The Fault In Our Stars (2014) vs. The Spectacular Now (2013)

June 5, 2014 Arthur Tiersky

You fell in love with her in The Descendants (2011), and then you blinked, and suddenly Shailene Woodley was everywhere.

Just in the past nine months alone, she’s been in two horribly titled romances made from best-selling young-adult novels, both adapted, in fact, by the same writing team, best known for previous Smackdown challenger (500) Days of Summer starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who was also the star of 50/50, which shares a theme with…

Well, I’m getting ahead of myself. So let’s get on with this week’s bout, as we pit last fall’s The Spectacular Now against current release The Fault in Our Stars. Because if Movie Smackdown didn’t do it, who Woodley?

(Sorry.)
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Don Jon (2013) vs. (500) Days of Summer (2009)

September 26, 2013 Arthur Tiersky

So adorable little Tommy Solomon from 3rd Rock from the Sun is all grown up and is now not only a major movie star but a writing/directing/acting triple threat! This can mean only one thing:

I’m very, very old.

Okay, it can mean more than one thing, such as that the intrepid Joseph Gordon-Levitt is once again stretching his boundaries, bringing him yet another step closer to being King of the Universe. I’ve been a fan of his film work from early on, after he delivered one fearless, commanding and utterly diverse performance after another in the likes of Mysterious Skin (2004), Brick (2005) and The Lookout (2007). Terrific films all, incidentally, which reflects another aspect of JGL that can’t be overstated: The guy has good taste in scripts. Even his more mainstream, bigger-budget projects are a cut above average: He lent valuable support to Inception (2009) and Lincoln (2012), held the center of Looper, one of last year’s highlights, and even his goofy bike-messenger thriller Premium Rush (2012) was way more fun than it had any right to be. […]

New Year’s Eve (2011) -vs- Valentine’s Day (2010)

December 9, 2011 Lissa Coffey

Every holiday comes with its baggage—the expectations, the pressures put on relationships, the sometimes-painful memories and the hope that somehow, some way, this year will be different. So it is with this Smackdown. Can New Year’s Eve improve on Valentine’s Day, which audiences seemed to like despite the widespread critical takedowns? […]

Young Adult (2011) -vs- My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)

December 8, 2011 Jackie Zabel

A beautiful, still-single woman decides that all the good guys are taken. The solution? Take one back, and by any means necessary. That’s pretty much the high concept behind both Young Adult, screenwriter Diablo Cody’s new black comedy bravely starring Charlize Theron as a Minnesota high school beauty queen coming back to rekindle the flame with her married-with-baby ex-boyfriend, and My Best Friend’s Wedding, a Julia Roberts vehicle in which she travels back to Chicago to reclaim a sportswriter she never really wanted until another girl (Cameron Diaz) decides he’s marriage material. […]

POTC: On Stranger Tides (2011) -vs- POTC: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

May 22, 2011 The FilmGuru

The idea seemed outrageous. Around the turn of the century, Disney & Co. decided to translate one of its most iconic theme park rides into a film. About pirates. Seriously.

It’s not like pirates were all the rage at the time. A good pirate movie hadn’t been made since, well… Ever? Look, I never was one to get lost in the swashbuckling days of yesteryear with Errol Flynn. In my lifetime, I couldn’t remember a single good pirate movie.

Sure, pirates popped up in other films (The Princess Bride, Hook, etc.) but pirate movies weren’t popular. Think of the awful The Pirate Movie (1982), loosely based on Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera The Pirates of Penzance. Or how about the horrible Geena Davis vehicle Cutthroat Island (1995) that bankrupted Carolco Pictures?

The point I’m making here is that Disney’s decision to create a movie based on its Pirates of the Caribbean ride was one of those decisions that could either be called mad genius or visionary. When Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl debuted in 2003, no one expected it would launch a box office powerhouse and a franchise that would be pumping out sequels for the next decade. […]

Arnold (2011) -vs- Arnold (1998) What’s He Thinking Now?

May 21, 2011 Bryce Zabel

Probably no one will admit to this in the future, even if it’s true, but I think confession is good for the soul.

I voted for Arnold Schwarzenegger. Twice.

Honestly, I did it because I felt that his oversize personality allowed him to stand out from the stupid party animosities that were bankrupting California in their dance of mutually assured destruction. For a while he did, and he kept trying. So there’s that.

But, of course, it’s not enough, even if you’re an Arnold fan outside of the movies. Clearly we haven’t heard the end of the story cycle and more “shockers” will dribble out, but the whole thing feels icky. At least this happened when he was out of office. You can just freaking imagine the media circus this would be if he was still up in Sacramento. […]

Something Borrowed (2011) -vs- He’s Just Not That Into You (2009)

May 8, 2011 Mark Sanchez

Given that most single guys would be thrilled to have Ginnifer Goodwin as their girlfriend, you have to wonder why Hollywood keeps casting her as the woman who has a hard time finding a decent relationship. She got famous as the immature “sister-wife” Margene in the creepy HBO polygamy series, Big Love. Then she played the girl who can’t find love no matter how desperately she dates around in 2009’s He’s Just Not That Into You. And now she’s back in Something Borrowed as the third corner in a romantic triangle. I have no idea what her personal life is like but we can only hope it’s better than the parts she plays.

Both our films are ensemble rom-coms, chock-full of familiar character traits: earnest, self-absorbed, scoundrel, ironic, clueless, and so on. Some of these are main characters and some are the obligatory wacky friends. There are enough people running around in both films coupling and uncoupling that there seems to be a lot going on even when there isn’t. The idea is to cut from one storyline to another, keep the pace up, get some laughs, find some sympathetic moments, get a few more laughs, and tie up things more or less neatly before they run the credits. Everybody seems to have jobs that don’t really interfere with their pursuit of love and sex. Ah, paradise… […]

Micmacs (2009) -vs- A Very Long Engagement (2004)

June 28, 2010 Sherry Coben

An intensely visual director, Jeunet’s imagery remains consistently fresh and breathtakingly original, his fabulous fabulist’s palette uniquely his. Jeunet films have the urgency and half-remembered quality of dreams as they unfold. These tales exist in a rarefied and occasionally twee universe, timeless and with a winsome sense of fun and tricked-out grown-up child’s play even when the underlying subject matter gets serious. The subject at hand is war, and let’s just state the obvious up front – Jeunet’s against it.
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