Dark Skies (2013) vs. Dark Skies (1996)

February 27, 2013 The FilmGuru

Who here has seen that identity thief movie? And by that we don’t mean the one in which Melissa McCarthy schools Jason Bateman on new levels of quasi-comedic rudeness, but the one that actually is an Identity Thief. Yep, we’re talking about Dark Skies — the movie about terrifying alien invaders that appropriated its genre and title from the scary, 1996-97 TV series of the same name.

In Hollywood, as in any business, a name is everything. It’s your brand, it’s who you are. The old Hill Street Blues television series had fun with this idea in a classic episode that featured a comedian named Vic Hitler who couldn’t understand why audiences didn’t buy his act. That kind of unfortunate moniker dooms an entertainer or a project to failure, while a winning name like, say, Snakes on a Plane can go a long way toward getting a film made no matter how weak the script behind it. […]

The Thing (2011) -vs- The Thing (1982)

October 13, 2011 The FilmGuru

Hollywood has long been recreating and remaking stories. Even so, it’s no secret that the studios have gone into overdrive lately. Now John Carpenter’s cult classic horror movie, The Thing, has been remade as a prequel.

At first glance, everything about this new adaptation screams rip-off. Naturally, the setting and the time period had to remain the same. The cast have changed, but the characters are often alarmingly similar. Even the marketing for the film uses similar imagery and title treatments.

And they didn’t even have the decency to change the title. […]

Top 10 Horrible Movie Bosses

July 7, 2011 The FilmGuru

This week, Horrible Bosses comes to theaters. Movies about the workplace are as old as the art of cinema. And while we usually go to the movies to escape the real world, sometimes reality can’t help but leak through. We often see characters we recognize, and that even includes bosses.

In Horrible Bosses, Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman), Dale Arbus (Charlie Day) and Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis) have had it with their bosses. But what can you do when your boss is a psycho, a man-eater, or a total tool? Quitting is not an option. So, the guys devise a convoluted but foolproof plan to rid the world of their respective employers… permanently.

We’re not recommending that our readers end bad workplace relationships so drastically. The truth is, no matter how bad your boss is, it could be worse.

We wouldn’t wish these bosses on anyone. These are the baddest of the bad. So the next time your boss is hounding you about missed deadlines or asking you to help him download Angry Birds on his iPhone, remember that it could be worse. You could have one of these cinematic horrible VIPs. […]

Green Lantern (2011) -vs- Iron Man (2008)

June 17, 2011 The FilmGuru

Imagine willpower given form by technology from beyond our world. Or willpower shaping technology made in the U.S.A. We’re starting a battle of wills between two fighters: one a hotshot test pilot turned intergalactic cop, the other a hotshot playboy industrialist turned superhero.

In the DC Comics universe, Green Lantern is one of the heavy hitters. He’s a man without fear, who uses an alien ring that transforms thought into reality by sheer force of will. So it only seems fitting that we pit him against Iron Man, the Marvel Comics version of Steve Jobs combined with Donald Trump. Iron Man is one man’s technology and ingenuity given form in the ultimate expression of man as machine. […]

Click (2006) -vs- Big Daddy (1999)

June 12, 2011 The FilmGuru

We all know that guy, maybe in high school or college, who was a complete idiot most of the time. This is the guy who ran naked through the football field at Homecoming or would eat anything at lunch for a quarter. You know the type. Years later, you may have seen him with his family and thought to yourself, “How the heck does he have kids?”

That’s the way I felt about Adam Sandler. After seeing his wacked-out characters in everything from Billy Madison to Happy Gilmore to The Waterboy, I wondered how anyone could cast him as a caring, down-to-earth father figure. After all, he’d spent most of his adult life playing a man-child.

Then, Sandler was cast as a father in two separate movies, Big Daddy (in 1999) and Click (2006). The first was an edgier Sandler, forced to play the role of a reluctant surrogate father. In the second, the broad comedy of Sandler is more apparent as he plays a man trying to make time for his family and his career.

The question is, which film best captures Sandler’s charm to make us look past his goofy tendencies and appreciate his dad appeal? […]

Summer of Smackdown: Sci-Fi & Horror

June 9, 2011 The FilmGuru

When I was young, summer always heralded some of the best science fiction films. All year long, I would wait to see what to would come next to the local theaters: Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and Alien — to name a few.

These were the films that made me glad to be a kid. I would walk out of a movie theater into the summer night, look up into the sky, and wonder what was out there among the stars… or what horrors awaited us here on Earth.

This year, the Summer of Smackdown includes some pretty original entries. Green Lantern could rightly be called science fiction. But we covered it — and other comic book heroes — in the spotlight we did on superhero movies. So I won’t repeat them here. […]

X-Men: First Class (2011) -vs- X-Men (2000)

June 4, 2011 The FilmGuru

The last time we saw mutants on the big screen, it was the disappointing third installment in the X-Men trilogy, appropriately titled X-Men: The Last Stand. What had begun as a promising franchise under the steady hand of director Bryan Singer turned to crap under the watch of replacement director Brett Ratner. As Joel Schumacher had done with the Batman franchise, so too had Ratner done with the X-Men.

Now, after five years, the mutants are back. Instead of trying to resurrect the franchise by fixing the problems of the previous film (which included killing off two of the main characters), the new franchise is starting over at the beginning with a prequel. Now we have a chance to look at two different beginnings for the X-Men franchise and see which one works better.

Now, after five years, the mutants are back. […]

Life After Contact

June 3, 2011 The FilmGuru

Starting in the ’60s, we began to meet the kind, benevolent aliens waiting to usher us into their interstellar version of the brotherhood of man in films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters, and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.

The past couple of decades have brought the aggression closer to home with stories of alien abduction. Bordering on horror, films like Communion, Fire in the Sky, and The Fourth Kind suggest something sinister (or at least coldly detached and clinical) in these encounters.

And there have also been films like District 9 and Alien Nation that sought to use alien contact as a metaphor for immigration issues and the devaluation of the Other as a second-class citizen. […]

POTC: On Stranger Tides (2011) -vs- POTC: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

May 22, 2011 The FilmGuru

The idea seemed outrageous. Around the turn of the century, Disney & Co. decided to translate one of its most iconic theme park rides into a film. About pirates. Seriously.

It’s not like pirates were all the rage at the time. A good pirate movie hadn’t been made since, well… Ever? Look, I never was one to get lost in the swashbuckling days of yesteryear with Errol Flynn. In my lifetime, I couldn’t remember a single good pirate movie.

Sure, pirates popped up in other films (The Princess Bride, Hook, etc.) but pirate movies weren’t popular. Think of the awful The Pirate Movie (1982), loosely based on Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera The Pirates of Penzance. Or how about the horrible Geena Davis vehicle Cutthroat Island (1995) that bankrupted Carolco Pictures?

The point I’m making here is that Disney’s decision to create a movie based on its Pirates of the Caribbean ride was one of those decisions that could either be called mad genius or visionary. When Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl debuted in 2003, no one expected it would launch a box office powerhouse and a franchise that would be pumping out sequels for the next decade. […]

Summer of Smackdown: Wizards, Warriors & Pirates

May 15, 2011 The FilmGuru

The “Summer of Smackdown” continues! Last week we took a look at the superhero movies vying to be this summer’s big blockbuster. Forget about beefy gods in capes or super soldiers slinging shields. We’re moving from the land of comic books to the realm of full-on fantasy & adventure.

For me, this is what summer is all about. I love a good blockbuster adventure, be it of the Indiana Jones or Flash Gordon variety. A good action-adventure film can transport us to new worlds, different times, and show us unimaginable things made real.

Unfortunately, Hollywood has recently begun transferring films in this genre to 3D in post-production, creating a cheesy effect at greater expense to the viewer. Each of these films has been given the 3D treatment, but only Pirates was filmed in 3D. […]

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