Now You See Me (2013) vs. The Prestige (2006)

May 30, 2013 Arthur Tiersky

Magic. Now there’s a subject that, over the years, hasn’t gotten a great deal of cinematic attention. Reason being, one surmises, that magic acts need the immediacy of live (or at least taped live) performance to preserve their thrill… and if we’re being honest here, most of them don’t have that much thrill to preserve in the first place. So wouldn’t you know it, after humming along for so many years all but magic-free, in 2006, Hollywood not only coughs up two magic-themed movies within weeks of each other but two turn-of-the-century Europe magic-themed movies. (Now that’s a Smackdown!) […]

Man on a Ledge (2012) -vs- Inside Man (2006)

January 26, 2012 Arthur Tiersky

A bank robbery that isn’t really a bank robbery!

A suicide attempt that isn’t really a suicide attempt!

A Jodie Foster performance that isn’t really good!

A movie star who isn’t really an actor!

Yes, nothing is what it seems this week, except that this really is a Smackdown of the new Man on a Ledge and 2006’s Inside Man, two heist movies, each set mostly on one long day in Manhattan, and neither of them are Dog Day Afternoon. Are you kiddin’ me? Fuhgetaboutit. […]

Tower Heist (2011) -vs- Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

November 4, 2011 Mark Sanchez

Everyone likes seeing David whip Goliath, especially these days, with people absorbing the emotional toll of a tanking economy, with limited prospects for recovery. At times like these, we all become like Network’s Howard Beale, shouting, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.” Why else does Occupy [your city here] keep rolling? […]

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. […]

Takers (2010) -vs- The Expendables (2010)

August 27, 2010 Mark Sanchez

Coming back to the Smack is always a pleasure — sometimes eye opening, often inspiring. So what do I get now upon my latest return match? The summer rot. Juvenile comedies, more people biting my neck, or killing me some other way. In a way, it’s like I never left. Two summer action releases prove my point. Takers just opened, showing there’s no honor among thieves but yes, a sense of fashion. And very messy. It’s bound to do strong business in this summer’s soft box office. The Expendables arrived earlier with lots of advance word about its well-known, if not well-acting, cast of movie tough guys. Both films are what they are, without apology or distinction. It presents a different kind of Smackdown: Are these movie retreads worth leaving the house? […]