Haywire (2011) -vs- Salt (2010)

January 19, 2012 Art Tiersky

“All you need for a film is a girl and a gun.”

– Jean-Luc Godard

Well, and film, I reckon, but Jean-Luc’s point is well taken, and this Smackdown brings us two movies that attempt to put it to the test.

In this corner, a comely mixed martial arts champion making her screen acting debut.

And in this corner…Screw it, you know her already.

Ding! […]

I Don’t Know How She Does It (2011) -vs- The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

September 18, 2011 Nicole Marchesani

A woman’s role today in the world is as vague and subject to interpretation as the U.S. Constitution. She can work or stay at home or both, but every choice comes with a price. Some women feel judged for their decision not to have families; others feel pressured to stay with their families and not work. And heaven help the women who try to master both feats with only two hands.

I Don’t Know How She Does It and The Devil Wears Prada examine the ever-so-popular and unfortunate double standard that exists between men and women in the workplace through the woman’s point of view. Both films ask the big question: What are women supposed to do? Both offer solutions. Two all-star casts. Two scripts adapted by screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna from best-selling novels. […]

If You Put a Smack and a Mashup in an Atom Collider…

September 13, 2011 Movie Smackdown

The SmashUps! are a collaboration between Smackdown guru and iMovie addict Bryce Zabel, who writes and produces them, and myself. I voice them and add what Bryce calls “the cool, weird stuff.” (I think that’s a compliment, but you never know with Bryce.)

So, please, take a look at our latest, the one that came from sticking the upcoming Real Steel in that particle acceler-o-meter or atomic whatsis with the classic Rocky film that won the Academy Award back in 1976. Given that our site has a couple of awards statues boxing each other in its banner, this one hits pretty close to home. This is its world premiere but, because it’s virtual, we don’t have to provide the hor d’oevres which, in this economy, means a lot. […]

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… […]

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (2010) -vs- The September Issue (2009)

July 14, 2010 Sherry Coben

Joan Rivers has lived a long life full of public peaks and valleys characterized by a seemingly indomitable spirit that is more than matched with an undimmed, keen intelligence and canny rebound. This documentary follows this remarkable septuagenarian through a year of huge risks. It doesn’t even touch on her breakthrough QVC savvy or her single-handed revolutionizing of the celebrity fashion world; we see her stand-up, still remarkably raw and fearless and funny. We travel onstage with her; her non-stop schedule takes her to the most unfortunate dives in the remotest of towns and to huge venues more suitable to her stature. Through it all, she tells us everything and nothing; we learn much about her, but ultimately, the mystery of another person remains there just within and just beyond our grasp. We get hints as to what exactly makes this particular human dynamo tick so long and so loud, but like her very familiar and forever-morphing face, the secrets of her undeniable pain and struggle, while glaringly right there in front of us, remain hers. We want to reach out to her and thank her, to hug her, to provide her a moment’s peace, but alas…this life force goes it (unstoppably and perhaps unreachably) alone.
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Please Give (2010) -vs- Babies (2010)

May 14, 2010 Sherry Coben

Women’s breasts appear in a lot of movies. A lot. Usually, they’re gratuitous. Gratuitous, pneumatically enhanced and phony, fetishized dangling orbs meant to entice, designed for ogling. There. I’ve got your attention and I didn’t even have to unbutton my blouse. The breasts featured prominently in these two Smackdown contenders are all real and as far from exploitation as one could imagine. In the startling opening frames of “Please Give,” a series of disembodied, wordless and vulnerable milk glands get gently slapped, manipulated, and arranged under the harshest fluorescents. Readied for their respective mammograms, these random fleshy bundles of ducts and veins and possible disease are hardly ready for their decisively, definitively, defiantly unglamorous close-ups, and the tone is set. The bar is raised. In the remarkable French documentary “Babies,” mothers’ breasts appear frequently and utterly without the usual fanfare and sexual context. We’re on sacred ground, people. These movies weren’t made for teenage boys and the arrested men they’re destined to become. These films celebrate the human condition with honesty, integrity and very rare courage indeed.
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VOTE NOW: Rom-Com Smackdown in Time for Valentine’s Day

February 1, 2010 Sherry Coben

Our personal memories mingle seamlessly with our movie memories; classic romantic comedies make the sweetest and most thoughtful gift, longer lasting than any box of chocolates or long-stemmed roses.
Celebrate with us to find our readers’ all-time favorite Romantic Comedy. Many of our favorite films didn’t make the poll; we apologize most heartily if we’ve neglected to include yours.
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Julie and Julia (2009) -vs- Julia (1977)

August 21, 2009 Sherry Coben

Nora Ephron cooks up more than Beef Bourguignon in this deceptively slight comic biography; there’s more food for thought than I ever expected. I knew that the magnificent Streep would deliver another masterful tour de force, and that she certainly did. Her performance percolates and bubbles, her laugh wells up like water from a spring, an indomitable and slightly ungainly life force inviting us in to share her electrified air. Her Julia Child is vocally impeccable, but her eloquently wordless moments tell us more than any others. A moment shared with Tucci after her sister’s letter arrives stands alone, saying everything about the Childs’ childlessness with no dialogue needed. Streep inhabits this giant among women (and men), her quick mind and undauntable spirit burning brilliant with deeply felt life. Streep’s performance lights up the screen and nestles somewhere in the chair beside you, making you realize how much you love food and Julia Child and being alive. There simply aren’t enough glowing adjectives in my usually adequate vocabulary to praise this national treasure. She and Stanley Tucci portray an unusually loving marriage that inspires and amuses, capturing something true and real, a human connection well beyond biopic’s usual parameters. And the food is beautiful; it’s food porn, not quite “Big Night” caliber but up there with the rest of the genre. And, yes, the Julie sections of the film are nowhere near so compelling as the Julia story for reasons so obvious as to be almost unworthy of listing, but list them I shall for they’ll serve my greater purpose later on in this little rant.
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Knocked Up (2007) -vs- Junior (1994)

June 14, 2007 Bryce Zabel

Both of these films, naturally, follow the same general pregnancy-dictated progression. “Junior” adds the spin that it all needs to be done as secretly as possible for the obvious reasons of a) privacy and b) comedy. “Knocked Up” climbed a different hill. Even though it, too, features a mis-matched, screwed-up pregnancy, it still means for the detail to be related to by all those parents and wannabe parents out there. It needs to be observant of all the things that are truly comical in the natural universe, and it is. It also needs to get the repeat business of kids like my son by being crass and profane, and it does that, too.
It may surprise you, if you haven’t seen it or you last saw it over a decade ago when it was in the theaters, but “Junior” is actually pretty damn funny. “Knocked Up” is sometimes screamingly funny, in the way that “Meet the Parents” was almost all the way through when it first was released. Both films add that extra element, though, and that is a certain amount of sweetness to go with all the sour.
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