Dark Skies vs. Dark Skies

March 1, 2012 Bryce Zabel

Our “Dark Skies” has established itself in the minds of a significant number of science fiction fans as a gripping piece of conspiracy drama set in the world of UFOs and abductions. It anchored NBC’s Saturday night “Thrillogy” concept in the 1996 season premiere and starred Eric Close (“Nashville”) and the late film character actor J.T. Walsh (“Sling Blade”). Its main title design won the Emmy award and its pilot screenplay received a Writers Guild nomination. The Syfy Channel aired the entire series multiple times. Since 2010 there’s been a Facebook page where thousands of fans from many different countries push Sony for a TV revival. […]

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) -vs- Batman Begins (2005)

July 24, 2011 Bryce Zabel

These two characters are flagship iconic brands for the Marvel and DC universes. It’s almost impossible to conceive of either of them really existing properly without what these characters bring to the table, whether that table is part of the Avengers or the Justice League.

Batman has clearly outstripped Captain America in overall name recognition in our times (although that could change), but both characters are equally important in what they mean to their caretakers.

Like the new Green Lantern, X-Men: First Class and Thor from earlier in the summer, Captain America: The First Avenger is an origin story. So, too, was Batman Begins when it came out in 2005. Captain America hopes to launch a franchise while Batman re-booted a faded franchise by starting over.

Despite my historical embrace of the First Avenger, I promise as a former honorary junior member of the Justice League of America, I am perfectly capable of rendering a judgment for the Dark Knight if he’s deserving. So then — which of these origin films is the most successful adaptation from the page to the stage? Here’s the Tale of the Tape, matching up with the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con. […]

The Chameleon (2011) -vs- Changeling (2008)

July 9, 2011 Ben Silverio

“Based on a true story” is where the real world and the cinematic world collide. Whether it be a romantic comedy, a micro-budget horror movie, or a courtroom drama, a film with that label carries weight vicariously, intriguing viewers with the promise that the story, or something like it, actually occurred and in fact could have happened to them.

Both The Chameleon and Changeling explore cases of unexpected reappearances of missing children and the dark secrets surrounding their returns. However, the two films take different approaches in point of view. In The Chameleon, the story is about a professional liar assuming a missing teenage boy’s identity, while Changeling focuses on a mother who, after her nine-year-old son is kidnapped, must deal with the trauma when police return the wrong child and insist he’s her son.

These stories involve what Hollywood sometimes calls “difficult subject matter,” which may be why Changeling, despite an A-List pedigree and considerable critical success, performed only modestly at the box office. The fact that it was based on a true story may have helped in some ways and hurt in others. Now viewers have the chance to experience two nightmarish family dramas, their attention heightened by the knowledge that both films hew more or less closely to true events. For those who can only take so much family angst, clearly a Smackdown is in order. Accept no substitutes. […]

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. […]

X-Men: First Class (2011) -vs- X-Men (2000)

June 4, 2011 The FilmGuru

The last time we saw mutants on the big screen, it was the disappointing third installment in the X-Men trilogy, appropriately titled X-Men: The Last Stand. What had begun as a promising franchise under the steady hand of director Bryan Singer turned to crap under the watch of replacement director Brett Ratner. As Joel Schumacher had done with the Batman franchise, so too had Ratner done with the X-Men.

Now, after five years, the mutants are back. Instead of trying to resurrect the franchise by fixing the problems of the previous film (which included killing off two of the main characters), the new franchise is starting over at the beginning with a prequel. Now we have a chance to look at two different beginnings for the X-Men franchise and see which one works better.

Now, after five years, the mutants are back. […]

The (True) “True Story of Blackbeard”

May 18, 2011 Bryce Zabel

There’s just something about that name — Blackbeard — that Hollywood loves. It doesn’t matter what the real details are since nobody in the audience knows them anyway.

What’s important is that Blackbeard, whoever the hell he was, was definitely the biggest of the badass pirates in a world populated by badass pirates.

Even in those days, the early 1700s, hype always exceeded reality. Pirates were feared, but tavern gossip in coastal communities inflated their stories into mythic proportions. They may have been scurvy dudes with non-existent dental care and sexual diseases you don’t even want to know about — just like everyone else of the time — but they were more than that. They were celebrities with great names like Captain Kidd and Calico Jack. And they operated with impunity from the Caribbean to New York in a decades-long orgy of lawlessness. […]

Me and Orson Welles (2009) -vs- My Favorite Year (1982)

November 30, 2009 Bryce Zabel

Given the long odds against success, everybody in show biz could use a mentor, somebody to teach them the ropes and send them on their way. In a perfect world those lessons are delivered with loving care and remembered fondly for a lifetime.

In the real world, they tend to be delivered in a way that leaves the mentee as dazed and confused by his/her collision with the mentor as you can imagine.

Either way, you learn, and we have two coming-of-age stories to drive the point home: 2009′s “Me and Orson Welles” versus 1982′s “My Favorite Year.”
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The Blind Side (2009) -vs- Hoosiers (1986)

November 21, 2009 Mark Sanchez

We cheer as Eliza Doolittle becomes My Fair Lady and when The Soloist Nathaniel Ayers recovers himself through music. Along the way the facts blur that one movie is based on a true story, the other is fiction since both say something meaningful about beating the odds and personal redemption. Sometimes the distinctions don’t matter and sometimes they do.
Few people beat longer odds than Michael Oher, whose life story (the biggest parts) is the heart of The Blind Side. The marketing promos emphasize Sandra Bullock as a comedic southern fried Pollyanna, but not the throwaway kid whose real life – off the football field, and on – gives this material its backbone. It’s a story where the distinctions matter.
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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.
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