Monsters University (2013) vs. Monsters, Inc. (2001)

June 21, 2013 Eric Volkman

This Smack takes us far from the terror-tory of evil Godzilla, doing his best to annihilate Tokyo, or the mayhem wrought by the homicidal dinosaurs of the various Jurassic Parks. While monsters have been intimidating heavies in many of movieland’s most horrific films, that’s not the case with the lead characters in this pair of contestants, which feature bizarre, animated creatures as heroes and saviors in the twin Pixar offerings Monsters, Inc. and its new prequel, Monsters University. […]

42 (2013) vs. Remember the Titans (2000)

April 11, 2013 Eric Volkman

There are few conflicts more dramatic than the battle for racial integration, particularly during the turbulent years of the mid-twentieth century America. 42’s Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman), the first player of color in Major League Baseball, is a ferociously talented athlete who struggles to overcome the rampant bigotry of the game in the post-WWII era. A quarter-century later, Remember the Titans’ ace football coach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) faces the unenviable task of integrating two racially separated high school football squads in Virginia, the cradle of the Confederacy.

Both of these characters are resilient, heroic fighters who triumphed over the narrow-mindedness of their times. Each overcame long odds and passionate opposition to push his country in the right direction and his team to glory. And without them both, who knows, we might not have anything more fun to watch on weekends than NASCAR and golf.

Clearly, both these contenders have got an incredible will to win, but only one can be Smackdown champion. Batter up! […]

Oz the Great and Powerful (2012) vs. The NeverEnding Story (1984)

March 7, 2013 Eric Volkman

Let’s exit Earth for a while and travel to colorful lands distant from our own. Our contestants in this Smack are a pair of big-budget fantasy epics adapted from popular books. Hailing from storm-wracked Kansas is our challenger, Oz the Great and Powerful, a reimagining of one of the most beloved family films of all time. In this new version, our focus has shifted to the title character, a two-bit carnival magician with a grand stage name. He’s transported to the vibrant land bearing his name and gets thrown into a civil war among several bickering witches.

Flying in from Germany on a giant talking dog is The NeverEnding Story, in which a lonely young boy borrows and reads a book described by its seller as “unsafe.” And we all know what happens when a little boy reads an unsafe book, right? Of course — he gets dragged into the proceedings himself, which in this case means a fight between a fantasy kingdom and a scary black void that threatens to engulf that happy society. […]

A Good Day to Die Hard (2013) vs. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

February 14, 2013 Eric Volkman

What’s better than an adventure movie featuring a rugged, two-fisted hero? An adventure movie featuring a father and son team of rugged, two-fisted heroes, of course. Today’s competitors are a pair of sequels, each of which brings either a progenitor or an offspring into the proceedings. In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – the third Indy movie and last one before that set of films’ loooong hiatus and better-forgotten, 2008 finale – everybody’s favorite archeologist is joined by his grumpy dad Dr. Henry Jones Sr., played by Sean Connery (you did know that Indy’s real name is Henry, right?).

It’s a Russian family reunion in A Good Day to Die Hard, with the apparently immortal John McClane (Bruce Willis, if you’ve been living in a cave until now) journeying to Moscow to connect with son Jack (Jai Courtney), a visit which immediately triggers nearly two hours of Die Hardish firefights, chases and explosions. […]

Jack Reacher (2012) vs. Collateral (2004)

December 20, 2012 Eric Volkman

Thankfully, Tom Cruise has never gone the Evil Twin route, facing off against himself in a movie. But that doesn’t mean he can’t do it in a Smackdown.

Here we pit two of the actor’s star turns against each other: He’s the would-be savior in the just-released Jack Reacher, while he plays a nasty contract killer in Collateral. Both are hard-edged, violent dramas featuring brooding anti-heroes. And if Collateral faced a challenge by casting America’s favorite boyish grin as a cold-blooded assassin, Jack Reacher ups the stakes by coming out a week after Sandy Hook and featuring the aftermath of a broad-daylight massacre whose victims include a nanny accompanying a small child. This one’s a reacher all right. […]

Killing Them Softly (2011) vs. True Romance (1993)

November 29, 2012 Eric Volkman

The players in our two battling movies this review are gun-toting rogues, so we’ll have to let them shoot it out across the room while we duck under the tables. Armed and lethal in the challenger’s corner is Killing Them Softly, a dark, moody crime drama featuring Brad Pitt as a hit man tasked with eliminating the crew that robbed an illicit card game. That film points its barrel at the breezily violent cult hit, True Romance, with Christian Slater as a comic book store clerk whose involvement with a hooker leads him to murder and a high-risk drug deal.

Both films rely on humanizing their criminals with generous amounts of tangential dialogue, and both also lean heavily on music and artsy cinematography to set a pop, breezy tone in counterpoint to some pretty brutal action by their principals. […]

Skyfall (2012) vs. The Bourne Legacy (2012)

November 8, 2012 Eric Volkman

Two determined superspies, two venerable movie franchises. The more venerable one, James Bond – by some standards, the longest-running film series in history – fattens its library this weekend with the release of Skyfall, starring Daniel Craig, who plays the suave secret agent for only the third time. Fighting in the defending champ’s corner is The Bourne Legacy, featuring a lead character so new, he’s not even named Bourne. Jeremy Renner plays the genetically enhanced secret warrior Aaron Cross, outrunning various government creeps who are trying to assassinate their own man to protect their black-ops program. […]

Cloud Atlas (2012) vs. The Tree of Life (2011)

October 25, 2012 Eric Volkman

We at the Smack like a sprawling, epic movie about Big Themes as much as anyone else. So in this edition we’re throwing two big, brainy behemoths against each other in a ring-shaking Sumo contest.

In the challenger’s corner, weighing in at a few thousand pounds and nearly three hours in length, is a film so big it needed three credited directors: Cloud Atlas, essentially six movies in one, covering a range of genres, time periods and motifs. Our reigning champ is The Tree of Life, a thick, mood piece by Terrence Malick about a middle-aged man’s reflections on his upbringing and relationship with a tough, unhappy father. And, oh yeah, the origins of life and nature while we’re at it. […]

Premium Rush (2012) -vs- Quicksilver (1986)

August 23, 2012 Eric Volkman

In honor of the recently completed Olympics, the Smack has expanded its competition facilities. That’s because today’s contest is better suited to the track than the ring; the two opposing films feature professional bicycle riders as lead characters.

In Lane 1 we have Premium Rush, an action/thriller starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an intense bike messenger racing through Manhattan to thwart the machinations of a corrupt cop. In Lane 2 is Quicksilver, starring Kevin Bacon as an intense bike messenger racing through San Francisco in a drama that sees him get mixed up with a troubled young female colleague, a fellow messenger with financial problems, and a homicidal customer.

These bikes look awfully similar at first glance, so watch our contestants closely. Racers, take your marks… […]

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