Cold Souls (2009) -vs- Synecdoche, New York (2008)

February 25, 2010 Sherry Coben

Nothing tickles this aging English major more than a good challenge, a film I can’t predict, a movie that leaves me with food for significant thought. These gems are rare indeed for reasons so obvious they needn’t be mentioned, but I’ll mention them anyway. Never underestimate the low esteem with which Hollywood regards the American film-going, ticket-buying audience. Teenage boys simply don’t flock to the latest dialogue-driven dramedy of ideas. But I do. “Cold Souls” is a beautifully made extended short story; its scale stays personal even when it goes international. “Synecdoche, New York” is an undertaking so massive that you need reference books to fully appreciate its depths. Neither film got a wide release, and I’ll bet you missed them both, but luckily for you, they’re both available on DVD. Grab your dictionary and come with me. I promise I’ll hold your hand.
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The White Ribbon (2009) -vs- The Last Station (2009)

February 23, 2010 Sherry Coben

Over the fifteen months preceding the first world war, a series of increasingly strange events unfold in a tiny German town. (In this hamlet, something’s rotten in the state of Germany, not Denmark.) The denizens are not individual characters so much as monstrous archetypes; the landed baron a controlling overlord who gradually loses control, the doctor a cold, cruel, and sexually perverse father, the pastor sexually repressed and physically abusive to his many children, the schoolteacher ineffectual, romantic, and somewhat distracted. The children are beaten and tortured, molested and abandoned, mistreated and punished for every infraction. The women are muzzled, abused, and dispatched with not much fanfare. Even the crops suffer brutal beheadings, and the pets savagely killed. In revenge, they act out their dark fantasies, traveling in a creepy Children-of-the-Corn-style pack, walking in an ominously straight line, visiting mysterious cruelties on the different, the Other. All this ritualized punishment rains down on the entire town; initially, the town looks normal, but soon the bucolic vistas yield to a slow motion horror movie, all portent and unease.
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The Wolfman (2010) -vs- The Wolf Man (1941)

February 22, 2010 Mark Sanchez

Werewolf movies, like roaches, don’t know how to die. The idea of a thick pelt, fangs and a taste for blood spawned seven decades of cinema lycanthropes with uneven results. Now it’s Benicio Del Toro’s turn. “The Wolfman” just hit the screen after multiple re-shoots and reedits amid sniping that the Hairy One just wasn’t beastly enough. You’ll recognize a familiar – and highly modified – storyline buried under the computer-generated effects, fog-shrouded moors and insistent sound track.
“The Wolfman” wants to sink its canines into the gold standard of the werewolf franchise, “The Wolf Man” from 1941. That movie defined the career of Lon Chaney Jr. career and made him a star. Here’s the ‘Smackdown: Does “The Wolfman” raise the bar.. or fall in with the rest of the pack?
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Anvil! The Story of Anvil (2008) -vs- The Hobart Shakespeareans (2005)

February 20, 2010 Sherry Coben

“Anvil! The Anvil Story” takes so many untelegraphed turns that it’s impossible to predict. The most unexpected thing is how inexplicably sweet the guys are, how truly touching their hopes and dreams, and how much we pull for them to make it on their terms. The filmmaker masterfully builds the narrative, adding salient biographical details and snippets of interviews captured on the fly, dropped like tantalizing breadcrumbs on our journey. I’m far from a metalhead; I’d never even heard of Anvil before seeing this documentary. Like another terrific metal band documentary, “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster,” this film doesn’t pander to fans. It goes deep and leaves us thinking about our own lives, our own relationships, and even – gulp – the meaning of life. Who’d a thunk it?
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The Hangover (2009) -vs- American Pie (1999)

February 19, 2010 Rodney Twelftree

Boobs. Booze. Swearing. Got your attention? Sweet. It’s the return of the classic sub-genre, the Beer & Pizza Movie. That is, a movie you can only really enjoy with a group of mates, some beer, pizza, and a desire to be amused in an “adult” manner. Unapologetically wallowing in gratuitous nudity/swearing/adult themes, and generally politically incorrect, Beer & Pizza Movies are often lowbrow, tasteless cinematic buffoonery dressed up as social satire.So it is we take a long, hard look at a couple of “classic” Beer & Pizza movies, each containing their fair share of the aforementioned unmentionables. Hard to believe it’s been over a decade since Stifler drank that modified cup of beer! Both films were critical and commercial successes, but which one tops the bill as the ultimate Boys Flick? Grab a slice of day-old pizza, zip up your trousers, and read on to find out which of our combatants would win in a boozy brawl!
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Dear John (2010) -vs- The Best Years Of Our Lives (1946)

February 18, 2010 Sherry Coben

“The Best Years Of Our Lives” stands tall as the ultimate and still unsurpassed drama about WWII’s returning soldiers, made in 1946 by William Wyler from a pitch-perfect script by Robert Sherwood. Director Lasse Hallström enters the love-and-war fray with his effort “Dear John” based on a novel by the very popular (if slightly gooey) Nicholas Sparks. The war in question is a lot more confusing than WWII, and the story is a whole lot soapier/dopier, but the eternal questions remain the same. What does war do to soldiers and their families and the women they love?
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