Piranha 3D (2010) -vs- Jaws (1975)

August 20, 2010 Sherry Coben

It’s summer time. Moviemakers bring out the big scary guns, intent on keeping us onshore and nervous, haunted and thrilled by the wonders of the deep. Monsters keep us coming back to the movies, real and imagined. Aliens from outer space, vampires from Transylvania, toxically enhanced city stompers from Japan. But ah, every summer we turn to the wicked wonders of the briny deep. Jaws started the trend and revisited the franchise until it ran out of teeth. This summer, in a slight, vulgar, and goofy variation on the go-to deep-sea exploitation template, French scaremeister Alexandre High Tension Aja brings us hordes of CGI Piranha. In 3D no less. Thousands of them. Time to break out the big bucks for the funny glasses or catch the 35-year old classic on DVD again? Secure that teeny bikini top. Suck it in for that Speedo. We’re going to the Beach.

In the first few minutes, thousands of prehistoric piranhas are loosed from their prehistoric underworld by a seismic event. Scientists and lawmakers are dispatched. Chaos ensues. In their relentless search for blood and food, these hideous predators terrorize scores of silicone-enhanced Spring Breakers and the pinheads and lunks who writhe with them. Academy Award nominee Elisabeth Shue plays single mom Sheriff of Lake Victoria. (Lake Victoria’s Secret? A prehistoric lake underneath and not much clothing above water.) Ving Rhames plays her giant deputy. Jerry O’Connell has way more fun than we do playing a super-creepy, tweaking version of Girls Gone Wild’s perpetrator/creator Joe Francis. It’s a whole lot of fun seeing Christopher Lloyd and Richard Dreyfuss up on the big screen; one wishes they had some better material to sink their teeth into.
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Independence Day (1996) -vs- The War Of The Worlds (1953)

March 28, 2010 Rodney Twelftree

Last year here at Movie Smackdown we got the idea to see what readers thought was the Best Alien Invasion Film of All Time. We thought that the genre really broke down into two sections — “Classic” and “Modern.” And so we did what we always do in these cases, we put it to our readers and let them weigh in.

We have two winners now, and we’re about to put them to the test against each other. For our purposes, we defined “Classic” as all the films that existed in the early 1950-1970 period (although all our candidates came from the 1950s), and “Modern” as everything that followed. Interestingly, fully half of our “modern” films were re-makes from the “classic” era. The “Classic” race was a close as hell, the “Modern” race yielded a clear winner. Here are our results: […]

Alice in Wonderland (2010) -vs- Avatar (2009)

March 16, 2010 Sherry Coben

I confess I’d happily watch Johnny Depp read a phone book, but even accounting for my extreme prejudice, his performance as the Mad Hatter is the linchpin of the piece. He is its heart, its Scarecrow, its Tin Man. Acting through crazily tinted contacts and a crowning frizz of unfortunate and unearthly ginger, Depp somehow manages to play a compelling leading man, a romantic lead, and an action hero. (His promised triumphant Futterwacken is a dire misfire and huge disappointment, a limp noodle of a magical victory dance.)
The rest of the cast performs admirably enough. Anne Hathaway Glindas it up as the White Queen, Crispin Glover plays the Knave of Hearts as elongated creepy courtier, and Helena Bonham Carter goes ghostly pale once again, this time a vain and giant-noggined Red Queen. She’s delicious and mordantly funny, and her decapitated head-filled moat provides enough nightmare food to keep kiddie nightlights burning for a good long time.
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The Wolfman (2010) -vs- The Wolf Man (1941)

February 22, 2010 Mark Sanchez

Werewolf movies, like roaches, don’t know how to die. The idea of a thick pelt, fangs and a taste for blood spawned seven decades of cinema lycanthropes with uneven results. Now it’s Benicio Del Toro’s turn. “The Wolfman” just hit the screen after multiple re-shoots and reedits amid sniping that the Hairy One just wasn’t beastly enough. You’ll recognize a familiar – and highly modified – storyline buried under the computer-generated effects, fog-shrouded moors and insistent sound track.
“The Wolfman” wants to sink its canines into the gold standard of the werewolf franchise, “The Wolf Man” from 1941. That movie defined the career of Lon Chaney Jr. career and made him a star. Here’s the ‘Smackdown: Does “The Wolfman” raise the bar.. or fall in with the rest of the pack?
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Dear John (2010) -vs- The Best Years Of Our Lives (1946)

February 18, 2010 Sherry Coben

“The Best Years Of Our Lives” stands tall as the ultimate and still unsurpassed drama about WWII’s returning soldiers, made in 1946 by William Wyler from a pitch-perfect script by Robert Sherwood. Director Lasse Hallström enters the love-and-war fray with his effort “Dear John” based on a novel by the very popular (if slightly gooey) Nicholas Sparks. The war in question is a lot more confusing than WWII, and the story is a whole lot soapier/dopier, but the eternal questions remain the same. What does war do to soldiers and their families and the women they love?
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When In Rome (2010) -vs- Roman Holiday (1953)

January 29, 2010 Sherry Coben

Featuring precious little Rome and a lot of Antic, “When In Rome” falls back on every exhausted (and exhausting) rom-com convention in the book. In Rome for her sister’s wedding, a career woman cynically steals coins from a fountain and unknowingly makes five strangers fall madly in love with her. Kristen Bell makes for an adorable lead who needs fresher and smarter material to reach her full rom-com heroine potential. Josh Duhamel stands tall as her love object, slightly less generic than the usual rom-com Ken doll. There’s not much standing in their way, no real obstacles, and therein lies the rub. The two meet semi-cute in the first ten minutes, and we know they’ll wind up together; nothing much happens in the middle to call their happy ending into question. There’s much ado about the nothing; pilfered coins, local legend, and enchanted suitors sound like more fun than they are.
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