Killing Them Softly (2011) vs. True Romance (1993)

November 29, 2012 Eric Volkman

The players in our two battling movies this review are gun-toting rogues, so we’ll have to let them shoot it out across the room while we duck under the tables. Armed and lethal in the challenger’s corner is Killing Them Softly, a dark, moody crime drama featuring Brad Pitt as a hit man tasked with eliminating the crew that robbed an illicit card game. That film points its barrel at the breezily violent cult hit, True Romance, with Christian Slater as a comic book store clerk whose involvement with a hooker leads him to murder and a high-risk drug deal.

Both films rely on humanizing their criminals with generous amounts of tangential dialogue, and both also lean heavily on music and artsy cinematography to set a pop, breezy tone in counterpoint to some pretty brutal action by their principals. […]

Life of Pi (2012) vs. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

November 19, 2012 Sarah Harding

Life, as they say, is a journey, and that’s never so clear as when watching a life story unfold in the hands of a masterful film director. In Life of Pi, the voyage is both literal and symbolic, as the title character is forced to traverse the high seas under Grimms’ fairy tale-like circumstances that must be seen to be — well, if not believed, then at least experienced at a deep level. At the same time, the young, Indian lead character, a devoted spiritual seeker, undergoes an intense inner journey as well.

Slumdog Millionaire, the multi-Academy Award winning 2008 film, similarly explores a young, Indian’s life journey as he navigates the Dickensian streets of Mumbai, constantly relying on his wiles to survive, while also seeking love and, ultimately, fabulous wealth and the respect he deserves. […]

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 vs. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

November 16, 2012 Nicole Marchesani

If movies are like summer flings, movie franchises are more like long-term romances. We invest a lot of time and emotion in them; we feel really good while we’re involved; and after they’re all over, we wonder if we’ll ever experience anything else quite the same. I was thirteen years old when the first Harry Potter film was released in 2001 (the same age as Harry was). When the final film was premiering in theaters, I was 22. Essentially, Harry and I grew up together.

Similarly, Twilight hit theaters during my first year at college, and now, five years later, the final installment has arrived. Bella, the clumsy human turned empowered vampire, has graduated from high school and is forced to make some pretty adult, albeit bizarre, decisions. This feeling that we grow and mature and change alongside the characters is something we can’t ever get from just one film. We’ve formed meaningful attachments to these characters, and so, for the fans, it’s imperative that the endings be everything we hope for and more. […]

Lincoln (2012) vs. Thirteen Days (2000)

November 8, 2012 Arthur Tiersky

You’ve heard about all the Kennedy/Lincoln coincidences by now. Some of them are even true. But did you know that Kennedy and Lincoln both have had movies made about pivotal moments in their presidencies? Yeah, I guess you probably did know that. The long list of movie Lincolns includes such notable stars as Henry Fonda, Walter Huston and now, in Steven Spielberg’s new film, Lincoln, Daniel Day-Lewis, while Kennedy has been assayed by, among others, Cliff Robertson, James Franciscus and Bruce Greenwood, who played our youngest President in the true-to-life political thriller, Thirteen Days.

But did you know that I just happened to watch both Lincoln and Thirteen Days in the same week? […]

Skyfall (2012) vs. The Bourne Legacy (2012)

November 8, 2012 Eric Volkman

Two determined superspies, two venerable movie franchises. The more venerable one, James Bond – by some standards, the longest-running film series in history – fattens its library this weekend with the release of Skyfall, starring Daniel Craig, who plays the suave secret agent for only the third time. Fighting in the defending champ’s corner is The Bourne Legacy, featuring a lead character so new, he’s not even named Bourne. Jeremy Renner plays the genetically enhanced secret warrior Aaron Cross, outrunning various government creeps who are trying to assassinate their own man to protect their black-ops program. […]

The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (1978) vs. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

November 5, 2012 Shelly Goldstein

Beatlemania didn’t just consume Baby Boomers; it defined them. When the band broke up in 1970, their split caused a seismic generational depression as powerful as the surge of joy that began the night of Sunday, February 9, 1964 on the Ed Sullivan Show. So, it was no surprise that the Beatles’ already legendary status proved to be fertile soil for comic parody, inspiring a classic docu… excuse me, mockumentary, built around the greatest Fab Faux band that never was: the Rutles. In turn, The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash, opened the door for yet another fake documentary set in the music world: This Is Spinal Tap, the first feature directed by Rob Reiner.

The Rutles clearly took aim at the Beatles, whereas Spinal Tap focused on a band of mindless metal-head morons. Neither film was what you would call a hit when it premiered. One ran as a network TV special, finishing last in the week’s ratings, and the other was a theatrical comedy that most people didn’t realize was a joke. Yet both today are considered classics of their time, because they were able to capture the massive cultural energy surrounding the British Invasion of the ’60s, lovingly embrace it, and then turn it ever so slightly onto its ear. […]

Wreck-it Ralph (2012) vs. Toy Story (1995)

November 2, 2012 Joe Rassulo

When we Baby Boomers were kids, our toys had lives of their own to us. Now that our children are young, it’s their video game characters that seem real to them. So, having once cherished my Davy Crockett coonskin cap and toy rifle, it was easy for me to see poetry in Toy Story’s Woody, a child’s inanimate cowboy doll by day, and a fretting, insecure, full-blooded character, when no one was looking at night.

My 10-year-old son Jack never had a doll like Woody to play with, but he did grow up with video games and movie characters, including Mario and Luigi. So naturally, Disney, which teamed with Pixar to bring us Toy Story, has jumped into the breach with a similarly themed movie for the Millennials. The new film, Wreck-It Ralph is also about the secret lives of children’s play-things once humans are out of the way. And the same John Lasseter who skyrocketed to prominence as Toy Story’s writer-director is overseeing Ralph as executive producer. […]

Flight (2012) vs. Cast Away (2000)

November 1, 2012 Bryce Zabel

I’ve tried to warm up to the motion-capture films Robert Zemeckis has been drawn to recently (Polar Express, Beowulf, Mars Needs Moms) and failed, mainly because it feels as if they have not yet sufficiently warmed up to me. But despite his recent, animated Crapfest from the Uncanny Valley, these two live-action, survival dramas – Flight and Cast Away – are among my favorite films.

When it comes to drama about the human condition, they’re both a cut above. And they have something else in common too: Each tries pretty successfully to create the scariest jet crash ever seen on film, at the time it went before the cameras. […]