The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009) -vs- Crimson Tide (1995)

June 24, 2009 Bryce Zabel

People trapped inside the cold steel of big machines. Check.

Ticking clocks relentlessly counting down to disaster. Check.

Battles of will between A-list actors. Check again.

Director Tony Scott must have known he had a good thing in 1995’s Crimson Tide and was looking to repeat it with this year’s re-make of the classic The Taking of Pelham 123. As far as action directors go, Scott (brother of Ridley) is in the very elite. He makes movies that are almost always worth the price of a ticket at the cineplex. The best are tense, scary, hard-edged ones where his screenwriters give him high stakes and the dialogue to support them (often for Denzel Washington) and then he paces the hell out of the film itself. We have a real fight on our hands with some Scott-on-Scott violence. […]

The Proposal (2009) -vs- Green Card (1990)

June 23, 2009 Sherry Coben

Immigration Law Romantic Comedy makes up a very exclusive subset of the chickflick genre, and there’s a new kid on the block. Great White (North) Hope Sandra Bullock’s “The Proposal” arrives with heavyweight credentials and high expectations for box office punch. A Canadian über-bitch book editor threatened with deportation strong-arms her assistant into an arranged engagement; complications and frolics ensue. Almost two decades ago, Peter Weir constructed his own little Valentine to New York City and unlikely romance when a Frenchman’s marriage of convenience and “Green Card” is threatened by an official immigration investigation. These immigrants are adorable, and they want to stay forever. Which begs the question: If no American falls in love with an illegal immigrant, does a tree fall in the woods? Or something like that.
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Up (2009) -vs- Wall-E (2008)

June 22, 2009 Stephen Bell

A year ago on this very site, a small, garbage-collecting robot named “Wall-E” dethroned the king of computer animation, Pixar’s beloved “Toy Story.” The film found gigantic success, being hailed by critics, winning the Academy Award for best animated feature and receiving a nomination for Best Screenplay. “Wall-E” transformed the genre and pushed the limits of innovation and creativity. Now, a year after its historical upset, “Wall-E” stands ready to defend its title against the newest of Pixar’s animated giants, the high-flying adventure story “Up.” Headlining opening night of the Cannes Film Festival, a feat never before accomplished by an animated feature (let alone an American one,) “UP” and its cast of elderly men, children and talking dogs (you heard me) have entered the world of cinema at full steam, their focus fixed solely on taking our favorite robot’s crown. Will “Wall-E” have enough strength to put down its first challenger, or will his reign prove a short one? Let’s find out!
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The Hangover (2009) -vs- My Life In Ruins (2009)

June 22, 2009 Sherry Coben

It’s a battle of the sexes for the ages. The balls-out edgy Men-Will-Be-Boys comedy takes on the watching-paint-dry-by-numbers My Not So Fat Any More Greek Tour Guide. Hardly a fair fight, there’s no intersection in the Venn diagram of viewers who might enjoy both outings. One’s ostensibly for the ladies — and by ladies I mean strictly Red Hat Society folks, the ones who talk in the theaters non-stop, moviegoers surprised by plot turns telegraphed so clearly that you wonder how these clueless souls found their way to the theater without assistance. “The Hangover” aims for a demographic blessed with a lowbrow sense of humor and no sense of decorum. It’s Dumb versus Dumber. Chicks versus Dudes. Old versus Young. Grab yourself a Jaegermeister or a giant bottle of Ouzo. You’re gonna need to get a little liquored up to make it through this double feature.
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Contact (1997) -vs- Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977 | 1980 | 1998)

June 20, 2009 Bryce Zabel

If you’re old enough to remember the marketing campaign for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” then you’ll remember the goosebumps you got when you heard the phrase, We are not alone. What was great about that simple sentence was that it promised a movie about aliens that was about wonder and mystery and wasn’t about the same old Hollywood treatment of life in the universe, namely that if it bothered to interact with humans it was for a nefarious reason, like “Independence Day” and “War of the Worlds.” Twenty years after “CE3” came another film that promised to make first contact a matter of humanity’s growth out of the cradle and not some intergalactic cage match. Both “CE3” and “Contact” were aliens for smart people brought to you first by the immense talent of Steven Spielberg and later by the immense intellect of Carl Sagan. In my Hollywood career, I’ve had the good fortune to discuss UFOs and extraterrestrial life with both of these men and found them to have some very different visions of the subject. They each have used film to express their views about life as it might exist “out there.” The question is, which version comes closest to what might be the truth about first contact, and which one is the better film?
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Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) -vs- Transformers (2007)

June 20, 2009 Beau DeMayo

Both “Transformers” and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” brim with elaborate action set-pieces, campy humor, and hyper-sexuality. Industrial Light and Magic struggles in both films to design the Transformers in such a way that we can distinguish one from the other. Whenever a fight erupts between Autobot and Decepticon, the on-screen action tumbles into a jumbled mess of flopping, indistinguishable mechanical parts. Sure, I appreciate the high level of detail, but not at the cost of coherent action scenes. “Transformers: RotF” especially suffers from ILM’s designs as Bay introduces a whole slew of new Transformers that simply blend together. It’s hard to appreciate large-scale action sequences when I can’t tell the good from the bad guys and thus, can’t tell who’s winning.
Now both films embrace Bay’s typical low-brow humor. Again, “Transformers: RotF” probably suffers most in this category. Gags like Sam’s mom lolly-gagging around on a college campus after eating pot-brownies or the dangling wrecking ball testicles on a construction Decepticon aren’t just dumb, they’re insulting to the audiences’ intelligence. “Transformers” had some corny moments, many centered around the Autobots fitting into Sam’s suburban life. However, none proved as gregarious and useless as those in Transformers: RotF” where the jokes simply exist onto themselves and are cracked in the most inappropriate moments.
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Deja Vu (2006) -vs- Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

June 18, 2009 Bryce Zabel

If people from the future could travel back to the past, wouldn’t they have already done it? Would it be better to see into the past or into the future? Do they both exist simultaneously, along with the present, because time is relative to where you are? If you like these kinds of questions, we have a couple of films to really put your through Olympic-sized paces in the Suspension of Disbelief event. We’ve put a couple of major star vechicles in the in our time travel machine, both of them about scooting back through the years in order to change the future, both directed by major directors with reputations for getting the action up there on the screen. “Deja Vu” is the more cerebral — “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is the more literal — but both of them cause your brain to short-circuit if you think too much about twists-and-turns of time travel as they would have you believe it works. But this is an entertainment site, not a physics lecture, so let’s get to it.
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Moon (2009) -vs- Solaris (2002)

June 15, 2009 Bryce Zabel

“Moon” (2009) -vs- “Solaris” (2002). “Moon” is the latest little film that could — made for $5-million — about a very big idea. It comes to us direct from director Duncan Jones who, helpfully I’m sure, is David Bowie’s son. Dad’s “Space Oddity” came out in 1969, the year after “2001: A Space Odyssey” was released and blew the minds of a generation of stoned college students. Besides, the granddaddy of science-fiction Jones’s sci-fi thriller has also been compared to “Silent Running,” “Alien,” “Outland,” and even, in one key element, “Blade Runner.” We’ve thrown our share of films into the Smackdown ring against “2001,” but it seems a fresher and more appropriate opponent is Steve Soderbergh’s re-make of “Solaris.” Both “Moon” and “Solaris” serve up disorienting helpings of the isolation of space, the sense that things are not what they seem, romance bent by quantum physics and leading men who think that, just maybe, they are losing their minds.
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The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009) -vs- The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

June 15, 2009 Bob Nowotny

Both films share the same basic underlying premise from the novel by John Godey. And Godey’s premise is a goody — four gunmen hijack a New York City subway train and demand a huge ransom be paid within the hour. The money must not be late in arriving because for every minute thereafter, one of the hostages will be shot. No exceptions. What ensues is a deadly cat and mouse game of verbal sparring between the leader of the highly armored gang and the unlucky transit official who must do everything possible to delay the inevitable. It’s said that Benito Mussolini kept the trains running on time. Does Tony Scott do the same for the New York Transit Authority? Or is the original the better ride? It’s time to get out the subway tokens — all aboard!
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