The Walking Dead (AMC) vs. Falling Skies (TNT)

March 7, 2012 Bryce Zabel

There’s just something about ragtag teams of extended families trying to get by after an apocalypse. It feels like a particularly American fantasy — that when the chips are down, we’ll all put aside our petty differences, realize what’s truly important and come together to kick some ass, whether it be Nazi or Commie or even alien or zombie. The point is that our melting pot really doesn’t get cooking until the heat is applied and the burner’s on high.

These two series are flagship action pieces for their respective networks — The Walking Dead came first on AMC, followed within a year by Falling Skies on TNT. The former has its second season finale this Sunday and the latter comes back this summer for its sophomore year. Both are in their prime when it comes to the life of any TV series — enough of a run to fix some early mistakes but not so much as to render the week-to-week predictable. […]

The Ides of March (2011) -vs- Primary Colors (1998)

October 11, 2011 Bryce Zabel

The list of more-than-decent films about political campaigns is a short one. Nobody will ever forget Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson in The Best Man or even The Candidate with the Kennedy-esque Robert Redford. During the Years of Lewinsky, Primary Colors took us into the thinly-disguised 1992 Clinton campaign. Now we have The Ides of March, proudly wearing its cynicism on its sleeve at a time when Obama gets pilloried for being practical. In the most recent films, the candidates have that certain problem we mentioned earlier. (Redford is famously remembered in The Candidate as muttering, after winning, “What do we do now?”, but there’s also a quick moment of a campaign worker leaving his room in the morning earlier in the film.)
[…]

First Person: Going Viral Before Contagion

August 25, 2011 Bryce Zabel

While virtually everyone in the Internet world wants to go viral, back in the real world not everyone is so big on the concept. And for good reason.

Remember how lousy you felt the last time you had the flu? Now imagine that instead of getting better, well, that was it. The End.

The medical experts at the Centers for Disease Control think about such things all the time and, for over a year back in 2005-2006, we also obsessed about how a flu epidemic would change the world.

We came to the conclusion that it would be a pretty rough ride. Rather than expressing our opinions through a strongly worded letter-to-the-editor, though, we got to have our say in a multi-million dollar four-hour television miniseries.

Now, from what we can see of the new feature film Contagion, we feel like we were ahead of our time.

Although the final produced version of our project — Hallmark’s Pandemic — can’t compared to the brilliant production elements (fueled by studio cash and budget) that Steven Soderbergh brings to his version (written by Scott Z. Burns), our take Pandemic (written by Bryce Zabel & Jackie Zabel) won the Writers Guild of America award for “Outstanding Longform Original” in 2008. This means that multiple writers read our script that year and decided that, in our category, ours was the best of the bunch. We were pretty jazzed, we can’t lie about that one. […]

Independence Day (1996) -vs- The War Of The Worlds (1953)

March 28, 2010 Rodney Twelftree

Last year here at Movie Smackdown we got the idea to see what readers thought was the Best Alien Invasion Film of All Time. We thought that the genre really broke down into two sections — “Classic” and “Modern.” And so we did what we always do in these cases, we put it to our readers and let them weigh in.

We have two winners now, and we’re about to put them to the test against each other. For our purposes, we defined “Classic” as all the films that existed in the early 1950-1970 period (although all our candidates came from the 1950s), and “Modern” as everything that followed. Interestingly, fully half of our “modern” films were re-makes from the “classic” era. The “Classic” race was a close as hell, the “Modern” race yielded a clear winner. Here are our results: […]

The Road (2009) -vs- Testament (1983)

November 28, 2009 Bryce Zabel

Based on Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name, “The Road” doesn’t even bother to really tell you what happened. All we know is that at 1:17am one morning, the sky lights up (bombs, asteroids?) and that’s all she wrote. This is the telling of two characters really, The Man (Viggo Mortenson) and the Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who are trying to walk their way to the coast, close to a decade after that Minute When Everything Changed. Things are bad all over. Most everyone is dead now, food is all but gone, the animals have died, too, same with the plants. The closest thing to civilization are bands of brutal survivalists and the most common form of human nature being expressed is cannibalism. Why distributors decided to release this film on Thanksgiving Day may go down as one of the most inexplicable calls in movie history. The book has legions of fans and I first experienced it as an audiobook which I listened to on a daily walk through our local green belt. I think of this film in the rhythm of walking but it gets in your head and the day after Thanksgiving Day I simply had to see it at the only local theater playing it.
[…]

Deep Impact (1998) -vs- Armageddon (1998)

August 22, 2008 Bryce Zabel

It’s the End of the World as We Know It. Back in 1998, during the Year of Lewinsky, Paramount/DreamWorks got into a game of chicken with Touchstone. The result was two disaster films about comets that were about to crash into the Earth and destroy all life. The two films could share a single log-line:

When a “planet-killer” sized comet is discovered to be on an imminent collision course with Earth, an international space effort — led by the United States — sets out to deflect the object by setting off nuclear weapons deep inside its core so that it will miss Earth and, therefore, save humanity.

I won’t tell you how the Earth fared yet, but I can tell you that the point of impact in the theaters was about two months apart. Talk about operational redundancy!

Even though Deep Impact was the first in the theaters, for our purposes, we’re giving the “Defending Champion” designation to Armageddon because it won at the box-office. Armageddon grossed $553-million world-wide to the Deep Impact gross of $349-million. Incredibly, IMDB (the Internet Movie Database) has it as a virtual tie with both films scoring a 5.9 out of ten audience rating. […]