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! […]

Oz the Great and Powerful (2012) vs. The NeverEnding Story (1984)

March 7, 2013 Eric Volkman

Let’s exit Earth for a while and travel to colorful lands distant from our own. Our contestants in this Smack are a pair of big-budget fantasy epics adapted from popular books. Hailing from storm-wracked Kansas is our challenger, Oz the Great and Powerful, a reimagining of one of the most beloved family films of all time. In this new version, our focus has shifted to the title character, a two-bit carnival magician with a grand stage name. He’s transported to the vibrant land bearing his name and gets thrown into a civil war among several bickering witches.

Flying in from Germany on a giant talking dog is The NeverEnding Story, in which a lonely young boy borrows and reads a book described by its seller as “unsafe.” And we all know what happens when a little boy reads an unsafe book, right? Of course — he gets dragged into the proceedings himself, which in this case means a fight between a fantasy kingdom and a scary black void that threatens to engulf that happy society. […]

Stalking the Wild Hobbit

December 4, 2012 Bryce Zabel

I have seen “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and at the risk of bringing down the wrath of dwarves, elves, orcs and even Gandalf, I have to say that I prefer our own Robert Anglim’s Smashup version, “Wild Hobbits” (below).

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is a brilliantly mounted film that from a production standpoint must have been a terribly complicated thing to accomplish. But it seems to be too much — too many stunts, too much wall-to-wall swelling music, too many hangs from the cliffs, etc. I agree with the Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy who called the film “a bit of a slog.” […]

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 vs. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

November 16, 2012 Nicole Marchesani

If movies are like summer flings, movie franchises are more like long-term romances. We invest a lot of time and emotion in them; we feel really good while we’re involved; and after they’re all over, we wonder if we’ll ever experience anything else quite the same. I was thirteen years old when the first Harry Potter film was released in 2001 (the same age as Harry was). When the final film was premiering in theaters, I was 22. Essentially, Harry and I grew up together.

Similarly, Twilight hit theaters during my first year at college, and now, five years later, the final installment has arrived. Bella, the clumsy human turned empowered vampire, has graduated from high school and is forced to make some pretty adult, albeit bizarre, decisions. This feeling that we grow and mature and change alongside the characters is something we can’t ever get from just one film. We’ve formed meaningful attachments to these characters, and so, for the fans, it’s imperative that the endings be everything we hope for and more. […]

Cloud Atlas (2012) vs. The Tree of Life (2011)

October 25, 2012 Eric Volkman

We at the Smack like a sprawling, epic movie about Big Themes as much as anyone else. So in this edition we’re throwing two big, brainy behemoths against each other in a ring-shaking Sumo contest.

In the challenger’s corner, weighing in at a few thousand pounds and nearly three hours in length, is a film so big it needed three credited directors: Cloud Atlas, essentially six movies in one, covering a range of genres, time periods and motifs. Our reigning champ is The Tree of Life, a thick, mood piece by Terrence Malick about a middle-aged man’s reflections on his upbringing and relationship with a tough, unhappy father. And, oh yeah, the origins of life and nature while we’re at it. […]

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. […]

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) -vs- Spider-Man (2002)

June 29, 2012 Bryce Zabel

What a difference a decade makes. Why, in that period of time, it’s possible to forget you’ve ever seen a specific movie, almost like it never existed.

Well, no, it’s not like that all, of course. Those of us over the age of thirteen do clearly remember the blockbuster films we saw just ten years ago. The question Columbia Pictures seems to be asking with the release of The Amazing Spider-Man is whether or not it matters. […]

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) -vs- Time After Time (1979)

June 21, 2012 Arthur Tiersky

Did you know that the Civil War was not merely the North fighting the South over the slavery issue, but that the Confederacy was actually an uprising of vampires, of whom Abraham Lincoln was actually a trained hunter? Or that H.G. Wells, author of The Time Machine, actually invented his very own such machine that enabled him to fight crime a century into the future? Or that George W. Bush is actually the reincarnation of a traitor beheaded by King Joffrey of the House of Lannister? […]

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) -vs- Mirror Mirror (2012)

June 1, 2012 Eric Volkman

What evil website would even dream of pitting the sweetly heroic Snow White against herself in a winner-take-all fight? Movie Smackdown, of course!

The beloved fairy tale figure with the dark hair and pale face is the lead character in two big Hollywood releases this year, Snow White and the Huntsman, opening this weekend, and Mirror, Mirror, which premiered back in March. Although both feature the broad outlines of the original story – evil queen, wrongful imprisonment, dark forest, seven dwarves, etc. – the two movies vary greatly in tone and approach. Huntsman goes the dramatic, big-budget route with monster attacks and a castle siege. Mirror, Mirror is a light comedy featuring Julia Roberts as the not-so-scary villainess requiring constant reassurance from the eponymous prop that she’s the fairest of them all. […]

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