La La Land (2016) vs. New York, New York (1977)

February 23, 2017 Arthur Tiersky

Classic Smackdown alert! L.A. vs. New York! East Coast vs. West Coast! Cars vs. Subways! Dark romantic hit ’10s musical vs. Dark romantic flop ’70s musical! Studly leading man De Niro vs. studly leading man Gosling! Winsome Stone vs. irrepressible Minnelli. […]

Jack Reacher (2012) vs. Collateral (2004)

December 20, 2012 Eric Volkman

Thankfully, Tom Cruise has never gone the Evil Twin route, facing off against himself in a movie. But that doesn’t mean he can’t do it in a Smackdown.

Here we pit two of the actor’s star turns against each other: He’s the would-be savior in the just-released Jack Reacher, while he plays a nasty contract killer in Collateral. Both are hard-edged, violent dramas featuring brooding anti-heroes. And if Collateral faced a challenge by casting America’s favorite boyish grin as a cold-blooded assassin, Jack Reacher ups the stakes by coming out a week after Sandy Hook and featuring the aftermath of a broad-daylight massacre whose victims include a nanny accompanying a small child. This one’s a reacher all right. […]

People Like Us (2012) -vs- The Descendants (2011)

June 28, 2012 Sarah Harding

Location, location, location. When it comes to dealing with broken families and the secrets that enshroud them, it makes no difference whether you live in La-La Land or blue Hawaii. Reconnecting with the family members you’ve ignored or the one you never knew existed is hard in either case, even if you’re Chris Pine. Yep, George Clooney, too.

While films centered around intense emotion and family dynamics are nothing new, they’re a rarity in these days of car chases, alien invasions and spandex-clad superheroes. Our contestants — People Like Us (2012) and The Descendants (2011) —are both about confronting those issues most of us would rather ignore. Both films are aimed at actual grown-ups — another rarity these days — and each looks at serious issues in distinctly different ways. […]

The Sitter (2011) -vs- Adventures in Babysitting (1987)

December 8, 2011 Sarah Harding

It’s hard work being a babysitter in Hollywood. Instead of settling the kids down for a night of movies and TV dinners, you’re more likely to be stalked by a sadistic killer (Halloween), have a heart attack (Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead), endure increasingly threatening phone calls (When a Stranger Calls) or find yourself trying to rescue your charge from the Goblin King (Labyrinth). […]

Rampart (2011) -vs- Training Day (2001)

November 22, 2011 Eric Volkman

Our contenders here are hardened Los Angeles cops who come to the ring after years of battling gang-bangers, crooked politicians and their own evil instincts. Both these films were inspired by the LAPD’s troubled Rampart division which, during the late 1990s pretty much set the bar for police misconduct, and also inspired the classic cable hit, The Shield. […]

First Person: Going Viral Before Contagion

August 25, 2011 Bryce Zabel

While virtually everyone in the Internet world wants to go viral, back in the real world not everyone is so big on the concept. And for good reason.

Remember how lousy you felt the last time you had the flu? Now imagine that instead of getting better, well, that was it. The End.

The medical experts at the Centers for Disease Control think about such things all the time and, for over a year back in 2005-2006, we also obsessed about how a flu epidemic would change the world.

We came to the conclusion that it would be a pretty rough ride. Rather than expressing our opinions through a strongly worded letter-to-the-editor, though, we got to have our say in a multi-million dollar four-hour television miniseries.

Now, from what we can see of the new feature film Contagion, we feel like we were ahead of our time.

Although the final produced version of our project — Hallmark’s Pandemic — can’t compared to the brilliant production elements (fueled by studio cash and budget) that Steven Soderbergh brings to his version (written by Scott Z. Burns), our take Pandemic (written by Bryce Zabel & Jackie Zabel) won the Writers Guild of America award for “Outstanding Longform Original” in 2008. This means that multiple writers read our script that year and decided that, in our category, ours was the best of the bunch. We were pretty jazzed, we can’t lie about that one. […]