Jokers Wild

April 28, 2015 Bryce Zabel

Here at the Smack, we’d have to say that he’s the most iconic comic book villain of all time. The Joker just turned 75, by the way, having first appeared in Batman #1 back on April 25, 1940.

So happy birthday, you green-haired, crazy-eyed, psychopathic criminal, you!

As a straight-up birthday present to fans, Suicide Squad director David Ayer just tweeted out a clear look at the Joker as he’s going to be portrayed by Jared Leto. Impossible as this may sound, Leto’s Joker is as surprising today as Heath Ledger’s Joker was when we first saw him. […]

Breaking Bad vs. The Sopranos

September 7, 2014 Bryce Zabel

Critics and audiences seem to agree in large numbers that the greatest continuing one-hour series ever to air on American television is either the recently departed masterwork Breaking Bad or the groundbreaking show that aired in the previous decade, The Sopranos. Both are gruelingly suspenseful and violent neo-noir crime stories interwoven with searing family drama, intense action and bizarre black comedy. Between them they’ve garnered numerous Emmy awards for their incredible casts, directors and writers. […]

Warrior (2011) -vs- The Fighter (2010)

September 6, 2011 Mark Sanchez

From Cain and Abel to King Lear to The Godfather saga, sibling rivalry has fueled many a classic Smackdown.

Warrior, opening this weekend and featuring two estranged brothers thrown together for a five million dollar payday in the mixed martial arts arena, is no exception. It steps into the ring here against The Fighter, a small, boxing film that took Hollywood by storm, eventually earning seven Academy nominations and wins for Christian Bale and Melissa Leo in supporting roles. […]

Wyatt Earp (1994) -vs- Tombstone (1993)

June 29, 2011 Bob Nowotny

A 30-second gunfight at the OK Corral in 1881 propelled sometime-lawman Wyatt Earp to legendary status as one of the West’s toughest badges, but it wasn’t until the early days of the Clinton Administration that two films both took aim at each other at high noon to tell the modern version of his story.

Firing the first shot was Tombstone. Then, mere months later, Wyatt Earp rode into movie theaters throughout North America. The decision was split among movie critics and audiences: those who strongly prefered Tombstone and those who strongly maintained that Wyatt Earp was the superior product.

It had been quite some time since Hollywood had cranked out a big budget Western, much less two. The arrival of both these feature films was eagerly anticipated. What had once been among the most popular and durable of all film genres clearly needed a big boost. While both of these films experienced a similarly challenging road from development to the big screen, both were blessed with a solid cast and plenty of pistol-packin’ mayhem. […]

Deep Impact (1998) -vs- Armageddon (1998)

August 22, 2008 Bryce Zabel

It’s the End of the World as We Know It. Back in 1998, during the Year of Lewinsky, Paramount/DreamWorks got into a game of chicken with Touchstone. The result was two disaster films about comets that were about to crash into the Earth and destroy all life. The two films could share a single log-line:

When a “planet-killer” sized comet is discovered to be on an imminent collision course with Earth, an international space effort — led by the United States — sets out to deflect the object by setting off nuclear weapons deep inside its core so that it will miss Earth and, therefore, save humanity.

I won’t tell you how the Earth fared yet, but I can tell you that the point of impact in the theaters was about two months apart. Talk about operational redundancy!

Even though Deep Impact was the first in the theaters, for our purposes, we’re giving the “Defending Champion” designation to Armageddon because it won at the box-office. Armageddon grossed $553-million world-wide to the Deep Impact gross of $349-million. Incredibly, IMDB (the Internet Movie Database) has it as a virtual tie with both films scoring a 5.9 out of ten audience rating. […]

Without Limits (1998) -vs- Prefontaine (1997)

July 14, 2007 Bryce Zabel

To this day when the major track running events are held, it’s a safe bet that plenty of people remember the gutsy runner who pretty much owned distance running back in the day, Steve Prefontaine. In the late 90s, Hollywood bizarrely made two films back-to-back about the legendary distance runner, and you may be tempted to go rent one of them to see for yourself what the fuss was all about.

About a decade after that box-office match-up, my wife and I had a Hallmark Channel film shooting out here in Los Angeles, Chasing a Dream, about a high-school athlete who decides to go for a sub-four minute mile. During the time we were polishing up our screenplay’s last draft before production, we looked for a little inspiration and watched both Prefontaine and Without Limits within a couple of days of each other. It was like a film school assignment to see what different production teams and actors could do with essentially the same source material. But there was another element here, for me, that put even this challenge through a separate creative filter.

Steve Prefontaine wasn’t actually a legend to me, you see, because I was there when he was breaking all these incredible records. […]