True Grit (2010) -vs- True Grit (1969)

December 27, 2010 Mark Sanchez

Apparently, if you need to track down a bad guy in the wild west, your absolute best shot at doing it is to hire a misogynistic one-eyed alcoholic. Whether you watch the old or the new True Grit, that much seems clear.

I’ll admit that something uneasy crept into my life upon learning Rooster Cogburn would live again in a remake of this 1969 crowd pleaser. Drawing from core material about murder and revenge, the film version gave us a smart, spunky girl who recruits John Wayne to the rescue. It won the Duke the Best Actor Oscar (as much for career recognition as his performance). It remains a pleasure to watch. Doesn’t need re-making, right?

Two words. Coen Brothers. Two more words. Jeff Bridges.

The vivid characters and language in the novel written by Charles Portis seem tailor-made for the Coen’s quirky sensibilities. The truth is that this film would never have been re-made except for their passion to do it. And now that they have, honestly, this one is a shoot-out for the ages. […]

Hereafter (2010) -vs- The Sixth Sense (1999)

October 23, 2010 Mark Sanchez

I don’t think about dying as often as, say, Woody Allen, but I think about it often enough. Mostly I think I am not in favor of it. On the other hand, considering the differences of opinion about what happens after this part of life is over, maybe the Big Black Void would be okay.

Our two films both have considerably different takes on the afterlife. To say the least. But, like all films in this genre, it’s not what they’re saying about what comes next that’s the big deal, it’s what they’re saying about the here and now.

Clint Eastwood’s new movie, Hereafter, ventures through that thin membrane separating the living from the dead. Director M. Night Shyamalan staked out a notable career in this territory, most notably with 1999’s well regarded The Sixth Sense. That’s our Smackdown: If dead people can communicate with us, what are they saying about these movies? […]

Life As We Know It (2010) -vs- thirtysomething (1987-1991)

October 5, 2010 Sherry Coben

Death of a loved one, friend or family, is a life-altering event; the grief and loss color everything for a while. Even when it seems that the worst of the grief has subsided, it still comes in waves for a while as we struggle to maintain our equilibrium and return to life as we knew it before loss. We live our day to day in a sort of agreeable coma, at least slightly convinced, temporarily comforted by the cozy lie that we are immortal, that those we love will never leave us. We know we are lying to ourselves, but while we may try to live consciously, to know the end will come, I think we mostly pretend otherwise. This is part of the reason that sudden and accidental deaths rattle us to the very core. […]

The Social Network (2010) -vs- You Again (2010)

October 2, 2010 Sherry Coben

Some films arrive with a fanfare of critical acclaim and a flurry of publicity and positive buzz. Since studio PR machines work overtime, such spin hardly guarantees greatness. Pedigree helps considerably; Aaron Sorkin, in spite of all his personal demons and occasional misfires, remains a critical darling, the smartest and cleverest fellow in just about any room. Director David Fincher hasn’t failed big yet either; critics are disposed to like whatever he delivers them, and so The Social Network opens with a golden stamp of near-universal pre-approval. […]

Easy A (2010) -vs- Election (1999)

September 19, 2010 Sherry Coben

Smart women are as rare on film as they are in life. Rarer even. Smart high school girls might be the rarest cinematic species of all. You can count them on your two hands. Cooler and wittier than any real girl in any real high school, they’re who we wish we could have been. The girls who say what we wish we had said. Smart girls who use their smart mouths to get into (and out of) considerable trouble. The adults in these films are unspeakably cool too; perhaps this whole smart high school girl genre is for us grown-up girls (and guys) who revisit our high school hallways every night in our dreams and nightmares, still trying to dot those old i’s and cross those uncrossed t’s, to redress grievances and beat down those bullies that haunt us still.
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The Town (2010) -vs- Gone Baby Gone (2007)

September 17, 2010 Mark Sanchez

It rained this week in my hometown, Portland. Cooler now, leaves reddening, a change in the air. And a change in the movie-house. Summer’s over: The kids are back in school, the screen parade of teenagers with attitude and those tedious comedies about losers outta control have let up, for now. Good. As adults our fantasies are different, perhaps more character-driven. Mine are. That’s why it’s great seeing The Town arrive. It marks the follow up to Ben Affleck’s remarkable directorial debut in “Gone Baby Gone.” Flawed people, extreme actions and Boston seen with an eye for the small, telling details. Here we have vivid stories, similiar in texture if not in details, and the writing / directing touch of Ben Affleck. That’s our Smack. Is it enough to forgive and forget Gigli? […]

Going the Distance (2010) -vs- Swing Time (1936)

September 4, 2010 Sherry Coben

Money’s tight. Jobs are hard to find. Relationships disappoint. Such is the world as we know it. You say recession, I say depression. Let’s call the whole thing off. We go to the movies to forget our troubles, to drown our sorrows, to watch others make sense of this whole sorry mess. Romantic comedy provides a welcome refuge, a few hours in the welcoming darkness where we can rest pretty well assured that no one will die and nothing untoward will befall our hero and heroine, safe in the knowledge that they’ll wind up together at the end no matter how tangled the web of misunderstandings, regardless how high they stack the hurdles. We sit and wait for our happy ending and return again to our little lives at the end, sated and ready for the mundane and the stress life hands us. […]

The Last Exorcism (2010) -vs- The Exorcist (1973)

September 3, 2010 Mark Sanchez

Sometimes nothing is more than something. That truth is writ large this summer on the walls at the cineplex. So, Bryce searches the skies for UFOs, Sherry waits for something romantic, and I have time on my hands heading into the holiday weekend. Yikes. The Last Exorcism (I only wish) promises a scary ride about demonic possession and failed faith. It comes freighted with anticipation from producer Eli Roth (Hostel I & II) but this train comes in light, especially for audiences expecting to have their pants scared off. Or a less obvious touch. Nobody said this would be simple, or pretty. That’s why this Smack smells like a mismatch: Does The Last Exorcism stand a puncher’s chance against a double Oscar winning flick that really delivers the goods, The Exorcist? Swing away. […]

Takers (2010) -vs- The Expendables (2010)

August 27, 2010 Mark Sanchez

Coming back to the Smack is always a pleasure — sometimes eye opening, often inspiring. So what do I get now upon my latest return match? The summer rot. Juvenile comedies, more people biting my neck, or killing me some other way. In a way, it’s like I never left. Two summer action releases prove my point. Takers just opened, showing there’s no honor among thieves but yes, a sense of fashion. And very messy. It’s bound to do strong business in this summer’s soft box office. The Expendables arrived earlier with lots of advance word about its well-known, if not well-acting, cast of movie tough guys. Both films are what they are, without apology or distinction. It presents a different kind of Smackdown: Are these movie retreads worth leaving the house? […]

The Switch (2010) -vs- The Kids Are All Right (2010)

August 23, 2010 Sherry Coben

It had to happen. Sperm Donor Dads: The Film Genre. Only slightly ahead of the zeitgeist culture curve, two relatively charming comedies duke it out for the hotly contested Smackdown title.

Mark Ruffalo’s shaggy roue blissfully ignorant seed guy of two (that we know of) takes on Jason Bateman’s neurotic and knowing father of one.

Lesbian moms Annette Bening and Julianne Moore up the ante just a bit on the A-List class-project The Kids Are All Right, and rom-com too-regular Jennifer Aniston depreciates indie-spirited The Switch a tad.

Jason Bateman plays Wally. Jennifer Aniston plays Kassie. With a K. That’s just about the most interesting thing about her. Wally loves her. He always has. But he’s her best friend. And her clock is ticking. And it would be too awkward to have a baby with her best friend. So — here comes the movie logic — hold onto your hats. She finds a married, too-good-to-be-true stranger and coaxes him into donating a cup of his best stuff. Not awkward at all. Are you with me so far? Because I know this sounds awful. But it’s not. Stuff happens to the stuff and paternity hijinks ensue. Here’s the thing though. You care. […]

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