Total Recall

Total Recall: In Honor of AVP:R, Memorable Cinematic Title Fights

Because writing out "versus" has become so cumbersome.

by | December 26, 2007 | Comments

This week, we’re taking it to the screen with Alien vs.
Predator: Requiem
, the latest mash up of modern sci-fi’s two coolest franchises
in a winner-take-all battle royale. Why are they duking it out on Earth? Why not?
Just check out some of our eternal feuds. Boys versus girls. Cats versus dogs.
The left versus the right. Fresh versus rotten. Seeing how the world loves to
crash opposites against each other and watch the sparks fly, here’s a sample of
10 more memorable title fights, all taking place in the silver screen coliseum.
Get your tickets (and DVDs) now!

Wife Versus Secretary (1936)

The set-up: Clark Gable stars as Van Stanhope,
magazine industrialist with a godsend of a secretary named Whitey (Jean Harlow).
Talk slowly bubbles that a secretary that gorgeous can’t be without some special
talents not listed on her resume, which begins to influence Stanhope’s wife,
Linda (Myrna Loy). Stanhope digs himself deeper into trouble with wife through a
series of delightful misunderstandings in this prime example of old Hollywood
upscale comedy and sharp ratatat dialogue.

Winner: Secretary. Everybody gets their happy ending, but I
honestly never trusted Clark Gable, what with his pomade-doused hair and creepy
thin mustache. The secretary gets the better deal — she drives off into the
evening with her beau, played by a little known actor named James Stewart.

Gamera vs. Monster X (1970)

The set-up: Never mind the mindless lumbering and
random fire belching of Godzilla, give me Gamera the turtle any day. Gamera has
motivations. Feelings. Now if only the helpless citizens of Japan
could figure out what those were. In Gamera vs. Monster X, excavations on a
small island accidentally resurrect Gamera’s nemesis, a scaled lizard that can
microwave buildings with a heat ray and shoot pointy things from its horns. In
comes Gamera to save the day, never mind that Japanese army is constantly trying
to murderlize his hide. The movie hits its high point when Gamera gets injected with
Monster X larvae and two children (children always sympathize with the
misunderstood gentle giant) take a mini-sub into his lungs for some emergency

Winner: The global community. May we always have
enormous rubber
monsters and bugs to admire!

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

The set-up: A box office success, now somewhat
unfairly marginalized as one of those Best Picture winners that
stole the award from clearly superior movies (in this case, Apocalypse Now).
Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep star as Ted and Joanna Kramer, a New York couple
whose marriage is shaken when Joanna suddenly leaves Ted and their son, Billy.
Indeed, this is no Apocalypse Now. But it is a clean-cut melodrama with tense
domestic scenes as Ted and Billy slowly assemble a relationship. The title fight
refers to the third-act custody battle that ensues when Joanna returns as a more
whole woman and demands her child back.

Winner: Kramer.

Joe Versus the Volcano (1990)

The set-up: Tom Hanks made a lot of weird comedies
during his early "funny" period (The ‘burbs, Bonfire of the Vanities,
Splash), but none were weirder than Joe Versus the Volcano. After a
fantastically stylized intro depicting the daily grind of factory life, Tom
Hanks’ Joe goes to a Pacific island on a business trip where he meets Meg Ryan
(their first pairing), makes a raft out of steamer trunks (twice!), gets
married, and sacrifices himself to the volcano to appease island natives.

Winner: Tie. In a cute plot twist at the end, both
Joe and the volcano get their final comeuppance.

Godzilla vs. Destroyah (1995)

The set-up: Since only the most devoted geek can
keep track of all the Godzilla flicks since the 1954 debut, the franchise
reboots every several decades to renew interest and attract new fans. In the
final installment of this mini-series (which ran approximately from the mid-80s
to 90s), Godzilla faces one of his toughest (and most popular) enemies:
Destroyah, a crustacean mutated by the Oxygen Destroyer that defeated the
original Godzilla. Intriguing fact: 1995’s production values for monster movies
seem to be even less than in 1954.

Winner: In a rare TKO, Destroyah survives long enough to
witness Godzilla succumb to total nuclear meltdown. But then enters Godzilla

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

Winner: Drinking game participants who need something new
to endure, having already done Commando, Street Fighter, and Master of the
Flying Guillotine

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

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

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