Couples Retreat (2009) -vs- Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

October 14, 2009 Bryce Zabel

Broken couples going to island paradises to repair their damaged relationships, or try to, ought to be funny. Sex, sun, surf, drinking, dancing, music. And in the case of both of these films, throw in actress Kristen Bell and you should have a real party. Well, you’re half right.

One of these films (either Couples Retreat or the previous year’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall) is an honest-to-God attempt to make a film that just happened to shoot mostly in a tropical paradise. The other is a film that looks like it had the same party-energy behind it as an old Burt Reynolds buddy-fest where the main goal is to go someplace fun, shoot a film and stay up nights getting crazy and drinking too much. Which is to say that one of them works and the other doesn’t.
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Whip It (2009) -vs- Kansas City Bomber (1972)

October 5, 2009 Bryce Zabel

Roller derby is just one level up from the fake world of professional wrestling, but it’s still a real world. “Kansas City Bomber” isn’t as slick as its competition here, but it feels more real. Do teams really exist in Austin, Texas the way “Whip It” says? Probably not. Ellen Page is good as always, but she feels slight and miscast, seeming like someone who wouldn’t make it five minutes in the world of Raquel’s sport. And, speaking of Raquel, it’s the role of her career. She’s athletic, sexy, aggressive. Before you dismiss it, the uniforms in “Whip It” are far more teasing than anything in “Kansas City Bomber.” When it comes to physical action, it’s done better in “Kansas City Bomber.” Actresses in both films learned to skate, but it was Raquel who played it hard and rough, doing most of her own stunts and breaking her wrist in the process. On the other hand, “Whip It” has Kristen Wiig playing the Raquel single-mom role and she’s awesome.
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Inglourious Basterds (2009) -vs- Miracle at St. Anna (2008)

August 22, 2009 Bryce Zabel

In the last two years, two high-profile directors, Quentin Tarantino and Spike Lee, each gave a shot at putting their own brand on a World War II movie, no doubt because of the lure of working with badass villains and ass-kicking good guys, even though the risk for both was they had to operate under the suppressing fire of Steven Spielberg… incoming…
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