Pandorum (2009) -vs- Event Horizon (1997)

October 6, 2009 Bryce Zabel

Ever since “Alien” showed the dark side of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” filmgoers have been disabused in one film after another of any thought that going where humans haven’t gone before can be a noble journey. Cold, hostile, horrific space, set in the middle of this century — that’s our Smackdown …

District 9 (2009) -vs- Alien Nation (1988)

August 20, 2009 Beau DeMayo

You have to wonder if we’ll all still be so interested in aliens after the aliens finally arrive — assuming we’re alive to care. Typically, Hollywood believes in the existence of two types of aliens: lovable little critters who love moonlit bike rides and carnivorous monsters intent on humanity’s destruction. Both “Alien Nation” and “District 9” propose a third option, both using aliens as metaphors for socially-conflicted minority groups. With “Alien Nation”, the Newcomers are a vague avatar for homosexuals, blacks, and women. In District 9, the prawns most definitely represent the oppressed Apartheid-era Africans as well as the growing number of refugees in third world countries (i.e. Darfur). So, today, we throw these socially-conscientious sci-fi flicks against one another to see which one U2’s Bono would most likely write a title song for…

District 9 (2009) -vs- Cloverfield (2008)

August 17, 2009 Rodney Twelftree

It’s that time of year again: the American blockbuster summer season, and again, we are under attack. Yeah, okay, so Katherine Heigl has inflicted some cinematic travesty yet again, but instead of being attacked by simpering, romantic fluffery, it’s the good old Hollywood staple: aliens. Thank God, because if I have to sit through another “He’s just Not That Into You” or “The Ugly Truth” I might just have to invent my own giant green death ray and obliterate something important. Last time round, the big monster tore shreds out of the Big Apple, gave the viewing public a real scare, and brought back vivid memories of “The Blair Witch Projects” vomit-inducing cinematography. This time, the extraterrestrial interlopers have been given a suburb of Johannesburg to inhabit, with typically human racist attitudes again becoming the most prevalent problem they face, as well as our desire to develop their technology into weaponry so we can destroy each other more effectively. So which one of these two modern alien blockbusters would have the upper hand in pitched battle? Read on to find out more. Oh, and if you’re an alien, please discontinue reading now. This computer is being monitored.

Contact (1997) -vs- Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977 | 1980 | 1998)

June 20, 2009 Bryce Zabel

If you’re old enough to remember the marketing campaign for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” then you’ll remember the goosebumps you got when you heard the phrase, We are not alone. What was great about that simple sentence was that it promised a movie about aliens that was about wonder and mystery and wasn’t about the same old Hollywood treatment of life in the universe, namely that if it bothered to interact with humans it was for a nefarious reason, like “Independence Day” and “War of the Worlds.” Twenty years after “CE3” came another film that promised to make first contact a matter of humanity’s growth out of the cradle and not some intergalactic cage match. Both “CE3” and “Contact” were aliens for smart people brought to you first by the immense talent of Steven Spielberg and later by the immense intellect of Carl Sagan. In my Hollywood career, I’ve had the good fortune to discuss UFOs and extraterrestrial life with both of these men and found them to have some very different visions of the subject. They each have used film to express their views about life as it might exist “out there.” The question is, which version comes closest to what might be the truth about first contact, and which one is the better film?

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) -vs- Transformers (2007)

June 20, 2009 Beau DeMayo

Both “Transformers” and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” brim with elaborate action set-pieces, campy humor, and hyper-sexuality. Industrial Light and Magic struggles in both films to design the Transformers in such a way that we can distinguish one from the other. Whenever a fight erupts between Autobot and Decepticon, the on-screen action tumbles into a jumbled mess of flopping, indistinguishable mechanical parts. Sure, I appreciate the high level of detail, but not at the cost of coherent action scenes. “Transformers: RotF” especially suffers from ILM’s designs as Bay introduces a whole slew of new Transformers that simply blend together. It’s hard to appreciate large-scale action sequences when I can’t tell the good from the bad guys and thus, can’t tell who’s winning.
Now both films embrace Bay’s typical low-brow humor. Again, “Transformers: RotF” probably suffers most in this category. Gags like Sam’s mom lolly-gagging around on a college campus after eating pot-brownies or the dangling wrecking ball testicles on a construction Decepticon aren’t just dumb, they’re insulting to the audiences’ intelligence. “Transformers” had some corny moments, many centered around the Autobots fitting into Sam’s suburban life. However, none proved as gregarious and useless as those in Transformers: RotF” where the jokes simply exist onto themselves and are cracked in the most inappropriate moments.

Fire in the Sky (1993) -vs- Communion (1989)

June 14, 2009 Bryce Zabel

The truth about alien visitors may actually be different than what Hollywood has traditionally told you. On the one hand we’ve had the space brothers who have come to help us save the planet and ourselves (“Close Encounters,” “The Day the Earth Stood Still”). On the other hand, we’ve had the cosmic badasses who’ve come to create hell on Earth (“War of the Worlds,” “Independence Day”). The two films in our Smackdown ring each suggest another alternative. The aliens are here for a more unknown purposes. They’re not cuddly scientists like “E.T.” but bizarre and harsh. Both “Communion” and “Fire in the Sky” tell us that they’re here taking people out of their homes and neighborhoods in the middle of the night, tagging them like deer in a Lyme disease study, probing and poking them in ways that suggest rape as much as anything else. Possibly more unsettling is that these two films were both based on books which were based on true stories. You may scoff at the word “truth” here but, the fact is, the central characters in each — Whitley Strieber and Travis Walton — have both passed lie detector tests. Show me a Hollywood agent who could do that about today’s phone list and you’ll begin to appreciate the accomplishment. The questions — as we continue our film exploration of alien contact — are, which version comes closest to what might be the truth about alien intentions here on Earth, and which one is the better film?

The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008) -vs- The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)

December 12, 2008 Bob Nowotny

A few years ago, Klaatu and Gort made their way back to the ‘hood, thanks to the mega-budget re-make of The Day The Earth Stood Still. The duo arrived, over five decades after the original, with every intention of forcing some extra-terrestrial “tough love” on us.

Keanu Reeves stuck his chest out and stepped into the lead role made famous in 1951 by Michael Rennie, joined in this go-round by Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates, and surprisingly, John Cleese. Certainly, the overall production and effects budget makes possible images never even imagined back in near post-war filmmaking.

But can all this money and contemporary talent add up to make this new The Day The Earth Stood Still as enduringly memorable as the old The Day The Earth Stood Still that graced the world’s screens during the height of Cold War paranoia? […]

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