These days it often feels like we're well overdue for a real alien invasion to swarm the earth and teach human civilization a lesson.
Instead we just get The Watch, an R-rated comedy in which four loser suburbanites end up as the first and last line of defense when space creatures invade a sleepy American town.
No sneak previews on this one (bad sign) and it's being released just one week after the movie no one wanted to open against, or even close to (another bad sign). It is, however, written by Evan Goldberg (Goon) and Seth Rogen (Superbad) although Rogen's not in it — which could mean he considered the material second-rate and handed it off (bad sign).
But... the good news is he handed it off to proven comedians like Ben Stiller (Zoolander, The Heartbreak Kid), Jonah Hill (Superbad, Strange Wilderness), Vince Vaughn (Wedding Crashers, Swingers) and rising British star Richard Ayoade (The IT Crowd). These guys can shine with the right material, but is this it?
Director Akiva Shaffer is unproven as a feature director. He is the driving force of The Lonely Island crew (a.k.a. Dick in Box, On a Boat, Laser Cats and the rest of those brilliant SNL digital shorts) but his only foray into the big show, Hot Rod was a critical and financial flop (though I consider it one of the top comedies of the past five years).
So this one could go either way, from the previews and online clips the script looks a bit lazy but with the talent involved you're guaranteed at least some laughs. The Watch is "high comedy" and the actual aliens don't look too bad, if a bit generic (at least they have tentacles). Certainly this is no Mars Attacks, which still holds as the best alien invasion comedy going (ahead of Critters and Earth Girls are Easy) but I'll go see it anyhow.
Whereas The Watch explodes a cow with a ray gun, Step Up Revolution simply milks a proven concept. I don't need to see this one to tell you it's about a newcomer who enters a scene-in-peril and, against all odds, manages to fuse street attitude with higher art in order to save someone or something (or both). It looks like the gimmick this time is Flash Mob dancing and you can bet there's a cheesy unrealistic love story and lots of well-oiled flesh rubbing against each other. Astute movie fans will remember the first Step Up launched Channing Tatum's career and, with two sequels already, the franchise has grossed almost half a billion bucks so far. Dance movies are teenybopper porn and porn always sells. (How long till they remake Flashdance do you think? Trick question, it's already on the way...)
The Download of the Week is Good Hair, Chris Rock's played-straight look at the massive industry behind black peoples' hair, and the desire to fashion it in ways that are completely opposite to how it actually grows. Rock travels the world (the best weaves come from India apparently) using humour and clever insight to string together a pretty interesting flick.
Obviously that is not going to appeal to everyone so here's five great alien invasion flicks to make you thankful the E.T.s are leaving us alone for now. Fetch your tinfoil hat:
5) James's Cameron's The Abyss; 4) The Faculty, Robert Rodriguez's high school movie; 3) They Live by John Carpenter; 2) Predator — scary and awesome; and 1) The Thing —Carpenter's version, not the original or the latest prequel.
Obviously Ridley Scott's Alien doesn't count because it's not an earth invasion, but that rules too.