The Monkees: Image -vs- Reality

March 7, 2012 Brad Markowitz

But then again, maybe there’s another way to view The Monkees phenomenon — as a clever, self-referential parody that may have been as much of a road map to “Spinal Tap” and Sascha Baron Cohen as “A Hard Day’s Night” was to The Monkees. After all, it wasn’t just a show about a rock band. It was a show about a rock band trying to make it as a rock band. If you look closely enough, you can see little, veiled digs at the music industry’s shallowness, the glam world of Hollywood, and the hypocrisy of society — all artfully buried in the silly, comedic plots. […]

In Praise of… 50/50

January 11, 2012 Bryce Zabel

50/50 deserves every bit as much Oscar love as The Descendants which is going to get its share. Both films are about dealing with terrible news and living through those stages of grief and 50/50 more than holds its own in that comparison.

Instead Academy members will probably see 50/50 as a diversion for people in their 20s, as light and comedic, and as another Seth Rogen getting stoned kind of movie. Well, it is actually those things within its frames, but it is so much more. […]

50/50 (2011) -vs- Funny People (2009)

September 30, 2011 Arthur Tiersky

Seth Rogen’s buddy is dying. Get ready to la-augh!

This is the hook for the new dramedy 50/50, but if it sounds familiar, it’s because you’re recalling Judd Apatow’s Funny People, with Adam Sandler (2009). If it doesn’t sound familiar, it’s because Funny People bombed once word got out that a) it was not the riotous barrel of hilarity that fans had come to expect from Apatow and Rogen’s previous collaborations (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up), and b) the film was two-and-a-half hours long and crammed with subplots. Fans of Sandler’s usual juvenilia were similarly caught off guard, by both the darkness of the subject matter and the fact that he was playing a bit of an asshole. […]

Battle: Los Angeles (2011) -vs- Transformers (2007) -vs- War of the Worlds (2005) -vs- Independence Day (1996)

June 1, 2011 Bryce Zabel

There are alien invasions and then there are alien invasions.

This Smack is about the ones where the aliens swoop in, lasers blazing, hell-bent on some balls-to-the-wall human ass-kicking. No demands, no negotiations, just straight-ahead mayhem where the Earth is torn up with no regard whatsoever. It’s as if they’re treating our planet like a condemned building that just needs to knocked down as fast as possible so the new construction can get started. I know some folks think we’re already doing that ourselves but let’s skip the politics and just define this as apocalyptical visitation.
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Life As We Know It (2010) -vs- thirtysomething (1987-1991)

October 5, 2010 Sherry Coben

Death of a loved one, friend or family, is a life-altering event; the grief and loss color everything for a while. Even when it seems that the worst of the grief has subsided, it still comes in waves for a while as we struggle to maintain our equilibrium and return to life as we knew it before loss. We live our day to day in a sort of agreeable coma, at least slightly convinced, temporarily comforted by the cozy lie that we are immortal, that those we love will never leave us. We know we are lying to ourselves, but while we may try to live consciously, to know the end will come, I think we mostly pretend otherwise. This is part of the reason that sudden and accidental deaths rattle us to the very core. […]

Please Give (2010) -vs- Babies (2010)

May 14, 2010 Sherry Coben

Women’s breasts appear in a lot of movies. A lot. Usually, they’re gratuitous. Gratuitous, pneumatically enhanced and phony, fetishized dangling orbs meant to entice, designed for ogling. There. I’ve got your attention and I didn’t even have to unbutton my blouse. The breasts featured prominently in these two Smackdown contenders are all real and as far from exploitation as one could imagine. In the startling opening frames of “Please Give,” a series of disembodied, wordless and vulnerable milk glands get gently slapped, manipulated, and arranged under the harshest fluorescents. Readied for their respective mammograms, these random fleshy bundles of ducts and veins and possible disease are hardly ready for their decisively, definitively, defiantly unglamorous close-ups, and the tone is set. The bar is raised. In the remarkable French documentary “Babies,” mothers’ breasts appear frequently and utterly without the usual fanfare and sexual context. We’re on sacred ground, people. These movies weren’t made for teenage boys and the arrested men they’re destined to become. These films celebrate the human condition with honesty, integrity and very rare courage indeed.
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The Book of Eli (2010) -vs- The Road (2009)

January 27, 2010 Bryce Zabel

We men have a default for action. So when the apocalypse arrives, we don’t plan on hunkering down, or trying to plant new crops.

No, we will hit the road, even if we don’t know where we’re going and, believe me, we’re not asking directions. For us, the idea is to keep moving.

My own personal take on the apocalypse is that it won’t be awesome, and it won’t be like a movie. It will be grimy, and personal hygiene will suffer, but the reason it’s called the apocalypse is that life will get cruel, short, and random, leaving precious few lines of witty dialogue to speak, or elegantly-staged action sequences to unfold. […]

Terminator Salvation (2009) -vs- The Terminator (1984)

May 22, 2009 Mark Sanchez

The basic idea of mechanized death traveling through time to alter the future carried three feature films and a now-canceled TV series. All rework the storyline to emphasize different aspects of a familiar fable. They succeed to varying degrees and set a high bar for whatever follows.
“Terminator Salvation” faces tall tasks in this Smackdown!: Does it succeed as a film on its own merits, while advancing the memorable elements set forth in “The Terminator?” Will you hear “I’ll be back” and wonder why?
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