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      • 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)

      • The Darkest Minds poster image

        The Darkest Minds

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        From "The Hunger Games" to "Harry Potter," dystopian young adult science fiction has become a favorite device for unpacking the complexities of the real world. The new film "The Darkest Minds," based on the novel by Amanda Bracken, written by Chad Hodge, feels like a bit of a late entry, even as it positions itself for sequels. Although the film, directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson making her live-action debut, is rather choppy and never ascends to the levels summite... (read more)

      • The Spy Who Dumped Me poster image

        The Spy Who Dumped Me

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "The Spy Who Dumped Me" gets by, barely, thanks mainly to Kate McKinnon. Her crazily fluid and unpredictable comic timing, and her willingness to go big -- well past Madeline Kahn-big and very near Eddie Cantor-big -- has saved several movies. She salvaged the "Ghostbusters" reboot, rescued parts of "Rough Night" and wrung what she could out of the damp rag "Office Christmas Party." Working with a game Mila Kunis, McKinnon takes care of this one, too, w... (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)

      • 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)

      • Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation poster image

        Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 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)

      • Sicario: Day of the Soldado poster image

        Sicario: Day of the Soldado

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Sick as it sounds, "Sicario: Day of the Soldado" is the lucky beneficiary of every belligerent tweet, crying child and political point scored in the chaos of the current Mexico/U.S. border crisis. At its mean, snakelike best, it's also a brutally assured commercial action picture, unburdened by the moral qualms or unnerving ambiguity of its predecessor. Both factors may help it find a larger international audience than "Sicario" (2015), written, as is the sequel, by Taylor... (read more)

      • Damsel poster image

        Damsel

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The opening shots of "Damsel," thanks to cinematographer Adam Stone, are misleadingly evocative. We're somewhere in Utah (the movie was made there, and along the Oregon coast). Against a forbiddingly beautiful landscape of red rock and imposing sky, two men wait for a stagecoach. One, a disillusioned man of the cloth, is played by Robert Forster. "I come out here to spoon-feed religion to the savages. Tried real hard," he says, defeated. Forster is perfect, and the tone of... (read more)

      • Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom poster image

        Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Of all the terrors on view in "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," the sight of Toby Jones' toupee bobbing up and down, when his character (a sniveling dinosaur auctioneer) dashes into an elevator to alleged safety, with the camera and something called the "Indoraptor" scrambling behind him -- reader, it is a strange and wondrous vision of foolish vanity in flight. There are other diversions in director J.A. Bayona's Gothic-tinged follow-up to "Jurassic World." That... (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)

      • Tag poster image

        Tag

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Subjects of a 2013 Wall Street Journal feature, the real-life friends who provoked the new comedy "Tag" are, let's assume, decent guys, fun-loving and supportive and appreciative of having the time and money to keep the same elaborate prankster version of tag going for nearly 30 years. But I kind of hate the movie's mixture of bro comedy, sadistic practical jokes (don't call it slapstick) and last-ditch pull for the heartstrings. If you like the trailer, please know the best bits ar... (read more)

      • Superfly poster image

        Superfly

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The grungy, fairly entertaining remake of "Superfly" borrows a few key narrative hooks from the 1972 original, along with key elements of its fantastic Curtis Mayfield soundtrack (notably "Pusherman"). But for better or worse, the new version has no interest in fashioning the same sort of mashup of blaxploitation and film noir that Gordon Parks Jr. created. The new "Superfly" moves the action from Harlem to Atlanta, with a side trip to Juarez, Mexico. When the vi... (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)

      • Adrift poster image

        Adrift

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        A highly seaworthy star performance from ``Divergent trilogy captain Shailene Woodley battles an onslaught of Category 4-level flashbacks in ``Adrift. This is the fact-based drama of what happened to Tami Oldham (now Tami Oldham Ashcraft) when she set sail in 1983 from Tahiti to San Diego with her fiance, Englishman Richard Sharp. Their craft was a 44-foot yacht; their adversary was Hurricane Raymond, which they met a few weeks into their planned 4,000-mile trek. The hurricane whipped up 40-f... (read more)

      • Upgrade poster image

        Upgrade

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The fairly peppy, extremely gory science fiction thriller ``Upgrade was originally titled ``Stem, referring to a digital cockroach (``a new, better brain, its pale inventor notes) implanted in the body of the protagonist. The time is the near future. The place is a world of driverless cars and Siri-like communications and control systems designed to reassure the human population while undermining its autonomy in this forbidding vision of Earth as a hellhole of convenience. Our hero is an anal... (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)

      • Mary Shelley poster image

        Mary Shelley

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Solo: A Star Wars Story poster image

        Solo: A Star Wars Story

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        In the summer of 1977, Ron Howard made his directorial debut with "Grand Theft Auto," a merrily destructive low-budget fairy tale that found its way into a lot of newly twinned multiplexes that summer of '77. Audiences liked Howard. An entire generation grew up with the guy, best known as Opie on "The Andy Griffith Show," in the 1960s. By the early '70s Howard starred in "Happy Days," which owed a huge debt to "American Graffiti" (1973), the smash co-st... (read more)

      • Book Club poster image

        Book Club

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Fonda. Bergen. Keaton . Steenburgen. "Book Club." Sure, "Avengers: Infinity War" came out a few weeks ago, but now this is the greatest crossover event in history. Four of the most iconic actresses of the 20th century come together for a film in which their book club reads "50 Shades of Grey"? Where can I line up? This movie is either in your wheelhouse or it's not, but for those looking forward to "Book Club," it delivers. For what it is -- a breezy bi... (read more)

      • Deadpool 2 poster image

        Deadpool 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Deadpool 2" is just like "Deadpool" only more so. It's actually a fair bit better -- funnier, more inventive than the 2016 smash (which made $783 million worldwide, on a sensible $58 million production budget), and more consistent in its chosen tone and style: ultraviolent screwball comedy. The movie offers a bracing corrective to the Marvel traffic management smash of the moment, "Avengers: Infinity War," which has sent millions of preteens into a collective, l... (read more)

      • Disobedience poster image

        Disobedience

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        There's no suspense like sexual suspense, which is another way of saying there's no business like show business. In "Disobedience," director Sebastian Lelio's coolly controlled film version of Naomi Alderman's novel, two roads diverge in a narrative, crisscrossing and intertwining years later. The question is: When they get together again, will their lives ever be the same? The London-born Ronit works as a photographer in New York City. The death of her rabbi father, a pillar of the... (read more)

      • Life of the Party poster image

        Life of the Party

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The back-to-school genre of collegiate comedies has given us "Old School" (Will Ferrell), "Back to School" (Rodney Dangerfield) and "Horse Feathers" (the Marx Brothers), among others. Melissa McCarthy joins that class list in the ramshackle, amiable "Life of the Party," about a woman, freshly dumped by her husband, heading back to college 20 years after she dropped out with a kid on the way. Now a college senior, Maddie (Molly Gordon) runs a gamut of em... (read more)

      • The Seagull poster image

        The Seagull

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Shortly after Anton Chekhov's death in 1904, his fellow writer Maxim Gorky noted: "All those who found themselves in his company inevitably felt the desire to be simpler, more honest, more themselves." That's one of the nicest things anybody can say about anybody. Every good actor taking on a Chekhov role has felt the same desire, reaching for a performance a little closer to the bone, a little less harrumph-y and consciously theatrical than usual. Chekhov's contained worlds of hurt... (read more)

      • Avengers: Infinity War poster image

        Avengers: Infinity War

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Avengers: Infinity War" is a lot of movie. You can hate it and still say that much with confidence. Its various, overlapping fan bases won't hold what they don't like against it, I bet. "A lot," though, doesn't mean it's much fun or even very good. No hate here, honestly. The film has its momentary diversions, a few good throwaway jokes amid a tremendous amount of PG-13 maiming and destruction. The nervy fatalism of its climax might actually count for something if you did... (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)

      • Sherlock Gnomes poster image

        Sherlock Gnomes

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        There's a current boom of family-friendly film fare inspired by beloved British literary characters, which makes this moment ripe for the animated "Sherlock Gnomes," the sequel to 2011's "Gnomeo and Juliet." In terms of ranking these adaptations, "Sherlock Gnomes" is quite a bit more pleasant than "Peter Rabbit," but doesn't touch the wonder of "Paddington 2." It's a fairly serviceable animated feature, with a few inspired elements, and more t... (read more)

      • A Wrinkle in Time poster image

        A Wrinkle in Time

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "You're given the form," one of the celestial mentors says in Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time." "But you have to write the sonnet yourself." This is how L'Engle described a free-will sort of life, in the novel she began in 1959. She endured 26 publishing rejections, got it into print in 1962 and saw it zoom around the world in 35 different languages. In its long shelf life, "A Wrinkle in Time" has taught millions of children and adults about the ... (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)

      • Fifty Shades Freed poster image

        Fifty Shades Freed

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        The "Fifty Shades" film franchise is a study in contradictions. It's kinky, but conservative. It's filled with plot, but none of it means anything. The adventurous sex turns out to be fairly vanilla monogamy. The films are bad, but they are entertaining. "Fifty Shades Freed," the final film of the trilogy, just might be the most competently made yet -- which is a shame for those expecting the high camp factor of "Fifty Shades Darker." The "Darker" writi... (read more)

      • Peter Rabbit poster image

        Peter Rabbit

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Hollywood studios have recently been pillaging the literary canon of beloved children's literature, digging up fodder for animated feature films. The best of these, like the "Paddington" movies, successfully meld nostalgia with modern and exciting filmmaking, while the more questionable ones, like the recent "Ferdinand" adaptation, manage to muddle the source material with too many pop songs and dirty jokes. The new "Peter Rabbit" adaptation manages to land right... (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)

      • Molly's Game poster image

        Molly's Game

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Molly Bloom's 2014 memoir "Molly's Game" was more of a tell-some than a tell-all. In the book, the former freestyle skiing Olympic hopeful discussed the accident that derailed her athletic career. Mainly, she wrote about her improbable career running a pricey underground poker game in Los Angeles and, later, in New York City, where she ran afoul of mobsters, drugs and the feds, who arrested Bloom as part of a mafia investigation. Her book named names, up to a point. Leonardo DiCapri... (read more)

      • In the Fade poster image

        In the Fade

        Kenneth Turan, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times "In the Fade" does not tell a happy story, not even close. But it is a powerful film, one of the nine shortlisted for the foreign-language Oscar, and it is elevated, as it would need to be, by Diane Kruger's superb performance in the central role. An international star and former model who is fluent in both French and English (she won a SAG Award as part of the "Inglourious Basterds" ensemble), Kruger had never acted in her native German before. But she w... (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)

      • 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)

      • Lady Bird poster image

        Lady Bird

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Already, writer-director Greta Gerwig's "Lady Bird" is contending with praise it can't possibly live up to, and it's a disservice to mislead anybody about its particular, disarming interplay of comedy and drama, which does not go for the throat. But it's not too strong a word: Most people who've seen "Lady Bird" love it. They love it. Truly love it. I love it. If a more enchanted movie comes along this year, I'll be surprised. The love goes beyond appreciation of an impecc... (read more)

      • Murder on the Orient Express poster image

        Murder on the Orient Express

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Thor: Ragnarok poster image

        Thor: Ragnarok

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Wonderstruck poster image

        Wonderstruck

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Faces Places poster image

        Faces Places

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Chance has always been my best assistant," says the elfin giant of the cinema, Agnes Varda, in the enormously pleasurable documentary "Faces Places." Not everything (or even most things) that happen in Varda's rolling, roving collaboration with the photographer and muralist known as JR occur by happenstance. But filmmaker Varda, now 89, has been catching lightning in a bottle for decades, first as part of the Nouvelle Vague, then as a post-New Wave artist. This movie, a d... (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)

      • It poster image

        It

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Good Time poster image

        Good Time

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The most legitimately divisive movie of the moment, right alongside (and more urgent than) "Detroit," the unnerving crime thriller "Good Time" moves like a streak, barely able to keep up with its characters. The reckless, selfish, charismatic man at its core, Constantine "Connie" Nikas, is a small-time Queens, N.Y., hustler of Greek-American extraction. He's played by Robert Pattinson. The actor's "Twilight" vampire career afforded the young, minimally ... (read more)

      • The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature poster image

        The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • War for the Planet of the Apes poster image

        War for the Planet of the Apes

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Gripping, visually assured and working far above its summer-sequel paygrade, "War for the Planet of the Apes" treats a harsh storyline with a solemnity designed to hoist the tale of Caesar, simian revolutionary -- the Moses of apes -- into the realm of the biblical. Not everything in director and co-screenwriter Matt Reeves' movie works. Some of its grimmest passages, depicting life under concentration camp quarantine amid various, escalating acts of human-on-simian brutality, whack... (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)

      • Cars 3 poster image

        Cars 3

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Cars 3," a reasonably diverting account of middle-aged pity, humiliation and suffering as experienced by Rust-eze-sponsored race car Lightning McQueen, is not the weakest of the Disney/Pixar sequels (I'd vote "Cars 2" or "Monsters University," those sour, desperate things). But it's by far the most guilt-ridden. Every few minutes we get another reminder of the franchise's success in the merchandising department -- over $10 billion in "Cars"-related toy... (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)

      • I, Daniel Blake poster image

        I, Daniel Blake

        Steven Zeitchik, Chicago Tribune

        Los Angeles Times The honor and struggle of the working class are a staple of auteur cinema -- in modern days, via some of the works of the Dardenne brothers and Mike Leigh and, in earlier times, with classics such as "The Bicycle Thief." But few directors do neorealism like Ken Loach. And few Loach movies arrive at a more propitious moment than the British director's latest, "I, Daniel Blake." The surprising recipient of last year's Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival,... (read more)

      • Wonder Woman poster image

        Wonder Woman

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Logan poster image

        Logan

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The rabid Wolverine fans among you should be warned: You won't be able to trust the following few paragraphs on "Logan." Most of the early reviews have been ecstatic, and those fully invested in this corner of the Marvel universe tend to respond very, very strongly to director and co-writer James Mangold's picture. It's at once the most solemn, sentimental and relentlessly violent of the nine films featuring Hugh Jackman, either in the lead or in a cameo, as the furry mutant with th... (read more)

      • John Wick: Chapter 2 poster image

        John Wick: Chapter 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "John Wick: Chapter 2," the sequel least likely to suggest anything with actual chapters or anything to read, stars Keanu Reeves in the role of Liam Neeson. Here we are, it's February, and in recent years we've often had a "Taken" sequel in theaters to take our hard-earned money for two hours of recreational sadism. But the solid autumn 2014 success of "John Wick" proved there was space in the universe for a new Neeson, a more youthful exemplar of steely vengeanc... (read more)

      • The LEGO Batman Movie poster image

        The LEGO Batman Movie

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Moana poster image

        Moana

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Featuring songs by "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, the new animated musical adventure "Moana" is Disney's first princess-with-an-asterisk offering since "Frozen." The "Moana" score's signature power ballad, "How Far I'll Go," may well take its rightful place alongside the earlier film's big hit, "Let It Go," in the female-empowerment earworm department. That's a lucrative department. I prefer Miranda's contribution; it serves ... (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)

      • 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)

      • The Magnificent Seven poster image

        The Magnificent Seven

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Tronc Newspapers Critic It's the little things that screw up a movie, along with all the big things. In the starry, hollow remake of "The Magnificent Seven," the gambling rogue played by Chris Pratt is introduced by a gunslinging trick he calls "the incredible disappearing ear." It's just a cheap, violent sight gag, but it leaves a lousy aftertaste. So "magnificent" is a joke, too? Not exactly, but this movie's all over the place, trying too hard to be all Wester... (read more)

      • Don't Breathe poster image

        Don't Breathe

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Before it became "Don't Breathe," the new home-invasion thriller with a difference had the working title "A Man in the Dark." This would be like calling "Wait Until Dark" "The Lady of Greenwich Village" -- accurate, but dull. It's the second feature directed by Uruguayan writer-director Fede Alvarez, who became a bankable genre specialist with a single movie: his slick, profitable 2013 remake of "Evil Dead." "Don't Breathe" is far le... (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)

      • Pete's Dragon poster image

        Pete's Dragon

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Wait: How did this happen? How did a remake of the 1977 Disney animation/live-action hybrid "Pete's Dragon," a pushy mediocrity from tip to tail, become the most soulful film of the summer, and one of the best of the year? In terms of story, director David Lowery's version shares only two things with the '77 model. Pete's an orphan. And the title is still "Pete's Dragon," which indicates there's a dragon (beautifully, digitally realized this time, as opposed to animated). ... (read more)

      • Ghostbusters poster image

        Ghostbusters

        Jake Coyle, Chicago Tribune

        Associated Press The easy, electric chemistry of the four leads in Paul Feig's "Ghostbusters" acts like a firewall against the supernatural and the adolescent, alike, in this spirited reboot of the 1984 original. Ghouls and anonymous Internet commenters -- who have flocked to their thumbs-down buttons ahead of the film's release -- share plenty of characteristics. Each is likely to drool and quickly disappear when you turn on the lights. Feig's "Ghostbusters" ain't afraid ... (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)

      • Captain America: Civil War poster image

        Captain America: Civil War

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The solemn, wrecking-ball mediocrity that was "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" made either too much or not enough of its key themes: collateral damage; vigilante excess and the ethics of peacekeeping through extreme force; and, more to the marketing point, the bloodsport appeal of should-be crime-fighting allies beating the hell out of each other for what seemed like several days. Those bullet points return, to far livelier and more satisfying results, in "Captain America: ... (read more)

      • Miracles From Heaven poster image

        Miracles From Heaven

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        In recent years, there's been a mini trend of faith-based films concerned with proving the existence of heaven. Based on true stories, films such as "Heaven is For Real" and "90 Minutes in Heaven" take up this task. Ostensibly following on their heels is the Jennifer Garner-starring "Miracles From Heaven," based on an amazing -- and weird -- true story. But while the film is centered on Christian-based faith, it argues for the powers of miracles that are of the m... (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)

      • Kung Fu Panda 3 poster image

        Kung Fu Panda 3

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Creed poster image

        Creed

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Back in 1976, our bicentennial year, the nation yearned for a red, white and blue plate special piled high with corn. Something to believe in. Then, up those Philadelphia Museum of Art steps, backed by the Bill Conti theme, that something arrived. Nobody went to the first "Rocky" for the finesse of the filmmaking. They went for the underdog-rooting, for Rocky and Adrian, for the unexpected sweetness, for the redemption angle, for the reconstituted boxing movie cliches that tasted no... (read more)

      • Crimson Peak poster image

        Crimson Peak

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        You may come out of the 1901-set Gothic chiller "Crimson Peak" humming the production design (by Thomas Sanders), or singing arias about the clothes (Kate Hawley, costume designer), or composing symphonies of praise for the mellow, honeyed menace of the cinematography (Dan Laustsen). If looks made the movie, and they can in the right circumstances, this movie would be made. "Crimson Peak" represents not-quite-right circumstances. It's the latest from co-writer and director... (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)

      • Everest poster image

        Everest

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It sounds bizarre, considering "Everest" -- a fairly good, extremely grueling movie as far as it goes -- tracks the true-life fortunes of a battered group of climbers to the highest place on Earth. Yet somehow it doesn't go far enough. In May 1996, eight climbers died on Mount Everest: three on the north face, under circumstances less known to the outside world, and five others on the south face in a far more extensively documented series of unfortunate events. (They were hardly alo... (read more)

      • Straight Outta Compton poster image

        Straight Outta Compton

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Straight Outta Compton" is a musically propulsive mixed blessing of a biopic, made the way these things often get made: with the real-life protagonists breathing down the movie's neck to make sure nothing too harsh or unflattering gets in the way of the telling. Three of the film's producers are Ice Cube (born O'Shea Jackson), Dr. Dre (Andre Young) and Tomica Woods-Wright, the widow of Eric "Eazy-E" Wright. As relayed by director F. Gary Gray, the rise of South Central L.... (read more)

      • Ant-Man poster image

        Ant-Man

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Ant-Man" has been skittering around the development corridors of Hollywood so long, the earliest unproduced screenplays about the tiny superhero actually preceded the Disney film "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids." That was another age (1989), decades before our present Age of Ultron -- an epoch of expensive cheap thrills dictated by the steady, crushing rollout of so many Marvel movies that even the good ones start to seem like ants at an endless picnic. But wait. The "Ant-... (read more)

      • Minions poster image

        Minions

        Rick Bentley, Chicago Tribune

        It's the role of a minion to be a servile follower of a person in charge. That means they are resigned to playing the supporting role. That's the problem with the new animated comedy "Minions." The pill-shaped, yellow characters introduced in "Despicable Me" as the subordinates to the villainous Gru have now taken center stage. The charm and humor they brought in tiny doses in the previous films now come in a massive blast that wears thin quickly. "Minions" start... (read more)

      • Jurassic World poster image

        Jurassic World

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Bailed out by a few good jolts, "Jurassic World" gets by, barely, as a marauding-dinosaurs narrative designed for a more jaded audience than the one "Jurassic Park" conquered back in 1993. Why was director Steven Spielberg's film version of the Michael Crichton novel a hit? In an industry built on high-concept pitches, the first film pitched the highest. Dinos brought back to life; trouble ensues. Digital effects, smoothly integrated with animatronics, made a quantum leap ... (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)

      • Saint Laurent poster image

        Saint Laurent

        Guy Lodge, Chicago Tribune

        Variety Even in a contemporary film culture where no idea seems too thin to try twice, the arrival of two Yves Saint Laurent biopics in the space of five months counts as a distinct curiosity: The enduring influence of the French fashion god, who died in 2008, is beyond question, but his life doesn't seem an obvious source of fascination to the filmgoing public. Yet if Jalil Lespert's bland, authorized "Yves Saint Laurent" represents the pret-a-porter version of its subject, Bertran... (read more)

      • Avengers: Age of Ultron poster image

        Avengers: Age of Ultron

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        When I say "Avengers: Age of Ultron" won't disappoint a majority of its pre-sold, culturally obligated fans around the world -- the world perpetually on the verge of extinction in the Marvel universe -- you know what I mean. You know what the movie promises, and would be foolish, or inept, not to deliver. Action, relentless and assaultive. Wisecracks, numerous, pretty sharp and evenly parceled out among Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Mark Ruffalo (Hulk), Chris... (read more)

      • Ex Machina poster image

        Ex Machina

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Little Boy poster image

        Little Boy

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Little Boy" answers a question most tear-jerkers wouldn't have the nerve to ask: Can the bombing of Hiroshima be manipulated narratively, if briefly, into a position of warming our hearts? The answer is no. The film's D-Day-like assault on our emotional defenses tries all it can to turn that no into a yes. The story takes place in a storybook California coastal village named O'Hare. Director and co-writer Alejandro Monteverde shot 'Little Boy' in Mexico's Baja Film Studios; cinemat... (read more)

      • Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) poster image

        Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Birdman" proves that a movie -- the grabbiest, most kinetic film ever made about putting on a play -- can soar on the wings of its own technical prowess, even as the banality of its ideas threatens to drag it back down to earth. Much of what you've heard is true. The movie's just plain fun to watch. Its star, Michael Keaton, is someone everyone likes and many love, an actor who made millions on "Batman" and settled for a different level of fame and smaller pieces of small... (read more)

      • Annie poster image

        Annie

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        It brings no pleasure to report this, especially when the distributing studio, Sony, is dealing with a monstrous hacking scandal and a hard-knock year. Let's put it charitably. The risks taken by co-writer and director Will Gluck ("Easy A," "Friends With Benefits," both quite good) begin with pulling "Annie" out of the 1930s and plopping it down in contemporary Manhattan. Living in foster care up in Harlem, the girl formerly known as "orphan" (each time... (read more)

      • Wild poster image

        Wild

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Cheryl Strayed's 2012 memoir "Wild" has become a swift, solidly built movie capturing most of its author's most interesting baggage stuff -- the weedy tangle of regrets, the reckless bumper-car behavior borne of grief -- while offering a rather different experience of what Strayed called "radical aloneness." I can't unread the book, which I love. Therefore I can only offer my feelings about director Jean-Marc Vallee's film, a showcase for a pared-down and very fine perform... (read more)

      • Penguins of Madagascar poster image

        Penguins of Madagascar

        Geoff Berkshire, Chicago Tribune

        Variety Charming in small doses, the "Penguins of Madagascar" prove altogether less irresistible in their feature-length starring debut. The latest example of DreamWorks Animation's franchise mania is a frantic, peppy, in-your-face slice of irreverent toon action, but the result is far more snoozy than Looney (as in Tunes). DreamWorks practically patented the idea of conceiving and marketing animated pics like live-action comedies intended to appeal equally to adults and kids, and w... (read more)

      • Interstellar poster image

        Interstellar

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Dear White People poster image

        Dear White People

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        So many movies come out of the Sundance Film Festival, and others like it, laden with praise but oddly short on narrative invention, visual instincts and a story with something on its mind. Heartiest congratulations to "Dear White People," which is equipped with all three. It's a slyly provocative achievement and a serious calling card for its writer-director, Justin Simien. He sets his ensemble affair on the campus of the fictional Ivy League enclave Winchester University, where Af... (read more)

      • Annabelle poster image

        Annabelle

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The devil-doll lark "Annabelle" exists to make its host movie, last year's excellent "The Conjuring," look even better by comparison. As prequels go, it's not bad, though a couple of things keeping it from amounting to more are worth discussing, briefly, before we all get back to our lives. Here's one drawback: It looks like cheap digital crud. Horror fans are used to lo-fi visual scares, especially in the found-footage genre, but "Annabelle" is not one of those ... (read more)

      • The Equalizer poster image

        The Equalizer

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Based loosely on the 1985-1989 television series, on which Edward Woodward never stuck garden shears in an enemy's throat and never, ever stabbed anyone through the neck with a corkscrew, "The Equalizer" smells like a hit. But I wish it had one completely honest scene, where (for example) someone asks the avenging angel-hero: "Who are you?" And he answers: "I'm Denzel Washington. And Denzel Washington can make even this thing watchable." More and more with action... (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)

      • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes poster image

        Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Three summers ago "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" proved it's possible to reboot a franchise while avoiding that sinking feeling of movie capitalism at its dumbest. Now, in a disappointing July dominated with a shrug by "Transformers: Age of Extinction," the follow-up "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" has arrived. Just in time. The nation's multiplexes need a solid hit to save face and lend the impression that all's right with the business preferences and practic... (read more)

      • 22 Jump Street poster image

        22 Jump Street

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The peculiar sweetness of "21 Jump Street" has taken a hiatus in "22 Jump Street," a brazen sequel that's both slightly disappointing and a reliable, often riotous "laffer" in the old Variety trade-magazine parlance. No question about it, I laffed, more at the little things -- Channing Tatum trying to cut glass with a laser pointer, for example -- than the brawls. And now it's crow-eating time. For a long time I misjudged Channing Tatum's abilities; not too many ... (read more)

      • How to Train Your Dragon 2 poster image

        How to Train Your Dragon 2

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Toothless it's not. In a world of sequels, reboots and franchise industry economics dictating that creativity is encouraged but not required, the DreamWorks Animation offering "How to Train Your Dragon 2" looks, feels and flows like a real movie. It's better than the last few Pixar features, among other things, and from where I sit that includes "Toy Story 3." In an emotionally resonant key, it's as satisfying as the initial 2010 "Dragon," based very loosely on t... (read more)

      • Captain America: The Winter Soldier poster image

        Captain America: The Winter Soldier

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is a better-than-average Marvel superhero bash, intriguingly plotted and pretty clever in its speculations about 21st-century life for Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, the greatest of the Greatest Generation warriors, as he contends with contemporary American geopolitical ideals run amok. The movie does its duty. It's a reliable commodity, delivered efficiently and well, like pizza. In its frenzied action style and overall visual approach, the... (read more)

      • The Wind Rises poster image

        The Wind Rises

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Here's a beautiful apparent contradiction: a gentle, supple picture about the man who designed the Zero fighter plane. "The Wind Rises" is being marketed as the "farewell masterpiece" of Japanese writer-director Hayao Miyazaki, who brought the world "Spirited Away," "Howl's Moving Castle" and "Ponyo," as well as oversaw and contributed to "From Up on Poppy Hill" most recently. There's a fascinating push/pull in Miyazaki's latest. The... (read more)

      • Big Bad Wolves poster image

        Big Bad Wolves

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Thor: The Dark World poster image

        Thor: The Dark World

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

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