Help! (1965) vs. A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

October 20, 2012 Shelly Goldstein

Four Working Class Heroes, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, landed on our shores on February 7, 1964, exactly six weeks to the day after an assassin’s magic bullet claimed the life of President John F. Kennedy and threw the U.S. into mourning. America needed to party and try to forget, and these longhairs from Liverpool provided the soundtrack.

Hollywood wanted the “mop-tops” onscreen, and fast! The result was two United Artists films over two years: A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and Help! (1965). Both were devoured by legions of fans, spawned must-have albums and brought America and rock music, back to life.

Hollywood knew there was big money to be made putting teen idols onscreen and selling the finished product to screaming fans. The film studios had already castrated the King of Rock Elvis Presley after he came back from the army, by cramming him into a series of forgettable romps, re-traced more than they were written. The bar of quality wasn’t exactly high.

But the Beatles managed through talent, pluck and timing to rise above the sheer craven commercialism of the enterprise and make a couple of gems that are still well worth watching today. Our Smackdown then: Which one — A Hard Day’s Night or Help! — packed the definitive pop punch for the ages? Read on… A splendid time is guaranteed for all… […]

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) -vs- Psycho (1960)

June 25, 2012 Jonathan Freund

The horror, the horror. It’s Hannibal the Cannibal and Not-Yet-Agent Starling from the Oscar-sweeping Silence of the Lambs vs. Norman Bates and the Crane Sisters in the Hitchcock masterpiece that put the word Psycho into the pop vernacular.

In addition to their enduring popularity in film schools and on screens of all sizes, these two classics of high-end terror have an astonishing amount in common. One has creepy taxidermy, while the other has creepy butterflies. Both borrow elements from the crimes of real-life serial killer Ed Gein; both, based on popular novels, were departures of sorts for their directors; both feature female protagonists who become objects of judgmental and voyeuristic males. Both films deal with disturbing memories of a dead parent. Both set their climax in a killer’s cobwebbed basement. And both feature immortal villains played by actors named Anthony ___kins in unforgettable big-screen performances. […]

40th Anniversary Smack: The Godfather (1972) -vs- The Godfather, Part II (1974)

March 19, 2012 Bryce Zabel

The Godfather @ 40. Imagine.

A few years ago when they came out with “The Coppola Restoration” of the film trilogy on Bluray, many people took the chance to re-watch at least the first two installments and fall in love again. Now the national news media is telling us that the four decades passage means we have to do it again. Normally I just hate the media telling me to do anything — and usually struggle to do the opposite — but this one is an exception. […]

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) -vs- The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1965)

December 8, 2011 Eric Volkman

This is not only a spy vs. spy, top-secret Smackdown, it’s a battle pitting a storied author against himself. John Le Carre’s compelling, plot-heavy novels have consistently provided raw material for movies since the mid-1960s, and if the budget of the latest adaptation, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, is any indication, that trend is likely to continue for longer than the duration of the Cold War. […]

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 Artist (2011) -vs- Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

November 22, 2011 Nicole Marchesani

Computer-generated effects, 3D, surround sound…. It’s hard to believe there was a time when the biggest challenge in filmmaking was incorporating the sound of characters talking. The 1952 classic Singin’ in the Rain pays homage to that task while showcasing some of the greatest song-and-dance of its era. Why would anyone want to return to such a time, when it was clear, even back then, there was no market for silent films? Frenchman Michel Hazanavicius, the writer/director of The Artist, presents a compelling response and […]

An Education (2009) -vs- Say Anything (1989)

February 16, 2010 Bryce Zabel

Listen up, ‘rents. Being a father is never easy, but being the father of a teenage girl, and trying to get that one right is a true challenge. Both of these films — two decades apart in production dates and period settings — show fathers who, with the best of intentions, get it all wrong, but they get it wrong in exactly opposite ways.

You can care too little and you can care too much. When you’re in the middle of things, it’s not always so easy to see which is which. Believe me, as a father of girl who has just left her teenage years behind, these are matters I’ve thought a little bit about. I keep thinking of the famous Kenny Rogers’ song (“The Gambler,” written by Don Schlitz) that you gotta know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em. Like that’s easy. Still, what we have here to consider are a couple of fathers who don’t know best, not by a long shot… […]

The Green Mile (1999) -vs- The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

September 30, 2009 Rodney Twelftree

Prison movies have a long and proud history in Hollywood, keeping us in rapt attention to the plight of the modern-day inmate. While Hollywoods idealized prisoner is traditionally the wrongly accused, or the murderer with a heart of gold, there are some films so perfectly realized by a filmmaker that they transcend the genre and become classics in their own right. We have two to put in the ring together that share more than a screen setting. Both 1999s “The Green Mile” and 1994’s “The Shawshank Redemption” sprang from the original imagination of Stephen King and were brought to cinematic life by director Frank Darabont. As we approach the ten-year anniversary of “The Green Mile,” it’s probably time to ask if either film deserves our critical version of a lethal injection? Take our advice: order up what would be your perfect last meal and kick back for a double-header of life behind bars!
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Public Enemies (2009) -vs- Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

July 7, 2009 Sherry Coben

Gangsters have occupied a rather over-elevated rung on the movie subject matter ladder since the first hand-cranked silents unspooled for the hungry hordes a century ago. Criminals lead such dramatic lives, so full of danger and tragedy and excitement that we naturally look to them for our movie myths and anti-heroes. We fantasize and fetishize these quintessential losers so dutifully that they continue to exude glamour and power some seventy-odd years past their reign of terror. Their Depression seemed more romantic, more photo-ready than our own, their poverty and hard times made picturesque by the passage of time. Criminal desperation and anarchic violence gets rendered literary and archetypal. So which film featuring the fall of which ill-fated bankrobber/lover makes the grade? Depp’s dapper Dillinger faces off squarely with Beatty’s Barrow.
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