The intense, beautiful visual style of Jonathan Glazer is not prolific. The British director has helmed a number of quintessentially cinematic/innovative videos, including Blur's "The Universal" and Jamiroquai's "Virtual Insanity." His only two previous feature films, Sexy Beast and Birth, showcase an innate ability for nuance--making Under the Skin no exception. The collaboration of Glazer and Nick Wechsler, known for supporting the slightly sinister as evidenced with previous films he's produced, including Requiem For A Dream and Magic Mike, makes for an incredible visual experience. Based on Scottish author Michel Faber's 2000 novel (also called Under the Skin), the film opens our eyes to the strangeness of being, as seen from an alien femme fatale perspective. Promotional poster for Under the Skin

Being that no one in the movie has a name, Scarlett Johansson shall be referred to as simply "The Alien." The process by which aliens inhabit female bodies seems to rather simple: As soon as one human body expires, another one is inhabited. A mysterious alien watcher (think: Giles in Buffy but creepier and less communicative) follows each incarnation of The Alien on his motorcycle (he's very biker chic), ensuring that she carries out her responsibility of luring men into a black abyss. And, speaking of black abyss, that's exactly what the symbolism for sex seems to be in this film. For those who are misguided enough to be tempted by the promise of intercourse are ultimately sucked into a black hole--and obviously not the kind they were hoping for.

Heroin chic

Once the male body is beneath the surface of the ground he's been sucked into, his body is housed for a period and the skin is harvested. Side note: Aliens really seem to dig our skin, in spite of all its potential blemishes and deformities. In fact, in one instance The Alien picks up someone in her car with neurofibromatosis, which means his face appears mangled. This, of course, does not stop The Alien on her quest to destroy every man in her driving path through Scotland. The only stipulation with regard to how she chooses her men is that they must be "all alone"--no family, no friends, no ties to mainstream society. Apparently, this is a decidedly easy type of man to find in Scotland.

Acting the part of temptress

Taking pity on the man with the deformed visage, The Alien begins to get more in touch with her human side. This angers her motorcycle watcher to no end as he rampages through the countryside in search of the man she let go. Meanwhile, The Alien starts living with a kindly Scotsman who seems to dig her seeming tortured victim persona, when really, she just doesn't have shit to say. Pretty soon, she's even starting to notice her body, checking her naked figure out in the mirror and thinking, "Not bad, not bad." After a failed attempt at sex (we're not really sure if it's because she can't get aroused, but that seems a likely reason) and her flashing a lightbulb on her vag, The Alien flees the scene. The Alien delves further into the human psyche when she's escorted into a nightclub that still thinks it's chic to play "Sandstorm" by Darude. As if that's not overwhelming enough, she has to be harassed by a gross guy she ends up putting on ice.

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Exhausted from trying to act human--aren't we all? (this includes eating a bite of cake that she finds foul and then spits out)--The Alien retires to the woods, where she encounters a disgusting Scotsman who serves as something of a park ranger. The Alien tolerates his weird conversation and then finds an isolated cabin to take a nap in. She is awakened by the park ranger type trying to rape her. This is when it gets somewhat annoying. Because what kind of lame alien can't kick the shit out of a human with his or her alien power? In any case, The Alien runs away from her tormentor, only to be doused in gas and lit on fire by him after he rips some of her skin off and realizes she's not human. What does this mean, you ask? That no one can accept it when you're too different.

 

 

Just as Woody Allen and Pedro Almodòvar have their muses in Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz, so, too, does Rian Johnson in Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The writer-director collaborated with Gordon-Levitt on his first feature, Brick, a modern take on the noir genre that Looper seems to continue in its own futuristic way, and it is a partnership that has rightfully persisted.

Recently, the lack of original sci-fi scripts has been noticeable (remakes of Total Recall and The Thing come to mind), but with Looper, it is as though Johnson is setting a new bar again for intelligent sci-fi not derived from the literature of Philip K. Dick. That being said, Looper pairs time travel with organized crime and throws in a genetic mutation in a minor portion of the population that instills the ability to telekinetically move objects to create the crux of the plot. Because time travel is outlawed in the present, crime bosses have sent Abe (Jeff Daniels) from the future to manage a group of hitmen called loopers.

Joe's best friend, Seth (the lovely Paul Dano), is another looper who closely mirrors the same self-absorption and overall disregard for others--case in point being when they ride through the poverty-stricken streets together in Joe's ostentatious car terrorizing anyone in their way. They frequent a nightclub managed by Abe, mainly so Joe can pursue his vague relationship with a showgirl named Suzie (Piper Perabo, who will forever be the star of Coyote Ugly in my eyes). The meaninglessness and monotony of Joe's life is tempered only by his drug use (mysterious eye drops that he uses daily) and his financial savings for the goal of one day moving to France (in spite of Abe's direct quote, "I'm from the future and I'm telling you, you should move to China.").

It isn't until Seth barrels through Joe's apartment window in a panic that Joe learns of a crime boss from the future called the Rainmaker. Causing havoc among the crime world, the Rainmaker has started the trend of closing the loop on all loopers, meaning he sends the older version of a looper back in time to be shot by his younger self. In Seth's case, he was unable to bring himself to do it, which is why Abe and his gat men are on the hunt for him in an instant. With no one to turn to but Joe, Seth begs him to let him hide until he can figure out his next move. But when Abe calls Joe in and threatens to take all of the silver Joe has been stashing away for retirement, Joe gives up the information they're looking for.

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In a cruel twist of irony, Joe soon finds himself in the same scenario as Seth (who didn't have the luxury of escaping a slow, painful death), with Older Joe (Bruce Willis, who doesn't know how not to be badass) descending from the sky minutes later than Joe was expecting his mark to land. Flummoxed by the sight of his older self, Joe hesitates too long in shooting him, leaving Older Joe the chance to knock him out and flee. It is at this point in the film that the perspective shifts to Older Joe, and what happened to him in the thirty-year time span that separates him from Joe.

To the dismay of both parties, Joe and Older Joe find that working together might be the best approach to survival, in spite of how disparate their objectives are. As they attempt a cordial conversation at Joe's favorite diner, one of the primary themes of Looper becomes evident: It's easy to hate yourself--specifically when you can look back on who you were and foresee who you will become. As they discuss their respective objectives, the two quickly find that they are not going to agree on how to survive unscathed, with Older Joe wanting nothing but to kill the Rainmaker in his child form to protect the future and Joe wanting nothing but to kill Older Joe so he can close his loop and collect his gold payoff.

Going their violently separate ways, Joe finds himself experiencing drug withdrawals as he goes to a farm that was listed as one of the potential addresses of the Rainmaker. Already well into the second act, it is not until now that Emily Blunt as Sara makes her appearance. Constantly wielding a shotgun at the slightest tremor in her field, Sara hears Joe rustling in the leaves but does not actually see him until he comes to her defense when a vagrant tries to get into her house. Realizing how harmless Sara is, he informs her that he has to stay on her farm as there is nowhere else for him to go without getting caught by Abe. When Sara sees the sequence of numbers written down on the map that led him to the farm, she angrily shoots him--with salt rocks. Demanding to know how he obtained the numbers, Joe tells her that Older Joe wrote them down. Sara then tells him that they signify her son, Cid's (the simultaneously creepy and cute Pierce Gagnon), date of birth and the hospital he was born in.

With the promise to help protect Sara and Cid from his older self (though Sara doesn't know it's his older self until later on), Joe is allowed to stay on the farm, growing increasingly attached to both mother and son. As Cid's soon obvious telekinetic powers manifest whenever he gets upset or scared, Joe is forced to admit that Cid will grow up to become the Rainmaker. In spite of this knowledge, his final standoff with Older Joe leads to his ultimate character arc in that he at last understands the importance of self-sacrificing love. It is a culmination both bittersweet and triumphant.

 

 

A film that would serve as something of a prequel to Ridley Scott's seminal 1979 film Alien has been in the works for years. With Prometheus, the wait was all worth it as Damon Lindelof (who wrote for MTV's Undressed and was a former Nicholl semi-finalist) and John Spaihts (The Darkest Hour) weave a spot-on cheesy science-fiction script that only Ridley Scott could make work outside of the 70s. Charlize Theron as Meredith Vickers, the director of the ship Prometheus, is, hands down, given all of the best lines. In fact, she may be the best part of Prometheus, especially if you see the genius in the dominatrix-like delivery of her lines (e.g. "I think there might be some confusion about the nature of our relationship.").

The mission of Prometheus is simple: Follow a star map found by archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green, not to be confused with Tom Hardy) to the moon known as LV-223. Funded by Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce, who still looks pretty hot as a fossil) of the Weyland Corp., the intent of the mission is to accept what is presumed as an invitation from their "makers" to learn more about the forerunners that created them. Guided by an android called David (Michael Fassbender, who can twerk an Aryan appearance quite well), the ship is run tightly by Meredith, who, in a creepy scene toward the end of the film, we learn is the daughter of Weyland.

Everything seems to be going smoothly (doesn't it always?) until Charlie, Elizabeth, and their fellow explorers come across a number of stone cylinders, the corpse of an alien, and a decapitated head. Unnerved by the storm that occurs immediately after the cylinders start leaking, the crew makes its way back to the ship, but not before David steals one of the cylinders. Once back on Prometheus, the head found in the cave is dissected and found to have human DNA. Meanwhile, David puts his latent plan into motion by extracting the liquid from the cylinder and lacing Charlie's drink with it. Later that night, Charlie sleeps with Elizabeth, unaware of what their union foretells.

Outside of Prometheus, Charlie, Fifield (Sean Harris), and Millburn (Rafe Spall) are attacked by aliens resembling snakes and attempt to make their way back onto the ship. The infection from the liquid, at this point, has infected Charlie at an alarming rate, and, seeing the nature of his condition, Meredith refuses to let him onto the ship, instead dousing him with fire and killing him. Though Millburn has also been killed, Fifield mutates into something inhuman and tries to attack everything in his path before being quelled.

Already traumatized by the death of Charlie, Elizabeth must also grapple with the news that she is pregnant with an alien spawn in spite of being sterile. In typical thug, Girl With the Dragon Tattoo style, Elizabeth hops into a machine that plucks the alien from her stomach and then staples it shut, just in time for her to escape from her own "child." It's really quite foul to watch, but at the same time, the most memorable and iconic scene from the movie (unless you're a dude, in which case, it's Charlize Theron doing push-ups).

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The intense urgency of Prometheus merely elevates from this moment forth, as Elizabeth struggles to understand why mankind's creators would give them life only to concoct a biological weapon intended to destroy them. Determined to figure out the reason, the film concludes with Elizabeth using what is left of David (his detached head) to get another one of the Engineer's ships to work so that she can go to their planet and personally confront them. In other words, get ready for another Ridley Scott Alien-tinged movie. Though, of course, no one will ever hold a candle to Sigourney Weaver.

 

You already know going in that the third installment of Men in Black 3 is going to be spectacularly B rate. It's the only answer the late 90s (apart from Mars Attacks!) and early 00s have really had to the low-budget aesthetic of 1950s sci-fi films. There is perhaps no better director for the job of bringing the high camp factor of such a genre than Barry Sonnenfeld (best known for the first two Men in Black films and, hopefully, Pushing Daisies). Loyal to the concept of franchise films (he also directed The Addams Family and Addams Family Values, Sonnenfeld focuses this time on the early years of MiB, specifically 1969, the year of the moon launch and an overall hotbed of alien activity.

When K (Tommy Lee Jones) disappears after an especially callous conversation with J (Will Smith), J is immediately aware of K's absence the next morning when a random agent by the code name AA (Will Arnett) makes incessant references to an exchange J has no recollection of. J demands to know who the stranger is from a fellow agent, who informs J that AA is his partner. Panicked, J confronts the new director of MiB, O (Emma Thompson), who casually relays that K has been dead for over forty years (it smacks vaguely of a daytime soap opera plot).

As J insists on having another glass of chocolate milk (his second of the day), O realizes he is suffering from the main symptom of a gap in the space-time continuum. As the two further deliberate, it becomes clear that the last member of a race of aliens called the Boglodytes, Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement, a long way from Flight of the Conchords in this role), has gone back in time to exact vengeance on K for shooting off his arm and preventing his race from taking over Earth.

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Jeffrey Price (Michael Chernus), the owner of an electronics store called Always Going Out of Business, is sought out by Boris the Animal (who actually loathes being called "the Animal") as he knew Jeffrey's father, the inventor of time travel, from prison. Unable to deny Boris the time travel apparatus, Jeffrey agrees to help. Soon after, the Boglodytes descend upon Earth and Jeffrey finds himself assisting J in his quest to go back to July 1969 as well--though he warns, "It wasn't really the best time for your people."

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Specifics aside of J going back in time, Men in Black 3 does not become purposefully humorous until K's 29-year-old self (Josh Brolin) accompanies J to Andy Warhol's (Saturday Night Live's Bill Hader) Factory. Knowing that this alien hub is where Boris will strike next, J and K find the Arcadian alien Boris is planning to kill. Called Griffin (Michael Stuhlberg), he is able to see not just into the future, but into all possible outcomes of the future. He is also the one who possesses the resource to create ArcNet, a protective force field that will keep Boglodytes away from Earth.

As K listens to Warhol's (Agent W) woes, such as "I can't listen to sitar music anymore" and "I can't tell the women from the men, K!", J listens to Griffin ramble neurotically about all the possible moments Boris could burst into the Factory. And so, as the trio escapes to their next destination, Cape Canaveral, for the launching of Apollo 11, it becomes clearer that one of K's greatest secrets is about to be unearthed. Though, in the end, said secret really isn't all that shocking.

Just as in the first and second movies, the usual detailed nuances of Men in Black are present (e.g. Lady Gaga, Tim Burton, and Justin Bieber being alluded to as aliens), but, in general, it yields nothing that audiences couldn't live without--except maybe the Galaxy Donut from Dunkin' Donuts. Even so, the cast and director are already talking about the possibility of a fourth film. If this does pan out, to Sonnenfeld I say: I'd rather see a third Addams Family called The Rise of Wednesday. P.S. Will Smith allowing Pitbull to take the reins on the main song for Men in Black 3 is quite possibly another sign of the apocalypse.

Science fiction fans: get ready for a massive erection. District 9 directed by Neill Blomkamp and produced by Peter Jackson, stars Sharlto Copley. The film starts off as a pseudo documentary, following the happenings of a large alien ship hovering above Johannesburg, South Africa. Humans board the ship and evacuate the alien creatures aboard, who then live on earth for 20 years. The people and government of South Africa are fed up with the alien occupation, and an evacuation plan is formed. Wikus Van De Merwe (played by Copley) is in charge of leading the evacuation, so we are fed the story mainly from his perspective. Shit gets fucking real.

District 9 - Gigantic Ships are how Aliens Deal with Mid-Life Crisis

A private company, Multi-National United (MNU), is in charge of moving the nearly 2 million alien creatures from District 9, which is essentially a large refugee camp. In order to evict the aliens legally, MNU sends out human agents on the ground to give out eviction notices to the aliens (who are also referred to as prawns). All of the prawns are considered working class, and sign the eviction papers without much consideration, until Wikus runs into seemingly the only one with intelligence, Christopher Johnson. Christopher has been excreting a fluid for the 20 year occupation, to fuel a small ship back to the main alien ship, and then return home.

Wikus gets his hands on the fluid, and accidentally sprays himself with it, which was the beginning of the end for him. Unexplained in the film, the exposure to the fluid slowly turns Wikus into an alien-human hybrid. This interests the powers at be at MNU, because in his hybrid state, Wikus is able to use the aliens bio-engineered weapons. Naturally, he wants to turn back to his former human state, and MNU wants to run experiments on him to hopefully find a way to replicate his DNA to man the bio-engineered alien weaponry. Wikus' slow transformation into an alien state, and MNU's desire to experiment on him drives the rest of the film.

Wikus Van De Merwe Tells Aliens to Suck it like a Dick

District 9 took an interesting method to explain it's story. A majority of it was shot as a documentary about Wikus' transformation into an alien, and his eventual treason, while the rest was shot from a standard third-person perspective. It definitely has a slow climb to a ton of action, but the story is really well structured, and keeps you highly interested. Copley does a brilliant job in his role, and makes you really feel the sense of urgency that his character was going through, trying to reverse his alien transformation.

It does take some time to get there, but when the action comes, it comes hard and keeps coming (unlike this writer in bed). As with any science fiction film, expect some information not to be explained, but there were no obvious points of absurdity (i.e.: Hollywood magic). There are a lot of subtitles, so it might be best not to watch it if you are particularly tired. Also, there are some parts with nasty alien-y matter, but even if you are squeamish, those parts are few and far between.

Wikus is Moments Away from the Big Anal Rape Scene

District 9 is a bad ass film that builds slowly, but keeps you entertained, and then kicks your fucking ass. Definitely want to catch this one in a theater.

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AuthorRedmanthatcould
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Ever wonder what it'd feel like to be all alone, in a space station, on the Moon? Me too! Luckily for you and I, we don't have to wonder anymore, because director Duncan Jones shows us the light. Unfortunately, it's not that glamorous, and as anticipated, will make you go bat shit insane. And it seems like even saying, "Bang, zoom, straight to the moon!" will get old after awhile. Moon takes place sometime in the future, where Astronaut Sam Bell (played by Sam Rockwell) is sent to harvest the Moon, to send back deposits to Earth for energy. Lunar Industries hires Sam on a three year contract, to live in the space station located on the Moon. His only companion being a really sophisticated on-board robot, GERTY (voice by Kevin Spacey), which tends to his every need. And, of course, the live communication with Earth is "down", so the only way Sam can communicate with Earth (namely his wife, Tess) is through recorded video messages.

Sam Bell with his Lovely Co-Star, GERTY

Near the end of his three year contract, there's some blah blah reason for Sam to go manually work on a problem, so he heads over in his Moon buggy, but experiences a pretty bad accident that knocks him out cold. Oddly in the next scene, with no explanation, we see GERTY tending to Sam, back in the space station. Sam is clearly dazed and confused, but has no injuries from his accident. How curious! Sam overhears an interesting conversation between GERTY and the heads at Lunar Industries, but how could this be? Wasn't the live communication feed down? If you think that's odd, get a load of this - the Sam we grew to love, is not the same Sam that showed no injuries back at the station...it was a clone. That's right - a clone!

Moon is really tough to watch at times. I'm not ADD or anything, but having the vast majority of the dialogue being between Sam Rockwell, and the voice of Kevin Spacey, or Rockwell and a clone of himself, was just tough to deal with. Don't get me wrong, Rockwell did a great job, all things considered, but this film is definitely not for your average moviegoer. Heh, it was pretty soothing hearing Kevin Spacey was a robot though; if I ever got a personal robot, I always thought the voice would be of some hot chick, but I'd definitely go with Spacey's voice now.

Moon Movie Poster

The two main themes of the film were evil big business (a common theme nowadays), and cloning, but only cloning was discussed in any length. Lunar Industries really fucked over this guy, and yet there wasn't one scene - not even one sentence - of "how could they do this to me?" or any resentment out of Sam. That part I never understood. Another thing that kind of took me out of the movie, was how absolutely fake the Moon scenes looked. I understand we're not going to be filming on the surface of the Moon, but come on...it's 2009, we should be able to do better.

If you're a Sci-Fi fan, you'll probably enjoy the film. It's really slow paced, and even the intense sequences are really not all that intense. Decent date movie, even if you're not too into it, 'cause there's lots of downtime where you can neck, etc.

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AuthorRedmanthatcould
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