A Good Day to Die Hard (2013) vs. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

February 14, 2013 Eric Volkman

What’s better than an adventure movie featuring a rugged, two-fisted hero? An adventure movie featuring a father and son team of rugged, two-fisted heroes, of course. Today’s competitors are a pair of sequels, each of which brings either a progenitor or an offspring into the proceedings. In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – the third Indy movie and last one before that set of films’ loooong hiatus and better-forgotten, 2008 finale – everybody’s favorite archeologist is joined by his grumpy dad Dr. Henry Jones Sr., played by Sean Connery (you did know that Indy’s real name is Henry, right?).

It’s a Russian family reunion in A Good Day to Die Hard, with the apparently immortal John McClane (Bruce Willis, if you’ve been living in a cave until now) journeying to Moscow to connect with son Jack (Jai Courtney), a visit which immediately triggers nearly two hours of Die Hardish firefights, chases and explosions. […]

Smackdown Smacks Down the 2013 Oscar Nominees

January 26, 2013 Movie Smackdown

Movie Smackdown loves a good old fashioned film fight — it’s something we do every day that Hollywood does once a year during awards season. Who among us can’t appreciate putting some films in a cage and letting them duke it out until there’s only one left standing?

This year there were nine nominations out of a possibility of ten in the “Best Picture” category.

We’ve had most of the nominated “Best Picture” films in the Smack ring already. This offers us the chance, here in this single post, to create a gateway for you to lots of fresh writing, keen observation and (of course) a general lack of respect for authority, cinematic or otherwise. […]

Broken City (2013) vs. City Hall (1996)

January 17, 2013 Arthur Tiersky

Ah, the ’70s. Now that was the golden era for New York City movies, am I right? (Just nod, youngsters.) You had the likes of Martin Scorsese, Sidney Lumet and Woody Allen, all at the top of their games, cranking out classics ranging from Taxi Driver to Dog Day Afternoon to Annie Hall to Mean Streets to Serpico to Manhattan, and even to a movie named New York, New York, which actually wasn’t very good, but my point stands, which is that New York’s best cinematic days are long behind us. Woody Allen is now essentially doing a movie for every city he’s ever visited outside of New York, Scorsese basically just does whatever he feels like doing at the moment, and Lumet… is not doing much at all these days, but he has a solid excuse. […]

Men of Steel (Smackdown’s Superman Smashup)

January 9, 2013 Movie Smackdown

If you count Christopher Reeve (ignoring the earlier Kirk Alyn “Superman”) as the original fully-realized film Superman in 1978’s “Superman: The Movie”, that makes Brandon Routh’s 2006 “Superman Returns” the reboot and 2013’s “Man of Steel” the reboot of the reboot.

But don’t forget the TV Supermans: George Reeves from “Adventures of Superman” to John Haymes Newton and Gerard Christopher in “Superboy” to Dean Cain in “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” to Tom Welling in “Smallville.”

Our latest Smashup pays tribute to the reality that we’re almost getting to the point where as many actors have played Superman/Clark Kent as have played Hamlet. […]

Les Miserables (2012) vs. The Fugitive (1993)

December 24, 2012 Bryce Zabel

Yes, I know, we could have put this operatic soon-to-be blockbuster, Les Miserables, up against any number of period musicals translated to movies, from The King and I to Sound of Music to Moulin Rouge. Or we could have matched it against any of the multitudinous other film adaptations of the Victor Hugo novel or even against the stage musical itself. Someone else with more academic credentials or film school training than we have can dissect those comparisons at another time. (If you can’t wait, there’s always Wikipedia.)

The thing is, as I watched and listened to the sincere musical emoting of the modern Les Miserables at a pre-release screening at the Pacific Design Center theater here in Hollywood, my mind kept trying to focus on the actual story. Namely, the convict Jean Valjean’s flight from the relentless Inspector Javert, who just won’t cut him a break, no matter how many good deeds he’s done or may still do if allowed his freedom. […]

Django Unchained (2012) vs. Inglourious Basterds (2009)

December 23, 2012 Arthur Tiersky

Once upon a time, long before you were born, way back in 1994, a writer-director named Quentin Tarantino made a movie called Pulp Fiction. It was a low-budget, stylish and irreverent thriller so wildly entertaining, energetic and fresh that it became an instant cult classic, was a huge critical and box office success, won Quentin an Oscar for his script (story co-written with Roger Avary), and turned him practically overnight into the biggest celebrity director since Alfred Hitchcock.

The movie was so unconventional in so many ways — unusual length (two hours and forty minutes), non-chronological/episodic/multi-plot structure, long stretches of idle chit-chat, hairpin plot turns, extreme violence sprinkled with laughs, eccentric soundtrack selections — and Tarantino was so amply lauded and rewarded for it that he began to believe he could do no wrong, that he could be either as daring or as lazy as he felt on any given day, and we would continue to bow at his feet. The films that followed over the next two decades were… well, it depends who you ask. There are those who still worshipped at his altar, but many others didn’t quite take to much of it, grew tired of waiting for the old Tarantino to return, and viewed each new release with ever-decreasing expectations. […]

Jack Reacher (2012) vs. Collateral (2004)

December 20, 2012 Eric Volkman

Thankfully, Tom Cruise has never gone the Evil Twin route, facing off against himself in a movie. But that doesn’t mean he can’t do it in a Smackdown.

Here we pit two of the actor’s star turns against each other: He’s the would-be savior in the just-released Jack Reacher, while he plays a nasty contract killer in Collateral. Both are hard-edged, violent dramas featuring brooding anti-heroes. And if Collateral faced a challenge by casting America’s favorite boyish grin as a cold-blooded assassin, Jack Reacher ups the stakes by coming out a week after Sandy Hook and featuring the aftermath of a broad-daylight massacre whose victims include a nanny accompanying a small child. This one’s a reacher all right. […]

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