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Home » Articles »   By Michael Phillips
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Wednesday, November 9,2011

Snapshots from the rum haze

By Michael Phillips
Johnny Depp was a pal of the late Hunter S. Thompson, and the frustrating but thickly atmospheric film version of Thompson’s early novel The Rum Diary finds Depp and writer/director Bruce Robinson paying tribute to the author, freelance gonzo journalist, career substance ingester and lifelong alcohol sponge. The undertaking was a labor of love. The results are more a labor of “like, in parts,” but they certainly don’t resemble anything else on screen at the moment.
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Thursday, October 27,2011

Not genius, but still good

By Michael Phillips
The most startling shot in Paranormal Activity 3 is something even the film’s determined unbelievers would concede to be damnably effective. Suburban San Diego three-story home, 1988, in the middle of the VHS tape era. A homemade surveillance camera attached to an oscillating floor fan scans left, then right, and we see a mother (Lauren Bittner) of two girls (Chloe Csengery and Jessica Tyler Brown) walk out of the kitchen.
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Thursday, October 20,2011

A more engaging Thing

By Michael Phillips
The slippery, effective new version of The Thing serves as a prequel to the 1982 John Carpenter film, explaining what went down, down in Antarctica, after the intergalactic thing thawed and began eviscerating humans and a husky or two.
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Thursday, October 20,2011

Dancing without chemistry

By Michael Phillips
The country-twang remake of Footloose strives to give us a more down-home experience than the original film. But is a more authentic Footloose — with less dancing, yet — really the way to go? The first one’s fun largely because it’s hooey, as synthetic as most of the fabrics worn by Kevin Bacon. It boasts genuinely charming things like the dancing-feet opening credits sequence, and “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” (Bacon teaching Christopher Penn about rhythm).
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Thursday, October 13,2011

Bizarre tale from the future

By Michael Phillips
Real Steel, a tale of a boy and his metallic 8-foot man-pet, may well drill past its own tin-plated inanities and strike gold, or oil, or something. My kid wants to see it; therefore I think it’ll be a hit. So much for the science and metrics of box office predictions.
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Thursday, October 13,2011

Listen to your soothsayer

By Michael Phillips
Bad things happened to Julius Caesar on March 15, proof that you should always listen to your soothsayer. But there’s more than one way to kill a politician’s soul, as The Ides of March proves, for a while very entertainingly.
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Thursday, October 6,2011

Serious as cancer

By Michael Phillips
It´s a cancer film; no getting around it. But the tender and funny 50/50 addresses its protagonist’s health crisis and chances for survival directly, with a refreshing lack of narrative hemming, hawing or embroidery, so that it becomes something more: a picture with a commercial sensibility and a quippy streak, yet one honest enough to transcend the usual.
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Thursday, October 6,2011

The dreaded '20'

By Michael Phillips
It´s a close call, given the lousiness and the scolding tone of much of her material, but Anna Faris survives What’s Your Number? with eccentric comic charm intact. Dumb film; smart comedienne. Audiences take to Faris for many reasons.
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Thursday, September 29,2011

Thanks, Morgan Freeman

By Michael Phillips
Dolphin Tale turns out to tell an interestingly crowded story. It’s rudimentary and even a little clumsy in its filmmaking technique, but there’s some narrative ambition, at least, in its inventions built upon the real-life rescue of Winter, who was no stranger to adversity and therefore destined for the movies.
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Thursday, September 22,2011

Women, poorly portrayed

By Michael Phillips
Thwarted by the same awkward timing that zonked Confessions of a Shopaholic two years ago, just when shopaholics began to seem extra-heinous, the film version of I Don’t Know How She Does It doesn’t know how to do what I think it’s trying to do.
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