Posts Tagged ‘Aliens


I Come in Peace (1990)

IComeInPeaceVHSCover_FotorFinding a videocassette like I Come in Peace for sale in a heap of garbage at a used book store or thrift shop makes all the hunting worth it. Amongst all the copies of Titanic, While You Were Sleeping, Jerry Maguire and the like, you hope and pray for something worthwhile. That moment when you see a VHS with Dolph Lundgren on it, you know you’ve won. But you know it’s the jackpot when he’s threatened by an alien on the cover!

Picture it: Houston, Texas, 1990. Jack Caine (Lundgren) is a vice cop with little regard for the rulebook. He’ll stop at nothing to put the White Boys, a bunch of white collar drug pushers, behind bars. But alas, Caine is a good guy to a fault. While his partner is doing some real dangerous undercover work with the White Boys, Caine leaves his buddy in the lurch to stop a robbery in a nearby building. That is, of course, when the White Boys discover there’s a mole in their midst and blow everything to smithereens, including Caine’s partner.

Now Caine is even more pissed than before. This is no time for the FBI to stick their heads in his business! But alas, they do, and Caine is now saddled with straight-laced, by-the-book Special Agent Larry Smith (Brian Benben). Smith of course has no patience for Caine’s renegade nature, but let’s get real, it’s not like Smith is going to fight against a muscle-bound cop like Caine too much.

So far, so normal, right? Typical story about a local cop with no regard for protocol and a tight-assed Special Agent who loves the shit out of bureaucracy. Don’t worry, the weird shit’s just around the corner: there is a tall, leather-bound dude with long blond hair who is killing people! Smith and Caine find a very alien weapon: a vibrating disk that slices and dices everyone in the room until it finds a place to lodge itself. There’s also a sudden proliferation of corpses pumped filled with heroin, but strangely the cause of death is not a drug overdose. Obviously something is fishy, but what is it? And will anyone believe Caine and Smith?

This movie is delightful, stupid fun. First of all, I don’t think I’ll ever get enough Dolph Lundgren, he’s just so much fun to watch! The “tension” between his character and Benben’s is so hilariously textbook, but I think that actually adds to this dumb movie’s charm. Then there’s this whole alien thing, which is like, what the fuck is that all about? This movie is like Predator 2 meets The Hidden with a serious anti-drug message thrown into the mix. Who comes up with this stuff, and why don’t they continue to make shit like this today?! I would totally go to a movie theater and watch silly shit like this. Knowing this is now available on blu-ray, I just might have to upgrade.


Night of the Creeps (1986)

CreepsNight of the Creeps is one of those horror movies I should have seen twenty-or-so years ago, but just never made the time for. No better opportunity to catch up on decades of missed horror than October, so for Day 17 of 31 Days of Horror we finally gave it a chance. It was a choice I’m glad we made; I only regret it took so long!

The film starts off in the 1950’s. Two hot-and-heavy teens are going at it at the local make-out spot when they see a shooting star touch down in a nearby field. The adventurous boy and his somewhat frightened date drive to the spot to investigate. She decides to stay back, just in time to hear a radio report announcing that a crazed maniac has escaped the local insane asylum! Her date is too busy getting infested by alien bugs to hear her scream as she’s hacked to pieces.

Fast forward to the 1980’s, where only a fraternity-rush prank could resurrect the evil bugs! Chris and JC are two down-on-their-luck college boys. Chris believes he’s found the woman of his dreams in Cynthia, but she’s dating a super-douche. Perhaps he can impress her by joining a fraternity? As is to be expected, the frat boys have no intention of actually letting Chris and JC join, but they decide to have a little fun with them first and challenge them to dump a stolen corpse on a rival fraternity’s front steps. The boys actually get pretty close to accomplishing their goal, but instead of stealing a body from the morgue they release a cryogenically-frozen-and-alien-bug-infested zombie upon the college town.

At first, Detective Ray Cameron (Tom Atkins) is prepared to slap the boys six ways to Sunday for such a stupid prank, but eventually he learns the boys are legitimately sorry for wreaking all the havoc. When JC falls victim to the spreading alien bug, Chris and Cameron have something in common: revenge. Now that both have lost loved ones to the evil alien zombie beings and they’re going to band together to make sure the alien slugs won’t get away with it! Can they save the town before everyone turns into a Creep?

Night of the Creeps hilariously spoofs every horror movie you’ve ever seen, but not in an unforgiving Scary Movie kind of way: it actually has a cohesive plot with likable characters, and even some respect for the material it is parodying. The make-up and special effects are even pretty good, and there are a few actual scares, too. But, I think it is fair to say that if you’re not a horror fanatic, you can still enjoy Night of the Creeps on the level of a simple horror movie. It is, of course, much better if you’re in on the joke! If you’re not into the genre, you might, for instance, miss that almost every character is named after a famous science fiction or horror director. It’s cute little nods like that that put this movie over the edge from okay to great. Then there is Tom Atkins, who plays the bitter, hard-boiled detective to a tee and delivers his one-liners like no other (those Raymond Chandler novels scattered around his apartment are a nice touch, too)!

I definitely recommend Night of the Creeps to any genre fans who have, like myself, somehow missed it all these years. It certainly isn’t the best thing I’ve ever seen, but I’m definitely reserving a spot for it on the short list of good horror-comedies. It lives quite comfortably next to the likes of Killer Klowns from Outer Space and Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. Even if you’re not into horror, it is still a fun ride to go on, and what better time to buy a ticket than Halloween? Actually, its comedic tone might be just right for someone who isn’t into horror at all. So there you have it, a movie for everyone! Check it out!


Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

What better way to follow-up Elvira’s Haunted Hills than with another old-horror parody flick? No better way, I say, and so Day 4 of 31 Days of Horror is dedicated to Killer Klowns from Outer Space. This time instead of Elvira’s Poe and Price fixation, Klowns rethinks alien invasion movies from the 1950’s! Only these aliens aren’t like any we’ve ever seen, in the 50’s or otherwise! They are, well, you guessed it, Klowns. You know, with a K. I think that means they’re kooky.

The tent's first victim: good ol' boy Royal Dano

The tent’s first victim: good ol’ boy Royal Dano

The action centers around a wooded area in a college town; the kind of place those krazy kidz go to make out and do the nasty! Mike and Debbie are just having some fun when they see something like a shooting star touch down in the woods. Like any inquisitive pair of horny teenagers, they decide to check it out. The last thing they expected, of course, was to see a giant circus tent in the middle of the woods! Of course it could mean nothing but innocent fun, right? WRONG! Inside the tent are grotesque clowns who spin humans into cotton candy and suck out the blood with a silly straw! If only they had a friend in the police department…

Oh but they do! Seems Debbie’s ex is the only reasonable cop in town, and he’ll do anything to win her back – even if it means scouring the town for Killer Klowns! The only other cop at the station, Mooney (John Vernon), is having none of it! He doesn’t trust these out-of-town college kids a lick, and he’ll be damned if any damn kid will

Mooney ain't gonna buy any of that shit them kids are sellin'...

Mooney ain’t gonna buy any of that shit them kids are sellin’…

get him to believe in the invasion of the Killer Klowns!

This is a gleefully stupid horror movie and I love it so fucking much! What’s not to love? The plot is ludicrous, and so enjoyable to watch. The special effects and make-up are totally stellar; the Chiodo Brothers know what they’re doing, I only wish they did it more often. Watching a movie like Killer Klowns today, when there is so much CG bullshit flying around, makes me appreciate their talents that much more. I sure as hell hope the fabled sequel to Klowns, supposedly due out in 2016, will feature the same beautiful make-up work. Above all, shitty CG is the biggest movie-ruiner for me these days, so it would be nice to see some real gooey make-up action on the big screen again.



Another great thing about Killer Klowns from Outer Space is it’s a relatively tame movie. Sure, it’s a horror movie with terrifying clowns and it features a few make-out sessions, but I don’t think there’s any serious gore or nudity. The tone is very light-hearted, even if the clownish antics of the aliens (puppet shows, marionettes, pies in the face) all turn out to be very deadly! All in all this is a hilariously goofy way to spend an hour and a half. It’s pretty much a must-see for anyone interested in boning up on their b-horror canon, and always worth another viewing for those already in the know.


Under the Skin (2013)

For Day 2 of 31 Days of Horror 2014 we picked Under the Skin, Jonathan Glazer’s weird, atmospheric sci-fi horror flick utspstarring Scarlett Johansson. I’ve never really been a fan of Johansson, but I learned my lesson a while ago not to judge a movie by its casting alone (and boy, is it hard to admit that Keira Knightley taught me that lesson. Ouch). I would say, though, that it’s pretty difficult for me to withhold judgement on a film based on its writer/director. Prior to watching Under the Skin, Jonathan Glazer didn’t hold much weight in my book; I didn’t think much of Sexy Beast, and still to this day wonder why the heck so many people love it. And Birth? Oh lordy, what a disastrous mess that was!  So basically what I’m saying is, I was unjustly biased against Under the Skin before I even watched it. Even so, I was excited and intrigued to give it a go.

To put it bluntly, Johansson plays an alien dressed in a woman’s skin who drives around Scotland at night looking for lonely men that no one will miss. She seems to be in league with a guy on a motorcycle who is apparently responsible for finding her human skin. She uses her feminine wiles to bring them to her flat, where something very bad happens to them. We get a very vague hint as to what exactly happens to these men, but for the most part it remains quite mysterious. Neither is it clear what role the motorcycle man plays in the killings, but it does seem as though he’s a step above her in the Alien hierarchy. What is pretty clear is the cold calculation in Johansson’s character; she baits and traps them with little to no expression or emotion on her face.

Things are not looking good, random dude.

Things are not looking good, random dude.

She goes on this way for some time, seemingly unfazed at the loss of human life. At a certain point though she has some sort of an epiphany, and attempts to run away from her “home,” letting her latest catch go free. Now she has nowhere to go and is on the run from the motorcycle man. She’s no longer the predator, she is now the prey. Not only is her mysterious colleague out looking for her, but the men she used to pounce upon are licking their chops, as well. There are moments where it seems as though the Alien is attempting to get in touch with its inner humanity, but this never really turns out well for our Alien friend, unfortunately.

This is another one of those movies that, after watching and thinking about, I’m still not sure how I really feel about it. I think that I really, really liked it. At the same time though, the ending left me feeling a bit like a dog waiting for its human to give it a treat, head cocked slightly to the right with hopeful, questioning eyes. Perhaps that isn’t a bad thing, though; I have certainly learned in the last few years that films that give you all the answers are a hell of a lot less interesting than the ones that leave you asking questions at the end.

Alien overwhelmed with the urban landscape.

Alien overwhelmed with the urban landscape.

One thing I know for sure is that the movie is absolutely gorgeously shot. Its looks alone are enough to compel me to recommend it to others. It just looks so darn good! On top of that, it is one of the most original movies I’ve seen in quite a long time. I really love the weirdness the men are confronted with once the Alien lures them back to her flat; it’s like no other “murder” scene I’ve ever seen. It manages to convey the total other-worldliness of our Alien without revealing any of her motives or weaknesses. True, this is another one of those slow burn films; the action is very drawn out and downplayed, but that definitely adds to its mystery and is in step with the Alien’s deliberate plan of attack.

Alien seems to fare much better in the forest.

Alien seems to fare much better in the forest.

Everything changes, of course, once the Alien breaks free from this pattern and attempts to discover humanity for itself. Things get a little more frantic, and with the tables turned the movie starts to tell the story of a woman victimized by the society she attempts to embrace, only after exploiting the hell out of it for some unknown reason. It is an interesting change of tone, and kind of reminds me a little bit of Teeth, only in reverse: instead of learning how to use her feminine attraction to her advantage, the Alien here is trying to learn to be a normal, vulnerable human being. In that way, it is almost a coming-of-age story, only, for, um, an Alien… becoming a human…

If you are a patient, curious movie-watcher, this is your guy. If you want blood and guts, this probably isn’t going to do it for you. Actually, here is a tip: check out the soundtrack. It is such a perfect match for the tone and pacing of the film, it should give you a pretty good idea of what to expect. If you dig it, I’d say chances are pretty good you’ll like the movie. At the very least, it will give you something to think about for a long while after having seen it. Oh, and another intriguing tidbit which I didn’t know until after having seen the movie: most of those dudes Johansson picks up are not actors; they’re Scottish dudes who have no idea who she is. Adds an eerie, real-life familiarity to something that is very Alien.


The Faculty (1998)

The Faculty is one of those movies that had been lying in wait for me to watch for a long time. I’d always heard, though I can’t for the life of me name the sources, that it was much better than anticipated; a smarter than the average horror movie. So, when we came across one of those 8-in-one DVDs with it on there we figured it was worth a gamble.

Poor Casey, he's just so misunderstood! If only the whole school knew what a great guy he was!

Poor Casey, he’s just so misunderstood! If only the whole school knew what a great guy he was!

All I gotta say is: ugh. I’m sure I’ve written this before, perhaps even in the very same words, but there is nothing worse than a movie that thinks it’s clever, but in reality is predictable and exhausting. I guess Kevin Williamson, the guy that wrote the screenplay, figured he could use the same formula he did for Scream, only this time it’s not a horror movie, it’s a sci-fi movie!

Welcome to Herrington High. It’s one of those high schools that’s exactly like adults think high schools are like: Delilah (Jordana Brewster) the captain of the cheerleading team and editor of the school newspaper is a total fucking bitch, but we’re still supposed to root for her. There’s Casey (Elijah Wood), a dork who crushes hard on her, even though she treats him like shit. There’s Stokely, an angsty loner who reads science-fiction novels (those will come in handy later!) who everyone calls a lesbian because… it’s 1998? There’s Stan the quarterback, who is tired of being loved for his athletic skill and wants to quit the team so he can focus on his… studies. There’s Deke (Josh Hartnett) the entrepreneurial drug and porn dealer who’s repeating his senior year, to sell more drugs, I guess. Finally there’s Marybeth Louise (Laura Harris, that blonde chick from Fifteen, remember that shit?), the new girl who’s bright, cheery, blonde and friendly.

So angsty. Wouldn't she look better in lavender?

So angsty. Wouldn’t she look better in lavender?

The only thing that could bring this unlikely group of cliches together is aliens taking over the school! No, seriously, like Casey and Delilah totally saw Piper Laurie and Robert Patrick suck the life out of Salma Hayek in the faculty lounge! Casey gets the cops involved, but of course they don’t believe him (he’s so misunderstood!) and Delilah goes “incognito” by, you know, putting on a pair of glasses or whatever, and won’t back him up because, uh, I don’t know, it’s not good for her reputation or something?

Could it be the faculty’s strange behavior and a weird, new species Casey finds on the football field are related? It certainly seems that way when the creature bites everyone’s favorite teacher Mr. Furlong (Jon Stewart), Mr. Edward Furlong (ha ha, get it! Get it?) and dude goes apeshit trying to infect Deke! That’s right, it’s this alien creature that’s been infecting the faculty, and the students one by one, in hopes of taking over the whole town! It’s a damn good thing Deke’s drugs are nothing more than No-Doz in powder form;

Eddie Furlong goes apeshit.

Eddie Furlong goes apeshit.

see, the aliens thrive on water, and the diuretic drug dries them out! Now the ragtag group of shitty teens has their weapon. Can they defeat the alien invaders?

Well there’s certainly no way they’d be able to win if it weren’t for Stokely and her vast knowledge of science fiction stories. She knows deep in her geek brain if they kill the mother alien, all the rest of the folks who have been inhabited by the alien will turn back to normal and everyone can be happy again! In theory. Now the trick is to find the mother of them all…

I don’t find Williamson’s cast of characters or how they relate to one-another interesting or innovative in any way. I suppose it’s possible the film just hasn’t aged well; perhaps in 1998 his choice was, oh, I dunno, edgy or some bullshit like that, but now it seems boring, flat, tired and predictable. Worse still is what happens to the kids after everything’s over: Casey is heralded a town hero, and only then does Delilah find him acceptable to be around. Am I supposed to cheer that Casey gets the girl; the bitchy, shitty girl that I fucking hate, in the end? Perhaps worse, Stokely, the black-clad geek kisses her new boyfriend Stan at the end of the film. Am I supposed to be happy that she’s not a lesbian? Now that she’s got a man, I guess the dreariness of life has lifted and it shows; she’s wearing a fucking lavender sweater. What the fuck are you trying to tell us,

She's infected... with bitchiness!

She’s infected… with bitchiness!

Williamson? If we use our geek knowledge for good we can be happy? That in the end no one really wants to wear black? Fuck it, let’s all go out and buy fucking lavender cardigans! I call fucking bullshit. It’s pretty much Ally Sheedy’s transformation at the end of the Breakfast Club; “you know, you look a lot better without all that black shit under your eyes.” At least she had the balls to say she liked all that black shit. This is all the more troubling being that the alien’s reason for attempting to take over the high school was because it knew the students wanted to belong; all it needed to do was exploit their lack of self-confidence in order to gain their submission. And what happens in the end? The alien hasn’t won their submission, but society has; they’ve given up their individual strangeness in favor for playing for team normal. And that is some lame-ass bullshit.

Perhaps Williamson was going for some sort of irony with the ending; a weak attempt at turning the genre on its head and pointing out all the faults with horror, sci-fi and teen films. But I don’t buy that. By the time we get to the ending, it’s far too late to attempt this kind of recovery. While Scream may have been a clear shot at meta filmmaking, The Faculty isn’t as much. It’s much more of a straight-forward horror/sci-fi flick that just happens to reference its source material. It makes its stabs at humor, but they rarely work and they certainly don’t color the movie as some sort of self-aware horror/comedy. Nope, I think this is just a shitty movie more interested in gaining the approval of the normal kids than appealing to the weirdos. It lost me. I think I hated it. Yes, pretty sure I hated it.



Mars Attacks! (1996)

It can be hard for a film to overcome its initial reception. It’s been nearly twenty years since Tim

President Nicholson

President Nicholson

Burton’s Mars Attacks! was released, and all this time I’d never watched it, just remembering folks said it was “pretty terrible.”

Why in the world did I ever listen to what “folks” say? “Folks” don’t know jack. “Folks” tend to like the new Godzilla movie. Shows you what “folks” know. And yet the resounding voice of a thousand idiots can still be difficult to shake off, even decades later. But I’m glad I finally sat down to watch Mars Attacks!, because, folks, it is delightful.

The plot is simple: martians land on the earth and, despite the naive human hope they have good intentions, proceed to incinerate everyone and everything they can get their beams on. Even our charming American president (Jack Nicholson) can’t seem to get them to listen to reason. It’s going to take a lot more than

Pieces of Pierce

Pieces of Pierce

clever speeches to get them to back off. A little Slim Whitman, perhaps?

This movie is basically every ridiculous mid-century science-fiction movie rolled into one and pumped up on steroids. This of course makes perfect sense given the fact that Burton had just made Ed Wood two years beforehand. Perhaps these naysayers were expecting a serious, sappy, romantic epic drama like Independence Day, and who could blame them – that piece of crap was released just months before Mars Attacks!. But really I think the problem is people don’t get jokes. Or are jokes too obviously low-brow for them? Do people go for the “serious” drama because they think it makes them look smarter, as my husband suggested after the aforementioned dreadful debacle Godzilla?

Best Grandma ever.

Best Grandma ever.

I was so surprised that this was actually a competent, amusing and fun film. I really wanted to understand why people didn’t like it. So I watched the trailers, thinking maybe they made the movie look more like Independence Day than it actually is. And the answer is no, they didn’t. Could it be that people don’t even pay attention to the two minutes they’re expected to in a movie trailer? I guess the final answer is: who cares. Their loss. After years of watching movies and never understanding why the masses like one thing but pan another, I should probably just finally admit that I’ll never get it. I am more than okay with that. I hope you are too. I hope that’s why you’re here!


The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)

I’m going to start this one off on a slightly personal note. I’m a normal person who just happens to watch a lot of movies. The great thing about the internet is I need no qualifications whatsoever to write and “publish” whatever I think and feel about everything I watch. Potential audiences can choose to read it or not, and I owe nothing to anyone. This blog originally started as a place to log my impressions of everything I watch, because frankly I tend to forget details. It’s now turned into its own kind of monster, with actual, faithful readers (thank you, readers!) So, I guess I’ve decided to take it a little more seriously, especially when a particular film warrants a little more attention. Recently I’ve come across quite a few flicks that I feel deserve more than just a quick write-up, and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is definitely one of them.
In an interview with The Onion’s AV Club, Peter Weller, who plays the titular hero, said of the film: “I had no idea what that movie was about, I still don’t, but I had a ball making it.” That comes pretty close to my experience watching it; I had no idea what it was happening, but I loved every minute of it. The first time felt like such a whirlwind I had to sit down and watch it a second time just to make sure I had my bearings enough to write about it! Even so, I’m certain to get some of the finer plot points wrong; there is an awful lot going on. I will try to stick to the basics.

Buckaroo plays piano for Penny Priddy

Buckaroo plays piano for Penny Priddy

Within the first ten minutes or so, we are introduced to Buckaroo’s many talents: namely surgeon, physicist, and rock star, but let’s not forget he’s hobnobbing with the President of the United States on a regular basis, and happens to be a comic book hero as well. He’s long been part of a scientific experiment led by Professor Hikita to use a handy-dandy thingamajig called an oscillation overthruster which reorders the particles that make up solid matter in such a way that people should be able to pass right through them. The overthruster has been tested before by Hikita and his former colleague Dr. Emilio Lizardo (John Lithgow), but not with much luck (in fact, Lizardo ended up in the loony bin as a result), so the whole research team is biting their collective lip as Buckaroo gets behind the wheel of a mega-racecar and drives at extremely high speeds towards a giant mountain.

The perpetually suave and cool Buckaroo of course makes it, and he sees some pretty wacky shit in there too. He even brings back a strange creature from the 8th dimension, which he reveals to curious onlookers, particle physics enthusiasts, journalists, and undercover Red Lectroids at a press conference after the successful event. What’s an Red Lectroid? Well, that’s where it gets a little complicated…

A Black Lectroid

A Black Lectroid

Enter Planet 10, where years ago a civil war raged between the Red Lectroids and the Black Lectroids. The Black Lectroids won, and banished some of the most evil Red Lectroids to the 8th dimension, including their leader John Whorfin. When Dr. Lizardo failed to pass through the wall all those years ago, he was possessed by Whorfin; that’s why he’s so bonkers. Because of Lizardo, the Red Lectroids caught wind of the oscillation overthruster’s potential capabilities, and infested earth in hopes of gaining its technology and releasing their imprisoned comrades from the 8th dimension. Years of failed experiments seems to have paid off, now that Buckaroo has successfully proved the thing works. Now all the Red Lectroids have to do is steal it.

A transmission from the Black Lectroids helps get Buckaroo and his backup band The Hong Kong Cavaliers up to speed and tell him if they don’t succeed in destroying the Red Lectroids, they will simulate a nuclear missile headed for Smolensk; an act the Soviets will obviously see as an act of American aggression. It’s now up to Buckaroo and his crew to save the world from destroying itself!

The Electric Emilio Lizardo

The Electric Emilio Lizardo

Though no one in their right mind would call a four-paragraph plot synopsis “succinct” it might actually be the appropriate word to use here – there is still so much going on that I have left out! Either way, the plot is really just a vehicle for great performances and hilarious jokes. It’s no secret that I think Peter Weller is the man, and his role as Buckaroo Banzai is no exception – he is fantastic; totally cool the movie through. John Litghow as John Whorfin/Emilio Lizardo is exactly the opposite; a totally over the top villain, hamming it up every chance he gets (and that accent!). The Red Lectroid crew (Christopher Lloyd, Vincent Schiavelli and Dan Hedaya) are hilariously incompetent as they fumble towards the overthruster. Other notable performances include Ellen Barkin as Penny Priddy and Jeff Goldblum as “New Jersey”, but it’s not just the big names that make this movie – everyone plays their part to a tee.

For some terribly sad reason, I never watched this movie as a kid, and as a result have been left out of the culty joke for too many years. It’d been floating around as a possible viewing option for a year or so, but my husband had a hard time marketing it to me, just as, I have read, they had a hard time marketing it to kids in 1984. This is totally understandable: a movie as all-over-the-place as this one is pert-near unmarketable. No matter, over the years it has carved out a nice little following for itself, and deservedly so; it’s an extremely quotable film with plenty of in-jokes, the perfect recipe for an underground hit. I see evidence of its reach in some recent films: it’s quoted directly at the end of Beyond the Black Rainbow, and though I might be reaching, that Jamaican dude from John Dies at the End reminds me an awful lot of a Black Lectroid!

Forever dorky, New Jersey.

Forever dorky, New Jersey.

The good news is, even if you’re late to the game there’s still a spot for you on the team. Buckaroo Banzai is as much fun to watch as an adult as I imagine it might have been for me as a kid. My husband wrapped up the sentiment in a pretty neat package when he said: “you’d have to have a soul to not like this movie.”  I completely agree. I get the feeling that this is the kind of movie that only gets more charming the more you watch it, and it can undoubtedly withstand multiple viewings; I think husband noticed at least two or three little jokes that he never had before the second time we watched it together – and he’s no Banzai novice. And, let’s get real, any movie that ends like this has got to be irresistible.


They Live (1988)

they_liveAs members of the film-geek community, we can all agree that John Carpenter has his ups (The Thing) and his downs (The Fog; come on guys, it’s not good). They Live lies somewhere in between, a film with absolutely fantastically wonderful ideas but pretty flawed, though nonetheless entertaining, execution. I’d always been told that I’d like They Live, but the never-ending list of films to watch is vast indeed; it took Slavoj Žižek’s endorsement to finally put it at the top of the list.

Our hero, John Nada (Roddy Piper) is trying his best to thrive in a flailing society; jobs are scarce, and it’s the hunt for work that has brought him to Los Angeles. He’s not having too much luck there, until he stumbles upon a pop-up community of like-minded individuals who will work whenever they can find it and help out those who are having a rough time of it. There he finds a friend (sort of?), a hard-working dude named Frank Armitage (Keith David) who takes him under his wing (sort of?).

The community is next to a church, where the choir sings well into the night, or at least that’s how it seems, until Nada walks in to find the singing is just a recording. The church is actually a cover for an underground group that is attempting to illuminate the truth for the poor dupes in the world. Their main attempts to infiltrate television broadcasts are sloppy and ineffective; your Average Joe just bangs on the television set, complaining of interference. The mother lode lies in magic sunglasses.

These aren’t your average Ray-Bans; as soon as Nada puts them on, seemingly innocuous billboards and magazine covers reveal their true purpose. An advertisement for a hot vacation, under examination of magic sunglasses, is a blatant message commanding consumers to “Marry and Reproduce.” Other messages spotted are “Obey,” “Stay Asleep,” and “Submit to Authority.” The true messages behind the glossy marketing are upsetting, of course, but what’s worse is what Nada sees in people: a great many of them no longer look human, where there pretty faces once were now reveals nothing but a soulless skull.

A revelation such as this is hard to keep to oneself, so Nada tries his darndest to get Armitage to put on the glasses. He has absolutely no interest in “waking up” and is defiant enough to warrant a notoriously long and over-the-top fight scene between the two. Eventually, Nada succeeds in putting the glasses on his pal and Armitage can do nothing but admit the truth. The two hatch a plan to rebel, and quickly learn that the Earth is being controlled by a small cadre of elite aliens (those skulls we’ve seen around) who are exploiting it for their own purposes. The unsuspecting humans are kept under control by a broadcast signal; if the two men can find the source of it, they can see to it that everyone wakes up.

I can’t express how much I love the premise of this movie: the 1% are actually aliens from another planet brainwashing the rest of us 99ers? Brilliant. Seriously. I love it. And as simple as the premise may seem, I could expound for several paragraphs on its far-reaching implications, but let’s see if I can sum it up in just a few sentences. Of course the 1% don’t care about the Earth, Global Warming, pollution and poor people – they aren’t even human for chrissakes. Their humanity is all-but erased by greed and they are drunk on power. They keep the poor schlubs, those of us who keep the clock ticking for the rich and powerful thinking that we actually have a choice in the matter, but when we look deeper, there is of course no choice at all, there is only the illusion of choice. No matter what route we take, we are all doomed to a meaningless life of servitude and we are so blinded by the rat-race we can’t even see the truth for ourselves.

What a great idea for a movie, right? Unfortunately, Carpenter gets more than a little off track, and what could be a truly intellectually challenging and thought-provoking film turns into a brutish wrestling match. What do you expect, of course, when your lead guy is a famous WWF wrestler? The poor fella can’t act his way out of a paper bag, so instead he just punches his way out, and Carpenter seems to blithely go with it. All that being said, it may be the lightness with which the subject is eventually tackled that makes this a really enjoyable, though terribly confused, movie. It is nothing if not fun, and to be perfectly frank, that’s my favorite part about watching movies: having fun. I guess Carpenter proves that you can still have fun while calling out some of the worst injustices of modern society, and I think that ability might be more than just a little worthwhile.

They Live might be a little unsure about what exactly it wants to be, but don’t judge it too harshly. While definitely not as good as I wanted it to be (and not as good as I thought it was going to be 30 minutes in) it is still a movie worth seeing, and it definitely gets points for trying. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call this a must-see, I am most definitely glad I watched it, and I can’t wait to watch it again.


Alien Warrior (1986)

AlienWarriorCoverThe videocassette strikes again! Another timeless (not) masterpiece (nope) from the 1980’s makes its way into my living room thanks to the wonders of the VCR. This time it’s one of the most enjoyable worst movies I’ve ever seen, Alien Warrior.

The short synopsis: Alien Jesus. The (slightly) longer version: an alien (Jesus) and his father (God) discuss how his brother came to earth in hopes of saving it from “Great Evil,” but failed. The alien is determined to finish what his brother started and shows up in the middle of Scary Bad Evil City, USA where drug dealers (Great Evil) reign supreme.

Our alien friend chooses the name Buddy and walks around town in tight jeans and a neatly-trimmed beard asking everyone he runs into: “are you Great Evil?” Apparently there really is one “Great Evil” and it’s a drug-dealer/pimp/rapist known as Mr. One. Our friend Buddy stumbles upon him and after MacGyvering a car and finding a woman to treat nicely he is successful at defeating Great Evil.

So, yeah, this is absolutely dreadful religious propaganda. Unfortunately, it’s not available on DVD; I would love to share this with more people. I’m quite fond of the extremely black and white good vs. evil tales a la Walker, Texas Ranger, and this is definitely comparable to that. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to get Chuck Norris to play this role. This movie is so gleefully, delightfully devoid of substance. I either loved it or I loved hating it. It doesn’t matter which.



The Hidden (1987)

Strangely familiar...

Strangely familiar…

Welcome to Los Angeles, a city that thrives on pretense and secrets. Nobody is ever really what they seem, from actors and producers to bank-robbers and… FBI Agents? Well, at least that’s the case in The Hidden, a goofily awesome horror/sci-fi flick starring none other than Kyle MacLachlan as said FBI Agent. That’s right, before he was Agent Cooper he played Agent Lloyd Gallagher, a strange fellow on the hunt for an even stranger one…

Gallagher’s first stop: LAPD, Detective Tom Beck (Michael Nouri). For a manhunt like this, Gallagher’s going to need the best man for the job, and apparently Detective Beck is the only

He's from "up."

He’s from “up.”

acceptable candidate. He’s in high-demand, but can’t turn down the feds when they ask for his help. Seems like a pretty open and shut case, though: the guy Gallagher’s looking for is Jack DeVries (Chris Mulkey, a.k.a. Hank Jennings also from Twin Peaks!) a regular guy turned nutcase who was just pumped full of lead and burnt to a crisp by half the LAPD. When

Gallagher rushes to the hospital to find him, Beck and his colleagues can’t see what all the fuss is about. The bad guy’s down and about to die! Things of course are a little more complicated than the cops are prepared for. DeVries is slumped and dead by the time Gallagher gets to the

I always wanted to know what makes this guy tick...

I always wanted to know what makes this guy tick…

hospital, which some folks think should be considered good news. What they don’t know is DeVries was gone long before his two-week crime-spree. See, his body has been taken over by an incredibly disgusting alien, who hops from body to body stealing fast cars, robbing banks, and killing anyone who gets in his way. A dead DeVries means the alien has a fresh, new body to exploit! What we have here is no open-and-shut federal case, but an intergalactic game of hide and seek!

This movie is so much fun, I wanted to watch it a second time immediately after the first. I love seeing a baby-faced Kyle MacLachlan (this came out only a year after Blue Velvet) playing a

Everything is creepier when mannequins are involved.

Everything is creepier when mannequins are involved.

goofy and awkward FBI Agent. It is a perfect mix of action (car chases, gun fights, bank robberies), horror (I mean, that alien!) and science fiction (again, that alien). I can’t help but think David Lynch must have seen this before writing Twin Peaks. Admittedly I first thought of it because it’s not often you see Chris Mulkey and Kyle MacLachlan in the same film, but the similarities definitely go beyond that. Both are about the secrets hidden beneath the surface of everything and everyone. Both are, on some level, about possession, either physical, mental or otherwise. And most obviously, both have MacLachlan playing FBI Agents in search of something far more than just the answer to a simple mystery. To top it all off, this movie actually has a really awesome ending! Most movies of this flavor tend to disappoint towards the end, but this one definitely does not. I strongly recommend you try and get your hands on this! Unfortunately, it is out of print, so renting can be sort of tricky (it sat on the top of my Netflix queue [yes, I still rent DVDs from Netflix] for a long time before they finally delivered it to me), but I think it can be easily found and purchased from many vendors on the internet – and believe me, it will be well worth your time and money!


Old Wave