Foxcatcher (2014) vs. Win Win (2011)

September 9, 2014 Bryce Zabel

Maybe it’s just me, but I wrestled a bit as a kid and saw more than enough of my coach without ever moving in with him. I’ll tell you right now, if that’s what cost me a shot at having my life blown up on the big screen for the world to enjoy, I’m okay with it, especially after seeing how messed up the protagonists in these two indie projects turn out. […]

12 Years a Slave (2013) vs. Django Unchained (2012)

October 17, 2013 Arthur Tiersky

One’s about a free man who becomes a slave, the other’s about a slave who becomes a free man!

One’s a searing historical drama, the other’s an intense but goofy action-comedy!

One’s a bona fide Oscar magnet, the other’s already won two Oscars!

One’s written and directed by black men, the other’s written and directed by a white man who’s spent his career trying to be a black man!

One is Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, the other is Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained! […]

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. […]

Saving Mr. Banks (2013) vs. Finding Neverland (2004)

October 1, 2013 Sarah Harding

Ah, the holiday season. What better time to take in a couple of films brimming with magic, wonder and childlike innocence? Especially when one whitewashes the story of a Machiavellian anti-Semite who played a role in the Communist witch hunts of the 1950s, and the other glosses over some nasty allegations of pedophilia?

Of course, our two Smack opponents have more in common than just some behind-the-scenes ugliness. Both the newly released Saving Mr. Banks and Finding Neverland, a holiday offering from 2004, are also lovingly crafted odes to the transformative power of the imagination. Each sheds light on the creation of a brilliant and enduring children’s story, illustrating how the authors’ unhappy personal lives ignite their work. And both succeed so well on their own terms that they can be forgiven for their historical oversights. […]

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?
[…]

Lovelace (2013) vs. The Notorious Bettie Page (2005)

August 8, 2013 Arthur Tiersky

Did you know that some of the top sex symbols of our time started out as ordinary, innocent girls with perfectly wholesome upbringings?

You did?

Oh, well, did you know 1940s and ’50s fashions were really smokin’, and ’70s fashions were utterly hideous?

Yeah, of course you did.

Okay, but did you know how good Gretchen Mol and Amanda Seyfried look naked?

Aha! Now I’ve got your attent— […]

John Kennedy vs. The Conspirators

July 10, 2013 Eric Estrin

What really would have happened next if John Kennedy survived the ambush at Dealey Plaza?

That’s the intriguing premise of this ambitiously researched novel by award-winning TV writer/producer Bryce Zabel, who just happens to be the publisher of Movie Smackdown. In his new book out soon, Surrounded by Enemies: What If Kennedy Survived Dallas?, Bryce boldly reimagines a post-1963 political scenario that focuses on what we now know about the secrets of the Kennedy presidency in a way that shocks readers without resorting to sci-fi gimmicks. […]

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! […]

Lincoln (2012) vs. Thirteen Days (2000)

November 8, 2012 Arthur Tiersky

You’ve heard about all the Kennedy/Lincoln coincidences by now. Some of them are even true. But did you know that Kennedy and Lincoln both have had movies made about pivotal moments in their presidencies? Yeah, I guess you probably did know that. The long list of movie Lincolns includes such notable stars as Henry Fonda, Walter Huston and now, in Steven Spielberg’s new film, Lincoln, Daniel Day-Lewis, while Kennedy has been assayed by, among others, Cliff Robertson, James Franciscus and Bruce Greenwood, who played our youngest President in the true-to-life political thriller, Thirteen Days.

But did you know that I just happened to watch both Lincoln and Thirteen Days in the same week? […]

Red Tails (2012) -vs- Men of Honor (2000)

January 21, 2012 Sarah Harding

A 1925 Army War College study concluded that “blacks are mentally inferior to the white man, by nature subservient… cowardly… and therefore unfit for combat.” The men on whose lives Red Tails and Men of Honor are based set out to disprove that, but they need a leader, someone like Cuba Gooding Jr., who if he wants to, can gleefully shout, “Show me the equality,” and get people to take notice. Damned if Cuba doesn’t take the assignment to make those old, white, Army and Navy dudes look like racist fools! […]

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