The Soloist (2009) -vs- Shine (1996)

April 26, 2009 Mark Sanchez

“The Soloist” tells a story about extraordinary gifts connected to a very compromised life. If this sounds like something straight from the headlines, it should. LA Times columnist Steve Lopez wrote about a man who changed his life, first encountered in a skid row plaza near a statue of Beethoven.
What follows is complicated like any messy life, and it will have you wondering: Haven’t I seen something like this already?
Yes. You have. Director Scott Hicks brought us “Shine” in 1996, earning Geoffrey Rush a Best Actor Oscar in a well-made, well-regarded film that touched many of the elements now reworked by “The Soloist.”
Both stories tell us about real people who inspire and piss off their friends in roughly equal measure. Both will open the eyes and heart. Does one create a more indelible portrait of dignity among people who are only too human? That’s our Smackdown.
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17 Again (2009) -vs- Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)

April 18, 2009 Sherry Coben

The Senior Year Do-Over Movie has been done, if not to death, definitely to the point of critical exhaustion. Clearly, it’s an idea that attracts actors and studios and screenwriters and even audiences, and apparently it needs updating every couple of years. “17 Again” is in theaters filled with wide-eyed eleven year old girls and their moms, teenagers in cliques, all pining/lusting for the lead, and it seems only fitting that once again, a Zac Efron vehicle goes toe to toe with cinema giant Francis Ford Coppola who conveniently for our purposes directed the little 1986 chestnut “Peggy Sue Got Married.” Countless other do-over films deserve a critical once-over, but symmetry demands this particular smackdown rematch. Efron vs. Coppola – The Do-Over. Let the smacking begin.
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Adventureland (2009) -vs- Waiting (2005)

April 7, 2009 Sarah Harding

The crappy post-college job is a rite of passage. It builds character, teaches you humility and better prepares you for “the real world.” Or at least that’s what I’ve been told. Currently stuck in that listless limbo between past collegiate freedom and looming “adulthood” I sympathize with the main characters of “Adventureland” and “Waiting,” who struggle to find their own unique places in the supposedly grown-up world. Though the trials and triumphs of directionless twenty-somethings is hardly constitutes new cinematic ground, both films attempt to make their mark on the well-worn genre. It’s slacker versus slacker, and there can only be one winner.
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Sunshine Cleaning (2009) -vs- Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

April 2, 2009 Bryce Zabel

When I first saw it, I thought Little Miss Sunshine was a true original. Three years later, from several of the same producers, came another film shot in New Mexico, with a precocious kid in the center, Alan Arkin as the outspoken grandfather, a dysfunctional family that ultimately rallies around each other no matter how weird or hard it is, and the word “sunshine” in the title.

But Sunshine Cleaning is no clone and certainly no comedy. Still, it’s strong enough to step in the ring with the champion and throw a few hard punches of its own. Both are a breath of fresh air (well, the air in Cleaners can get a little putrid), because the only super-heroics are done by damaged people just trying to get by.

From a Dad’s point-of-view, Alan Arkin’s expert timing provides some of the comic high points for both films, and his soulful screen presence as family patriarch gives them heft. In Little Miss Sunshine, his social inappropriateness is more extreme and, because of that, more hilarious. But he’s funny in Sunshine Cleaning, too and, as in the earlier film, we can see that his comedic missteps are motivated by love for his family. […]