Monday, June 27, 2011

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) (Movie Review)

       In the 1950’s, we were introduced to many different alien invader movies including “War of the Worlds”, “Invaders from Mars”, and “Earth vs. the Flying Saucers”. However, aliens didn’t always come to earth on flying saucers. In my opinion, the most effective and unique film was the 1956 Sci-Fi masterpiece “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”. This was a rather intense and honestly suspenseful flick, it’s all about aliens that take on the appearance and likeness of other humans and while it has little to no special effects, it still leaves a powerful and almost disturbing feel. You feel the paranoia around you, that you can’t trust anyone and your all on your own. However, I’m not reviewing the original, I’m reviewing the 1978 remake of the same title, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”. When it comes to remakes, there very hit or miss, but this film escaped that net and is often regarded as a classic in its own right and when a remake is labeled a classic, you have to check it out for yourself to see if it’s really as good or even better than the original that I know and enjoy so much.
     Unlike the first film which focused on one individual character, this one focuses on four people, Matthew (played by Donald Sutherland), Elizabeth (played by Brooke Adams), Nancy (played by Veronica Cartwright) and Jack (played by Jeff Goldblum). These folks just start out as regular city people but they all meet under the same strange circumstance, people they’ve known for years are starting to act stranger than usual and they begin to realize that most of this town’s population is acting the same way. Our leading characters are good, but they don’t hold a candle to the main character of the first film, it was just so much easier to feel like you were in his place feeling everything he felt and feeling as isolated and alone as him. Leonard Nimoy of Star Trek fame, makes a few appearances as the towns doctor and adviser, plus the star of the original movie (Kevin McCarthy) has a nice little cameo that’s very reminiscent of what he said at the end of the first film, where he shots, “There here already, Your next!”
      Now about these pod aliens, basically they start off as cells in space, then they merge with plants, creating the pods, and whenever a person falls asleep near one, there killed in their sleep and the pods then take on their form, appearance and even their memories but not their personalities or emotional qualities. The explanation for how the pods do this is actually handled a lot better in this film and is far easier to understand. We also see in full detail how these things take on the appearance of others and I must admit that these visuals are pretty impressive by 1978 standards. We also get this really cool opening credit sequence where we see the pods descending to earth as these space cells and it almost makes you feel you’re watching a documentary film that you’d see in astronomy class. It’s actually quit disturbing when we see so many people just walking around the town with normal blank expressions, it gives you an eerie feeling that there spreading and there’s no stopping them. There’s a moment when our hero’s walk on a bus and you wonder how many of these passengers are real people or the pod imposters.
    It’s still a great concept but I honestly feel that it was handled better in the original. This film goes for more of an art house effect, with lots of strange camera shots, disjointed images, bizarre sound effects and there’s just a lot of really strange moments that make you feel like you’re on drugs. At times it’s too wired for the films own good and what always sticks in my mind the most, is this one scene where a pod alien is born as a dog with a man’s head, it’s so up surd that it comes off as unintentionally funny. The lighting is very effective too, it’s a very gritty look symbolizing that life is dying all around our main leads. Every time a pod person realizes that someone is still human, they point and do this annoying yet kind of disturbing scream. One thing that I’ll certainly complement this film on is that the ending is far more effective and unsettling but it also leaves you feeling really empty. In the original, we can assume that things are going to get better but it’s never fully revealed that the pods are defeated, your just left to assume for yourself, which I really liked. However this film comes right out and says that the humans have been trampled underfoot, no chance at all for a happy ending. Perhaps that’s why it was such a success because it was just so unexpected and disturbing, a lot of my friends still have trouble silencing that last scream at the end of the film.
       In the 90’s there was another remake titled “Body Snatcher” but I didn’t bother to see it, there’s only so many times you can see a movie done differently. Then is 2007 there was yet another remake titled “The Invasion”, this one I did see and to my surprise, I didn’t think it was that bad. It had a much better cast of characters to latch onto, most notably the female lead played by Nicole Kidman, she’s great an anything and this was no exception. Nicole has a talent for taking the simplest things and turning them into gold. However, this one didn’t fare as well with the general public, for this generation it offers nothing that special and it has a 100% happy ending with the aliens defeated and the humans surviving. So if you want the more sinister and effective film, then you’d probably prefer the 1978 remake. I honestly thought “The Invasion” was a little better, simply because it had more likable characters that you want to see survive. Either way, none of the remakes will ever top the original in my opinion, it’s just a timeless Sci-Fi classic.
     As for the 1978 remake, it has its fare share of improvements, the effects are certainly better, the exposition behind the pod aliens is a lot more understandable and it’s a film that’s not afraid to take risks. But the two big things that don’t elevate this film to greatness for me are that you don’t get as invested in the characters and it just seems to lose itself in one too many wired moments. I give the 1978 remake of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” 3 stars.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Top 10 favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger movies

When it comes to big action stars there’s plenty of great one’s but my favorite by far is Arnold Schwarzenegger. Sure, he’s made some stupid chooses in real life but that’s not the subject here, I’m only focusing on him as an actor (and one of my favorite). How could anyone not love this guy, yes, he’s a commercialized celebrity but he’s also a genuine article and a personal icon. No matter how good or bad his films can get, he’s always awesome and here are my top ten favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger flicks.             

Collateral Damage 
This film features a dark and almost believable look at the terrifying concepts of terrorism and what goes on in other countries. But it combines this touchy subject with all the fun, corniness of Schwarzenegger’s action films, making it feel very different from his other flicks but in the end, it’s classic Arnold doing what he dose best and there’s nothing wrong with that.      

The 6th Day
It’s not as engines as “Total Recall” or any of “The Terminator” movies but it dose feature an intriguing and disturbing premises that contains plenty of Sci-Fi technology and laser shooting action to keep it from getting boring.  

The Terminator
It’s the classic Sci-Fi flick that made a pop culture icon out of Schwarzenegger, as well as his famous tag line, “I’ll be Back”. It may be overshadowed by the greatest sequel in the history of cinema (and some other Arnold flicks that I personally prefer) but it’s still a great classic, that’s smarter and darker than the average action flick. 

True Lies
“True Lies” blends explosive action, slap stick comedy and family togetherness all in one really entertaining flick. It also sums up exactly who Arnold Schwarzenegger is in most of his movies. Despite how many people he may beat the crap out of, he still has a heart of gold.

Let’s see, Eraser is a film about false identities, a hero on the run from both enemies and allies, an arsenal of cool weapons and a very fast passed script containing lots of death defying action. It’s basic Arnold formula and that’s why I like it.   

Commando is a film that both glorifies and exploit’s everything awesome about Arnold. This is like the classic Schwarzenegger action flick, with silly yet awesome one liners, over the top yet still intimidating villains, ridicules yet still very amusing shoot up and explosive action. It’s every great action cliché celebrated to it’s fullest and it’s all over the top, not meant to be taken seriously and that’s why it’s awesome. Oh, and lets not forget that awesome song that plays during the end credits, outstanding.   

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
         This is undeniably Arnold Schwarzenegger’s biggest, most explosive, most sensation action packed flick he’s ever done. It’s certainly not as smart and sophisticated as some of his other films but it’s entertaining as hell, Arnold gives another riveting performance as the terminator, there’s lots of good comedy moments, a few decent plot twists and it leaves you with that good old terminator feeling.     

This is actually the movie that introduced me to Schwarzenegger and I immediately became a fan of his awesome one liners, fun accent and amazing screen presence. Arnold plays a solder named Dutch who leads a team on a rescue mission in the jungle but are soon the targets for an alien hunter that’s slowly taking out his team. Eventually, Arnold stops running and uses his intellect and skills to defeat the creature, and the predator himself is simply one of the most fascinating and memorable movie monsters of all time. It’s intense, exciting, thrilling and will always stand as a classic.       

Total Recall
This is without a doubt one of my all time favorite movies. It follows the usual Schwarzenegger fashion, there’s lots and lots of action that flows beautifully with the story, but it’s not just about non-stop chasing and gun shooting. It’s a thinkers movie about a man on a mission of self discovery, it’s a big mystery that’s tightly woven together and it features one surprise twist after another. Truly a leap above typical Schwarzenegger action flicks.   

Terminator 2 Judgment Day
This is simply one of the greatest movies ever made, the CG is jaw droping and the action is absolutely sensational but what really makes this such a masterpiece is the story arch. Every character begins somewhere and goes through a change, basically what takes this action packed sci-fi landmark to the next level is the depth of the cyborg and human characters. Arnold delivers the best performance of his career, and the ending is one of the most moving and powerful to end a big Sci-Fi action film. It’s an action packed spectacle, beautifully crafted, looks at the value of human life and delivers a solemn message that we can use to make the future better. 

Well, I suppose there’s only one thing left to say,
 “Astalavista Baby!”

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Pink Panther film series (My opinion on every individual installment)

I love comedies, it’s such a joy to just sit back and laugh at a film but sequels to comedies are rarely good, there’s only so many ways we can see the same joke told. Well, The Pink Panther series is the largest lasting collection of comedies (that I can think of) with a total of 11 films, why was it so big, why so many, I don’t know but here are my thoughts on the films, from highest laughs to most painful side aches. P.S. this list will be in chronological order as apposed to least favorite to favorite.    

 The Pink Panther (1963) 

 It’s been called a classic Comedy, but I feel it’s overshadowed by better and funnier sequels, it still packs some laughs and it is a descent start to a descent series.

A Shot in the Dark (1964)

 May not have Pink Panther in the title but if you’re a fan of the series than don’t miss this because it’s the best by far, it has the best running jokes, strongest laughs, best story and the funniest strip scene in cinema history.

Inspector Clouseau (1968)

 One of the worst movies I’ve ever seen in my life and that says a lot, this film doesn’t even try to be funny, it’s just stupid and incredibly boring. Worst of all, neither the director (Blake Edwards) or the star (Peter Sellers) of the previous and future films were involved.

The Return of the Pink Panther (1975)

 A refreshing return back to what made the pink Panther movies funny but in a standard and forgettable way.

The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976)

 My second favorite in the series, a lot of big laughs, crazy fights and a well written, ridiculous, over the top story with crazy dialog and unexpected jokes.

Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978)

 One of the better sequels, more memorable and features one of the greatest car chases to be in a comedy.

Trail of the Pink Panther (1982)

 One of the worst sequels in film history, 75% of the film is stock-footage, flashbacks and deleted scenes from the previous movies with nothing new, funny or entertaining for the viewer.

Curse of the Pink Panther (1983)

 There are some funny scenes, but they go too far, up to the point where they become boring and predictable. Plus a crappy new lead to replace the original Inspector Clouseau.

Son of the Pink Panther (1993)

 More competent than the last two but it has few laughs and feels more like an action packed James Bond film than a Pink Panther comedy.

The Pink Panther (2006 remake)

 If you’re new to the series than it will provide some good laughs but if you’ve seen all the previous films than it offers nothing new.

The Pink Panther 2 (2009)

 Another crappy sequel that doesn’t even make an effort to be funny, its mostly boring and painfully standard.

   So did this series need to be this long? No it didn’t but to be fare some of the earlier sequels were really funny and an improvement over the original, which is rare for sequels to a classic comedy. If you want a few strong laughs, check out some of the earlier films but don’t bother with the resent installments, there not worth it.  

 The End