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. […]

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). […]

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. […]

The Odd Life of Timothy Green (2012) -vs- Foster (2011)

August 13, 2012 Sarah Harding

When I first saw the trailer for The Odd Life of Timothy Green, it seemed so quirky and original that I was surprised to learn it had a perfect Smackdown opponent waiting in semi-obscurity to face off against it. Foster, released in 2011 but only seen by a handful of people — most of them probably in London art houses — is so similar to Timothy Green in concept that I began to question the latter’s provenance. (As it turns out, Timothy is not a recast Yank version of Foster but an original script by director Peter Hedges, from a story by Ahmet Zappa, one of Frank’s kids.) Both films are gentle fairy tales that examine family relationships. Both involve children, who magically appear when they are most needed and manage to teach their troubled adoptive parents a thing or two about love and parenting. Both fathers are in jeopardy of losing their jobs, which the magical children in their lives are also able to help them address. And both are full of hokey life lessons, yet surprisingly are able to touch audiences in a genuinely heartfelt way. […]

Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012) -vs- Ice Age (2002)

July 12, 2012 Joe Rassulo

In 2002, in the wake of Shrek and Monsters, Inc, 20th Century Fox launched what was soon to become one of its most successful children’s franchises, Ice Age. With few expectations and little fanfare, it became a surprise worldwide, animated hit, rivaling both those other films, if not in total box office, then certainly in audience loyalty. Its two subsequent sequels, Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006) and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009) proved that unquestionably.

This week, Fox launches Installment 4, Ice Age: Continental Drift, and what was once a total surprise is now laden with great expectations. Unlike the original straight-ahead journey of our unlikely, but charming heroes, Manny (Ray Romano), Sid (John Leguizamo) and Diego (Denis Leary), along with the indomitable prehistoric squirrel, Scrat, and his acorn, audiences are hoping and expecting this new outing to be nothing less than extraordinary. […]

Brave (2012) -vs- Mulan (1998)

June 21, 2012 Sarah Harding

Once upon a time, animated princess movies were populated by passive heroines waiting to be rescued by noble but bland princes. Disney has made strides toward addressing this anachronism, giving us, among other notable efforts, Mulan (1998), which features a different kind of female lead, one whose strength, cleverness and courage — not her looks or brawny boyfriend — save the day. Of course, the company has long relied on female protagonists of every stripe, dating back to its first animated feature, Snow White, and running the gamut through Bambi, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, and on and on. Rival studio Pixar, on the other hand, has never featured a girl or woman in a lead role — until now. […]

The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012) -vs- Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)

April 27, 2012 Eric Volkman

Who needs humans for a Smackdown? In this bout, our contenders will be lumps of plasticine. England’s Aardman Animation has been entertaining audiences for years with its claymation shorts and feature films showcasing the studio’s fresh, imaginative brand of stop-motion animated comedy. Its most recent offering Pirates! Band of Misfits is a typically off-kilter, spoofish take on pirate movies, featuring an underachieving crew of buccaneers caught up in adventures at sea and onshore. […]

Breaking Bad (AMC) -vs- Weeds (Showtime)

March 25, 2012 Arthur Tiersky

When tragedy strikes, what’s a mild-mannered suburban parent to do to support the family but dive headfirst into the illegal drug business? That’s the question posed by two controversial and critically lauded TV series, Showtime’s long-running, half-serious comedy Weeds, and AMC’s hour-long, half-funny drama Breaking Bad, whose legion of fans currently awaits its fifth and presumably final season. […]

The Walking Dead (AMC) vs. Falling Skies (TNT)

March 7, 2012 Bryce Zabel

There’s just something about ragtag teams of extended families trying to get by after an apocalypse. It feels like a particularly American fantasy — that when the chips are down, we’ll all put aside our petty differences, realize what’s truly important and come together to kick some ass, whether it be Nazi or Commie or even alien or zombie. The point is that our melting pot really doesn’t get cooking until the heat is applied and the burner’s on high.

These two series are flagship action pieces for their respective networks — The Walking Dead came first on AMC, followed within a year by Falling Skies on TNT. The former has its second season finale this Sunday and the latter comes back this summer for its sophomore year. Both are in their prime when it comes to the life of any TV series — enough of a run to fix some early mistakes but not so much as to render the week-to-week predictable. […]

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax (2012) -vs- Horton Hears a Who! (2008)

February 29, 2012 Ben Silverio

My generation has been whining for years about our childhoods being collectively over, in light of the end of the Harry Potter series, the death of the creators of The Berenstain Bears, and countless other life-passages coming to a close. It’s good to know, with the theatrical release this weekend of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, that something important from our childhoods—and previous generations of childhoods—has survived and is still going strong. Though the good doctor himself, Theodor Geisel, has passed on, his legacy is still alive, well, and ready to be tested in Smackville.

If you want to get technical here, The Lorax should be the reigning champion, because his original movie debuted in 1972. However, he then went into a long hibernation, vacating his title. Now, the one who speaks for the trees has made a comeback, but times have changed. In the realm of computer-generated Seuss, the reigning king is Horton Hears A Who. Horton meant what he said and said what he meant, so when he says he’s coming for the guardian of the forest, The Once-ler chopping down trees for thneeds should be the last of The Lorax’s worries. […]

1 2 3 5