Thursday, April 1, 2010

Dueling Concepts

As we leave behind the winter doldrums, pre-summer movies are making their way to the surface. During the coldest season of the year, the studios typically release films they have little in the way of expectation. The lightweights are called out early when hardly anyone's in the seats during the bleakest parts of the season. I'm not saying the films that come out right after the New Year's holiday are poor quality (some are far from it). But, I doubt the movie execs care much about the films since they flung them out so early in the year. So, as the spring begins to thaw the country out, those films with higher hopes hit the theaters to wet the appetites of the public for the box office bruisers to come during the annual summer movie season. This is why April is loaded with those the studios deem more worthy at generating ticket sales: Clash of the Titans, Date Night, Kick Ass, Death at a Funeral, and a movie I'll cite below. By this time, we're not suppose to realize the summer now begins with the start of May, for christssakes. It's all too predictable (although, that won't stop my son and I from getting into line for Iron Man 2).

What's also unsurprising are the movies, or pairs of very similar movies, that show up from time-to-time. Competing studios will come up with a corresponding idea, or the concept of one, that they think will be HOT. They'll plan and rush to produce them in time to put them out on the schedule before the other guy. Usually, they'll appear within almost a year of each other in hopes their film will be the one that sticks with the audience (or at least their wallets). April 2010 is no different and will have the first of these:


Which, as you can see, seems entirely in response to this film that'll come out during the summer:


Who knows how this year's duel will turn out. Both are expected to be pure escapist fare, but The Losers does come off as A-Team lite since the latter is better known because of its Stephen J. Cannell TV pedigree. We shall see. However, I do know which ones I picked in the past regarding such concept film face-offs (along with my favorite reviews for those choices):

No, I'm Wyatt Earp: Tombstone (1993) vs. Wyatt Earp (1994) - This one is no contest. Tombstone is one of my all-time favorite westerns. Kasdan's Wyatt Earp may be the most true biopic-like of the two, but it forgot how to be enjoyable. George Cosmatos knew how to direct a western, but Kasdan's attempts at the genre (the other being Silverado) simply don't cut it, IMO. Plus as a pair, Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer were head and shoulders over the dour Kevin Costner and Dennis Quaid for the leads (you actually liked Kurt and Val). Highlight review by film blogger Livius.

 

Killer Asteroids Come A Kallin': Armageddon (1998) vs. Deep Impact (1998) - Yes, I'll admit both films are soppy disaster flicks. But, at least Deep Impact makes attempts at being a bit more cerebral and not so over-the-top (plus it has the great Morgan Freeman as the U.S. President). Michael Bay's film is... a Michael Bay film. How Armageddon ever got a Criterion Collection DVD release still baffles the hell out of me (plus, it's not my preferred role for Die Hard-favorite Bruce Willis). Highlight review by the Great White Snark.

 

It's Truman Capote: Capote (2005) vs. Infamous (2006) - This one I can't pick between these. Capote came out first, and I thought Hoffman's portrayal is one of the greats (the large man Phillip making you forget he is that as he evokes the diminutive Truman really was something to behold). But, the I prefer Infamous' storyline better (along with its supporting cast). Highlight review by blogger Snooker in Berlin.

 

The 80's Overnight: Into the Night (1985) vs. After Hours (1985) - Both films seem to rejoice in each of their city locales and auras (L.A. vs. New York), but I thought director John Landis realized the concept better in his nocturnal adventure (and with a richer cast) than Martin Scorsese did with his overnight-mare for that particular decade. Full disclosure, Into the Night is one of my dearest 'L.A.' films (so, I'm biased). Highlight review by film blogger Mr. Peel.

 

Get Out of the Garden: A Bug's Life (1998) vs. Antz (1998) - As much as Dreamworks as tried to mount a charge against whatever Pixar Animation has put out, to me it failed the most miserably when they put out Antz in response to A Bug's Life. You can't pay me enough to watch this again with my kids. God, I hate this movie. While A Bug's Life is probably my lowest appraised Pixar film, it miles ahead of this early Dreamworks animation entry. Highlight review by famed L.A. Times movie critic Kenneth Turan.

 

French Vanity Campaigns: Dangerous Liaisons (1988) vs. Valmont (1989) - I may be in the minority regarding this one (I know a few female colleagues who've expressed their undying devotion to Mr. Firth), but I prefer Stephen Frears take of the French novel (Les Liaisons Dangereuses) and stage play rather than Milos Forman's. I guess I like the leads better (Close, Malkovich, and Pfeiffer vs. Bening, Firth, and Tilly). As well, Glenn Close's final close-up in Dangerous Liaisons gets me every time. Highlight review by Hal Hinson (Washington Post).

 

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27 comments:

  1. Nice,
    just put "Into the Night" on Q. "After Hours" is one of my favs.
    You hit the nail on the head with Tombstone, one of the best. Costner's whiney Earp doesn't cut it. IMHO, Kurt is one of the most underrated actors ever, while Costner may have been the most overrated, may he rest in peace!

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  2. Let me know how you like Into the Night, Herb. I generally love westerns, but Kasdan and Costner were not at their best in Wyatt Earp (though, there are supporters of the film). Thanks, my friend.

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  3. Hey there, you missed one when comparing THE LOSERS and THE A-TEAM, Stallone's similarly themed gang of guys on a mission THE EXPENDABLES, which I believe comes out in August and looks like the best of the bunch for the sheer fact that it appears to be starring almost every 1980s action star ('cept Van Damme) with Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis all appearing, not to mention adding the likes of Jason Statham and Jet Li. Hot damn, I am stoked to see this and the trailers look like this film will be a lot of dumb fun - mindless action and violence just like it used to be in most of the '80s action films.

    I am totally with you on TOMBSTONE vs. WYATT EARP. As much as I dig Lawrence Kasden, why couldn't he have infused some of the fun from SILVERADO in this one? TOMBSTONE is infinitely better and more entertaining with a truly great cast of character actors - everyone from Powers Boothe to Michael Biehn!

    Another memorable dueling concept - VOLCANO vs. DANTE'S PEAK. Both of been on cabel as of late and I forgot how enjoyable DANTE'S PEAK is and how generic VOLCANO seems now. Sure, both are riddled with cliches and stereotypes but PEAK edges it out with some nice chemistry between Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton. Plus, it's almost as if Brosnan is channeling is square professor from MARS ATTACKS! at times.

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  4. Good choices for comparisons - I'll have to search out Into the Night.

    Thanks for the mention too.

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  5. Snooker in BerlinApril 1, 2010 at 8:44 AM

    Thanks for the shout out. Just recently I re-watched both Capote and Infamous and after re-reading my initial thoughts, I still completely agree with them.

    You are spot on with the Tombstone/Wyatt Earp. Tombstone is simply an awesome modern day western.

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  6. Because I hadn't yet seen the trailer, I'd completely forgotten about THE EXPENDABLES, J.D. That does look good! You know I'm going to agree with you about TOMBSTONE's cast - it's a great one. It even had the great Robert Mitchum doing the voiceover at the end. Believe or not, I've yet to see DANTE'S PEAK (and now I have to fix that given your thoughts about it). I've only seen VOLCANO--and here at work it's a favorite among us old-timers. You see VOLCANO was partially filmed here at the medical center (IIRC, some of our employees performed as extras). Thanks for your comment and film thoughts, J.D.

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  7. Let me know what you think about it, Colin (and see how many director cameos you spot  ;) ). I was more than glad to cite your review, as well. Your series of reviews on the Wyatt Earp movies as a great one. Thanks, my friend.

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  8. I really appreciated your discourse on those two films, SnB. Very fine look at them and I was happy to link to it. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

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  9. <span>"I'm your huckleberry..."  <span> ;) </span></span>

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  10. Another fan of Tombstone I see ;)
    On Apr 1, 2010, at 10:58 AM, "JS-Kit.com Comments"

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  11. You got it!  It's one of those movies that Brian and I will both stop channel-surfing and watch yet again. I liked Wyatt Earp as well, but like J.D. said "<span>TOMBSTONE is infinitely better and more entertaining with a truly great cast of character actors...", </span>ESPECIALLY, Val Kilmer, IMHO.

    Great post, lp13!

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  12. Colin Firth's awesomeness aside [fanning myself], I liked Dangerous Liasons SO much more than Valmont.  I seem to recall thinking that Valmont was too sedate compared to DL - and I know I didn't care for Meg Tilly's acting.  Glenn Close and John Malkovich just ate their roles up - tough to beat!

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  13. I'm overdue to watching this again, Christine. Herb and I are in agreement that Kurt is highly underrated, and Val was at his scene-stealing best in Tombstone. Thank you very, Christine.

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  14. Yeah, I'd be curious to hear what you think of DANTE'S PEAK. It's not Shakespeare or anything but a pretty decent genre film.

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  15. Kilmer steals the show in TOMBSTONE. He makes being a messed up, sickly gunslinger look so freakin' cool. The showdown between him and Michael Biehn is classic.

    And I would also agree that Kurt Russell is underrated. Just watched DARK BLUE again. Man, was he good in that film. They could've easily renamed it: BAD LT.: LOS ANGELES.

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  16. We're in agreement, Christine. Close and Malkovich really did. And Pfeiffer... well, let just say if you'd swapped Tilly for her in Tequila Sunrise, Carlos wins the argument with Mac McKussic  :-P . Thanks, Christine. 

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  17. You're so right! Good one in bringing up how great Russell was in DARK BLUE. It killed me that it was released so early in the year, too. Kurt should have been nominated for Best Actor in that year, but the Academy <span>forgets</span> about every film/performance that was released before the summer! Thanks, J.D.

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  18. I've have it now at the top of my Netflix queue, my friend. I'll let you let you know. Thanks.

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  19. That's suppose to read: "<span>I'll let you know." Man... my typing is getting bad!</span>

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  20. LOL!  Love the scene btwn Carlos <span><span>and Mac right after Mac gets the girl.  So wanted to be Michelle Pfeiffer in Tequila Sunrise!  I mean, Mel Gibson, Kurt Russell and Raul Julia? DAMN! [Speaking of,  :-P .  HA!]</span></span>

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  21. Thinking about Pfeiffer in Tequila Sunrise got you all discombobulated there, lp13?   ;)

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  22. You know you're Tequila Sunrise! I love that scene between Carlos and Mac... and try to quote from it often. Thanks.

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  23. Well darn blasted. I just typed this whole response then tried to add my avatar and it wiped it out.

    Anyway, short version...loved TOMBSTONE, not so much with WYATT EARP. Only saw the first film of all the other pairings. Either the film was great and I wasn't interested in a new version or the film was crappy and I didn't have any desire to revisit the topic. So either way, I guess being first to the box office has it's benefits.

    However, that being said, I'll probably opt to see A-TEAM. Looks a little less "silly" and has the sentimental connection for me, having watched it growing up.

    Man, this post doesn't sound anywhere near as nice as my first one! LOL

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  24. Sorry the sign-in gave you grief. Always great to see another fan of Tombstone, Jen. A-Team will have the great Liam Neeson in it, too. Thanks for adding to all of this, Jen.

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  25. Excellent post, lp13! The studios do no favors for their movies when they get into these pissing matches. In some of these situations, whichever movie was released second suffered at the box office. I've heard Valmont is a very good film (and I love Annette Bening & Colin Firth), but I just couldn't be bothered after having already seen and enjoyed Dangerous Liaisons. Same with Infamous because I'd already seen Capote, though I have a friend who said Sandra Bullock was stronger as Harper Lee than Catherine Keener.

    I thought of another duel: How about Octopussy and Never Say Never Again? They came out within 4 months of each other in 1983. Sure enough, I saw the former, never got around to the latter, and I'm a big Bond fan who's seen everything else in the series.

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  26. So true, Elyse. They do themselves no favors. Valmont is a good film, Benning and Firth just had different interpretations with those characters. And I'm one, too, who thought "Sandra Bullock was stronger as Harper Lee than Catherine Keener." Good point about those two Bond films that came out within months of each other. Thanks for your kind words and insight, Elyse.

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  27. Dante's Peak really is entertaining as hell! The story is very decent, good situational tension, and the effects were impressive for the late 90's. Thanks for recommending it, J.D. :-D  

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