Tuesday, August 30, 2011

G.I. Joe VS Transformers


                                                                TALE OF THE TAPE

               Title: G.I. Joe                                                               Title: Transformers
               Tomato Meter: 33%                                                    Tomato Meter: 57%
                IMDB Rating: 5.7                                                        IMDB Rating: 7.2
               Starring: Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans               Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox
               Director: Stephen Sommers                                      Director: Michael Bay
               Box Office: $150.0 million                                           Box Office: $706.4 million
               Academy: n/a                                                              Academy: 3 Nominations
               Year: 2009                                                                   Year: 2007

80's Hasbro toys face off as they both get the big budget, silver screen treatment.

Stephen Sommers brings us G.I. Joe, a film that clearly shuffles principle characters, plot hooks, and established continuity to create a setting that is politically correct for today's audience. However, G.I. Joe has lost its relevance for over 12 years, kept marginally alive by a retro fan base and a comic series targeting a mature audience. The result is a confusing hodge-podge of characterization and story. Most of the Joe team have an updated look with a few exceptions. Fan favorite Snake-Eyes' costume is an exact replica of the action figure, giving him a bulky, awkward appearance that seems impractical as a uniform. Played by martial artist turned Hollywood action star Ray Park, it greatly limited his movement, and he seemed uncomfortable throughout the film. Breaker, the teams communication expert, seems at  odds using advance gadgets, yet sports the bulky, oversized headset transmitter that hasn't been used since 1984. Destro is sans metallic helmet, and Cobra Commander, named, "the Doctor", has neither the hood or mirror mask, but something all together different. Character relationships are altered too. Sure, the Baroness and Destro still have their romance, but now, Baroness is the Doctor's sister, only she doesn't know it. She also was once dated Duke, who was army pals with Ripcord and the Doctor. Quite the coincidence. Cobra assassin Storm Shadow is misused as a sabatour, much more like the absent character Firefly. Ripcord, a secondary character in established continuity, is the number two guy in this film. Marlon Wayans plays Ripcord as the comedic sidekick to Channing's Duke. If anyone nailed a character, it was Sienna Miller as the Baroness. She was hot, cunning, and ruthless, everything the Baroness was in the 80's minus the Natasha-like accent. Still, G.I. Joe did have a few bright spots, including Destro's transformation, a chase scene through the streets of Paris, and Zartan assuming the identity of the President.

Michael Bay directs this Steven Spielberg produced film in which two factions of a robotic alien race come to Earth looking for the All Spark, an ancient device that brings life to mechanical objects. The Tansformers are robots who can assume an alternate mechanical form, such as a car, plane, radio, etc. The story centers on Sam Witwicky, played by Shia LeBeouf, who's dad is taking him to get his first car. That car just happens to be an alien named Bumblee, a member of the Autobots. They seek out Sam due to an ad he placed on ebay, trying to sell a pair of glasses his famous Great Grandfather, and explorer, once owned. Unbeknownst to all, the glasses have an etching on the lenses that locate the all spark. But the Autobots aren't the only ones on Earth looking for Sam. The Decepticons are here as well, and unlike the Autobots, the Decepticons have no regard for human life. The Decepticons are also hacking into the military data base looking for records on "the iceman", referring to a large robotic man discovered by Capt. Witwicky in the Arctic. This robot has been kept on ice, as well as the All Spark, by the U.S. government under the agency known as Sector 7. The iceman is non other than Megatron, leader of the Decepticons who discovered the All Spark on Earth over 100 years ago.

Both films are directed by people known more for big explosions than artistic merit. However, Bays translation of the source material to film is handled far better. Bay also explores the characters more, giving the human characters just as much involvement as the Transformers themselves. G.I. Joe is handicapped from the beginning with its lack of focus and poor treatment of the source material. This match is very one-sided. Except for a few good shots, G.I. Joe is clearly outclassed. Joe throws in the towel at round 4.

Winner: Transformers     


Friday, August 26, 2011

Alien vs Predator VS Freddy vs Jason

                                                                  TALE OF THE TAPE

               Title: Alien vs Predator                                               Title: Freddy vs Jason
               Tomato Meter: 22%                                                    Tomato Meter: 41 %
                IMDB Rating: 5.4                                                        IMDB Rating: 5.7
               Starring: Alexa Woods, Lance Henriksen                  Starring: Robert Englund, Monica Keena
               Director: Sam Firstenberg                                          Director: Menahem Golan
               Box Office: $171.1 million                                           Box Office: $113.0 million
               Academy: n/a                                                              Academy: n/a
               Year: 2004                                                                   Year: 2003

Fanboys delight. Two franchise vs franchise films go at it tooth and nail guaranteed to leave a high body count.

In 1990, a disappointing follow up to Arnold Schwarzenegger's Predator saw the extra-terrestrial hunter looking for game in our urban jungle, Los Angeles.  However, when Danny Glover boarded the ship and saw their trophy room, skulls collected from various worlds, sci-fi fans had their imaginations explode to life. The unmistakable skull of a xenomorph, the term used to describe the alien creatures in the Alien franchise, hung on the wall. For the next 14 years, Alien vs Predator came to life in comic books, toys and video games. That is, until 2004 when the sci-fi match up hit the big screen.

Sadly, it was panned by critics, and fans gave it only a luke-warm reception. Human beings were simply cannon fodder, with the heroine easy to spot from minute one. This stood in stark contrast to both Alien and Predator films, which took their time introducing characters, plot and story. Both films exhausted nearly an hour before their unearthly baddies began their thing. The life cycle of the aliens also seemed to be forced as an entire generation was spawned in what seemed only a few hours.  The premise of the film was a discovered temple of unknown origin shows up in Antarctica, and Charles Wayland (Lance Henriksen) puts together an expedition. Alien fans will remember Lance Henriksen as Bishop, the android from the Alien sequel Aliens. Wayland, was the name of the corporation that sent Ripley and her crew to LB-422 in the original Alien. Thus, drawing the conclusion that this is how Wayland Enterprise knew about Xenomorphs, and that the Bishop model was based on the companies founder. So they investigate the temple accidentally setting off a device that hatches the alien eggs. It also sends a transmission to the Predators. The inference here is that long ago, the Predators used this location to hatch the aliens and kill them. A sort of controlled basic training for their young to hone their hunting skills. Getting to the meat and potatoes of this match up, the fight sequences do not disappoint. Both Predators and Aliens make full use of their skills and innovations to kill the other. The Aliens are definitely the bad guys, where the Predators become necessary evils. A loose alliance is formed between the last surviving human and Predator to destroy the Queen and exterminate the nest.

In 1993, Friday the 13th, part IX: Jason Goes To Hell is released to little fanfare as the series was fizzling out. Paramount sold the franchise rights to New Line Cinema, and wanting to try something new, conceptualized the idea that Jason is some demonic spirit, and when killed at the beginning of the film, it passes from victim to victim trying to reach his home, the Vorhees Manor. In the movies climax, Jason returns in full hockey masked glory before being defeated by our heroes. Eldridge lights and demonic hands drag Jason down into the dirt for all time (or until Jason X). But in one final scene before the credits role, we see Jason's mask half buried in the dirt, until a familiar arm clad in a red/green sweater and a metallic glove with knives on the fingers, reaches up and snags the mask, and a familiar laugh is heard.

This, of course, lit a fire of excitement in the hearts of horror fans, as there hasn't been an epic movie monster confrontation since Dracula met Frankenstein. Also panned by critics and average movie goers, Freddy vs Jason was well received by its target audience. This film was well crafted in how it blended both mythologies together, as well as building upon them. We get an insight into Jason's psyche as Freddy confronts him initially in Jason's subconscious. Robert Englund returns to play Freddy, and seems to truly relish in returning to his signature role. He seems more passionate in this installment since Nightmare on Elm St. part 3. Freddy still mixes his offbeat humor with terror, but is unmistakably more demonic and sinister than in past films. Jason has been played by several actors over the years, this time by Ken Kirzinger. Die hard fans of the Friday series were upset that Kane Hodder, arguably the best Jason, wasn't asked to reprise his role. This time around, Jason is far more brutal and savage in his killing m.o..

The premise is that the parents have erased Freddy from the town's history. They never speak his name, and the last surviving teens are sent to a mental institute where they are given experimental drugs to suppress their dreams. Freddy needs to be remembered. Fear is what fuels his power. So, he "searches the bowels of hell" to find someone to help him. He disguises himself as Mrs. Vorhees, Jason's Mother. He tricks him into once again resurrecting and to march from Crystal Lake to Springfield and punish the children. The townspeople interpret the slayings as a sign Freddy has returned. He hasn't, but the fear of Freddy grows and he slowly regains his power. Soon, Freddy is back haunting dreams, until he loses potential victims to Jason. Jason is a dog that will not go back to his leash, and now Freddy must confront Jason or lose his bid over their souls. Both Freddy and Jason are at their most villainous, but Jason does elicit some sympathy. Like Dracula meets Frankenstein, Freddy is clearly the evil mastermind, and Jason is the mindless thug that turns on its master.

Their epic battle wages across the dreamworld and the real world. Both characters are very primal, as illustrated in their origin stories. Freddy first dying by fire, Jason by drowning in water. In classic slasher fare, there is plenty of blood and enough bare breasts to satisfy the requirements. In the end, Jason and Freddy battle to a no score draw, with Jason returning to the lake, and Freddy into the dreamworld.

Clearly AVP has had a longer build up, bigger budget, and enough AVP material to draw on. Yet it failed to satisfy audiences. Freddy vs Jason was clearly enjoyed by cult followers of either franchise, and simply told the better story. This fight was over before it began. AVP is TKO'ed in the 2nd round.

Winner: Freddy vs Jason

Thursday, August 25, 2011

American Ninja VS Enter The Ninja

                                                               TALE OF THE TAPE

               Title: American Ninja                                                  Title: Enter The Ninja
               Tomato Meter: 0%                                                      Tomato Meter: No Score %
                IMDB Rating: 4.8                                                        IMDB Rating: 4.5
               Starring: Michael Dudikoff, Steve James                    Starring: Sho Kosugi, Frank Nero
               Director: Sam Firstenberg                                          Director: Menahem Golan
               Box Office: $10.5 million                                             Box Office: Unknown
               Academy: n/a                                                              Academy: n/a
               Year: 1985                                                                   Year: 1981

Two 80's ninja films clash as these two forgotten favorites of the ninja craze battle for cinematic mediocrity. 

While making a few appearances in previous films such as James Bond's You Only Live Twice, it wasn't until Enter The Ninja hit theaters that ninja's became part of the pop culture consciousness of the 80's. Starring Frank Nero, he plays Cole, a Vietnam Vet who has spent time in Japan learning the ancient art of Ninjitsu, the martial arts of espionage and assassination. After graduating, much to the chagrin of Hasegawa (Sho Kosugi), a junior ninja master, and descendant from a long line of Koga ninjas. He doesn't believe in teaching the art to westerners. With the Master's blessing, Cole sets off to the Philippines to meet an old war buddy. What he finds is a friend consumed by alcohol, and a ruthless land grabber trying to seize his farm. Using his art to defend the farm, its workers, his friend and his wife, Cole earns the wrath of the wealthy land grabber, one Charles Venarius (Christopher George). He decides to fight fire with fire, and hires a ninja of his own. That ninja, you guessed it, is Hasegawa. Bad acting, a low budget, and sloppy directing keeps this film off the Oscar radar, but Sho Kosugi, who is the real deal turned actor, is an instant sensation. His skill and knowledge of Ninjitsu fanned the flames that made ninjas so "cool." This movie spawned two commercially successful sequels, both starring Sho Kosugi, this time as the hero.

American Ninja was perhaps the most all image, no substance approach to ninjas. Michael Dudikoff plays Joe Armstrong,  an Army private transferred to a base in the Philippines, and working in the motor pool. Joe has amnesia, and knows little of his past. Yet in a Bourne Identity concept (before Bourne Identity came out) he retains amazing martial arts skills and can improvise weapons naturally. On the island is a corrupt smuggler, who uses rebels to hijack various military convoys. The rebels are reinforced with an army of ninjas. During one raid, they abduct the General's Daughter and Joe uses all his instincts to save her from the ninjas and return her to her father. However, Joe is branded a criminal. With the rest of the convoy dead, he is labeled a coward, deserter, a collaborator, or just incompetent. He must earn the trust and respect of the platoon, as well as deal with the ninjas sent to assassinate him, plus learn of his heritage. Full of ninja gadgets and colorful outfits, this film suffers from bad acting and a limited, but slightly better budget than Enter The Ninja. 

Both films offer plenty of ninja on ninja action. Enter The Ninja is a bit slower in pace while American Ninja has a decent supporting cast and better editing. Still, there's no denying Enter The Ninja has what the other doesn't, the real deal in actor/martial artist, Sho Kosugi. American Ninja goes down in round 2.

Winner: Enter The Ninja

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Spider-Man VS Superman

                                                                 TALE OF THE TAPE

          Title: Spider-Man                                                       Title: Superman
          Tomato Meter: 89%                                                   Tomato Meter: 94%
           IMDB Rating: 7.4                                                       IMDB Rating: 7.3
          Starring: Tobey Mcguire, Willem Dafoe                     Starring: Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman
          Director: Sam Raimi                                                  Director: Richard Donner
          Box Office: $403.7 million                                          Box Office: $134.2 million
          Academy: 2 nominations                                           Academy: 3 nominations
          Year: 2002                                                                  Year: 1978

Two superhero icons go head to head. One representing Warner Bros. and DC Comics. The other Sony Pictures and Marvel comics. Both are flagship characters in their respected companies, and both have been part of our culture for over 50 years. This should be an epic match-up.

Spider-Man and Superman have more in common than you'd think, both as characters, and as movies. Both films are origin stories. Both heroes are raised by fosters, Clark with his adopted parents and Peter with his Aunt and Uncle. Both discover the burden of their power. Both get a job with a newspaper company. Both companies have the word "Daily" in their title. Both fall in love with a girl they cannot be with. Both have costumes that are predominately red and blue. Both have the word "Man" in their superhero names. 

Superman is the more light-hearted of the two films. Christopher Reeve, then an unknown actor, captured the essence of the character perfectly. Giving both Superman and Clark Kent noticeable and distinctive personalities, he seamlessly transitions from one aspect of the character to the other. Superman is bold yet gentle, and the very definition of noble. Clark is timid and unassuming. He is the proverbial nice guy who finishes last. Gene Hackman plays a more comical villain, especially since he's a criminal mastermind who seems to surround himself with ditzy bimbo's and blundering idiots. Still, one cannot envision a better Lex Luthor if they tried. Gene and Christopher's chemistry is pure movie gold. Both are so absorbed into their characters they give the impression they've worked with each other for years. Margot Kidder plays Louis Lane, Superman's love interest. Louis comes across as a very believable person. Attractive, but not "Hollywood Hot", tough as nails, but vulnerable, Margot Kidder brings realism to an otherwise fantasy tale. In addition, there are supporting stars adding their talents to this film like Marlon Brando, Terrance Stamp, Jackie Cooper, Ned Beatty, and Glen Ford. Despite a tv show, a few serials, and many cartoons, Superman didn't really come to life until visual effects had evolved allowing us to believe a man can fly. Adding to the ambiance of this film is its musical score, conducted and written by John Williams. John's talents are as ingrained into this film as is his work in other films, such as Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Jaws.  While this film has set the bar for superhero films yet to come, it isn't a flawless film. Sometimes the film takes itself seriously, other times it cheats itself with campy humor. 

Spider-Man has seen his share of cartoons and made for tv movies. But Marvel has held off on production until visual effects had evolved allowing us to believe a man can swing. Tobey Mcquire puts in a powerful performance as both the hapless runt of high school, Peter Parker, and everybody's favorite friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Parker/Spider-Man is a character consumed with guilt, doubt, and vulnerability, and Tobey effortlessly conveys this through his delivery of lines, expressions, and body language. He tries to do the right thing, but understanding what is right is hard when it seems that no matter his choice, someone is getting hurt. Willem Dafoe delivers an over-the-top performance as Norman Osborne/Green Goblin. Frustrated and paranoid, Norman uses the experimental formula on himself to secure the government contract that's worth millions to the company. The serum enhances his abilities, but also his mania. Like Tobey, Willem effortlessly displays a full range of emotions and can turn them on a dime. A supporting cast including a surprise hit comes from J.K. Simmons who plays newspaper editor J.Jonah Jameson. Simmons portrayal of Jameson is spot on in the hearts and minds of Spider-Man fans. No other actor or cartoon has illustrated this character more perfectly than Simmons. Spider-Man's flaws come in the costuming. For all of Tobey and Willem's acting ability, their masks handicap their acting style. Unable to emote feelings and thoughts through facial expressions, they have to rely on body language and voice over work to try and deliver.

Both Sam Raimi and Richard Donner are seasoned directors who craft their films well. Superman is an idealistic character, and Donner serves this character justice giving him a million reasons to love him and nothing to hate him for. Raimi adopts the nature of Spider-Man, and makes him relatable to movie audiences as the comics made him relatable to readers. He is noble, but flawed, tragic yet determined. Both films have set box office records for their times. Christopher is very charming, and Tobey is a very empathetic, drawing audiences into their respective roles. Both movies broke ground in the special effects department.

In the end however, there is an interesting comparison. Spider-Man comes out as the more nobler of the two. In order to protect the woman he loves, Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst), he must sacrifice his happiness and feelings for her by not pursuing his interest in her. Superman, on the other hand, saves his love interest by cheating death. He does what is forbidden, altering time. He saves the day, but clearly tries to have his cake and eat it too. Although some may argue that this shows that even Superman is flawed, and thus he is somewhat human too.

This is a fight that goes the distance. Spider-Man has an advantage in the early rounds scoring a few knock downs with its brilliant acting and state of the art effects. But Superman endures, and the Man of Steel clobbers Spidey several times with its charm, scope, and universal appeal, scoring Knock Downs of his own. Spider-Man is handicapped behind its masks, while Superman's Kryptonite comes into play with a few hokey mistakes. With both films still on their feet after round 15, we go to the judges. There decision...

Winner: Superman

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Godfather Part 2 VS Scarface


                 Title: The Godfather II                                                   Title: Scarface
                 Tomato Meter: 98%                                                      Tomato Meter: 88%
                  IMDB Rating: 9.0                                                         IMDB Rating: 8.2
                 Starring: Al Pacino, Robert De Nero                            Starring: Al Pacino, Michelle Pheiffer
                 Director: Francis Ford Coppola                                   Director: Brian De Palma
                 Box Office: $47.5 million                                              Box Office: $44.6 million
                 Academy: 11 nominations, 6 wins                               Academy: N/A
                 Year: 1974                                                                    Year: 1983

Pacino vs Pacino, the Mafia vs the Cartel, this bout will only end in bloodshed.

Godfather 2 is both a sequel and prequel to the 1972 mega-hit, The Godfather. Several years after the events of the first film, we see the Corleone family entrenched in Nevada. Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) has a lot on his plate as he must deal with internal vendettas, uncovering a rat within the organization, a federal injunction and congressional hearing, all while finalizing a huge international deal with Hyman Roth. We are also treated to the story of young Corleone patriarch Vito Corleone, wonderfully played by Robert De Niro. Here we see his exodus from Italy, his immigration to America, falling into petty crime, and finally his early rise to power. Both treatments are cut back and forth throughout the film seamlessly, and at over a 3 hour run time, both are given their full due. Godfather 2 sees the return of seasoned actors Robert Duvall, Talia Shire, Diane Keaton and John Cazale, reprising their roles from the first film. Both romantic and violent, Francis Ford Coppola direction loses no momentum, literally recapturing lightning in a bottle as the sequel delivers, some argue even beyond, the original.

From Italian Godfather, Al Pacino equally is absorbed into the character of a Cuban immigrant who rises in power to drug kingpin. Brian De Palma directs this adaptation from screenwriter Oliver Stone. It centers on a Cuban named Tony Montana (Pacino) and his friends living in a refugee area in Miami, Florida seeking political asylum from Castro. A deal is made to assassinate a political figure earning them a green card. Not content to be a fry cook, Tony and his pal Manny Ribera (Steven Bauer) get a job delivering cash to some Colombians in exchange for narcotics. The deal goes down horribly wrong, but Tony and Manny manage to kill the Colombians, retain the buy money, and deliver the cocaine to boss Frank Lopez. So impressed with Tony that Frank takes him under his wing, but Tony grows greedy and strikes a deal with a drug manufacturer that Frank can't handle. Tony kills frank and takes over the business. 

While both films are well paced and explore their characters, Godfather offers more drama than Scarface. But Scarface is a tour de force of on screen violence and brutality. Tony is a mean, treacherous and paranoid individual who is consumed by his own nature. Michael Corleone is a ruthless, but calculating personality who holds family over business, but ironically kills off family in the name of business. He is an interesting and complex character. Montana is a roller coaster of a character that isn't likable, but fun to go along with for the ride. Coppola is strong as a director where De Palma clearly makes a few rookie mistakes in editing and dramatization. 

One on One, Pacino is up against a formidable opponent, himself. Arguably his two most famous roles, this seems like an epic bout. However it isn't. Scarface seems to apply the heavy burden on Pacino's shoulders to carry the film. However Godfather 2 creates a synergy between Pacino, his co-stars, an award winning director and a proven screenplay that work in unison to propell the movie to greatness. Heavy hitting on both sides, and plenty of blood on the canvas, Scarface goes down in round 4.

Winner: Godfather 2

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Outsiders VS Boyz N The Hood


                 Title: The Outsiders                                                    Title: Boyz N The Hood
                 Tomato Meter: 64%                                                    Tomato Meter: 96%
                  IMDB Rating: 7.0                                                        IMDB Rating: 7.8
                 Starring: Patrick Swayze, Ralph Macchio                   Starring: Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding Jr.
                 Director: Francis Ford Coppola                                  Director: John Singleton
                 Box Office: $25.7 million                                             Box Office: $57.5 million
                 Academy: N/A                                                             Academy: 2 nominations
                 Year: 1983                                                                   Year: 1991

Poor young hoodlums growing up, facing life, death, broken homes, sibling rivalry, murder, revenge, hope and despair in their respective environments are the subjects of these two films. One gritty, one picturesque, yet both emotional.

The Outsiders has a powerful cast who would later dominate the 80's, including Tom Cruise, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez and Rob Lowe. Directed by Award winning Francis Ford Coppola, the outsiders is an adaptation from S.E. Hinton's novel of the same name. Francis conveys their struggles and the violence that surrounds them while keeping well within its PG boarders. he puts emphasis on the characters and their emotional developments. Even the violence has a sense of honor, as rival gangs settle their differences in bare knuckled rumbles rather than gunfights. There is gun-play however, and the lack of gunfights throughout the film give more emotional weight to scenes involving them.The Outsiders does finish with a sense of hope.

Boyz N The Hood takes advantage of their R rating, but doesn't push the envelope. With a strong cast of its own, including Cuba Gooding Jr., Ice Cube, Lawrence Fishburn and Angela Bassett. Boyz N The Hood tells the real, gritty, and dangerous story of growing up in Compton. The story centers on three neighborhood friends, their outlooks and potential while the weight of peer pressure, their homes, and  their environment take their toll on them. Guns are used quite frequently, giving them less emotional impact, but illustrating the violence the characters face daily. Where the Outsiders begins with a pick-up and play beginning, Boyz explores their early childhood before fast forwarding to their later high school years. Boyz N The Hood ends  with more of a disparaging feeling than the Outsiders.

Both films fail in their message of violence is bad, live in peace, as both films in their own way seem to romanticize hoodlum culture. Nor do they explain how to stop the violence when it's all around them. The only way seems to be to simply get out.

Packed full of stars, emotional, dramatic and engrossing, both films look to be evenly matched. Toe to toe, The Outsiders look to outclass Boyz In The Hood early on. But The Outsiders sense of non-violent violence proves to land all too soft on Boyz N The Hood's battle-hardened hide, causing them to go down in round 6.

Winner: Boys N The Hood

American Pie VS Porky's


                 Title: American Pie                                                   Title: Porky's
                 Tomato Meter: 59%                                                  Tomato Meter: 32%
                  IMDB Rating: 6.9                                                      IMDB Rating: 5.9
                 Starring: Jason Biggs, Chris Klein                           Starring: Dan Morahan, Mark Herrier
                 Director: Paul Weitz                                                 Director: Bob Clark
                 Box Office: $102.5 million                                         Box Office: $105.4 million
                 Academy: N/A                                                           Academy: N/A
                 Year: 1999                                                                 Year: 1982

Ahh, virginity, That pesky condition we all tried to shake off in high school is the subject of these films. While neither is an Oscar-worthy film, both speak to, and reflect, the lengths that older teenagers will go through to finally experience the holy of hollies.

There's no denying that Porky's is the father of the teenage-sex comedy, spawning two direct sequels and a host of imitators like Hardbodies, Making the Grade, Revenge of the Nerds, Losin' It, and more. Although released in 1982, the film takes place in the more "innocent" time period of Americana, the early 50's. This of course, shows that despite what our parents say, they were sex nuts too at our age. With a box office of over a $100 million for 1982, this film was a huge success. With critics however, not so much. But than again, Porky's will always be a guilty pleasure, one you may not admit to others in certain circles. Bob Clark directs this film giving the material some meat. Despite the premise and full frontal nudity (both male and female, unheard of at the time) of this picture, there is also some drama, including racism, domestic abuse, and friendship. Porky's would inspire two theatrical sequels.

American Pie was released in 1999, and brought with it a resurgence of the teenage-sex comedy. Again we see teenagers, all seniors, making a vow to lose their virginity by prom. Unlike Porky's, target audiences can relate as the film is set in a modern context. This allows for sexual situations unheard of in 1982, like the internet, web cams, etc. In their tireless quest to shake the big "V", they get into all sorts of situational comedies. More introspective than Porky's, these characters develop along the way as they learn about love, friendship, and about themselves. With a better cast of actors, including Eugene Levy, Jason Biggs, and Sean William Scott, this effort was far more realized. A popular film, and slightly more accepted by critics, American Pie launched two modest sequels and a slew of direct-to-dvd spin-offs.

As of now (2011) American Pie is still accessible to current audiences some 12 years later, where as Porky's has that old school feel. While the subject matter and the comedy are universal in both films, American Pie will deceptively seem more edgy. Old timers will tell you that it was Porky's who pushed the envelope further than any other film of its type. With American Pie in it's prime and Porky's coming out of retirement, the early rounds go toward American Pie. But Porky's has endured for over 30 years, and still packs a punch even by today's standards. Pie becomes arm weary in the later rounds, while Porky's hits with several combos getting a TKO in round 8.

Winner: Porky's

Armageddon VS Deep Impact


                 Title: Armageddon                                                    Title: Deep Impact
                 Tomato Meter: 40%                                                  Tomato Meter: 47%
                  IMDB Rating: 6.2                                                      IMDB Rating: 6.0
                 Starring: Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck                            Starring: Tea Leoni, Robert Duvall
                 Director: Michael Bay                                                Director: Mimi Leder
                 Box Office: $201.5 million                                         Box Office: $140.4 million
                 Academy: 4 Nominations                                          Academy: N/A
                 Year: 1998                                                                 Year: 1998

It seems the real disaster in these disaster films lies with their reception. Given the cold shoulder from critics and only a luke-warm embrace by movie fans, it's surprising that these movies did so well at the box office, and are regularly showed on cable.

Both films came out in the same year, and deal with the idea of an asteroid collision with the Earth. Armageddon is a more fast-paced action thriller where Deep Impact offers a more dramatic perspective. Both films have a high running time, and are enjoyable to watch for their own reasons.

Michael Bay directs Armageddon, boasting an incredible roster including Ben Affleck, Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Will Patton, Steve Buscemi, William Fitchner, Owan Wilson, Michael Clark Duncan, and Kieth David. With big budget action and effects, Armageddon comes off like a summer popcorn film, but it does have a heart. The idea behind Armageddon seems to be a global disaster, and a crew of everyday-men are sent to stop it. Definitely a character driven film, you're sure to fall in love with one of them. Each character is given due screen time, character flaws, and unique qualities making them admirable, sympathetic, and down right fun to watch. Michael Bay's dramatic effects looks to transport audiences to a more innocent era where space exploration fascinated us. Where Armageddon fails in how it handles its premise. Not since Face/Off has audiences been required to give a herculean effort in suspending disbelief to enjoy the escapism fun offered. We're led to believe 18 days can embody the discovery of a collision asteroid, formulate a plan, recruit deep oil drillers, train them to be astronauts, prepare a launch and confront the asteroid.

Deep Impact has an impressive line up as well, including Tea Leoni, Robert Duvall, Elijah Woods, Morgan Freeman, Vanessa Redgrave, and James Cromwell. Unlike Armageddon's premise that there will be a collision in 18 days, Deep Impact has less urgency as the comet will arrive in about two years. The film is divided between characters over three sub plots. Elijah Woods is in high school and part of the Astronomy Club. He is credited with co-discovering the comet, and as a result, popularity and fame is thrust upon him. Tea Leoni is a junior reporter for MSNBC, and comes across a phony cover story from the white house. Unsure of what they are covering up, she uses this information to help advance her stagnant career with the help of the President, played by Morgan Freeman. She is also going through personal issues as her Father is marrying a woman close to her own age. Finally, there's Robert Duvall, who plays a retired astronaut, and the last person to walk on the moon, who will go up with a younger crew to intercept and hopefully destroy the comet. The movie spans the two years and shows how the characters, and indeed the rest of the world deals with the event as it draws closer.

Armageddon clearly takes advantage early and is unrelenting, while Deep Impact really doesn't hit back till about the fourth round. Both continue with Armageddon's street style fighting vs Deep Impact's well trained sweet science approach. However, Deep Impact goes down by round 7, as the less seasoned Armageddon clearly just wanted it more.

Winner: Armageddon

Rush Hour VS Lethal Weapon


                 Title: Rush Hour                                                    Title: Lethal Weapon
                 Tomato Meter: 62%                                               Tomato Meter: 90%
                  IMDB Rating: 6.8                                                   IMDB Rating: 7.6
                 Starring: Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker                     Starring: Danny Glover, Mel Gibson
                 Director: Brett Ratner                                            Director: Richard Donner
                 Box Office: $141.1 million                                      Box Office: $65.2 million
                 Academy: N/A                                                        Academy: 1 nomination
                 Year: 1998                                                              Year: 1987

It's hard not to love a buddy-cop picture, especially when they follow this simple recipe. Place two dynamically different lead characters, force them to work together, and get them in over their heads. Lethal Weapon and Rush Hour follow this recipe to the letter, and both are able to serve up completely different flavors. With Lethal Weapon we're given an action film with just the right amount of comedy. Rush Hour is a comedy with just the right amount of action.

Lethal Weapon's characters are more grounded than over-the-top. They push the envelope only slightly, resulting in more believable, realistic characters with admirable qualities and flaws. Rodger is the senior detective, more seasoned and by the book. He has a home, a wife, and several kids. Riggs is younger, much more chaotic, and has suicidal tendencies. No children, he still mourns the loss of his wife, and struggles for a reason to go on. With nothing to live for, he takes high risk chances while on the job. These two are complete opposites, like night and day, black and wh..well, you get it.

Rush Hour's characters are completely over-the-top. Detective Carter is a loud, street smart detective from L.A.. Detective Lee works for the Chinese Law Enforcement. He's more the "straight man", but his physical actions blend martial arts with comedy. Circumstances force these two to work together. Chris Tucker's brand of verbal comedy meshes well with Jackie Chan's charm and physical comedy making these two a lovable duo.

Over the course of the films, both duo's form a friendship, and find respect for each other. Lethal Weapon's character's differences comes from social backgrounds, while Rush Hour's stem from cultural differences. One is meant to add drama, the other to add comedy. In the final analysis, Lethal Weapon saw much more personal growth and development in their characters. They also had issues like family to tend with, where Rush Hour stayed in the shallow end of their character's pools.

As time went on, future films in the Lethal Weapon series got better, as characters grew, developed, and matured. Rush Hour didn't explore their characters. Rather, they tried to recapture the magic generated by Tucker and Chan without any sense of character growth, resulting in gradually less interesting sequels.

Both movies looked to be in great shape at the start of the bell, but by round 3, Rush Hours legs were completely wobbly and could no longer support itself. A decisive Knock Out.

Winner: Lethal Weapon

Batman VS Batman Begins


                 Title: Batman                                                         Title: Batman Begins
                 Tomato Meter: 71%                                               Tomato Meter: 84%
                  IMDB Rating: 7.6                                                   IMDB Rating: 8.3
                 Starring: Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson             Starring: Christian Bale, Gary Oldman
                 Director: Tim Burton                                              Director: Christopher Nolan
                 Box Office: $251.1 million                                      Box Office: $205.3 million
                 Academy: 1 nomination, 1 win                               Academy: 1 nomination
                 Year: 1989                                                              Year: 2005

This is an epic showdown worthy of its own graphic novel. Batman released in 1989, at a time when superhero films were not churned out 4-5 times a year. Tim Burton gave fans a dark, gothic Batman, which stood in stark contrast to the old cornball Adam West's Batman of the 60's. It also gave notice to Warner Bros. that Superman wasn't their only bankable title. Batman Begins, released in 2005, was to reboot the Batman franchise which fizzled out in the 90's. Nolan's Batman was even darker, making Burton's Batman seem as cornball as West's Batman by comparison. Nolan's treatment of Batman gave fans what they've always wanted; for a beloved superhero to be treated in a serious and dramatic manor.

Batman Begins was embraced more by both critics and fans, but Batman snagged an Academy Award, and was more successful at the box office. Batman was also a cultural and merchandise juggernaut. Everywhere you went in 1989-1990 was Batman. T-shirts, toys, bumper stickers, posters adorned the landscape. There was literally a sense of Batman Fever. Batman Begins was similar, on a much smaller scale. Where Batman Begins shines is its impact on future superhero films. Producers and Directors took notice of Nolan's no nonsense approach, and future films such as V for Vendetta, The Watchmen, and others were green-lit.

Batman vs Batman Begins is also a showdown between Hollywood Stars vs A-List Actors. While Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, and Kim Basinger certainly have great chemistry on set and have drawing power, Batman Begins boasts a cast of Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine who offer a more subtle approach to the craft of acting, resulting in very real, believable characters.

This is a fight that goes the distance. After 15 rounds of Zap, Boom, Pow, we have to go to the scorecard on this one. The judges determine the winner to be the film that, including all other factors, is the one that made Batman fans of us all. So good was this fight, these two will have a rematch in the sequels.

Winner: Batman