Game Change (2012) -vs- Recount (2008)

March 9, 2012 Movie Smackdown

Four years ago, John McCain named Sarah Palin, a self-proclaimed “hockey mom” as his Republican running mate and upended the 2008 election. He was looking for a game-changer to help him compete against the Democratic candidate Barack Obama. Now, the story of that move, and the blow-back from it all is a new HBO film, Game Change, from director Jay Roach who also helmed the HBO film about the tied 2000 election, Recount. […]

The Invention of Lying (2009) -vs- Liar Liar (1997)

October 15, 2009 Mark Sanchez

Things are rarely what they seem — and why not, people don’t always see the truth and sometimes they lie. The British humorist Jerome Jerome put it perfectly: It is always the best policy to speak the truth — unless, of course, you are an exceptionally good liar. Especially if you’re lying for laughs.
Jim Carrey did exactly that in 1997’s well-regarded Liar Liar. He trotted out the contortions and character tics that routinely punctuate his comedies. Clearly, Liar Liar succeeded on one level: It earned more than $300 million, but does this movie exhaust the topic of deception onscreen?
You’ll see a different approach in the just-released The Invention of Lying, written and directed by Ricky Gervais. He created the original version of The Office, as well cable’s Extras and starred in Ghost Town. Gervais knows how to get a laugh.
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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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Angels & Demons (2009) -vs- The Da Vinci Code (2006)

May 16, 2009 Mark Sanchez

Both films serve up clues in much the same way those police procedural shows unpeel that onion on TV: One piece exposing another and another. This imposes a certain predictability to the storytelling structure, if not the outcome.
That convention doesn’t help “The Da Vinci Code” very much, although it tries very hard. The story plunges into arcane church history, obscure alliances, shady characters and wide ranging speculation. This movie desperately needed to ratchet back the mystery because it hampered the storytelling pace. Director Howard handles this gamely, even creatively, but his bench lets him down. Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou have their moments, but too often they are wooden together. So is the dialog. In spots the lifeless speechifying makes Hanks, a two time Academy Award winner, sound like he’s in “Plan 9 from Outer Space.”
Winning performances by McKellen, Bettany and Jean Reno as an obsessed police captain raise the interest level. So does the buzz surrounding “The Da Vinci Code” outside the theater.
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