Last week I rewatched The Vast of Night and realized it was much better than I remembered. Most of the movies this week are much as I remember them, be that memory good or bad.
Although I generally hate found-footage films, I really enjoyed CLOVERFIELD (2008), a kaiju film from the POV of terrified bystanders running through the streets. In the middle of a party celebrating one guy’s departure for a job in Japan, a monster attacks Manhattan, leaving the protagonists scurrying through rubble, dodging military strikes and creepy alien spiders — but do they have a chance of reaching safety? This is similar enough to Skyline that I wonder if it was a direct influence, but this is much the better film. However it doesn’t qualify for Alien Visitors as the monster isn’t identified as an ET. “You know who Superman is — have you heard of Garfield?”
I remember SPACE JAM (1996) as a waste of celluloid and rewatching didn’t make it look any better. Aiens have abducted Bugs & Co. to become slave entertainers in their theme park; the cartoons strike a deal to play basketball for their freedom, only to have the ETs steal the skills of the NBA’s best. Michael Jordan, however, was retired at the time (the film’s treatment of his brief baseball career is pretty funny) so Bugs recruits him to lead the Looney Tunes to victory.
The first problem is that I can’t believe Bugs Bunny needs the help. He’s Bugs fricking Bunny, more than capable of outwitting armies and invading aliens. But the high concept requires a team-up with Jordan so … The results are uninspired, a poor substitute for the classic cartoons.
One thing that I did see differently was the emphasis on Michael Jordan. I admit I’m not a basketball fan so maybe it’s me, but the huge focus on Jordan’s dreams, family, etc. feels unnecessary, like it crossed over from some flattering documentary. I suspect this may not age well — by now, more than 15 years since Jordan’s retirement, it must seem as weird to younger viewers as the old Harlem Globetrotters Saturday morning cartoon. “I also see Michael Jordan being sucked down a golf hole by furry creatures.”
EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY (1989) is an SF musical in which Geena Davis gets distracted from her impending marriage by a spaceship crashing into her pool with Jeff Goldblum, Damon Wayans and Jim Carrey on board. Goldblum falls for Davis fast, but can she accept an ET is Mr. Right? Or will she fall back into the arms of her cheating fiancee Charles Rocket (“Just because I’m getting married to her doesn’t mean we can’t date.”).
In contrast to the other movies, I really enjoyed this one the first time I caught it but not so much now. Partly it’s very 1980s in its depiction of how to have a good time (it’s the kind of movie Take Me Home Tonight tried to be and failed), partly because the romance feels more formulaic. Contrary to The Movie Musical this makes no attempt to rationalize why Davis’ buddy Judy Brown keeps suddenly breaking into song (though you could reasonably argue this movie is goofy enough no rationalization is needed). Rewatching this didn’t give me any insights for Alien Visitors though I might develop some down the road. “I can’t believe you’re Frenching an alien in front of all these people!”
I think I watched part of A MESSAGE FROM MARS (1913) earlier in my work on the book and didn’t think it worth finishing at the time. If so, I was right: where Algol has Alien As Demon, this has Martian As Angel (I suppose it would double bill well with the Christian Martians of Red Planet Mars), sent to Earth to force the world’s most selfish man to redeem himself. This doesn’t work even as a straight drama, as the guy conveys his seflishness just by standing around looking smug. “You shall not return home until you prove your unselfishness.”
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