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.



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Our very strength incites challenge. Challenge incites conflict. And conflict... breeds catastrophe.

The MCU Ranked Worst to Best

Why would I turn into a filing cabinet?

Captain Marvel (2019)
(SPOILERS) All superhero movies are formulaic to a greater or lesser degree. Mostly greater. The key to an actually great one – or just a pretty good one – is making that a virtue, rather than something you’re conscious of limiting the whole exercise. The irony of the last two stand-alone MCU pictures is that, while attempting to bring somewhat down-the-line progressive cachet to the series, they’ve delivered rather pedestrian results. Of course, that didn’t dim Black Panther’s cultural cachet (and what do I know, swathes of people also profess to loving it), and Captain Marvel has hit half a billion in its first few days – it seems that, unless you’re poor unloved Ant-Man, an easy $1bn is the new $700m for the MCU – but neither’s protagonist really made that all-important iconic impact.

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

Can you float through the air when you smell a delicious pie?

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
(SPOILERS) Ironically, given the source material, think I probably fell into the category of many who weren't overly disposed to give this big screen Spider-Man a go on the grounds that it was an animation. After all, if it wasn’t "good enough" for live-action, why should I give it my time? Not even Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's pedigree wholly persuaded me; they'd had their stumble of late, although admittedly in that live-action arena. As such, it was only the near-unanimous critics' approval that swayed me, suggesting I'd have been missing out. They – not always the most reliable arbiters of such populist fare, which made the vote of confidence all the more notable – were right. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is not only a first-rate Spider-Man movie, it's a fresh, playful and (perhaps) surprisingly heartfelt origins story.

Stupid adult hands!

Shazam! (2019)
(SPOILERS) Shazam! is exactly the kind of movie I hoped it would be, funny, scary (for kids, at least), smart and delightfully dumb… until the final act. What takes place there isn’t a complete bummer, but right now, it does pretty much kill any interest I have in a sequel.

I have discovered the great ray that first brought life into the world.

Frankenstein (1931)
(SPOILERS) To what extent do Universal’s horror classics deserved to be labelled classics? They’re from the classical Hollywood period, certainly, but they aren’t unassailable titans that can’t be bettered – well unless you were Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan trying to fashion a Dark Universe with zero ingenuity. And except maybe for the sequel to the second feature in their lexicon. Frankenstein is revered for several classic scenes, boasts two mesmerising performances, and looks terrific thanks to Arthur Edeson’s cinematography, but there’s also sizeable streak of stodginess within its seventy minutes.

Only an idiot sees the simple beauty of life.

Forrest Gump (1994)
(SPOILERS) There was a time when I’d have made a case for, if not greatness, then Forrest Gump’s unjust dismissal from conversations regarding its merits. To an extent, I still would. Just not nearly so fervently. There’s simply too much going on in the picture to conclude that the manner in which it has generally been received is the end of the story. Tarantino, magnanimous in the face of Oscar defeat, wasn’t entirely wrong when he suggested to Robert Zemeckis that his was a, effectively, subversive movie. Its problem, however, is that it wants to have its cake and eat it.

Do not mention the Tiptoe Man ever again.

Glass (2019)
(SPOILERS) If nothing else, one has to admire M Night Shyamalan’s willingness to plough ahead regardless with his straight-faced storytelling, taking him into areas that encourage outright rejection or merciless ridicule, with all the concomitant charges of hubris. Reactions to Glass have been mixed at best, but mostly more characteristic of the period he plummeted from his must-see, twist-master pedestal (during the period of The Village and The Happening), which is to say quite scornful. And yet, this is very clearly the story he wanted to tell, so if he undercuts audience expectations and leaves them dissatisfied, it’s most definitely not a result of miscalculation on his part. For my part, while I’d been prepared for a disappointment on the basis of the critical response, I came away very much enjoying the movie, by and large.

Just make love to that wall, pervert!

Seinfeld 2.10: The Statue
The Premise
Jerry employs a cleaner, the boyfriend of an author whose book Elaine is editing. He leaves the apartment spotless, but Jerry is convinced he has made off with a statue.