Alien Contact @ Movie Smackdown

May 29, 2011 Movie Smackdown

In the billions of stars, solar systems, and galaxies out there, our little planet is but a single speck of dust in the whirlwind of the universe. Probably, we are all starting to realize, we are not alone.

Hollywood got there earlier than the rest of us, and the film industry has told us stories of alien contact — what might happen if intelligent beings out there were to make contact with our suposedly primitive culture here on Earth — since the 1950s.

This week, Movie Smackdown! examines how alien contact is portrayed in cinema. Each day, we’ll pick another Smackdown from our Classix vault. From the brutal attack force of Independence Day to the benevolent space brothers of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, let your imagination soar as the extraterrestrial life of a crowded Hollywood universe comes calling here on Earth. […]

Beau’s Ten Best Films of the Past Ten Years

December 22, 2009 Beau DeMayo

The criteria I used is pretty simple: which films are not just good but really impacted the world of film? It’s relatively easy to make a film that entertains. And, in some ways, it’s even easier to make a film that does something “different” and “new.” But to make a film that both entertains and moves you, while advancing the art of filmmaking…that’s pretty hard. So let’s get this ball rolling as we reflect on a most eclectic period of film…
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Help Us Crown a Christmas Smackdown Winner!

December 10, 2009 Bryce Zabel

Two years ago, we asked ten of our SmackRefs to each recommend a Christmas film that they have a special fondness for, something that can stand the test of repeat viewing. That poll turned out to be a squeaker with an unexpected winner when the nostalgia-rama “A Christmas Story” edged out traditional favorite “It’s A Wonderful Life” with a strong third place by the relatively new “Love Actually.”
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Where The Wild Things Are (2009) -vs- The Wizard of Oz (1939)

October 18, 2009 Sherry Coben

Both films adapt difficult and brilliant works of children’s literature and manage to exceed any expectations, evoking and exploring themes only hinted at in the original texts. Both films achieve a technical excellence and rare beauty that thrills and ignites our passion for storytelling on the silver screen. Both films accurately capture the complicated and often overlooked dark sides of childhood; adults see what they want to see and recall what they want to recall. Children can seem to them simplified little people, easy to control. Children feel their feelings deeply and powerfully though; the less they are seen, the more powerfully they ache to be seen clearly. Attention deficit is the usual diagnosis when children misbehave; children want to be seen and heard and attended.
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The Green Mile (1999) -vs- The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

September 30, 2009 Rodney Twelftree

Prison movies have a long and proud history in Hollywood, keeping us in rapt attention to the plight of the modern-day inmate. While Hollywoods idealized prisoner is traditionally the wrongly accused, or the murderer with a heart of gold, there are some films so perfectly realized by a filmmaker that they transcend the genre and become classics in their own right. We have two to put in the ring together that share more than a screen setting. Both 1999s “The Green Mile” and 1994’s “The Shawshank Redemption” sprang from the original imagination of Stephen King and were brought to cinematic life by director Frank Darabont. As we approach the ten-year anniversary of “The Green Mile,” it’s probably time to ask if either film deserves our critical version of a lethal injection? Take our advice: order up what would be your perfect last meal and kick back for a double-header of life behind bars!
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There Will Be Blood (2007) -vs- Citizen Kane (1941)

August 21, 2009 Beau DeMayo

I recently got into a friendly debate with a close friend about “There Will Be Blood” and its quality. Of course, I couldn’t discount its quality. However, having only seen it once, I promised him I would check out the film when I had some downtime since he seemed to be building his very own church to the film’s sanctity. That promise lead to this review.
Let be outright and proceed from there: “There Will Be Blood” is clearly a better, more resonant film than “Citizen Kane” could ever hope to be. Should people consider “Citizen Kane” the best film ever made, then I suppose it so follows with “There Will Be Blood”…
Most of the time when we do a Smackdown, we take into account the factor of time and technology. It’s hard to compare “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” or Abram’s “Star Trek” when the technology in both — the cinematic techniques — have so vastly improved between films. Even films such as crime thrillers or horror flicks benefits from evolution in craft and technology.
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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?
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