50/50 (2011) -vs- Funny People (2009)

September 30, 2011 Arthur Tiersky

Seth Rogen’s buddy is dying. Get ready to la-augh!

This is the hook for the new dramedy 50/50, but if it sounds familiar, it’s because you’re recalling Judd Apatow’s Funny People, with Adam Sandler (2009). If it doesn’t sound familiar, it’s because Funny People bombed once word got out that a) it was not the riotous barrel of hilarity that fans had come to expect from Apatow and Rogen’s previous collaborations (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up), and b) the film was two-and-a-half hours long and crammed with subplots. Fans of Sandler’s usual juvenilia were similarly caught off guard, by both the darkness of the subject matter and the fact that he was playing a bit of an asshole. […]

Moneyball (2011) -vs- The Social Network (2010)

September 22, 2011 Eric Volkman

Every once in a while, we have a Smackdown decided purely on brain power and wit rather than muscle. That’s the case with this edition, which pits the new baseball drama, Moneyball, against the Facebook origin saga, The Social Network. The heroes of both films, the Oakland Athletics’ intellectual general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) in the former, and hyper-ambitious computer wonk Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) in the latter, are portrayed as iconoclastic eggheads introducing disruptive new concepts to their respective fields. […]

Smacked Around Emmys

September 20, 2011 Bryce Zabel

An awards show is really the ultimate Smackdown, I guess, given that there are clearly established winners and losers. Except that it’s not politically correct to use those words anymore. Notice that the when the envelope is opened the phrase is “And the Emmy goes to…” and not “The winner is…” Oh, presenters still slip from time-to-time and admit the truth but they are discouraged from this, believe me.

As the former Chairman/CEO of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (including the 9/11 Emmy postponements of 2001), my wife Jackie and I go to the Emmys every year. I could certainly “cover” them or “review” them like the hundreds of other news organizations but, really, I’m just a guy with a camera standing on the Red Carpet and if you put me up against the massive armies deployed by Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, Extra, The Insider, CNN, People, and everyone else, that’s not even a Smackdown, that’s a wipeout. […]

I Don’t Know How She Does It (2011) -vs- The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

September 18, 2011 Nicole Marchesani

A woman’s role today in the world is as vague and subject to interpretation as the U.S. Constitution. She can work or stay at home or both, but every choice comes with a price. Some women feel judged for their decision not to have families; others feel pressured to stay with their families and not work. And heaven help the women who try to master both feats with only two hands.

I Don’t Know How She Does It and The Devil Wears Prada examine the ever-so-popular and unfortunate double standard that exists between men and women in the workplace through the woman’s point of view. Both films ask the big question: What are women supposed to do? Both offer solutions. Two all-star casts. Two scripts adapted by screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna from best-selling novels. […]

Straw Dogs (2011) -vs- Walking Tall (2004)

September 15, 2011 Eric Volkman

The gloomy 1970s were a good time for dark, bloody, man-against-tall-odds dramas. Two of the more successful movies in this genre were Phil Karlson’s cult classic Walking Tall and Sam Peckinpah’s controversial (at the time, anyway) Straw Dogs. Now that we live in the Age of the Remake, over the last few years we’ve inevitably gotten shiny new versions of both.

The two films feature loner protagonists, overmatched against hostile forces much better equipped to prevail in a fight. In the case of Walking Tall, Iraqi war vet Chris Vaughn (Dwayne Johnson, or “The Rock” to fans of his pro wrestling career) squares off against an evil casino owner and the minions he’s been able to corrupt with his money. Meanwhile, nerdy Straw Dogs protagonist David Sumner (James Marsden) has to contend with a pack of violent rednecks including both Alexander Skarsgard (Zoolander, TV’s True Blood) and the ever-volatile James Woods, either of whom would be a scary opponent all by himself. […]

If You Put a Smack and a Mashup in an Atom Collider…

September 13, 2011 Movie Smackdown

The SmashUps! are a collaboration between Smackdown guru and iMovie addict Bryce Zabel, who writes and produces them, and myself. I voice them and add what Bryce calls “the cool, weird stuff.” (I think that’s a compliment, but you never know with Bryce.)

So, please, take a look at our latest, the one that came from sticking the upcoming Real Steel in that particle acceler-o-meter or atomic whatsis with the classic Rocky film that won the Academy Award back in 1976. Given that our site has a couple of awards statues boxing each other in its banner, this one hits pretty close to home. This is its world premiere but, because it’s virtual, we don’t have to provide the hor d’oevres which, in this economy, means a lot. […]

Straw Dogs (2011) -vs- Straw Dogs (1971)

September 12, 2011 Bob Nowotny

Now, after a summer of sequels that did little to further movie franchises or the film business in general, comes a remake of Straw Dogs, the 1971 classic considered by some critics to be among the most visceral and memorable statements regarding violence ever put on the screen. Then again, what else would you expect from the maestro of malignant mayhem, the irrepressible Sam Peckinpah?

The updated remake is helmed by journalist/film critic-turned-director Rob Lurie. How does it compare? Can Lurie teach an old Dog new tricks? Like Westminster, this “best in show” is winner take all. […]

Contagion (2011) -vs- Outbreak (1995)

September 8, 2011 Bryce Zabel

Remember all the panic and fear about the possibility of a bird flu pandemic a few years ago? Now take that fear and double it, triple it — no, that’s not enough — increase it by a power of ten. Now, maybe, just maybe, you can start to appreciate what might happen if the real thing hits and the worst case isn’t just a scenario.

Or, if that’s too disturbing, you could just go see Contagion or watch Outbreak.

In the mid-’90s, Outbreak was the movie that won a rush-to-film game of chicken after the publication of the book The Hot Zone that had everybody freaking out about how the microbes could inherit the Earth by taking down humankind. It took the sheer paranoia of that scare and tried to amp it up with personal story lines, evil government conspiracies and chases. This year Contagion takes another path, turning its actors into cameo appearances in what looks like a documentary as much as anything. […]

Warrior (2011) -vs- The Fighter (2010)

September 6, 2011 Mark Sanchez

From Cain and Abel to King Lear to The Godfather saga, sibling rivalry has fueled many a classic Smackdown.

Warrior, opening this weekend and featuring two estranged brothers thrown together for a five million dollar payday in the mixed martial arts arena, is no exception. It steps into the ring here against The Fighter, a small, boxing film that took Hollywood by storm, eventually earning seven Academy nominations and wins for Christian Bale and Melissa Leo in supporting roles. […]

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