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. […]

Contagion (2011) -vs- Outbreak (1995)

September 8, 2011 Bryce Zabel

Remember all the panic and fear about the possibility of a bird flu pandemic a few years ago? Now take that fear and double it, triple it — no, that’s not enough — increase it by a power of ten. Now, maybe, just maybe, you can start to appreciate what might happen if the real thing hits and the worst case isn’t just a scenario.

Or, if that’s too disturbing, you could just go see Contagion or watch Outbreak.

In the mid-’90s, Outbreak was the movie that won a rush-to-film game of chicken after the publication of the book The Hot Zone that had everybody freaking out about how the microbes could inherit the Earth by taking down humankind. It took the sheer paranoia of that scare and tried to amp it up with personal story lines, evil government conspiracies and chases. This year Contagion takes another path, turning its actors into cameo appearances in what looks like a documentary as much as anything. […]

Extraordinary Measures (2010) -vs- Lorenzo’s Oil (1992)

January 21, 2010 Bryce Zabel

Both movies are all about overcoming the odds and a parent’s love that allows them to suffer anything to help their children. In “Extraordinary Measures,” this involves the Internet but “Lorenzo’s Oil” takes place in the world before all the answers were at your fingertips and, initially, it seems like a tougher problem. God knows it’s hard for an average guy to find venture capital and start a company but it’s not quite the level of problem as actually becoming a scientist and curing a disease. So, in set-up, “Lorenzo’s Oil” has more obstacles but it’s also way more daring with the characters. Although there are characters in “Extraordinary Measures” who aren’t saints (notably, the prickly scientist played by Ford), the parents sure are. “Lorenzo’s Oil,” in contrast, is daring enough to suggest that in this war to save a child that both parents become sort of, well, unlikeable because the stakes are too high to care about being nice. It’s a bold choice. Both films try to strike a balance in not stereotyping the medical establishment as unfeeling money-grubbers and to see them as scientists who are trying to solve a problem by being unbiased in their approach, something that a desperate parents can never really be.
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The Bucket List (2007) -vs- Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)

January 18, 2008 Bob Nowotny

Both the hotly-promoted “The Bucket List” and the below-the-radar “Bubba Ho-Tep” feature a pair of geriatric geezers (one white, one black) undertaking adventure in the twilight of their lives in a search to give meaning to what went before. Both films are entertaining, but can the big budget, major studio offering with an “A List” cast and a big name director trump a small, independently-made gem based on a Bram Stoker Award nominated short story? Can Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman best Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis? Is gallimaufry globetrotting more poignant than fighting giant roaches in Nacogdoches? Will the Hollywood-based screenwriter from NYU’s film school hold his own against the Mojo Storyteller from the Big Thicket in East Texas? In short, will “The Bucket List” command as fervent and as loyal a following as “Bubba Ho-Tep?” Will the questions ever stop…
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