Wednesday, January 4, 2006

New Year, Old Movie(s)

Not being much of a party animal in my middle years*, I spent this past New Years' Eve the way I usually do, if not working: at home, watching a couple-three rented videos. The pet rock and pet ear of corn (aka, Seymour and Jane) love to partake in such recreation, almost as much as they do the usual movie snacks. Though Jane -- once understanding just what popcorn starts out as -- indignantly recused herself from the repast, leaving that much more for Seymour and moi, but I digress.

Generally, I'm not much of a movie-goer. The last movie I saw in a theater when the movie was just out was Star Wars (officially, Part IV, but in actuality Part I of eventually VI). The last movie I saw in a theatre was in '00 (City of Angels). I saw it on account of Meg Ryan; I still like Meg, despite the movie.

At any rate, when discussing my upcoming planned festivities for NYE, a coworker -- one who loves to bust on me about my pronounced dearth of current movie-going acumen -- recommended I see two that I hadn't yet: Napolean Dynamite and Toy Story. Figuring that Seymour and Jane would love the latter, I sought these at my local Blockbuster. Napolean Dynamite was to be had (small wonder after I saw it); but Toy Story wasn't. So I sought an alternate. Something silly that I hadn't seen.

And I was sure I'd found something in the mode of classic Airplane! genre: Mars Attacks! Yep, a movie that came out in 1996, and I was only now -- on New Years' Eve, 2005 -- getting around to seeing it.

Told ya I'm a happenin' dude.

Now, I'm less a movie reviewer than I am a movie goer; my review is, in essence, I liked it or I didn't. I don't go in for trying to dissect scenes, plots, director intent, etc. If I think the movie will be funny, that's all I'm interested in at the end: was it or wasn't it?

I will tell you that while I found Napolean Dynamite to in a strange sort of peculiar way, Seymour spent most of the movie bearing a look not unlike a family dog, when confronted with something that causes it to give you a "are you for real?" look. Jane did find humor in the time machine sequence, and I used the opportunity to remind Seymour that there was a lesson to be learned about online shopping for unique bargains on Ebay. Especially when it's my credit card, but I digress again.

Then came time to 'up the intellect' (which, after Napolean Dynamite, no where but up was left to go). With Seymour's love/hate thing of science fiction, I settled in to witness both the insanity of what I anticipated would be a Tim Burton classic (having seen Beetlejuice and the first Batman movie) and the reactions of a precocious pet rock and ear of corn.

Thus began the epic feature of the evening, Mars Attacks!

Oy vay.

Now, I did some pre-post movie research: for those of you who've seen it, you already know what you think of it. I learned that it was generally panned by the critics, and is considered Burton's biggest flop. One might not think so, when seeing the illustrious cast of Hollywood veterans in the movie: Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Martin Short, Jim Brown, Rod Steiger, Paul Winfield, Pierce Brosnan, Pam Grier, Michael J. Fox and others. And, of course, the Martians.

I suspect Burton came up with their language from Bill the Cat of Bloom County/Outland fame; I'm still laughing at listening to Seymour and Jane "ack ack RACK!"ing during the times when they weren't hiding under the loveseat.

At any rate, and for those of you who are even worse about seeing movies than moi, here's a sorta-brief precis: the Martians come to Earth. In force. After making contact with Earth by pre-empting a TV interview between a suave scientist (Pierce Brosnan) and a bimbo TV journalist (Sarah Jessica Parker, who was perfectly cast in this role because she didn't have to fake the part), the Martians and the humans first meet in the desert near Pahrump, Nevada. The Martian 'ambassador' proclaims that they have come in peace, and some hippie relic from Woodstock releases a peace dove over the cheering assemblage. Which the ambassador turns into dove fricasse, followed by the Martians opening fire.

Despite the carnage just witnessed on TV, the President and his advisors convince themselves that it was all due to a cultural misunderstanding. So another meeting is arranged, this time with the Martian ambassador addressing a joint session of the US Congress.

In the ensuing chaos, the ambassador and his two associates do a better job of term limitation than the voters ever managed, and the President -- still not convinced that peace can't be had -- goes on TV to try to convince a nervous nation that "two out of three branches of government are still representing you, and that ain't bad".

With a variety of subplots popping and flopping hither and yon, eventually the Martians get down to business: a full-blown attack. An attack that, at least to me, resembled a parody of the 1950s version of War of the Worlds combined with National Lampoon's Animal House food fight, all conducted by little green men who talked like Bill the Cat on helium. The destruction of Las Vegas -- and the subplot of Tom Jones, singer and collector of womens' panties on stage, with a role as himself in this movie in particular -- achieves the sublemon, though is gratifying for those who enjoy high tech destruction on a grandiose scale. As well as watching a lawyer (Danny DeVito) get lasered out of existence by a Martian who wasn't convinced he'd "need a lawyer to conquer the world". Not quite as graphic as the lawyer in Jurassic Park, but what the heck: a hosed lawyer is a hosed lawyer.

And the dialogue. Oh, the dialogue. Perhaps the single best line of a movie replete with a lack of single best lines, was:

The President (addressing the nation): It is profoundly moving to know that there is intelligent life out there.

The President's daughter (watching the speech elsewhere in the White House): Glad they got it somewhere...

With Washington DC thoroughly trashed, Las Vegas ravaged, a donut shop in Kansas blown up, and when absolutely no one and nothing in the American military arsenal seems able to cope with the advancing Martians, what/who will come in like the cavalry to save the day for humanity?

Not the flu; not a nuke. Nope. Sylvia Sidney and Slim Whitman.

With her listening to one of the most gawdawful-sounding 1940s-50s CW songs perhaps ever recorded, the Martians come to zap her and the music instead does the zapping, exploding their brains. And with that discovery, Sidney and her grandson (Lukas Haas) take the offensive.

Even Seymour, after less than a stanza of the song, felt sorry for the Martians.

In the end, little animals emerge from the ashes, a Mexican string band plays the American National Anthem on what's left of the White House steps, and the late President's daughter (Natalie Portman) and now the acting President, awards medals to Sidney and her grandson.

How heartwarming.

All in all, Mars Attacks! isn't so much in the mode of Airplane; it's more like Hollywood Knights, without the knights, but with lots of versions of flatulated Volare! and urine in the punch, in a manure of speaking.

Y'wanna hear the worst part? I thought it was funny.

At the end, as the President's daughter awards Sidney her Medal of Honor, Sidney responds with "Thank you honey; but don't you dare let this happen again".

I don't think she has to worry; I've heard nothing about a follow-up Mars Attacks! II.

Though, to see Sarah Jessica Parker's head on the body of a chihuahua again, might make it worth a sequel. Perhaps Uranus Attacks! ?

* or any of my years, come to think of it...


Anonymous TSB said...

You HAVE to watch Napoleon Dynamite again. I was not impressed the first time, but after I saw it the second and third time , I couldn't stop laughing. THe problem with that movie is that you are so shocked at what you are seeing, waiting for the plot to emerge that you miss all the good jokes. Watch it again, I swear you will be hooked, it's "flippin sweet" ROFL (my kids bought me that T shirt for Christmas)

05 January, 2006 08:23  
Blogger Karen said...

N.D. was so true to life for that town in Idaho, that is what made me think it was so funny. I do have to be in the "right mood" to watch it but I'm glad I bought it.

The classics, Airplane and Mars Attacks, those are great movies. I haven't seen MA in a long time, me thinks I need to. Uranus Attacks? YES! Write to your local movie maker and tell them! LOL

05 January, 2006 08:39  
Blogger FTS said...

Or how about "Plunging to the Depths of Uranus," or "Getting To The Bottom of Uranus," or... oh. Okay. Never mind.

That line about two out of three branches of government is a classic. I never saw the movie all the way through, but who knows. I might treat myself to a rental one night.

Last movie I saw in the theatre was "Hitch." First twenty minutes: zzzzzz. After that, it picked up and was quite funny, I thought.

Like yourself, I am a man about town. ;)

05 January, 2006 11:59  
Blogger Monica said...

Maybe you can plan a big blog NYE next year? You know, rent out the party room at your work or something? :)

My younger son Loves N.D. I ended up buying it for him a few months ago...go figure. I still don't have a clue about it.

05 January, 2006 12:44  
Blogger Miss Cellania said...

My coworkers have kept recommending Napolean Dynamite to me, but do they bring me a DVD? NOO, they just keep forgetting. As far as Mars Attacks, I reckon I found out all I need to know from your description!

08 January, 2006 16:31  
Anonymous Simply Coll said...

I have never ever heard of the movie, Mars Attacks, but I am on my way to the video store to rent it.. it sounds like a hoot!

09 January, 2006 14:44  

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