptation of the stage musical "Mamma Mia!" Vehicles for ABBA's songs, the films perfectly reflect the music: guileless, emotionally raw and unabashedly chee... (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)

      • Ant-Man and The Wasp poster image

        Ant-Man and The Wasp

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The unlimited breadsticks approach of the Marvel Cinematic Universe ensures that we remain full of carbs, all year, as each franchise rolls out another metaphorical Olive Garden. Some of the movies offer veritable superhero conventions -- most recently the ensemble blowout "Avengers: Infinity War," which managed to make $2.3 billion worldwide without any interesting action sequences, mainly on the strength of that ridiculously dire cliffhanger ending setting up a big fat profitable ... (read more)

      • Incredibles 2 poster image

        Incredibles 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        When writer-director Brad Bird made "The Incredibles" (2004), the superhero movie genre looked nothing like the overcrowded youth hostel it does today. The "X-Men" movies, the fledgling "Spider-Man" franchise and that was about it. This was pre-"Iron Man." This preceded the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Comics afflictions, if you can remember such a time. Bird's movie, about a family of "Supers" banned by the government from thei... (read more)

      • Hereditary poster image

        Hereditary

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, as Tolstoy noted in a sentence so right, by the time you started arguing with it "Anna Karenina" was off and suffering. If Tolstoy got a look at "Hereditary," he might've added: "Well. There's unhappy, and then there's grief-stricken-hideously cruel-unholy family secrets-horror movie-unhappy." The latter is the dwelling place of director Ari Aster's fiendish feature debut. Not everything... (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)

      • Rampage poster image

        Rampage

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Rampage" is a drag. Three times during the thing, I wrote down the phrase "NO FUN," with increasingly impatient underlines. This could be me, not the movie. Maybe I'm the one who's no fun. But in general I like Dwayne Johnson, that smiling granite star, coupled with a tremendous amount of vehicular- or tsunami-based destruction. For all its cheese, "San Andreas" (2015), Johnson's previous collaboration with director Brad Peyton, was pretty diverting, thanks in p... (read more)

      • Paddington 2 poster image

        Paddington 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Post poster image

        The Post

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Ferdinand poster image

        Ferdinand

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Disaster Artist poster image

        The Disaster Artist

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Coco poster image

        Coco

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Coco" is the 19th title under the Pixar umbrella, an umbrella factory now owned by Disney. Is it a great Pixar film? No. But we become ingrates if we expect greatness every time. It is a solidly, vividly good Pixar film. Director Lee Unkrich and his animation and design collaborators pack every delectably overstuffed frame with a swarm of human or skeleton activity. The story they tell is a manic, occasionally erratic but finally warming quest spanning two worlds, the land of the l... (read more)

      • The Florida Project poster image

        The Florida Project

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In different hands, the people knocking around the mauve-slathered kitsch universe of "The Florida Project," a highlight of the fall season, might've made for a pretty awful and manipulative dramatic experience. At-risk children running wild and having too much fun to know why they're hurting inside; a poverty-line motel named the Magic Castle, a cruelly short distance from Orlando's Walt Disney World, run by a kindly, big-hearted manager; a pace of perpetual motion set by the 6-yea... (read more)

      • The LEGO NINJAGO Movie poster image

        The LEGO NINJAGO Movie

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Columbus poster image

        Columbus

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • The Emoji Movie poster image

        The Emoji Movie

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        "Words aren't cool," is the courtship advice imparted by one texting teen to another in "The Emoji Movie." That statement is the canary in the coal mine that "Cyrano de Bergerac" this movie is most decidedly not. Will Alex (Jake T. Austin) choose the right emoji to express his ardor for Addie (Tati Gabrielle)? Or will "meh" emoji Gene (T.J. Miller) mess it all up for him? Perhaps we should just throw our smart phones into the sea and let the waves take ... (read more)

      • The Big Sick poster image

        The Big Sick

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Spider-Man: Homecoming poster image

        Spider-Man: Homecoming

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        "Do we really need a new Spider-Man?" It's a refrain heard every few years, with news that yet another young actor will be taking on the role of the webbed superhero in another reboot of the beloved comic-book character. What "Spider-Man: Homecoming" proves is that while we don't necessarily need a new one, if it's going to be this fun and fresh, a new Spider-Man is more than welcome in our summer movie season. After his quick, but memorable debut in "Captain America:... (read more)

      • Night School poster image

        Night School

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Am I asking too much of "Night School"? It's no big thing, this new movie starring Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish, and nobody's expecting a formula-, game- or life-changer. You just don't want to leave feeling shortchanged. Is that so wrong? Director Malcolm D. Lee's commodity squeaks by, barely, with solid comic assistance from the delightful Romany Malco (serenely panicked, every second) and Mary Lynn Rajskub ("blessed," she keeps saying, even though her character's dome... (read more)

      • Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie poster image

        Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

        Rick Bentley, Chicago Tribune

        "Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie" is childish and silly. Of course, anyone of the animated feature film's target audience who has read one of the 70 million books sold around the world featuring the rotund hero and the elementary students who created him know that already. The important thing is that while the production never reaches for intellectual grandeur, it is on a very basic level one of the funniest movies of the year. If you still giggle when someone mentions the ... (read more)

      • The Lost City of Z poster image

        The Lost City of Z

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The English go native very easily," explorer Percy Fawcett once wrote, speaking on behalf of himself, T.E. Lawrence and an entire sociological and literary tradition steeped in the sun never setting on the British Empire. "There is no disgrace in it. On the contrary, in my opinion it shows a creditable regard for the real things in life." Throughout the 20th century and, stubbornly, into the 21st, the movies have banked on stories about men of pallor entering the realm (a... (read more)

      • I Am Not Your Negro poster image

        I Am Not Your Negro

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Kubo and the Two Strings poster image

        Kubo and the Two Strings

        Colin Covert, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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 Secret Life of Pets poster image

        The Secret Life of Pets

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        A movie about what pets do during the day is a winning premise. Of course we want to know what those adorable creatures with whom we share our lives are up to, and so "The Secret Life of Pets" is here to explore those possibilities. Turns out their days are much more dramatic and crazier than ours, with all sorts of underworld pet societies and warring animal factions. There's apparently a lot to keep secret in the lives of these pets. "The Secret Life of Pets" comes from ... (read more)

      • The Angry Birds Movie poster image

        The Angry Birds Movie

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        If you've ever played the mobile video game Angry Birds, you might have found yourself wondering -- why am I sling-shotting cartoon birds at grinning green pigs? Why are these birds so angry? What have the pigs done to deserve this destruction? "Angry Birds," the movie, is here to fill in that backstory, to answer the questions that may or may not have been asked, and provide motivation for the avian rage. The film, directed by Clay Kittis and Fergal Reilly, from a screenplay by &qu... (read more)

      • The Hateful Eight poster image

        The Hateful Eight

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Hateful Eight" is an ultrawide bore. If you have the option, and you're committed to seeing the thing, you should see Quentin Tarantino's latest in one of its 100 or so limited-release "roadshow" screenings, projected on film, complete with overture (a lovely, eerie one from the great composer Ennio Morricone) and running just over three hours. After that, it'll be the conventional digital projection editions at the multiplexes, running 20 minutes shorter. Writer-dire... (read more)

      • Sicario poster image

        Sicario

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        For a gripping documentary about the U.S./Mexico border, the drug trade and a hornet's nest of sociopolitical nightmares, watch Matthew Heineman's "Cartel Land." For a commercial thriller on related themes, "Sicario" will do. The first hour of this latest film from French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve is sleek, terrific pulp. The second half of "Sicario" (in Mexico, slang for "hitman") settles for more conventional bloodshed and storytelling. Such ... (read more)

      • The Martian poster image

        The Martian

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Irrational Man poster image

        Irrational Man

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Forty-five features into his half-century of moviemaking, the rote obsessions distinguishing Woody Allen's furtive protagonists -- luck, fate, chance, getting away with murder -- have extended more and more to Allen's own approach to screenwriting. A mixture of the obvious and the indecisive, "Irrational Man" stars Joaquin Phoenix as philosophy professor Abe Lucas, new arrival to fictional Braylin College in Newport, R.I. He's notorious for being a drunk, a womanizer, a provocateur.... (read more)

      • Mad Max: Fury Road poster image

        Mad Max: Fury Road

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        You remember "Happy Feet." This is George Miller's "Happy Wheels." The creator of the original "Mad Max" trilogy has whipped up a gargantuan grunge symphony of vehicular mayhem that makes "Furious 7" look like "Curious George." The full title of Miller's remake of "Mad Max" is "Mad Max: Fury Road." It stars Tom Hardy, who says very little, in the old Mel Gibson role of the post-apocalyptic road warrior. Here the character's... (read more)

      • Inherent Vice poster image

        Inherent Vice

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It takes a genuine film artist to create an alternate-reality version of a familiar place -- real enough to make us feel we've been there, or somewhere near there, unreal enough to push it over the edge of familiarity and even sanity. Sorry, must be the dope talking. But this is what writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson has done with "Inherent Vice," an exasperating shaggy dog of a noir goof, nearly 21/2 hours in length, based on the relatively compact 2009 Thomas Pynchon novel. The... (read more)

      • The Notebook poster image

        The Notebook

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        "The Notebook," the movie version of Nicholas Sparks' 1996 best seller, may be corny, but it's also absorbing, sweet and powerfully acted. It's a film about falling in love and looking back on it, and it avoids many of the genre's syrupy dangers. This picture, beautifully shaped and shot, filled with fine actors doing moving work, is based on Sparks' debut novel, a "Bridges of Madison County" sort of piece that unfolds in both the past and the present. In the past, two you... (read more)

      • Jersey Boys poster image

        Jersey Boys

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Jersey Boys" the movie is a different, more sedate animal than "Jersey Boys" the Broadway musical. Often this happens when a stage success comes to the screen, even with many of the same performers and artistic team members on board. Changes are made; ardent fans of the original are variously pleased or disappointed. And in this case, those who missed the theatrical edition of the tale of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons -- how they found their sound and wrestled with t... (read more)

      • Only Lovers Left Alive poster image

        Only Lovers Left Alive

        Sheri Linden, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Finding Vivian Maier poster image

        Finding Vivian Maier

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Vivian Maier is a great Chicago story. And what she did for, and with, the faces, neighborhoods and character of mid-20th century Chicago deserves comparison to what Robert Frank accomplished, in a wider format, with "The Americans." "Finding Vivian Maier" captures the bittersweet life, stealth photographic career and tantalizing riddle embodied by Maier (1926-2009), who was of French and Austrian ancestry. For much of her life Maier lived and worked as a nanny in Chicago'... (read more)

      • Walking With Dinosaurs poster image

        Walking With Dinosaurs

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        The BBC series "Walking With Dinosaurs" gets a kid-friendly big-screen treatment, complete with cutesy story and dino-poop jokes, in "Walking With Dinosaurs 3D." Aimed squarely at that dino-crazy demographic (7-12), it pumps a few IQ points into a kid film genre sorely in need of them. "Walking" takes care to ID each new dinosaur species introduced, including factoids about what they ate and any special skills they might have had. It's downright educational. Just... (read more)

      • Oldboy poster image

        Oldboy

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Chan-wook Park's "Oldboy" is a high-voltage Korean saga about an elaborate cat-and-mouse game between a sadistic criminal of seemingly limitless resources and his dangerous prey: a businessman whose life has been brutally stolen from him. Set in modern Seoul, in a noir wilderness full of rain-slick streets, neon restaurants, corrupt gangsters and byzantine hotels, it's a movie of such jaw-dropping violence, wild improbability and dazzling style, it overpowers all resistance. "O... (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)

      • Fruitvale Station poster image

        Fruitvale Station

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Before Midnight poster image

        Before Midnight

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Silver Linings Playbook poster image

        Silver Linings Playbook

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Media Services Film Clips Hollywood movies, and even off-Hollywood independent films, have long encouraged us to empathize with unstable or psychologically troubled characters only if they're "kooky" for a little while, as a prelude to more palatable, normalized levels of craziness. You know. The charming kind. Happy ending, followed by a fade to a sunny shade of black. This helps to explain why Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" nev... (read more)

      • Dredd poster image

        Dredd

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The time-killing carnage in "Dredd 3D" can be assessed all sorts of ways. One depends on how much M-rated gaming you do as a matter of course. If the answer is some, or a lot, you'll likely find "Dredd 3D" up your viscera-strewn alley, because the film isn't merely influenced by a genre of first-person, shoot/stab/eviscerate/these/anonymous/enemies scenarios. It re-creates them, slavishly, as did the recent "The Raid: Redemption," so that calling "Dredd 3D&q... (read more)

      • Jiro Dreams of Sushi poster image

        Jiro Dreams of Sushi

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        By Tribune Newspapers Critics, Tribune Media Services Film Clips There's so much drooly food porn on TV these days, it takes an exceptional subject to arrest our senses and hold our attention. Now 86, Jiro Ono -- the world's premier sushi chef -- is that subject. And the lovely little documentary "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" honors Ono while making his culinary creations of horse mackerel, squid, egg, halibut, fatty tuna, "medium" tuna, lean tuna and gizzard shad, served in his ... (read more)

      • The Iron Lady poster image

        The Iron Lady

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Some movies arrive pre-stamped with a consensus opinion. With "The Iron Lady," the consensus so far is this: Meryl Streep excels as Margaret Thatcher. And the movie itself does not work. Well, you know, she is good. After all the lousy, technically slovenly work this hack has given us, it's about time. But I find the film itself more intriguing and, odd as it sounds, given its subject, delicate than its advance notice. Yes, it's a strangely de-politicized portrait of Britain's first... (read more)

      • Beautiful Boy poster image

        Beautiful Boy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The words cannot be easy to hear as an addict, or as the parent of an addict. "Relapse is a part of recovery," a clinic worker says to a distraught David Sheff, played by Steve Carell in the new film "Beautiful Boy." David's bright, unraveling son, Nic, played by Timothee Chalamet, has begun to face his addictions head-on. But on the road to success -- in real life, Nic Sheff, now 36, has been sober for eight years -- failures lurk around every corner, along with chemical ... (read more)

      • Blue Valentine poster image

        Blue Valentine

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Secretariat poster image

        Secretariat

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        There is no suspense in "Secretariat." This is the one thing Disney's new picture has in common with "The Passion of the Christ" and "Titanic." We know the outcome. Studios rarely back movies about horses that place or show. The animal that loved to preen for the cameras made all the magazine covers in 1973 after running away with the Triple Crown, though in the '73 Kentucky Derby, Secretariat was back by nine lengths before finishing like a champ. With the facts... (read more)

      • The Social Network poster image

        The Social Network

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Across far too many stretches of our moviegoing lives, we see movie after movie without seeing one that really moves. At once stealthy and breathlessly paced, "The Social Network" scoots at a fabulous clip, depicting how its version of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made his billions, and, according to various allegations and two key depositions, whom Zuckerberg aced out of those billions, while following his digital yellow brick road. Is director David Fincher's film the stuff of... (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)

      • MacGruber poster image

        MacGruber

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

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

      • How to Train Your Dragon: An IMAX 3D Experience poster image

        How to Train Your Dragon: An IMAX 3D Experience

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The swoops and dives of the exuberant 3-D DreamWorks Animation feature "How to Train Your Dragon," in which the teenage hero breaks all the Viking rules and befriends the winged enemy, should prove as addicting to its target audience as similar scenes have in a little something called "Avatar." Freely adapted from the books by Cressida Cowell, "How to Train Your Dragon" exists to support its flying sequences, just as last year's animated DreamWorks offering, &quo... (read more)

      • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo poster image

        The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Director David Fincher's deluxe edition of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is the most coldly compelling version yet of the tale dreamed up by the late Stieg Larsson, whose "Millennium" trilogy of pulp novels remains the time-killer of choice in airports, elevated trains and, when the weather's right, beaches around the world. Every composition, musical note, furtive glance and glint of metal (whether a nipple ring or gleaming instrument of torture) serves a story purpos... (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)

      • 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)

      • (500) Days of Summer poster image

        (500) Days of Summer

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        For a lot of casual filmgoers in their teens and 20s - the ones yet to encounter a Charlie Kaufman script such as "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" or who haven't seen the bittersweet 1967 "Two for the Road," written by Frederic Raphael, or have yet to dive into a Milan Kundera novel - the structural mind games played by the romantic comedy "(500) Days of Summer" may throw them, happily, for a loop. I hope so. The structure's mainly what this pleasant summe... (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)

      • Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 3D poster image

        Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 3D

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Sequels are tough. "Here we go again!" so easily becomes "Here. We go, again." Characters start getting a little sick of each other, as they do in "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs," with the story falling back on a falling-out between a mammoth and a sabre-toothed tiger, or the tiger and a sloth. The dialogue begins to sound like screenwriters voicing their creative frustration. "Face it, Sid," Denis Leary's Diego mutters to John Leguizamo's lateral-lisp... (read more)

      • Watchmen poster image

        Watchmen

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Talk all you want about the dense novelistic embroidery of the graphic novel "Watchmen," its obsessive detail and clever subversion of superhero mythology and masked avenger cliches. But really, the appeal of the film version, such as it is, relates almost entirely to eye-for-an-eye, severed-limb-for-a-limb vengeance, two hours and 41 minutes of it, with just enough solemnity to make anyone who thought "The Dark Knight" was a little gassy think twice about which superhero ... (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)

      • Gran Torino poster image

        Gran Torino

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        If Clint Eastwood wins his first Academy Award for acting come February, besting Sean Penn for "Milk" and Mickey Rourke for "The Wrestler" among other probable nominees, it'll be like 1971 all over again, the year Helen Hayes snagged a supporting actress statuette for her shifty-stowaway routine in "Airport." Longevity and sentiment count for a lot with the Oscars. And Eastwood is a titan. He's an international movie star who developed into a confident, defiantly... (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)

      • Vicky Cristina Barcelona poster image

        Vicky Cristina Barcelona

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It took a screenplay set among Americans in Spain for Woody Allen to make his most French film yet. "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" plays like a conscious attempt at a freewheeling artifact of the French New Wave, particularly Francois Truffaut's "Jules and Jim," with its sexual triangulations and hard-won romantic wisdom. Allen's film can't really withstand such comparisons; it's extremely modest, and besides, when Allen does "freewheeling" it can't help but come off... (read more)

      • Man on Wire poster image

        Man on Wire

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        On a misty day in August, 1974, 1,350 feet above the Manhattan streets, French wire-walker Philippe Petit spent 45 minutes gliding back and forth between the south and the north towers of the World Trade Center, eight crossings in all. "Man on Wire" captures the renegade artistry and poetic audacity of Petit's performance. The film itself is perfectly poised between artistry and audacity. It's beautiful. For the record: Robert Zemeckis ("Forrest Gump," "Beowulf")... (read more)

      • Sex and the City poster image

        Sex and the City

        Jessica Reaves, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days poster image

        4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Great acting comes in all shapes, sizes and temperatures, and sometimes a murmur of the heart speaks as loudly as the grand theatrical gesture. For a demonstration in the opposite of what Daniel Day-Lewis is up to, gloriously, in "There Will Be Blood," just savor the cool, subtle assurance of the greatest performance not recognized by this year's Academy Awards. The portrayal belongs to Anamaria Marinca, whose Sphinx-like countenance masks an emotional nightmare in "4 Months, 3... (read more)

      • Persepolis poster image

        Persepolis

        Tasha Robinson, Chicago Tribune

        In her internationally best-selling graphic-novel autobiographies, "Persepolis" and "Persepolis 2," Paris-based artist Marjane Satrapi isn't kind to herself. As a young child in Tehran in the late '70s and early '80s under the Shah, she's an arrogant girl whose loudly proclaimed political convictions far outstrip her understanding of current events. Following the Islamic revolution and the rise of a fundamentalist state, she's a rebellious and abrasive teenager, quick to f... (read more)

      • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly poster image

        The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Even an excellent year in film yields a limited number of efforts strong and idiosyncratic enough to be called masterworks, and to appear effortless. We have one in "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly." It is wonderful: a rhapsodic adaptation of a memoir, a visual marvel that wraps its subject in screen romanticism without romanticizing his affliction. It left me feeling euphoric. And without making conventional movie-ish pleas for our sympathy, director Julian Schnabel has met his s... (read more)

      • Starting Out in the Evening poster image

        Starting Out in the Evening

        Jessica Reaves, Chicago Tribune

        Leonard Schiller (Frank Langella) is an aging novelist who lives alone in New York City. He spends his day mired in routine, pecking away at his typewriter in a desultory fashion and attended to by his dutiful daughter, Ariel (Lili Taylor). One day he's visited by Heather (Lauren Ambrose), a plucky, wildly ambitious graduate student, whose academic and literary success hinges on convincing her hero to talk openly about his life and work. What follows is an intelligent, provocative examination... (read more)

      • No Country for Old Men poster image

        No Country for Old Men

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        As pure craftsmanship, "No Country for Old Men" is as good as we've ever gotten from Joel and Ethan Coen. Only "Fargo" is more satisfying (it's also a comedy, which this one isn't), certainly among the brothers' pictures driven by the evil that men do and all that can go wrong under the precepts of Murphy's law. It took me two viewings of the film, set in the early 1980s along the West Texas/Mexico border, to appreciate it fully for what it is, a viciously effective exerc... (read more)

      • The Darjeeling Limited poster image

        The Darjeeling Limited

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Three boys head off to see their mother, though only one of them knows where they're going, and why. "We're just trying to experience something," says the one played by Owen Wilson, his head bandaged owing to a recent motorcycle accident. They are privileged Anglos abroad, carrying an improbably fabulous collection of designer luggage with them aboard a train chugging across India. They have reunited, uneasily, a year after their father's death and their mother's disappearance. Spir... (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)

      • 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)

      • Stardust poster image

        Stardust

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Stardust" has its moments, most of them plot-unrelated. The highlight is a patter routine wherein Robert De Niro, as a cross-dressing pirate, haggles over the price of some fenced goods with a disreputable fellow played by Ricky Gervais. The way these two negotiate back and forth it's like Faerie Kingdom vaudeville, a distant cousin to the Billy Crystal and Carol Kane routines in "The Princess Bride." Most of "Stardust," alas, has no time for such detours. The ... (read more)

      • Ratatouille poster image

        Ratatouille

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The ads for the ravishing new Disney/Pixar feature "Ratatouille" spell out the titular dish phonetically (as rat-a-too-ee), a tactic not necessary in last summer's marketing and promotion of "Cars." This provides a clue as to why writer-director Brad Bird's story, about a sweet aesthete of a rat who dreams of becoming a chef, may not be in for "Cars"-type action at the box office. Well, there's no justice in the world. "Ratatouille" may be rated G, but ... (read more)

      • Hot Fuzz poster image

        Hot Fuzz

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In its climactic village assault, the English comedy "Hot Fuzz" risks becoming the excessive, slow-mo-slaughter affair it's satirizing. But the best of it is a riot - a "Bad Boys II" fireball hurled with exquisite accuracy at a quaint English town peopled by Agatha Christie archetypes. On the strength of "Shaun of the Dead," his droll zombie bash, the spot-on "Don't Scream" trailer in "Grindhouse" and now this, director Edgar Wright is one of ... (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)

      • Night at the Museum poster image

        Night at the Museum

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        You know Ben Stiller isn't coming off well in "Night at the Museum" when his character, a third-shift security guard at New York's Museum of Natural History, is beset by Attila the Hun and his marauding hordes and you find yourself rooting for the hordes. Stranded in this charmless fantasy, Stiller is reduced to his old halting, squirming tricks. Hot (well, cold) off his "Pink Panther" remake, director Shawn Levy squanders a rich premise. Working from Milan Trenc's book, a... (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)

      • Mutual Appreciation poster image

        Mutual Appreciation

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        "Mutual Appreciation" is a realistic comic movie about a raffish young Boston singer-composer named Alan (Justin Rice) and his erratic (and sometimes erotic) adventures after he moves to New York and his band breaks up. And though what follows may sometimes seem like a too-obvious wish-fulfillment youth fantasy about crashing the big-city scene, writer-director-actor-editor Andrew Bujalski - who made the well-regarded "Funny Ha Ha" (2002) - has a flair for casual naturalis... (read more)

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