Independence Day (1996)


Welcome to Earth!

The third part in this contest brings me to my guilty pleasure genre: disaster movies!  Disaster movies, if done well, are a combination of various different genres.  They’re mostly action based, they always attempt drama (they don’t always get there), and they’re generally science fiction.  Usually corny and dumb, but mostly lots of fun.  Today’s movie exemplifies the genre, at least in my mind.  If the movie doesn’t exemplify the genre, the director certainly does.  Almost every movie I can think of that this guy has done has been a disaster movie.  And I’ve actually liked the majority of them, dumb and cheesy though they may be.  And so, as the biggest and the most fun in the genre, and the movie that best exemplifies the genre for me, I had no choice but to give my favorite disaster movie to Independence Day, written by Dean Devlin, written and directed by Roland Emmerich, and starring Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Randy Quaid, Vivica A. Fox, Harry Connick Jr., Margaret Colin, Judd Hirsch, Harvey Fierstein, Robert Loggia, Mary McDonnell, Mae Whitman, James Rebhorn, Adam Baldwin, Brent Spiner, James Duval, and Frank Welker.

On July 2nd, a signal appears in outer space, between the Earth and the moon.  Spirits are lifted temporarily when the giant curiosity slows down and stops before hitting Earth, but then it gets more curious when it “splits” into smaller pieces and enters the Earth’s atmosphere, first appearing as strange clouds that seem like they’re on fire, but changing to reveal that they are massive alien spaceships that then settle over the Earth’s major cities.  David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) discovers a transmission in the satellite signal that he first thinks is just going to go away, but soon realizes that it’s a countdown to an attack.  He collects his father, Julius (Judd Hirsch), and rushes to Washington to warn his ex-wife, Constance (Margaret Colin), who is the Communications Director at the White House.  With the president, Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman), they barely manage to escape.  Also going on, a drunken crop duster named Russell Casse (Randy Quaid) escapes with his broken family, Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) takes part in an aerial assault on the aliens that he alone survives, and we go to Area 51 where scientists like Dr. Brackish Okun (Brent Spiner) have been studying these aliens in secret since some of them crashed here in 1947.

Roland Emmerich has got to be one of the best directors in the big dumb action category.  The story is pretty basic alien invasion fare that’s been going down pretty much since movies were invented, but it does it so well and makes it so fun that I can’t help but love the thing.  How can you not get behind the heroes of the movie when these fuckin’ aliens come down here and get all rowdy for no reason, laying siege to the biggest cities in the world?  It’s the easy way to get the audience invested in the movie, and it works on me.  Of course, I don’t know how much the other countries of the world will be invested near the end.  I mean, they all get involved in taking down the aliens, but it was all America’s idea.  FUCK YEAH!  It’s certainly not the brightest of movies, but I doubt it was trying to be.  From what I’ve read, they spent 4 weeks working on the script and 13 months on the production.  They knew what they were doing.  But I’m not like most film critics.  A movie doesn’t have to have a message or intelligence or something important about it; it just needs to be entertaining.  That’s what entertainment is supposed to do.  And how could you say Independence Day wasn’t entertaining?!  It’s impossible!  It’s at least impossible to finish that sentence before I slap you in the mouth.  As corny as it is, how can you not get amped by the “Today we celebrate our Independence Day!” speech?  Watching it again almost inspired me to drive to the airport, steal a jet, and fly it up the butthole of an alien spacecraft.  And the ending is entirely satisfying.  Obviously, there are stupid things that happen in this movie, but none so stupid that they ruin the experience.  I would say it was probably in bad taste for the president to joke that he was in bed with a young brunette to his wife.  Not because adultery is bad (he is the president, what do you expect?), but because the young brunette was his nine year old daughter.  I don’t get behind the idea that the super advanced aliens wearing the biomechanical armor can be knocked unconscious for several hours by one punch from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.  Probably not as much as I wouldn’t get behind the idea of letting the drunken guy who can’t even formulate the sentence, “I’m a pilot.  I can fly,” without stumbling into the driver’s seat of a jet fighter.  Also, early on in the movie, it’s a little on the nose to have one of the scientists playing the R.E.M. song “End of the World”.

The performances did exactly what they were supposed to in this movie.  You probably couldn’t say that any of them impressed, but they all performed adequately.  It’s kind of hard to say who the main character in this movie is though because they have about 4 main characters in separate stories that come together at the end.  You have Will Smith’s story, Bill Pullman’s story, Jeff Goldblum’s story, and Randy Quaid’s story.  Will Smith was just becoming a superstar around this point, but he show’s what makes him a superstar in this movie.  Both charming and funny in his role, he makes for a very likeable character.  I had problems with other people in his story though.  First, Vivica A. Fox.  She’s pretty and dances in a bikini at one point, but I had already gotten fairly mad at her for her reaction to Smith getting called to the base when the aliens showed up.  Bitch, you want to marry a guy that’s in the military!  What do you think’s going to happen when a threat to America shows up?  Also, Harry Connick Jr. was usually really annoying, definitely not funny, and possibly gay.  Something about the way he kept calling Will Smith “Big Daddy” – in a post BioShock world – seems gay to me.  Pullman was strange to me in this movie.  He didn’t do a bad job, but he’s got this smug raspiness to every line delivery, making ever sentence end with a smug sounding “uh”.  His wife also made me mad because she was so naïve that, when Vivica A. Fox said that she was “a dancer”, this bitch automatically goes to ballet.  Yeah, ‘cause that’s a common occupation in America.  Also, his daughter was Mae Whitman, who was in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.  That’s all I have to say about her.  Goldblum acted just like Goldblum, but he was good at it.  His dad was a little weird.  I don’t know if this is how Judd Hirsch always acts in movies, but I couldn’t help but wonder if Jackie Mason was unavailable.  Quaid plays a good drunk, but I hated pretty much everyone in his family.  His younger son was a pussy and his daughter was a whore.  Well, she never had sex with anyone in the movie, but she did fall in love with and try to have sex with about three different guys through the course of the movie, and usually within 5 minutes of meeting them.  I also assume that James Duval (who played Miguel Casse, the oldest son) never really got famous because the world already has one Keanu Reeves and doesn’t require another.

Independence Day still stands up as the shining example of how to get past the limitations of your story with fantastic special effects, spectacle, and all around fun factor.  Even after all these years, it still stands up as the most fun disaster movie that I was able to think of.  It’s what Roland Emmerich does best.  I probably don’t need to recommend this movie as I have a hard time believing that anyone has managed to not see it by the point in their life where they could be reading this.  If you haven’t, do it.  Independence Day gets “You Don’t Actually Think They Spend $20,000 on a Hammer, $30,000 on a Toilet Seat, Do You?” out of “Yes yes.  Without the ‘oops’.”

Congratulations goes to my sister, Katie, for not only guessing my favorite disaster movie, but also guessing my runner up disaster movie, Armageddon.  That just proves that she’s Country Strong.

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

The Muppets (2011)


No Drums!  No Drums!  Jack Black Said No Drums!

The impetus behind my decision to pull this movie out of a RedBox was the nagging of the inner child I had thought I had killed years ago.  That little bastard and I had a battle many years ago where I left him for dead, bleeding like a stuck Miss Piggy.  It turns out he had been nursing his wounds, waiting for the right moment to shoot himself out of a cannon and back into my heart.  When today’s movie came out in theaters, I started getting threatening messages with letters cut out of magazines that never really amounted to anything.  Today, when this movie came out on DVD, he knew this was his chance to strike.  That really strange story aside, I rented today’s movie from a RedBox and decided to give it a shot to live up to the love I had for this crew in my youth.  Today’s movie is The Muppets, written by Jim Henson, Jason Segel, and Nicholas Stoller, directed by James Bobin, and starring Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones, Jack Black, Alan Arkin, Emily Blunt, Zach Galifianakis, Donald Glover, Dave Grohl, Ken Jeong, Jim Parsons, Kristen Schaal, and Sarah Silverman, the voices of Peter Linz, Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta, David Rudman, Matt Vogel, Tyler Bunch, Alice Dinnean, and Jerry Nelson, and notable cameos by James Carville, Bill Cobbs, Feist, Whoopi Goldberg, Selena Gomez, Neil Patrick Harris, Judd Hirsch, John Krasinski, Rico Rodriguez, and Mickey Rooney.

Walter (Peter Linz) and Gary (Jason Segel) are brothers that live in a small town called … Smalltown.  But Walter was born with a birth defect of sorts that makes him a Muppet.  Because of this, Gary and Walter become big fans of the Muppet Show.  When they grow up, Gary is preparing to go on vacation to LA with his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) and surprises Walter by taking him with them.  While in LA, they visit the abandoned Muppet studio.  Walter sneaks into the office of Kermit the Frog and finds out that Statler (Steve Whitmire) and Waldorf (Dave Goelz) are selling the theater to oil magnate Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), who intends to demolish it and drill for oil beneath the studio.  Walter, Gary, and Mary manage to convince Kermit to get the band back together to raise $10 million to save the theater before it’s too late.

My inner child must’ve fixed his hooks in pretty deeply, because I was still charmed by the Muppets.  I realize that, beyond nostalgia, it doesn’t hold a lot of appeal for adults, but kids should probably enjoy it.  I base that mostly on the crap I’ve watched that kids are into today (I’m looking at you, Dora and Yo Gabba Gabba!).  The Muppets are way better than the crap kids watch today, and I stand by that!  I actually got goosebumps when watching the opening to The Muppet Show that I had not seen in ages.  It’s silly and ridiculous, but generally it’s well aware of that fact.  What’s more important is that it’s charming, and there are actually a couple of genuine laughs in the movie.  I especially liked some of the 4th wall-breaking jokes, like when Kermit said he wasn’t going to get the band back together and Mary said, “This is going to be a really short movie.”  I also liked when the Swedish Chef said, “Say hello to my little friend,” before using a flamethrower on a mold-infested fridge, mainly because it came out as, “Herdy gerdy me Gerdy Fler!”  If you want to nitpick (and you know I do), there are a couple of things in the story that didn’t make sense to me.  First, that Walter and Gary are so starstruck with the Muppets when Walter is, himself, a Muppet.  Okay, you let that one go.  The one that bothered me (and yes, I know, more than it should’ve) was the prospect of earning the money to save the theater.  I know that every problem in Muppetland is solved with a show; that’s not the problem.  The problem is, while getting the band back together, they had to get Gonzo from the business he owns (the world’s most successful plumbing parts business) and Miss Piggy from running Vogue Paris.  They couldn’t toss a couple of bucks towards saving the theater?  They might not have wanted to supply all $10 million, but you could’ve given them at least half and let the people do the rest.  The musical numbers were a little cheesy for my taste, but I didn’t really expect much else.  The one that Amy Adams does by herself is just sad.  Not because of her voice, but because doing a musical number about trying to act happy that you’re spending time by yourself while no one else is joining in is one of the most depressing things ever.  I also found it very amusing that they had an all chicken rendition of Cee-lo Green’s “Fuck You”.  That’s an interesting choice for a Muppet movie, but I guess “Buck buck” is not that offensive, even if it’s chicken for “Fuck you.”

The performances of the people had to be hammed up because it’s a kids movie, but no one really did bad.  Amy Adams is super cute, Jason Segel comes off as a nice guy, and Jack Black just acts nuts.  The performance of the Muppets is still a well honed art.  By this time, you know these guys are experts at making felt look like it has emotions and personality, and I don’t think enough credit goes to these guys for that skill.  We just take it for granted.  I’ve also notice that computer graphics (and probably green screens) have enabled them to do more things with the Muppets than they used to be able to, allowing them to do full body Muppet movements by having the puppeteer wear a green suit.  That ability doesn’t add a whole lot to them, but it’s interesting.  One of the most interesting things about this (and a lot of other Muppet movies) is the cameos.  Though many of them only pop in for a second, or just for one line of dialogue, the cameos are really widespread and eclectic.  Zach Galifianakis was funny in his part, and was actually around a bit longer than most.  Jim Parsons (of the Big Bang Theory) plays Walter’s imaginary human form, so people that watch that show might be interested in that.  I was also super impressed with myself that I was one of the few people that would be able to recognize the singer Feist and Bill Cobbs even though most people couldn’t recognize them given an entire day and their scenes combined added up to about 10 seconds.  You can read the credits up above to have as comprehensive a list of the cameos as I could muster.

I kind of liked the Muppets movie.  It’s both not meant for me and completely meant for me.  It’s made for kids, which I am not, but it’s also made for people who loved the Muppets when they were kids, which I am.  Speaking to parents, I would say to try to get your kids into the Muppets instead of the crap that they watch now.  Muppets are so much better than that shit they’re watching now, and you can actually watch and enjoy the Muppets instead of watching with a morbid curiosity in the same way I watched Yo Gabba Gabba.  Now that it’s available from RedBox, I’d say you should give it a watch, especially if you loved the Muppets in your childhood or if you have kids and you don’t want Dora to teach them Spanish.  The Muppets gets “Kermit, you’re my hero.  You’re on my watch” out of “We all agreed: celebrities aren’t people.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.