Man of Steel vs Superman I and II
Action

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! […]

Zero Dark Thirty (2012) vs Hurt Locker (2008)
Action

Zero Dark Thirty (2012) vs. The Hurt Locker (2008)

December 18, 2012 Arthur Tiersky

Not quite satisfied with making history as the first female Oscar winner for Best Director with The Hurt Locker (2008), Kathryn Bigelow, working again with screenwriter Mark Boal, is back with Zero Dark Thirty, another topical and suspenseful Middle East adventure that’s already a serious contender for this year’s top Oscars. The new film expands far beyond the modest scope of its predecessor, taking on one of the biggest stories of recent years, the decade-long, multi-country search for 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden and how it eventually found closure, a mere 19 months ago (maybe you heard about that part). […]

Lincoln (2012) vs Thirteen Days (2000) presidential films
Awards

Lincoln (2012) vs. Thirteen Days (2000)

November 8, 2012 Arthur Tiersky

You’ve heard about all the Kennedy/Lincoln coincidences by now. Some of them are even true. But did you know that Kennedy and Lincoln both have had movies made about pivotal moments in their presidencies? Yeah, I guess you probably did know that. The long list of movie Lincolns includes such notable stars as Henry Fonda, Walter Huston and now, in Steven Spielberg’s new film, Lincoln, Daniel Day-Lewis, while Kennedy has been assayed by, among others, Cliff Robertson, James Franciscus and Bruce Greenwood, who played our youngest President in the true-to-life political thriller, Thirteen Days.

But did you know that I just happened to watch both Lincoln and Thirteen Days in the same week? […]

Help! (1965) A Hard Days Night (1964), Beatles
Action

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… […]

Argo (2012) -vs- The Last Shot (2004)
Awards

Argo (2012) vs. The Last Shot (2004)

October 11, 2012 Arthur Tiersky

So let’s talk about movie movies.

First, you’ve got your movies about movies, which range from the beloved classics (Sunset Blvd., Singin’ in the Rain) to the cult oddities (Barton Fink, The Stunt Man) to the amusing trifles (Bowfinger) to the less-said-the-better (Hollywood Ending).

Then you’ve got your movies that sort of know they’re movies, i.e., meta-movies, a diverse genre that includes such intriguing experiments as Adaptation and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.

Then there’s the movie-within-movie movies, notable entries being Kiss of the Spider Woman, The French Lieutenant’s Woman and Almodovar’s Bad Education. […]

Looper -vs- Source Code
Sci-Fi

Looper (2012) -vs- Source Code (2011)

September 27, 2012 Arthur Tiersky

Let’s face facts: If “traveling back in time to change the past” movies stuck rigidly to actual logic, there would be no such movies. As far as I can tell, there’s just no getting around the paradox that if you travel back in time and change the past, you alter history in such a way that you no longer have a reason, in the new timeline you’ve created, to get in a time machine and go back and change the past. For starters.

Fortunately, the best examples of the genre wisely choose to ignore this little snag and do the next best thing: Pour their energy into making it so entertaining and zanily convoluted that it doesn’t even occur to you to mind until you’re on your way home. The last decade, in fact, has seen a wealth of intriguing time-travel flicks that do exactly that, largely thanks to the fact that time travel doesn’t always require expensive special effects and thus can be done independently; all you need is a convincing-looking time machine prop and a lot of ingenuity, and presto, you got yourself a “high concept indie,” be it the soft-spoken, cerebral Primer (2004), the ruthless Mexican mind-bender Timecrimes (2007), or the diabolically clever Triangle (2009) (which doesn’t actually involve a time machine at all, but otherwise fits the category). […]

Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) -vs- Breakfast Club (1985)
Comedy

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) -vs- The Breakfast Club (1985)

September 20, 2012 Caroline Levich

Just in time for fall, we are reminded, thanks to Hollywood, of everything we loved and hated about high school. Twenty-seven years after The Breakfast Club, the coming-of-age story of five students locked together in high school detention, The Perks of Being a Wallflower introduces us to Charlie, a freshman boy in dire need of friends. Both films use humor to examine the pain of being a high school misfit, an immutable movie (and real-life) trope since before James Dean played chicken in Rebel Without a Cause.

Charlie’s group, like the various Breakfast Club miscreants before them, break through seemingly impossible barriers to get to know each other and themselves, without even having to worry so much about being dateless for prom or being given a “swirly” — having their heads shoved into a flushing toilet — by the school bully. What is this madness! […]

TheWatch_vs_Ghostbusters
Comedy

The Watch (2012) -vs- Ghostbusters (1984)

July 26, 2012 Arthur Tiersky

Four buddies fend off an invasion of slimy, other-worldly creatures!

Yes, it’s been quite a while since Ghostbusters (1984) invented that recipe, so it’s about time that someone finally upda—

Wait… seriously? 1984? Twenty-eight years ago? Holy crap, I’m old.

Well, in any case, for those with fond memories of that great-granddaddy of big-budget, sci-fi comedies, and for all you teens and twenty-something youngsters out there who probably don’t even know what I’m talking about, we now have The Watch as an update on the formula, albeit with aliens instead of ghosts. That’s right, it’s our own little Monsters vs. Aliens Smackdown, and all we’re missing is Reese Witherspoon. (Seriously, I miss Reese Witherspoon. What the hell happened to her?) […]

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

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. […]

People Like Us (2012) -vs- The Descendants (2011)
Comedy

People Like Us (2012) -vs- The Descendants (2011)

June 28, 2012 Sarah Harding

Location, location, location. When it comes to dealing with broken families and the secrets that enshroud them, it makes no difference whether you live in La-La Land or blue Hawaii. Reconnecting with the family members you’ve ignored or the one you never knew existed is hard in either case, even if you’re Chris Pine. Yep, George Clooney, too.

While films centered around intense emotion and family dynamics are nothing new, they’re a rarity in these days of car chases, alien invasions and spandex-clad superheroes. Our contestants — People Like Us (2012) and The Descendants (2011) —are both about confronting those issues most of us would rather ignore. Both films are aimed at actual grown-ups — another rarity these days — and each looks at serious issues in distinctly different ways. […]

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

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? […]

Brave (2012) -vs- Mulan (1998)
Action

Brave (2012) -vs- Mulan (1998)

June 21, 2012 Sarah Harding

Once upon a time, animated princess movies were populated by passive heroines waiting to be rescued by noble but bland princes. Disney has made strides toward addressing this anachronism, giving us, among other notable efforts, Mulan (1998), which features a different kind of female lead, one whose strength, cleverness and courage — not her looks or brawny boyfriend — save the day. Of course, the company has long relied on female protagonists of every stripe, dating back to its first animated feature, Snow White, and running the gamut through Bambi, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, and on and on. Rival studio Pixar, on the other hand, has never featured a girl or woman in a lead role — until now. […]

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

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. […]

Breaking Bad -vs- Weeds
Crime

Breaking Bad (AMC) -vs- Weeds (Showtime)

March 25, 2012 Arthur Tiersky

When tragedy strikes, what’s a mild-mannered suburban parent to do to support the family but dive headfirst into the illegal drug business? That’s the question posed by two controversial and critically lauded TV series, Showtime’s long-running, half-serious comedy Weeds, and AMC’s hour-long, half-funny drama Breaking Bad, whose legion of fans currently awaits its fifth and presumably final season. […]

Hunger Games (2012) -vs- Running Man (1987)
Action

The Hunger Games (2012) -vs- The Running Man (1987)

March 23, 2012 Nicole Marchesani

President Snow (Donald Sutherland) shares his philosophy in this weekend’s blockbuster film, The Hunger Games, “The only thing stronger than fear is hope.” He and his kind have built their dystopia on this theory: if the people they subjugate don’t have a way to cope, they could get violent. Better to give them some pre-packaged violence and distract them.

The odds are stacked heavily against both Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games and Ben Richards of The Running Man to win in their own futuristic sporting arenas. But they are motivated to try, each having not just their own lives but the lives of the people they love at stake. While millions of people watch, they suffer and struggle to make it to the end. The only thing keeping them going is hope.

It seems harsh to subject these characters to another bloody arena, but as the films prove, audiences love a good fight. We can’t lie. So do we. […]

Godfather (1972) -vs- Godfather, Part II (1974)
Smack Classix

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. […]

21 Jump Street vs The Other Guys
Action

21 Jump Street (2012) -vs- The Other Guys (2010)

March 15, 2012 Eric Volkman

We’ll need a lot of ring space for this Smackdown, as it’ll be an energetic tag-team bout. Facing off will be two cop buddy comedies: In the new corner is 21 Jump Street, a very loose adaptation of the 1980s TV show about young undercovers, best remembered for introducing Johnny Depp to most of the world. Its opponent is The Other Guys, which follows the adventures of two police desk jockeys, looking to rebrand themselves as they get involved in a high-stakes fraud case. […]

Walking Dead vs Falling Skies
Action

The Walking Dead (AMC) vs. Falling Skies (TNT)

March 14, 2012 Bryce Zabel

There’s just something about ragtag teams of extended families trying to get by after an apocalypse. It feels like a particularly American fantasy — that when the chips are down, we’ll all put aside our petty differences, realize what’s truly important and come together to kick some ass, whether it be Nazi or Commie or even alien or zombie. The point is that our melting pot really doesn’t get cooking until the heat is applied and the burner’s on high.

These two series are flagship action pieces for their respective networks — The Walking Dead came first on AMC, followed within a year by Falling Skies on TNT. The former has its second season finale this Sunday and the latter comes back this summer for its sophomore year. Both are in their prime when it comes to the life of any TV series — enough of a run to fix some early mistakes but not so much as to render the week-to-week predictable. […]

Wind-Collins
Drama

The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2007) vs. Michael Collins (1996)

March 13, 2012 Bryce Zabel

Every St. Patrick’s Day, people worldwide celebrate the Irish by wearing shamrocks, marching in parades, even drinking green beer. It can be a ton of fun, to be sure, but the Ireland of fairly recent history was a very serious place where political battles were decided in revolution and civil war. Our Irish Movie Smackdown pays tribute to those days by putting a couple of films in the ring together that tell the story. These two classic films of Irish-rebellion — The Wind That Shakes the Barley and Michael Collins — were made a decade apart. Back in the Clinton years, Liam Neeson starred in the title role as Irish rebel turned Free Stater, Michael Collins, and a few days before St. Patrick’s Day in 2007, Cillian Murphy played a rebel on the other side of the bloody Irish Civil War in The Wind That Shakes the Barley. They each tell stories about the years when Irish eyes were definitely not smiling… […]

Dr Seuss Lorax (2012) -vs- Horton Hears a Who! (2008)
Adventure

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax (2012) -vs- Horton Hears a Who! (2008)

February 29, 2012 Ben Silverio

My generation has been whining for years about our childhoods being collectively over, in light of the end of the Harry Potter series, the death of the creators of The Berenstain Bears, and countless other life-passages coming to a close. It’s good to know, with the theatrical release this weekend of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, that something important from our childhoods—and previous generations of childhoods—has survived and is still going strong. Though the good doctor himself, Theodor Geisel, has passed on, his legacy is still alive, well, and ready to be tested in Smackville.

If you want to get technical here, The Lorax should be the reigning champion, because his original movie debuted in 1972. However, he then went into a long hibernation, vacating his title. Now, the one who speaks for the trees has made a comeback, but times have changed. In the realm of computer-generated Seuss, the reigning king is Horton Hears A Who. Horton meant what he said and said what he meant, so when he says he’s coming for the guardian of the forest, The Once-ler chopping down trees for thneeds should be the last of The Lorax’s worries. […]

Rampart (2011) -vs- Training Day (2001)
Smackdown News

Rampart (2011) -vs- Training Day (2001)

February 8, 2012 Eric Volkman

Our contenders here are hardened Los Angeles cops who come to the ring after years of battling gang-bangers, crooked politicians and their own evil instincts. Both these films were inspired by the LAPD’s troubled Rampart division which, during the late 1990s pretty much set the bar for police misconduct, and also inspired the classic cable hit, The Shield. So naturally, the squads in this fight are street-tough, hard-cases who should be difficult to knock down for a win. Always eager for a scuffle, they’re hyperventilating in their corners, ready for a blast of Smackdown violence. So let’s throw them at each other right away. Rrriiiiiiing! […]

BigMiraclevsFreeWilly
Adventure

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.” […]

The Grey (2012) -vs- The Egde (1996)
Action

The Grey (2012) -vs- The Edge (1997)

January 27, 2012 Sarah Harding

When it comes to high profile, scenery-chewing actors lost in the wild, Mother Nature sure can be a bitch. In The Grey and The Edge it’s Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Man, and Actors vs. Script. It’s survival of the fittest, Smackdown-style. […]

Haywire (2012) -vs- Salt (2010)
Action

Haywire (2011) -vs- Salt (2010)

January 19, 2012 Art Tiersky

“All you need for a film is a girl and a gun.”

– Jean-Luc Godard

Well, and film, I reckon, but Jean-Luc’s point is well taken, and this Smackdown brings us two movies that attempt to put it to the test.

In this corner, a comely mixed martial arts champion making her screen acting debut.

And in this corner…Screw it, you know her already.

Ding! […]

Iron Lady (2011) -vs- Queen (2006)
Awards 2012

The Iron Lady (2011) -vs- The Queen (2006)

December 31, 2011 Eric Volkman

We’re off to Britain for this Smackdown, and what’s more, we’re heading straight to the top of the ruling class. Facing off are the two prongs of the country’s administration—the government, as represented by imposing prime minister Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, and the monarchy in the more refined form of Elizabeth II, the title character in The Queen. […]

War Horse (2011) -vs- Homeward Bound (1993)
Awards 2012

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. […]

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011) -vs- Reign Over Me (2007)
Awards 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011) -vs- Reign Over Me (2007)

December 23, 2011 Arthur Tiersky

I’d imagine a screenplay or a novel about grieving families of 9/11 victims must have been quite difficult and risky to write in the first few years following the attack. Now, having boldly faced the task of writing a snarky column comparing two movies about 9/11 grief, I can entirely sympathize with those intrepid, suffering screenwriters. Hell, someone had to write this Smackdown, and if I didn’t, who would? (A: Probably one of the other Smackers. There’s like a jillion of us now.) […]

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

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. […]

The Sitter(2011) -vs- Adventures in Babysitting (1987)
Comedy

The Sitter (2011) -vs- Adventures in Babysitting (1987)

December 8, 2011 Sarah Harding

It’s hard work being a babysitter in Hollywood. Instead of settling the kids down for a night of movies and TV dinners, you’re more likely to be stalked by a sadistic killer (Halloween), have a heart attack (Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead), endure increasingly threatening phone calls (When a Stranger Calls) or find yourself trying to rescue your charge from the Goblin King (Labyrinth). […]

YoungAdult (2011) -vs-My Best Friend's Wedding (1997)
Comedy

Young Adult (2011) -vs- My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)

December 8, 2011 Jackie Zabel

A beautiful, still-single woman decides that all the good guys are taken. The solution? Take one back, and by any means necessary. That’s pretty much the high concept behind both Young Adult, screenwriter Diablo Cody’s new black comedy bravely starring Charlize Theron as a Minnesota high school beauty queen coming back to rekindle the flame with her married-with-baby ex-boyfriend, and My Best Friend’s Wedding, a Julia Roberts vehicle in which she travels back to Chicago to reclaim a sportswriter she never really wanted until another girl (Cameron Diaz) decides he’s marriage material. […]

The Artist (2011) -vs- Singing in the Rain (1952)
Awards 2012

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 […]

J_Edgar (2011) -vs- Hoffa (1992)
Biopic

J. Edgar (2011) -vs- Hoffa (1992)

November 10, 2011 Sarah Harding

Jimmy Hoffa is arguably the most famous trade unionist in American history and for 50 years, J. Edgar Hoover was one of the most powerful men in the country. Both Hoover and Hoffa were iconic, controversial figures — at once hero and villain, both revered and reviled. […]

Footloose -vs- Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights
Music

Footloose (2011) -vs- Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (2004)

October 17, 2011 Ben Silverio

Mixed Martial Arts is often used inside the squared circle to throw off an opponent in a match. It includes many styles, such as boxing, wrestling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, muay Thai, kickboxing, karate, and judo. But for this Smackdown, in this ring, we get a whole new style of combat: dance.

Two titans of dance-flick franchises, Footloose and Dirty Dancing, are squaring off. […]

Runoff
Apocalypse

The Ides of March (2011) -vs- Primary Colors (1998)

October 11, 2011 Bryce Zabel

The list of more-than-decent films about political campaigns is a short one. Nobody will ever forget Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson in The Best Man or even The Candidate with the Kennedy-esque Robert Redford. During the Years of Lewinsky, Primary Colors took us into the thinly-disguised 1992 Clinton campaign. Now we have The Ides of March, proudly wearing its cynicism on its sleeve at a time when Obama gets pilloried for being practical. In the most recent films, the candidates have that certain problem we mentioned earlier. (Redford is famously remembered in The Candidate as muttering, after winning, “What do we do now?”, but there’s also a quick moment of a campaign worker leaving his room in the morning earlier in the film.)
[…]

Real Steal (2011) -vs- Rocky (1976)
Action

Real Steel (2011) -vs- Rocky (1976)

October 9, 2011 Nicole Marchesani

Ah, the American dream. The hope that everyone, regardless of status, wealth or origin, has the opportunity to work for what they want and get it. One of the great ways Hollywood has represented the American dream in film is through boxing. Films like Cinderella Man, Ali, The Fighter and the most famous of all, Rocky. Rocky Balboa has been a symbol of the American dream for more than three decades. He continues to win the hearts of Americans by proving that the underdog from humble beginnings can go the distance.

Stepping into the smackdown ring to challenge Rocky is Real Steel, set to release in theaters Friday, October 6. Real Steel is a real contender, with a dynamic cast, stellar special effects and a sentimental story with heart. But does it have what it takes to defeat Rocky, the legendary, reigning champion? Let’s bring this fight to the ring and find out. There’s the opening bell… […]

50/50 -vs- Funny People
Comedy

50/50 (2011) -vs- Funny People (2009)

September 30, 2011 Arthur Tiersky

Seth Rogen’s buddy is dying. Get ready to la-augh!

This is the hook for the new dramedy 50/50, but if it sounds familiar, it’s because you’re recalling Judd Apatow’s Funny People, with Adam Sandler (2009). If it doesn’t sound familiar, it’s because Funny People bombed once word got out that a) it was not the riotous barrel of hilarity that fans had come to expect from Apatow and Rogen’s previous collaborations (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up), and b) the film was two-and-a-half hours long and crammed with subplots. Fans of Sandler’s usual juvenilia were similarly caught off guard, by both the darkness of the subject matter and the fact that he was playing a bit of an asshole. […]

Straw Dogs -vs- Straw Dogs
Drama

Straw Dogs (2011) -vs- Straw Dogs (1971)

September 12, 2011 Bob Nowotny

Now, after a summer of sequels that did little to further movie franchises or the film business in general, comes a remake of Straw Dogs, the 1971 classic considered by some critics to be among the most visceral and memorable statements regarding violence ever put on the screen. Then again, what else would you expect from the maestro of malignant mayhem, the irrepressible Sam Peckinpah?

The updated remake is helmed by journalist/film critic-turned-director Rob Lurie. How does it compare? Can Lurie teach an old Dog new tricks? Like Westminster, this “best in show” is winner take all. […]

Contagion -vs- Outbreak
Apocalypse

Contagion (2011) -vs- Outbreak (1995)

September 8, 2011 Bryce Zabel

Remember all the panic and fear about the possibility of a bird flu pandemic a few years ago? Now take that fear and double it, triple it — no, that’s not enough — increase it by a power of ten. Now, maybe, just maybe, you can start to appreciate what might happen if the real thing hits and the worst case isn’t just a scenario.

Or, if that’s too disturbing, you could just go see Contagion or watch Outbreak.

In the mid-’90s, Outbreak was the movie that won a rush-to-film game of chicken after the publication of the book The Hot Zone that had everybody freaking out about how the microbes could inherit the Earth by taking down humankind. It took the sheer paranoia of that scare and tried to amp it up with personal story lines, evil government conspiracies and chases. This year Contagion takes another path, turning its actors into cameo appearances in what looks like a documentary as much as anything. […]

Warrior -vs- The Fighter
Drama

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. […]

Reign Over Me -vs- Fahrenheit 9/11
Documentary

Reign Over Me (2007) -vs- Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)

September 6, 2011 Mark Sanchez

Many of us now mark time pre-9/11 and post-9/11. Horrific events that day took nearly 3000 lives and altered history. It’s been 10 years. Americans and others now regard their sense of national identity and personal security much differently. Films have stepped up to reinterpret that moment when everything changed. Dozens of movies, large and small, offer stylized reminders of events and their effects on people. Most tell us something important about a seismic shift we’ll never forget.

This Smackdown revisits 9/11 films sitting at either end of the heartbreak spectrum: One contender focuses on the big picture for all of us. The other dramatizes how those weighty events affect one person. […]

Remembering 9/11 and the 2001 Emmys
Awards

Hollywood in Wartime: Remembering the 2001 Emmy® Awards

September 4, 2011 Bryce Zabel

Since the Emmy Awards came into existence in 1949, they had never been postponed or canceled until 2001. In that year it happened twice.

I was elected Chairman/CEO of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in August 2001, almost a month to the day before 9/11. The Emmy broadcast was scheduled for September 16 of that year. Five days from the worst act of terrorism in history to a walk down the red carpet with Hollywood celebs was simply impossible to imagine.

As everyone re-plays the “Where were you?” moment that the horrific events became for all of us, my own memories combine the moral outrage at such a hideous act of mass murder with the POV of show business struggling to cope with this new reality of terrorism. It was a terrible time for the nation, one that I still think about often, and the most challenging professional moment in my career. […]

Apollo 18 -vs- Apollo 13
Sci-Fi

Apollo 18 (2011) -vs- Apollo 13 (1995)

September 1, 2011 Bryce Zabel

Probably the only good way to look at NASA these days is in the rear-view mirror of past accomplishments, given that the agency seems to have lost its way. After all, it’s ended the manned space missions of the Space Shuttle program with no clear replacement in site. There is no grand new mission, like going to Mars, just the past-tense glory days of going to the Moon.

But before we get too nostalgic here, we have a Smackdown to remind us that space is not always a triumph. Sometimes that cold vacuum of nothing can force a human to look straight in the eye of death. And, as Elton John reminded us in Rocket Man, “It’s lonely out in space.”

The new Apollo 18 is a fictional story about a manned space mission to the moon that you never heard about. NASA officially pulled the plug on Apollo after 17 missions. So this one is right out there in conspiracy theory heaven. And the other film, Apollo 13, is about the NASA’s greatest near miss with disaster that could easily have landed the astronauts involved into the history books with the crews of the Challenger and Columbia or the doomed Apollo 1 mission. […]

The Debt -vs- Munich
Drama

The Debt (2011) -vs- Munich (2005)

August 29, 2011 Eric Volkman

Israel’s Mossad is one of the world’s most effective secret intelligence services. Its agents prowl the globe tracking any potential threat to their country, and keep their hands firmly on their triggers should it become necessary to kill in the name of national security. It’s an organization composed of smart and deadly secret operatives ready to give their lives to protect their nation. At least that’s what Mossad would have us believe.

Hollywood takes a more skeptical view. Are Israeli agents really so bloodless, calculating and effective? Possibly not. In both The Debt and Steven Spielberg’s expensive 2005 drama Munich, a Mossad team struggles with the practical and moral aspects of avenging an injustice done to their country and its people. Blood is spilled and punishments are delivered, but ugly complications ensue. […]

The Help -vs- Driving Miss Daisy
Awards 2012

The Help (2011) -vs- Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

August 21, 2011 Rebecca Coffindaffer

Social upheaval. Economic strife. A wildly unpopular war. And racial bigotry that will forever tarnish a great country’s history. If it all sounds familiar, it’s because the problems of the 1960s are still pretty much with us… which is why movies about that era will probably always be popular. It’s so nice to look back in time at the battles for social justice that we’ve fought and won. It helps us forget for a few hours how much work is still left to do.

One of Hollywood’s favorite ways of remembering this period is through the partnerships and friendships that formed between ordinary blacks and whites and the ways they sometimes worked together to make things better for all of us. Civil rights stories have been prominent in cinema since D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance in 1916, but in 1989, Driving Miss Daisy pretty much set the template for telling a certain kind of ‘60s story, winning four Academy Awards in the process.

Now we have another soft-focus take on the era with The Help, based on Kathryn Stockett’s novel, which was as much of a phenomenon as Alfred Uhry’s 1987 play, Driving Miss Daisy, was a game-changer off- and later on Broadway.
[…]

Conan the Barbarian -vs- Conan the Barbarian
Action

Conan the Barbarian (2011) -vs- Conan the Barbarian (1982)

August 20, 2011 Eric Volkman

WHAM! This is the heaviest of heavyweight Smackdowns. In this bout, we pit two behemoths against each other, 2011’s Conan the Barbarian remake and its lower-tech but equally brawny 1982 predecessor of the same name. Both are based on the enduringly popular book series by young pulp writer Robert E. Howard, and are set in a quasi-medieval world full of sword-swinging marauders and evil sorcerers. Conan is very much in the first camp, raised and trained from birth to be a tough, brutally effective warrior. As a result, he grows into a muscular mass of human being, personified by bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-king of California Arnold Schwarzenegger in the first film, and the brooding, immense Jason Momoa in the remake.

Both of these movies, then, bring hundreds of pounds of lethal fury to this Smackdown. The ring will thunder, the arena will shake. True to their natures, both films will shed gallons of blood. Which Conan will stagger away with the victory? […]

Rise of the Planet of the Apes -vs- I, Robot
Action

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) -vs- I, Robot (2004)

August 5, 2011 Bryce Zabel

Maybe humanity won’t be #1 on Earth forever…

We’ve been used to being at the top of the heap pretty much since we picked up some stones and started making tools. But what’s going to happen if another species — real (like apes) or artificial (like robots) — gets the same idea? Fortunately, we have a couple of cautionary tales to consider that should give us pause before we get too cavalier.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the prequel to the re-boot of the ’60s-’70s franchise that started it all and sets out to answer the question that has always undermined the franchise: how would apes really pull this switcheroo with humankind off? With genomes being mapped and wonder drugs being tested at record speed these days, this is a film that was just begging to be made.

Back in the mid ’00s, however, I, Robot asked a different kind of question. Sparked by the breathtaking increase in computing power keeping pace with Moore’s Law or even Ray Kurzweil’s invocation of The Singularity, that question was: how much longer before these machines we built can think faster than us and what if they become conscious? […]

Cowboys & Aliens -vs- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Adventure

Cowboys & Aliens (2011) -vs- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

July 31, 2011 Bob Nowotny

It’s the Harrison Comparison – two big-budget, high-energy, studio-produced, action adventure yarns starring a Ford with enough miles on him to qualify not only for Triple-A, but AARP as well. I don’t know about you, but I love being taken for a ride (unless it involves a Mexican cartel), and this summer the silver screen is besotted with a plethora of eye-popping, CGI-infested mega-movies starring comic book heroes and video icons. But only one has its roots firmly planted in the wild, wild West – the two-genres-in-a-blender contender, Cowboys & Aliens.

And who better than Mr. Harrison Ford to lead the way? After all, with the Indiana Jones franchise, Ford has proven himself over and over again to be America’s reigning cinema swashbuckler. The fourth and most recent edition of that series, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, serves as our Champion for the purpose of this Smackdown by virtue of its own alien storyline..

Two Harrison Ford genre-mashing period pieces, bothvfeaturing an other-worldly presence. They say the hat makes the man, so which one of Ford’s fedoras will prevail in this head-to-head duel? The 10-gallon Stetson? Or the wool felt homburg? […]

The Smurfs -vs- The Muppet Movie
Family

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. […]

Crazy, Stupid, Love. -vs- Dan in Real Life
Romance

Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011) -vs- Dan in Real Life (2007)

July 28, 2011 Jackie Zabel

Is it better to give than receive? Before you answer, the question’s not asking about sex or birthday gifts but relationship advice. Newly liberated Office-mate Steve Carell finds himself on both sides of that equation in our Smackdown between a couple of romantic dramedies, Crazy, Stupid, Love., opening this weekend, and 2007’s Dan in Real Life.

Crazy, Stupid, Love., with its period at the end that causes my auto-correct fits, is probably the most grammatically irritating film title since Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire. Carell portrays boring, straight-laced Cal Weaver, who gets dumped by his wife and taken in as a charity project by Ryan Gosling’s barfly/man/god, Jacob Palmer. In Dan in Real Life, it’s Carell’s Dan Burns dispensing the advice in a newspaper column with the same name as the film, while trying to raise three daughters in various stages of meltdown after the death of their mom and Dan’s wife a few years earlier.

Two depressed guys, two lost wives, two sets of three quirky kids, and two comedies based on a Steve Carell character’s ability to roll with the romantic punches. So it comes down to Cal versus Dan, and it should come as no surprise that no matter who’s giving the advice, love makes a fool of them both. […]

Captain America -vs- Batman Begins
Action

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) -vs- Batman Begins (2005)

July 24, 2011 Bryce Zabel

These two characters are flagship iconic brands for the Marvel and DC universes. It’s almost impossible to conceive of either of them really existing properly without what these characters bring to the table, whether that table is part of the Avengers or the Justice League.

Batman has clearly outstripped Captain America in overall name recognition in our times (although that could change), but both characters are equally important in what they mean to their caretakers.

Like the new Green Lantern, X-Men: First Class and Thor from earlier in the summer, Captain America: The First Avenger is an origin story. So, too, was Batman Begins when it came out in 2005. Captain America hopes to launch a franchise while Batman re-booted a faded franchise by starting over.

Despite my historical embrace of the First Avenger, I promise as a former honorary junior member of the Justice League of America, I am perfectly capable of rendering a judgment for the Dark Knight if he’s deserving. So then — which of these origin films is the most successful adaptation from the page to the stage? Here’s the Tale of the Tape, matching up with the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con. […]

Roads Not Taken
Drama

Another Earth (2011) -vs- Sliding Doors (1998)

July 23, 2011 Eric Volkman

You’re not actually reading this. In fact, you’re living in an alternate world, where all your dreams have come true; you’re together with the love of your life; and you’re incurably rich. No, wait… nirvana is not all it’s cracked up to be. Get back here and finish this Smackdown. We have a winner to determine.

Alternate worlds and parallel lives are the themes here, with moody, sci-fi indie Another Earth is pitted against the 1998 “what if” romantic dramedy, Sliding Doors. Both concern heroines who have the chance to experience a better life. In the case of our just-released challenger, troubled protagonist Rhoda (Brit Marling, who also co-produced and co-wrote the film with writer-director Mike Cahill) gets a one-in-a-million shot at visiting a newly discovered planet. This world looks very Earth-like and seems to be inhabited by people who are… well, doubles of ourselves. As for Sliding Doors, our girl Helen (Gwyneth Paltrow, in an early starring role) is a bright young professional freshly fired from her job. As if that weren’t painful enough, she’s got a shiftless, philandering boyfriend, Gerry (John Lynch) to come home to. If anyone’s in need of a different life on a more accommodating plane of existence, it’s she.

Two Helens, two Rhodas, two Earths, two fates. This is almost turning into a tag-team match. But at the end of the day, it can only be one on one. Alternates, go to your corners; the Smackdown begins! […]

Friends With Benefits -vs- No Strings Attached
Comedy

Friends With Benefits (2011) -vs- No Strings Attached (2011)

July 21, 2011 Jackie Zabel

Apparently in 2011, film couples are taking the Nike slogan literally. They would rather “just do it” than have to suffer the emotional consequences of a real relationship. Or at least so goes the premise of two separate movies released this year — Friends with Benefits and No Strings Attached.

Both movies are about casual sex, and there’s lots of it onscreen. The challenge is to make it funny, which they do, with mixed results, by talking about body parts and functions in graphic detail. Some of these scenes are even educational. Women will learn even more about the male perils of having to pee with a hard-on than they did from Steve Carell’s bravura bathroom struggle in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Quite the visual here. Who says Americans are puritanical? […]

Harry Potter -vs- The Lord of the Rings
Adventure

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? […]

Horrible Bosses -vs- Office Space
Comedy

Horrible Bosses (2011) -vs- Office Space (1999)

July 11, 2011 Rebecca Coffindaffer

We love to watch glamorous Hollywood people be glamorous. More than that, we love to watch glamorous Hollywood people pretend to be Just Like Us and satirize the humdrum jobs the majority of Americans — at least, those of us lucky enough to be employed — are stuck with.

That’s the reason workplace comedies go over so well: They’re accessible and relatable, and God, don’t we all need a good laugh to get through the work week now and again. It’s a time-honored tradition from The Apartment to 9 to 5, and it even includes Dilbert and The Office, for those whose tastes run toward comic strips and TV.

When these satirized workers, over-burdened with indignities, finally snap, we get an offshoot of the office comedy — the Everyman-gets-his-revenge line, which serves up a satisfying order of comeuppance along with the laughs. Mike Judge’s Office Space typifies this subgenre, looking to prove there are still plenty of laughs to be milked from the rebellion of the American cubicle jockey. Now Horrible Bosses takes the ring against it with an impressive opening weekend at the box office. […]

Zookeeper -vs- Dr. Dolittle
Comedy

Zookeeper (2011) -vs- Dr. Dolittle (1998)

July 10, 2011 Nicole Marchesani

Animals have more acute senses than people do and an entirely different way of looking at things, so it stands to reason that audiences have been lapping up talking animal stories since that snake was introduced in the first act of Genesis. Hollywood really pricked up its ears back in ’98, when the Dr. Dolittle remake starring Eddie Murphy became the highest grossing live-action film ever made in the genre. That’s when the industry started tossing them out like so many chew-toys: the Babe sequel, Stuart Little, Narnia… and that doesn’t even count animation.

Now, along comes Zookeeper, which has more than a few things in common with the good Doctor: a depressed animal that needs tender loving care, a know-it-all beast that dispenses good advice when necessary, a really annoying creature that talks too much, and a likable human being — in this case played by Kevin James — who has less success with his own species than he does with his furry friends. Dr. Dolittle and Zookeeper both go for the laughs, but both also play as wish-fulfillment for the odd duck within us all — the one that craves a little primal understanding when we don’t quite fit in. […]

Tree-Fountain
Awards 2012

The Tree of Life (2011) -vs- The Fountain (2006)

July 6, 2011 Mark Sanchez

The universe is full of mystery: What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? If God exists, why does He allow evil? And perhaps most perplexing of all, how did not one, but two Hollywood productions in the last five years attract major financing for projects tackling those kinds of questions without linear stories that film critics, not to mention common moviegoers, could understand?

Well, the good Lord works in mysterious ways, and in the case of writer-director Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life (now in theaters) and The Fountain (2006), written and directed by Darren Aronofsky with help on the story from Ari Handel, we are arguably better off for it.

Reactions are all over the lot on Malick’s latest opus, and so is the film, which examines a Texas family’s extended life and reaches for an emotional link connecting it to all of creation. Aronofsky’s metaphysical missile, on the other hand, describes a parabola between life and death, attempting to shed light on life’s essence through a sort of tag-team narrative, part of which deals with a literal search for — wait for it — the tree of life. […]

Brokedown Palace - Return to Paradise
Drama

Brokedown Palace (1999) -vs- Return to Paradise (1998)

June 29, 2011 Mark Sanchez

Oh, to be young, independent, sexy… and rotting in some hellhole of a foreign prison.

Young Americans take a lot of things for granted. The right to party, to be spontaneous, to make quick friends, to stiff a rental service or skate on some free drinks, that kind of thing. Mostly they get away with it, and when things go bad, they can usually talk their way out of the consequences or get a lawyer to talk for them.

Around the time Bill Clinton was getting impeached for breaking the rules himself, Hollywood got in a game of chicken on two films about young American travelers who make some mistakes in judgment, run afoul of very strict drug laws and end up in nightmares they can’t wake up from. […]

Wyatt Earp -vs- Tombstone
Western

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. […]

Bad Teacher -vs- Bad Santa
Comedy

Bad Teacher (2011) -vs- Bad Santa (2003)

June 21, 2011 Rebecca Coffindaffer

Good role models are hard to come by — especially once Hollywood gets its hands on them. In the year that Bush gave us Iraq, Hollywood gave us Bad Santa. Now it’s Bad Teacher. What’s next, Naughty Nuns?

Of course, the film industry has been tweaking iconic targets since the Marx Brothers brought their particular brand of chaos to A Night at the Opera. In recent years, they’ve upped the ante. Now, filmmakers are encouraged to slap on an R rating, make sure the kids have to sneak in to watch, and let everyone else enjoy what Tony Cox’s Marcus character in Bad Santa calls, “An adult joke. For us, adults.”

With Santa Claus already trashed by Billy Bob Thornton and company, it was inevitable that someone would find another cherished cultural ideal, the teacher — beacon of knowledge and caring, glamorized in Stand and Deliver, Dead Poets Society and so forth — and put a caustic, foul-mouthed spin on it.

An irreverent, bad Santa vs. an irreverent, bad teacher. Only one can be the worst. […]

Super 8 -vs- E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
Sci-Fi

Super 8 (2011) -vs- E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

June 10, 2011 Bryce Zabel

“Listen, guys, we got J.J. Abrams writing and directing a film about alien contact that Spielberg’s gonna help him produce. Who’s in?”

When the words were first uttered in Hollywood, there must have been a hush in the room. Now, with the sci-fi world ablaze with anticipation, Super 8 is ready for its own close-up.

In Summer 2011′s first big swing into science fiction, this Spielbergian team-up goes with a story of kids in small town America discovering something amazing. Our Challenger Super 8 is set in 1979, just a few years before the release our Defending Champion E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Both films involve kids getting involved with aliens, cover-ups, and military diversions and suppressions.

And even though Steven Spielberg is on the team of this latest effort, over here at the Smack, it’s still personal. Two directors slugging it out. The brash new contender in J.J. Abrams and the wise, beloved champion in Spielberg. […]

Midnight in Paris -vs- Adaptation
Comedy

Midnight in Paris (2011) -vs- Adaptation (2002)

June 6, 2011 Mark Sanchez

If there’s anything that sounds less appealing than watching the mental anguish of a blocked writer, we can’t imagine what it is. In fact, we can’t even begin to visualize… hold on a second… getting my thoughts straight… just have to play some Spider Solitaire while I, um… trying to focus… Huh — I didn’t know we had Cheetos….

Fifteen hours later:

Right, where were we? Oh yeah, writer’s block — it’s not pretty. Not cinematic either, until Charlie Kaufman came along and sweated blood for three years, cracking the code of how to translate to film his own innermost creative struggle in a deeply personal, throw-out-the-rulebook kind of way. His resulting screenplay for Adaptation became the Holy Grail of screenwriter movies, and under the brilliant direction of Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Where the Wild Things Are), earned a slew of Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Adapted Screenplay. […]

Will-vs-Bill Final (800px)
Comedy

Will Ferrell -vs- Bill Murray

May 21, 2011 Bryce Zabel

Will Ferrell got booed.

Yes, you got that right. Will Ferrell, a beloved SNL comic and feature funny man, was booed by a couple of guys in the crowd I was in to see Ferrell’s new Everything Must Go. I can only assume that they saw the trailers which had been cut to make it look like a comedy, and they figured, hey, we love our man Will, so they let’s check it out.

I wondered as they left the theater just how far into the film they got before they realized it was not meant to be funny but was a tough story about substance abuse and how it can take away everything you thought you had or thought you wanted. These guys felt duped they did not get the Will Ferrell that they had paid to see.

They probably also didn’t love Bill Murray in Lost in Translation.

Most comedic actors secretly want to play serious roles. Despite what a great gift it is to be able to make people laugh, and despite how much we all need to laugh in this day and age, often times the people most talented at this want desperately to show you their “other side.” Sometimes we are very, very glad they did. Sometimes, not so much.
[…]

Bridesmaids -vs- The Hangover
Comedy

Bridesmaids (2011) -vs- The Hangover (2009)

May 14, 2011 The FilmGuru

The world is probably a better place knowing that women can be just as depraved, insecure, crass, pathetic, disgusting and insanely funny as men. After all, fair is fair.

Our Battle of the Sexes Grand-Slam Comedy Smack pits women against men in a dual of the demos. The Bridesmaids versus The Wolf Pack.

After spending over $32-million to make Bridesmaids, Universal Pictures followed up with an expensive nationwide spin-job selling their new movie as a bachelorette party version of The Hangover.

What made that original 2009 film a surprise R-rated hit was bringing the Wolf Pack to life in a story that shattered the formula of a raunchy guy’s film and took it to a new level where roofies were just another plot device. The question that Bridesmaids raises is pretty basic: can the same dynamic — bad decisions, outrageous behavior and same-sex bonding — work in a film about some girls who just wanna have fun, too? And, even if it can work, can that film actually be a better one that The Hangover? […]

Thor -vs- Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut
Action

Thor (2011) -vs- Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (1980 | 2006)

May 4, 2011 Rodney Twelftree

Down here in Australia, we actually got Thor in our theaters a full two weeks before the God of Thunder finally visited the United States. Along with our Aussie pride that the title character is played by local lad Chris Hemsworth, that still doesn’t quite equal what our American friends may be feeling over the success of Seal Team Six, but we take our thrills where we find them.

Comic book heroes coming to blows is a concept as old as the medium itself, but this Smackdown pits entire universes against each other. Thor versus Superman. Marvel versus DC. Yes!

The extraterrestrial Superman is the most recognizable comic book character ever created and Thor, the mythically awesome Stan Lee-created Asgardian God who comes to Earth, are the powerhouse figures of their respective comic book universes. DC Comics has published Superman since 1939, while Thor has been around since Marvel introduced him in 1962. Both have incredible powers. Superman derives his incredible strength and abilities from his proximity to Earth’s yellow sun, while Thor’s powers come from his family lineage as a Norse God (who may be an extraterrestrial himself) — the God of Thunder, to be exact. […]

Lois and Clark (800px)
Comic Book

Lois & Clark: The (Old) New Adventures of Superman

May 3, 2011 Bryce Zabel

I have so many great memories about the Man-of-Steel, it’s hard to know where to start. Like… being a six year old buying a Superman comic from a magazine rack in a drug store… Running home to watch George Reeves in a syndicated re-run of the first TV series… Standing in line for hours to watch Superman: The Movie starring Christopher Reeve.

Nothing compares, though, with working on that first season of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. It ranks as one of the greatest creative satisfactions I’ve had in the series TV business.

I had first worked with Deborah Joy LeVine (she received the WGA “Developed By” credit) on an ABC law series called Equal Justice. A gifted writer, she had written an exceptional pilot that ABC had picked up and, at the same time, ordered a half-dozen back-up scripts. So before film was even being shot, Deborah Joy, her brother Dan and I were throwing “super” ideas around every day in a little trailer on the Warner Brothers lot. […]

The Conspirator -vs- JFK
Drama

The Conspirator (2011) -vs- JFK (1991)

April 23, 2011 Bryce Zabel

Two presidents get assassinated, a hundred years apart. Both assassins (alleged, anyway) get killed before they can face trial, and they go down in history firmly attached to their middle names, John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald.

In these two films, the main characters are lawyers, drawn into the fray by a sense of justice, who end up arguing unpopular positions (at least to the powers-that-be) in court — the earlier film on offense, this latest film on defense. Both men pursue their out-of-step sense of justice to the extreme, so much so that the women in their lives think they’ve gone quite insane.

At the end of the day, both viewing experiences cause you to consider that maybe it’s not the courts that really decide the winners anyway, maybe it’s just the movies we make about them. […]

True Grit
Awards

True Grit (2010) -vs- True Grit (1969)

December 27, 2010 Mark Sanchez

Apparently, if you need to track down a bad guy in the wild west, your absolute best shot at doing it is to hire a misogynistic one-eyed alcoholic. Whether you watch the old or the new True Grit, that much seems clear.

I’ll admit that something uneasy crept into my life upon learning Rooster Cogburn would live again in a remake of this 1969 crowd pleaser. Drawing from core material about murder and revenge, the film version gave us a smart, spunky girl who recruits John Wayne to the rescue. It won the Duke the Best Actor Oscar (as much for career recognition as his performance). It remains a pleasure to watch. Doesn’t need re-making, right?

Two words. Coen Brothers. Two more words. Jeff Bridges.

The vivid characters and language in the novel written by Charles Portis seem tailor-made for the Coen’s quirky sensibilities. The truth is that this film would never have been re-made except for their passion to do it. And now that they have, honestly, this one is a shoot-out for the ages. […]

Go Pre
Biopic

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. […]

Arrival vs. Contact
Alien/UFO

Arrival (2016) vs. Contact (1997)

September 8, 2016 Bryce Zabel

The Smackdown Arrival is a big, fat Smackdown target, given the boxes it checks from other classics. Aliens arrive in massive ships all over the world like they do in Independence Day. It has a […]

Ultimate Movie Smackdown
Action

MARVEL v DC: The Ultimate Movie Smackdown

April 16, 2016 Bryce Zabel

Forget Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Old news. In fact, forget Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice v Captain America: Civil War. Soon to be old news. Those films are just the surrogates fighting when the real war is something much larger. We’re talking about universes in collision. This is really the one for the ages, “Marvel v DC.” […]

Jokers Wild
Action

Jokers Wild

April 28, 2015 Bryce Zabel
youtu.be/NsmKQyXExQU

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. […]

Nightcrawler (2014) vs. Zodiac
Action

Nightcrawler (2014) vs. Zodiac (2007)

October 31, 2014 Arthur Tiersky

If we’ve learned anything over the years from movies about journalists, reporters and TV newspeople, it’s that theirs is a world of ethical and psychological pitfalls. One day, you’re an upstanding citizen doing your job, investigating and helping keep the public apprised of current events, and then, suddenly you’re Kirk Douglas in Ace in the Hole (1951), deliberately manipulating your story to create and prolong the media circus surrounding it. Or you’re Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote (2005), befriending a convicted murderer but privately rooting for his execution. Or you’re Johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), ingesting so many intoxicants that you miss the story entirely. Or you’re Hayden Christensen in Shattered Glass (2003) and just flat out making shit up. […]

Gone Girl (2014) vs. Gone Baby Gone (2007)
Crime

Gone Girl (2014) vs. Gone Baby Gone (2007)

October 3, 2014 Arthur Tiersky
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyIpPMijEVo”>that

It wasn’t so long ago that Ben Affleck was among the easiest punchlines in Hollywood: A wooden, one-note actor with horrendous taste in projects, a consistent provider of gossip fodder, and the co-winner of a screenwriting Oscar that few believed he actually deserved. But then, in 2007, he made the second-wisest move of his career (just behind ditching J-Lo and settling down with J-Garn): He turned his focus to further developing his behind-the-camera talents, choosing Gone Baby Gone, a twisty, noirish mystery based on a novel about a specious kidnapping, for his directorial debut (and opting to leave the acting chores in the film to his younger, squirrelly brother, Casey). […]

Fargo vs True Detective
Crime

Fargo vs. True Detective

September 16, 2014 Arthur Tiersky
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LejnTJL173Y”

What will be the water cooler topic of the coming years? If you work in my office, then Fantasy Football is, as always, the obvious answer. (Seriously, people, if it’s such a great sport, why do you need to gin it up with fantasies? But I digress.) In terms of episodic TV, the pickings are growing steadily slimmer, with Breaking Bad a brilliant but fading memory, Mad Men with but a half-season remaining, and Game of Thrones already starting to show its age, with many disappointed by this past season and (quite justifiably) concerned about the coming Hodor-less one. […]

Foxcatcher (2014) vs. Win Win 2011
Biopic

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. […]

Movie Smackdown
Action

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. […]

alt.history, What if JFK Lived, Sidewise Award nominee
Books

Team Smack Goes Sidewise

June 9, 2014 Movie Smackdown
http://youtu.be/2rxFa95LP1I

We didn’t see this one coming… We’ve told you about Surrounded by Enemies: What if Kennedy Survived Dallas?, the alternate history book written by Movie Smackdown’s evil genius Bryce Zabel, edited by our own word wrangler […]

The Fault in Our Stars (2014) vs. The Spectacular Now
Comedy

The Fault In Our Stars (2014) vs. The Spectacular Now (2013)

June 5, 2014 Arthur Tiersky
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3TKut1F1zE”>amusing

You fell in love with her in The Descendants (2011), and then you blinked, and suddenly Shailene Woodley was everywhere.

Just in the past nine months alone, she’s been in two horribly titled romances made from best-selling young-adult novels, both adapted, in fact, by the same writing team, best known for previous Smackdown challenger (500) Days of Summer starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who was also the star of 50/50, which shares a theme with…

Well, I’m getting ahead of myself. So let’s get on with this week’s bout, as we pit last fall’s The Spectacular Now against current release The Fault in Our Stars. Because if Movie Smackdown didn’t do it, who Woodley?

(Sorry.)
[…]

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