Skip to main content

Holy shit! I heard about a weird car driving around.

Extraterrestre 
(Extraterrestrial)
(2011)

Anyone who has suffered the debacle that is Skyline (so bad, a sequel is guaranteed) would understandably be give pause by the premise of Extraterrestre. An alien invasion told from the vantage of an apartment building. Except that this is only very loosely a science fiction movie, and certainly not an alien invasion one. An offbeat romantic comedy, Nacho Vigalondo’s film plays with the tropes of the genre but through the expectancy of those who have seen such fare rather than anything the aliens do. The result is an unremarkable but agreeable comedy of misunderstandings.


Vigalondo’s previous (and debut) picture Time Crimes is also a science fiction piece, and a frustrating one. Vigalondo worked up some striking ideas and presented them in an often unsettling and visceral manner, but the picture lacks internal logic (that is, the internal logic of the protagonist rather than the internal logic of the time travel device).  Extraterrestre is much gentler in form and eschews hard SF concepts. Tensions also tend to be punctuated by humorous developments, yet both films share protagonists labouring under mistaken assumptions who create bigger messes as they attempt to resolve their situations.


Julio (Julian Villagran) awakes in the apartment of the girl with whom he spent previous night. Julia (the mighty purdy Michelle Jenner) clearly doesn’t really want him there, but outside events soon overtake such awkwardness. The streets are deserted, the phones are down, the TV and Internet aren’t working, and there’s an enormous spaceship hanging over the city. Added to this, Julia’s stalker neighbour Angel (Carlos Areces) has remained behind to give her his full attention (he is less than happy at Julio’s presence) and then Julia’s boyfriend Carlos (Raul Cimas) returns.


Face with a very awkward situation, the only option is to lie. First that Julia found Julio passed out on the street. Then, taking cues from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Julio and Julia cast aspersions on Angel, suggesting there is something strange about him. Events spiral out of control from there; there are attempts to send Angel packing, and Carlos reveals a survivalist instinct (separated from them, he departs to make bombs in another part of the city).


The most effective aspect of Extraterrestre is the manner in which the “invasion” is undercut by the domestic intrigues and subterfuge of the quartet. Julio and Julia continue their carry on, perhaps because Carlos’ presence makes it exciting. Angel, meanwhile, devotes himself to exposing their behaviour to Carlos. This involves taking up residence in an apartment across the street, and attempting to announce Julia’s cuckoldry through banners and firing endless quantities of tennis balls through Julia’s apartment windows.


The escalating tensions between the dogged Angel and Julio make for the funniest scenes; they, and Julia, are out for what they can get, and more than willing to behave manipulatively (if Julio had behaved honourably in the first place the situation wouldn’t have gotten out of control). It’s appropriate then that Julio should be called upon to right the wrongs he has instituted, brewing up one more dose of confusion.


At points the low budget emptiness recalls the Geoff Murphy’s The Quiet Earth, and it’s fitting that the aliens should never make their physical presence felt (except as the paranoia of others). It might be the anti-Pegg and Wright picture, taking a genre staple and backing away from it. There’s an especially deft running gag about a weird alien car (which Julio has designed for a carnival but everyone re-interprets as evidence of invasion), deployed for the Julio’s redemptive act.



Popular posts from this blog

You were this amazing occidental samurai.

Ricochet (1991) (SPOILERS) You have to wonder at Denzel Washington’s agent at this point in the actor’s career. He’d recently won his first Oscar for Glory , yet followed it with less-than-glorious heart-transplant ghost comedy Heart Condition (Bob Hoskins’ racist cop receives Washington’s dead lawyer’s ticker; a recipe for hijinks!) Not long after, he dipped his tentative toe in the action arena with this Joel Silver production; Denzel has made his share of action fare since, of course, most of it serviceable if unremarkable, but none of it comes near to delivering the schlocky excesses of Ricochet , a movie at once ingenious and risible in its plot permutations, performances and production profligacy.

People still talk about Pandapocalypse 2002.

Turning Red (2022) (SPOILERS) Those wags at Pixar, eh? Yes, the most – actually, the only – impressive thing about Turning Red is the four-tiered wordplay of its title. Thirteen-year-old Mei (Rosalie Chiang) finds herself turning into a large red panda at emotive moments. She is also, simultaneously, riding the crimson wave for the first time. Further, as a teenager, she characteristically suffers from acute embarrassment (mostly due to the actions of her domineering mother Ming Lee, voiced by Sandra Oh). And finally, of course, Turning Red can be seen diligently spreading communist doctrine left, right and centre. To any political sensibility tuning in to Disney+, basically (so ones with either considerable or zero resistance to woke). Take a guess which of these isn’t getting press in reference to the movie? And by a process of elimination is probably what it it’s really about (you know in the same way most Pixars, as far back as Toy Story and Monsters, Inc . can be given an insi

No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

The Matrix  (1999) (SPOILERS) Twenty years on, and the articles are on the defining nature of The Matrix are piling up, most of them touching on how its world has become a reality, or maybe always was one. At the time, its premise was engaging enough, but it was the sum total of the package that cast a spell – the bullet time, the fashions, the soundtrack, the comic book-as-live-action framing and styling – not to mention it being probably the first movie to embrace and reflect the burgeoning Internet ( Hackers doesn’t really count), and subsequently to really ride the crest of the DVD boom wave. And now? Now it’s still really, really good.

I can’t be the worst. What about that hotdog one?

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) (SPOILERS) It would have been a merciful release, had the title card “ The End ”, flashing on screen a little before the ninety-minute mark, not been a false dawn. True, I would still have been unable to swab the bloody dildoes fight from my mind, but at least Everything Everywhere All at Once would have been short. Indeed, by the actual end I was put in mind of a line spoken by co-star James Wong in one of his most indelible roles: “ Now this really pisses me off to no end ”. Or to put it another way, Everything Everywhere All at Once rubbed me up the wrong which way quite a lot of most of the time.

We’ve got the best ball and chain in the world. Your ass.

Wedlock (1991) (SPOILERS) The futuristic prison movie seemed possessed of a particular cachet around this time, quite possibly sparked by the grisly possibilities of hi-tech disincentives to escape. On that front, HBO TV movie Wedlock more than delivers its FX money shot. Elsewhere, it’s less sure of itself, rather fumbling when it exchanges prison tropes for fugitives-on-the-run ones.

We could be mauled to death by an interstellar monster!

Star Trek Beyond (2016) (SPOILERS) The odd/even Star Trek failure/success rule seemed to have been cancelled out with the first reboot movie, and then trodden into ground with Into Darkness (which, yes, I quite enjoyed, for all its scandalous deficiencies). Star Trek Beyond gets us back onto more familiar ground, as it’s very identifiably a “lesser” Trek , irrespective of the big bucks and directorial nous thrown at it. This is a Star Trek movie that can happily stand shoulder to shoulder with The Search for Spock and Insurrection , content in the knowledge they make it look good.

He's not in my pyjamas, is he?

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969) (SPOILERS) By rights, Paul Mazursky’s swinging, post-flower-power-gen partner-swap movie ought to have aged terribly. So much of the era’s scene-specific fare has, particularly so when attempting to reflect its reverberations with any degree of serious intent. Perhaps it’s because Mazursky and co-writer Larry Tucker (also of The Monkees , Alex in Wonderland and I Love You, Alice B. Toklas! ) maintain a wry distance from their characters’ endeavours, much more on the wavelength of Elliott Gould’s Ted than Robert Culp’s Bob; we know any pretensions towards uninhibited expression can’t end well, but we also know Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice have to learn the hard way.

I think World War II was my favourite war.

Small Soldiers (1998) An off-peak Joe Dante movie is still one chock-a-block full of satirical nuggets and comic inspiration, far beyond the facility of most filmmakers. Small Soldiers finds him back after a six-year big screen absence, taking delirious swipes at the veneration of the military, war movies, the toy industry, conglomerates and privatised defence forces. Dante’s take is so gleefully skewed, he even has big business win! The only problem with the picture (aside from an indistinct lead, surprising from a director with a strong track record for casting juveniles) is that this is all very familiar. Dante acknowledged Small Soldiers was basically a riff on Gremlins , and it is. Something innocuous and playful turns mad, bad and dangerous. On one level it has something in common with Gremlins 2: The New Batch , in that the asides carry the picture. But Gremlins 2 was all about the asides, happy to wander off in any direction that suited it oblivious to whet

He’ll regret it to his dying day, if ever he lives that long.

The Quiet Man (1952) (SPOILERS) The John Wayne & John Ford film for those who don’t like John Wayne & John Ford films? The Quiet Man takes its cues from Ford’s earlier How Green Was My Valley in terms of, well less Anglophile and Hibernophile and Cambrophile nostalgia respectively for past times, climes and heritage, as Wayne’s pugilist returns to his family seat and stirs up a hot bed of emotions, not least with Maureen O’Hara’s red-headed hothead. The result is a very likeable movie, for all its inculcated Oirishness and studied eccentricity.

So, you’re telling me that NASA is going to kill the President of the United States with an earthquake?

Conspiracy Theory (1997) (SPOILERS) Mel Gibson’s official rehabilitation occurred with the announcement of 2016’s Oscar nominations, when Hacksaw Ridge garnered six nods, including Mel as director. Obviously, many refuse to be persuaded that there’s any legitimate atonement for the things someone says. They probably weren’t even convinced by Mel’s appearance in Daddy’s Home 2 , an act of abject obeisance if ever there was one. In other circles, though, Gibbo, or Mad Mel, is venerated as a saviour unsullied by the depraved Hollywood machine, one of the brave few who would not allow them to take his freedom. Or at least, his values. Of course, that’s frequently based on alleged comments he made, ones it’s highly likely he didn’t. But doesn’t that rather appeal to the premise of his 23-year-old star vehicle Conspiracy Theory , in which “ A good conspiracy theory is an unproveable one ”?