Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (2010) -vs- The September Issue (2009)

July 14, 2010 Sherry Coben

Joan Rivers has lived a long life full of public peaks and valleys characterized by a seemingly indomitable spirit that is more than matched with an undimmed, keen intelligence and canny rebound. This documentary follows this remarkable septuagenarian through a year of huge risks. It doesn’t even touch on her breakthrough QVC savvy or her single-handed revolutionizing of the celebrity fashion world; we see her stand-up, still remarkably raw and fearless and funny. We travel onstage with her; her non-stop schedule takes her to the most unfortunate dives in the remotest of towns and to huge venues more suitable to her stature. Through it all, she tells us everything and nothing; we learn much about her, but ultimately, the mystery of another person remains there just within and just beyond our grasp. We get hints as to what exactly makes this particular human dynamo tick so long and so loud, but like her very familiar and forever-morphing face, the secrets of her undeniable pain and struggle, while glaringly right there in front of us, remain hers. We want to reach out to her and thank her, to hug her, to provide her a moment’s peace, but alas…this life force goes it (unstoppably and perhaps unreachably) alone.
[…]

Micmacs (2009) -vs- A Very Long Engagement (2004)

June 28, 2010 Sherry Coben

An intensely visual director, Jeunet’s imagery remains consistently fresh and breathtakingly original, his fabulous fabulist’s palette uniquely his. Jeunet films have the urgency and half-remembered quality of dreams as they unfold. These tales exist in a rarefied and occasionally twee universe, timeless and with a winsome sense of fun and tricked-out grown-up child’s play even when the underlying subject matter gets serious. The subject at hand is war, and let’s just state the obvious up front – Jeunet’s against it.
[…]

Toy Story 3 (2010) -vs- Toy Story 2 (1999)

June 18, 2010 Sherry Coben

Daring escapes and rescues are the linchpin of the series; the boundless imagination of children inspires the animators and screenwriters to expand the possibilities of play. The organic extension of pretend and our willingness to suspend any disbelief provide endless delights. As a child, I believed my toys shared a completely full and separate life that occurred in my absence or during my sleep. Perhaps the film’s true magic lies not in suspending disbelief but rather in the extending that simple and universal childhood belief that our toys are alive, that the toys we call our own love us back.
[…]

Get Him To The Greek (2010) -vs- Almost Famous (2000)

June 6, 2010 Sherry Coben

The world is getting worse. I realize that my perception is colored by my advancing age and my own inevitable glorification of the halcyon days past, but I think it’s also true. The world is less civilized, less kind, less gentle, and the vulgarization of popular taste is either an unhappy result or partial cause of the precipitous downslide. Judd Apatow’s films capture something in the culture that grates on me; they have heart, but they also try to deliver on a boyish crudeness, an acceptance of careless behavior with little to no consequence. It’s the having it both ways that rankles so much; I would pay no attention to these films at all if they didn’t try so hard to be sweet. But the sweetness is buried in so much profanity and offensiveness; not liking these films makes me feel like a prude, and that’s not a feeling I enjoy. I don’t think I’m being a prude when I object to portraying heroin use and trafficking as a comic convention; there’s nothing funny about forcing an employee to shove a baggie of heroin up his ass while in line at an airport. I’m sorry. That’s not okay with me. The fact that the movie makes that incident not just okay but just another story beat in its salacious, bawdy, saucy naughtiness concerns me. Forcing that same someone to use a cocktail of drugs including meth and heroin strikes me as even more appalling. Making light of such drug abuse is just plain wrong.
[…]

Kick-Ass (2010) -vs- Mystery Men (1999)

April 21, 2010 Sherry Coben

“Kick-Ass” features winning and well-drawn characters engrossed in a complicated narrative full of revenge schemes, garden-variety venality, and grandiose dreams. The suspense gets punctuated with bursts of shocking violence and world-class movie-action, and somehow the high school domestic story somehow remains center stage. Kick-Ass keeps his high-school-nobody day job, and his friends, colleagues, and even his burgeoning romance all ring blissfully true. It’s a subtle mix set in a not-altogether convincing metropolis.
[…]

Date Night (2010) -vs- The Joneses (2010)

April 14, 2010 Sherry Coben

“The Joneses” is about something important. I hesitate to explain much more than that, not wanting to spoil your fun. The film hasn’t been hyped, and if you hurry, you just might manage to see it without hearing much about the twists. Suffice it to say it’s super smart, ambitious, and it looks pretty darned good too. The cast is solid, and the ideas are sound. Moore looks absolutely amazing, and Duchovny delivers one of his surest performances ever. Simultaneously confident and vulnerable, they both play middle aged panic beautifully. The younger Joneses are played by fresher faces – the impossibly beautiful and occasionally naked (There. I’ve got your attention.) Amber Heard and heartthrob-in-training Ben Hollingsworth. Picture perfect as can be at first and even second glance, the reality behind the ideal reveals itself slowly and powerfully.
[…]

Greenberg (2010) -vs- The Squid and the Whale (2005)

April 3, 2010 Sherry Coben

In Baumbach’s modern day Los Angeles, the disconnect continues and the rift grows wider between people. Love seems somehow outside the realm of possibility. Shambling through the wreckage of these wasted emotional lives, all these lonely people don’t even remember intimacy, don’t even attempt it. Everything is casual here; cruelty and thoughtlessness, abandonment, miscommunication and missed messages the currency of exchange. These characters are unsentimental, unceasingly critical, derisive, detached and deadset on avoiding attachment; sex is so casual and unfulfilling that it loses all meaning and pleasure. These zombie people slide in and out of beds, marriages, town, abortions, without registering anything much but a dull ache where real pain ought to be. Always on the lookout for something better, these narcissists seek pleasure and find only numbing activity; they fill their days somehow, connecting fully only with their dogs. Never far from an answering machine or a computer screen or a cellphone, these lost souls are drowning in their loneliness.
[…]

The Ghost Writer (2010) -vs- Shutter Island (2010)

March 31, 2010 Sherry Coben

In the eyes of many Brits and other Europeans, Tony Blair played W’s lapdog for years, and this film presents a plausible (if a little harebrained and oversimplified) conspiracy theory in explanation. Pierce Brosnan plays the retired Prime Minister with his intellect on dimmer switch and gorgeosity and charisma on overload; it’s an effective and devastating performance and indictment. Echoes of a few other American actor/gladhanding puppethead-turned-politician types were surely no accident either. Olivia Williams plays his compelling Lady MacBeth, and Ewan MacGregor the ghost writer hired to finish the PM’s memoirs; he’s instantly and unwittingly entangled in political intrigue way over his level head. Eli Wallach delivers another terrific cameo; this guy just keeps on working and getting better with advancing age. Every time that now-ancient face appears onscreen, we’re sure it’s the last time we’ll see it, and yet he keeps coming back for more.
[…]

Remember Me (2010) -vs- She’s Out Of My League (2010)

March 15, 2010 Sherry Coben

Twilighters aside, there’s precious little to recommend the largely forgettable “Remember Me,” a pretentious romantic exploitation film that uses recent real life history to hype its otherwise tepid dramatic stakes. Director Allen Coulter (of “The Sopranos” renown) knows his New York tough guy patois better than this venture might indicate; poor Pierce Brosnan gets hung out to dry with the least convincing New York accent in movies since the arrival of talkies. Pattinson plays at-sea and moody, indicating the depths of his grief and misery by smoking cigarettes (unconvincingly) and guzzling beer (equally unconvincingly). His roommate is probably the most annoying little shitheel ever to make it to the silver screen, the unnatural spawn of Hal Sparks and Satan.
[…]

The Academy Awards 2010

March 7, 2010 Sherry Coben

So, Adam “So You Think You Can Direct The Academy Awards” Shankman. I guess that’s what you get hiring a choreographer and dance-minded director to do an awards show. Dancing. Completely irrelevant, indulgent dancing and lots of it. Loved the idea of cutting out all those excruciating song performances, but that dance number featuring big hunks of score…maybe it worked like a charm in the room, but not so much at my house. How about yours? Can you say, “Bathroom Break”?
[…]

1 2 3 6