SmackPoll: Back-to-School Comedies

August 31, 2011 Movie Smackdown

For some kids, the end of summer means the loss of freedom and an end to sleeping late. For others, it means a chance to go shopping for school supplies! Pens, notebooks, folders, and (if you’re old enough to remember the ’80s) a Trapper Keeper. Sure, school sucks hard at times, but it’s also a great opportunity for comedy. At least, Hollywood thinks so. […]

The Debt (2011) -vs- Munich (2005)

August 29, 2011 Eric Volkman

Israel’s Mossad is one of the world’s most effective secret intelligence services. Its agents prowl the globe tracking any potential threat to their country, and keep their hands firmly on their triggers should it become necessary to kill in the name of national security. It’s an organization composed of smart and deadly secret operatives ready to give their lives to protect their nation. At least that’s what Mossad would have us believe.

Hollywood takes a more skeptical view. Are Israeli agents really so bloodless, calculating and effective? Possibly not. In both The Debt and Steven Spielberg’s expensive 2005 drama Munich, a Mossad team struggles with the practical and moral aspects of avenging an injustice done to their country and its people. Blood is spilled and punishments are delivered, but ugly complications ensue. […]

Our Idiot Brother (2011) -vs- Step Brothers (2008)

August 27, 2011 Doug Molitor

If you have never had a loved one clout you with your own hand while telling you to “stop hitting yourself,” you are undoubtedly the eldest or the only child in your family. Who but a sibling empowered by a few years’ advantage in size and smarts and unencumbered by adult conscience or legal liability can do so much psychic damage?

Most adults must wait for Thanksgiving to revisit (then with any luck, repress) the memories of childhood battles, but every year or two, the movies allow us catharsis. In 2008, Step Brothers, the Judd Apatow-produced comedy starring the eponymous Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, was the film that made us all realize that maybe our own families weren’t really so bad. Now, in 2011, comes Our Idiot Brother, whose comic exaggeration allows us to laugh at the kind of intimate atrocities we assuredly did not find funny the first time we experienced them. Unless we were the ones committing them. […]

Colombiana (2011) -vs- Taken (2009)

August 26, 2011 Mark Sanchez

“You done me wrong – and you’re going to pay!”

How many times have we witnessed the impulse for revenge? In the movies, just consider Michael Corleone, Kill Bill 1 & 2, and fully half of Clint Eastwood’s impressive oeuvre.

Colombiana just opened with a stylish, bloody bang from writer-producer Luc Besson. He mines familiar territory with a female protagonist holding her own against long odds (Le Femme Nikita, Leon the Professional, The Fifth Element). This time the heroine is Zoe Saldana, whose character, Cataleya, offers an astonishing response to a traumatic childhood.

Besson has his bets covered in this Smackdown! Having co-written and produced the very popular revenge-fest Taken, from 2008, he can’t lose either way. This Defending Champion features some of the worst characters ever deserving the fate awaiting them. Liam Neeson is the protagonist with a lethal grievance. Grab your flak jacket, put away the moral compass and be glad somebody else will be cleaning the carpets. […]

First Person: Going Viral Before Contagion

August 25, 2011 Bryce Zabel

While virtually everyone in the Internet world wants to go viral, back in the real world not everyone is so big on the concept. And for good reason.

Remember how lousy you felt the last time you had the flu? Now imagine that instead of getting better, well, that was it. The End.

The medical experts at the Centers for Disease Control think about such things all the time and, for over a year back in 2005-2006, we also obsessed about how a flu epidemic would change the world.

We came to the conclusion that it would be a pretty rough ride. Rather than expressing our opinions through a strongly worded letter-to-the-editor, though, we got to have our say in a multi-million dollar four-hour television miniseries.

Now, from what we can see of the new feature film Contagion, we feel like we were ahead of our time.

Although the final produced version of our project — Hallmark’s Pandemic — can’t compared to the brilliant production elements (fueled by studio cash and budget) that Steven Soderbergh brings to his version (written by Scott Z. Burns), our take Pandemic (written by Bryce Zabel & Jackie Zabel) won the Writers Guild of America award for “Outstanding Longform Original” in 2008. This means that multiple writers read our script that year and decided that, in our category, ours was the best of the bunch. We were pretty jazzed, we can’t lie about that one. […]

SmackPoll: Best Continuing Film Franchise

August 25, 2011 Movie Smackdown

Here at Movie Smackdown! we spend a lot of time arguing about movies — which ones we like, which ones we don’t, and which are the greatest. Naturally, when summer comes, we see a lot of sequels, prequels, and “reimaginings.” And from all these films comes a question of which film franchise is the best.

To come up with our top 10, we’ve decided that a “franchise” requires at least three films. And we’ve taken the extra step of counting only film franchises that are currently active — even if the franchise doesn’t have a film in production, but plans to carry on. A franchise can be relatively new (like Pirates of the Caribbean) or have decades of experience (“Bond. James Bond”). […]

The Help (2011) -vs- Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

August 21, 2011 Rebecca Coffindaffer

Social upheaval. Economic strife. A wildly unpopular war. And racial bigotry that will forever tarnish a great country’s history. If it all sounds familiar, it’s because the problems of the 1960s are still pretty much with us… which is why movies about that era will probably always be popular. It’s so nice to look back in time at the battles for social justice that we’ve fought and won. It helps us forget for a few hours how much work is still left to do.

One of Hollywood’s favorite ways of remembering this period is through the partnerships and friendships that formed between ordinary blacks and whites and the ways they sometimes worked together to make things better for all of us. Civil rights stories have been prominent in cinema since D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance in 1916, but in 1989, Driving Miss Daisy pretty much set the template for telling a certain kind of ‘60s story, winning four Academy Awards in the process.

Now we have another soft-focus take on the era with The Help, based on Kathryn Stockett’s novel, which was as much of a phenomenon as Alfred Uhry’s 1987 play, Driving Miss Daisy, was a game-changer off- and later on Broadway.
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Conan the Barbarian (2011) -vs- Conan the Barbarian (1982)

August 20, 2011 Eric Volkman

WHAM! This is the heaviest of heavyweight Smackdowns. In this bout, we pit two behemoths against each other, 2011’s Conan the Barbarian remake and its lower-tech but equally brawny 1982 predecessor of the same name. Both are based on the enduringly popular book series by young pulp writer Robert E. Howard, and are set in a quasi-medieval world full of sword-swinging marauders and evil sorcerers. Conan is very much in the first camp, raised and trained from birth to be a tough, brutally effective warrior. As a result, he grows into a muscular mass of human being, personified by bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-king of California Arnold Schwarzenegger in the first film, and the brooding, immense Jason Momoa in the remake.

Both of these movies, then, bring hundreds of pounds of lethal fury to this Smackdown. The ring will thunder, the arena will shake. True to their natures, both films will shed gallons of blood. Which Conan will stagger away with the victory? […]

One Day (2011) -vs- Same Time, Next Year (1978)

August 17, 2011 Eric Volkman

Warning: this Smackdown is not your typical 15-rounder, with a decision coming after only a few hours of fighting. No, this stretches far, far longer… several decades, in fact. That’s because both our contenders span over 20 years in the lives of their central couples. Two long-term relationships outside marriage, each lasting a day at a time, annually, over the decades. Both survive personal shakeups and societal upheaval, but only one can survive this Smackdown. […]

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