Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012) -vs- Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008)

February 9, 2012 Eric Volkman

You have to hand it to French science fiction writer Jules Verne. More than a century after his death, he not only continues to be a best-selling author, his books still provide ripe material for movie adaptations. 2008’s Journey to the Center of the Earth was a more or less straightforward adaptation of Verne’s adventure story aimed at kids, and while its similarly targeted sequel, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, drifts a little from its origins, much of Verne’s content is used in the movie. Essentially, both are old-fashioned, earnest, quest movies spiced up a bit with contemporary references for the target audience, with 3D added to give the kids some funky eye candy. […]

Big Miracle (2012) -vs- Free Willy (1993)

February 3, 2012 Nicole Marchesani

After sitting at home, wiping the tears off of my cheeks as a boy goes over and beyond to liberate a killer whale from its tank, and then sitting in a movie theater crying my eyes out over the giant rescue mission to save three whales from suffocating in the ice, I had to wonder why humans care so much about their seafaring brothers-in-mammaldom. Why was it so believable that these characters would go to such great lengths to protect some whales? And why did I use a whole box of tissues over it? Drew Barrymore’s character explains it this way in Big Miracle: “Even though they’re big and powerful, they’re so much like us. We’re vulnerable, and we get scared, and we need help sometimes too.” […]

War Horse (2011) -vs- Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)

December 24, 2011 Eric Volkman

Our contest is strictly confined to the animal kingdom in this edition of Movie Smackdown. The creatures competing in the bout are Joey, the title character of the Steven Spielberg-directed War Horse, and the small dog/cat gang on a wilderness trek in Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. Despite the vastly different settings of the two (the trenches and no-man’s-land of World War I in the former and the California wilderness in Homeward), the two are both family friendly, featuring epic journeys aimed at reuniting beasts and masters. Hard work indeed, but the hardest is ahead—competing against each other in this Smackdown. […]

We Bought A Zoo (2011) -vs- Jerry Maguire (1996)

December 22, 2011 Ben Silverio

Before Jeremy Piven’s Ari Gold, Tom Cruise as Jerry Maguire embodied everything most of us know about big-time entertainment agents. They can be weaselly in their business dealings, but they must have a raccoon’s ingenuity mixed with the predatory skills of a tiger to fight for their clients’ interests. So what would happen if we put up one of these movie agents against a group of actual animals? […]

Hugo (2011) -vs- Pinocchio (1940)

November 22, 2011 Ben Silverio

Walt Disney and Martin Scorsese — two names that stand out in the pantheon of cinema legends. Both have made indelible contributions both to the world of film and to popular culture. Now, for the first time ever, they’re in the same weight class, so we’re bringing them together for what’s sure to be a classic Smackdown. […]

The Muppets (2011) -vs- Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

November 22, 2011 Eric Volkman

Who would ever put the enduringly lovable Muppets in a boxing ring and have them fight their way out? Why, Movie Smackdown, of course. In this bout, the Muppets’ new, eponymous movie will trade blows with another showbiz-centered movie featuring Jason Segel and some puppet cast members (albeit in cameos), 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall. […]

The Smurfs (2011) -vs- The Muppet Movie (1979)

July 31, 2011 R.L. Naquin

Bizarre cameos, nostalgic characters, and jokes aimed at adults, all thrown into Kiddieland — the Muppets franchise has built its success on this format. Can The Smurfs compete in the ring, or are they riding entirely on warm, fuzzy memories of the ‘80s?

Most movies for kids are either cutesy fluff or rapid chains of sight gags and butt jokes. A nod and a wink alluding to some adult, inside joke might get thrown in to keep the grownups from getting restless. In Madagascar, for example, a lemur runs around in a panic yelling “It’s a cookbook!” referring to an old Twilight Zone episode. That one was for Mom and Dad, since few 5-year olds are well-versed in old sci-fi classics. I laughed like a maniac. My kids were unmoved.

On the other hand, there are movies intended for adults and kids to share together. The shorties are entertained, but the adults are rewarded with surprise cameos, grownup quips, and best of all, a healthy dose of nostalgia. […]

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2011) -vs- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

July 15, 2011 Eric Volkman

One finale to rule them all! Two beloved (not to mention lucrative) film franchises come to an end with these offerings and, more momentously, face each other in a Movie Smackdown of truly epic proportions.

The stakes in the two stories are similarly high, with heroes who’ve had the odds gradually stacked against them to the point of near-impossibility for success. In The Return of the King, the spirit of the evil sorcerer Sauron — in the form of a fiery, all-seeing Eye — lives and schemes for total victory against our vulnerable protagonists. Meanwhile, in Potter-land, Team Harry has to mount a quick and effective defense against Voldemort and his army, who are on the brink of completely taking over the magic world, destroying Hogwarts and killing its good students and faculty.

The sword-wielding, ring-bearing humans, hobbits and elves of Peter Jackson’s ultimate Rings face off against the spells and talismans of Harry and his young wizard pals. Which side will prevail? […]

Smack Classix Week: Father’s Daze

June 12, 2011 Movie Smackdown

Fathers in film come in all shapes and sizes; tough, funny, sad, angry, you name it. Let’s face it, Don Corleone was a dad and so is Homer Simpson. There’s a lot of latitude in the job description.

Sometimes they’re cardboard stereotypes only there to give their kids someone to fight with and other times they show us moral courage and patriarchal strength.

Jimmy Stewart was the quintessential breadwinner and family man George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. John Wayne acted as a surrogate father to a collection of schoolboys in The Cowboys. Gregory Peck played the remarkable Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. And in recent years, audiences have chuckled at the antics of Steve Martin as Gil Buckman in Parenthood, and Eugene Levy as Jim’s Dad in the American Pie films. Most often, these modern dads don’t know best at all. […]

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