Surrounded by Enemies: What if Kennedy Survived Dallas? (2013) vs. 11/22/63: A Novel (2012)

October 18, 2013 Alan Caldwell

The date is indelibly etched in the memories of everyone who was alive then: 11/22/63. Until 9/11, it was the most shocking, tragic, unimaginably ghastly national event we had witnessed. In the half-century since, what Boomer hasn’t wondered how the Sixties might have improved if President Kennedy’d had the opportunity to complete two terms in office, and not just 1000 days. Sure, we still got the Beatles and the Apollo mission, and on LBJ’s watch the Civil Rights movement blossomed, but then we got mired in Vietnam and Watergate and even more, horrid assassinations.

The assassination also produced a cottage-industry of JFK-themed films and books, ranging from memoirs to analyses of his life and legacy, but by far the most prevalent have been those that (like Oliver Stone’s JFK) have questioned the Warren Commission’s report, which concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Many of these works also speculate about JFK’s second administration and how it would have changed history.

For this special, bonus-edition Smackdown, we’ve got heavyweight champion Stephen King going mano-a-mano with none other than Señor Smackdown himself, Bryce Zabel. What makes this pairing especially juicy is that, though both contenders are no strangers to producing award-winning popular film/TV entertainment — a remake of King’s Carrie, based on his debut novel, is once again rattling theatergoers — we’re taking a rare detour into the universe of literature. […]

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). […]

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) -vs- Time After Time (1979)

June 21, 2012 Arthur Tiersky

Did you know that the Civil War was not merely the North fighting the South over the slavery issue, but that the Confederacy was actually an uprising of vampires, of whom Abraham Lincoln was actually a trained hunter? Or that H.G. Wells, author of The Time Machine, actually invented his very own such machine that enabled him to fight crime a century into the future? Or that George W. Bush is actually the reincarnation of a traitor beheaded by King Joffrey of the House of Lannister? […]

Men in Black 3 (2012) -vs- Mars Attacks! (1996)

May 24, 2012 Eric Volkman

The earth is about to be destroyed! And the devastation will be funny and entertaining to watch, at least by Hollywood standards.

In this winner-take-all battle, we’re pitting two satirical world-on-the-brink-of-destruction films against each other. The new release is Men in Black 3 (or Men in Black III, depending on whether you believe the official Sony Pictures site or IMDB), the latest offering in the popular string of sci-fi comedies. This installment features the franchise’s first time-travel plot, with our protagonist vaulting backwards by several decades in order to save his partner from being murdered and, consequently (of course) earth from being destroyed. Mars Attacks! also harkens to the past. It’s a wild, Tim Burton spoof of cheesy 1950s alien invasion movies, featuring a giant cast trying nearly in vain to defend our planet from interstellar bad guys. […]

Source Code (2011) -vs- Deja Vu (2006)

April 10, 2011 The FilmGuru

They say love overcomes all obstacles, but time seems to be one of the most difficult. Time and time travel seem made for romance. Maybe that’s because there is a more of a fantasy quality to it than strict science fiction. Finding two lovers who meet across time has been done before, but Hollywood loves to revisit this idea again and again.

This week, our challenger, Source Code, and our champion, Deja Vu, tackle the problem of finding love in the time continuum. In both cases, what starts out as a case of time-travel observation becomes something more of an obsession for the observer. […]

The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009) -vs- Adam (2009)

August 18, 2009 Sherry Coben

Both films are perfectly dreadful/wonderful in entirely different (if entertaining) ways, and it’s going to be difficult coming up with a clear winner; however, it will be delightful deciding which guy would make the dreamier husband. The women on hand provide no contest whatsoever; Rose Byrne’s performance is whiney and borderline creepy while Rachel McAdams’ baby blues shine with love and mysteriously undying affection, unearned and bizarrely inexplicable as that devotion may be.
(A side note/rant: We’re up to our necks in foreigners playing Americans, something of a regular occurrence when it comes to romance on film. Either we Yanks don’t like our fantasies homegrown or perhaps the insistent inclusion of the British Commonwealth incrementally expands the international audience. Whatever the reasons, Aussie Rose Byrne fumbles a bit as an utterly unconvincing New York Jewess named Beth opposite always adorable Brit Hugh Dancy who plays the Asperger’s afflicted Adam with a wide-eyed, slack-jawed and only slightly bogus earnestness. Aussie hunk Eric Bana scores as genetic anomaly Time Traveler midwesterner Henry while as his wife, Canadian Rachel McAdams manages a reasonably convincing (if geographically vague) Chicago WASP-y rich girl. Like Gerard Butler in “The Ugly Truth ” and Kate Winslet in “Revolutionary Road,” they all affect flat and frustratingly unspecific American accents, rendering them a tad generic, creepy and alien. I’m sure critical denizens of the UK experience similar difficulties with Renée Zellweger (Bridget Jones) and Michelle Pfeiffer among many others. This accent stuff isn’t for sissies; one wonders why romantic leads can’t hail from their countries of origin and skip this pseudo-Middle Atlantic guff altogether.)
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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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