Her (2013) vs. Lost in Translation (2003)

December 20, 2013 Arthur Tiersky

We here at Smackdown have a soft spot in our hearts for movies about lonely, alienated mopes. This may or may not have something to do with some of us here in Smackland being lonely, alienated mopes, but in any case, we’re all about the Mopelecore movies, and when they’re about how the mopes learn to get out of their mopey shells and embrace the wonders of the world around them, even more so. And when they are brought out of their shells by the likes of Scarlett Johansson? Catnip. Heck, when it’s Scarlett, it doesn’t even have to be a mope, necessarily, it could be some shallow, womanizing, porn-addicted guido for all we care. What we’re getting at here: Consider us Team ScarJo.

But back to the mopes and this week’s Smackdown, in which two Mope-Meets-Jo tales will try to out-sulk each other, and as a special ultra-Smackdown bonus, the writer-directors of each are ex-spouses. Exes fighting each other! Little thing we like to call Ex-Box. (Eh? Eh?)

Anyway… Mopes to your corners! Let’s do this. […]

Cloud Atlas (2012) vs. The Tree of Life (2011)

October 25, 2012 Eric Volkman

We at the Smack like a sprawling, epic movie about Big Themes as much as anyone else. So in this edition we’re throwing two big, brainy behemoths against each other in a ring-shaking Sumo contest.

In the challenger’s corner, weighing in at a few thousand pounds and nearly three hours in length, is a film so big it needed three credited directors: Cloud Atlas, essentially six movies in one, covering a range of genres, time periods and motifs. Our reigning champ is The Tree of Life, a thick, mood piece by Terrence Malick about a middle-aged man’s reflections on his upbringing and relationship with a tough, unhappy father. And, oh yeah, the origins of life and nature while we’re at it. […]

Looper (2012) -vs- Source Code (2011)

September 27, 2012 Arthur Tiersky

Let’s face facts: If “traveling back in time to change the past” movies stuck rigidly to actual logic, there would be no such movies. As far as I can tell, there’s just no getting around the paradox that if you travel back in time and change the past, you alter history in such a way that you no longer have a reason, in the new timeline you’ve created, to get in a time machine and go back and change the past. For starters.

Fortunately, the best examples of the genre wisely choose to ignore this little snag and do the next best thing: Pour their energy into making it so entertaining and zanily convoluted that it doesn’t even occur to you to mind until you’re on your way home. The last decade, in fact, has seen a wealth of intriguing time-travel flicks that do exactly that, largely thanks to the fact that time travel doesn’t always require expensive special effects and thus can be done independently; all you need is a convincing-looking time machine prop and a lot of ingenuity, and presto, you got yourself a “high concept indie,” be it the soft-spoken, cerebral Primer (2004), the ruthless Mexican mind-bender Timecrimes (2007), or the diabolically clever Triangle (2009) (which doesn’t actually involve a time machine at all, but otherwise fits the category). […]

Prometheus (2012) -vs- 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

June 5, 2012 Bryce Zabel

Strange artifacts are left here on Earth beckoning inhabitants to come visit superior beings and/or ancient visitors, requiring a massive undertaking to build and dispatch a mighty state-of-the-art spacecraft on a long, dangerous journey with an A.I. on board to take care of its human crew. Director Stanley Kubrick swung for the fences with this set-up over four decades ago and now it’s Ridley Scott’s turn.

Let’s get one thing out of the way right now — 2001: A Space Odyssey is a true film classic. It deserves its praise, and it deserves to be seen in any good film school program. If you haven’t seen it, you should. […]

The Hunger Games (2012) -vs- The Running Man (1987)

March 23, 2012 Nicole Marchesani

President Snow (Donald Sutherland) shares his philosophy in this weekend’s blockbuster film, The Hunger Games, “The only thing stronger than fear is hope.” He and his kind have built their dystopia on this theory: if the people they subjugate don’t have a way to cope, they could get violent. Better to give them some pre-packaged violence and distract them.

The odds are stacked heavily against both Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games and Ben Richards of The Running Man to win in their own futuristic sporting arenas. But they are motivated to try, each having not just their own lives but the lives of the people they love at stake. While millions of people watch, they suffer and struggle to make it to the end. The only thing keeping them going is hope.

It seems harsh to subject these characters to another bloody arena, but as the films prove, audiences love a good fight. We can’t lie. So do we. […]

The Book of Eli (2010) -vs- The Road (2009)

January 27, 2010 Bryce Zabel

We men have a default for action. So when the apocalypse arrives, we don’t plan on hunkering down, or trying to plant new crops.

No, we will hit the road, even if we don’t know where we’re going and, believe me, we’re not asking directions. For us, the idea is to keep moving.

My own personal take on the apocalypse is that it won’t be awesome, and it won’t be like a movie. It will be grimy, and personal hygiene will suffer, but the reason it’s called the apocalypse is that life will get cruel, short, and random, leaving precious few lines of witty dialogue to speak, or elegantly-staged action sequences to unfold. […]

Deja Vu (2006) -vs- Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

June 18, 2009 Bryce Zabel

If people from the future could travel back to the past, wouldn’t they have already done it? Would it be better to see into the past or into the future? Do they both exist simultaneously, along with the present, because time is relative to where you are? If you like these kinds of questions, we have a couple of films to really put your through Olympic-sized paces in the Suspension of Disbelief event. We’ve put a couple of major star vechicles in the in our time travel machine, both of them about scooting back through the years in order to change the future, both directed by major directors with reputations for getting the action up there on the screen. “Deja Vu” is the more cerebral — “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is the more literal — but both of them cause your brain to short-circuit if you think too much about twists-and-turns of time travel as they would have you believe it works. But this is an entertainment site, not a physics lecture, so let’s get to it.
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