Foxcatcher (2014) vs. Win Win (2011)

September 9, 2014 Bryce Zabel

Maybe it’s just me, but I wrestled a bit as a kid and saw more than enough of my coach without ever moving in with him. I’ll tell you right now, if that’s what cost me a shot at having my life blown up on the big screen for the world to enjoy, I’m okay with it, especially after seeing how messed up the protagonists in these two indie projects turn out. […]

42 (2013) vs. Remember the Titans (2000)

April 11, 2013 Eric Volkman

There are few conflicts more dramatic than the battle for racial integration, particularly during the turbulent years of the mid-twentieth century America. 42’s Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman), the first player of color in Major League Baseball, is a ferociously talented athlete who struggles to overcome the rampant bigotry of the game in the post-WWII era. A quarter-century later, Remember the Titans’ ace football coach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) faces the unenviable task of integrating two racially separated high school football squads in Virginia, the cradle of the Confederacy.

Both of these characters are resilient, heroic fighters who triumphed over the narrow-mindedness of their times. Each overcame long odds and passionate opposition to push his country in the right direction and his team to glory. And without them both, who knows, we might not have anything more fun to watch on weekends than NASCAR and golf.

Clearly, both these contenders have got an incredible will to win, but only one can be Smackdown champion. Batter up! […]

Chasing Mavericks (2012) vs. North Shore (1987)

October 26, 2012 Sarah Harding

Earnest young hero struggles to master a sport and is aided by a gruff and/or reluctant mentor. Yeah, we’ve seen it before, again and again, from Rocky to Hoosiers to Karate Kid. But there must be something we love about the formula, right? Something that speaks to the human spirit, embodied in a young athlete trying to rise above his limitations to achieve something greater than anyone thought possible.

Here, the sport is surfing, which means each of these two competing films, Chasing Mavericks, which premieres this weekend, and 1987’s semi-cult-classic North Shore, has the opportunity to inspire and humble us with nature’s awesome beauty. Of course, it’s just as likely that each might drive non-sports fans like me crazy by drowning us in a tidal wave of movie clichés. […]

Seven Days in Utopia (2011) -vs- Tin Cup (1996)

September 1, 2011 Bryce Zabel

Both of these films about Texas golfers make the case that the only way to fix your golf game is to focus on your life and let the game take care of itself. There’s probably some merit in that, although having just played a round of very bad golf in Scotland recently, I think talent should not be overlooked.

The best real-life example of someone whose life fell apart followed by his game is Tiger Woods. So this Smackdown is for you, Tiger. […]

The Blind Side (2009) -vs- Hoosiers (1986)

November 21, 2009 Mark Sanchez

We cheer as Eliza Doolittle becomes My Fair Lady and when The Soloist Nathaniel Ayers recovers himself through music. Along the way the facts blur that one movie is based on a true story, the other is fiction since both say something meaningful about beating the odds and personal redemption. Sometimes the distinctions don’t matter and sometimes they do.
Few people beat longer odds than Michael Oher, whose life story (the biggest parts) is the heart of The Blind Side. The marketing promos emphasize Sandra Bullock as a comedic southern fried Pollyanna, but not the throwaway kid whose real life – off the football field, and on – gives this material its backbone. It’s a story where the distinctions matter.
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Whip It (2009) -vs- Kansas City Bomber (1972)

October 5, 2009 Bryce Zabel

Roller derby is just one level up from the fake world of professional wrestling, but it’s still a real world. “Kansas City Bomber” isn’t as slick as its competition here, but it feels more real. Do teams really exist in Austin, Texas the way “Whip It” says? Probably not. Ellen Page is good as always, but she feels slight and miscast, seeming like someone who wouldn’t make it five minutes in the world of Raquel’s sport. And, speaking of Raquel, it’s the role of her career. She’s athletic, sexy, aggressive. Before you dismiss it, the uniforms in “Whip It” are far more teasing than anything in “Kansas City Bomber.” When it comes to physical action, it’s done better in “Kansas City Bomber.” Actresses in both films learned to skate, but it was Raquel who played it hard and rough, doing most of her own stunts and breaking her wrist in the process. On the other hand, “Whip It” has Kristen Wiig playing the Raquel single-mom role and she’s awesome.
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