Men In Black

     Men In Black – “We’re not hosting an intergalactic kegger down here.”  In May 2012, Men In Black III will be unleashed on the American public, a full 10 years since MIB II was released.  Before that happens, we should take time to revisit the movies that started it all.  In 1997, Men In Black was a clever take on aliens featuring a secret govt society that helps aliens immigrate and fit into society as well as protect us from the bad ones.  Will Smith & Tommy Lee Jones were spectalucar as a team and their interaction throughout the film gave it a strong comedic tone.  Rated a 91% at Rotten Tomatoes and 4.5 stars at Amazon.com, this movie is a fun ride.

Plot – Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) is a member of a secret alien control group of the govt.  He identifies a NYPD detective James Darrell Edwards III (Will Smith) as a replacement of his retiring partner after observing him follow a diguised alien.  He invites him to headquarters where he is given a test along with several military guys.  James uses common sense to pass the test.  He’s offered the job, but given the catch that he now doesn’t “exist”.  He accepts and is dubbed Agent J.  J has a hard time learning about the technology and how the MIB operate because common sense is now out the window.  They investigate an alien landing and discover that a bug has landed, killed a man, and using his skin as a disquise.  The bug is after the “galaxy”.  K & J go to the morgue where 2 Arquillians disguised as humans had been killed and taken there with their pet cat.  At the morgue, Dr. Weaver (Linda Fiorentino) reveals his disguise, sees the alien and hears his message about the “galaxy”.  The Arquillians are now threatening the planet demanding the “galaxy” or they will destroy the Earth.  They leave in search of the “galaxy” and are puzzled.  When K & J realize the “galaxy” is on the cat, they rush back to find the bug is there.  He escapes kidnapping Dr. Weaver to get on a spaceship to go back.  K & J catch him there and must do battle to defeat the bug and save the planet.

Commentary – Men In Black was a funny and clever sci-fi film and the banter of the 2 stars will keep you laughing.  It’s like watching a father and son bicker.  Some language is strong, but it is a pretty safe family movie.  The plot is not that critical and the enjoyment of the movie is in the back and forth between J & K and a different way of viewing life.  It’s also a humorous look at man’s arrogance and how other species might view us.  To the right is a picture from MIB II, which should also be watched again soon.  It’s not as good as the original and basically just cashes in on the concept, but it is still entertaining once Tommy Lee Jones is involved.  Do not expect much from this one as Laura Flynn Boyle is not believable as the villain.  However, the entertainment value is still pretty good.  Before seeing MIB III, you want to be back up to speed since it has been 10 years since MIB II was released.

Trivia – Clint Eastwood was offered the role as K and Chris O’Donnell (Batman & Robin) was offered the role as J.  I believe this film would have been a disaster with those 2 as the stars.  After reading the script, Will Smith did not want to accept the role, but his wife convinced him.  See guys, listen to your wives.  The sunglasses used in the film are rayban “Predator 2” glasses and once the film released, sales tripled for the glasses.

*** Just click the images to check out “Men in Black & Men in Black II” at Amazon.com ***

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Independence Day

     Independence Day – BOOM….”Welcome to Earth”.  This movie is sheer fun, macho man, cliches, one-liners, and rah rah America as you can get.  I can watch this movie time and time again.  Then again, I like that cheesy stuff.  I remember seeing this movie in the theatre and the crowd standing up and applauding the American President’s speech before the epic battle.  Wow…whether you like this movie or not, you gotta admit that speech was good.  Anyway, outrageous special effects carry this movie through the plot holes and make this a great movie.  They are still amazing to this day.

The plot is, you guessed it, the aliens are here and tv is messed up.  Probably the aliens big mistake to bring the American wrath.  You don’t mess with tv.  David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) finds a hidden signal in the satallite and puts two & two together.  He grabs his father Julius (Judd Hirsch) and head to Washington to warn the President, Tom Whitmore (Bill Pulliam).  His evidence convinces him to leave and they all escape the alien attack in the nick of time.  In the meantime, USMC captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) is called back from holiday leave to defend us.  The counter attack doesn’t go well, but Steve is able to capture an alien and take it to Area 51 with the aid of refugees lead by Russell Casse (Randy Quaid), the drunker, crop-duster who was kidnapped by aliens earlier.  In Air Force One, they debate going nuclear when Julius calls them out referencing Area 51.  They deny its existance until the Sec of Defense finally admits it does and they head to see there to see it.  The captured alien reveals their plans in error and firing the nukes is called for.  The nukes fail causing bewilderment and demoralization to everyone.  During a drunken rant of “littering the planet” by David, Julius mentions he doesn’t want David to catch cold.  The plan to save the world is born.  He’s broken through their technology.  TELL THE WORLD WE CAN SAVE THEM.  Steve & David fly the 1950’s craft to the mother ship, implant a computer virus, and shoot off a nuclear missile to take out the mother ship.  Luckily, the shot gives them the edge to escape before the aliens can catch them.  On Earth, the world wide counter offensive battle is on.  But, we just can’t get enough damage.  The aliens go to their primary weapon, the President and former fighter pilot has the target lined up, but hits a wall.  Then, here comes Russell Casse, but his missile jams.  In a final act of nobility, he flies the plane into the weapon blowing up the alien craft.  Then, we got ’em beat.  Taking them down all over the world.  David and Steve find their way back to Earth as heroes.

Despite all the plot flaws and amazing coincidences that lead to the Earth defeating the aliens, the action and special effects completely make this movie excellent to watch.  The only real criticisms are that some of the macho, oneliners is a bit over-done and 1 obvious question.  When Russell is doing his noble final act, he delivers 2 final one-liners…what?  When David and Steve fire the nuclear missile into the mother ship, they say several one-liners.  It’s like the actors were trying to out-do each other and they just put them all in the final cut.  Finally, the aliens studied us for years before invading and their technology is light years ahead of ours, but they don’t seem to have a firewall protection on in their computer system……huh?  Well, overlook it.  This isn’t one of those “thinking” movies.  It’s a roller coaster film and a fun ride all the way through.

** Just click the images to check out “Independence Day” at Amazon.com **


King Kong vs Godzilla

    King Kong vs Godzilla – Whoa!!!  The 2 baddest monsters in a battle for the ages….what’s not to like?!!!!  I love this movie.  Well, I love all the 60’s and 70’s Toho Godzilla films and this one is no different.  Ok, lets be clear.  This film was made for 1 reason only….the battle of the monsters.  The script is bad.  The acting is no better.  The film is like watching pro wrestling.  And, you aren’t going to learn anything at all from this movie.  However, it is pure guilty-pleasure fun.  That’s why it’s a great movie.

The plot is a pharmaceutical company goes to a tropical island for advertising when they stumble on our enormous ape, King Kong.  After Kong drives away a giant octopus who is stealing his special “alcohol” prepared by the natives, the greedy guys try to get Kong back to Japan for money.  In the meantime, an American submarine unleashes the greatest monster of all-time, Godzilla, from his slumber in an iceberg.  They both head to Japan with some pretty silly “UN Reports” keeping us informed with up-to-the-minute reports.  But, once they see each other, the battle is on in glorious pro wrestling style comedy.  King Kong is brought to the fight with hot air balloons on Mt. Fuji.  Godzilla burns Kongs chest.  Kong shoves a tree down Godzilla’s throat.  And many other interesting battle scenes.  In the end, the winner by default after they fall into the ocean and only King Kong is seen swimming back home.  Godzilla’s fate is left to speculation.

The movie is pure fun and not to be taken seriously as it was intended to have more appeal to kids.  The 36% at Rotten Tomatoes and 3.5 stars at Amazon.com misses the point of the movie.  It’s not meant to be enlightening…just pure fun.  Oh well, what do movie critics know?  This movie is the most commercially successful of the Toho Godzilla films.  Interesting note that there were 4 Octopi used to film the attack on the village.  After filming, 3 were released.  The 4th, became a meal for the director.  Also, there has been a long standing myth of this film that there were 2 different endings.  In Asia, Godzilla was theorized to win the battle.  In America, because King Kong is American, that King Kong wins.  However, this has been dispelled due to western audiences finally getting access to the great Japanese movies of all genres.  King Kong essentially won because Kong was a greater attraction at the time.  This was only the 3rd Godzilla movie and the legend was not yet truly established.  Considering the iconic legend of both monsters in these days, it would be difficult to choose a winner today.  However, Godzilla, to me, is the greatest monster of all-time, so you know my choice.

** Just click the image to check out “King Kong vs Godzilla” at Amazon.com **


Alien (1979)

     Alien (1979) – “In space no one can hear you scream.”  Very haunting words from this Sci-Fi horror flick.  This film is amazing and spawned a numerous sequels, prequels, and countless merchandising of novels, comic books, games, etc.  Rated 96% at Rotten Tomatoes and 4.5 stars at Amazon, this movie is an icon in Sci-fi cinema and the alien monster is instantly recognized by anyone who likes movies.  I loved this movie.  It’s a bit different from most.  It’s slow and builds suspense allowing realism and normal anxiety and worry to build in the crew.  The relationship of the crew is more realistic than most films with some petty bickering.  In 1979, movie technology for non-actors was still limited and the minimizing of the alien’s scenes aids in building the suspense.  Granted, you can ultimately tell it’s a guy in a suit, but the director did his best to disquise it as much as possible.  The result is a classic film that stands the tests of time.

The plot is a towing space ship has heard a unrecognizable distress call.  According to the inter-galactic rules, they must investigate.  They land on the strange planet and 3 of the crew explore.  During the expoloration one of the crew, Kane (John Hurt), is investigating these strange egg things when BOOM this thing’s all over his face!!!!  The crew rushes him back, but is denied entry due to the quarentine rules by Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) who is 2nd in command.  She’s over-ridden by the Science Officer, Ash, which leads to some conflict in their relationship.  The Captain, played by Tom Skerritt, and Ash, try to get the “face hugger” off, but can’t.  The next morning, it’s gone and Kane seems fine.  Ummm, this is strange.  At dinner, “CHESTBURSTER” appears in one of the most frightening, disturbing, and absolute best scenes in film history!!!!!!  Whoa, now the alien’s on the loose and they gotta find a way to stop it.  But, they don’t know what they’ve got.  Unfortunately for them, the alien is a perfect survivor and picks them off one by one.  You can’t beat him.  Ultimately, it takes a brilliant idea to survive against the perfect survivor.   

The “chestburster” scene is iconic in film and, if you don’t know it, then you’ve really missed out.  It was interesting how the director brought in realism.  The cast knew the scene was coming, but had no idea on the realism and squirting blood the director was going to use.  The reactions in the film were real and it really added to the scene.  I saw this movie as a kid and this scene has stuck with me for 30 years.  As I watched it again, it brought back the fun of this movie.  While the movie is not graphic in a sexual nature, it does maintain strong sexual imagery to disturb and scare the audience.  The “facehugger” is likened to male rape as it lays an egg in a man and it grows inside him, “chestburster” is essentially a painful birth and very phallic shape.  The hero in this film is a woman instead of being the helpless victim.  Dan O’Bannon, who wrote the screenplay said that he intended to attack the male audiences instead of the women with his vision and imagery.  He wanted to expose the sexual fears that men have of being penetrated, raped, and the misconceptions of child birth.  Well, it’s a disturbing mindset he has and the images are freaky, but frankly, you do not feel like this movie is man-bashing porn when you watch it.  You’ve got a big, nasty alien to worry about running around the ship.

The movie is truly an icon.  While a little dated compared to what modern technology could have done to this film, it is a trip back to when movies were created by acting and technique rather than computer generated monsters.  The movie still holds up very well for an enjoyable time.  Frankly, you gotta watch this movie just for the “chestburster” scene…That is the king scene in movie history to me.

** Just click the images to check out “ALIEN” at Amazon.com **


The Incredible Shrinking Man

     The Incredible Shrinking Man – This 1957 Sci-fi classic really caught me off-guard.  I was surprised at what a deep and thought provoking movie this really is.  I obtained this movie with the “Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection” dvd set which I purchased primarily for 2 other sci-fi favorites (Tarantula & The Deadly Mantis).  In checking out the remainder movies, this one instantly became a favorite.  This film was well received by critics and rated 88% by Rotten Tomatoes movie site.  In 2009, it was received into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress for being culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant and will be preserved for all time.

The plot is an advertising man, Robert Carey, is on boating vacation with his wife, Louise, off the coast of California when a strange, radioactive mist over-takes them.  Louise is down in the hull getting refreshments and only Robert is exposed.  Initially, he dismisses it, but later on, he starts noticing that his clothes are bigger and he’s losing weight.  He visits doctors and they try everything, but ultimately, they can’t stop the shrinking.  He continues to shrink becoming more of a spectical to the public and more emotionally bitter.  Louise stands by her man regardless of his emotional venting towards her.  He eventually lives in a dollhouse.  After nearly being killed by his own cat, he becomes trapped in the basement continuing to shrink all the time.  Eventually, to survive, he must go to battle with the resident spider for the last bit of food in the basement.  Louise, believing he is killed by the cat, moves away unknowingly leaving him on his own.  Ultimately, he accepts his fate and ponders his future.

This movie is reknowned for its special effects for how the shrinking process happens.  It is impressive that everything fits at each stage of his shrinking.  But, the best part of the movie is that it will really get you thinking.  Ultimately, it will make you ponder your own existance in this world and the existance of the things around you that you presently take for granted.  I found myself looking at my own cat a little bit differently after watching this film.  You don’t know what you have until it is gone and you don’t realize how lucky we have it being on top of the food chain.  You don’t realize your place in the universe until those roles are switched.  Could you find the mental will to survive?  Could you find another way to live or avoid being the prey?  This movie will have you questioning many different aspects of your life and the universe around you.  I stumbled on this excellent film.  I hope you will check it out.

** Just click the image to check out “The Incredible Shrinking Man” at Amazon.com **

(This movie is currently available as part of the Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection or it will be available individually on Aug 30th.)


Tarantula

     Tarantula – This is another great sci-fi B movie from the 50’s.  In the same collection as The Deadly Mantis posted earlier, this one is even better.  Who isn’t a little scared of the hairy, creepy, crawley spiders.  Well, how about one bigger than a house?  When I say a movie is great, I mean it is great for what it is.  Obviously, it will not hold up to truly great films.  But, if you’re in the mood for those old cheesy, sci-fi monster picks, this one is for you.  Everyone gets in the mood to enjoy these kinds of films once in a while.  For me, I get in that mood often and love this movie.

The plot is that a scientist is working on a radioactive nutrient that causes animals to get substantially larger very quickly.  The reason is to develop a food source for the world’s rapid population growth.  Everything appears to be going great when one of his assistants tries it on himself.  But, the nutrient reacts differently in humans causing madness and death.  Before dying, he attacks our scientist in his lab setting our 8 legged monster free.  Our tarantula is huge and hungry and anything that moves can be called “dinner”.  The desert town’s doctor is investigating the mysterious deaths and evidence left with the sheriff when they finally discover their HUGE problem.  Then, it’s man versus spider.

This movie is like a fine slice of cheddar….it’s cheesy, but it is so good.  Every time this thing eats something or someone, it’s just awesome.  Seeing it stalk its prey is intense.  For the 50’s, the special effects are great.  This movie has a good story even if the ending is a bit rushed.  And, it includes some great comic relief as all old sci-fi movies do.  I saw this movie as a kid and loved it ever since.  I had been looking for this movie on dvd for years before it finally got released with a collection of other 50’s sci-fi films.  Personally, I bought the collection just for Tarantula and The Deadly Mantis, but several others were good and interesting as well.  So, if you’re in the mood for a good, cheesy B-movie, this is absolutely the best one to enjoy.

**  Just click the image to see “Tarantula” in The Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection at Amazon.com **


Godzilla

Godzilla (Gojira) – I couldn’t hold out my best material any longer.  To me, Godzilla is the best movie monster of all time.  Yes, there are other great movie monsters, but this guy is top 5 no matter who you are.  Ishiro Honda’s 1954 film is a classic and spawned at least 28 films and numerous tv shows, novels, cartoons, and comic books.  I have the entire collection of the 60’s and 70’s movies and love every one.

The plot is that Japanese ships start disappearing and the superstitious villagers of Odo Island believe that an ancient legend has come to life.  That legend is Godzilla.  Awakening from an H-bomb test, Godzilla seeks revenge and starts destroying everything in his path.  A brilliant, but tormented scientist ultimately comes to the rescue to save mankind.

In 1956, Godzilla was introduced to American audiences with “Godzilla, King of the Monsters” starring Raymond Burr as a reporter covering Godzilla’s rampage.  This is somewhat modified for Americans to absorb.

Initially, Godzilla represented the dangers of nuclear weapons.  Later on, the Godzilla movies took on a less serious storylines and protrayed Godzilla as somewhat of a hero that saves the world or sort of in the middle as sometimes protector of the world of outside threats or back to a destructive monster.  The stories got more cheesy as they aimed them for younger audiences or began including alien beings which was popular at the time.

Godzilla’s appearance has been modified somewhat over the years, but the basics remain the same.  Many movies of Godzilla exists, but be sure to never waste your time watching the 1998 American movie starring Matthew Broderick where Godzilla is turned into some alien looking lizard.  The producer should be in jail for that disaster he created.

Godzilla won numerous awards and even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame showing his impact on American culture.  The special effects may appear less impressive by today’s standards, but were outstanding for their time.  In this classic, Godzilla doesn’t fight other monsters like Mothra or King Ghidorah as you would expect from a Godzilla movie, but the storyline is probably the best of them all.  When was the last time you watched a Godzilla movie?  The old ones from the 50’s, 60’s & 70’s are the best.  Godzilla is a masterpiece that should be owned by everyone.  For a sci-fi movie monster, you don’t get better than Godzilla.

** Just click on the image to see Godzilla (Gojira) at Amazon.com **