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. […]

Her (2013) vs. Lost in Translation (2003)

December 20, 2013 Arthur Tiersky

We here at Smackdown have a soft spot in our hearts for movies about lonely, alienated mopes. This may or may not have something to do with some of us here in Smackland being lonely, alienated mopes, but in any case, we’re all about the Mopelecore movies, and when they’re about how the mopes learn to get out of their mopey shells and embrace the wonders of the world around them, even more so. And when they are brought out of their shells by the likes of Scarlett Johansson? Catnip. Heck, when it’s Scarlett, it doesn’t even have to be a mope, necessarily, it could be some shallow, womanizing, porn-addicted guido for all we care. What we’re getting at here: Consider us Team ScarJo.

But back to the mopes and this week’s Smackdown, in which two Mope-Meets-Jo tales will try to out-sulk each other, and as a special ultra-Smackdown bonus, the writer-directors of each are ex-spouses. Exes fighting each other! Little thing we like to call Ex-Box. (Eh? Eh?)

Anyway… Mopes to your corners! Let’s do this. […]

American Hustle (2013) vs. The Informant (2009)

December 12, 2013 Arthur Tiersky

Who doesn’t love Matt Damon and Christian Bale?

(Okay, probably this guy doesn’t love Bale so much, and Minnie Driver still might be holding a grudge against Damon…But just go with me on this…)

And who doesn’t love when big stars like Matt Damon and Christian Bale ugly themselves up with bad hairpieces and weight gains and cheesy facial hair for a scruffy little indie role?

And who doesn’t love period offbeat indie comedies based on true stories in which the aforementioned uglied-up big stars like Matt Damon and Christian Bale play real-life dudes who started working undercover with the Feds to catch criminals, only to turn out to be unreliable and devious and driven by their own agendas?

And who doesn’t love when original mavericks of low-budget filmmaking like Steven Soderbergh and David O. Russell return to their indie roots and make…what I just said above? […]

Don Jon (2013) vs. (500) Days of Summer (2009)

September 26, 2013 Arthur Tiersky

So adorable little Tommy Solomon from 3rd Rock from the Sun is all grown up and is now not only a major movie star but a writing/directing/acting triple threat! This can mean only one thing:

I’m very, very old.

Okay, it can mean more than one thing, such as that the intrepid Joseph Gordon-Levitt is once again stretching his boundaries, bringing him yet another step closer to being King of the Universe. I’ve been a fan of his film work from early on, after he delivered one fearless, commanding and utterly diverse performance after another in the likes of Mysterious Skin (2004), Brick (2005) and The Lookout (2007). Terrific films all, incidentally, which reflects another aspect of JGL that can’t be overstated: The guy has good taste in scripts. Even his more mainstream, bigger-budget projects are a cut above average: He lent valuable support to Inception (2009) and Lincoln (2012), held the center of Looper, one of last year’s highlights, and even his goofy bike-messenger thriller Premium Rush (2012) was way more fun than it had any right to be. […]

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. […]

Admission (2013) vs. About a Boy (2002)

March 21, 2013 Lissa Coffey

Even the most intelligent, wealthy, successful adults can be pretty clueless about raising kids. Think about the living hell these folks must endure — all that time, freedom and discretionary income on their hands, but no one for their inner children to play with! Luckily, in the world of producer/director Paul Weitz, there’s always a chance that a kid might unexpectedly enter their lives and rouse them from their self-absorbed, myopic, world view.

Weitz recreates the formula that worked so well in About a Boy in his new romantic comedy, Admission, starring Tina Fey and Paul Rudd. Both movies have appealing stars playing characters who appear polished and competent on the outside, yet who are somewhat damaged and lost on the inside. In both, the protagonist’s world is shaken when a boy comes along to makes them question everything they hold dear. The experiences they go through cause them to change, which in turn causes the people around them to change as well.
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This Is 40 (2012) vs. Meet the Fockers (2004)

December 20, 2012 Bryce Zabel

Comedy is a fragile thing, or so say the experts. One of the most delicate components to making someone laugh is the element of surprise. So what happens when the surprise is gone?

That’s the challenge for comedy sequels. The initial setup and the characters living in it have already been exposed to the audience. In order to even generate a sequel, the original had to be pretty widely seen. When the story is set around a family’s home life, filmmakers and audiences have to ask themselves the question that author Thomas Wolfe once famously answered in the negative: Can you go home again? […]

The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (1978) vs. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

November 5, 2012 Shelly Goldstein

Beatlemania didn’t just consume Baby Boomers; it defined them. When the band broke up in 1970, their split caused a seismic generational depression as powerful as the surge of joy that began the night of Sunday, February 9, 1964 on the Ed Sullivan Show. So, it was no surprise that the Beatles’ already legendary status proved to be fertile soil for comic parody, inspiring a classic docu… excuse me, mockumentary, built around the greatest Fab Faux band that never was: the Rutles. In turn, The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash, opened the door for yet another fake documentary set in the music world: This Is Spinal Tap, the first feature directed by Rob Reiner.

The Rutles clearly took aim at the Beatles, whereas Spinal Tap focused on a band of mindless metal-head morons. Neither film was what you would call a hit when it premiered. One ran as a network TV special, finishing last in the week’s ratings, and the other was a theatrical comedy that most people didn’t realize was a joke. Yet both today are considered classics of their time, because they were able to capture the massive cultural energy surrounding the British Invasion of the ’60s, lovingly embrace it, and then turn it ever so slightly onto its ear. […]

Wreck-it Ralph (2012) vs. Toy Story (1995)

November 2, 2012 Joe Rassulo

When we Baby Boomers were kids, our toys had lives of their own to us. Now that our children are young, it’s their video game characters that seem real to them. So, having once cherished my Davy Crockett coonskin cap and toy rifle, it was easy for me to see poetry in Toy Story’s Woody, a child’s inanimate cowboy doll by day, and a fretting, insecure, full-blooded character, when no one was looking at night.

My 10-year-old son Jack never had a doll like Woody to play with, but he did grow up with video games and movie characters, including Mario and Luigi. So naturally, Disney, which teamed with Pixar to bring us Toy Story, has jumped into the breach with a similarly themed movie for the Millennials. The new film, Wreck-It Ralph is also about the secret lives of children’s play-things once humans are out of the way. And the same John Lasseter who skyrocketed to prominence as Toy Story’s writer-director is overseeing Ralph as executive producer. […]

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