The Dictator (2012) -vs- You Don’t Mess with the Zohan (2008)

May 14, 2012 Arthur Tiersky

Some movies take place in a world that we’ll call “comedy reality.” This is clearly not the real world, nor is it quite the anarchic spoof world of, say, Airplane! or Scary Movie, but it’s an unabashedly silly alternate reality — one in which a man can kick someone with both feet simultaneously, a fire can be doused with a hose full of hummus, and a cell phone can get left in a woman’s womb as she gives birth.

We come to you today from a different world, one of competitive film criticism, where two vaguely similar movies can wrestle each other for Smackdown supremacy! In today’s matchup, our opponents both feature beloved comedy stars playing arrogant and/or ruthless Middle Easterners who come to New York and are humbled and redeemed by hard work and a star-crossed romance. As everyone knows, you don’t mess with Adam Sandler’s You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, but Sacha Baron Cohen’s The Dictator is gonna give it a shot anyway… […]

Incendies (2011) -vs- The Year of Living Dangerously (1982)

June 1, 2011 Mark Sanchez

Years ago, I reported and field-produced stories during a month-long trip into Saudi Arabia, Syria and Egypt. Well-armed authority ruled each country; I met guards with machine guns as I stepped from the plane in Riyadh, and private armies patrolled Damascus and other parts of Syria. Egypt was an active military state. This uniformed muscle enforced the appearance of order at the cost of personal freedom. This is the atmospheric real estate where the essential drama of Incendies plays out.

It now steps into the ring against a proven winner, The Year of Living Dangerously from 1982. This film combines a love story with armed revolution in Indonesia. It pushed Mel Gibson’s star even higher, and won Linda Hunt a well-deserved Oscar. Peter Weir directed and shares screenwriting credits with David Williamson and Christopher Koch in adapting Koch’s novel.

Here’s a Smackdown where lives collide with life-threatening situations. Which film survives the firepower to deliver the stronger human story? Duck and cover! […]

United 93 (2006) -vs- World Trade Center (2006)

September 11, 2007 Bryce Zabel

It’s been years, but if you close your eyes, all those horrific images are still with you. Both of these 9/11 films were released in 2006 during the run-up to the five-year anniversary of the events of that terrible day. At the time critics kept wringing their hands about whether or not it was too early to tell these stories. Looking back, the better question could easily have been what took so long? Making films is how we increasingly begin to process events like these. It doesn’t have to trivialize them or make them less important, although that can be the danger.

We’ll use box office stats to name our opponents. With that as the standard, World Trade Center becomes our champ with 163-million dollars worldwide. United 93 comes in as the challenger with only 76-million dollars. But, especially when it comes to material like this, the box office is only a point of reference and nothing more. Let’s say that you have the heart to re-live 9/11 on film with just one of them as we approach the 10th anniversary with Osama Bin Laden finally having paid with his own life. Which film should you watch? […]