Brokedown Palace (1999) -vs- Return to Paradise (1998)

June 29, 2011 Mark Sanchez

Oh, to be young, independent, sexy… and rotting in some hellhole of a foreign prison.

Young Americans take a lot of things for granted. The right to party, to be spontaneous, to make quick friends, to stiff a rental service or skate on some free drinks, that kind of thing. Mostly they get away with it, and when things go bad, they can usually talk their way out of the consequences or get a lawyer to talk for them.

Around the time Bill Clinton was getting impeached for breaking the rules himself, Hollywood got in a game of chicken on two films about young American travelers who make some mistakes in judgment, run afoul of very strict drug laws and end up in nightmares they can’t wake up from. […]

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. […]

Bad Teacher (2011) -vs- Bad Santa (2003)

June 21, 2011 Rebecca Coffindaffer

Good role models are hard to come by — especially once Hollywood gets its hands on them. In the year that Bush gave us Iraq, Hollywood gave us Bad Santa. Now it’s Bad Teacher. What’s next, Naughty Nuns?

Of course, the film industry has been tweaking iconic targets since the Marx Brothers brought their particular brand of chaos to A Night at the Opera. In recent years, they’ve upped the ante. Now, filmmakers are encouraged to slap on an R rating, make sure the kids have to sneak in to watch, and let everyone else enjoy what Tony Cox’s Marcus character in Bad Santa calls, “An adult joke. For us, adults.”

With Santa Claus already trashed by Billy Bob Thornton and company, it was inevitable that someone would find another cherished cultural ideal, the teacher — beacon of knowledge and caring, glamorized in Stand and Deliver, Dead Poets Society and so forth — and put a caustic, foul-mouthed spin on it.

An irreverent, bad Santa vs. an irreverent, bad teacher. Only one can be the worst. […]

Smack Classix: Rise of the Doppelgangers

June 20, 2011 Movie Smackdown

Doppel-what? Doppelganger, as in, a tangible double or look-alike of a living person. Last year millions of people used their celebrity Doppelgangers as their Facebook photos, remember?

Here at the Smack, we use Doppelganger to refer to a specific style of content collision in the film industry.

Dop*pel*gang*er [dop-ul-gang-er] n. 1) an event that happens when two different studios both release nearly identical films within the period of a single year 2) a Hollywood box office game of chicken

We’re about to see it happen with competing Sleeping Beauty projects, but it’s happened many times before.

Two of our most popular posts are Doppelgangers — Without Limits -vs- Prefontaine; and Armageddon -vs- Deep Impact.

We’re going to look at seven Doppelgangers this week to see if, like the Doublemint twins of yesterday, if we can double our pleasure and double our fun. […]

Green Lantern (2011) -vs- Iron Man (2008)

June 17, 2011 The FilmGuru

Imagine willpower given form by technology from beyond our world. Or willpower shaping technology made in the U.S.A. We’re starting a battle of wills between two fighters: one a hotshot test pilot turned intergalactic cop, the other a hotshot playboy industrialist turned superhero.

In the DC Comics universe, Green Lantern is one of the heavy hitters. He’s a man without fear, who uses an alien ring that transforms thought into reality by sheer force of will. So it only seems fitting that we pit him against Iron Man, the Marvel Comics version of Steve Jobs combined with Donald Trump. Iron Man is one man’s technology and ingenuity given form in the ultimate expression of man as machine. […]

Smack Classix Week: Father’s Daze

June 12, 2011 Movie Smackdown

Fathers in film come in all shapes and sizes; tough, funny, sad, angry, you name it. Let’s face it, Don Corleone was a dad and so is Homer Simpson. There’s a lot of latitude in the job description.

Sometimes they’re cardboard stereotypes only there to give their kids someone to fight with and other times they show us moral courage and patriarchal strength.

Jimmy Stewart was the quintessential breadwinner and family man George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. John Wayne acted as a surrogate father to a collection of schoolboys in The Cowboys. Gregory Peck played the remarkable Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. And in recent years, audiences have chuckled at the antics of Steve Martin as Gil Buckman in Parenthood, and Eugene Levy as Jim’s Dad in the American Pie films. Most often, these modern dads don’t know best at all. […]

Click (2006) -vs- Big Daddy (1999)

June 12, 2011 The FilmGuru

We all know that guy, maybe in high school or college, who was a complete idiot most of the time. This is the guy who ran naked through the football field at Homecoming or would eat anything at lunch for a quarter. You know the type. Years later, you may have seen him with his family and thought to yourself, “How the heck does he have kids?”

That’s the way I felt about Adam Sandler. After seeing his wacked-out characters in everything from Billy Madison to Happy Gilmore to The Waterboy, I wondered how anyone could cast him as a caring, down-to-earth father figure. After all, he’d spent most of his adult life playing a man-child.

Then, Sandler was cast as a father in two separate movies, Big Daddy (in 1999) and Click (2006). The first was an edgier Sandler, forced to play the role of a reluctant surrogate father. In the second, the broad comedy of Sandler is more apparent as he plays a man trying to make time for his family and his career.

The question is, which film best captures Sandler’s charm to make us look past his goofy tendencies and appreciate his dad appeal? […]

Super 8 (2011) -vs- E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

June 10, 2011 Bryce Zabel

“Listen, guys, we got J.J. Abrams writing and directing a film about alien contact that Spielberg’s gonna help him produce. Who’s in?”

When the words were first uttered in Hollywood, there must have been a hush in the room. Now, with the sci-fi world ablaze with anticipation, Super 8 is ready for its own close-up.

In Summer 2011′s first big swing into science fiction, this Spielbergian team-up goes with a story of kids in small town America discovering something amazing. Our Challenger Super 8 is set in 1979, just a few years before the release our Defending Champion E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Both films involve kids getting involved with aliens, cover-ups, and military diversions and suppressions.

And even though Steven Spielberg is on the team of this latest effort, over here at the Smack, it’s still personal. Two directors slugging it out. The brash new contender in J.J. Abrams and the wise, beloved champion in Spielberg. […]

Summer of Smackdown: Sci-Fi & Horror

June 9, 2011 The FilmGuru

When I was young, summer always heralded some of the best science fiction films. All year long, I would wait to see what to would come next to the local theaters: Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and Alien — to name a few.

These were the films that made me glad to be a kid. I would walk out of a movie theater into the summer night, look up into the sky, and wonder what was out there among the stars… or what horrors awaited us here on Earth.

This year, the Summer of Smackdown includes some pretty original entries. Green Lantern could rightly be called science fiction. But we covered it — and other comic book heroes — in the spotlight we did on superhero movies. So I won’t repeat them here. […]

Midnight in Paris (2011) -vs- Adaptation (2002)

June 6, 2011 Mark Sanchez

If there’s anything that sounds less appealing than watching the mental anguish of a blocked writer, we can’t imagine what it is. In fact, we can’t even begin to visualize… hold on a second… getting my thoughts straight… just have to play some Spider Solitaire while I, um… trying to focus… Huh — I didn’t know we had Cheetos….

Fifteen hours later:

Right, where were we? Oh yeah, writer’s block — it’s not pretty. Not cinematic either, until Charlie Kaufman came along and sweated blood for three years, cracking the code of how to translate to film his own innermost creative struggle in a deeply personal, throw-out-the-rulebook kind of way. His resulting screenplay for Adaptation became the Holy Grail of screenwriter movies, and under the brilliant direction of Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Where the Wild Things Are), earned a slew of Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Adapted Screenplay. […]

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