Terminator Salvation (2009) -vs- The Terminator (1984)

May 22, 2009 Mark Sanchez

The basic idea of mechanized death traveling through time to alter the future carried three feature films and a now-canceled TV series. All rework the storyline to emphasize different aspects of a familiar fable. They succeed to varying degrees and set a high bar for whatever follows.
“Terminator Salvation” faces tall tasks in this Smackdown!: Does it succeed as a film on its own merits, while advancing the memorable elements set forth in “The Terminator?” Will you hear “I’ll be back” and wonder why?
[…]

Angels & Demons (2009) -vs- The Da Vinci Code (2006)

May 16, 2009 Mark Sanchez

Both films serve up clues in much the same way those police procedural shows unpeel that onion on TV: One piece exposing another and another. This imposes a certain predictability to the storytelling structure, if not the outcome.
That convention doesn’t help “The Da Vinci Code” very much, although it tries very hard. The story plunges into arcane church history, obscure alliances, shady characters and wide ranging speculation. This movie desperately needed to ratchet back the mystery because it hampered the storytelling pace. Director Howard handles this gamely, even creatively, but his bench lets him down. Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou have their moments, but too often they are wooden together. So is the dialog. In spots the lifeless speechifying makes Hanks, a two time Academy Award winner, sound like he’s in “Plan 9 from Outer Space.”
Winning performances by McKellen, Bettany and Jean Reno as an obsessed police captain raise the interest level. So does the buzz surrounding “The Da Vinci Code” outside the theater.
[…]

Star Trek (2009) -vs- Star Trek: Wrath of Khan (1982)

May 8, 2009 Beau DeMayo

Reboots. A familiar frontier. These are the voyages of the Hollywood business. Now if only I could go reboot the time I bested too many Jager shots and woke up at the campus bus stop twenty minutes before a Physics midterm. Now, it’s easy to groan when Hollywood reboots yet another franchise. Batman. Hulk. James Bond. The list goes on. Up this year is Star Trek, one of television’s most enduring franchises, spawning spin-offs, films, video games, and Trekkies. With such a long history and devote fan base, it’s scary to think what a reboot could mean for a franchise most believe reached its prime with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Nevertheless, we boldly go tonight where no smackdown has gone before, with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan locking phasers and photons with the reboot simply titled Star Trek.
[…]

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2009) -vs- Star Trek (2009)

May 7, 2009 Sherry Coben

Let’s say it’s date night and you’re the girl. Common wisdom might suggest you’d be happier arm-twisting your significant (or insignificant) other into the theater for a dose of movie star magic featuring McConnaughey and Garner. Your distaff half’s pining in an entirely different testosterone-fueled direction. Should you give in and check out the Trek or put your high-heeled foot down and insist on the rom-com? Let’s do this. Captain James Tiberius Kirk vs. Connor Meade. Two alpha/hound dogs who have their way with women.
[…]

Galaxy Quest (1999) -vs- Spaceballs (1987)

May 6, 2009 Mark Sanchez

Repackaging grows new legs for a movie and, for many viewers, improves the experience with better sound, cleaner prints and those behind the scenes features. In “Galaxy Quest” you hear the affection Director Dean Parisot and writers David Howard and Robert Gordon clearly have for the material. The question: Does all that backstage chatter ramp up YOUR affection?
There’s also the matter of another movie already patrolling the universe for laughs. Mel Brooks called outer space “the last genre I can destroy” and worked over “Star Wars” in 1987’s “Spaceballs.” He came out with related features on a 2000 DVD. Mel couldn’t leave well enough alone, and released a 2005 Collector’s Edition with even more goofiness.
[…]

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) -vs- Iron Man (2008)

May 3, 2009 Beau DeMayo

Marvel Studios and Fox continue expanding its X-Men film universe with the addition of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the first in a series of Origins spin-offs designed to focus on specific characters from the X-Men franchise. With the movie already proving to be a box office blast, I’m sure we’ll get all the way to X-Men Origins: Xavier’s Wheelchair before this franchise runs out of steam. So what other film hero could possibly best the Wolverine? How about another team member who goes solo on film? Yes, another “man of metal”…Iron Man, founder of The Avengers (due out in 2011…you’re welcome, Marvel)! So today, sparks fly, metal on metal, adamantium and iron clashing to determine which of hero can hold his own alone?
[…]

X-Men (2000) -vs- X2: X-Men United (2003) -vs- X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

May 2, 2009 Beau DeMayo

Bryan Singer’s X-Men took a little bit of Matrix and a whole lot of Marvel and jam-packed it all into an intense 90-minute film that was surprisingly more thriller than action film. This isn’t a surprise since Singer has always seemed most comfortable in thrillers, The Usual Suspects and Apt Pupil being the merits that earned him X-Men’s directorial helm. In X-Men, Logan, a.k.a. Wolverine, an amnesiac mutant with indestructible claws, is found by the X-Men, a group of highly-trained mutants who moonlight as teachers at a school for young mutants. The school’s headmaster, Charles Xavier, dreams of creating a world where human and mutants co-exist. Opposing Xavier and his X-Men is Magneto, Xavier’s former best friend and militant leader of the anti-human Brotherhood of Mutants. This is a movie made by its casting since the plot is rather slim and predictable. Watching Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan wax philisophical as comic book versions of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X makes for a riveting thriller. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine was risky, but amazing, casting. The visual style and look of X-Men is something to appreciate, as Singer and his production design crew throw away blind fidelity to comic book gratuity and instead adapt the comic to our real world. Gone is yellow spandex, bright purple/red costumes, eight-foot tall mutants, and Gucci-wearing shapeshifters. Everything is understated, making the film’s themes of prejudice and alienation all the more real for a modern audience.
[…]