Nightcrawler (2014) vs. Zodiac (2007)

October 31, 2014 Arthur Tiersky

If we’ve learned anything over the years from movies about journalists, reporters and TV newspeople, it’s that theirs is a world of ethical and psychological pitfalls. One day, you’re an upstanding citizen doing your job, investigating and helping keep the public apprised of current events, and then, suddenly you’re Kirk Douglas in Ace in the Hole (1951), deliberately manipulating your story to create and prolong the media circus surrounding it. Or you’re Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote (2005), befriending a convicted murderer but privately rooting for his execution. Or you’re Johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), ingesting so many intoxicants that you miss the story entirely. Or you’re Hayden Christensen in Shattered Glass (2003) and just flat out making shit up. […]

Haywire (2011) -vs- Salt (2010)

January 19, 2012 Art Tiersky

“All you need for a film is a girl and a gun.”

– Jean-Luc Godard

Well, and film, I reckon, but Jean-Luc’s point is well taken, and this Smackdown brings us two movies that attempt to put it to the test.

In this corner, a comely mixed martial arts champion making her screen acting debut.

And in this corner…Screw it, you know her already.

Ding! […]

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (2011) -vs- Near Dark (1987)

November 19, 2011 Nicole Marchesani

Being a vampire used to be a heck of a lot easier. Dracula would suck his victims bone-dry, lure a beautiful woman to his castle, where he would turn her into a creature of the night to live with him forever, and that was that. No worries, no angst, no regrets. Nowadays, vampires have souls. They struggle to control their inner urges to feed on human flesh, while they cling to whatever’s left of their humanity. One thing remains the same, though. Vampires have always been and continue to be smoking hot. […]

Apollo 18 (2011) -vs- Apollo 13 (1995)

September 1, 2011 Bryce Zabel

Probably the only good way to look at NASA these days is in the rear-view mirror of past accomplishments, given that the agency seems to have lost its way. After all, it’s ended the manned space missions of the Space Shuttle program with no clear replacement in site. There is no grand new mission, like going to Mars, just the past-tense glory days of going to the Moon.

But before we get too nostalgic here, we have a Smackdown to remind us that space is not always a triumph. Sometimes that cold vacuum of nothing can force a human to look straight in the eye of death. And, as Elton John reminded us in Rocket Man, “It’s lonely out in space.”

The new Apollo 18 is a fictional story about a manned space mission to the moon that you never heard about. NASA officially pulled the plug on Apollo after 17 missions. So this one is right out there in conspiracy theory heaven. And the other film, Apollo 13, is about the NASA’s greatest near miss with disaster that could easily have landed the astronauts involved into the history books with the crews of the Challenger and Columbia or the doomed Apollo 1 mission. […]

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. […]

The Golden Globes: The Elephant in the Room

January 17, 2010 Bryce Zabel

The humanitarian crisis in Haiti hung thick in the air, mentioned occasionally by winners and presenters and PSA’s, the tragic elephant in the designer-bedecked room. Real life tragedies often impinge on the proceedings at these annual self-aggrandizing soirees; it’s challenging for attendees to strike the right balance and tone. Some may remember the Emmys were scheduled to occur right after 9-11 and pushed back. And right after Martin Luther King was shot, the Academy Awards were delayed a couple of days. Real life and disasters happen on their own time; the most gracious and moving acceptance speeches take eloquent note of this awkward situation.
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