Where The Wild Things Are (2009) -vs- The Wizard of Oz (1939)

October 18, 2009 Sherry Coben

Both films adapt difficult and brilliant works of children’s literature and manage to exceed any expectations, evoking and exploring themes only hinted at in the original texts. Both films achieve a technical excellence and rare beauty that thrills and ignites our passion for storytelling on the silver screen. Both films accurately capture the complicated and often overlooked dark sides of childhood; adults see what they want to see and recall what they want to recall. Children can seem to them simplified little people, easy to control. Children feel their feelings deeply and powerfully though; the less they are seen, the more powerfully they ache to be seen clearly. Attention deficit is the usual diagnosis when children misbehave; children want to be seen and heard and attended.
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The Invention of Lying (2009) -vs- Liar Liar (1997)

October 15, 2009 Mark Sanchez

Things are rarely what they seem — and why not, people don’t always see the truth and sometimes they lie. The British humorist Jerome Jerome put it perfectly: It is always the best policy to speak the truth — unless, of course, you are an exceptionally good liar. Especially if you’re lying for laughs.
Jim Carrey did exactly that in 1997’s well-regarded Liar Liar. He trotted out the contortions and character tics that routinely punctuate his comedies. Clearly, Liar Liar succeeded on one level: It earned more than $300 million, but does this movie exhaust the topic of deception onscreen?
You’ll see a different approach in the just-released The Invention of Lying, written and directed by Ricky Gervais. He created the original version of The Office, as well cable’s Extras and starred in Ghost Town. Gervais knows how to get a laugh.
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Couples Retreat (2009) -vs- Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

October 14, 2009 Bryce Zabel

Broken couples going to island paradises to repair their damaged relationships, or try to, ought to be funny. Sex, sun, surf, drinking, dancing, music. And in the case of both of these films, throw in actress Kristen Bell and you should have a real party. Well, you’re half right.

One of these films (either Couples Retreat or the previous year’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall) is an honest-to-God attempt to make a film that just happened to shoot mostly in a tropical paradise. The other is a film that looks like it had the same party-energy behind it as an old Burt Reynolds buddy-fest where the main goal is to go someplace fun, shoot a film and stay up nights getting crazy and drinking too much. Which is to say that one of them works and the other doesn’t.
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Angels & Demons (2009) -vs- The Da Vinci Code (2006)

October 12, 2009 Rodney Twelftree

The Catholic Church is beset with problems in these two films based on the best-selling novels by Dan Brown. On one side, a secret order threatening to uncover the greatest secret in the history of the world, and render the Church obsolete. On the other, another secret (and long thought extinct) brotherhood threatening to blow up Vatican City. Yep, somebody has it bad for the Pope, and it’s up to an American University lecturer to save the day. So settle back, say a few Hail Marys, and prepare to enter the world of Robert Langdon, the world’s smartest symbologist.
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Pandorum (2009) -vs- Event Horizon (1997)

October 6, 2009 Bryce Zabel

Ever since “Alien” showed the dark side of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” filmgoers have been disabused in one film after another of any thought that going where humans haven’t gone before can be a noble journey. Cold, hostile, horrific space, set in the middle of this century — that’s our Smackdown …
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Whip It (2009) -vs- Kansas City Bomber (1972)

October 5, 2009 Bryce Zabel

Roller derby is just one level up from the fake world of professional wrestling, but it’s still a real world. “Kansas City Bomber” isn’t as slick as its competition here, but it feels more real. Do teams really exist in Austin, Texas the way “Whip It” says? Probably not. Ellen Page is good as always, but she feels slight and miscast, seeming like someone who wouldn’t make it five minutes in the world of Raquel’s sport. And, speaking of Raquel, it’s the role of her career. She’s athletic, sexy, aggressive. Before you dismiss it, the uniforms in “Whip It” are far more teasing than anything in “Kansas City Bomber.” When it comes to physical action, it’s done better in “Kansas City Bomber.” Actresses in both films learned to skate, but it was Raquel who played it hard and rough, doing most of her own stunts and breaking her wrist in the process. On the other hand, “Whip It” has Kristen Wiig playing the Raquel single-mom role and she’s awesome.
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