Tag Archives: aliens

Under the Skin

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Director Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin is, most of all, a study in imagery. Its science-fiction status is hinted at by visual design, as in the film’s opening moments, when concentric circles appear out of the darkness on screen, then are seen to separate, inhabiting three-dimensional space, from left to right, with a bright light blazing on one side. The figure suggests a diagram of a solar system, all its planets in perfect alignment, or (more on point) the glass elements of a lens.

Out of the previous silence, we start to hear fragments of a woman’s voice on the soundtrack, and the elements on screen, clean and fresh as something out of the Apple factory, are resolved as the workings of an eye, iris and pupil appearing on screen in startling close-up. The film then cuts to images of nature, water rushing by, and a jagged road slicing across the screen like Dali’s razor blade slashing an eyeball.

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Dark Skies

Dark Skies has the kernel of a really interesting genre twist — parts of it play like a retelling of Close Encounters of the Third Kind as a coming-of-age story from the point of view of an adolescent whose indulgence of hormonal urges manifests in part through a willingness to be abducted by aliens — where instead of a henpecked Richard Dreyfuss abdicating family responsibilities by boarding that mothership, its a horny teenager leaving the nest. Unfortunately, Dark Skies is not quite that movie, opting instead for a variation on haunted-house tropes anchored by a pair of dipshit suburban parents whose ever-so-slowly dawning reaction to supernatural phenomenon dates to the kind of 70s movies this pays homage to — The Exorcist, The Amityville Horror, and of course the aforementioned CE3K. Seriously, Dark Skies told from the teenager’s point of view could be the horror-movie response to J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 Spielberg pastiche. The film we got is more of a mess, but I’m glad I saw it — mainly because of my fondness for the movie that I’d like it to be.

Prometheus

For the purposes of my devotion to Alien as perhaps the greatest horror film ever made, I pretend the sequels never existed — especially James Cameron’s take, a sop to the gun lobby that brought Ripley’s character in line with pop-culture convention by forcing her into surrogate maternity, as if her main character flaw was the absence of a child sucking at her tit. David Fincher’s Alien3 wasn’t exactly a great movie, but it was at least a welcome return to tough, uncompromising form. It pleased me that the story was set up with a middle finger raised in Cameron’s direction, so that you could essentially pretend that Alien3 picked up where the first movie left off.

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John Carpenter’s Starman

Karen Allen and Jeff Bridges in <i>Starman</i>
My review of Starman on Blu-ray Disc is online at FilmFreakCentral.net:

Strange as it may sound, back in the early 1980s this gentle yet seriously weird fantasy about a woman who drives a socially-challenged clone of her dead husband across the U.S. (so he can rendezvous with his spaceship) was actually considered a safe commercial bet for the embattled director John Carpenter. Starman … wasn’t merely an opportunity for Carpenter to helm a fundamentally good-natured, optimistic science-fiction film–it was possibly a chance to rehabilitate his career.

Star Trek

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Taking the reins of the Star Trek saga, producer/director J.J. Abrams’ most impressive gambit is a self-consciously clever ploy. Faced with the task of acclimating new audiences to this venerably corny space opera, he simultaneously executes a franchise reboot and nostalgia play. Thanks to the miracle of time travel — in the context of the Star Trek cosmos, such gimmick doesn’t even qualify as a stretch — Star Trek functions simultaneously as sequel and prequel. That is to say, while it brings with it the return of a notably wizened Leonard Nimoy as an elderly Mr. Spock, the eyebrow-humping logician who was arguably the signature character of the original TV series, it’s also full of origin stories. If you ever longed to see the Trek-ian likes of Kirk, Spock, Sulu, “Bones” McCoy, and Uhuru as fine young things studying together at Starfleet Academy, this is your chance.

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Mars Attacks!

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I’m not quite sure what to say about Mars Attacks!, which is obviously the work of a deranged genius. When Tim Burton’s twisted alien invasion comedy really works, it’s breathtaking and hilarious in equal measure. And when it doesn’t work, it’s just dull. I’m not even sure it works more often than it doesn’t, but where it counts — that is, when this gleefully evil invading force from the red planet gets down to the business of blasting us to kingdom come — Mars Attacks! is brilliant.

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