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Home » Articles »   By Michael Phillips
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Thursday, July 14,2011

'Horrible' pretty good

By Michael Phillips
You can practically hear little coils of contempt tightening inside Jason Bateman every time he’s in a pickle on screen. In the new comedy Horrible Bosses, the Bateman specialty is the are-you-trying-to-tell-me response. At one point in the film, when confronted with some improbable information, the Arrested Development alum asks one of his partners in idiot crime: “You found a hit man online?” Horrible Bosses is not Noel Coward, nor is it trying to be. And any sort of comedy benefits from an underplayer in its midst.
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Thursday, July 7,2011

Indifference wins the day

By Michael Phillips
Set in an American middle class only vaguely like the real one, Larry Crowne co-stars Julia Roberts as a community college instructor of public speaking and English (I think; the script is vague) who rivals the Cameron Diaz layabout in Bad Teacher in aggressive slackerdom. The main star, though, is the co-producer, co-writer and director, Tom Hanks, who has made all sorts of potential dullards on screen worth watching. So why does Larry Crowne go flooey?
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Thursday, June 30,2011

Learning the wrong lessons

By Michael Phillips
An employee of the Chicago public school system, ha-cha seventh-grade educator Elizabeth, portrayed by Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher, blows most of her classroom time showing her students (whose names she never learns) movies such as Lean on Me, Stand and Deliver and Dangerous Minds while she nurses a hangover or longs for her next bong hit.
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Thursday, June 30,2011

Merchandise in lieu of a movie

By Michael Phillips
Cars 2 had every chance to improve upon the leisurely 2006 animated feature from Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Studios. Yet here we are, stuck with a merchandising assembly line in lieu of a movie. Despite its technical and design finesse, this ranks as Pixar’s weakest project to date, as well as the first from the animation powerhouse that can be described as craven.
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Thursday, June 9,2011

Mary Poppins meets Charles Bukowski

By Michael Phillips
needs a friend. His mom has just died in a traffic accident. His dad, Paul, has withdrawn into a haze of tranquilizers and group-therapy blather. His grandma is kind but housebound. The school bully likes pushing him facedown onto urinal cakes.
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Thursday, June 9,2011

One for the fan boys

By Michael Phillips
ends, as did the Marvel Comics originals. The evil mastermind behind the Cuban missile gambit starts out, a generation earlier, as a Mengele-like Nazi doctor introduced by the movie in a 1944 concentration camp prologue. Both iterations of the character are played by Kevin Bacon in full ferret mode.
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Thursday, June 2,2011

'Hangover' hangover

By Michael Phillips
Again, a night of extreme debauchery leaves the lads clueless and foggy-brained, unable to recall anything without photographic evidence saved for the end credits. Bradley Cooper returns as Phil, the 'cool' one who rarely takes off his sunglasses, and while Cooper has talent, I find his character in these Hangovers.
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Thursday, June 2,2011

'Panda' not going extinct any time soon

By Michael Phillips
Cuddly, plush Po (voiced by Jack Black) is now a reasonably accomplished and competent Dragon Warrior, a sixth member of the Furious Five, meting out justice with his mad kung fu skillz.
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Thursday, May 26,2011

A patient Western

By Michael Phillips
two warning shots after an alarming encounter with a Native American. Hurriedly she loads the rifle with gunpowder and ammunition, while director Kelly Reichardt observes the action from a patient, fixed middle-distance vantage point. It takes a good while precisely as long as it would in real life, in this circumstance.
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Thursday, May 19,2011

Ferrell-in-training

By Michael Phillips
But Ferrell acts opposite the superb Rebecca Hall (as a new and perplexed neighbor in this sunny Scottsdale, Ariz., neighborhood) and Laura Dern (as a long-ago high school chum Nick visits out of the blue). Hall and Dern, among others, bring out something new, and plaintive, in Ferrell.
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