“Django Unchained” (Tarantino) Meets “Lincoln” (Spielberg)

December 18, 2012 Movie Smackdown

The body count in Django Unchained — given that it’s a Quentin Tarantino film — is way, way high. The film hits theaters on Christmas Day so we can consider “Peace on Earth” while amping up on slave-era violence. It will likely pack the theaters, Rotten Tomatoes has it with 100% fresh reviews as we write this. We wish we were smart enough to figure out what all of this means about violence in America and what should be done. We are devastated, like everyone else, by what happened in Connecticut, but doubt that a red carpet arrival for Tarantino’s spaghetti-western ultra-violence-fest has much bearing on it. […]

Super 8 (2011) -vs- E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

June 10, 2011 Bryce Zabel

“Listen, guys, we got J.J. Abrams writing and directing a film about alien contact that Spielberg’s gonna help him produce. Who’s in?”

When the words were first uttered in Hollywood, there must have been a hush in the room. Now, with the sci-fi world ablaze with anticipation, Super 8 is ready for its own close-up.

In Summer 2011′s first big swing into science fiction, this Spielbergian team-up goes with a story of kids in small town America discovering something amazing. Our Challenger Super 8 is set in 1979, just a few years before the release our Defending Champion E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Both films involve kids getting involved with aliens, cover-ups, and military diversions and suppressions.

And even though Steven Spielberg is on the team of this latest effort, over here at the Smack, it’s still personal. Two directors slugging it out. The brash new contender in J.J. Abrams and the wise, beloved champion in Spielberg. […]

Battle: Los Angeles (2011) -vs- Transformers (2007) -vs- War of the Worlds (2005) -vs- Independence Day (1996)

June 1, 2011 Bryce Zabel

There are alien invasions and then there are alien invasions.

This Smack is about the ones where the aliens swoop in, lasers blazing, hell-bent on some balls-to-the-wall human ass-kicking. No demands, no negotiations, just straight-ahead mayhem where the Earth is torn up with no regard whatsoever. It’s as if they’re treating our planet like a condemned building that just needs to knocked down as fast as possible so the new construction can get started. I know some folks think we’re already doing that ourselves but let’s skip the politics and just define this as apocalyptical visitation.
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Inglourious Basterds (2009) -vs- Saving Private Ryan (1998)

January 23, 2010 Bryce Zabel

High-profile directors like Tarantino and Spielberg dearly love taking a shot at putting their own brand on a World War II movie, no doubt because of the lure of working with badass villains and ass-kicking good guys.

Both of these films re-defined the genre as it existed when they were released and were considered Oscar-worthy enough to get Best Picture nominations (although both fell short).

Here at the Smack, they’ve each won a first round against a lesser contender: Saving Private Ryan knocked out the intense but difficult The Thin Red Line in our review, and Inglourious Basterds did the same against Spike Lee’s mediocre Miracle at St. Ana. Both of the winners in this Championship Round come with their passionate defenders. You can express yourself in our reader poll embedded in our post. Meantime, here’s how I call the fight… […]

Saving Private Ryan (1998) -vs- The Thin Red Line (1998)

July 1, 2009 Movie Smackdown

War is hell. And until Steven Spielberg got involved, we’d never really experienced war through the eyes of a soldier. We’d come close, with filmmakers as diverse as Coppola and Oliver Stone all giving us their interpretations, but it always seemed to be at a safe distance. The viewer was taken on a journey, but not our own journey. Unlike Ron Kovic or Ben Willard, who undertake a journey for us, Spielberg attempted to give us our own experience in war without having to leave the cinema. “Saving Private Ryan,” which graphically shows us the D-Day landings of a group of US forces in 1944, opens with an assault on the senses unlike any we’d ever seen. It thrust us into the heat of battle, the confusion and carnage of an assault that beggars description. It wanted us to know exactly what war is really like.
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