Thoughts on the Dark Night

July 24, 2012 Joe Rassulo

There have been many ridiculous and meaningful thoughts thrown out there about the “dark night” of Friday July 20. Violence, gun control, terrorism and insanity notwithstanding, they all probably make some sense after a few drinks and a lot of inherent frustration and anger about the apparent randomness of the recent violence in a Colorado movie theater.

Still, there are some things that bear mentioning. […]

The Help (2011) -vs- Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

August 21, 2011 Rebecca Coffindaffer

Social upheaval. Economic strife. A wildly unpopular war. And racial bigotry that will forever tarnish a great country’s history. If it all sounds familiar, it’s because the problems of the 1960s are still pretty much with us… which is why movies about that era will probably always be popular. It’s so nice to look back in time at the battles for social justice that we’ve fought and won. It helps us forget for a few hours how much work is still left to do.

One of Hollywood’s favorite ways of remembering this period is through the partnerships and friendships that formed between ordinary blacks and whites and the ways they sometimes worked together to make things better for all of us. Civil rights stories have been prominent in cinema since D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance in 1916, but in 1989, Driving Miss Daisy pretty much set the template for telling a certain kind of ‘60s story, winning four Academy Awards in the process.

Now we have another soft-focus take on the era with The Help, based on Kathryn Stockett’s novel, which was as much of a phenomenon as Alfred Uhry’s 1987 play, Driving Miss Daisy, was a game-changer off- and later on Broadway.
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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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The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day (2009) -vs- The Boondock Saints (1999)

June 17, 2010 Rodney Twelftree

“All Saints Day” is a complete miasma, a disaster of film-making that will surely spell the end of Troy Duffy’s career, which was pretty much over prior to making the second film anyway. Instead of trying to take the MacManus brothers in a new direction, Duffy has rehashed the original film (even finding new ‘characters’ that can replace the old versions and hoping nobody will notice! Duh!) to the point where everything in “All Saints Day” is irrelevant.
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Kick-Ass (2010) -vs- Mystery Men (1999)

April 21, 2010 Sherry Coben

“Kick-Ass” features winning and well-drawn characters engrossed in a complicated narrative full of revenge schemes, garden-variety venality, and grandiose dreams. The suspense gets punctuated with bursts of shocking violence and world-class movie-action, and somehow the high school domestic story somehow remains center stage. Kick-Ass keeps his high-school-nobody day job, and his friends, colleagues, and even his burgeoning romance all ring blissfully true. It’s a subtle mix set in a not-altogether convincing metropolis.
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Repo Men (2010) -vs- Repo Man (1984)

March 21, 2010 Mark Sanchez

First off, Repo Men — despite its name — is not a long overdue follow-up to the cult favorite Repo Man from 1984. What the current thriller shares with Repo Man is, well, a similar title. The earlier movie celebrates edgy characters, memorable language and a comic sensibility that still play fresh. It retains a loyal following and sits prominently on the list of great offbeat films the past quarter century. That’s a pretty high bar, considering what you normally find in the cineplex, but hardly impossible to get over. That’s our Smack. Does Repo Men stand on its own merits, or is it just reflecting the glow of another film’s originality, hoping to cash in? And, what exactly are these new guys so hot to re-possess? […]

Edge of Darkness (2010) -vs- The Brave One (2007)

January 30, 2010 Mark Sanchez

High stakes for Mel Gibson these days. As an actor he’s been off the screen.. and uncomfortably in the headlines.. the past half-dozen years. I’m not the only person wondering if audiences would remember Mel Gibson for what he said on screen.. or for what he said during a drunk driving arrest.
So here he comes in the remake of “Edge of Darkness.” This carefully chosen material calls out all the character elements that define Gibson’s screen work: emotional intensity, a violated sense of right and wrong, and few qualms about a violent response.
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Inglourious Basterds (2009) -vs- Miracle at St. Anna (2008)

August 22, 2009 Bryce Zabel

In the last two years, two high-profile directors, Quentin Tarantino and Spike Lee, each gave a shot at putting their own brand on a World War II movie, no doubt because of the lure of working with badass villains and ass-kicking good guys, even though the risk for both was they had to operate under the suppressing fire of Steven Spielberg… incoming…
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Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) -vs- Transformers (2007)

June 20, 2009 Beau DeMayo

Both “Transformers” and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” brim with elaborate action set-pieces, campy humor, and hyper-sexuality. Industrial Light and Magic struggles in both films to design the Transformers in such a way that we can distinguish one from the other. Whenever a fight erupts between Autobot and Decepticon, the on-screen action tumbles into a jumbled mess of flopping, indistinguishable mechanical parts. Sure, I appreciate the high level of detail, but not at the cost of coherent action scenes. “Transformers: RotF” especially suffers from ILM’s designs as Bay introduces a whole slew of new Transformers that simply blend together. It’s hard to appreciate large-scale action sequences when I can’t tell the good from the bad guys and thus, can’t tell who’s winning.
Now both films embrace Bay’s typical low-brow humor. Again, “Transformers: RotF” probably suffers most in this category. Gags like Sam’s mom lolly-gagging around on a college campus after eating pot-brownies or the dangling wrecking ball testicles on a construction Decepticon aren’t just dumb, they’re insulting to the audiences’ intelligence. “Transformers” had some corny moments, many centered around the Autobots fitting into Sam’s suburban life. However, none proved as gregarious and useless as those in Transformers: RotF” where the jokes simply exist onto themselves and are cracked in the most inappropriate moments.
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