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. […]

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) -vs- I, Robot (2004)

August 5, 2011 Bryce Zabel

Maybe humanity won’t be #1 on Earth forever…

We’ve been used to being at the top of the heap pretty much since we picked up some stones and started making tools. But what’s going to happen if another species — real (like apes) or artificial (like robots) — gets the same idea? Fortunately, we have a couple of cautionary tales to consider that should give us pause before we get too cavalier.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the prequel to the re-boot of the ’60s-’70s franchise that started it all and sets out to answer the question that has always undermined the franchise: how would apes really pull this switcheroo with humankind off? With genomes being mapped and wonder drugs being tested at record speed these days, this is a film that was just begging to be made.

Back in the mid ’00s, however, I, Robot asked a different kind of question. Sparked by the breathtaking increase in computing power keeping pace with Moore’s Law or even Ray Kurzweil’s invocation of The Singularity, that question was: how much longer before these machines we built can think faster than us and what if they become conscious? […]

Quarantine (2008) -vs- Cloverfield (2008)

February 7, 2010 Rodney Twelftree

Sometimes, it’s the reality of a scenario that scares us the most. Film-makers are turning to more and more alternate methods of delivering a film to jaded, YouTube-obsessed audiences. With the two films on offer in this Smackdown, we delve into the world of “found footage” cinema and its gradual proliferation among the mainstream today. One, “Cloverfield,” takes us into New York city during a terrifying alien attack. The other, “Quarantine,” (a remake of a successful Spanish film entitled “REC” from 2007) delivers the story of a group of apartment residents, some fire-fighters, police, and a news crew, who become trapped inside a block of units when they are sealed in to stop the spread of a mysterious virus. Both are filmed in the Single Camera Perspective. Both are equally gripping. Both are filled with images and moments that will stay with the viewer forever. But which is better: alien attack and mass destruction, or simple, human drama played out with feverish speed and incalculable terror?
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The Book of Eli (2010) -vs- The Road (2009)

January 27, 2010 Bryce Zabel

We men have a default for action. So when the apocalypse arrives, we don’t plan on hunkering down, or trying to plant new crops.

No, we will hit the road, even if we don’t know where we’re going and, believe me, we’re not asking directions. For us, the idea is to keep moving.

My own personal take on the apocalypse is that it won’t be awesome, and it won’t be like a movie. It will be grimy, and personal hygiene will suffer, but the reason it’s called the apocalypse is that life will get cruel, short, and random, leaving precious few lines of witty dialogue to speak, or elegantly-staged action sequences to unfold. […]

Legion (2010) -vs- Daybreakers (2010)

January 25, 2010 Mark Sanchez

“Legion,” just out, calls out the forces of heaven; in “Daybreakers,” the irresistible force comes from another place. Both strain story logic and borrow from better movies but sputter out the same question: Humans, how do you want to die?
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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.
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