MARVEL v DC: The Ultimate Movie Smackdown

April 16, 2016 Bryce Zabel

Forget Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Old news. In fact, forget Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice v Captain America: Civil War. Soon to be old news. Those films are just the surrogates fighting when the real war is something much larger. We’re talking about universes in collision. This is really the one for the ages, “Marvel v DC.” […]

Jokers Wild

April 28, 2015 Bryce Zabel

Here at the Smack, we’d have to say that he’s the most iconic comic book villain of all time. The Joker just turned 75, by the way, having first appeared in Batman #1 back on April 25, 1940.

So happy birthday, you green-haired, crazy-eyed, psychopathic criminal, you!

As a straight-up birthday present to fans, Suicide Squad director David Ayer just tweeted out a clear look at the Joker as he’s going to be portrayed by Jared Leto. Impossible as this may sound, Leto’s Joker is as surprising today as Heath Ledger’s Joker was when we first saw him. […]

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. […]

Breaking Bad vs. The Sopranos

September 7, 2014 Bryce Zabel

Critics and audiences seem to agree in large numbers that the greatest continuing one-hour series ever to air on American television is either the recently departed masterwork Breaking Bad or the groundbreaking show that aired in the previous decade, The Sopranos. Both are gruelingly suspenseful and violent neo-noir crime stories interwoven with searing family drama, intense action and bizarre black comedy. Between them they’ve garnered numerous Emmy awards for their incredible casts, directors and writers. […]

All is Lost (2013) vs. Gravity (2013)

October 26, 2013 Arthur Tiersky

Lost at sea.

Lost in space.

Adrift alone in a vast ocean, the helpless victim of a freak accident.

Adrift alone in the cosmos… same dealio.

Man vs. Nature.

Woman vs. Nature.

One of the top movie stars of the ’70s, holding the screen all by himself for an entire film.

One of the top movie stars of the last 20 years, holding the screen all by her… well, okay, she’s got help, so we’ll stop there, but the point is, these two thematically similar movies of survival are facing off at your local cineplex as we speak. One is a studio blockbuster on its way to being among the year’s biggest hits, the other is a modest indie seeking sleeper success, and both seem destined for Oscar attention and rivalry, but in the meantime, let’s sit back and watch Gravity and All is Lost duke it out, keeping in mind that here at Smackdown, movie titles are not necessarily spoilers. […]

Captain Phillips (2013) vs. United 93 (2006)

October 10, 2013 Lynda Karr

What does Paul Greengrass have against public transportation anyway? In both United 93 and his new film, Captain Phillips, Greengrass puts the fear of God into anyone about to take a flight or sail on a cargo ship. And that’s not to mention the vehicles that come under assault in his Jason Bourne movies.

Greengrass got his start in horror and then documentaries, and those early skills are in ample evidence here. In the celluloid world of Paul Greengrass, clench your fists and swallow hard, because good guy or bad, the characters are very human, and you’re about to go through hell with them. As they make preparations for the day ahead, maybe planning a trip, going to work or saying a prayer, the scenes build on one another, and the ordinary grows more and more ominous. […]

Rush (2013) vs. Grand Prix (1966)

September 26, 2013 Bob Nowotny

If there’s anything more viscerally exciting than watching Formula 1 auto racing, it’s got to be seeing a great movie about Formula 1 auto racing. The thrill of victory, the agony of premature hearing loss – it’s all there, along with the life-threatening danger, the prestige, and the beautiful women lurking like speed-bumps behind every hairpin turn.

Trouble is, making a great film on this subject is an extremely challenging enterprise. For one thing, F1 is relatively unknown in the United States. There have been very few American drivers, and all of the exotic, outrageously expensive cars are made overseas. For decades, the gold standard for auto racing films was set by visionary director John Frankenheimer’s Grand Prix, which follows a fictional set of characters during the 1967 F1 season and which thrust James Garner’s impressive early career to an even higher level.

With the maturation of computer graphics and the changing economics of the movie business, which depends more and more on overseas box office, director Ron Howard’s Rush is poised to challenge Grand Prix’s 45-year lead on the Smackdown track. Can Howard’s brand new, true story Rush score the victory? Or does James Garner’s fictional battle for the F1 Championship still have the winning formula?
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The Wolverine (2013) vs. The Karate Kid, Part II (1986)

July 25, 2013 Arthur Tiersky

Movie franchise sequels that send their characters to Japan have a long, honorable history going all the way back to the immortal classic, The Bad News Bears Go to Japan (1978). Primary reason being that obviously, Japan is a timeless go-to source for sinister, evil villains who are martial arts experts.

Actually, I don’t think this was the case at all with The Bad News Bears Go to Japan, but there you have the exception that proves the rule. The point is, this week welcomes a new addition to the genre in the form of The Wolverine, the latest installment in the X-Men spin-off franchise featuring the eponymous Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), the most bad-ass and bad-haired of all the lovable mutants, last seen front and center in the lamentable X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009). […]

Man of Steel (2013) vs. Superman: The Movies (1978/1980)

June 13, 2013 Bryce Zabel

It’s axiomatic when discussing Superman to know that the only one who can give Superman a fair fight is himself, or a close approximation of himself. That’s why the comics, TV and film have consistently given us Evil Superman, Clone Superman, Bizarro Superman and, of course, Other Kryptonian Supermen.

The latter, of course, is what drove the Richard Donner-directed first two Superman films in 1978 and 1980, with the climactic arrival of General Zod and his superpowered villains, all of whom with the same powers as Superman, released from the Phantom Zone. Now, along comes Man of Steel, directed by Zack Snyder, who has taken the action of those Donner Supermans (Superman: The Movie and Superman II), smashed them into a single movie’s length, and filtered them through a dark prism.

It’s a fair fight then. Superman-vs.-Zod vs. Superman-vs.-Zod. By Krypton, let these games begin! […]

After Earth (2013) vs. Oblivion (2013)

May 31, 2013 Bryce Zabel

The latest trend in sci-fi seems to be returning to a post-apocalyptic Earth, trashed after a run-in with extraterrestrials, and still coming out on top. Both Tom Cruise with Oblivion and Will Smith with After Earth have taken a crack at it. As opposed to other apocalyptic visions from recent years, like The Road and Book of Eli, which basically say once things go south on us, we land in a shithole we’re not likely to recover from, these two new contenders in the realm of post-Earth survival manage to leap past tragic events to a time of return where the technology still works, people persevere somewhere else, and the home planet needs some serious saving.
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