Things to do in Chicago today

The day's best things to do in Chicago—including free and cheap activities, concerts, screenings, shows, parties and more. It's your social emergency savior.

Photograph: Patrick L. Pyszka
Soak up winter at the ice skating rink in Chicago's Millennium Park.

Looking for something to do this evening? Have a friend coming into town who wants to see the sights? You're in luck, because Chicago is a city filled with attractions and things to do (including some that cost absolutely nothing). Seize the moment with our list of today's best concerts, shows, activities and more.

Hot Pursuit

It’s hard to fault Hot Pursuit for shamelessly trying to draft off the success of The Heat, since it’s not as if the world is overrun with broad comedies about resourceful women who demolish the men foolish enough to underestimate them. At the same time, this trite road-trip comedy can be so lazy that it squanders the goodwill of a premise that ought to be self-evident. Directed by Step Up series godmother Anne Fletcher, the film centers on Cooper (Reese Witherspoon), a dweebish and diminutive Texas cop with a checkered past. Police work is in Cooper’s blood, but an itchy trigger finger on her taser has resulted in her being assigned to a desk job as a glorified secretary. That is, until she’s assigned to escort Daniella (Sofia Vergara) from her mansion to a courtroom, where the South American fashionista is scheduled to testify against the merciless drug lord who used to employ her husband. The pickup goes awry and the women suddenly find themselves speeding away in a convertible, two different teams of armed killers on their tail.  One of them is short and the other one is Colombian—that’s pretty much all there is to this milquetoast buddy comedy that ought to have premiered directly on seat-back airplane televisions where it’s destined to spend the better part of its existence. Bouncing from one tired sitcom setup to the next (Cooper is covered in cocaine! Daniella has to pretend to be her lesbian lover in order to fool a shotgun-toting Jim Gaffigan!), the film is comple

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Henry Hobson’s zombie movie does for coping with terminal illness what Dawn of the Dead did for consumerism, the difference here being that Hobson isn’t interested in satire, only sadness. Oh, and he’s got Arnold Schwarzenegger.  The film begins in the aftermath of a plague that’s referred to as the Turn, a reference to the process by which this incurable virus slowly transforms its victims into feral, flesh-eating transmitters of the contagion. The worst of it is over, but for Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger), the hell is just beginning. Your typical Kansas City farm boy with the body of an aging gladiator and the accent of a robot sent back in time to prevent the apocalypse, Wade is searching for his eponymous teenage daughter (Abigail Breslin). The moment he finds her, infected and afraid, epitomizes how cleverly the film suffuses the realness of human tragedy with the morbid spark of genre fiction: “She’s going to lose her appetite,” a doctor informs him, “and then she’s going to get it back.”  Choosing, perhaps irresponsibly, to take Maggie back to their remote Missouri home rather than dump her at the government’s ominous quarantine, Wade is forced to confront the increasingly gruesome reality of his daughter’s condition, Wade begins to confront the gruesome reality of her condition, an ordeal that only gets harder as her veins begin to turn black and one of her fingers rots off. Hobson resists the temptation to spice things up with more traditional scares, and the film

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Queen and Country

A direct sequel to 1987’s Hope and Glory—and the best thing that John Boorman has made since—Queen and Country begins where that film leaves off, continuing the director’s autobiographical account of his relationship with war and the collateral effect it has on the people at its periphery. When last we saw Billy Rowan, the impish schoolboy who served as Boorman’s alter ego in Hope and Glory, he was thanking Hitler for blowing his schoolhouse to smithereens. Queen and Country catches up with Bill (Turner) nine years later, the lad now a strapping young man with an appropriately adult name to match.  It’s 1952, and the Korean War is in full swing. Bill, a burgeoning cinephile without a lick of interest in being forced to shoot at strangers several thousand miles away, is whiling away his youth on the idyllic U.K. island home he shares with his parents, but it’s only a matter of time before his conscription notice arrives. It’s at boot camp that Bill meets Percy (Jones, a convincingly manic Brit), the two troublemakers becoming fast friends as they do their best to avoid one war while grappling with the fallout from another.  Marrying the military milieu of Full Metal Jacket with the wistful English cheekiness that colored The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, Queen and Country is as achingly romantic a film as has ever been set during basic training. The brunt of Boorman’s bittersweet memories involve the lads chasing girls, teaching new recruits how to type, and irritating th

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Ex Machina

Stephen Hawking has warned us that the growing power of artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. Technology has not yet reached the point where a robot has passed the Turing Test—fooling people into believing they’re talking to a human. But screenwriter and novelist Alex Garland’s debut feature takes us to the very moment of technological birth. What might it look like when we get there?Pretty damn slinky, as it happens. Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is an ace computer programmer who wins a competition to visit the remote home of his Silicon Valley company’s charismatic billionaire founder (Oscar Isaac). Caleb’s task is to test his boss’s new invention: AVA, a robot whose glowing LEDs and whirring servos combine with a lithe feminine form and the angelic features of actress Alicia Vikander. Caleb isn’t just convinced, he’s smitten, but the more he learns about the relationship between AVA and her volatile, hard-drinking creator, the more concerned he becomes for her future.There are elements of romance and dystopian thriller here, though Garland’s art-house pacing keeps us waiting for these threads to emerge, lining up thoughtful dialogue exchanges between man and machine. Vikander’s spellbinding, not-quite-human presence (her synthetic skin is silky yet creepy) keeps us watching. But an obvious twist and some clunky plotting—how about those sudden power cuts?—drain much of the credibility from a story which promised so much. A bit more intelligence wouldn't

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Avengers: Age of Ultron

Joss Whedon’s first Avengers movie was the epic finale to Marvel’s cinematic “Phase One,” herding all the franchise’s disparate elements in a rousing, rewarding whole. Age of Ultron, though, has a definite mid-season feel to it, telling a compelling but never game-changing story while laying the foundations for the epic, two-part Infinity War due in 2018.  It may be piled with MacGuffins, magic crystals, red-skinned demigods and psychic asides, but at the heart of Ultron is a simple, even derivative plot about overweening ambition and technology run amok. When Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) combine to create the world’s first fully functioning AI, they don’t stop to think of the consequences. And of course it’s not long before Ultron (voiced by James Spader) is building an army of robots bent on wiping out the population of earth—starting with the noble Avengers. Whedon has revealed that his first cut ran for well over three hours, and it shows: Ultron feels excessively nipped and tucked, barreling from one explosive set-piece to the next, leaving ideas half-formed and character motivations murky. While the introduction of new superheroes like Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and the confusingly multi-talented Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) may excite comic fans, it makes for such a crowded field that even star players like Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Captain America (Chris Evans) are shoved to the sidelines.  Age of Ultron is still a Joss

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Dior and I

Fashionistas will love this fly-on-the-wall doc about eight make-or-break weeks at the house of Dior, filmed in 2012 as newly appointed creative director Raf Simons puts together his first haute couture collection against the clock. The Belgian was hired in the toxic wake of John Galliano, terminated for unleashing an anti-Semitic rant filmed on a cell phone. Couture is as elitist as fashion gets, bought by a few 100 super wealthy women who don’t blink at spending the equivalent of a year’s rent on a few new-season must-haves. (Prices typically start at $30,000.) The pressure for Simons to succeed in the ultrafeminine world of Dior is intense.  His right-hand man, Pieter Mulier, is a charmer, winning over the army of seamstresses in white lab coats who spend weeks lovingly handcrafting a single dress and joke that the ghost of Mr. Dior haunts the atelier. By contrast, the shy, buttoned-up Simons is not exactly Karl Lagerfeld in the charisma stakes. Rather, he resembles a better-dressed version of the nihilists in The Big Lebowski. But his tears on the day of the big show are genuine. So, too, is his allergic reaction to all things celebrity: He looks like he’d rather be getting his wisdom teeth out than stand next to Sharon Stone on the red carpet.

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Hank A
Hank A can only tell me one thing to do today, May 16th in Chicago, DOH!!!  

Good luck in your future endeavors.