About Bryce Zabel

Drawing inspiration from career experiences as a CNN correspondent, TV Academy chairman, creator of five produced primetime network TV series, and fast-food frycook, Bryce is the Editor-in-Chief of “Movie Smackdown.” While he freely admits to having written the screenplay for the reviewer-savaged “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation,” he hopes the fact that he also won the Writers Guild award a couple of years ago will cause you to cut him some slack. That, plus the fact that he has a new StudioCanal produced feature film, “The Last Battle,” shooting this summer in Europe about the end of World War II. He’s also a member of the Directors Guild, Screen Actors Guild, and a past enthusiast of the Merry Marvel Marching Society. His new what-if book series, “Breakpoint,” just won the prestigious Sidewise Award for Alternate History, and has so far tackled JFK not being assassinated and The Beatles staying together.

MARVEL v DC: The Ultimate Movie Smackdown

April 16, 2016 Bryce Zabel

Forget Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Old news. In fact, forget Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice v Captain America: Civil War. Soon to be old news. Those films are just the surrogates fighting when the real war is something much larger. We’re talking about universes in collision. This is really the one for the ages, “Marvel v DC.” […]

Jokers Wild

April 28, 2015 Bryce Zabel

Here at the Smack, we’d have to say that he’s the most iconic comic book villain of all time. The Joker just turned 75, by the way, having first appeared in Batman #1 back on April 25, 1940.

So happy birthday, you green-haired, crazy-eyed, psychopathic criminal, you!

As a straight-up birthday present to fans, Suicide Squad director David Ayer just tweeted out a clear look at the Joker as he’s going to be portrayed by Jared Leto. Impossible as this may sound, Leto’s Joker is as surprising today as Heath Ledger’s Joker was when we first saw him. […]

Foxcatcher (2014) vs. Win Win (2011)

September 9, 2014 Bryce Zabel

Maybe it’s just me, but I wrestled a bit as a kid and saw more than enough of my coach without ever moving in with him. I’ll tell you right now, if that’s what cost me a shot at having my life blown up on the big screen for the world to enjoy, I’m okay with it, especially after seeing how messed up the protagonists in these two indie projects turn out. […]

Breaking Bad vs. The Sopranos

September 7, 2014 Bryce Zabel

Critics and audiences seem to agree in large numbers that the greatest continuing one-hour series ever to air on American television is either the recently departed masterwork Breaking Bad or the groundbreaking show that aired in the previous decade, The Sopranos. Both are gruelingly suspenseful and violent neo-noir crime stories interwoven with searing family drama, intense action and bizarre black comedy. Between them they’ve garnered numerous Emmy awards for their incredible casts, directors and writers. […]

Man of Steel (2013) vs. Superman: The Movies (1978/1980)

June 13, 2013 Bryce Zabel

It’s axiomatic when discussing Superman to know that the only one who can give Superman a fair fight is himself, or a close approximation of himself. That’s why the comics, TV and film have consistently given us Evil Superman, Clone Superman, Bizarro Superman and, of course, Other Kryptonian Supermen.

The latter, of course, is what drove the Richard Donner-directed first two Superman films in 1978 and 1980, with the climactic arrival of General Zod and his superpowered villains, all of whom with the same powers as Superman, released from the Phantom Zone. Now, along comes Man of Steel, directed by Zack Snyder, who has taken the action of those Donner Supermans (Superman: The Movie and Superman II), smashed them into a single movie’s length, and filtered them through a dark prism.

It’s a fair fight then. Superman-vs.-Zod vs. Superman-vs.-Zod. By Krypton, let these games begin! […]

After Earth (2013) vs. Oblivion (2013)

May 31, 2013 Bryce Zabel

The latest trend in sci-fi seems to be returning to a post-apocalyptic Earth, trashed after a run-in with extraterrestrials, and still coming out on top. Both Tom Cruise with Oblivion and Will Smith with After Earth have taken a crack at it. As opposed to other apocalyptic visions from recent years, like The Road and Book of Eli, which basically say once things go south on us, we land in a shithole we’re not likely to recover from, these two new contenders in the realm of post-Earth survival manage to leap past tragic events to a time of return where the technology still works, people persevere somewhere else, and the home planet needs some serious saving.
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Les Miserables (2012) vs. The Fugitive (1993)

December 24, 2012 Bryce Zabel

Yes, I know, we could have put this operatic soon-to-be blockbuster, Les Miserables, up against any number of period musicals translated to movies, from The King and I to Sound of Music to Moulin Rouge. Or we could have matched it against any of the multitudinous other film adaptations of the Victor Hugo novel or even against the stage musical itself. Someone else with more academic credentials or film school training than we have can dissect those comparisons at another time. (If you can’t wait, there’s always Wikipedia.)

The thing is, as I watched and listened to the sincere musical emoting of the modern Les Miserables at a pre-release screening at the Pacific Design Center theater here in Hollywood, my mind kept trying to focus on the actual story. Namely, the convict Jean Valjean’s flight from the relentless Inspector Javert, who just won’t cut him a break, no matter how many good deeds he’s done or may still do if allowed his freedom. […]

This Is 40 (2012) vs. Meet the Fockers (2004)

December 20, 2012 Bryce Zabel

Comedy is a fragile thing, or so say the experts. One of the most delicate components to making someone laugh is the element of surprise. So what happens when the surprise is gone?

That’s the challenge for comedy sequels. The initial setup and the characters living in it have already been exposed to the audience. In order to even generate a sequel, the original had to be pretty widely seen. When the story is set around a family’s home life, filmmakers and audiences have to ask themselves the question that author Thomas Wolfe once famously answered in the negative: Can you go home again? […]

Stalking the Wild Hobbit

December 4, 2012 Bryce Zabel

I have seen “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and at the risk of bringing down the wrath of dwarves, elves, orcs and even Gandalf, I have to say that I prefer our own Robert Anglim’s Smashup version, “Wild Hobbits” (below).

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is a brilliantly mounted film that from a production standpoint must have been a terribly complicated thing to accomplish. But it seems to be too much — too many stunts, too much wall-to-wall swelling music, too many hangs from the cliffs, etc. I agree with the Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy who called the film “a bit of a slog.” […]

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