The Ghost Writer (2010) -vs- Shutter Island (2010)

March 31, 2010 Sherry Coben

In the eyes of many Brits and other Europeans, Tony Blair played W’s lapdog for years, and this film presents a plausible (if a little harebrained and oversimplified) conspiracy theory in explanation. Pierce Brosnan plays the retired Prime Minister with his intellect on dimmer switch and gorgeosity and charisma on overload; it’s an effective and devastating performance and indictment. Echoes of a few other American actor/gladhanding puppethead-turned-politician types were surely no accident either. Olivia Williams plays his compelling Lady MacBeth, and Ewan MacGregor the ghost writer hired to finish the PM’s memoirs; he’s instantly and unwittingly entangled in political intrigue way over his level head. Eli Wallach delivers another terrific cameo; this guy just keeps on working and getting better with advancing age. Every time that now-ancient face appears onscreen, we’re sure it’s the last time we’ll see it, and yet he keeps coming back for more.
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Independence Day (1996) -vs- The War Of The Worlds (1953)

March 28, 2010 Rodney Twelftree

Last year here at Movie Smackdown we got the idea to see what readers thought was the Best Alien Invasion Film of All Time. We thought that the genre really broke down into two sections — “Classic” and “Modern.” And so we did what we always do in these cases, we put it to our readers and let them weigh in.

We have two winners now, and we’re about to put them to the test against each other. For our purposes, we defined “Classic” as all the films that existed in the early 1950-1970 period (although all our candidates came from the 1950s), and “Modern” as everything that followed. Interestingly, fully half of our “modern” films were re-makes from the “classic” era. The “Classic” race was a close as hell, the “Modern” race yielded a clear winner. Here are our results: […]

Chloe (2010) -vs- Fatal Attraction (1987)

March 23, 2010 Bryce Zabel

If you’ve ever been loved by somebody too tightly, then you know how scary it could be to let someone in your life and then not know how to extricate yourself from their smothering grasp. The trick in erotic thrillers like “Chloe” and “Fatal Attraction” is execution. Too far on one side of the spectrum, they become cerebral. Too far on the other side, they become unintentionally comedic.

Although “Fatal Attraction” defined this genre back in the late 80s, it’s been re-visited over the years in films like “The Hand That Rocked the Cradle” and “Single White Female,” and now it gets brought to life again in “Chloe.” All I can say before we begin is that seeing these two back-to-back is enough to drive the average person to mandatory background checks on all potential lovers. Be afraid, be very afraid.
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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? […]

Alice in Wonderland (2010) -vs- Avatar (2009)

March 16, 2010 Sherry Coben

I confess I’d happily watch Johnny Depp read a phone book, but even accounting for my extreme prejudice, his performance as the Mad Hatter is the linchpin of the piece. He is its heart, its Scarecrow, its Tin Man. Acting through crazily tinted contacts and a crowning frizz of unfortunate and unearthly ginger, Depp somehow manages to play a compelling leading man, a romantic lead, and an action hero. (His promised triumphant Futterwacken is a dire misfire and huge disappointment, a limp noodle of a magical victory dance.)
The rest of the cast performs admirably enough. Anne Hathaway Glindas it up as the White Queen, Crispin Glover plays the Knave of Hearts as elongated creepy courtier, and Helena Bonham Carter goes ghostly pale once again, this time a vain and giant-noggined Red Queen. She’s delicious and mordantly funny, and her decapitated head-filled moat provides enough nightmare food to keep kiddie nightlights burning for a good long time.
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Green Zone (2010) -vs- The Hurt Locker (2009)

March 16, 2010 Beau DeMayo

It’s not a good time for the American occupation of Iraq. The news from “over there” is that the followers of Moktada al-Sadr, the radical cleric who led the Shia insurgency against the American occupation, have emerged as Iraq’s equivalent of the 1994 Republican Party. Meanwhile, back in the United States, Americans voted about Iraq, too, refusing to give “Green Zone” any mandate whatsoever. And, keep in mind that the other Iraq film that just won the Best Picture Oscar, “The Hurt Locker,” basically was one of the worst-peforming winners in that category ever. Maybe it’s just the hot button political sensitivities, war-weariness, or that it is simply “too soon.” Other critics can decide that, however, because here at the Smack, we simply want to know which film about the Iraq War gets it most right, box-office be damned!
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Remember Me (2010) -vs- She’s Out Of My League (2010)

March 15, 2010 Sherry Coben

Twilighters aside, there’s precious little to recommend the largely forgettable “Remember Me,” a pretentious romantic exploitation film that uses recent real life history to hype its otherwise tepid dramatic stakes. Director Allen Coulter (of “The Sopranos” renown) knows his New York tough guy patois better than this venture might indicate; poor Pierce Brosnan gets hung out to dry with the least convincing New York accent in movies since the arrival of talkies. Pattinson plays at-sea and moody, indicating the depths of his grief and misery by smoking cigarettes (unconvincingly) and guzzling beer (equally unconvincingly). His roommate is probably the most annoying little shitheel ever to make it to the silver screen, the unnatural spawn of Hal Sparks and Satan.
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Superman -vs- Clark Kent

March 13, 2010 Bryce Zabel

How clueless do you have to be to not realize that Superman and Clark Kent look exactly alike?

That’s the question for the ages — something that has haunted every version of Superman since he debuted as a comic book character in 1938. His was one of the original “secret identities” and the concept involved the Man of Steel being accepted by everyone as an alien visitor (who looks human) known as Superman. Even so, no problem there. Part two got tricky…

When he put on a pair of glasses and a business suit and acted a little differently in order to pass as Clark Kent, however, it seemed that nobody realized they were the same person. As comic book films have gotten more and more realistic, the cognitive dissonance we experience in enjoying the character has grown greater and greater.

Back in 1994, I got a chance to wrestle with that conundrum for a while when I was supervising producer of the first season of ABC’s Lois & Clark. Now it looks like it’s Christopher Nolan’s turn since he’s been tapped as the Chosen One for the latest Superman feature reboot. He’s probably already obsessing on this and many other issues and, maybe, just maybe, he’s going to take the license to fix this one. I think he can — even while keeping the original conceit — and we’ll get to that in a minute… […]

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