December 31, 2015

Blu-Ray Review: THE WALK

Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsly, Charlotte Le Bon, Clement Sibony, James Badge Dale, Ben Schwartz, Benedict Samuel. Directed by Robert Zemeckis. (2015, 123 min).
SONY

I vaguely remember seeing this event on the news as a kid, when Philippe Petit tight-roped across the World Trade Center in 1974. It was still under construction at the time and his stunt apparently helped inspired many native New Yorkers to embrace the twin towers, who previously thought the boxy buildings were unimaginative eyesores. Some would argue this single act rendered the World Trade Center as synonymous with the Big Apple as Madison Square Garden and the Empire State Building.

I never gave the event another thought until years later, watching a post-9/11 documentary on the World Trade Center’s history. Petit’s wire-walk was a highlight, of course, but knowing the buildings’ eventual fate decades later rendered it a bittersweet memory.

So it’s a credit to director Robert Zemeckis that The Walk remains a mostly whimsical account of Petit’s daring (and frankly insane) wire-walk between the two buildings. As played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Petit is a likeable sort (perhaps with his head just a bit too high in the clouds) and charming enough to recruit several like-minded people into helping him out. Most of the characters are fairly perfunctory (including Charlotte Le Bon as a love interest), meaning the first hour, which is mostly dedicated to introducing them, occasionally wears on the viewer’s patience.

Spitting off a ledge has its challenges at this height.

But once it focuses on the stunt itself (ingeniously presented like a crime caper), The Walk really comes to life, with a few moments of high-suspense even before Petit steps a foot on the high-wire. And because this is Robert Zemeckis, who never met a special effect sequence he couldn't pull-off, the final act is as constantly crotch-tingling (and completely convincing) as any film ever made. If you suffer from even a little acrophobia, prepare to pee yourself a bit. I suppose it goes without saying that some of its original theatrical impact will be lost on smaller screens.

For the most part, The Walk is quite an entertaining film, even if the resolution is a forgone conclusion. Still, despite the overall amusing tone maintained throughout, the final scene is poignant and bittersweet without calling much attention to itself. I won’t reveal it, of course, but you might find yourself getting a little misty once the end-credits roll.

BONUS FEATURES:
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Featurettes: “The Amazing Walk”; “First Steps: Learning to Walk the Wire”; “Pillars of Support”
KITTY CONSENSUS:
PURR...LIKE A GOOD SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS...AT 1,110 FEET.

Happy New Year from FREE KITTENS MOVIE GUIDE

May it be a better one than theirs...


December 29, 2015

THE BLOB (1988) and the Horrible Holiday Hell

Starring Kevin Dillon, Shawnee Smith, Donovan Leitch, Jeffrey DeMunn, Candy Clark, Joe Seneca. Directed by Chuck Russell. (1988, 95 min).

Essay by D.M. ANDERSON
 
Like most families, mine has certain holiday traditions. We always watch A Christmas Story after putting up the tree. In the days leading up to Christmas, my wife makes caramel corn, Chex mix (my favorite), candy cane cream puffs and sugar cookies, the last of which the whole family has a hand in decorating. And because of our relatively twisted nature, at least one of us will come up with some kind of anti-Christmas cookie, like a demonic snowman or a reindeer riddled with bullet holes.

We also visit my folks' house on Christmas Eve to exchange gifts and sit down to a formal holiday feast. It's a ritual I've grown to despise and fear over the years.

Not because I don't love my parents. On the contrary, they're wonderful people. We've generally gotten along really well over the years and they've always been there for me through good times and bad. They welcomed my wife into the fold with open arms and have spoiled my kids the way all great grandparents do. And Christmas is the time of year Mom seems to live for, planning waaay in advance to make sure the approaching holiday goes off without a hitch. In fact, we're expected to have our Christmas lists ready in July.

Still, I dread visiting their house on Christmas Eve...because they have a dark side.

Well, maybe not Dad. As far as I know, his post-retirement routine consists entirely of bowling, fantasy sports and a little off-track betting on the side. I'm pretty certain he's involved in little of the domestic decision making. Like most smart spouses, he defers to his wife, which I've learned to do as well. That way, if the shit hits the fan, we can blame them (silently, of course). Still, he's the one who married Mom, so he's guilty by association.

Mom definitely has a dark side, which only comes out during the holidays. Oh sure, she's all smiles when we show up on Christmas Eve, happy to see us and showering everyone with hugs and kisses. But I know better because I grew up baring witness to her dark side, which I once tried to warn my wife about, only to see her succumb to Mom’s insidious influence.

Just this past year, when we arrived at my parents’ house with gifts in-hand and warm greetings all around, my palms were already sweating because I knew what lurked within. Dad knew too, but was playing dumb as usual (probably what's kept him alive all these years). He even shot me a sympathetic gaze. Mom, of course, acted like everything was hunky-dory.

While my wife engaged in small talk with my parents, I slowly crept toward the kitchen to grab a beer, each step ringing loudly in my ears. Once I reached the fridge, I swallowed hard, dreading what I’d find when I pulled the door open, yet certain it would be there.

Like ripping off a Band-Aid, I bit the bullet and threw open the refrigerator door. Sitting on the third shelf in a 9” x 12” Corningware dish, like it does every Christmas, was the source of my holiday horror...

...Mom’s Tomato Aspic.

For those of you unfamiliar with this supposed ‘dish,’ Tomato Aspic is a concoction of gelatin, tomatoes, peas, celery, Tabasco, hard-boiled eggs and whatever-the-fuck-else happens to be in the fridge at the time. Worse yet, it’s served cold. Just looking at it is like viewing the colonoscopy of a demon’s bowels. Even writing about it now, picturing my mom, wife and sister forking it into their mouths, sometimes with a dollop of fucking mayonaise on top, triggers my gag reflex. For some reason, this satanic slop never caught-on with any of the males in my family (Dad included). Not to sound sexist or anything, but perhaps men are simply more aware that just because a dish technically consists of food products doesn’t necessarily mean it’s edible.

Mom claims there’s an actual recipe for Tomato Aspic, but I don’t believe that for a second. Who the fuck would ever consciously decide any of these random ingredients fused within a jiggling, gelatinous mass would constitute good eating? Not even during my stoner years, when peanut butter, Cap'n Crunch and bologna made a good sandwich, would the ingredients of Tomato Aspic seem remotely compatible.

It’s this time of year I’m convinced my mom may not actually be Mom at all, but an insidious alien whose plan for world domination begins with sticking a seemingly-harmless dish of goo in the fridge, which in-turn comes-to-life and commences mindlessly consuming its surroundings. Once it’s good and loaded with remaining leftovers from the previous few weeks, it literally wills the women in our family to wolf it down, who then sing its praises to anyone within earshot.

Every year, my sister says to me between mouthfuls of this shit (goo dripping down her chin), “How do you know you won’t like it until you’ve tried it?” But there’s always something sinister in her blank stare & monotone drone, like someone from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Was it her or the aspic doing the talking?

Besides, I don’t need to try it. After all, one glance at a steaming pile of dog shit in the yard is enough to know it isn’t meant to be consumed. And while I love my wife, I refuse to kiss her during this holiday get-together because I know she has aspic on her lips.

That’s what scares me each Christmas Eve at my folks’ house...this hideous dish, lurking like a predator on the third shelf, practically daring me to destroy it, which I tried one year, only to discover it's impervious to fire (though Mom's kitchen curtains weren't) and bullets just make it mad.

It’s even more terrifying once it’s dished up and rendered shapeless...

Oh, Hell no!


You know what it looks like? The Blob. Not the cartoony 1958 Blob, but the upgraded-for-the-80s Blob, a slimy, formless mass which consumes its victims by absorbing them as graphically and disgustingly as possible, just like Mom’s aspic does as it patiently sits - and waits - behind the refrigerator door.

The 1988 remake is actually pretty cool, if relatively unappreciated today compared to other remakes of the time like The Thing and The Fly. Though some of the special effects haven’t aged all that well, The Blob does feature one of the all-time great death scenes in horror, when a poor rube is completely sucked into a sink drain, even though he obviously can’t fit through in one piece. It’s moments like this gore fans live for and this scene doesn't disappoint. The new version also violates a long-held taboo (at least when it comes to major studio productions) by not only killing a child character, but rendering his death one of the most graphic and sickening in the entire film.

Unlike the original, where the blob was simply a gooey monster from outer space, this one is the result of the government’s attempt to develop a biological weapon, a far more timely concept for a cynical generation that doesn’t place blind faith in authority figures. The fact that the government swiftly arrives to sacrifice an entire town to keep their creature a secret is actually fairly disturbing, mainly because it doesn't seem all that far-fetched. It also has me wondering if my mom isn’t part of a similar conspiracy.

I hate to think this way about Mom because I sprang from her loins. However, Grandma hasn't shown up during the past few Christmases. No explanation has ever been given for her sudden disappearance from our annual get-togethers, but during the last Christmas Eve I ever saw her, she hobbled to the kitchen to grab more wine (of which she always consumed plenty) and never returned to the family room where the rest of us were enjoying the holiday. Mom simply shrugged and suggested Grandma was merely tired and went to bed, while Dad offered a sheepish grin and nodded obediently (nervously shifting his eyes to the fridge).

Yet, the next morning, Christmas Day, there it was...Mom’s aspic atrocity, once-again completely intact in its usual Corningware dish, despite having-been mostly devoured the night before. Grandma was gone, yet this foul food had returned for the women to enjoy, all of whom ravenously slurped the pan clean yet again. But what did they consumes this time? More eggs? More vegetables? A stray cat? Grandma? I didn’t know, nor was I willing to find out. There are some questions you simply don’t want the answers to.


Blu-Ray Review: THE PERFECT GUY

Starring Sanaa Lathan, Michael Ealy, Morris Chestnut, Tess Harper, Charles S. Dutton, Holt McCallany. Directed by David M. Rosenthal. (2015, 100 min).
SONY

Featuring an attractive cast, The Perfect Guy is a low-wattage thriller which offers nothing that hasn't been done before in better movies.

Sanaa Lathan plays Leah, who breaks up with her longtime boyfriend, David (Morris Chestnut), because he is reluctant to make any longtime commitments. A few months later, she meets Carter (Michael Ealy), who's charming, handsome and quickly earns the approval of Leah's friends and family. But when he goes from zero-to-psycho within a single scene, she tries to end the relationship. This doesn't sit too well with Carter, who begins relentlessly stalking her. And of course, because he's so clever, the police are helpless to do anything about it.

I suppose if you've never seen Fatal Attraction or scores of similar films which followed in its wake, The Perfect Guy might offer a few fun surprises. However, nothing can patch the glaring plot holes, the most obvious being a scene where Carter pursues Leah's elderly neighbor. He disappears and reappears which such silent swiftness (and is apparently able to walk through walls) that Batman would be envious.

"Admit it...you ordered one of those fruity drinks with a little umbrella in it."

For the most part, The Perfect Guy is a checklist of common thriller tropes. While proficiently directed, it's undone by its generic story and stock characters. You'll be able to accurately predict who ultimately lives and dies within a few minutes of their first appearance onscreen. The cast is decent and suitably attractive, but none of their blandly written roles are particularly memorable (though Ealy clearly seems to be having a good time).

BONUS FEATURES:
Featurette: "Lust and Obsession: Making The Perfect Guy"

KITTY CONSENSUS:
MEH...THIS FILM COULD BE TITLED 'DEJA VU'

December 28, 2015

Rest in Peace, Lemmy

Lemmy's legend transcends every musical genre, every form of media, and we here at FREE KITTENS MOVIE GUIDE will miss him dearly. Our hearts are heavy, yet filled with his timeless music, which will live forever.
Ian Fraser "Lemmy" Kilmister (1945-2015)

December 26, 2015

Blu-Ray Review: SICARIO

Starring Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber, Daniel Kaluuya, Maximiliano Hernandez. Directed by Denis Villeneuve. (2015, 121 min).
LIONSGATE

“Sicario” is the Spanish word for hitman, which initially seems to be a misleading title for a film primarily about an ongoing war between U.S. drug agents and the Mexican cartels. But worry-not, kids...it’ll all make sense in the end.

Emily Blunt is Kate, a dedicated FBI agent who, with her partner, Reggie (Daniel Kaluuya), fights mostly futile battle against the influx of drugs into the country. She’s then recruited by undercover CIA agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), whose unorthodox - often illegal - methods may yield results, but have her questioning why she agreed to get involved. This is continually exasperated by the presence of Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), who doesn’t appear to be affiliated with any particular government organization, but is the most effective weapon in the CIA’s intentional escalation of this ongoing border war. However, the more we learn about Alejandro, it becomes obvious he also a personal agenda.

Despite how it’s been promoted, Sicario not an action film in the purest sense. While it does feature some vivid scenes of violent gunplay, suspense and intensity, it’s mostly a deliberately-paced drama driven primarily by the performances. Blunt is solid as usual, and Brolin does a commendable job with a fairly one-dimensional role. But Del Toro steals the film from both of them as the morally ambiguous Alejandro, easily the most interesting and complex character because we’re never certain if we should actually be rooting for this guy. Whether central to a scene or lurking in the background, Del Toro is fascinating and arguably worth an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

"Ah...there's Waldo."

Sicario is also visually arresting, its cinematography reminding me of such 70’s-era classics as Apocalypse Now and Sorcerer. Considering the relative lack of character development and an occasionally meandering plot, technical virtuosity is one of the film’s major assets, aided in no-small-part by an ominous music score by Johann Johannsson.

While Sicario doesn’t quite equal the sum of its parts, it’s a smartly-directed film that may not necessarily be emotionally captivating (save for one devastating scene near the end, which also justifies its title), but still manages to suck you in with a timely premise, bursts of intense action and stunning visual design. And at the very least, Del Toro’s performance alone is worth the price of admission.

BONUS FEATURES:

  • 4 Featurettes: “Stepping Into Darkness: The Visual Design of Sicario”; “”Blunt, Brolin & Benicio: Portraying the Characters of Sicario”; “Battle Zone: The Origins of Sicario”; “A Pulse from the Desert: The Score of Sicario
  • DVD & Digital Copies

KITTY CONSENSUS:
PURR...LIKE A GOOD SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS

December 25, 2015

Blu-Ray Review: JOE DIRT 2: BEAUTIFUL LOSER

Starring David Spade, Brittany Daniel, Patrick Warburton, Mark McGrath, Dennis Miller, Christopher Walken, Adam Beach. Directed by Fred Wolf. (2015, 109 min).
SONY

The most anticipated sequel of the year is finally here...on Blu-Ray!

Sure, it was great to see Max barreling down Fury Road and Han Solo once again piloting the Millennium Falcon, but let's be honest...the return of Joe Dirt is what we've all been pining for. Seeing comedy legend David Spade back in the role which made him an international superstar brought a tear to my eye. Never in my lifetime did I think I'd have the opportunity to enjoy the further adventures of this beloved, iconic character.

Released 14 years after the original film won the hearts moviegoers worldwide, Joe Dirt 2 was worth the wait. Spade and co-writer/director Fred Wolf obviously took the extra time to move the character in surprising and complex new directions, ingeniously incorporating the consequences of time travel in a way the Back to the Future trilogy only superficially hinted at. Loaded with symbolic imagery and poetic irony, this is a Joe Dirt for a new, more sophisticated generation. The numerous scenes of flatulence, assaults to the groin and sensitivity to modern day LGBT issues are so metaphorically-rich that one can't help but be moved. The scene in which our main character dry-humps a football may be the most emotionally-stirring moment committed to celluloid since Kevin Costner played catch with his father in Field of Dreams.

At the film's center, of course, is the mercurial David Spade, a virtual chameleon who once-again disappears into his role with an intensity that rivals Daniel Day Lewis. His performance has Oscar written all over it. Though he’s the heart of the picture, let’s not overlook the commanding supporting performances of Patrick Warburton, whose gift for dog-fucking jokes reveals surprising complexity, or Mark McGrath, given the unenviable task of stepping-in for cinematic icon Kid Rock from the original film, or every attractive female in the cast, who admirably transcend their inherent sexuality to give their cleavages much-needed emotional depth. As for the great Christopher Walken...he may have agreed to appear in this picture after losing a bet, but he still brings his usual touch of class to the proceedings.

Only Kubrick did bathroom scenes better.

Like all sharp satire, Joe Dirt 2 bravely skewers familiar pop culture tropes most filmmakers stopped bothering with decades ago, such as It’s a Wonderful Life, The Silence of the Lambs, Back to the Future and Forrest Gump. Yet somehow, everything old is made new again, thanks to the genius of Spade and Wolf’s dynamic wordplay. I don’t recall the last time I laughed this much during a single film. It’s scant 109 minute running time literally flew by like it was only three hours.

It’s also easy to see why Joe Dirt 2 originally skipped the theaters to premiere on Crackle, an online web channel. A film this important and relevant is a gift to be shared freely with the world, just like when U2 blessed every iPhone user with a free album no one asked for. Still, some of us take pride in collecting physical copies of classic films of high artistic worth. Having this film on Blu-Ray completes our Joe Dirt collection, so we can proudly display our impeccable cinematic taste to anyone who happens to spot it on our shelves.

NOTE FROM THE CEO OF FREE KITTENS MOVIE GUIDE: The preceding review of Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser does not necessarily reflect the opinions of FREE KITTENS MOVIE GUIDE. I was unexpectedly forced to go out of town and, at the last minute, entrusted my neighbor, Otis, with feeding my cats and collecting my mail. I like Otis, but the man regularly hangs out naked in his backyard, drinks Pabst Blue Ribbon without a whiff of irony and thinks Nickelback is the next Led Zeppelin. I also made the mistake of leaving my computer on, during which time he wrote the review you just read. Sorry about the inconvenience.

BONUS FEATURES: None (if you consider this extended edition some kind of bonus, you must have masochistic tendencies).
KITTY CONSENSUS:
MAKES THE ORIGINAL LOOK LIKE CITIZEN KANE.

December 23, 2015

JAWS 2 and the Call of the Wild

Starring Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Jeffrey Kramer, Joseph Mascolo. Directed by Jeannot Szwarc. (1978, 116 min).

Essay by D.M. ANDERSON
 
I love animals, even the scary ones (well, maybe not spiders).

I also respect them more than I do most people, because animals are 100% bullshit free. They never lie, have hidden agendas or waste time trying to be something they're not. There isn't a beast on Earth that gives a fuck about its image, political correctness or getting offended when shit doesn't go their way. Many species are forced to venture into the world with the daily knowledge they could be eaten, but you never hear them bitching about it. Kinda makes complaining about waiting too long for your glorified milkshake at Starbuck's seem rather petty, doesn't it?

They are unburdened by the moral, cultural and societal baggage which tends to weigh down the human race (and renders a lot of us total fuckheads). In the game of life, animals are strictly in it for themselves, exist in the moment and make no pretense suggesting otherwise. Not only that, they're equipped from birth with everything they need to make a go at living. That purity renders them supremely admirable.

On a daily basis, I witness a microcosm of the wild kingdom in my own home, which I share with a dog (Murphy) and two cats (Joesy & Stinky). Even in this domesticated environment, the awesome simplicity of their existence is pretty amazing.

For example, whenever a human being has to take a shit, it's a fucking event. We need plenty of privacy, toilet paper, a good magazine and about 15 uninterrupted minutes. As for myself, I also carry the burden of being pretty uncomfortable dropping a deuce anywhere but my own bathroom.

Murphy, on the other hand, simply runs to the door and lets me know "I gotta poo!" Once released, he sniffs around, drops his load and trots away. The whole thing takes about a minute and he doesn't even need to wipe afterwards (speaking of which...if we're such an evolutionarily-advanced species, why are we still incapable of dumping without thoroughly wiping ourselves?). Not only that, dogs have zero modesty; they shit whenever and wherever they feel the need, regardless who's watching. That's how they fuck too. If I engaged in either of those acts in public, I'd be writing this piece from the confines of a jail cell.

We hold animals to different standards, and personally, I find their egocentric traits rather endearing. Whenever I feed Murphy but he's still hungry afterwards, he'll venture to Joesy's bowl because...fuck Joesy. In turn, Joesy will eat Stinky's food because...fuck Stinky. Animals fuck each other over all the time, and whenever we pet owners attempt to scold them (projecting our own sense of right and wrong), they don't know what the hell we're talking about because it's their job not to give a damn about anyone but themselves. I love my animals because they're animals and don't view the world the way I do. I love the fact that most of their actions would be considered selfish and immoral by human standards. That's part of the fun of having them around the house; they're sort-of like perpetual toddlers.

For me, that's the inherent reason most horror movies featuring rampaging animals don't really work that well. When presented as creatures driven by pure instinct, it's difficult to really hate them. For a creature to be a true movie villain, you have to give it some human qualities.

The greatest example of this, of course, is Jaws.

In my humble opinion, Jaws is the greatest film of all time, the ultimate depiction of man vs. nature with the most relentless and terrifying antagonist ever presented onscreen. Not only that, the main characters are as well-rounded and fully realized as any 'serious' drama you'd care to name. But if you're even remotely knowledgeable about sharks, you're also aware Jaws ain't exactly a documentary. Sharks don't toy with their prey or have a particular craving for human flesh, nor would they spend a couple of days trying to kill the same three guys. Sharks don't really give a damn about people in general, and their relatively shitty eyesight accounts for more human deaths than a taste for human blood.

But Jaws cemented the public's perception of sharks as nefarious, crafty beasts lurking just off the coast in anticipation of the next poor bastard to stick his toe in the water. It's a credit to Steven Spielberg, John Williams and, to a lesser extent, Peter Benchley (his original book really sucked), that Jaws remains one of the scariest films of all time. Why? Because in reality, all we really need to do to avoid being devoured by a shark is stay the fuck out of the ocean, where we don't really belong to begin with, yet Jaws still had us convinced any animal with a dorsal fin was gunning for us.

There’s none of that visceral terror in Jaws 2, though it arguably presents sharks in a slightly more realistic light.

"Om-nom-nom," said Jaws.

Jaws was such a huge hit (the first summer blockbuster as we've come to define it) that a sequel was inevitable. But even as a naive teenager spending his hard-earned allowance and lining-up to see it in ’78, I knew the very idea of Jaws 2 was creatively pointless. Any sequel, now matter how brilliantly assembled, would simply be more-of-the-same.

Yet, it could never be the same. Like losing your virginity, the cinematic & cultural impact of a film like Jaws can effectively happen only once. The very nature of the film didn’t naturally lend itself to further chapters. Spielberg knew it, too, which was why he declined returning to the director's chair for this one. Not only that, only one character of the three that mattered in the original returned for Jaws 2: Roy Scheider as Chief Brody (who signed on because he was contractually obligated to Universal after dropping out of The Deer Hunter). With all these factors working against it, it's a minor miracle that it didn’t end-up being another Exorcist II.

Released four years later, Jaws 2 features a batch of obnoxious teenage boaters (including Brody’s dumbass, pussy-whipped son) who willfully ignore Brody’s suspicion that another shark is lurking off the coast of Amity Island. In fact, nobody believes him, not the town council or even his own wife. Brody turns out to be right, of course, otherwise...no movie. As directed by Jeannot Szwarc (most famous at-the-time for the creepy cheapie, Bug), there are no surprises, nor any real scares or new story elements which justify its existence...

...save for one thing...

The original Jaws offered viewers a malevolent, conniving creature which (almost) seemed to have a distinct personality, with an uncanny knack for toying with people, especially during the masterful final act. On the other hand, the shark in Jaws 2 behaves more like my cats. Even though Joesy & Stinky often go outside and hunt, it isn't out of necessity, but simply because...fuck that bird (or snake, or mouse...whatever they're able to taunt to death and leave on the porch). And it's kinda fun watching them kill for no reason other than the fact they're cats and simply can't help themselves.

"Om-nom-nom," said Jaws again.

This shark chomps down on damn-near anything in the water...people, whales, boats, helicopters, teenagers (which aren’t the same as people), and we’re pretty certain the only thing on this fish’s mind is fuck those teenagers and fuck that helicopter. It certainly can't be because the damn thing's still hungry.

These sequences are fun and entertaining because, like my dog and cats, it’s just a shark doing shark stuff, 100% bullshit free, at-least as we understood these animals back in 1978. And since it's the only remotely interesting character in the entire film, I was cheering-on the shark from the get-go.

In the original, Steven Spielberg was forced to be creative because the mechanical beast was always breaking down. By seldom actually showing the shark, he cranked the suspense to almost unbearable levels. But the shark in Jaws 2 shows up early and often, repeatedly bursting from the water and mindlessly gnashing its jaws like my ill-mannered dog when trying to steal a scrap off the dinner table (because...fuck your meatloaf). We never feel the same visceral terror that we did with Jaws, and because of that, it’s hard to view the shark in Jaws 2 as a true villain. He’s just doin’ the animal thing that I’ve come to love and respect more than most bullshit people I regularly encounter in my life.

December 19, 2015

LE MANS and the Big Toy Box

Starring Steve McQueen, Siegfried Rauch, Elga Anderson, Ronald Leigh-Hunt, Luc Merenda. Directed by Lee H. Katzin. (1971, 106 min).

Essay by D.M. ANDERSON
 
It must've been awesome to be Steve McQueen. Hell, the Rolling Stones and Sheryl Crow have even written songs about the guy.

McQueen had it all...women, wealth, power, fame. He was never what anyone would seriously consider a great actor, but who needs thespian skills when your greatest commodity is being the coolest guy walking the Earth? During his glory years (roughly 1960 to 1975), all he really had to do was show up on-set and be Steve McQueen, forcing co-stars, writers and directors to deal with his personal baggage. After all, this was a guy who had the balls to repeatedly lock horns with Yul-fucking-Brynner while making The Magnificent Seven. Pretty badass, if you ask me.

Sure, McQueen died at 50 and never made a decent movie after 1974's The Towering Inferno. But until then, when he wasn’t busy being the world’s highest paid movie star, McQueen fought, fucked, played & partied. Even though he probably didn’t leave a good looking corpse, he died with the most toys, so he still wins.

I think a lot of guys would gladly trade a few of their own relatively dull sunset years for a life like that.

Speaking of toys, McQueen’s favorites were automobiles & motorcycles, and he had one hell of a toy box. He collected exotic sports cars as casually as most of us accumulate lint. Not content with just collecting them, he played with them, too. McQueen loved motor-sports and competed in sanctioned events around the world.

In fact, he often parlayed his vehicular obsession into his professional life. The classic motorcycle chase in The Great Escape was included at his behest, where he did much of his own riding (though the film‘s insurers refused to let him jump the barbed wire fence). He also insisted on doing a lot of the driving in the iconic chase scene from Bullitt a few years later. Neither scene is actually better because of McQueen’s hands-on approach...he simply wanted to indulge his ego and get paid for playing with his toys on camera.

That self-indulgence would bite him in the ass, though.

Another love scene between McQueen and his co-star.

By the late 1960s, Steve McQueen had enough clout - and probably nobody around to tell him no -  to shove a wall-to-wall racing movie down everyone’s throat. He even set up his own production company to make it happen. The result was 1971’s Le Mans (pronounced Le-MAH), featuring McQueen as Michael Delaney, a participant in France’s famous 24-hour endurance race.

Aside from a very brief back-story where we learn Delaney is returning to Le Mans after a crash which resulted in the death of a competitor, the entire movie is dedicated to the race itself...lap after lap of Porsches and Ferraris speeding around the track with the occasional crash thrown in. Le Mans has less actual plot and dialogue than the average porn film.

This is essentially Steve McQueen at play, and he assumed we'd all enjoy watching...kind-of like YouTubers today who film themselves playing video games. Not only that, McQueen insisted on playing with his toys during the real 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1970. No, they wouldn't let him participate in the race itself (those damn Frenchmen probably felt emasculated by his overall McQueen-ness), but one of the camera cars was actually entered in the race and finished 9th overall.

Le Mans was an expensive and troubled production. The legendary John Sturges, who previously directed McQueen in The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape, quit the film in disgust over the debacle. There were also numerous accidents and injuries during filming, including one stunt driver whose leg was amputated following a horrific crash. While the racing scenes themselves are some of the greatest ever shot (even by today's standards), it apparently never occurred to McQueen or anyone else that an actual story might have been a good idea.

Hence, the movie was a colossal flop. I guess McQueen severely overestimated how many people were really pining to watch him play. Kind-of sad, really, because despite its almost total lack of plot, Le Mans is actually pretty good, arguably better than the soap opera schmaltz of 1966's Grand Prix, a similarly-themed film to which it's often compared (and McQueen once considered starring in).

You can't watch Le Mans like you would a traditional film, but as a pure sensory experience, it's technically quite amazing and still highly-regarded by motor-sports enthusiasts as the definitive racing movie. You really feel like you're right there on the track with these drivers, a feat no other film has been able to accomplish before or since. It's definitely meant to be seen on the big screen, meaning your home theater system, no matter how elaborate, won't do it justice.

As for McQueen, seeing his vanity project go down in flames was probably ego-bruising at the time. But like all badasses, he shrugged it off and charged forward with such classics as The Getaway, Papillon and The Towering Inferno. Outside of the motorporn crowd, Le Mans has since been relegated to little more than a footnote in McQueen's long career. That's kind of a shame, because one can't help but think this was the one movie which mattered most to him because it came from his own personal toy box.

December 17, 2015

Blu-Ray Review: MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - ROGUE NATION

Starring Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris, Alec Baldwin. Directed by Christopher McQuarrie. (2015, 131 min).
PARAMOUNT

It isn't supposed to happen this way. Movie franchises nearly always grow steadily worse which each trip to the well. Usually by the third or forth film, they are creatively-bankrupt, cynical products kept alive for the sole purpose of squeezing every last dollar from a brand name. But so far, the Mission: Impossible series is actually doing the impossible. With the exception of the godawful John Woo-directed MI:II, each subsequent film has actually been better than the last one.

That's probably a good thing as far as Tom Cruise is concerned. Despite appearing in some solid films of-late, like Jack Reacher & Edge of Tomorrow (hell, I'm even willing to throw in Oblivion), only the M:I franchise still rakes in the box office numbers he's been accustomed to through most of his career. Perhaps that's because the concept is conducive to allowing Cruise to do what he does best, which is simply being Tom Cruise, a man of action willing to do all sorts of dangerously insane shit for the sake of entertainment.

Each movie features at least one outrageous action sequence, usually involving heights, where it’s obviously Cruise himself - not a stuntman - risking his life for the sake of a shot, with little or no special effects. Each time, we walk away convinced he must be out of his mind. These scenes are always one of the highlights of every film, and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is no exception. This time, he’s clinging to the outside of a cargo plane during a steep take-off.

Tom and Simon try to out-emote each other. Looks like Tom wins.

But just because this spectacular bit of lunacy occurs in the opening scene, it doesn’t render the rest of the film anti-climactic. In fact, Rogue Nation is just as entertaining as Ghost Protocol, with a compelling story involving the recently-decommissioned IMF forced to turn rogue in order to expose an underground terror organization that’s just as well financed and equipped. Joining Cruise as Ethan Hunt are most of the eclectic characters who’ve joined the team and endeared themselves to us over the years (Ving Rhames, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg), along with a few new ones: Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust, a British agent, and Alec Baldwin as a CIA director who initially spearheads the campaign to end the IMF. Whether or not these two pop up in later films remains to be seen. I hope they do because they’re welcome additions to the cast, especially Ferguson, who’s every bit Cruise’s equal in the badassery department.

Like, Ghost Protocol, Rogue Nation successfully balances an intriguing plot, terrific action and welcome doses of humor without forgetting its primary purpose...to let Tom Cruise be Tom Cruise. At this point, the franchise only has tenuous ties to the TV show on which it’s based, but Rogue Nation goes a long way toward establishing the series as something even better: cinematic comfort food. Like James Bond, we know what we’re gonna get with a Mission: Impossible film...a smart story, characters we’ve grown to appreciate and at-least one scene which convinces us Tom Cruise is insanely dedicated to his job.

BONUS FEATURES:
  • Audio commentary by Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie
  • Making-Of Featurettes: “Lighting the Fuse”; “Heroes”; “Mission: Immersible”; “Sand Theft Auto”; “The Missions Continue”; “Cruising Altitude” (the last of which will either confirm Cruise’s dedication or insanity)
  • DVD & Digital Copies
KITTY CONSENSUS:
PURR...LIKE A GOOD (AND FAMILIAR) SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS

December 10, 2015

Blu-Ray Review: YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU

Starring Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, James Stewart, Edward Arnold, Ann Miller, Mischa Auer, Donald Meek, Dub Taylor. Directed by Frank Capra. (1939, 126 min).
SONY

I must confess a certain level of ignorance when it comes to Frank Capra's lengthy filmography. Sure, I've seen some of the obvious ones, like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It Happened One Night and It's a Wonderful Life. And yeah, I've always been well-aware of his enormous impact and influence on Hollywood. Even today, a film described as Capraesque is generally considered a compliment (the term is even included in some modern dictionaries).

One only has to watch 1938's You Can't Take it With You to appreciate Capra's style and the common themes he effortlessly infused into his greatest movies, and why so many modern filmmakers are still respectfully ripping him off.

Still, I'd never seen it until asked to review this disc. Shame on me, because while You Can't Take it With You isn't quite as revered today as Capra's most renowned work, it's a wonderful film which transcends the "old movie" baggage that keeps many so-called movie lovers from dipping into the past (which I'm sad to confess I've been guilty of on occasion). Part slapstick farce, part charming romance, part poignant character study & part social commentary, it's totally predictable in the best possible way because you've undoubtedly seen countless later movies which took all the same basic tropes, stirred them up and presented them all over again (if not for this film, many subsequent others we love so much wouldn't exist).

"Of course I washed my hands afterwards."

But what ultimately makes this such a great film is that the performances are outstanding (especially by Lionel Barrymore and Edward Arnold), the comedy is genuinely funny and the screenplay is sharp, clever and complex, even by so-called 'modern' standards. Simply put, You Can’t Take it With You is a hard movie not to love and a must-own for anyone interested in classics which continue to influence how similar movies are made today.

Remastered in 4K, this is arguably the best transfer the film has ever been given. But best of all, it makes me want to check out all the other Capra film's I've been missing out on.

BONUS FEATURES:
  • Booklet featuring a making of essay by Jeremy Arnold
  • "Frank Capra Jr. Remembers...You Can't Take it With You" (25 minute featurette, mostly featuring the director's son, as well as comments by a few historians)
  • Audio Commentary by Frank Capra Jr. and author Cathrine Kellison
  • Trailer
(NOTE: Being that Frank Capra Jr. died in 2007, with the exception of the booklet, none of these extras are anything new, but still pretty interesting if you haven't already seen them)


KITTY CONSENSUS:
MEE-OW! AMONG FRANK CAPRA'S GREATEST FILMS.

December 8, 2015

THE LAST CHRISTMAS by D.M. Anderson

A bit of Yuletide cheer from FREE KITTENS MOVIE GUIDE


On the eve of last Christmas I turned out the lights;
I tucked in my daughter and wished her goodnight. 
Tomorrow is Christmas!” she uttered with joy
When Santa brings presents to good girls and boys!”

That’s right, little princess,” I replied with a grin
But you must be asleep for Saint Nick to come in.”
With a smile and a giggle, she closed her eyes tight,
Trying her best to fall asleep for the night.

After closing her door, I walked down the hall
To where my wife snoozed, oblivious to all.
I climbed into bed without making a peep
And stole back some blankets for a warm winter’s sleep.

As I began to drift off, my mind wandered free;
I pictured my little Natalie, circling the tree,
Gasping with joy when she saw her new bike -
A thank you from Santa for leaving cookies he liked.

I heard a sudden noise - it came from downstairs.
Could it possibly be there was someone down there?
I opened my eyes and stifled a scream;
I heard it again - not part of my dream!

I climbed out of bed and ran ‘cross the floor
And gingerly opened my top dresser drawer.
Heart beating madly, and quaking with fear,
I pulled out the gun I got for Christmas last year.

As my wife snoozed away, thinking all was well,
I crept to the hallway and loaded some shells.
Determined to prevent being totally robbed,
I was gonna put a cap into this thieving slob.

From atop the stairs, footsteps I could hear
Of a man trying to rob us of our Christmas cheer.
I crept down the steps, cursing my bad luck;
Dammit - that bike cost me one hundred bucks!

I saw a black shadow, bent over the tree;
Consumed by his task, he didn’t see me.
Raising my pistol, I drew careful aim;
I squeezed off a shot, screaming, “Here comes the pain!”

With a big burly grunt, he fell to the ground,
And I roared in triumph, having put the perp down.
From upstairs my wife cried, “Hey, are you okay?”
I said, “Never better, ‘cause I saved Christmas day!”

I began to breathe easy, thinking all would be right,
But all of that changed when I turned on the light.
I stared at my victim and became suddenly sick;
Rolling ‘round on the floor was good ol’ Saint Nick.

Through angry clenched jaws, he stared up at me;
Clutching his wound, he screamed “You shattered my knee!”
I rushed to his side and cried, “I didn’t mean to!”
With an agonized breath he roared back, “Screw you!”

A cry from behind - and I turned to see
My horrified wife and a bawling Natalie.
Daddy shot Santa!” she wailed in surprise;
My wife simply glared with hate in her eyes.

My mind in a panic, I threw down my gun
And ran to the phone to call 9-1-1.
My wife yelled at me, “You yuletide louse!
I knew this would happen with a gun in the house!”

I heard coming sirens, then a knock at the door;
As I answered it my kid cried, “I love you no more!”
Report of shots fired!” said a cop in dismay;
And then he saw Santa, knee bleeding away.

Drawing his sidearm, he said with a frown,
You shot Father Christmas and you’re goin’ down!”
I said, “I’ll explain, please listen, for God’s sake!”
He said, “I’ve busted some bastards, but you take the cake.”

They slapped me in handcuffs and hauled me away
For shooting Saint Nick and ruining Christmas day.
My wife sold the bike to pay for court costs,
Then into a filthy cell I was tossed.

I’ll always regret the shot that I fired,
For Santa said, “No more,” and then he retired.
I’m now serving time, doing twenty-to-life
With a cellmate named Bubba, who calls me his wife.

December 7, 2015

10 Forgotten Sci-Fi Movies from the 1980s Worth Your Time

In the late 1970s, Star Wars and Alien left such a huge mark on modern science fiction cinema that both films arguably redefined the genre for the average moviegoer. For the most part, we now thought of outer space as an action-filled playground populated by creatures both wondrous and horrifying. Sure, there was still a lot of earthbound sci-fi being made at the time, but if you were a producer trying to hit one out of the park, you aimed for the stars. Then Steven Spielberg’s E.T. came along and cemented the notion that science fiction was most-lucratively presented as family fare, exasperated after more adult oriented (but no less expensive) films like Blade Runner, The Thing and Dune became notorious critical & box office disasters (hard to believe today, isn’t it?).

But there was still enough room for creative filmmakers with more limited budgets to grab a slice of the sci-fi pie. The fledgling Star Trek franchise finally found its voice with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. John Carpenter had his biggest post-Halloween hit with Starman. With Spielberg’s help (and clout), Robert Zemeckis struck absolute box office gold with Back to the Future. George Miller’s Mad Max 2 and James Cameron’s The Terminator served as calling cards promising greater things to come. 

There are also a lot of decent films from the same genre and era which have fallen by the wayside, some which were just as ambitious as those with mega-budgets and bigger names in the credits. A few of the films on this list were actually minor box office hits at the time, but simply never resonated for too long afterwards, while others never really had the opportunity to find an audience to begin with, perhaps because they were too dark, indefinable or esoteric to be marketed effectively. There are also a couple of titles which, on the surface, are low budget sleaze, but display enough ambition or talent behind the camera to render them somewhat memorable. However, something they all have in common is one or more qualities which make them worth discovery…or rediscovery.

CLICK THE TITLE BELOW:

10 Forgotten Sci-Fi Movies from the 1980s WorthYour Time


December 6, 2015

Blu-Ray Review: MINIONS

Starring the voices of Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Steve Coogan, Jennifer Saunders, Pierre Coffin (the voice of every single minion). Directed by Pierre Coffin & Kyle Balda. (2015, 91 min).
UNIVERSAL

Minions is better than it probably had a right to be. These Tic Tac-shaped critters from the Despicable Me franchise may be funny and endearing in small doses, but giving them their own spin-off feature film seems like an exercise in overkill (not-to-mention a cynical excuse for pumping out merchandise). After all, Scrat the Squirrel remains the only amusing part of the increasingly-awful Ice Age series, but while he's a terrific peripheral character, 90 straight minutes of his antics would be like hearing your four-year-old repeatedly telling the same knock-knock joke and expecting the same response every time.

Fortunately, Minions is more of a prequel than an actual spin-off, so it has more to offer. Their ‘origin’ story is sort-of perfunctory. Essentially, the Minions have existed throughout time, and having a despicable villain to serve is essential to their survival (leading to some amusing segments during the prologue about how former masters met their demise). The rest of the film takes place in 1968, when three of the Minions (Kevin, Stewart & Bob) try to save their species by venturing out into the world to find a new villain, which they think they’ve finally found with Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock), who wants to steal the Queen of England’s crown.

"We're gonna need a bigger boat."

So at least there’s an actual plot on which to hang the Minions’ goofy antics, which are sometimes amusing, though it still helps if you’re a kid who can’t get enough of these guys. Still, patient adult viewers of a certain age will appreciate the attention to period detail and numerous cultural references, such as a truly laugh-out-loud nod to The Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover. Speaking of which, the film does a tremendous job incorporating classic songs from the era into various scenes, all of which fit perfectly (including The Beatles' actual recording of "Got to Get You Into My Life" during the end-credits, something which doesn‘t happen often...perhaps Sir Paul McCartney has a grandkid who loves this franchise).

Of course, the main emphasis is on the Minions themselves, with plenty of screen time dedicated to the same cute, slapstick situations which endeared them to audiences in the first place. While the film doesn’t really have a central character like Gru to keep it as focused as the Despicable Me films, I can’t imagine most kids not loving every minute of it. As for their parents, it’s worth enjoying with the family at-least once. But be prepared...the same knock-knock joke does pop up pretty often.

BONUS FEATURES:
  • 3 Additional Animated Shorts: "Cro-Minion", "Competition" & "Binky Nelson Unpacified" (of the three, "Competition" is arguably the funniest)
  • Deleted Scene (Blu-Ray disc only)
  • "Jingle Bells Minion Style" (Blu-Ray disc only)
  • "Around the World Interactive Map"
  • Featurette: "Behind the Goggles: The Illumination Story of the Minions"
  • Blu-Ray 3-D, DVD and Digital Copies
KITTY CONSENSUS:
NOT BAD...YOUR KIDS WILL LOVE IT.
YOU? ONCE IS PROBABLY ENOUGH.

December 4, 2015

THEY LIVE and the Invaders from Planet Me

Starring Roddy Piper (RIP), Keith David, Meg Foster, Raymond St. Jacque, Peter Jason. Directed by John Carpenter. (1988, 94 min).

Essay by D.M. ANDERSON
 
Run for your lives! We’re being invaded! And there’s probably nothing we can do about it! Before you call me a raging paranoid, hear me out!

I've been roaming this mortal coil for over fifty years now. While I'm not even remotely religious, I think I've led a reasonably righteous life. Sure, I've said and done things I'm not particularly proud of. And yeah, I've hurt some people along the way without meaning to. One time, in a blatant act of pure rebellion, I even removed the tag from a mattress, phoned the authorities and dared them to take me alive.

But for the most part, I’ve been a courteous, upstanding citizen my entire life, mindful of those around me, even if I don't know them personally. I always signal before switching lanes, pick up my dog's droppings at the park and hold the door open for others. I never talk once the movie starts, never use the 12-items-or-less checkout lane when buying a week's worth of groceries and never assume the world comes to a screeching halt whenever my cell phone goes off. None of this makes me a saint, and I don't expect accolades for these relatively menial gestures of common etiquette. I simply know that going about my daily business shouldn't be an inconvenience to others.

But as I get older, I’m made increasingly aware that a huge percentage of the population didn’t get the same memo. Most may not be inherently evil or immoral, nor do they necessarily venture out into the world with the deliberate intention of making other’s lives more difficult (if even for a few moments). But the fact remains many folks seem completely self-absorbed and oblivious of others. It's a trait I'm reluctant to apply to my fellow homo sapiens, since an intellectual and empathetic awareness of our environment is what supposedly places us a few rungs above our primate cousins on the evolutionary ladder (along with frozen pizza).

If that's true, it can only mean one thing: we’re being invaded by creatures from Planet Me. It's a place where millions live, thrive and reproduce, yet the population remains constant...ONE. On Planet Me, there is no one but yourself, despite others of your species milling about. They live on Planet Me, too, but it’s their own Planet Me, meaning there are probably enough of Planet Me's to fill an entire galaxy.

Try this simple experiment. The next time you go to a public place like a crowded mall, simply walk straight ahead, making no effort not to move out of the way of those approaching from the opposite direction. Keep count of those you actually bump into, as well as their reactions. You might be shocked at the overwhelming number of others with the complete expectation that you’re the one who'll step aside. In fact, it never even occurs to them to make a half-assed effort to do the same. On Planet Me, you, my puny Earthling friend, don't actually exist.

We may gasp or laugh at annually-posted videos of animal hordes fighting to the death on Black Friday for Walmart's last flat screen TV. But as barbaric as they are, at least those people are demonstrating an awareness of their environment and a conscious - decidedly human -  effort to fuck over their fellow man, behavior they likely wouldn’t dream of engaging in on any other day of the year. Not only that, those brave enough to venture out on Black Friday are totally prepared for battle, fully mindful of the lion's den they're about to enter.

But invaders from Planet Me live an insidious life of quiet egocentrism 24/7 - at work, behind the wheel, at the check-out counter - completely indifferent to how their frequent acts of self-absorption affect others on the daily basis. While we can easily avoid encountering Black Friday barbarians by simply staying home, invaders from Planet Me are everywhere, everyday. Like ants, they’ve lurked among us for years and have learned to adapt to our world. They aren’t easy spot on the street (unless they’re driving) because they've cleverly disguised and engrained themselves as upstanding members of what we euphemistically call civilization. But they’re out there, their numbers are legion and they’re stealthily colonizing our world, one cellphone shitstain at a time.

Think I’m paranoid now?

The invasion has begun.
You might be asking yourself, “Hey, Dave, if your theory is true, how do I know if someone I suspect is actually a creature from Planet Me?” 

There are some tell-tale clues and giveaways which the trained, observant eye will notice. Short of having a pair of special sunglasses which allow you to see them as the aliens they really are, watch for the following signs:
  • Those who never signal before switching lanes, drive ten miles under the speed limit or park so fucking close to your car that you have to climb in from the passenger side.
  • People who drop everything, no matter who’s around them or what activity they’re currently engaged in, to heed the call of their almighty cell phone (it’s probably a message from the emperor of Planet Me, confirming the invasion is a go). 
  • Someone who can’t be bothered to flush after using a public toilet.
  • Shoppers who don't have their coupons ready at the checkout counter, preferring to wait until every single purchase is rung-up before whipping out an envelope stuffed with dozens of them, then wasting more of everyone's time by demanding a detailed explanation why one of them isn't valid.
  • Folks who pay for things with pennies and expect the cashier to count it out.
  • Co-workers in a meeting who don't bother waiting until someone else is done speaking before adding their own two cents.
  • Those who take so long at an ATM that they must be attempting a hostile takeover with their debit card.
  • Restaurant patrons who place an order with a virtual checklist of special requests and substitutions which completely deviate from the same menu the rest of us are perfectly happy with. Since this act of douchbaggery defeats the purpose of eating out to begin with, one must assume salt, sugar, gluten, fat, egg yolk, fryer oil, whole cream, butter or anything else with actual flavor must be poisonous to these alien hordes.
  • Anyone who's ever personally identified with a reality TV celebrity.
  • Facebook friends who assume all of their ill-informed, ignorant opinions are shared by all (on the other hand, this could be an attempt to reach out to their fellow aliens, so keep a sharp eye). 
  • Asswipes who provide vocal feedback to a movie as they’re watching it.
  • Malevolent alien queens who allow their undisciplined brood (who are even more oblivious than their mother) to make everyone else’s lives a living hell.
  • Those who can’t be bothered to read instructions, follow directions, acknowledge established rules & regulations or listen to others before making their own ignorance someone else’s problem.
I could go on, but you get the idea. Chances are you've already been in contact with creatures from Planet Me without even realizing it. Worse yet, there isn’t a hell of a lot you can do about it. These creatures are so ingrained in our society that we ourselves have been subconsciously conditioned to accept them. Calling them on their bullshit would likely make you look like an antisocial asshole.

Kind of like Nada in John Carpenter’s They Live.

"Hey...you on the cell phone...look up."

Roddy Piper is Nada (though he's never mentioned by-name in the film itself), a lowly drifter simply looking for an honest day’s work. While he finds employment at an LA construction site, he’s still living day to day, paycheck to paycheck, confident that if he works hard enough, good things will come to him.

All that changes when police raid and destroy the shantytown where he’s shacking. In the aftermath, he comes across a box of special sunglasses which allow the wearer to see the difference between the haves and have-nots. Most of the haves are hideous aliens who’ve been discreetly infiltrating Earth with the purpose of depleting its resources, using subliminal technology to appeal to people's inherent greed and quest for personal gain, essentially hypnotizing them into becoming self-obsessed consumers.

After going on an alien killing spree, Nada becomes a fugitive and soon joins a small band of fellow resistors hell-bent on exposing this threat to the world. However, despite a superficially 'happy' ending, the film’s extraordinarily pessimistic view of human nature negates any notion that the human race is actually saved. It turns out many people Nada encounters are already aware of the alien presense and have willingly sold out their own race in exchange for wealth and status, despite how badly it will fuck-over the rest of the world. So the Earth depicted in They Live is actually being invaded by two alien species...the stealthy silver-eyed monsters from another world and those who’ve obviously declared their allegiance to Planet Me.

Despite many clever amusing satirical moments, a surprisingly effective performance by Piper and a prolonged fight scene that's now considered classic, They Live is a bitter, angry film that was relatively unappreciated back in 1988, when John Carpenter’s Hollywood luster was just beginning to wear off. But like much of his other work of the period, it's garnered a considerable cult following over the years, perhaps because Carpenter infused it with interesting themes and social commentary disguised as science fiction. Like Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a thinly-veiled depiction of conformity in-light of communist paranoia in the 1950s, They Live offers a similarly sinister threat: creatures ruling over a population blinded by their own self-absorption.

In a way, with our current influx of invaders from Planet Me, They Live may be more timely than ever.

But fear not, fellow Earthlings. I've got your back. I'm hard at work in my garage every weekend trying to develop my own pair of special glasses that will allow you to spot someone from Planet Me in a heartbeat. They'll be the ones whose face suddenly resembles the ass end of a horse. Don't try to fight back, though, because you're probably hopelessly outnumbered.

Dedicated to "Rowdy" Roddy Piper (RIP).


Rest in Peace, Robert Loggia

Robert Loggia (1930-2015)