Cowboys & Aliens (2011) -vs- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

July 31, 2011 Bob Nowotny

It’s the Harrison Comparison – two big-budget, high-energy, studio-produced, action adventure yarns starring a Ford with enough miles on him to qualify not only for Triple-A, but AARP as well. I don’t know about you, but I love being taken for a ride (unless it involves a Mexican cartel), and this summer the silver screen is besotted with a plethora of eye-popping, CGI-infested mega-movies starring comic book heroes and video icons. But only one has its roots firmly planted in the wild, wild West – the two-genres-in-a-blender contender, Cowboys & Aliens.

And who better than Mr. Harrison Ford to lead the way? After all, with the Indiana Jones franchise, Ford has proven himself over and over again to be America’s reigning cinema swashbuckler. The fourth and most recent edition of that series, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, serves as our Champion for the purpose of this Smackdown by virtue of its own alien storyline..

Two Harrison Ford genre-mashing period pieces, bothvfeaturing an other-worldly presence. They say the hat makes the man, so which one of Ford’s fedoras will prevail in this head-to-head duel? The 10-gallon Stetson? Or the wool felt homburg? […]

The Smurfs (2011) -vs- The Muppet Movie (1979)

July 31, 2011 R.L. Naquin

Bizarre cameos, nostalgic characters, and jokes aimed at adults, all thrown into Kiddieland — the Muppets franchise has built its success on this format. Can The Smurfs compete in the ring, or are they riding entirely on warm, fuzzy memories of the ‘80s?

Most movies for kids are either cutesy fluff or rapid chains of sight gags and butt jokes. A nod and a wink alluding to some adult, inside joke might get thrown in to keep the grownups from getting restless. In Madagascar, for example, a lemur runs around in a panic yelling “It’s a cookbook!” referring to an old Twilight Zone episode. That one was for Mom and Dad, since few 5-year olds are well-versed in old sci-fi classics. I laughed like a maniac. My kids were unmoved.

On the other hand, there are movies intended for adults and kids to share together. The shorties are entertained, but the adults are rewarded with surprise cameos, grownup quips, and best of all, a healthy dose of nostalgia. […]

Walton Goggins Talks Smack

July 30, 2011 Eric Estrin

It’s been a big summer for Walton Goggins. Aside from hitting the big screen this weekend with a memorable role in Cowboys & Aliens, the thoughtful, literate Southerner with the deep-set green eyes and electro-shock haircut picked up his first Emmy nomination for supporting actor on television’s Justified, after not getting similarly deserved recognition in seven years on The Shield. In addition, he filmed a part in the independent drama Officer Down, has been promoting his work in Rod Lurie’s Straw Dogs remake which is due in theaters Sept. 16, and has begun filming on Lincoln, the Steven Spielberg-directed biopic in which he has a key supporting role.

Movie Smackdown! editor Eric Estrin caught up with Goggins recently in the actor’s Hollywood home and asked about the experience of filming an old-fashioned Western mashed up with an edgy, extra-terrestrial thriller.* […]

Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011) -vs- Dan in Real Life (2007)

July 28, 2011 Jackie Zabel

Is it better to give than receive? Before you answer, the question’s not asking about sex or birthday gifts but relationship advice. Newly liberated Office-mate Steve Carell finds himself on both sides of that equation in our Smackdown between a couple of romantic dramedies, Crazy, Stupid, Love., opening this weekend, and 2007’s Dan in Real Life.

Crazy, Stupid, Love., with its period at the end that causes my auto-correct fits, is probably the most grammatically irritating film title since Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire. Carell portrays boring, straight-laced Cal Weaver, who gets dumped by his wife and taken in as a charity project by Ryan Gosling’s barfly/man/god, Jacob Palmer. In Dan in Real Life, it’s Carell’s Dan Burns dispensing the advice in a newspaper column with the same name as the film, while trying to raise three daughters in various stages of meltdown after the death of their mom and Dan’s wife a few years earlier.

Two depressed guys, two lost wives, two sets of three quirky kids, and two comedies based on a Steve Carell character’s ability to roll with the romantic punches. So it comes down to Cal versus Dan, and it should come as no surprise that no matter who’s giving the advice, love makes a fool of them both. […]

SmackSneak: Damn Dirty Humans

July 26, 2011 Bryce Zabel

Maybe humanity won’t be #1 on Earth forever…

We’ve been used to being at the top of the heap pretty much since we picked up some stones and started making tools. But what’s going to happen if another species — real (like apes) or artificial (like robots) gets the same idea? Fortunately, we have a couple of cautionary tales to consider that should give us pause before we get too cavalier.

Our Smackdown Challenger Rise of the Planet of the Apes promises to be a straight-ahead origin story that fully sets out how the apes supplant humanity in the future. Set in present day San Francisco, the film blends science fiction with science fact, giving us James Franco in the lead as a genius whose experiments with genetic engineering lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy. Sounds and looks awesome. For anyone who has seen the CG image of the ape in those posters, it does a truly amazing job of suggesting a very creepy beginning of intelligence.

Then in the ’00s there was iRobot, our Defending Champion in this Smackdown. Semi-based on Isaac Asimov’s short-story collection of the same name, it starred Will Smith in a story that takes place in the year 2035 in Chicago where robots are ubiquitous, used primarily as servants and in public service capacities. They’re supposed to be safe, being designed in accordance with the Three Laws of Robotics but, of course, they get other ideas. It made $347 million worldwide, so you could say it was popular. […]

Remembering G.D. Spradlin

July 25, 2011 Bryce Zabel

You probably knew G.D. Spradlin best as Senator Pat Geary from The Godfather, Part II, where he played the corrupt politician blackmailed by by Michael Corleone after he wakes up and finds himself drenched in a dead prostitute’s blood.

I knew him as Elliot P. Grantham, the Idaho farmer who was Patient Zero, the first official victim of the alien Hive’s infestation in the NBC series Dark Skies.

My co-creator Brent Friedman and I knew we’d gotten lucky in casting. Who didn’t cringe a little in The Godfather, Part II when Spradlin’s Senator Geary treats Michael Corleone with contempt early in the film? You knew it wouldn’t go well. We had gotten lucky early on by offering a series lead role to J.T. Walsh to play Frank Bach and he said yes. We tried again with Spradlin, wondering if he would find the part too small or, given the alien angle, too silly. But he said yes, too. We were thrilled. As it turned out, Dark Skies was the last television he ever did and the second to last acting job (he also appeared in the feature film, Dick). […]

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) -vs- Batman Begins (2005)

July 24, 2011 Bryce Zabel

These two characters are flagship iconic brands for the Marvel and DC universes. It’s almost impossible to conceive of either of them really existing properly without what these characters bring to the table, whether that table is part of the Avengers or the Justice League.

Batman has clearly outstripped Captain America in overall name recognition in our times (although that could change), but both characters are equally important in what they mean to their caretakers.

Like the new Green Lantern, X-Men: First Class and Thor from earlier in the summer, Captain America: The First Avenger is an origin story. So, too, was Batman Begins when it came out in 2005. Captain America hopes to launch a franchise while Batman re-booted a faded franchise by starting over.

Despite my historical embrace of the First Avenger, I promise as a former honorary junior member of the Justice League of America, I am perfectly capable of rendering a judgment for the Dark Knight if he’s deserving. So then — which of these origin films is the most successful adaptation from the page to the stage? Here’s the Tale of the Tape, matching up with the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con. […]

RESULTS! The SmackPoll: Comic-Con Superhero Edition

July 24, 2011 Movie Smackdown

THE RESULTS ARE IN. All the fighters have entered the ring now in this “Summer of Smackdown!” With the release of Captain America this weekend, the battle for blockbuster superiority is now in full swing. So far Thor has dropped the hammer on the competition, taking in over $446M since its international release.

From the beginning, we’ve had our SmackPoll up, asking our readers which film they think will go down as the best super-hero film of the summer. No, it’s not scientific, nor even a real fair fight given the staggered release dates, but it is kind of surprising. As of today, the film that just was released Captain America: The First Avenger is in first place, followed by Thor, followed by X-Men: First Class and it’s DC’s Green Lantern at the back of the pack.

The poll will stay open until the end of Comic-Con on Sunday at 5:00pm PST. If you’re in attendance, or following things on the Internet, pass the poll around to your friends and, now that Captain America is out, let’s see if he can hang on to his lead. […]

Another Earth (2011) -vs- Sliding Doors (1998)

July 23, 2011 Eric Volkman

You’re not actually reading this. In fact, you’re living in an alternate world, where all your dreams have come true; you’re together with the love of your life; and you’re incurably rich. No, wait… nirvana is not all it’s cracked up to be. Get back here and finish this Smackdown. We have a winner to determine.

Alternate worlds and parallel lives are the themes here, with moody, sci-fi indie Another Earth is pitted against the 1998 “what if” romantic dramedy, Sliding Doors. Both concern heroines who have the chance to experience a better life. In the case of our just-released challenger, troubled protagonist Rhoda (Brit Marling, who also co-produced and co-wrote the film with writer-director Mike Cahill) gets a one-in-a-million shot at visiting a newly discovered planet. This world looks very Earth-like and seems to be inhabited by people who are… well, doubles of ourselves. As for Sliding Doors, our girl Helen (Gwyneth Paltrow, in an early starring role) is a bright young professional freshly fired from her job. As if that weren’t painful enough, she’s got a shiftless, philandering boyfriend, Gerry (John Lynch) to come home to. If anyone’s in need of a different life on a more accommodating plane of existence, it’s she.

Two Helens, two Rhodas, two Earths, two fates. This is almost turning into a tag-team match. But at the end of the day, it can only be one on one. Alternates, go to your corners; the Smackdown begins! […]

Friends With Benefits (2011) -vs- No Strings Attached (2011)

July 21, 2011 Jackie Zabel

Apparently in 2011, film couples are taking the Nike slogan literally. They would rather “just do it” than have to suffer the emotional consequences of a real relationship. Or at least so goes the premise of two separate movies released this year — Friends with Benefits and No Strings Attached.

Both movies are about casual sex, and there’s lots of it onscreen. The challenge is to make it funny, which they do, with mixed results, by talking about body parts and functions in graphic detail. Some of these scenes are even educational. Women will learn even more about the male perils of having to pee with a hard-on than they did from Steve Carell’s bravura bathroom struggle in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Quite the visual here. Who says Americans are puritanical? […]

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