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Had enough of Obama vs. Clinton? Watch films do battle instead. At Movie Smackdown, two films go toe-to-toe to decide whether the defending champion, a classic, still has what it takes, or if a new release is the one to watch.
"The idea has always been simple," says site creator Bryce Zabel. "Two films, one review, no holds barred." As the Smackdown referee-in-chief, he makes sure every match offers readers more fun, more value, and more suspense than the traditional thumbs up or thumbs down critique. "Most reviews let you know whether the reviewer likes a film in the first paragraph," he says. "In our reviews, there is actual suspense and doubt about which film will win, often going all the way through to the end."
It's also worth noting, there's no such thing as a tie in a smackdown. The term, made popular by the Rock and wrestling, is synonymous with decisive defeat. Zabel was drawn to the word and thanks the WWE for their contribution to the English language, but that's where the connection ends. When it comes to the competitive format on the site, he says, "a better inspiration might be my personal friend, comic book legend Stan Lee... Stan's favorite question is, 'Who do they fight?' Maybe I've got Stan whispering in my ear."
Where there are winners, there are losers and that leads to controversy. "There absolutely are disagreements between critics and fans, critics and critics and fans and fans," he says. "I think Beau DeMayo is one of our best writers but he gave it to The Fountain over 2001: A Space Odyssey and recently to Batman Begins over Iron Man and I disagreed in both cases."
Ironically, by the time Bryce started Movie Smackdown in 2005, he was making his living as a screenwriter. "Now I know how hard it is to make even a bad movie, so I have some sympathy," he admits. His latest film, Let's Do It, based on the true story of two students who talked Cecil B. DeMille into loaning them a film camera, is currently in pre-production. He describes it as a comedic look at the making of Ed's Co-Ed, the first full-length student film ever made and says, "It captures beautifully the true spirit of why we love to watch films and why some of us are driven to devote our lives to making them." When it's finished will we see a Let's Do It vs. Ed's Co-Ed smackdown on the site? "That would be fun but, obviously, I'll have to disqualify myself from the actual review," he says. "Besides, if I make a movie that doesn't stand up to an 80-year-old black-and-white silent film, then I probably should give up my day job anyway."