12 Years a Slave (2013) vs. Django Unchained (2012)

October 17, 2013 Arthur Tiersky

One’s about a free man who becomes a slave, the other’s about a slave who becomes a free man!

One’s a searing historical drama, the other’s an intense but goofy action-comedy!

One’s a bona fide Oscar magnet, the other’s already won two Oscars!

One’s written and directed by black men, the other’s written and directed by a white man who’s spent his career trying to be a black man!

One is Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, the other is Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained! […]

Django Unchained (2012) vs. Inglourious Basterds (2009)

December 23, 2012 Arthur Tiersky

Once upon a time, long before you were born, way back in 1994, a writer-director named Quentin Tarantino made a movie called Pulp Fiction. It was a low-budget, stylish and irreverent thriller so wildly entertaining, energetic and fresh that it became an instant cult classic, was a huge critical and box office success, won Quentin an Oscar for his script (story co-written with Roger Avary), and turned him practically overnight into the biggest celebrity director since Alfred Hitchcock.

The movie was so unconventional in so many ways — unusual length (two hours and forty minutes), non-chronological/episodic/multi-plot structure, long stretches of idle chit-chat, hairpin plot turns, extreme violence sprinkled with laughs, eccentric soundtrack selections — and Tarantino was so amply lauded and rewarded for it that he began to believe he could do no wrong, that he could be either as daring or as lazy as he felt on any given day, and we would continue to bow at his feet. The films that followed over the next two decades were… well, it depends who you ask. There are those who still worshipped at his altar, but many others didn’t quite take to much of it, grew tired of waiting for the old Tarantino to return, and viewed each new release with ever-decreasing expectations. […]

“Django Unchained” (Tarantino) Meets “Lincoln” (Spielberg)

December 18, 2012 Movie Smackdown

The body count in Django Unchained — given that it’s a Quentin Tarantino film — is way, way high. The film hits theaters on Christmas Day so we can consider “Peace on Earth” while amping up on slave-era violence. It will likely pack the theaters, Rotten Tomatoes has it with 100% fresh reviews as we write this. We wish we were smart enough to figure out what all of this means about violence in America and what should be done. We are devastated, like everyone else, by what happened in Connecticut, but doubt that a red carpet arrival for Tarantino’s spaghetti-western ultra-violence-fest has much bearing on it. […]

Cowboys & Aliens (2011) -vs- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

July 31, 2011 Bob Nowotny

It’s the Harrison Comparison – two big-budget, high-energy, studio-produced, action adventure yarns starring a Ford with enough miles on him to qualify not only for Triple-A, but AARP as well. I don’t know about you, but I love being taken for a ride (unless it involves a Mexican cartel), and this summer the silver screen is besotted with a plethora of eye-popping, CGI-infested mega-movies starring comic book heroes and video icons. But only one has its roots firmly planted in the wild, wild West – the two-genres-in-a-blender contender, Cowboys & Aliens.

And who better than Mr. Harrison Ford to lead the way? After all, with the Indiana Jones franchise, Ford has proven himself over and over again to be America’s reigning cinema swashbuckler. The fourth and most recent edition of that series, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, serves as our Champion for the purpose of this Smackdown by virtue of its own alien storyline..

Two Harrison Ford genre-mashing period pieces, bothvfeaturing an other-worldly presence. They say the hat makes the man, so which one of Ford’s fedoras will prevail in this head-to-head duel? The 10-gallon Stetson? Or the wool felt homburg? […]

Wyatt Earp (1994) -vs- Tombstone (1993)

June 29, 2011 Bob Nowotny

A 30-second gunfight at the OK Corral in 1881 propelled sometime-lawman Wyatt Earp to legendary status as one of the West’s toughest badges, but it wasn’t until the early days of the Clinton Administration that two films both took aim at each other at high noon to tell the modern version of his story.

Firing the first shot was Tombstone. Then, mere months later, Wyatt Earp rode into movie theaters throughout North America. The decision was split among movie critics and audiences: those who strongly prefered Tombstone and those who strongly maintained that Wyatt Earp was the superior product.

It had been quite some time since Hollywood had cranked out a big budget Western, much less two. The arrival of both these feature films was eagerly anticipated. What had once been among the most popular and durable of all film genres clearly needed a big boost. While both of these films experienced a similarly challenging road from development to the big screen, both were blessed with a solid cast and plenty of pistol-packin’ mayhem. […]

Priest (2011) -vs- The Book of Eli (2010)

May 15, 2011 Mark Sanchez

A Western is a Western, even if there are no trusty horses, Native Americans, brave pioneers, land barons or cowboy hats (or even cowboys).

These days we regularly construct our western mythology out of the apocalypse, looking to the dismal future and not the hardscrabble past.

Both our combatants today share a common set up: Catastrophe strikes. Society falls apart. The fight begins for the remaining pieces. This formula usually includes A Brooding Outsider and Someone in Distress. When you add monsters / mutants you have the rough outline of recent popular movies like I Am Legend, The Road, even The Road Warrior from 1982. The list is longer, but you see where I’m going.

What we have now is the hybrid genre of the Apoca-Western. This sturdy form is identifiable with or without those horses and a strong silent hero because it still showcases the sense of honor, justice and redemption that motivated John Wayne as the Ringo Kid in Stagecoach (1939) and Clint Eastwood’s Bill Munny in The Unforgiven (1992). Those characters could just as easily lived in the world of the Undead as the actual living.

While there are no OK Corrals in The Priest or the Book of Eli, good still stands up to evil in every incarnation. Let’s see how they stand up to each other. […]

True Grit (2010) -vs- True Grit (1969)

December 27, 2010 Mark Sanchez

Apparently, if you need to track down a bad guy in the wild west, your absolute best shot at doing it is to hire a misogynistic one-eyed alcoholic. Whether you watch the old or the new True Grit, that much seems clear.

I’ll admit that something uneasy crept into my life upon learning Rooster Cogburn would live again in a remake of this 1969 crowd pleaser. Drawing from core material about murder and revenge, the film version gave us a smart, spunky girl who recruits John Wayne to the rescue. It won the Duke the Best Actor Oscar (as much for career recognition as his performance). It remains a pleasure to watch. Doesn’t need re-making, right?

Two words. Coen Brothers. Two more words. Jeff Bridges.

The vivid characters and language in the novel written by Charles Portis seem tailor-made for the Coen’s quirky sensibilities. The truth is that this film would never have been re-made except for their passion to do it. And now that they have, honestly, this one is a shoot-out for the ages. […]

Avatar (2009) -vs- Dances with Wolves (1990)

December 21, 2009 Beau DeMayo

Allegorical movies are tough. On one hand, the social messages are essential to keeping cinema relevant and meaningful. Yet I always grow wary of a movie made for the sake of a message and not for the sake of entertaining audiences. The best way to judge that may be to measure Avatar against another film that it shares some themes with: Dances with Wolves.

Both films, for example, discuss imperialism against the epic backdrop of human emotion and struggle — only one does it here on Earth, the other on a faraway planet. But what about the entertainment value? The story? The characters? Which film goes the farthest beyond preaching and instead involves its audiences in the big question: What would it take for me to go up against my own kind? […]

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.
[…]

1 2