SmackSneak: Damn Dirty Humans

July 26, 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.

Our Smackdown Challenger Rise of the Planet of the Apes promises to be a straight-ahead origin story that fully sets out how the apes supplant humanity in the future. Set in present day San Francisco, the film blends science fiction with science fact, giving us James Franco in the lead as a genius whose experiments with genetic engineering lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy. Sounds and looks awesome. For anyone who has seen the CG image of the ape in those posters, it does a truly amazing job of suggesting a very creepy beginning of intelligence.

Then in the ’00s there was iRobot, our Defending Champion in this Smackdown. Semi-based on Isaac Asimov’s short-story collection of the same name, it starred Will Smith in a story that takes place in the year 2035 in Chicago where robots are ubiquitous, used primarily as servants and in public service capacities. They’re supposed to be safe, being designed in accordance with the Three Laws of Robotics but, of course, they get other ideas. It made $347 million worldwide, so you could say it was popular. […]

Kick-Ass (2010) -vs- Mystery Men (1999)

April 21, 2010 Sherry Coben

“Kick-Ass” features winning and well-drawn characters engrossed in a complicated narrative full of revenge schemes, garden-variety venality, and grandiose dreams. The suspense gets punctuated with bursts of shocking violence and world-class movie-action, and somehow the high school domestic story somehow remains center stage. Kick-Ass keeps his high-school-nobody day job, and his friends, colleagues, and even his burgeoning romance all ring blissfully true. It’s a subtle mix set in a not-altogether convincing metropolis.
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Clue (1985) -vs- Murder By Death (1976)

April 7, 2010 Rodney Twelftree

Murder – The Ultimate Crime. Comedy – The Ultimate Genre. Therein lies the rub! Can you make a murder mystery into a successful comedy? After all, murder isn’t all that funny. “Murder By Death,” written by Neil Simon and directed by Robert Moore, was an homage to the great detectives of old, such as Charlie Chan, Sam Spade, Miss Marple, and others. “Clue,” directed by Jonathan Lynn and set in the world of the board-game Cluedo, tapped into the psyche of the 80’s and evolved into a slapstick styled comedic farce, driven by a star turn from Tim Curry. One is a sly indictment of detective clichés, the other, an innuendo ridden cliché of the genre itself: together, both these films represent the zenith of mystery comedy of their times. But which one is the better film? Lets turn off the lights, shine a torch up on our faces, and prepare to get utterly scared in this murder mystery showdown!!
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Repo Men (2010) -vs- Repo Man (1984)

March 21, 2010 Mark Sanchez

First off, Repo Men — despite its name — is not a long overdue follow-up to the cult favorite Repo Man from 1984. What the current thriller shares with Repo Man is, well, a similar title. The earlier movie celebrates edgy characters, memorable language and a comic sensibility that still play fresh. It retains a loyal following and sits prominently on the list of great offbeat films the past quarter century. That’s a pretty high bar, considering what you normally find in the cineplex, but hardly impossible to get over. That’s our Smack. Does Repo Men stand on its own merits, or is it just reflecting the glow of another film’s originality, hoping to cash in? And, what exactly are these new guys so hot to re-possess? […]

From Paris With Love (2010) -vs- Taken (2009)

February 12, 2010 Bryce Zabel

Watch out when the American CIA comes to Europe in any movie made by the collaboration between French filmmakers Pierre Morel and Luc Besson because the body count will be high and the local infra-structure will certainly suffer. While both of these films let their leads hunt down and kill prodigious amounts of bad guys, one of them wanted to be Taken seriously while the other one merely wants to let you know that it’s a comically violent gift sent you From Paris with Love. The truth is if the CIA really had any agents who behave like Liam Neeson or John Travolta, the entire War on Terrorism would probably have been wrapped up by now. And Paris would probably be burning. […]

Legion (2010) -vs- Daybreakers (2010)

January 25, 2010 Mark Sanchez

“Legion,” just out, calls out the forces of heaven; in “Daybreakers,” the irresistible force comes from another place. Both strain story logic and borrow from better movies but sputter out the same question: Humans, how do you want to die?
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