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). […]

John Kennedy vs. The Conspirators

July 10, 2013 Eric Estrin

What really would have happened next if John Kennedy survived the ambush at Dealey Plaza?

That’s the intriguing premise of this ambitiously researched novel by award-winning TV writer/producer Bryce Zabel, who just happens to be the publisher of Movie Smackdown. In his new book out soon, Surrounded by Enemies: What If Kennedy Survived Dallas?, Bryce boldly reimagines a post-1963 political scenario that focuses on what we now know about the secrets of the Kennedy presidency in a way that shocks readers without resorting to sci-fi gimmicks. […]

Monsters University (2013) vs. Monsters, Inc. (2001)

June 21, 2013 Eric Volkman

This Smack takes us far from the terror-tory of evil Godzilla, doing his best to annihilate Tokyo, or the mayhem wrought by the homicidal dinosaurs of the various Jurassic Parks. While monsters have been intimidating heavies in many of movieland’s most horrific films, that’s not the case with the lead characters in this pair of contestants, which feature bizarre, animated creatures as heroes and saviors in the twin Pixar offerings Monsters, Inc. and its new prequel, Monsters University. […]

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! […]

After Earth (2013) vs. Oblivion (2013)

May 31, 2013 Bryce Zabel

The latest trend in sci-fi seems to be returning to a post-apocalyptic Earth, trashed after a run-in with extraterrestrials, and still coming out on top. Both Tom Cruise with Oblivion and Will Smith with After Earth have taken a crack at it. As opposed to other apocalyptic visions from recent years, like The Road and Book of Eli, which basically say once things go south on us, we land in a shithole we’re not likely to recover from, these two new contenders in the realm of post-Earth survival manage to leap past tragic events to a time of return where the technology still works, people persevere somewhere else, and the home planet needs some serious saving.
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Now You See Me (2013) vs. The Prestige (2006)

May 30, 2013 Arthur Tiersky

Magic. Now there’s a subject that, over the years, hasn’t gotten a great deal of cinematic attention. Reason being, one surmises, that magic acts need the immediacy of live (or at least taped live) performance to preserve their thrill… and if we’re being honest here, most of them don’t have that much thrill to preserve in the first place. So wouldn’t you know it, after humming along for so many years all but magic-free, in 2006, Hollywood not only coughs up two magic-themed movies within weeks of each other but two turn-of-the-century Europe magic-themed movies. (Now that’s a Smackdown!) […]

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! […]

Admission (2013) vs. About a Boy (2002)

March 21, 2013 Lissa Coffey

Even the most intelligent, wealthy, successful adults can be pretty clueless about raising kids. Think about the living hell these folks must endure — all that time, freedom and discretionary income on their hands, but no one for their inner children to play with! Luckily, in the world of producer/director Paul Weitz, there’s always a chance that a kid might unexpectedly enter their lives and rouse them from their self-absorbed, myopic, world view.

Weitz recreates the formula that worked so well in About a Boy in his new romantic comedy, Admission, starring Tina Fey and Paul Rudd. Both movies have appealing stars playing characters who appear polished and competent on the outside, yet who are somewhat damaged and lost on the inside. In both, the protagonist’s world is shaken when a boy comes along to makes them question everything they hold dear. The experiences they go through cause them to change, which in turn causes the people around them to change as well.
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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. […]

Dark Skies (2013) vs. Dark Skies (1996)

February 27, 2013 The FilmGuru

Who here has seen that identity thief movie? And by that we don’t mean the one in which Melissa McCarthy schools Jason Bateman on new levels of quasi-comedic rudeness, but the one that actually is an Identity Thief. Yep, we’re talking about Dark Skies — the movie about terrifying alien invaders that appropriated its genre and title from the scary, 1996-97 TV series of the same name.

In Hollywood, as in any business, a name is everything. It’s your brand, it’s who you are. The old Hill Street Blues television series had fun with this idea in a classic episode that featured a comedian named Vic Hitler who couldn’t understand why audiences didn’t buy his act. That kind of unfortunate moniker dooms an entertainer or a project to failure, while a winning name like, say, Snakes on a Plane can go a long way toward getting a film made no matter how weak the script behind it. […]

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