Looper (2012) -vs- Source Code (2011)

September 27, 2012 Arthur Tiersky

Let’s face facts: If “traveling back in time to change the past” movies stuck rigidly to actual logic, there would be no such movies. As far as I can tell, there’s just no getting around the paradox that if you travel back in time and change the past, you alter history in such a way that you no longer have a reason, in the new timeline you’ve created, to get in a time machine and go back and change the past. For starters.

Fortunately, the best examples of the genre wisely choose to ignore this little snag and do the next best thing: Pour their energy into making it so entertaining and zanily convoluted that it doesn’t even occur to you to mind until you’re on your way home. The last decade, in fact, has seen a wealth of intriguing time-travel flicks that do exactly that, largely thanks to the fact that time travel doesn’t always require expensive special effects and thus can be done independently; all you need is a convincing-looking time machine prop and a lot of ingenuity, and presto, you got yourself a “high concept indie,” be it the soft-spoken, cerebral Primer (2004), the ruthless Mexican mind-bender Timecrimes (2007), or the diabolically clever Triangle (2009) (which doesn’t actually involve a time machine at all, but otherwise fits the category). […]

Stephen Colbert Photobombs Jon Stewart at the Emmys

September 25, 2012 Movie Smackdown

“Why,” Stephen Colbert must be thinking, “am I always in Jon Stewart’s shadow?

“Anyone can see that my hair is as better than Stewart’s grandfatherly silver mane. (And it’s WAY better than Bryce Zabel’s, the Movie Smackdown guy who seems to be sprucing up his ‘do with a lovely red tiara in this picture.) ”

Colbert has a long way to go before he catches up with his stable mate’s record-setting ten consecutive Emmys for Outstanding Variety Series, but in terms of subversive attitude, he’s lurking right there over Stewart’s shoulder. Photo by Lauren Zabel. (Cont.) […]

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) -vs- The Breakfast Club (1985)

September 20, 2012 Caroline Levich

Just in time for fall, we are reminded, thanks to Hollywood, of everything we loved and hated about high school. Twenty-seven years after The Breakfast Club, the coming-of-age story of five students locked together in high school detention, The Perks of Being a Wallflower introduces us to Charlie, a freshman boy in dire need of friends. Both films use humor to examine the pain of being a high school misfit, an immutable movie (and real-life) trope since before James Dean played chicken in Rebel Without a Cause.

Charlie’s group, like the various Breakfast Club miscreants before them, break through seemingly impossible barriers to get to know each other and themselves, without even having to worry so much about being dateless for prom or being given a “swirly” — having their heads shoved into a flushing toilet — by the school bully. What is this madness! […]

The Master (2012) vs. Hard Eight (1996)

September 15, 2012 Arthur Tiersky

A seemingly wise, benevolent middle-aged figure adopts a temperamental loser as a surrogate son of sorts, resulting in a lengthy, complicated and volatile relationship. This is the main basic storyline for at least two of writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson’s six features, including his debut Hard Eight (1996) and his latest release, The Master, not to mention one of the dozen or so plot threads in his cult-classic porn epic, Boogie Nights (1997). Father-son relationships also dominate his one-day-in-the-Valley omnibus, Magnolia (1999), and his previous effort, the one-of-a-kind oil saga, There Will Be Blood (2007).

What we’re getting at here, then, is that however much he’s advanced as a filmmaker over the years, the dude’s evidently still got some daddy issues. But how much has he advanced as a filmmaker? It’s a first-vs.-last Smackdown today as we reach all the way back to the mid-90’s to find a movie brave enough to face down this highly anticipated newcomer. […]

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM: Republican National Convention (2012) -vs- Democratic National Convention (2012)

September 6, 2012 Mark Sanchez

In less than two months Americans will write the final chapter of the recurring reality show we once called the presidential election. Former Massachusetts Governor Willard “Mitt” Romney emerged from testy GOP Smackdown primaries with his haircut intact. President Barack Obama didn’t have a Democrat opponent, but faced a tougher job: He had to govern during the run-up to the conventions.

Now the conventions are over, and it’s our turn to cast a pre-vote of sorts. Just how well – as TV events – did the parties establish their candidates and focus their messages for November? […]

HULK SMASH! — The Incredible Hulk (TV Series) (1978-82) -vs- Hulk (2003) -vs- The Incredible Hulk (2008) -vs- The Avengers (2012)

September 4, 2012 Ben Silverio

Back in 2008, the jade giant known as the Incredible Hulk wreaked havoc in the Movie Smackdown arena in a battle that pitted that year’s The Incredible Hulk, featuring Edward Norton, against 2003’s The Hulk, starring Eric Bana. Since then, a new Hulk has emerged on the scene, thanks to Joss Whedon’s The Avengers and Mark Ruffalo, so we’re revisiting the battle and kicking it up a notch by throwing Bill Bixby, the first man ever to embody David Bruce Banner on screen, into the mix as well. You might think Bixby has the advantage, since he has Lou Ferrigno in his corner, but don’t count out Bana, Norton and Ruffalo from this fatal four-way just yet.

This fight is so big that we need two Smack refs to officiate over the action. After all, one Hulk destroyed Las Vegas, overthrew an alien planet’s government and became their king, and beat the crap out of his fair share of Earth’s mightiest heroes, so imagine the destruction these four Hulks might cause! […]