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Home » Articles »   By Michael Phillips
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Thursday, December 22,2011

Crazy Cruise

By Michael Phillips
With Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol, director Brad Bird makes his live-action feature debut, having made a name for himself and a few hundred million for Disney/Pixar with The Incredibles and one of the freshest comedies of the last few years, Ratatouille. It’s obvious but probably needs restating: Live action is a different beast from animation.
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Thursday, December 15,2011

Arrested development

By Michael Phillips
Itīs not easy being mean, as Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody’s latest project, Young Adult — directed by her Juno collaborator, Jason Reitman — goes about illustrating with an intriguing, unsettled blend of pity and pitilessness.
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Thursday, December 15,2011

Unlikely combinations

By Michael Phillips
Mildly funny adventures in extreme baby-sitting, director David Gordon Green’s The Sitter finds its emblematic moment in the scene of Sam Rockwell, playing a Brooklyn drug dealer, joking around and then suddenly blasting one of his minions in the foot in a realistically painful way. That’s Green for you. He’s the man behind Pineapple Express. Hahahahaha and suddenly there’s blood on the floor.
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Thursday, December 8,2011

More vulgarity, please

By Michael Phillips
In 1956, not long after she married Death of a Salesman playwright Arthur Miller, Marilyn Monroe made a movie with director and star Laurence Olivier at England’s Pinewood Studios. The film, The Prince and the Showgirl, came from Terence Rattigan’s drawing-room comedy The Sleeping Prince, which Olivier had performed on the London stage opposite his wife, Vivien Leigh.
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Thursday, December 8,2011

Cross-cultural animation

By Michael Phillips
Five years ago, the Bristol, England-based Aardman animation folks — who created the stop-motion legends Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep and therefore are eligible for sainthood — made the digitally animated British/American co-production Flushed Away. Jam-packed with peril, if not with charm, the film had both eyes on a crossover American audience that never materialized.
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Thursday, December 1,2011

Nostalgic puppets to the rescue

By Michael Phillips
A frisky new film showcasing some old pals made out of felt, charm and some kind of genius, the Disney release The Muppets overcomes a jaded streak reflecting its makers’ nervousness about selling Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and the gang to an audience unfamiliar with Sesame Street (a Muppets chapter conspicuously left out of Disney’s production notes) or The Muppet Show or the best of the earlier featurelength films, The Great Muppet Caper being my favorite. Hence, The Muppets deploys a bit of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and a string of ’80s jokes about Molly Ringwald and Benson.
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Wednesday, November 23,2011

Boring vampire sex

By Michael Phillips
The fourth film in the Twilight series, Breaking Dawn: Part 1 reveals a flash or two of real filmmaking (mostly in a suggestively grotesque birthing sequence), enough to save it from pure lousiness. But a significant number of its 117 minutes do seem like hours, and whenever certain actors take the lead and set the pace of the dialogue, time itself begins to crawl backward and the breaking dawn begins to feel like yesterday’s breaking dawn, or last Tuesday’s. How did this happen?
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Wednesday, November 23,2011

Singing on the ice

By Michael Phillips
I admired much of the original Happy Feet (2006), but five years later, I’m still considering suing its makers for emotional distress. Certainly the most sadistic aspects of its storyline make it a film one doesn’t easily revisit, either for me or my son.
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Thursday, November 17,2011

Bad title, good movie

By Michael Phillips
Forty-five minutes or so into Tower Heist, the question arises: Is this movie with the title of purest generica — was “Stealing Money” taken? — truly good, or simply less bad than most of what director Brett Ratner has done previously?
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Wednesday, November 9,2011

Unnecessary 3-D

By Michael Phillips
Here, the boy-men — now 30-ish menboys, dealing with adult concerns and relationships, in addition to their perpetual White Castle jones — hunt down a Christmas tree, mix it up with Ukrainian gangsters, briefly turn into Claymation-type animated versions of themselves, consort with virgins and meet Santa.
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