This week on home video, we’ve got quite a few new releases, even if they weren’t the most critically acclaimed. The biggest new release is probably one of the most disappointing of the bunch: a gritty sci-fi war movie set in the City of Angels that didn’t quite live up to its promise. Then we’ve also got Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke’s take on “Little Red Riding Hood,” the latest goofball comedy from the Farrellys, an American mob story, and a unique angle on a legendary Chinese folk hero. Then, of course, we’ve also got a couple of Criterion reissues for good measure. Check out what’s new below, and if you were hoping to see Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son on here, well, we’re sorry to disappoint you.

Battle: Los Angeles


Before Battle: Los Angeles opened in theaters, there was a little bit of a brouhaha among the people behind the scenes, as the guys who did the special effects for the film also did the effects for another similar alien invasion film that would open months before Battle: LA (namely, Skyline). Ultimately, the conflict was moot, because Battle:LA ended up doing over $200 million in worldwide box office receipts. The film centers around a surprise invasion by multiple UFOs that summarily dispose of the world’s greatest cities. Eventually, Los Angeles becomes the site of a pivotal battle (natch) between human and alien forces, and the story hones in on one Marine platoon’s efforts to curb the invasion. Though some segments of the moviegoing population were looking to Battle: LA to be another Distric 9-esque surprise hit, critics largely found the film unnecessarily long and riddled with war movie clichés, so much so that they only saw fit to award it a 35% on the Tomatometer. If aliens and explosions are your thing, then have at it, but by most accounts, that’s really all there is to the movie.

Red Riding Hood


You know that classic fairy tale about the girl who travels to visit her grandmother and finds a wolf in her place? Well, imagine if someone rewrote the story to include a young love triangle, transform the Big Bad Wolf into a werewolf, and introduce a werewolf hunter to bring down said werewolf. Then imagine someone decided to turn that into a movie and hired Catherine Twilight Hardwicke to direct it. Guess what? You’ve just conjured up Red Riding Hood, which — surprise, surprise — earned an appalling 11% Tomatometer from the critics. To be fair, most agreed that young up-and-comer Amanda Seyfried is lovely in the title role, and the visual appeal is certainly there, but Seyfried’s love interests aren’t as strong, Gary Oldman is underutilized, and the script is so full of cliché that it’s painful. The idea certainly seemed like a moneymaker: take a fantastical, familiar story with a female as the central protagonist, give it the Hot Topic treatment, and throw in a bit of the Twilight formula. Sounds like a pretty solid tween recipe, wouldn’t you think? If the box office numbers are anything to go by, no, not really.

Hall Pass


The filmography of the Farrelly brothers is somewhat hit-or-miss, ranging from big flops like Osmosis Jones to critically and commercially successful efforts like There’s Something About Mary, as well as fan favorites like Dumb and Dumber. Unfortunately, their latest farce, Hall Pass, failed to impress many viewers. Combining veteran talent (Owen Wilson, Christina Applegate, Richard Jenkins) with rising stars (Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer), the plot revolves around a couple of BFFs whose shockingly “understanding” wives allow them a weeklong “hall pass” to do pretty much whatever they want, with no consequences, as a way to help revitalize their marriages. It’s a far-fetched premise, but not an altogether impossible one, and critics were actually a bit surprised by the film’s ultimate message, which boils down to a defense of traditional domestic values. That said, very few critics actually found the film very funny, and that’s precisely why anyone would want to see a Farrelly brothers movie in the first place. In other words, there isn’t a strong possibility you’ll get many good times out of Hall Pass unless you’re a hardcore Farrelly fan, but you never know; Kingpin only earned a 51%, and personally, I thought that movie was hilarious.

Kill the Irishman


We’ve seen a number of interesting takes on the traditional gangster/organized crime film in recent years, what with titles like Mesrine, Gomorrah, A Prophet, and Animal Kingdom, and a lot of them have done fairly well, critically. The latest attempt to bring an intriguing real-life crime story to the screen is Kill the Irishman, which opened in March of this year. Unfortunately, critics weern’t as excited about the film, which depicts the late-’70s struggle in Cleveland, Ohio between the Italian mafia and the titular Irish mobster, Danny Greene (Ray Stevenson). Beginning with Greene’s rise to power, the plot chronicles his break from mafia ties and his survival through several assassination attempts, which earned him a reputation of invincibility. Overall, consensus is that the cast, which includes Vincent D’Onofrio, Christopher Walken, and Val Kilmer, are all game here, and director Jonathan Hensleigh has a stylish eye, but the script rehashes a lot of what we’ve seen in similar films and paints Danny Greene in almost too sympathetic a light. It’s just shy of Fresh at 59% on the Tomatometer, so it could very well be worth checking out; you’ll have to decide for yourself when it hits shelves this week.

Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen


Fans of martial arts films, particularly those coming out of Hong Kong, will probably already be familiar with not only the fictional character of Chen Zhen, famously portrayed by Bruce Lee in Fist of Fury and Jet Li in Fist of Legend, but also action star Donnie Yen, who has lately been showing up in some of the best modern fight flicks from Asia. Legend of the Fist marries the two, as Yen takes on the role of the fictional Chinese hero after the events of the two aforementioned films, a rather unique angle on the character. Set in the 1920s, the film chronicles Chen Zhen’s exploits fighting alongside the Allied forces in World War I and exacting post-war justice back in Shanghai as a masked vigilante. Legend of the Fist‘s bold attempt to meld martial arts, spy intrigue, and even some superhero-like themes didn’t entirely impress critics, who found the film stylish but hollow, with gaping lulls between the action set pieces. Still, for those willing to sit through some laborious exposition and familiar themes of Chinese national pride, there’s still some high-flying action to be enjoyed.

The Makioka Sisters – Criterion Collection


The late, great Kon Ichikawa’s filmography is fascinatingly tough to classify. He may be best known in this country for his 1965 documentary Tokyo Olympiad, the gentle (and deeply Buddhist) war drama The Burmese Harp, and the haunting, occasionally gruesome scorched earth masterpiece Fires on the Plain. However, the director was making important work well after his 1950s-1960s heyday, as evidenced by 1983’s The Makioka Sisters. Set in the pre-World War II era, the film follows four sisters — two married, two single — who have taken over their family’s kimono manufacturing business. This delicate melodrama is a remarkable portrait of both family dynamics and cultural change at a critical point in Japan’s history; a spiffy new Criterion disc features a new transfer of the film, improved subtitles, and the original theatrical trailer.

Insignificance – Criterion Collection


Nicolas Roeg made some of most stylistically bold movies of the 1970s ? his resume includes Walkabout, Performance, Don’t Look Now, and The Man Who Fell to Earth. His work can also be deeply unsettling. Thankfully, 1985’s Insignificance finds Roeg in an unusually playful mood — set in a hotel in 1954, the film follows four people who look like Marilyn Monroe, Joseph McCarthy, Joe DiMaggio and Albert Einstein and explores the cultural landscape of the early days of the Cold War. This strange, funny movie is now out on a Criterion Director Approved Special Edition, featuring a new interview with Roeg and a making-of featurette.

This weekend Sony ruled the North American box office with its fourth number one opening of the year as the alien invasion thriller Battle: Los Angeles debuted on top attracting a sizable action crowd. The stylish fairy tale pic Red Riding Hood bowed in third grossing less than expected while the animated adventure Mars Needs Moms struggled to find families with a poor launch in fifth place. The overall marketplace continued to fall behind year-ago levels as the entire weekend box office for all films in release fell below the top ten from last year.

Male action fans, missing in action for so long, turned up for the military actioner Battle: Los Angeles which topped the charts with an estimated $36M marking the year’s second biggest opening behind last weekend’s $38.1M for Rango. The PG-13 alien attack flick averaged a strong $10,536 from 3,417 locations and performed much like Sony’s 2009 hit District 9 which bowed to $37.4M. That film opened in the summer and earned much better reviews, but also carried an R rating and boasted no starpower. Battle received weak marks from critics but featured recognizable cast members like Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, and singer-actor Ne-Yo.


The studio’s marketing efforts worked wonders making the disaster film seem like an exciting action vehicle that could also play to sci-fi fans. Males made up 68% of the crowd according to studio research while 55% were over 25. With two cartoons and little red riding hood in the top five, this audience had little else to rally behind. Filmed in Louisiana and produced for $70M after tax rebates, the global destruction pic topped the box office in many overseas territories too. The film grossed an estimated $16.7M from 33 markets including top spot bows in Russia, Korea, the U.K., India, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Columbia. The worldwide opening weekend stood at $52.7M.

Johnny Depp’s animated comedy Rango dropped from first place to the runner-up spot this weekend but held up well grossing an estimated $23.1M. Off just 40%, the PG-rated toon boosted its ten-day tally to an impressive $68.7M and is performing much like another March toon anchored by a big celebrity name — 2005’s Robots. That Robin Williams-led pic debuted this very weekend six years ago to $36M (close to Rango‘s $38.1M bow) and slipped 42% in its sophomore frame to $21M and a $66.1M gross in ten days on its way to a $128.2M final. Rango should make it past the $120M mark as well.


Young women didn’t show up in the expected numbers for the period thriller Red Riding Hood which opened in third with an estimated $14.1M from 3,030 theaters. Averaging a mediocre $4,665, the PG-13 pic starring Amanda Seyfried in a stylish reworking of the classic fairy tale got butchered by film critics and also failed to satisfy opening day patrons as its CinemaScore grade was a disappointing B-. There was not much direct competition for young females so Warner Bros. had that demographic to itself. But having a slick look, a teen love triangle, a star that’s popular with the target demo, and the Twilight director wasn’t enough.

Matt Damon’s latest offering The Adjustment Bureau dropped a moderate 46% in its second weekend taking in an estimated $11.5M. Universal has collected $38.5M in ten days and should find itself with roughly $65M by the end of the domestic run. Overseas activity has not been too spectacular with an estimated $8.9M collected this weekend from 31 territories for an international cume of $24M.


The 3D animated adventure comedy Mars Needs Moms from producer Robert Zemeckis was shunned by family audiences and debuted to only $6.8M, according to estimates. Averaging a sluggish $2,182 from 3,117 theaters, including a very aggressive 211 IMAX screens, the Disney release earned the best reviews of the frame’s new wide releases but failed to spark any excitement with its intended audience. Plus with rival toons Rango and Gnomeo & Juliet in the top ten collecting $26M in combined ticket sales, Mars struggled to stand out as a must-see pic. Produced for a reported $150M, the PG-rated film is a pricey misfire for Zemeckis’ ImageMovers which was recently shut down. Its previous film, A Christmas Carol starring Jim Carrey, grossed $325M worldwide but was also a very expensive project with a budget near the $200M mark making profitability on motion-capture CGI films difficult.

Two films tied for sixth place with $5.1M each, according to estimates. The Farrelly brothers comedy Hall Pass enjoyed another good hold slipping just 42% for a mild 17-day total of $34.9M. CBS Films saw a 48% drop for its teen romance Beastly which has banked $17M in ten days on its way to $26-28M overall.


Adam Sandler’s Just Go With It followed with an estimated $4M, down 38%, raising the cume to $94M making it the second highest-grossing 2011 release after the $97.5M of The Green Hornet. Both are Sony titles. With its Oscar glow fading, The King’s Speech fell 42% to an estimated $3.6M for The Weinstein Co. for a $129.1M total. The hit 3D toon Gnomeo & Juliet suffered the worst decline in the top ten thanks to another toon entering the marketplace and tumbled 51% to an estimated $3.5M. With $89M to date, the sleeper comedy ranks as the year’s third highest grosser.

Focus enjoyed a scorching debut for its period drama Jane Eyre which platformed in New York and Los Angeles in a pair of theaters in each city ringing up an estimated $182,000 for a sensational $45,579 average. Headlined by Mia Wasikowska who had a banner year in 2010 playing the title character in the megahit Alice in Wonderland and starring in the Oscar-nominated The Kids Are All Right, the PG-13 film attracted solid reviews and expands to eight additional markets next weekend before going much wider on March 25. Also in limited release, the mob thriller Kill the Irishman had a strong start debuting to an estimated $156,000 from five locations for a sturdy $31,100 average for Anchor Bay.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $112.8M which was down 13% from last year when Alice in Wonderland stayed in the top spot with $62.7M; but up 34% from 2009 when Race to Witch Mountain debuted at number one with $24.4M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, Box Office Guru!

This week at the movies, we’ve got a war of the worlds (Battle: Los Angeles, starring Aaron Eckhart and Ramon Rodriguez); an interplanetary quest (Mars Needs Moms, starring Seth Green and Joan Cusack); and a lupine love story (Red Riding Hood, starring Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman). What do the critics have to say?

Battle: Los Angeles


The extraterrestrial invasion movie never seems to go out of style. Still, it helps if we have heroes we can root for and a strong storyline, two things that critics say are generally lacking in Battle: Los Angeles. Aaron Eckhart stars as a marine who must lead his charges into battle to protect Santa Monica after hostile outer space visitors have attacked many of the world’s major cities. The pundits say Battle: Los Angeles has a few kinetic action sequences, but those can’t make up for a lack of three-dimensional characters, an overabundance of shaky cam, and a feeling that we’ve seen this kind of thing before. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we run down some noteworthy cinematic alien invasions.)

Mars Needs Moms


There’s nothing wrong with a kids’ film espousing the timeless message that your parents love you. It’s too bad, critics say, that beyond that handy reminder, Mars Needs Moms is something of a mixed bag; its technology is sometimes impressive, but the script isn’t particularly original. Seth Green stars as a nine-year-old who has an argument with his mom, but realizes the error of his ways when he sees her being abducted by a UFO. Our pint-sized hero stows away on the craft in an effort to extricate his mother from the Martians’ clutches. The pundits say Mars Needs Moms has some decent laughs and a good message, but they’re mixed on the animation and largely find the story lacking.

Red Riding Hood


The tale of Little Red Riding Hood is loaded with potential for an irreverent retelling, one that expands on the dark implications lurking on the edges of this most famous of stories. However, Twilight is popular these days, and critics say what we end up getting with Red Riding Hood is a badly executed drama featuring a love triangle and werewolves. Amanda Seyfried stars as a young woman in an arranged betrothal to a boring guy; soon, she falls in love with the village bad boy, while a series of mysterious wolf attacks create suspicion among the townsfolk. The pundits say Red Riding Hood amounts to a strange miscalculation: the clothes may be from days of yore, but the dialogue is oddly contemporary, and the plot seems like little more than an attempt to cash in on conventions that theoretically make teenage girls swoon.

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • The Desert Of Forbidden Art, a documentary about a man who rescued priceless works of art by hiding them in the Uzbek desert, is at 100 percent.
  • I Will Follow, an indie drama about a successful woman at life’s crossroads, is at 100 percent.
  • Jane Eyre, starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender in a new adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel, is at 90 percent.
  • Certified Copy, starring Juliette Binoche as a woman who pretends to be married to a man she just met while on a tour of rural Italy, is at 86 percent.
  • Black Death, about a medieval knight who embarks on a journey to save his village from the plague, is at 79 percent.
  • 3 Backyards, starring Edie Falco in a drama of three stories that occur on the same day in a suburban neighborhood, is at 71 percent.
  • Kill the Irishman, starring Ray Stevenson and Val Kilmer in the based-on-true-events tale of a notorious Cleveland mobster, is at 70 percent.
  • Elektra Luxx, starring Carla Gugino and Timothy Olyphant in a comedy about a retired porn star in a new phase of her life, is at 31 percent.
  • Monogamy, an indie drama about a wedding photographer who’s hired to take more voyeuristic pictures, is at 20 percent.
Alien Invasions

Brace yourselves, Earthlings — this weekend, when Battle: Los Angeles lands in theaters, we’ll be defending ourselves from another wave of invading extraterrestrials, with only Aaron Eckhart and his plucky platoon of hard-charging Marines standing between us and utter destruction. This has been a recurring theme at the box office lately, and we certainly haven’t seen the last of it — so we decided to dedicate this week’s feature to a random sampling of cinematic alien invasions of the past. We narrowed the list by focusing on movies featuring groups of intergalactic visitors (sorry Starman, E.T., and Predator), but still only scratched the surface of a time-honored Hollywood tradition. Which of your favorites made (or missed) the cut?

The Arrival


Fifteen years before he dedicated himself to full-time winning, Charlie Sheen starred in this eco-suspense-sci-fi-thriller from writer/director David Twohy (The Fugitive), about a scientist (Sheen) who goes hunting for the source of a mysterious signal from outer space and learns that a secret cabal of aliens is intentionally speeding up global warming so they can take over the planet. It’s better than it sounds — and certainly better than the poster, which a bug-eyed Sheen had to share with an alien, made it look. The franchise would descend into outright silliness with 1998’s wonderfully titled The Arrival II: The Second Arrival, but the original is, in the words of the San Francisco Chronicle’s Mick La Salle, “a strong, lean piece of writing that moves quickly. Nothing is wasted, and nothing happens the way you’d expect.”

Close Encounters of the Third Kind


By the late 1970s, Hollywood had cranked out so many alien invasion movies that filmgoers had started taking it for granted that flying saucers in the sky meant we were all in a lot of trouble. Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind took this notion, turned it on its head, and gave us one of our most enduring all-time sci-fi classics. In Spielberg’s vision, our extraterrestrial guests meant us no harm; they were merely curious, and their presence, rather than being a harbinger of doom, signaled our collective evolution and hinted at our limitless possibilities. (And okay, they had to land here to return all the people they’d abducted over the years, but what’s a few kidnappings between friends?) It all might seem a little quaint and soft-hearted now, but during the Cold War, there was something revolutionary about an alien movie that ended with a smile — and it remains, in the words of Roger Ebert, “One of the great moviegoing experiences.”

District 9


We human beings tend to be pretty attached to our planet, and most of our sci-fi invasion stories reflect those feelings, imagining Earth as a prize to be fought for when the rapacious alien hordes try to steal it from us. But what if they arrived here accidentally — and we ended up turning them into a persecuted, disadvantaged minority? This is the rather brilliant idea behind Neill Blompkamp’s District 9, which imagines a ship full of aliens that breaks down over Johannesburg. The visitors (derisively referred to as “prawns”) find safe harbor, of a sort, in a segregated area of the city (the District 9 of the title) — along with discriminatory laws and rank poverty. Extending science fiction’s long tradition of exploring sociological themes by placing them in far-fetched contexts — and, of course, adding in some nifty special effects and plenty of nail-biting action — District 9 took its small budget and star-free cast and turned them into one of the year’s biggest critical and commercial hits. The New Yorker’s Anthony Lane, no pushover, added to the chorus of approval with his review, writing “You don’t feel bamboozled, fooled, or patronized by District 9, as you did by most of the summer blockbusters. You feel winded, shaken, and shamed.”

Earth Girls Are Easy


The textbook definition of a movie that’s better than it has any right to be, Julien Temple’s Earth Girls Are Easy used a 1984 Julie Brown novelty song as the inspiration for a thoroughly goofy, thoroughly 1980s romp about a lonely hairdresser (Geena Davis) who finds love after a trio of furry, brightly colored aliens (Jeff Goldblum, Jim Carrey, and Damon Wayans) crash-land in her pool. All things considered, it’s probably more of a dating comedy than a real alien invasion movie, but with Charles Rocket in classic cad mode, Hall and Oates covering “Love Train” on the soundtrack, and an Angelyne cameo, how could we resist? It is, as Hal Hinson observed for the Washington Post, “The movie equivalent of cheap champagne — even though it’s lousy, it still gives you tickles up the nose.”

Independence Day


More often than not, Hollywood has imagined alien invasions as covert affairs, or the kind of thing that happens in small towns while no one is watching — but not Roland Emmerich, who dreamed up a full-scale intergalactic apocalypse for 1996’s Independence Day, complete with gigantic spaceships, horrific destruction, and alien bad guys who were every bit as nasty as they looked. Blending old-school B-movie tropes (including a cast stuffed with character actors like Robert Loggia, Randy Quaid, and Judd Hirsch) and state-of-the-art special effects, Independence Day ruled the 1996 box office, reinvigorated the moribund alien invasion genre, and was, in the words of Entertainment Weekly’s Lisa Schwarzbaum, “the first futuristic disaster movie that’s as cute as a button. Which, when all the special effects blow over, is what we Americans like in a monster hit.”

Invasion of the Body Snatchers


Its themes have resonated throughout pop culture since they were originally published in the 1950s — particularly on the big screen, where they’ve served as the source material for four films — but for pure Tomatometer power, the edge goes to 1956’s original Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Adapted from Jack Finney’s 1955 novel The Body Snatchers, this eerie sci-fi classic takes viewers to fictional Santa Mira, California, where sentient pods from outer space have set up shop and started churning out dead-eyed replicas of the townfolk. Snatchers‘ supposed political allegories have been debated for years, but you don’t have to believe it’s a metaphor to enjoy it; as James Rocchi wrote for Netflix, “At the time, the film could have been seen as a metaphor for the Red Menace, or McCarthyism, or whatever; the fact remains it’s a creepy little film.”

Killer Klowns from Outer Space


We love classic cinema as much as the next film website, but there’s something to be said for a movie that cheerfully takes an insane premise to its thoroughly illogical conclusion. Case in point: 1988’s Killer Klowns from Outer Space, which delivers on the oddball promise of its title by sending a murderous brigade of clownish (sorry, klownish) aliens to a small town, where they immediately set about harvesting the unsuspecting residents by wrapping them in a cotton candy-like substance and turning their bodies into goo. It’s exactly the sort of thing late-night cable was made for — but unlike most 2 AM Cinemax offerings from the late 1980s, Killer Klowns is actually pretty entertaining. As eFilmCritic’s Brian McKay astutely observed, “IT’S GOT CLOWNS! FROM OUTER SPACE! AND THEY’RE KILLING PEOPLE! What’s not to like?”

Mars Attacks!


The same year Roland Emmerich gave us invading aliens on a massive scale with Independence Day, Tim Burton took a decidedly more tongue-in-cheek approach to the genre with Mars Attacks!. Inspired by a short-lived series of trading cards from the early 1960s, this all-star spoof of cheesy alien B movies like Invaders from Mars and Earth vs. the Flying Saucers satirized contemporary American culture while treating audiences to the sight of zapgun-toting Martians vaporizing celebrities like Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Michael J. Fox, Danny DeVito, and Jack Black. One of Burton’s less successful efforts, Attacks! was a box office disappointment and missed the mark with most critics — but a number of scribes defended it, including TIME’s Richard Schickel, who wrote, “Perhaps they don’t create quite enough deeply funny earthlings to go around, but a thoroughly meanspirited big-budget movie is always a treasurable rarity.”

Plan 9 from Outer Space


There was no way we were leaving this one out. Arguably the quintessential Ed Wood movie, Plan 9 from Outer Space will never win any technical awards — in fact, its most notable accolade came from author Michael Medved, who dubbed it the worst film (and Wood the worst director) of all time. But in spite of its many goofed-up shots, continuity errors, and awkward attempts to cover up for the death of its “star,” Béla Lugosi, Plan 9 has become not only a cult classic, but something of a critical favorite, enjoying a robust 65 percent on the Tomatometer and praise from critics like Ken Hanke of the Asheville Mountain Xpress, who concluded, “It’s really rather glorious, in its own way.” (And perhaps most importantly, if aliens ever decide to prevent World War III by reanimating our dead, we’ll know exactly how to defeat them. Bonus!)



It takes a lot of guts — and just as much panache — to pull off a movie that uses an alien invasion as the backdrop for an examination of religious faith, but that’s just what M. Night Shyamalan did with 2002’s Signs. Starring Mel Gibson as an ex-priest who rejected God after his wife was killed, Joaquin Phoenix as his younger brother, and some rather unfriendly green creatures who announce their arrival by leaving crop circles all over the place, Signs has plenty of silly moments and plot holes, but it’s also a suspenseful, well-acted film that isn’t afraid to wear its heart on its sleeve. Critics were definitely starting to see past Shyamalan’s bag of tricks at this point, but most of them were able to forgive Signs‘ flaws, including Eric Harrison of the Houston Chronicle, who called it “A heartfelt movie that deals more nakedly with [Shyamalan’s] core concerns than any of his other Hollywood films, and it doubtlessly will deeply touch many people as well as frighten them.”

They Live


The 1980s were a rather uneven decade for John Carpenter, but he closed them out on a high note with They Live, which combines smart social commentary with pure, unadulterated B-movie thrills. Shot for a paltry $3 million, the film puts humanity’s hope in the hands of a drifter (Roddy Piper) who stumbles across a box of sunglasses that reveals the freaky-looking aliens among us. Immediately resolving to kick ass (and chew bubblegum), he does just that, waging war against the invaders until the iconic final shot. While it wasn’t a huge hit at the box office, They Live has grown into cult classic status, partly on the strength of the killer fight sequence between Piper and Keith David — and partly thanks to the praise of writers like Filmcritic’s Christopher Null, who called it “Carpenter’s best film — I don’t care what you say.”



There have been more culturally relevant films — and certainly more critically respected ones — but when Michael Bay settled into the director’s chair for Transformers, it represented arguably the most perfect union of filmmaker and subject matter in the history of cinema. Say what you want about Bay’s movies, but the man was simply born to direct a movie about giant alien robots waging war on Earth — and audiences agreed to the tune of more than $700 million at the box office, affirming Paramount’s hopes for a franchise (the third and allegedly final installment, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, will arrive on 3D screens this year). Most critics were less impressed, but that’s because they were foolishly fixated on things like plot and character development, rather than giant robots waging war on Earth. Among the appreciative minority, Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel wrote, “We knew it would be dumb. But we had no idea it would be so much dumb fun.”

War of the Worlds


One of the greatest alien invasion stories of all time, H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds has inspired countless adaptations and homages, including multiple films — but it’s Byron Haskin’s 1953 film that critics felt most closely captured the spirit of the book. Steven Spielberg’s 2005 adaptation may have boasted Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, and some amazing special effects, but in spite of its technical limitations, the 1953 War made full use of Wells’ timeless themes while incorporating Cold War commentary. Looking back on it, the Hollywood Reporter’s Douglas Pratt wrote, “A half-century after its creation, the film’s best moments are still so enjoyably unnerving that they easily carry a viewer through the necessary but inevitably dated exposition.”

Take a look through the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don’t forget to check out the reviews for Battle: Los Angeles.

Finally, here’s the trailer for Robot Monster, one of the most terrifying and realistic alien invasion movies of all time:

Friday Harvest: a weekly round-up of the
best pictures and videos newly available on Rotten Tomatoes. Check out items of
the week, along with several other highlights. Enjoy!


Picture Gallery of the Week:

Battle: Los Angeles

One of the movie’s I’m most excited for (we’ve had 18 wide releases this year and only two have been fresh, so here’s hoping this one reverses that trend). Our readers have also been showering much anticipation for this one so let’s get out there and make this a huge sleeper hit.

If it gets good reviews, of course.  Browse the gallery.

More New Pictures


Cars 2

Winnie the Pooh

Sucker Punch


Video of the Week:

Mars Needs Moms trailer

R.I.P creepy mocap cartoons that nobody liked or ever even wanted.
Watch the video.

More New Videos

Insidious trailer


behind the scenes

Apollo 18

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