Quarantine (2008) -vs- Cloverfield (2008)

February 7, 2010 Rodney Twelftree

Sometimes, it’s the reality of a scenario that scares us the most. Film-makers are turning to more and more alternate methods of delivering a film to jaded, YouTube-obsessed audiences. With the two films on offer in this Smackdown, we delve into the world of “found footage” cinema and its gradual proliferation among the mainstream today. One, “Cloverfield,” takes us into New York city during a terrifying alien attack. The other, “Quarantine,” (a remake of a successful Spanish film entitled “REC” from 2007) delivers the story of a group of apartment residents, some fire-fighters, police, and a news crew, who become trapped inside a block of units when they are sealed in to stop the spread of a mysterious virus. Both are filmed in the Single Camera Perspective. Both are equally gripping. Both are filled with images and moments that will stay with the viewer forever. But which is better: alien attack and mass destruction, or simple, human drama played out with feverish speed and incalculable terror?
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Angels & Demons (2009) -vs- The Da Vinci Code (2006)

October 12, 2009 Rodney Twelftree

The Catholic Church is beset with problems in these two films based on the best-selling novels by Dan Brown. On one side, a secret order threatening to uncover the greatest secret in the history of the world, and render the Church obsolete. On the other, another secret (and long thought extinct) brotherhood threatening to blow up Vatican City. Yep, somebody has it bad for the Pope, and it’s up to an American University lecturer to save the day. So settle back, say a few Hail Marys, and prepare to enter the world of Robert Langdon, the world’s smartest symbologist.
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Pandorum (2009) -vs- Event Horizon (1997)

October 6, 2009 Bryce Zabel

Ever since “Alien” showed the dark side of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” filmgoers have been disabused in one film after another of any thought that going where humans haven’t gone before can be a noble journey. Cold, hostile, horrific space, set in the middle of this century — that’s our Smackdown …
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The Green Mile (1999) -vs- The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

September 30, 2009 Rodney Twelftree

Prison movies have a long and proud history in Hollywood, keeping us in rapt attention to the plight of the modern-day inmate. While Hollywoods idealized prisoner is traditionally the wrongly accused, or the murderer with a heart of gold, there are some films so perfectly realized by a filmmaker that they transcend the genre and become classics in their own right. We have two to put in the ring together that share more than a screen setting. Both 1999s “The Green Mile” and 1994’s “The Shawshank Redemption” sprang from the original imagination of Stephen King and were brought to cinematic life by director Frank Darabont. As we approach the ten-year anniversary of “The Green Mile,” it’s probably time to ask if either film deserves our critical version of a lethal injection? Take our advice: order up what would be your perfect last meal and kick back for a double-header of life behind bars!
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District 9 (2009) -vs- Cloverfield (2008)

August 17, 2009 Rodney Twelftree

It’s that time of year again: the American blockbuster summer season, and again, we are under attack. Yeah, okay, so Katherine Heigl has inflicted some cinematic travesty yet again, but instead of being attacked by simpering, romantic fluffery, it’s the good old Hollywood staple: aliens. Thank God, because if I have to sit through another “He’s just Not That Into You” or “The Ugly Truth” I might just have to invent my own giant green death ray and obliterate something important. Last time round, the big monster tore shreds out of the Big Apple, gave the viewing public a real scare, and brought back vivid memories of “The Blair Witch Projects” vomit-inducing cinematography. This time, the extraterrestrial interlopers have been given a suburb of Johannesburg to inhabit, with typically human racist attitudes again becoming the most prevalent problem they face, as well as our desire to develop their technology into weaponry so we can destroy each other more effectively. So which one of these two modern alien blockbusters would have the upper hand in pitched battle? Read on to find out more. Oh, and if you’re an alien, please discontinue reading now. This computer is being monitored.
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The Hurt Locker (2009) -vs- In The Loop (2009)

August 2, 2009 Sherry Coben

“The Hurt Locker” comes damn close to earning masterpiece status. Only in the scenes between the action does the film occasionally falter; in individuating the bomb squad crew, a few character choices and set pieces have the whiff of the war-movie generic about them, and we find ourselves itching to get back to the field, to escape the hackneyed struggles and occasionally overcooked drama of the base. Nothing matches the filmmaking of the utterly believable and wrenching missions, and we start to experience a little bit of the high, the tiniest sense of the drug of war. Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, and David Morse hit hard in their well-wrought cameos. To criticize the weak parts would be nitpicking; perhaps the audience needs the break from all the breathholding, armrest clutching, tension. The craziness of the entire enterprise holds and fills the screen; insurgents and innocents watch impassively, impossibly, calmly, as their world is blown to smithereens. Images sear with the power of truth and horrible beauty – a scraggly cat limping among the ruins of a war-torn street, a little boy made into a bomb lying on a table, a nighttime cityscape scarier than anything you can conjure on your own. The heat, the firefights, the madness. “Hurt Locker” works like a fever dream, installing unforgettable memories directly into your brain. A work of tremendous power and focus, the film demands much of the viewer and rewards the effort tenfold.
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The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009) -vs- Crimson Tide (1995)

June 24, 2009 Bryce Zabel

People trapped inside the cold steel of big machines. Check.

Ticking clocks relentlessly counting down to disaster. Check.

Battles of will between A-list actors. Check again.

Director Tony Scott must have known he had a good thing in 1995’s Crimson Tide and was looking to repeat it with this year’s re-make of the classic The Taking of Pelham 123. As far as action directors go, Scott (brother of Ridley) is in the very elite. He makes movies that are almost always worth the price of a ticket at the cineplex. The best are tense, scary, hard-edged ones where his screenwriters give him high stakes and the dialogue to support them (often for Denzel Washington) and then he paces the hell out of the film itself. We have a real fight on our hands with some Scott-on-Scott violence. […]

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