Total Recall: In Honor of AVP:R, Memorable Cinematic Title Fights
Because writing out "versus" has become so cumbersome.
The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)
The set-up: After shedding his lovable buffoon image with Natural Born Killers, Woody Harrelson continued his hot streak playing sleazy weirdos in The People vs. Larry Flynt. Garnering his only Oscar nomination in the process, Harrelson portrays Hustler magnate Flynt beginning with his origins running strip joints to his rise to infamy, his marriage to Althea Flynt (Courtney Love), the assassination attempt that has left him wheelchair-bound, and his various run-ins with the law, culminating in a mega-publicized court battle with Jerry Falwell. Harrelson plays Flynt that elicits from the audience a canny mix of disgust and curious empathy.
Winner: Larry Flynt, on appeal to the Fourth Circuit. But with immature smut still available on newsstands at low, low prices, couldn't you say everybody wins?
Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (2002)
The set-up: Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu star as Ecks and Sever, two agents manipulated into killing each other. After some slo-mo action shots and an overused techno soundtrack, Ecks and Sever realize they're better off working together. And then cue a lot more slo-mo action shots and more grating techno music. All this without a single coherent moment. Rotten Tomatoes normally isn't in the business of recommending crappy movies (even in the name of irony), but an exception will be made for the Worst-Reviewed Movie of All Time.
Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
The set-up: After years of setbacks and writer's blocks looking for a plot that could host both Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, New Line settled on a story about parents medicating their kids so they can't dream and fall prey to Krueger. The entire city? Without anybody knowing? That's the best they could come up with? Insane set-up aside, Freddy vs. Jason gives exactly what horror fans want (decent kills, a bit of T & A) along with a few surprises: the movie has some of the strongest characters in a Jason movie since Crispin Glover's awkward loser in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.
Winner: Since the winking, ambiguous final shot puts into question who wins, it boils down to a matter of opinion. People who like Freddy think he won, while people who prefer (the far awesomer) Jason argue in his favor.
The U.S. vs. John Lennon (2006)
The set-up: John Lennon's transformation from mischievous musician/political activist to perceived national threat by the Nixon administration is captured in this 96 minute cheer-a-thon for the former Beatle. Though there's little educational value in the documentary since few dissidents are featured among the interviewees, this is an undeniably fun ride through pop politics with rich archival footage and the image of a flustered Tricky Dick frightened by a guy who stages bed-ins.
Winner: John. Books, albums, apparel and whatever else Lennon merch Ono can farm out continue to sell. The best Nixon can hope for nowadays is ripe Futurama caricatures.
Eagle vs Shark (2007)
The set-up: At an animal dress-up party, Jarrod, gussied up as an eagle, and shark-sporting Lily hook up. What ensues is a back-and-forth battle of twits as the two try to navigate a relationship amidst commitment phobias and Jarrod's half-baked plan to take revenge on a childhood bully. Popsters The Phoenix Foundation provides a well-used soundtrack and animated interludes of a walking apple core flesh out the film. Eagle vs. Shark is often cited as the virulent New Zealand strain of the Napoleon Dynamite epidemic, which is a simplistic and rather lazy criticism. Sure, it's quirky and full of misfit characters, but framing the movie through the girl's perspective gives the movie unexpected poignancy that elevates it above indie genre fare.
Winner: A tie match. Even the apple gets its sunset.