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      • Forgetting Sarah Marshall poster image

        Forgetting Sarah Marshall

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Early in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," protagonist Peter Bretter, played by Jason Segel, steps out of the shower as his girlfriend, played by Kristen Bell, arrives back at their apartment. Peter thinks it's carnival time. Sarah, however, has come to call it quits and Peter realizes, in all his mistimed nudity - (BEGIN ITALICS) all (BEGIN ITALICS) his mistimed nudity - that he's getting dumped. They've grown apart, Sarah says: "It's like you're standing on the dock, and I'm in th... (read more)

      • There Will Be Blood poster image

        There Will Be Blood

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        As surely as our country's multiple personalities owe a great deal to both religious fervor and the oil industry, "There Will Be Blood" reminds us that the greatest screen performances don't settle for capturing one trait, a dominant emotion or an easy way in. The very best of them are symphonies of paradox, forcing us to reckon with the ramifications. This is what Daniel Day-Lewis achieves in director Paul Thomas Anderson's majestic crackpot of a film. It runs 158 minutes on a broo... (read more)

      • The Great Debaters poster image

        The Great Debaters

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Good story, well told. Interesting concept. I wonder if people will go for it. Director Denzel Washington's "The Great Debaters" is pure Hollywood, not without its share of storytelling cliches and golden-toned inspirational teaching moments, but you know what? The results really are inspirational. It is an underdog story produced by Oprah Winfrey, among others, about the real-life Wiley College, a small Methodist African-American institution located in northeast Texas. Under coach ... (read more)

      • Enchanted poster image

        Enchanted

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Enchanted" is a contraption redeemed by a delightful leading performance. The world may not have needed another attempt to cash in on all things princess-y, but Amy Adams, per the old "Mary Tyler Moore Show" theme song, takes a (potentially) nothing day and suddenly makes it all seem worthwhile. Like Marlo Thomas in "That Girl," she's diamonds, daisies, snowflakes, chestnuts, rainbows and springtime. Yes, (BEGIN ITALICS) and (END ITALICS) springtime. "Encha... (read more)

      • The Mist poster image

        The Mist

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Good and creepy, "The Mist" comes from a Stephen King novella and is more the shape, size and quality of the recent "1408," likewise taken from a King story, than anything in the persistently fashionable charnel house inhabited by the "Saw" and "Hostel" franchises. People get torn apart and beset by monsters in "The Mist" but not enough, I'm guessing, for the "Saw" folk, who prefer grinding realism to the supernatural. On the other h... (read more)

      • Across the Universe poster image

        Across the Universe

        Jessica Reaves, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Superbad poster image

        Superbad

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • Hairspray poster image

        Hairspray

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        As mile-high-wig musicals go, the film version of "Hairspray" is less polished but more fun than "Dreamgirls." Both are drag revues at heart, one funny, the other serious. I prefer the funny one. Whether or not "Hairspray" finds a large international audience depends on the audience's interest in seeing an international star enlarged. You have probably heard that this latest stage-to-screen musical transfer, based on the 1988 John Waters film, stars John Travolta... (read more)

      • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix poster image

        Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        He's back, and he's hacked off. The most striking aspect of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" is its contrast between the hormonally and supernaturally tormented teenager at its center and the modestly well-made and easygoing picture unfolding all around him. No. 5 in the omnipresent global franchise, "Order of the Phoenix" lies at a no-nonsense halfway point between the best of the Potter films ("Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban") and the most ... (read more)

      • Nancy Drew poster image

        Nancy Drew

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Published in 1930, the first of the 56 original Nancy Drew stories, ghost-written by Iowa's own Mildred Wirt Benson, concerned a missing will. In a spirit of playful fidelity to the Drew of old, the latest screen incarnation of the Type-A wonder-sleuth sends Ms. Drew in search of a will of her own. It's tucked away in a Chinese box, and it holds the key to the unsolved murder of a film star, whose allegedly haunted L.A. mansion is now inhabited by Nancy and her attorney father, recently reloc... (read more)

      • Hostel Part II poster image

        Hostel Part II

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        When you live in a free country, you put up with crud like "Hostel Part II." It truly is crud, though. The film is the definition of torture porn, and regarding the Motion Picture Association of America's business-friendly, brain-free decision to give it an R rating: If this film gets by with an R, then what is left to warrant an NC-17? Many fans of "Hostel" the first, which was a hugely profitable international success, have been yakking up a storm on sites such as Rotten... (read more)

      • Surf's Up poster image

        Surf's Up

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Surf's Up" has only one point of overlap with "Happy Feet": the penguins. Whereas last year's Oscar-winning animated feature clobbered audiences with sound, tap, fury and 70 tons of pathos, "Surf's Up" is just a slip of a thing, derivative but mellow, about a teenage surfer from the penguin burg of Shiverpool, Antarctica, who ventures to the tropics to compete with the big kahunas of the flightless aviary endless-summer set. The life lessons learned here will be... (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)

      • Grindhouse poster image

        Grindhouse

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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

      • 300 poster image

        300

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        If a film manages to tell an old story in an appreciably new visual way, that's not nothing. By that measure "300" succeeds. It's a fairly entertaining bloodbath designed to put audiences ringside in the cage match of the fifth century B.C., as the Spartans square off against the Persians. It's the few against the many, and the few are mighty fit. The movie should've been called "Ode to a Grecian Ab." Zack Snyder directs, from a script he wrote with Kurt Johnstad and Micha... (read more)

      • The Fountain poster image

        The Fountain

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        It's possible to admire or respect a movie without enjoying it too much, and that's partly the reaction I had to Darren Aronofsky's "The Fountain." It's an incredibly ambitious film of sometimes-thrilling visual achievement, but it didn't connect fully to my mind and nerves. "The Fountain" is Aronofsky's three-part tale of the search for the Tree of Life - for victory over death, especially the death of those we love. At the center, present in body or memory in all three t... (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)

      • The Queen poster image

        The Queen

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Despite the harrumphing tenor of its poster language - "Tradition prepared her. Change will define her." - the new film "The Queen" isn't one of those self-important projects that constitutes a duty rather than a pleasure. It's a buoyant mixture of deft, lightly impudent high comedy and human-scaled drama. Dame Helen Mirren's wonderful in it. Of course. It's unlikely any of us will ever read the following sentence in a review: "Helen Mirren disappoints in the title ro... (read more)

      • Open Season poster image

        Open Season

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Martin Lawrence and Ashton Kutcher may seem like an odd-sounding comedy team, but in some weird way, they click as voice actors and cartoon buddies in "Open Season," the first feature from Sony Pictures Animation. It's a movie that kids will probably like, but that may rightly exasperate hard-core hunters and "Field and Stream" subscribers. "Season" starts out as a back-to-nature comedy about a big, fuzzy hipster of a domesticated grizzly bear, Boog (Lawrence), w... (read more)

      • Miami Vice poster image

        Miami Vice

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The turquoise T-shirts have been shoved in a drawer somewhere. In their place is the sullen, ashen color palette of "Miami Vice," writer-director Michael Mann's big-screen, 21st century version of that most '80s of television shows Much of Mann's work has oscillated between sleek, nocturnal good looks and existential woe, and this movie is no different. It is, however, a radical departure from the Reagan-era phenomenon that ran on TV from 1984 to 1989, with Don Johnson and Philip Mi... (read more)

      • Monster House poster image

        Monster House

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        "Monster House" is more fun and a bit stranger than it looks from the trailer, and from the way its handlers make it sound. The film resembles "a fun house in an amusement park," according to co-executive producer Robert Zemeckis, deploying an old cliche made monetarily new by Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequel. The studio materials describe "Monster House" as a "comedy thrill-ride." Is that different from a thriller comedy-ride? The s... (read more)

      • A Scanner Darkly poster image

        A Scanner Darkly

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Philip K. Dick was a dark literary visionary, sometimes disguised as a prolific pulp science fiction writer, whose explosively imaginative tales could usher his readers into realms of dread, alternative lives and utter madness. So do some of the many movies of his stories (notably 1982's "Blade Runner"), though few of them are the pure stuff. Richard Linklater's film of "A Scanner Darkly" comes close, though. It's one of the most faithful movie adaptations of any Dick sto... (read more)

      • She's the Man poster image

        She's the Man

        Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune

        Falling somewhere between that ubiquitous community theater production of "Romeo and Juliet: A Hip-Hop Love Story" and Amy Heckerling's scrumptious, ohmigod take on Jane Austen in "Clueless" is "She's the Man," a veeeeery loose adaptation of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" featuring the refreshing comic charm of teen starlet Amanda Bynes. Bynes, a five-time Kids' Choice Award winner and current star of the WB's "What I Like About You," plays Vio... (read more)

      • The Hills Have Eyes poster image

        The Hills Have Eyes

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The reasons why the Motion Picture Association of America can?t be trusted keep piling up like festering, bullet-ridden corpses, which happen to be among the MPAA?s favorite things. The ratings board gets all twisted up about sex and skin, yet it cannot give you or your kids enough ax blades to the cranium. This week?s evidence: the remake of the old Wes Craven horror item ?The Hills Have Eyes,? which should not be rated R. It should be rated NC-17, or ITTS-OW, which stands for Is This Thing ... (read more)

      • Curious George poster image

        Curious George

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        You can say several things in favor of ?Curious George,? a mild off-season cinematic bid for the young and the restless. The movie, a G-rated, 86-minute affair, isn?t glib or assaultive in the ?Shrek? vein, though Joe Stillman, a ?Shrek? alum, is one among many uncredited screenwriters on this project. Jack Johnson?s songs slide in one ear and out the other. Filmed primarily in traditional two-dimensional animation, though without much wit or distinction, director Matthew O?Callaghan?s featur... (read more)

      • Final Destination 3 poster image

        Final Destination 3

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        If you haven?t already had your fill of horror movies in which sexy high schoolers are gruesomely murdered - either by a maniacal killer, a ghoulish monster or, as in the ?Final Destination? series, by the fickle fingers of fate and death - then ?Final Destination 3? is a gorefest that should either slake your worst appetites or drive you to the exits. In ?FD3,? director James Wong and co-writer Glen Morgan (makers of ?FD1?) continue their cycle of thematically related horror flicks, each wit... (read more)

      • Nanny McPhee poster image

        Nanny McPhee

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        With ?Yours, Mine and Ours? and ?Cheaper By the Dozen 2? lately cluttering up the multiplexes with teeming masses of onscreen children in search of a better agent, ?Nanny McPhee? arrives as a jolly improvement. Emma Thompson?s adaptation of the three ?Nurse Matilda? books, published between 1964 and 1974, concerns seven creatively unruly children, not a dozen and certainly not 18. Indeed, in a clear rebuke to the TV series ?Eight is Enough,? director Kirk Jones? picture proves seven?s more li... (read more)

      • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire poster image

        Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Unlike Peter Pan, that other magical airborne boy of British literature and film, J.K. Rowling?s Harry Potter just keeps growing up. So do the Potter movies, in size, in ambition and in visual splendor - and with increasingly stunning results. ?Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire? is the latest film adventure for the bespectacled student sorcerer of Rowling?s amazingly well-imagined Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And it may be the best-filmed Potter of them all - though last year... (read more)

      • Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit poster image

        Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        Most of us come from common clay. Wallace & Gromit do not. The jolly inventor with the sausage-shaped smile and his patient, silent yet wondrously expressive dog are the stuff of uncommon clay, the synthetic material known as Plasticine, of which two of modern cinema's loveliest comic creations are molded. "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" is the first feature-length showcase for these indelible characters, and it's a good one. For 40 minutes or so it's really good, i... (read more)

      • Howl's Moving Castle poster image

        Howl's Moving Castle

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Hayao Miyazaki's "Howl's Moving Castle" is a great animated feature - and one made, obviously, as much for older audiences as very young ones. But this wondrous movie probably shouldn't be put in age brackets at all. It's perfect for anyone with a youthful heart and a rich imagination. Though highly reminiscent of the whimsical Japanese genius' last two films, 1997's "Princess Mononoke" and 2001's "Spirited Away," it's even more densely virtuosic. This new film t... (read more)

      • Madagascar poster image

        Madagascar

        Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune

        DreamWorks' latest computer-animated film harkens back to a quieter, simpler time - when men were men and cartoons were two-dimensional talking animals, not E! talking heads. "Madagascar," with its intentionally retro aesthetic, shuns much of the street-savvy navel-gazing so crucial to DreamWorks predecessors "Shrek" and "Shrek 2." Those films made bundles but relied far too heavily on winks and nods, with No. 2 drooping under the weight of its own pop-culture pr... (read more)

      • The Interpreter poster image

        The Interpreter

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        "The Interpreter," a new Sydney Pollack political thriller set and shot largely in New York City's United Nations headquarters, is the kind of polished, exciting treat the movies should give us far more regularly. As beautifully designed, swift and sleek as a classic sports car, throbbing with emotion and intelligence, it's a neat suspense film that's also dramatically and sociologically potent, with two supremely talented stars, Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn, delivering beyond the em... (read more)

      • Constantine poster image

        Constantine

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Keanu Reeves is caught between heaven and hell in "Constantine," his latest epic fantasy/science-fiction thriller. But though the story is potentially fascinating and the visuals sometimes spellbinding, the movie itself is stranded in the purgatory of the second-rate. A "Matrix" it isn't - though it's obviously intended to remind us at times of Reeves' wildly nightmarish and imaginative 1999 hit. But here the source is different. Reeves plays doomed Los Angeles exorcist/sl... (read more)

      • Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior poster image

        Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior

        Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

        Meet the new Jackie Chan: Tony Jaa, star of Thailand's martial arts epic "Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior." Jaa combines Chan's early-career daredevil feats with Jet Li's calm ferocity, generating a powerful cinematic experience reminiscent of Chan's "Drunken Master II" and Li's "The Legend" movies. Gone are the gravity-defying effects of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Hero"; "Ong-Bak" carves out its place in cinema history with swe... (read more)

      • The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie poster image

        The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie

        Scott L. Powers, Chicago Tribune

        If your kid has SpongeBob SquarePants underwear, it's a good bet she or he will relish "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie." For those of us without such attire, the $8, 90-minute wager isn't so safe. The inevitable movie version of the Nickelodeon cartoon that since 1999 has featured the undersea adolescent adventures of sea sponge SpongeBob SquarePants, his buddy Patrick (a starfish) and peevish neighbor Squidward (yes, a squid) revolves around SpongeBob's job as a fry cook at the K... (read more)

      • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban poster image

        Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        Just as J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" represents a step in maturity beyond the series' first two books, director Alfonso Cuaron's film version improves upon its predecessors. This third "Harry Potter" movie shakes the candy coating off of the franchise without violating its spirit. Chris Columbus, who directed the first two, is skilled at assembling the elements and moving a story along, but he doesn't leave behind ideas that haunt or images tha... (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)

      • Shrek 2 poster image

        Shrek 2

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        "Shrek 2" is "Meet the Parents" for computer-animated ogres, and once again the cat gets the biggest laughs. The frisky feline of the moment is a swashbuckling Puss in Boots, voiced by Antonio Banderas in a sendup of his Zorro character. For reasons to be explained later, Puss is hired to vanquish everyone's favorite big ugly green dude, Shrek (again voiced by Mike Myers), but soon he's hanging out with the good guys, causing a jealous Donkey (Eddie Murphy, again better he... (read more)

      • Man on Fire poster image

        Man on Fire

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Denzel Washington plays a flawed superman named John Creasy in "Man on Fire." And though this movie by director Tony Scott is itself flawed - a super-thriller that gets too crazy in the last half - Washington gets our juices running. Once again, he's a perfect edgy leading man. Cast as an alcoholic ex-counter terrorist ace hired as the bodyguard of a Mexican millionaire's 9-year-old daughter, Washington wins us with his mix of taciturn menace and boyish charm. He suggests both a dam... (read more)

      • Kill Bill: Vol. 2 poster image

        Kill Bill: Vol. 2

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        "Kill Bill, Vol. 2" is the sound of a filmmaker in love with his own voice. For sure that voice is lively and distinct, which is what made "Kill Bill, Vol. 1" so watchable even as you suspected that it was more of a bravura exercise than an emotionally engaged piece of storytelling. But after spending an additional two-plus hours with "Vol. 2," you may be seeking a cure for cinematic verbal diarrhea. "Vol. 2" was supposed to provide the payoffs that &qu... (read more)

      • Mean Girls poster image

        Mean Girls

        Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

        The biting teen comedy "Mean Girls" heralds the silver-screen big bang of two promising careers: actress Lindsay Lohan and comedy writer/actor Tina Fey. In one movie, Lohan ("Freaky Friday") goes from a Disney-sculpted actress to her own star, transported by "Saturday Night Live" head writer Fey's nervy comic script. Lohan stars as 15-year-old Cady Heron, whose childhood in Africa with her zoologist parents leaves her ill-equipped for the jungle politics of high ... (read more)

      • Shaun of the Dead poster image

        Shaun of the Dead

        Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

        Following the success of "28 Days Later," this year's remake of "Dawn of the Dead" and the recently released "Resident Evil: Apocalypse," you would think the zombie genre has ambled its course. Think again. With "Shaun of the Dead," British filmmakers Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg have rolled out a gleefully gory, pitch-perfect parody of George Romero's zombie films. But this isn't a movie about other movies. "Shaun of the Dead" stands on its ow... (read more)

      • Napoleon Dynamite poster image

        Napoleon Dynamite

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        "Napoleon Dynamite" may have been the surprise comedy hit of the last Sundance Film Festival - and its 24-year-old director/co-writer, Jared Hess, may be a helmer with a future - but that doesn't mean it will make you laugh out loud. It didn't tickle me much, anyway, though it did hand me a few smiles, and it may work for others. Hess, his co-writer wife Jerusha Hess and some buddies from Brigham Young University have imagined a screw-loose parody of the small Idaho city where Hess ... (read more)

      • The Cat in the Hat poster image

        The Cat in the Hat

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        We can debate the merits of adapting beloved children's books into live-action films, but can we agree on one point? You shouldn't have to add burps, farts and dog pee to Dr. Seuss. Including the author's name in the movie title "Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat" takes a lot of chutzpah. Dr. Seuss was a wondrous, groundbreaking storyteller thanks to his ingenious use of simple words, his limitless creativity, his bright visual style and the slyness with which he'd make his moral (and s... (read more)

      • Kill Bill: Vol. 1 poster image

        Kill Bill: Vol. 1

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        There's no question that Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill, Vol. 1" is a virtuoso piece of filmmaking. What's questionable is whether it's more than that. He's been much imitated since his one-two punch of "Reservoir Dogs" (1992) and "Pulp Fiction" (1994), yet as you watch "Kill Bill, Vol. 1" (the story's second half, "Vol. 2," comes out in February), you realize that no one combines tension and release, violence and humor, dialogue and action an... (read more)

      • Finding Nemo poster image

        Finding Nemo

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        It's the details that stand out whenever a classic film is converted to 3-D. With "Finding Nemo 3D," the shimmering sea surface, scratches on the lens of a diver's goggles, and smudge marks Nemo the clown fish makes when he mashes his face up against the glass wall of the aquarium that imprisons him all pop off the screen in the reissue of Pixar's undisputed masterpiece. The fish seem to float in between the surface of the screen and the deep blue underwater backgrounds of the South... (read more)

      • Bruce Almighty poster image

        Bruce Almighty

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        If God chooses to bestow His powers upon some mere mortal, you figure the human's got to have something special going on. I mean, with billions and billions of people on Earth, you wouldn't figure God would hand over the holy reins to some schnook who lacks even the potential for greatness. Unless that schnook is played by Jim Carrey though some of us might argue that the actor's head already is big enough. In "Bruce Almighty," God, in the person of Morgan Freeman, gives the ultima... (read more)

      • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets poster image

        Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        Entering the world of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" is like returning to a wondrous summer camp after a year's break. You see old friends, meet some new ones, and you're reminded of the magical appeal of a place far away from home. Only after becoming acclimated do you notice what bugs you. Last year's first entry in the Potter movie series, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," may not have exceeded J.K. Rowling's book, but it gave a good taste of what made... (read more)

      • 8 Mile poster image

        8 Mile

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        The movie "8 Mile" poses three questions: Can rap star Eminem act? Can he be a movie superstar? Is it a decent picture? "Yes" to the first and third questions, and "maybe" to the second - though the deck is stacked in the rapper's favor. In "8 Mile," Eminem, the foul-mouthed white rapper who took the pop music world by storm in 1999, plays aspiring Detroit rhymer/climber Jimmy "Rabbit" Smith. It's as good a movie showcase as any solo music sup... (read more)

      • Punch-Drunk Love poster image

        Punch-Drunk Love

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        "Punch-Drunk Love" is an Adam Sandler movie with class, and if that sounds like an oxymoron, so be it. The movie is a happy nightmare of silly-smart movie comedy that defies category - and challenges expectations involving Sandler and his pictures. Written and directed by one of the brainiest of the younger American auteurs, Paul Thomas Anderson ("Boogie Nights"), this offbeat romantic farce puts Sandler - the delight of college students and the bane of some of their elder... (read more)

      • The Rules of Attraction poster image

        The Rules of Attraction

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        Roger Avary's adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' "The Rules of Attraction" is a bravura exercise in emptiness. Its flashy camera moves, backwards sequences, jumbled chronology and energetic soundtrack make you feel, at least for a while, like you're having fun watching characters who generally aren't. Avary helped write "Pulp Fiction," and his new movie, which he wrote and directed, has a similar freewheeling quality. All that's missing are plots to drive the narrative, char... (read more)

      • Spirited Away poster image

        Spirited Away

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        The pictures are worth a thousand words in "Spirited Away," Disney Studios' delightful English-language version of the Japanese feature cartoon that holds that country's all-time box office record. In this case, popularity is not an index of expensive hype. Writer-director Hayao Miyazaki's spellbinding tale of a little girl named Chihiro who's lost in an alternative world of tricky ghosts and bizarre monsters is both universally engaging and deeply personal. It's a movie full of bew... (read more)

      • Stuart Little 2 poster image

        Stuart Little 2

        Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

        In the three years since E.B. White's cheery, sweater-clad mouse first made his wobbly transition to the big screen, the forces behind "Stuart Little" have discovered how to give their computer-generated rodent a palpable soul. Perhaps it's because director Rob Minkoff was stung by the charge that the original cinematic Little had no more heart than a frog in a beer commercial. Maybe it's just that Bruce Joel Rubin ("Ghost") wrote a much wittier and more intelligent screen... (read more)

      • Men in Black II poster image

        Men in Black II

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith are back. The space monsters are funny. The little people in the Grand Central Station locker are a stitch. And Frank, the talking street snitch/pug dog, is often hilarious. So why is "Men in Black II," probably one of the most eagerly awaited sequels of the past several years, so relatively sparkless and disappointing? "MIB II" is a sequel that seems to have everything going for it, not the least being those creaseless black suits, super-hip Ray Ba... (read more)

      • Scooby-Doo poster image

        Scooby-Doo

        Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

        As smoke rolls out of the sunroof of the Mystery Mobile and the words "primo stuff" are uttered by a major character, finally, we're led to think, someone is coming clean about Scooby-Doo's psychedelic roots. It would explain a lot, from Shaggy's reefer-smoking demeanor to the talking dog. Of course, no explanations are offered, only flirted with, as the next shot reveals an in-van barbecue of vegetarian burgers shared by a boy and his dog. Usually, calling movies "cartoonish&q... (read more)

      • Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron poster image

        Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron

        Loren King, Chicago Tribune

        DreamWorks borrows a page from Walt Disney's book on epic animated adventures with its new widescreen production, "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron." The studio that playfully skewed Disney in "Shrek" flatters the competition with this imitation of Disney style and sincerity. "Spirit" trots confidently in the hoof-steps of old-fashioned family films such as "Black Beauty" and "The Black Stallion," while giving obvious nods to "Dumbo"... (read more)

      • The Importance of Being Earnest poster image

        The Importance of Being Earnest

        Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

        It remains one of the tragedies of the English language that Oscar Wilde didn't leave us with more plays. Shortly after the 1895 London premiere of Wilde's stage masterwork, "The Importance of Being Earnest," the 40-year-old wordsmith found himself in prison for being unfashionably homosexual in Victorian England. He was dead five years later, a broken writer suffering ill health after two years in poor prison conditions. "Earnest" represented Wilde at the height of his li... (read more)

      • Frailty poster image

        Frailty

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Most horror movies depend on our susceptibility to cliched scare setups and prefab gore. But most of "Frailty" is so good done in a low-key, realistic mood of genuine creepiness and dread that it doesn't need formula shocks. Then, unfortunately, the last third of the movie leads to a surprise ending that reverses the meaning of most of what we've seen. Up to then, Bill Paxton's directorial debut film about a family of small-town Southern serial killers is impressive. Paxton also... (read more)

      • Crossroads poster image

        Crossroads

        Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

        Pop star Britney Spears' big-screen debut, "Crossroads," follows the "Purple Rain" logic that an emotional, autobiographical song at the end of the film solves everything. And perhaps "Crossroads" might become the pop "Purple Rain" of its age as long as we remember what a rickety vanity project "Purple Rain" was. Like Prince, Spears affords herself plenty of chances to flash her assets in this case her vocal talents, slim midriff and, well, ... (read more)

      • The Royal Tenenbaums poster image

        The Royal Tenenbaums

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        Director Wes Anderson and actor Owen Wilson have co-written three films, each more ambitious than the last and all inhabiting a world that spins on a different, more delightfully wobbly axis than our own. The filmmakers' trademark characters have ambitions that may be absurdly overblown yet take their setbacks with great equanimity (at least in the long run). The would-be heroes of "Bottle Rocket" (1996) see themselves as mastermind criminals without ever becoming more than harmless... (read more)

      • Hedwig and the Angry Inch poster image

        Hedwig and the Angry Inch

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        Most modern-day drag queens don't rock. They're more likely to be seen grooving to disco or lip-synching to ABBA or just generally camping it up. But the title character of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" isn't your typical drag queen. Having survived a botched sex-change operation (which left the "one-inch mound of flesh" that explains the rest of the title), married and been abandoned by an American G.I., moved from East Berlin to a Kansas trailer park and formed a rock band... (read more)

      • Ghost World poster image

        Ghost World

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Enid and Rebecca, the two best friends of "Ghost World," are a couple of acid-tongued outsiders in a gray modern world of strip malls, chain stores and dehydrated culture. They're too smart for their own good and definitely too cheeky to slide through life like their chirpier, smilier high-school classmates. Based on the characters in David Clowes' underground comic book, and brought to life by actresses Thora Birch (Enid) and Scarlett Johansson (Rebecca), they're a couple of teen-a... (read more)

      • Shrek poster image

        Shrek

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        With "Shrek," DreamWorks stakes its claim to Disney's cutting-edge animation crown while blowing a raspberry in Mickey Mouse's face. This computer-animated film, which mostly chronicles the title ogre's adventures in rescuing a princess, aims to be not just a kids flick but a sassy mock fairy tale that appeals to all ages and sensibilities. Leaving few of its swamp stones unturned, "Shrek" is alternately sweet and mean, sophisticated and vulgar, witty and base, dazzling an... (read more)

      • Save the Last Dance poster image

        Save the Last Dance

        Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

        "Respect" has become the all-purpose demand. Athletes don't ask for record-breaking contracts for the money; they want the respect that the millions represent. When a troubled teen in Save the Last Dance plans to attack some rival gangbangers, he's not seeking revenge for a previous shooting; he just needs to preserve his sense that he's being respected. True respect, however, goes a long way in the moviemaking game. The reason many teen films stink is that their creators haven't ... (read more)

      • Jurassic Park poster image

        Jurassic Park

        Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune

        Forget blowing the images up to Imax size and converting the lunging velociraptors and T. rexes into 3-D. The best reason to revive "Jurassic Park" for its 20th anniversary is Jeff Goldblum. Yes, children, there was a time when Goldblum was sci-fi's "ultimate explainer," as producer Dean Devlin labeled him in "Independence Day." Goldblum's bug-eyes said "scientist-smart," and his mannered, considered and hesitating line readings reinforce that. His very... (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)

      • Masculine-Feminine poster image

        Masculine-Feminine

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Jean-Luc Godard's 1966 "Masculine Feminine," re-released in a retitled new print at the Music Box Theatre, is one of the quintessential '60s foreign art films, a bizarre melange of pop music, revolution, sex, movie allusions and poetry. It's a masterpiece of sorts by one of the most important European filmmakers of that era. But it's also a movie that can drive you crazy. That's because Godard is, especially here, both very classical and very radical, a Jekyll-and-Hyde who adores bo... (read more)

      • Kinky Boots poster image

        Kinky Boots

        Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

        Chiwetel Ejiofor plays a red-booted, show-stopping drag queen named Lola in the new British film "Kinky Boots," and it's a sensational performance. Ejiofor, the Nigerian-British actor who made a big hit in Stephen Frears' "Dirty Pretty Things," plays Lola - a 6-foot floozie chantoozie - as a big, warm, seductive homme/femme fatale. When he blasts out his stage routines, singing "I Want To Be Evil," "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'" or (a perfect choice... (read more)

      • The Nun poster image

        The Nun

        Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

        Step aside, "Halloween." Forget it, "Paranormal Activity." Nice try, "Scream." "The Conjuring" franchise (or the "Conjuring Cinematic Universe," the "CCU") has steadily become the most dependable horror film franchise of late, conquering the box office with good old-fashioned and flawlessly executed spooks and scares, with a few interesting ideas to boot. Spinning off James Wan's 2013 "The Conjuring," about real-life marrie... (read more)

      • Titanic poster image

        Titanic

        Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

        The ship so nice they sank it twice, the RMS Titanic has resurfaced from the icy depths of the Atlantic only to be subjected to a second dunking, this time with a 3-D up-charge, under the stewardship of Capt. James Cameron, master and commander. This week, Cameron's 1997 film -- perhaps you've heard of it? -- returns to theaters on both regular and IMAX-sized screens, just in time for this month's 100th anniversary of the doomed vessel's maiden and farewell 1912 voyage. How's the 3-D? It's fi... (read more)

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