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Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 & 1978) – Review

17 Dec

Science fiction is one of my absolute favorite genres because of how it can take problems of today and morph it into something that seems very unbelievable but also shockingly familiar. This is something that is explored to the fullest in the classic 1956 sci fi shocker, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Released as a double bill with The Atomic ManInvasion of the Body Snatchers turned into something so much more than a well received B-movie. It’s become a classic film that’s regarded as one of the best of the genre. Not only that, but it’s remake from 1978 comes close to matching its greatness while also being considered one of the best remakes ever to be produced. You can’t go wrong with that, so I’m thrilled to finally get to talk about these classic films.

Let’s start with the 1956 original.

After being called back to town from a health conference, Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) is surprised to see a mental health problem affecting many people in the neighborhood. Multiple people seem to believe that their loved ones aren’t really who they say they are and, while they look exactly as they should, are actually imposters. While investigating this strange phenomena, Miles gets back together with an old girlfriend, Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter), whose own cousin is suffering from one of these “delusions.” When Miles’ friends Jack (King Donovan) and Theodora (Carolyn Jones) Belicec find a body in their house that looks just like Jack, it occurs to everyone that these accusations about imposters may not be so far fetched after all. With more and more people becoming closed off in the town, and with the FBI being completely unreachable, Jack and Dana have to pull together to get out of the town safely and warn the rest of the world about the “pod people.” But with imposters surrounding them, who can they really trust?

I first watched this movie back in college when I took a whole class on the Horror genre. Invasion of the Body Snatchers has been lauded as a masterpiece of science fiction, but also horror. I personally lean towards the side of horror because there’s something very unsettling about this film, and that has to be at least partially why this movie has stood the test of time. Sure, it is tame compared to sci fi horrors that come out today, but the black and white cinematography make the darkness feel extra dark and the soulless way the pod people move in complete unison at times is creepier than some of the more graphic scares of modern genre examples. This original movie also has one of the most exciting climaxes in this sci fi/horror genre which involves Miles running down a highway, desperate for people to heed his warning. Don Siegel’s exciting direction and Jack McCarthy’s terrified expressions make this whole segment a classic.

When this movie first came out, tensions were high and the Cold War was raging. People who worked on the movie have said that it was never their intention to write a movie that had any sort of political or societal message to it. That’s absolutely ridiculous to say. Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a brilliant look at not only tensions between the Soviet Union and America, but also the plague of McCarthyism that was tearing America apart and also the soul crushing drabness of suburbia. This is an intelligent examination of the whole state of affairs in mid-1950s America, so I can’t believe anyone would say that this is just an alien invasion movie and that’s that. If that’s what you believe, I feel like you’re missing out on a lot of what makes Invasion of the Body Snatchers such a classic.

What more can I say about this movie? Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a masterpiece of science fiction and horror. It’s a slow burn of a movie that doesn’t have any over the top scares, but there’s a looming sense of dread, despair, and hopelessness that clouds the entire movie and makes the suspense feel all the more urgent. This is a really fun example of a B-movie that was released on a double bill that was destined to be so much more. I absolutely love this movie.

Final Grade: A

Normally remakes are a touchy subject and I’ll be the first to admit that. In this case, however, the remake is well worth the time and can be considered a timely classic all its own. How often can you really say that?

After discovering a rare form of plant species, Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams), who works for the San Francisco Health Department decides to investigate further. While her research leads her to a dead end, her suspicions are still aroused after her husband begins behaving like a mindless drone that barely even recognizes her. She voices her fears to her coworker Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland), who is at first unsure, but begins believing her when strange things begin happening all over the city that sound directly related to her predicament. Bennell brings Elizabeth to his friend and pop psychiatrist, Dr. Kibner (Leonard Nimoy), who assuredly tells her that everything is ok. Things quickly go south when their other friends, Jack (Jeff Goldblum) and Nancy (Veronica Cartwright) Bellicic find a body in their massage parlor that looks exactly like Jack. As their investigation continues, it turns out no one can be trusted and extra terrestrial forces are closing in to take over their lives and eradicate the entire human race.

Take everything that’s super cool about the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers and expand on it to make it even cooler. That pretty much sums up the 1978 remake. More thought is put into explaining where the seeds that create the pods come from and the transformation of the regular humans into pod people is graphically shown. Philip Kaufman and his team clearly took the time and effort to create special effects that worked great for the time, without ever really overdoing it, and also using the camera and location to help tell the story better. One scene in particular has the camera dizzyingly following Donal Sutherland’s character threw the crowded streets of San Francisco. This clearly illustrates how alone, scared, and paranoid the character is without ever putting it into words. Not to mention, this movie has one of the most startling, bone chilling endings ever put to celluloid. That all being said, there are some flaws with this movie that don’t quite appear in the original.

In the original film, the relationship between Bennell and Driscoll is very natural and is a very believable and entertaining part of the story. It brings romance into the story, but it feels like a proper fit. In the remake, however, this romance is shoehorned into the plot and feels like a total afterthought. It’s one of those things where it really isn’t a huge problem, but it seemed so out of place that it took me out of the movie, and that’s the last thing you really want to have happen when you’re so sucked into it. This movie is also a lot longer than the original, which also isn’t a terrible thing. It just didn’t feel quite as tight, but the fact that the plot took its time also helps build the characters, lore, and suspense. The strongest part of this movie, and something that makes these tiny flaws feel super insignificant, is how the dread and suspicion and paranoia is turned up to 11. The late 1970s was a very different time than the mid 1950s, but that doesn’t mean people still weren’t afraid. The time of peace and love was coming to an end and the era of Watergate was upon them. It doesn’t quite have the same punch as the 1956 version, but the societal jabs are still there.

If you were to ask me if I’d rather watch the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers or the remake, I’d really have to think about it. The 1978 version ramps up the horror and special effects while also making the invading spores something much more physical and explained. There are a few storytelling hinderances that I can’t ignore, but this truly is one of the greatest remakes ever to be made. It’s smart, well acted, impeccably shot, and still provides all the scares that a fan of the genre can hope for. I’d say it’s just as good as the original, and if not that it’s pretty darn close.

Final Grade: A-

So there’s the first two films of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Both are excellent movies with their own strengths and weaknesses, but sci fi/horror really doesn’t get too much better than this. I’ll also be reviewing a few other remakes, Abel Ferrara’s 1993 film Body Snatchers and Oliver Hirschbiegel’s 2007 film, The Invasion.

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Starship Troopers Series – Review: Part 2

24 Sep

Here we come to the conclusion of my review for the Starship Troopers movie series. To recap, I gave the original film an A- because of its perfect blend of satire and over the top sci-fi action. It’s one of Verhoeven’s best and stands as a classic of the 1990s. It’s sequel was lucky enough to slide by with a since it completely lacked all of the great stuff from the original and felt like such a huge departure from what this series should be. Now we have Starship Troopers 3: Marauder and Starship Troopers: Invasion to pick up the slack. They have a lot riding on them after the abysmal second film, so let’s see how much the can do for the series.

In 2008, Starship Troopers 3: Marauders was released on DVD, making this the first film in the series to go right to DVD after the first film was a major theatrical release and the second was a TV movie. Luckily, this film, despite its direct to DVD status, picks up some of the slack.

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The war with the Bugs has been going on for over a decade, and the Federation is still unable to outgun the overwhelming numbers of their enemy. On the planet of Roku San, Col. Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) is in charge of a large military base that is being inspected by his old friend Gen. Dix (Boris Kodjoe) and Sky Marshal Anoke (Stephen Hogan). When the Bugs get through the perimeter of the base, the Sky Marshal is forced to leave on his ship which is soon shot out of the sky leaving him and a small crew stuck on a desert planet. Under the leadership of Capt. Lola Beck (Jolene Balock), this crew starts moving towards a section of their broken ship to call for evacuation while avoiding the Bug swarm. Meanwhile, Dix recruits Rico to lead the new Marauder program, which would put him at the head of a unit of soldiers donning mech-like power armor to go to the planet’s surface and rescue the survivors before it’s too late.

After Hero of the Federation deviated from the structure and style of the first Starship Troopers film, it was a nice surprise to see Marauder return things to what they once were, for the most part. This is another direct to DVD release, so there’s a major limit on what can be done, but this movie and the film makers behind it clearly have some major ambition. The writer of the first and second films, Edward Neumeier, returns again to write the screenplay but also takes a spot in the director’s chair. That being said, he did a pretty good job all around. It was great to see the character of Johnny Rico come back, especially with Casper Van Dien reprising the role. This helped this film really feel like it fit in nicely with the original. More attention is also given to the idea of psychic soldiers, and the satirical humor makes a lot more of a comeback than it did in the previous film. The Federation as a whole is front and center at this one, which also gave me a clearer and wider look at the world these movies occupy.

While this movie does fix a lot of problems from the second one, like being more interesting, better looking, and having better special effects, there’s still glaring problems to be seen here. First off, Johnny Rico is established in the beginning, and it was great to see him again. After a while though, he takes a back seat to the people stranded on the planet. I figured that would all be fine because when he takes command of the Marauders, it’s gonna be awesome. Well it kinda sorta was. The ending of this movie is very anti-climactic and I was pretty disappointed. When the mech suits land on the planet, I was so ready for a big throw down with the Bugs, but it was over before it even began and nothing that cool even really happened. It was a wasted opportunity that should have been part of the movie more. Finally, there’s this weird theme about religion that is beat over the viewer’s head, but in the end, the film can’t seem to figure out its stance on the subject which just makes it really annoying. These are some major problems in an otherwise good film.

Starship Troopers 3: Marauder is a really impressive direct to DVD movie and it a pretty worthy successor to the original for what it is. It still suffers from the low budget that most, if not all, direct to DVD movies suffer from, but the ambition overshadows that. There’s a lot of great ideas in this movie, but there’s unfortunately a lot of problems holding it back from reaching its full potential. If you’re a fan of the original Starship Troopers, this movie continues the story and the mood much better than the second film and works well as fleeting entertainment. It’s not great, but it’s alright.

Final Grade: C+

With three live action feature films, it would’ve made sense to leave this series as a trilogy, but in 2012 we got another entry. This film was released in theaters in Japan and direct to DVD in the United States. Surprisingly enough, Starship Troopers: Invasion was a pretty cool addition to the series.

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As the war rages on, the Bugs have begun attacking more Federation outposts like the asteroid base, Fort Casey. While the Bugs are in the middle of their siege, and elite team of the mobile infantry lands to rescue the crew and destroy the base so no Bugs can escape. Along with the infantry, pilot Capt. Ibanez (Luci Christian) and Minister of Paranormal Warfare Carl Jenkins (Justin Doran) escape the base, but Jenkins commandeers Ibanez’s starship before mysteriously going dark. Before Ibanez and the soldiers can get home, Gen. Johnny Rico (David Matranga) orders them back to find the starship that went dark and investigate what went wrong. After finding the ship, the infantry and Ibanez find the crew wiped out and Jenkins hidden away in the cargo hold. Soon, the Bugs make themselves known and the fight for survival begins as a Queen takes command of the ship and directs it onto a crash course for Earth.

The first thing you may notice about this movie is that it is completely computer animated. This could have either helped or hindered the movie, but in this case I think it helped. The animation isn’t anything special but it works well enough for the story, and the actors were all motion captured which gives the characters a little bit more life in their animation than they otherwise would have. This being a computer animated movie, there’s also a lot that could be done that otherwise couldn’t have been without an insanely huge budget. For one thing, the power suits finally get to do a lot, and we finally get to see how powerful and useful they really are. We got a glimpse of them in Marauder, but with Invasion you finally get to to really see them in action.

Speaking of action, this movie has plenty of it, and that’s both a good and bad thing. There’s plenty of scenes where the Bugs chase the troopers down endless corridors and trap them in seemingly impossible situations that they have to fight their way out of, but it does get a little repetitive after a while. There’s no grand battle scene or anything like that to shake things up. There’s also a lot of characters in this movie that don’t have a chance to get fully developed, so when some of them do die, it feels like a wasted potential for some real drama. This is something that the original Starship Troopers did well, but none of the others could quite match. Still, when the action picks up, especially towards the end, it does get to be a lot of fun and is the kind of stuff that this series is based on.

Starship Troopers: Invasion is oddly enough the best film in this series since the original, but it still doesn’t quite live up to that one in many ways. There are some cool characters, the animation looks good, and there’s plenty of action to keep die hard fans of the series entertained. It was also cool to see more of the original characters make a return. Unfortunately, the lack of character development and the repetitive nature of the action stop this movie from becoming something of a cult classic. Fans of the series will probably enjoy this one while people unfamiliar with the world may not see anything too special.

Final Grade: B-

Well, there you have it. All in all, this is a pretty lackluster series. The first film was an outstanding, satirical sci-fi/war film while the second one has a special spot at the very bottom of the bargain bin for all eternity. Some redemption was found with the third and fourth, but not enough to really hearken back to the original film. These movies can be an interesting watch, but it may be best to just stick with the 1997 original by Paul Verhoeven.

The Blob (1958 & 1988) – Review

22 Aug

When I think about movies from the 1950s, I immediately think of alien invasion films. There are classics like The Day the Earth Stood Still and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and then there are those that are classics for totally different reasons like Plan 9 from Outer Space. Arguably one of the most celebrated of these invasion films is the 1958 cult smash, The Blob. Like many sci-fi and horror films, it got a remake in 1988, but surprisingly enough, it stands up to and in many ways surpasses the original.

Let’s look at the original version first.

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Steve Andrews (Steve McQueen) and Jane Martin (Aneta Corseaut) are out on a date one night in rural Pennsylvania. The night seems ordinary enough, until Steve notices what looks like a meteor hurtling towards the woods. When the contents of the meteor, a small gelatinous blob, is inadvertently brought into town by an old hermit (Olin Howland) people begin disappearing. Steven finally notices the blob, which has grown a lot bigger, consuming the town’s doctor, but when he begins telling people, only Jane seems to believe him. As the night goes on and more and more people begin disappearing, the blob finally grabs the town’s attention when it attacks people in a movie theatre in its iconic climax.

What could have been a pretty standard B-grade alien invasion story is bolstered into becoming something of a genre masterpiece. But what is it that really puts The Blob a step above the rest? Like a lot of these genre films from this time, there’s an underlying theme of communism making its way into the American way of life, but it’s done with what I think is the most simple but affective way. The blob, which is red, literally consumes everybody and becomes bigger and bigger. This blob, by the way, is a real achievement of special effects. Sure it looks dated now, but there’s certain scenes that made me excited at the clever usage of practical effects.

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The 1958 version of The Blob is a lot of fun. So much fun that there’s even a festival named after it which is dedicated to celebrating the film and other movies like it. It’s also fun to see a young Steve McQueen, who would go on to be an action megastar, in probably his most timid role. Unfortunately, this movie really won’t appeal to everyone. You have to be a fan of the genre to really appreciate what this movie was trying to do and the ways it succeeded. Still, it remains a cult classic that will never be forgotten.

There was a sequel to this film in 1972 called Beware! The Blob, but I’ve never seen that one, and I really have no interest in seeing it. Instead, I’m gonna jump ahead to 1988 to look at the remake.

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At the risk of sounding like a broken record, a meteor crashes in Arborville, California (that’s new) and is soon brought to the city by and old homeless man (Billy Beck) who gets it stuck on his arm. The amorphous, acidic substance soon disintegrates and consumes the man and begins working its way through the small town, growing larger and larger as it consumes more people. Brian Flagg (Kevin Dillon) and Meg Penny (Shawnee Smith) are two teens caught in the middle of all of the chaos which only gets worse when scientists and military personnel, led by Dr. Meddows (Joe Seneca), get involved and reveal a large government conspiracy that could be the end of the world.

Just like the original fit in nicely with other 1950s alien invasion films, this version of The Blob fits in great with the sci-fi/horror film of the 1980s. Like a lot of those films what really stands out to me in this movie is the special effects. The blob is much larger and much more aggressive, so the death scenes in this movie are much more explicit. This means we get a lot more of those practical effects I was talking about, except a whole lot better. People are disintegrated, snapped like twigs, limbs are pulled off, and faces are melted all in the name of cheesy horror.

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Another thing this version has is a great sense of humor that borders on the line of self awareness. There are a lot of jokes in this movie that genuinely made me laugh, and it’s pretty safe to say that everything that happens in this movie is done in a sort of tongue in cheek kind of way. That being said, the humor makes for characters that are easy to like which causes a reaction when one of them dies. Let me just say also, that this movie has some guts in killing off the people it does and when. There are plenty of shocks, laughs, scares, and great special effects that makes The Blob from 1988 not just a good remake, but a great and, dare I say, superior remake.

For both of the films, you have to already like the genre or be open to the idea of liking the genre. With the silliness of the first one and the excessive gore of the second one, these movies aren’t for everyone, but both have garnered praise and celebration which is all well deserved.

Frankenstein’s Army – Review

9 Jul

There are movies with crazy ideas, but then there are movies with CRAZY IDEAS. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that certain movies get made at all with the stories that they boast, but the it’s even harder to imagine that some of those same movies are actually something worth watching. Believe it or not, this is where we find Frankenstein’s Army, a 2013 film that was made with a seriously low budget, and made up for it with a massive amount of imagination. While this film isn’t destined to be on anybody’s list of classics, it’s one that should be noted for the passion and the dedication that went into ensuring it would be completed.

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At the end of World War II, a group of Soviet soldiers are sent into Germany for a recon mission. After hearing a mysterious distress call from other Soviet soldiers, who weren’t even scheduled to be in Germany, the group decide to go the the coordinates that were sent and investigate. The coordinates lead them to an abandoned factory where they discover a horrifying secret. Instead of finding Soviets, they stumble upon a squadron of mutated, robotic zombies constructed by Viktor Frankenstein (Karel Roden), the grandson of the original Dr. Frankenstein. This begins a fight for their lives to hold off the creatures and escape becoming one of Frankenstein’s next experiments.

Without actually seeing the movie and just judging by the ludicrous story, it would be safe to assume that this movie is brainless and without point. In fact, I’ve even heard people that have seen the movie say that it is brainless and has no point. They are sorely mistaken, however, because Frankenstein’s Army is packed to the brim with imagination and excellent design, so much so, that it is impossible to call it brainless. Even the story of Nazi “zombots”created by a descendent of Dr. Frankenstein is entertaining as hell. But with a movie as much fun as this, there always seems to be one near fatal flaw, and Frankenstein’s Army has a glaring one, BUT I will get to that later.

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Since this movie had a shoestring budget and the co-writer/director Richard Raaphorst is also an illustrator, he decided to combine these two things, draw out the monsters, and have some ridiculously skilled costume artists bring them to life. I swear, the zombots are some of the coolest looking things I have seen in a movie in years, because they are really just guys in costume made with practically achieved means. One zombot actually has a fully functioning propellor sticking out of its front. Another one walks around on these blade like stilts. On top of that, the set design looks really authentic, like this is what you would actually find in a situation like this. Finally, I just want to mention the overabundance of blood and gore that is NOT CGI, and also Karel Roden’s wonderfully maniacal performance.

But like I said before, there is one thing about this movie that is just so unbelievably stupid and illogical that it almost spoils the entire thing. Ladies and gentlemen, Frankenstein’s Army may be a movie that takes place at the end of World War II, but it is also a found footage movie… Yep. Not only is it a found footage movie, but also one with excellent sound design and shot on digital. Ok, I know that part of the reason it is made like a found footage movie is because of the budget, but like it’s just so weird to be watching it and then remembering that it’s World War II and the picture quality is just so clear. I don’t even think this is nitpicking, either, because it makes so little sense.

Frankenstein’s Army is certainly a one of a kind movie depending on how you want to look at it. I completely understand if someone hates this movie or disregards its existence because of that overwhelmingly illogical fault of it being found footage, but I just don’t want to hear that the movie is brainless. I, for one, was entertained throughout the entire movie because there was so much to look at with the excellent design. That’s pretty much all I can say about the movie. It’s definitely worth checking out just for the creativity behind it all.

Edge of Tomorrow – Review

15 May

Summer blockbusters usually go one of two ways. Either they are a special effects extravaganza with a little movie on the side, or they are a well thought out movie that just so happens to employ a high amount of special effects to help tell an engaging story. The first time I saw the trailer for Edge of Tomorrow, I automatically assumed it was going to be a flop, but it turns out, like so many times before, I was dead wrong. In fact, it was highly successful. Well, I’ve finally gotten around to watching it, and I have to say it’s one hell of an exhilarating ride that gives the popcorn movie a hefty boost.

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In the not too distant future, the human race is engaged in a war to defend Earth against an alien race called the Mimics. Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is a public relations officer who is assigned by General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) to the front lines of what is supposed to be the final pushback against the Mimics. Pretty much as soon as Cage is dropped into battle he is killed, but he then finds himself waking up at the beginning of that day. Sgt. Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), who once was in the same situation as Cage, recruits him to train him herself. The two find themselves repeating the same day and learning the ins and outs of the same battle with the mission to get to the Omega, the brain that is keeping all of the Mimics alive.

Right away, this seems like a really unique idea for a movie, but for some reason I just couldn’t immediately wrap my head around how it was going to work. Then I made the smart decision and just watched the movie, and now I get it. Not only is the story unique, but it’s told in such a way that I was engaged for the entire movie. While the story of trying to find and destroy the Omega and save the Earth was really exciting stuff, I have to give the movie credit for going even deeper than that. There’s also a great story involving William Cage’s character arc. Cage starts out as a Major in the United States army who really only works with the press. He is then thrown into battle and we see, as the movie progresses, him grow as a character and earn the rank that he was given. It’s excellent story telling.

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For a movie that’s packed to the brim with special effects, I have to say that they are some of the best that I’ve seen in a few years. That’s because the crew utilized a smart combination of CGI and practical effects and blended them together just right. The aliens and the ships are all CGI of course, but most of what you see at ground level is actually practically achieved. The beach is exactly what it is, a section of beach with trenches dug into it, with a wall of green screen around it to enhance the effect. The exo-suits  were all worn by the cast and hooked up with cables to make them move like they do. It’s perfectly executed and only made me get into the movie more. In fact, there was one scene that looked so great, I had to rewind and watch it again a few times.

Credit also has to be given to Tom Cruise for working so well in this role. Like I said, part of this movie is seeing his character evolve from an unauthentic face for the military into an actual battle hardened soldier. Cruise’s acting and the script both make this change happen gradually and it was great to actually see the changes happening as he lived and died over and over again. Again, it’s a great way to tell a story, because if something happens to immediately, I’m not going to believe it actually happened. I guess what it really comes down to is that even though Edge of Tomorrow is science fiction, it was still very believable, and that’s a high compliment to pay a work of sci-fi.

Edge of Tomorrow is like a textbook definition for how a summer blockbuster should be properly executed. It’s an entertaining, action packed thrill ride that supplies a hefty amount of depth and character development. This isn’t a movie where you turn your brain off and just look at how pretty it is. It’s also a movie that’s fun to talk about once it’s over and even more fun to watch it again to pick up on things you might have missed. I know that’s what I’m going to do. I loved Edge of Tomorrow.

Battle: Los Angeles – Review

12 Jul

It seems like audiences will never get tired of alien invasion movies, and I’m ok with that because I personally love the genre. When done right, invasion movies are exciting and may even have a message that mirrors societal problems. Then there are some that are loud and brainless, kind of like Battle: Los Angeles.

SSgt. Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) is finished with being a Marine. He has to get through day after day of reliving his past mistakes that got people killed. Unfortunately, for him and everyone else, he is pulled back into active duty after aliens arrive on earth and begins exterminating any human that the come across in order to colonize our planet. Nantz and his new squad are part of the bigger machine that is charged with repelling their attack by any means necessary.

Does anything else happen in this movie? No. Not really. There is a nice beginning that introduces all of the different marines that we will be with the entire movie, and lets us in on their different personalities. They are a pretty diverse bunch of people, which does help me care about them, but I knew that there were a lot of them because a lot of people have to die, so i immediately understood their purpose.

Even with all of the characters, besides Nantz, I still found it hard to keep everyone together. When they are in battle, they pretty much just lost their characters and became random people, because I had absolutely no idea who was doing what, or even what was going on sometimes. Battle: LA is filmed in a kind of faux-documentary style, so expect a lot of shaky cam and motion sickness, lots of motion sickness. I don’t know what it is with film makers today, especially in Hollywood, who think that this style of film making works to the advantage of an action film. Even Christopher Nolan was guilty of this in Batman Begins. If there is an action scene, I’d like to see and understand it.

I’m pretty sure that this movie was partially made as a recruiting video for the United States Marines. I got tired of hearing how much ass the Marines kick and how they never retreat. It would have been fine a couple of times, but every other line? No, thank you. Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down are actual war movies, and even they don’t talk about themselves as much as the characters in Battle: LA.

Then again, all of the writing in this movie is pretty terrible. Battle: LA is packed to the brim with every war movie cliché you can possibly think of. The characters are all stock war characters, there’s the obligatory and serious “tell my wife I love her” scenes, and a protagonist with a mysterious past. Some originality would have been nice, but who needs to be original when there are so many explosions and cool looking stuff (Michael Bay?).

I can’t say that the movie didn’t entertain me for a little bit. I saw it when it first came out in theaters and had a pretty good time, but watching it again at home, I liked it a lot less. When the aliens first came and the action first picked up, I was liking it. Then it kept going and going and going. When the end finally came, I was more than ready to turn it off. It was only two hours long. That’s average for a movie, but it felt way too long. Two hours of nonstop yelling and shooting may sound cool, but not really.

Battle: LA had potential to be cool, but is wasted with some of the most unoriginal, and vomit inducing (shaky cam) content that has come out in the past couple years. Look at District 9 and Independence Day. Those are fantastic alien invasion films, and I wished a couple of times that I was watching them instead of Battle: LA. It may look cool, be loud, and have lots of action, but I was still pretty bored. This isn’t a good movie, so save yourself some time.

Mars Attacks! – Review

20 Apr

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge Tim Burton fan. Most of his movies, besides maybe his version of Planet of the Apes, have an awesome style that combines the macabre with dark humor, which really strikes a cord with me. Mars Attacks! isn’t quite as dark as his other films, but the dark humor is absolutely overpowering, which both helps and hinders Burton’s personal ode to a series of vintage trading cards and the style of classic 1950s sic-fi B-movies.

When it is brought to the attention of President Jimmy Dale (Jack Nicholson) that Martian ships have surrounded Earth, he leaps at the chance to make contact with these beings and begin to work together. During the first meeting that is held with the aliens, a huge firefight breaks out between the Martians and the military. Soon, the world is engulfed in an all out war with the Martians, who with their sick senses of humor and love of violence attempt to take over our planet.

Mars Attacks! is loaded with celebrities. Jack Nicholson plays both the president and Art Land, a money hungry casino manager. Glenn Close plays the first lady and Martin Short is the horny Press Secretary Jerry Ross. Anette Bening plays Land’s peace loving alcoholic wife. Michael J. Fox and Sarah Jessica Parker are sleazy news reporters, the latter having a strong attraction to Pierce Brosnan, who plays Professor Donald Kessler. Danny DeVito has a small part as a greedy gambler and Tom Jones is hysterical as himself.

These characters all made me laugh in their own way, but the really stars are the Martians themselves, who have really funny dialogue, even though all they say is “ack.” Even though we don’t speak their language, we as an audience know exactly what they are saying. These Martians try to conquer Earth in the most obnoxious way possible. They don’t only kill anything they see, but it is clearly evident they want to have as much fun as they can with the destruction of a planet.

Something I found really shocking about this movie was how violent it was, but don’t mistake me, I’m not condemning the violence in it. I’m merely saying it was a bit unexpected. Once the Martians arrive on Earth, the sic-fi shoot outs and destruction are pretty much non-stop. When a human gets hit with one of the lasers from the Martian’s, all the flesh disintegrates, leaving only a bright green or red skeleton. The effect is really cool and it was fun to watch. It was also fun seeing the Martian’s heads explode inside their helmets. Roger Ebert says that this particular gag was only funny the first couple of times, but I never got tired of it.

The only detraction I can really give this movie is that the storyline is INCREDIBLY weak. There really almost is no storyline besides “Martians attacks Earth and funny stuff happens.” None of the characters really go through any sort of change or discovery, and a couple characters in particular aren’t implemented enough. The characters themselves are pretty funny, but the real humor lies with the twisted Martians and how the human characters react.

While Mars Attacks! is far from being Tim Burton’s best movie, it’s still a really fun escape into a silly world where all of the important people of the world are ridiculous caricatures here for our amusement. The writing is average and the plot is pretty stupid, but I laughed at almost every scene. It may be silly, over the top, and juvenile at times, but it’s a fun ode to movies of the past.