The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) -vs- The Long Riders (1980)

March 20, 2009 Jay Amicarella

The saga of the real-life James Boys, their friends, the Youngers, Millers, and (hiss) the Fords has been a Hollywood staple for almost a century, and for every film, there has been a different interpretation of the legendary Missouri outlaw. Jesse has been depicted in wildly differing films as outgoing, stoic, easygoing, stern, voluble, and taciturn. “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” dares to suggest that the man that newspapers of the day compared to Robin Hood was no more than a vicious thug, who may have been going mad from the stresses of being hunted 24/7.
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Across the Universe (2007) vs. Rent (2005)

December 10, 2007 Jay Amicarella

I got a lot of good advice from good friends on this one, before I ever saw Julie Taymor’s homage to the Beatles and the Counterculture era, “Across the Universe.” Some thought it could be smacked down against “Tommy” or “Hair,” for obvious reasons. Or “I Am Sam,” because both films share a Moptop soundtrack. (Remember when mags like “Teen” and “Tiger Beat” called the Beatles “The Four Moptops?”) And I was sorely tempted, as I love that story of a retarded man’s struggle to retain custody of his young daughter, and count it as one of my all time favorite films. Even Forrest Gump” got a mention, because “Universe” resembles it in the way it offers snapshot glimpses of the same period in American culture.

But shortly into the viewing, I found myself recalling the movie version of “Rent,” because both films are ambitious yet flawed stories of a polyglot group of young people meeting during an explosive time in our history, easily becoming friends, and bursting into song at the slightest provocation. […]

No Reservations (2007) -vs- Big Night (1996)

July 28, 2007 Jay Amicarella

To me, there’s almost nothing better in the theater-going experience than being completely wrong about a movie, and boy, was I wrong about this one! From the previews, I had “No Reservations” pegged as just another ‘Star Vehicle’, the kind of flick we’ve come to know so very well, that seems to serve no other purpose than to extol the questionable attributes of a particular actor or actress, and promote their career. And, of course, make a lot of money doing it. The typical ‘vehicle’ features the Star in 99.9% of the scenes, and rams down our collective throat their special brand of ‘likability’, i.e., a signature grin or cute/quirky personality, that, after two hours, has us hunting for a belltower rooftop where we can bring total strangers down with a scoped rifle, until the SWAT Team finally puts us out of our misery.
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