Clash of the Titans 3D (2010) -vs- Clash of the Titans (1981)

April 3, 2010 Mark Sanchez

This material is elastic, not sacrosanct, so cranking up the popcorn factor is not the worst thing. The new “Clash” serves up a new generation of actors you may not expect: Neeson and Fiennes and Sam Worthington (looking – with his buzz cut – like this flick could have been titled “Clash of the Avatars.” The computer generated effects give special life to the various creatures, the snake-haired Medusa and the world-killing Kraken. Ray Harryhausen is still watching movies at age 90. I think he’d be impressed with that, but not in 3-D. Honestly, the conversion is unsatisfying. It makes the compositions look like those crude cutouts on a 3-D postcard. If you enjoy this type of movie, save a few bucks and catch it in 2-D. James Cameron (“Avatar”) had it right all along: “If you want to make a movie in 3-D, make the movie in 3-D.”
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Repo Men (2010) -vs- Repo Man (1984)

March 21, 2010 Mark Sanchez

First off, Repo Men — despite its name — is not a long overdue follow-up to the cult favorite Repo Man from 1984. What the current thriller shares with Repo Man is, well, a similar title. The earlier movie celebrates edgy characters, memorable language and a comic sensibility that still play fresh. It retains a loyal following and sits prominently on the list of great offbeat films the past quarter century. That’s a pretty high bar, considering what you normally find in the cineplex, but hardly impossible to get over. That’s our Smack. Does Repo Men stand on its own merits, or is it just reflecting the glow of another film’s originality, hoping to cash in? And, what exactly are these new guys so hot to re-possess? […]

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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Edge of Darkness (2010) -vs- The Brave One (2007)

January 30, 2010 Mark Sanchez

High stakes for Mel Gibson these days. As an actor he’s been off the screen.. and uncomfortably in the headlines.. the past half-dozen years. I’m not the only person wondering if audiences would remember Mel Gibson for what he said on screen.. or for what he said during a drunk driving arrest.
So here he comes in the remake of “Edge of Darkness.” This carefully chosen material calls out all the character elements that define Gibson’s screen work: emotional intensity, a violated sense of right and wrong, and few qualms about a violent response.
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Legion (2010) -vs- Daybreakers (2010)

January 25, 2010 Mark Sanchez

“Legion,” just out, calls out the forces of heaven; in “Daybreakers,” the irresistible force comes from another place. Both strain story logic and borrow from better movies but sputter out the same question: Humans, how do you want to die?
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“Galaxy Quest” Boldly Arrived Ten Years Ago!

December 20, 2009 Mark Sanchez

Galaxy Quest (1999) -vs- Spaceballs (1987)
Patrolling the Universe for Laughs
The Smackdown. While the newspapers and magazines are full of “Best Of” lists for the past ten years, let’s get specific. It was a decade ago that the great “Star Trek” send-up “Galaxy Quest” came to theaters on Christmas Day of 1999. This year we put the film into the Smackdown ring against another comedy send-up “Spaceballs” which took on the other great space franchise, “Star Wars.” While fan boys and girls alike will be debating “Star Wars” versus “Star Trek” for generations to come, maybe just maybe we can get a clear winner out of the comic dopplegangers. Here we go!
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The Invention of Lying (2009) -vs- Liar Liar (1997)

October 15, 2009 Mark Sanchez

Things are rarely what they seem — and why not, people don’t always see the truth and sometimes they lie. The British humorist Jerome Jerome put it perfectly: It is always the best policy to speak the truth — unless, of course, you are an exceptionally good liar. Especially if you’re lying for laughs.
Jim Carrey did exactly that in 1997’s well-regarded Liar Liar. He trotted out the contortions and character tics that routinely punctuate his comedies. Clearly, Liar Liar succeeded on one level: It earned more than $300 million, but does this movie exhaust the topic of deception onscreen?
You’ll see a different approach in the just-released The Invention of Lying, written and directed by Ricky Gervais. He created the original version of The Office, as well cable’s Extras and starred in Ghost Town. Gervais knows how to get a laugh.
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Funny People (2009) -vs- Punchline (1988)

August 2, 2009 Mark Sanchez

Both make you laugh, and one lets you feel better about it. “Funny People” connects aspects of Judd Apatow’s life with his one time roommate, Sandler. For his part, Sandler gives another of his hybrid performances, not exactly funny or convincingly serious. Rogan and Hill play roles just like the ones performed in their recent movies. They offer no surprises. Leslie Mann is affecting as the old flame who is uncertain — for a time — about what she wants. The film showcases nice cameos of working comics, real Funny People: Paul Reiser, Charlie Fleischer, Sarah Silverman, Norm MacDonald, George Wallace (he even appeared in Punchline). There are some great moments with James Taylor, and inside the office of George’s Swedish doctor. At 146 minutes, I won’t be the first person to suggest “Funny People” may be a half-hour too long. There’s also the humor: After awhile I wasn’t laughing so much at the sex jokes. As for Sandler’s character, there’s no personal growth. He remains the same schmuck throughout.
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