Dark Skies vs. Dark Skies

March 1, 2012 Bryce Zabel

Our “Dark Skies” has established itself in the minds of a significant number of science fiction fans as a gripping piece of conspiracy drama set in the world of UFOs and abductions. It anchored NBC’s Saturday night “Thrillogy” concept in the 1996 season premiere and starred Eric Close (“Nashville”) and the late film character actor J.T. Walsh (“Sling Blade”). Its main title design won the Emmy award and its pilot screenplay received a Writers Guild nomination. The Syfy Channel aired the entire series multiple times. Since 2010 there’s been a Facebook page where thousands of fans from many different countries push Sony for a TV revival. […]

SmackPoll: Best Continuing Film Franchise

August 25, 2011 Movie Smackdown

Here at Movie Smackdown! we spend a lot of time arguing about movies — which ones we like, which ones we don’t, and which are the greatest. Naturally, when summer comes, we see a lot of sequels, prequels, and “reimaginings.” And from all these films comes a question of which film franchise is the best.

To come up with our top 10, we’ve decided that a “franchise” requires at least three films. And we’ve taken the extra step of counting only film franchises that are currently active — even if the franchise doesn’t have a film in production, but plans to carry on. A franchise can be relatively new (like Pirates of the Caribbean) or have decades of experience (“Bond. James Bond”). […]

The (True) “True Story of Blackbeard”

May 18, 2011 Bryce Zabel

There’s just something about that name — Blackbeard — that Hollywood loves. It doesn’t matter what the real details are since nobody in the audience knows them anyway.

What’s important is that Blackbeard, whoever the hell he was, was definitely the biggest of the badass pirates in a world populated by badass pirates.

Even in those days, the early 1700s, hype always exceeded reality. Pirates were feared, but tavern gossip in coastal communities inflated their stories into mythic proportions. They may have been scurvy dudes with non-existent dental care and sexual diseases you don’t even want to know about — just like everyone else of the time — but they were more than that. They were celebrities with great names like Captain Kidd and Calico Jack. And they operated with impunity from the Caribbean to New York in a decades-long orgy of lawlessness. […]

Fast Five (2011) -vs- The Fast and the Furious (2001)

April 30, 2011 Mark Sanchez

More than a few film franchises seem like a trip to the drive-up burger joints: the payoff is predictable, not always very nourishing, but the experience can be fun, and you won’t leave hungry.

That recipe worked perfectly for The Fast and the Furious in 2001. The film didn’t promise steak, just a lot of sizzle, which clearly satisfied a broad segment of moviegoers. This motorized morality play (of a sort) mixes brooding, inarticulate characters tied to a supremely implausible story sprinkled with lots of attractive women and fast cars.

This menu spawned a series of films that grossed nearly a billion dollars worldwide. So, of course, Fast Five just opened. It expects to do large business because it does not stray far from the basic formula. […]

Toy Story 3 (2010) -vs- Toy Story 2 (1999)

June 18, 2010 Sherry Coben

Daring escapes and rescues are the linchpin of the series; the boundless imagination of children inspires the animators and screenwriters to expand the possibilities of play. The organic extension of pretend and our willingness to suspend any disbelief provide endless delights. As a child, I believed my toys shared a completely full and separate life that occurred in my absence or during my sleep. Perhaps the film’s true magic lies not in suspending disbelief but rather in the extending that simple and universal childhood belief that our toys are alive, that the toys we call our own love us back.
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Sex And The City 2 (2010) -vs- Sex And The City (2008)

May 28, 2010 Sherry Coben

I don’t like stupid, offensive, unfunny pieces of jerry-rigged, half-assed claptrap disguised as popular entertainment and I never will. You can’t fool me with shiny clothing and costume changes, stale jokes and bad puns a mildly clever third grader can see coming at thirty paces, unconvincing plot contrivances, jacked-up complications, inane complaints, blissful unawareness of social mores and dignity, flagrant political incorrectness, shameless insensitivity, brazen condescension and hypocrisy all in the name of enlightenment and modernity. Add shoes and that’s the SATC franchise in a nutshell. Brace yourselves.
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“Galaxy Quest” Boldly Arrived Ten Years Ago!

December 20, 2009 Mark Sanchez

Galaxy Quest (1999) -vs- Spaceballs (1987)
Patrolling the Universe for Laughs
The Smackdown. While the newspapers and magazines are full of “Best Of” lists for the past ten years, let’s get specific. It was a decade ago that the great “Star Trek” send-up “Galaxy Quest” came to theaters on Christmas Day of 1999. This year we put the film into the Smackdown ring against another comedy send-up “Spaceballs” which took on the other great space franchise, “Star Wars.” While fan boys and girls alike will be debating “Star Wars” versus “Star Trek” for generations to come, maybe just maybe we can get a clear winner out of the comic dopplegangers. Here we go!
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Terminator Salvation (2009) -vs- The Terminator (1984)

May 22, 2009 Mark Sanchez

The basic idea of mechanized death traveling through time to alter the future carried three feature films and a now-canceled TV series. All rework the storyline to emphasize different aspects of a familiar fable. They succeed to varying degrees and set a high bar for whatever follows.
“Terminator Salvation” faces tall tasks in this Smackdown!: Does it succeed as a film on its own merits, while advancing the memorable elements set forth in “The Terminator?” Will you hear “I’ll be back” and wonder why?
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