This was the summer when the aliens really invaded, but as lazy observers and alien battling armchair generals, all we did was give them the thumbs up or thumbs downs as we stomped the stickiness of the theater off our soles. Not to be mistaken with the Republican's Illegals, this was the Summer of Aliens. It wasn't everything I wanted (where's my human/alien hybrid ganja), but it contained a little bit of wonder, some of the unexpected and, as always, some flat out disappointment.
I'm going to start with Cowboys and Aliens, which kicked off the invasion at the beginning of the summer. The trailer looked amazing with a grizzled Daniel Craig in a cowboy hat getting hunted down by an even more grizzled Harrison Ford in old codger mode. Ford captures Craig and intends to kill him until...surprise, some ominous blinding lights in the sky descend to take out some of those rodeo pokes in the posse and snatch Ford's punk ass son (Paul Dano). Craig happens to have a futuristic bracelet which shoots lasers and a bad case of convenient\classic alien "lost time" so he can't explain the how and why he has this gizmo and we are off and running. This movie had everything going for it, except for a good script. After the initial 20 minute set-up which is pretty good, the plot begins to lose altitude and you could literally watch the heat of the cliches burn this film down into a smoking sad nub of itself.
The final insult was the lazy creative team who did the alien creatures. Not to geek out completely, but their consistency to the space craft they piloted were non-existent (and without explanation for that) and they looked like warmed over Ray Harryhausen creatures. Did they think we were too distracted by Han Solo and James Bond to notice? I suppose so. I wouldn't do it, but the DVD will be out in early December.
Next came Super 8. I fully expected to be let down especially after seeing E.T. again (which the marketing for this film definitely tried to re-capture) for the first time in years. That little extraterrestrial still brings tiny tears to these bloodshot eyes so I unfairly steeled myself against this new film.
A handful of young teen friends filming a zombie movie, witness a train wreck while shooting one of their scenes. However, the cargo of this train is one unhappy alien who just wants to get its ass back to Mars or where ever it come from. Oh, and it goes on a rampage to do it. Shorty after the crash, the military rolls in and puts a lock down on the entire town, but in fashion of super secret stuff getting out and about, tell no one what is going on. They just want to recapture it as the alien goes about killing whoever happens to get in its way. And the kids seem to know and/or figure out everything. There is a fair amount of light cheese on this pizza, but it does have Spielberg involved so it is nothing you haven't experienced before, and, quite frankly, you should have expected. Possibly he's gotten a lighter, defter hand as he gets older or J.J. Abrams had enough creative control (he did write & direct this) to steer him away from those more saccharine moments. He handled the excellent Star Trek remake here so I trust it is his hand firmly on this tiller. There is even one small anti-drug message slipped in there which you will have to catch for yourself. It's subtle enough I almost forgot about it myself, but it's there. All in all, a good popcorn and pot smoking film. It comes out on DVD on November 22nd.
I've not made it any secret that I like thuggish & violent films most days of the week. Well, Attack the Block must be someone's gift to me as it has thugs, violence, aliens and a little social commentary. I watched with a big, stoned smile on my face.
The beauty of this plot is its pure simplicity. It is South London, present day, and a small gang of inner city kids roll up and mug a young woman. It is not brutal, but mean spirited with that whiff of possible violence if she fights. So it feels pretty real all around. Moments later, something smashes into a parked car distracting them and the woman takes off. They go check out the car and one of them is attacked by something in it. He fights back, killing the thing with his knife. Afterward, all the boys look at the body, realizing this is something strange and possibly not of this planet. So they haul it off with them to consult with the local drug dealer (never a sound idea) and see if they can find someone to buy it off them. Not too long after, more of these creatures drop from the sky and start to make their way into the projects where our hero juvy delinquents and the dead alien are holed up.
This film has tons of characters, likable and not, so you never know who is going to be killed and there are way more surprises in this simple plot than the two before mentioned films in the post. It's a little dirty, a little hard to understand the dialog (the English accents are thick and genuine) and some solid violence from the human and alien sides. The film's tag line is actually a much better summery than I could have ever come up with: Inner City vs. Outer Space. You can get this DVD now so go watch it soon.