>>> Click here for the RMC FAQ'N RULES <<<


Your February 2009 Unrandom Movie Club Results Are In!

Tagline: Nice planet. We'll take it!

Preshow Entertainment: Robert Schimmel: LIFE SINCE THEN


Mars Attacks! DVD
Oh boy! At the beginning of MARS ATTACKS!, a little spaceship flies around the Warner Bros. logo! I loved that!

And only that, for MARS ATTACKS! is an exercise in overblown ideas and visuals that can exhaust people of Earth. Like the Martians in the movie, screening this film can make your brain explode.

With MARS ATTACKS!, Tim Burton has created a high-tech, low-brow homage to 50's sci-fi camp. But when you make a parody of camp, well, you're in danger of losing the camp, and when the smoke clears you're left with jokes that fall flat. Not that the movie MATINEE was a work of art, but it was more successful at 50's camp parody because it was a "small" film, not a big budget mess. And what makes a movie like MARS ATTACKS! doubly frustrating is the waste of its truly interstellar cast.

Glenn Close and Martin Short as the First Lady and Press Secretary
It's really not worth it to go into the plot, but you can most likely assemble the pieces yourself once you know the characters: Jack Nicholson plays the President (in another role he's a casino developer, and an uncredited third role has him as a voice-translator-machine operator), with Glenn Close and Natalie Portman as his wife and daughter. Pierce Brosnan plays a professor smitten with TV bimbo Sarah Jessica Parker. Martin Short is the salacious and shallow press secretary, Michael J. Fox a reporter, Danny DeVito a gambler, Annette Bening a new age nut (are there any other kinds?), the late
Paul Winfield and the even later Rod Steiger are generals, and so on. Even Steve Valentine, who I've now spotted in not one but two bookstores in L.A., has a bit part. And everyone is performing using The Jack Black Method of Play-It-Big. And as if to prove the point, Jack Black himself is on board as a soldier (perhaps this is where he honed his mugging skills). This must have aggravated the Martians, who would likely have destroyed more scenery if the actors hadn't already chewed it all up.

So as the title implies, Mars attacks and humans (including us) must suffer the consequences. In the end, it's not a germ that ends this war of the worlds, but something more pop culture-y that conquers the Martians. No, not Santa. Let's just say Earth's chances for survival were slim.

Loaded with multi-storylines and celebs (it's like bad Irwin Allen meets SKIDOO), MARS ATTACKS! has the feel of 1941 (which Spielberg himself has apologized for), constantly trying to connect to the audience and rarely, possibly never, succeeding. There were too many long set-ups for meager payoffs (I could almost smell the "hold that shot a little longer so people can laugh" beats). There were set pieces that were just wrong and awful, like the President pleading with the Martian - "Can't we all just get along?" I hope they were going for parody because I can't bear to think they believed they were making a social comment. To make matters worse, about halfway through, MARS ATTACKS! simply becomes GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH, with aliens giggling as they pose like tourists in front of the Taj Mahal or knocking down the Easter Island statues with a huge bowling ball and then high-fiving each other. It's unfathomable that it took at least six screenwriters no fewer than two dozen drafts to come up with this stuff.

The movie is close to a total misfire though I did like a few things, like the Martian tapping the mic before he spoke, and the President and First Lady eating on snack trays while watching TV, but by the 30 minute mark you pretty much know it won't get any better than this.

Lisa Marie demonstrates the alien walk
MARS ATTACKS! is saturated with tired effects that actually grow more tiring by the minute. Personally, I found the walk that the unblinking alien does to be creepy, and not in a good way (that was Lisa Marie, Burton's squeeze at the time, looking like she just came from the LOVE SHACK video shoot). Also uncool creepy, Sarah Jessica Parker's head on a Taco Bell dog.

Amid all the loudness and visual assaults you'll find references to WAR OF THE WORLDS and EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS, among others. There's even a nod to a hub cap spaceship (Burton had just made ED WOOD). But the Martians themselves look like rejected SIMPSONS renderings of aliens Kang and Kodo. Blame...or inspiration, I suppose, partly goes to the original 1960's drawings on the trading cards on which this film is based. Maybe that's why chewing gum, a trading card staple, is what helps the Martians breathe. Oh, and when the aliens spoke, they sounded like the Aflac duck (MARS AFLACS?).

One thing's for certain, I am not a huge fan of Burton (Hey! That rhymed!). I want to be, but I'm not. PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE was indeed a great bow, and the only Burton movie I really love. I did like ED WOOD and CORPSE BRIDE, and BEETLE JUICE is okay but overrated (Michael Keaton's performance is what made that movie work as well as it did). But NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, which I watched again recently, doesn't hold up, and I can't bring myself to watch his BATMAN movies again. Once was enough. Now I'm not trying to be high and mighty here. Many people love Burton. Maybe more than love Billy Wilder. I get that. This is a subjective thing. Except for PLANET OF THE APES, which I believe everyone hated across the board. I could forgive my ex-writing partner Robbie Jayson for stealing all my money and hiding out in Wisconsin before I could ever forgive Burton for APES.

I really wanted to see MARS ATTACKS!...and to enjoy it. But I didn't (did you pick up on that at all?). Mars didn't attack so much as numb.

So who ended up saving us all? Jack Nicholson? Nope. Jack Black? Nuh uh. Natalie Portman? I wish. Nope. It was Robert Schimmel who saved the evening.


Comedian Robert Schimmel
Comedian Robert Schimmel killed us. We watched his January 2009 HBO stand-up show LIFE SINCE THEN, where he talked about his new wife and kids (life since then has found Schimmel divorced and facing domestic violence charges, later dropped). Other killer bits included his trip to Hawaii, swimming with dolphins, Siegfried and Roy, his 17 year old daughter, his ex-wife, and his son using a robot arm.

The last hunk was about his battle with cancer, which he faced with all the comedy he could. He turned his tragedy into comedy, for his own benefit and for ours. Good for him. Good for us. Schimmel rocks.

Feed Burner Subscribe in a reader

Powered byFeedBlitz

About ...

RMC email address
Old RMC Men

RMC is not affiliated with Rochester Midland Corporation, makers of fine restroom disinfecting fluids and urinal mats since 1888.


Powered by Pizza, Red Vines,
& 6 Different Kinds of Soda



This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from Random Movie Club. Make your own badge here.

((( Contribute to our Popcorn Fund! )))

Best Viewed With Firefox 2

Add to Google
Add to My Yahoo!
Add to Technorati Favorites!

eXTReMe Tracker