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Getting Smacked Around Good

A good film review ought to be as entertaining as the film that inspired it.

That’s the concept behind Movie Smackdown® — a whole new format in film reviews.

Others have tried adding a few bells and whistles here and there to sizzle things up. First there were stars. You got a lot or a little. Then there were thumbs. They were up or down. Fine innovations in their day, but that day is past.

At Movie Smackdown®, we’re talking film reviews that have winners and losers. It’s film review as a contact sport.

Movie Smackdown® gives readers the suspense and drama of authentic film-on-film competition. It’s based on the way people watch and talk about movies, constantly comparing films we’ve seen with other films. We’ll have passionate arguments about which is better. Sometimes, disappointed, we’ll even wonder if we should have stayed home — saved the parking and popcorn — and watched a new Blu-ray.

Like any blockbuster, Movie Smackdown® has a “high concept.” Ours is as clean and simple as this:

Each review is a two-fer: Usually a film that’s out in the theaters goes in the ring with a competitive film that can be easily seen on DVD or Blu-ray. Sometimes it’s two films that have come out near to the same date. Sometimes it’s two films that will be coming out soon. Whatever the case, the two films in the ring share something in common — anything from a theme to a director to a similar plot.

Bryce Zabel, Editor-in-ChiefTimes have been tough for the mainstream media’s newspaper critics. They’ve been losing jobs faster than Michele Bachmann’s campaign workers after the GOP debates. While some people still enjoy the straight reviews of the daily papers or the leisurely musings of more erudite critics, many don’t feel they need an old-school media voice to tell them how to feel about a film. They’d rather get the scoop from a trusted friend or look at a favorite blog or check out the official film site. As with so many things today, consumers have options.

The disconnect between audience and mainstream critic is a complicated phenomenon. How else to explain why people are going to movies as much as ever, yet reading about them in newspapers far less?

My thinking that led to the creation of this site is that film reviews, as they’re done in print and on-air, tend to be too predictable. Sure, there’s still some great film criticism written, if you have time to read it, in a few of the more literary magazines and websites. But most of the movie reviews you see in newspapers or on TV are like high school essays. Explain what the film’s about, tell why you liked it or didn’t, and conclude. Been there, done that.

So  it goes back to format. The way that reviews have always worked hasn’t kept up with today’s audiences.

The Movie Smackdown® way of doing things takes into account the burgeoning home viewing market and the competitive frenzy that chasing box office has created. We present ourselves in a breezy, fun format (film-on-film competition) that’s entertaining in its own right.

Movie Smackdown® can be expressed in a cross-platform way. It’s both written and visual, and it’s something that works as a blog, as mobile content and as a regular entertainment column. We think it would make a pretty good TV show too, and we hope to get that going soon.

It’s supposed to be a party where people talk about movies, and you’re invited.

You’ll also notice that each film we review also comes with a captioned photo.  We call these our Movie Smackdown® Comix and they let us “talk Smack” about these films. Armed only with an iMac, some Comic Life Magiq software and a serious authority issue, we take common publicity stills and present them in a way that you can’t get anywhere else. You can see a slide show of any of them anytime you want.

Network (1976)

So far, our SmackRefs have weighed in with more than 500 reviews, or “Smacks,” as we call them.  There’s a search box in the right sidebar that indexes only the Movie Smackdown® site. Type in the name of a film you’re interested in, and you might find we’ve already taken a crack at it. Please write your own comments, too. We like the feedback, and we believe your opinions are as important as ours, so fire away.

You’ll also find a number of polls where you can make your own decisions on our Smacks, especially on the newer reviews. These aren’t your normal blog polls where four friends of the author vote — we hit numbers north of 2000 votes, so the results while not statistically valid are at least representative of audience trends. Some of them are more lopsided than you’d think, and a few are nearly dead even.

We know we’re doing something right from all the media buzz and feedback we’ve been getting. AMC even named Movie Smackdown® its “Site of the Week.”

Movie Smackdown® also happens to be a registered service mark ® with the U.S. government.  Accept no substitutes!

Let the million or so other film critics out there do it the old-fashioned way, one movie at a time. We’ll do it the new way:

Two films for the price of one!