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.

Flight (2012) vs. Cast Away (2000)

November 1, 2012 Bryce Zabel

I’ve tried to warm up to the motion-capture films Robert Zemeckis has been drawn to recently (Polar Express, Beowulf, Mars Needs Moms) and failed, mainly because it feels as if they have not yet sufficiently warmed up to me. But despite his recent, animated Crapfest from the Uncanny Valley, these two live-action, survival dramas – Flight and Cast Away – are among my favorite films.

When it comes to drama about the human condition, they’re both a cut above. And they have something else in common too: Each tries pretty successfully to create the scariest jet crash ever seen on film, at the time it went before the cameras. […]

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) -vs- The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

July 19, 2012 Bryce Zabel

We’ve know it’s coming all year — a super heavyweight championship — and now it’s finally here in the beat-down heat of summer.

Fresh off the super-fan orgy at San Diego Comic-Con, we have the Sony 3D reboot of The Amazing Spider-Man against the third and final installment of Warner Bros.’ The Dark Knight Rises (July 20).

It’s Ali and Frazier. Well, technically, it’s DC and Marvel and Sony and Warner Bros. Oh, and Batman and Spider-Man.

These two awesome franchises — both successful with critics and hugely so at the box office — mean to fight it out in the cool, air-conditioned movie palaces of our globally warmed summer. […]

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) -vs- Spider-Man (2002)

June 29, 2012 Bryce Zabel

What a difference a decade makes. Why, in that period of time, it’s possible to forget you’ve ever seen a specific movie, almost like it never existed.

Well, no, it’s not like that all, of course. Those of us over the age of thirteen do clearly remember the blockbuster films we saw just ten years ago. The question Columbia Pictures seems to be asking with the release of The Amazing Spider-Man is whether or not it matters. […]

Prometheus (2012) -vs- 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

June 5, 2012 Bryce Zabel

Strange artifacts are left here on Earth beckoning inhabitants to come visit superior beings and/or ancient visitors, requiring a massive undertaking to build and dispatch a mighty state-of-the-art spacecraft on a long, dangerous journey with an A.I. on board to take care of its human crew. Director Stanley Kubrick swung for the fences with this set-up over four decades ago and now it’s Ridley Scott’s turn.

Let’s get one thing out of the way right now — 2001: A Space Odyssey is a true film classic. It deserves its praise, and it deserves to be seen in any good film school program. If you haven’t seen it, you should. […]

Dark Shadows (2012) -vs- Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)

May 10, 2012 Bryce Zabel

Can Barnabas suck the blood out of Buffy or can this tough vamp of a fighter slay the hell out of this unchained vampire? While that alone might be enough of a question to guide a Smackdown, this one gets complicated by history.

Dark Shadows, as people over fifty know, began as TV then became a film. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as people under thirty know, began as a film and became a TV series. The former, in theaters now, is a derivation of its former glory, while the latter is an inspired evolution of its big-screen glory. […]

The Avengers (2012) -vs- X-Men: First Class (2011)

May 2, 2012 Bryce Zabel

If one superpowered superhero can fuel a super-blockbuster (Spider-Man, Hulk, Thor, Batman, Superman, Captain America), just imagine what a half-dozen of them in the same movie can do.

A few years ago, Marvel Studios did just that. After giving movie-length origin stories to its key players, Marvel now brings all their power-hitters together into the ultimate superhero combo group — The Avengers. Imagine this group fighting not just evil but each other for screen time: Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, Iron Man and a couple of second tier-types, the token hottie, Black Widow, and Hawkeye, the guy with the bow and some very fancy arrows. […]

Title Fight, July 2012: Batman versus Spider-Man @ The Smack

April 4, 2012 Bryce Zabel

You know it’s coming — a super heavyweight championship — and it’s on for this summer.

Make your bets now in the mega-Smackdown between the SONY 3D re-boot of The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3) and the third and final installment of Warner Bros. The Dark Knight Rises (July 20).

These two awesome franchises — both successful at the box office as well as critically — mean to fight it out in the cool air-conditioned theaters of our globally warmed summer. Expectations for each are as high as they can get, particularly for the new Batman film but, increasingly, for the new take on Spider-Man thanks to some impressive trailers. Note that both are reboots. The Dark Knight Rises wraps up one three-film arc and The Amazing Spider-Man kick-starts another.
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40th Anniversary Smack: The Godfather (1972) -vs- The Godfather, Part II (1974)

March 19, 2012 Bryce Zabel

The Godfather @ 40. Imagine.

A few years ago when they came out with “The Coppola Restoration” of the film trilogy on Bluray, many people took the chance to re-watch at least the first two installments and fall in love again. Now the national news media is telling us that the four decades passage means we have to do it again. Normally I just hate the media telling me to do anything — and usually struggle to do the opposite — but this one is an exception. […]

The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2007) vs. Michael Collins (1996)

March 13, 2012 Bryce Zabel

Every St. Patrick’s Day, people worldwide celebrate the Irish by wearing shamrocks, marching in parades, even drinking green beer. It can be a ton of fun, to be sure, but the Ireland of fairly recent history was a very serious place where political battles were decided in revolution and civil war. Our Irish Movie Smackdown pays tribute to those days by putting a couple of films in the ring together that tell the story. These two classic films of Irish-rebellion — The Wind That Shakes the Barley and Michael Collins — were made a decade apart. Back in the Clinton years, Liam Neeson starred in the title role as Irish rebel turned Free Stater, Michael Collins, and a few days before St. Patrick’s Day in 2007, Cillian Murphy played a rebel on the other side of the bloody Irish Civil War in The Wind That Shakes the Barley. They each tell stories about the years when Irish eyes were definitely not smiling… […]

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